This article was originally posted on October 7, 2008. It brought the highest traffic rating to the Simple Discipleship blog for one day, 550 on July 4, 2009—a record that remained until December 2011. Some in the blogging community reacted harshly even to the point of insulting the guest writer, Rachael Fox who was a minor at the time. I removed the post as the comments became more insulting tirades rather than respectful discussion. She is not making a case that we should not seek knowledge, but she is saying that we should not begin our knowledge of a particular discipline without first building a foundation that holds the “high walls” and advanced knowledge. Rachael is now a very articulate college student who continues to hold my deep respect. I decided to repost the article, as it represents a worldwide internet discussion about faith and reason.
Dr. Tom Cocklereece
June 29, 2011
Recently (October 2008) I preached a message by the above title as the third message in a series QUESTIONS JESUS ASKED (John 3:1-21). Like many of my pastor friends, we often preach a message that we think is less than brilliant, and God does something unexpected with it. My last article touched on the subject of how God’s Holy Spirit works (http://drthomreece.wordpress.com/2008/09/27/global-warming/). The message discussed herein was one of those messages through which the Holy Spirit worked to inspire spiritual gold in the life of a teenager in my congregation. I have chosen to follow her remarks with a brief outline of the message to which she refers. Our guest blogger for this post is Rachel Fox, and I was moved and encouraged when she sent the following thoughts to me. Her words demonstrate Christian core values and spiritual growth for which I can take little credit. However, I stand amazed at what the Holy Spirit can do with the simple messages I offer on Sunday. I hope the readers will enjoy Rachel’s article.
Why Don’t Smart People Get Jesus?
The following is a response to a sermon by Pastor Tom Cocklereece. It does not exactly follow the sermon, but considering the content of it brought me to these thoughts.
Why don’t the people who search the Bible to understand the “deep” things find Jesus? Why is it that the people who want to learn and reason out the Bible are not the ones living for God? It seems they’ve out-thought themselves, gone too far with their knowledge. And yet, Proverbs tells us to “know wisdom and instruction…understand words of insight…Let the wise hear and increase in learning…” Isn’t it good to understand and learn? Isn’t it bad not to learn? “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will…fools hate knowledge?” Proverbs tells us that foolishness and lack of knowledge will be the death of these fools. Why, then, are those who seem to heed these words often the farthest from God?
While you ponder that, I will pose another question: Why does Jesus call for faith like a child’s? Mark’s gospel records Jesus saying, “Truly…whoever does not receive thekingdom ofGod like a child shall not enter it.” Children do not “reason out” God’s Word. They know that He loves them, that He sent Jesus to die for their forgiveness, and that Jesus came back to life. They know the “ABC’s” of salvation and all the VBS songs to go with them. When a child “accepts Christ”, all he knows is that God loves him; God forgave him; and he loves God. Therefore, Jesus is telling His disciples that they need to accept Him for simple reasons: His love, His forgiveness, and their love for Him.
However, Jesus is constantly teaching His disciples to understand the Scriptures in deeper ways. The Sermon on the Mount is full of insight and new perspectives. Through parables, Jesus instructs His disciples to think critically about things they hear.
How exactly, then, does this simple faith compare with 1) Jesus teaching His disciples to have insight and 2) Proverbs declaring the huge necessity of understanding?
Now we have come to a dilemma. Either Proverbs is wrong in calling for understanding, knowledge, and wisdom; or Jesus is wrong in calling for a simple faith. Right? “Of course not!” you’re probably thinking. “The Bible doesn’t contradict itself!” Ok…but why? I Corinthians13:11 says “when I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” When Paul speaks of “childish ways,” he is not speaking of them as a negative state. A child cannot be expected to act as a man would. A child should speak, think and reason like a child. However, when the child grows up, so should his level of speaking, thinking, and reasoning.
Faith is no different. Jesus calls for us to have faith like a child. We ought to “reason out” our faith as a child would: without theological textbooks, without doctorate degrees. Just as a child would: simply, very simply. However, we certainly ought not to stop there. Once we have laid our foundation, once we have salvation for the simple reasons, we are commanded to grow. We should search deeper in Scripture, learn more from education, seek to understand and gain knowledge. But only if we have laid a strong, simple foundation. Hebrews 5 illustrates this point:
“11 We have much to say about [Christ’s life], but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”
We should reason according to the beliefs we already have, according to our simple faith. We should learn about Christian beliefs and other worldviews with the understanding that what we already believe is completely true. I Corinthians 13 goes on to say “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully…” As we grow, our basic knowledge does not change, it only grows in understanding and wisdom. We know the same things; only as we grow we understand them better. When we gain knowledge, it should be scrutinized by our beliefs and by the Scripture in which our foundation lies.
