Both R C Sproul and Ravi Zacharias have had the above title as the name of programs they have been involved in. I think both men are quite right. And it may well be one of the hardest asks of the church today. Much of our Christianity today is a mile wide and an inch deep – and that is certainly true on the intellectual and theological level.
We are distinctly told that the greatest of all commandments is to love God with all our mind, as well as with all our strength, heart and soul. Yet millions of Christians deliberately ignore or disobey this clear command. They refuse to think, and use their minds for the glory of God.
We are perhaps the most theologically illiterate and dumbed-down generation of Christians of all time. And many believers even delight in this fact. They actually think they are more spiritual when they check their brains in at the door of the church after becoming Christians.
Too many people today think Romans 12:2 says this: “Be transformed by the removing of your mind”! Sorry, but it actually says this: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
It is a question of truth. Jesus said the truth would set us free. And truth is processed by the mind, and the will. Yet so many believers today seem to live their entire Christian life based on nothing but their feelings. And most of them denigrate or criticise those who do emphasise sound doctrine and godly thinking.
Rightly did R.C. Sproul state, “We live in the most anti-intellectual era of church history.” Yep, we sure do, and it gets worse each passing year. Simply walk into any Christian bookstore today and see what is on offer: plenty of feel-good sentimental sap and me-first self-help mumbo jumbo books, but the theology and doctrine sections are either non-existent or the smallest section of the shop.
As John Stott noted: “Knowledge is indispensable to Christian life and service. If we do not use the mind that God has given us, we condemn ourselves to spiritual superficiality and cut ourselves off from many of the riches of God’s grace.” Or as C S Lewis wrote: “God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than He is of any other slacker.”
And there are very real ramifications for all this. Says William Lane Craig: “Evangelicals have been living on the periphery of responsible intellectual existence. The average Christian does not realize that there is an intellectual war going on in the universities and in the professional journals and scholarly societies. Christianity is being attacked from all sides as irrational or outmoded, and millions of students, our future generation of leaders, have absorbed this viewpoint. This is a war which we cannot afford to lose.”
With all this in mind a recent article I came across might be worth sharing here. It is entitled “Characteristics of the Dumb Church”. Let me offer part of it to you. In relation to church leadership, here are some characteristics:
“-Preaching is always topical and never expository. Selective topical series allow tough and deep theological subjects, as well as ‘controversial’ passages of Scripture, to be avoided with ease.
-Although the church leaders offer strong external facing statements as to how they are a ‘Bible believing church’, the Bible is actually used and referenced very little in the sermons. Few quotations from Scripture are heard in a message, with the vast majority of all sermons consisting of personal rhetoric, humor, videos, and personal stories.
-Biblical terms such as justification, reconciliation, sanctification, propitiation, etc., are avoided like the plague.
-There is little to no instruction for new (or existing) believers on the core doctrines of the Christian faith, and no requirement for new believers to attend such instruction.
-There is no easy way for the congregation to have tough questions answered by the lead pastors; such a thing is quietly ignored, discouraged or not practiced regularly.
-Deep Bible study programs are either absent or deliberately pushed out in favor of more ‘relevant’ classes that deal with softer subject matters (e.g. money management).
-There is a huge emphasis on relationship building and serving in areas of the church, but no similar importance placed on growing more Biblically and theologically literate.
-The youth department has an unmistakable concentration on entertainment, games, social interaction, etc., vs. actual teaching of Christian doctrines.
-The church either has no library or one that is not kept up to date.”
More such characteristics could be offered here. But these pretty well describe your typical church today. Doctrine, theology, apologetics and a rigorous use of the mind for the glory of God are all but absent, replaced by entertainment, amusements, personalities, and fun and games. No wonder we keep losing so many battles.
Of course it is obvious that the mind alone is not the entire basis of the Christian life. Our wills and the rest of us also need to come under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. There are plenty of people who are great on doctrine and have plenty of Bible knowledge, but they are dead as a nail.
Conversely there are many on-fire believers who are doctrinally-deficient and theologically vacuous. Both extremes are unhelpful and in fact deadly. A Spirit-filled life and a mind given over for the glory of God is what we need here. We need both sound theology and a life on fire for Christ.
One without the other will just not do. But while we may have millions of zealous and on-fire believers today, we have few who are using their minds for Christ and his Kingdom. That needs to be rectified. If it is not, then we will continue to break the greatest commandment Jesus gave to us.