"The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his masters crib; but
Israel doth not know, my people do not consider! " Isa. I, 3.
JEHOVAHS complaint against his ancient people is sadly true of most of those who claim to be believers today--My people do not think! The religious mind is a compost of catch words and phrases which have very little logical meaning, and even less basis of true fact. They are mostly traditional express ions which have come to be regarded as though they were as much inspired as the Scriptures themselves.
It is amazing how readily Christian people who, in the ordinary affairs of life are intelligent enough, allow themselves to be spoon-fed with theological dogmas, bowing, with almost superstitious reverence before the pronouncements of other men, without observing either the futility of their words or the necessity of testing those words against the sure Word.
Your average Christian will tell you that his belief is based upon the Bible; that it is the last and authoritative resort upon which all questions are settled, and he would not believe you if you told him how few of his creedal formulas have any basis whatever in the Scriptures.
I suppose the hardest task in the world is--to think! As Emerson said, "I would put myself in the attitude to look in the eye an abstract truth, and I cannot. I blench and withdraw on this side and that. I seem to know what he meant who said, No man can see God face to face and live."
One of the greatest hindrances to clear thinking is emotion, for it is difficult to be rational when our feelings are aroused and the argument clouded or coloured by our prejudices. How seldom are the statements of Scriptures taken at their face
value, or allowed to mean what they would declare clearly to an unbiased and unprejudiced mind.
The better known portions of Scripture have for many people an emotional significance which has often no connection whatever with the meaning of the words used. The impression made on their minds is not that of a revelation, therefore they are not able to make a dispassionate and logical deduction from the Divine declaration. That is why so many cherish favourite texts, not for their meaning, but for the feelings which they arouse.
Gods declarations are for acceptance by faith, and faith (true faith) is intelligent -- reasonable and logical, provided that we do indeed believe God. But men are very prone to "reason about" the Word of God, which is usually a very dangerous procedure, for human reasoning is more often wrong than right, because it takes in most cases as its major premise either a partial truth, or an idea which cannot be scripturally demonstrated as an established fact. God knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are vain, writes Paul, who enjoins us to do all things apart from reasonings, for it is fatally easy to reason away revelation.
It is not the ignorant and unlearned who are most in danger from reasonings, but the wise-- the teachers of theology and philosophy. Indeed, the instinctive acceptance of the plain person is more logical than the mental processes of those who are reputed to be wise, and who have to maintain a reputation for erudition.
A simple example of false reasoning is the favourite statement that if God really were Love there are many things which He would not allow to happen, therefore His claim cannot be true. Here the emotional reaction to the fact of Gods Love has been allowed to obscure the fact of Gods Deity. We may grant that since God is Love it may seem difficult to reconcile evil and suffering with our belief in that great truth, but we must still maintain that since God is GOD, despite all appearances nothing can successfully defy Him, or otherwise He would cease to be omnipotent. The logical conclusion would be that, since God is Love, evil and suffering must be His servants for a beneficent and loving purpose, difficult though this may be for finite minds to grasp.
Our inability to think clearly and logically robs God of much glory that is rightfully His, for we formulate our theories as to the meaning of His declarations as though He were at a loss for the proper words in which to express Himself. We say, in our amazing wisdom, that the Word of God says so and so, but that it means something quite different.
If we come across statements in the Word of God which seem to contradict our ideas concerning Him, we may quite safely conclude that our ideas are in error. It may well be that a particular idea is not completely wrong, but if it does not fit perfectly into the framework of Scripture then there must be a lack in our understanding.
The weakness of human reasoning lies in the fact that the human mind is not qualified to reason to a truly logical conclusion regarding spiritual things. For this to be possible it would be necessary to have a complete and accurate knowledge of all underlying causes, so that our arguments could be based upon facts. But in most human reasoning the major premise is ignored, and consequently the conclusions reached are false.
The starting point for any true reasoning is the great basic fact that God is God, and actually, if we realise and admit this no further need for reasoning arises, for God has given us a revelation which does the reasoning for us. Faith accepts what He says, and its remaining task is to understand and believe. As we come to understand Gods revelation we see that it is the logical outcome of the fact that He IS GOD, and our mental, as well as our other faculties are fully satisfied. So when we plead for a greater amount of thought to be devoted to Gods Word (which is the primary aim of this book) we are not for one moment demanding any sort of increase in the amount of reasoning about it.
I have a note of a quotation which came from "Un searchable Riches" over thirty years ago, which is excellent :-- "If we believe all of Gods Word we will not need to reason. The Scriptures do not consist of a collection of premises which we must combine in order to get the truth. . . . In examining any doctrine I wish to know first of all, Is it faith or is it inference? Is it this or is it that? Do the Scriptures directly teach this, or is it supposed to follow from their teaching?
Then, if this is reasoning, the next question is, Do the Scriptures teach this directly or do they deny it? So far there have been very few deductions that have not also been plain denials of plain statements in other parts of the Scriptures."
The writer then quotes Mark 8 : 16-17, "And they reasoned with one another saying that 'We have no bread, and, knowing it, Jesus is saying to them, 'Why are you reasoning that you have no bread? Are you not yet apprehending, neither understanding?"
