Posted in Christian Witness, Communication, Personal Testimony, Theology

Offering A Brief Glimpse into My Life and the Formation of My Thought

Who am I? Why am I here? What am I supposed to do with mylife? These were the questions that plagued my mind when I was in my youth. Thereason for this was because I was repeatedly told that I needed to figure outwhat I wanted to do after graduation. Was I going to college? Then I needed toknow where, and what I was going to major in. Was I going to start working?Then I needed to know where, and what trade I was willing to learn.

Having received an academic scholarship from the Universityof Charleston, in Charleston, W.V. my path seemed chosen for me. Who would passup free money to go to school? Obviously, I wasn’t a lout when it came tostudies. I’ve always been a bit of a book nerd, with a tendency to analyze(some would say “over analyze) everything. I left home a little more than twomonths after graduation (August 21st, 1997) moved into the dormitoryand began attending classes a few days later. A couple of weeks before this Ihad applied for a waiter position at a Pizza Hut about two miles down the road,so extra income was not going to be a problem.

My chosen field of study was psychology with a minor insociology. Classes were not hard, although if you were to look at my grades youmight think otherwise. In fact, before my second semester I was warned by myacademic advisor that my scholarship was about to be put on probation. Thelimitations placed on the scholarship were pretty simple, maintain a B average(I wanted to say 3.4, but I could be wrong; its been a few years). I believe Iwas around a 2.6.

There were several mitigating problems that led to thisstate.

First, I did not manage my new-found freedom very well. 

Personal Cutscene now Ensuing: For the better part of my life I had been raised in church (since about the age of 3 or 4). My dad had served in preaching ministry as a pastor in the Church of the Nazarene since the turn of the decade (early 90’s, I wanted to say 1991, but I can’t be sure). Looking back there was never a time that I doubted what I had been taught or read from the Bible.

It was at the age of 7 when Ireally became aware of the fact that I was a sinner who needed saving (I canstill remember the revival service in New Lexington, OH where I went to thealtar of my own volition—no coercion was present, my own conscience inconfliction motivated me). As a little child I cried out to Jesus to save me,acknowledging myself a sinner. However, as children are prone to do I strayedfar afield.

Theologically, we could argue whether or not I was truly saved, but that would have to be another discussion. My point right now, is that my freedom and my lack of personal motivation to serve the Lord with all my heart proved disastrous. Now, I did not walk away unscathed. My heart was continually tormented and my conscience would intermittently feel the prick of sin. Even when I seemed to grow very calloused to the things I once held dear, it seemed the Holy Spirit would put people in my path to give me a proverbial gut punch; to remind me He was still there.

My grades slipped as a result of my freedom. I spent toomuch time…well, I’ll let your imagination fill the void there…and skippingclass became the norm.

Secondly, I found that my choice of major/minor were notcompatible with my current worldview. Now I didn’t know what a worldview was atthe time, but I did know that what I was being taught in psychology andsociology did not coalesce with my thoughts on human nature and how people inthe world ought to live. There was a great divide in regards to thepresuppositions that the heads of those departments held with my own (again Ididn’t know what presuppositions were at the time either). Our differingassumptions, biases and traditions led to conflict.

Uhm…Another Brief Cutscene Ensues: The head of the psychology department was a redhead and so when his anger rose so did the color of his face. I experienced this first hand in a class he was teaching with about 30 of my peers when I challenged something he said during a lecture. I don’t believe I was confrontational, but we sometimes have a fine way of justifying the way we speak to others…so I may have been. In any event, before long he was yelling at me and finger pointing. The end of the matter being, I went to his office and told him that I would be changing my major/minor. He responded, and this is paraphrased, “Good, we don’t need people like you in this field!”

So, in the end, though I had changed my major to Education(don’t remember what I changed my minor to; political science maybe?), after mysecond semester I transferred to another school in another state and startedworking for my grandfather’s construction company in Crooksville, OH.

What happened that made this transition in my life seemnecessary? Well, during the month of May, towards the end of April, when schooldismissed I found myself alone. All of my friends had ventured back to theirperspective states. Earlier in the year, at the turn of the second semester myroommate and I had decided to get an apartment off campus. Although, the schoolattempted to dissuade us from this, citing that first-year students (i.e.freshman) needed to remain on campus, we were just as adamant that as adults wewould make our own living decisions…thank you very much!

Yeah, yeah…Here’s another one of those cutscenes: The end of the semester led to some unsettling realities. I’m a bit of a movie buff, so I went to the movies alone (remember everybody was gone). A new sci-fi thriller had come out the week before. As I sat in the theater I kept waiting for people to come in and take their seats; none did. Towards the end of the movie, the feeling of emptiness really pressed in on me. I kept thinking, I am as empty inside as this theater is.

About a week later (I think), I had one of the older guys from work buy me a case of Budweiser. I had put it on ice before my shift at Pizza Hut the day before. When my workday was done, I sat down facing the big bay window in my apartment and watched the sunset over the mountains. A truly beautiful sight to be sure, but my heart was sad. The constant refrain kept running through my mind, “Kristafal…what are you doing with your life? How long will you attempt to live without me?” Now, I’m not saying that the Lord was truly speaking in my mind here, nor am I saying that God does not speak or cannot speak in such a fashion to His creatures, but I believe a more appropriate retelling is to state that what I knew about God and myself as a created being, the Holy Spirit was bringing to the forefront of my mind.

We read the Bible to learn about God and man. We read the Bible to hear the voice of God—that is why He went to such great care in preserving it and why so much blood has been spilled that we may have access to it. We read the Bible, for that is how the Holy Spirit conditions (renews) our minds, and it is through the Bible that we hear the voice of God (cf. 1John 4.1).

At the age of 19, I was struggling with who I was, why I wasborn, and what I was supposed to be doing with my life. Those answers did notcome to fruition until late in the winter of 2004. In the month of February, I foundmyself in a movie theater once again (do you remember me mentioning that I’m abit of a movie buff?). This night I didn’t want to go, but I was invited bysome family to see Mel Gibson’s new movie The Passion of the Christ. Barringall the errors in the film theologically, and all the criticisms that you mightwant to levy at it, that movie caused a great quake to rupture through myheart.

I’m not even going to say it this time: The language of Hebrew and Aramaic broke through the darkness and weighty silence of the theater’s crowd. Every slash of the Roman whip across the back of who was supposed to be Jesus of Nazareth made my heart ache. The mockery of the Romans and the Jews, the long walk to Golgotha—the place of the Skull—the driving of the nails (spikes) into the hands and feet of Jesus, the agony displayed as he was hung upon the cross. All of these things and many more brought to life in a different way the various passages I had been taught and read over the years. My breath escaped me, each attempt to draw air into my lungs harder than the last. All I kept thinking through the snot and tears was that He bore my iniquities through the punishment He endured (cf. Isa 53). His blood (“the life is in the blood” Lev 17.11) was offered in substitution for my own—Life for life.

I could not leave that theaterwithout begging for mercy and forgiveness. “Jesus died for me! How could Ipossibly continue living my life as if this were not true?” These were thethoughts that plagued my mind and I praise the Lord for that even to this day.

