As unique individuals, we each see the Bible through the lens of our own experiences and dispositions. So, for example, if we’re prone to be more cerebral and academic in our thinking, then we might tend to force our understanding of the Bible to fit within the confines of our own intellect and reasoning. On the other hand, if we’re inclined to be more spiritual in our perspective, we might tend to set our understanding of the Bible free from any constraints of rational thought. Yet neither extreme produces an accurate view of the Bible. On the contrary, the Bible’s very own patterns and principles teach us that in order to correctly understand Scripture, we need both our minds and our spirits.
Sometimes, believers who tend to see Scripture through a primarily spiritual lens can have a neutral or negative attitude toward the mind. And, to be sure, there is a kind of human logic and reasoning that is hostile and contrary to God’s word. This is what Paul is criticizing in 1 Corinthians 3:19-20, when he teaches us,
“[T]he wisdom of this world is foolishness with God… and again, ‘ADONAI KNOWS THE REASONINGS of the wise, THAT THEY ARE VAIN.’”
This sort of wisdom goes against Scripture because it is a worldly wisdom. It thinks too highly of its own ability to analyze and reason, and therefore believes it can outsmart God. Another word for this might be rationalization, and it is this specific use of the mind that we are exhorted to avoid.
But where logic and reason are concerned, there is a significant difference between rationalizing through humanistic suppositions, and simply using our heads. When we use our capacity to think critically and to form coherent thoughts, we are merely utilizing the built-in abilities that God has naturally given us. Indeed, Paul explicitly tells us in 2 Timothy 1:7 that God has given us not only a spirit of power and love, but of a sound mind. Using our minds in a sound manner in no way works against the Bible nor the Holy Spirit. In fact, both Paul and Yeshua regularly employed the use of logic and reason. Paul used reason to persuade non-believers of the truth, as seen in Acts 18:4, and the Master Himself used sound logic and reasoning, especially when He was debating the Jewish religious leaders (cf. Matthew 22:28ff, Mark 2:8-9).
So not only is it permissible, it is right to use sound reasoning and to be logical in the way we approach the Scriptures. But logic and reason can only tell us what the Scriptures say. We also need to the Spirit to reveal to our minds—and convince our hearts—that what it says is true.
Paul teaches us this principle in 1 Corinthians 2:10-14, where he explains that “the natural man,” who only understands things based on “human wisdom,” cannot receive “the things of the Spirit of God” and “is not able to know them.” Only when we believe and receive the Spirit can we be “taught by the Spirit,” and able to “know” and “spiritually examine” such “spiritual things.” Applying this to understanding the Bible, then, we see that reading words and comprehending sentences and concepts is only one step to knowing the things of God. The Spirit of God must also reveal to us and spiritually teach our minds the truth of what we’ve read.
Does this mean that the Holy Spirit can also teach us something—like the truth about God, or what we should believe, or what a particular Scripture means—that goes beyond what the Bible says? Not if we accept Genesis through Revelation as the solely authoritative written record of God’s word. The truth that the Spirit of God reveals to or teaches us won’t go beyond or contradict Scripture. It will be able to be objectively confirmed, verified and found in agreement with the Bible.
Though we read the Bible with basic logic and reason, the understanding still needs to be spiritual. Use your capacity for sound reasoning to understand what the Bible says, and then allow the Spirit of God to reveal to your mind how everything it says is the truth.
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below!