Love God With All Your Mind

I was recently asked to explain Matthew 22:37.

Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37 Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the first and great commandment.

Here, Jesus tells us that the first and greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind.

Heart:  In the Bible, our heart is not the emotional center, but the center of all of ourselves…..it’s like the heart of a tree is the center of the tree. Jesus is saying here to love God with every part of ourselves. If we love God with our heart, we love God down to the very center of ourselves.

Soul: This is the part of us that makes us who we are, the part that makes us human and alive. Jesus is saying to love God with all that we are. The opposite of this would be to just love God with our flesh, or just our emotions. Rather, God wants us to love with all of our being.

Mind: The main point here is that we are not merely to love God with an emotional love, but with all of ourselves, including our mind.

What does it mean to love God with our mind? It means to love Him by thinking about Him, by learning more about Him. Think of two young people in love…..what do they think about? They think about the other person, what they are like, what makes them special. Jesus tells us to love God by thinking about Him. Think about what God is like, what His characteristics are like. We are to put our mind in gear and think. Christianity is for thinking people, and we are to love God by thinking about Him, learning about Him.

Also note here that this verse is a command. Jesus tells us this is the first and greatest commandment. We are commanded to love God by thinking about Him. Using our minds is not an option, but is the first and greatest thing we can do.

Is it possible to love God too much? Is it possible to give too much of our heart to God? No, it’s not possible. The more we give God our heart (the center of our being), the closer we get to Him, the more glory He gets, and the more we enjoy Him. Likewise, is it possible to love God with our mind too much? No, it’s not, it is not possible to think about God too much. The more we put our mind in gear, the more we learn of God and His ways, the greater our relationship will be with Him. Putting our mind in gear and thinking about God more, is better than thinking less.

I say all this because in the modern church we are often encouraged to turn off our mind, to check our brain at the door. Many churchgoers are told to accept logical contradictions, or don’t try to figure out things about God. The Bible says otherwise, and tells us to love God with our mind.

Also note that it says to love God with all of our mind. All of it means that every part of our thinking should be affected by God. We do not have a religious part of our mind, then a secular part of our mind. We are commanded to love God with all of our mind, every bit of it.

Jesus commands us to love God with all of our mind. This is good, for with God there is a lot to think about. This verse is telling us to put our mind in gear and think about an infinitely deep subject, God, and that this is love. He is infinite, and we will never fully understand Him, but oh, how great it is to think about God, to learn more of His ways, to think about Him.

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Do the Details of Jesus Birth Agree in Matthew & Luke?

This is another in a series of questions from critics about the Bible.

Question: Matthew’s account of Jesus birth seems to differ from Luke’s. They seem to start from different places and they travel to different places. Matthew has Jesus, Mary, and Joseph all going to Egypt, while Luke mentions nothing of Egypt but does mention Jerusalem. Luke seems to not even give any opportunity for them to go to Egypt.

The response is rather straightforward. As you mention, the accounts of Jesus’ birth do indeed mention different details. This is no surprise, for Matthew and Luke both have different audiences and write for different purposes. That they include different details does not indicate a contradiction. For example, Luke mentions the visiting shepherds and Matthew mentions the visiting Magi. These are in line with Luke writing to a Greek audience, identifying Jesus as a common man, while Matthew was writing to a Jewish audience, presenting Jesus as the rightful king. So we have no contradictions merely because there are details mentioned in one gospel that are not in the other.

The only possible area of confusion occurs when we try to align the timing of the trips that Jesus and his family take. Matthew picks up the story of Jesus’ birth when Mary was already in Bethlehem, then tells of the family going to Egypt, then settling in Nazareth. Luke begins with Mary in Nazareth, then  tells of them going to Bethlehem, then to Jerusalem to fulfill the rituals of the law of Moses, then back to Nazareth.

Most of these passages can align rather easily. From Bethlehem, Jerusalem was a short five mile walk, so the trip there was easily made. We also do not know how long after the birth the Magi arrived, so they could have come in a few days or a year or more. To fulfill the law of Moses, Mary would have waited several weeks before going to the temple, according to Leviticus 12, due to the time of ritual purification. So it is entirely possible that during the weeks of purification, Joseph and Mary moved into a house where the Magi visited (Matt. 2:11), they then went to the temple for sacrifice (Luke 2:22ff). During this time, king Herod realized he had been tricked (Matt. 2:16), causing the pending slaughter that Joseph fled to Egypt to avoid (Matt. 2:13, 16).

