It is popular to think that we, as ‘modern’ people, are superior to the people of the past. Sadly, this reveals one of the many lies we tell ourselves. We look at our technology and we tell ourselves it represents ‘progress.’ But is it ‘progress’ when we give microwave ovens to monkeys? No! A monkey with a microwave is just an un-thinking beast with a piece of technology — nothing more. Well, watching the debate last night and then reading the reactions to it in the media, I am forced to conclude that this is what we have become: monkeys with microwaves. Why do I say that? Because of stories like this one:
Frank Luntz Asks Focus Group Who Won the Debate — Members Overwhelmingly Select One Candidate
So, if I accept the ‘popular’ wisdom, Rubio won the debate. But why? Mostly because he won the insult war: he had a lot of great ‘zingers.’ But where is the substance in ‘zingers?’ Yes, they can be funny, and definitely gratifying when the object of the attack is some one with whom we disagree. But where is the intellect in insult? The truth is, Rubio engaged in something akin to an adult version of playground warfare. He didn’t prove or demonstrate anything factual. He just threw insult, and in the language of reason, it is a mistake. It is called the fallacy of ad hominem, or against the man (i.e. a personal attack). Now, don’t get me wrong: I understand this has and will always be part of human nature. However, there was a time when it would not have held as much sway with people as it does today. The Renaissance is one example of such a time, and I would argue that it was because the people of that time were more intellectually advanced than we are today.
The Renaissance was a time for thinking people. Yes! People were still swayed by emotional appeals, but there was also a general mood of reason guiding the people. They worked at learning how to think and to use that rational ability to harness their emotions. It is one of the primary reasons our founders were able to create a document as unique as the U.S. Constitution: because they allowed reason to temper and govern their emotional desires. But where is the evidence that we still do this today?
If this nation still valued reason, then Cruz won the debate last night. Where Rubio made the better un-supported attacks, Cruz used reason to maneuver Trump into demonstrating he, Trump, is a pathological liar. Did anyone notice how skillfully Cruz trapped Trump into saying he never said he would have the government pay for all healthcare? Cruz also nailed Trump on his lies about not being able to release his tax records because he is being audited. These are just just two of several examples of Cruz getting Trump to say things during the debate that could be held up against video evidence later to show that Trump lies as a matter of habit. Yet, for some reason, people saw Rubio the insulter as the winner over Cruz the demonstrator. They chose emotion over reason, and that is not progress, it is a step or two backward.
Now, before you think I am defending Cruz, don’t. Honestly, this is not a political discussion. I just chose the debate as an illustration so I could get your attention. What I really want to discuss is the role of the mind (reason) in training the heart (emotion). Christians should pay especially close attention to this next point, because we tend to get Scripture very wrong on this issue. The heart is a term we use to describe our inner, true self: the things we really feel and believe. It is emotional. It does not think. It just feels…and wants. So the heart must be trained, disciplined — and that requires the mind!
Those who actually read Scripture, especially those who study the original Hebrew and the Hebrew culture will know that the Scriptures speak of the need to use our minds to train our hearts. Scripture teaches that discipline is a crucial part of our faith. The heart does not naturally love our enemies, or give to others — especially people outside our families. These things must be learned through discipline, and discipline requires sound reason so we can determine what things are best for us and what things will eventually harm us. Our founders were children of the Renaissance, and if we read their personal writings, we will see this understanding in their words. They knew and understood the role of the mind in teaching the heart what it should want and what it should not. But this is because the Renaissance was just a period of re-claiming what had been lost in the Dark Ages. If we look back in time, we will find that this understanding was taught first in Scripture:
37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’
27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”
These passages are just from the New Testament, but they are directly from Christ. Go back farther and you will find this principle where the mind is to train the soul all through the Old Testament, as well. But we ‘modern’ people have not only rejected the wisdom of the Renaissance (as our founders understood the concept), but we have also turned our back on the Wisdom of God. So, today, we think it is more ‘enlightened’ to chase after emotional appeal rather than reasoned consideration. Well, Scripture speaks to this, as well:
20 Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who [a]substitute darkness for light and light for darkness;
Who [b]substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes
And clever in their own sight!
BTW: you might want to read Isaiah 5 in its entirety. It speaks directly against a nation that is like we have become: where we hold up corruption and wickedness as the ideal and scorn those who seek to live morally according to God’s Laws. It promises destruction to such nations. But I guess we’re OK. It doesn’t apply to people as ‘modern’ as us. I mean, really, just look at the miracles we call technology. See how powerful we are? How wealthy we have made ourselves? How could anything bad happen to us? (Christian, if you do not hear the Lord’s warning trumpeting in your head as you read those last words, you have strayed much too far from His Word and Grace).