A Call to Rigor: Defending Christian Intellectualism

“Ignorance isn’t a Christian virtue.”

Dr. James R. White

While the majority of Christians would hold to this truth in principle you might be hard pressed to find that same majority practicing said principle.

Just Imagine

You’ve just placed your faith in Christ. The beauty of His majesty has supernaturally changed your heart and you have received the grace that He bestowed upon you. You find a local church and begin to dig deep into the scriptures only to find a myriad of issues and questions that ultimately just catapult you into confusion.

At last the words of your elders as you publicly professed your faith come into the forefront of your mind, “Listen, if you have any questions please let us know. We will try our best to answer them and if we can’t—we will find someone who can!” As anyone would do, you rush to them and ask your questions. With much anticipation and anxiety, you have all your hope resting on these godly men’s advice.

Their explanation? “Well, we’ve always believed that way,” “that’s just how [insert denomination] believe,” or my personal favorite “some things we just won’t know this side of heaven.”

Diagnosing the Problem

Why is this? Why does it seem like no matter where you make your home, these are the explanations we get? Why is growing in your walk with Christ encouraged, but only with the absence of mind?

The growth of the Christian mind is sadly, becoming more and more frowned upon. We are told to have more “trust,” which actually—more times than not—ends up being an exhortation to exercise that honorary fruit of Christian maturity, otherwise known as “blind faith.”

Before I began pastoring, I would visit churches and hear the pastor say things like, “just have more faith,” and “you just have to trust that,” or worst of all “God never meant for Christians to use their brains.” Where these ideas entered the church, I have no idea—but they are a cancer.

We stand boldly and declare by the power of Matthew 4 that Satan knows scripture better than we do! As if that was something to be proud of. We frown upon men and women who “talk over our heads” or “act like they’re smarter than us,” and cringe when our faith leaders use big words with even bigger meanings. All the while we are sending our kids away on our dime to spend eight hours a day, five days a week to learn even larger words with even less meaning.

It is not and never will be okay to “check your brain in at the door,” when you come to church as Tellable Truths writer Ethan Sowders once stated.

The Hard Truth

The answer to the question, “Why are Christians so ignorant?” is simple. We choose to be. We “check our brains in at the door” and would rather rely on other people to hash the hard things out for us.

Many of us just don’t care. We have no desire to be a “smart Christian” and when those of us who have the desire to be that Christian, make steps in that direction, we get shot down, discouraged, and trampled on by the people described above.

We’ve thus created a culture that sustains itself by thriving on ignorance and replacing knowledge with feelings. After all, it is easier to “feel” than it is to “know.” Therefore, we would rather feel like God loves us then know that God loves us. Unfortunately, one fades and one lasts for an eternity.

And what’s the main difference? Lost people can feel saved yet only the redeemed can know they are saved. This is why it is fundamental to the Christian faith that we are growing in the knowledge of truth at all times. It is an issue of assurance and stability. Scripture articulates this beautifully:

You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 3:17-18a

Repentance Needed

Peter states that we should “take care” or in other words “to be on guard.” What should we be on guard over? He states that we should be on guard so that we don’t lose our stability.

The word for “stability” means firmness and steadfastness. He is reminding us that when we get carried away with lawlessness, we lose the firmness of our faith. How do we combat that? We, as verse 18 says, “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

If there were ever a time that God’s people need to reestablish this “firm” and “steadfast” faith it would be now. The way we do so is that we grow. “Grow” in verse 18 refers to the non-stop progress and development in the life of faith.

When we flesh this out in broader terms the passage could say “Be on guard that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose the firmness of your faith. But never stop developing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord…”

Knowledge seems to be a terminal illness in the minds of many modern-day western church goers. We have been bred that way though. Biblically and traditionally, our knowledge of the scriptures has come through the family. Yet for some reason, in the past several decades—and nearly century—we have ceased operation and have outsourced educating our beloved children to Caesar. And we have neglected, not only standard education, but we’ve also outsourced our biblical education as well.

How so you say?

Pastors have been delegated the primary mission of the parents—that is to disciple their children—and they also now shoulder the monumental task of delivering probably the only spiritual truth many members of the congregation will care to hear all week.

Most church members get their 35 minutes of scripture on Sunday mornings only to neglect God and His words for the following 167.5 hours of the week. The issue is, people don’t mind that. We are guilty of fooling ourselves into thinking we’ve attained to a level of enlightenment, when really all we are is driven by our willful ignorance.

How must we fight this growing desire to remain unknowledgeable about God’s truths?

Well, as the Psalmist prayed, we must also:

Deal bountifully with your servant,
that I may live and keep your word.
Open my eyes, that I may behold
wondrous things out of your law.

Psalm 119:17-18

The Way Forward

Pray that the God of creation would do just this with His church and yourself.

That our eyes would be opened and that we may behold the wonderous things of His law. That God’s word would burrow its way deep within our heart not only to fill us with knowledge but also to fill us with insatiable hunger for His company. A never ending hunger that drives our minds to the unceasing process of renewal and growth—that the church may know God more intimately and therefore be better equipped to cry forth the praises He deserves. May we be diligent in serving our Master through tenacious study of His all satisfying word.

Or, to summarize it in this way—“Christians ought not be dumb.”

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