Here is an introductory excerpt from the logic curriculum that I wrote for Beaner last year. Chances are, we would have been better served to have it at the beginning of the series, you know, since it’s an introduction and all ;), but I thought it might equally serve well as a sort of epilogue. Please remember, this was originally written for a 13 year old girl. At any rate, I pray you find it edifying.
Jesus sums up the duties of his followers in what is know as the Great Command, from the Shema (Deut 6:4) and Lev 19:18, saying, “...’Hear O’ Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’...’you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mk 12:29—31). When Jesus uses heart, soul, mind , and strength he is not attempting to divide the human person into distinct quadrants, for the command begins with God’s unity—“...the Lord is one”—rather he is insisting that his disciples are to love their Lord with their whole person, like God; as a unified being.
Another thing that is worth mentioning is that there is some degree of parallel in the terms used (and their structure) in the command. Have you ever considered this?
“...And you shall love the Lord your God with...
All your heart and with all your soul and with...
All your mind and with all your strength...”
Do you see the parallels between heart // mind and soul // strength? In the ancient Hebrew culture the term “mind” was similar to what we also think of mind being today. Heart, however, is a different story. Heart, in the ancients’ worldview had much less to do with feelings and more to do with wisdom and understanding; therefore it provided a great parallel for the term mind. Soul and strength speak of the intensity with which we are to love the Lord our God.
To sum up then, Jesus sees the heart // mind to be a central feature in Christian discipleship. This obviously means so much more than merely “learning stuff...getting doctrine right and in order” or even winning an argument, even though it might be in defense of the faith and truth. No, to love the Lord with one’s mind means much more than those things alone; as important as they are.
Loving the Lord with your mind is not a bottom-up procedure, but a top-down gift. Proverbs 1:7a helps to illustrate this: “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” And 1:29 gives the negative expression of the nearly the same point: “Because they hated knowledge they did not choose the fear of the Lord.” And it is the “fool” that “despises wisdom and instruction” (1:7b). Therefore, Reasoning Rightly must begin with a conscious awareness and awe-filled honor of Christ’s Lordship over your heart and mind. This is the only way or path to true knowledge and wisdom, that is, to Reasoning Rightly.
Consider another angle. In Rom 12:1—2 Paul, after 11 full chapters of the most profound theological exposition of what the coming of Jesus means and what it means to the believer to be in union with him, he finishes his long argument with the following conclusion:
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world (lit. “age”), but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
How many times have you heard some one say, “I only wish I knew what God’s will for me was in this...”? Here Paul gives a means of being able to “discern what is the will of God.” Do you wonder that maybe the reason so many Christians struggle with this question is because they have failed to work at the “renewal of their mind”? Loving God with all your mind is, I believe, the most difficult part of our Christian pilgrimage. Thinking God’s thoughts after him is never easy, with our abiding sin and autonomy. But, of course, the good news is that it is not all our work, God does not leave us alone in this any more than any other area of our growth in Christ-likeness; this too is a gift of his glorious grace to the praise of his glory.
First, when we come to embrace Jesus as Lord, Paul says that “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16). This is a gift of our being made “spiritual” by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit (2:12), that we might understand all the many blessings we have in Christ, namely the wisdom and power of God in the gospel. Therefore, beginning to reason rightly, that is, Christianly, starts with the gift of God in our regeneration.
This is also seen in Col 3:10, which reads, “seeing that you have put off the old self (better, “man;” the old Adamic fallen nature) with its practices and have put on the new self (better, “man;” the nature of the Second Adam—Jesus), which is being renewed in knowledge (epignosis, “true, full-knowledge”) after the image of its creator” (cf. Eph 4:24 which includes true righteousness and holiness). The phrase “being renewed” is in what is called the passive voice, which simply means that the subject (i.e., the new nature) is receiving the action of the verb, “being renewed.” It is also a participle, meaning that it is something on going, progressive; sometimes faster than others. Although, there is no cooperation on our part in our being “born again,” or regenerated, that is wholly a one sided, sovereign work of God the Holy Spirit, we do have a great deal of responsibility in cultivating our on-going growth in Christ-likeness, not least of which in the area of our minds.
