Hello Church Devotion Sept. 18, 2013

R is for REASON

Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:12-14 ESV)

Human reason is a funny thing. We depend on it a lot, and yet find that, in many cases, it’s flawed. Think about these lessons from history:

$ Western Union, in an internal memo in 1876, informed its employees: “The ‘telephone’ is inherently of no value to us.”

$ Lord Kelvin, president of the Royal Society, said in 1895: “Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.”

$ H. M. Warner, one of the Warner Brothers, said in 1927: “Who the heck wants to hear actors talk?”

$ Decca Recording Company, rejecting the Beatles in 1962, noted: “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.” And then, perhaps most famously...

$ Steve Jobs, reflecting on the beginnings of Apple Computer, wrote: “So we went to Atari and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we’ll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary and we’ll come to work for you.’ And they said, ‘No.’ So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, ‘Hey, we don’t need you. You haven’t got through college yet.’”

And the illustrations could go on and on and on... Human reason, dealing with the things of this life, isn’t always on track.

Paul tells us in I Corinthians 2 (above) that it’s even worse when it comes to human reason as it deals with the things of God. Try a few of these on for size (you might even find yourself involved in one or more of them):

$ Adam, in the Garden of Eden, reasoned this way: “The woman YOU GAVE ME caused me to sin - it’s not my fault” (see Genesis 3 for the whole story)

$ Sarah reasoned this way: “We can’t have a child, so it must be that God wanted Abram to have a child by Hagar.” That’s how we got Ishmael, the father of about ½ of the Arab peoples today. (see Genesis 16 for the whole story)

$ Job spent all his time protesting his innocence, while his friends told him that no one would have to suffer that much if he weren’t a really bad sinner. This kept going until God took him at his word and offered to do battle with him in the heavenly court (see Job 38-40 for the whole story)

$ Moses couldn’t speak clearly; Isaiah came from a people of unclean lips; Jeremiah was too young; Amos was no prophet - he was a herdsman and dresser of sycamore figs; and on and on and on... And yet, God had an answer for each of their “well-reasoned” excuses.

Perhaps most indicative of the problem of people trying to deal with God according to their reason is the rich young ruler who came to Jesus with the question: “What must I DO to inherit eternal life?” (caps mine) After he leaves, Jesus and the disciples are talking and they ask, “Who, then, can be saved?” Jesus’ answer is vital: “What is impossible with men, is possible with God.” (see Luke 18 for the whole story)

In other words, while we may well use our reason with things earthly (and even there, we need to be careful), and we can utilize our reason at times with things spiritual - we need to hold that reason captive to the Word of God and to how he chooses to work in our lives. Perhaps, instead of a prayer today, we need to confess Luther’s explanation to the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed:

I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting life. This is most certainly true.

[To all of which we say: “Never, in a thousand years, would Ihave dreamed that up!”]


Isaiah 1:18 has the clearest statement of God reasoning with human beings regarding their sinfulness. Think this through:

"Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18ESV)

Luther’s appearance at the Diet of Worms in April of 1521 ended with his now-famous statement:

"Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason - I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other - my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen."

Now the questions:

When it comes to being in a right relationship with God - do I try to do it my way, or his?

When it comes to dealing with others around me in the world - do I let Scripture and plain reason dictate to me - or would I rather be friends with everybody?

How can we in the Church help one another use reason rightly?

Karl J. Dunker, Pastor Emeritus

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