Christian Witness

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).

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