What Belongs to Reason
Augustine of Hippo, Pastor and Theologian
28 August 2018
Christian education targets the whole person: body, soul, and spirit. Christian educators are preparing people to be good citizens, good parents, and good neighbors. These are the commitments of body and mind to the needs of others. We want to prepare people to order body and mind under the gift of reason. Christians certainly believe there is a realm for faith in the preaching of the Gospel, Christ, forgiveness, and salvation through the word of God. But when Christians educate they also believe that creation and the things of this world are susceptible to human reason and natural law. We can discern what is good and right to order external life to be obedient to the good and to be genuinely good persons in the sight of community and family.
 
Despite our spiritual perversion, the world still reflects the goodness of God, even if we are unable to see that goodness in its fullness or perfection. When God was finished creating, He pronounced the world and all that He had made "very good." St. Paul taught in Romans that the information which God coded into nature was sufficient to lead to a knowledge of God (Rm 1:19-20). There is a physical and moral order to the world that makes atheism impossible. Only those who have become deaf to the voice of God in the world, could possibly deny the One who created that harmony and unity in the world. This is why many theologians have argued that the existence of God can be rationally demonstrated to human reason. They may have been partly right.
 
Christians are not irrationalists or psychologically deluded as Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion) has argued. Christians study science, map the heavens, consider the mysteries of physics, and wonder about the mathematical unities that creation exhibits. But they are also open to what creation means morally. Materialists, like Dawkins, simply are shutting themselves off from that created meaning.
 
Christians ought to educate in such a way that human culture and the moral value of humans is understood and venerated by those who learn. There is nothing to be feared from any subject, as long as it is studied under the critical faculties of human reason. For example, Christian educators are wary of the principles of progressive education, in which there are no absolute truths of any kind, whether moral or otherwise. The Christian gospel and the church's proclamation presumes the authenticity of truth and rejects the idea that all truths are equally valid, even if they are contradictory. For example, if there is no truth then to murder would be as valid as to avoid killing. No rational person could agree to that.
 
Truth, beauty, and moral self-control are all gifts of creation from the God who wired it to be a moral and ordered universe. Education in that natural truth, beauty, and self-control is the beginning point of all Christian teaching. Our schools must first share the human virtues. This is where we begin; not where we end. We teach not only that children have to be responsible for themselves, but also that God has had mercy on those who have sinned. We teach forgiveness to those who repent and resolve to do better. We teach that there are temporal outcomes of both success and failure in the world, but that for Christ sake we Christians have been adopted into God's family, without any merit or worthiness in us. The world is a meritocracy, where hard work is rewarded. The church is a Christocracy, where Christ gives the gift of salvation by His merit. Christian educators live in both worlds. Christians schools ought to teach both creation and Christ. Both are gifts from God.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   The Augsburg Confession
"Our churches teach that a person's will has some freedom to choose civil righteousness and to do things subject to reason. It has no power, without the Holy Spirit, to work the righteousness of God, that is, spiritual righteousness. For 'the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God' (1Co 2:14). This righteousness is worked in the heart when the Holy Spirit is received through the Word [Gal 3:2-6].
 
"This is what Augustine says in his Hypognosticon, Book III:
'We grant that all people have a free will. It is free as far as it has the judgment of reason. This does not mean that it is able, without God, either to begin, or at least to complete, anything that has to do with God. It is free only in works of this life, whether good or evil. Good I call those works that spring from the good in nature, such as willing to labor in the field, to eat and drink, to have a friend, to clothe oneself, to build a house, to marry a wife, to raise cattle, to learn various useful arts, or whatsoever good applies to this life. For all of these things depend on the providence of God. They are from Him and exist through Him. Works that are willing to worship an idol, to commit murder, and so forth, I call evil.'
 
"Our churches condemn the Pelagians and others who teach that without the Holy Spirit, by natural power alone, we are able to love God above all things and do God's commandments according to the letter. Although nature is able in a certain way to do the outward work (for it is able to keep the hands from theft and murder), yet it cannot produce the inward motions, such as the fear of God, trust in God, chastity, patience, and so on."

Augsburg Confession, 18
Philippians 4:8-20

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me- practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
 
I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
 
Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. (ESV)
Prayer
Lord Jesus, thank You for Augustine of Hippo, who proclaimed the richness of Your grace in everything he wrote and said. Grant that in our day we too might proclaim the hidden riches of your grace to a fallen world. Amen.
 
For Carol Crump, who will have back surgery, that the Lord of all creation would grant her healing, recovery, and peace with Him
 
For the faculty, staff, and students in the Concordia University System, that they would proclaim the divinely-given truth, so all would learn of Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection for sinners
 
For all first responders as they serve those in crisis, that the Lord would watch over their labors, blessing their work with success
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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