The Intelligence of Christian Faith


Saturating our minds with the Bible’s truths and promises makes us wiser and builds up our ability to see God, people, the world, and ourselves with accurate clarity. As the Psalmist writes, “I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation” (Psalm 119:99).

The vast majority of Ivy League universities were founded by Christian laypeople and ministers. One such leader was former Princeton president, Jonathan Edwards, hailed by The Encyclopedia Britannica as the brightest mind to ever step foot on American soil. According to Tim Keller, the secret to Edwards’ genius is that if you poked Jonathan Edwards with a fork, he would bleed Bible.

Tim Keller is a pastor and thought leader whom God has used to shape an entire generation of urban, gospel-centered church leaders. While working alongside Tim for five years in New York City, I had the privilege of observing some of the daily practices that shaped him into such a formidable influencer. In addition to a deep life of private prayer, Tim exercises a daily habit of filling his mind and heart with biblical stories, promises, and teachings. For decades, Tim has prayed through every Psalm once per month and read through every book of the Bible once per year. As with Edwards, so with Keller. Poke the man with a fork, and he will bleed Bible.

Another bright mind from the past is the Puritan John Bunyan, who authored The Pilgrim’s Progress while imprisoned for his faith. This allegory of life in Christ would later be hailed as a literary masterpiece, as well as a source of deep encouragement for millions. Unlike most of the Puritans, Bunyan had very little formal education. And yet, equipped with a deep practical knowledge of Scripture, he has been marked in history as one of the brightest Christian thought leaders.

There are many literary masterpieces—from Charles Dickens, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Jane Austen, William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, Leo Tolstoy, Flannery O’Connor, J.R.R. Tolkein and others—whose sentences and stories are laced with biblical insights. Similarly, we could look at musical contributions from the likes of George Frederic Handel, John Coltrane, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Kanye West, Lauryn Hill and U2, also saturated with the language of God. We could add the ingenious rhetoric of Martin Luther King, Jr., the timeless plays of William Shakespeare, the groundbreaking science of Francis Collins, and the insightful writing of New York Times columnist David Brooks…only to name a few!

The thoughtfulness and impact of Scripture not only comes through well-known men and women, but also through millions of lesser-known individuals shaped by Scripture. For example, there was Timothy’s mother and grandmother, who instilled in him a love for Scripture from infancy (2 Timothy 1:5).

There was Edward Kimball, a shoe salesman who led Dwight Moody to Christ by sharing with him the Bible’s basic truths of salvation by grace through faith.

There was a small-town church deacon who did the same for Charles Spurgeon.

And, there is the father of a friend of mine, a businessman and faithful, exemplary Bible teacher in his local church. When asked one Sunday what it would take to be able to teach the Bible and pray as thoughtfully, accurately, and compellingly as he did, he answered, “Read the Bible every day for twenty-five years.”

Indeed, there is great intellectual benefit to gaining biblical knowledge. To the degree we faithfully engage Scripture to position our minds to be transformed by its story, its promises, and its teachings, we will gain insight that is wiser even than our teachers. The words of God will make us more intelligent, more insightful, more thoughtful, and more fruitful contributors to God’s world.

On that note, if you don’t already have a regular Bible reading plan and aren’t sure where to start, I highly recommend you check out the free daily email from He Reads Truth and/or She Reads Truth. It’s solid and trustworthy.

Happy Bible reading to you!

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One response to “The Intelligence of Christian Faith”

  1. greg rogers says:

    Thanks for sharing. And I have valued many (not all) of the teachings of some of those mentioned. The one thing I believe important to emphasize in some of what is being addressed here is that there is a real difference between intelligence and wisdom. The longer I live, the more I want to honor those men and women who choose the pathway of child-like faith in the basic rendering of the Scriptures that may even appear completely silly and even unintelligent in this world. There are others who, possibly for the sake of not appearing unintelligent, take some of the plain renderings of Scripture text and place their intelligent sounding twist upon these possibly to be more accepted by the mainstream. I would never judge a person’s heart in this category as that is God’s business, but the tendencies in some who do this may indicate such.

    Since Christianity is not just another religious worldview and bundle of information but rather Words in a Sacred Book that define an outstanding God who made everything, stands outside of time, and whose Being and works remain somewhat mysterious to the fragile, sin laden minds of humankind until we meet Him face to face, I believe that there may be great reward for the simple ones who choose to have a childlike faith that God is great enough to even accomplish things stated in the Bible that seem foolish and even cognitively reprehensible to this world. I have said this before: Life’s big paradox is that when viewing the exacting ingredients needed for life on earth and the incredible complexities found even in the simple cells in a bacterium let alone all of the others, it is quite irrational to assume that this is a result of pure chance yet the God whom the Christian declares as responsible for this still remains quite unexplainable in much of His being …and if He was, He would probably have just been a figment of ones imagination for a buck and an nod.

    Jonah surviving in the belly of a great fish for 3 days? Maybe foolish for the intelligent in today’s world but faith in a Great God says “absolutely possible and this did occur in history!”

    Noah taking decades to build a huge boat and fill it with his family and animals before God completely deluged the world with a great flood that destroyed all life? Those scientists who appear so wise and articulate may indeed be humbled one day when they realize that our God of greatness can accomplish anything He wants including this historical flood and rescue and leave the evidence for it in anyway He sees fit and not have the slightest concern about human rebuttles and bickerings as to why or how.

    God telling Gideon to reduce his military resources so that God would defeat the enemy and get the credit? Absolutely foolish in the eyes of any of today’s military generals…yet, well, we know what happened.

    And a perfect God who stands alone in His glory sending His One and Only Son to die a torturous death and experience agonizing temporary separation from Him for the sake of forgiving us for sins like the act that occurred in the garden of exchanging a child like faith found in obeying the simplest command with instead choosing the route of self inflated intelligence and notoriety? To a world that is perishing, this all seems foolish but for those of us who know the forgiveness in our Great God and Savior, these are the sweetest Words about the history of our rescue that seldom fail to bring joy and peace to the soul.

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