Sproul Sr.’s Second Address

This address is entitled “Love the Lord Your God with All Your Mind.”

The noetic effects of sin describes the result of sin on the mind. Atheists, for instance, know that God exists. They just can’t stand the God they know. Now, the mind still has a degree of logic to it. A pagan can still add 2+2 and get 4. However, they will always start from a false premise when it comes to the existence of God.

By nature, we will not love God. God has to change the disposition of our hearts by the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration. Regeneration is a necessary condition for loving God with our mind. People are not truly seeking God. They want the benefits of God without Him. They want the things that only God can give, while all the while, they are running completely pell-mell the other way.

So, how does one love God with our minds? Nothing can be in the heart that is not first in the mind. We can’t love what we can’t know. So, the idea that we can worship God by entertainment, by-passing the mind to appeal directly to the emotions is a fool’s errand.

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17 Comments

  1. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 17, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    What I find interesting is that Sproul seems to be hitting on van Tillian notes here (without, of course, abandoning his signature evidentialism). Does this represent detente? A change in view?

    Second, it is interesting that there is significant consensus from the addressees so far that man’s knowledge of anything is corrupted by sin. This relates to the debate over whether Natural Law is a sufficient basis for human governance.

  2. paigebritton said,

    March 17, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    Echoing Jeff’s point two, I’ll ask again what I wondered under the Al Mohler post…

    So if the general noetic effect of the fall is that “All knowledge comes from God, so if our knowledge of God is corrupted, then so is our knowledge of everything else” [LK writing on Al Mohler], what effect, if any, does regeneration have on our acquiring “knowledge of everything else”?

  3. Brad B said,

    March 17, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    Without the proper starting point no knowledge is justified, I think most are satisfied with assumption though. If I were a naturalist, and by scientific method observed nature accurately, I still haven’t accounted for knowledge of nature by nature itself. Even further, if I try to justify observation [or sense perception] by attempting to ground it in Gods word, I would be trying to make that which is irrational, rational.

    In a fallen world, nature is unreliable as a source for knowledge even for the regenerated. Though born again ones have grounding for logic and morality, we cant make the scientific method overcome its logical challenge of being a formal fallacy.

    I think that God can and does operate in nature beyond what sense perceptions can perceive and/or uniformly predict. If memory serves me, when reading on Ron G.’s blog he challenged the Christian claim about grounding nature’s uniformity, when of all people, we ought to know that God operates beyond what we can claim true knowledge by nature–we call them miracles. His example was the resurrection. I’m not saying God acted outside of nature, or against nature, He acts in nature in a way that is proper but yet disturbes what we’d call uniformity–but who is man to say what is uniform?

    I guess I said that just to say that regeneration does’t help natural theology be any more reliable as a source of knowledge.

  4. jared said,

    March 17, 2012 at 11:36 pm

    What is interesting is our (i.e. Reformed) propensity to value the mind over emotion when we should value them equally. Truth is word and image, mind and emotion.

  5. Brad B said,

    March 18, 2012 at 1:13 am

    Hi jared, it seems like you think emotion is less valued by those who value intellectual truth when I think the point is that emotion is not equally valued as a truth detector and shouldn’t be. Emotion is not proposition-less, in other words, the feelings evidenced or displayed by or in emotions are related to propositions–truth claims/statements held by the person, even if held at a deeper level than rational thought.

    I use this thought experiment to demonstrate that emotions are reactions to thoughts. It may have too much information given to really be a thought experiment, but it is really more of a controlled thought experiment.

    Suppose you round a corner of a building and see a big guy mercilessly beating a small guy who is unable to defend himself and is pleading for mercy but not getting any. A reasonable response might be pity for the small guy and anger at the big guy for having such an advantage but no restraint. You have pity and anger justifiably held according to your appraisal of what you’ve seen[know]. Now, another spectator to this scene tells you that the little guy raped and killed the big guys 4 year old daughter and was brazenly defiant when found out. Immediately, one might have pity for the large guy and anger at the little guy just because of knowing more.

    Thing is, the same scene evokes emotional responses in 180 degree opposite swings–based on knowing the scene in two ways–but which is the truth?. It’s important to know. Christians should worship in spirit and truth.

  6. michael said,

    March 18, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    I’m not sure? Maybe its the other way around, but I wonder if King David was thinking about what Sproul wrote in that second address when he prayed this way?

    1Ch 29:17 I know, my God, that you test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. In the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and now I have seen your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to you.
    1Ch 29:18 O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people, and direct their hearts toward you.
    1Ch 29:19 Grant to Solomon my son a whole heart that he may keep your commandments, your testimonies, and your statutes, performing all, and that he may build the palace for which I have made provision.”

    If we are anything like King Solomon, I suppose we will also need God to grant to us a whole heart to keep His commandments, testimonies, statutes, performing all! Oh, no, wait, didn’t Jesus do that for us?

    Jesus is still building His Church, isn’t He? :)

  7. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 18, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    I wonder what David was thinking about when he wrote that, as well.

    This is, after all, the David who experienced the shame of public rebuke by Nathan, of enduring open revolt by his son Absalom — all because he did *not* obey God’s commands.

