As we touched on in the last post, the battle has several “fronts”. One of those fronts consists of ideas. Schaeffer says we are “locked in battle” with our culture. We are in what has been called a “culture war” by many – with the unfortunate connotation that the war is about culture, or that it has a scope limited only to culture. Let me broaden it a bit for you.

The actions we take are legitimized by what we deem “permissible” – in our thought life. Our thoughts are the gateway to our heart of hearts, and to our actions. If you assume a certain form of thought, your actions will follow accordingly. How you think is integral to how you act – and you you feel towards, and regard, your fellow men. Any Christian with experience debating a proponent of humanism/atheism can tell you – they do not think the way that we are called to think. They vary in type, and form – but they are all incompatible with the thought life a Christian is called to have. What is it we are called to do?

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. – Col. 3:2

– and –

For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ. – 1 Cor. 2:16

We are to have the mind of Christ. Directed toward, guided by, and grounded in the knowledge and wisdom of Christ. Do we really understand the implications of this? Do we truly know the immensity of this calling? We are called to be Holy – as He is Holy. Do we, can we, imagine that our thoughts are exempt from this imperative?

Knowledge is added through diligent study – Wisdom is granted by God, and correctly applies knowledge to Godly principles – Understanding is gained through maturity, and application of Wisdom to daily living. Does that make sense? Knowledge can be acquired by anyone willing to put the work into it. The ability to apply knowledge into thoughts and precepts is wisdom. How that knowledge is applied differentiates Godly wisdom from worldly wisdom. Understanding is the correct balance resulting from the Godly application of knowledge (wisdom) to daily living – which will, in turn, result in Godly action. For more on wisdom, see this post.

Oh, we have a book to study! Read on…

The battle in the area of ideas is pointed out most clearly in the letters of the Apostle Paul. Here we see that there is a fundamental conflict between “the wisdom of the world” and “the wisdom of God”. Thus Paul writes:

Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through it’s wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. (1 Corinthians 1:20-21)

And again:

Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. (1 Corinthians 3:18-19)

Schaeffer will go more into this – but I want to make a couple of observations. First – he fails to visit the very center of teaching about wisdom – the book of Proverbs. Read Solomon’s words on wisdom, before we go on.

The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, To discern the sayings of understanding, To receive instruction in wise behavior, Righteousness, justice and equity; To give prudence to the naive, To the youth knowledge and discretion, A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel, To understand a proverb and a figure, The words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:1-7)

There is an important point made here. All knowledge, regardless of its origin or application, must be grounded in the “fear of the Lord”. The world values the accumulation of facts – which is knowledge of a sort – but this is not the foundation of learning, wisdom, or understanding. This also brings up another important principle. Knowledge is incomplete unless it not only includes the knowledge of God – but is based upon it. In other words – every human on earth is required to know God before he can say he truly knows anything. When you know God as He truly is – you will acquire the reverence, or fear, for Him that is required to be wise, in the true sense of wisdom. True being, as always, what God has defined it as. To reject this axiom (that you must know God to know anything else in a true fashion) is to distort everything you learn. For this reason, we are truly speaking a different language than that of those who reject God, and His Truth as the foundation for reality.

Be still, and know that I am God – Psalm 46:10a

In other words… shut up – and start learning how to think!

Now we should say immediately that Paul is not saying that knowledge and education have no value. Paul himself was among the most highly educated of his time. Paul is speaking instead of a worldly wisdom which claims to be self-sufficient in itself, quite apart from God and His revelation. It is a kind of worldly wisdom which leaves God and His revelation out of the picture and thereby ends up with a completely distorted conception of reality.

I will stress as well – we are not called to be intellectual simpletons. We must learn – and we must use and develop the mental faculties God has given us. We must have the discipline to study God’s creation, in its various forms and their accompanying disciplines of study, according to the talents God has given us – I will throw something out there for you, though. Is the world, and reality, to be studied in its entirety, with our own personal specializations – or is it a series of parallel studies, which do not overlap? Think on it – and the ramifications of those two views. You will see the effects that has on our thinking later on. Keep it somewhere, filed under “cogitate on”.

