Turning from Idols toward God: the Human Intellect

Many Christians have abdicated the realm of the intellect to modern culture and secular institutions

Depositphotos Image ID: 20592505 copyright: olly18

Human beings can make idols out of anything. We can even make an idol of human intellect/mind. As with all created things, the human intellect is limited and finite. Many people, nevertheless, put their ultimate faith in the human intellect. This is idolatry when we trust in our own intellect instead of trusting in God.

Putting faith in our own intellect is, ultimately, foolish. What do we know that God doesn’t know? What can we understand that God doesn’t understand? Relying on ourselves in this way, to the exclusion of relying of God, is (to put it mildly) short-sighted. It is sin, to put it more bluntly.

Self-reliance is the mistake that Eve made in the garden when the serpent tempted her by saying “you will be like God”![1] We want to be our own gods. We would rather rely on ourselves and our own intellect.

This is the basis of pride, which is the essence of sin. Paul says that our pride and self-reliance is why “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise”.[2] But, “the wisdom of this world is foolishness” to God.”[3] As Isaiah says:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8-9

For these reasons, and others perhaps, Christians today tend to distrust science, worldly thinking, philosophy and even the mind, itself. Some Christians have all but abandoned the world of science, philosophy and the intellect to secular institutions and minds, and this is a terrible mistake!

Christians are skeptical of science. Christians are fearful of philosophy. Christians are even distrustful of their own minds. Many Christians have abdicated the realm of the intellect to modern culture and secular institutions. But here’s the thing: this is sinful too!

Sin[4] means literally (forfeiture or loss from) not hitting the target, to miss the mark. We can sin by directing ourselves in a way that God doesn’t approve, and we can also sin by failing to direct ourselves in a way that God approves. Sin has positive (active) and negative (passive) components.

A tendency to avoid the world of the intellect is a sinful tendency because God commands us to love Him with our hearts, souls and minds![5] Loving God with our minds is one third of the greatest commandment! We miss he mark when we fail to love God with our minds.

The Greek word translated as “mind” in this passage is dianoia, consisting of a combination of two words: diá (meaning “across from, side-to-side”) and noiéō (“to use the mind”). It literally means “critical thinking that thinks through by moving side-to-side with an issue to reach balanced-conclusions”.[6]

The idea here is of thinking through a proposition, considering all angles and reaching a well-thought out conclusion. We love God by using our mind to consider things from the perspective that God provides us, which is much, much higher than any perspective we might hope to achieve in our own finite efforts, relying on our own intellectual resources.

For the Christ follower, critical thinking is informed by the existence and knowledge of God. We submit our minds to God, as we should our hearts and souls. This involves “destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and … taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ….”[7]

How we think is important, but we should not neglect to think!

Followers of Christ have never had more intellectual substance and support informed by faith at their fingertips than at the present time. Intellectual ministries are springing up all over the globe. Some of them include Reasonable Faith, Reasons to Believe, RZIM, Cross Examined, Cold-Case Christianity, Stand to Reason, and Free Thinking Ministries, to name a few, along with many other individuals, including Norman Geisler, John Lennox, Lee Strobel, Josh McDowell, Gary Habermas, Timothy McGrew, Timothy Keller, Mike Licona, Daniel Wallace, Peter Williams and many others.

This list is by no means exhaustive. With all of these resources at our beck and command, we have no excuse when it comes to loving God with our minds. Loving God with our minds, though, starts with reading the word of God for ourselves and becoming students of it. We can all do that, regardless of our intellectual ability. It is not enough to leave it to Sundays and the words of others to inform our minds of the knowledge of God. We must love God with our own minds!


[1] Genesis 3:4-6 (The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die!” For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.”)

[2] 1 Corinthians 1:27

[3] 1 Corinthians 3:19

[4] Hamartía (a feminine noun derived from A “not” and méros, “a part, share of”) – properly, no-share (“no part of”); loss (forfeiture) from not hitting the target; sin (missing the mark)

[5] Matthew 22:37 (“And He said to him,” ‘you shall love the lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’”)

[6] I use the Discovery Bible to gain a deeper, richer and more complete understanding of the Scripture. If you want ready understanding of the original Greek, the original word emphasis and Greek tenses that do not exist in English, definitions of Greek words and more to make your reading of the New Testament deeper and richer, check out the Discovery Bible. The Discovery Bible opens up knowledge of the original New Testament text in Greek to you in your everyday Bible reading. It shows the words emphasized in the Greek text that lose emphasis in the English translation, the tenses and the meanings that do not translate well into English or English sentence structure. If you are ready to dig deeper in your Bible reading, try a free 30-day trial download of The Discovery Bible. The HELPS Word-Studies from the Discovery Bible are incorporated into the Bible Hub website, which is chalk-filled with scholarly Bible study tools.

[7] 2 Corinthians 10:5

Comments are welcomed

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.