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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Trickle-Down Thinking

Trickle-down economics is a theory that lets rich people be rich with the idea that they will share their wealth by hiring and by spending, so we all get to share in it. I'm not talking about trickle-down economics. I'm talking about thinking from the top down.

We generally see the world from the bottom up. Let me explain. We go from the known to the unknown. It's the only way we can operate. We know what's in front of us in the light, so we're fine, but we don't know what's in the dark, so we're cautious. We know that the sun comes up every day, so we plan for it -- literally set our clocks by it. We know from experience and education lots of things and we operate from there to try to figure out things we don't yet know. It's just the way we are.

That's generally a good idea. Unfortunately, there is at least one time that it isn't. When it comes to theology, as a rule, we operate from the bottom up. "I know this is true about me, so what can I discover about God?" So, "I am finite, so God must also be limited" makes sense. "I can be capricious, so God is likely the same at times." Or, "This obviously bad thing happened, so God is in some way defective." I'm sure you can see, at least in the first two, that there is a problem. God said it Himself. "You thought that I was one like yourself." (Psa 50:21) He's not. So figuring out God from the bottom up isn't going to work.

This is where we need to use what I'll call "trickle-down thinking." Here's how it works. He is God; we are not. Therefore, we need to go with His revelation about what He is like first and then work our way back to us. Because, as it turns out, "The heart is deceitful and desperately sick" (Jer 17:9), so we need a genuine, trustworthy standard to use for this, and that's not us.

Let's try one. Rather than "This obviously bad thing happened, so God is in some way defective," let's start with what we know from God.
"Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, 'My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure.'" (Isa 46:9-10)
Just a single example. The Scriptures are full of them (e.g., 2 Chron 20:6; Job 42:2; Psa 115:3; Psa 135:6; Dan 4:35; Isa 45:9-10; Matt 19:26; Eph 1:11; 1 Tim 1:17; 1 Tim 6:15; James 4:15; Heb 1:8 ... for starters). Nothing stops God from accomplishing what God wills. That's what God reveals about Himself. Further, "'My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor 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.'" (Isa 55:8-9) So we know that He doesn't think like we do. Beyond that, Jesus told us, "No one is good except God alone." (Luke 18:19) and Abraham asked the ultimate rhetorical question when he asked God, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?" (Gen 18:25) So God always accomplishes His will, He doesn't think like we do, He is the only good, and He always does what is right.

Thinking down from there, that means that the bad things that have happened -- the events that makes us question God -- are bad from our perspective but not from God's viewpoint. He is good. He is right. That means that the problem is in our perspective, not His character. That clearly points out that we have deceived hearts and need a renewed mind, but it casts no aspersions on God. Further, if God is who His Word says He is, there is always hope in bad events because God will always do what's best. So thinking from the top down certainly changes what we think about God and what we might have originally believed about ourselves.

That was just an exercise. Try it sometime. See what you can see about God in His Word and then think down to how that might change how you see people ... particularly yourself. I think it might be enlightening. And if we are to work from the known to the unknown, it is best not to start with what we know about ourselves because that just might be wrong. Let's start with what The Truth (John 14:6) gives us and work down.

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