Intellectual Honesty or Jesus?

Duke Chapel, a frequent icon for the university, can seat nearly 1,600 people and contains a 5,200-pipe organ.

It seems today that when it comes to religion, many people confront an unfortunate dichotomy. The choice is between intellectual honesty and Jesus. Many believe there is no way to reconcile the two.

The purpose of me writing this post is not for me to say why my interpretation is superior, but instead to present an alternate view that often goes unnoticed… too often different views can be silenced by the surprisingly large fundie presence online (i.e. the blog-o-sphere).

If you were in a room of 100 Christians, and asked, “how many of you knew someone that grew up in a religious environment and then walked away from their faith upon leaving for college?” then you would see 100 hands raised in the air.

Let me suggest why I believe this happens.

Imagine what happens when a young woman is raised in a Christian environment and when she turns 18, she goes off to study at university (let’s say, one that is not affiliated with any denomination of faith). While studying, she becomes exposed to all kinds of different disciplines. She takes anthropology, psychology, sociology, biology, calculus, astronomy, and so on. She meets professors who are very intelligent and have dedicated their lives to their subject. Is it possible that during lectures, this young woman’s professors say things that are true?

The answer, of course, is “yes”. This makes sense since truth is available to everyone.

But now let’s say that the professors aren’t Christian, yet the young woman grew up being told that Christianity is the only thing that is true. What if she has been taught that no truth exists outside of the Bible? This now poses a dilemma: believe the truth she is learning at school or the Christian faith she grew up with.

This scenario is common place. Individuals in their late teens and young twenties growing up with Christianity can go through much stress during this time (I should know, I’m still not completely done with this stage of my life). Essentially, these individuals are experiencing truth outside of their religion, and therefore decide to drop their faith altogether (under the misconception that it is a choice).

In other words, their “box” is being blown apart. Their faith they have been handed can’t contain what they are learning.

At this point you are probably saying, “wait, go back…misconception that it is a choice!? How so?”

It isn’t a choice because Jesus has said (in John), “I am the way, the truth, the life”. This is essentially saying that if you come across truth in any form, it is not outside one’s faith as a Christian. Instead, faith has just gotten larger. Being a Christian is to claim truth whenever you find it. Jesus and truth are not on opposite sides of the spectrum as if they are two different entities. No, they are the same, Jesus is “the truth”.

If Jesus is God, and God is truth (and all truth is God’s truth), then Jesus brings us into it. Christians must believe in a “big Jesus”…not just a Jesus who was put onto the earth to solve a problem. Although that is a major part of Jesus, it isn’t the only one (as many denominations forget).

John tells Christians that Jesus was there before creation (calling Jesus the “word”). In Greek, “word” is translated as logos, and here we get our word “logic”. Logic, intelligence, and design…the blueprint of creation. Note though, that Jesus is the arrangement, Jesus is the logic, Jesus is the intelligence.

Christians should remember that Jesus’ teachings should not be followed just because they are a good moral way of living. No, they should be followed because they are our best insight to how the world (meaning humanity) really works. His teachings teach us how things are.

As one source puts it:

I don’t follow Jesus because I think Christianity is the best religion. I follow Jesus because he leads me into ultimate reality. He teaches me to live in tune with how reality is. When Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me”, he was saying that his way, his words, his life is our connection to how things truly are at the deepest levels of existence. For Jesus then, the point of religion is to help us connect with the ultimate reality, God.

Many people “drop” their faith because their religious “box” is too small, and have confined their Jesus to a limited worldview.

I understand that my stance on this matter will not be shared by everyone. I am also aware that my experiences have an effect on how I interpret the Bible and faith. Again, this post was meant to offer a different, perhaps not thought of (perhaps overlooked), theological viewpoint.

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14 Responses

  1. “Being a Christian is to claim truth whenever you find it.” – as long as that truth does not conflict with established doctrine? It seems to me you are trying to redefine Christianity to fit the changing truths of the day. If only Christians could admit the bible is mistaken in many ways, there would not be a problem in reconciling scientific truth with biblical accounts.

  2. Hi Darren,
    you make the mistake of assuming the Bible was written only as a historical document. For instance, the greatest truth about the story of Adam and Eve isn’t that it happened, it’s that it happens. I can tell you now that there is no problem in people trying to unravel the mystery of faith.

    You may have missed the point of the article. Truth is Jesus, and Jesus is the ultimate reality. “Changing” truths of today aren’t changing, they have always been (“in the beginning there was the word [logos/logic]”…”I am the way, the truth, the light”).

    Where the Bible seems to “fail” is in our subjecting it (as a historical document) to our present day standards of ‘academic’ reliability, etc.

  3. Hahaha, Justin… you rock bro. And you wouldn’t happen to be reading “Velvet Elvis” would you? 😉

    I see your source!!!!

    Hehe… It is a great book. His theology is a little… questionable (in that he really does not define it), but I love how he talks about the essentials of the faith in a way that is very relevant and understandable to our culture and our generation. VERY refreshing…

    And also, if you are Reformed, there is no problem with being both intellectual and Christian. Try reading something (anything) by Jonathan Edwards, John Calvin, C.H. Spurgeon, John Piper, Tim Keller, D.A. Carson and many many others… I have found that they are far more intellectual than I can handle!

