The Problem of Pragmatism

Where do we go for strength? To what or to whom do we seek wisdom? Are we trusting God with all of our hearts, or are we compromising by leaning into pragmatism? Are we praying and waiting? Or are we putting our confidence in practices that “feel helpful” in the moment? With God’s help…by prayer and by getting into His Word, we will grow in seeing just how much we need His grace. Pragmatism is most certainly a concern for all of us.

What is Pragmatism exactly? Pragmatism, a philosophy developed by Charles Sanders Pierce in 1870, champions the premise that truth is proved by whether or not the idea in question works. Basically, if something works and is found useful to you… then it’s true. It advocates a way to find meaning apart from God’s Word, and relies upon the material world for guidance. The pitfalls for pragmatism are most vividly seen in our misplaced dependence… Will we trust Jesus with our questions and hurts? Or will we lean upon own understanding?

Pragmatism has always been a struggle for humanity. The mission statement of our former life was often a Pragmatic one. Doing “whatever works” frequently advocates the easy road. It’s tangible, seemingly controllable, and most often- immediate. Choosing “whatever works” provides our impatient hearts with the appearance of helpfulness, and the impression of practicality. We make the common mistake of equating “helpful” as “good,” and then our emotions lead the way. In these post-postmodern times, both the admonition to “You do you,” and the attitude that anything goes only amplifies the “broad way” of pragmatism. After all, How could something be wrong if it is helping me? But at the end of the day, doing “whatever works” in the pursuit of truth makes us evermore burdened, and exceedingly weary… All because we chose to do what resembled easy, versus what is best: being devoted to prayer, and reading His Word. (Col 4:2; 3:26)

But when it comes to Truth, it is neither defendant upon an emotion nor guided by human reasoning. Instead, Truth is a Person. (John 14:6). Jesus is the Truth, the Way, and the Life. No one gets to the Father except through Him. When Jesus was lovingly describing to His disciples what was to happen to Him, Peter “rebuked” Jesus and pleaded for another way. Peter was examining Jesus’s plan through Peter’s own lens of human understanding, and did not find it immediately helpful (it seems):

“From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.””

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭16:21-23‬ ‭

How often do we do the same as Peter: setting our minds upon the things of man instead of things of God (reading His Word)? Truth put on human skin, was crucified upon a cross, and then rose again three days later. That plan did not appear pragmatic to Peter beforehand, perhaps (Matthew 16)…but it was the work Jesus came to accomplish. As Spurgeon once encouraged, “When you cannot trace His hand, trust His heart.” The work that Jesus performed on the cross was necessary. It was planned out of His love and is complete in every way. A quote that hits to the heart of spiritual pragmatism is this one by Dr. Michael Rydelnik:

Faith in Christ is not true because it works, rather faith in Christ works because it’s True.

Rydelnik

Gals, we are witnessing Spiritual Pragmatism all around us today…even in our homes as well as within many of our churches. But no matter where you find yourself right now- take a breath and pray. No question is too lofty, no sorrow is too deep, and no past is beyond His Grace. Instead of relying upon “whatever works” and appears helpful, lean into God’s sovereignty and pray. Dig into Scripture daily. And make sure you dive into Gospel-driven community often (Hebrews 10:25). Sister, Jesus is sufficient for every need you have today…and His way is always best. Keep trusting!

Love,

Mer

The Pain and Peril of Pragmatism by Voddie Baucham

What is Pragmatism? GotQuestions.org

Scripture referencing “Wisdom” per OpenBible

History of Pragmatism (Video Resources)

An example of Pragmatism:  Enneagram Debate, Todd Wilson and Marcia Montenegro

Self-Esteem, Purpose and Meaning- Paul Washer

The New Age: Reals Concerns for the Church

Scripture Says…

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.”

John 15:5 “…for apart from Me (Jesus), you can do nothing.”

Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

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

Colossians 3:2 “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

Matthew 16:23 “ But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Matthew 7:13-14 ““Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

Matthew 6:25-33 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?  And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Psalm 92:5 “How great are your works, O Lord! Your thoughts are very deep!”

Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25 “There is a way that seemright to a man, but its end is the way to death.”

Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

Psalm 9:16 “The Lord has made himself known; he has executed judgment; the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands.”

James 1:5-6 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.”

Jeremiah 17:7-8 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

1 Corinthians 15:58 “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

Colossians 1:10 “so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God

Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,

Psalm 139:23-24 “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting”

Isaiah 40:28-31 “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God.”

James 4:8 “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

One thought on “The Problem of Pragmatism

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