Being smart is a good thing, but smart students should not aspire to be Intellectuals. We are choking on Intellectuals just now, elites whose education is not matched by performance in life, but who remain verbal. If it were possible, they might talk our culture to death! God grant us thoughtful, warmhearted, doers . . . People who are whole souls.
I was thinking about this after a trip to Minnesota to speak in a lecture series at Crown College. The students there honored me with some great questions, but I did not have time to answer them all. One I missed was:
Do you think there is a difference between Christian intellectualism and general intellectualism, othar than the religion of the speaker?
The student is asking a good question, but let me do what philosophers often do, irritatingly do, and clarify terms. It is good to follow reason. Jesus is the Divine Word and there is no limit to how far and how hard we should try to follow the logos of God. Think!
Yet there is a danger as there always is to any good. The greater the good, the more likely idolatry. Why? Thinking is so great, that we turn this great good into a god and so spoil it. Thinking is necessary, but is not the only necessity. When your son asks for bread, give him bread and not a syllogism! Sometimes our problems are not matters of pure intellect, but contain an emotional element. We cannot think our way out of an emotional problem any more than the right “feels” can solve an intellectual puzzle.If my mind doubts, I need to reason. If my heart is failing, then I need love.
Imagine standing next a person mourning a loss and talking to them about arguments for the goodness of God. This is excellent, if they need intellectual answers, but wrongheaded if what was needed was a quiet hug. Of course, the homeschool dad who gives his son a hug, when the boy needed some logic, was equally messed up. Never apply the balm of Gilead when the need is for a shave with Okham’s Razor.
Christians try to love God and neighbor with all their heart, soul, and mind.
We are humanists, the first and best humanists. We love what God created and want to fulfill that glorious creation. We love humans so we can love God.
All of this says that there is a Christian difference, we are no “Mere Intellectuals.” Instead, we are merely thoughtful, thinking because we are human, but looking for the lessons of the heart and experience, the hand.
Maybe other religions or non-religions look for this wholeness, but that is not my experience. Christianity demands we avoid “intellectualism” and instead strive for wholeness. We cannot rest in one thing, intellect, and ignore the rest of human experience. Christians are called to be humanists, people who want to be real people emotionally, intellectually, and practically.
Or so it seems to me.