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REVELATIONS ABOUT BEING REASONABLE
God says, Come let us reason
together! (Isaiah 1:18), and HE is MOST reasonable, as should we be in dealing
peaceably as far as in us lies (Romans 12:18, 14:19), with one another, for God is so consistent,
persistent, reliable, and cohesive in holiness that so far from His will, word,
ways and nature being incomprehensible, He makes it the most reasonable of all.
It is important to both KNOW what He says, and HEED what He commands, for His
commands are kindly, for His people and truth needs to be known, to be
understood. His Godhead, His salvation, His incarnation, so far from being
beyond reason, are as data given to the mind of man made by God, and then are
found gloriously attractive to reason, for in Him and His ways all problems of
mind are solved
(cf. SMR pp. 532ff., All this Rot about Not Believing,
LIGHT DWELLS WITH THE LORD'S
WHO ANSWERS RIDDLES
AND WHERE HE IS, DARKNESS DEPARTS).
In our last Chapter, we focussed on a crucial fact. It was this.
The Gospel it is which will not be humbled, its bud blessed to Israel (cf. Romans 9), in the prophets and in the power of God as and when they followed Him, its bloom transfusing a spiritual life in the New Testament. It is for one as for all, for Jew as for Gentiles; while God keeps His word as a maiden may keep her virtue, or a young man his loyalty to the Lord: moving nowhere and in nothing, the Lord that immovable Rock, the onward wonder, immovable in character, unveiled in detail, proceeds. The events move in history to the consummation of all, that any may come, none favoured as pets, but all found and coming by grace, treated as children, till tests and testimony alike concluded, earth's time is done; and even then they remain (cf. Isaiah 51:6, Matthew 24:35, John 10:9-10). It is forever. That, it is security; and there is none other.
Vast as is the significance of the Gospel, surpassing all that man can do, the very statement of the saving wonder that God has prepared that anyone can find Him, despite sin and however insignificant that person can be, this must be carefully and clearly distinguished from the use of various talents given to man, not for idling, nor yet for abuse, but for employment for His glory and deployment for His service. Let us look into one case. After all, judgment was accorded to the one who was faithlessly stingy in his use of talents given, his actions a result of lack of faith, and indeed failure to appreciate the significance of being entrusted with those facilities which come to us all (Matthew 25:14-30). Indeed it is placed just after the parable of the sleeping virgins and before the account of judgment in Matthew 25.
The Gospel involves being planted, taking root and growing, all through the hand of God. That is foundational. This process in turn involves results. It is not just good tree, good fruit: it is good root, good tree, good fruit, with the preliminary point, good planting, which involves soil and all the other elements. When God does this, it works. When it works, it bears fruit, some more, some less. Salvation is free and entirely of God; but His work is never in vain. It is, one notes in the parable, not a question of being saved by being good, but of being enabled and so producing, through whatever vicissitudes. Nor is it a matter of producing to be saved, but rather, as in the parable, having the heart so regenerated and the life so renewed that a belligerent or blasphemous spirit does not manipulate the person. In the parable, the man in question, who was condemned, decided that God was harsh and stingy, and became rather like that himself! It is faith that matters, and that it receive the salvation of God, which involves planting by God (Matthew 15:13 shows the folly of any other source), root from the Lord and fruit that follows.
Working then for the Lord, and seeking to be serviceable, one does well to use the talents provided. None should be out of place, none despised in its place. This brings us to the biblical position on reason and revelation, often confused, but blessed in its bounty and order, fulness and favour to man. That He should bother to love us is phenomenal; that He should ask us to use our gifts in His service by His power (Ephesians 1:19) is eminently gracious. Let us thus gratefully ponder these things, Christians with gladness of heart, and those not yet "planted by God," with a keenly investigative mind.
REASON AND REVELATION
Reason and revelation are both gifts of God. Paul reasoned in the synagogues concerning the truth of Christ, and on Mars Hill, and in II Cor.10:5 he was engaged in casting down theories, imaginations, and bringing every thought into captivity to Christ; while in Philippians 1:7 we find him exercised in the defence and confirmation of the Gospel.
Romans 1:17ff. teaches that it is only by holding down truth like a wrestler, that the obvious facts concerning God are not made apparent to distorting minds. While the servant of the Lord must not strive, that is become involved in useless and carnal contention, he MUST be willing to give a REASON for the faith (I Peter 3:15), and this is part of ploughing for the seed. ALL the gifts of God are to be used (Matthew 25:14ff.), and of course, Augustine was a university lecturer in this realm before writing so much in this very field, after his conversion. Notably this included The City of God.
On the other hand, while reason is both proper to use, and foolish to ignore, since it is a gift and a talent, both, it is not capable of reading God's mind at a distance, in a sort of tele-psychiatry. To know the MIND of God and the will of Christ, you need to know them. The power and divine nature are obvious, a matter for reason indeed, says Romans 1; but the manner in which God views the race and the plan for their deliverance, instruction, guidance, and the nature of any salvation, these are things entirely resident in revelation from God direct. Reason as shown in the trilogy, The Shadow of a Mighty Rock, insists on the Bible as the revelation of Almighty God; when you follow on to it, the BIBLE insists on the Gospel and the perspective of God Himself. There is no way you can combine, except in using the mind God gave you in order to research and ponder what God has said, in this area. .
It is thus not a matter of competition, but complementarity. However, reason points to the site of what God has to say, and God points to what IT IS that He HAS to say. For that you read the Bible. It is to be taken without addition or subtraction, as the ultimate doctrinal basis for all knowledge, with no additional entrants. Colossians 2:8 tells us that we are to avoid vain philosophy, that is reason to replace revelation, wallowing in its own trough. It does not tell us to become unreasonable, irrational or to void the command to GIVE A REASON for the faith to those who ask, or to break the instruction through Paul's example of casting down theories (II Cor. 10:5 with I Cor. 11:1)..
Thus there is sometimes a confusion between the apt, just and divinely ordered use of reason, and the equally divine condemnation of its MISUSE and the reliance on human thought as the basis for life. When used aright, then, reason leads to the Bible which leads to the Christ who leads to salvation, from Him alone. To derogate this instrument, rightly used as it should and can be, because it is NOT Revelation is like attacking flautists because they do not use the violin. Reason is good, as are the eyes, when used aright; it is indeed commissioned by God. Reliance on it instead of on revelation is a mischief of idolatry indeed. However use of God-given gifts is not idolatry, but part of the "reasonable service" to which each is bound (Romans 12:1-2).
REASON, RATIONALITY AND RATIONALE IN SPIRITUAL AFFAIRS
Martin Lloyd Jones, in his sermon on I Cor. 1 and 3 makes some unfortunate errors. Outstanding as he is among preachers in that period, and excellent as has been his substantial contribution and keen mind in much for long, he like others, is not immune to all error. In this case, it is necessary to examine a field of his address, in order to bring in certain biblical premises clearly, lest too much being said against some things, there is upset in the divine orchestration of what is given on the one hand, and on the other, what is to be done with it! The address of Lloyd-Jones is entitled "God's Revelation Versus Human Reason."
It is of course true that one has to become as a little child to receive the Gospel, as in Matthew 18; that rationalism is folly, lacking the foundations of all; that if one were to be converted through reason as base, this would enable pride (just as if one were to be received through merit, for in priinciple, it would do just the same); as that scientific method observes, collates, formulates and tests, and if this is limited to material things, then it is in vain when the topic is spiritual.
It is however not true that the trinity is foreign to reason*1, or that the incarnation is incomprehensible to mind, and that one must abandon the same in these spheres. In fact, God is one in Being and three in Persons, and it is just a matter of observing WHAT GOD HAS TO SAY, learning it, loving it, and pursuing spiritual wisdom to find in these meaty matters the anointing of understanding (cf. Ephesians 1:18, and on this, see SMR pp. 520ff.), so that the eyes of your understanding are opened, as Paul prayers for them in that Church. Imagining that the God who invited us to come and reason together (Isaiah 1:18), is unreasonable, or that anything He says is so, is to attack the gift given and the injunctions to use reason, as in giving a reason for the faith (I Peter 3:15).
When Paul cast down imaginations, it was not that he became irrational in order to do it! (II Cor. 10:5), but that as he reasoned in the synagogues, so here. Certainly he was reasoning that Jesus is the Christ elementally; but he was using reason in argumentation. As in Hosea 12:10, God uses many methods to alert man, and in that case it was a great number of pieces of imagery (multiplied images for the purpose).
As in Job, when one cannot understand some events, to 'reason' from this, as did Job on occasion, that God is cruel or an opponent is foolish, since there may be a program in view (as in Job 1), which explains events, but one is being subjected to test, or being made a testimony (a considerable privilege); but because one does not and should not know it, there is a trial of faith. But reticence at such a time is reasonable, most decidedly so. Though the rancour may suggest otherwise, it is not so.
