What is the role of the Spirit and the role of the intellect in conversation?

(Timothy Loraditch) #1

@psalm151ls I think I would respectfully disagree with you. The spirit that I make reference to is the Holy Spirit which is part of the trinity of God and resides within us but is not really part of us. The Holy Spirit is God Himself.

Our minds are easily deceived. Philosophers ask us, how do we know that we are not just dreaming all of this. What we perceive is only the brain’s interpretation of the stimulus it receives. If the brain is not well it can affect our actions with serious consequences.

The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin and leads us to repentance and relationship with Christ. That cannot happen through intellectual choice but only by the grace of God. It is when our mind responds to the leading of the Holy Spirit that we receive the grace that God has for us.

Scientific Proof on the Bible

Thanks to everyone. I have started a conversation with my friend. I agree it is the move of the Holy Spirit that will change a person. But surely, my friendship and my opportunity to debate with him is my opportunity to sow the seed, which in due time will reap harvest, as the Lord wills and man decides.

He is an atheist, but he purely believes in science. He challenges all world religions and I am guessing somewhere he too is seeking. I just my opportunity to connect with him will get him to see the light. Not sure how, but who knows how the Lord may work in his life through his mind to his heart.

(Lindsay Brandt) #3

Hi, @tfloraditch. In that case, we don’t disagree. When you wrote, you simply said spirit with a little “s,” I assumed you were talking about our own spirits, because it was not clear you were talking about the Holy Spirit. I am not disagreeing with you that it is the work of the Holy Spirit and not intellectual choice. You’re absolutely correct! However, my point is though our minds are easily deceived, God gave us the ability to think and reason for a reason, and the mind has value in the process. Anyone who wants to disagree with that must wrestle with Paul and Peter. Besides, we can’t say that we are sowing seeds through engaging the mind and at the same time say the mind has no value in the process. Apologies for misunderstanding about what you meant by “spirit.” Thanks for your response!

(Lindsay Brandt) #4

Praying, @stanleysamuel11! I was kind of ribbing a friend of mine recently who only “believes” in science, and I pointed out that scientists, too, take leaps of faith! There are lots of times that they simply make inferences and draw conclusions from evidence without any empirical proof. Anyways, I’m so glad you are taking the time to converse with him. I think it’s the sincerity of the believer towards the other person’s concerns that witnesses God’s love to the other person the most. God bless you for your heart to serve him in that way!

(Timothy Loraditch) #5

@psalm151ls This is a great example of why I enjoy this community. When misunderstandings come up, rather than getting flamed, we learn from each other. You are correct I should have exercised proper capitalization. After being married to the grammar police for 35 years I should know better!

Here is another reason I like this community. It is the tangents that have so much value. I tend to be very suspicious of the mind, but Isaiah 1:18 does say “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.”

However, in Romans 8 Paul warns us in verses 7 and 8 that, " The mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace because the mind of the flesh is hostile to God: It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the flesh cannot please God." but when we have the mind of the Spirit we do the things of the Spirit. The mind set on the flesh can not find God.

It sounds like the question comes down to where is your mind. Is it set on the Spirit or is it set on the flesh? In the case of @stanleysamuel11’s friend, it clearly is not set on the Spirit and if he comes to a saving knowledge of Christ it will only be due to the grace of God poured down on him, and the work of the Spirit. It will not be because he was convinced by scientific fact.

The scientific facts may definitely sow seeds, but the fruit comes from the Spirit and not the mind. We should always be sowing seed because we have no idea what will follow after. However; we should be careful not to venture into a debate where the Holy Spirit is not leading us. The mind set on the flesh is death, and our peace is found following the Spirit.

My concern is that when Christians advance in education and learn more about God’s word there is a tendency to focus on what we have learned and forget that it is only by the Spirit that we can do anything. 1 Cor 8:1 “But knowledge puffs up while love builds up”. It is the Spirit that must direct us because apart from Him (correct capitalization :smile:) we can do nothing.

If the atheist is challenging our beliefs I don’t think they will be convinced by any number of scientific facts. They are converted by the Holy Spirit who gives eternal life. Doing the work of the Holy Spirit needs to be our focus.

(Lindsay Brandt) #6

Amen, @tfloraditch. It all takes a balanced approach, because going to either extreme can be dangerous. I’ve witnessed the other end of the extreme where the leading of the Holy Spirit was so emphasized that the person believed she was being led into things that contradict the Word of God. The Word of God is Spirit inspired–he wouldn’t contradict himself. We do need the whole counsel of Scripture to balance us.

And, yes, don’t try to have this conversation on Facebook,haha.

(Carson Weitnauer) #7

Hi @tfloraditch,

I agree that the Spirit’s work is primary. However, it seems that the Spirit often works through human agency. I appreciate that we don’t want to rely on our own strength instead of the work of God; at the same time, if God is calling us to work hard in his strength, then we don’t want to neglect that either.

For instance, consider Acts 17:2-5,

And Paul went in, has was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women.

