The Heart of Learning
II. We are—each of us, you and me alike—learning all the time. We can choose poorly and, as a result,
A. Increase in knowledge we will later want to forget.
B. Develop skills and motor patterns we will one day have to replace.
C. Form habits we would judge others for having.
D. Build relationships destined to drag us down.
E. Form an ethic to trust when (and only when) doing so seems to "work" for us.
III. Generally, such learning will come easier in the moment than learning with integrity—than
A. Consciously choosing to increase in knowledge we will want to remember.
B. Acting in ways that incorporate reflexes and intentionality into efficient motor patterns.
C. Forming habits we would want to be known for.
D. Fostering relationships of noble service, and
E. Trusting and obeying One whom we cannot see.
IV. Giving in, however, only comes easier in the moment. In the long run, doing whatever feels good… destroys. Do you identify with any of the following?
A. "I feel frustrated because, try as I might, I'm just not the person my dog thinks I am. I'm lonely, and I just don't measure up."
B. "My child has behavioral issues… emotional struggles… learning difficulties… an autism-spectrum condition—and it's not getting any better."
C. "I just try to keep busy. My friends don't know, but I'm scared to be alone with nothing to do. I feel empty, even frail."
D. "I'm overwhelmed in the face of my own struggles, my child's challenges, the whole mess of… everything. I just can't do what needs to be done. I just don't have what it takes."
V. Recognizing the human tendency to take the easy way in the moment, many choose to live differently… for a while. To understand why so few succeed at living differently—at making changes that last—we'll consider Susan, a woman whose 2007 Ford Taurus isn't working well. It sputters when she starts it and occasionally dies when she tries to accelerate. How is Susan going to solve her problem?
An Expert on the "Model T"
I. Susan may take her car to a mechanic who's an expert on the Ford Model T. His repair manual includes information for repairing cars from the Model T to modern-day autos and he has the time to learn, but the mechanic isn't confident he or his manual can be of much assistance, so he tells Susan he doesn't deal with these kinds of problems and advises her to take her car elsewhere.
II. If you've never thought of turning to a mature Christian for help, perhaps that's because most of those you've met who call themselves "Christian" haven't conveyed to you what a rich resource they have in Christ Jesus, His Church, and in His Word, the Holy Bible. Perhaps they don't know the wealth they have, or haven't learned to mine for truth. (If you're a Christian, perhaps this describes you.) The Bible says that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ (Colossians 2:2–3). All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge—wow!
III. Staff at the McNatt Learning Center, Inc., believe that the Bible is applicable to today—to all aspects of who we are as people created by God. Many Christians today, even Christian teachers, agree with us in principle. They claim to value Scripture as a practical guide to living and overcoming problems of the human psyche, but in practice they treat the Bible much like that Model-T expert treated his manual: as a resource that tells him what he wants to know—that even has a lot of interesting facts—but that he doesn't really believe can help him help Susan.
A. In contemporary Christianity, liberals and conservative theologians argue over the manner by and extent to which Scripture is inspired by God. These discussions are important, but they put the cart before the horse: if the Bible is irrelevant, the extent to which it's inspired hardly matters.
B. Susan cares whether her mechanic can discern what's wrong with her car. She cares how relevant whatever manuals he uses are. She doesn't care whether they're without error, as long as they're accurate enough. Any publishing house that can deliver an accurate enough manual is fine by her.
C. Most Christians today, even pastors, refer more to psychology than to Scripture when helping others with fundamental life problems. They surrender what they know best to dabble in fields they know little. They're much like Susan's expert on the Model T. Though Scripture doesn't claim to address the problems of everyday life exhaustively, it does claim to address them authoritatively. Neglecting the insight of Scripture and the early Church fathers communicates a belief that the Word of God is inadequate, antiquated, or simply not up to today's problems of the psyche. From our perspective, nothing could be further from the truth.
An Unlearned Mechanic
I. Susan may take her car to a mechanic who, regardless of his expertise, simply hasn't plumbed the depths of the resource manual he has. This unlearned mechanic isn't confident that he or his resource manual can be of much assistance, so he tells Susan he doesn't deal with these kinds of problems and advises her to take her car elsewhere.
II. Staff at the McNatt Learning Center, Inc., affirm that the Scripture, interpreted in the context of the Church, teaches not merely that we were created but also how we were created: in the image of God with specific, nonphysical essences (or "ways of being.") Many Christians today, even Christian teachers, readily and wholeheartedly defend God as Creator, but few have studied what God teaches us in the Bible about specific aspects of being human, including the human heart, spirit, soul, body, etc.
A. Evangelical Christians today argue about Creation: did it occur in a literal six days, or over ages? Were there gaps in the creation account or genealogies? Were Adam and Eve literal creations of God? These discussions are definitely important, but really: before we ardently defend a position about how God created, to which the Bible devotes a few chapters, doesn't it make sense to first study what the Bible says about the crown of God's creation—humankind—and His relationship with us, which the Bible addresses in every book?
B. Susan cares whether her mechanic can discern what's wrong with her car. If he thinks her car is a product of random chance and expects it to work like one, Susan's got a problem. She needs a mechanic who expects her car to work like the product of design that it is. If Susan's mechanic thinks the only manual he has on the car doesn't tell him much about how it works, she's likewise got a problem. But if he's confident that the manual he has will guide him in repairing her car, assuming he's right about the manual, that's fine by Susan.
C. Most Christians today, even pastors, have not studied or embraced an understanding of humankind that is rooted in Scripture, refined by the early Church fathers, and still has much to teach us today. They're much like Susan's unlearned mechanic.
III. A few people, largely in a field called nouthetic counseling, are asking, "What does the Bible have to say about how we should live?" They will confidently tell a Susan struggling with life issues that they have an accurate, useful manual whose solutions she can implement, if only she will trust and obey the Lord. It is our conviction that they are right about their manual, but they may be wrong about Susan.
I. Staff at the McNatt Learning Center, Inc., believe there is a tremendous difference between claiming that
A. Human wisdom has discovered insights crucial to our spiritual and psychological health that God, despite His infinite wisdom, neglected to provide His Church, and
B. Human wisdom has discovered insights about human physiology, which we can use or misuse—while, meanwhile, human "progress" has discovered ways to corrupt aspects of our human condition, which most of Scripture assumes are intact.
We deny "A," which undermines confidence in the Word of God and Tradition, yet with eyes wide open, we affirm "B," too.
II. The world has changed, and not in every way for the better.
A. Scientists make amazing discoveries, yet for every amazing, new scientific discovery that we can use well in 10 ways… humanity foolishly finds 100 ways to use it poorly, to our own, others', or the environment's detriment.
B. Psychometrics creates amazing schemas that categorize behaviors, including particular ways of thinking. These schemas can help us understand and predict human behavior. Yet for every helpful schema that psychometrics develops to categorize human behavior, prescriptive and pop psychology and psychiatry find multiple ways to trumpet a new category as a newly discovered cause.
