This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings. Apologies to regular readers for intermittent blogging-back to usual next week
1 Corinthians 14:1-12
14Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts, and especially that you may prophesy. 2For those who speak in a tongue do not speak to other people but to God; for nobody understands them, since they are speaking mysteries in the Spirit. 3On the other hand, those who prophesy speak to other people for their building up and encouragement and consolation. 4Those who speak in a tongue build up themselves, but those who prophesy build up the church. 5Now I would like all of you to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. One who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.
6 Now, brothers and sisters,* if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I speak to you in some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? 7It is the same way with lifeless instruments that produce sound, such as the flute or the harp. If they do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is being played? 8And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? 9So with yourselves; if in a tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is being said? For you will be speaking into the air. 10There are doubtless many different kinds of sounds in the world, and nothing is without sound. 11If then I do not know the meaning of a sound, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me. 12So with yourselves; since you are eager for spiritual gifts, strive to excel in them for building up the church.
Paul is full of common sense about manifestations which are siad to be of the Spirit but which he clearly thinks are hysterical and self-regarding. “Knowledge puffs up but loves builds up” is his criterion. All sorts of damage in churches could have been prevented if people read their bibles. Beyond the immediate issue there is the question of the place of reason in Christian theology. Paul suggests by his practice that reason can be an ally of faith enabling the believer to challenge spurious forms of religious clasptrap which might otherwise deceive credulous people.
Paul’s ideal faith community does not take refuge in obscure and miraculous displays but remains open to the civil community in its recognition of common sense.