The Fault of Joyce Meyer: Faith and Reason

Predominant Christian evangelist and author Joyce Meyer of Joyce Meyer Ministries is perhaps one of the leading evangelists of America. Having authored of over 80 books, over 12 million copies are distributed around the world and purchased somewhere in the millions almost every year. Joyce also hosts a TV and radio show, Enjoying Everyday Life, which broadcasts worldwide to an overall audience of over 4.5 billion people. Her biography writes:

Over the years, God has provided Joyce with many opportunities to share her testimony and the life-changing message of the Gospel. Having suffered sexual abuse as a child as well as just dealing with the struggles of everyday life, Joyce discovered the freedom to live victoriously by applying God’s Word to her life and in turn desires to help others do the same. Joyce is and continues to be an incredible testimony of the dynamic, redeeming work of Jesus Christ. [1]

However, with a radio and television audience of over 4.5 billion people and books selling worldwide in the millions, what reason would I have for titling this post The Fault of Joyce Meyer? In her recent essay she posted on her website entitled Set Free From Excessive Reasoning [2] Joyce Meyer writes that

I was a person who was heavily into reasoning, always trying to figure out the “why” behind  something and planning excessively for what was ahead. But one day God required me to give it up. He showed me that reasoning is the opposite of trust and that I couldn’t do both at the same time. He then led me to some specific scriptures that opened my eyes to the condition of my mind and showed me what I needed to do to bring about change. [3]

In a  scriptural defense of her position, Meyer argues from Romans 8 that “the mind of the flesh is sense and reason without the Holy Spirit; it is hostile to God and will not submit itself to His ways.” Even more so that one of “the dangers of reasoning is that it can cause us to be double-minded.” She demonstrates this point from James 1:8, where the usage of reason provokes us to use this two-minded attitude regarding God’s commands for us. Hence, “such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” (James 1:8 NIV – emphasis added).

However, to clarify her point, Meyer clarifies the relevance of common sense and planning:

Does that mean we throw away all common sense and personal planning? No. I believe it’s wisdom to have a plan, and common sense is essential for daily living. But we can’t let our plan and logical reasoning override what God is telling us to do. Proverbs 3:5,6 says, Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths. If the Lord is giving us direction, we will have peace about it in our spirit – it may not make sense in our head, but in our heart, we will know it’s right.

To conclude our exposition here, I simply wish to give a critique of Meyer’s understanding of reason and her false usage of Scripture to support that understanding. In this theme of mysticism (e.g., “it may not make sense in our head, but in our heart, we will know it’s right”) I wish to expose to Christians this erroneously false argument against the rationality of the Christian faith; or perhaps more particularly the Christian faith’s usage of reason in discernment of certain circumstances and so on.

In this post I wish to give (3) sections. Section (1) will particularly deal with how faith functions as a position of knowledge like other positions (such as belief, opinion, etc.). Section (2) will deal with an exposition of the discussion regarding faith and reason, though will be respectively shorter than the other sections. Section (3) will deal with the critique of Joyce Meyer’s article. Thus, collectively taken, Sections (1)-(2) will deal with some background knowledge regarding the subject of faith and reason properly understood, and (3) will be the applied result of that understanding.

The Nature of Faith

In my recent post entitled Faith: Turning Your Back on Reason [4], I argued that faith “by virtue of its cognitive affiliation is relevant to the intelligibility of an idea or proposition relating to some given object of knowledge.” To explain, I simply mean to say that faith carries with it a mode of epistemic function, which is relevant to the intelligibility of an idea “though sufficient [or] direct experience isn’t immediately available to us.” The New Testament understanding of faith was more so particularly trust (Pistis in the Greek). Thence, faith is either trust (1) in a person or (2) in an idea or proposition.