C. Neurology and endocrinology deepen our understanding of the human mind-body (the human soma). Yet we're not reducible to our physical processes.
D. Statisticians classify and speculate on causes. Scientists discover "most likely" causes, given current understanding. Philosophers understand those causes in light of an overarching world-and-life view. Each approach illuminates our world in a different way. But statisticians, scientists, and philosophers alike, apart from the life and truth of God, create distorted classifications, discoveries, and systematic understandings.
III. Nothing humanity has discovered has "fixed" the core problems of being human—not statistical models, not scientific discoveries, not psychological theories, not human philosophies. Nothing we're discovering holds much promise to "fix" the core problems of being human, either.
IV. However, those same statistical models, scientific discoveries, psychometric tests, and an emerging somatic philosophies are today helping us understand, in light of history, some ways that we, as individuals and as a people, have been changing… radically. The ways we live have actually been changing what basic abilities a counselor can rightly expect a person to bring to the table. Susan is no exception.
A Different Life
I. If Susan is like many individuals in this Post-Industrial world, she has become physically unable to implement solutions that have worked well for roughly the past 2,000 to 6,000 years. The very world in which Susan lives and unwittingly goes along with may have so radically changed her being that she is literally unable to move from intellectual agreement with a solution to internalizing and implementing that solution—unless she
A. Stops seemingly unrelated habits that have been dulling her to God's spirit and discipline;
B. Starts to develop other seemingly unrelated habits to restore her ability to more fully perceive;
C. Starts to receive symptoms that "something's wrong" as God's loving prodding to correct what's wrong—rather than instantly seeking to mask the symptoms;
D. Truly understands that the physical matters to God;
E. Commits to partner with God to bring about good for God, others, and herself; and
F. Seeks and finds others to partner with, then shows them consideration, so as to incite them to love and good works and foster an authentic, encouraging community (Hebrews 10:23–25).
II. Scripture and Tradition explain how human beings function and provide timeless solutions to problems of the human psyche, which relate to how we function physically.
A. Scripture does not offer Western, scientific explanations of how we function physically or provide cutting-edge physical therapies.
B. Scripture is timeless; its Truth endures. Contemporary science is time-bound: new discoveries may turn current understanding on its head at any time.
C. Whenever we consider contemporary science in light of Scripture, we must recognize the different purposes of each—and tread lightly. We should never construct a system so air-tight in its merger of Scriptural and scientific understanding that, should current scientific understanding be proven wrong, we cannot readily jettison it while still affirming Scripture.
III. God has been giving humanity all that we need to move from a particular way of being that Scripture generally assumes to full faith in God and spiritually abundant life in His kingdom. He has given us these treasures in (a) Christ, (b) Scripture, and (c) the Church, in which fallible people can experience union with God, with the saints, and with other maturing people like themselves.
A. While these resources are sufficient—though underutilized—we may also need to find additional resources to enable our bodies to function, in important ways, as if we lived the slower-paced, more natural life that Scripture generally assumes.
B. Some people may be able to return to a simpler way of living (a way of living that Scripture takes for granted) and avoid many of the problems that are plaguing humanity today. However, it is impractical (and, arguably, undesirable) for most of us to do so.
C. Humanity has found new ways to mess ourselves up—including artificial entertainments that seem harmless and synthetic environmental and dietary enhancements that seem helpful. Some of us have been harmed by early abuse, trauma, or neglect through no fault of our own. A Scriptural view of how a human functions can still help us understand why so much of our modern world harms.
D. Of course, in order to get very far in understanding this harm, we've got to admit a problem in the first place. If you're reading this document, you've likely come to that place—facing a problem or problems that you're seeking help to solve. Susan, however, may not be there yet…
Solution 1—An Unexamined Life
I. Even though Susan's car sputters when she starts it and occasionally dies when she tries to accelerate, Susan may decide to keep driving her car. She may pretend that nothing's wrong, despite what symptoms she's experiencing.
A. The "real-life" parallel is an unexamined life. Each of us can pretend that nothing's wrong, despite whatever symptoms we're experiencing. Predictably, if we continue to pretend, our learning will become haphazard, and what improvements we make will often be few and temporary, even meaningless. We may have many symptoms that something's wrong. Depression, rage, lethargy, difficulties adjusting to new information, impaired memory, poor understanding, pains, restricted movement, clumsiness, awkwardness, and general confusion are sometimes among them. Feelings of guilt are almost always among them, and are among the most difficult to "deal with."
B. Whatever our symptoms are, we can refuse to examine them. We can pretend that nothing's wrong. Most people do. We can feign ignorance, but deep down we know: the longer we avoid acknowledging a problem, the worse it usually gets.
II. Susan may also park her car in a garage. When she parks it, it doesn't sputter or stop. Perhaps, she reasons, if she parks it in a garage often enough, the problem will go away.
A. It's easy to laugh at such absurdity, but many people who call themselves "Christians" do this every week thinking, "If I 'attend church' often enough—or long enough—perhaps my problems will go away. God will give me what I need to change. But "going to church" doesn't make a person a true Christian, who walks with the Lord, anymore than going to a garage makes one a car.
B. Often, "attending church" amounts to not much more than getting together with others, so people can pretend together that nothing's wrong. Being in a group makes pretending easier, yet eventually we have to deal with our problems, whatever they are.
I. Vain hope that everything will work out in the end is called idealism.
A. Susan may determine that she, of all people, shouldn't have to deal with a breaking car, especially not now: that's the idealism of pride. Pride ultimately fails, since none of us is really that good—we all have to deal with brokenness.
B. Susan may determine that however broken her car seems, it's not really broken, or even breaking: that's the idealism of pantheism—that all is god, that god is good, and that evil and decay (like that evident in Susan's car) is thus an illusion. Pantheism ultimately fails, since evil is not an illusion.
C. Susan may determine that whatever is, is the will of God—that God made her car this way, so she loves and accepts it as it is. That's the idealism of determinism. Determinism fails to ask, "Did God make it this way so I could learn and grow by changing it?"
D. Susan may determine that whatever is ideal, is the will of God—that God doesn't desire her car to be this way, and if she has enough faith in God's goodness and promises to provide, the problems with her car will disappear. That's the idealism of "name it & claim it." Name-it-&-claim-it idealism fails to ask, "God has promised to make all things new, all things better, all things good… but since He hasn't promised to do so now, how should I respond to this current brokenness, in light of His promises and faithfulness, certainly, yet also in recognition of the faculties and responsibilities He has given me? "
E. Idealism that fails to deal with reality—whether from pride, pantheism, determinism, or name-it-&-claim-it hogwash—is no more helpful than pretending that nothing's wrong. Idealism that fails to deal with reality still dodges acknowledging a problem. And the longer we avoid acknowledging a problem, the worse it usually gets.
