Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 14, 1971

Intelligence Versus Irrationality

Vaughn D. Shofner

It should seem from a casual consideration, if the inspired apostle John had reason to say of them who had persevered in Christianity, that "greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world" (I Jno. 4:4), false teachers also have reason to say, that he who was in those whom they had seduced, was greater than he who was in the persevering Christians. It is well known that Satan has always had more disciples than Christ. So, particular attention must be given this problem, in order to reach the right conclusion and keep the truth of God above reproach.

Only those persons who close their minds to the history of Christianity and current controversies can be ignorant of the ravages made in the church from the beginning until now. But informed students have confidence and hope in the historically verified prediction of Jesus Christ, that not even "the gates of hell should prevail against the church" (Mt. 16:18). The most specious sophisms, the most seducing deceptions of all of Satan's associates did not destroy the faith of the persevering Christians. Notwithstanding their trying dispersion, the faithful followers of the Son of God triumphed over false christs and false teachers, and John's pen of inspiration extols their victory: "ye have overcome them, because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world."

Gentle reader, let us gratefully keep our place "in the image of God," and let us therefore carefully distinguish the means applied to intelligent agents from the means applied to irrational agents. The means applied to irrational agents cannot be accounted superior to the opposition, unless the superiority is proved by success. A certain amount of power is required to move an object of a certain weight, and the amount of power superior to the weight of an object will never fail to move the object out of its place, and thus prove the superiority.

However, intelligent reader, this is not necessarily so with the means which are applied to intelligent beings. These means are not always successful, though it seems that they should be. For instance, suppose that I attempt to prove to a person that if an equal number is taken from an equal number, an equal number will remain. My proposition is presented with all clearness, and his ability to comprehend it is as great as my ability to present. However, he persists in the opposite of my proposition. He is not convinced by the truth, he is in error; but his obstinacy is the reason for his error, and not the superiority of error. Consequently, we see the need to be careful to distinguish the means applied to intelligence, from the means applied to irrationality.

We also need to keep in mind, that among the obstacles which cause intelligent beings to resist means that are considerate of them, physical obstacles must be distinguished from moral obstacles. Physical obstacles of necessity belong to the being that resists, and that being possesses no power to remove them. Should I propose a conclusion to an infant, the understanding of which depends on a sequence of propositions, which he is incapable of following, I must accept the fact that the obstacle is solely physical; he has no faculty to remove it.

But suppose I propose the same conclusion to a person of mature age, and his understanding of it is no greater than that of the infant. However, his ignorance is not the result of a lacking of the faculties which are needed to understand it, but from his refusal to use these abilities in pursuing intelligible information toward honest conclusions. I reckon that to be a moral obstacle, which in prevailing is not necessarily the superior force, because the greater influences of his makeup he refused to use.

Jesus Christ did not come to this troubled world to convert irrational beings, but intelligent creatures! He was aware of the two kinds of obstacles in the way of their salvation: obstacles that were merely physical, and obstacles merely moral. Christ has surmounted their obstacles by the light of revelation, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Those over which man has mastery can be triumphantly correct only as they are intelligently guided by this intelligible information. May the intelligence of man reason about the religion with the same fairness that is used on other subjects, and may man cease to charge to the account of God that which proceeds solely from the free obstinacy and voluntary malice of selfish human beings.

When we engage in fair and honest reasoning, it evidently gives account for the conduct of God towards his creatures, and for the language which his servants used on his behalf. The omnipotence of God is certainly sufficient to convince the most stubborn minds, and to change the most callous heart, and though he could have used miraculous power to change any condition, he employed the only means he could in an appeal to intelligence. "And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?" (Isa. 5:3, 4).

Great acts of omnipotence could have forced the vineyard to bring forth good grapes, and to have destroyed its unhappy fertility in the production of wild grapes, had not the vineyard been the house of Israel, as was declared (Ibid. v. 7). The house of Israel consisted of intelligence, not irrationality; intelligent beings, not irrational objects. God sees his creatures as beings made in his image, and he allows them the right to use their faculties. He therefore applied to his creatures means suitable to intelligent beings, not irrational beings.

Gentle friend, God met with two sorts of obstacles in the conversion of human beings. The superiority of that by which he opposes physical obstacles is suitable to its nature, and reaches its excellency in natural development and as it is intelligently used. And with the superior power in consideration of moral obstacles, he did not include omnipotent force to drive his creatures as machines, but a power suitable for the need, immutable information to direct the wills of intelligent beings. If it does not produce its effect, it is not because it has not in itself superior influence; and God cannot be blamed, but they, to whom it was applied.

Take courage, Christian friend! "He who is in you" can render you invulnerable to all the attacks of satan. His revelation represents to you the delightful relations you are going to enjoy; the heavenly hosts to which you are going to be united; the blessed angels waiting to receive your souls. He will open to you the gates of heaven, and enable you to rejoice as you behold the .foundations of the earth sinking away from you. In your perseverance he will change the groans of death-beds into songs of triumph which joyfully harmonize the wonderful words, "0 death where is thy sting? 0 grave, where is thy victory?" God grant you the victory, and to him be honor and glory!

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