Intellectualism and the Gospel: the Life of the Mind and the Love of God


“Thinking is one of the most hazardous things we do,” says John Piper in a new video. “The Apostle Paul warns, ‘knowledge puffs up,’ but he also commands, ‘In your thinking be mature.’ The use of our mind is absolutely necessary for being human and worshipful. So do this dangerous thing, but do it well.”




In the video, which is a trailer for the upcoming Desiring God Conference, John Piper notes that the Church, and especially the American church, has a “long history of anti-intellectualism.” Although such sentiments are understandable, Piper worries that “this does not end well.”

I am frequently turned off by how debased much of today’s “Christian culture” has become. From books to music to movies to plain old theology, many Christians seem adamant in their love for Christ, but mindless in how it is represented or executed.

Many postmodernist types have made pains to point this out, but the postmodernist answer is typically one that waters down the Gospel even further. I think it is encouraging to see many of the heavyweights of “traditional” Christian theology tackle these questions, and I’m excited to hear their proposed solutions.

In the meantime, I’d like to ask you this:

What has your experience been regarding intellectualism in the Church? Has the Church offered too much of it or too little of it? Have we abandoned the mind for the Spirit, or have we confused both altogether?

I’m interested in your thoughts.

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  • http://ohtobelieve.com Aaron Darrisaw

    According to my observations there has not been a healthy perception of thinking and intellectualism in the Church. In the past (especially), as Piper pointed out, the Church was hostile towards intellectualism, which has left a seemingly indelible stain on the reputation of Christianity. However, as you also noted here, the reaction to that by many contemporary “evangelicals”, who embrace a post-modern brand of Christianity, has been at best irresponsible at worst heretical. In a push to compensate for the unfavorable critiques of intellectualism by the Church, some have gone so far the other way as to discredit and disavow themselves of much of Christian orthodoxy and dogma. And while there are many in conservative evangelicalism and the growing reformed community that seriously and conscientiously consider the life of the mind in faith, the whole of American Christendom (as I see it) falter either too far to the right or left. I am looking forward to what the speakers at this conference will offer.

    Good post.

  • http://twitter.com/remnantculture/status/15193170741 Remnant Culture

    New post on intellectualism and the Gospel. Is thinking "the most hazardous thing we do"? http://tiny.cc/inid6 #tcot #Christian

  • http://twitter.com/workfromhome411/status/15193211857 Work From Home Jobs

    RT @RemnantCulture: New post on intellectualism and the Gospel. Is thinking "the most hazardous thing we do"? http://tiny.cc/inid6 #tcot …

  • http://twitter.com/remnantculture/status/15273941059 Remnant Culture

    Has the Church abandoned the mind for the Spirit, or have we confused both altogether? What is your experience? http://tiny.cc/inid6

  • Amis1635

    Isn't the problem with intellectualism that we try to do it all by ourselves? That is, the secular philosopher starts with principles that seem right to man and then derives the implications. The superficial Christian philosopher proceeds in the same way, thinking that 'all truth is God's truth'. However, as God informs us, the “…way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov 16:25).

    God says “…my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…” (Ish 55:8). We need to place our logical derivation on the only solid footing we have, on the principles and words given to us by God. God's truth is all truth–not the other way around. That is, sola scriptura. If we begin with His true principles, there is truths we can derive go beyond our imaginings when we are guided by sound logic and the Holy Spirit. As God tells us in 1 Cor 2:9:

    “…Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”

  • Amis1635

    Isn't the problem with intellectualism that we try to do it all by ourselves? That is, the secular philosopher starts with principles that seem right to man and then derives the implications. The superficial Christian philosopher proceeds in the same way, thinking that 'all truth is God's truth'. However, as God informs us, the “…way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov 16:25).

    God says “…my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…” (Ish 55:8). We need to place our logical derivation on the only solid footing we have, on the principles and words given to us by God. God's truth is all truth–not the other way around. That is, sola scriptura. If we begin with His true principles, there is truths we can derive go beyond our imaginings when we are guided by sound logic and the Holy Spirit. As God tells us in 1 Cor 2:9:

    “…Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”

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  • Anonymous

    I think that there is too little of both. Quite often we are inundated with “how to” self help books that purport to tell us how to live a good “Christian Life”. Yet some of the intellectualism is so deep and esoteric that many, including me, have to have a good lexicon and dictionary to understand what the intellectuals are talking about. There has to be a mixture of strong Bible based spiritual teaching, that stretches our minds feeds our souls.

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