I. Prioritizing the question "Does it work?" is called pragmatism.
A. Susan may also take her car to an "eager" mechanic who offers to repair or replace "some parts" until her car works better. The "eager" mechanic doesn't try to figure out what's causing Susan's problem; he just tries solutions. Susan's first option, like all of ours, is to pretend that nothing's wrong. Her second option is to acknowledge that something's wrong, yet choose solutions as if understanding how things work holistically isn't important—as if the only important criteria for a solution is "Does it work to alleviate my symptoms?" This is called pragmatism.
B. In education, living by "what(ever) works" results in syncretic development: learners improve in a few areas while declining in others. "Whatever works" eschews a unified, targeted, and sequenced approach to learning—and pays the consequences of haphazard progress. In education, pursuing "what works"… ultimately doesn't work.
C. In morality, living by "whatever works" often results in depravity—in ever-increasing corruption. How terrible is the murderer who feels no shame or remorse! How terrible, too, to realize that the process of searing one's conscience—of insulating ourselves from feelings of guilt—is gradual, and begins early. Of course, shame and remorse do feel bad. Of course, insulating ourselves from such feelings does "work" to make us feel better… in much the same way that denying guilt "works" to make a murderer feel better. The question "What works?" doesn't help us realize when to stop denying guilt, and it leaves us on a slippery slope: at the moment of decision, the question "What works?" too easily boils down to "What works for me?" And when passions become involved, pragmatism easily morphs into "hedonism—an all-out pursuit of pleasure. To learn more about the failures of pragmatism, click here.
I. Susan may also take her car to a mechanic who informs her: you might have prevented these problems by checking the oil at every fill-up and performing your car's suggested regular maintenance. Such advice won't help fix Susan's car now… but in this respect, Susan's car isn't like Susan's brain. With the brain, imprecise distinctions are sometimes sufficient.
A. Since cars don't fix or organize themselves, identifying the general, preventative measures an owner didn't follow won't fix the car, even though the owner can begin to follow them to delay or prevent the problem from reoccurring.
B. Since the human brain in some ways organizes and fixes itself under the right conditions, identifying the general, preventative measures an owner hasn't followed can in some cases actually "fix" the brain, if such behaviors are consistently practiced and activity is stopped at the earliest sign of strain. The brain can actually reorganize around new, healthful stimulation.
II. Sometimes, distinctions are insufficient because they are imprecise: they are too general and, thus, fail to identify a "next step." Susan may need a new starter, alternator, or battery. As long as Susan has the time and money to replace all of these systems, plus all of her car's wiring, a diagnosis of "electrical problem" may be sufficient. Given the expenses of needless replacement parts and labor, however, Susan may give up before her car is fixed—a typical experience when distinctions are imprecise. This can be true on a human level, too, despite the brain's self-organizing capabilities. What do "electrical problem," "reading comprehension issues," and "attention problems" have in common? They're all imprecise. Each makes insufficient distinctions, which can lead to stagnation. After repeated failures, it's easy to lose motivation to improve. When we can't see what, precisely, we can do to improve, we often stop trying. We stand at the bank of a lake and decide we can't purify the water, rather than stooping to reach our glass and filter.
III. Distinctions may also be insufficient because they fail to identify relationships among problems: they are too insular and, thus, fail to identify a "next step." It's useless for Susan's mechanic to observe "intermittent power surge in braking intensity at low speeds" yet lack the knowledge to connect that observation with drums or rotors that are out of round. It would be far better for Susan to pay a mechanic who can deduce likely causes from good observations than to pay a mechanic who can make precise measurements or give "textbook diagnoses," yet doesn't know what causes what he's measured or what solutions his diagnoses point to. Precision is important.
Solution 5—The Guise of Reification
I. Diagnosticians who don't have a holistic perspective, don't identify specific problems, or don't understand inter-relationships among problems cannot recommend interventions with confidence. Hollow diagnoses called "reifications" can do even less… and can sap the confidence of those who don't know how to recognize them.
A. Reification is a serious error. In the author's opinion, reification is among the Top 10 hindrances to learning and Christian living today. Reification is a logical error with a far-reaching record of ruin.
1. Definition: To reify means "(a) To treat nothing (a deficit) as something (a condition); or (b) to treat a complex phenomenon as a thing."
2. Reification is an error of hubris in which a speaker, by an act of verbal gymnastics, appears to create something—a cause—out of nothing. The "something" (s)he appears to create is also called a "reification."
3. To learn more about reifications and how to recognize them, please visit Reification – A Logical Error. If you think you or you're child might have ASD, PDD, AD/HD, LD, NLD, dyslexia, dyscalculia, depression, bipolar, or any other label in the DSM, understanding reification can save you hundreds of hours of "spinning your wheels." Reading, even re-reading, this information about reification is thus well-worth whatever time it takes.
C. In contrast to general, disconnected, and hollow diagnoses, the Integral Learning™ model provides sufficient distinctions for learners to embrace "I'm SMART" goals, which provide real-life motivation and a clear sense of progress. (For more information on I'm SMART goals, click here.)
II. "Solutions" we've examined so far include
A. Ignore our problems,
B. Idealistically explain them away,
C. Pragmatically work around them, or
D. Treat them with a general, splatter-gun approach.
E. Disguise them through reification.
Unfortunately for the millions who keep trying these "solutions," none ultimately satisfies.
III. Sometimes, the root of our problems may be so basic, we don't even require diagnostics. Almost every car requires gas to run well. If it's out of gas, all the diagnostics in the world won't help the car run. Even creative use of ropes and pulleys, though they might get the car moving, won't enable the car to move the way it was designed to move.
IV. Similarly, each of us has been designed to need God. It's in our make up: I need God, and you need God. If we deny our need for Him, if we refuse to acknowledge our utter helplessness to handle our problems without His moment-by-moment support and love, we're a lot like a car without gas. All the diagnostics in the world won't help to fill the lack of purpose, direction, and satisfaction in our lives. Even creative psychotherapy and learning accommodations, though they might help us cope with individual struggles, won't enable us to function in the way we have been designed to function. We've been designed to need God in order to fully live.
V. Susan may decide, since filling up her car would mean surrendering her hard-earned money, to just push her car wherever she needs to go, to rely on her own inefficient, insufficient strength instead of doing whatever she would need to do in order to acquire fuel. Susan may pursue all the diagnostics in the world, but they ultimately won't help if they ignore gas levels and Susan's gas tank stays empty. Similarly, without God, all the diagnostics in the world won't enable us to function as we've been designed to function. We've been designed to need God in order to fully live.
Unleaded or Diesel?
I. Remember, we're talking about all of this in the context of learning. And learning isn't just about intellect. When we learn, we increase in knowledge, skills/motor patterns, habits, relationships, and faith.
