Loving God with Our Minds

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We should not check our intellect at the church door. Jesus instructs us to love God with our minds as part of the greatest commandment.[1] To some extent, however, many Christians have adopted a view of faith that might be characterized as anti-intellectual, to the point of abdicating the realm of the intellect to secularists and materialists.

We Christians seem to be skeptical about our own minds. I find this interesting because, according to Scripture, we should arguably be more skeptical about our hearts![2] Jeremiah identifies the heart “deceitful above all things”.  Jeremiah doesn’t say this about the mind.

There is an interesting parallel with Charles Darwin here. Darwin said that he could not trust his inner convictions (intuition, perhaps heart) because his inner convictions evolved from lower life forms. To drive his point home, Darwin posits the question: “Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?”[3] Darwin, ironically, didn’t seem to share the same doubt about his intellect, though his intellect also “developed from the mind of the lower animals”, as Darwin put it.

A materialist like Charles Darwin should have much less confidence trusting human intellect than a Christian. Darwin should have been as skeptical of his own intellect as he was skeptical of his inner convictions because both his “convictions” and his ability to reason derived from lower life forms. Christians should have much more confidence in their intellect because they believe human intellect is created in the image of God who is, Himself, rational, mindful and intellectual.

The ability to reason is God-given and stems from the rational mind of God that created the universe by speaking it into existence.[4] We should have a healthy distrust of the heart, of emotions, of raw, unguided, reactionary instinct, not because it derives from a monkey’s mind, but because it is tainted by sin. We should have more confidence in intellect, reason, and logic because these are human abilities that are more directly tied into the nature and character of God.

We get into trouble when we let our hearts guide our minds. Of course, one who is born again, born of the spirit, has an inner guide that is true that can be trusted. Still, the human heart is prone to wandering and to going astray, and sometimes we fail to detect the difference between the Holy Spirit and our own hearts leading us into the delusions that attract us because of our sin nature.

Richard Dawkins and the “new atheists” define faith as belief without supporting facts and even belief in spite of the facts. Unfortunately there are some Christians who act as if faith is defined the same way.

There seems to be on the surface some support for that view in the Bible. There are many stories in which men believe that God would rescue them from their factual situations and bring about results were highly unlikely, maybe even impossible, in the face of the facts. David fighting Goliath, Moses crossing the Red Sea, Joshua crossing the Jordan, and Jesus healing the sick are examples of the miraculous intervention of God in the face of difficult or impossible circumstances. We might be tempted to believe that these examples urge us to adopt a faith that is belief without factual evidence or support, but that is simply a wrong conclusion.

None of these examples have anything to do with worldview. They are examples of trusting and believing in God and His provision in personal circumstances. They are examples of having faith and trusting God’s leading and trusting God’s provision, rather than trusting our own desires and direction.

On the subject of worldview, Christianity stands apart from all other religions because it is testable. God invites Isaiah, “Come let us reason together.”[5] God expects us to engage Him with our minds and out capacity to reason. Paul urges us to “test everything”.[6] God expects us to test and prove the truth. Jesus says the greatest commandment includes loving God with our minds. God wants our minds fully engaged in the process of faith.

Christianity is uniquely historical. The New Testament writings claim to be eyewitness accounts of things that the writers, themselves have seen and heard.[7] John says that he wrote of the “signs” performed in the presence of disciples “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God”.[8] Peter writes, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses….”[9]

Paul  appealed to the Corinthians by recalling the eyewitness  to Jesus, risen from the dead in bodily form, when he wrote to them about 52 AD: “[H]e appeared to Cephas [Peter], then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.”[10] Note the number of these eyewitnesses – well more than 500 – most of whom were still alive at the time Paul wrote this letter.

Far from abandoning us to blind faith, God and the writers of the Scripture expect us to examine the evidence in support of faith. “Doubting Thomas” was not reprimanded for his doubt. He was invited dispel his doubt by engaging in an examination of the evidence.[11]

Doubt is not the opposite of faith. Distrust is the opposite of faith. We should have confidence in God. We should have confidence that the world God created can be understood and that science, logic and all forms of evidence point to God and support faith, but that doesn’t mean that we are left to “take it on faith” alone that these things are true. We are actually invited and encouraged by God to test the evidence.

Faith is a leap only because we are finite beings and we cannot close all the gaps in our knowledge. Faith is a leap not because of a lack of evidence, but because of our tendency or desire not to trust the evidence. Faith is a leap because we might rather believe in something other than God, something that feeds our sinful desires and the desire to exalt our own selves and our own understanding of the world.

Faith is not a leap because there is a lack of evidence. In fact, the cumulative evidence is compelling, if not overwhelming. We see in the machination of people of great intellect a torturous and contortionist tendency to avoid having to concede that God exists. The rejection of God is not so much that these people are smarter than other people, but because they desire not to acknowledge God.

