Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Benumbing Influence of Brutal Stupidity

“Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended?” (Matthew 15:12 KJV).

John Calvin, in his commentary of Matthew 15:1-20, and more specifically in regards to verse 15:12 (our text verse), said:
“As the scribes were presumptuous and rebellious, Christ did not take great pains to pacify them, but satisfied himself with repelling their hypocrisy and pride. The offense which they had formerly taken up was doubled, when they perceived that—not through oversight, but seemingly on purpose—Christ despised their washings as trifles. Now when Christ did not hesitate to inflame still more, by keen provocation, wicked and malicious persons, let us learn from his example that we ought not to be exceedingly solicitous to please everyone by what we say and do. His disciples, however—as is usually the case with ignorant and unlearned people—no sooner perceive the result to be unfavorable, than they conclude that Christ's reply had been unseasonable and improper.  For the object of their advice was to persuade Christ to soothe the rage of the Pharisees by softening the harsh expression which he had employed.

It almost always happens with weak persons, that they form an unfavorable judgment about a doctrine, as soon as they find that it is regarded with doubt or meets with opposition. And certainly it were to be wished, that it should give no offense, but receive the calm approbation of all; but, as the minds of many are blinded, and even their hearts are kindled into rage, by Satan, and as many souls are held under THE BENUMBING INFLUENCE OF BRUTAL STUPIDITY, it is impossible that all should relish the true doctrine of salvation. Above all, we ought not to be surprised to behold the rage of those who inwardly nourish the venom of malice and obstinacy. Yet we ought to take care that, so far as may be in our power, our manner of teaching shall give no offense; but it would be the height of madness to think of exercising greater moderation than we have been taught to do by our heavenly Master. We see how his discourse was made an occasion of offense by wicked and obstinate men; and we see at the same time, how that kind of offense which arose from malignity was treated by him with contempt.”

I so loved Calvin’s line, “The benumbing influence of brutal stupidity,” that I had to use it for the title of this article.  That reason, and because I can clearly see the reality of its truth alive and well in our time (Calvin’s time: 1509-1564; the time of the Great Reformation).  Our time demands we rethink moderation and/or appeasement; we can no longer placate sin or use conciliatory schemes to mollify open and unashamedly defiant displays of wickedness.  In Christ’s day upon the earth as man, He strongly rebuked and even censored the Pharisees.  When they dared ask Him, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.  He answered them, ‘And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?’” (Mark 7:2-3 ESV).

The traditions of the Pharisees became too important, and they consequently lost sight of the truth; this in turn caused them to elevate their practices and interpretations above the clear dictates of Scripture.  This particular brand of sin demanded harsh rebuke because not only did they condemn themselves, but they condemned others by demanding obedience—and from a privileged position of authority—to their delusional take on truth.  “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees.  Hypocrites!  For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!” (Matthew 23:15 NLT).

As I age I mellow naturally, but also, because I am Christian, I mellow supernaturally as I grow in faith.  Experience has taught me many sides to many stories, and has also broadened my doctrine without widening intrinsically narrow truth.  But also, the climate of society has changed, and it chills me to the bone to see the ways in which it has changed.  Every generation thinks itself advanced and superior to previous generations, but this is obviously and patently false, and exceedingly arrogant to think so.  Advancing technology is not synonymous with advancing society; adding more pixels and processing power to our tablets, computers, and cell phones—manmade devices all—does nothing to change the human heart; it only advances—in large broadcasted form—the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  In fact, whatever is in the human heart—good or bad—is disseminated more quickly, frequently, and widely than ever before, and with greater resolution than can be appreciated by the average old-aged human eye.

Having said all that, and in regards to our theme of the benumbing influence of brutal stupidity, I digress (not regress!—hopefully).  In the case of the common man during the days of the Pharisees, they were humbly inclined to listen and obey their elders and learned teachers, falsely—but largely innocently—believing their instruction.  And even Jesus did not dismiss them out of hand.  In fact, He said, “The scribes and Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat [of authority].  So observe and practice all they tell you; but do not do what they do, for they preach, but do not practice” (Matthew 23:2-3 AMPC).  Tradition is often static, lifeless, and no longer relevant, but not tradition grounded in a proper assessment of fluid, vibrant, and pertinent truth.  Tradition dismissed without investigation and humility is therefore foolish.  Today, alas, hardly a humble inclination exists in the common man, all becoming supermen.  Elders, ancient wisdom, and yesterday is archaic and irrelevant.  Everyone knows everything; the prophecy has come to pass: “many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” (Daniel 12:4 KJV).

Ultimately, the essence of stupidity is to retain any knowledge that opposes the knowledge of God, like “worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called ‘knowledge’—which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith” (1 Timothy 6:20-21); this is the epitome of being benumbed by Satan and consequently influenced by brutal stupidity.  Rather, know God!  Indeed, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom...but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me” (Jeremiah 9:23-24).  For those of us who are born-again, the Seed, which is Christ (who is made unto us various things, one of which is true knowledge), is engrafted into our spirits.  Therefore, be not brutally stupid; instead, “In humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your soul” (James 1:21).