Author: Pastor Paul A. Bartz
Critics of the Biblical faith say that a faith which understands the Bible on its own terms is an assault on the thinking mind. Atheists consider the Biblical faith a rejection of human mental abilities. Religious liberals and those who follow non-Christian religions consider Christianity a “blind leap of faith” which must either reject reason and evidence or set up a special and segregated mental reality to accept the Bible. But is it true that in His revelation God expects us to abandon the mental capacities He has given us?
1. In Genesis 1:31 we read that God looked at the entire completed creation and saw that it was good. We know what God’s standards are. When He pronounces something good we know that it is perfect. So we conclude that man, as well as everything else in the creation, was perfect. The considerable thinking ability which God has given man was perfect at this point in the world’s history.
In saying that man’s ability to reason was perfect we don’t just mean that man was morally perfect, we also mean that his reasoning abilities were also perfect. Compared to today, Adam and Eve’s ability to think was far above ours. So the conclusion that God is against man using his ability to think is based on a rejection or, at best, ignorance, of the Biblical account of creation.
2. Examples of man’s reasoning and overall thinking abilities before the fall into sin contrast sharply with man’s ability to think today.
Consider Genesis 2:19-20 where God brings Adam all of the animals to name. This naming was not simply a making up of names out of the blue, but is of some significance. While we today cannot name animals with which we are unfamiliar, Adam could because his mind and knowledge were perfect.
In Genesis 2:23 we have Adam’s words when he first saw the first woman. He immediately knew who and what she was and what the nature of the relationship between a man and a woman should be. Adam’s words here are so excellent that in Matthew 19:4-6 Jesus calls these words of Adam the word of God.
3. Contrast the excellence of man’s thinking and reasoning powers before the fall into sin with man’s power to think after the fall into sin. Although man knew God perfectly before the fall into sin, knowing His power, immediately after sinning Adam and Eve thought that they could hide from God in the bushes (Genesis 3:8)! It is truly amazing how rapidly sin degenerates man’s ability to think!
This process of the loss of thinking and reasoning ability continues yet today where people willfully reject God’s Word and His authority. The classic description of this process is found in Romans 1:15 ff.
4. The deliverance from sin, death and the devil which takes place by God’s grace in Christ Jesus and which restores us to fellowship with God once again includes a renewing of our minds. Romans 12:2 includes our minds in the renewing which takes place in Christ Jesus and opposes this renewing to a conformity with the world.
The verses which follow this one stress humility, making it clear that these words are dealing with a new way of thinking which is superior to the world’s way. The fact that in verse 2 the Apostle encourages us to prove what is right stresses the use of our mental abilities. Those who say that believing the Bible ignores man’s ability to think simply have not considered the Bible’s view of man and what it says about him!
5. Colossians 1:9 speaks of knowledge and wisdom which is in line with the will of the Lord. But the Lord is not here asking for a “blind leap of faith.” Jesus, in John 3:12, appeals to Nicodemus’ reasoning powers and logic in pointing out that if Nicodemus does not believe what Jesus tells him about earthly things how will he ever believe what Jesus has to say about heavenly things?
It is in this same spirit of encouraging the productive use of man’s mental powers that St. Paul writes in I Thessalonians 5:21: “But examine everything carefully, hold fast to that which is good.” This certainly includes the use of man’s mental abilities as they have been renewed in Christ Jesus.
6. God clearly encourages man to use his thinking abilities and reason. The conclusion that the Bible promotes irrationality or “blind” leaps of “faith” is based on a rejection of Biblical creation and what God says about man based on the sinful human motive of self-justification. We have here a case of human pride which does not want to recognize its own sin and inability to understand God and so it responds by demeaning the ability to think which comes with a renewing of the mind in Christ Jesus. In this approach anything which does not conform to the world’s way of thinking is called irrational.
Romans 1 discusses this in detail. Verse 21 explains how, in punishment for failing to recognize the God Who is and Who created us, the minds of such people are darkened – their speculations, theories and ideas are futile and empty.
Verse 22 tells us clearly what this looks like: “Professing to be wise, they became fools.” The universal characteristic of wisdom which is conformed to the world is that it claims to be superior in thinking to the Biblical way. This is true whether that foolishness is theological liberalism or outright atheism. But God’s judgment is clear – this superior-sounding “wisdom” is foolishness!
7. The claim that truly Biblical thinking is irrational or blind really reflects the fact that there are two ways of thinking open to men. One is the way of thought which is captive to man’s sinful nature in every way. This way of thought is a gross degeneration of the mental abilities which God created us with.
The renewed mind in Christ Jesus is not free from sin, but it is able, by God’s grace, to begin to see and understand things which were closed to man since the beginning of sin. Since the unrenewed mind cannot understand these things, and by nature does not care to admit its lost condition, it declares the Biblical, renewed way of thinking to be an inferior way of thinking or an abandonment of thought.
8. Christians should not, however, feel superior because of this. What we have is from the Lord and not from ourselves. But understanding the Lord’s position on human thought and its abilities will help us to see that we have no reason to accept the argument of the world that Christianity is a blind leap of faith into irrationality.
We should also be aware that witnessing the gospel to others (a responsibility which God has given to every Christian) is to be an intelligent effort which encourages man’s mental abilities. In order to be equipped to make disciples of all nations, we must not only know Scripture, we must also know the people to whom we witness and their beliefs. Making disciples is not simply getting someone to abandon their own beliefs to blindly accept the Bible. In fact, it is a disservice to God when evangelism is done in this way.
9. Effective evangelism requires an informed faith. We should view the wonderful knowledge of God’s free gift of salvation in Christ Jesus as the necessary beginning of our personal preparation to make disciples. And this is to be a beginning which never ends as our understanding grows under the guidance of the Holy Spirit as He continues to teach us the deeper and meatier things of the Word, transforming us in Christ by the renewing of our minds.