Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Today I was thinking about the more practical implications of the "wisdom from above" being "open to reason". How often is it that we confuse faith and foolishness and do something just because of the fact that we think it is God's will, although it turns out not to work, or put us in the way of trouble.
To take off from yesterday, as God gave us a body to glorify Him with, He has given us a mind to glorify Him with. If physical laziness is a sin then so is laziness of mind. Yet Christians today want God's will spelled out for them.
But God is rarely so accommodating to our way of dealing with Him. In Romans 12 we are told to discern the will of God:
Rom 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
First of all, our minds are renewed in Christ. Then, we take the mind of Christ and test our decisions by it. If the decision lines up with His mind, then we know the will of God. We have discerned it.
The will of God is a matter of both general and specific revealing. Generally, His will is found in the Scriptures. Specifically, it is shown as we make choices that line up with the Scriptures.
We see then that the will of God is not a planned route so much as it is a guideline. Paul tells us that whatever we do is to be to the glory of God. Jesus said that the prime commandment is to love God with all your heart. So our love toward God and the resulting glory we give Him are the most important things about our Christian existance. Everything else in life exists merely to cause us to give Him greater glory.
Paul showed no anxiety about what exactly he should do when he made preparation to go into Bithynia. Paul was confident that he had the mind of Christ. The Holy Spirit stopped him and sent Him to Macedonia. For Paul, we find that direct intervention by God was considered to be the exception, rather than the rule.
We glorify God not by waiting for Him to spell out our every step but by asking for and applying the wisdom from above in a reasonable and honest way to the multiple-choice decisions we have in life. This is a component of liberty, I think.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

In James 3:17(ESV) it says:
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

Now this is interesting. I have to stop a moment here and wonder about why anyone would insist on using a nearly 400 yr old translation. In place of "open to reason" the KJV has "easy to be entreated". Seeing the modern English translation of this verse really helps answer a question that has been at my mind for a long time about understanding the spiritual things of God. The Greek word here is eupeithes, meaning "able to be persuaded".
The question is whether God's wisdom is in opposition to reason or with it. It is the age old "juxtaposition" of faith and reason.
In I Cor we read that the natural man (unregenerate man) does not recieve the things of God, because they are discerned through God's Spirit. We read:
1Co 2:13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
Human wisdom - wisdom from above - reason. Christians have paired human wisdom with reason for many years. Yet the Bible compares wisdom from above with reason. I acknowledge that both types of wisdom are tied to reason. So what is the difference?
It is the same difference between the atheist and the theist. The one reasons in a negative way, that only allows for what is seen and negates the value of what has not been proven. The other reasons in a positive way, that places value in that which has not been proven. Productive science to me is one that dares to imagine, and thinks positively. Inventions are born of thinking that allows for what is not apparent.
(I do not intend to say that an atheist cannot invent, but certainly his method of reasoning toward God is not amenable to invention, should he apply it in a broader sense. But the positive force in the atheist is that of humanism. He speaks out one side of the mouth in disproving God, and out the other in exalting the human condition.)
Does a verse come to mind? How about Hebrews 11:1?
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
And this answers the question. Faith in God undergirds Christian reasoning. Skepticism toward God is behind atheistic reasoning. And further, Christian faith is founded upon His revealed will in the Bible.
So then the wisdom from above is tied to Christian reasoning that is rooted in faith in God as He is revealed to man through His prophets and apostles.
Human wisdom is tied to humanistic reasoning that ignores God and places man and his ideas at the center.
Many Christians imagine a faith in which rules of logic do not apply. But this is not God-honoring faith. So long as the Bible is handled consistently James 3:17 teaches us that we should be open to reason that might contradict our long held opinion or doctrine. Appealing to a mystical notion of disconnected unreasoned spiritual ideas is not an option. In fact, such a notion is responsible for the type of doctrine and thinking that dishonor God and His word.
Other verses emphasize the role of reason in faith and doctrine as well:
1Pe 3:14-16 But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, (15) but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; (16) yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

Many who debate doctrine in the name of orthodoxy are guilty of violating verse 16.

2Ti 2:24-26 And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, (25) correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, (26) and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

Wisdom from above... is open to reason. It must be. The Spirit convicts but we have a duty to stand for the plain truths of the Scripture.