Beyond Intellect

Addendum (12/11/13): I should perhaps have qualified the comments below by saying what I mean by ‘Evangelical’ and ‘Fundamentalist’, because these can mean different things to different people/cultures. I consider myself Evangelical. I believe it is important to live a life that shares the Gospel and that my life’s purpose is to live out God’s message of Love, as embodied in His Son, and as demonstrated in the New Testament. I would not use the word ‘Fundamentalist’ to describe myself, however. ‘Fundamentalism’ conjures ideas of people for whom being ‘right’ is more important than anything else, even to the point of causing harm; forgetting the call to be humble, to be modest, to be kind, to be loving. I don’t and cannot identify with a Christianity which is so busy being ‘right’ that it forgets Jesus’ most straightforward command – ‘love one another’. On the other hand, some friends/acquaintances who may have fundamentalist tendencies are often ardent and well-meaning. I don’t condemn them, or indeed, anyone. May the peace that passes understanding be with you, brothers and sisters in Christ.

 

Some Christians, particularly – in my experience – some Evangelical or Fundamentalist Christians, maintain a stringent grasp of anti-intellectualism. They cling to it as to a life raft in a stormy sea. Anyone who disagrees with them, so they say, must be a heretic, a snake in the grass, etc. This is wrong.

God gave you a brain so that you can use itJust don’t get the idea that you know anywhere near as much as He does. Because you don’t. That is called ‘pride’ and it’s a sin that often gets forgotten in sermons. For some reason… Your brain is a pea drifting aimlessly in the wide expanse of the infinite universe (compared to God). 

Nonetheless, there was certainly an intellectual tradition in Jesus’ time. This is why everyone was so amazed when as a young boy He was found arguing with the scholars in the Temple (see Luke 2:41-52) and why time and again in later life He argued with the religious scholars who made a name for themselves by being cleverer than everyone else (and by wielding this as a weapon instead of using it as a love-gift). As Followers of Christ we must maintain an intellectual curiosity about life, the world, etc., (as far as we are able with whatever intellectual gifts we have been given). To do anything less is to bury our talents and serve them up to God untouched and under-utilised (see Matthew 25:14-30). But that’s not where it ends.

It is common in British culture for the intellect to be prized above all else. Indeed, intellectualism is prized so highly that it becomes a ‘religion’ in and of itself. This too is wrong.

Longing for God

‘Social observers refer to our society today as a ‘knowledge society’… The problem with living on the order of the mind is that if we do not rise above it, we develop arrogance in our knowledge and know-how… Pascal suggests that people who live on the order of the mind and do not learn to use reason properly inevitably develop a pride that blinds them to areas where they are ignorant or ill-informed, including their need for God.

Foster & Beebe. (2010). Longing for God: Seven Paths of Christian Devotion. London: Hodder & Stoughton.

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