Anti-intellectualism: The Trojan Horse Within the Church

Strong and needed words from Paul Gould

trojan horseWe are in trouble. We no longer possess, as a culture, the ability to think well about the things that matter most. When it comes to thinking about the nature or existence of God, the purpose of life, or the morality of war, homosexuality, or abortion, we are guided more by our feelings than reason. When we want to find knowledge, largely, as a culture we look to scientists and not philosophers or theologians. As a result, our culture is fixated on image, celebrities, experience, slogans, and thirty-second sound bites. We no longer possess the ability to think well about things that matter most. And the church is no different than the broader culture it finds itself within.

But this is not how it is supposed to be. Over 2,000 years ago, Jesus spelled out how His community of followers was to understand themselves:

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?” (Matthew 5:13)

The world has lost its saltiness. It is in decay. It is everywhere cracked. Further, Christianity and the church have largely been marginalized, existing on the edges of a now secular society without a public voice. And the Christian witness and conscious is muted, because our lives are as fragmented as our neighbors.

According to J.P. Moreland, this decline all began with the emergence of anti-intellectualism in the church beginning in the middle 1800s.[1] As Christians began to become intellectually shallow and theologically illiterate, we lost our voice and withdrew from culture, carving out space for faith as a private, subjective experience.

But, this anti-intellectualism is a scandal. It is a sin. It is unbiblical. And it is, according to Moreland, the “Trojan horse”[2] within the walls of the church.

We must change. We must begin to cultivate a Christian mind once again. We must reject false-dichotomies (faith or reason; sacred or secular; head or heart) and seek Christian wholeness as apprentices of Jesus. In doing so, we will love God will all of our being, as God intended (“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”- Matthew 22:37) and we will re-establish our Christian voice and conscious in a world that desperately needs a Savior that can satisfy both head and heart.

To see how I think philosophers can be of service to the church in helping us to love God with our minds, see my essay posted at The Gospel Coalition on “Why The Church Needs Philosophers and Philospohers Need the Church.”

For more, listen to my talk on Loving God with Your Mind.

6 Responses

  1. Terrific article. Wholly agree. As an aspiring philosopher [I have an undergrad in Philosophy and am working on a masters] this is the cry of my heart.

    Grace,

    BBG

  2. Reblogged this on BBG and commented:
    Agreed. Brothers let us love God with our minds!

  3. Reblogged on my site.

  4. You are definitely correct. When the “enemy” (i.e., humanists, atheists, and secularists in general) are attacking us with their reason (which is based on a humanistic worldview in which man is God) we need to be able to give a defense for the hope that we have (1 Peter 3:15).

  5. llamapacker,

    I strongly agree with your thoughts and am reminded of the verse that follows:

    “And the LORD shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the LORD thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them.” – Deuteronomy 28:13.

    I am familiar with the movement in the 1800’s where Christian believers were led to pull away from science because at that time, science was equated to man’s effort to act as God. At the base of the movement I agree with pulling away from science as a voice of reason, but what’s more important is beginning to seek intelligence in The Word.

    “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;” – Proverbs 1:7.

    We are not asked to be ignorant, blind nor unconscious of the world that we live in, instead what we must understand is that intelligence is given to us and it does not come from man. It comes from, and begins with The Lord! I absolutely agree with you in the words that you stated: we, as Christians need to cultivate and re-establish our Christian voice.

    “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” – Matthew 6:33.

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