We Are Not Neutral

Chapter 1 of Jeff Johnson’s upcoming book.  Having read several of Jeff’s books (The Fatal Flaw & The Kingdom of God), I’m looking forward to this one when it comes out.

“Let’s buy it, dad!” These were the words that darted out of my mouth as soon as I saw the cool yellow truck with its custom rims and ground effects. Immediately I could proudly see myself driving it to school. Not only was it cool, I couldn’t believe it was in my price range. This could be mine, so I thought.

My father responded with the dreaded but predictable words, “We need to test drive it first.” Though this sounds only reasonable, you must realize that I was young and poor. My parents promised to help me buy my first vehicle by doubling all the money I earned over the summer. I worked hard, but only saved $900.00. And even back in the early nineties, you could not expect much for $1,800.00. The last thing I wanted was some grandma wagon.

So when I saw this customized truck, I was ready to pull the trigger without any investigation. In fact, I didn’t want to test drive it, for deep down I knew it was too good to be true. If we happen to discover its mechanical problems, I knew my father would stand in the way of me being cool. You see, I thought if we bought it before we learned that it needed repairs, though more money would be needed to get the thing running, the most important thing would be accomplished – I would have a respectable looking ride to show off to all my friends. The truth is, I didn’t want to know the truth, for I assumed that the truth would stand in the way of my happiness.

As you can imagine, when we opened the hood, it was missing half of its engine. Yep, too good to be true. I ended up with my dad’s old, brown, farm truck – dependable but no ground effects.

I realize now that I was willing to overlook all the blaring red flags and knowingly do something foolish because of my foolish pride. My emotions, my pride, and my inverted values hindered my judgment. I was not objective or rational because I did not want to be objective or rational.

Foolishness is living in opposition to what we know to be true. I am afraid this irrational condition and manner of thinking is universally prevalent in all of us. We are not merely irrational every now and then. Without God, we live in a state of irrationality.

Only irrational fools would consistently and practically deny that 2 + 2 = 4. Not only is the answer to this equation a part of common sense, it is easily demonstrable and highly useful. If a postmodern thinker practically rejects the absolute and universal principles of mathematics, he may applaud himself for being consistent with his relativistic worldview, but in the process his checkbook will be a total mess. Regardless of what we claim we believe about the laws of math, we cannot live consistently without practically submitting ourselves to them. For this and many other reasons it is intellectually difficult to deny the absolute and universal nature of mathematics.

The same is true concerning the truth of Scripture. Scripture does not merely provide a few isolated, unrelated, and discounted truths; it gives us the only complete and cohesive worldview that provides meaning and rationale to the universe. In other words, without the Bible, nothing makes sense in the grand scheme of things. As the Psalmist says, “In your light we see light” (Ps. 36:9).

Yet, if the Bible provides us with the only cohesive system of thought, why is it so hated and rejected by so many? If it is impossible to disprove the truth claims of the Bible, why is it so despised and ridiculed by some of the brightest and smartest minds? Do you want to know the truth? The truth is that if people loved the truth, they wouldn’t reject the truth. The problem is not that the truth is irrational, but that fallen man is not without his personal biases and foolish pride. As we shall see in this chapter, people are selfish by nature, and their selfishness is the controlling influence in how they feel, think, and behave.

Man is Not Neutral

The Bible describes this as depravity. Depravity is an inner heart condition that prevents us from loving any truth that is in opposition to our internal desire to be independent, free, and self-governing. Because we are born depraved, with a fallen nature, we hate the God of the Bible. We may love a god of our own imagination – a god that we can control. This is because we naturally want to be in control of our own destiny. If we want to go to heaven, then we can work our way there. If we want to go to Hell and hang out with our drinking buddies, then that is what we will do. But to lovingly submit every detail of our lives, thoughts, and beliefs to the absolute, sovereign God is not enticing in the least.

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Examined by Scripture

A man must make the Bible alone his rule. He must receive nothing, and believe nothing, which is not according to the word. He must try all religious teaching by one simple test,—Does it square with the Bible?—What saith the Scripture?

I would to God the eyes of the laity of this country were more open on this subject, I would to God they would learn to weigh sermons, books, opinions, and ministers, in the scales of the Bible, and to value all according to their conformity to the word. I would to God they would see that it matters little who says a thing, —whether he be Father or Reformer,—Bishop or Arch- bishop,— Priest or Deacon,—Archdeacon or Dean. The only question is,—Is the thing said Scriptural? If it is, it ought to be received and believed. If it is not, it ought to be refused and cast aside. I fear the consequences of that servile acceptance of everything which the parson says, which is so common among many English laymen. I fear lest they be led they know not whither, like the blinded Syrians, and awake some day to find themselves in the power of Rome. Oh! that men in England would only remember for what the Bible was given them!

I tell English laymen that it is nonsense to say, as some do, that it is presumptuous to judge a minister’s teaching by the word. When one doctrine is proclaimed in one parish, and another in another, people must read and judge for themselves. Both doctrines cannot be right, and both ought to be tried by the word. I charge them above all things, never to suppose that any true minister of the Gospel will dislike his people measuring all he teaches by the Bible. On the contrary, the more they read the Bible, and prove all he says by the Bible, the better he will be pleased. A false minister may say, “You have no right to use your private judgment: leave the Bible to us who are ordained.” A true minister will say, “Search the Scriptures, and if I do not teach you what is Scriptural, do not believe me.” A false minister may cry, “Hear the Church,” and “Hear me.” A true minister will say, “Hear the word of God.”

– J.C. Ryle (1816-1900) taken from: Consider Your Ways: Being a Pastor’s Address to His Flock. 10th Thousand, Revised and Adapted to All Seasons. London: Hunt & Son, 1849.

Monday Roundup

I ran across several intriguing articles today and thought I’d share them.  The first one is rather timely in that my thoughts have centered much on a more simplistic life.  It is a long read, but well worth the effort.

Cereal Choice?  Hermeneutics and a High View of the Bible – The grocery store cereal aisle has become a common metaphor for distinguishing the West from the rest of the world.

Jesus is Not Your Sin Manager – Jesus did not die to manage our sin. He died to kill it.

Southern Baptist Churches are Shrinking – While this article deals with the SBC, I think it could easily apply to many denominations.

Formation of the Canon of Scripture – Links, links and more links to resources dealing with the formation of our Bible.