Ideas Have Consequences

The aim of our charge is love. (1 Timothy 1:5)

Victor Frankl was imprisoned in the Nazi concentration camps of Auschwitz and Dachau during the Second World War. As a Jewish professor of neurology and psychiatry he became world renowned for his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, which sold over eight million copies.

In it he unfolds the essence of his philosophy that came to be called Logotherapy — namely, that the most fundamental human motive is to find meaning in life. He observed in the horrors of the concentration camps that man can endure almost any “how” of life, if he has a “why.” But the quote that stirred me recently was this:

I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidanek were ultimately prepared not in some ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and in the lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers. (“Victor Frankl at Ninety: An Interview,” in First Things, April 1995, p. 41.)

In other words, ideas have consequences — consequences that bless or destroy. People’s behavior — good and bad — does not come out of nowhere. It comes from prevailing views of reality that take root in the mind and bring forth good or evil.

One of the ways that the Bible makes plain the truth that ideas have practical consequences is by saying things like, “Whatever was written in former days was written . . . [that] we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). The ideas presented in the Scriptures produce the practical consequence of hope.

Again, Paul says, “The aim of our charge is love” (1 Timothy 1:5). The imparting of ideas through a “charge” or through “instruction” produces love.

Hope and love do not come from nowhere. They grow out of ideas — views of reality — revealed in the Scriptures.

Another way the Scriptures show us that ideas have consequences is by using the word “therefore” (1,039 times in the NASB). “Therefore” means that what follows comes from somewhere. For example, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Or: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Or: “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow” (Matthew 6:34).

If we want to live in the power of these great practical “therefores,” we must be gripped by the ideas — the views of reality — that go before them and stand under them. Ideas have consequences. So, let’s bring all our ideas under the authority of God’s word.