Friday, May 21, 2010

Reasoning Together

While on a bike ride this afternoon, I was thinking about a recent comment made by a Facebook friend of mine. It was a quote of Isaiah 1:18, "Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD..." And then commentary lamenting that evangelicals don't do much thinking these days, in contrast to this command of God regarding reasoning.

I have to agree in a sense with what my young friend was saying in his comment. Modern, or should I say postmodern, American evangelicalism seems to have a real challenge thinking deeply about much of anything. But then, I'm not so sure this is limited to evangelicals. Just look at the urbane, banal, superficial, fantastic and fleeting subjects that seem to capture the attention of the American public at large, and it's evident that thinking deep thoughts and applying the laws of logic and reason in public and private discourse are rare commodities. Most evangelicals seem to be more shaped by this emotions-over-mind culture than by the words of God. And this affects so much in the life of the average Christian, who fails to think deep thoughts about God, the only One who is worthy of deep thinking, and indeed requires deep thoughts about Him to begin to comprehend Him as He's revealed Himself to us. So yeah, I'm with my friend in this sense.

But I also see another sense in which certain segments of the postmodern church violate this command as well. Not by not thinking or applying reason, but by doing so in the wrong manner. Just as anti-intellectualism is un-Biblical and un-Christian, so also is super-intellectualism. By that I mean overly embracing the deep thoughts and philosophies of those who are wise according to this world, but foolish towards the things of God. I see a tendency among some, especially the young, to become fascinated with the thinking and writings of man-centered philosophies, and seek in some way to reconcile or combine these views with Biblical Christianity.

But how does God say we should reason, in Isaiah 1:18? He commands us to reason "together," to think with Him. We are to apply the rational minds that God has given us to think along with Him, with our thinking and reasoning informed and transformed by His thoughts. To be sure, His thoughts are higher and deeper than ours can ever be (Isaiah 55:9). But at the same time, if we are in Christ then His Spirit dwells within us and leads to transformation in our thinking (Romans 12:1-2). In fact, we are told that we have the very mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:13). Therefore any thinking Christian needs to first and foremost be reasoning with the mind, will, purpose, nature and authority of God in view, as He's revealed these things to us. We must reason together with Him.

But if our starting point for thinking deep thoughts about spiritual things begins not with the mind of God and His revelation of that mind to us, but instead with the philosophies and ideas of men apart from Christ, we are not reasoning together with Him, but with them. Beginning our thinking with any philosophical system or worldview or metanarrative that is sourced in the reasoning of man cannot lead us to a deeper understanding of God, but will instead lead us away from Him. And try as hard as many might, it is impossible to reconcile these thought systems with the mind of God, since they're sourced elsewhere and are in fact in opposition to Him. How can one rationalize existential thought with the God who defines existence? OK, so Kierkegaard tried, but not so successfully. How can one make sense of postmodernism's claims to reject all metanarratives or "big stories" with the redemptive history of God revealed in His word? How can the meaninglessness of nihilism be of use in understanding or explaining the God who alone creates meaning by His purposes and actions?

There is, however, one sense in which studying the man-made philosophies and thoughts of deep thinkers according to the mind of man can and should be useful to the Christian. And that is to allow us to better understand the spiritual bankruptcy of these ideas and ideologies apart from God. Every one of these thinkers and thoughts are an expression of the depravity of man's mind in isolation from the mind of God. If we engage in reading the works of Hegel, Nietzsche, Sartre, Rorty, Lyotard, Foucault, and others, while at the same time reasoning together with God, we will gain insight into where the corrupted mind of man will go apart from the redeeming grace of Christ. And we'll gain deeper insight into the thoughts and views of those in the world around us, making the gospel of Christ shine even brighter. To the praise of His glorious grace.

So come, let's reason together...with God.

1 comment:

Phil (the Doulos) said...

FYI, here's a post by a friend that this prompted, and my comments there.
See it here.