    How is it that David is both the man after God’s own heart and also the man who killed Uriah the Hittite over Bathsheba?

    Both are clearly true. How?

  8. jared said,

    March 18, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    Brad,

    I don’t think your thought experiment functions well as a counterexample. In fact I think it proves my point all the more. The additional knowledge in your experiment doesn’t come as a set of uncontextualized propositions to the one who is viewing the scene. Our intellectual and emotional state at any given time affects how we experience reality. The breakdown in the experiment is that the two perspectives are not seeing the same scene precisely because of the additional knowledge.

    We can complicate the situation and results by adding even more conditions, such as noting that the other spectator at the scene happens to be the other man’s brother so the manner in which he divulges the additional knowledge is “helpful” in evoking certain emotions, and so on. The point is that knowledge and truth aren’t ever objective. Ultimate and absolute truth is sourced in the Trinity where we have the perfect example in Jesus, who is word and image. He is not primarily word and secondarily image and to value one characteristic over the other is, in the end, to have an unbalanced epistemology. One need only but to have a general acquaintance with the Reformed community to see this in action. I include myself in this criticism since I grew up in it; we have an unjustified disdain for image (and the emotional) as a carrier of truth (or as a “truth detector”) because we give undue precedence to word (and the intellectual).

    Jeff,

    I think we often misunderstand what it means to be “after God’s own heart”. I don’t want to excuse sin, but David isn’t after God’s own heart in the sense that a son “takes after” a Father. Rather, I think David is seeking, in the sense of pursuit, God’s heart. This, obviously, is done imperfectly but it gives is a picture we don’t often associate with these words. David was a God-hunter who often tripped the traps of sin but who also passionately sought (and frequently found) the presence of the Almighty. I’m not trying to say that we can’t understand those words in the sense that we should mirror the character of God, because that is also true, but I think this helps make sense of how he can be both after God’s own heart and a grevious sinner.

  9. Brad B said,

    March 18, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    Hi jared, thanks for the thoughtful critique. I’m not quite sure I am on the same page with you though, might just be understanding the terms. Are you arguing that emotion is at any given time determining thoughts, in other words, if someone is angry, do they then find reasons to justify anger in their mind? I’m arguing that emotions uncovers the reasons that are already believed in the mind–no matter the truth value of the reasons. Maybe we’re talking about two different things completely?

  10. michael said,

    March 19, 2012 at 10:06 am

    Jeff @7,

    “How”?

    I suppose Elihu’s words are apropos and say keep listening because He seals up the hand of every man, that all men whom he made may know it!,?

    Job 37:1 “At this also my heart trembles and leaps out of its place.
    Job 37:2 Keep listening to the thunder of his voice and the rumbling that comes from his mouth.
    Job 37:3 Under the whole heaven he lets it go, and his lightning to the corners of the earth.
    Job 37:4 After it his voice roars; he thunders with his majestic voice, and he does not restrain the lightnings when his voice is heard.
    Job 37:5 God thunders wondrously with his voice; he does great things that we cannot comprehend.
    Job 37:6 For to the snow he says, ‘Fall on the earth,’ likewise to the downpour, his mighty downpour.
    Job 37:7 He seals up the hand of every man, that all men whom he made may know it.

  11. March 19, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    [...] Our conference was Thursday afternoon, all day Friday, and Saturday afternoon. (We left for home after the conference and got back around 9.) But the conference was on “The Christian Mind.” With some great speakers, it focused on how as Christians we cannot really love God unless we know him, we cannot know him unless we unless we learn about him, and we will only learn if he teaches and opens up our minds! Following Jesus, having faith, is not some fluffy feeling — it’s real, growing understanding about my need and his sufficiency. For a summary of a speech that made this point, check out this post. [...]

  12. jared said,

    March 19, 2012 at 11:50 pm

    Brad,

    Thanks for the questions. I would say I am arguing that emotion and thought cannot be coherently separated. If someone is angry they will find reasons to justify their anger, be it right or wrong. The problem is in the way we interpret our experiences, and in the West we “know” that thought almost always precedes emotion. So we asign more value to thought, reason and abstrated truth than we do to emotion, image and presented truth. I am arguing that this is against the biblical model where, if anything, it should be the other way around; but actually holding the two as equals is correct.

    When you step back and look at it this way it really seems counter-intuitive. In reality, abstracted truth is abstracted from what? From the day we are born (and one could argue even prior to that) our senses are assaulted by presented truth. The most formative years of our cognitive development are replete with emotional experiences that have the power to shape the rest of our lives.

    A simple example of this is in our typical understanding and experiencing of “up” and “down”. Up is good, down is bad. Happiness is up, sadness is down. Heaven is up, Hell is down. And so on. Why is this? One need only read Genesis to know the truth, but let’s bring it closer to home. From the moment you are born you associate “up” with closeness, comfort, warmth and love because of how you are handled by your mother and father. Consequently you associate “down” with distance, discomfort and coldness. These examples can be multiplied but I think this is one of the easy ones to grasp and agree with.

