Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Paul's struggle for our minds

It is becoming more and more the norm that one group of people want another group of people to experience what they experienced. And, that is commendable! Once we have experienced that rush, we want others to have the same rush.

When it comes to Christianity, the same thing occurs. Everyone has an experience of some or other thing or event, and we want everyone else to experience the same thing. In a sense we want to normalize our own experiences in order to legitimize them! If I can just get enough people to have my experiences, then I can claim that they are normative, hence they would be legitimized.

However, the more we chase after experiences, the more we negate the historicity of Christ and the events surrounding the cross and what it accomplished for the elect. Certainly, we must not deny any and all experiences. The point is, we should not make our experiences the norm at the expense of the historicity of the gospel. When we equate the gospel with our experiences and the mysticism that the church is so fond of, we forget that the Christian faith is ultimately not just an experience of salvation, but a fact of a historical event that bought salvation for the elect.

And this is where the mind comes in. The Christian faith is a propositional faith. If it were not, then heresy in the doctrinal sense would be a complete misnomer.

This is where Paul comes in...
"(1) For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, (2) that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, (3) in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (4) I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments."
Col 2:1-4 ESV
Paul declares to the Colossians that he struggles for them so that they may be encouraged to reach all the riches of:
(1) full assurance of understanding, and
(2) the knowledge of God's mystery, Christ.

This struggle of Paul's is so that no one may delude the Colossians with "plausible arguments." Here, Paul is speaking of delusion by false reasoning (παραλογιζομαι). Plausible arguments here come from persuasive speech (πιθανολογια). Please notice that Paul's concern, time and time again, is not with airy-fairy, feelings and experiences, primarily. We can hardly say of Paul that he was very concerned with some metaphysical, mystical experiences.

No, Paul is almost always concerned with the area of knowledge among Christians. Paul is very concerned with what they know and believe. Paul wants the Colossians to have full assurance of understanding (v2) and the knowledge of Christ. Both "understanding" and "knowledge" are words that concern the mind.

Why does Paul want the Colossians to have knowledge and understanding of Christ? In order that they could not be deluded by plausible arguments! Again, it has to do with the mind! Paul wants Christians to have an intimate knowledge and understanding of Christ, in order that when people come with their sneaky, plausible arguments, we would know the lie and hold on to the truth.

The Christian faith is a faith of substance, not empty ahistorical claims. It is first and foremost a faith that is deeply rooted in history and reality. It points back to something real and objective that happened 2000 years ago. Christianity is not based on the subjective experiences of individuals. That is why, when we believe in Christ, we believe because He is real, and He walked this earth, not because we had a mystical experience.

Experiences come and go, but history, and the Lord of history remain!

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