Column: Do you believe human reason is sin?

The writer is a regular columnist for The Journal and a church pastor.

By Dave Havir

BIG SANDY, Texas--For years I have heard people say the words "human reason is sin." Do you believe that phrase to be true?

The number of times you hear a phrase does not prove its accuracy. Also, the intensity with which people tell you certain words does not make them true.

The plain truth is that human reason is not sin. (However, isolated incidents of human reason can be sin.)

For the record

Before we proceed any further, I want to acknowledge some basic facts:

  • God's thoughts are much higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).
  • The foolishness of God is wiser than men (1 Corinthians 1:25).
  • We have a heavenly calling, and that heavenly calling directs us to look to the Apostle and High Priest (Hebrews 3:1).

Human reason cannot take the place of the sacrifice of Christ and the receiving of God's Spirit. But what is the purpose of human reason?

Created to think

When God made His physical creation, He gave people the power of choice. To equip mankind to make choices, God gave us the gift of thinking.

  • God gave people dominion over the physical creation (Genesis 1:28; Psalm 8:3-8).
  • God gave people greater emotional and mental capacities than animals (1 Corinthians 2:11). Marrying is greater than breeding. Thinking is greater than instinct.
  • God gave thinking people the opportunity to be in the family of God (Romans 8:16). You were created to think.

Goldfish can't

Think about this. If we were goldfish, we could not even use reason to consider this subject. Thank God He gave us minds to think and reason.

It is true that reason can get us in trouble: just like food, drink, sex and music.

But those good things are not sin. They are sin only when they are abused.

The same is true about reason.

When people try to tell you to stop using human reason, remember this comparison to prayer:

Prayer is good. When prayer is not being used properly, what should we do? Should we stop praying? Or should we do it right?

The same is true about human reason. Should we stop using human reason?

Of course not. The key is to do it right!

OT examples

Let's notice some scriptures people use to denounce the concept of human reason. (You may be surprised to see what they really say.)

  • What about Genesis 3:1-6? It is true Eve used human reason to disobey God. The devil influenced bad reasoning. But this example shows that God offers sonship to thinking members of His creation.
  • What about 1 Samuel 24:1-6 and 26:5-12? Do these verses prove people should lend unquestioned support to rulers? Hardly! These verses show that people should not take out their revenge (by tearing their clothing or killing) on controlling rulers. David set an example of using reason to avoid Saul.
  • What about Proverbs 3:5? Yes, trusting in God is much better than leaning on your own understanding. Also, trusting in God is better than leaning on someone else's understanding. Trusting in God is not trusting man (Jeremiah 17:5-8). Trusting God is not trusting people with religious titles (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). We can learn from others, but we must not put people ahead of Jesus Christ.

NT examples

  • What about Matthew 16:19? The subject of binding and loosing was covered in the July 30 issue of The Journal (see page 3 of that issue). No person has dominion over your faith (2 Corinthians 1:24).
  • What about 1 Corinthians 1:10? This verse proves the exact opposite of what many people dogmatically proclaim. Many people use this verse to teach that rallying around a special leader or a special group provides unity.

However, that is directly opposite the in-context meaning.

Paul was describing the Corinthians' divisive approach. Some of the Corinthians were contentious because they polarized around men. What did Paul teach to promote unity? He taught them not to polarize around people. Paul described saints who polarize around any person (or group) as "babes in Christ" (1 Corinthians 3:1-4). Don't use human reason to ignore these clear words of maturity.

  • What about 2 Corinthians 10:3-5? Great advice. Reasonings that are against God should be cast down. Every thought should be brought into the obedience of Christ. People should look to God through Christ.
  • What about Colossians 3:8? Great advice. Saints should beware lest any person spoil them with the ideas of people. Concentrate on the ideas of Christ.
  • What about 1 Timothy 6:20-21? Great advice. Saints should avoid the wrong concepts of people who claim to have special knowledge. Are the ideas biblical?
  • What about 2 Timothy 4:3-4? This prophecy is true. People will turn to fables. Do you realize that private interpretations of prophecy are fables? Do you realize that people desire the fables of prophecy more than the clear words God has revealed through Jesus?
  • What about Jude 3? It is true that saints should earnestly contend for the faith once delivered. Some people believe this verse is talking about returning to the writings of Mr. Armstrong, A.N. Dugger or C.O. Dodd. Certainly you realize this verse was written hundreds of years before those three gentlemen were born! Certainly you realize that studying the Bible is much more important than focusing on the writings of any men.

Coming into awareness

After many decades of passive submission to church government, people are learning to deal with their newfound recognition of liberty to think more for themselves.