The one possible point of confusion occurs in Luke 2:39. Earlier in Chapter 2, Joseph and Mary bring the baby to the temple to perform rituals required by the law of Moses. Luke 2:21-38 tell details of what happened in the Temple. 2:39 then says “When they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth.” The phrasing here, especially following the context of the previous story, would seem to indicate an immediacy, as if the family went to the temple then directly back to Nazareth. If so, we would have difficulty reconciling the timeline with Matthew, for there would seem to be no opportunity for visiting Egypt.

However, the very next verse, Luke 2:40, says “The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.” Luke 2:40 is clearly a compressed summary of a long period of time in the child’s life. In the context of a summary of Jesus’ childhood, and with the context of only including certain details to make a point in the story, there is no problem with Luke not mentioning the trip to Egypt in 2:39. All the gospel writers leave out some details, and none claim to include everything that Jesus said and did.

But in a larger sense, questions such as the original one in this post give us a clue about the nature of the critics’ intent. They make no mention of the areas where the gospel writers agree, which are numerous. In fact, the critics often put the Bible into a no-win paradox, for in places where the Bible aligns easily, the critic accuses the writers of copying and not being an original source. On the other hand, when the writers include different details, the Bible is accused of having contradictions. Regardless of whether Bible passages sound the same or different, the critic finds fault.

Further, even in areas where we do not have a full set of historical details so that we can align all details easily, the critic handles the Bible unfairly. A reasonable approach would be to claim that since we can easily align the vast majority of Bible passages, the few which we have some difficulty should be given at least a neutral benefit. Instead, the critic approaches the Bible assuming contradictions, then looking for instances to use as proof texts. Both Matthew and Luke agree that Jesus was born in Bethlehem to Mary and Joseph, then grew up in Nazareth. Such agreement is minimized or ignored by the critics, and they never seem to allow for circumstances that are not explained in the text. Very often critics are quick to jump to the conclusion of contradiction.

In the case of Jesus’ birth presented in Matthew and Luke, most of the many details line up well. In the one instance where we have some difficulty, there is a reasonable explanation.

 

 

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Signers of the Declaration of Independence: McKean, Read, Bassett, Rush, Adams

Thomas McKean  and George Read, both signers of the Declaration of Independence and members of the Continental Congress, along with Richard Bassett, a signer of the Constitution of the United States, participated in the writing of the original Constitution of the State of Delaware, which stated:

Article XXII. Every person who shall be chosen a member of either house, or appointed to any office or place of trust … shall … make and subscribe the following declaration, to wit: “I, _____, do profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God, blessed for evermore; and I do acknowledge the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be given by divine inspiration.”

Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration of Independence, member of the Continental Congress, president of Society for Promoting Abolition of Slavery, founder of Philadelphia Bible Society, wrote in his book Essays, Literary, Moral, and Philosophical:

I know there is an objection among many people to teaching children doctrines of any kind, because they are liable to be controverted. But let us not be wiser than our Maker.
If moral precepts alone could have reformed mankind, the mission of the Son of God into all the world would have been unnecessary. The perfect morality of the Gospel rests upon the doctrine which, though often controverted has never been refuted: I mean the vicarious life and death of the Son of God.

In the same book, Rush also explained:

Christianity is the only true and perfect religion, and that in proportion as mankind adopts its principles and obeys its precepts, they will be wise and happy.
In contemplating the political institutions of the United States, I lament that we waste so much time and money in punishing crimes and take so little pains to prevent them. We profess to be republicans, and yet we neglect the only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government, that is, the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by the means of the Bible.
For this Divine book, above all others, favors that equality among mankind, that respect for just laws, and those sober and frugal virtues, which constitute the soul of republicanism.

John Adams, signer of the Declaration of Independence, member of the Continental Congress, and second President of the United States, wrote:

Suppose a nation in some distant Region should take the Bible for their only law Book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! Every member would be obliged in conscience, to temperance, frugality, and industry; to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love, and reverence toward Almighty God … What a Eutopia, what a Paradise would this region be.

