The First Cause of the [Modern Church's] Lack of Discernment [John W. Robbins]
December 28, 2012 § 4 Comments
“The Bible provides several answers to the question: Why do people lack discernment? The fundamental answer, the will of God, is an unpopular and an unpalatable answer, and modern men will not hear it. The pagan Greeks and Romans had several similar proverbs: “Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.” Publius Syrius (42 bc) wrote: “Whom Fortune wishes to destroy she first makes mad.” Lycurgus (820 bc) wrote: “When falls on man the anger of the gods/First from his mind they banish understanding.” The seventeenth-century English poet John Dryden echoed these proverbs in The Hind and the Panther (1687): “For those whom God to ruin has designed/He fits for fate, and first destroys their mind.” Removing the pagan meanings from the sayings, we arrive at some pretty sound theology: “Whom God wishes to destroy he first makes foolish.” Or to put it another way, “Whom God wishes to destroy, he first makes undiscerning.” That is exactly what passages such as Romans 1 teach:
They are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools…. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind…undiscerning….
The Apostle Paul, writing to the Thessalonians, warned:
The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs and lying wonders, and all unrighteous decep-tion among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12)
The consistent message of the Bible is that God gives knowledge and wisdom to those who are to be saved; and withholds knowledge and wisdom from those who are to be destroyed. Consider these verses:
Then you shall say to them “Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold I will fill all the inhabitants of this land—even the kings who sit on David’s throne, the priests, the prophets, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem—with drunkenness! And I will dash them one against another, even the fathers and the sons together,’ says the Lord. ‘I will no more spare nor have mercy, but will destroy them.’ ” (Jeremiah 13:13-14)
With him are wisdom and strength; he has counsel and understanding. If he breaks a thing down, it cannot be rebuilt; if he imprisons a man, there can be no release. If he withholds the waters, they dry up; if he sends them out, they overwhelm the Earth. With him are strength and prudence. The deceived and the deceiver are his. He leads counselors away plundered and makes fools of the judges. He loosens the bonds of kings, and binds their waist with a belt. He leads princes away plundered and overthrows the mighty. He deprives the trusted ones of speech and takes away the discernment of the elders. He pours contempt on princes and disarms the mighty…. He takes way the understanding of the chiefs of the people of the Earth, and makes them wander in a pathless wilderness. They grope in the dark without light, and he makes them stagger like a drunken man. (Job 12:13-25)
You have hidden their heart from understanding. … (Job 17:4)
All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of the twelve months he was walking about the royal palace of Babylon. The King spoke, saying, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?”
While the word was still in the King’s mouth, a voice fell from Heaven: “King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you! And they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. They shall make you eat grass like oxen; and seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever he chooses.”
That very hour the word was fulfilled concerning Nebuchadnezzar; he was driven from men and ate grass like oxen; his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws.
And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to Heaven, and my understanding returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored him who lives forever: For his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the Earth are reputed as nothing; he does according to his will in the army of Heaven and among the inhabitants of the Earth. No one can restrain his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”
At the same time my reason returned to me. … (Daniel 4:28-36)
These passages clearly show that discernment is an intellectual function, and that God controls the minds of all men, giving understanding and discernment to those whom he favors, and withholding understanding and discernment from those whom he is punishing.
In Proverbs, it is the man who understands, the man who gets wisdom that lives and prospers; it is the man who does not understand, the foolish man, who dies. God confuses their minds, makes them undiscerning, so that they cannot tell right from wrong, true from false. Discernment is the intellectual ability to judge correctly. To judge is to evaluate a particular (person, group, event, or idea) according to a general principle or standard. To those whom God wishes to save, he gives light; to those whom he wishes to punish, he sends confusion. A typical passage showing that intellectual light is from God is Ephesians 1:15-18:
Therefore I also…do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that you may know….
Another is Ephesians 4:17-23:
This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their heart…. But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard him and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus; that you…be renewed in the spirit of your mind….