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Mind, Anti-Intellectualism, Doubt, and the Christian Mind, Servants of Grace
Anti-Intellectualism, Doubt, and the Christian Mind

Posted On April 28, 2019

Often, it’s thought in our secular culture that Christians are anti-intellectual. They believe this because often Christians give the impression that they have “blind faith” with nothing to intellectually back it up. I say give the impression not to suggest that Christians are anti-intellectual, but that we often give the impression to non-Christians that we don’t care about questions, nor about exploring what we believe and why it matters. To be clear, it’s not that we actually aren’t interested in what we believe and why it matters. There are plenty of resources and ministries out there that can help Christians understand what they believe and why it matters. Even so, one of the biggest charges by non-Christians is that Christians are anti-intellectual. In this article, I hope to trace some of the reasons for why Christians are viewed this way, talk about how to deal with doubt, and how to pursue a truly Christian mind and worldview for our lives.

Christians and the Intellectual Life

Christians throughout the history of the church—from the 2nd century to the present—have all pursued theological studies. They have sought to understand the Bible and then to explain what the Bible teaches to others. This undertaking is known as theology. R.C. Sproul famously said everyone is a theologian, the issue is whether you are a good theologian or a bad theologian. That’s true; but equally valid is the pursuit of the Christian mind and worldview.

At the very outset in the second century, men like Justin Martyr were trying to make sense of what the Bible teaches and to explain it to others. Additionally, they were defending the faith from attacks. Primarily, the response to opponents of Christianity clarified Christian doctrine in the first four hundred years and continues today as we seek to be precise, loving, and gracious theologians.

To the Christian, one’s mind is not an opponent of the Christian life. It is instead an issue of loving the Lord our God with all of our heart, mind, and strength (Matthew 22:37-40). Jesus says that part of loving Him wholly is to love Him with our mind. When we love Jesus with all of our mind, we will seek to grow in His grace. We will seek to contend for the faith, yes, but we will also seek to grow in the knowledge and skill of handling the Word of God.

Doubt and the Christian

One of the significant issues in Christianity today is the issue of loving God with our minds. We have an astronomical problem according to the statistics with biblical illiteracy. So, part of the charge of Christians asking questions, and even learning how to ask thoughtful questions of the biblical text, is they don’t know the Bible. When people think the Bible teaches that God helps those who help themselves, or that Billy Graham wrote the Sermon on the Mount, we have a problem. But the problem is not only with just saying biblical illiteracy is an issue. We need to provide solutions that aim to remedy it. We need to apply the right medicine to the problems of the day, not just provide critique. It’s a both/and—if we know the problem and don’t provide a solution to the problem we are just critiquing the problem. But if we critique the problem and make suggestions to improve the problem, we are exercising biblical wisdom. Biblical wisdom both addresses the problem of sin and provides a remedy to understanding in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

When we come to the issue of doubt in the Christian life, what I’ve often found is that many Christians think they are nothing. Typically this means they beat themselves up and pulverize themselves into a million pieces. But what does the Bible say? In Romans 8:1, after spending seven chapters talking about the nature of sin, justification, atonement, and more, Paul turns and says, “Therefore” (indicating that he is about to say something that builds on top of what he has said), “There is now therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” If we flip ahead about 30 verses to Romans 8:31-39, we can repeatedly see the security of the Christian is not because of themselves, it is solely because of Christ alone. Over and over again, Paul grounds the security and confidence of the Christian in Christ alone. You see, Christians are saved by Christ from the wrath of God to a life rooted in Him alone, for both the present and the future; not because they deserve it, but because of the finished and sufficient work, Christ has accomplished.

When Paul uses the language of “in Christ” he is referring to the idea of union with Christ. In John 15, Jesus talks about this when He says that He is the Vine and we are the branches (part of the vine). We are in Christ. We are no longer enemies of Christ, but friends of God. And since we are friends of God, we are now in Him. We have had our hearts of stone replaced with a new heart, with new desires and affections for Himself. It isn’t because we are so great, it’s because of what Christ accomplished that we are now in Him. So, the idea that we are not good enough, that we are so sinful and deserve only the worst is partly true. We deserve hell and damnation to be sure. We deserve to have the full weight of our sins thrown in our face by a holy God. At the same time beating ourselves and self-condemnation reveal a heart that has yet to come to terms with the glories of the gospel of grace. A heart that doubts the grace of God to forgive sinners is one that may not yet be resting and trusting in Christ alone.

