Knowing how to love God with your mind is something to which some people may not give much thought.
We’ve been considering different kinds of strategies that are connected to different spiritual temperaments from Gary Thomas’s book, Sacred Pathways, where he discusses, in part, how to connect with God through your mind.
Gary names it “the intellectuals”, perhaps making you might think someone with that title as a bit of a Bible nerd — you know, the intellectual person who connects to God through their mind, who loves digging into apologetics.
So-called intellectuals love delving into intense Bible studies on just a handful of verses to try and go as deep as possible, pouring themselves into books and commentaries and resources to get to the bottom of everything.
The more the “intellectuals” learn about God, the more connected they tend to feel to God. Personally, I remember an instance where I experienced a significant spiritual breakthrough, and it happened over the course of this past year.
What happened was this: One of my close friends, Paul introduced me to the Bema Discipleship podcast, something he had stumbled upon. I was getting a lot out of listening to the podcast but granted, it took me a while to jump onto it. Reflecting on that now it seems a bit foolish because it has been so transformative for me and for a lot of other people who have a plugged into it.
I spend a fair amount of time listening to podcasts, but hearing the Bible taught from an eastern Jewish perspective opened my eyes to an entirely new way of experiencing God.
I couldn’t deny that this experience started with my mind, that intellectual bit we were just discussing. It started with my gaining a deeper knowledge-based understanding, and then in my own personal study, as I continued to dig into what I was learning, there was more mental engagement. But I was aware, too, that there are definitely some pitfalls that people who are engaging intellectually, even with spiritual substance, need to watch out for, the first one being we tend to love controversy.
We tend to love getting into these intellectual sparring matches — these arguments — especially with other intellectuals. It’s this idea that we must battle your ideas and my ideas and try to convince one another that one idea is better than the other, or at least try and resolve with a mutual a deeper understanding of what each one of us is talking about, right?
Intellectual sparring and arguing is a very easy place to go because you’re kind of “nerding out” on the Bible, but it’s easy to over-correct and push it too far. Getting into actual quarrels about things in the grand scheme of things can be quite meaningless, and harmful to our relationships with others. At least that’s how Paul puts it in his instruction to Timothy — that we should avoid quarrels and controversies about words. So, if you’re an intellectual, you may want to make sure that you are using that big Bible brain of yours to actually lift up, encourage and inspire other people.
While it’s fine to have spirited discussions, you just want to make sure they stay in their proper places and don’t come to dominate most discussions you have with most Christians.
The second pitfall – which I think this is a huge one — is knowing rather than doing. When you have knowledge, knowing what God wants you to do, but then don’t do anything with it. Knowledge. You have to do what you have good knowledge about, what you’ve learned. You have to put it into practice.
This is actually why I finish every single podcast episode the same way: I call listeners to take action with what you’ve learned because I really want you to do reap the benefits of what learning resonated with you. I want you not to just listen to my podcast and consume new information, but for it to impact your life in a meaningful way.
The only way this can happen is if you actually do something with the content that you’re engaging with while listening or reading.
I mean it, that I want you to take action. And if you are an intellectual, one of those people who is digging into the Bible, learning about the Bible, learning about God, don’t just stop at the knowledge.
Make sure you’re implementing the good knowledge into your life.
Finally, the third pitfall that you need to watch out for if you are an intellectual is being proud. There is a saying in 1 Corinthians 8:1,
“Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”
I have found this to be so true in my life: you can be so smart, have so much knowledge, so much understanding, yet lack compassion, because unless you are focused on others, your knowledge may just feed your ego.
So, don’t lose your identity in your own self-perception, your prideful identity, being arrogant and overly confident in ways that don’t serve others.
Don’t ever forget where your capacity to think and reason comes from!