Monday, July 30, 2012

How to Think Thoughtfully About Your Thinking Pt. 1

This is a adult Sunday school class that I am currently teaching at our local church.  Just wanted to share. This series is called “Tactics in Defending the Faith:  A Practical Approach to Apologetics.”  The first question we should answer is what are Tactics?  Webster's defines tactics as  “the science and art of disposing and maneuvering forces in combat.” Tactics are for war.  Make no mistake about it. In 2 Cor. 10:3-5, Paul insists on using this language. He says that we are waging war, but not according to the flesh.  He claims to have the weapons for this war.  Weapons that would destroy arguments; weapons that would tear down every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God; and weapons that would take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.  This is the language of the Bible.  Weapons and warfare. The way that tactics relate to this is that they are  “the science and art of disposing and maneuvering forces in[that war]  Tactics inform you of the methods and the strategies in order to be successful in combat.  And there is a science and art to this, as the definition suggests.  That is, there is an objective way to approach them(science), and there is a craft or skill or attractive way to use them(art).   We will see that the Scriptures themselves have a lot to say about this as we proceed.  The big idea of the series is that .“Tactics are employed to help assist others to awaken to the gospel of the glory of Christ, and to repress others who seek to overthrow the kingdom of God.”  Tactics serve to help some to taste and see that the LORD is good, and to stop others from preventing that tasting and seeing.  The ultimate end of using tactics is to help create more worshippers of Jesus Christ. Tactics are not to be used to show one’s self clever.  The minute you do that you are gutting the cross of it’s power.  James Denney once said “No man can give the impression that he himself is clever and that Christ is mighty to save.”  God will not share His glory with another.  Knowledge is not at end to itself.  The purpose of all knowledge is praise.  The Scriptures are crystal clear on this point, “...if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”  1 Cor. 13:2.  Without love for Christ being our motive in tactics, the only thing that ensues is vain pursuit.  This in part, has what informed me to entitle this series “Tactics in Defending THE Faith,” as opposed to “Tactics in Defending YOUR Faith.”  This is not yours or my private, feel-good, irrelevant-to-the-world faith.  This is “THE FAITH that was once for all delivered to the saints.”  Jude 1:3  We are ambassadors of this faith.  We are stewards of this faith.  We are slaves of this faith.  We are slaves of the gospel of the glory of Christ. It it the highest privilege of a human being to image forth this gospel in our speech and in our lives, and hopefully this class with help us to that end.  
There is a purposeful order in the way that this series is structured.  It both patterns itself after the way that people learn, and the way that Scripture teaches.  People learn in 3 stages: 1) Grammar-meaning “input”; 2) Dialectic-meaning “reconciling that input”; 3) Rhetoric-meaning “output of that input.”  The Divine word moves in the same direction, that is, from the invisible to the visible.  The invisible things are the most real things in existence, and those things inform and move our visible world.  Today’s post: “How to Think Thoughtfully About Your Thinking” is the grammar stage.  This is the logos or the objective word.  It is capital R reason, or revelation.  This is the foundation of tactics.  After part 2 of this post, we will be looking at  “How to Think God’s Thoughts After Him.”  We will be seeking to reconcile Scriptures that seem to contradict on the surface, both for our own edification, and to prepare us for the war.  After that we will largely deal with the Rhetoric stage. The posts will include “How to be Passionate in Your Pathos;”  “How to Be Excellent in Your Ethos;”  “The Socratic Method and Non-Sequiturs;”  “The Burden of Proof;” “Ad-Hominem and Straw Men;” “Red Herrings and Reduction Ad Absurdum.”  God-willing, this is the course that we will take.  Some suggested texts that might help in your own equipping would be Think by John Piper;  Tactics by Greg Koukl; Rhetoric by Aristotle; On Guard by William Lane Craig;  How to Argue Like Jesus by Joe Carter & John Coleman and Logic or the Right Use of Reason in the Inquiry After Truth by Isaac Watts.  There’s many more books that could help you, that is just the short list.  