The disciples had forgotten to get bread. They reasoned from the fact that their stomachs were empty--a very powerful factor in human reasoning! This is the simple human logic (a) An empty stomach, (b) No bread, (c) Hunger. Who can fault such reasoning? But supposing they had considered? They had One with them Who had fed five thousand with five cakes and two fishes (and had twelve baskets-full over) so how little did He need to feed their small party. No wonder that the Lord exclaims "Do you not understand?"
To think about the things of God is not necessarily to reason about them. It is ideal for faith to believe Gods declarations and then to use all the capabilities of the mind to think out their full meaning in the light of their contexts and associations, but we must beware of giving to our thoughts the same value of inspiration which we are bound to concede to the declarations themselves. This is a real danger, for in all sincerity we are apt to become confused in mind and to contend for the acceptance of our deductions in the mistaken impression that we are contending for the Word of God.
Faith will not conclude that God means Rome when He says Babylon, or that He means life when He says death, or that He means some when He says all. If we were only to stop and think we should never entertain the nonsense which passes by the name of theology, for we should instinctively reject it as we saw that in order to make itself at all intelligible it has to employ terms which are unscriptural. A sound mind cannot accept any doctrine, however traditional and precious to mens hearts, which cannot be expressed in the clear words of Scripture. Let us think when we are confronted by popular teaching concerning God and His Word, and let us not swallow these pretentious dogmas just because they appear learned and weighty.
Our minds are like dusty attics crowded with the accumulated rubbish of centuries of human reasonings and arguments and deductions. Let us throw this junk away and refurnish with that clear and orderly thought which is the outcome of faith in God.
The process of a true mental appreciation of Gods Word is a gradual growth rather than a rapid transition. "He gave some, teachers" writes Paul, underlining the fact that believers need to be taught, but the needed aid from outside ourselves is more comprehensive than this, for the unaided human mind can never find out God. Provision is made for the inadequacy of mind in those whom God calls, so that they may think aright :-- "For what in humanity is acquainted with that which
is human except the spirit of humanity which is in it? Thus also that which is of God no one has known but the spirit of God. Now we obtained, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God, that we may be perceiving that which is graciously given to us by God" (I. Cor. 2 11-12).
The effect of Gods life-giving spirit upon our human spirit is able to remove the disability which prevents true thought, for He gives us a spirit "of power and of love and of a sane mind."
The human mind is quite capable of understanding human things. The great thinkers and writers among men cannot be dismissed as misguided and foolish. On the contrary, they are the WISE, but when they attempt to apply human thinking to the spiritual things of God their efforts collapse in failure. That which is of God no man has known except the spirit of God, and the believer obtains this spirit, as we are told, and in measure as he lives and walks accordingly so will his mind be enabled to think with spiritual and Divine logic. The Major Premise will be part of his very being.
Paul writes to the Ephesians to be no longer walking "in the vanity of their mind, their comprehension being darkened, having been estranged from the life of God because of the ignorance which is in them" (4, 17-18). On the contrary, he tells them "be rejuvenated in the spirit of your mind"
The usual religious teaching is a mixture of human reasonings and fragments of Divine truth, and because these two will not mix we find that the average believer is unable to think in accordance with truth. The only true wisdom is that which God gives, the only clear thinking is that which is in line with His Word.
Do we seek to have a reputation for being wise? Right! "If anyone among you is presuming to be wise in this eon let him become stupid, that he may be becoming wise, for the wisdom of this world is stupidity with God" (I. Cor. 3, 18-20). And note, to the unbeliever, Gods infinite wisdom is foolishness :-- "For the word of the cross is stupidity, indeed, to
those who are being destroyed, yet to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written I shall be destroying the wisdom of the wise, and the understanding of the intelligent I shall be repudiating. Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the discusser of this eon? Does not God make stupid the wisdom of this world? For since, in fact, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom knew not God, it delights God through the stupidity of a proclamation to save those who are believing, since in fact, Jews are requesting signs and Greeks are seeking wisdom, yet we are proclaiming Christ crucified, to Jews, indeed, a snare, and to the nations stupidity, yet to those who are called, Jews as well as Greeks, Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God, seeing that the stupidity of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men."
While we do well to repudiate the wisdom of the world in so far as it relates to the things of God, we must not lay ourselves open to the charge that "my people do not think." Faith does not demand from us any abdication of intelligence. The Apostle speaks of" mature wisdom," and this is Gods wisdom as revealed in the Scriptures. To present every man mature is an aim to be pursued, and with this in view we cannot do better than to make on behalf of one another, the petition which Paul made and recorded in his letter to the Ephesians :--
"Therefore, I also, when hearing of the faith which relates to you in the Lord Jesus, and that for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention in my prayers that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father glorious, may impart to you a wise and revealing spirit in its realisation, the eyes of your hearts having been enlightened, for you to perceive what is the prospect of its call, what the glorious riches of the enjoyment of its allotment among the saints, and what the transcendent greatness of its power for us who are believing. . . ." Eph. I, 15-19.
And then with intelligent faith and rejuvenated minds, we may reach out to the richest crown of all spiritual experience and "know the love of Christ as well, which transcends knowledge."
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