A. It's in our best interests, generally, and in the interest of those we love, for us to
1. Increase in knowledge we will want to remember,
2. Incorporate reflexes and intentionality into efficient motor patterns,
3. Form habits we would want to be known for,
4. Foster relationships of noble service, and
5. Trust and obey One whom we cannot see.
B. Often, however, we don't do these. We learn inefficiently, in a process that begins with the absent-minded equivalent of Susan's next option:
II. Susan may check her fuel gauge, then fill her car's tank with diesel… for an engine that takes unleaded gasoline. Like most cars on the road, Susan's car requires unleaded gas to run well, and all the diagnostics in the world won't help the car run if its gas tank stays empty or is filled with the wrong fuel. Similarly, as humans, we need good food and water to function well. All the diagnostics in the world won't help us function well if our "tank" is empty or polluted.
III. Our most basic problem is being far from the Light of Truth, seemingly unable to walk in the Way of Truth.
A. Pride Instead of Humility—We fail to see that God's commands are for our own good, and they're not burdensome. Like a loving Father, God tells us what's best for us, but too often we don't believe Him. Instead, like rebellious adolescents, we accuse Him of being unreasonable and not understanding. We defend what we want to do, based on what we think is right and wrong. Over time, we each begin to think we're right—and that anyone who disagrees with us is wrong. Still, God loves us: He warns us where this attitude leads, but He doesn't take offense.
B. Deceit Instead of Knowledge—If we don't change our attitude, we start to do whatever we want. We wander further and further from the ways God has told us are best for us to follow. Still, He loves us: He warns me of where these actions lead. He lets us face the consequences of our actions, too—sometimes refusing to bail us out, even when we think we need His help the most. But He's still patient and encourages us to come back home: His arms are open wide.
We see these patterns, and God's loving response to them, at the earliest history of God's people, as recorded in Genesis:
I. God wants a relationship with His creation. He wants us to trust Him, and He wants to prove Himself worthy our trust. From its very first verse, Scripture makes this clear. The Bible begins with a true and poetic account of God's creation of the world (Genesis 1:1–2:23). It reassures its hearers that God's in charge, and that it's all going to be all right. He provides, and He's worthy of our trust. It basically goes like this:
Day 1. God creates light and darkness. He's in charge. It's all good.
Day 2. God creates the seas and the waters above the heavens, from which rain seems to come when the "windows of heaven are opened" later (Genesis 7:11, 8:2). He controls rain for crops. He controls floods. He's in charge. It's all good.
Day 3. God causes dry land to rise from the seas. He commands the land to bring forth grass, herbs, and fruit trees… and it does! Moreover, these things can reproduce. God provides, even when all around is barren. He's in charge. It's all good.
Day 4. God creates light-bearers in the heavens. The day, the night, the months, the seasons, even the years that the heavenly light-bearers mark off—He controls them all. He's in charge. It's all good.
Day 5. In the seas and heavens, God creates creatures who can breathe and move as they desire. Moreover, these things can reproduce. He's setting the stage. He's in charge.
Day 6. On the dry land, God creates creatures who can breathe and move as they desire, and He declares that they, too, can reproduce. The stage is set. God's in charge. It's all good. Are you ready? Finally, God creates humankind—His crowning achievement. He delegates responsibility and power to humankind over every creature in the seas, every creature in the heavens, and every creature on the land. God's in charge. He imbues humankind with power to do what needs doing. Then He commands humankind to look and see: He's given them herbs and fruit trees for food. He's given the same to other creatures for their food. It's all… very good!
Day 7. So, the heavens and earth and all their company were finished. On the seventh day, God finished His work, and He rested from all His work, which He had done. And He blessed the seventh day and set it apart because in it, He had rested from all His crafting and creating."
II. Next, the Bible gives a historic account from the creation of mankind onward. It begins, "These are the generations of the heaven and of the earth when they were created…" and continues with reasoned clarification of the order of events recounted previously: it hadn't rained yet, so there weren't yet herbs. And God hadn't yet made a man to work the ground, so there weren't plants of the field. This is history: God knew what we would need from the time He created this world, when time began. He created a special people, beginning with Man, then later Woman, distinct from the world around them, and He placed them in a garden where He provided for all their needs (Genesis 2:4–25).
A. In the Garden of Eden, humanity made choices without consulting God about every one. God charged Man to name the animals, for instance, and Man proceeded to name them as he saw fit. Making choices without consulting God was present before the Fall of Mankind and wasn’t condemned. So, making choices without consulting God can’t be our problem per se.
B. In the Garden of Eden, humanity even made choices that would be wrong for us today. They went naked, for instance, and were not ashamed. Their going naked wasn’t a problem, even though God saw their nakedness, and they saw each other’s nakedness. The fact that Man and Woman were husband and wife wasn’t what made it okay: after the Fall, they found it necessary to cover themselves without anyone else arriving on the scene. No, before the Fall their nakedness was okay—even good—because it was consistent with the three primary aspects of who they were as image-bearers of God:
1. Being: The history of Man and Woman’s nakedness wasn’t harming them, nor did it risk harming them. The branch of philosophy that examines how we “be” is called ontology. Ontologically, how Man and Woman were, including being naked, wasn’t a problem. Given God’s protection and provision in the garden, Man and Woman could be naked without being harmed. Hence, God hadn’t cautioned them against it, and they didn’t need to suffer a consequence to remind them not to be naked in the future or to dissuade others from being naked like them.
2. Knowing: Man and Woman knew authority (defined as “responsibility derived from authorship”). The branch of philosophy that examines how we come to know what we know is called epistemology. Epistemologically, Man and Woman trusted God to fulfill His responsibilities toward them, because He had authored them. Man fulfilled his responsibilities to “tend and care for” the plants and animals he had named, whose identities he had helped author. And Woman fulfilled her responsibility as a match for Man, in accordance with her creation and name.
3. Choosing: Man and Woman still trusted their intuition (in- : the internal aspect of self...; -tuition: ...that “watches over” or “guards” the person to whom it was given), which the New Testament calls nous (the “felt sense” of the implicit, often translated “mind” but nevertheless distinct from the intellect). The branch of philosophy that examines how we choose is called axiology. Axiologically, Man’s and Woman’s felt sense, which guards over those to whom it’s given, hadn’t yet been corrupted by the Fall: their nous was still reliable.