Now then, returning to the initial question, why don’t smart people get Jesus?
Simply because they lack a child-like faith. Instead of beginning with the foundation, they attempt to begin by building the high walls of theology and education. Constructing a building or city without a foundation makes no sense and neither does building a belief system without a foundation. Buildings in the sky simply don’t exist. Just as the man who built his home on the sand without a foundation lost it [Matthew7:24-27], so will those who begin the gain of knowledge without the simple, but strong, foundation. Reason without God’s solid foundation will lead you astray. Man is far from perfect, and so is his reason and understanding unless it is founded on God.
By Rachel Fox
The Message: Why Don’t Smart People Get Jesus? John 3:1—21
Don’t let your “world view” get in the way of salvation.
Nicodemus filtered his beliefs about salvation through his Jewishness. He thought he already had salvation. He probably thought, “I’m a Jew; a descendant of Abraham, and Jesus tells me I have to be born again?”
- Presently we live at a time when the world view of many educated people is a “one world, all religions lead to the same place ideas.” Let me challenge that thinking. Do a comparison of the major religions by placing their primary claims side by side to see if they are truly the same.
John 14:6 (NKJV) Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
Jesus said, “You must be born again.”
How do Jesus’ statements stack up to Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, and so on?
- Some educated people hold to an idea that atheism and agnosticism are superior world views. They tend to only really respect others who hold that view. They sometimes look down on the faithful simple people as well as educated people who hold allegiance to Christ.
- Another world view can be “all Americans are Christians.” In AK I was doing premarital counseling for a couple. They were both PHD’s and taught in the universities. The bride was from Japan and was anxious to get baptized. When I explored the reason, I discovered that she thought to become an American she would have to also become a Christian and be baptized.
- Some people think that because I’m from a Christian home, go to church, or was baptized as an infant I must be a Christian.
What does Jesus say about this? You must be born again.
Don’t let your goodness get in the way of salvation.
Don’t let your skepticism get in the way of salvation.
You don’t have to be educated to be jaded or a professional skeptic of Christianity. By the time we become adults, we have collected many experiences, relationships, and hurts that often leave us jaded and skeptical of Christianity. Being jaded describes a person who has been involved in a religious experience, Christian or otherwise, that did not work for them. As a result they become cynical about it.
So what is the answer?
- Come to Jesus as a child–with all of your knowledge but with the innocent and open attitude of a child.
- Realize that your own education, worldview, pride, experiences, goodness, and thinking may be the greatest obstacle to faith.
- Understand that your cautious skepticism can be your greatest help or hindrance to considering ideas that challenge your thinking.
- Suspend judgement at least enough for objective thinking. Your worldview is shaped by your accepted community that expects your thinking to “fall in line” (conform) to theirs. Suspending judgement allows for you to be objective.
Satan has created a false reality for people today.
Even you think you are controlling your own life, but many people, especially those who don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ, are imprisoned in the virtual reality of their own desires, lusts, and sinful passions that may be proped up by their accepted community.
- Sin does not exist
- If it’s fun and I want to do it, then it must be ok.
- All religions lead to the same place.
- All religions are irrelevant.
Young people today have grown up with virtual reality. Video games, movie and TV special effects, and even friends are not real. They live a significant part of their lives in virtual worlds that are real to them. They have few close genuine friends, but “collect” friends to cover over their emptiness.
Receive Jesus Christ and be born again. Romans 12:2; Romans 10:9-10
Pascal’s Quadralemma Wager
- If God does not exist and I do believe in him then I will have lost nothing.
- If God does not exist and I do not believe in him I have likewise lost nothing.
- If God does exist and I do believe in him I have gained everything.
- If God does exist and I do not believe in him I have lost everything.You choose.
Dr. Tom Cocklereece, The Disciplist (Now offering DiscipleCoach Certification Training; go to the “Disciple Coach Training” tab for information)
- What are the strengths of Rachael’s argument?
- What are the weaknesses of Rachael’s argument?
- How might one’s “accepted community” filter one’s worldview and openness to reasonable debate?
- Explain how Christ expects us to be life-long learners while at the same time “come to him as a child?”
- Why do communities of those who object to this discussion react as they do with condescension and insults instead of reasoned and respectful discussion?
Dr. Tom Cocklereece is CEO of RENOVA Coaching and Consulting, LLC
Author “Simple Discipleship,” contributing writer L2L Blogazine
He is a pastor, an author, professional coach, and leadership specialist
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Web | Blog | Book | Coaching Site
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