 
Quotes taken from: William J. Federer, Great Quotations: A Collection of Passages, Phrases, and Quotations Influencing Early and Modern World History Referenced According to Their Sources in Literature, Memoirs, Letters, Governmental Documents, Speeches, Charters, Court Decisions and Constitutions (St. Louis, MO: AmeriSearch, 2001).

 

 

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Signers of the Declaration of Independence: Charles Carroll, Samuel Adams, Richard Stockton

Charles Carroll (1737-1832), member of the Continental Congress and signer of the Declaration of Independence, said:

Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime and pure [and] which insures to the good eternal happiness, are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments.

Samuel Adams, signer of the Declaration of Independence, wrote a publication titled The Rights of the Colonists, in a section titled The Rights of the Colonists as Christians, wrote:

 The right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty, the rights of the Colonists as Christians may best be understood by reading and carefully studying the institutions of The Great Law Giver and the Head of the Christian Church, which are to be found clearly written and promulgated in the New Testament.

Richard Stockton, member of the Continental Congress and signer of the Declaration of Independence, said in his Last Will and Testament:

As my children will have frequent occasion of perusing this instrument, and may probably be peculiarly impressed with the last words of their father, I think proper here, not only to subscribe to the entire belief of the great leading doctrine of the Christian religion … but also in the heart of a father’s affection, to charge and exhort them to remember “that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

 

 

Quotes taken from: William J. Federer, Great Quotations: A Collection of Passages, Phrases, and Quotations Influencing Early and Modern World History Referenced According to Their Sources in Literature, Memoirs, Letters, Governmental Documents, Speeches, Charters, Court Decisions and Constitutions (St. Louis, MO: AmeriSearch, 2001).

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How Can a Spirit Affect a Body?

Question:  If a spirit is non-physical, but the human body is physical, how does a spirit stay in our bodies? Also, experience seems to tell us that our memories are stored in our physical brains. How could a spirit store physical memories? This distinction would seem to disprove the whole idea of anything non-physical existing at all.

Good question, but the question does not disprove the existence of spirits or souls. First, this is merely a question posed about something we do not fully understand. When Christians claim God as a cause of things we do not understand, Atheists and physical naturalists are quick to point out that this is a logical fallacy, a type of God-of-the-gaps (deus ex machina): when we do not have sufficient explanation, claiming ‘God did it’ is a fallacy. Well, the sword cuts both ways. Merely because we do not have a full understanding of how a spiritual soul interacts with a physical body does not prove that it does not. Claiming so is the atheist equivalent, a type of atheist of the gaps theory.

Second, if nothing spiritual exists, we are faced with physical naturalism, which presents a host of other problems that are greater than any misunderstanding about spirits (see here, and  here, and here).

Third, denial of the human soul would make the operation of understanding purely mechanistic, a product of nothing more than a complex machine. Such a view destroys the whole concept of understanding in the first place. For example, I could program a computer that, upon my arrival home after work, would say to me, “Good evening dear, I’m glad you’re home. I’ve missed you and I love you.” But the computer does not really have longing for anyone, nor is it glad about anything, nor does it love. The machine is merely doing what it is programmed to do, and it might as well be saying “Gob nortesk bire,” for the computer does not truly understand in the same way that humans do. For more on this, see the problem of the Chinese Room.)

Thomas Aquinas had a similar objection 750 years ago. He claimed that the understanding must be inherently different than that of any bodily organ, for the organs of the body are insufficient to develop abstraction, which is necessary for understanding. The problem can be expressed in several facets that have long been discussed in philosophical circles, such as the problem of the one and the many. Why, when we hear a tune, do we perceive a tune, and not merely a series of tones? We have the ability to recognize not just individual tones, but music, and even assign emotions to the music, recognizing music that is happy, sad, bold, or timid.

If no spirit or soul existed, we would be left with a purely mechanistic world. We would have much difficulty explaining abstract objects, our ability to perceive universals, or assign meaning whatsoever, including love.

Posted in Apologetics, Philosophy, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Was Jairus’ Daughter Dead or Dying?