Understand that the discovery of something does not mean it just came into existence. For example, the planet Pluto came into existence many years before it was discovered. In the same way, the liberty of God came into existence many years before it was finally discovered.

When did liberty come into your awareness? I know when liberty was given. However, I do not know when you discovered it.

How well are you using your liberty?

Tragedy of liberty

A tragedy of liberty is in how saints deal with each other.

People who are not experienced in thinking for themselves are often not experienced in dealing with people who have different thoughts and opinions.

When people do not have confidence in their own thinking, they often react negatively toward people who have thoughts different from their own.

Do you know how to deal with people who have differences?

Try reading Romans 14:1-23.

Liberty to consume?

When God gave us liberty, He expected us to use it for good.

  • Notice 1 Peter 2:16. Liberty should not be a cloak of maliciousness. Liberty should help us be better servants of God.
  • Notice Galatians 5:13-15. We have been called unto liberty.

Liberty is to be used to serve one another in love.

God gave us liberty for us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Many people use God's glorious liberty to bite and devour one another.

Many people use God's glorious liberty to consume one another.

Quite a contrast

As I mentioned earlier, isolated incidents of human reason can be sin.

It may even surprise you to learn that some of the popular religious concepts among the Church of God culture are actually examples of faulty human reason.

How should a saint examine a religious concept to discover if it is indeed faulty or true?

Paul told the saints in Philippi: "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5).

The mind of Christ is the opposite of faulty human reason.

(Notice the accompanying box, which depicts the contrast between faulty human reason and the mind of Christ.)

Growing process

Jesus Christ learned obedience by the things He suffered (Hebrews 5:8).

How about you? Are you learning how to make correct choices?

Are you learning to respond like Jesus Christ?

  • Do not become paralyzed with the faulty notion that "human reason is sin." God created you to think.
  • Make decisions. Some people avoid making decisions to avoid making mistakes (Matthew 25:24-25; Luke 19:20-21).

However, to avoid making decisions is a huge mistake! Read Matthew 25:26-30 and Luke 19:22-26.

  • Wrong decisions can be corrected. At baptism you began a lifetime of repentance. Whenever you discover that you're using faulty human reason, the appropriate response is to repent. God loves repentance.
  • God desires for you to have the mind of Christ. Look closely at what Jesus Christ taught. Look closely at how Jesus Christ lived.
  • The best way to battle the deceiver is to maintain your focus upon the simplicity of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3).

Christ Jesus is your Apostle and High Priest (Hebrews 3:1).

Faulty human reason

1. Some people have an exclusive approach toward people in society.

2. Some people have an exclusive approach toward disciples who are in other Church of God groups. They view them as enemies of the cross.

3. Some leaders view themselves in a higher class than other people. Some leaders place great significance upon their title. Some leaders even call their title a rank of authority.

4. Some leaders collect too much salary and too many perks from the saints under the guise of serving them.

5. Some people claim unity is achieved by polarizing around a man or around a group of men. They use 1 Corinthians 1:10 to support their theory. Some people claim that loyalty to a man or a group of men measures a person's loyalty to God. This is considered a mature approach.

6. Some people claim that the members of their physical group are the only members of the spiritual Body of Christ. (When some people realize the folly of such a statement, they claim their physical group is the best part of the spiritual Body.)

7. Some people place the writings of physical people above the writings of the Bible.

8. Some people use Christian liberty to bite, devour and consume each other.

The mind of Christ

1. Jesus mingled with society. He taught disciples about the Good Samaritan. He died for all people.

2. Jesus taught His disciples not to be exclusive (Mark 9:38-41). He expects His disciples to love one another (John 13:34-35).

3. Jesus strongly rebuked the Pharisees for having the view of being superior to others. Jesus strongly rebuked the Pharisees for emphasizing titles. He taught that a person who exalts himself shall be abased.

4. Jesus did not accumulate riches while serving saints. He taught that it was more blessed to give than receive.

5. Jesus taught that unity is achieved by worshiping God. The context of 1 Corinthians 1:10 reveals those who polarize around a man or group are contributing to division. Jesus knows that those who polarize around a man or group of men are considered "babes in Christ" (1 Corinthians 3:1-4).

6. Jesus is the Head of the Church. The Body of Christ is a spiritual organism. Jesus is not pleased when different parts of the spiritual Body argue that their part is the best part. Such action is carnal and violates John 13:34-35 and Philippians 2:1-8.

7. Jesus taught that people will be judged by the words He spoke, which are recorded in the Bible.

8. Jesus was a Man of no guile who taught us to avoid revenge.

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