Alright so back to the meat of this post, Paul said in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,”  Starting in verse 3, what does Paul mean when he says we walk in the flesh?  I don’t think he is necessarily talking about the sinful nature here, although he could be.  I think he means to say that we are flesh, bone and blood; BUT we are not trying to destroy flesh, bone and blood.  This would fall right in line with Ephesians 6:12 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”   Now, our sinful nature can influence us here, by trying to convince us of the contrary, namely that we ARE fighting against flesh and blood in this cosmic battle.  Is there a time for that?  Yes, but Paul is not addressing this here.  He’s speaking of the most foundational things.  
He goes on in v. 4 “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.”   There are some who war ONLY according to the flesh, BUT NOT true ministers of Christ.  Paul already said just a few chapters earlier  “...we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”     2 Corinthians 4:7  This surpassing power are the weapons that God furnishes us with.  Us having weapons is God’s idea!  These weapons are necessary for battle with the dark forces.  Calvin says this “...whoever gives himself to the service of God will have not truce from Satan at any time, but will be harassed with incessant [turmoil]
  Our chief weapons in this warfare are spiritual weapons, and the author of those weapons is none less than the Holy Spirit Himself.  Now if we take this passage and overlay with Ephesians 6 where we see this same type of warfare, we will be greatly assisted in discovering our weapons. The very first weapon that Paul lays out in Ephesians 6 is the “belt of truth.” (v.14) All the other weapons come after this.  Everything flow from this foundational thing, the divine logos.  THis is where we have to start.  We can’t even get to v.5 in our text today where Paul says “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,” until we deal with the truth, with the logos, with logic.  It is the invincible laws of logic that will guide all of us on “How to Think Thoughtfully About Your Thinking.”

The Christian skeptic at this point might say, ‘why don’t we just start with Scripture?  Why are we going to start with logic?’  Good question.  Let’s throw a Scripture verse up  to see if that is our starting point.  One of my favorite verses showing that rationality is in fact an attribute of God is 1 Corinthians 14:33 “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.”  I want to show you something that all of us perhaps take for granted.  This sentence is a short sentence and fairly straightforward.  But how do we interpret this sentence?  First of all, what is a sentence?  A sentence is a combination of words that includes a subject, which is what the sentence is about; and a predicate, which is what the subject is or what the subject is doing.  Ok, but what is a word?  A combination of letters that signify a thing.  Ok, but what is a thing?  That’s what logic answers.  You see none of us can just start with Scripture, because the Scripture is full of sentences, which is full of words, which are things.  If we don’t know what those things are, then we can’t know what those words mean.  If we don’t know what those words mean, then we can’t know what those sentences mean.  Any sentence, Scriptural or otherwise, must first be logical before it can be anything else.  In other words, a statement must first be reasonable before it it revelatory.   That means that a thing must first be logical before it can be.  It must be possible before it can be actual.  
Alright, so what is logic?  Webster’s defines logic as “The art of thinking and reasoning justly.”
  The art of thinking.  Think about that. The art of thinking and reasoning justly, or better yet, reasoning rightly.   Logic is the art of right thinking.  Now I want to change this slightly to highlight a meaning that is already there, but perhaps you might not see it.  Let’s change art to beauty.   Logic is beauty of right thinking.  I think that you probably already think like this, perhaps you just haven’t reflected on it yet.  When you tell somebody “that was thoughtful,” what are you saying to them? You’re ultimately telling them that “you are being beautiful in the way that you are thinking.”  Your thoughts are participating in beauty.  Aquinas once said “...the beautiful is called that which participates in beauty...
  Beautiful thinking means that one’s thoughts are congruent, or symmetrical with reality.  Beautiful thinking is participating in Divine thinking, which is the only thinking that is real, or true, or even possible.  So the  THE BIG IDEA. of this first post is that logic is the beauty of right thinking.