The truth will set you free.
If all you have is mere factual knowledge and analysis, it won’t matter how much or how deep is your knowing, you are still trapped in this world and on the way to Hell. Whatever redemption does, it includes awakening something above the intellect and linking your soul outside this realm of existence. While we do refer to the resurrection of the spirit (AKA “born-again”), our brains and conscious awareness have no direct link to that part of us. Instead, the heart and it’s “brain” is the part that mediates between the Spirit-spirit communion and the intellect. You would have no spirit were it not united in Life to the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God writes His truth into the convictions of your heart.
The intellect can implement morality; it is utterly incapable of discerning what is and is not moral. Compare that statement to they symbolism of the “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil” in the Eden narrative. Eating from that tree symbolizes the choice to place the intellect on the throne of moral decision — the Hebrew word for “knowledge” in this context includes the concept of judging and deciding. Since the intellect is incapable of the task, the results are what we see in our chaotic world today. Train the brain all you like; it is wholly incapable of rightly matching decision to reality as God created it without the guidance of the heart-mind.
So intellectual talent means nothing against the moral necessity of letting the heart rule. Among those who share this higher faculty, there is no discernible difference in ability or talent. There is only the difference between the moral choice of commitment. That word “faith” is just another word for the trust and obedience that comes with commitment. Moral choice is what distinguishes the power of faith from one person to the next. The potential is effectively equal as far as we can discuss it. We might struggle to discern it, but a complete imbecile can have faith to move life’s mountains.
Further, what you might have done to develop your intellect (and your physical talents) mean very little against the measure of faith. Don’t confuse moral character with talent. If your faith is strong, God has promised to fill in the rest and use you for mighty works for His glory. Faith is more important than talent, insofar as we can discuss relative merits. If you have high moral development, nothing else really matters much. So this is the thing we believe is most important and every other distinction we might gain in this world is valued only in how we can harness it to the heart-mind and moral truth.
And the best part is that moral truth is self-verifying. That is, for it to work at all, you must have your own “proof” internally, your own moral conviction that God Himself constructed in your soul. I can share my own experience in that realm, but you cannot possibly repeat it in detail, only in the broader sense of moral verification. Does it conform with the burning Presence of His Spirit in you? The threshold of moral verification is entirely different from intellectual factual verification. Your heart can tell you if what I say is accurate and applicable, and how much. You’ll hang out here because your heart tells you it’s a good moral environment for your moral development. You become morally independent from humans and as you become morally more dependent on God, the one who created all things. Conforming to what’s valid and real in the moral sphere means seeing it from the moral sensory faculty of the heart. Your intellect is just along for the ride.
Contrast this to the likes of factual verification for the intellect. A good scientist will give you sufficient information about the process so that you could falsify his results. That is, scientific proof is the failure to falsify when you specifically set out to prove the scientist wrong. That’s the standard protocol and good scientists love it. There is a scientific standard, and commonly accepted protocol of inquiry and testing so that no one “cheats” and stands up to beat their chest showing false data. That kind of competition is moderated by the agreed upon standards of testing and so forth. (The competition is not absent; some of the most petty rivalries can be found in the scientific research community. These days, deception is rampant in scientific journals because people are too lazy or too cheap to verify.)
However, the actual use of the results of scientific inquiry demands a moral frame of reference. Just because I know how to vaporize a whole city doesn’t mean I should test this at random. There is a moral decision involved and science cannot produce that. Lots of people pretend that a good scientific mind can discern the answer to moral questions, and that it can even discern what questions to ask, but you’ll find the resulting debate over what constitutes good morality ranges all over the place. Moral consensus on such things is nearly impossible. Yet, such moral consensus is necessary before we allow someone to do such a vaporization of cities. Who gets to decide to use it? On what grounds should they be permitted to choose one target over another?
And did it ever occur to anyone to wonder what moral good comes from knowing how to vaporize cities in the first place? What kind of morality seeks such a weapon?
Maybe you can make the leap to how this leads to human political endeavor. Government, whatever it might be in any given context, is the way we make decisions that affect larger numbers of humans. It’s not so much moral reasoning but a moral instinct (wired into human nature itself) that we can’t just make unilateral decisions for others without some kind of justification. Raw power has been tried and it’s effectiveness has limits. There is always somebody out there big enough or smart enough to trump however much raw power you have.
