by Tom Wacaster
After more than four decades of preaching and interacting with people from varied backgrounds and religious beliefs, I am come to the conclusion that once a person is determined to believe in something there is little you can do to change their mind. It seems that the more bizarre a belief, the more people are willing to embrace it. If you doubt that, take a close look at the tenants of Mormonism and the astonishing number of people who have embraced that false theory of religion. The belief that God was once a human like us, and that we, through some kind of spiritual progression can some day be like God, is just one example of the doctrine of Joseph Smith. Yet there are millions who subscribe to that theory, along with baptism for the dead, eternal marriages, and modern day revelation. I’ll say it again, when someone is determined to believe in something, no matter how strange that belief might be, there is little you can do to change their mind. Did you know that there are thousands who subscribe to the belief that this world is flat? Really! They belong to the “International Flat Earth Research Society of America.” It was founded by an Englishman named Samuel Shenton in 1956, and later led by an American named Charles Johnson, based in Lancaster, California. After Johnson’s death in 2001 it seems to have dropped off the radar until a self-proclaimed successor, Daniel Shenton revitalized the society. It is assumed that he took the name Shenton in memory of the original founder, but this new leader is a man claiming to live in Hong Kong. While he was still alive, Charles Johnson, the president of the organization during the later part of the last century, said this: “I’ve been a flat-earther all my life. When I saw the globe in school, I didn’t accept it. To me it was illogical.” In spite of overwhelming evidence that the earth is round, there are evidently some who refuse to accept the evidence and life a life in belief of a lie and a deception.
The Bible calls for men to use sound reasoning when seeking divine truth. We are to “prove all things, hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:21-22). We are to be able to “give answer to every man that asketh you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15). God called on Israel of old, “Come now, and let us reason together” (Isa. 1:18). Luke tells us that when Paul “reasoned of righteousness, and self-control, and the judgment to come” (Acts 24:25), that his sound logic was so convincing that “Felix was terrified, and answered, Go thy way for this time; and when I have a convenient season, I will call thee unto me” (Acts 24:25b).
Logophobia is the fear and/or rejection of the role of valid reasoning in arriving at truth. Terry Hightower has pointed out that “religious liberals and legalists have been known to criticize logic even to the point of referring to syllogisms as ‘silly-gisms.’ The fact remains that a good dose of logic is just what such ignorant individuals need, because logic is the study of the principles which determine whether inferences are justified or unjustified.” When men reject logic and good-old common sense, they find themselves in quite a predicament. Lord Halifax is credited with having said, “Nothing has an uglier look to us than reason, when it is not on our side.”
Most people engage the mind when it comes to secular matters, and draw certain conclusions based upon sound principles of logic. They may not realize they are using logic, but they do so just the same. When we exercise the mind so as to reason properly we are exercising prudence. Now there is word that we don’t hear much in today’s vernacular. The “Free Dictionary on Line” defines prudence as: “Careful or wise in handling practical matters; exercising good judgment or common sense.” Jesus once called for His disciples to humble themselves and become as little children. I have no doubt that two of the character traits our Lord encouraged us to pursue was that of being forgiving and teachable. But children also have a knack at using simple common sense in doing the things they are really interested in. Solomon tells his son to “understand prudence” (Pro. 8:5). He also tells us, “smite a scoffer, and the simple will learn prudence” (Pro. 19:25). Paul tells us that God gave us His Son to redeem us “according to the riches of his grace, which he made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence” (Eph. 1:8).
Thomas Edison is credited with having said, “The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are: Hard work, stick-to-itiveness, and common sense.” Someone once suggested that common sense is the same thing as wisdom. If not the same, at least they are first cousins. Even the renowned atheist Robert Owens was aware of the importance of common sense when he wrote, “It is a thousand times better to have common sense without education than to have education without common sense.” It seems to be that the further our nation gets away from God the more it loses the ability to exercise plain old common sense. Does it seem that way to you? Consider the following parody (which I used in last week’s sermon). It is a tongue-in-cheek look at the loss of plain common sense that comes as a result of rejecting God and His divine will in our lives. I do not know the author:
A Eulogy for Common Sense
Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Mr. Common Sense.
Mr. Sense had been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such value lessons as knowing when to come in out of the rain, why the early bird gets the worm and that life isn’t always fair. Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you earn) and reliable parenting strategies (adults, not kids, are in charge).
His health began to rapidly deteriorate when well intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a six-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.
Mr. Sense declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer aspirin to a student, but could not inform the parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.
Finally, Common Sense lost the will to live, as the churches became businesses, and criminals received better treatment than their victims. Common Sense finally gave up the ghost after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot, she spilled a bit in her lap, and was awarded a huge settlement.
Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust, his wife, Discretion, his daughter, Responsibility, and his son, Reason. Two stepbrothers, My Rights and Ima Whiner, survive him. Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.