The problem we are addressing is the distorted view of reality that results when you exclude the foundation of all knowledge – God Himself. I have no animus toward learned men who do not have God in His proper place. I take issue with a view of “reality” that excludes the creator and sustainer of reality. A body of knowledge lacking the central tenet which connects and relates it all is not complete. In fact, it is a disastrous error. Theory based upon incomplete knowledge will, of a certainty, fail to explain or account for the reality we are theorizing about. It would be like trying to explain orbital mechanics while omitting the effects, or disbelieving the existence of, gravity. Deny its existence, or substitute myriad other factors in its place – they will all fail to explain orbital mechanics correctly. If gravity is important – how unimaginably vast are the repercussions of the omission of God from the explanation for, and the understanding we have of, reality?

This can be seen most clearly in the first chapter of Romans where Paul writes:

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools….
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served things rather than the Creator….
(Romans 1:21-25)

What is involved here is the way men think, the process of reasoning, thought, and comprehension. Thus “their thinking became futile, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.” When the Scripture speaks of man being foolish in this way, it does not mean he is only foolish religiously. Rather, it means that he has accepted a position that is intellectually foolish not only with regard to what the Bible says, but also to what exists concerning the universe and its form and what it means to be human. In turning away from God and the truth which he has given, man has thus become foolishly foolish in regard to what man is and what the universe is. Man is left with a position with which he cannot live, and he is caught in a multitude of intellectual and personal tensions.

The irony is, humanism (one of the results of the Enlightenment) glorifies reason – while denying its foundation – and claims that human intellect and reason alone are sufficient. We are in a battle where the way we think, the process of reasoning, the very foundation of thoughts and their origin, as well as the comprehension of the knowledge acquired – all are disputed! This is the battle of the mind. We have failed, most of us, to oppose futile thinking. We do not have a sufficient grasp of how to think; let alone how we should think. We have succumbed to futile thinking and darkened hearts ourselves, right along with the world – we who are supposed to be a light to the world – a shining city on a hill. We, also, are caught in a multitude of intellectual and personal tensions – because, as we fail to take every thought captive, we are taken captive by our very thoughts. We do not have the mind of Christ. We don’t defend that mind of Christ – for a very simple reason. We do not have it ourselves. We have failed to defend Truth as Truth! I’ll ask you the same question I asked last time.

Where do you flinch?

Now, let’s address what is called “foolishness”. To do so, we will need to first step back to verses 18-20. Keep your finger there. Foolishness can result from ignorance. That is not the root cause, however. My study Bible (The John MacArthur study Bible) has a topical index in the back. There are 56 (yes, I counted them all) entries addressing “fools”. Friends – it is not a large index, either. Looking the word “fool” up, on Crosswalk gives you 64 returns (NASB). Simple word search. (NKJV is 72 returns.)

Foolishness is the antithesis of Biblical wisdom. It is repeatedly warned against, shown within the Biblical tapestry as the utter senselessness it is, and regarded as both self-destructive and the worst sort of self-deceit. So, with that in mind – let’s look at Romans 1:18-20.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

Ungodliness, says MacArthur, is a lack of reverence for, devotion to, and worship of, the True God. In other words, a defective relationship with Him.

Suppress the truth in Unrighteousness – Due to this defective relationship, a result is achieved – a lack of conformity in thought, word, and deed to the law and character of God. The antithetical parallel to our idea/action paradigm. By these actions, based upon this antithetical ungodliness, they present a deviant truth – not just a different truth, which would imply that this “other” truth is equal, yet just as valid – but a completely different attempt to both define and direct “truth”. By advancing this so-called truth, which we have already said is merely a distortion of the real truth, (just as every sin is merely a distortion of a godly practice) we get a resulting worldview which attempts to dethrone God, by means of His truth – and replace it with their own version. In this manner, they suppress truth – in order to supplant it. I find it ironic that some in this camp refer to our worldview, based on Biblical Truth, as “ideological violence”. In fact – if it wasn’t such a serious problem – it would be almost comical. Unfortunately – they are so deceived that they are deadly serious about this seemingly illogical statement. The scary thing is – from their warped perspective – they really do see Truth as the enemy. This should disturb you.