Becoming as a little child and being born of the Spirit according to the will and word of God is crucial; but it is not antithetical to thinking. It is a divorce from the assumption that your own thoughts are paramount, and being willing to learn from the One whose thoughts are paramount. Certainly the natural man is not inclined to consider these things anything but futile, but when God convicts of sin, righteousness and judgment, there is something else involved, namely God, and the natural course of events suffers as do houses in an earthquake, the very foundations brought to light. Again, His being INFINITE does not make things incomprehensible, but means, on the contrary, that He has infinite power to clarify (His word is all clear to the one who understands - Proverbs 8:8). It means He has a task which He is well able to perform. May His name ever be blessed for that! He is not reticent, but like light, makes things manifest. Gracious is He, and startling in generosity.
When God acts, there is nothing that is too hard, even for people not yet converted to taste the things of the world to come, before spitting it out (Hebrews 6).
Starting with man, as an assumption is utterly wrong and futile, since things did not start with man. Such reasoning is fallacious; but it is not reason that is wrong, but its use.
In this sometimes unfortunate sermon, Lloyd Jones repeatedly confuses different propositions, making each one to be implied in the other, so that if one be false, all are deemed false; but many are both distinct and distinctive, by no means subject to loose generalisation, or to be put in one bag.
You are saved by the grace of God with no human merit or personal argumentation as a basis; but the thing itself is entirely reasonable, and it does not cease to be so because in this God is intensely magnanimous and magnificent: it is reasonable to want to die for someone, as David wished he had done for Absolam. It is astonishing that the Creator should be willing and even eager in human form, to suffer death that man should live! It is the splendour of His heart which is all but incomprehensible, but perfectly reasonable once you grasp it. When people are defective, the fact that to be satisfactory for God and heaven there has to be an entire translation of their very inner beings is perfectly reasonable; it is not incomprehensible. We do not need to proceed to add to the word of God our expansive amens, taking on board things neither stated nor harmonious with other parts of His word.
As to regeneration: In fact, if it were not so, how could any ever be free enough to PREFER darkness to light, and so be condemned as John 3:19 asserts is the case, in the very face of the love of God for this entire world of which He has in that context, just been shown to be the exclusive Creator! It is because God who knew before time and fall, who and what each person is, enacts this in practice, that reason finds its ONLY solution to the whole question of predestination and freewill. Instead of being incomprehensible, this is the only way there is for these data to become comprehensible; and it is God in His word who shows the way it is so. The Maker of reason is not unreasonable. What is unreasonable is to omit Him in your surveys, and start with yourself, or to imagine that He does not or will not speak, instruct, inform, command and require, as He does, repentance into faith.
God sovereignly selects the Gospel, its mode of operation, His foreknowledge, selects predestination in view of that foreknowledge, and delivers many from being so ont ained by sinful selves, t hat they ar e mere cogs in the wheel. THIS is not what He made, and not how He treats people. Love is not like that, and His love shows the way. Hence Christ wept; but did not annul the will of man.
Thus many basic thrusts of Lloyd Jones here are excellent and fundamental, but he confuses some points which the Bible does not warrant, nor reason accept. At times, He takes points with some point of contact, and simply submerges one in the other. That is to beg the question. As noted above, some of the propositions he has in mind are scriptural, and some are not; but mixing the two gives false leeway to condemnation of both, when only one is astray.
God is keen on jots and tittles, not as an excuse for ignoring fundamentals, but for fidelity and for conscientious care. We must be no less in our approach, in principle, to follow such a lead. What the word says, this is bound. What it is does not say, this is not bound. To fail in this, is as if we did not take the finger off the key, and it just continues to print on regardless.
To be biblical does not MEAN to be unreasonable, in terms of logic. It means to surpass it, not suppress it. It is surpassed because all that rightly it shows, to the mind of unbelieving man, is merely an exposure of the obvious, opposed in such areas normatively by the will of the flesh (Romans 1:17ff.). Flesh is outlawed by vice, not a ground of condemnation of reason. In failure to see the obvious, the reason was not wrong; the flesh was. It erred in its presumption and blindness, a vicious voluntary blindness (Matthew 15:13ff.), closing the eyes of understanding, not condemning sight!
Concerning God, it is like observation of natural things: one must pursue with zeal all He has to say; the point of difference at the outset being that these things are spiritual and are given in His word. They are not impractical or lacking, but supernal, over-arching the limited scope of blinded minds. Yet one must even then be reasonable in understanding it. As Paul declares in I Corinthians 14:20: In understanding, be men!
Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.
Let us then not fail in understanding, but be diligent in it; nor conclude that there is no answer, but find it, that we might give it to those asking for it; not as if such things convert, but because they are in such cases commanded, are a service; and indeed, they may be used to convict, and are divinely ordered as in I Peter 3:15, Philippians 1:7, and brought to light, as in I Cor. 14:20.