Atheism and agnosticism may not be so much an intellectual conclusion as an emotional one. Gary Habermas, who has been studying the phenomenon of doubt for decades, has some interesting things to say in this area.[12] His studies reveal that there is a high incidence of “father issues” with people who are atheists.[13] Although it may not be true in individual cases, and it certainly isn’t true in every case, Habermas’s study shows that having an absent father or having a bad relationship with a father is more characteristic of atheists than of the general population. This suggests that, to some extent, atheism may be motivated by matters of the heart, rather than matters of the mind.

Reading the autobiographical accounts of former atheists provides some additional anecdotal evidence of this point. CS Lewis, for instance, admits that he embraced materialism, in spite of the stark, meaningless reality of it because it meant that he would not have to be beholden to “a transcendental Interferer”.[14] If you listen very long to Richard Dawkins, he exhibits a very similar attitude toward God. Lewis, also, admitted some bitterness toward God resulting from the death of his mother form cancer when he was a boy. These feelings of betrayal and anger are common among people who have lost loved ones. These motivations are not intellectual, but matters of the heart.

Ultimately, there are some brilliant people who are simply more intelligent than other people as far as human intelligence goes. Stephen Hawking is a brilliant, brilliant person. The difference in intelligence between Stephen Hawking and the average person, however, is certainly almost negligible when compared to the intelligence and knowledge of the creator of the universe.

One likely temptation of people who are more intelligent than other people is to place particular trust in that intelligence. If intelligent people can see the gap with other people, it is natural to place some emphasis on the difference and to gain some confidence in that difference. This may also be true of people who are wealthy and who do not lack for Earthly resources in comparison to other people. The same is true of people in positions of power. The temptation and the tendency is to trust one’s intellect, one’s resources, and one’s power because, in comparison to other people, we are so much better off.

People in such a superior position to other people are apt to find no use or need for God. Perhaps, this is why Jesus says, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”[15] The wealthy man learns to trust in his own resources, rather than God. The person of power and influence learns to trust in his own power and influence, and the intellectual man leans to trust in his own intellect.

When it comes to intellect, the smart person may not have reached a logical and rational conclusion that God does not exist. The conclusion may be driven more by emotional and nonintellectual factors, but the smart person is able to defend her position better than others because of that intelligence. At the core, the smart person relies implicitly on herself because she sees that she is smarter than other people.

This is pride or course, and pride is the root of all sin. This is why we see Paul stating over and again that God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.[16] Just because a person may be smarter than most people in the world doesn’t mean that he is smarter than God. We obviously do not hold a candle to God’s intellect; we not be smarter than some people, yet God made us in His image and gave us this intellect. As with the parable of the talents, God expects us to use the intellect He has given us rather than bury it.

Unfortunately, I think many Christians do bury their intellect, and the church as a whole seems to have abdicated the realm of the intellect to the secular world in some ways. Fortunately, this is changing. The ministries that focus on the intellectual side of faith are on the rise. I invite my fellow Christians to join them and to begin to love God more with our minds.


[1] Matthew 22:34-37 (“But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ 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.’”)

[2] Jeremiah 2:9 (“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”)

[3] Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13230,” accessed on 9 October, 2017,  http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-13230 (In a letter to William Graham dated July 3, 1881, Darwin wrote, “[Y]ou have expressed my inward conviction, though far more vividly and clearly than I could have done, that the Universe is not the result of chance. But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?”)

[4] See John 1:1 – “In the beginning was  the Word, and Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The Greek word translated as “Word” is logos, from which we get the English word, logic. It conveys the idea of rational or reasoning communication.

[5] Isaiah 1:18

[6] 1 Thessalonians 5:21 (“[T]est everything; hold fast what is good.”)

[7] 1 John 1:1-2 (“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you….”)

[8] John 20:30-31 (“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”)

[9] 2 Peter 1:16-18 (“For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice from the Majestic Glory said to Him, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ And we ourselves heard this voice from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.”)

[10] 1 Corinthians 15:5-7

[11] John 20:24-29 (“Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.’

Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’”)

[12] See, for instance, Dealing With Doubt, by Gary R. Habermas, with an Appendix by Ronald T. Habermas, originally published by Moody Press: Chicago (1990)

[13] I don’t have a ready citation to support this statement. I heard him say it in a presentation that he gave a number of years ago.

[14] See Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life, by CS Lewis (“But, of course, what mattered most of all was my deep-seated hatred of authority, my monstrous individualism, my lawlessness. No word in my vocabulary expressed deeper hatred than the word INTERFERENCE. But Christianity placed at the centre what then seemed to me a transcendental Interferer. If its picture were true then no sort of ‘treaty with reality’ could ever be possible. There was no region even in the innermost depth of one’s soul (nay, there least of all) which one could surround with a barbed wire fence and guard with a notice No Admittance. And that was what I wanted; some area, however small, of which I could say to all other beings, ‘This is my business and mine only.’”)

[15] Mark 10:25

[16] 1 Corinthians 1:20-21, 27 (“Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe…. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong….”) See also James 2:5 (“Has not God chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He promised those who love Him?”)

Explore posts in the same categories: Apologetics, Bible, Christian, Faith

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