The Cause of Spiritual Stupidity

How is it that ye do not understand?

— St. Mark. 8:21

The answer to the Lord’s reproach, “How is that ye do not understand?” is plainly this: their minds were so full of care about the day’s bread, that they could not think with simplicity about anything else. When the Lord reminded them of what their eyes had seen, and so of what he was and what God was, and of the foolishness of their care, the moment their fear was taught to look up, that moment they began to see what the former words of the Lord must have meant.

The next hour, the next moment, is as much beyond our grasp and as much in God’s care, as that a hundred years away. Care for the next minute is just as foolish as care for the morrow. Those claims only of the morrow which have to be prepared today are of the duty of today; the moment which coincides with work to be done, is the moment to be minded; the next is nowhere till God has made it.

It was not this and that fault the Lord had come to set right, but the primary evil of life without God, the root of all evils. If a man forget a thing, God will see to that; man is not lord of his memory or his intellect. But man is lord of his will, his action. That forethought only is right which has to determine duty, and pass into action. To the foundations of yesterday’s work well done, the work of the morrow will be sure to fit. Work done is of more consequence for the future than the foresight of an archangel.

Commentary

Spiritual Stupidity of Our Present Age

by Stephen Carney

MacDonald writes, “The answer to the Lord's reproach,...is plainly this: their minds were so full of care about the day's bread, that they could not think with simplicity about anything else.”  No truer words have been spoken than these by MacDonald.  As one who has pastored for forty years, I have found that people's ability to ascertain spiritual truth has more to do with their ability to focus than with anything else.  Our obsession with obtaining the things we believe we need often keeps us from discovering our real needs or better yet, our truest need.  We can become so focused on our immediate needs that spiritual truth finds no place in our hearts.  We must wait, as the old proverb goes, till the student is ready and then the teacher shall appear. 

But there is more.  Spiritual stupidity is also caused by ego, that is pride and the need to esteem ourselves.  Many educated people become proud and feel a sense of superiority to others who are less educated than they suppose themselves to be.  As Lewis quoted the Theologia Germanica, “we may come to love knowledge—our knowing—more than the thing known: to delight not in the exercise of our talents but in the fact that they are ours, or even in the reputation they bring us.”  This creates egotism and an arrogance in those who feel “educated,” though they may have failed to understand the purpose of a degree or what it means to have an education.  A degree simply means you are ready to engage your work, not that you are now the wise and all-knowing. This inflation of the ego says, “I already know,” or “Let me quickly add to what you have said so that you have the complete picture.”  This seems subtle, but make no mistake: it is the cause of “spiritual stupidity” in the realm of education today.  The common people, especially those who believe in God, are often looked upon as the uninformed, at best, and ignorant, at worst, no matter if they hold the same degree as the “educated elitist.”  But this is not the thinking of an educated mind, it is mere pride, and the individual who holds such an attitude has ceased all learning.  For he or she can only be informed by those who (they believe) hold their own views. 

All one has to do is to contradict one of these “learned ones,” and you will see them quickly puff up and become indignant.  They refuse to be corrected, especially by the “lower class,” and by that I mean those who are either not as educated as they or who simply do not hold their viewpoints.  These are the ones who like to display their IQ numbers and demonstrate their quick thinking, but who fail to realize that this is not wisdom, nor truth, nor real intelligence.  It is simply reasoned arrogance, if not madness.  As Chesterton said, “The madman is not the man who has lost his reason.  The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.”  

Here is the root of spiritual blindness: the belief that the world only exists as you see it.  The Christian quickly discovers that when he endeavors to share the Gospel of Christ with those of whom I write, he is discounted before he starts.  The world assumes that the starting point of the Gospel isn't legitimate to begin with, though they may not have investigated the claims of Christ on their own merit.  I remember hearing Robert Webber tell of his sitting next to a highly educated man, who upon discovering that Webber was a theologian, asked him this question, “Just what are the Gospels?”  Dr. Webber said, “They are the four eyewitness accounts of the life of Jesus.”  The man, who held more than one graduate degree, replied, “Wait, you mean there are four eyewitness accounts of the life of Jesus?” 

The greatest quality for learning and growth in knowledge is that attribute called humility.  Humility is the one quality that says, “Teach me, show me, and it is enough.”  We must pursue truth, and in order to do that we must first encounter truth in our own lives.   Truth is transformation, and so we must come deep enough into it to be “set free” ourselves.   Humility is the pathway, to say to God, “I don't know the way.  Lead me and guide me.”  We must focus and pay attention, ask questions, and wrestle with difficulties that make us uncomfortable.  James said, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all men liberally.”  Oh the humility that it takes to pray that prayer!