It is no secret that there has been a strong tendency in Pentecostal/Charismatic circles to downplay the use of the mind, the intellect, reason, theology and doctrine. Some even relish in bashing theology and the intellect. This of course is not always the case, but generally speaking, it is a fair assessment. Emphasis on the work of the Spirit, on emotion, on worship and on experience has tended to dominate in these circles, at the expense of the mind.
Then again, many non-Pentecostal denominations perhaps have the opposite problem. They may have deep theological acumen, make great use of the intellect and apologetics, delve deeply into the philosophical and theological issues of the day, but sometimes lack a vibrant, Spirit-filled walk with God. Again, this is a generalisation, but it tends to be the case quite often.
Thus it is quite difficult to find someone who shares in both traits: a first-class mind, great scholarship and wideness of learning, matched with a full-on, spiritually-dynamic, passion for Jesus. Such people certainly must exist, but they seem to be few and far between.
Indeed, the only two people that I know of who are both vibrant Pentecostal Christians, and also happen to be world-class New Testament scholars, are Gordon Fee and Rikki Watts, both of Regent College in Vancouver, Canada.
Well, there is at least one other person I have since discovered who is also concerned about uniting the mind with the Spirit: Rick Nanez. He is a committed member of the Pentecostal, or full gospel, tradition, being an Assembly of God pastor, and yet he decries the anti-intellectualism that is so rampant in this section of the Christian church.
Now before going any further, let me say that it is not just the Pentecostal world that tends to frown upon, and be uneasy with, the life of the mind, reason and theology. Much of the evangelical world as well shares this problem. And many evangelical authors have written books to address this very issue.
As such, evangelical thinkers like Os Guinness, Mark Noll, David Wells, to name but a few, have penned works, urging fellow evangelicals to love God with their minds as well as the rest of their being.
So Pentecostals are not unique in this regard. However, there probably has been a stronger, more-pronounced anti-intellectualism in this segment of the church than in most others.
But Nanez thinks this is just not good enough, and he wants things to change. Thus he has written this book to remind his colleagues that we are commanded by God to love him with the fullness of our being. And that includes our mind.
Too many believers have simply checked in their minds upon conversion, and have been running around with a large vacancy upstairs ever since. Of course, they often point to various texts that seem to indicate that the mind, learning, knowledge and theology are dangerous.
Nanez begins his work by examining those passages, especially as found in 1 Corinthians. He rightly points out that they are not arguing against the use of the mind, just a perverted understanding of it. The main focus of 1 Corinthians 1 and 8 is not centred on “the negative character of the intellect, learning, miracles, and philosophy; rather, it focuses on the problem of wrong attitudes about them.”
Another problem Paul is combating in the Corinthian letters is that of divisions within the church and promoting personalities. Nanez says that this is still a problem today in Pentecostal/Charismatic circles: the weakness of following personalities. It is in this context that Paul makes his statements about human wisdom, philosophy and the like.
He also examines the historical development of the Pentecostal tradition. In it we discover much anti-intellectualism, such as in Charles Parham, many in the Azuza and revivalism movements, evangelists like Billy Sunday, and so on. But there were rare exceptions. Donald Gee was one such Pentecostal who sought to bring balance in this area.
Nanez also discusses how Christians can recover the Christian mind. He has helpful chapters on logic, philosophy, science, apologetics, reading, education and theology. He asks us to get back to basics in these areas, and show the world that Christianity can provide the best in the sphere of the intellect as in other spheres.
In sum, this is a very important book. It is one thing for an outsider to criticise the full gospel folk for their lack of intellectual and theological wholeness. But for an insider to make such charges certainly gives the case much more credibility and impact. I hope this book is widely read in Pentecostal circles. Indeed, it needs to be widely read in evangelical circles as well.
I hope it is the beginning of a new wave of interest in a wholistic approach to the gospel amongst our Pentecostal brethren.