When I was a child, my father taught me everything in this world has a natural consequence. If I push over a vase, it breaks. If I don’t get enough sleep, I can’t focus. If I eat poorly, I gain weight and get sick.
Following that line of thought, if I read my Bible and apply its wisdom to the way I live my life, I can live the way God wants. He designed the world to make sense and gave us all the tools we need to figure out how to live in it correctly. We were given intelligence to be able to work these things out, and the Bible to give us the standard by which to measure the world.
Which means I should be able to overcome any moral challenge through rational application of the truths of the Bible.
While this idea is not totally false, it contains the underlying belief we are primarily rational beings, as is God, and that God’s way of connecting with us is through rational thought, puzzles, or challenges that lead to greater philosophical knowledge of the “principles of God.”
So basically, I was taught Christianity was like a video game — The Legend of Zelda with an accompanying strategy guide, if you will.
We all start out understanding the basic concept of Jesus’ death on the cross to save us from our sins. As we read and understand more, we are able to overcome more complex challenges; just like in Zelda where you start out with a basic understanding of how to move, jump, and swing a sword. Pretty soon you add a shield, and after a few invigorating challenges, you have a slingshot, bombs, and a fancy new hookshot. It’s all about what you know and how much time you spend learning and improving your skills…and getting new gear.
There is some truth to that analogy. We need to put our faith into action, practice, and walk out our faith. As we grow, we will naturally learn new things and gain new insights and “abilities.”
But our spiritual life is not a process of figuring out solutions through our own intelligence. Or, as it’s put in Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”
Problem was, and is, that rational thought is not capable of understanding, submitting to, or achieving Godliness or spiritual growth. I’m not saying we shouldn’t constantly learn from the Bible…. the Bible itself is the source of the warning about this mindset.
See Romans 8:6-7: “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the Carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor can it be,” and 1 Cor 1: 14, “But the Natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
Rational, natural, or carnal means cannot achieve spiritual ends.
The real problems with this mindset are it limits, and mostly excludes, God himself from our lives. It ignores the role of the Holy Spirit to lead us. It puts the entire weight of spiritual growth on the shoulders of our own minds and intelligence, which are incapable of understanding, much less submitting to, God’s wisdom and guidance.
In other words, life is more like being Link than playing as Link. We are stuck in a world we didn’t create and can’t fully understand. The gap in wisdom in understanding is bigger between us and God than it is between us and Link.
Let’s take this one step further because life isn’t so straightforward. There’s a whole different dynamic the video game analogy doesn’t touch on. In a lot of ways, our Christian life is like a litter box. Matthew 6:34 assures us, “Don’t worry about tomorrow because every day has enough evil for its own.” The devil is constantly trying to trip us up, and life is full of evil. And yet, “[God’s] mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23),” and we are filled with good smelling, soft litter… God has made us a new creation and filled us with his spirit.
So our spiritual life is like a litter box that starts fresh and clean every morning, only to have the daily allotment of junk added to it. We need to be scooped, which means going to and spending time talking to God every single day.
Going back to the Zelda analogy, our time with God and the presence of His Holy spirit talking to us and “revealing” the truth of the scriptures is where new wisdom comes from that lets us get to the next level. It’s also a necessary source of refreshing for us in a fallen world full of evil.
There is no substitute for this, and I think if we can start there, we might need very little outside help to start seeing real change, victory, and peace in our own lives.
First things first, Philip is a B.A. writer for Geeks Under Grace. He has been a theology and Christian life writer for three years. In his spare time you can find him creatively sharing bad puns, and doing batman impersonations to annoy his lovely wife.
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