10 Aug 2009

Not yet perfect

Do you ever stop and read the Theological Minute from bluebanner.org over there in the orange box to your right?

Blue Banner.org is a website dedicated to the works of Johannes Geerhardus Vos son of Princeton theologian Geerhardus Vos and Catherine Vos, the author of the wonderful Child's Story Bible. (Wow, what a family to be born into...)

The bluebanner site says of Vos:

Clear yet deep Bible teaching was J. G. Vos’ craft. His passion was helping people understand the fullness of Jesus Christ and what He has done for the world. Whether Vos was on the mission field in China, in the pulpit in Kansas, or behind the lectern at Geneva College, he strove to help his audience understand what God has revealed about Himself in Scripture.

With this passion and his years of dedicated study, Vos single handedly produced a theological journal for over 30 years called the Blue Banner Faith and Life, which contains a wealth of Bible lessons.

As a result of Vos’ eagerness for accessibility and clarity, each issue of The Blue Banner Faith and Life offered the reader a list of “Religious Terms Defined.” His lists progressed alphabetically, so in one issue, there might only be words that begin with “s,” and the next, words that begin with “t.” When he had exhausted the alphabet, he started over, refining and revising definitions and adding new terms, as appropriate.

The bluebanner site offers a compilation of Vos' lists as the widget you can see on my blog. The parenthetical numbers at the end of each definition tell from which volume and number of the Blue Banner Faith and Life that it came.

This definition, titled Perfectionism, caught my eye this morning:


The doctrine that it is possible for a Christian, in this life, to reach a state where he no longer commits sin. Perfectionists almost invariably define what they mean by “perfection" as something short of the absolute moral ideal which God requires man to live up to. Thus they lower the moral standard of the Bible, in order to hold that the Christian can attain it. In other words, perfectionism teaches that it is possible to reach an imperfect perfection. (11.1)
Perfectionism is not a doctrine I'd heard of before, and to me it brings with it standards that for me at least, are impossible to attain. To me this doctrine is is completely contrary to the Calvinistic doctrine of total depravity, and I moved for a moment to dismiss it out of hand and to move on.

Then I began to think (always a dangerous exercise, thinking).

You see, I consider that as a person I suffer from being a perfectionist in many parts of my life. I even go as far as to say that if I can't do something well I don't do it at all. You won't see me dancing, playing racquet sports or skiing, for this reason.

It strikes me that Christians are also infected by this desire to appear 'good enough' before their friends and family. How often do we worry that our friends are saying things like:

He is divorced and remarried...
Her kids are totally out of control...
He plays footy on Sunday (or he watches it on telly)...
She homeschools her kids (or she doesn't)...
She's of the quiver-full persuasion (or she's not)...

Does this make us live like hypocrites - perfect on the outside, but inside...?

I am never going to be good enough for God. I don't go anywhere near. I live constantly with this comforting verse in mind:

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and
and the despised things - and the things that are not - to nullify the things that are, so that no-one may boast before him. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 NIV
The day will come when Christ will present me to his Father mature and complete. When I see Jesus in glory I will be made into the image of him, perfect and without sin, forever.

Until that day comes I will aim to be as morally pure as possible.

Perfectionism will have to wait.

Image from here.


  1. Hi Jeanne,
    I, too, am a perfectionist, and I strive for perfection in every area of my life, but I know that I will never live up to God's ideals of perfection, only man's. (sigh)

    If something is done well, it's done to the glory of God, and that in itself is not a bad thing. It's when we try and live up to man's ideals that the problem comes in.

    Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31


  2. Wonderful post!!

    I was raised in a doctrinal traditional that focuses a lot on man bettering himself in order to keep a grasp on his own salvation. It sounds a lot like that perfectionism.

    Praise God for grace. I'm so glad to be out of that.

  3. Funny, I have Catherine Vos' "Child's Story Bible" in my shopping cart at CBD at the moment.

    I too was struck last night by the writing on "Perfectionism" and wondered if you'd caught it. I have that streak that, like Lucifer, wants to set myself up to be like the Most High. Yuck. Thankfully, there is One that has lived that perfect human life.

  4. That's so true, isn't it! I read in "When Children Love to Learn" the other day that we tend to live by "what we do" rather than by "what we are." We are sinners forgiven in Christ, and although this does not excuse us from sinning, it is a comforting thought!

  5. Thoughtful post Jeanne,
    I am not a perfectionist. I used to hear saying like, "If a job is worth doing at all, it's worth doing well" and all that kind of thing but to be honest I just don't live that way.

    However, there was a time when I was trying- and failing- and trying - and failing. And for me, would you believe, it was all centred around a homeschool methodology! Somehow I took on the educational philosophy and well, for me, it became bondage.

    There's many times when the kitchen needs a thorough cleaning but I just know I won't get around to it until the next day...but better a quick once over than completely leaving it to get worse. But when I was trying to do my best work in everything, these sorts of things would get to me. Tied myself up in knots, I did.

    I also struggled with the focus on habits- and I still do. Don't get me wrong, habits are important and worthwhile but I found the more I read these writings the more I was convinced that there were rooted in evolutionary theories and had God's word liberally sprinkled throughout. But the premises, to me, weren't built on God's word. KWIM?

    Man, I did get myself into some trouble...

    Other thing I learned was that sometimes the 'second best' is really the best. What I might initially consider to the The Best just isn't achievable for me...but the second best option is achievable - so what is actually better for me? The second best option.

    Great thoughts, thanks for letting me share.


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