Discover more from Believe. Think.
First Believe. Then Think.
Why in that order?
Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
2 Corinthians 2:12-14 (ESV)
There are two unsettling things about this blog.
The first is how I put the word ‘believe’ before the word ‘think’. Surely that’s the wrong order. Doesn’t everyone first think about something, and then decide what to believe?
The second is that I started with a quote from the Christian Bible. Some people believe in the Bible, but not everyone. Isn’t that a bit alienating?
I agree. Both of those things are a bit weird. But I also believe that both of them are right. Why?
There is an old (but pretty cool) theologian called Anselm of Cantebury (cue the Wikipedia link) who said something quite profound (as old theologians tend to do):
"And I do not seek to understand that I may believe but believe that I might understand. For this too I believe since, unless I first believe, I shall not understand."
Anselm of Canterbury
What is he talking about? An illustration might help: imagine your lovely neighbour (Joe) says to you ‘Stop stepping on my grass’. In order to understand what he’s talking about, you have to first believe quite a few things:
You need to believe that Joe exists and is his own person. If he was just a figment of your imagination, then it would be your grass - not his.
You need to believe that when someone else says something, you can understand what they mean. If this wasn’t true, you might conclude that Joe is inviting you to a nice meal at the local restaurant.
You need to believe in the idea of property. That when one person owns something, he has rights to it.
If you don’t have these beliefs before Joe starts yelling at you, you won’t understand what he is talking about.
Which brings us to our passage from the Bible. It was written by another (even cooler and even older) theologian called Paul of Tarsus in the 1st century (ie before cell phones). In that last verse he says that the ‘natural person’ ‘is not able to understand’ the ‘truths’ that come from God.
Notice those words: ‘not able’ - as in, he can’t - as in you can’t read Phoenecian.1
But what does enable someone to understand? They first need to be changed by the Spirit of God. Something supernatural needs to happen. More specifically, the Spirit of God actually ‘[interprets] spiritual truths to those who are spiritual’.
That’s a lot more than you signed up for when you started reading this - but as a final point: According to Paul, first our beliefs get changed supernaturally by the Spirit of God. Then we can understand what in the world he’s talking about.
Belief comes before understanding.
So, as an annoying question: what are the things that you believe? Would the world still make sense to you if you didn’t believe them? And where did you get those beliefs (pro tip, Star Wars is a bad answer).
OK. This is the moment someone sends me a message saying ‘I can read Phoenecian - I studied it for 7 years and teach a course on it’