This world was originally a less-than-attractive mega-forest. Left to insects, birds and animals, it would have undergone no change. Probably it would have even degenerated to an eerie wasteland. Man made the difference. Out of the bush, the ground, and the air, etc., he has been able to develop products that have improved his quality of life.

The human mind has been the basic engine of invention and development, and it is far from exhibiting its full potential. If the Lord tarries, today’s advances in architecture, civil engineering, technology and medicine will attain dinosaur status a millennium from now, thanks to human genius.

Source of reason

Human brilliance is not an accident. It is a product of direct divine action. Man was created a rational creature, just as God is, who created him. Like God, man reasons. The first man, Adam is seen to be reasoning straight from the hand of God. This is amply illustrated in the book of Genesis:

  1. Adam inherited a dishevelled earth for the obvious purpose of allowing him the opportunity to express his productive and decorative genius. He was required to dress the earth (2:15) because he was endowed with the ability to achieve this.
  2. Adam was required to subdue an otherwise ‘riotous’ earth (1:28) as a means to replicate divine creativeness and wisdom.
  3. Adam was given a vegetarian diet (1:29) and later meat (9:3, 4) in their savage form for him to intelligently fashion them into delightful meals.
  4. Adam’s animal-naming (2:19, 20) chore was a mental discipline productive of the faculties of initiative, variety, creativity, oral expression, and memorisation.
  5. Adam was given a companion (2:18) with whom to share ideas and so sharpen the decision-making processes, among other boons.
  6. Adam was given a moral code (2:16, 17) for him to both reason through moral choices and elevate human reason to the divine standard, this being offered as the ultimate measure and regulator of sound reason.

From this it can be inferred that God expected Adam to reason through all issues. Man was to attain his dignity and bliss no other way on earth but by logical applications to each and every one of his challenges.

The Fall’s Effect On Reason

The fall in Eden by man was as catastrophic to the mind as it was to other parts. It brought about brain underuse and disuse. The fall stole the ethical and spiritual touch vital to wholesome reasoning and achievement. The fall, however, did not remove man’s ability to reason. That this is the case can be seen in the fact that the descendants of Cain, like the descendants of Canaan, both wicked species, shot off the starting blocks of civilisation way ahead of the more godly lot. Several other civilisations in history have also arisen notwithstanding the fact that they lacked spiritual correctness.

Salvation’s Effect On Reason

Satan knows that to reason well is to live right. This is why he goes for the mind in his assault on man (2 Cor. 4:4). Christ knew better. His destruction of the works of the devil targeted mental emancipation of the elect of God among Satan’s captives. He did not only command his light to shine in their hearts (2 Cor. 4:4), he also, through that light led them to repentance. The word repentance (metanoia) means change of mind – from one that is hostile to truth (Col. 1:21), to one that yields to God’s will (Psalm 51:3, 4).

Consequently, Christian people have greater incentive to use their minds correctly. They have sanctified minds possessing polished capacities and goals. Unsurprisingly, the world’s most potent servants have been those minds that were liberated by God’s truth. Consider:

Moses: He was well schooled in the philosophy and sciences of Egypt (Acts 7:22). But he became the political and ecclesiological force that he was, due to the influence of revealed truth upon his life and work (Num. 12:6–8).

Paul: He was a great thinker. In his teaching he reasoned carefully (cf. Acts 9:22; 17:2, 3; 18:4, 19, 28). Of course, he was that even before he was converted, but we cannot overlook the ennobling effect of the gospel upon his mind and life (Phil. 3:1-8).

Jesus: After Jesus taught, the common reaction was, “…where did he get such learning, being a carpenter?” (John 7:15). Mental cultivation was necessary even for the Son of God incarnate (cf. Luke 2:46, 47, 52).

Everywhere Scripture upholds intellectual vigour. The constant call in Scripture is for wisdom (Prov. 1:1–5). This, in essence, is a call to reason like God. Mental activity and maturation is expected in believers (Prov. 10:14; 23:23; Rom. 12:2; 1Cor. 14:20).

The point is proven then that Scripture, in as many ways, demonstrates the importance of logic. It pursues several themes logically and demands logical thinking. This is not to suggest that the Bible is only for geniuses, but that the people, who use their minds as God would have them to, contribute best to human welfare by its application.


The value of reason

Personal value

  1. Logic is vital for personal spiritual development (Eph. 4:14; Col. 2:6-8; cf. 1 John 4:1). Authentic love for God has its unique demand on the mind too (Matt. 22:37).
  2. It is vital for up-building others (1 Cor. 14:19, 20).
  3. It is vital for defending the faith, i.e. apologetics (Col. 4:5, 6; 1 Pet. 3:15).

Corporate value

God placed man on earth to nurture it into a useful beautiful place. To do this, man was required to use his mind.

