Tuesday, March 18, 2014

"There Is No Flaw In You"

I have been reading the Song of Solomon for my daily quiet time.  A verse that stood out to me is Song of Solomon 4:7.  I will quote it in the New Revised Standard Version, since that is the version that I am looking at right now.  The man says to the woman: “You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.”

The Song of Solomon may have originally been a simple love song, or perhaps it was intended, either originally or canonically, to be about God’s love relationship with Israel.  In any case, when I read it devotionally, I think about God’s love for me, and my love for God.

When God sees those who are in relationship with God, does God say “You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you”?  We all have flaws, after all.  Here are some thoughts:

1.  Many Protestants may say that believers are covered by Christ, and thus, when God sees them, God does not see their flaws and their sins, but rather the perfect righteousness of Christ.  Luther said that Christians were like “snow-covered dung.”  Is that why God would call believers beautiful and flawless?  But that seems to violate the spirit of Song of Solomon 4:7, doesn’t it?  For one, it is like God is kidding himself that his beloved is beautiful when she is not, or is choosing to regard her as beautiful when she is not.  Either way, it would undercut the sincerity of Song of Solomon 4:7 (were one to place those words in the mouth of God).  Second, it puts a third party into the intimate relationship that is between God and the believer.  Would you rather be regarded as beautiful because the lover loves you, or because the lover loves a third party, and sees that third party when looking at you?

2.  Some liberal religionists, the sorts who have problems with the doctrines of original sin and penal substitution, may say that we truly are beautiful and flawless in God’s eyes.  God sees us as beautiful and flawless because we are beautiful.  But give me a break!  Of course we have sins and flaws.  Anyone who does not recognize this is not particularly self-aware!  (NOTE: I do not mean to suggest that everyone who has problems with original sin or penal substitution denies that humans are sinners.  A number of times, however, I have read liberal religionists talk about how we are truly beautiful in God's eyes.)

3.  Perhaps one could say that God will regard Israel, the church, individual believers, or humanity as flawless in the eschaton.  As I was considering this possibility, I thought about parallels between the Song of Solomon and how prophetic writings in the Hebrew Bible depict God’s eschatological relationship with Israel: in both, the woman is decked out with lovely jewels.  But I am skeptical that the love relationship in the Song of Solomon occurs in the eschaton.  The relationship exists amidst a lot of conflict: the woman’s brothers oppress her and disapprove of her lover, for example.  Conflicts, however, will be addressed and resolved in the eschaton.  The relationship in Song of Solomon occurs before things have been worked out, not after.

4.  Maybe God thinks about how beautiful and flawless believers will become when he looks at them right now.  But, as with number 1, that seems to me to undercut the genuineness of what Song of Solomon 4:7 is saying.  I would like to think that God loves me right now, not that he’s thinking about a potential me.

5.  Perhaps God is blinded to the flaws of those with whom God is in relationship, due to God’s intense love.  But I doubt that God is unaware of my flaws and sins.  How would God help me to grow, if God does not take into consideration my flaws?

Anyway, some may think that I am being overly literal.  Perhaps, but these thoughts are worth consideration, at least by me.

2 comments:

  1. Love it James - what a great book for quiet time. Perhaps what we know in a mystery is a realized eschaton. I think the Song is in the mind of the words of Eph 5:7.

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  2. Yeah----already but not yet. The eschaton is here, but not everything is perfect yet. Could be!

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