The Life of the Mind

Posted: January 25, 2011 in On Being Apostolic
Tags: , , , ,

Grant me the indulgence of beginning this first post in 2011 (the first in quite some time) with a subjective statement, and allow me to use that statement as a launching point.  Since this isn’t an essay but more of an editorial, I feel free to bend the rules of presentation and argument as I see fit.  That’s one of the beauties of the internet…its anarchic nature.  But here we go…

Having grown up in the Apostolic movement, I feel free to state that our movement in general has an anti-intellectual bias.  That doesn’t mean that smart people don’t fill our pulpits or our pews, but it means that in general through the years we have viewed the life of the mind with suspicion.  There has always been a dearth of educated clergy in our circles, and while education and intellect don’t always go hand in hand…God knows we’ve all seen our share of educated dolts…our ministries have historically painted intellectual pursuits with a negative brush.  Reason and logic have been seen as the antithesis of faith, and the life of the spirit as far more significant than the life of the mind.

Of course, we are a Spirit-filled people, Pentecostal by experience and Apostolic in doctrine.  And we tend to be passionate people, freely opening our emotional nature before God in worship.  Our preaching has typically been as passionate as our worship, and our preachers are known for allowing free-flow to the anointing of the Spirit through their emotions as well.  These things are wonderful, full of life and vitality, and don’t need to change.  However, our liberty, passion, and manifestation of anointing have left us lopsided, largely unfamiliar and uncomfortable with the idea of an anointed mind.

“Intellectuals don’t make good pastors.” That’s what I was told by Robert Trapani some years ago.  But why is that so?  Is it because there is some fundamental flaw within those of intellect that prevents them from connecting with ‘real’ people?  Or is it because we in our movement have a flawed view of pastoral ministry?  I’ve heard others say, “People want pastors that show them love…” as if somehow a reasoned and intelligent approach to truth-speaking wasn’t in itself an act of love.  Imagine if we judged a mother’s love in the same manner!  What if the estimate of her love as a mother was based only on the number of hugs she gave, and the way she fed, cleaned, and clothed her children was ignored?  Good mothers feed their kids broccoli, and congregations need to hear thoughtful messages as much as they need to hear impassioned ones.  And, who says that preaching can’t be both?

When Jesus was questioned as to which commandment was preeminent to the rest, He answered by saying, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”  Jesus placed the intellect on par with the emotions and the spirit in His great commandment about loving God.  In other words, engaging one’s intellectual capacities demonstrates a believer’s love for God as much as emotional engagement during worship.  Does this mean that a lack of intellectual engagement indicates a lack of love?  Maybe it does.  After all, we have used the want of emotional and spiritual engagement for years as indicators of a lacklustre spiritual condition.

I recognize that things are changing, and that there are Apostolics who are embracing the mind in their pursuit of spiritual things.  There are preachers and pastors who are unabashedly seeking to improve their ability to think and reason, and it’s making them smarter preachers.  By this I mean that they present the truth of God’s Word in an intelligent, reasonable way, without sacrificing an iota of anointing.  Norman Paslay, pastor of The Calvary Church in the Cincinnati area, is one example.

Let’s take up the challenge, and embrace the life of the mind as we’ve embraced the life of the spirit.  Such an approach will bring needed balance to our positions and presentations, and will serve to make us stronger, more complete.

  1. Cameron says:

    First of all, welcome back. It’s good to know you were only dry-docked and hadn’t sailed into the Bermuda Triangle, never to return.

    I have witnessed the uncomfortableness many exhibit when engaged intellectually on topics of the Word. It’s almost as if they feel threatened somehow. Thankfully, this is changing, even if at a slower pace than I’d like to see. But I have more Apostolic brethren that I can discuss the Word with intellectually now than I ever have before, and this is encouraging to me.

    As you well know, when broken down, the Acts 2:38 experience is as much an intellectual one as it is a spiritual one. The Apostle Paul understood this and would thus tailor his approach according to his audience.

    Of course, the downside is that some have substituted passion for intellect, thinking the two to be mutually exclusive. I believe when we can allow these to complement each other, we’ll go a lot further in our efforts to evangelize our world.

  2. Cameron;

    Thanks for picking the blog back up again, and for your insightful comments. Hopefully this blog will continue to be worth your time and effort.

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