History bears witness that when human reason has been given its rightful place, the best has come out of it. Ancient Egypt is renowned for its pioneer brilliance in the sciences and mathematics. The eastern civilisations, such as that of the Chinese, have also brought their influence to bear on human history. They no doubt used the mind to achieve what they achieved, but they fell short and did not progress to developing science because somehow, they did not put the mind in its rightful place, possibly because of the inability of their intellectuals to believe in the existence of laws of nature because, “…the conception of a divine celestial law giver imposing ordinances on non-human nature never developed.” It therefore didn’t occur to the Chinese that it was possible for the human intellect to penetrate nature’s secrets[1].

The Greeks on the other hand, did show a lot of promise and seemed on the verge of achieving great leaps in scientific knowledge. However, all they achieved was non-empirical, even anti-empirical, speculative philosophies, a theoretical collection of facts and isolated crafts and technologies — never breaking through to real science. One reason for this was the influence of their cosmological worldview that conceived of the universe as not only eternal and uncreated but as locked into endless cycles of progress and decay. This short-circuited real intellectual progress. The stunted scientific progress of European civilisation during the classical era as well as much of the medieval era can be put down to this intellectual bottleneck[2].

The influence of the Roman Church during the medieval era, the Renaissance movement of the 15th century and especially the Protestant movement of the 16th century (A.D. 1300 — 1500), had — in varying degrees put reason in the right place. Basically rooted in a Judeo-Christian worldview and therefore in a biblical view of reason, they brought their respective contributions to bear on the development of Western civilisation. Western civilisation, it must be said, applied reason to the point where they went beyond science to the development of the kind of technology that has led to a kind of advancement in humanity never seen in the whole of human history[3].

Scarecrows to reason

African Christianity needs to bring a similar influence to bear on the question of the place of the mind. But perhaps we need to identify the major challenges to reason in the African context first. Let me highlight four of them:

  1. Dogmatism. Societies in which power and seniority are sacred, have a natural bent towards anti-intellectualism. In fact they produce henchmanship, or brainless loyalty, be this in friendships, homes, schools, churches, or workplaces.
  2. Serial taboos. Where superstition abounds, due to a religious setup in which fear of misfortune is the impetus for service, taboos abound. In their very nature taboos demand intellectual suspension. This is in order for tradition to have safe or unchallenged passage. This being a life norm, the culture of reasoning becomes alien.
  3. Societalism. By societalism, I refer to the life form in which society is the definitive point of reference. Persons, to a considerable extent, lose their individuality in order to conform to societal expectations. Closely related and integrated societies are known for this. Naturally, this is not an environment in which free thought thrives. Often it is punished severely, being perceived as arrogance and initiation into rebellion. Conformity and uniformity are the ideals. The loser is innovation with its source.
  4. Storage learning. Educational systems in which the teacher requires students to merely listen and absorb through memorisation, with little questioning, discussion and personal discovery of facts through research, dull the mind. Learner-involving methods usefully exercise the brain.

To overcome the principal impediments to development in order to advance our earthly lot to God honouring proportions, astute mental stewardship is absolutely imperative.

The way forward for Africa

  1. We must begin by developing a biblical view of the place of reason in our lives and society (1 Corinthians 14:20).
  2. We must labour to develop our reasoning (2 Peter 1:5). All persons reason but not all reason well. Even those who reason well do not do so to the same degree. There are reasons for this. It could be due to natural endowment, socialisation, culture, educational systems, degree of exposure, personal habits, reading practices, etc. It is undeniable however that all reason better when they better their minds by mind bettering habits. Isaac Watts has some counsel to offer in this regard. He proposes, that as a starting point:

“Furnish yourselves with a rich variety of ideas; acquaint yourselves with things ancient and modern; things natural, civil, and religious; things domestic and national; things of your native land, and foreign countries; things present, past, and future; and above all, be well acquainted with God and yourselves; learn animal nature and the workings of your own spirits.”

Later, he says,

“apply yourself to read the best books, converse with the most knowing and wisest of men, and endeavour to improve by every person in whose company you are; suffer no hour to pass away in lazy idleness, and impertinent chattering, or useless trifles; visit other cities and countries, when you have seen your own, under the care of one who can teach you to profit by travelling, and to make wise observations; indulge a little curiosity in seeing the wonders of art and nature; search into things yourselves, as well as learn them from others; be acquainted with men as well as books; learn all things as much as you can at first hand; and let as many of your ideas as possible be the representation of things, and not merely the representation of other men’s ideas: thus your soul, like some noble building, shall be richly furnished with original paintings, and not with mere copies” [4]

  1. We must apply our sanctified reasoning to transform our country. This will involve:
  2. Recognising the earth as a resource field for human wellbeing. As Africans, this calls us to treat superstitious notions of the earth with suspicion and to discard them.
  3. Seeing challenge as a test and having the audacity to venture intellectually on the seemingly impossible. Africa has many challenges in the realm of science and technology. Christian scientists should particularly invent technology for Zambia that can enjoy worldwide acclaim. Who knows but your invention will help lift your people from living in slavish conditions. There is really no reason why we cannot train our minds to create technology that can transform our society.

[1] Rodney Stark, The Victory of Reason, New York: Random House Publishing group 2005 18

[2] Stark, 18.

[3] Stark, 233-235.

[4] Isaac Watts, Logic, (Morgan: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1996), 69, 71.