The Age of Irrationalism


Basket of Figs, October, 2008

Bud Powell



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There is a light that lights every man that comes into the world, according to the Apostle John, who was not a fool [John 1:9].  In fact, John wrote in his first epistle that he and the other apostles had intimate knowledge of that Light:


(For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)  That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. –1John 1:2,3


John and the apostles were not ontological agnostics, which is the reigning religion of the modern world.  The ontological agnostic [the OA] cannot not say anything about reality, but only can give you his view of it.  “That’s my opinion and you have yours,” is the way he puts it, humbly, of course, for he really knows that he is humble, and those who are certain of things are proud and pushy.  He wouldn’t dare be pushy and proud because his opinion is that pushy and proud are bad.


It seems very humble to him—did I already say that?—to think that the real truth about God cannot be known.  There is so much strife and trouble when people get certain about God, and the OA hates religious strife.  He doesn’t like people who are not OA’s and tends to shun their company.   The better educated the OA is the more settled he becomes in his opinion that there is nothing true that can be said about God except that nobody should say anything about God, for he has heard many learned and profound lectures to packed classrooms about God and His infinite unknowability.  The subject is very deep and only a very learned person could say so much about that of which nothing can or should be said. 


“Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches:  But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise loving kindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.” (Jer 9:23-24)


It is a good thing to glory in the knowledge of God and foolish to deny its truth, especially that God is active in the world in kindness, judgment, and righteousness.  There are those who know these things for they seek for wisdom as for hidden treasures.   [Proverbs 2] Others are willingly ignorant. [2Peter 3:5]


Very Religious. The OA is religious, of course, and feels awe at the great abyss in his mind that he calls God. He might tears in his eyes at the wonder of the utter void and bottomless grandeur of what he doesn’t know about God—the glory of undifferentiated meaning.  As I said, he is very religious, muttering about mystery, myth, and humility.


Called to Non-Thinking?  The call of the Gospel is for men to forsake their thoughts and their unrighteous deeds, but the Gospel is not a call to non-thinking or non-doing.  Because God is often silent doesn’t mean that He has no Word. [Psalm 50:21]


Jesus assumed that a rational man would know that his soul was worth more than the whole world.  Just as Nebuchadnezzar knew that his dream of the great tree in Daniel 4 was expected to make sense to him, so there are things revealed in the very being of man which man must understand.  Jesus’ words and Nebuchadnezzar’s dream were expected to connect to things in a man that only a fool would deny.  It is the fool who says there is no god, precisely because he is a fool and out of touch.


It just doesn’t make sense to gain the world and lose the soul.  As Hamlet’s friend told him, “It takes no ghost from the grave to tell us this, m’Lord.”  The Apostle Paul put it this way, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:” (Ro 1:20 av)


What Are You Worth?  Why wouldn’t anyone know that a man is worth more than a sparrow?  Of course, a mind so steeped in idolatry that it can’t tell a hawk from a handsaw, might argue for equal rights for the sparrow, but the Lord doesn’t try to prove the obvious.  He assumed that nobody but a fool would deny that a man is worth many sparrows.  From this sensible concept He argued that the God that takes care of the sparrows will certainly take care of men who are worth more than sparrows.  Only an OA would doubt the force of the argument.


In the same way, when our Lord was accused of practicing medicine arts on the Sabbath by healing a poor sick woman, He argued that this daughter of Abraham was worth far more than an ox. “Which of you,” He said,  “would not get your ox out of the stall on the Sabbath and lead him away to watering?” He called them hypocrites, and they were, for they knew that the stupid stuff they were advancing as godliness was stupid stuff.  Jesus’ words didn’t make the stuff stupid; He is the Light that exposes stupid stuff.


As if this were not enough, Jesus went after those who worried more about clothes than the body.  How stupid is that? “Is not the body more than raiment?” He asked.  Is not the body the instrument by which we connect to other minds?  Shouldn’t we, therefore, take more care of the body than we do of our clothes? But you have to know what the body is, before you can figure that out.  But with all their folly, didn’t even the ancient pagans know that the mind was more than the body?


And what of life itself?  Are w given the great gift of life to stuff our bodies with food?  Isn’t life more than food?  Only by non-thinking can the Christian be stupid enough to say, “You cannot trust your thoughts,” and go through the motions of life without study of his Bible.  Real study makes you think and meditate, but some really are convinced that those who think do not truly believe.  Only the blind leading the blind would advise not thinking in the reading of the Bible.


Isn’t It Insane? Jesus said that a sensible man should know the difference between a gnat and a camel: that law, mercy, and judgment are more important than the tithe of mint, anise, and cumin. Jesus reveals sin as a kind of insanity, a suspension of reason, a mental sickness. It is precisely this suspension of thought that the Light came to change: to deliver man from the darkness corrupting his mind—this disconnection from reality.


Forsake Wicked Thoughts; Not Thinking. The unrighteous man is called to forsake his thoughts, but not to forsake thinking.  The Lord told the man who buried his talent that he should have put the money out to usury.  But wait! Didn’t the law forbid usury?  He is faulted precisely for his rebellious ignorance. Blind obedience is not obedience, not for a man created in the image of God.  It is a great fool who would strain out the gnats and swallow camels.  Only those bereft of reason would do so.  We are warned of being like horses and mules, whose mouths must be held in with bit and bridle. They need bits and bridles precisely because they have no understanding. [Psalm 32:9]


It is not true that man cannot know the nature of things.  He can know what a pig is, what a cow is, and which one not to milk.  It is childish not to know: “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Heb 5:14)


Soundness of mind is the gift of the Spirit.  “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2Ti 1:7).  The Holy Spirit does not trade in madness.  “Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not:” (Jer 5:21 AV)


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