Finally, for clarity's sake, note the difference between rationale, rationality and rationalism. The first is a reasonable account of the matter in which one works, an account of its nature/purpose/key/mode of operation. There is no harm in that, provided the source of it has the capacity to do it, in the particular case in view: God's intentions are of course His own, and need declaration, which we have, even of the deep things (I Cor. 2:9), in the Bible. Much remains; the essence is given as shown in I Cor..
Rationality is the discipline of reason, of logic, of avoiding gibberish, inconsistency, vague cloudiness of thought, being incisive, precise, not submitting to disorderly thought.
Rationalism is the philosophy that you enjoy the understanding of all things by using reason. It implies normally the absence of God therefore, which is like omitting the earth on which to build, once you have chosen a plan; and is irrational, unreasonable and foppish. These three are very different and ought never to be confused, lest humility become melded with irrationality, rationale becomes another name for rationalism, or spirituality is excluded by a mere irrelevant assumption in background, in what is indeed in this present world, a near to normal, that is habitual, but a spiritually forsaken method. Beware of foolish philosophy indeed! (Col. 2:8)
DO NOT CONFUSE BOGS AND BAFFLEMENTS
WITH THE CLARITY OF HEAVEN
It is far from this, being neither a bog nor a bafflement. Rather is it a thrilling topic for investigation in terms of what the Lord provides concerning it in the field of data (cf. SMR pp. 532ff.). In terms of trinity, problems are solved, consistency is attained, reason is satiated, as shown.
Again the two natures of Christ, as Lloyd-Jones cites it, are supposedly also beyond reason, a challenge to it which it cannot meet. This too is far from reality. As noted at the first in this Chapter, Light Dwells with the Lord's Christ deals with the whole area of rationality, verification, resolving power and results in terms of the Bible, in particular and competitively; and nothing else is found to resolve all issues in principle, and anything systematic in practice. There are no other testable contestants for explication of all types of problems, nothing to test and serve as a site for contest either in the field of religion or secularity.
Nothing else even starts the race, except in clamour and claim, which as in the sports, is not really the same as when the question of performance comes up, and becomes the result in acclaim or rejection.
Similarly, the two natures of Christ (human and divine) is a theological formulation, not a direct statement from the Bible. Suppose however that it were: just for investigative interest. It is best in alleged verbal conflicts to look at the underlying facts. As the Bible declares, Christ as God, lived and ruled in eternity, being God the Word, the Expression. As in Isaiah 48:15ff., in trinitarian co-operation, He came to earth to display and act as the Son of God, incarnated uniquely and definitively in our own human format, though exempted from sinfulness as a curse in His being (I Peter 2:22, Hebrews 4:15).
Not by incarnation but by consecration willingly, He was even to take sin's burden for many. So it was predicted, and such was His task ? Could He do it ? To die, it is the preliminary that counts in character, but the actuality which covers the case of One dying for others, the Maker for the made.
Could God in His own nature, limited into the work-eat-suffer format of man, make a go of His mission ? especially since it involved going as a Lamb to the slaughter at the hands of horrendously unfeeling professional religionists, and their accomplices!
As God, His nature was of course divine - how else be God. Is that hard to deliberate about ? Does not a frog have the nature of a frog ? If it had that of an ox, it would be odd; but this is not odd. God in the format of a man (like a prince in a private soldier's uniform) had still the divine nature which was that of His essential being. Since God is not susceptible to change, our time itself an invention of His in its requirement to wait and see, He stayed the same.
The limits of having become a man were intense, but they did not limit His being God in Person, since then it would not be an incarnation, but a reflection, contrary to John 5:19ff., and Philippians 2:1ff., with John 8:58. As in mathematics, it is easy to solve problems if you simply change the data. Some do; but in integrity, that is irrelevant. What about the actual data ?
God then, the Word, accepted the limitations of flesh as to birth, suffering, labour, requirements to meet environmental challenges, false disgrace, treachery and the like, in that as a man, total disregard of all this would be so abnormal as to constitute a pretence. Human nature related then to His formatting in function, but the divine reality of His being was not altered by this voluntary limitation. Prophets had been given divine power to operate, notably Elijah and then remarkably at Mt Carmel in the confrontation with a nature myth called Baal. This did not unman him, but represented a divine decision to bring things to a justly testable head. In this, Elijah was like a reactor, but actually, being a man, much more like an agent.