David Brons in his paper Faith and Knowledge regarding Valentinus theology (an early Christian gnostic theologian), writes that “Pistis, the Greek word for faith denotes intellectual and emotional acceptance of a proposition.” However, to what degree is this faith accepted? In light of what evidence? Mortimer J. Adler in his book Ten Philosophical Mistakes [6] on the subject of knowledge, writes in respect to the epistemic function of “belief”:

Sometimes we use the word “belief” to signify that we have some measure of doubt about the opinion we claim to be true on the basis of evidence and reasons. In that case, it is not incorrect to say of one and the same thing that we know it [ … ] and that we also believe it. [ … ] However, at other times, we use the word “belief” to signify total lack of evidence or reasons for asserting an opinion. What we believes goes beyond all available evidence and reasons at the time. Then we should never say that we know, but only that we believe the mere opinion that we are holding on to. [7]

However, Adler goes on to write:

The extension of the word “knowledge” to cover all corrigible and mutable opinions that can be asserted on the basis of evidence and reasons available at a given time covers more than opinions that can be be affirmed beyond a reasonable doubt, if not beyond a shadow of a doubt. It includes opinions that have a preponderance of evidence or reasons in their favor as against opinions supported by weaker evidence or reasons. [8]

It is this function of knowledge I definitively identify as faith. Faith is a type of knowledge so long as if it covers mutable (or, susceptible to change) opinions that can be asserted on the basis of the available reasons and evidence for the given object of knowledge; which, can even be “affirmed beyond a reasonable doubt.”

A Discussion on Faith

In Richard Robinson’s Religion and Reason [1], he argues against the notion of “reasonable religion”:

It seems to me that religion buys its benefits at too high a price, namely at the price of abandoning the ideal of truth and shackling and perverting man’s reason. The religious man refuses to be guided by reason and evidence in a certain field, the theory of gods, theology. He does not say: ” I believe that there is a god, but I am willing to listen to arguments that I am mistaken, and I shall be glad to learn better.” He does not seek to find and adopt the more probable of the two contradictories, “there is a god” and “there is no god.” On the contrary, he makes his choice between those two propositions once for all. [10]

More so in George Smith’s book we see the inquiry of “How does faith differ from reason?” [11] He writes: “Christians have provided many answers to this question, but their answers share a common characteristic: all defenses of faith as a means of acquiring knowledge rely upon an (implicit or explicit) deprecation of reason, such as by proclaiming the limits of reason or its undesirability in certain areas” [12]. I have written quite extensively on Smith’s work [13], especially with regards to his understanding of atheism and how it may be justified.

Philosophers like Smith have taken a similar route in respect to this discussion, while others may remain idle, and so on. Interestingly, some do have a more sympathetic approach to faith. Daniel M. Farrell in his essay Life Without God [14] writes that agnostics and atheists are able to find hope beyond the non-existence of God:

[I]t is worth noting, I think, that agnostics and atheists with the kind of psychological needs I have been discussing, but who also accept the basic thrust of the argument of Plato’s Euthyphro, can certainly hope, at least in principle, to find a source of “objective value” on which to base their decisions about how to order or choose among their second-order values. For, [ … ] someone who accepts Plato’s arguments believes not that God creates objective values but, rather, that he identifies them for us. [15]

Though I don’t wish to address the issue of Farrell’s concern here, he conveys a sympathetic discussion of Christian belief and atheistic living; though the theme isn’t overall faith and reason oriented. However, to properly understand the issue in a relevant context (and quick manner), Norman Geisler outlines the issue regarding faith and reason as such:

  • (1) Reason is over Revelation.
  • (2) Revelation is over Reason.
  • (3) Revelation only.
  • (4) Reason only.
  • (5) Revelation and Reason.

Geisler explains:

(1) “Reason is over revelation” is correct in that reason is epistemologically prior to revelation. The alleged revelation must be tested by reason. (2) “Revelation is over reason” is right in the ontological sense. God created reason and its must be His servant, not His master. (3) “Revelation only” is correct in the sense that ultimately and ontologically all truth comes from God. (4) “Reason only” has some truth, since reason must judge epistemologically whether the alleged revelation is from God. (5) “Revelation and Reason” is correct because it properly assigns a role to each and shows their interrelationship. One should reason about and for revelation, otherwise he has an unreasonable faith. Likewise, reason has no guide without a revelation and flounders in error [16].

