Bulletin Articles

Bulletin Articles

The Foundation of Thinking

The Foundation of Thinking

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7).

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov. 9:10).

Any conversations or efforts at communication assume the ability of all involved parties to think, reason, understand, and accurately process information. Without this assumption, any dialogue or writing would be meaningless. Yet, on what grounds do we make such an assumption? Are we justified in assuming that others can think, reason, and understand? Perhaps that sounds rather silly, for, of course, we accept that others can think. Note here that should people say we are not justified in this assumption, they must assume the very thing they are denying. They are assuming that those who hear what they say can think and understand. It would seem to be a vicious circle. We can't argue anything without assuming that people can think about and understand what we are saying. Why is this?

The bigger question is this: where does the ability to think originate? Naturalists—atheists—must assume that this ability is a product of mere mindless, accidental, purposeless brute material forces with no overarching intelligence behind it to guide or intend. Ironically, there would be no purposeful reason to the process of how we gained the ability to think. Since matter is all there is, in the naturalist’s view, then thinking is just the result of chemical neurons firing in the grey matter of the head. That ability must have evolved from non-intelligent, unguided processes, and there is nothing else beyond that, and no ultimate meaning to it. There was no ultimate Mind to guide anything.

Consider the consequence of such a position. If there is no ultimate intelligence behind the ability to think and reason, then how can they be sure that they can even think properly? What would give us such confidence that our reasoning abilities give us anything meaningful? If unguided evolution is responsible for thinking, then we have unintelligent, unpurposed mutations to thank for our ability to reason. Yet the question will never go away: how can they be sure that their brains and the thought patterns resulting from natural chemical reactions evolved properly? How can they be sure that they are perceiving the world correctly?

Even some atheistic philosophers can see this. For example, the atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel asks, “Is the [evolutionary] hypothesis really compatible with the continued confidence in reason as a source of knowledge?” His answer is no: “I have to be able to believe ... that I follow the rules of logic because they are correct—not merely because I am biologically programmed to do so.”  Therefore, he says, “insofar as the evolutionary hypothesis itself depends on reason, it would be self-undermining.” (The Last Word, 135-136)

Now contrast the naturalist’s view with the biblical view. God is the foundation for it all, and we need to fear Him. He has made us in His image (Gen 1:26-27), given us the ability to think, and made us creatures who can understand and communicate.

Is it all that unreasonable to accept the view that our ability to think and reason comes from an Intelligent Designer? Will we not have a better foundation if we understand that thinking is not just a result of brute natural forces, but rather a result of a God-given ability? Theism bases its arguments on this very point. If there is no God, then there is no foundation for proper thinking—or anything else for that matter. I am not willing to trust the human ability of reason to naturalistic presuppositions, for these concepts face some insurmountable problems.

Knowledge can only be as good as the foundation upon which it rests. Thinking is the result of intelligence, and this does not arise from non-intelligent, non-living material. That would seem to be an axiomatic point, but apparently many do not think so. I would submit, however, that the naturalistic assumption is unbearable. If any of us desire to have confidence in the ability to think and reason, we need to start with God. His existence explains not only the universe, but the mind. Knowledge is grounded in God and our respect for Him.

What is the foundation of your thinking? What do you believe about that foundation?

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge" (Proverbs 1:7).

Fearing God is the beginning of our thinking in the sense of His making us this way, in the sense that He is the foundation for all thinking, and also in the sense of where we should start in our own thinking process. Begin with God. Fear Him because that’s what life is about (Eccl 12:13-14). The fear of the Lord is where any proper thinking starts. We cannot respect that ability while at the same time casting God out of thinking. Instead, we respect the mind God has given us by making Him the front and center of all of our thinking.

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col 3:2).