How to Pursue a Truly Christ-like Mind and Worldview for Our Lives

Pursuing a Christ-like mind begins with how we view the Bible. If our view of the Bible is wrong, we have no hope of fighting against anti-intellectualism, since—for the Christian—the Bible is the beginning place for truth, knowledge, and learning about the person and work of the Lord Jesus. The Bible is the inspired, inerrant, sufficient, clear, and authoritative Word of God. The Bible is not a book of fairytales and myths but a book that reveals the glory of Jesus Christ as the God-Man.

In the sixty-six books of the Word of God, we learn about the character and nature of God, along with the plan of God that unfolds throughout in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The whole Bible has an entire message for the whole person that addresses their whole need before a holy God, who is mighty to save and who is soon returning.

To have a truly Christian mind, we must be in the Word of God. As mentioned previously, to be a Christian is to love the Lord with all we are, including our mind. The Christian is not against questions; they read and study the Bible to grow in their knowledge and skill of handling the Word of God so they can answer questions. Even so, when asked a question they don’t know the answer to, the best answer is not only, “I don’t know”, but also “I will find out”! That shows the non-Christian that you are interested in having a conversation, and are willing to continue to talk, but don’t know the answer right now because you are growing in your understanding of what you believe and why it matters.

In college I had a friend who was teetering on the line between Eastern mysticism and biblical Christianity. He was heavy into philosophy (among other things), so he was naturally curious and asked me lots of questions about the Bible and theology. After a few years of talking about these matters, it became apparent he was merely curious for curiosity’s sake. He wasn’t serious about exploring biblical Christianity to believe in Christ alone. He was only seeking to add Christian values to his ideas about Eastern philosophy.

Christians reject the idea of syncretism, which is exactly what my friend was doing—melding together a Christian worldview with non-biblical ideas. We reject this worldview, not because we reject people like my friend, but because their philosophy does not align with what the Bible teaches about itself as the foundation for truth. To the Christian, the foolishness of the world is just that: foolishness.

We are to be ready to have an answer for the reason for our faith, but also to honor Christ the Lord as holy in our hearts and our responses (1Peter 3:15). The more we are leading a holy life that honors God by grounding our lives in the Word of God, we will both be able to answer the questions people have intellectually, as well as demonstrate with our lives the truth we profess.

To have a Christian life is to watch our doctrine and life as Paul told Timothy. It is to do as Paul said to Timothy: to be an example in purity, speech, and conduct. That is not just for young Christians, but for all Christians. We may joke and jest with people, but at the end of the day, if our joking and jesting are only aimed at self-promoting and injuring others, we need to take a hard look at Ephesians 4:29. Our words are to be seasoned with salt, kindness, and be medicine to a hurting word. We have a message in the gospel that is announced with words. So the words we use matter because they reveal the condition of our heart before the Lord (Luke 6:45). What comes out of our mouths is a reflection of what is in our hearts.

Final Thoughts

The Christian is to have their lives increasingly shaped by the Bible, not by the world. The more we are shaped by the Word of God, the more our worldview will honor God. We will be able as we study the Word of God and sit under biblical preaching; to reject the world’s philosophy, but not reject the people of the world. We will be in the world but not of the world. We will grow in holiness with other Christians in the Church. We will hunger and thirst for righteousness and to daily enjoy Bible reading, along with the other spiritual disciplines, because they feed us, grow us, and nourish our souls.

The genuinely Christ-like mind is the best response to the anti-intellectualism of our day, as well as the best answer to the charge that Christians are against the life of the mind. No Christian is against the life of the mind. Christians are for rationality and intellect because of a love for God. That is why Christians have started libraries, published books, wrote articles, started hospitals, and much more out of a genuine love for God and people.

The best response to the charge of anti-intellectualism and the prevailing attitude of doubt in our culture is an authoritative, clear, sufficient, inspired, inerrant Word of God. It is this Word that we are to hold high before the eyes of an unbelieving world, which denies the truth because it would rather have its ears tickled. This is why we are to do what Paul says in 2nd Timothy 4: preach the Word in season and out of season until the Lord returns, and to look eagerly for the imminent return of the Lord Jesus.

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