Verses 19 and 20 deal with God’s evidence for His own existence. I won’t get into that now – as I could likely fill a whole series of posts by studying this subject in even the most superficial way. The basic point is as follows; God has shown us what we need to know within the fabric of creation, within our minds, and within our souls. To reject this truth is what is foolish. They have no excuse before God for their willful rejection of His Truth. “Man is left with a position with which he cannot live”. He may exist – but he cannot do so without self-deceit. To live in a web of deceit – especially one of your own making – is not a life lived. It is a life distorted – just like the distortion of truth, and reality that led to it.

The Scripture tells us how man came into this situation: Because “although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him”; therefore, they became foolish in their reasoning, in their comprehension, in their lives. This passage relates to the original fall, but it does not only speak about the original fall. It speaks of any period where men knew the truth and deliberately turned away from it.

Many periods of history could be described in this way. From the biblical viewpoint there was a time when the ancestors of the people of India knew the truth and turned away, a time when the ancestors of the people of Africa knew the truth and turned away. This is true of people anywhere who do not now know the truth. But if we are looking across the history of the world to see those times where men knew the truth and turned away, let us say emphatically that there is not an exhibition of this anywhere in history so clearly – and in such a short time – as in our own generation. We who live in North America have seen this verse carried out in our generation with desperate force. Men of our time knew the truth and yet turned away – turned away from not only from Biblical Truth but also turned away from the many blessings this brought in every area of culture, including the balance of form and freedom we once had.

I disagree with his statement about North America’s uniqueness in history as a fallen nation. If you haven’t figured this out by now – I want to make it clear. America is NOT God’s “chosen” country – and it never was. It had a Christian ethos, and a Christian consensus – but it no longer does. We were never, and are not, a “Christian nation.” We are just another fallen nation, gathering the tattered rags of our disgraced dignity around us, with our Evangelicals hanging on for dear life to our identity as a “Christian” society – and failing. This is a result of the Great Evangelical Disaster. We failed to stand for Truth as Truth – and we see the results around us – everywhere. Why do I disagree? The answer is simple.

The history of Israel, as laid out for us in the Old Testament. Israel knew the truth – and they fell. Over, and over, and over again. Within one generation, two generations – over, and over, and over again. They continued that cycle between truth and depravity many, many times in their history. I agree that our shift has been a dramatic one. The issue is clear. In the Evangelical world (and throughout Christianity, for that matter) – we have failed, on all fronts, simultaneously, with pitifully few exceptions, at participation in, and at engagement in, the battle with that “world spirit,” as Schaeffer calls is, over the ideas and “truths” they present.

I hear oh, so many voices exulting in a fleeting, temporal victory of late – when the front lines have become nothing but a thin, straggling line of scattered pickets – standing against an army of humanistic, atheistic, relativistic adherents of “alternate” truths – arrayed in direct opposition to what we know is True – and we’ve let them roll right on over us. Instead of trumpeting our fleeting successes on political, legislative, or societal fronts, we should recognize that we have only shut the barn door. The horses have not only left the barn, but have trampled our pastures, broken our fences to splinters, and have are running amok – as we speak. Instead of rejoicing that the barn still contains a few animals, and that we have shut the barn door temporarily – perhaps we should begin the real work we must engage in. The work of repairing fences, reining in the horses trampling our fields, and returning them to their proper place. Restring the balance of form and freedom – which can only be accomplished by restoring the relationship between God and man to it’s proper place – throughout our whole society. Restoring the reverence of God, and reverence for His Truth in our society.

If we only pat each other on the back for the excellent job done, by shutting the barn door and go back to watching tv – are we anything but the very fools we are speaking about?