4. Life: When being, knowing, and choosing were all functioning as God designed them, humankind knew life.
I. Though Man had walked with God for a long while, naming many things in the creation, he failed to instruct Woman, whom God had given him, and Woman succumbed to temptation: Woman doubted God; she didn't recognize when God's words were being distorted by her tempter; she desired to become like God by her own devices; and she ultimately disobeyed a direct command of God (Genesis 3:1–6). Man soon did likewise. This, together with God's response, is known as the "Fall of Mankind," the "Fall of Humanity" or, sometimes, just the "Fall." Suddenly, Man’s and Woman’s nakedness, which before the Fall wasn't a problem, after the Fall suddenly was—because in the Fall, there was a corruption of each aspect of who they were as image-bearers of God. Let’s examine the what happened:
A. Curse Corrupts Relationship (Genesis 3:6–19): Ontologically, Man and Woman’s histories now included having disobeyed a command which God had given them for their benefit (to guard their intuition from a knowledge of good and evil, which God knew in advance they would co-opt to their own demise). This history changed how God could relate to Man and Woman in the present: Man and Woman needed to suffer a consequence to remind them not to disobey in the future and to dissuade others from disobeying like them. This history also changed how humankind related to God—instead of humbling themselves and appealing to the mercy of their Lord, they were afraid because they were naked and hid themselves (Genesis 3:10).
B. Conscience Corrupts Intuition: Epistemologically, Man and Woman’s way of knowing was fundamentally changed by their choice to eat the apple. Their intuition was corrupted by conscience, as we can see in their subsequent responses to God. After God found Man and Woman hiding because of their nakedness and asked, “Who told you that you are naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (Genesis 3:11), humankind did not see the situation from God’s vantage point—a change in perspective called repentance, nor did they seek new opportunity to obey: rather, Woman blamed the serpent who had tempted her, and Man blamed Woman, who had tempted him.
1. Humanity had gained a knowledge of good and evil, but they didn’t know what to do with it. Given this, God disciplined them mercifully, administering a natural consequence of knowing good and evil: a perversion of authority.
2. Consequences are necessary to remind the guilty not to choose the same course of action again, and to dissuade others from taking a similar course. Given this, once a person knew s/he was guilty, it would be only natural to try to avoid such guilt.
3. Moreover, authority can never completely be handed off. Even one who delegates authority remains accountable. Hence, an author must suffer a consequence for the actions of whatever s/he helped create. Given this, it would also be paradoxically natural to
a. Try to shirk the role of author and
b. Try to tightly control whatever aspects of others that one authored.
4. This, then, was the curse: Man would work the land, but it would fight back, effectively ruling over him. Woman would work her husband, but he would fight back, effectively ruling over her. Finally, the pain of everyone’s labor would be intensified.
I. The Fall of Humanity, continued…
C. Christ is Promised (Genesis 3:7–19): By disobeying God, humankind had gotten itself into a rotten mess. Man and Woman may have confessed their sin (though we have no record they did), but they could not make restitution for what they had done:
1. There was no way to set things right, to unlearn the knowledge they had gained. Axiologically, their choice was severely restricted.
2. Hence, God again showed mercy: He promised to solve humanity’s problem through the Seed of Woman. Until this point, Woman hadn’t been given authorship; it was only after the Fall, when God promised to set things right through Woman’s seed, that Man renamed Woman “Eve,” meaning (a) mother of the living or (b) mother of the life-giving One. Thus, Man ("Adam," still naming) renamed Woman "Eve," meaning "mother of all living" (Genesis 3:20). As mother of the living, Eve became an author, too—of children. Eventually, through her seed Jesus, men and women alike, made anew in the image of God, were given authority to declare people free or to leave them in bondage: to participate in the authorship of others’ fate (Matthew 16:19, 18:18). But that’s getting ahead of ourselves.
D. Cut Off is Mankind: God was even gracious in banishing humankind from the Garden, though it didn't seem like it at the time. Humanity was in a rotten mess, and there was a tree in the Garden that would have enabled them to live forever… in their fallen state, with the curse corrupting relationship and with conscience corrupting intuition, before the Christ arrived to save them. Knowing the glorified state He had planned for those who love Him, God mercifully barred humanity from the Garden, with its tree of life.
II. How did God respond when Man and Woman disobeyed Him? We can certainly see His mercy!
A. Did He refuse to have contact with them, because He can’t stand sin in His presence? No. God sought them out in the garden, as He did before (Genesis 3:8–9).
B. Did God consume them with fire, incensed by their sin because it violated His holiness? No. God made cloaks of animal skin for them to wear, providing for them—even after they had disregarded His command—better than they had provided for themselves (Genesis 3:21).
C. God's disposition toward humankind was still one of love, despite humanity’s pride and deceit. They had broken his law and injured themselves, but they hadn’t yet done injustice to one another.
III. The Fall In Its Fullness
A. Within three generations, people began to call upon God (a theme we'll return to later; Genesis 4:26) in faith, as living "sons of God." Soon, however, these living "sons of God" and their descendents became corrupt, indistinguishable from the world around them, doing violence to one another (Genesis 6:1–2, 11–13). They bore the full weight of the fallen human condition.
B. The more they practiced doing their own thing, the more they started to injure others—perhaps unintentionally, but with awareness of hurting them, nevertheless. God, like a loving Father whose child has been injured, grew angry. He wasn't going to stand by while His precious creations hurt one another—but almost all had become victimizers!
C. Being just, God determined to pay back to each of us what they had done, in the waywardness of our hearts, to those under His care: He destroyed them with a flood but preserved the faithful family of Noah in a giant boat (Genesis 7:23).
IV. Populating the Earth—God then commanded Noah's family to multily and fill the earth (Genesis 9:1), but within generations, many stopped spreading throughout the earth, so as to fill it. They gathered into a city in rebellion against God and began to build a giant tower. So God scattered them and gave them different languages (Genesis 11:8), so that once again they might turn to Him.
V. Preparing the Way for the Promised, Saving Seed—Next, God chose Abraham, a man who believed Him and acted in faith, to father a nation, the Jews, in which He purposed to bless all the nations of the earth (Genesis 12:3). God promised Abraham descendants as plentiful as the stars he saw in the heavens (Genesis 15:5). He set up physical examples of what a coming Messiah would fulfill, and He gave His people prophesies of their coming salvation.
God's Mourning (1)
I. By the time of God’s prophet Jeremiah, Abraham's biological descendants had begun to war against God and hurt one another. They broke covenant with God, whom the Bible pictures as their husband, and they bore His discipline. Picturing the rebellious northern kingdom Israel as an adulterous wife, God divorced them (Jeremiah 3:8) and was contending with the hearts of the Southern kingdom, Judah, from whom He promised to raise up a ruler in the last days (Jeremiah 30:14–31:34)—a ruler who could be bold enough to approach His throne and usher in a new era, during which God would instruct His people in more personal ways. In these words of the Lord, can you hear the cry of a loving Father?
“Just look at you! You are putting your confidence in a false belief that will not deliver you. You steal. You murder. You commit adultery. You lie when you swear on oath. You sacrifice to the god Baal. You pay allegiance to other gods whom you have not previously known. Then you come and stand in my presence in this temple I have claimed as my own and say, ‘We are safe’—safe, you think, to go on doing all those hateful things.…
“You had better take note: I have seen for myself what you have done, says Jehovah. So, go to the place in Shiloh where I allowed myself to be worshiped in the early days. See what I did to it because of the wicked things my people Israel did. You also have done all these things, says Jehovah, and I have spoken to you over and over again. But you have not listened! You have refused to respond when I called you to repent!”
