A diamond is missing from my wedding ring (not the big one, thankfully, but one of the little accent diamonds). It could be anywhere ... the laundry, the shower, the bedsheets, the library, the kitchen sink, my sunday school classroom, outside. If our carpet was made of black velvet it would be much easier to find!
And that got me thinking about how heresy is a gift to the church. A gift??!! This past week I gave a library tour to two batches of exegesis students who are getting ready to research and write their final paper for the semester. I took them to the shelves of commentaries on the Bible. I said, "Do you see these two sets of commentaries? These are the ones I can't stand. When I read them I get so angry I want to throw them across the room. Be sure to consult them for your papers."
Someone who missed my introductory comments was understandably confused. "Did you just say you don't like them but we should use them?"
"Yes," I explained, "because a paper that only cites commentaries that agree with you is a boring paper. In order to see how the truth matters, you've got to show what happens when it gets set aside or diluted. The commentaries I don't like are liberal commentaries that take scripture and slice and dice it, throwing out all the parts that they say that Jesus couldn't have done or said, either because it's too supernatural, or the theology is too highly developed, or whatever. Those commentaries may have something valuable to say to you, but you'll have to sift through the chaff to find the wheat. And the ways they mis-read scripture will be like black velvet, so that that diamond in the text can shine all the brighter."
That, incidentally, is why meeting with Jehovah's Witnesses has been so valuable for me. I don't know what they are getting out of it, but I for one am no longer taking the precious truths of God's Word for granted. The deity of Christ, my assurance of salvation, the personality of the Holy Spirit, the promise of eternal life with God himself, and the gift of communion have become all the more vibrant to me against the black backdrop of their misreadings of Scripture. It truly makes me wonder whether God allows heresy to grow up around his people precisely in order to enliven our grasp of the truth.