    Now, a good counterargument might start off with pointing out that in Genesis we see God speaking creation into existence. In this case word, then, apparently precedes image thus giving us some precende on which to rest our valuation of Logos over . However I think this neglects the obvious truth that God IS, and is (regardless of your view of God and time) prior to speaking. I don’t know whether I’m willing to dive into a discussion about intra-trinitarian relationships and their bearing on epistemology, so I may leave it at this for now. I hope this is somewhat helpful and not too convoluted!

  13. March 20, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    I would like to submit this thesis: The mind can never fully plumb the wickedness of the heart. As it is written, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” The mind and the heart are warring partners.

    Dr. Sproul is right to point out that the heart cannot love God. I would like to fill out his point this way: The heart cannot love that which is other than itself, for it is in solidarity with the flesh, the seat of rebellion. To put it differently, the flesh is the site of death’s stench, and the heart is made fat and glad as it imbibes this stink and corruption. Thus, the heart must be completely cut out and torn to bits such that the passions are tamed and eliminated. Only when this happens will the inner-human assume a posture of repose in God.

    Therefore, we are to pursue the pure contemplation of God with the mind. Only the mind, the innermost part that remains untouched, can see God clearly. But it is bound by the flesh, and thus must be loosed from the bonds of wickedness, corruption, and puerile emotion.

    The heart and the mind are brothers. The mind seeks to dwell in the tents of the LORD, fleeing from the worthless tent of flesh. But the heart is a cunning hunter, a rough beast of the field.

    This, then, is the mystery: While the pure contemplation of the divine is set before the human, yet she remains an animal bound by the sins of the flesh.

  14. paigebritton said,

    March 20, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    Hello, James B.,
    I know that what you are describing is integral to the theology you embrace. I think it differs from Reformed thought in some significant ways: First, in the bifurcation you appear to make between the “heart” and the “mind,” equating “heart” as you do with emotions and flesh (literally body, yes?); and second, in your pessimism about the regenerated heart, if I am reading you correctly.

    I do not think Reformed theology separates us into two brothers, “mind” and “heart/emotions/flesh”: we are saved whole, body and mind and emotions and all, though sanctification is a process that applies to all our parts. In any case, the “mind” is not singled out as the part of us that has the most potential for purity.

    While the biblical view described by Reformed thought is honest and realistic about our ongoing struggle with sin, the NT also presents the positive possibility of growth in grace. You seem to be describing something at the other end of the spectrum from “perfectionism”: is there room in your view for actual sanctification to occur in a believer? Or is the mind the only salvageable part of us?

    pax,
    Paige B.

  15. March 26, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    Dear Paige B.,
    First of all, we should say thank you for your kind reply. We apologize for the delay in our response.

    Yes, our pessimism regarding the flesh and the possibility of a regenerated fleshly heart derives from the theology we embrace. At a later point we hope to unfold this basic insight further, but, for now, let us point to a tenet held by that great interpreter of the Christian faith, Huldrych Zwingli: ‘The flesh profiteth nothing’ (John 6:63). That is to say, the flesh will pass away with the outer man, which is wasting away day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16). This basic view is cited favorably by Bullinger (On The Lord’s Holy Supper, &c.) and is also affirmed in a peculiar form by Calvin (e.g., Inst., 2.5.6, 2.7.4).

    And why were Protestants from Karlstadt to Luther to Calvin to Bullinger in favor of (radical) worship reform and the abolition of those absurd externalities associated with ceremony? It is because through these externals the flesh could easily be indulged (see, e.g., Calvin, Inventory of Relics), because it is the site of sin and death.

    This informs our basic perspective on lupine humanity and the worthlessness of the flesh.

    Do you find our work in step with the spirit of Reformation thought?

    With warm respect,
    James

  16. Reed Here said,

    March 26, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    James: we do not know enough about your system of theology to know whether or not it is “in step with the spirit of Reformation thought?” The basic problem is that you introduce novel terms, never before used in theological discussions in the Church, e.g., “lupine flesh.”

    Maybe you could give some simple explanations. You reference “regenerated fleshly heart.” What do you mean by each term? And then, what do you mean by the conjunction of these in this phrase? Maybe we could begin to coordinate your system with the one we see taught in Scripture.

    By the way, when you say “we”, do you mean you and Johannes Anti-Hominem?

    Finally, I see on your site you reference something called the Gospel of Thaddeus. Do you believe this book has divine authority equal/comparable to the four Gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke and John?

  17. paigebritton said,

    March 26, 2012 at 10:05 pm

    James,
    I’d be interested in your answers to Reed’s questions.

    I would say that if you equate “flesh” with “physical body,” not just “sinful nature,” then no, your view is not in step with Reformed thought. In the regenerated believer, the body is now the site of (increasing) righteousness, the possibility of not-sinning (Romans 6, 12, etc.). You seem to divide the regenerated person into reason, which can be pure, and body/emotions, which is not salvageable.

    If what you are describing is the sinful nature, but is not wholly equated with the physical body, then I detect some similarities to Puritan teachings on the mortification of the flesh. I have read very little of this literature, though, so I don’t know how closely your views would map. From what I have read of your work, you have a darker tone and more mystical elements involved.

    pax,
    Paige B.


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