Evangelical Apologist: Church Anti-Intellectual, Must Change

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By Michelle A. Vu, Christian Post Reporter
November 19, 2006|9:10 am

MCLEAN, Va. – Philosopher, writer, and Christian apologist J.P. Moreland mixed contemporary culture with Christian history and jokes that drew laughter with a serious challenge for Christians to become more intellectual on Friday at a megachurch-hosted apologetics conference.

Moreland spoke to a crowd of about 1,400 evangelical Christians at the D.C.-area McLean Bible Church during the three-day apologetics conference entitled “Loving God with All Your Mind” – which was the title of Moreland’s lecture.

The apologist used examples of political experts, talk show hosts, and the media response to recent school violence to demonstrate secular society’s image of religion, in particular, Christianity. Moreland said society treated religion as a “privatize, sociological phenomenon that is barely a cultural way of life.” He added that according to the secular world, the purpose of religion is to be meaningful, not true.

“We [Evangelicals] have the gall to assert that our religion is true when no one can know it is right,” said Moreland. “So now we are viewed not only as ignorant but as bigots. So when we get on the air or when we talk, we are painted as bigots by people in the culture because we do not take the values of western democracy as more important than our religion.”

Moreland traced back in history to the mid-1800’s when Christians transformed from the most intellectual people in the community to people who separated faith from reason. During this period, there were three Great Awakenings that although “good” in some ways, were harmful because they overemphasized “blind-faith and feeling to the exclusion of thought and mind.”

“[It] should have been both, but instead the mind was laid aside and religion was identified with fervency of emotion and feelings,” explained Moreland. “So the acceptance of the Gospel during these awakenings was understood as a matter of the heart instead of the whole person including the way people think in addition to how they feel.”

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Moreland lamented that Christians were the ones who planted 117 of the first 124 universities in the United States “dedicated to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ and the propagation of truth to the glory of God.”

The apologist also noted that it was common practice among Baptists and occurred occasionally among Methodists to ordain men to lead a local church if they expressed a calling to preach despite their lack of Biblical knowledge.

“That is an expression of an attitude that learning doesn’t have anything to do with discipleship or being a Christian,” said Moreland.

“Instead of faith being a trust in what I have reason to believe is true – where faith is an expression of reason – faith became the polar opposite of reason,” explained Moreland. “So reason instead of being something that helps a person exercise faith – the more you know about God the more you can trust Him – faith, reason, and knowledge became polar opposites.”

“Faith became a simple act of will in the absence of knowledge or reason,” he said.

Moreland concluded with suggestions on three practical points Christians can follow to “turn around.”

“The first thing we’ve got to do in our churches is we’ve got to start using cognitive language and not just faith language,” said Moreland. He called for supplementing terms about a tender heart and faith with terms about knowledge, evidence, reason, study, and thought, noting that the Bible uses the word “knowledge” more than the word “faith.”

Secondly, Moreland urged the church to teach their members how to defend their faith and explain the reason for their belief.

Lastly, he said, Christians must “restore the image of Jesus as an intellectual” and not just holy and powerful.

Moreland, however, emphasized that Christians must retain humility as they grow in knowledge.

“We are the people that started the universities,” concluded Moreland. “We are the people who have produced the greatest minds, the greatest artists, and the greatest culture because Jesus of Nazareth is the smartest man to have ever graced this planet.”

 

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