“I think, therefore I am.” Or in Latin – “Cogito ergo sum.” As it first appeared in French – “donc je suis.” A well meaning man’s effort to get to the basic of being, of exactly who we are. Rene Descartes was a devout Catholic and believer in the resurrected Christ, but Descartes wanted to be able to know. He wanted to know beyond all doubt why he was here, and that he existed. So, the cogito, as it came to be know, became the basis for just about all modern western philosophy. We believed, and maybe still believe, that this gave us a secure foundation for knowledge in the face of radical doubt. A fuller version was later given, “I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am.” While all other knowledge could be an illusion, imagination, lie, or just wrong, Descartes asserted that as long as one doubts one’s own existence, that at least proved the existence of the mind which doubted, which thereby proves the existence of the entity which has the mind which doubted. It proved the existence of self. And so the enlightenment was born, and we’ve being seeing the world through the lens of our self ever since.
But there is one problem with Rene Descartes revelation. Descartes expressed his thought, indeed thought his thought, “Cogito ergo sum,” in a language. Whether it was originally thought in Latin or French, I do not know the inner machinations of the mind of Rene Descartes, but I do know this – he thinks, therefore he is, in a language. A language which he did not create. A language which he did not think up himself. A language which he received from someone who taught him to speak in that language. To think in that language. Because such is the nature of language. We don’t invent, create, or make up the language we speak. We simply receive it. It is a gift given to us by the community in which we are raised. You can’t buy it. You don’t work for it. It is passed down to us, given to us by the society and culture in which we are raised. It can only come from the generations that have gone before.
What is my point? The point is that, if we think, therefore we are, then even by that self-centered philosophy, without the community around us to give us that language to think in, we do not exist. You can not even think outside of the freely given gift of language from the community in which you were born. Because without that language, you cannot even form a rational thought in your own mind. That language you did earn, did not work for and did not invent. You just received it, your free gift for being. So, we think therefore we are. But we don’t even exist, we are not, without that free gift of language from the community we are born into.
And so it is with our Christian faith. We didn’t invent it. We didn’t make it up. We couldn’t and wouldn’t make that up anyway, would we? We receive it. Christianity, like the free gift of salvation which it offers, is only a received faith. It is passed down from generation to generation. The doctrine of the Trinity, father, God and Holy Spirit. We didn’t come up with, or invent that. That Christ died for our sins…we didn’t make that up. That we may like to go to heaven and not the gates of hell, we did not create that ourselves. We learned that, we received this hope.
Yet, so many of us claim that we can do it on our own. ‘I don’t need church, I just need Jesus.’ ‘I have my bible, I don’t need no stinking church or no stinking church people!’ To which we should ask the question, which Jesus, and what Bible? Tell me about them. Tell me about this Jesus which you have your personal relationship with.
Because everything we know, and everything we think we know, about Jesus, we know from the community of faith and believers who passed that down through the generation. You didn’t make any of it up yourself. You did not receive it through your own personal divine revelation. It took the early church at least 400 years, with all the best and brightest minds, using all the methods they had learned from Greek and Roman philosophy, to come up with the doctrine of the trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. ‘But its in the bible!’ Of course its in the Bible. It always was. But, without the traditions that have been handed down from the church, you would and could not pull that out of the Bible. In other words, if you had never heard of Christianity, Jesus Christ, or any of the stories, you could be locked into a room for a year with the Bible, read 8 hours a day, six days a week. And when you were finished, we could ask you to tell us about God. And you most definitively would not start explaining to us about the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You would not start giving us atonement theories. You would not start explaining how we are justified by faith. It’s all in the book. But just reading it on your own, without the stories and beliefs which we have received as believers (and even as unbelievers), we would arrive at none of these conclusions on our own.
And let’s talk about the Bible. Where did it come from? You don’t need no stinking church – but who do you think created the Bible you claim to rely on? Yes, it was inspired, through 40+ writers, multiple languages, over 1500 years, by the Holy Spirit. But it was compiled, gathered, canonized, and organized by the very church which you claim you don’t need. It did not just fall from heaven into your lap.
Christianity is not a solo project. A lone Christian is no Christian at all. Christ’s most basic commands would be impossible. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”” John 13:35 ESV. “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” Romans 12:10 ESV. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” John 13:34 ESV. “”This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12 ESV. So, if you don’t need or want the church, just Jesus – what, exactly, are you to with this commandment to love one another? This is just a small sample, that command comes over and over again. And again. If you are a Lone Ranger Christian, do you just ignore this? Because it seems it would be hard to love one another without the one another. Reminds me of the old Billy Idol (an apt name) song “Dancing with myself”.
We don’t do this alone. Our Christian faith is a shared faith. The most basic, sacramental elements of our faith are communal in nature. You can’t baptize yourself, you can’t partake in the body and blood of Christ, broken for you, by yourself.
Why would you want to do it on your own? This occurred to me on stage giving a CR lesson last Friday night, a lesson called “admit”. The apostle Paul tells us to “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 NLT. We obey the law of Christ by sharing and carrying each other’s burdens. And we know the law of Christ – to love God and love neighbor. And of course, this little thing of love one another. But this us what came to me on stage last Friday night – that in following Paul’s command of sharing each other’s burdens, we accept Jesus’ invitation to “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”” Matthew 11:28-30 ESV. We, the church, are all part of the body of Christ, correct? Correct! So, when we share each other’s burdens, when you share what’s burdening you with your brother or sister, you are sharing that burden with Jesus Christ himself. The way we come to him, is by coming to his body, the church. You come to the church by coming to the individual members, one another.
James, the half brother of Jesus, tells us “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:16 ESV. Again, that one another thing. This is how we find healing, how we begin to walk in the light of Christ and our own salvation. This is where healing begins!! We come to each other, one another, we pray for and with each other. We can not do it alone. We weren’t made to walk alone. I don’t care what your radio tells you.
Accept Jesus’ invitation. If you are laboring, heavy laden, weary, he will give you rest. Take his yoke upon you. It’s where you will find rest for your soul. Come to church, find the body of Christ, find rest for you souls. Our yoke is easy, our burden is light.
Cogito ergo sum. Except that without the community to walk with you, give you that language, pass down that faith, you can’t even think on your own. About God, Jesus, or anything else.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.””
Matthew 11:28-30 ESV
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
James 5:16 ESV
“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”
Galatians 6:2 NLT