In these latter days, most government has sought to create a faux voluntary compliance. Messy, but far more efficient in the long run. To work, it requires various means to get folks to surrender their natural inclinations to ask too many questions. Most government today enslaves you with a sort of programming, and it presumes you have no heart-mind. All their efforts at control and manipulation aim at the intellect. To the degree those rulers are aware of something more powerful than intellect, they try to keep you from connecting your intellect to that higher power.
So we find ourselves with a whole range of people trying to build a structure for asserting authority over others so as to play God. It goes back to Cain over Abel and later the Tower of Babel. One of the fundamental questions in moral consideration is how we get along with other humans; it’s part of the wider question of how you interact with reality itself. In reality, there are other humans and we can’t count on them to dance when our fingers twitch. We have to make our way through life with a sort of moral calculus that recognizes there are other people who may want something different from what we want. They are not mere abstractions of our personal will. If someone can rise up with some kind of authority, they can cut out a lot of frivolous dissent and fighting so that we can find some range of compromise between conflicting wishes and needs. The problem is coming up with a model that meets the moral requirements woven into reality. We have to let God be God and limit our exercise of authority to boundaries He says He will enforce one way or another.
However, while He exercises most of that authority out of our direct view, to the degree He tells us anything, He shows His hand of power primarily through people who have that moral awareness that comes from a dominant heart-mind over the intellect. He tends to let the vast majority of people fall under the sway of despotism and slavery for reasons only He knows, but we do understand that the escape from that is to awaken the heart-mind. He has preserved through such people a record of revelation. People over the centuries have learned to revere that revelation, even if they tend to have trouble getting their mind to obey the heart. And a lot of folks are just faking it for all kinds of reasons, but mostly because it looks like a good system to use for asserting their will over others. They abuse the reverence for revelation by cloaking it from people’s full grasp.
I don’t pretend to know whether this or that religious leader is heart-led and morally aware. I don’t have to know. By my own heart leading, I know to presume distrust of myself first, and a similar distrust of everyone else. I can verify factual information well enough to grant a grudging trust to factual authorities. Maybe I can’t replicate the inquiry because it’s too time- and resource-intensive for me to repeat the whole thing. I can afford to trust someone who meets some minimal standards that represent a verification. As previously noted, factual data is not so important beyond it’s usefulness in my calling from God. It has no inherent value on the moral plane of reckoning, which is where I intend to live. But verifying moral authority cannot work that way, because the moral questions are the ultimate questions. Moral consideration requires I verify everything down to the smallest detail, because the effects of failure are eternal. Mere facts don’t have much effect on Eternity. Someone claiming moral authority must be ready and willing to engage me with a trust that I can test their message that way.
When a presumed moral authority hinders that kind of verification, they surrender all moral authority. Moral truth itself presumes the necessity of each actor having their own full freedom to choose voluntarily. Morality is meaningless without free volition on some level. Shortcutting that voluntary choice by pulling the question down to an intellectual level where verification might be far more expensive is immoral in itself. God provides all the resources necessary for each and every one of us to verify moral statements, so there is simply no excuse for shortcutting. A moral leader who tells me I must put my trust in his special talents, talents that he insists I don’t have, is a liar.
The biblical prophets never presented a word from God like that. Independent verification was always available, and we see examples of it where someone went off to check with another means to test that message. There were rules under the Law of Moses for such verification, but someone with a solid heart-mind awareness didn’t need that. Their hearts would witness the truth because it was written in their own convictions. If the prophet lied, the listeners’ hearts would know, regardless whether the intellect could work it out.
I strive to engage you with a demand up-front that you test my words against your own heart.
(Editorial Note: This series has been greatly enhanced by the probing questions of commenter Mr T. Convictions tend to be silent until there is a question to answer; good questions pull forth deep and satisfying answers. Some of tell me that God has blessed me with a good talent for writing those answers. The whole issue in this series is discerning how we should respond to questions about our faith. Religion is an organized implementation that responds to the calling of faith, so if you question my religion — including my blather about it — you strengthen my awareness of what faith demands. We all need to contemplate how we will answer such questions. God bless you, Mr. T!)