There are some questionable data as to the effectiveness of the apologetic enterprise in the church.
On one hand, some have referred to this as the “Golden Age of Apologetics.” And yet, solid research seems to indicate that many are leaving Christianity. There have never been more resources available, and yet, there has never been such skepticism of religious ideas.
There is a disconnect here on multiple levels which others have speculated on; but rather than to rehash their ideas, I’d like to offer one of my own.
I think the disconnect is largely related to spiritual-intellectual apathy.
The general Christianity-affirming population wants Jesus to work for them on a pragmatic, emotional, and spiritual level. Of course–none of those things are bad in and of themselves.
And actually, I would argue that we need more of those things, if attended to properly.
But the lay-Christian is not reading Craig’s Reasonable Faith. He might not even be reading On Guard, Craig’s popular-level rehash.
For some, “matters of the mind” seem ethereal and unimportant. “That kind of thing is for the smart guys.”
Imagine my surprise when, as a self-proclaimed not-very-smart-guy-at-all, God gave me a passion for this subject.
Here’s what I’ve learned: It’s not just for the smart guys.
In fact, the “smart guys” usually learn critical thinking, and may even be able to pick up on some of the common themes in the Christian intellectual project, without immersing themselves in materials specifically directed towards them.
But, is this an “either/or” kind of thing? Do we get to “choose” how we interact with Christ?
If that’s what you think, Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:37 ought to cause you to pause:
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. (Emphasis mine)
“Matters of the mind” are not just for “those other people.” They’re for everyone–everyone who loves Christ, that is.
Therefore, this is an area we should commit to developing. The good news is, you don’t have to defend the Kalam Cosmological Argument to do this. You don’t necessarily need to know what “epistemology” is, nor do you need to be able to memorize and recite the Hebrew Bible in its original beauty and splendor.
None of the above are bad ideas; in fact, I think they are great ideas and am an advocate for them. Nevertheless, starting small is often to the key to starting at all! Learning to love God with all of your mind need not be a daunting task, but rather, should be seen as an opportunity to know the Savior of your soul in a deeper, intimate, and more holistic way.
Here are seven simple actions you can take to that end:
1. Pray for Wisdom
Glossing over this first suggestion for its simplicity would be an egregious mistake, for the simple “wisdom prayer” of Solomon led directly to blessing from God in each area of his life.
Though King Solomon was not without his faults (who is?), Jesus even made his material blessing a point of comparison to the provision of God (see Matthew 6:29-30).
And all of this because rather than asking for the vanity that is material, he asked for wisdom and discernment.
Matters of the mind can be difficult to navigate, but much more so without wisdom and discernment. Knowledge is helpful, but in a vacuum, can be dangerous. Only with wisdom can one properly apply knowledge, lest one risk becoming a “sounding brass” or a “tinkling cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1).
The STR Ambassador Model is instructive on this point. I highly encourage you to read it, understand it, and ask God to bless you with it.
#2. Understand Romans 6
In my estimation, Romans 6 is one of the most glorious chapters in all the Word of God. Within lies a fundamental tenet of the Christian walk: unity with Christ in his death and resurrection.
If space permitted, it would behoove me to post the entire chapter. While you may easily read it here, allow me to reference an instructive excerpt (vs. 4-7):
Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.
Crucial to loving God with your mind is understanding how it is possible to do so. No matter your views of free will vs. sovereignty, the Bible makes one thing crystal clear: “…there is none that seeketh after God” (Romans 3:11).
Though we may be in Christ, we are still prone to wander. Without realizing what it truly means to be “crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20), it can feel impossible to connect with God at any level–let alone an intellectual one.
What’s most amazing is that a God whose thoughts and ways are infinitely higher than ours (see Isaiah 55) desires this sort of connection with us in the first place!
In contradistinction to Romans 3:11 stands Hebrews 11:6: “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
Forgive my oversimplification of this profound truth, but if one is to know God, he must simply want to know God. And by understanding the relationship we have to God, in Christ, and through the Spirit, it becomes possible to love him with all of your mind.
#3. Read the Bible Intellectually
With this suggestion, we begin to put our boots on the ground. Although reading the Bible can often feel like a chore, or a box to be checked, I can think of no more important activity than listening to God.
Contrary to what you may have heard, God does not (usually) speak, in this day, outside of his revealed Word.1 When someone says they have a “word from the Lord,” it is more often than not a reactionary, emotional misunderstanding on the part of the “hearer.”
Certainly, this is the case should this “word” ever contradict the Word.
While one should always read the Bible with the intent of grasping whatever it is that God intends to teach, I think I’m justified in claiming that most do not read the Bible with the intent of connecting with God on an intellectual level.
(Although, I should be quick to advocate for balance here, so as to not risk neglecting a more relational connection with God. Wavering in either direction leads to imbalance, which inevitably leads to discouragement.)
The person who reads only intellectually may wake up one day to find that, although he knows God exists, he doesn’t know God. The person who reads only experientially will find that he has a relationship with someone or something, but he doesn’t quite know who, or why.
When one does venture into the waters of an intellectual read through the Bible, one will discover the evidential nature of Christianity.
She will discover how important it was–both to writers in the New Testament and the Old–to craft arguments for (see Paul) and even give demonstrations of (see Elijah) the existence of God, and to show others that they need not follow blindly.
Instead of a faith that is malformed, one can cultivate a faith that is informed.