Before attending this showing, I had already been attendinga small Nazarene church in Roseville, OH. My work at my grandfather’sconstruction company had ended. I was now working in Columbus, OH for acommercial HVAC company. After the showing my life experienced a dramaticchange of course.

You could not shut me up about Jesus and how He hadtransformed my life. Reading the Bible was pleasurable again, as it was when Iwas a child. I couldn’t put down God’s Word. My heart burned in similar fashionas those disciples on the road to Emmaus must have (Luke 24.13-32). When helpwas needed in the local church I was there volunteering. Before too long, I wasteaching the Teen Sunday school class. Later, I began singing in the choir andeventually performed solos. By April of 2006 I testified that I was feeling ledinto Christian ministry. The local church affirmed this, and later so did theDistrict on which our church served. I began Bible college in the fall(Nazarene Bible College, Colorado Springs, CO), eventually graduating in 2011.

On November of 2008, I accepted my first pastoral positionin Chesterhill, OH. I continued to grow in the Lord, even though I will be thefirst one to tell you and confess that I am a sinner saved by grace. I want tostress that fact that Christians are sinners. Doesn’t matter if we serve in ministryor not, there will always be a struggle with our sinful nature inherited by ourforeparents.[1]You may want to disagree with that position, but I will let you argue with theLord and His Word on that one (cf. Gal 5.16-17). Some would say, and I havebeen told, that pastors shouldn’t say that they are sinners. I disagree.

I am no different than any other person on this planet (now,past or present). What makes me different is that I have been made alive inChrist Jesus (Eph 2.5-6). Realizing that the standard is to be perfect as my heavenlyfather is perfect (Matt 5.48; cf. Lev 19.2; 20.26), that this is the true intentbehind loving the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and myneighbor as myself (how horribly short we all fall HERE!), how could I dare sayother than I am a sinner saved by grace?

Now, I was raised Wesleyan-Arminian, but I no longer hold tothose tenents. I cannot in good conscience. This was why I resigned as a pastorfrom the Church of the Nazarene, even though I was due to be ordained.[2]I am firmly resolute in my conviction in Reformed thought. I am unashamed as aCalvinist, although I would argue that John Calvin would probably roll over inhis grave if he knew that his name was being used as an identifier rather thanjust a Christian.

Why the change? Well, to be perfectly honest for far toolong I had believed things according to tradition and I had never challengedthose traditions with what the Bible taught historically, grammatically, andcontextually. Over the course of a couple years, as I served as pastor in asmall rural church, I began investigating orthodox Christian thought from thepast and comparing what they said with what I held to be true, under the lightof Scripture. The key issue for me was if I am going to be a Christian minister[3]who preaches and teaches the Word of God, where should my ultimate commitmentlie? Tradition or Scripture? Philosophy or Scripture? Science or Scripture? UnaidedReason or Scripture?

I was once told in a liberal chat session by a minister whostood well outside of what has been historically known as Christian thought,that he wished he had the conviction and passion that I did. I asked, “Why can’tyou? You have access to the same Scripture that I do.” He refused to shift histheological underpinnings, though he appreciated my own.

If it is true that in Jesus Christ are found “all thetreasures of wisdom and knowledge,” (Col 2.3; cf. 1.9-10) and if it is true thatwe as Christians are to bring “every thought captive to obey Christ” (2Cor10.5), then why would I want to understand any of the subjects mentioned abovewithout the introspective lens of Scripture guiding and correcting my understandingof them? The fact is I don’t, and I can’t see how any Christian consistently could.

Okay, but why the life story? Why the glimpse into my life?Because I want the reader to know, whoever they may be that I say the things Ido out of love. First for the Lord, and second for you. Recently I was toldabout a confrontation a person had with their doctor (psychiatrist) who is ofIndian descent (not Native American). The doctor was of the assumption thatthere may be one god, but many paths led to him which is why we see theexpression of so many religious beliefs. The individual answered, “No, there isonly one God, one truth, one way, one life. If one religion is true, then theothers are false.” That upset the doctor to no end. The person told me that whatthe doc was saying didn’t make sense anyway. He said, “there is no ‘s’ on theend of way, truth and life (ref. to John 14.6).” I praise the Lord that this memberof my church was able to speak the truth in love in a circumstance where manyothers would balk.

I confess that I may speak very passionately and strongly attimes, but my hope is that you all understand…whoever you may be…that the loveof Christ compels me. We may disagree on a multitude of subjects, and that isfine, but I want to speak the truth of the Lord in love in the hope that somemight hear and be moved to respond. The truth of the matter is this, our livesare very short, and it is not a question of “if” but of “when” we will meet ourMaker….In what state, do you want to meet Him? Apart from Jesus Christ, youwill be irrevocably lost. My prayer is that is not the case.

ENDNOTES:


[1] I do believe that thisstruggle lessens somewhat as we become conformed to God’s way of thinkingrather than our own, but this battle will be present to some extent throughout our whole life.

[2] Myordination did come a couple of years later within the SBC; April 2014.

[3] Beinga Christian minister is not necessary to use this application. It should applyto all Christian thought, regardless of their position.

Posted in Christian Witness, Depravity, Reason, Theology, Worldview Analysis

What Do Idols Represent? Fallen Images

When Israel was delivered from the hands of the Egyptians, not long after Pharaoh and his mighty army were buried by the waters of the Red Sea. They met at the foot of the mountain to swear fealty to the Lord of Hosts; to worship the God of all the earth. However, within a very short period of time they forgot about God, about Moses and demanded that an idol be fashioned for them. For what purpose? To what end? They wanted a representation of the gods that had delivered them. One the golden calf that they could see, the other the invisible Lord they could not see (Exod 32.4). To these gods they gave offerings and sacrifices and had a feast in their name. They ate, they drank and practiced in devilry (Exod 32.5-6).

What you are witnessing as you read this section of Scripture is an act of syncretism, a combining or joining of two beliefs systems in equal status. The problem is when such worship is offered, even if the name of the Lord is mentioned, it is an act of false worship. In truth, such practices have nothing to do with worshiping the God of heaven and earth. Instead, they have everything to do with worshiping the idols of the heart.

The Israelites were not alone, for the Bible says people in general participate in this practice.

  • “For although [human beings] knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen” (Rom 1.21-25).

In short, idol worship is common practice for sinners. Rather than give praise, honor, and glory where they are due, sinners in their zeal, offer these things to lesser beings.

Why?

Well, the answer is simple enough but few want to accept it. When Adam sinned in the garden he did no less than the Israelites recently freed from Egypt, for he too sought to give praise, honor and glory to a lesser being—himself. In fact, I would argue that what our forefather did was much worse (cf. Rom 5.14). His sin was what introduced sin into earthly[1] creation.

  • “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Rom 5.12; cf. Gen 3.17-19, 22-24; Rom 8.19-22)

On that day Adam experienced death. The promise given to him by his Creator proved true (cf. Gen 2.17). This confuses many people today. We read the word “death” and we assume cessation from life; entrance to the grave. As I have taught previously the Bible does not define death that way. Death in Scripture means “separation.”[2] And on that day in the garden both Adam and his wife Eve experienced true death.

