Sunday, April 8, 2012
DECEPTION AND THE POWER OF THE HUMAN WILL
I am continually amazed at the ability of the human mind, with it's capacity for reason, to interpret Scripture, not according to truth, but according to the dictates of strongly-held and pre-conceived worldviews and preferences. I am equally amazed, and disturbed, at how many people, rather than allowing the Bible to speak it's truth plainly to them, choose to re-interpret Scripture according to these pre-conceived worldviews. Rather than searching for truth through the pages of Scripture, they adapt certain interpretations which back up their preconceived notions of who God is, and what Christianity is all about.
I am not going to candy coat this, but will speak bluntly, as this is something that has been grating on me for quite some time. In speaking to people of differing opinions and beliefs, I have come to the conclusion that the search for truth, in the minds of many people, is that quest for whatever they can grasp onto which seemingly supports their pre-conceived notion of what truth actually is.
For those who adhere strictly and unapologetically to a belief system, truth has been outlined and scripted for them by the basic principles held to by that system, and there is no room for critical thinking. Every system of thought, whether scientific, political, or religious, has an underlying philosophy, and all evidence is examined in light of that philosophy.
The same principle seems to hold in many of the pseudo-Christian cults and belief systems that have sprung up. For them, Scripture is to be interpreted in light of the principles of that already-held belief system, rather than on its own merits. Their beliefs are not scrutinized by Scripture, but rather, Scripture is interpreted modally -- to support their own established mode of truth.
This is quite disturbing to me. The search for truth is supposed to be an honest endeavor, but by my own observations, it appears that most people's search is more subjective than objective, meaning that they hold a certain worldview, and look for a “truth” that supports that worldview. For someone in an honest search for truth, this can be quite distracting. I have spoken to people involved in these cults, and indeed, many of their arguments are convincing and clever. They are able to defend their faith on a level that seems so intellectual and well-thought out. Most of them have been steeped in the religion for many years, have studied, and have formulated a system of apologetics whereby to interpret Scripture and make sense of their beliefs. They are able to re-interpret seemingly contradictory Scriptures to fit their pre-conceived notion and underlying agenda, even going so far as to take other passages out of context to support their distorted interpretation. It is only when you look closely at the context of Scripture in it's entirety, and piece everything together, that you are able to refute the claims of these pseudo-Christian systems. Generally, the longer one remains entrenched in the system, the stronger his belief becomes.
I firmly believe that it is not up to us to judge any man, as we do not know the condition of anyone's heart. We cannot judge a person's position with God, but we can say with reasonable certainty what is truth and what is a lie. What disturbs me the most about these people is that, in exchanging the truth for the lie, they have become convinced in their own minds that the lie is the truth. In trying to rationalize and get some real perspective, I have examined their arguments, their attitudes, and have done my best to adapt my mode of thinking to theirs, all of which has led me to the conclusion that, if someone wants to believe a lie strongly enough, he will formulate an argument to convince himself that what is not true is true....and there are plenty of ways to do so. Truth is not always comfortable, but some people opt for a comfortable delusion over the uncomfortable truth. Even so, if you REALLY think about it – there is no greater comfort than resting in the secure knowledge that you HAVE grasped the truth. The knowledge of truth is REAL assurance, while ignorance is a security blanket that is only secure as it covers the truth from our eyes.
Col. 2:8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ
I have really struggled to understand why some people willingly adhere to a false system of beliefs. Not all people involved in these systems are ignorant. Many have painstakingly scrutinized and set up a system of defense for their beliefs, which seems to bring them even deeper into delusion. Obviously there is something about these beliefs that is so attractive to them, that they would re-interpret Scripture in an attempt to validate the lie. They do not take Scripture at face value. Rather than their beliefs lining up with Scripture, they line up Scripture to accomodate their beliefs. In the last few months, I have discovered how alarmingly easy it is for a person to deceive himself, and how easy it is to re-interpret Scripture according with this deception.
The apostle Paul consistently warned us about falling prey to false doctrine. He called them deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons (1 Tim. 4:1), and said that many will fall away from the faith because of them. He repeatedly told Timothy to hold to the doctrine as it was delivered, and to urge the church to “continue steadfastly” in it.
