In defense of thinking, reasoning, and intellectual Christians
januari 23, 2014 § Lämna en kommentar
There is a formidable resistance against using the intellect in evangelical churches. I believe this is both very scarry and devastating. If there is one antidote that God has given for preventing a community developing into a sect, it is regular human reasoning. Take that away from Christians, and any kind of brainwashing has the potential to develop depending on the circumstances.
This is why I took these three and a half hours to put this together: because there is so much at stake.
There needs to be a stop, once and for all, to this gross and terrible nonsense of categorical anti-intellectualism, among a people who call the Provider of mind and intelligence their God.
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There is one pericope in the Bible, foremost among all others, that clamps down on thinking and reasoning, on engaging philosophically in God’s world, and that’s 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; which a friend of mine reminded me of the other week.
Paul’s quote from Isaiah 29:14 brings a few major blows to an intellectual outlook:
”I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” (v. 19 ESV)
(Paul is quoting from the LXX, but he replaces the last word with another Greek word meaning ”thwart”. According to the article Paul the Paraphraser or Paul the Septuagint-Quoter?, this replacement is a sort of a ”one-word” conflation with Psalm 33:10-15 which has a similar vocabulary, carries a similar message, and uses this same Greek word for ”thwart”.)
The next big blow comes in vv. 27-28: ”… God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, … God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are.” (NASB)
It can’t get worse than this for those who are thinking Christians.
… Something fishy though: The same word used for the ”wise” in 1 Cor 1 is used later by Paul in 1 Cor 6:5: ”… Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren …?” (NASB) So there is use for the wise among believers after all! I thought Paul just said that God had shamed them and nullified them. So a seemingly contradiction?!
One also sees something very similar in the pericope Isaiah 29:9-24 from which Paul quotes from in 1 Cor 1. After God discounts, not only the wise and the discerning, but also the prophets, the religious, and the socially corrupt, Isaiah relays God’s final words in the pericope: ”Those who err in mind will know the truth, and those who criticize will accept instruction.” (NASB) Both in Hebrew and Greek, the word translated ”truth” here is the same word translated as ”discernment” previously in v. 14, quoted by Paul. The contrast is not as stark as in 1 Corinthians, because the language is a bit more nuanced in Isaiah, but the contrast is surely there. What gives?
Well, what Paul is really getting at is found in the source from where he’s quoting from in verse 31, at the end of the pericope. It’s not directly visible in 1 Corinthians, but can be viewed in full sight from the surrounding verses from where he quotes, from Jeremiah 9:24:
”Thus says the LORD, ”Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this; that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD.” (Jer 9:23-24 NASB)
So what I hear Paul saying through his quote from Jer 9 is that being wise is not the problem, but boasting of one’s wisdom, instead of boasting of knowing the LORD, is the problem. It all comes around to what or Who is center in one’s life, and to what or to Whom one gives thanks.
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As a thinking intelligent Christian, my highest desire is knowing the LORD, and any thinking or reasoning is for knowing the truth, which is, to me, ultimately God’s truth manifested in the Messiah. All reasoning and all truth ultimately serve the LORD and his Anointed, and unto that end I long with all my heart.
The Cross is where the Good News was actually actualized in this world. We can’t fully phantom what God did there through the Messiah, though some things are revealed in the Bible. As a thinking Christian, I don’t deny this. On the contrary, I desire to realize the workings of the Cross and the Good News spiritually, physically, in my daily walk, deep in my soul, … and also by and in my thoughts and reasoning. Besides, this is what the ”greatest commandment” is getting at, here quoted from Luke 10:27: ”… ”You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, …”” (ESV)
I will continue loving the LORD my God with _all_ my mind!
And let it be said once and for all: God who has given you a mind, wants you to use your mind. As long as you boast knowing the ”LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth” you can use the intelligence he has granted you to know Him and His ways of ”lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth.” Totally devoted to God, use all the intelligence you think is necessary to live a life worthy of His love He has shown to you. Do not let any person or organization tell you that you may not think as a Christian: Only God may tell you that! (according to Paul and Isaiah) … But as long as you love the LORD with all your being, he will never tell you that.
So keep thinking, you intelligent, in-love-with-the-Messiah Christian!