More Than Mere Emotions
“Most people would die sooner than think—in fact, they do so.” British philosopher Bertrand Russell popularized this expression in his 1925 book about physics, The ABC of Relativity. Sadly, many people in our culture today apply this same statement to Christianity. Puzzled by the anti-intellectual reputation of believers in North America, Christian historian Mark Noll produced a book entitled, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. He concluded that many evangelicals have settled for only teaching the simple truths of the gospel, failing to help believers continue to grow in wisdom and knowledge. In a world now captivated and conquered by various ideas and contrasting ideologies, our minds need to be continuously equipped for both the Great Commission and the Greatest Commandment.
A Sacred Reflection
Embedded into the way of life of the biblical authors and the church’s earliest leaders was the fundamental understanding that to be fully human is to think. Mankind’s ability to think and reason deeply is one of the most sacred reflections of the reality that we’re created in the image of God. God himself implored through the prophet Isaiah, “Come now, let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18). This was the conviction of Jesus, who made it clear when He said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:27).
As disciples who make disciples, we have to engage not only the ethnic unreached people groups of the world but the gatekeepers of the “empires of the mind” as well. In Acts, we see the early church engaging intellectually with both Jews and Gentiles. When engaging Jewish crowds in gospel conversations, the apostles appealed to fulfilled prophecy and the resurrection of Jesus as proof that He was Messiah (Acts 2:22-32). When engaging Gentile audiences, who had no background in Jewish Scripture, the apostles pointed to God’s work in creation (Acts 14:17) and eyewitness testimony (Acts 17:30-31). The first disciples of Jesus were not afraid to engage any audience with a faith that was both thoughtful and compelling.
How Do We Intellectually Engage?
How does a disciple of Jesus in the 21st-century cultivate a mind that is sharp and alert, “always prepared to give the reason for the hope that we have” (1 Peter 3:15)?
1. We need to discipline our minds in the Word.
In order to communicate truth more effectively, we must better understand the depth and breadth of Scripture. Like the Secret Service that is trained to spot counterfeit currency by having an intimate knowledge of the original, disciples of Jesus need to know sound doctrine in order to spot false ideologies. Many Christians today know the basics of the gospel presentation, but we also need to know how to describe biblical passages and languages that inform and communicate our beliefs so that we can accurately explain it to others.
2. We need to be equipped in apologetics.
Apologetics seeks to provide rational justification for the claims of the Christian faith. Apologetics is aimed toward practical application. It’s not just about engaging in debate. It’s about presenting a biblically rich and intellectually sound case for faith. In his book, Reasonable Faith, William Lane Craig gives three strong reasons that every disciple of Jesus needs to be equipped in apologetics: 1. to shape culture, 2. to strengthen believers, and 3. to evangelize unbelievers. When presented with a sensitive gospel presentation, the Spirit of God will continue to draw people to Himself.
For the disciple of Jesus in a short-attention span culture, we have to be intentional to cultivate a sharp mind-reading good books, appreciating fine art, and continuing education are a few. These are all expression of loving God with all our mind. And in doing so, we’ll be better equipped to engage the whole person, with the whole gospel of Jesus Christ anywhere, anytime, with anybody.