A-1 - Encouraged by What You Read?

“It is man’s glory to be the only intellectual animal on earth. That imposes upon human beings the moral obligation to lead intellectual lives.”1

—Mortimer J. Adler

The first article I wrote on the subject of intellectuals in the church received so much attention on social media that I decided to follow up with a second. All of the positive comments and the flurry of likes and shares made me realize that I touched a nerve. I’m convinced that it is common for intellectually oriented Christians to experience difficulty “fitting in” with their local evangelical church.

Two common church-related factors create the problem.

First, the importance of the life of the mind often receives short shrift in many evangelical churches. The church often serves as a hospital, an aid station, a counseling center, a concert hall, or a sports stadium—all good and important things, of course—but the church must also be a school; that is, a place of learning where believers study from God’s two books of revelation: the book of nature (God’s world) and the book of Scripture (God’s Word).2

In failing to value and cultivate the life of the mind (which reflects God’s image) our churches are a lot like our culture. In fact, many people, both Christians and not, view learning as a mere instrumental good (something considered as a means to some other good; for example, a college degree may lead to a job). But seldom is the acquisition of knowledge viewed as an intrinsic good (something worthwhile for its own sake; for example, becoming a knowledgeable and wise person). When a church no longer functions as a school, cerebral types, for whom feeding the life of the mind is a daily passion, will inevitably feel out of place. They might think they have little in common with their church friends.

Second, some within the evangelical theological tradition have struggled with the idea that an intense pursuit of the life of the mind is somehow at odds with Christian spirituality. Sometimes it is said that intellectuals often struggle with pride, a deadly sin. It is also said that intellectuals have mere head knowledge whereas spiritual believers have heart faith. But while it is true that the intellectually inclined can indeed struggle with cerebral pride, it is also true that the affectively inclined can suffer with spiritual pride. Christians need to realize that there isn’t anything unspiritual or unbiblical about being a careful, rational thinker.3

Encouraging Our Cerebrally Oriented Brothers and Sisters

In my first article, I offered three suggestions for evangelical churches to help include intellectuals in their churches. So here I will offer three suggestions to encourage my fellow cerebral types who often feel out of place. I have, at times, struggled with feeling like I didn’t fit in with my church because of my insatiable appetite for learning and reflection, but adopting these three ideas significantly helped me find a sense of belonging.

1. Read the Writings of Some of Christianity’s Greatest Thinkers

There are times when I’ve felt alone because I’ve sensed that other Christians are not interested in what I find fascinating. In those times, I’ve reached out to some of the great Christian thinkers of the past for solace, encouragement, and inspiration. For example, when I read Augustine, Pascal, and C. S. Lewis, I gain the sense that I know them and that I’m part of their great conversation about ideas such as truth, goodness, and beauty. These three Christian authors write in such a way that I often feel they somehow know me and are writing to me. As an introvert I find it much easier to pick up a book than to introduce myself to someone I don’t know. Reading the writings of some of Christianity’s most reflective thinkers gives me a special sense of community that crosses the centuries.

2. Find Like-Minded Intellectuals within the Church and Build a Community

If you feel like you are a cerebral loner in the church, then talk with the church leaders about introducing you to people who may share your passion for the life of the mind. Even if your numbers are small, at least you will have others to discuss ideas with. You can encourage each other in pursuing the life of the mind to the glory of God. Building this intellectual fellowship will send a message to other members in the church, and even to church leaders, that the life of the mind is critically important to Christians.

3. Don’t Give Up on the Evangelical Church

Being an idea-oriented, bookish, and cerebral-type of Christian can have its challenges. People sometimes feel uneasy around thinker types, or might not know what to say to these “intimidating” minds. I want to strongly encourage thinkers to not give up on being part of a church and to be patient with other believers. Evangelical churches need their intellectually oriented members and we need the church, as well. Here’s what the author of Hebrews said to Christians in the first century:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.

—Hebrews 10:24–25

Part of being made in the image of God means that human beings are capable of being hunters and gatherers of truth. That task should be sacred among Christians. I want to encourage my cerebral Christian friends to keep caring about truth, knowledge, and wisdom by valuing and using the life of the mind to the glory of God.

Reflections: Your Turn

If you are intellectually minded, how do you connect with fellow church members? Visit Reflections on Wordpress to comment with your response.

Check out more from Reasons to Believe @ Reasons.org

About The Author

Kenneth R. Samples

I believe deeply that "all truth is God’s truth." That historic affirmation means that when we discover and grasp truth in the world and in life we move closer to its divine Author. This approach relies on the Christian idea of God’s two revelatory books - the metaphorical book of nature and the literal book of Scripture. As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. My writings and lectures at RTB focus on showing how the great doctrinal truths of the faith (the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, creation ex nihilo, salvation by grace, etc.) are uniquely compatible with reason. This approach reflects the historic Christian apologetics statement - "faith seeking understanding." I work to help myself and others fulfill Peter's words in 2 Peter 3:18: "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen." As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. • Biography • Resources • Upcoming Events • Promotional Items Kenneth Richard Samples began voraciously studying Christian philosophy and theology when his thirst for purpose found relief in the Bible. He earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy and social science from Concordia University and his MA in theological studies from Talbot School of Theology. For seven years, Kenneth worked as Senior Research Consultant and Correspondence Editor at the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and regularly cohosted the popular call-in radio program, The Bible Answer Man, with Dr. Walter Martin. As a youth, Kenneth wrestled with "unsettling feelings of meaninglessness and boredom," driving him to seek answers to life's big questions. An encounter with Christian philosophy in Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis led Kenneth to examine the New Testament and "finally believe that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God, the Lord and Savior of the world." From then on, he pursued an intellectually satisfying faith. Today, as senior research scholar at Reasons to Believe (RTB), Kenneth uses what he's learned to help others find the answers to life's questions. He encourages believers to develop a logically defensible faith and challenges skeptics to engage Christianity at a philosophical level. He is the author of Without a Doubt and A World of Difference, and has contributed to numerous other books, including: Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men, The Cult of the Virgin, and Prophets of the Apocalypse. He has written articles for Christianity Today and The Christian Research Journal, and regularly participates in RTB's podcasts, including Straight Thinking, a podcast dedicated to encouraging Christians to utilize sound reasoning in their apologetics. He also writes for the ministry's daily blog, Today’s New Reason to Believe. An avid speaker and debater, Kenneth has appeared on numerous radio programs such as Voice America Radio, Newsmakers, The Frank Pastore Show, Stand to Reason, White Horse Inn, Talk New York, and Issues Etc., as well as participated in debates and dialogues on topics relating to Christian doctrine and apologetics. He currently lectures for the Master of Arts program in Christian Apologetics at Biola University. Kenneth also teaches adult classes at Christ Reformed Church in Southern California. Over the years Kenneth has held memberships in the American Philosophical Association, the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the Evangelical Theological Society, and the Evangelical Press Association. The son of a decorated World War II veteran, Kenneth is an enthusiastic student of American history, particularly the Civil War and WWII. His favorite Christian thinkers include Athanasius, Augustine, Pascal, and C. S. Lewis. He greatly enjoys the music of the Beatles and is a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan. Kenneth lives in Southern California with his wife, Joan, and their three children.

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