23 May 2021
The following article by J.I. Packer is so very helpful:
“What will break men of the habit of looking to the authority of reason in religion? Answer: Only regeneration will break it in the natural man. Only revival will break it in a regenerate church. Fallen man cannot of himself escape from bodage to sin. Sin he must, whatever he does. It is not in him to acknowledge God’s authority, or to receive God’s truth when presented to him (1 Cor. 2:14). What can cure his condition? Only regeneration. Only the man who is born again of the Spirit of God will repent of the sin of intellectual self-sufficiency and consent to be taught of God through His written Word.
But sin remains in the regenerate, in the mind no less than in the members. And when the fires of spiritual life burn low in the church, the sinful lust for intellectual autonomy reasserts itself. ….
Only a new outpouring of spiritual life can clear the spiritual vision and bring home to the minds of Christians the power, the authority, and the meaning of “God’s Word written” and enable the to see their mental sins, their intellectual compromises and betrayals of truth, for what they are, and give them strength of mind to repent and cast out the sinful ways of thinking”.
It is interesting that the above was written by Packer who advocated strongly the use of the sanctified mind in the pursuit of spirituality. He was not against wholesome use of the renewed mind; he was concerned about using human reason to appreciate spiritual truth and the teachings of Scriptures.
Theology and spirituality, Packer argued, are intimately connected because theology, when rightly understood, leads into spirituality. Theology is to be understood, he writes, as “a devotional discipline, a verifying in experience of Aquinas’ beautiful remark that “theology is taught by God, teaches God, and takes us to God.”
Theology cannot, and should not, be detached or dissociated from the relational activity of trusting, loving, worshiping, obeying, serving, and glorifying God. Reaction against dry and heavy theology has made some of us wolly and wild, valuing feelings above truth, depreciating ‘head knowledge’ by comparison with ‘heart knowledge’ and refusing to allow that we cannot have the latter without the former, just as reaction against overheated emotionalism has made others of us cool, cerebral and censorious to a fault.
Some former students of Packer described how they would ask Him theological questions over breakfast. The answers, they recall, took some time in coming.Why? Because Packer insisted on showing them how he arrived at his answers. He refused to give short, snappy answers, instead going through the process of explaining how one might arrive at an answer in the first place. As those students realised, they were being taught how to think theologically – how to theologize, as Packer would have it. We need to learn from this in an age in which people want to learn the answers without the inconvenience of going through the reflective process that led to them in the first place.
On the most significant subject of knowing God, His thoughts, and revelations, this becomes all the more important and relevant in the quest for Godliness and spirituality. We must not close our mind to thinking through our faith; instead, we need to rely and depend on the Holy Spirit to think spiritually and wholesomely as He reveals to us the truths as our Teacher and our God.