It's been interesting for me to go back and reread one of the first distinctly Lutheran pieces of writing that I had ever put my hands on (even before getting my own copy of the Book of Concord and Small/Large Catechism) back when I fully embraced becoming a Confessional Lutheran.
Before we move on to a closer look of the next chapter in this series, let's quickly review Pastor Fisk's purpose in writing this book.
"In this book, I will dissect this tactic of the thief. We will look at how the devil uses such good gifts from God as your heart, your mind, and your hands to try to trick you into placing your trust not in God but in yourself. We will explore the seven counterfeit 'Christian' rules he tries to play off as if they were authentic Christianity. We will expose these rules as patterns of thinking that try to break your faith in Christianity by creating doubt. We will call these philosophical systems what they are: lies. And then we will challenge those lies with the truth given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ. The crow comes cawing, promising you freedom, but telling you that YOU mus earn it. He promises you suprnatural wisdom, but tells you that YOU must figure it out. He promises you comfort, but insists that YOU find it inside yourself. He tells you that you're just on the other side of glory, if only YOU can create it. He offers you the world, but he leaves you hanging on a cross all by yourself, fed up with it all and wondering in anger and frustration where Jesus is. He was supposed to make it all better. He does this the only way he can: he steals Jesus' words, and he uses YOU to do it. I am not going to let that happen."
Like I said once before, that's quite refreshing.
You're not getting that kind of stuff from Francis Chan or David Platt these days.
Ok, but what about Chapter 3? What is the next lie that Satan uses against us so often?
"Never #3: Never follow a rule just because it makes sense (especially if it promises to work because it makes sense [and especially, especially if it either contains the words "spirit-led" or can be entirely explained by a petri dish full of midi-chlorians])."
So Chapter 3 introduces us to the third rule that every Christian ought to break as often as possible -- Rationalism, or the incorrect belief that contact with God can be found through the clarity of your observations or the consistency of your logic ("You can find God with your mind!" p. 82).
In short, Rationalism is nothing more than the worship of your thoughts.
This is the epic "Star Wars Chapter" from the book. Pastor Fisk, being an avid fanboy like so many of us are who grew up in that era, wrote a nostalgic chapter that not only elicits memories from one's childhood, but more importantly, one that implicitly exposes the uncanny similarities between a fictional universe and the contemporary Christian Church.
If you're wondering what in the world that means, then don't worry, because I get it. Let's just say that you won't be prepared to discover what he presents in this chapter, but it's spot on. I found myself shaking my head in disbelief when I first read it, lifting my head and eyes from the page to stare off in the distance somewhere to give myself a minute to process the connections he had just made, and then shook my head again only this time it was accompanied with a sigh due to the realization that so many people are being deceived (like I once was).
Worse, there's this idea so prevalent today -- and I loved how Pastor Fisk correlated it to one of the Star Wars prequels -- that God and Christianity can be explained (explained away?) rationally and with science.
Like the secrecy surrounding the latest Star Wars film that was just released, I want to be very careful not to ruin too much of this chapter for you so I'll turn my attention to how Rev. Fisk attaches "Pragmatism" to Rationalism.
He writes that Pragmatism is the mixing of Mysticism and Rationalism and perhaps even Rationalism 2.0 ("...in the postmodern world of Pragmatism, the only thing that matters is whether or not something works..." p. 92).
I know I'm being intentionally vague so let me cut-to-the-chase and explain why it was necessary that this chapter focused on Pragmatism and it's connection to Rationalism. Here's a hypothetical conversation between one man and Pragmatism as found on page 94...
"You can find God anyway you want," he preaches. "You can use your heart, or you can use your hands. Only remember the key to making both heart and hands work is the power of your mind." "Is this the path to Truth, then?" the common man asks. "Friend," he replies, "I'll be honest with you. I'm no theologian. I cannot speak of doctrines. Who am I to put God in a box? But one thing I can tell you: follow me and you will see results." "What of the Scriptures?" the man might ask. "Those are all well and good!" Pragmatism smiles. "There is so much we can learn from them. We only must apply our minds, remembering to test the principles we find to see if our use of them is truly Spirit-led." "How do we do that?" "That is easy. Look at what you are doing based on your interpretation of Scripture, and then ask yourself, does it work?"
Friends, haven't we all run into that kind of thinking at one time or another?
Here's another thanks to Rationalism and Pragmatism...
"Because it is theoretically possible for me to misinterpret the words of the Bible, this therefore means that the words of the Bible can't actually be received without misinterpretation." p. 95
Now, before you write that off as being absurd and think that no Christian could ever arrive there, please recall all the places where God's Word warns us to be on guard against this sort of thing.
Look, I'd be a little skeptical too, but I'm so glad that Pastor Fisk wrote about this very real threat, because I've actually sat across the table from several Christians on three separate occasions over the years and heard this same type of language coming from them!
The whole time you just want to pull your hair out, because you just can't understand how a dear brother or sister in Christ who once shared your confession of faith (and who still claims to!) could truly believe the things that are coming out of their mouth.
I guess you can say you just can't rationalize how they used Rationalism to arrive at their version of the truth like that. And yet, there they are and there it is. It's just heartbreaking and all the more reason why we need to break this Never #3 as often as possible indeed.
Once again, there's so much more I could add about this chapter, but I'l leave you with these riveting words instead...
"God does not want you to discover Him through science or history, reason or experiment, logic or philosophy, any more than He wants you to find His Spirit through trial and error, practice and leadership, tactics and methods. God wants you to KNOW He has already FOUND YOU in Jesus. And JESUS SPEAKS. Real words. Words He has left behind as His testimony. Words that are written. The final test of all knowledge is black-and-white after all, but it is not a banker's ledger. It is Scripture alone." p. 106
In a Lutheran layman's terms, please stick around for more on this exceptional Christian book; a book that you need to add to your own personal library right away if you haven't already.
NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Executive Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 2 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because we now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!