Is This the Normal Christian Life? Part 7

With such an emphasis upon knowing universal, objective truth, our evangelical predecessors strongly preferred rational and empirical means. They appealed mainly to the mind to know, but had comparatively little to say about the importance of the heart to bow. Instead, through these shaping influences, they tended to be (overly) confident in our intellect’s abilities to know objective truth and live it. Yet, these shaping factors also conditioned people not to expect God to manifest His presence and power. Given these expectations (and their adherence to the truth of Scripture), it would be easy while a Christian consensus in society lasted to believe orthodox doctrine, yet simultaneously start to live as if God were distant. Having inherited their distrust of religious experience, we should not expect God to manifest Himself much, either. And, He already has revealed all we need to know (as far as objective truth goes) in Scripture.  

Yet, we have seen that Scripture raises the expectation that God does want to be intimately personal with us. One image used is marriage; Paul tells us that the husband-wife relationship is to be like Christ’s relationship with the church. I love my wife deeply, but to be one, we need unity in more than just our minds. We could agree on plans to raise our daughter, where to live, etc. But, if that is the primary basis of our oneness, our relationship is distorted, leaving us susceptible to temptations. We also need to unity in our hearts. For example, we need to choose to guard our relationship, not letting others gain a foothold on our affections and start to divide us. But, if not also coupled with a deep unity of mind, each of us may be pulled apart by our feelings. 

Now, to trust (heart) one another deeply requires experience and knowledge (mind). Heart and mind need to work together to have trust. Moreover, we also know we vitally need the Spirit’s filling, or else we will be living in our flesh, which will hurt our relationship.

Now, compare this to Christ’s relationship with us. If we try to live in unity with His mind (as revealed in Scripture), yet are not living in deep heart unity, we can be distant from Him relationally. That’s like the church in Ephesus (Rev 2), which had many commendable qualities (some based on knowledge), but they had left their first love. Or, we could be legalistic. But, both are fleshly. Also, if we think God has given us His perfect revelation, but now we shouldn’t expect Him to “show up” personally in our lives (or we are suspicious of such manifestations), we are susceptible to thinking (even subtly) that God has expressed His love in a book, but now has gone away. That’s like if I wrote all my wife needs to know (especially of my love for her) in a book, gave it to her, but then departed – not much of a marriage!

Or, suppose we try to love God with all our hearts, but not really with our minds. We may be very enthusiastic at times, but likely we’ll tend to rely on our own understanding of what God is like and wants. For instance, we could err by thinking we should love everyone, yet at the expense of what God says is upright. 

Just as a good marriage needs the husband and wife to be united deeply in heart and mind, so must we be with the Lord. And, with Him, we also vitally need His Spirit, or else we will be living in our own fallenness. However, a well-known tactic in battle is to divide and conquer. I think that is what the devil wants in our marriages, and with the Lord – to separate our hearts and minds from His, and to not really live in utter dependence upon His Spirit for life and power. These factors I have been surveying have those very effects. It’s no wonder then that to the extent we live in these ways that we lack the presence and power of the Lord. We deeply need to repent of that.

Scott Smith is keenly interested in our abilities to have knowledge of reality, particularly in the areas of ethics and religion. He also is very interested in the needed ontology to have knowledge. He addresses “constructivism,” the fact-value split, and issues with our being able to have knowledge on the basis of naturalism, postmodernism and nominalism. He also has written on the emergent church, as well as a knowledge argument and the moral argument for God’s existence. Currently, he is working on exposing and addressing the many, even subtle, influences of naturalism on western churches. He also serves as secretary-treasurer for the Evangelical Philosophical Society. Scott Smith has earned a Ph.D. from University of Southern California, M.A., University of Southern California, M.A., Talbot Theological Seminary and a B.A. from California State University, Hayward.

0 Comments

Leave a reply