Imagine living in a world in which you couldn't separate truth from error. You wouldn't be able to tell food from poison, or friend from foe. You couldn't tell good from bad, right from wrong, healthy from unhealthy, or safe from unsafe. Such a world would be a dangerous place. You wouldn't survive long.
What protects us from the hazards of such a world? Some say the Word of God, but that's not entirely true. Something else is necessary before we can accurately know the Bible's teaching. Yes, the Bible is first in terms of authority, but something else is first in terms of the order of knowing.
We cannot grasp the authoritative teaching of God's Word without using our minds properly. Therefore the mind, not the Bible, is the very first line of defense God has given us against error.
In order to understand the truth of the Bible accurately, our mental faculties must be intact, and we must use them properly as God intended. We demonstrate this fact every time we disagree on an interpretation of a Biblical passage and then give reasons why our view is better than another's. Simply put, we argue for our point of view, and if we argue well we separate truth from error.
Jesus said, "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" (Mark 12:30). Loving God with the mind is not a passive process. It's not just having thoughts about God. Rather, it's coming to conclusions about God and His world based on revelation, observation, and careful thinking.
Both a process and a skill are involved. There is a way that thinking works, a tool that needs to be employed. What is the tool we use in our observations of the world that help us separate fact from fiction? That tool is reason, the ability to use our minds to sort through observations and draw accurate conclusions about what is true. Rationality is the tool God has given us to acquire knowledge.
Generally, this is not a solitary enterprise. It's best done in the company of others who dispute our claims and offer competing ideas. In short, we argue. Sometimes we are silent partners, listening, not talking, but the process is going on in our minds just the same.
The ability to argue well is the essence of all clear thinking. That's why arguments are good things--arguing is a virtue because it helps us discover what's true.
This is not rationalism, a kind of idolatry of the mind that places man's thinking at the center of the universe. Rather, it's the proper use of the faculties God has given us to understand Him and the world He's made.
Next week I'll show you how to recognize a good argument.
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