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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Reason and Sin

Why reason goes wrong.

Reason in the Service of Faith (5)

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.
as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55.8, 9

Sent and armed
The Gospel is reasonable. That is, it can be understood with no formal training or spiritual experience. Even children can understand the Gospel. Using the simplest logic and care, every believer can share the Good News with any lost person, and any lost person can understand that Good News when it is presented in a reasoned manner. The Gospel is reasonable, most importantly, to God. He devised it and He accomplished it. Now He has commissioned His people to proclaim it to the world, so that all may hear.

People all over the world – and everywhere in our lives – deserve a reasoned explanation of the hope that is within us.

Believers in Jesus Christ, all who know Him as Lord and Savior, are expected to give a reason for why they believe in Jesus to anyone who might ask them. As we have seen, we have many good reasons for believing that reason can be a helpful tool in enabling a wrong-believing friend to consider the claims and promises of the Gospel.

And God has sent us to the wrong-believing world, armed with reason, for precisely this purpose. Reason can bring us to the threshold of a lost person’s soul, but only grace can accomplish a saving entrance. We must do what God has called us to, trusting that He will do what He considers best in every situation where we are giving a reason for the hope that is within us.

Sin and reason
But there is a huge gulf between God’s reasoning, the reasonableness of the Gospel, our reasoned presentation of the hope that is within us, and the reasoning powers of lost human beings. Helping our friends to see the reasonableness of the Gospel could take some time, especially when it is the case that spiritual truths are not presently a part of their worldview. We should expect to have to work a bit to make God’s thinking make sense to the people around us. This will involve building trusting relationships and engaging serious conversations, perhaps over a long period of time.

Compounding this challenge is the problem of sin. As if it weren’t bad enough that human beings – unlike God – are finite, add to this the fact that we’re also fallen, and you have a real challenge to surmount in using reason as a way of making God’s Good News make sense to the people around you. For, in a very real sense, the hearts of people are turned against God, making it difficult for their minds to give Him serious consideration.

At the same time, our own hearts are prone to fear and disobedience, which may incline us to disregard or deny our calling to give a reason for the hope that is within us.

This is the result of sin, a condition affecting every human being.

Sin entered the human condition early on, as we read in Genesis 3. Adam and Eve had known communion with God. They’d heard His voice and were enjoying all the blessings of His bounty. They knew what He had commissioned them to do and that He had warned them against eating from a certain tree in the garden, on pain of death should they disobey.

Clearly, they understood God’s intent. Nevertheless, Adam and Eve were creatures – just like we are, and just like the people to whom God is sending us with His Good News. As creatures they were not infinitely wise and, hence, were susceptible to being led astray from truth. If, because of lust in their hearts, their reason could be clouded by subtle twistings of the truth, vain rationalizations, and false promises and hopes, the same is true for the people to whom we will be trying to give a reason for the hope that is within us.

As well as for us.

The power of sin
Moreover, the effects of sin on every aspect of a person’s life are corrupting and confusing.

Paul explains in Romans 3.10-18 that sin turns the thoughts of people away from God, leading them to focus on themselves and what they want out of life. Desire for God is replaced by the lust of the flesh. Knowledge of truth gives way to the embrace of lies. Morality becomes merely self-referential, language is turned into a tool for advancing self-interest, and relationships suffer in a wide variety of ways as sin blackens the hearts and darkens the understanding of people (Eph. 4.17-19).

Reason is still working, to be sure, but it’s working on all the wrong premises and toward all the wrong ends.

So we must not be naïve about the powerful effects sin can have on a person’s ability to see through the ceiling of unbelief to the clear skies of divine light and truth. We’ll need to have patience with the people to whom we’re trying to explain our faith. We’ll want to pray faithfully for God’s Spirit to be at work within them, using our reason to prepare the way for faith. Our unbelieving friends may make light of our views or go on the offensive against what we believe, but we must remain gentle and respectful, patient, loving, and kind. Which is just to say that we must be careful to keep sin from corrupting our witness or our relationships.

At the same time, we must not back down from what we know to be true.

Above all, we must seek to keep the conversation going, trusting in the Lord and His Spirit to use us as chosen vessels of truth to explain the hope of the Gospel to the people in our lives.

Sin will get in the way of a reasoned explanation of the Gospel. But let it not be our sin that keeps such explanations from being heard. Sin may well leave wrong-believers blind to the truth that is in Jesus, but it must not get in the way of our continuing to pursue that reasonable explanation as often as we can.

For reflection
1. How can you see that sin affects your own thinking about things at times?

2. Remember that the goal of our witness is to enable others to understand the Gospel, not necessarily to believe it. Explain.

3. Conversations about the Gospel don’t just happen. We need to cultivate our conversational skills and look for opportunities to begin conversations that might lead to spiritual matters. What are some ways you might do this?

Next steps – Conversation: Today, share with someone in your Personal Mission Field something God has taught you from His Word of late. Share positively and eagerly, and ask for your friend to respond.

T. M. Moore

In our Personal Mission Field Workshop we’re 2 parts into a lengthy series on improving our conversational skills. Listen to Parts 1 and 2 by clicking here and here.

You can download all the studies in this series, “Let God Be True,” by clicking here.

A companion book to this study, Understanding the Times, is available at our bookstore. Learn more about this book and order a free copy by clicking here.

Please prayerfully consider supporting The Fellowship of Ailbe with your prayers and gifts. We ask the Lord to move and enable many more of our readers to provide for the needs of our ministry. Please seek Him in prayer concerning your part in supporting our work. You can
contribute online, via PayPal or Anedot, or by sending a gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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