Lean Not Upon Your Own Understanding

Proverbs warns (Prv. 3.5–6) against pragmatism, the subordination of Scripture to a utilitarianism based on our own knowledge. We cannot operate a church on the basis of pragmatism. If we believe Scripture to be both divinely inspired without error and authoritative and relevant for all things – that is, that a coherent biblical world view that takes all inspired Scripture as a priori truth touches everything in life – pragmatism is totally unacceptable.

This does not mean I advocate being mindlessly flippant towards planning future action and calling it “trust in the Lord”: what I mean instead is that we absolutely must evaluate our actions carefully for absolute closest fit with the Bible for what we do to be in line with God, God as we know Him in the Holy Spirit who inspired the words of that Bible.

In a conversation with Tim Keller and John Piper, D.A. Carson warns against calculating our faithfulness on the basis of fruitfulness, pointing to the notion that missionaries to South Korea were right in God’s will while missionaries to Japan were wasting time. Tim Keller says he “disagree[s] completely”, not in favour of pragmatism but in light of the existence of faithfulness in, say, mercy ministries indirectly bearing fruit. In such cases, yes, the consequences are there, even, yet we still can fail to see them.

So the relationship between the right thing to do and what consequences we seem to have observed is not about the two being independent but about our knowledge being incomplete. If we do not recognize this, we run into at least two huge problems. We do not see causality. Even supposing that we could, however, we do not see everything that happens from where we are, especially not ultimate, eternal reality.

Yet if we learn nothing from extrabiblical experience, why are we given that experience at all? We must take something from it, but under what parameters, and to what degree, does Scripture allow us to extrapolate from our interpretation of what we have experienced? Of course, these questions lie outside of science: science cannot answer them. That is immaterial, however, since there are many questions science cannot answer. The questions remain.

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