If Not God First

Someone has suggested that the mind is the taproot of the soul. That being so, one needs to carefully and effectively feed his or her soul by sinking one’s taproot deep into God’s mind in Scripture. One may ask, “What food will feed my soul?” Paul’s menu for the mind includes thought entrées that are (1) “true,” (2) “honorable,” (3) “just,” (4) “pure,” (5) “lovely,” (6) “commendable,” (7) “excellen[t],” and (8) “worthy of praise” (Phil. 4:8). In meditating on God’s Word and thinking on these things, Christians will avoid setting their minds on earthly things (Phil. 3:19) and being double-minded (James 1:6–8).

The Balanced Mind

Are divine revelation and human reason like oil and water—do they never mix? Christians have sometimes reached two erroneous extremes in dealing with divine revelation versus human reason. On one end of the spectrum is anti-intellectualism, which basically concludes that if a subject matter is not discussed in the Bible, then it is not worthy of serious study or thought. This unbiblical approach to learning and thinking leads to cultural and intellectual withdrawal. At the opposite extreme is hyper-intellectualism, which embraces natural revelation at a higher level of value and credibility than God’s special revelation in Scripture; when the two are in conflict, natural revelation is the preferred source of truth. This unbiblical approach results in withdrawal from Scripture.

Both errors must be rejected. The believer must appropriate knowledge from both special and general revelation. However, the creation and our faculties of reason and deduction by which we study the creation (i.e., general revelation) are fallen, fallible, and corrupted by sin. Scripture, on the other hand, is infallible and inerrant and therefore must take precedence over general revelation. Where the Bible speaks to an intellectual discipline, its truth is superior. Where the Bible does not so speak, God has given us the whole world of creation to explore for knowledge—but with the caveat that man’s ability to draw conclusions from nature is not infallible like God’s Word.

This is especially true of thinkers who continually reject their need for Christ’s salvation. This does not necessarily mean that their facts are wrong or even that their basic ideas are in error. However, it does guarantee that their worldview is not in accord with God’s perspective, and therefore their conclusions ought to be subjected to critical evaluation according to Scripture.

Wise Cautions

Unmistakably, from the perspective of a Christian worldview, believers are to engage their own minds and the minds of others to the best of their ability and as opportunity allows. However, several wise cautions are in order:

  1. Becoming a scholar and trying to change the way one’s generation thinks is secondary to becoming a Christian and changing the way one personally thinks about Christ.
  2. Formal education in a range of disciplines is secondary to gospel education—namely, obeying the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18–20) and taking the gospel to the ends of the earth, to every creature.
  3. General revelation points to a higher power, while special revelation personally introduces this higher power as the triune God of Scripture, who created the world and all that is in it (see Isaiah 40–48, where Yahweh reminds Israel of this critical truth) and who provided the only Redeemer in the Lord Jesus Christ.
  4. To know about the truth is not nearly as important as personally and redemptively being in fellowship with the Truth, Jesus Christ (John 14:6), who is the only source of eternal life.
  5. The New Testament church was not mandated to intellectualize their world, nor was this their practice. Rather, they “gospelized” it by proclaiming the saving grace of Jesus Christ to all without distinction, from key political leaders like King Agrippa (Acts 25:23–26:32) to lowly imprisoned slaves like Onesimus (Philem. 10).
  6. To moralize, politicize, or intellectualize society without first seeing spiritual conversion is to guarantee only a brief and generally inconsistent change that is shallow, not deep; temporary, not lasting; and ultimately damning, not saving.

Nothing can be fully understood if God is not known first.

It bears repeating that both special and general revelation are necessary for cultivating a biblical mindset. However, the study of special revelation is the priority, followed in the second place by learning from natural revelation. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived (1 Kings 3:12; 4:29–34), wrote the same advice almost three thousand years ago. His are the most authoritative statements on the subject of the mind and knowledge, since they are Scripture (Prov. 1:7; 9:10; see also 1 Cor. 1:20–21).

The beginning and end of Christian theology is a knowledge of God (2 Cor. 2:14; 4:6; Eph. 1:17; Col. 1:10; 2 Pet. 1:2–3, 8; 3:18) and a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Tim. 2:25; Titus 1:1). Above all, at the very center of a Christian worldview is the Lord Jesus Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). Nothing can be fully understood if God is not known first.

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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