    “as long as that truth does not conflict with established doctrine?”

    Yep.

  4. Ack…. add the following to my last comment:

    “Yep. For all truth is God’s truth. If it does not fall in line with contextualized scripture (or at least close), then it cannot be truth.”

    There.

  5. Hey Brad,
    yea that was my source for sure. I was reading and was so blown away by what I read that I felt I had to share. He is a fantastic writer who I have found shares much of what I believe.

  6. Had to read this tonight. It was a giggle for me when I read this part: Jesus is the truth.

    why the giggle?

    for I had just written something on Logical Reasoning in the Mind of Cesare. However, the topic was not titled such.

    When Cesare says to Jesus… ” what is truth?”…
    and knowing in my heart Truth was starring back at him,
    I said aloud: Cesare, Cesare, the question should have never been presented as ” what is truth?”… the question should have been: ” Who is Truth?”

    yes, Logical Reasoning never saw this coming.

    To keep my sanity, I break down what the world defines truth as being and what God’s word defines Truth.

    enjoyed the read. Oxy

  7. hi oxysmoron,
    your writing on Cesare sounds interesting. You are right, logical reasoning never saw this coming.

    Thanks for stopping by, glad you enjoyed the post.

  8. Darren,
    If the truths of the day are changing then they are, or were, not truths.

    “as long as that truth does not conflict with established doctrine?”
    Established doctrine of today is not necessarily truth and it will change tomorrow.

    The Word doesn’t change.

    “If only Christians could admit the bible is mistaken in many ways, there would not be a problem in reconciling scientific truth with biblical accounts.”
    If only scientist could admit they are mistaken in many ways, there would not be a problem in reconciling scientific truth with biblical accounts.

  9. Hi astudent,
    good to see you again! Hope all is well.

    -Justin

  10. Justin,

    Yeah, I found his style of writing VERY engrossing, and VERY refreshing. That kind of rhetoric and style of engagement is sorely needed in the church. I do worry some about his theology (again, a little on the liberal side, but hard to say exactly in light of that book alone), but we can all learn very much from what and how he is preaching the Truth.

  11. Hi Brad,
    you say ‘liberal’, how do you mean? Also, why do you see that as a negative?

    Just curious.

  12. Hrmmm… well, within what is popularly labeled as the “Emerging Church” there are a couple different “streams.”

    The “conservative” types (a la Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle or Darrin Patrick of The Journey in St. Louis) hold to a conservative theology (inerrancy of scripture, triune God, exclusive truth) but liberal culture (culture itself is neutral and to be celebrated and embraced).

    The “liberal” stream (Brian McClaren, Doug Paggit, Karen Ward) holds to a liberal theology (religious pluralism, flexibility on the triune nature of God, blatant denial of how scripture talks about sin, etc.) and also a liberal culture.

    A good example of this is Dr. Mark Devine’s question on a recent blog post:
    “Could it be that, fundamentally, McLaren’s touchstone is culture while Driscoll’s is the Bible?”

    A very very general explanation as to what I mean by liberal (when referring to theology), is that they view culture as an authority either equal to or above scripture. Again, that is a loose definition.

    Why is that bad? Well… Culture changes. God loves culture within the commands and revelations he has given us through scripture. Some aspects of culture are good, some neutral, and others sinful. The bible often serves as a screen with which to sift through these aspects, whereas the only authority otherwise is our personal opinion (which is also marred by sin). Make sense?

    Politically, liberal means a lot of different things, as I am sure you are VERY well aware! I am VERY moderate myself politically, and will almost definitely be voting Democrat in the next election (unless it is Lucifer… scuse me… Hilary who is the candidate).

  13. hahah your Hilary comment cracked me up.

    Hm, so if I understand right, you are saying ‘liberal’ theology puts too much emphasis on present day culture?

    Do you have an example of that so I can get a better idea?

    Also, what is an example of denying how the scripture talks about sin?

  14. “Hm, so if I understand right, you are saying ‘liberal’ theology puts too much emphasis on present day culture?”
    Yes… in that it elevates the authority of culture and/or experience over that of scripture (viewing scripture through a cultural lens instead of viewing culture through a scriptural lens)

    “Do you have an example of that so I can get a better idea?”
    Brian McClaren is pretty much case in point as far as this goes… so is Doug Paggit and Karen Ward. A great book to read on the breadth of perspective on this would be “Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches,” I forget the editor’s name, but it is in a “5 views” format. Great read.

    “Also, what is an example of denying how the scripture talks about sin?”
    Here’s a good example of a conversation on the topic of Homosexuality:
    http://www.theologyprof.com/mclaren-and-driscoll-homosexuality-culture-and-the-bible/#comments

    The last comment (mine) is pretty clear on how I feel very legitimate concerns and issues like this could at least be addressed.

    I’d have to do a little digging to find some more on other issues, but that is a great starting point.

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