#4. Start (or Join) A Discipleship Group
Christianity is fundamentally a worldview built upon the concept of community.
- God’s original intent for creation was for Adam to be in a relationship and communicate with God.
- God chose the Hebrew people to be “called out” unto him, and made a covenant with Abraham.
- Specific laws were established which set guidelines and boundaries for Israel’s communication with God, and with their surrounding neighbors.
- Post Christ’s resurrection the Church was established as a way to facilitate community among believers, that they could grow in discipleship and multiply evangelistic efforts.
Paul told Timothy, “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).
I traveled the country as a touring gospel musician for around six years, and the diversity within the body of Christ that I discovered was astounding. There were many I disagreed with doctrinally on secondary issues, but I could knowingly call them “brother” and “sister” because Christ’s flock is bigger than me and those with whom I regularly associate.
To that end, consider joining (or forming) a group whose sole purpose is to investigate these “matters of the mind.” Meetings could take place once weekly, once monthly, twice monthly, quarterly, etc.
Use this setting to discuss challenges to the Christian faith, answers to them, and how to graciously engage those who disagree with you.
#5. Read the “Other” Side
Psychologists warn of a phenomenon known as confirmation bias.
According to a psychology today article written by Dr. Shahram Heshmat,
Confirmation bias occurs from the direct influence of desire on beliefs. When people would like a certain idea/concept to be true, they end up believing it to be true. They are motivated by wishful thinking. This error leads the individual to stop gathering information when the evidence gathered so far confirms the views (prejudices) one would like to be true.
Simply put by Heshmat: “We pick out those bits of data that make us feel good because they confirm our prejudices. Thus, we may become prisoners of our assumptions.”
Although I am an advocate for listening to, watching, and reading faith-affirming resources, one can only become confident in their beliefs by attempting to understand the beliefs of others.
The reason is simple. As advocates for a Man who claimed to be “the Truth” (Luke 14:6), how could we be satisfied with anything less? And, how do we know something else–say, atheism–is not true?
By understanding the beliefs of others, we achieve, at minimum, two important things:
- Confidence in what we believe.
- Confidence in talking to others about what they believe.
As Christians, these concepts are each summarized by a more familiar sounding word, respectively: discipleship, and evangelism!
To miss these, frankly, is to miss the purpose of Christian experience here on earth. (If salvation were only about heaven, why would God leave us here when we get saved?)
By becoming knowledgeable about others beliefs (and how to navigate them in important spiritual conversations), we are able to become the hands and feet of Jesus in a lost world.
6. Reflect On the Nature of God
In a recent podcast episode, I dove deeply into the topic of what can be learned about God simply by examining his creation.
I’ll not rehash those ideas here; instead, I’ll simply restate the purpose, using a question:
How can one love God with all of their mind, if they’ve no clue what God is like?
The question seems painstakingly obvious, but many have spent the majority of their Christian lives not even considering this! By the way, I’m preaching to the choir here. I did not begin to think more deeply about this until just a few years ago, despite being a Christian since the age of four years old!
Here is a salient point I’ve made elsewhere:
I believe that to know God is to know joy. I believe that in the midst of chaos and calamity, knowing God brings a joy and a peace that is unexplainable, and frankly, quite amazing.
But during those times of “choas and calamity,” the very last thing you are prone to think of is who God is. You may be tempted to think, in an understandably self-centered way, why God is allowing such chaos–but to know God is with you during those times and to reflect on his loving, immutable nature is key to making it through them.
7. Write Down (and Record the Answer to) Challenges
Finally, I encourage you to embrace challenges when they are presented to you. Whatever your views are of the late Chuck Missler, I deeply appreciate his advocacy for painstaking Bible study and trust in God.
He would instruct his listeners not be disheartened when they happened upon what appeared to be a “contradiction” or “inconsistency” in the Bible. Based on his own study time, he admonished that one should embrace those times because it meant God was about to reveal something profound.
Crucial to that point of instruction was his insistence that you do not take his word for it, but try it yourself by writing down the date you encountered the challenge, what it was, and begin praying for an answer.
Then, when God showed you that answer through his Word, you would return to that page and write the date God revealed the answer to you, thus answering your prayer.
It’s easy to see how this could build one’s faith and confidence in God over time. And though I’ve never done this for myself, it’s never too late to start!
Of course, it’s obvious that this will increase your faith; but a less obvious (and equally important) benefit is that you will have an easy way to reference the answer to challenges when they are raised by those whom you’re trying to influence for Christ.
Well, it should be obvious to you by now that these seven, arbitrarily chosen devices to help you love God with your mind just barely scratch the surface.
If you’re “doing it right,” simply starting with idea #1 (praying for wisdom) ought to open up myriad new ways, without even reading the rest of the list!
If you feel compelled, considering replying in the comments with some helpful tips of your own! I’d love to know–if only for selfish reasons–what ways you have found to make this connection. Perhaps my own life will be better for it.
Questions? Feel free to comment below and start the discussion, or click the blue button on the right (desktop only) to ask a question with a voicemail. We will do our best to answer in an upcoming post. Thanks!
P.S. Would you prayerfully consider becoming a Partner of our ministry?
- I’m careful not to claim this is impossible, for that would almost certainly entail a denial of omnipotence. God can do what he wants, as long as it is not logically impossible or self-contradictory.