If you haven’t read the introduction to this series please read it here first.
Some people believe that the word “intellectual” should have no place in Christianity. “Christianity is not a mind thing,” they argue. However, this is not true. Christianity is a spiritual thing, and it is also a mind thing. Indeed we are transformed by the renewing of our minds, and the mind is the battlefield where the actual battle for our souls take place daily.
Ninety percent of the difficulty in the Christian life is caused because we don’t understand the Scriptures well enough. ~ Gary Thomas
Jehovah God required the Israelites to love Him with all their hearts, their minds, and all their strength. And as Jesus emphasized, this is the first of the two greatest commandments. For Christians who love God through ritual, by adoration from the heart, or by caring for others, loving God with the mind may not resonate. They may wonder, how does one love, worship and draw near to God with the mind?
Our culture doesn’t always think of the mind when it thinks of love and devotion. Drugstores don’t sell chocolate brains on Valentine’s Day – it’s always the heart that is exalted when love is talked about – but biblically speaking, chocolate brains would be perfectly acceptable. ~ Gary Thomas.
The role that intellectual pursuit and service have played in the advancement of God’s work cannot be overemphasized. God gifted the Body of Christ with teachers to whom we can listen and be transformed by the great insight that God has given His church through them. The Christian intellectual is given to loving God with his mind, and God, in turn, endows him with understanding, for the benefit of other Christians.
It may not be easy for caregivers and contemplatives to understand how powerfully some of their Christian brethren can love and worship God with their minds, how their adoration is unleashed when their minds are stimulated and awakened, but God’s ways are not our ways. Each one of us is fearfully and wonderfully made.
Any form of Christianity… that rejects or even denigrates the importance of the mind is not a biblical Christianity.
Christians with this temperament are in good company as well. From the Apostle Paul who could often be found in lecture halls and in homes teaching, reasoning and proving that Jesus was the Messiah, to theologians who led the church out of the Dark Ages, and later those who would lead the Reformation fueled by powerful thought, the works of Christian intellectuals are well documented.
Do you feel closest to God when you learn something new about Him that you didn’t understand before? Is it important to you that you know exactly what you believe? Do you get frustrated when the church focuses too much on feelings and spiritual experience? Do you think the need to understand the Christian faith and have proper doctrine is far more important? Do the words “concepts” and “truth” appeal strongly to you? Do you feel close to God when you participate in several hours of uninterrupted study time, perhaps followed by an opportunity to discuss or teach?
If yes, then you can benefit from these tips to grow spiritually as an intellectual, and even come up with more:
- Get intellectual training: This is the most obvious; get thee to a Bible school or seminary. If you’d rather not go that route, or are unable to, you can learn at the feet of a seasoned Bible teacher. The classroom is just one educational path. Books, audio and video materials, and Bible study sessions that are well planned can be invaluable methods of honing your thoughts and beliefs. You can even learn in your car instead of wasting your commutes listening to programmes that are of no eternal value.
- Round out your knowledge: It’s not enough for you to have a general idea of what everything is about, without knowing well what it all means. Again, even if you don’t go to Bible school, a pastor who has can give you pointers and guides that will help you study and understand Christianity more fully: Church history, biblical studies, systematic theology, ethics and very importantly, apologetics, concerned with explaining and defending the faith today in the midst of unbelief. The workman must study to show himself approved.
- Be a lifelong learner: Yours is a lifetime calling. To grow spiritually, you must continue to study and learn how we can apply the Word in everyday life. Christianity is not all about feeling and sensations. Our actions, thoughts, and beliefs must conform to the image of Christ. Thankfully, we have a great Teacher -the Holy Spirit, and a reliable and authoritative group of teachings – the Bible, to guide us.
Some temptations to watch out for as an intellectual:
- Loving controversy: There’s a thin line between teaching and arguing, and it’s very easy to cross it. When it is crossed, the intellectual begins to court controversy for its own sake, and to enjoy “correcting” people a little too much. In Apostle Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus, he repeatedly warns against an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words, which cause friction and strife; the servant of the Lord must not strive. To have knowledge without love is to have nothing.
- Knowing without doing: Knowing what is right is no substitute for doing what is right. In fact, knowing what is right gives us a greater obligation to do it. To live otherwise is sin to you.
- Being proud: The Bible makes it clear that knowledge puffs up. Pride is one of the most common failings among those with a superior mind. If God has gifted you with an unusually good mind, always remember that it is for the edification of His church, not for showing off or self-gratifying demonstrations of intellectual superiority. God resists the proud. Listen to the Holy Spirit always, and be discerning. Just as a gifted singer must know the right time to sing, so also someone with a superior mind must learn the time and place to engage others in proper discourse.
Intellectuals must never forget that it is the cause of Christ we promote with our intellect, and it is God we worship and love with our minds. It’s all about Him, not you.
Next Sunday we’ll be reviewing Sensates: Loving God with the Senses.
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