catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 2, Num 17 :: 2003.09.12 — 2003.09.25


A beautiful mind

Loving God with all of it

Have you ever sung these lyrics and been struck by the irony? ?My faith has found a resting place, not in device or creed. It is enough that Jesus died and that he died for me.? Isn?t that second sentence a creed? At my Christian college, where the campus activities board traditionally scheduled parties during finals, we sang a song about the name of Jesus. Its theology went deep enough to say, ?There?s just something about that name.? Fortunately, this is not the peak of Christianity?s intellectual effort, but these examples show how evangelical Christianity has neglected the use of its intellect.

In Love Your God with All Your Mind

, author and Biola University philosophy professor J.P. Moreland says that evangelical Christianity has not fostered the use of the mind and has fallen, along with general American culture, into an intellectual malaise. Our churches? emphasis on addressing ?felt needs? has contributed to churches that grow in numbers but decline in influence. If churches are to impact culture, as Christ commanded, the use of the mind must be foremost in our discipleship, evangelism, worship, and vocation, says Moreland. Sadly, as Moreland repeats throughout the book, ?Our society has replaced heroes with celebrities, the quest for a well-informed character with the search for a flat stomach, substance and depth with image and personality. . . the makeup man is more important than the speech writer.?

Moreland writes, ?A major cause of our current cultural crisis consists of a worldview shift from a Judeo-Christian understanding of reality to a post-Christian one. Moreover, this shift itself expresses a growing anti-intellectualism in the church resulting in the marginalization of Christianity in society.? One of the best ways to reverse this trend is to develop Christian minds, Moreland says.

He begins by showing this cultural crisis. The decline of the family, affluence without satisfaction, a general desire to be entertained rather than think. He puts much of the blame for this crisis on Christian anti-intellectualism. Revivals and camp meetings during the 1800s contributed to an ?intellectually shallow, theologically illiterate form of Christianity.? Some of the converts of these meetings in the Burned Over District of New York began two of the three major American cults: Mormonism and Jehovah?s Witnesses. Christian Science began around the same time. Combined with intellectual withdrawal following new philosophical ideas, higher criticism, and Darwinian evolution Christians gradually exited the realm of ideas. Today?s political battles are all that is left of Christian influence.

What does an active Christian mind look like? A Christian mind leads to transformation according Romans 12:2, must entirely love God according to Jesus? command, and is necessary to give a reason for the hope we have in us according to I Peter 3:15. The apostle Paul?s example is sufficient: He studied the law and major philosophers of his day, he imitated Christ (who also had a developed mind), and he used his intellect to spread the gospel. In fact, Paul presented the gospel as a reasonable and thoughtful truth; he never addressed felt needs by saying the gospel will make your life meaningful, help you raise a family, help you deal with depression. Moreland says, ?a growing, vibrant disciple will be someone who values his intellectual life and works at developing his mind carefully.?

Moreland continues,

The mind is the soul?s primary vehicle for making contact with God, and it plays a fundamental role in the process of human maturation and change, including spiritual transformation. In thought, the mind?s structure conforms to the order of the object of thought. Since this is so, and since truth dwells in the mind, truth itself is powerful and rationality is valuable as a means of obtaining truth and avoiding error. Therefore, God desires a life of intellectual growth and study for His children.?

In order to develop the mind, we must start somewhere, and Moreland devotes two chapters to deal with how to develop a Christian mind. For Moreland, developing a Christian mind is essentially developing the self. Christians must be people of depth with their own thoughts, ideas, and independent lives. This comes mostly from reading and dedicated study.

The developed Christian mind will be useful in evangelism by presenting a thoughtful and rational defense of the faith. Moreland gives several examples of confronting people hostile to Christianity and showing them the rationality of Christian faith. Such eloquent defenses are needed in a society that does not understand Christianity. Moreland runs down several basic reasons for disbelieving Christianity—skepticism, scientism, and moral relativism—and he responds to each with a defense and a personal story, which are encouraging for anyone nervous about sharing their faith.

Worship and fellowship, and vocation are also dependent on advanced minds. Worship can be simply emotional expressions without an understanding of the faith. Moreland points to choruses, which are emotive songs, versus hymns, which have theological depth. Without preferring one to the other, Moreland shows that both emotion and theology are necessary for worship.

Moreland finishes by offering several steps for helping churches develop Christian minds. He says churches should not have senior pastors, as no one person is adequate for the job. Instead a few elders should lead the church, sharing responsibilities and raising up new leaders. Pastors and elders should not be the major evangelists, teachers, and ministers, but they should be training others to do those jobs.

Sermons ought to involve strenuous mental activity on the part of the listeners. Also, no one person should be depended upon to preach all the sermons in the church. A few people should share the responsibility, and while one person is preaching others should be preparing. That way, preachers are not burdened and are able to dive into their subject and prepare better sermons. Moreland also suggests developing a church library and Sunday school classes that require tough intellectual development, including homework assignments and papers.

For those who love to read, and who already lament the state of the lack of thoughtful books in Christian bookstores, this book serves as a voice to your grief. For those interested in developing their minds, but are intimidated by the prospect of dry reading and intellectual hoity-toity, this book provides a down-to-earth look at why the mind is necessary to all points in the Christian walk. You will put the book away encouraged in your faith and ready for more.

Fore more intellectually stimulating reading, check out a book Moreland co-authored called The Philosophical Foundations of the Christian Worldview.

Discussion topic: Emotion/Intellect

How do we balance emotion and intellect in worship? Is worship style merely a matter of preference or is there some formula for balance?

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