Welcome to the final instalment in my series on why thinking matters greatly in the life of the Christian. In part 1 of the series, we looked at the spiritual malnourishment that Christians put themselves through to avoid the ‘lifeless endeavour’ that is theology (or, putting-God-in-a-box-ology). We learnt that the Bible creates a vital link between thinking and spiritual health. Part 2 expanded this intellectual famine out into the watching world – theologically starved Christians do not tend to provide a stimulating case for belief. And now, in part 3, we face the consequence of these two errors.
To put it bluntly– thinking matters because not thinking dishonours God and is therefore, a sin. Few professing Christians would be comfortable with the idea of bringing God’s name into disrepute, yet fewer seem to have made the connection between glorifying God (making Him look great) and engaging in the life of the mind.
A disdain for thinking in the Christian life is not merely a spiritual boo-boo, but a brazen refusal to live and love God in the way that He has prescribed. When Jesus stated that the greatest commandment is to love God with all one’s heart, soul, and mind (Matt. 22:37) he was in effect saying, “Love me with all of your being. Love me in all the ways I have created you.” Never—in Jesus’ mind or in Scripture—is there a splitting of head and heart; they are always meant to go together. 1
Christians (and humanity in general) tend to concentrate on the activity of their hearts and hands – on what they are feeling and doing. We are hard-coded doers. Value is rarely attributed to thoughts or beliefs, but rather to desires and deeds. Few think about their thinking. What I have aimed to achieve in writing these articles is not for Christians to forsake the pursuit of devoted hearts and generous hands, but for the correct paradigm to be restored. Truth enters through the gateway of the mind, is accepted, believed and treasured, and then the rest of the body follows suit, instinctively obeying. This is demonstrated with the following adage:
Head > Heart > Hands. 2
Removing or rearranging any component in this progression will cause the whole thing to collapse. Only with all three in the correct order is the Christian able to live in a way that brings glory to God’s name. The very fact that God ordained His words of eternal life to be written down in a physical book shows us that He first aims to take our minds as willing captives before wooing the rest of our being.
Just like every other sin, Christian anti-intellectualism brings shame to God’s name and is worthy of punishment. We can’t blame our lack of thinking on our culture, our brains, or just try to pretend it isn’t important. The Bible is clear and it will not alter its wording for you. The natural response here should be to mourn.
However, there is one more glaring similarity to all other sins – it is not beyond the all-encompassing reach of Jesus Christ. When Jesus died on that cross, he bore the punishment for every sin that his people had and would commit, including the sin of anti-intellectualism. I don’t know about you, but that glorious gift of grace makes me want to exercise my intellect so I can learn even a touch more about this beautiful God who saves.
1. “The Church Needs Philosophers and Philosophers Need the Church” Paul Gould, The Gospel
philosophers-need-the-church), accessed on 11 October 2014
2. This wee maxim has been borrowed from David Murray’s blog of the same name.