In this present age, perhaps more than any other, Christians are facing a serious, specific danger. Because of negligence and laziness, a vast number of professing believers have utterly failed to follow God’s commands in regard to an integral part of human life: the mind. Authors Ranald Macaulay, Jerram Barrs, and Udo Middelmann have each addressed this ever-growing problem individually in three separate articles, each entitled The Christian Mind. Each author presents his view of the present Christian intellectual situation while communicating a strong argument for the reclaiming and rebuilding of the true Christian mind.
While countless scholars, whether philosophers, theologians, psychologists, or great thinkers from other disciplines, have attempted to produce a precise definition of the human mind, none can agree entirely. Some, such as behaviorists, suppose that the human mind is simply a function of the brain. Others claim that the mind is a component of human structure which is separate from the brain and the rest of the physical body. Still others propose that neither of these views are entirely correct, but that the answer lies in some sort of compromise between them. They maintain that the mind is not merely an illusory projection of human brain cells, yet they recognize the apparent link between physical and mental functions. Despite the many differing views on the construct of the mind, however, there exists a common understanding and agreement that the word ‘mind’ and its derivative, ‘mental,’ refer to an individual or group’s intellect and capacity of will. It is the mind which considers, thinks, reasons, and decides. The task at hand is to define the meaning of the term ‘Christian mind.’
Ranald Macaulay defines a Christian mind as “nothing more or less than the proper use of the intellectual faculty which God has given to each of us” (1). In other words, a Christian mind is a mind that is used in the correct manner. In Luke 10:27, God’s command is recited by a Jewish lawyer of Jesus’ time:
“So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’”.
This verse emphatically states that human beings are to use the entirety of their minds to love the Lord. A mind that does not love the Lord, then, is not fulfilling the clear and specific purpose for which it was designed. Such a mind is not Christian.
Udo Middelmann states that both faith and obedience are the result of the proper use of the mind:
“Obedience in the Biblical sense. . . is the recognition of what is true objectively in the Word of God. . . and one’s willingness to be duty-bound to one’s finding by acts of the will. Faith is believing God to tell the truth. . . It is to trust Him on the basis of good and sufficient evidence” (2).
Although it is unclear from this last statement what is meant by “good and sufficient evidence,” the context of Middelmann’s essay seems to support the view that God’s Word itself, when viewed correctly, serves as evidence for the truth of Christianity. When the human mind is presented with a proposition, it then proceeds to weigh the statement and pass a judgment on it: the proposition is true, false, etc. Another faculty of the mind is the will. When someone willfully purposes to obey the truths of Scripture, for example, that individual is using his mind to do so.
The Bible contains many passages which speak of the mind and of the proper use of the human intellect. These texts illustrate how important it is for believers to maintain a healthy, Christian mind. Romans 12:2 is one such example: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Another is found in Colossians 3:16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another…” This verse implies more than a superficial reading and understanding of Scripture; it is a call to study and meditate on God’s Word, and to fill one’s mind with its truths. Several times throughout the book of Acts, the apostle Paul is described as reasoning, persuading, and using Scripture to try to convince members of both the Jewish and non-Jewish communities about the truth of Jesus Christ. Paul’s own words in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, perhaps, serve as Scripture’s most direct call for Christian intellectualism:
“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
Paul wrote these words, not to a select few intellectual giants who were masters of theology, but to a simple community of believers who had become so caught up in the so-called wisdom of the pagan world which surrounded them that their congregation was on the verge of falling apart. He was describing the proper behavior of all Christians. However, Christians who possess the knowledge of the truths of Scripture necessary to cast down the anti-Christian, anti-God sentiment that runs rife in today’s society are few and far between. The collective Christian mind, as it once was, has been poisoned. Interestingly enough, atheism is not to blame, although its proponents would most likely be glad to claim responsibility for killing twenty-first century Christianity’s knowledge of God’s Word. On the contrary, the fault lies with the passive, cowardly nature of professing believers who, in testimony to their lack of belief, have thrown up their arms, tucked their proverbial tail between their legs, and made a hasty retreat into anti-intellectualism.
