Home Articles Site map
by Jacob Ninan
By ‘intellectuals’ I mean those whom God has endowed with a special capacity to think about things objectively, understand and analyse them, and come to conclusions. Everybody does these things, but intellectuals are those who have a special strength in this area. Just as other talents and gifts that God has distributed among people, which make each of them a special type of a person, this particular ability also makes these people different from others whose special gift is something else. Though in the specific area of intelligence these people have something more than the others, it does not make them superior to the others in an overall sense because they may lack abilities which others have. There are many other areas where the others are more capable. So we are not discussing intellectuals as if they are some superior people, but as those whose special gifts are in the intellectual area.
There are some Christians who notice some special difficulties which intellectuals face and therefore warn everyone against using their intellect. They hold that only faith is required in the spiritual life and to bring in intellectualism is to bring in human wisdom. They warn that reason is the enemy of faith and emphasise that the Christian’s calling is to walk by faith and not by sight. The implication is that faith and reason cannot coexist or they are not compatible with each other. There are reasons for this apprehension, and that is something we would like to examine here. But intelligence and the ability to reason are things that are given by God. It is one of the areas in which we are made in the image of God because He too thinks objectively, reasons, understands, analyses and comes to conclusions. Therefore, we must not ‘throw out the baby along with the bathwater’, as they say, meaning we must not oppose intellectuals altogether just because there are some possible dangers there. While we should stay away from misusing these abilities, we should not neglect their use either.
Many intellectuals find it difficult to believe in God because they are unable to see Him. They want to be able to see, touch and handle Him before they can acknowledge He exists. They do not seem to realise how very irrational they are in this because what they are trying to do is to understand and explain the Infinite using their finite mind! Also, God is a spirit who cannot be seen and handled. They are trying to explain the unfamiliar using what they are familiar with! So the first thing they need to do is to recognise that they are dealing with One who is their Creator as well as of the whole universe. They cannot know Him by their own methods, but they have to accept whatever He has chosen to reveal of Himself to man.
Most religions of the world have come up as a result of people using their imagination to depict God. Many began to worship things they were afraid of in their attempt to appease them. Many others formed concepts about God through discussions of philosophy. All such attempts fail because of their invalid approach, trying to define God based on their own limited knowledge.
We Christians recognise the fact that our faith is not based on our own pursuit after knowledge, but the result of God reaching out to us. The ultimate act of God reaching out to us was in the form of coming down to our world and taking our form. As Son of God and Son of Man Jesus bridged the gap between God and man by paying off our ransom with His life blood and restoring man’s access to God. When we repent from our sins and our sinful lives and receive this free gift of salvation from God, we become His children. He gives us a new heart and spirit, writes His laws upon our heart and begins to help us to walk in His ways (Ezek.36:27,28).
It is through His written word, the Bible, that God mainly reveals Himself to man. We hear about this salvation and the way to experience it through God’s word. The Bible reveals God to us in a way no other book can, because it was inspired by God Himself as He used different men to write it down. There are many things we can cite to prove the divine origin of this book, but what seems most convincing to me is the fact that it is a living book—it brings us into direct contact with God, and we get converted, we are encouraged, comforted, strengthened, guided, taught, corrected and rebuked as we meet with God through this book.
When we are born again, we start going to the Bible for our spiritual nourishment, as a newborn baby looks for the mother’s milk (1Pet.2:2,3). We recognise the Bible as our final authority as we seek to order our lives according to God’s ways. We understand God’s wisdom and His ways as we study and meditate on His word more and more. We submit to His ways which He has revealed in His word, even when we do not fully understand it or if it goes against public opinion and what is politically correct. For us it becomes a matter of finding out what God wants us to do, looking for the answer from His word, rather than relying on our own understanding.
God speaks to all His children through His word. But, by granting special intellectual abilities to some of His children, He has also given them a special responsibility in understanding the Bible correctly and explaining it to others.
It is here that many Christian intellectuals fail. Instead of submitting themselves to the authority of God’s word, they trust in their own intellect. In trying to adapt to the changing scenario in the world, they set aside God’s values, commandments and instructions. Instead of standing in God’s council and passing on His precepts to the people (Jer.23:22), they dish out what appeals to their own style and experience. When they come across things they cannot understand about God, they explain Him with their own ideas, bringing Him down to their level.
For example, instead of seeking to understand what God would have them to do, they make their own clever plans and ask for God’s blessings on them. As knowledge and information tools have multiplied, they use the latest presentation techniques and convince people that God is behind their ideas. Some frame strategies for making bigger ‘sanctuaries’, others opt for grand and glamorous worship styles with sound, light and smoke effects, some plan subliminal programming to prime the audience, some want holographic projections of speakers in several places at the same time. As we can see by looking around, these things leave the audience gasping with awe, but people actually go away more empty than how they came in. We must not forget, the church is a spiritual organism that needs spiritual food and not human embellishment.
Some other intellectuals explain away the miracles in the Bible using common concepts (which are familiar to them), and do not preach God as He is, leaving the readers and their audience without any supernatural help from God, but only clever one-liners or moving stories. Some spend time illustrating the background of the place and culture in their sermon so much that they hardly bring anything life-changing from the Spirit to the foreground.
Some try to make a bridge between the Bible and the scientific community in order to make the Bible more acceptable to everybody and end up negating or ignoring what God says and giving less credence to His word.
Is the Bible an old book with little more than some information for the people of today? Some intellectuals seem to accept what the ‘experts’ say now, even though the Bible says something else. Many Christians have ‘accepted’ homosexuality as a fact of nature because that is what people who are up-to-date with the experts say, even though God has something else to say about it. Modern thinkers abhor the concept of men and women as people whom God has created with complementary roles, but like to think of them as ‘equal’ in every way. There is no way they can agree with women having to submit to their husbands as God says in His word. To discipline children is barbaric, according to expert psychologists, even though God warns us that we neglect it only at our own peril.
Adam and Eve chose to walk according to their own knowledge of good and evil, when they disobeyed God and ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This use of their intellect independent of God and placing God’s word subject to their acceptance has led intellectuals on a path of ruin.
Intellectuals or otherwise, if we walk humbly before God, He will give us the knowledge, understanding and fear (respect) for God. “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Prov.3:6). We need to use our intellect subject to God’s authority, and one test of whether we submit to His authority is to see how we submit to His written word.
-- Editorial in the Light of Life magazine, December 2015
Table of articles