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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Showing posts with label contemplation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label contemplation. Show all posts

Monday, July 22, 2013

Seeing Jesus as an Intellect

Who is Jesus? The question has been around as long as Jesus has! From the time that Jesus began ministering; people have been asking "Who is this man?" Jesus is portrayed many ways in the Bible. Some of His titles in the Bible include:
  • Savior
  • Messiah
  • The Lamb of God
  • The Light of the World
  • The Second Adam
  • The Son of God
  • The Word made flesh
  • Lord of Lords
  • King of kings
Of course, people continue to try and add dimensions to Jesus that they find relevant. Recent book titles that invoke Jesus include Jesus: CEO, Jesus is my Superhero, Jesus the Prophet of Allah, Jesus the Rebel, Jesus the Outlaw, and The Good Man Jesus & the Scoundrel Christ. These are simply examples of people trying to see Jesus as a reflection of their highest ideals; even the former head of the Soviet Union,Mikhail Gorbachev, called Jesus "the first socialist"![1] Obviously, people view Jesus through the lens of their assumptions and what they want Him to be.

Do Christians miss aspects of who Jesus is by our assumptions?

Even Christians who seek to properly understand Jesus can overlook aspects of who Jesus is because of their preconceptions. If I gave 100 people a blank sheet of paper and asked them to write their top ten attributes of Jesus, I would get many answers. I'm sure several would repeat some of the titles I've listed above. But I doubt that I would get one "Jesus is an intellectual" or Jesus is a master logician". The concept of Jesus as a logician is not any stranger than Jesus as a master carpenter, Jesus as teacher, Jesus as CEO, yet we never seem to equate Jesus with intelligence.

Why not?

Jesus relates to the Intellectual

Simply put, the modern church has not placed a sufficient value on intelligence as a necessary means for worshiping God. We tend to divorce concepts of faith and rational thought. Faith is seen as "spiritual" while knowledge is seen as "worldly." We believe Jesus was sinless and a champion of the downtrodden and we seek to do likewise. But Jesus also commanded us to love our God with all our minds (Luke 10:27) and He modeled this when He engaged with those who would question His actions.

USC professor of Philosophy Dallas Willard captures the idea of this concept well when he says:
"In our culture and among Christians as well, Jesus Christ is automatically disassociated from brilliance or intellectual capacity. Not one in a thousand will spontaneously think of him in conjunction with words such as "well-informed," "brilliant," or "smart."[2]
Dallas Willard goes on to write:
"Often, it seems to me, we see and hear his deeds and words, but we don't think of him as one who knew how to do what he did or who really had logical insight into the things he said. We don't automatically think of him as a very competent person. He multiplied the loaves and fishes and walked on water, for example--but, perhaps, he didn't know how to do it, he just used mindless incantations or prayers. Or he taught on how to be a really good person, but he did not have moral insight and understanding. He just mindlessly rattled off words that were piped in to him and through him. Really?"[3]
But can we seriously imagine that Jesus could be Lord if He were not smart? If He were divine, would He be dumb? Or uninformed?  Once you stop to think about it, how could Jesus be what Christians take Him to be in other respects and not be the best informed and most intelligent person of all: the smartest person who ever lived, bringing us the best information on the most important subjects.

In fact, John's gospel starts by identifying Jesus as the "Logos." Many Bibles translate that a "word" but the implication of Logos is not merely a word but an intelligent, rational thought. Logos is the root of our word logic and Jesus as the Logos is the embodiment of logic.  He used is throughout His ministry. His aim in utilizing logic was not to win battles, but to achieve understanding or insight in His audience, so He'd challenge the woman at the well or have the twelve disciples pick up twelve baskets of leftovers after He fed 5,000, trying to help them draw conclusions from His actions. (He even chided the disciples for not doing so.)

The church today needs to begin seeing this missing aspect of Jesus' nature. We complain and lament that our institutions of higher learning have kicked God out of the classroom, but has the church kicked the professor out of the pew? Do we never offer any kind of vigorous intellectual message so a PhD could look forward to church as a time of intellectual stimulation? Do we water down our messages so much that we never seek to stretch our congregations even just a bit, to make them a little bit smarter? Do we believe that Jesus was the smartest man who ever lived? And will we seek to love God with all of our minds as well as with our hearts, all our souls and all our strength?

For more on this topic, see: Jesus: The Smartest Man Who Ever Lived.


1. Haberman, Clive. "Israel Welcomes Gorbachev as a Hero". The New York Times. June 16, 1992. <> Accessed 7/22/2013.

2. Willard, Dallas. "Jesus the Logician". <> Accessed: 7/22/2013

3. Ibid.

Friday, December 30, 2011

A Psalm for the New Year

My devotions today happened to include Psalm 20, in which Israel prayed to God and thanked Him for their fortunes, asked Him to respond to their troubles and reminded themselves of His power. "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God." I think this is a great psalm to reflect on as we close out one year and begin another. It also makes a great prayer for the New Year.

May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble!
   May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!
May he send you help from the sanctuary
   and give you support from Zion!
May he remember all your offerings
     and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices!   Selah
May he grant you your heart's desire
   and fulfill all your plans!
May we shout for joy over your salvation,
   and in the name of our God set up our banners!
May the LORD fulfill all your petitions!

Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed;
   he will answer him from his holy heaven
   with the saving might of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
   but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. 

They collapse and fall,
   but we rise and stand upright.

O LORD, save the king!
   May he answer us when we call.

The great encouragement of this is that we're given the answer to the people's petition in the very next Psalm--God heard David's cry and provided him with his heart's desire.  May your  year ahead hold the same promise and blessing!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christian Megathemes: Thinking Less About Stuff and More About God

We've recently been looking at the Barna Group's findings of six Christian Megathemes—dramatic shifts in beliefs, attitudes and actions of the Christian church—that have emerged in the last ten years. The trends are not healthy, and in this series I seek to provide some recommendations on how both churches and individuals can be proactive in reversing them. Click here to read previous entries.

Theme #3: Growing numbers of people are less interested in spiritual principles and more desirous of learning pragmatic solutions for life.

The third megatrend Barna discovered is that American Christians, especially young Christians, tend to minimize the intangible aspects of their lives like developing a deeper and more meaningful faith for the more tangible and material. They report:
When asked what matters most, teenagers prioritize education, career development, friendships, and travel. Faith is significant to them, but it takes a back seat to life accomplishments and is not necessarily perceived to affect their ability to achieve their dreams. Among adults the areas of growing importance are lifestyle comfort, success, and personal achievements. Those dimensions have risen at the expense of investment in both faith and family…. Practical to a fault, Americans consider survival in the present to be much more significant than eternal security and spiritual possibilities. Because we continue to separate our spirituality from other dimensions of life through compartmentalization, a relatively superficial approach to faith has become a central means of optimizing our life experience.
While Americans have always been known for their pragmatism, I feel that this shift is significant and different. The desire to get things done and accomplish goals is not bad in and of itself, and it has helped grow our country. But that desire should always be guided and guarded by understanding that there are bigger ideas to which we are beholden. Growing a strong agricultural economy is good, since it feeds people and raises the standard of living. But if such an economic model relies on slaves, then it should be abandoned. The bigger idea of all human beings having equal value outweighs economic concerns. Therefore, giving up the pragmatic approach to slave-driven agriculture and facing an upheaval in the economic model of the South was necessary.

As Christians, we should always judge our actions and desires in this way. Paul instructed the Thessalonian church that they should "Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good" ( 1 Thess. 5-:21). But, the only way one can measure anything is by a standard against which they may compare it. As C.S. Lewis noted, one cannot tell what a crooked line is unless one first has a some idea of a straight line. Barna noted part of the problem when he wrote:
The turbo-charged pace of society leaves people with little time for reflection. The deeper thinking that occurs typically relates to economic concerns or relational pressures. Spiritual practices like contemplation, solitude, silence, and simplicity are rare.  (It is ironic that more than four out of five adults claim to live a simple life.)
This is a huge problem with the practice of Christianity in the modern world. The noise of this present age has trained us to be uncomfortable in quiet reflection. Try this experiment and see how you do – the next time you have to travel for some distance, say 30 minutes or so, turn off the radio or iPod and any other distractions.  See how long you can go without needing any distracting stimulus to counter the silence so you can think. Most people will get very uncomfortable after less than ten minutes in such circumstances.

Paul, when writing to the Colossian church instructed them to start thinking more circumspectly about matters of faith. "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things." (Col. 3:1-2) We need to relearn how to be quiet and train our minds to think about specific thing very deeply; we need to be intentional in concentrating on the things of God. By avoiding wrestling with ethical and theological questions, we are doomed to hold a very superficial view of both Christianity AND life. That is not only sin, it is a travesty of living.

Tips on becoming more spiritually reflective and less superficial

For the individual:
  • Set aside some devotional time each day, with some of that time reserved for reflection. Start with smaller quantities of tine, say 10 minutes, and gradually increase it as you become better at reflection.
  • Don't try to rush through your devotional reading, but think about different ways the verses may apply to you.
  • Start journaling or blogging. Writing down your thoughts forces you to express them in a cogent manner and the act of writing gives you more time to see if what you feel is really what you mean.
  • Pick a book that's a little above you intellectually. Determine to not only read it, but to understand it. This may require additional helps, such as commentaries or reference works. That's OK. The goal is to stretch yourself.
For the Church:
  • Pastors need to stress the concept of thinking through passages of scripture.  This doesn't come naturally, so your congregation will need to be trained on how to do so.
  • Preach the importance and the scriptural commandment of developing the Christian mind.
  • Rather than simply preaching against the superficiality of the world, we need to model how to think through issues. Hold an apologetics class or a Sunday School class and offer up some real ethical dilemmas. Talk through each aspect of the choices people may make.  Here's a good example from a Harvard philosophy class.
Image "American way of life" by AnaïsFernandes - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
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