That Which Christians Cannot Afford

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason and intellect has intended us to forego their use…” – Galileo Galilei[1]

In the life of a Christian or any truth-seeking person, there is no notion more dangerous than a hasty dismissal or an unsubstantiated excuse. In this I mean that an honest person should not allow a dishonest justification to enter any area of his or her thought process, for bad ideas are cancerous. When a person accepts an unchecked assumption, the propagation of this assumption can be disastrous. If I assume that antibiotics are just a money-making scheme invented by doctors, then the ramifications of that belief are not solely a mistrust of medicine and further intellectual skepticism. The reality of my inability to fight strep throat is also a consequence.

Analogously, I believe that many Christians make a shallow excuse founded in a viciously consequential lie. The excuse continues to be accepted, and it usually takes some form of the following statement: I love God, but I don’t like theology. Implied in this statement is that loving God can be fully accomplished while failing to engage in thoughtful study of God and his handiwork. I call this idea holy ignorance, and it is a slippery slope in light of current Western culture. But, I think the acceptance of holy ignorance is a symptom of a more fundamental deficiency in our culture.

The deficiency at the base of holy ignorance is the belief that human love, in its essence, is a strong feeling rather than a commitment that attempts to mirror God’s attributes within human relationships. The sense of obligation traditionally associated with love has been worn away, and both Christian and secular cultures have suffered. As a result, Western Christians often gauge their current standing with God by how they feel. Anything that makes them feel closer to God must be spiritual; anything that harshes their holy mellow must be worldly. In this mindset, it logically follows that devoting time to studying God would be cold and boring compared to singing a worship song about him. So, in order to provide a rebuttal of holy ignorance, I must first attempt to show the incompleteness of the contemporary definition of love.

In Mark 12, Jesus commands that love be carried out with four human faculties: the heart, soul, mind, and strength. He teaches that the most imperative commandment in the entirety of the law is loving God with these four capacities; therefore, carefully including each of these in our relationship with God is of utmost importance. The difficulty with comparing the nuances of the four with the current definition of love is that emotional love has very little to do with any of them. Yes, the Greek word for heart, καρδίας (kardia), denotes a seat of emotional thinking. But, it also implies that there is willful intellectual assent involved. At the base of emotional “kardia” love for God is a conscious decision to love God through the vehicle of emotions, not the other way around. Contained in each of the four constituents of love is a sense of commitment that is diametrically opposed to the modern concept of finicky, emotional love. Jesus calls us to a decisive love, a love that, even when deep positive or negative emotions are present, is focused on pursuing God.

On these grounds, holy ignorance is utterly paradoxical. It is logically impossible to consciously and rationally decide to pursue and love God on a daily basis without seeking to know more about Him. To love God biblically is to seek to further know the depths of his character and creation.

So, if holy ignorance is in direct contradiction with scripture and  God’s will, how do we as Christians become a force in opposition of holy ignorance? I would like to submit that we must willfully and actively love God with our minds. The Greek word for mind in Mark 12 is διάνοια (dianoia). The word comes from a combination of the prefix dia, meaning through or from side to side, and the verb noieo, meaning to use the mind. The connotation that results is that we should love God by using our minds from side to side, through and through[2]. In other words, we must think dynamically about our faith. We must not settle with what we already know, or even, I must dare to say, to know only about the Christian faith. Instead, we must learn to view the world through the lens of God’s truth.

I see two paths for the future of Christian’s love for God. The first is that we choose to worship and love the most creative and knowledgeable being in the universe with a careless and shallow emotional love that includes only a fraction of the Bible’s prescription. Not only will we miss our potential for worshipping God, but also we will grow completely irrelevant with a culture that looks to intellectual honesty as a virtue. Our witness will become one-dimensional. We will miss out on the depth of meaning that comes from loving God in his intended way. Or, we can acknowledge that ignorance is not a Christian virtue. We can choose this day to see knowledge as a gift from God to be used for his glory. We can challenge the worldviews that the enemy is using to injure humanity. We can experience the fullness of God’s redemptive work by claiming the realm of knowledge as God’s territory. This second option results in that which is unfathomably good. The first option results in that which we cannot afford.

-Christopher Parish

Sources:

[1] Galileo Galilei: Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina of Tuscany, 1615

[2] HELPS™ Word Studies  copyright © 1987, 2011 by Helps Ministries, Inc.

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