They were immediately separated from God in their hearts. This is demonstrated by their attempt at covering their nakedness (Gen 3.7); which, is an illustrative way of showing their attempt to cover (atone for) their sin (shame).  And, they hid from the Lord when He made His presence known in the garden (Gen 3.8-10).[3] The final illustration of this death is found in being driven from the garden of the Lord; being denied access to the Tree of Life (again separation, not cessation). The only hope of life now would be at the mercy of their Creator.

The death of Adam was the antecedent to the rest of humanity, as his offspring we all experience this death (the consequent). “The wages of sin is death” (Rom 6.23). As sinners we are separated from our Creator, from life, from righteousness and holiness and goodness. Ultimately, we are separated from properly imaging God in this world.

I pointed out a couple posts back that our responsibility is to love God with our minds. This is true because God is meant to be sovereign over our minds (our reason[ing]). What exactly did sin effect in the Fall (Gen 3)? If we could put a percentage on sin’s effects on the human nature, the human mind, then what should our numbers be? 50%? 75%? 100%?

Pelagius who argued with Augustine believed it was zero. Most evangelicals won’t go that far. Neither will Rome. Yet, few today desire to say 100%, but on what grounds?

What’s the Bible say? I know that is not the standard many wish to appeal to. Not many want to be dependent on that source entirely. It leaves little wiggle room. And, we love room to wiggle!

We’re Dead…

Regardless of our preferences we are left with the following statement of truth. Before we were made alive in Christ Jesus we were all dead in trespasses and sins (Eph 2.1, 5). Even we who are truly born again must admit that we “once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Eph 2.2-3). Even though we were originally made upright that is not our default position (Eccl 7.20, 29). For the only offspring that we can produce now is something unclean and hell bent (Job 15.14; Psa 58.3).

READER: “Wait a minute, Kris…you said in your last post that you were going to talk about Psalm 115. What does any of this have to do with that Psalm?”

ANSWER: Everything.

Psalm 115 is a song of comparison.

The focus of Psalm 115 is the Lord above (as depicted in verse 1, but we’ll get to that a little later). The writer offers the rhetorical question of the nations, “Where is their God?” (Psa 115.2). For those unfamiliar with the history of the period, gods and goddesses ruled over the nations in their own localities. More often than not the gods of the pagans were not limited to a monotheistic model, preferring a polytheistic pantheon of gods/goddesses instead. Each nation attributed victories in battle, blessings of the field and womb, wisdom and knowledge, and many other desirable venues to the particular deities of their choosing. I say “of their choosing” because these people groups would fashion a god or goddess after the likeness of their own imaginations, going to great lengths to cover all their bases (see Acts 17.23).

Israel was different. Israel’s God was not like the rest of the nations, for making an image of any kind was forbidden. Theologically, this makes perfect sense, since God created mankind to be His image bearers in creation, and Israel was set-apart by God to be a light to the nations (cf. Exod 19.5-6; Deut 4.5-8; Isa 49.3-6).[4] Of whom, Jesus the Christ is said to be the perfect representation of the invisible God (Heb 1.3; Col 1.15), the light of the world (John 8.12), the true Adam (1Cor 15.45) and image bearer. What Christ is, man ought to be.

Because Israel was different, the nations mocked. They made light of the God of Israel. But, the psalmist answers their question with the following retort:

  • “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psa 115.3).

In other words, our God is not like your little gods or goddesses. He does not merely rule over the skies, or the battlefield, or this city or that state. His domain is not limited to the land of this nation or that nation. He doesn’t concern Himself about this group of people over here, or that flock of animals over there. No…He rules it all. He sits above the circle of the earth far beyond the sight of mere creatures. He is king over all that is in the heavens and that which dwells on the earth.

  • “[Your] idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they make no sound in their throat” (Psa 115.4-7).

In other words, you claim that your gods are gods, that they are mighty in power and deed. You cower before them, and offer them sacrifices and prayer. You have festivals in their honor and dedicate your children to them. You pretend that they are alive, that they are living, but they are dead! They are unseeing, unhearing, unfeeling, unable to smell or speak or move. You claim that your gods are gods, all the while mocking our own, but you worship dead things. Things created by your own hands. Things created in your own minds.

What are idols? They are reflections of the minds of man. What are idols? They are image bearers of fallen man. What are idols? They are representations of their creator.

  • “Like them are their makers, every one who is trusting in them” (Psa 115.8; YLT).[5]

Like the one who created them, these idols are dead things. Scripture uses various expressions to state that people are spiritually dead. They are said to have ears and not hear (i.e. deaf), eyes and not see (i.e. blind)[6]; they are said to have legs, but are incapable of walking (i.e. lame)[7]; they are said to have hands, but are incapable of feeling (i.e. leprous)[8]; freedom appears to guide their lives, but it does not (i.e. slaves)[9]; wisdom appears to guide their minds, but it does not (i.e. fools)[10]; knowledge is what they profess to have, but they do not (i.e. pseudo-knowledge).[11]

What’s my point?

The biblical testimony of the Triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit)[12] continually mocks and ridicules the idols of human beings. He chides foolish people who believe (trust) in them. What we need to understand is that these idols are accurate representations of their creators. Not physical representations, but mental representations of the imaginations of fallen image bearers.

We will worship anything other than the Lord God. We will go to great lengths to fashion a god of our choosing, to bow down to. It doesn’t matter if the object is made of wood, precious metal or stone (cf. Isa 44.8-20). We may even take a portion of the truth revealed in the Bible, profess faith in God or in Jesus as incarnate deity, acknowledge the divine person-hood of the Holy Spirit, but then turn around and form and fashion Him into an idol of our own choosing (comp Matt. 7.21-23).

In short, fools beget fools. Idols are birthed from the hearts of dead men, and as God points out repeatedly those idols are an accurate representation of a non-living being. “The question of man’s depravity considers not the extent of his guilty before God, but the extent of his corruption in sin.”[13] So radically corrupted is the human mind, due to its dependency (i.e. bondage) to sin, that though the truth of God may be clearly perceived internally (cf. Rom 2.14-16) and externally (cf. Rom 1.18-20), man prefers to offer allegiance to anything other than the Lord—i.e. idols fashioned in the crucible of fallen minds.

What Troubles Me…

Is that in our rebellion we deny the very fact that the Bible so clearly reveals, human reason is broken, left as a tattered remnant of what it once was. The battle for man’s ability to reason correctly was lost in the garden, and unless some other victor comes marching on the field to bind that corruption that has dominated our hearts we are powerless to ever come to the knowledge of the truth (cf. Luke 11.21-22; Eph 2.4-6).

Unfortunately, I have now stepped into turbulent waters. There is no greater affront to our fallen minds, than to attack the sacred golden calf of human reason. And yet, should we not—we who profess that we know God (Rom 10.9-11; John 20.28)—declare with the psalmist:

  • “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and our faithfulness![14] …You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord! …The heavens are the Lord’s heavens, but the earth he has given to the children of man. The dead do not praise the Lord, nor do any who go down into silence. But we will bless the Lord from this time forth and forevermore. Praise the Lord!” (Psa 115.1, 11a, 16-18).