Christ was actual deity, not merely helped by Him who sent Him from eternity to time on mission, the commission the redemption of many; for love, that is a reward. But the point in principle is this: being helped more or less by deity without becoming an angel or some non-suffering being, does not annul the reality of being a man. No one suggested that Elijah had become a god, since his testimony was totally the opposite. It was all about GOD showing the power of HIS utterly unique divine nature, to those with human nature, so that as spectators, they could see. There was no confusion. God often did and does use people to make points, point a way or show a resolution, when they seek Him. Sometimes He even elects to use them because they don't and won't, as in the case of Nebuchadnezzar whose bout of madness is famed to the uttermost, as are its impressive results!
TO BE God and to HAVE a format for its expression, man having been made in the image of God in the first place (that is, able to communicate, speak, respond, be negative or positive even toward Him, have fellowship or not), is not even difficult to understand. Why, putting it in a type of phrasing, having the nature of God and that of man, which in itself is so clear when understood in terms of the data, clamour about incomprehensible! It is like complaining that milk is liquid.
It is in fact exceedingly straightforward! God as to being, man as to format, incarnate without sin, drafted to bear it! It is strange that Lloyd-Jones, in so much so very solid, referred to it in the category of an extreme problem. It is actually an extreme delight to the mind, all points so coherent like spark plugs in an engine, though in this, it is simply personal.
A RELATED POINT
Modes and Models
It may be worth while in saying this, to add a point more generally. People often allow themselves to be troubled by adopting elements of other people's systems of thought or understanding, other models if you will. That is illogical. If systems are being checked out relative to the competence of each other, the last thing to do is to confuse one model with the other, and talk about an irrelevant hybrid without even noticing that you have done this!
Extreme habituation or manipulation may make some take and allow elements exclusively the possession of some antagonistic idea; and this is what happens for example in much of the discussion of the nature myth of evolution. Chance is not even relevant in what has no origin to cite, ground to declare, reason for delimited, defined and arranged existence. If it were, it would only mean this, that the potential and the reality required, for what is contained and controlled at the material level, and never showing sufficiency to make themselves - and even if they did, initially having to do so before they were there to do it - would have to be there from the start. That has to be self-contradiction: what is necessary is necessarily not there on this model. It needs adjustment (like turning zero into 1). The whole logical ambit is followed in many ways as in
The gods of naturalism have no go 28,
The Wit and Wonder ... Ch. 7 cf. Deity and Design ... Ch. 2,
Holiness, History, Review and Overview Ch. 5,
The Defining Drama Ch. 2,
Dizzy Dashes ... Brilliant Harmony of Inevitable Truth Ch. 6.
Once you force that issue, it is only necessary to indicate that the verbal norm for such an always existent and sufficient source is God, eternal and unlimited, and hence always sufficient, and always there as the ground and cause of what is delimited by law and control at the material level. The downgrading of the consequent creation over time (as notoriously shown for the human genome, by Professor of Cornell University (Entropy and Mystery of the Genome - Waiting for Wonder, Appendix), and the failure to have a mass of failed follies, or worse, exhibit themselves, from antiquity, and the micro-biological hierarchical rules and placements in life, as stressed by Dr Denton in his Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, confirm even the mode of the Bible's statement, concerning the creation. It is by command and containment, as noted in Genesis that creation has come.
That is why DNA is so massively endowed with them, and that in a triple arrangement of systematic programming (as noted in the above Appendix). It has been done (as evidenced by the fact it is there, in this state) and attested in the Bible; it is not now being done (as evidenced by the lack of unequivocal evidence of information building itself now, without intelligence at work, as likewise attested); and this work and labour is in format for information in determinate forms, just as the biblical model has it. The Lord saw to it, came and conquered the realm of contrivances, law and arrangement, stopped, and the result is as design always is; and the arrival of new such results is as absent as design always is when the ground of it does not choose to operate.
That is another thing about defeated models: when they appeal to the desires of the human heart, or constitute a desideratum, like someone loved and lost, they tend to linger till, to pursue the analogy, they are like old hags, till they haggle about nothing at all, mere wimps without wisdom. Such are model matters; and alas, man is in this respect, no model, though the liberty accorded to him to the point of being able to contradict even his own construction, is a wonderful model! Once again, as made in God's image, he has just such liberties, however much he is enslaved by such obsessions through the burden of his own desired sinfulness. The model of the Bible, it depiction and perspective, declaration and evidence is a model model.
God is like that. Sin brings curse and conquest as in any folly; but that is a price of freedom when mixed with foolishness. Love has an answer. Even that is not compelled; but the use of it, if you want to be lifted from downgrading and its destiny, is assuredly commanded. In Europe, austerity is commanded at present; but with God the Creator, in His redemption, lavish generosity of spirit has been His choice, and we are commanded to repent (Luke 13:1-3).