Is the Bible Anti-Intellectual?

Viewed in isolation, some passages of Scripture seem to convey that there is a special danger in the human intellect—danger that is greater than the hazards of, for example, “the heart.” Sadly, these passages are often viewed “in isolation” in churches strongly influenced by revivalism, romanticism (see also IEP), or both.

Used as slogans, passages like the following seem solidly anti-intellectual:

Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. (1 Cor. 8:1)
God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. (1 Cor. 1:27)
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit. (Col. 2:8)
Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. (2 Tim. 3:7)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. (Prov. 3:5-6)

Based on passages like these, anti-intellectuals teach that Christians should focus more energy on “matters of the heart” in contrast to the intellect. Study and analysis should be viewed with greater suspicion than impression and intuition (supposedly, the special domain of the Holy Spirit). The quality of worship should be gauged by what’s felt more than by what’s thought or learned.

But these are errors, and we can correct or avoid them by looking more comprehensively at what Scripture reveals about the inner man. What follows is intended as a start.

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Mechanical Religion - Isaiah 58 and Matthew 6

A shofar ("trumpet")

In my first book, The Midrash Key, I argue that many of Jesus’ (Yeshua’s) teachings—including sections of The Sermon on the Mount—find their origin in Deuteronomy or Leviticus. Our Lord gathered a large crowd together for the Sermon on the Mount, so we know it was much longer than the eleven-minute summary found in the Gospel According to Matthew. Two hours would be the bare minimum, but He probably taught all day. We only have the summary the Gospel writers preserved.

Today I am suggesting that another part of The Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 6:1-4, 16-23) finds its origin in Isaiah 58:1-8. I believe Jesus commented on and developed themes from this text. See if you agree with me.

The theme of this section is “God detests mechanical religion.” In other words, God does not want our lip service, He wants our hearts, our selves. He has no tolerance for mechanical religion; He will not be controlled or manipulated. We can obey Him, but we can do Him no favors. We owe Him total allegiance by birth.

How we live on a daily basis is also a spiritual issue. When it comes to being a follower of Yeshua, we are not allowed to segment ourselves. We may be more “secular” in our jobs or among our lost family members than we would be with fellow believers, but we still must adhere to Christian ethics and conduct.

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Our Nasty Attitudes Toward God

Every believer experiences deteriorating attitudes toward God sometimes. Some believers are out of touch with their “inner man” and live with their heads in the spiritual sand. As a result, they may not recognize this tendency within themselves (and that is tragic). Denying reality is an old coping mechanism, but a dishonest one. Perceived or not, the attitude problem within us is real. Here are two issues related to these attitudes.

One sad but common sight is what I call “Christian brats.”

By “Christian brats,” I mean individuals who have been brought up in Christian homes, continue to attend or be involved in an evangelical church, but resent their faith as confining. They secretly wish that they had been born into a family of unbelievers so they could experience what “everyone else” is doing and not miss out on the fun. On one hand, such individuals may not have been born again by the Spirit of God; they are spiritually indifferent. On the other hand, I am convinced that many do know the Lord.

Being brought up in a fine Christian home has both advantages and challenges. Even with godly parents, children are not robots that can be programmed; they must choose to follow the Lord or not. We pray, hold our breath, and hope for the best. So much is in God’s hands.

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