How much glory, how much praise, how much fear and trust do we show in the Lord, when we present the truth of God to fallen mankind in a manner that makes the man the judge (reasoner) over and above the Creator? We present light to men whose eyes have been gouged out, ears that have been blown, expecting them to see and hear without the Lord first giving them eyes to see and ears to hear…what folly is this?[15]

Should we not rather, as we carefully/prayerfully consider our fallen brethren’s plight, present to them the truth as definable within a biblical framework trusting that the Lord is mightier than their fallenness. Should we not refuse to present evidences or facts at the feet of fallen image bearers allowing them to sit in a seat of judgment as if they were a god; rather, confronting them with evidence of their willful suppression of the truth. God is judge, not mankind. God sits on the throne not mankind. The evidence and facts of the Christian faith present the rightful condemnation of all (cf. Rom 3.19); they are only delightful truths to members of the faith, not the other way around.[16] Should we not let this weight burden their hearts, providing the Lord the opportunity to grant repentance?

As Christians we have no right, whatsoever, to pander to the pride of unbelievers. We are not to be peddlers of the Word of God (cf. 2Cor 2.17), but are commanded to present the truth. In this only Christ Jesus will reserve the right to boast, for the salvation of fallen image bearers is the work of God…not man (cf. 1Cor. 1.28-31; Php 3.3). We are ring bearers, nothing more.[17]

ENDNOTES:


[1] The chief of sinners was already in the garden before the man and woman fell—Satan; the devil; that vile serpent of old (Rev 12.9). The focus of the biblical account is earthly in that it is given on man’s behalf; from our vantage point. Even though, it is completely accurate to refer to the Word of God as God-breathed (theopneustos); an accurate retelling from God’s vantage point—to/for man.

[2] The reader needs to understand that “death” in Scripture does not mean cessation—i.e. ceasing to exist. Death in the Bible conveys the idea of separation. Therefore, death is described in the Bible in at least three different ways: 1) separation from our Creator (cf. Gen 3.8); 2) separation from being a slave to sin (cf. Rom 6.4); 3) separation from the body, what we describe as physical death (cf. Eccl 12.7).

[3] This hiding from the sound of the Lord was an act of rebellion. Adam admits that fear drove him to this course of action. No doubt, fear of His holy Creator and of the complete death that rightfully awaited him did make the man seek some refuge where God might not find him. However, the Lord made the man accountable for his actions. Even though he desired to be away from God as far as possible, the Lord made him answer for his offense.

[4] All other false religious belief systems attempt to mimic this truth, but in a watered down, distorted version.

[5] The ESV like some other translations present this verse in the following pattern: “Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.” The order is logically inconsistent, for an image bearer represents the image for which it was created, not the other way around. The fact that people desire to make idols based upon their own imaginative minds shows that the idols accurately represents its maker—a dead thing.

[6] Cf. Deut 29.4; Matt 15.14; Rom 11.8-11; 2Cor 4.4; 1John 2.11; comp Isa 42.16

[7] Cf. Lev 21.18; Prov 26.7; contrasted with Isa 35.5-6; Matt 15.30.

[8] Cf. Lev 13.2-3, 44-46; Num 12.10-12; 2Sam 3.29; contrasted with 2King 5.1-17; Luke 4.27; Matt 8.2-3.

Many misunderstand the significance of these blemishes (including all that I have included before, above) found in the human body as a picture of sin. These individuals were cut-off from the congregation in Israel and access to the sanctuary of God via the priests. The only person who could remove this malady from them is the Lord God. His healing made them clean and grafted them into the fellowship of the covenant community. The purpose of Jesus’ healing in the N. T. is a highlighting of this fact. He brought healing in his wings. He alone could heal the nations (people). Jesus alone as the High Priest could declare what was clean versus unclean. Thus, the underlying foundation of the signs which he performed contrary to many “word of faith” preachers or liberal theologians today.

[9] Cf. Job 14.4; John 8.34; Tit 3.3; 2Chron 6.36

[10] Cf. Psa 14.1-3; Eccl 9.3; 1Cor 1.20.

[11] Cf. Deut 32.29; Prov 1.22, 29; 1Tim 6.20.

[12] Stress needs be laid on the doctrine of the Trinity—the One God revealed in three coeternal/coexistent persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Not three gods, but One Being; for the Father is not the Son nor the Spirit, neither is the Son the Father or the Spirit, nor can we say that the Spirit is the Father or the Son. They are distinct in functionality, but united in purpose and essence. In terms of salvific history, the Father sends the Son and gives to the Son the elect; the Son gives His life in honor to the Father for the life of the people given to Him; the Spirit is sent out from the Father and the Son in order to represent the Son in exaltation to those given by the Father and received by the Son, preserving and perfecting the elect for the final day of presentation. Therefore, God alone deserves the glory, honor and praise.

[13] Richard D. Phillips, What’s so Great about the Doctrines of Grace? (Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2008), 24, Adobe Digital Editions.

[14] Contrary to fallen image bearer’s own attestation: “Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find?” Or as this verse is rendered in the KJV: “Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?” (Prov 20.6).

[15] “Speculation which is independent of God’s word cannot lead a rebellious sinner to a proper knowledge of God. For the believer, the Christ of Scripture is the basis of human knowledge; He is the necessary starting pint for knowledge, or else man’s intellectual efforts will lead to utter skepticism.” Greg L. Bahnsen, Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended, ed. Joel McDurmon (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision Press & Nacogdoches, TX: Covenant Media Press, [2008], 2011), 29. Adobe Digital Editions.

[16] “Facts and logic are meaningful and useful to man within the context of Christ’s word.” Ibid, 29. Italics added.

[17] In case this last analogical reference is misunderstood, allow me to explain. The ring bearer presents the ring of union to the bride and groom. The two rings represent one life. The gospel is the ring that we bring forth to fallen man, but only the husband may put the ring on the one he has taken to be his bride. This act is an act of devotional love bestowed on the woman. The man is the first to act because he has preeminence, the woman follows suit because without the husband movement towards her (i.e. his putting his love on her), she would not be able to respond. Unfortunately, the beauty of this act is lost somewhat in our generation because of the feminist theology that pervades human thought (both inside and outside the church).

Posted in Christian Witness, Communication, Reason, Salvation, Theology, Worldview Analysis

Refraction: Unintended Results Acquired and Passed On

Take a straight pencil and dip it into a glass of water. What do you see? The pencil appears bent. This is called refraction. When light waves travel through air and water the speed is altered and a distorted image ensues. An educated person understands that the pencil is not truly bent, but only appears to be so. A young child on the other hand will try and convince you (if asked) that the pencil really does bend when it goes into the water.

Why the different conclusions?The “educated person” has had their reasoning aided by an external source; whereas, the child is attempting to determine the reality of the pencil on their own without having their reasoning aided. One is using the mental tool of reasoning dependently, the other is using the same faculties of the mind independently.[1]

The point should be obvious to all: reasoning alone does not lead to the correct interpretation of the facts/evidences. This was true before the Fall recorded in Genesis 3. So, why would we assume that this is different when we present to the gospel of the Christian worldview to a non-believer?

Arguments to the Contrary

Jesus very clearly taught that without a dependence on God-given revelation people would not believe even if someone were to come back to life (cf. Luke 16.30-31). The human mind as a result of the fall has been grossly distorted, now man’s point of view suffers refraction.We can thank our foreparents[2](Adam and Eve) for this gift. They took it upon themselves to reason (judge,discern, determine) without any aid or dependency upon God’s revelation(natural or special).[3]We have no right to complain, for given the same circumstances we too would have tread where they did. Thus, our foreparents (along with the rest of humanity residing in them) assumed authority over their own minds, positioning themselves as judge over and above God.