Because it is commanded that we are to love the Lord with all our minds, we are clearly responsible for much of that development. It is hard work! One of the Reformed distinctives in anthropology is that the Fall did not leave any one facet of our persons unscathed. The Fall is deeply epistemological in both its roots and fruits. Man was corrupted as much in mind as in morals (in fact, the latter follows from the former). As I like to say, “Think actively and act thoughtfully.” It is a fact of reality that we will not, indeed cannot, do the latter—act thoughtfully—until we first begin to do the former, think actively. Right actions proceed from Rightly Reasoning. Cultivating a Christ-like, God loving mind that is possessed with full knowledge and wisdom, that is in Christ (Col 2:3), is one of the main priorities in Christian discipleship and deserves to be sought under the most reverent, awe/joy filled fear of the Lord. This is our reasonable service to God in Christ. It’s hard work, but what on earth could be of higher value and worth?!?
Nevertheless, though much of the work is, by grace, ours to do; God will not do it for us, he, God in his Triune fullness, is the source of even the very beginning of the process. Reasoning rightly is a blood bought gift of Jesus to every one of his followers, to be used in the service of the Gospel of his Kingdom. Therefore, our ability to even have access to the wisdom of God in Christ comes full circle back to the doctrines of grace.
Have you looked at it like this? Why do we need our minds and thinking renewed in the first place? Well, because we are Totally Depraved. Our only hope of escaping the muck and mire of sinful, irrational thinking that is part of our total depravity is based solely in God’s Unconditional Election of sinners like us. But election alone cannot save us from the wrath of God; since he is infinitely holy, we need an atonement; thus, Limited Atonement. Now that Jesus has satisfied the righteous requirements of the Father’s wrath, how does that affect you and me nearly 2000 years after the event? Well, as we said earlier, it is the one-way working (i.e., monergistic) of God himself, in spite of our hard, rebellious hearts and minds. We call this...Irresistable Grace, right? Finally, glory be that God has done these unspeakably great deeds on our behalf, but then we are commanded to continue in that grace and begin a work with him to further nurture our new minds with on going effort, reaching for Christ-likeness in response to his graciously saving us. Hence, there is the Perseverance of the Saints.
What do the bold, italicized letters spell? TULIP! It is all about grace! God alone can enable us to fulfill the royal law of love, to love him with all our minds! So this fact, then, is enough to keep us in humble submission to him in gratitude for his enablement and gifts, as well as reminding us to maintain a humble boldness as we continue to grow in knowledge and wisdom. Thus, keeping our utter dependence and responsibility before us as we pursue sanctified reason and argumentation helps us to observe in our life the words of Paul to all those who would serve Christ:
“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduing evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth. And they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Tim 2:24—26).
Two of the greatest apologists of our time, men worthy of our imitation, epitomized this text in their own lives. Francis Schaffer taught that the greatest apologetic was not an argument, but love. Dr. Bahnsen, was at once the most subtle and ferocious Christian philosopher and the most generous, gracious spirit in his debates. Why? Both of these men had a right understanding of God and man, and most of all themselves; that it was by grace alone they could reason at all! So, let us go on and in the lessons that follow learn how to better love the Lord with our minds, honor our Lord Jesus, and the men who have went before us as examples of what it means to Reason Rightly!
I call upon You, Lord, God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob and Israel, You who are the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who, through the abundance of your mercy, was well-pleased towards us so that we may know You, who made heaven and earth, who rules over all, You who are the one and the true God, above whom there is no other God; You who, by our Lord Jesus Christ gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit, give to every one who reads this writing to know You, that You alone are God, to be strengthened in You, and to avoid every heretical and godless and impious teaching.
St Irenaeus of Lyons, Against the Heresies 3:6:4
St Irenaeus of Lyons, Against the Heresies 3:6:4