Luke doesn’t tell us, at every verse, “this was the work of the Holy Spirit.” But we know from the general context of Acts (and Luke) that the early church’s growth happened because the disciples were filled with the Spirit. From these verses, and similar ones in the rest of Acts, I would suggest to you that we can use reason in good faith, trusting that this is one of many human activities that God uses to bring people to faith in Christ.

(Lindsay Brandt) #8

Ah, great articulation of this, Carson. I had some more thoughts and was going to add them, but I think you hit everything I was going to say! Thank you!

1 Like
(Timothy Loraditch) #9

The only difference here is that Paul is not speaking with atheists in these verses. These are Jews. That distinction is important in this discussion. I have more thoughts but only a small cell phone. I will elaborate later.

It’s later now and I have a real keyboard.

The fact that Paul was speaking in a synagogue to Jews is very significant. These listeners are seeking God, and Paul is a Jew as well. This relationship creates a bridge to individuals who are more open to the Spirit and their minds are not carnal but directed toward the Spirit.

I don’t mean to discourage anyone from speaking the truth in love to the carnally minded. On the contrary, we should speak it all the more, but Paul writes to the Romans in chapter 8 verse 7 " because the mind of the flesh is hostile to God: It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the flesh cannot please God." (Emphasis mine)

The context of this discussion is really important because once we are saved our mind is being renewed as Paul says in chapter 12 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” The atheist us unable to do this unless the grace of God is extended to them.

I have come to enjoy the various dichotomies like this one in God’s word. As we examine them more deeply in divides between soul and spirit. Here I think we see that the renewed mind can be a vehicle of the Holy Spirit, isn’t Paul telling us that the unrenewed mind of an atheist can not submit to God’s law. God needs to do a miracle in these situations. That is why we should always continue to sow seeds, but not argue with the unrenewed mind. The renewed mind, however, responds to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

I agree that once our mind is renewed there is much we can and should do to develop our learning and understanding of God so that we can all come to a deeper knowledge of God, and we are of greater use to the Holy Spirit.

1 Like
(Lindsay Brandt) #10

Paul argued plenty with unrenewed minds. Also, if not arguing means not discussing back and forth, I would have to strongly disagree with you there. Yes, God has to do a miracle, but we are in no position to say that the Holy Spirit cannot reach someone through the seeds planted through engaging their minds in conversation, discussion, argument, etc. That is limiting God to our own understanding and standards as to what a miracle is and how it works/doesn’t work. Also, in the passage Carson brought up, the Jews were not believers, so in this case ethnicity is irrelevant, because they were not believers and did not have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, meaning they had fleshly minds yet. Whether speaking to Jew or Gentile, if they are not believers, then they do not have the regenerate work of the Holy Spirit within them. Also, saying that these Jews were seeking God is reading too much into the text. No one knows the state of their hearts; just like every person in church is not necessarily there seeking God, so it was with the Jews. Furthermore, the passage Carson gave makes it clear that Paul’s audience was not only Jews. There were also Greeks. There are many people seeking God in the world, but not all of them believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior.

The Bible itself is proof that God uses human agency along with the Holy Spirit to speak to and change people. Human authors wrote the words in the book, and yet people have come to faith by reading those words. Though our conversations with people are not inspired in the way Scripture is, God uses the Holy Spirit working in and through us to reach people. People cannot make an intellectual decision to believe, but that does not mean that the mind is not and cannot be an agent in the process. We all had fleshly minds that were hostile to God before we came to faith. I distinctly remember my checking the “God stuff” out when I was in 5th or 6th grade, and it began with engaging my mind in conversation with others and the text. God used those to pull me in further and to actually seek Him.

1 Like
(Timothy Loraditch) #11

What does he mean when Paul says, “the mind of the flesh is hostile to God: It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the flesh cannot please God.”?

(Stephen Wuest) #12

I’m not quite sure that I understand the question.

Human language is a symbol language, that is an intellectual channel of communication. The intellect is obviously involved.

Is the question getting at how the Spirit of God speaks to us?
Are you asking how to identify the voice of the Spirit of God?
Or where sound logic fits into conversation?

I think that recognizing what the voice of God is, gets into the area of prophesy, and other forms of communication that are not quite prophesy. There is a lot of stylized language in different groups, that deals with how to recognize the voice of God. But I’m not convinced that all of these stylized expectations are biblical, or should be expected by Christians.

(Melvin Greene) #13

Paul is referring to the mind that has not accepted Christ as his savior. That mind is being controlled by the desires of the flesh. That mind is incapable of and unwilling to submit to the law of God. Only until that person accepts Jesus Christ as their personal savior will that mind submit to the law of God.

(Lindsay Brandt) #14

Apologies for not responding, @tfloraditch. I was pulled away for a while yesterday. @Melvin_Greene responded accurately. It seems you think this verse means that the Holy Spirit cannot work in and through intellectual conversation, but all of us were the enemies of God before we accepted Christ. You say that the Holy Spirit has to work a miracle, but what is being missed is that God has chosen to work through people, and so that is part of the miracle: that God could use us, our words, and our actions to witness to people–and when we are engaging with people, the mind is always involved.