That is now the default position of all people. Yes, even professing believer’s struggle with this truth. As maybe seen in the warning given by the apostle Paul to his protégé Timothy. A text, which is often conveniently overlooked or ignored, and sometimes misapplied. 

  • “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2Tim 4.3-4).[4]

That the Holy Spirit thought it necessary to offer such a word of caution to a minister of the gospel, ought to give all Christians pause. Christians have not had their former nature so eradicated that they no longer struggle with the desire to be the final arbitrator of truth; even when it comes to the Word of God.[5]Like Eve, we all struggle or are troubled at times to reason in the same fashion she did. We take the propositional truth of God found in Scripture, and the world in which we live, and the testimony of others and set ourselves above these things as judge.

As Scripture says the human mind is “deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it?”(Jer 17.9). For every intention (imagination, plan) of human thought is wicked continually from childhood (Gen 6.5; 8.21; Psa 51.5). The human mind is, as a result of the fall, naturally hostile towards God’s instruction (Rom 8.7; Col1.21), and so darkened that it is incapable of discerning spiritual things (Eph4.18; 1Cor 2.14).[6] 

At this point in the discussion there is an argument raised by some in the Christian faith regarding evidence.I have heard it said, but didn’t Jesus give evidence and tell people to believe on the evidence that He is from God; the Son of God, the Savior of Men?

  • “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves” (John14.11).
  • “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20.30-31).

Although, there are other similar texts, these should suffice to make the point I am driving at. To be sure, by themselves, these texts appear to show that belief is possible on evidence or facts alone. We may even appeal to the Psalmist who states, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psa19.1). And in another place, we are told, “For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy. How great are your works, O Lord! Your thoughts are very deep!” (Psa 92.4-5). However, these texts do not nullify what has come before. Nor do they disprove what has already been stated.

In John 11 Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. After four days in that arid climate the body of Lazarus, sealed in the tomb, would have been a nasty sight to be sure. Not to mention the grotesque smell! And yet, as we know Jesus shouts in the midst of those gathered there “Lazarus, come out” (John 11.43), the dead man comes out alive.

This text was chosen for two reasons. One it looks back to what I have been saying in this post and in others with reference to Jesus comments in Luke 16:30-31 about people not believing even if the dead arises. For, not everyone believed in Jesus even when they saw the dead man walking. All Jesus did was give them another person to want to kill (cf. John 11.46, 53, 12.9-11). The evidence by itself was not enough to convince the person of the truth.

Two, Jesus guides the reasoning of the individuals who witnessed Lazarus having been raised. Rather than allowing them to interpret the event in light of their own worldview, using unaided reason, the Lord prepped their thinking. In other words, he gave them the necessary framework to properly interpret the evidence before them: “And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me.I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around that they may believe you sent me” (John 11.41b-42; emphasis added).

Without a dependency on God’s revelation, fallen people will never see the truth. In other words, it is impossible to come to a knowledge of the truth apart from God’s revelation. We were created to be dependent upon it, and after the Fall our disposition has switched to the default setting against it.

  • “The stupid man cannot know; the fool cannot understand this” (Psa 92.6).[7]
  • “Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10.25-27).

Notice the emphasis Jesus put on the proper interpretation of the evidence He has presented to the Jews. The works He does are done in His Father’s name and the bear witness to the truthfulness of who He is, but those who are not members of His flock fail to believe.

Inner Light is Necessary

Furthermore, before I finish this post there is another aspect of dependent thought that serves as a necessary prerequisite for comprehending the truth. We are told in Scripture that in the Lord “…is the fountain of life [and] in [His] light do we see light” (Psa 36.9). The inference being: There is a divine element to seeing, understanding and accepting the truth; which, apart from the Holy Spirit’s regenerative work in the hearts of fall people is impossible. In other words, we cannot see the light (life/truth) apart from God’s light (life/truth).

Until God puts a new heart within us we are left with a heart of stone that stubbornly suppresses the truth in unrighteousness. As Stephen said to the Sanhedrin in the 1st century,fallen man is continually stiff-necked towards God resisting the Holy Spirit(Acts 7.51). This is the reason Jesus was killed (from an earthly perspective) because“none of the rulers of this age understood…for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1Cor 2.8). Without the Holy Spirit revealing to fallen people the truth of God (cf. 1Cor 2.10), they “[do] not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him…” (1Cor 2.14). This is what separates the Christian from the non-Christian. We have been given “…the mind of Christ” (1Cor 2.16).

In order to see things correctly and to reinterpret them after God’s own thoughts the unbeliever must have his/her mind renewed (cf. Rom 12.2; Eph 4.23). They must become a new creature(Rom 6.4; Eph 2.24). They must be fashioned after the image of Jesus Christ(Rom 13.4). This they cannot do, for it is a gift from God for we are His workmanship (cf. Eph 2.8-10).

Now, if we as Christians who have been given new life in Christ, have circumcised hearts made of flesh rather than stone (Col 2.11-12), and are being conformed into the image of God’s one and only Son (Rom 8.29) by the Spirit’s power still see things dimly (1Cor13.12), then why would we suppose that fallen mankind is capable of seeing the truth on their own? People who Scripture reveals are in bondage to sin, have darkened minds and hearts made of stone, and are mortal enemies towards their Creator’s will, law and word. Why would we assume that without the proper biblical framework and the Spirit’s acting upon the core of their very being would be able to come to the knowledge of the truth on their own?

Closing Remarks…

Independent rational thought is always irrational at base. This fallen world understands this, so why do we Christians have such a hard time putting two and two together? Obviously, in this post I’ve spent some time discussing the nature of human depravity or radical corruption. What I have been arguing is that apart from a dependence upon God’s revelation—His Word and His action in our lives—we never draw the right conclusion about the world in which we live. This is our Father’s world(as the old hymn goes) and therefore the only way to come to the right conclusion about any of it, is by reinterpreting after Him. Ultimately, this is what it means to be His image bearers. In my next post, I want to spend sometime speaking a little further on how the fall effected our image bearing status with a look at Psalm 115.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas…!

ENDNOTES:


[1] Perhaps a better way of expressing this is to admit that the child’s reasoning, like the educated adult, is likewise aided but in a very limited fashion. Primarily,the child’s reasoning—apart from parental instruction—is based upon sensory experience, and the presupposition guiding that child’s thought is that their past experience and the use of their senses is sufficient to determine the nature of reality. In essence, they assume they are able to properly interpret the evidence before them without any external guidance. Therefore, for the sake of the argument presented this should suffice to show how one’s reasoning leans heavily upon what one is dependent upon.

[2] The creation of this word was chosen over using “forefather” or “ancestor” or“progenitor” in that we are all descended from both Adam and Eve, our foreparents.

[3]Something interesting to note about the folly of both Adam and Eve in the encounter with the serpent in the garden is their two-fold error. First, Adam had been given special revelation as God spoke to him the prohibition of eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen 2.16-17). Secondly,natural revelation demonstrated that human kind was above the animal kingdom.God had given both the man and woman dominion to rule over all lesser creatures. On both counts they willfully turned a blind eye to what God had revealed to them.