What is perplexing to me; and frankly, quite disturbing, is how many people seem to willingly follow after false doctrine, making great pains to uphold it with contextually inaccurate Scriptural support. It's as though they are desperately trying to hold on to their false doctrine....but why? The only answer for me is that there must be something very enticing about this false doctrine. The odd thing is, it's as though the more these people study, the more they are convinced that their false doctrine is true – but it certainly is not the spirit of truth that is leading them. What, then, could it be?
It is amazing how prone to deception the human mind is....and self-deception is the most frightful form of deception. Jesus said if the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness (Mt. 6:23). The deception can go so incredibly deep. The Bible says that we are to study to show ourselves approved to God (2 Tim. 2:15), but on the other hand, also refers to those who are always learning and are never able to come to the knowledge of the truth (2 Tim. 3:7). I can really only come to one conclusion from all of this – that enlightenment and one's ability to grasp the truth has just as much to do with one's motivation, openness, and receptivity, as it does his diligence and perserverence.
There are so many facets of this topic that I could go off on in this blog, but my main focus is trying to determine why some people are so willing and determined to spend so much of their intellectual lives defending and rationalizing a belief system which, when looked at objectively and soundly, is faulty and not in line with Scripture. The only explanation is that there is something enticing about believing in that system that makes that person eager to defend it. Either deviating from that particular system would cause an enormous shift in one's life and worldview, or there is something that appeals to the baser human wants and desires – namely his flesh. For example, in a cult like Mormonism, the idea that a person can be elevated to a level of deity, with his family forever at his side, is very inviting, and appeals to the senses.....but is it Scriptural? Mormons would tell you that it is.
The apostle Paul consistently warns us to hold to the doctrine “as it was first delivered.”
2 Tim. 1:13 Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.
In 1 Cor. 9:17, Paul calls himself a steward of the gospel. This indicates that the gospel is something that God entrusts us with – that it is precious, and must be guarded.
The human mind is a very powerful instrument, and the human will is efficacious in dictating how one interprets truth, life, and spiritual things. Personal inclinations can overwhelm personal logic, and lead to distortion of plain truth, which is why it is of vital importance to approach the Bible and the things of God with honesty, integrity, and humility -- free of our own agenda, or what we may want the Scriptures to say. In searching for truth, it is crucial that our will be in line with God's, and that we be willing to put away anything that may distract us from fully grasping and understanding God's truth – ans that we be willing to accept the whole counsel of God, rather than making excuses for it.
The Bible clearly teaches that not everyone will make it into heaven, and that some will be cast away into outer darkness. Universalism is man's heterodoxical apology for the truth stated in Scripture. For any Biblical concept that is uncomfortable and difficult to grasp, there is an alternate belief system to discount that. People adopt these belief systems, not because they are Scriptually sound, but because they are unable to deal with the truth of the Bible. This is what people will tell you when you ask them. “Oh, no, that can't be true.”
2 Tim. 3:14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus
This verse says that if we continue in the things which we have learned, that these things are able to make us wise for salvation. True wisdom is taking all of Scripture, even those concepts that we have difficulty with, and rather than denying them, accepting them as God's truth, and asking Him to reveal Himself to us through them.
I am beginning to realize just how crucial it is that our will, and our intellect, be in line with God's. This takes humility, in saying “God, I may not fully understand or comprehend this, but I trust You, and Your word, and I accept it as Your truth.” It is the willingness to put aside all preconceived notions, and worldviews that are comfortable to us, and sacrifice them in order to receive the true enlightenment of the Gospel, and the knowledge of Gos Himself. Indeed, the apostle Paul unapologetically stated I count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord. (Phil. 3:8)
God's will is that we believe Him, trust Him, and have faith in His word. It's looking at ourselves according to how the Bible sees us, and not interpreting the Bible according to how we see ourselves. It's really humbling ourselves and approaching the Scriptures with intellectual and spiruitual honesty. When we do that, there is no room for deception.