Knowing the Difference
“And the Lord spake unto Aaron, saying, Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations: and that ye may put a difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean....” --Leviticus 10:10
The scripture isn't enough. The mind must be clear and able to function. The priest's duty was to teach the law, to teach the difference between right and wrong. Intoxicants take away the mind, and prevent it from making distinctions, clouding the line between reality and fancy, between truth and error. The Jews had the Scriptures, but their minds were intoxicated with pride and false doctrine so that they could not understand them. Christians often have their own intoxicants.
The ruler is also forbidden wine and strong drink in Proverbs 31:4,5 “lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.” A drunken man can quote the law, but the ruler and the priest must exercise judgment and make rational interpretations and applications.
God is not drunken. He is in full possession of His faculties and in Him is no darkness at all (1John 1). His peace is not the peace of synthesis but of holiness. He cannot lie, according to the apostle, but speaks the truth always, which truth is a reflection of His own perfect being.
The church for a long time has been drunken at the fountain of Hegel's dialectics. Hegel, and those who followed him, taught us to believe that truth is found at the end of a dialectical process in which contradictions are resolved in a synthesis. How seductive it was! Synthesis was the key to world peace. If we would only listen to one another, we would find truth in every position, we would all modify our thinking, and the result would be peace on earth, good will toward men. The Christian doctrines were revised to fit this scheme. Instead of insisting that there are no contradictions in the Bible, as the church had insisted for centuries, we were embarrassed and mumbled something about not being rationalists but believers, as if it were irrational to be a believer, or so we thought (!). Some were even straightforward on this. “It is better felt than telt,” I remember hearing as a boy. Truth was to be lifted from the well of irrationality.
“All religions worship the same God,” the irrationalist intoned, feeling very religious. “Yes, there are contradictions, but these are not the essence of religion. True religion is in the unity that comes from resolving these contradictions in a dialectical fashion. Islam, who denies the Trinity; Hinduism that denies the personality of God; Buddhism that seeks to find God within; and the Christian who studies his Bible to know God: all these are really one and the same, for true religious experience is found in all faiths.”
In other words, we quit thinking, or worse, our minds were seared so that thought was impossible. This is exactly what God said of the ungodly: “Because they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind.” Romans 1:26. The word “reprobate” means unapproved, unable to do what the mind is supposed to do. People think they think, but they don't think, because they have rejected the foundation of thought: that God is God; He cannot deny Himself; He cannot lie; He has spoken truth.
In Hebrews 6:7 land that brings forth thorns and thistles is “reprobate,” and rejected, because that is not what land is supposed to do. In like manner Titus speaks of those who are “reprobate” because their works contradict their profession. Though they profess the knowledge of God they are not able to do what people are supposed to do: hence, “reprobate.”
Putting a Difference
Rejection of reason makes it impossible to make a difference between the holy and the unholy. The first and most important distinction that reason must make is between the Living God and idols.
The God of the Bible is the Living God, the only True God, and all other gods are dead and false. It is not enough for me to claim to have God in my thought if the God I profess is not the God of the Bible, the living jealous God, who cannot deny Himself and will not take a place among the gods, but always contrasts Himself with them. Without this God in my thought, my mind becomes reprobate, and ceases to function as a mind should, measuring, evaluating, differentiating.
The reprobate mind loses touch with reality, and lives in a dream world. The reprobate in Romans 1 became vain in imaginations (vs. 21); they became fools but thought themselves wise (vs. 22). They imagined God to be like corruptible creatures (vs. 24). They could not even make such fundamental distinctions as the difference between men and women (vs. 27), and were given over to all manner of rot (vs. 29-32).
Just Quoting Scripture
But having God in our knowledge doesn't mean simply quoting scripture. Unless we know God and His Son Jesus Christ and walk in fellowship with Him, our minds will continue to be reprobate. That is why we are commanded not to be conformed to the world, but to be renewed in our mind, to prove the will of God (Romans 12:1,2). Without this renewal of the mind, we will strain at gnats and swallow camels, turn light for darkness, and good for evil. The sanctified mind is not one that is forsaken, but one that is renewed and restored to be what a mind is supposed to be: a judge to discern between things.
The Bible was never intended to be followed blindly--as the Jews who were blind leaders of the blind. If they had known the God of the Bible--the One Who cannot Deny Himself--they would have known that omitting judgment and mercy could not be made right by the payment of tithes of mint, anise, and cumin. They would have known that men are far more important than ceremonies; that mercy is far better than ordeals; and that he that loves another has fulfilled the law. When the church abandons reason, all that is left is ceremonialism or empty moralism where all ceremonies are equal and all precepts of equal weight. The Pharisees could quote the precepts, but did not have the slightest idea of what they were talking about. They were blind leaders of the blind. How facile they were in quoting the scripture, but had not the slightest idea of what it meant!
The godly man is not like the three monkey idols: sans eyes, sans mouth, sans ears, blindly quoting scripture, for even the devil quotes scripture. The godly man knows and fellowships with God, and therefore knows the God who gave the Scripture. Man is far more than a machine programmed to play back the scripture when someone pokes the button. Man is God's image, not a cosmic tape recorder.
Walking in Darkness
Hegel's approach to knowledge can never give knowledge, because the sacrifice of reason destroys the very thing in man that makes him different from the beasts. Man was not created to be a blind, unthinking taker-of-orders, or performer-of-ceremonies, but to walk in fellowship with God and in communion with Him. Without this fellowship he walks in darkness, following rituals he does not understand, and precepts that are increasingly disassociated with the real world. The gulf between him and reality widens and his disillusionment and despair deepen. In seeking blessing by the precept, instead of fellowship with God, the difference between his profession and his possession of blessedness becomes greater and greater. But he is the last one to know. He blindly goes his way, though the whole world knows he is not blessed.
Dreaming of Feasting
Self-absorption and isolation from God are far worse intoxicants than the strongest of alcoholic drinks. In the vanity of our minds we are like the hungry man who dreams, and thinks that he eats, but when he awakes, his soul is empty; or the thirsty man who dreams, and thinks that he drinks, but when he awakes, he is “faint, and his soul hath appetite.” The prophet describes them as those who are “drunken, but not with wine; and stagger, but not with strong drink. For the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes....” (Isaiah 29:8-10).
Isaiah tells us plainly the root of the matter: “Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter's clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?” (Isaiah 29:16)
God has no understanding?
What arrogance to say that the God who made heaven and earth doesn't know how to think! What effrontery to say that He is both light and darkness! What insolence to say that He tells us contradictory things that we are supposed to obey somehow. Shall we turn everything upside down in our humanist revolution? Will God not know the difference, even if we do not?
Hearing and Believing
Faith is not a leap into the darkness of irrationality and contradiction. Faith is hearing and believing the promises of God. How shall we do that if they contradict themselves? What arrogance to seek to reverse the order of creator-creature, and attack the very throne of understanding in order to seat myself there! God will not keep silence at this, but will emphatically show that He knows how to make distinctions. Ask those who inhabited Sodom and Gomorrah.
Better to be drunk with wine, than to drink at the fountain of irrationalism. Who is better? The drunken man who cannot discern between sense and nonsense, or the preacher who deliberately decries reason? At least the drunk will be sober in the morning.
Pastor C. W. Powell
6050 Del Paz Drive
Colorado Springs, CO 80918