Christian Witness

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.

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