Tuesday, July 22, 2008

On the Sharpening of the Christian Mind, Part I

I'm reading an interesting book entitled Love Your God with All Your Mind, by J.P. Moreland. If you're not familiar with Moreland, he's a reputable scholar who studied under Dallas Willard (now Moreland's mentor), and he currently teaches philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University in California. He has a B.A. in chemistry, masters degrees in theology and philosophy, and a Ph.D. in philosophy, to boot. To say that Moreland's a smart guy would be the understatement of the year, but don't be intimidated by his book! He calls the modern church to be not merely a feeling body, but a thinking one (to put it in the terms of the Myers-Briggs). And this feeler (meaning me) is encouraged--he suggests that thinking and feeling don't have to be in opposition with one another.

(On that vein of thought, consider the Hebrew word for "heart," which is lev. In early Jewish thought, the lev was considered the seat of action and emotion. In other words, emotion and logic worked hand in hand to mobilize one's responses to life.)

In the first chapter, Moreland sets out to explain what he calls "the loss of the Christian mind in American Christianity." He writes that until the 1800s, Christians from the Early Church on were known as some of the most brilliant minds of their respective eras. Take for example, Augustine, who shied away from Manichaeanism because the Christians had a more reasoned explanation of faith and life. Augustine's conversion, Moreland writes, was largely thanks to the intelligence of Christian men in his life. In the recent centuries, the Church has taken a more passive approach to intellect, creating a wishy-washy gospel that is unattractive to the scholarly world. Moreland urges Christians to intensify their study of scripture, to study apologetics, to become more articulate by sharpening their minds.

As I think ahead to this book and it's relevance to my stage of life (I'm caught between two extremes as a sometimes-frivolous sorority girl and a closet nerd starting seminary in the fall), I'm reminded of some quotes about the life of the Christian mind from my favorite authors:

"I wonder whether there is anything as exquisitely lovely as a brilliant mind aglow with the love of God." -A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of Man

"Anyone who is honestly trying to be a Christian will soon find his intelligence being sharpened. One of the reasons why it needs no special education to be a Christian is that Christianity is an education itself." -C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

"When the Spirit illuminates the heart, the a part of the man sees which never saw before; a part of him knows which never knew before, and that with a kind of knowing which the most acute thinker cannot imitate." -A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of Man

People say the Church is growing and expanding; yes, it's ten miles wide now and about a quarter inch deep." -Leonard Ravenhill, British Preacher

"The temper of religious thinking in our times is definitely not theological." A.W. Tozer

"Whatever weakens you reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, and takes off the relish of spiritual things--that to you is sin." -Susanna Wesley, mother of John and Charles Wesley, (emphasis mine)

"The Church today is languishing for men who can bring to the problems of religion reverent, courageous minds intent upon a solution. Christians are parrots...content to sit safe on their familiar perches and repeat in a bright falsetto religious words and phrases." -A.W. Tozer, God Tells the Man Who Cares

My aim here is certainly not to bash the Church, but to take an honest look at where we all fall short as a body in encouraging the collective mind. When Moreland writes that "the Church must train high school students for the intellectual life they will encounter at college," I am as guilty as the next youth worker in regards to students I've ministered to. I'm challenged by these brilliant minds (i.e. Moreland, Tozer, Lewis, and others).

More on this book once I get a little further in...


mowens said...

So true. The American Church so often labels non-Christian intellectuals as wicked and then retreats back to itself. This is like an attorney who who blames the jury for making a bad decision when, in reality, his arguments were not sufficiently convincing. Academic thought has turned away from Christianity partially due to the depravity of man, but also due to the failure the Church to effectively present, explain and live its faith.

Chelsea said...

"Mowens": You need to read this book! I feel like you would love it :)