With the rise of evolutionary theory in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, in addition to society’s embrace of scientific empiricism and rationalism as the basis of all knowledge, Christians are now faced with a near constant onslaught of skepticism. In what was once a Christian nation, founded on biblical principles, the Christian faith has become an object of ridicule. Believers are openly mocked as fools. The doctrine of a literal six-day creation has become a favorite target of atheists, who claim that evolutionary theory has proven the Bible to be false in its account of the origins of life. Indeed, everywhere one turns, the claim is made that Christianity is irrational. In light of the Bible’s clear teaching on the importance of the Christian mind, one might expect a strong counter strike from the Christian community. If the Bible is truly the Word of God, then the Christian’s faith should not be shaken. Sadly, this has not been the case at all.
An immeasurable number of today’s Christians have forfeited their claim to the truth. Instead of remaining steadfast in the assurance that Scripture is truth, they have surrendered the arena of intellectual thought to individuals such as are referred to in Psalm 14:1:
“The fool has said in his heart,
‘There is no God.’
They are corrupt,
They have done abominable works,
There is none who does good.”
Instead of facing the assault of the so-called wisdom of the world, many Christians have attempted to side-step the notion that Christianity is irrational by claiming that it simply is not intended to be rational in the first place. Jerram Barrs, in his essay, explores this problem:
“Wherever we look in our culture, there are people who say that. . . you really can’t believe what the Bible says. It’s just a load of fairy tales. And for many Christians, their response to this has been simply: well don’t bother with all those questions, just believe. . . Christianity is an affair of the heart. . . We can just get on, and we can believe, we can pray. . .” (3).
When Christians say such things, they deny the objective truth of Scripture. They place human emotionalism and pagan mysticism on a pedestal above the authority of God’s inerrant and holy Word. They allow that Christianity does not make rational sense, and they glory in it. According to such individuals as these, ignorance truly is bliss.
Thankfully, not all hope is lost for the collective Christian mind. There are still those who would challenge the foolishness of the world with the true wisdom of Scripture, and it is these individuals, who follow in the footsteps of the apostle Paul, that Christians should seek to emulate. The bold statements found in John W. Robbins’ essay entitled The Trinity Manifesto – A Program for our Time, illustrate the proper attitude for Christians regarding the mind and the truths of God’s Word:
“We do not regard obscurity as a virtue, nor confusion as a sign of spirituality. Confusion, like all error, is sin, and teaching that confusion is all that Christians can hope for is doubly sin. . . To each error we bring the brilliant light of Scripture, proving all things, and holding fast to that which is true” (4).
This standpoint should be shared by all who profess to believe the Bible. It is nothing more than a restatement of the essence of Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5.
When one considers the fathers of the Protestant Reformation and the environment in which they lived, one cannot help but be appalled at the lack of attention paid to the nourishment of today’s Christian mind. Luther’s was a society in which the Bible was only allowed to be read by the religious elite; today, the internet provides instant access to hundreds of translations of Scripture. The Christians of the twenty-first century possess thousands of years’ worth of materials with which to feed their mind and grow in their knowledge of God’s Word. This being the case, when emotionalist Christians, who have purposefully rejected the privilege of studying Scripture, are accused of being followers of an irrational faith, and are able to offer no reply other than immediate surrender, they are left with no excuse whatsoever. Indeed, rather than fleeing from intellectual growth, Christians should heed the words of Martin Luther:
“To take no pleasure in assertions is not the mark of a Christian heart; indeed, one must delight in assertions to be a Christian at all. Now, lest we be misled by words, let me say here that by ‘assertion’ I mean staunchly holding your ground, stating your position, confessing it, defending it and persevering in it unvanquished” (5).
(1) Macaulay, Ranald. “The Christian Mind.” Communication Institute. What in the World is Real. Champaign: Communication Institute, 1982. 111-24. (p.112)
(2) Middelmann, Udo. “The Christian Mind.” Communication Institute. What in the World is Real. Champaign: Communication Institute, 1982. 193-98. (p.194)
(3) Barrs, Jerram. “The Christian Mind.” Communication Institute. What in the World is Real. Champaign: Communication Institute, 1982. 47-57. (p.49)
(4) Clark, Gordon H. Afterword. Three Types of Religious Philosophy. By John W. Robbins. Jefferson: Trinity Foundation, 1989. 158-164. (pp.160-161)
(5) Luther, Martin. “The Bondage of the Will.” Martin Luther – Selections from his Writings. Ed. John Dillenberger. New York: Anchor Books, 1962. (p.167)