I don’t think there is really anything more I could add here that would be helpful or beneficial. I will just say that me, to refuse to converse with someone because they have questions and are trying to understand on an intellectual level is to not honor the worth Christ assigned them when he gave his life for them, even knowing that some of those for which he gave his life would reject him.

Great conversation, though, @tfloraditch. Thank you for that.

(Timothy Loraditch) #15

Is it possible to accept Christ yet still maintain a carnal mind? Is it possible to still be seeking God, prior to conversion, and have a mind set on the things of the Spirit? I think I have seen both types of minds. I question whether the line is as clear as you have drawn it here.

1 Like
(Timothy Loraditch) #16

I think you may have taken my comments a little too far. I don’t think that we should not have a conversation with atheists. I think we should not argue or attempt to PROVE the existence of God through scientific fact. Proving God exists is just not possible. Everyone has to come to Him by faith, not intellectual facts.

If you disagree that is fine because you may have succeeded where I have not. If so I would be delighted.

(Melvin Greene) #17

The answer to your questions, in my opinion, is yes. To our limited observations of people there is nothing clear cut. That is why Jesus tells us to not judge other people. Their behavior may not be “Christian-like”, but that doesn’t mean they’re not born again. There are some sins that are very hard to over come, and we do not know where that person is in they’re journey. I’ve learned this first hand in working with people who battle addictions.

If you don’t mind, I would like to comment on your post to @psalm151ls. I agree with you that we can not prove God’s existence with the sciences. Science cannot prove the metaphysical. As a matter of fact, there are very few things that can be proven outside of mathematics. I think of the null hypothesis. However, there is very strong evidence for the existence of God. So, you can have discussions with an atheist about the scientific evidence. Ultimately though, it is the work of the Holy Spirit that brings someone to salvation.

(Kathleen) #19

I’ve been following this conversation with interest as these are questions I have in my own life. I see them under the larger umbrella of attempting to understand the narrative of God’s providence…that is, how God’s sovereign rule over His universe interacts with human agency. In other words, what on earth (literally!) is going on?? :slight_smile:

@tfloraditch, something you said triggered a question for me…

I don’t necessarily disagree with you, but I wonder if your definition of ‘argue’ is a bit more narrow than what myself or others would say it is? Would you mind elaborating of what you mean by ‘arguing’ and how that is different in your mind from ‘sowing seeds’? Because I would consider intellectually engaging with people (i.e. ‘arguing’) as ‘sowing seed’.

However, I also have come up against the seeming futility of the ‘mind set on the flesh’ (as the ESV translates it) that Paul articulates there in Romans 8. With some of my friends who aren’t Christians, there are certain dialogues that we’ve had before that I recognise (at this point) to be a dead end because we have no common ground from which to launch forward. It doesn’t mean I will never speak with them about it ever again, but until we address other issues, this issue is a dead end…there doesn’t seem to be a point.

I think that Paul’s argument in vrs. 7-8 needs to be seen in the context of his much larger argument that…

Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death…15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

Paul is declaring that we, as Christians filled with the Spirit, have been set free (think Passover and Exodus and the promised land) from slavery in which we once lived. Therefore, it stands that those who are not following Christ are still in slavery. They still have a mind ‘set on the flesh’… that is, what seems right to them in their lived experience.

@SeanO, I think there’s an apt Narnia reference here that I’m missing! Which book is it where they go underground and the people there scoff at the idea that there’s an outside world? Prince Caspian??

So, yes, I (and I think that most, if not all, who have weighed in do as well) agree that we continue to engage with those whose minds are ‘set on the flesh’ and show love to them where they are, but we should not be surprised when we reach impasses in intellectual discussions.

(SeanO) #20

@KMac Yes - Narnia and the North! It is in ‘The Silver Chair’ - for more details see thread below.

1 Like
(Timothy Loraditch) #21

@KMac I think your question is very helpful here. Thank you.

I am using the term argue to refer to a process of gathering ideas along with supporting facts to present to a listener in an effort to convince them of a held position. This can be quite friendly, scholarly, convivial or very hostile. They all fit under the context of arguments.

“Sowing Seeds” is a process of being in the Spirit and asking God to give you a timely word. “Like apples of gold in settings of silver Is a word spoken in right circumstances.” Prov 25:11. Jesus did not engage in intellectual arguments with His opponents. Regardless of their mindset. He took out the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God, and divided between soul and spirit. Think about the brood of vipers. Luke 3:7 or the rich young ruler.

In each case, Jesus was filled with the spirit and knew exactly what the individual needed to hear. That is not an argument. That is spiritual surgery and is what we are all called to do in these situations. If an atheist asked me for scientific proof that God exists I would ask God to give me a word of wisdom that I might have a fit word for the situation. It might be a scientific fact that God brings to mind, so it is good to know these things. However; God might say tell him something so personal that there was no way you could know it unless God truly spoke to you.

This type of sowing seeds is within our reach and should be our goal in every situation. It does require us to be in the spirit so we can build up in love and not be puffed up with knowledge. I just would not get into an argument that I know is not winnable with the natural knowledge base that I possess. I would rather pass out Apples of Gold in settings of silver.

1 Like