Monday, August 05, 2013

Intellectual Christianity

There is a danger of thinking that we are obeying this first commandment if we live and work in the domain of Christian intellectual endeavour.  It is easy to understand how this comes about.  Anti-intellectualism still inhabits a wide swath of evangelicalism, and sometimes serious thought is mocked and dismissed by those who prefer sentiment and emotion. Both tendencies have called forth biting denunciations, and these certainly have their place. They have also called forth prophetic appeals to young Christians to devote themselves, for God’s sake and for God’s glory, to the life of the mind.
But we should not ignore a converse danger, the danger of intellectual arrogance. Biblical scholars, theologians, and other Christian academics are easily tempted to think that they are obeying this first command simply because they working the intellectual arena and happen to be Christians. After all, studying distinctively Christian themes can be all-absorbing, in precisely the way that studying almost anything can be all-absorbing, provided you have the right sort of temperament and education.  I know first-rate scholars who are absorbed in the study of the metal alloys in the blades of jet propulsion engines and others who devote themselves to the properties of recently discovered quarks with unbelievably short half-lives or to the finer points of Sahidic Coptic. The only difference between these scholars and theologians is that the latter may delude themselves into thinking that the effort they put into their disciplines demonstrates that they are fulfilling these words of Jesus, while those who study the sex life of sea turtles are unlikely to be similarly deluded.  We cannot ignore the brute fact that this first command of Jesus is not a command to think but a command to love, even if that command to love includes the modifiers, “with all your heart...with all your mind.”

D A Carson, discussing Mark 12:28-34 in his book, Love in Hard Places, pg 22. 
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