Then the Lord said, “As for you, Jeremiah, do not pray for these people! Do not cry out to me or petition me on their behalf! Do not plead with me to save them, because I will not listen to you. Do you see what they are doing in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? …But I am not really the one being troubled says the Lord. Rather they are bringing trouble on themselves to their own shame. So,” the Lord God says, “my raging fury will be poured out on this land….”
The Lord said to the people of Judah: “The Lord God of Israel who rules over all says, ‘You might as well go ahead and add meat of your burnt offerings to that of the other sacrifices, and eat it, too!’ For I did not speak to your fathers or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Hear My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people. Walk in all the way that I command you, and things will go well with you.’ But they did not listen or incline their ear. They walked in the counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts. They traveled backward (metaphorically, away from what was good for them), rather than forward.
“From the day that your ancestors came out from the land of Egypt unto now, I have sent My servants and the prophets to you again and again. But your ancestors did not listen to Me or incline their ear; they stiffened their neck (metaphorically, becoming obstinate, refusing to listen) and did even more wickedness than their fathers.
God's Mourning (2)
The Words of Jeremiah, continued…
“So you shall speak to them all these words, but they will not listen to you; and you shall call to them, but they will not answer you. And you shall say to them, ‘This is a nation that has not listen to (or, metaphorically, obeyed) the voice of Jehovah their God and has spurned correction. Faithfulness is nowhere to be found in it; these people do not even profess it anymore….
“They offer only superficial help for the hurt my dear people have suffered. They say, ‘Everything will be all right!’ But everything is not all right! Are they ashamed because they have committed abomination? No, they are not at all ashamed! They do not even know how to blush! Therefore they will fall among the fallen. Gathering, I will sweep them away. There will be no grapes on their vines. There will be no figs on their fig trees. Even the leaves on their trees will wither. And I gave them those things! But they passed over them.” (Jeremiah 7:8–10,12–13,16–17,19–28,8:11–13).
II. We learn from Jeremiah that God is not a God that takes delight in sacrifices themselves. Rather, God wants repentance and obedience. We learn that God gave His people the law for their own good, but they have gone backward. We learn that God blessed His people with grapes, figs, and full trees, but they did not see these as blessings: they passed over them. We learn, too, that God’s people tried to comfort one another, even in the midst of their wrongdoing—but that in God’s eyes, such comfort was empty. It stemmed from the false belief that they would not be held accountable for the wrongs they had inflicted on others, and it led them away from the repentance that could have brought them true comfort.
III. Throughout this entire process, God loved His people—though He again eventually took up the cause of their victims—even each other—avenging the wrongs they had done, and withhold from us them the mercy they could have extended but didn't. He is the same today, but praise be to God: He has rescued those who will trust Him from this awful, fallen condition! Here's how God has rescued us:
God's Magnificent Rescue (1)
I. God has restored our being by bringing us to repentance and obedience.
A. Christ as our mediator: In Christ, God identified with us. He became like us in every way.
B. Christ as God’s mediator: In Christ, God allowed Himself to be falsely accused, tortured, and crucified by impulses that, if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ve seen too often abiding in us.
1. In the death of God's son Jesus, we see the end result of our self-justification and accusation—our scapegoating and demand for sacrifice of an innocent victim to cover our nagging guilt.
2. Though the scapegoating and demand for sacrifice of people today didn't lead directly to the crucifixion of Christ nearly 2,000 years ago, if we're honest with ourselves, we see that our scapegoating and demand for sacrifice has led us to accuse others whose motives we have misread when ours were less than stellar.
3. In the crucifixion of Jesus, we come face to face with where our pride leads, yet in this case, we hear Christ's prayer: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34). What amazing love! Is that love alone enough to turn you back toward God, reader? Is it enough, in the language of the Bible, to "redeem" you? Hear: it penetrates even deeper…
C. God’s mercy: In the full glory and power of Christ’s resurrection, God demonstrated His mercy by not taking vengeance.
1. Jesus was obedient to God, even to the point of death. God, in turn, was faithful to Jesus and raised him from the dead! This man Jesus, whom we would have rejected—this man who even his closest followers rejected—was glorified in all his might, victorious even over death and the grave. The very man who, in spirit, each of us would have condemned was not only vindicated: He was raised full of power.
2. Now, what might you or I do, if we were falsely accused, tortured, and murdered—then given a second chance at life… with the ability to appear in locked rooms, to be physically palpable to doubters' touch, yet to transport ourselves across hundreds of miles? Would you avenge your death, reader? Would you pursue justice against those who falsely accused, tortured, and murdered you? You and I, reader, have been just as guilty of self-betrayal, self-justification, and false accusation as those whose sinning led to the false accusation, torture, and crucifixion of Jesus. Can you envision yourself, reader, at the news of his resurrection? At the news this One you would have abandoned to the crowds—if not joined the crowds in crucifying—was alive? What terrifying glory!
3. And oh, what wonderful good news from Jesus! This man we would naturally have the utmost grounds to fear instead approaches us with forgiveness! Our victim offers us mercy. As you envision such a site, reader, do you sense your lusts, cares, and narrowness of vision fall away? Is your self-confidence destabilized by your forgiving victim? Do you sense your vengeance, your playing the victim, and your living by my own sense of right and wrong lose their meaning?
a. It is in this way that Jesus has redeemed us from our wrath toward God and others, reader. It is in this way that he draws us to repentance. We see that God's way is good, true, and perfect.
b. Do yearn to learn more of His way, reader—to begin to see your situation from God’s point of view? The Bible calls this change in perspective repentance.
c. Part of repenting is seeing God's guidance in new light, too—then turning from our present course to obey His commands, which He has given for our good, and which are not burdensome.
D. In light of the Lord's mercy, reader, it's easy to see how much more we’re like those who have wronged us than we are like the Sovereign Creator and Sustainer of this universe. What amazing mercy He has shown us!
1. God's infinite mercy makes it easier for us to identify anew with those who have wronged us, and we hope for their slate, like ours, to be clean before God.
2. We rightly respond by cast aside our pride. We rightly respond by repenting and committing ourselves anew to obedience to the guidance of God.
God's Magnificent Rescue (2)
II. God has restored our knowing by bringing us to confession and calling on Him for mercy.
A. Christ as our mediator: We have been justified in complaining about our separation from God; it’s awful.
1. In the death of Jesus, we hear His cry toward the heavens: "My God, my God! Why have You forsaken me?!" Each of us realizes: this is one who knows our pain—who is intimately acquainted with your grief, and with mine—who knows what it is like to experience distance from God.
