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!