This article is one in a series of studies on the reasoning and the Message - you are currently on the page that is in bold:
- Blind Faith
- Anti-intellectualism in the Message
- Logic and the Message
- Reason and Faith
- Reason and the Message
- How to Deal with Doubt
One of the offshoots of blind faith is anti-intellectualism. This is rampant in the message.
Reasoning is bad
Joseph Hamid, a message pastor, posted the following on his Facebook page on December 19, 2019:
- Here's the difference between believers and unbelievers. What the believers don't understand, they believe. What the unbelievers don't understand, they disbelieve.
If you ask a message believer why they believe the message, they are likely to respond with a simple, “Because I just believe it!” A Jehovah’s Witness believes the Watchtower Bible and a Scientologist believes in the writings of L. Ron Hubbard, but that doesn’t make them true.
The Bible isn’t true because I believe it, the Bible is true and that’s why I believe it.
Message ministers have used even more destructive reasoning on their followers. The following is condensed from an email we recently received:
- [Opponents of the message will try] to drag you into a mode of reasoning with God's vindicated word of the hour... They hope to get someone to try and defend the message. THAT is what they want. See that subtility? ...[You think] you can defend your revelation by reasoning... Never think you can defend the message by quoting it.
Message ministers DENY the clear teaching of scripture when they take this approach. They reject the Apostle Peter's admonition in 1 Peter 3:15:
- But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.
These message ministers want you to ignore honest questions about the message. They never want you to even try to make a defense of what you believe. And they rarely treat people who have questions with gentleness and respect.
|...even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. (2 Peter 3:15b-16)|
You can't even prove you have a brain!
Recently one well-known message minister stated that
- ...we can't prove God exists and we can't even prove that we have a brain. We believe we have a brain by faith alone.
His comment would be funny if it wasn't so sad.
BUT I will tell you that, having viewed an actual human brain myself, having seen countless scans of others brains, having read medical literature about the brain, and having seen evidence in my own thought, I am able to logically conclude that, yes, “I have a brain.”
This is childish thinking. But Paul tells us to think differently in 1 Corinthinans 14:20:
- Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.
If you seriously believe that there is no proof of God, I will tell you to watch a single debate between a knowledgeable Christian apologist and an atheist. I do appreciate that empirical data cannot prove that God exists. However, there are many pointers that lead to God's existence. Add to that the illumination of the Holy Spirit while seeking his nature through his Word, and accept Him at his Word… it’s called faith.
This is true Christian faith - Every scientific discovery brings more evidence of God's existence and strengthens our faith in God. Every archaeological finding brings increased proof that God has protected the canon of scripture for almost 2,000 years.
Meanwhile, every single discovery of fact in the life and ministry of William Branham does just the opposite, making the position of “message believer” an increasingly untenable position.
The call to comprehend
Paul writes in Ephesians 5:17:
- Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
We are being told here that we need to comprehend what is the will of the Lord. The verb “to comprehend” (syniēmi; cf. the noun “understanding,” synesis, in 3:4) sets a slightly stronger accent upon intellect or intellectual grasp (see Eph. 3:18–19) than other verbs denoting the act of gaining knowledge. The use of the related noun in Ephesians 3:4 should also be examined:
- When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ...
Perceive (learn about) and insight (understanding) translate two related terms, the verb “to grasp, perceive, know” and the noun “insight, grasp” (see the verb “to understand” in Eph 5:17). "you can perceive my insight" may be expressed as ""You can learn about my understanding" or “you can find out how I understand” or “you can come to learn how I regard”. This all involves the use of one's intellect.
Ephesians 5:17 demonstrates that, despite the emphasis placed upon the practical orientation and theoretical limitation of knowledge, Paul is not anti-intellectual; the saints are encouraged to make use of their reasoning power.
Paul is stressing the following three things in learning to understand or comprehend:
- “Comprehending” includes, or is included in, the learning “by experience” (dokimazō) mentioned in Eph 5:10.
- Comprehension is an ongoing process and always an unfinished business—especially when the “will of the Lord” is its object and total “submission” of the self (Eph 5:21) its essence.
- The man who “understands” (ho synhiōn) is silent in the “evil time,” according to Amos 5:13. Eph 5:17 may include the advice to learn by listening rather than by speaking too much.
The proper use of reasoning
Many in the message and, indeed many Christian fundamentalists point to this scripture to oppose any attempt at using reason to understand the Bible:
- For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
- “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
- Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
The wisdom that Paul rails against is “of the world” (v. 20), but nothing in this paragraph may be taken as grounds for anti-intellectualism. However, Paul clearly stands against godless intellectualism. Verses 21–25 point out that such godlessness may take three different forms, each increasingly more subtle:
- people may simply reject God outright (v. 21); or
- they may look for God in the wrong places, demanding miraculous signs or engaging in speculative philosophies (vv. 22–23); or
- they may remake Him in their own image, not recognizing the qualitative difference between God and humanity (v. 25).
