Hardly To Be Discerned

“Good and evil grow up together in the field of this world almost inseparably, and the knowledge of good is so involved and interwoven with the knowledge of evil, and in so many cunning resemblances hardly to be discerned, that those confused seeds which were imposed upon Psyche as an incessant labor to cull out and sort asunder were not more intermixed.” – John Milton, Areopagitica, 1644

“Confused Seeds Explained: Enter the Fray!” June 23, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Elizabeth @ 21:28

This is what is now on the “Confused Seeds Explained” page of my blog, so you’ll see why it has such a weird name.

–A look into the quote at the top of this blog and how the work of John Milton, in submission to the authority of God-breathed Scripture, has informed my passion for the Christian life–
(The following includes several references to Dr. Grant Horner’s TMC chapel talk entitled “Biblical Discernment”; I have made an effort to mark any direct quotes from that and any other source appropriately. “Enter the Fray” is the mantra of another professor, Dr. Simons)
  • Hebrews 5:12-14 says this:
“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil. (NKJV, emphasis added)
  • If you are not already very familiar with it, please read carefully the quote above this blog.
  • Do you see any similarities between it and the Hebrews passage?  Milton was a 17th century Puritan poet who longed to see followers of Christ “have their senses exercised to discern good and evil”.  He challenged Christians to study and understand the world so as to be effective ministers and witnesses to those who are of it; he knew that the discernment of good and evil is one of the most important skills a believer should develop. Another Puritan, Thomas Hall, put it this way: “We must bring human learning home to Divinity to be pruned and pared by Biblical truth.”
  • You see, skill in discernment leads to better obedience.  And is not Obedience the only purpose of a Christian? Good and evil are intertwined throughout the world in which God left us, and only when we carefully “scout into the regions of falsity” (Areopagitica)  with minds saturated in Scripture can we hope to tell the one from the other. Few issues we encounter are black and white. Hence Milton’s reference to Psyche’s pile of black and white seeds. What does a pile of such seeds look like from a distance? Grey. Our challenge is to steep our minds with wisdom and approach close enough to make the distinction.
  • No shortage of opportunities awaits us.  The purpose of knowledge is conduct, therefore let us be first students of Scripture, and then students of our world. Though saved out of this world, we were left in it, and we have a very large amount of information to process every day.
  • The goal of such a skill is not to become uber-educated sanctified know-it-alls. That can be the temptation. Instead, it is to be able to digest not only the “solid food” of the Word, but to use that food to feed wisdom and the understanding of every concept, written or spoken word, situation, person, and movie we encounter.
  • We will never be experts. But God calls us to be discerning. Not to hide from the world, but to be in it in and understanding way, and to know better how to obey Him in each choice of life. It will be HARD. It will be dusty and dirty and sweaty, but we are commanded to run the race! And to do so with endurance. Do not fear corruption by the world; we are already fully corrupt. But the image of God still remains! The Spirit gives understanding to the diligent; so we take everything we see and we compare it to Scripture, exalting what is good and rejecting what is wrong. This is much more difficult when the Word is not already tightly woven through your mind. Know your Bible.
  • Milton also wrote in Areopagitica, “I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat.”
  • Christ commanded us to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves”, right? As my sister pointed out in her speech to the LRCA graduates, Christians are very good at fulfilling only half of this command.
Where are the wise Christians who areunafraid to encounter error because they have the truth!”
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