I Can’t Do it Perfectly, So I Won’t Even Try!

One of the obstacles to becoming free from Rome’s power is a refusal to think critically about Rome’s claims. This refusal to think critically can be dressed up in pious clothes. What it amounts to is the adoption of a sola ecclesia position in which the person hands over their judgment to their church, or at least does so whenever it matters. The following provides an example of this anti-intellectualism in pious garb.

“Deacon Bryan,” in the comment box at Called to Communion, quoted this from a commenter named “Brent” (source):

The beauty of the Church is that Truth is not subject to my weak intellect, sinfulness and pride. So, even when my “gut” or “head” or “heart” tells me birth control is “a-ok”, I’m wrong. Ah, I’m free! (Jn 8:32). Free from my weak intellect, sinfulness, and pride to reject my “gut, head, or heart” from telling me that Jesus is 50% God, baptism is a symbol, or Mary sinned.

The problem, of course, is that implicit faith in the Roman church also “frees” one to reject Scripture from telling one that Christ is the only head of the church and that Mary was a sinner in need of a savior.

Deacon Bryan then added:

Excellent! In matters of doctrine, God truly has set us free from our darkened intellect by using the Bible and and His Church to preach the truth to the poor. It strikes me as interesting that it is those involved in this discussion who believe our intellect has been destroyed, as I understand the reformers to have taught, who are the ones who think that the human mind is capable of formulating true doctrine on its own and without the need of God’s continued work in the Church. Of course, many protestants might label that a straw man, however until it is proven that there is a principled difference between solo scriptura and sola scriptura that is simply going to be the way I will continue to see it.

Except, of course, whenever one sees a difference between what the Bible says and what Rome says, the person with implicit faith in Rome accepts Rome and rejects the Bible. So, it’s not really “the Bible and [Rome]” but rather “Rome and the Bible, as long is it doesn’t contradict Rome.”

Moreover, Calvin and the Reformers didn’t teach that the intellect of regenerate man is “destroyed.” Calvin actually wrote: “To charge the intellect with perpetual blindness, so as to leave it no intelligence of any description whatever, is repugnant not only to the Word of God, but to common experience.” Institutes, Book 2, Chapter 2, Section 12. So yes, it is a straw man.

Furthermore, the Reformed position is not so much that “the human mind is capable of formulating true doctrine on its own and without the need of God’s continued work in the Church,” but rather that God can communicate true doctrine to his people using the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit, as well as a fallible church.


It may sound pious to say that one recognizes the weakness of one’s own intellect. Moreover, there is truth in the fact that one’s intellect is weak. The solution, however, is not implicit trust in men. If a man said that because his arms are weak, he plans not to use them, we’d either laugh at him, or criticize him as a sluggard.

When a Christian says that his intellect is weak, and therefore he will simply hand over his reasoning power to the elders of his church (whether he is an apostate church or a sound church), we ought to have a similar reaction.

The solution instead is continued study of Scripture (listening to what God says) and prayer to God for wisdom (speaking to God), as well as qualified reliance on the fallible means at our disposal, including our own intellect and the counsel of the church. Through this God-appointed means, we can seek the truth. There is no guarantee that we will get all of our doctrines perfectly correct. After all, God does not promise to remove the weakness of our intellect fully in this life.

Nevertheless, we can and should make use of the intellect that God has given us in pursuit of the truth. The Scripture commends the Bereans for this, and commends no one for implicit faith in the church – for refusing to investigate teachings and to compare them to Scripture.

A man who refuses to wash himself because he knows he can’t get himself perfectly clean is a lazy slob who is making an excuse. The man who refuses to search the Scriptures because he realizes his own fallibility is much more abominable.


3 Responses to “I Can’t Do it Perfectly, So I Won’t Even Try!”

  1. Nick Says:
  2. Kate Waldburger Says:
  3. John Bugay Says:

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