With respect to signs, God may choose to grant them, in hope that people will thereby believe (John 20:31), but he seldom if ever supplies them on demand, and he insists that people have enough evidence for belief without them (John 20:29).
There is a kind of an anti-intellectualism among many Christians; spirituality is falsely pitted against intellectual comprehension as though they stood in opposition to each other. Such anti-intellectualism cuts away at the very heart of the Christian message. Of course, there is a false intellectualism which does destroy the work of the Holy Spirit. But it does not arise when men wrestle honestly with honest questions and then see that the Bible has the answers. This does not oppose true spirituality. So Paul writes, “I’m not ashamed. I’m not ashamed of the gospel because it will answer the questions of men; it is the dunamis of God unto salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.“ 
Sound and careful logic must be applied to Scripture to yield a full and mature understanding of the spiritual truth God has revealed. This is no denial of the sufficiency of Scripture. The formula is not Scripture plus philosophy, but Scripture interpreted by careful, sensible, thoughtful, Spirit-directed reasoning. That is the essence of discernment.
In short, anti-intellectualism is incompatible with genuine spiritual wisdom. Those who think of faith as the abandonment of reason cannot be truly discerning. Irrationality and discernment are polar opposites. When Paul prayed that the Philippians’ love would “abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment” (Phil. 1:9), he was affirming the rationality of true faith. Paul was saying that knowledge and discernment necessarily go hand in hand with genuine spiritual growth.
Biblical faith, therefore, is rational. It is reasonable. It is intelligent. It makes good sense. And spiritual truth is meant to be rationally contemplated, examined logically, studied, analyzed, and employed as the only reliable basis for making wise judgments. That process is precisely what Scripture calls discernment.
Paul's hope for the Ephesian church was this:
- The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints...
The focus on the enlightenment of the mind introduces an important, but too frequently ignored, part of Paul’s thinking. Too many Christians are passive in their thinking and learning or have an anti-intellectual bias. Part of this is understandable, for “intellectualism” has often been destructive and arrogant, but Christians have recoiled with an anti-intellectualism that leads to ignorance. We do not ward off intellectual attack by being less thoughtful!
Christians are not the only ones guilty of anti-intellectualism. We live in a society that has largely stopped thinking. The complexity of life and the overload of information available today has driven us to trite television shows and spectator sports as our main areas of mental stimulation. This text does not suggest we should all be academics or that the solutions to life are all academic. But Christians must always grow in wisdom and in their understanding of life, God, and the relevance of their faith. Wisdom is practical knowledge for right living. The church should first of all be a community of thinkers—not thinking in distinction from action, but thinking as the basis for action. Ignorance is an ethical issue.
Historically, Christianity has led the way in promoting education and in starting colleges and universities. Now, most of those previously Christian institutions have lost their attachment to the faith and are little different from secular schools. Pastors used to be respected as the intellectual and moral leaders in society. Now the intellectually gifted tend to go into business or science, and pastors are less and less competent leaders in any area. In the past, when the church has made significant progress—for example, at the Reformation or the great revivals—the best thinkers of the day provided the direction and force for the movement.
People like Martin Luther, John Wesley, or Dietrich Bonhoeffer were thinking pioneers who would not accept the status quo, but applied their minds to understanding the implications of the gospel. This kind of inquiring, analytical devotion to the gospel and life still is needed from all of us.
Unfortunately, much of modern Christianity is guilty of a drippy sentimentality, or worse, of sensationalism. With the latter, preachers sound more like religious professional wrestlers hyping an audience. We seem more interested in trying to create emotional feeling than in providing an understanding of God and wisdom for living. As a result, many of the world say to Christians, “Your thinking is too superficial for the complexity of the world in which we live.” Christians have reacted against the extremes of this world without thinking through the implications of their choices. This needs to change. A church should be a place for analysis, reflection, and reasoned discussion about the significance of the gospel. Christians should have a reputation as people who think.
- Adapted from Rockadoodee.com
- The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), 1 Pe 3:15.
- The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 1 Co 14:20.
- The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Eph 5:17.
- The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Eph 3:4.
- Robert G. Bratcher and Eugene Albert Nida, A Handbook on Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1993), 71.
- Markus Barth, Ephesians: Introduction, Translation, and Commentary on Chapters 4-6, vol. 34A, Anchor Yale Bible (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2008), 579.
- The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Cor 1:18–25.
- Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994), 56.
- Francis A. Schaeffer, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: a Christian Worldview (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1982).
- John MacArthur, Reckless Faith: When the Church Loses Its Will to Discern (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1994), 15–16.
- The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Eph 1:18.
- Klyne Snodgrass, Ephesians, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 88–89.