[4]Contextually, this recommendation of awareness by Paul to Timothy is something Timothy would face. He was the one charged to preach the Word at all times, convenient or not (cf. 2Tim 4.1-2). While the principle of this truth holds today, this was not a text given for some far-off eschatological end, but its proximity in the life and ministry of Paul’s disciple was the reason for the exhortation and encouragement.

[5] For an excellent resource on the indwelling nature of sin in the life of a believer, I would recommend the following work from antiquity: John Owen, The Remainder of Indwelling Sin in Believers. You can read it free here: https://archive.org/details/onnaturepowerde00owengoog. Or there are other places where you can find a free download for your e-reader at various other sites.

[6] “Spiritual things” is not a limitation between the natural and spiritual realms. All of reality is God’s reality; He created and superintends over it. Therefore, all of reality, if it is to be properly interpreted, needs to be looked at through a spiritual lens. Man is dichotomy; spirit and earthly.

[7] In case you missed this,allow me to point this out to the reader. This is the same Psalm that was quoted earlier, which is often used to justify the position that natural revelation is all that is necessary to convince someone of the truth. Normally by attaching these comments to Romans 1. However, the Psalmist is very clear,like the apostle Paul in Romans 1 if you read it contextually, that the fallen person—the fool, the one who denies God cf. Psa 14.1-3—CANNOT understand what they see in reality.

Posted in Christian Witness, Reason, Theology, Worldview Analysis

Preferring to Reason without the Aid of God Brought the Death of It

We are told to love God with all of our minds (cf. Matt 22.37). Why? That is a question you need to mull over for a bit. This is the summation of one of the most vital aspects of the Law of God; now, think about the implications. Why would the Lord emphasize our minds?

Here’s another question to consider: Do you, as a Christian, believe in the sovereignty of the Triune-Creator God? In other words, do you believe that God is sovereign (king)over His creation? That He rules and reigns as He sees fit? That God does not seek the counsel of anyone, but rather does as He pleases?[1]

What about limitations? Are there areas of God’s creation where He is not sovereign? Let’s look at this issue from a different angle.

If the Lord God is not sovereign in one sector of creation, then is it fair to suggest that He is not truly sovereign? We may say that He is sovereign over most, but not all. He’s a three-quarter sovereign. A part-time sovereign. A sovereign in name only, but insufficient in authority. You’ll be glad to know that the answer to those questions does not come from what we think, but from what God reveals.

  • “For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth” (Psa 47.2).[2]
  • “The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all” (Psa103.19)[3]
  • “Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish my purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east,the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it” (Isa 46.8-11; cf. Psa 135.6).
  • Therefore… “no wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the Lord” (Prov 21.30).

If all of creation is God’s, and He is declared sovereign over it all, then what right do we have in supposing that our minds are somehow off limits? That He is not to be King of our thoughts? Though it be true that God gave great gifts to mankind when He created them, He made our minds to be dependent upon Him. To reject this truth,is to partake in the folly of Eve.

What happened in the garden?According to the apostle Paul, Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning “being led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to” the Lord (2Cor 11.3).[4] His concern for the Christians in Corinth led him to plead with them that they not commit the same error.

IN THE GARDEN…

God gave His instruction to Adam(the man) that every plant, every fruit was good for food, except the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen 2.16-17). This knowledge, Adam passed on to his wife Eve.[5] Therefore, Eve was given sufficient instruction to make the right decision. Her tool of reasoning was given aid, in order to use it properly. She knew the consequences of disobeying God’s Word. She was fully aware that she was to depend upon what the Lord had taught her husband—their Creator—but she chose to ignore what had been given to her.

The serpent (or rather the one behind the serpent) cunningly chose his victim and moved against Eve in order to cause her to doubt the trustworthiness of her Creator and His Word. There is a subtle and yet feigned sense of shock on the part of the serpent when he said to her, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’”(Gen 3.1). As if he were saying, “I can’t believe that God said this! Tell me,this isn’t so.”

Oftentimes I have noticed that people tend to focus on what Eve seems to add to the prohibition of God given to Adam (cf. Gen 2.16-17) in her reply to the serpent (Gen 3.2-3), but my concern is in the “reasonableness” of her statement. Either she is unaware of the challenge being presented against her Creator (unlikely), or she is willing to ignore it (likely). In any event, her response ought to warn the reader that her willingness to stand firmly upon the foundation which God has placed her is suspect.

In verses 4-5 the serpent denies what the woman has offered as a defense: “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Two things need to be said about this. First, the serpent in defiance of his Creator has called God a liar, accusing the Lord of trickery. Second, if Eve would eat of the fruit, then (and only then) she would be like God.

The Serpent’s Goal

In short, the serpent was testing the image bearers resolve. Would they depend upon God as the only true source of truth (goodness, life, knowledge, wisdom, etc.)? Or, would they consider another way? Perhaps, God’s way was not the only way? Perhaps, God was holding something back from Eve and her husband?

Some point to the action of eating the fruit as the sin in the garden. Yet, before the action came, thought was present guiding the heart to move against the Lord. While, it may be impossible for us as human creatures to pinpoint the exact reference of our sin, the truth is sin starts in the heart:

  •  “What comes out of a person is what defiles him.For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality,envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7.21-23;italics added).[6]

Now it is true, and must be stated very clearly, that before the fall the human heart did not battle with sin as we do (post-fall). The temptation by the serpent in the garden was external in nature. There was no internal war of the flesh against the holy nature by which our first parents were given. However, what Eve did was sinful in that she took the propositional truth offered to her by the Lord (through her husband) and placed it beside the proposition given by the serpent, and thought to herself “I will be judge. I will determine the truth. I need no one helping my understanding, for I can think through the truth of the matter on my own.”  This was not an act of loving the Lord God with her mind, but an act of defiance.

The moment that she placed the Word of God on the same plain as the word of the serpent, she elevated herself in the position of judge. Not to mention the irrational nature of her presupposition. She was going to use her senses to judge propositional truths as if she was separate from God’s created world, and yet who gave her those senses? She did not trust that God had spoken truthfully, as may be seen by her reaching for and eating of the fruit, all the while trusting the faculties that He had given her were trustworthy?

By eating of the fruit of this tree, Eve was declaring that she was able to discern “good and evil” and her lapdog husband followed suit. Why? Because, he thought God was a liar too and desired to supplant Him just like his wife. “By setting up his own mind as the standard of truth, man destroys the possibility of truth.”[7]

Dead to Reason…

I have heard many well-meaning Christians point to Isaiah 14:12-15 in reference to Satan. The reference is given to the king of Babylon, and a similar proclamation is given in Ezekiel to the king of Tyre[8],and while the power behind these sinful men are found in the gestation’s of the devil the fact remains that God is rebuking men. And Adam was the first.

  • “You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of the assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit” (Isa 14.13-15; emphasis added).

On the day that Eve and her husband Adam ate of the forbidden fruit they “surely died” (Gen 2.17b), for their reasoning had been robbed and their life had been spent though grace[9]sustained them for a short time afterwards. “But,” you say, “Adam and many of his sons lived nine centuries, how can you say that God’s grace only sustained them for a short time?” Because, had Adam and Eve submitted to the Word of God;had they reasoned dependently on what God had revealed to them as truth, as life, as the only right way, they would not had been forbidden access to the fruit of the Tree of Life, destined to return to dust (cf. Gen 3.19, 22-24).

