Why We Need New Christian Intellectuals

That the Church has failed in the life of the mind is a fact pretty much conceded by most parties, but if you’re doubtful, you need not look far for the proof.

Christian teenagers leave the faith in droves upon entering college, Christian “culture” is on life support, and within the Church, most Christians are gravely suspicious of intellectual things like doctrine and theology. While this little article can’t begin to plumb the depths of all the causal factors which have led to such a sorry state, there is one fundamental factor that I’d like to focus on: Fear.

Not the fear of God, but the fear of truth—or to be more specific, the fear that God and truth do not go together. We go about our lives Monday through Saturday interacting with the true, the solid, the rational in everything we do, but as we enter Church on Sunday, the “true” suddenly shifts from the solid and the rational to the ethereal and the emotional. Our entire mindset shifts from the objective to the subjective. We go from a world full of tasks which depend upon the judgment of our own independent minds—a world of bills, bank accounts, work projects, deadlines, and constructive hobbies—to a world where we are told that we must not rely on the judgment of our own minds—a world of “narratives,” “conversations”, emotions, blind faith, and commands for mindless obedience. We’re told that we must not use our minds to think about the foundations of Christianity the way that we use them to think about everything else in life, because that would be unspiritual.

The spiritual, we then come to believe, is the mindless. So, we keep on believing—because we want to be “spiritual”—but we dare not question why we believe. And this refusal to apply our minds to our Christianity begins to birth in us a deep-seated fear about what we might find if we did. We begin to fear that Christianity, itself, might be mindless—that it might all just be a big fairytale. But we’ve organized most of our lives around it, and the stakes are so high that we dare not venture to find the truth. So, in our terror, we join the chorus of mindlessness, and the vicious cycle goes on to the next generation. As long as we can go on convincing a sufficient number of people to join us in “spiritually” blanking out our minds, it won’t seem as much like a fairytale. The willful mindlessness of other Christians becomes a protective barrier between our own minds and the the reality we fear. And the one thing that could pierce that barrier, the one thing we dread and hate more than anything else, is the individual Christian who dares to be spiritual by using his mind.

This, the mindful Christian—the one who isn’t afraid to use his own independent judgment on Sunday morning, the way he does throughout the rest of the week—is the most hated, the most maligned, the most condemned Christian in the Church today. He is condemned for his arrogance because “he thinks he’s always right”—as his critics blank out the fact that everyone believes that they are right about what they believe. He is maligned for thinking “autonomously” (i.e. independently), instead of toeing the line of tradition—as his protestant critics blank out the fact that their very tradition was born from such independent thinking. The tragic irony though, is that he is the one whom the Church desperately needs, today. He is the one who is not afraid that Christianity isn’t true, because he is the one who is not afraid of the truth, period. He is the one who knows that the true is the good; that Christianity is not a fairytale (and if it were, it should be rejected immediately); that all truth is God’s truth, and therefore all truth goes together. This, the mindful Christian, is the only hope of overcoming the present mindlessness of the Church. It is in his defense, and for his equipping, that we are raising a standard for “the new Christian intellectual.”

The old Christian intellectuals are impotent. We are working to build a generation of new Christian intellectuals. The ideas we advocate may be “new” to the present Christian culture, but we are in good historical company—sharing our worldview convictions with such classical Christian thinkers as Augustine, Aquinas, and Jonathan Edwards. Like those Christian intellectuals of old, we will labor to build and operate off of an integrated Christian worldview which can be applied consistently in all areas of life, from Sunday to Saturday, and everywhere in between. This is because we know the rational and ethical supremacy of orthodox Christianity, and we base the historical Christian doctrine we adhere to—not in faith, presuppositions, or arbitrary whims—but in the plain and reasonable truth of reality.

Our aim is to restore the role of the mind, throughout all of the Christian life, to the glory of God. This means using our minds (our reason) in the foundations of our worldview (aka epistemology). It means rejecting the dichotomy between “mind and heart” in order to integrate the two in our motives (aka axiology). It means identifying rational principles which adhere to the eternal law of God (aka ethics), and applying them consistently to all major areas of life—particularly in our interaction with society as a whole (aka politics). And, it means doing all of this with the aim of spreading the glory of the supremely rational, the supremely real, the supremely good, God of all the universe.

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