In Matthew 9:18, a man named Jairus comes to Jesus and says that his daughter is “even now dead” (KJV), or “has just died” (ESV, NASB, NIV). But in Mark 5:23, Jairus claims his daughter “is dying” (NIV), or “is at the point of death” (ESV, NASB). Does this indicate a contradiction?

The answer is in the original Greek from which these passages are translated. In Matthew 9:18, what is translated “has just died” are the words arti hetelentasen (Strongs 737, 5053). The word arti can mean the immediate past (just now) or the immediate present (now). The word hetelentasen means die or death, and is not in present or past tense, but aorist tense, which speaks of the action as a whole without regard to tense. So the phrase can mean, albeit woodenly, “now die.” It is not a past tense, completed action, but the emphasis is speaking of what is at hand.

The Mark 5:23 passage has the words eschatos echo (Strongs 2079, 2192). The term is indeed in the present tense (“is”), but the state being spoken of is “the last” or “the end.” Mark quotes Jairus as saying his daughter is at the end of her life, not that she is in some process leading toward death.

So Matthew is not speaking of past tense, and Mark is not speaking of a future death, but both are speaking of a present condition of the girl being at death’s door.

But even without all the Greek, a simple logical answer prevails. Surely Jairus, in the emotion of the moment, said several things. The Bible never claims to have quoted every single word that everyone says. It often contains a summary quote. So Jairus could very well have talked for at least a minute or two, telling Jesus of what happened to his daughter and asking for Jesus’ help.

It strikes me as unfair for skeptics to latch onto such small distinctions in terms, not only without looking up what the terms mean in the best sources, but also not even treating the Bible with the same respect we would give a modern person who was quoted in the news. To the skeptic who is looking for flaws, they find them where there are none.

In the end, the Bible is once again proven trustworthy, and the skeptics’ excuses once again collapse.

*(all Greek definitions here taken from BDAG)

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Musings on Randomness & Design

Since you and I are both reasonable people, let us compare what is reasonable with what is not, as reason might apply to the possibility of a random universe compared with a designed one.

Let’s consider a lottery drawing, which might have odds of 16 million to one. For the person who wins, we could say he won by chance, for the odds were equal that all the other millions of people who bought tickets might be drawn and could have won. Drawings with odds like this happen almost daily, and we are not surprised that someone, somewhere would win almost every lottery. Presumably, if there were 16 million drawings, all with the same people and same odds, the chances would increase that each person would win sooner or later.

Let’s also consider the beginning of the universe and the processes which brought it to what it is today. Such an event appears to have only happened once, for we do not see things happening everyday similar to what happened at the beginning of the universe. Those who deny the existence of God tell us that the universe began randomly, and tell us that it is entirely possible that the universe in general, and the earth in particular, could have turned out a myriad of other ways. The odds of the universe turning out just the way it did appear so low as to be incalculable.

A problem then arises when we consider that the universe is unlike a lottery. In a typical lottery, someone is likely to win no matter which number is drawn. It might not be you or I, but someone is likely to win. With the universe, however, most all of the other possible combinations do not result in a winner, for most of the possible ways the universe could have turned out would result in no being around to win. Most of the possible combinations of ways would result in no intelligent life.

We can even leave aside the principles advanced by such men as Hugh Ross, whose team has claimed to have counted about 150 variables in the universe which need to be just so for humans to exist. Such evidence seems to have merit, but the shrill cries of skeptics seem to always mention something about not needing “life as we know it” as if some other fundamental type of existence could arise on the next planet somehow. So let’s grant, for arguments sake, that a few other assorted ways the universe could be different would result in such intelligent life as Miley Cyrus.

In such a lottery of the universe, almost all of the other ways the universe could have turned out result in the possibility of life being unimaginably remote. I maintain that in such a situation, that we have indeed turned out the way we have, is an option so incredibly remote that reasonable people can no longer consider this to be truly an option for a purely random universe. That Fred won a lottery would be amazing to his friends. But if Fred started winning every lottery he entered, before Fred won his tenth lottery the reasonable people at the district attorney’s office would launch an investigation, for reasonable people would suspect that something is rigged somewhere.

Singular events with incalculable chances of turning out the way they have, while possible, are not reasonable to conclude that they happened without some guidance. We would hold this true for our neighbor Fred, and for the universe.

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