Adam and Eve both thought to ascend to heaven, to set their throne above the Lord who created them. They thought to make themselves like the Most High, but they were brought to the grave and the far reaches of the pit. The consequence is very plain, the choice to be independent of God, to act as judge, to use their minds in a way God never made it to be used resulted in the end of right reason. That is to say, the fallen person does not reason correctly because the default settings have been changed. While dependent upon God’s revelation the human mind was capable of reasoning correctly(“In His light we see light” Psa 36.9), that ability was lost in the Fall.

In my next post, I will attempt to deal with argument to the contrary…


ENDNOTES:

[1] “Why should the nations say, ‘Where is their God?’ Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psa 115.2-3; ESV). This contrast and comparison between the Lord God and the other false idols that men put their trust in this Psalm highlights the vast difference between God and His will and the false gods that men erect for themselves in an effort to push forward their own will.In essence, unbelievers are trusting in the doctrines men and their worldly philosophy, and not the wisdom and knowledge of God, seated in Christ (cf. Col2.3, 8; 2Cor 10.5). These things and what they stand for are in opposition to God, and yet the Psalmist states very clearly the Lord “does as He pleases” (compare Prov 20.24).

[2] All Scripture unless otherwise noted shall be of the ESV (English Standard Version).

[3] There are many such references to God as King over creation in general and His people in particular. See 1Sam 12.12; Numb 23.21; Judg 8.23; Psa 74.12; Isa 33.22. Not even Satan was permitted to act without being held accountable to God as seen in the first two chapters of Job. To be a “kingdom of priests” intimates that God is reigning as King over them (cf. Exod 19.6; 1Pet 2.9 compare with Col1.12-14).

[4]Contextually, Paul is warning the Corinthian believers to not be led astray by someone claiming another Christ or another gospel (cf. 2Cor 11.2-4). However,the application of this verse logically applies to the argument being laid out in this post. Eve’s deception was a switching of the guard to another, rather than maintaining faithfulness to her Creator—i.e. the Lord. She in a sense believed in another gospel, another Lord—i.e. herself.

[5] On these grounds Paul teaches that within the confines of ecclesiastical authority man is given supremacy in that was his created role. Eve had received instruction from her husband, but refused to abide by the voice of her husband who spoke on behalf of the Lord. Adam receives a harsher condemnation by God in Gen 3:9, 11, 17-19, because he neglected the role that God had earlier given him “to work and keep it” (cf. Gen2.15; italics added); which is a command to guard the treasures he had been entrusted.

[6] It is most interesting that this declaration by the Lord immediately follows his condemnation of the religious leadership for supplanting the Word of God with their own traditions, and in so doing leading others into sin (cf. Mark 7.6-13;Matt 15.1-9).

[7] R. J. Rushdoony, Van Til and the Limits of Reason (Vallecito, CA: Chalcedon/Ross House Books, [1960], 2013), loc 448, Kindle Edition.

[8] Cf. Ezek 27.3; 28.1-10.

[9] God offered grace, undeserved favor (life) when He clothed their nakedness,something they were not able to do though they did attempt to with fig leaves(cf. Gen 3.21 compare with vv. 7-8).

Posted in Christian Witness, Reason, Theology, Worldview Analysis

God given Dependency: Aided Reason a Integral Aspect of Creation

In my last post I commented that “unaided reason is a farce, a folly,” and that “reason [as a mental tool] needs guidance.”[1] Another way of presenting this truth is to point out that reasoning always acts dependently on something else. Not sometimes, not part of the time, but all of the time. This is true for everyone. Every person on the planet reasons. As one writer pointed out, “So also reason, or intellect, is always the instrument of the person. And the person employing it is always either a believer or an unbeliever.”[2] However, where they differ is related to the source they are irrevocably latched onto; what they are dependent upon.

I suppose, since this is something that I teach my parishioners to do, I ought to define my terms. Currently, I am using the word reason in the form of judgment. For example, when we determine the rightness or wrongness of an action, we are making a judgment call…we are using reason. When we pick the film, we are going to watch; or, the sport we are going to play; or, the color that we are going to paint this room in our home; or, whether or not this butcher knife is the murder weapon in a case I’m investigating…we are using reason. Reason in this sense acts as a judge; helping determine how we think, act, even interpret.

There are other ways people use the word reason. Sometimes you will hear people say that this person was very “reasonable” or that group of kids are acting “unreasonable” to the new kid in town. That use of the word “reason” speaks of fairness or extremeness, depending on the positive or negative behavior being displayed by various individuals. Another way we use reason is in the sense of evidence. When I ask my children, “Why didn’t you feed the cat today?” The answer they give is the reason offered for the course of action they chose. What a parent might refer to as an excuse.

Since, I have been speaking about Christian witnessing and the proper methodology we ought to employ when sharing the gospel with the lost, I am using reason in the sense of “judge or determiner.” As we present the various truths of the Christian worldview to unbelievers, we need to bear in mind that though they have the same reasoning abilities as others do (barring the unfortunate circumstance of birth defects or trauma), they are not all plugged into the same source.

Now I realize there are well-meaning brothers/sisters of the faith that may disagree with this position. And so, I wanted to take a moment today and demonstrate from Scripture that our minds were in fact created to be used dependently. The way our reason works (ability to judge and discern the truth), will be directly related to our ultimate standard of appeal; the adherents worldview cornerstone.

Image Bearers

In the beginning God created man (male and female) in His image (Gen 1.1, 26-27). Scholars and theologians and various Christian philosophers have continually debated the meaning of being God’s image bearer.[3]  Some have assumed that image necessitates physical representation of God.[4] Others lean heavily on the idea of human participation in the communicable attributes of God (e.g. love, goodness, mercy, hate, etc.). There are also those that teach human dominion (authority) over lesser creatures and the planet as a whole is intended—i.e. we are viceregents, princes, kings of the earth.[5] None are entirely correct; although, all have elements of the truth.

To be an image bearer means to reflect the image of another. A portrait is a representation of some image the artist has taken the time to create. The portrait is not the thing being represented, but it is a copy/shadow of that which it represents. God created people (male and female) to be His shadowy copies in the world.[6] The Lord intended that man represent Him by reflecting His glory in all of creation. That is to say, the infinite Creator made finite creations to reflect His mind and action in the world in which we live.

Therefore, there is a sense where people were made to be a physical representation of the invisible God[7], by making known (or putting on display) His communicable attributes—glorifying Him in the exercise of godly rule (dominion/authority) in every sector of creation. Since all action (works, deeds) is driven by thought, God gave man a conscious mind that not only feels and wills, but reasons. This reasoning ability allows man to think, interpret, mediate on/over, infer/deduce relationships, come to knowledge of the truth, and wisely apply this truth in all areas of life.

However, God did not create man’s mind to be a blank slate (tabula rasa), nor did He make the mind of man to be autonomous (completely free or independent of some authority). Our minds were created in such a way as to be guided by an external source. Not neutral, but necessarily biased. If this were not the case, then people could never be referred to as God’s created image bearers; an image is by necessity dependent upon the image it represents or it does not truly represent that image.