A Critique of Joyce Meyer

The first and obvious fault of Meyer is that she uses reason in order to demonstrate her position. She finds fault with the usage of reason however, according to her understanding of Romans 8:6-7, which reads: “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.” (Romans 8:6-7, NIV) Paul here is talking about “the mind of the flesh”, which is one that is set within a spiritually dead person (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:14, Ephesians 2:1). However, “the mind governed by the Spirit” is the mind of the Christian (cf. Eph. 2:5). MacArthur writes in respect to verse 7:

The unbeliever’s problem is much deeper than acts of disobedience, which are merely outward manifestations of inner fleshly compulsions. His basic inclinations and orientation toward gratifying himself – however outwardly religious or moral he may appear – are directly hostile to God. Even the good deeds that unbelievers preform are not truly a fulfillment of God’s Law, because they are produced by the flesh, for selfish reasons, and from a heart that is in rebellion. [17]

However, Meyer in contrast writes that “in other words, the mind of the flesh is heavily into reasoning and thrives on figuring things out on its own.” No where in verse 6-7 is the subject of “reason over God” even mentioned. Meyer is simply stipulating a matter of conjecture. She is also respectively quotes James 1:8, arguing that “one of the dangers of reasoning is that it can cause us to be double-minded.” However, James 1 reads:

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. (James 1:5-8, NIV)

Thus, according to Meyer, “sometimes God will ask us to do something that initially we accept. However, just as we start to do it, the mind of the flesh kicks in and wants to know every detail of the plan.” However, James 1:8 has nothing to do with what Meyer is suggesting, once again. A literal translation of verse 5 in the Greek expression denotes having one’s mind (or soul) divided between God and the world. In other words, “this man is a hypocrite who occasionally believes in God but fails to trust Him when trials come, and thus receives nothing” [18]. More over, the expression used here and in James 4:8 makes it clear that it refers to an unbeliever, and not a Christian.

Meyer completely ignores verses such as 2 Corinthians 10:5, where Paul writes: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (NIV) By arguments, Paul simply means thoughts, ideas, philosophies and false theologies that are set up against the knowledge of God. However, to “demolish these arguments”, shouldn’t the Christian be able to recognize the false philosophy, theology, or ideology at hand? And thus, by virtue of their reason, provide a response? A response, such as the one found in 1 Peter 3:15:

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. (NIV)

This aspect of Christian thought (as well as defense) is something that every Christian should recognize in respect to their own worldview. Meyer clearly ignores that aspect of her Christian position.

____________________

Notes:

  • [1] Joyce’s biography can be found at http://www.joycemeyer.org/AboutUs/JoyceBio.aspx
  • [2] Full essay can be found at http://www.jmmindia.org/jmmsite/jmm/ministries/daily_word/freefromreasoning.pdf
  • [3] Meyer, 1
  • [4] See the post here at https://philosophicaugustine.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/faith-turning-your-back-on-reason/
  • [5] This can be found in The Gnostic Society Library at http://gnosis.org/library/valentinus/Faith_Knowledge.htm
  • [6] Mortimer J. Adler, Ten Philosophical Mistakes (Simon and Schuster: 1985)
  • [7] Adler, 87
  • [8] Adler, 88
  • [9] See Peter Angeles’ Critiques of God (Promotheus: 1997) p. 115
  • [10] Originally from Richard Robinson, An Atheist’s Values (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1964). Quoted from Peter Angeles’ Critiques of God (Promotheus: 1997) pp. 116-117
  • [11] George H. Smith, Atheism: The Case Against God (Promotheus: 1979) p. 103
  • [12] Smith, 103
  • [13] See my post, An Analysis of George Smith and the Onus Probandi here.
  • [14] From Louise M. Antony, Philosophers Without God (Oxford University Press: 2007) pp. 59-68
  • [15] From Antony, 67
  • [16] Norman Geisler, An Introduction to Philosophy (Baker Books: 1980) p. 270
  • [17] John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Bible Commentary (Thomas Nelson: 2007) p. 440
  • [18] MacArthur, 792
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One response to “The Fault of Joyce Meyer: Faith and Reason

  1. Pingback: Philosophy and Christianity? | The Peripatetic Blog·

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