Exposing Idols: Human Reason
Have you exercised your mind lately? Let’s do some mental stretching by listing the central beliefs of Christianity:
A) There is one God (Deut. 6:4), yet He exists as three equal and distinct persons (Matt. 28:18-20).
B) Jesus is both 100% God (John 1:1) and 100% man (Heb. 2:17). He was killed on earth to forgive us of our cosmic sins - 2000 years before you and I even committed one (John 19:30).
C) Before Jesus died he did a bunch of miracles (John 11:43-44). And after he died he performed the miracle of un-dying and walked the earth again (Mark 16:6).
D) Christians are personally indwelt with God the Holy Spirit through faith in all of the above (Eph. 1:13).
E) Oh, and God gave us a book that he wrote through human authors to tell us all of these things (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Within this book are stories about worldwide floods (Gen. 7:17), fire raining from heaven (Gen. 19:24), people being turned into salt shakers (Gen. 19:26), talking animals (Gen. 3:1: Num. 22:28), bizarre plagues (Ex. 9:14), and virgins birthing babies (Matt. 1:23).
Does all of this seem irrational to you? If so, let me explain why the problem isn't with your mind - it's with your heart. The mind doesn’t believe because the heart doesn’t want it to.
You are not just a mind. Our reasoning ability doesn’t operate in a vacuum. In fact, in Hebrew thought there is so much overlap between the mind and the heart that they are interchangeable terms (Jer. 19:5; Is. 65:17). And within the Greek context of the New Testament, mind and heart are also linked (Matt. 22:37; Eph. 2:3; Phil. 4:7; Rev. 2:23). Only recently in human history has the rational mind been divorced from the rest of the person, but that trend has been reversing.
Can we trust our rationality? Not all the time. Our minds are corrupted with sin just like the rest of us; debased, depraved and subject to futility (Eph. 4:17; Rom. 1:28; 1 Tim. 6:5). Human reason is terminally ill. Because of this illness, the strength of the mind is weak. While it is capable of knowing what’s wrong, it is often powerless to stop evil from happening (Rom. 7:18). Mind over matter is a myth.
Think about this: the modern mind has accomplished monumental things, yet has solved nothing in relation to the human condition. We have had our best and brightest working for global solutions and we still face copious disease, war, poverty, depression, hunger, and political mischief - the same things that have plagued us throughout history.
And we hope that the mind can solve problems that are beyond its control. However, education has yet to erase hatred, greed, or selfishness - which are all heart issues - it simply enables us to justify the behaviors of our hearts.
On a personal level, I argue that our rational objections to the Christian faith stem from emotional wounding caused by someone or something. Rationality is interconnected with emotion, and our minds and our hearts are a dynamic duo:
God doesn’t answer our prayers, therefore he must not exist.
A child is murdered, therefore God must not be good or powerful.
People haven't heard of Jesus, therefore he can't be the only way to heaven.
The mind doesn’t believe because the heart doesn’t want it to.
Christians have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16), but only because he has first given us a heart transplant (Ezek. 36:26). However, we worship the God of reason when we lean on our own understanding (Prov. 3:5). This form of idolatry is characterized by
1) Trusting the power of our words rather than the supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit.
2) Justifying our sin.
3) Being upset with people when they hear the gospel and don't agree with it.
4) Disconnecting truth from love.
5) Accepting some of the Bible and rejecting other parts of it.
6) Thinking that we have figured God out.
The last one is the deadliest. We are the creation of a God who is dimensionally beyond us. He cannot and will not fit into our logical boxes. His ways are not our ways, and his thoughts are not our thoughts (Is. 55:8). The central tenets of Christianity are not illogical, but they are incomprehensible for our finite minds.
We Christians must admit that we have arrived at a knowledge of the truth because God first opened our eyes to it. We possess transformed minds (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:23), but apart from God enlightening us we would never know Christ and our minds would continue in darkness - whether we have the IQ of a Mensa member or Forrest Gump (1 Cor. 2:10-16).
Now, does this mean we should never have doubts? No.
For Christians, skepticism can be healthy. It enables us to ask questions that lead to a greater understanding of God and his actions. It enables us to answer difficult questions about our faith. God gave us reasoning faculties for a purpose - He wants us to spar with the truth and see that it is reasonable and intellectually stimulating.
But skepticism can be cancerous. It can cause us to deny that God speaks to us personally, and can cause us to attribute God’s miracles, particularly His movement in our churches, to purely natural means - like gifted speakers, good music, and sexy twenty-somethings.
It is clear that both our hearts and minds are sick and in need of healing. When it comes to the cure, Martin Luther bluntly warns us, “Do not consult that Quackdoctor, Reason.” Instead, we are to seek the “heavenly physician, Christ, who heals the broken hearted.” The healing of a broken heart leads to the enlightening of a broken mind.
We must humbly acknowledge that we Christians do not possess perfect understanding - but we have been promised that we will one day (1 Cor. 13:12). Until then, we are to trust that Christ is healing our fallen mental condition and continue to have our minds stretched by God's supernatural truth.