Scriptural Justification

After God created man, He told them what to think and how to live. God guided the reasoning of man. He aided the proper use of the mind. He gave them a foundation on which their thinking might stand.

God told them how to think and what to do. For example,

He told them what they could and could not eat:

  • “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food” (Gen 1.29).
  • “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat…’” (Gen 2.16-17a).[8]

He told them how they were to live:

  • “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen 1.28; cf. v.26).
  • “Then the Lord God formed the man of the dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed…to work and keep it” (Gen 2.7-8, 15; also see v.5b).

The Lord God also guided man’s thought. Often times the naming of the animals by the man (Adam) is seen as an exercise of (working out of) the dominion mandate. It is said that the naming of the animals reveals human authority over animal kind. While the statement is true, there is another reason for the naming that is overlooked. Before Adam names the animals we are told God’s thoughts (words). In verse Gen 2:18 we read, “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’” This precursor is intended to aid our reasoning through this passage; contextually speaking.

God has just acknowledged something that the man in the garden does not know; he is alone and it is not good. What follows in verse 19-20 is an object lesson from God presented to the man. As he is naming the animals he is noticing that they all have companions of the opposite gender; equal counterparts. They are not alone, but have mates and they are capable (based off his observations) to reproduce.

The reader of Scripture is reminded of what was told to them in Gen 1:28, the image bearers of God were given an explicit command, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth….” How can the man fulfill this without another? It is not good for the man to be alone (without a female) because he is incomplete. What God knows, God is revealing to the man. After naming the animals that the Lord had brought him, the man realizes “there was not found a helper fit for him” (Gen 2.20b). How is this dilemma going to be solved?

God causes the man to fall into a deep sleep. The first recorded surgery in history takes place, with the Lord taking a portion of the man’s flesh and bone (often translated rib; Gen 2.21-22). With that flesh and bone, the Lord made a helpmate fit for the man. Both of them were image bearers of God (cf. Gen 1.27), and both were equal opposites.[9]

When the Lord God brings the newly formed creation to the man he exclaims, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Gen 2.23). The excitement of Adam should be obvious to the reader. Just as we sometimes are moved in our hearts with joy when we discover some truth (Eureka!), so too does the man react in a similar fashion when he sees this beautiful creature before him. What he noticed missing as he studied the various animal kinds brought to him by the Lord, he has now found!

We are not finished yet, but we are getting close. There is one more thing I want to show you, so please bear with me. There is another instance in this passage where God is guiding the reasoning ability of man. This is similar to the “crossing the street” illustration that I used in the previous post.[10]

Consequence of Independent Reasoning

Look back at Gen 2:17. God is not merely telling the man what he ought to do in response to eating, the Lord is also giving consequences for failing to adhering to the instructional guidance given. He says to the man, “but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” There is a strong prohibition placed on the fruit of this tree. It was not poisonous fruit. God does not call this tree the “tree of knowledge of good and evil” because the fruit will make one wise as the serpent convinces the woman (Eve) in the succeeding chapter. The fruit of this tree acts as a dividing line for right or wrong reasoning; good or evil.

In the Bible we are told to love the Lord with all of our minds (Matt 22.37; Mark 12.30; Luke 10.27). Therefore, the use of our minds is moral. There is an ethical use of the mind that is appropriate, and there is an ethical use of the mind that is inappropriate. One leads to life, the other leads to death (cf. Deut 8.3; Matt 4.4). That is the point in Gen 2:16-17. God is offering aid to man’s reasoning ability so that they might think and act correctly. So, they might live.

The question before Adam and Eve is whether or not they would allow God to inform their thoughts and actions? Would He be the final standard of appeal? Who determines good and evil? The eating or the not eating of the fruit would determine where the newly created man stood.

In case you have missed it, here is my point. Man’s thinking faculties were created to be dependent upon a standard. God did not intend for His newly created creatures (man and woman) to think independently of Him. Their minds (our minds) were made to be dependent and externally sourced. Dependent and externally sourced on what? Revelation. God instructed the man using natural and supernatural means. And, in turn the man (husband) instructed the woman (wife). He told them via His Word and showed them through His creative works. That is to say God used revelation to aid human reasoning.

Now, I’ve never had a believer argue against my point here in this post. If you have difficulty swallowing the accuracy of this, allow me to encourage you to look at Jesus. How did Jesus use reason as a mental tool? Did he do so dependently upon God’s revelation (Word and works) or independently? To what did Jesus appeal to in order to answer, understand properly, interpret, infer/deduce, meditate on/over, etc.? His appeal was always to God (the Father) and His Word. Jesus understood that the Bible is what sanctified reasoning (cf. John 17.17; Psa119.104), and from the moment His ministry began (in the wilderness with the opposition of Satan) He always stood firmly upon Scriptural tenents.

There is only one path that leads to truth. Only one way from which truth might be gained and properly understood. In the next post, we shall look at the effect that sin ushered in to reality, distorting the standard by which people appeal.

ENDNOTES:

[1] See, The Hammer and Nails.

[2] Cornelius Van Til, “Defense of the Faith,” in Greg L. Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings & Analysis (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 1998), 155.

[3]  Charles Hodge explains, “The simple declaration of the Scripture is that man at his creation was like sod. Wherein that likeness consisted has been a matter of dispute.” Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol 2, Reprint (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans 1940) loc 14433, Kindle Edition.

[4] John Calvin debates a point with a German Lutheran theologian named Andreas Osiander who argued (among other things) that man was made in the form he was because Christ Jesus was going to take the form of man, as if man was created to fit a necessary mold from which the Living Word would need to fill. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, translated by Henry Beveridge, Reprint (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1993), 1.15.3, 162-163.

[5] Samuel M. Powell comments, “Because we have been created in God’s image, we are to exercise authority in the world in the name of God, on behalf of God, and in the way in which God exercises authority.” Samuel M. Powell, Discovering our Christian Faith: An Introduction to Theology (Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press, 2008), 71.

[6] Louis Berkof writes, “The idea is that by creation that which was archetypal in God became ectypal in man. God was the original of which man was a copy.” Louis Berkof, “Man as the Image of God,” Vol 2 in Systematic Theology: Combined Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1996), 203.

[7] This is realized in the perfect life of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ of God: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of His nature…” (Heb 1.3; HCSB).

[8] The dietary restrictions in the Bible offer a wonderful example of the way God influences the thinking (reasoning) of His creatures. Initially man was a vegetarian, but after the Flood humans were allowed to eat meat with their vegetables and fruits. When God called Israel out from amongst the rest of the nations, He again guided their thinking about what was right (clean) and wrong (unclean) to eat. Later, Jesus changes the dietary restrictions again as noted by John Mark (Gospel According to Mark, 7.19) and Simon Peter (Acts 10.9-16). When death is once and for all abolished the food in which we eat will more than likely return to the state before the Fall (cf. 1Cor 15.24-28).

[9] I purposefully worded the phrase “equal opposites” to emphasize that their equality is demonstrated in their opposing gender roles. They are complements of one another. Their equal status is in being image bearers of God, made of the same substance, although the woman did come later. Their opposing roles does not remove the equality they share, but highlights the beautiful harmonization that God intended in these “equal opposites.”

[10] See, The Hammer and Nails.