The Sacred Pathway of the Intellectual (Part 10)
Editor’s Note: This post is written by Sword4Sail and is Part 10 in the Sacred Pathways of Walking With God.
Sacred Pathways Part 10 – Loving God with the Mind
“Honey, I’m tired. Please let’s go to bed now.”
“In a minute; let me finish reading this article.”
The tired wife picks up some reading material to pass the time until her husband comes to bed. Twenty minutes later he’s curled up trying to go to sleep and she’s wide awake, bouncing with excitement, and trying not to wake her husband to tell him about the awesome truth she just discovered reading The New International Commentary on the New Testament.
Sound familiar? If it’s not, please don’t let my story turn you off, but let it serve as insight to the temperament of the intellectual – one who is wired to love God with their mind. Gary Thomas, in his book Sacred Pathways, clarifies that this temperament has nothing to do with IQ; instead it describes those whose adoration for God is unleashed when they understand something new about God or His ways with His children. Mark 12:30 commands us to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Intellectuals serve to remind us of this calling to love God with the mind.
Loving God with your mind can include everything under the sun. From God’s ordination of the tribe of Levi to teach His precepts and laws to Israel to Solomon’s direct God-given gift of wisdom relating to the natural world, loving God with the mind can take the form of any wisdom. Wisdom is to be our primary calling, according to the book of Proverbs. Jesus himself was found teaching the law at age 12. But searching out God’s truths found in scripture is going to be our primary focus in this discussion.
There are a few basic disciplines of theological training. Church history is important because over the church’s 2,000 year existence, it has faced the same heresies under different names. Knowing how the church dealt with these issues in the past can help us deal with them today. Thomas puts it this way, “Trying to understand theology without church history is like trying to understand world events by reading the headlines and ignoring the articles. You’ll have an idea of what everything is all about but little idea of how it all fits together (216).” Thomas suggests the book Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley to develop your understanding in this area.
Biblical studies is probably the most crucial aspect to understand. Read the Bible the whole way through every couple of years – it doesn’t have to be in order. Learn how to do Exegesis – for a full definition of this go to YouTube and watch Flame’s song, Context – it’s well worth it!
How to Read the Bible for all it’s Worth by Gordon Fee is a great resource on understanding scripture in context and I highly recommend it. Carefully study books of the Bible and specific passages using commentaries, Bible dictionaries, and atlases. If you don’t have any, ask your pastor! You’ll be surprised by how much more meaningful God’s word will become and how it ties together to reveal God Himself.
Systematic theology is the study of Christian doctrines like salvation, end times, etc. Some helpful books include J.I. Packer’s Concise Theology and R. C. Sproul’s Essential Truths of the Christian Faith. Ethics studies how to live as a Christian today. Issues can include social justice, war and poverty with a focus on understanding God’s will. Some good resources include The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis, Evangelical Ethics by John Jefferson, and Above All Earthly Powers by David Wells. Creeds can be powerful tools for growth as they remind us what we believe about God – and that affects how we serve Him and act and react to our lives. Some good ones to start with include The Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Augsburg Confession, and the Westminster Confession.
We need to learn how to explain and defend our faith in the midst of unbelief; both to those who believe Christianity is untrue and those who claim to be Christian but hold to teachings that are contrary to true Christian doctrine. This is the study of apologetics. CDs, DVDs, and MP3s are great resources from teachers like Ravi Zacharias and D. James Kennedy, and books like Tim Keller’s The Reason for God, C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, and James Sire’s Why Should Anyone Believe Anything at All? provide real answers to real questions. The Truth Project is a DVD compilation series from Focus on the Family for small groups that is worth investing in – for you and others.
So how do you go about gaining all this knowledge? One can take different avenues. Seminary, Bible colleges, and other programs offer a wide range of options for studying God’s word. Some have one week courses that give you reference to books and materials for further digging. You can also start small study classes at your church using video teachings – never underestimate the power of learning in a group. You can listen to audio teachings while driving, walking, or doing dishes – and many of these are free on church websites or online Christian radio.
Take this as an exciting challenge: if you picked one topic a year for in-depth study, just think how conversant on several important truths you could be! Think how much stronger the church would be if we all exercised our minds in knowing God and His truths in-depth and personally. One of my favorite Bible study writers and teachers, Beth Moore with Living Proof ministries said it this way, “Don’t be afraid to pray for God to make you smarter than you are.” We are promised the Holy Spirit to teach and guide us – let us grasp ahold of that promise and not let go.
Like all the temperaments, the intellectual experiences temptations. We can love debate and thinking to the point of controversy. 1 Corinthians 13:2 reminds us that if we can “fathom all mysteries and all knowledge… but have not love, I am nothing.” Paul warns especially young energetic leaders like Titus and Timothy to avoid foolish controversies, and instead “gently instruct (2 Timothy 2:23-25).” Intellectuals can get caught up in just knowing and shy away from doing. Proverbs reminds us that a truly wise person is one who actively applies the way of righteousness. Finally, intellectuals can be proud of all their knowledge, commonly demonstrated by a desire to correct virtually everyone. There is a time and place to engage in proper discourse. Remember, your self-worth or identity should not be tied up in your ability to do anything, but in who Christ is and what He has done for you.
Do learning new truths about God excite you? Do you love understanding the meaning of a Greek or Hebrew word and how that affects your understanding of a Bible passage? Take the quiz below to find out if you are an intellectual! Let us know what you do to develop your mind and deepen your relationship with God! Share with us your favorite books on these topics, and stay tuned for a final post on how God displays all nine temperaments.
Are You an Intellectual?
Score this series of statements on a scale of 1-5. 1 is not true at all and 5 is very true. Any score of 15 or higher indicates a tendency toward this temperament. Keep track of your scores to complete a spiritual profile later.
1. I feel closest to God when I learn something new about him I didn’t understand before. My mind needs to be stimulated. It’s very important to me that I know exactly what I believe.
2. I get frustrated when the church focuses too much on feelings and spiritual experience. Of far more importance is the need to understand the Christian faith and to have proper doctrine.
3. The words concepts and truth are very appealing to me.
4. I feel close to God when I participate in several hours of uninterrupted study time – reading God’s Word or good Christian books and then perhaps having an opportunity to teach or participate in a discussion with a small group.
5. A book on church dogmatics would be appealing to me.
6. I spend more money on books than music.
Please accept my sincere apology for taking so long to write this post. Life happened and I didn’t make it a priority, but by God’s grace we’re finishing this up.
Linking Up With: