Saturday, July 18, 2015
Usefulness of Good Theology, Part 2
Preachers and Christians frequently speak of getting one’s “head knowledge” down into one’s heart. While common this statement is quite misleading if not qualified—for really what is required to know the truth is to receive truth into one’s heart by faith and submit one’s mind to God. Obviously we all hear and process truth statements about God, moral principles and foundational life choices through our intellectual faculties. But it is in the heart (the inner person) where we decide what to do with the truth we hear.
The mind is useful for reflection and to organize the content of knowledge but not to discern or decide the truthfulness of God’s revelation. The faculty of the mind, by itself, is simply not capable of doing this. Those who think so are simply fooling themselves and mistaking cognitive analysis for “independent” judgment regarding the truthfulness of a statement about Reality. For the mind is servant to the heart (that is, the seat of the will); to reverse this is to make one’s intellect God. When a person has deified him or herself then naturally the capacities of the self are thought to be entirely adequate to discern moral rightness or wrongness and validity of claims about reality. But this is sheer self-deception.
This is why one’s theological views (whether they be crude, confused or refined and precise) flow out of one’s life experience. The truest test of belief is behavior—for behavior communicates the convictions of the heart (and thus the choices one makes). Yet this very fact makes it that much more necessary for biblical teaching to be clearly taught. For people need to hear the Gospel and engage their wills and intellects to learn the principles from Scripture (the truth) in order to know how to live righteously. Paul strongly emphasized to Timothy and Titus (see his letters to them) that they must press upon their hearers’ “sound doctrine”; that is, to plainly teach and make practical application of God’s Word for the people they served.
The truth one finds in the Scripture is addressed to the human heart (that is, to the human will). God appeals, pleads, warns, promises, commands and invites us to hear and come near to him. God speaks into our darkened minds, with the piercing light of truth, to reach the will. And the human heart is desperately perverse and stubborn (Jeremiah 17:9). Human beings are spiritually blinded because they choose sin over the truth of knowing the living God.
The Lord Jesus said: “‘I came into this world for judgement so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.’ Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, ‘Surely we are not blind, are we?’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see’, yours sin remains.’” (John 9:39-41, NRSV) Those who prefer spiritual darkness love sin and thus refuse to receive truth which Jesus speaks and embodies. Whether a person is religious or not, or practices some kind of “spirituality” or is an atheist, makes no difference regarding Jesus’ point. All such persons trust in themselves and love their sin more than anything else or anyone else. Such is the tragedy of the unredeemed human heart.
Thus the clear proclamation of God’s word through teaching is extraordinarily useful in people’s lives. How will anyone know about God if not taught? How can anyone turn to the living God if not taught accurately? And the person with true faith will fully utilize the intellect to engage and grow in spiritual knowledge and wisdom. “You are good and do good; teach me your statutes.” (Psalm 119:68) And again, “The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy. They [his precepts] are established for ever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.” (Psalm 111:7-8, NRSV)