22 January 2023
Let's do some philosophy. I would like to encourage a biblical style of reasoning to help you counter the pagan Aristotelian crap upon which Western Civilization partly stands (the other part on which the West stands is pagan Germanic tribal mythology). The difficulty with Aristotle is that he didn't draw the boundaries in the right place. There's room enough for his style of concrete logic within its proper boundaries, but it cannot be used everywhere.
Let's review a moment. You should be aware that Aristotle assumed this reality is not fallen, and that there is no higher realm of existence. He further taught that human reason was not fallen, only tainted and in need of purification. Human effort could, at least in theory, rise to ultimate truth. And while there are surely things we cannot know intellectually, he asserted that what we couldn't know didn't matter.
Thus, he denied the rather ubiquitous notion in his day that the heart was separate from the brain, and could know and reason on a different level. He is responsible for the notion that the heart is nothing more than a repository of sentiment, because there can be no higher reality for the heart to work with. This is, of course, the very essence of the Fall -- man does not need revelation from outside the senses and reason. Humans can know all they need to know about reality through their own fleshly capabilities.
Keep in mind that Aristotle was not ignorant of the broader Ancient Near East. Scholars and philosophers from the East came and went through Athens where he taught, and we must assume he rejected their frame of reference, since he so strongly asserted contrary assumptions. He most certainly was acquainted with Hebrew scholars and their tradition of divine revelation and Scripture. It should be obvious that he rejected it.
Aristotle was pagan. He believed in gods, but asserted that there was nothing we could do except embrace their laws -- assuming they were consistent with the mythology. What does the Bible say about pagan idolatry? Behind every false god is one or more demons. What men worship in blindness of the Creator's revelation are demons. There is no God but Jehovah.
God says this world is fallen. It is not real; it is a lie. Nail that down, folks. It's your basic reference point for all philosophical reasoning. This reality is only somewhat consistent with our ability to observe and process through our fleshly nature. It's ragged in places, and reality tends to flex and wobble, and things fall through it. It's open to manipulation by various powers and authorities that are not confined within it. Satan is confined within it, but his authority comes from the Creator. He is constrained by that authority.
The Creator has also taken the time to reveal how this reality works, and even included the boundaries by which Satan is confined. However, there's a catch: The only way to receive and use that revelation is to first submit to the Creator as your Master and Lord. Without that, even a good written copy of His revelation is obscure. Further, you must also agree to reject this life and all that comes with it. You must reject your own fleshly existence as part of the big lie that this world is.
This revelation requires you to move your conscious awareness into your heart. It requires that your will assert the trustworthiness of what your heart can discern. You must subject your fleshly nature, including the intellect, to the reign of your convictions. Reasoning must be harnessed and ruled by faith. Only then will you be in a position to make use of your reasoning as the engine of obedience to your Sovereign Lord.
Ultimate truth is a Person, not a set of ideas or principles. Truth is a living entity that rules all things. You must embrace this non-static image of Truth. It cannot be contained in words or statements; it can only be contextually manifested. What is true in one context may not be true in another. God cannot be reduced to propositions, nor is His Word -- His divine will -- limited to what we can put into human language.
The Bible is the official record of how God said and did things in certain times and places. Your heart is equipped to discern as much ultimate truth as anyone can have, and to discern what God wants in any given context. It's the flesh that struggles not to obey, and will therefore raise objections, sometimes in logic, sometimes resorting to human authorities, and always relying in some way on the willful desires of the flesh.
Upon this basis, you should recognize that God's will is alive and unique in some degree to each of us. While it was expressed in general terms by writing in stone tablets at Sinai, even Moses realized that it was God's effort to put His will where common people could get started on the path. Later, starting in Deuteronomy 30:11, Moses tells them that God's Law is not confined to the stone tablets, nor the various commands Moses had declared. It didn't require some hero (like Moses) to climb up into Heaven (which Mount Sinai symbolized), nor to travel the whole world (Moses traveled extensively between his time between Pharaoh's court and Jethro's). God's will is written in the heart of everyone, if they would only seek to obey it. The root command was simple: Love the Lord with all your heart -- that is, subject yourself to Him as your feudal Master and Lord.
