(Sorry for the lack of posts lately – I’m planning a wedding and trying to wrap up some schoolwork these days.)
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the difference between popular wisdom and biblical wisdom.
Popular wisdom seems to say that we should trust our hearts and be basically sceptical about reason: “what is truth? Everyone has a different opinion. Follow your heart. Who really knows what is best? Do what you think is right. To each his or her own.”
Biblical wisdom seems to say the opposite – that we should be basically sceptical about our hearts, and generally trusting of reason: the heart is desperately sick and evil (Jer. 17:9); it is the wellspring of all manner of evils (Jesus says this in Matt. 15:18-20); God calls us to come an reason with Him (Is. 1:18); we are told to be mature in our thinking (1 Cor. 14:20); and that solid biblical teaching is for those who have learned to discern the difference between good and evil (Heb. 5:14). And yet, at the same time, there are verses that show that human reason has limits and cannot always be trusted, and that we have to submit ourselves to Christ before we can have the ‘mind of Christ’ (cf. Rom. 12:1-2; 2 Cor. 4:3-4; 1 Cor. 2:14-16).
- How are we to make sense of this? Well, for myself, this is the model that I use in my own thinking:
- Reason itself (with a capital R) is simply the mechanics of truth, and God is the Truth (John 14:6); therefore, Reason itself is an ally.
- However, we humans are, apart from God, darkened in our thinking. We are capable of some infallible reason (2 + 2 = 4), but we are also capable of much fallible reason as well, which is most evident in human hypocrisy.
- When we use logic correctly, we are tapping into that which flows from God’s own nature.
- When we think incorrectly, we are falling prey to the limitations of our fallible minds.
- When our sinful motivations cause us to be closed-minded to the truth (e.g. assuming that there must be no supernatural without even investigation historical evidence for such), our fallen hearts are taking over our thinking.
- I want to suggest that all human fallible reason is, in fact, either due to untrained minds and/or evil intentions of the heart; I think sometimes it is only one of these, and sometimes it is both – we are more than capable of deceiving ourselves.
The cash value is this: popular culture says that we should be most cautious about truth and our minds, while biblical wisdom says we should be most cautious about our hearts. So if we make our moral decisions on the basis of our emotions and desires – on the basis of what seems right to us (cf. Prov. 14:12) – instead of submitting our opinions to the authority of Scripture, then it’s hard to ignore the clear implication: we have simply relocated the authority; we trust our hearts more than we trust God.
Now, it is important to clarify the boundaries of what I am saying here:
- By “trusting of reason,” all I mean is that the Bible seems to say that once we’ve taken care of the heart problem, reason is an ally, not a foe. This is not to somehow elevate human reason above the effects of the Fall; rather, I would argue that whatever is merely human (whatever does not flow from God’s nature) in human reason is, in fact, not truth-oriented at all. The merely human parts of human reason are those parts which are either mistaken or in service of the deceptive human heart instead of in service of Truth. Whatever parts of reason are not merely human – that is, whatever is not influenced by the fallen human heart or imperfect mind – is, in fact, the mechanics of Truth itself (a.k.a. the rules of logic). I believe that the rules of logic must flow from the nature of God Himself. This does not mean that we humans have an exhaustive understanding of these laws; rather, just like moral laws, they are gradually discovered (revealed!) over time. So, I am not at all saying that human reason is the ally; it is God who is our ally, and true Reason is part of His nature. Truth is not something we can posses, but we can allow Truth to posses us. I don’t have the Truth: the Truth has me. Praise God!
- When I speak of human emotions as being opposed to biblical wisdom, or somehow the opposite of biblical wisdom, I am not at all saying that human emotions (or conscience) are always wrong; rather, I am saying that if we choose to go with our hearts when they are opposed to the teachings of Scripture, then we are trusting our hearts more than God.
- That is what makes this such a dangerous area of Christian living: much of the time we can trust our hearts! Murder is wrong; we should give to the poor; racism is wrong; we should help the helpless; stealing money is wrong; we should love others and care for them – all of these things basically agree with the collective ‘human heart’ of western culture (at this point in history). And yet, we also have a number of ‘heart-positions’ that are squarely at odds with Scripture: culture tells us not to judge anyone ever (cf. 1 Cor. 5:9-13); that all religions are the same, and sincerity is all that matters (cf. John 14:6; Acts 4:12); that we should do whatever we desire to do (James 1:13-15; Rom. 8:13); and so on.
So, the point is this: we must trust the authority of Scripture first, and submit our hearts to God continually.
What do you guys think?