Should Christians be Anti-Intellectual?

by Daniel Carrington

The current culture seems to view the Church as being about faith and not reason. These two concepts are touted as being contradictory, as if you can either have faith or reason, but clearly not both. Partly, this seems to be a result of the Church’s retreat from the academy during the modern era.

Historically, this runs counter to the way Christianity has been understood. After all, most of the centers of education, universities, colleges, etc. are a direct result of Christian influence which targeted bringing knowledge and education to the masses. Without the Christian Church, it would be unlikely that we would be anywhere near where we are today from a scientific knowledge point of view.

Sadly, many Churches do seem to espouse a sort of anti-intellectualism. I see this often when discussing apologetics with other Christians. Some of the typical responses are, “Only the Holy Spirit can bring people to Christ” or “Nobody is ever saved by arguing with them” or “We should just love people” or “We simply need to have faith!”

The problem with these responses is that not one single one of them is actually biblical. Jesus, Himself, and the apostles after Him did not just go around being “nice” to people and “loving on them.” This is almost similar to the post about WWJD. So, what did Jesus do?

Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent [word] by his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: [the] BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and [the] lame walk, [the] lepers are cleansed and [the] deaf hear, [the] dead are raised up, and [the] POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM. – Matthew 11:2-5

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Here, we see how Jesus responds to a question regarding His purpose and plan. Does Jesus tell John about how he should just “love on” people and have faith? No! Jesus gives him evidence. Jesus backs up His claims by pointing to tangible, real events that people have witnessed.

More than once, Jesus challenges His disciples’ faith by referring to evidence. Even after His resurrection, His first encounter with Thomas indicates that Thomas should have had sufficient evidence to believe without having to see for himself. Yet, even with that, what does Jesus do? He gives Thomas the evidence he needed by showing him His hands and feet and His side.

Another great example is the apostle Paul. I won’t do it here, but see for yourself by looking through Acts and just see how many times Paul is said to be “reasoning with them from the scriptures.” Look at Acts 17 when Paul addresses the Areopagus. Does he tell them about how people ought to love each other and be really nice? Does he tell them that they should just take it on faith that Jesus is the Christ? No! He argues with them. He presents evidence, engages them with logic, offers arguments and helps them to reach the appropriate conclusion.

If you recall, the Berean’s were highly praised for their careful investigation of any claims regarding the Gospel. They did not just take people’s word for things. They investigated the scriptures. They did some critical thinking in order to ascertain whether or not any teaching they received lined up with teaching they had previously received. They were anything but anti-intellectual…

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