Saturday, February 28, 2009

Treasure of Ideas; Part 1

Although I love authoring blogs that are my own original ideas; I also love to pass along the valuable jewels that are the product of another person's laborious mining of the truth.

Today I would like to commend to you some of the thoughts of the old hymn writer Isaac Watts. Most are likely to be familiar with his hymn "When I Survey The Wondrous Cross." Besides writing hymns, Watts also wrote what is essentially a text book on Logic, or what he calls "the right use of reason in the inquiry after the truth."

Why should we learn, what should we learn and how should we learn it? Should we be passive or active/intentional learners? Is there a difference? These are some of the fundamental questions that Watts addresses.

In the following quotes from Isaac Watts; I want to show, from his writing, how important it is that we intentionally pursue gaining new ideas, what kind of ideas are most important to obtain, and a few methods by which we can better gain and retain these important ideas.

I'll deal first and only with the importance/advantages of pursuing these ideas in this blog and split the other 2 topics into following blogs.

Importance/Advantages of Pursuing Ideas

"Such a general acquaintance with things will be of very great advantage.

The first benefit is this: it will assist the use of reason in all its following operations; it will teach you to judge of things aright; to argue justly, and methodise your thoughts with accuracy. When you shall find several things akin to each other, and several different from each other, agreeing in some part of their idea and disagreeing in other parts, you will arrange your ideas in better order, you will be more easily led into a distinct knowledge of things and will obtain a rich store of proper thoughts and arguments upon all occasions.

Another benefit of it is this: Such a large general acquaintance with thing will secure you from perpetual admirations and surprises, and guard you against that weakness of ignorant persons, who have never seen any thing beyond the confines of their own dwelling, and therefore they wonder at almost every thing they see; every thing beyond the smoke of their own chimney, and reach of their own windows, is new and strange to them.

A third benefit of such a universal acquaintance with things is this: it will keep you from being too positive and dogmaticial, from an excess of credulity and unbelief, that is, a readiness to believe, or to deny, every thing at first hearing; when you shall have often seen, that strange and uncommon things, which often seemed incredible, are found to be true: and things very commonly received have been found false."

Isaac Watts; Logic: The Right Use of Reason In the Inquiry After the Truth

Let me suggest some key things to take away from Watts' listed benefits of gaining a "treasure of ideas."

1. Gaining new ideas (knowledge, especially pertaining to God) helps us make better judgments about things. We are all faced with important decisions day in and day out. Without a sufficient amount of information; we are certainly doomed to make uninformed and therefore poor judgments. Watts will explain sources we should consider when pursuing this treasure of ideas (in order to make those good judgments) in our section on "methods by which we can better gain and retain these important ideas."

2. Gaining new ideas will keep you from admiring things that have little real value in life. It will also keep you from being too surprised by things that you are unacquainted with and will keep you from being skeptical and critical of things that you have never been exposed to.

3. Gaining new ideas will keep one from becoming too overly confident and therefore judgmental based upon the information they have acquired. This will, in part, happen because as a result of gaining new ideas; one should learn that they knew less about things than they originally realized. This should lead to the conclusion that one should be slower to judgment because there may yet be new ideas or information they have not yet obtained and therefore cannot pass judgment without sufficient information.

Furthermore, becoming more acquainted with ideas (especially information regarding God in His character and nature) will keep one from unbelief. Following that same line of thought; when we increase our treasury of ideas, we will find certain things less unbelievable and realize that things we have too easy believed are, in actuality, false.

God has given us information and the ability to gain and retain it. As such, we should take full advantage of the time and opportunities that God gives us to advance our knowledge of important ideas. In the next section on "what kind of ideas are most important to obtain" we will look more closely at what sorts of ideas we should be investing the majority of our time gaining and retaining.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Enraptured by Christ

I am currently reading "The Assurance of Our Salvation: Exploring the Depths of Jesus' Prayer for His Own" which is a study of the book of John, chapter seventeen. As Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones goes through the first five verses of the chapter, he says these provocatively magnificent words:

"If you read the lives of the saints who have gone before us in this world, you will find that they spent most of their time in talking together about Jesus...It seems to me that this is the note that we must recapture, and that there is no real hope for revival and true awakening until we come back to this. And the way to do that is to study the Scriptures, to spend our time in reading and meditating upon them and then in humbling ourselves in worship and in adoration before such a marvelous truth. Now I am not saying this in a theoretical manner for I am anxious to be extremely practical. No, I advocate this because, apart from anything else, the real cure for most of our subjective ills is ultimately to be so enraptured by the beauty and the glory of Christ that we will forget ourselves and will not have time to think about ourselves at all. Now that is a bit of good psychology...We are living such a ridiculous type of life that our nerves are tired and frayed, and as a result we are all of us concerned about self, and the great problem is how to get away from it.

The high road to that is to be absorbed by someone else, something outside oneself, which is so glorious and wonderful that, without knowing it, we forget all about ourselves. This can happen as you look at some marvelous scenery, or fall in love and forget yourself; well, multiply that by infinity and look into the face of Jesus Christ and catch something of his glory, and I assure you that most of the 'mumps and measles of the soul' will automatically be cured and you will find yourself in a healthy condition, mentally, spiritually and even psychologically."