The Mirrors of the Lord

But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the spirit of the Lord.

— 2 Corinthians 3:18

Of all writers I know, Paul seems to me the most plainly practical in his writing. What has been called his mysticism is at one time the exercise of a power of seeing, as by spiritual refraction, truths that had not, perhaps have not yet, risen above the human horizon; at another, the result of a wide-eyed habit of noting the analogies and correspondences between the concentric regions of creation; it is the working of a poetic imagination divinely alive, whose part is to foresee and welcome approaching truth; to discover the same principle in things that look unlike; to embody things discovered, in forms and symbols heretofore unused, and so present to other minds the deeper truths to which those forms and symbols owe their being.  I find in Paul’s writing the same artistic fault, with the same resulting difficulty, that I find in Shakespeare’s—a fault springing from the admirable fact that the man is much more than the artist—the fault of trying to say too much at once, of pouring out the plethora of a soul swelling with life and its thought, through the too narrow neck of human utterance. Thus we are at times bewildered between two or more meanings, equally good in themselves; but the uncertainty lies always in the intellectual region, never in the practical. What Paul cares about is plain enough to the true heart, however far from plain to the man whose desire to understand goes ahead of his obedience, who starts with the notion that Paul’s design was to teach a system, to explain instead of help to see God, a God that can be revealed only to childlike insight, never to keenest intellect.


by James House

To fully interpret the Lord's truths, the use of our minds must be included.  However for most of us, most of the time, we need to initially trust our hearts - or perhaps rather, trust the feeling of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.  This gives us the assurance to move forward, gaining confidence of, and increasing the measured understanding that we do have.  When we finally come to "see" the truth in our hearts, and begin to incorporate it into our actions (obedience!), then we can begin to more usefully apply our intellect.

Doing so is part of the very process that Paul is describing in 2 Corinthians 3:18.

In his writing, George MacDonald frequently included his thoughts on the pitfalls and frailties of relying solely on the intellect.   Here are a few selections of such, we expand upon today's reading:

My dear sir, no conviction can be got, or if it could be got, would be of any sufficing value, through that dealer in second-hand goods, the intellect. If by it we could prove there is a God, it would be of small avail indeed: we must see him and know him, to know that he was not a demon. But I know no other way of knowing that there is a God but that which reveals WHAT he is—the only idea that could be God—shows him in his own self-proving existence—and that way is Jesus Christ as he revealed himself on earth, and as he is revealed afresh to every heart that seeks to know the truth concerning him. (from Thomas Wingfold, Curate)

Whan ye think o' the ages to come, truly it wad seem to maitter little what intellec' a man may start wi'. I kenned mysel' ane 'at in ord'nar' affairs was coontit little better nor an idiot,'maist turn a prophet whan he gaed doon upo' his knees.  (from Warlock o' Glenwarlock)

Intelligence is a consequence of love; nor is there any true intelligence without it. his intellect is not his own. One thing only is his own—to will the truth. This, too, is as much God's gift as everything else: I ought to say is more God's gift than anything else, for he gives it to be the man's own more than anything else can be. And when he wills the truth, he has God himself. Man can possess God: all other things follow as necessary results. What poor creatures we should have been if God had not made us to do something—to look heavenwards—to lift up the hands that hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees! Something like this was in the mind of the prophet Jeremiah when he said, 'Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.' My own conviction is, that a vague sense of a far higher life in ourselves than we yet know anything about is at the root of all our false efforts to be able to think something of ourselves.  (from The Seaboard Parish)

O, trusting heart, how thou leavest the dull-plodding intellect behind thee! While the conceited intellect is reasoning upon the impossibility of the thing, the expectant faith beholds it accomplished. (from The Seaboard Parish)