2. What God had known objectively, God in Christ now knows subjectively: breaks in fellowship with God are awful—it's death.
3. In seeing Christ's pain we, like Job, are justified: we have not been errant in our complaints.
B. Christ as God’s mediator: God has been justified in requiring obedience. Christ demonstrated that obedience is possible, even to the point of death.
C. God’s faithfulness: God has demonstrated that He is faithful in every way—even past the point of death—to those who obey.
1. In Christ's obedience even to the point of death, the goodness of God's law, and the goodness of God Himself, have been clearly shown. In the resurrection of Jesus, God was vindicated as righteous before all creation: He indeed is faithful to those who trust Him completely, as He was faithful to Jesus in resurrection and subsequent glorification.
2. Moreover, God has been justified before me in commanding obedience. I see in Jesus’ example: it is possible to fully obey. I learn: not only has God given His law for my benefit, and not only is His law good for me, I can actually obey the Lord by walking in the way of Christ, following Christ's example by learning on Him in my times of struggle.
3. As God calls us anew to obey, we can know: we are called by One who has been afflicted and tempted in every way as we have. Can you feel your inflated sense of urgency, your inflated sense of importance, and your disregard for consequences fall aside? Your apathy, your denigration of yourself and others, and your over-active sense of irony, too—they no longer inhibit a full, humble confession. Oh, how wrong we have been! We confess!
D. In seeing the suffering God was willing to endure to reach us, we can trust God as good—as both merciful and also just.
1. We can cast aside our deception. Knowing how wrong we have been to chafe at God’s guidance, we can confess and call on Him for mercy.
2. We trust also His justice. We can release those who have wronged us to Him, confident He will deal with them equitably.
3. We can prepare ourselves to forgive any who confess to us how they have hurt us. We can even commit to seeking them out, if it's safe for us to do so, so we can extend the kind of mercy that God has shown to us.
God's Magnificent Rescue (3)
III. God has restored our choosing by freeing us from the need to rely on our own knowledge of good and evil, which we naturally pervert in self-justification: he has removed our need to justify ourselves at all by securing full pardon and freedom from condemnation, as we extend His forgiveness to others.
A. Christ as sin-offering: Jesus’ blood became a covering for our sin. If anyone accuses us on Judgment Day, they’ll have to take it up with Christ. He represents us before the Father, and he represents us before everyone we’ve wronged. He offers them, in this life, the same forgiveness He has given us. They will be unable to complain of injustice, for there is no injustice with God.
1. God has, finally, provided a way out of death, back into His life through Christ, as we extend mercy and grace on his behalf, refusing to condemn before the time.
2. Praise be to God: He imparts His life into me! Given God's faithfulness to me as I continue in this state, it is a surety that I will be made into His likeness. Indeed, Scripture prophetically declares me "seated with Christ in the heavenlies" (Eph 2:6).
3. Now, not only am I a recipient of the love of God, I am a recipient of His life (I Jn 5:11)! The very Spirit of Christ lives in me, and I live in him—both physically (in his body, the church) and also spiritually.
4. God's very disposition toward me is different in this new state, too. In response to my confession and obedience (brought about through confession), and to the propitiation of Christ (a free gift of God), He invites me to enjoy aphesis—the state of being forgiven (sins remitted, granting me freedom to start anew; Acts 26:18).
5. As recipients of God’s grace, we can experience His life and power in us and through us, as we dwell in him and extend his mercy and grace to others as part of His body here on earth.
B. Christ as sin-bearer: Jesus’ resurrection became a seal that the record of our sins is gone, carried with Christ to the grave—then left behind. Knowing this sin-bearning role of the Messiah, John the Baptist exclaimed of Jesus: “Behold the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world!” Indeed, Jesus has taken away our sins.
C. God’s forgiveness: Those who call upon Jesus for mercy are fully forgiven: “He who the Son sets free is free indeed!”
D. In trusting Christ’s forgiveness, we experience a newness of life. No longer must we live in guilt and shame. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
IV. God has restored our life by adopting us into His family and becoming our Source, a fountain of Divine life within those who believe.
A. Christ as progenitor: Jesus is seed of life within us.
B. Christ as prototype: Jesus was a first-fruit of a new creation (I Cor. 15:20-23; Col. 1:18; Eph. 1:20–23).
C. God’s Fathering: God has adopted us into His family and constituted us with His very nature. In a great mystery of faith, His Divine life abides within all who believe (; John 12:24, John 3:5, Titus 3:5, Rom. 12:2, II Cor. 3:18 - Eph 2:15, 4:24; Col. 3:10-11).
D. A faithful saying is this: "In
dying with Christ, true life we gain.
Enduring, we with him shall reign.
Who him denies, he will disclaim.
Our faith may fail, his never wanes—
For thus he is, he cannot change! (II Timothy 2:11–13 ISV).
E. God can be, and is, about the business of fashioning Himself a suitable partner—a people who spread His self-replicating Word to others: strengthened by persecution and love for one another, made holy by His discipline, constituted One with Him by rewewal of spirit, and built up in one nous (one intuition), considering one another, so as to provoke one another to good works in His name.
The Contentment Paradox
I. Paradoxically, the only way we can experience true meaning and contentment is by acknowledging that our life isn't about us. We haven't been put on this earth to seek our own ends: we've been put here to glorify God, to serve Him, and to enjoy Him forever, beginning now. God relishes pouring out His love on those who obey Him, when we live in accordance with how He's set up this world to work. When we ignore God's design, however—or even when those around us ignore His design—it's not a pretty picture.
II. Sometimes, we suffer for others' sin or ignorance, and sometimes, we suffer for reasons we haven't yet discerned.
A. If a stained glass factory disposes of its lead in a way that the lead leaches into the drinking water, the learning abilities of students in nearby families will likely be affected horribly. If the factory ignores elements of design in water tables, proper disposal methods, and durability of storage materials, students who aren't responsible for the factory's ignorance will nevertheless suffer.
B. If the waves of prenatal ultrasounds or high levels of electromagnetic radiation bombard an infant during crucial developmental periods for her inner ear, her ability to relax, to self-regulate, and to learn independently may be hampered. The inner ear contains a delicate system that detects waves to facilitate unconscious awareness of where one's body is in three-dimensional space and to help a person modulate energy levels (sleep, awake, stressed, strained, relaxed, or engaged). Any damage done from over-exposure to high-intensity waves may be compounded if someone spends several hours a day watching TV or playing video games while young. Such activity, unlike imaginative play and neighborhood games of bygone eras, doesn't provide opportunities for the brain to incorporate messages from the inner ear and may actually hamper development of such sensation, called "vestibular awareness."
C. Sometimes, physiological damage may be impossible to mend. Missed development may be impossible to fully recover. Nevertheless, learning effective ways to work around existing damage, to strengthen weak systems, and to gently enable what missed development we can is very worthwhile.
