The Sin of Intellectualism
Both my father and mother went to college and obtained a bachelor’s degree. My father has since then advanced and gained a master’s degree, a doctoral degree, and is currently in law school. Study and education was not an option, but rather a necessity to our daily lives. Growing up, I would joke that everything was a leadership lesson, but in all reality, it was. Study was directly related to my growth as a person and my formation as a Christian, but, even with that, there was confusion.In the household that I grew up in, education and study was a vital part of our daily lives.My parents were Assemblies of God pastors; therefore I grew up in a Pentecostal home. Dennis Prager hit the nail on the head about Pentecostalism when he said, “One thing I noticed about evangelicals is that they do not read. They do not read the Bible, they do not read the great Christian thinkers, they have never heard of Aquinas” (Piper/Mathis, 16). This was a mindset that I had to deal with.No, this mindset was not in my home, or even my church, but it was in the conferences and events that I went to. The focus seemed to be centered on the emotional and experiential aspect of God as opposed to the intellectual aspect of God. More often than naught, I would find myself listening to youth evangelists that did not have strong theological backing for their sermons or statements. Everything was said to help guide us to a “peak” or mountaintop of emotion. It was like I was on a guided path to an emotional experience that always resulted in someone yelling “bam” and another person falling on the floor. The Pentecostal drive for an emotional experience characterized my out-of-church God experiences.As I would participate in these services, God would really work in my heart and in my life. Emotional encounters with God do have a place, but they cannot be what we thrive on as Christians. Even David Mathis stated, “Christianity is also plainly about feeling. The heart is central. Our faith is irreducibly emotional” (Piper/Mathis, 17). I needed more.The years passed and I began to thirst for a deeper foundation for these experiences that I was having. I craved to know the theology of God and to learn on an intellectual level about the nature and beauty of God. What I began to realize was that God wants all of us and not just our hearts or emotions.The Bible clearly states that we are to seek wisdom, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; fools despise wisdom and knowledge” (New Revised Standard Version, Prov. 1:7). If the fool despises wisdom then we must search after wisdom because nobody wants to be a fool! The Bible clearly says there is more to Christianity than just emotions, but we must also search for wisdom and knowledge. Rick Warren wrote, “Become a lifelong learner. Love knowledge. Love wisdom. Learn to love the act of learning” (Piper/Mathis, 32). If “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (New Revised Standard Version, Prov. 1:7) then knowledge and the pursuit of wisdom are directly correlated with our spiritual growth and journey. Yet, some groups forget this obvious point.When I began to truly study the Scriptures and the teachings of great Christian leaders my relationship with God grew stronger. There was substance to what had been pure emotion. It was like new aspects of God were opened up to me that I had not seen before. This was not because they were hidden, but rather, because I could not see them due to my lack of knowledge.I remember sitting in my room one night determined not to leave until I had answered a question about God that had been floating around in my mind. I sat there for minutes that turned into hours until my father gently knocked on my door. What he said changed my view forever. He said, “You cannot answer a question that you have no knowledge about. Go to bed and when you wake up begin to study about it so you can formulate an answer.” Our relationship with Christ and our Christian formation is multidimensional. David Mathis stated:As Scripture makes it plain, the Christian life is a multidimensional reality. The life-of-the-mind perspective alone won’t capture the full biblical texture. The Christian life is more than mere intellect. And the angle of feeling–the life of the heart–won’t do it justice by itself to the full biblical witness. Rather, holistic Christian existence is irreducibly thinking, loving, and doing–mind, heart, and hands” (Piper/Mathis, 15).
Christianity requires and demands our full selves, body, heart, and spirit.
Piper, John, David Mathis, and Richard Warren. Thinking, Loving, Doing. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011. Print.The Holy Bible: New International Version, Containing the Old Testament and the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Bible, 1978. Print.