Rejecting the Intellect

By Caleb Keith

The Christian faith is blessed with the ability to be informed and educated. The Lutheran Reformation highlighted and used this gift to its full advantage. Theologians were trained in Greek, Latin, Hebrew, History, Rhetoric, and Logic to better understand the Scriptures and clearly read what God revealed to the authors of the New and Old Testaments. Informed preachers and teachers were then called to proclaim the Gospel message to common people and train them not only to believe but to understand their faith.

Martin Luther’s small catechism serves to show how the Lutheran reformers hoped that all Christians might be able to know and teach others what they believed. However, some Christians have perceived this intellectual movement to be a rejection of the emotional and personal aspects of the Christian faith. In the American church, the seeds of anti-intellectualism were planted by the emotional focus of the First Great Awakening. While emotion is part of the Christian faith, it is not by nature opposed to the intellect. Sadly, many Christians today reject the intellectual aspect of faith extending past the emotional emphasis of Great Awakening preachers like George Whitefield and moving into a realm of blind faith.

The notion of blind faith is damaging to Christianity as a whole. It suggests that faith and reason are incompatible or part of two different realms. Today, this is widely used by Christians to avoid conflict with the scientific community. It is thought that by keeping faith and reason separated the conflict between Darwinian naturalism and Scripture becomes meaningless. This is, of course, a false sense of security for the Christian and ultimately damaging to the faith. When Christians remove reason from faith, the secular realm has a clear shot at reducing Christianity to fairy tales and warm feelings. A fictional story is a far cry from the objective truth and reality with which God gifts His people. 1 Peter 3:15 calls Christians to defend their faith and have “a reason for the hope that is within you.” In Matthew 22:37, Christ himself calls Christians, saying, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Christ does not isolate the heart and the mind but calls Christians to use them both.

Christians today face substantial intellectual opposition; the response should not be seclusion or a rejection of God’s good gifts. Instead, Christians should proudly educate their faith to ward off attack and better serve neighbor by clearly communicating and sharing the Gospel.

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One thought on “Rejecting the Intellect

  1. I think I understand what you are saying, but I think there needs to be some clarification. Faith, in one sense, is truly different from reason (e.g., “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ” SC, Third Article). In another sense, faith as in the “Christian faith” is not opposed to reason. Hence, reason, natural law, and logic can help us to formulate the Christian faith, doctrine, and ethics.

    Reason and faith do, however, seem to occupy two different realms. Saving faith is uniquely “before God,” while reason is “before man.” Meshing of the two realms gives you Catholic Scholasticism and a theology of glory.

    I think we do agree. It is a nuance, but an important one.

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