D. Sometimes, we can't nail down initial, historical causes for current difficulties. We can, however, notice what perceptual systems, somatic functions, and cognitive abilities are currently compromised: we can isolate current, ongoing causes, and we proceed to strengthen those systems.
E. We can also shift our focus away from our problems and toward the One who made us—the One who is able to work with us for good through whatever problems we're facing.
III. Individually, we suffer when we deny our need for God. We may be "good" people: we may give to the poor, be faithful to our spouses, help make a home for our children, and attend church every Sunday yet still—like a car without gas—feel we're running on empty.
A. God didn't design us to live like this. He did design us, though, to lack "what it takes."
B. We aren't designed to live without Him. He is "what it takes." He has designed each of us to need Him. With our common gravitation toward sin—toward things that don't work and ultimately bring us down—and our own peculiar flaws, we really need Him.
C. What we do every moment, whether bandaging a child's scraped knee or saving the world from a nuclear holocaust, is often less important than how we live those moments: on our own, in proud disbelief and "liberated" pursuit of our own pleasures—or in reliance on Him, in humble recognition of our own limitations and joyful obedience to His Word and His Church.
New Life in Christ
I. As a baby is a complete, yet immature human, so a believer is complete, yet immature in his or her new life. Only as a believer rejects old habit patterns, flees temptations of the world, and actively trains in righteousness—actively "puts on the new man"—does he or she become conformed to the image of Christ, alive to the new creation a believer already is in Him.
II. Of course, this has implications for how we relate with one another.
A. When you trust Christ, God pours out His love upon you… and He calls me to do no less. When you trust Christ, you become my brother or sister in Him… and I become your brother or sister in Him, too. We may squabble and fight—brothers and sisters do—but as long as we share an understanding of God, Christ, and how He saves, we can disagree about almost anything under the sun, we can each struggle with almost any failing under the sun… and we're called to love each other.
B. We're called, too, to want the best for each other, which means you don't just "accept me as I am," nor vice versa. God doesn't even do that—He accepts me as the person He knows I will become in Him. God accepts all who trust Him completely as the people He knows they will become in Him. (You can click here to learn more about the believer's identity in Christ.) If we're brothers and sisters in Him, we're called to love each other unconditionally, while we help each other grow in the Lord.
C. Finally, we're called to join ourselves to the Body that Christ established here on earth, if we haven't already. To find a Church local to you, click here.
III. To be useful to God, a person who wants to walk with Christ must be willing to do whatever it takes to be close to Him, casting aside any old habit patterns and temptations of the world that stand in the way. We are called to be conformed to the image of Christ not just intellectually, but in every area of learning. We are called to draw upon His life in our knowledge, skills/motor patterns, habits, relationships, and faith.
Being Subject to God
I. As the eleventh chapter of Hebrews celebrates "heroes of the faith," the twelfth chapter of Hebrews, before its admonitions to cling to grace, celebrates the fruit of training in righteousness. God, as part of the training of Israel, promised:
A. To correct them toward righteousness with the rod of a Father—as a shepherd corrects, gently prodding his sheep with his staff, not hitting his sheep in anger, and
B. To use the trials of the human condition—man's inhumanity to man and other consequences of the Fall of Adam—to sternly correct them when they went astray.
C. "I will be his Father," God said, "and he will be my son: if he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of husbandry and with strokes of the sons of Adam" (II Samuel 7:14)."
D. Hebrews 12 picks up this theme: "You have not yet resisted unto blood in your struggles against sin," the author writes, "And you have completely forgotten the exhortation which reasons with you as with sons: 'My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when reproved by Him; for whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He lays upon every son whom He receives whatever is necessary to extract what He desires'" (4–6).
A. The Septuagint, an early Greek translation of the Old Testament, preserves this concept in its translation of Proverbs 3:11–12, which the author of Hebrews is quoting: "For whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He lays upon every son whom He receives whatever is necessary to extract what He desires."
B. The Hebrew noun that means "father" and the Hebrew verb that means "laying upon a person or people whatever is necessary to extract what an authority desires" are similar, and most English Bibles today unfortunately translate Proverbs 3:11–12 with the word "father."
C. Hebrews 12, in its preservation of the Septuagint's translation, supports discerning in both passages the concept of discipline that uses whatever means necessary to bring out the best in one's charges.
Whatever Means Are Necessary
I. Really—Whatever means are necessary?
A. Of course, human parents and teachers must temper "whatever means necessary" in drawing the best from their charges. Since our knowledge is necessarily incomplete and our motives mixed, for us, a good end doesn't justify "any means necessary." Even a perfect end wouldn't justify "any means necessary." Neither parents nor teachers have any right to beat children—ever.
B. God's knowledge, in contrast to our own, is complete, and His motives are pure. Thus, for God a good end does justify any means necessary. And He has promised to use any means necessary to grow those who have believed into Him in righteousness.
C. Those who believe into Christ accept this.
1. In calling upon the name of Christ, a believer appeals to God as one who deserve nothing good from Him—as one who would be honored merely to be associated with God as His slave.
2. It may take days, weeks, even months of intense internal wrangling, before a believer finally submits to God as a slave (Romans 6:16-22)—as someone ready to be whoever God wants, to live however God asks, and to confess that, truly, God owns his or her entire being: heart, mind, soul, and strength.
3. However, such is the only appropriate response to the law, through which we realize how far we truly are from the holy and majestic God.
II. The law convicts us, but praise be to God: the good news of Jesus doesn't end with law!
A. Jesus told a parable of a prodigal son, who requested his share of the family fortune before his parents' death, squandered it in wanton living, and then reaped what he sowed. He realized that his father's slaves were living better than he, so he returned to his father, ready to become a slave. To his surprise (and the surprise of everyone listening to Jesus' story), the father accepted the prodigal back as a son.
B. In Christ, we present our bodies as slaves to righteousness (see Romans 6:16–22, above), but Christ presents us to God for adoption. In every way we live—physically as body, intellectually as mind, animate as soul, and awake as spirit, among other overlapping Biblical ways of living—we are slaves to righteousness. In our very identity (our way of living as heart), we are no longer slaves, but sons or daughters of God (Galatians 4:4–7).
III. Understanding the "big picture" of learning laid out thus far can help us learn and teach with integrity. Thus far, we've examined common "solutions" to problems of the psyche, why they don't work, and why Integral Learning™ is necessary. Here are the questions we're about to address:
A. According to the Bible, what are the "parts" of each person, and how do we relate to God through each aspect of who we are? (Page 2)
B. Why is learning so complex, and how can we make it quicker, easier, and more accurate? (Page 3)
C. In what ways does the Integral Learning™ model demonstrate what it means to learn—and help us see what can easily go wrong with learning? (Page 4)
As you meditate on these quotes before clicking ahead to the next page, you may want to consider: What do these have to do with Integral Learning™?