Intellectual Study By Faith

The late Princeton theologian J. Gresham Machen once wrote:

It is useless to proclaim a gospel that people cannot hold to be true. No amount of emotional appeal can do anything against the truth. The question of fact cannot permanently be evaded. Did Christ or did he not rise from the dead? Is the Bible trustworthy or is it false? The Christian religion flourishes not in the darkness but in the light. Intellectual slothfulness is but a quack remedy for unbelief. The true remedy is consecration of all of our intellectual powers to the service of our Lord Jesus Christ.”1

I wholeheartedly agree with this quote and can personally attest to the “intellectual slothfulness” as being a type of remedy for unbelief. In the past I have suppressed various doubts about my Christian faith and did not pursue answers to the doubts as a type of unbelief. What I lacked was a humble, yet full confidence in the risen Jesus Christ. Has my worldview shifted rather dramatically since acting in faith on that fact and seeking answers? Yes. Is Jesus Christ still my risen Lord and Savior? Yes.

While not always the case many Christians can be afraid of entering an intellectual side of their faith.What arouses that fear like I had? Why should a Christian be fearful of an intellectual pursuit of knowledge while they proclaim to be believers of truth incarnate? (John 14:6) Perhaps it is that they know of a former Christian who fell away when making such a pursuit? Or perhaps doubts and fears reside about what could be out there? Nevertheless we profess to know God, the author of truth and we need not fear to learn about this world, nor about our faith.

Yet, when pursuing the intellectual aspects surrounding the Christian faith several considerations should be given due thought. We must remember that it is not the proud, the knowledgable and the arrogant that God looks to, but it is the humble and contrite of heart and he who trembles at God’s Word. (Isaiah 66:2, Matt. 5:3) Therefore it makes no sense to take the aggressive critical attitude to the Biblical text that many, even professing believers, take towards it. By no means does the Bible give the impression that God, the source of all truth, will reveal any truth to someone seeking to put Him to the test. The scriptures must be approached with faith. (Hebrews 11:6)

Now this does not mean that the Bible cannot be critically engaged with and that God cannot be reasoned with. (Isaiah 1:18) By faith we believe that God’s Word is truth and therefore the Christian has confidence to proceed with seeking to understand the world and how the scriptures fit in with human nature, the transmission and reliability of Biblical texts, the fields of history, geology and all of the sciences in general. There has been much research done proving that modern science arose within a Christian worldview precisely because Christianity provides a rational expectation for humans to be able to obtain knowledge about the world.2 The belief that humans beings are made in the image of God, that the world and universe are intimately created and sustained by God, and that their is a mandate for humans to subdue the earth all give a strong grounding for the pursuit of knowledge through science. (Genesis 1-3)

All of this again should be approached with faith, especially by the believer. (If you are an unbeliever this does not mean a blind faith, but at the very least a humble attitude that seeks to understand the core message of Christianity which is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ and its effects of forgiveness for all those who repent of their rebellion against God and believe in Jesus’s atoning sacrifice. And yes I fully admit I come to evidence with a presupposition, yet I believe we all do, we are not as objective as we like to think.) When seeking out answers to objections to Christianity, those who already believe should not make the mistake of putting themselves on “neutral” ground. The believer is not neutral. Have you not been convicted of your sin by the Holy Spirit? (John 16:8) Have you not confessed Jesus Christ as Lord? (Romans 10:9) Have you not vowed to worship the one triune and only true God with all your heart, mind and soul? (Matthew 22:37) Have you not been born again? (John 3:7) Believer, you are not your own. (I Cor. 6:19) Walk with confidence in the Lord and do not put the Lord your God to the test. (Deut. 6:16) This is clearly not a call to refrain from intellectual engagement or to bury your head in the sand, but it is a call not to enter the unbelievers mind as if you did not believe so as to be “fair” or “objective.” You and I both lost that right the moment we declared Jesus Christ Lord. (Luke 9:62)

The practical application here, is that when you are doubting or concerned about the way the New Testament texts were handed down you should not go running to see what agnostic and hostile New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman has to say on the matter to get both sides of the debate. If you are concerned about evolutionary biology and how it relates to human origins you are not to put yourself in militant Neo-Darwinist Richard Dawkins’s shoes. Does that mean you ignore these matters? Certainly not. But if you claim to be in the body of Christ, go to the body of Christ! There are many faithful brothers and sisters in Christ across an array of fields of study who have the experience and expertise to engage these matters faithfully as followers of Christ.

God has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of His beloved Son, (Col. 1:13) do not put the Light to test and once again enter the darkness. Engage the darkness but only from the Light. Proceed humbly, relying on God, who alone gives truth. Proceed prayerfully knowing that it is the living and one true God whom you serve. (Isaiah 45:5) Proceed cautiously knowing the reality of the spiritual forces of deception which capture the unsuspecting. (II Corinthians 4:4, Eph. 6:12) But still proceed in your study, in resolving your doubts, in seeking answers, for we believe Christ has risen and this is our confidence. May we remember that ours is a childlike faith of dependance, not, a childish faith of ignorance.

Citations:

[1] https://www.whitehorseinn.org/2019/01/the-mod-is-faith-opposed-to-evidence/

[2] For a detailed study see : Richard H. Jones, For the Glory of God: The Role of Christianity in the Rise and Development of Modern Science, vol. 1 (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2011)

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4 thoughts on “Intellectual Study By Faith

  1. This is an excellent piece of work my brother. I particularly enjoyed the last two paragraphs, and especially the below excerpt!

    > > But if you claim to be in the body of Christ, go to the body of Christ! There are many faithful brothers and sisters in Christ across an array of fields of study who have the experience and expertise to engage these matters faithfully as followers of Christ. > > God has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of His beloved Son, (Col. 1:13) do not put the Light to test and once again enter the darkness. Engage the darkness but only from the Light. >

    Sent this to you in a text, but the word for heart in greek actually has a strong emphasis on the intellect, and not many people realize that – see below:

    “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength”

    2840 καρδία (kardia), ας (as), ἡ (hē): n.fem.; ≡ DBLHebr 4213, 4222; Str 2588; TDNT 3.605—1. LN 26.3 inner self, never the literal body part called the “heart,” this is a reference to the areas of the inner self, including: the volition, the mind, the desires, etc., though the facility of the intellect may be slightly more emphasized (Mt 15:19; Lk 6:45 v.r.); 2. LN 83.14 inside, far inside something (Mt 12:40), note: see LN index for a fuller treatment of the lexical units.

    Robbie Andrassy “If I discover within myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” ~C.S. Lewis

    >

    Liked by 2 people

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