faith is intellectual

After the series of faith last week it would seem strange that I would end with a post which with good reason I should have began such a series with. Actually I did not intend anything beyond the first post, “faith is moral and spiritual.” But afterwards I realized that as important as I believe that point was, it is inadequate by itself to describe the basics of faith. To end on this note (as far as I know now) I think may be appropriate, however, in view of current day issues.

While it is true that the demons believe in the existence of God and shudder, their faith being only an intellectual faith, it is also true that faith is indeed intellectual, though at the same time not dependent on mere human intellect. God gives us his word through words and that involves our intellect, but in such a way that a child can hear, believe and be saved in a simple trust of the Father. We are also called to love God with all our being and doing, and part of that explicitly stated is that we’re to love him with all our minds (“…heart…soul…mind…strength”).

Mark Noll wrote some years back now, a telling book with a nearly scolding title: The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. There is no doubt, and the more the years roll by, the more true it is, that some first rate intellectual work has been done by evangelicals in theology, and biblical exegesis, not to mention the vital linguistic work for Bible translating that has gone on for some time. So the critique here might be compartmental. It has been years since I read my copy, but Noll’s book does hit on something which I’ve witnessed and think I’m witnessing in the midst of “the culture war” raging at full strength here in the United States.

From our commitment to the orthodox Christian faith, I agree with Os Guinness that we should indeed have no fear. While we need not be gullible, neither should we retreat into a faith which ends up reading Scripture in a way it was not written or understood originally, and which fears that the foundation of our faith may end up being destroyed under the stress of worldly thinking. Of course we see attacks on the faith from some, and we are indeed called to defend the faith once for all entrusted to us, God’s people.

Faith is being undermined by her friends however, when we think that the Reality in God through Christ is undermined by science, or any other entity of this world. I choose science, because from it are hot button issues of today such as evolution and climate change. In any endeavor one has to separate the discipline itself from extras added on to it. This is clearly the case in science when a fine scientist such as Richard Dawkins heaps ridicule on religion and especially on Christianity in the name of science. In actuality it is not his science that undermines the faith, but his conclusions he draws from it. He makes metaphysical assertions that science all but rules out the existence of God, rather than sticking to the physical, science itself.

Science is at the heart of what Christian theology calls the general revelation of God. We ignore it, and I speak here of mainstream peer review science, to our own peril. In so doing we are actually denigrating a part of what God has revealed and what humans are to study.

Our best intellectual work should be given to both general and special revelation. Special revelation is the Christian theological term which means God’s word given to us which is rooted in history and is about God’s creation, covenant, redemption and new creation through Jesus. And the two disciplines need to come together, so that those devoted to the study of either, think together on how Christians are to think on these things.

For us “everyday” Christians, we need to major on what God has called us together to do, both in the general mission of God through Jesus by the Spirit in the world, and with reference to our own unique place in that calling. We each have our special part. And we’re to each love God with our entire minds in the way that comes naturally and works best for us and contributes to the good of others.

This is a difficult issue, particularly in view of the heat which is generated. What do you think is important in this consideration, and do you agree with Mark Noll and others that we evangelical Christians have sometimes missed the mark on this?

2 comments on “faith is intellectual

  1. I surely went in way over my head on this one. All I’m calling for among evangelicals, is for there to be a thoughtful discussion on such issues. And room for disagreement. From my second hand pespective I do have a rather firm stance. But there needs to be mutual respect among those who differ.

    I would urge any reader to click Os Guinness as his words and plea come across to me as a voice of wisdom needed at this time on this subject.

  2. Deb Gossard says:

    Good post!:)

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