It's all about that ongoing relationship. He was offering to adopt Israel as His family. You should expect Him to be indulgent about things when it comes to His children. His will was not confined to the words on stone tablets, but was exemplified there. Get to know Him and seek to please Him; it's that easy.
In American evangelical tradition is a longstanding notion that God has a permissive will and a perfect will. The problem is that those words tend to conjure up a false image of God, because of how we are taught to think about such things. The Bible doesn't use "His perfect will" the same way we do.
For example, we are aware Jesus taught that divorce under the Law of Moses wasn't God's perfect will, but His permissive will. What we fail to grasp is this divorce law was good enough for the context. In that tribal existence, if a man perceives a woman is not on board with his plans, then he needs to get rid of her. The law used the term "adultery" as a symbol of unfaithfulness in general. If she's not on his team and committed to his faith, she's a threat to the whole community. But that assumes the man himself is on board with God's broad vision under the Covenant. What Jesus said was pointing at the failure of Israeli men to genuinely seek God's pleasure, seeking their own instead.
What His Father really intended is that divorce be quite rare. But how would you tell people that so they understood? How do you build a context that would teach people to want what God wanted, when there's no Holy Spirit granted to guide them? Yes, their hearts were adequate for that if they were moved to commit to the Lordship of Jehovah. Israel was particularly difficult on this point: Too many people never moved into their hearts to operate. They remained in their fleshly nature. You end up with what we call pot-luck. God Himself understood the limits of what He was doing with Israel. The path of stability and peace was impossible to pave without people eager to please their Lord. To get the job done, God was far more indulgent than He really liked.
His "perfect will" is not immutable and exactly the same for everyone. It is still flexible for varying contexts and people. There are certainly common themes, but no two of us are bound to the same precise requirements. There are priorities and complications, and some of them are there to test our resolve to obey Him. Not so God can know what we are made of, but we are tested so we will know He has made of us.
Legalism did not come from the Lord. It was the perversion in Hebrew philosophy arising from the inherent corruption of Aristotelian reasoning carried in by the conquest of Alexander the Great. Legalism was already a fleshly tendency among the Israelis, but the introduction of Hellenized philosophy was the final excuse fleshly Israelis needed to abandon God. It allowed them to raise up a law code that became their false god.
The prophets had said that Israel was by far the most difficult nation God could have chosen. Their status as the Chosen rested entirely on the Covenant; not the law code, but their relationship with God as His own dear family. As a people, they were relentlessly self-willed and hedonistic. The Wilderness Temptations reflect the kind of Messiah they were expecting. They felt God owed them because they were the best there ever was, and told Him so. Their primary objection to anything Jesus said was first and foremost that they were not at all special people; God could turn stones into a better grade of "Children of Abraham". Then the Apostles began including Gentiles as the Messiah's Chosen, which in Jewish eyes added insult to injury.
Part of why God chose Israel was to demonstrate His indulgence. Jewish legalism was poking God in the eye. The legalists exempted themselves while making their clever analysis of the Law a burden on their own people. The prophets had already promised that just about any Gentile nation could do better than the Jews. So, here we are, somehow bound by the worst legalistic thinking ever as part of our American heritage. This is not the heritage of God's people.
You can do this, folks. You can learn to think the way God intended for us to think. If your convictions witness to the truth of what I write, then seize upon it and make it part of your own thinking. This is who we are under the New Covenant of the Messiah. Our Father is indulgent and worries more about whether we honestly love Him than whether we can recite some rules and sharply defined boundaries of logic. Yes, His expectations are quite high, but hardly that difficult if our hearts are in the right place.
God is watching your heart.
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