Thursday, September 17, 2009

Intellectual Faith

I'm noticing a growing trend. I'm not sure if its just because I read a book that opened my eyes or if God has been allowing me to become more aware of it lately, but I've noticed a something in Christianity: not a lot of people really KNOW what their faith really is. I don't mean that people don't know that Jesus Christ died on the cross and three days later rose from the dead. I'm talking about having an intellectual grasp of their faith to such a degree that they could answer questions from skeptics, cynics, and unbelievers

The more I look around I don't see this true knowledge and understanding of the faith. It makes me wonder if I really know the things that I should. So that I'm not vague, let me give some examples. How would you answer these questions intelligently?

* Is the Bible really God's Word without errors and flaws, or is it simply an inspiring book, but not one that should be taken literally? 

* If asked why you believe that God created the world in the way in which the Bible describes instead of the process of evolution, what kind of answer would you give?

* If while sharing your faith with someone that said to you, "I believe that all ways lead to God and there is no one way." how would you respond?

* If told, "The Bible was put together by men who picked which books would be in there and which books wouldn't, plus many books were left out." How would you answer this claim?

Skeptics believe they can pick on Christians intellectually because they don't believe we are capable and equipped to answer their questions. I personally think that needs to change. Beginning in 2010 I'm going to be diving deep into a bunch of teaching series that will be aimed at equipping Christians to give an account for their faith and at the same time, answering questions that skeptics may be asking. 

Questions for you to answer: What things do you personally feel unequipped to answer about your faith? What subjects would you like to see taught on this issue? I would love to hear your answers.


  1. While I do agree, but only to a point. We need to teach for obedience rather than knowledge. Because somewhere along the way we began to beleive that the way we access knowledge about God or Jesus or the Spirit or Christianity were those things themselves. We mistook our contingent knowledge of God for God, trading in the worship of God for images fashioned in our own likeness in what Peter Rollins has named conceptual idolatry: "any system of thought which the individual takes to be the visible rendering of God." Thus our faith has become domesticated, made in our own image, deprived of its wilderness. In the pursuit of the systematic, rational, objective, and universal, the particular, intuitive, imaginative, poetic, and creative have been lost. I am afraid we have lost the ability to discern and follow the Spirit of God, especially as he leads us in places unfamiliar and unknown by our domesticated faith rather than being able to give rational answers to worldview questions. We have bought into modernity's claim that the starting point of reality is self (or the answers we can systematically put together by stringing together unrelated verses) and jettisoned the biblical story. So much so that the Bible has become:

    an encyclopedia of topical religious information - check

    a blueprint for how to _____ - check

    a book of answers, especially for refuting those with whom we disagree - check

    as supporting material for systematic theology - check

    A story about the confusing presence of a personal trinitarian deity engaging bizarrely unpredictable people in astounding and mundane ways over a long period of time - not so much.

  2. Michael, those are great thoughts. I agree whole-heartedly with those thoughts. I too do not believe that intellect or "knowing" should be the end of objective. Being in relationship with the all-consuming God is ultimately the life each follower of Jesus should be engaged in.

    I think what I'm really gearing my thoughts towards are those who have simply taken the anti-intellectual approach to faith. When we are not grounded in the truth of God we can easily be led astray. Two major cults sprang forth out of an emotion-driven Great Awakening in America: Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormonism. These gained prominence quickly because many of the converts to these cults came off the heels of a religious conversion at a emotion-based revival and they lacked any intellectual grounding of the truth in their discipleship. These leads to very susceptible Christians who can be led astray by the newest ideas and philosophies.

    A modern example is how so many Christians got freaked out and about lost their faith when Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code was popular. Many Christians mistaked fiction for reality and the History Channel for truth. I personally believe this happened because many have made Christian commitments without taking the time to know what they believe. Does this mean seminary? No. But I do think as Peter tells us, we should be prepared to give an account/defense for why we believe what we believe.

    Good conversation. How do we not continue to perpetuate anti-intellectualism in the church, yet continue to push people toward the God who is a consuming fire?

  3. I come from the period of history that knowing about God was a quest in knowing God.

    Vine's/// Greek Noun Knowledge....epignosis akin to epiginosko, denotes "exact or full knowledge, discernment, recognition," and is a strengthened form of gnosis, expressing a fuller or a full "knowledge," a greater participation by the "knower" in the object "known," thus more powerfully influencing him."

    I love this verse with the Greek Noun

    Col. 1:19
    9 And so, from the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,"

  4. I think that because Christianity in 2009 is, for the most part, not grounded in any type of intellect, Christians often don't engage people who look, act, talk, and think differently than they do.

    I do feel that we as followers of The Way neglect people in ways Jesus never would and compassion is lacking, to be sure.

    Violence, hatred, anger and neglect seem to stem from ignorance though. Knowledge is the enemy of ignorance (Isaiah 44:18). Is intellect not the perfect place to begin engaging Christians who may be less than interested in helping their fellow man?

    If we desire to change the hearts of Christians, so they will truly become followers of Christ, the heart and mind need to be together. The heart seems to be there or they would not even call themselves Christians, the mind is where the ignorance is. That seems to be the battlefield.

  5. I think followers of Christ should be as knowledgeable as we possibly can, being ready and equipped for all moments when we encounter others who don't know the living God. If our goal is to become more like Jesus than we have to learn and grow in biblical truth learning the character of God and all his precepts. We know that when Jesus was a young boy he was very knowledgeable of the old testament and impressed many by his desire and ability to learn so quickly. If we are to be more like Christ than our knowledge has be on a large scale, and the reason I say is because, Jesus was a perfect example of being able to put himself on other peoples level depending on where they were in there spiritual journey. When he approached the religious leaders his knowledge showed and when he was with his desciples he brought himself down to there level so they could understand. Jesus was fully equipped at all times for any given situation as we should be. Keep preaching the truth Erik!!