In high school, I took the Myers-Briggs personality test. I couldn’t remember what my result was, but I did remember there were four different categories that make up a personality: introversion/extraversion, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling, and judging/perceiving. I recently took a free version of this test and, as expected, I scored higher on thinking than feeling. My assigned personality type was called “Logistician.” I wasn’t surprised by this, since I’ve known for a long time that I’m not an overly emotional person. Even the strong emotional responses that I do have are often driven by whether or not something seems logical to me.
I have often been discouraged by this part of my personality. Although it can be very helpful to instinctively view things with logic and reason, being less emotional also makes it harder to connect relationally. I sometimes struggle to feel empathy or have strong emotional bonds with people. It impacts my faith, too. Over the years I have developed a passion for studying theology and apologetics, but not being an emotionally-minded person makes it a challenge to strongly feel love, thankfulness, awe, or really much of ANYTHING towards God, even though intellectually I know that He is deserving of those reactions. Sometimes I’ve wondered if maybe my faith isn’t “real.” Am I just a faker? Am I guilty of mentally accepting the Bible as true without allowing it to penetrate my heart and affect me inwardly?
Several months ago I was listening to a sermon by Mike Winger on Romans 12. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Paul is saying that the way we undergo spiritual transformation is by changing the way that we think. Our thought process has a profound impact on who we are as believers. We are told to discern what is good and acceptable in God’s sight through testing. The word discern is defined as, “to perceive by the intellect; to distinguish mentally; recognize as distinct or different.” The word “testing” also has the connotation of using our intellect and knowledge to discover whether or not something aligns with God’s will as revealed to us in His Word. This clearly indicates that thinking plays an important role in our spiritual growth.
If we are supposed to renew our minds and change the way we think, what exactly should we be thinking about? Paul answers that question too, in Philippians 4:8. It’s a well-known verse: “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” The best example that meets all of these qualifications, is, of course, Scripture. God changes us when we fill our minds with good things, especially His Word.
R. C. Sproul discusses these ideas in his book, The Holiness of God. After quoting Romans 12:1-2, he states, “The key method Paul underscores as the means to the transformed life is by the ‘renewal of the mind.’ This means nothing more and nothing less than education. Disciplined education in the things of God. It calls for a mastery of the Word of God. We need to be people whose lives have changed because our minds have changed. True understanding comes by gaining a new understanding of God, ourselves, and the world. What we are after ultimately is to be conformed to the image of Christ… To be conformed to Jesus, we must first begin to think as Jesus did. We need the ‘mind of Christ’… That cannot happen without a mastery of His Word. The key to spiritual growth is in-depth Christian education that requires a serious level of sacrifice.”
This mastery of God’s Word will help us discern truth from lies. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” In order to discern which arguments and opinions are wrong, first we have to know what’s right. A spiritual battle rages around us everyday, and we are part of it whether we realize it or not. The importance of having a solid knowledge of Scripture cannot be overstated as we are assaulted daily by deceptive, anti-biblical ideologies.
Taking every thought captive can also prevent us from having an improper emotional response to Scripture taken out of context. Emotional responses can be good, but only if they are based on accurate biblical truth. Proper knowledge of Christ and sound doctrine must always come first, before we can have a truly appropriate emotional response to who God is and what He has done for us. By contrast, emotions without a strong biblical foundation can be dangerous. They can easily lead us down a path of deception. We should desire and pray for deeper emotional experiences, but not at the expense of accurate knowledge. We must lead with our minds and then respond with our hearts.
Colossians 1:9-10 connects the knowledge of God and His will with living a life that is pleasing to the Lord and bearing fruit in every good work. Spiritual wisdom and understanding lead to a transformed life which enables us to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.” There is a high value placed on “increasing in the knowledge of God.” And in Colossians 3:10, we are told to “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” We are renewed, or transformed, as we learn to know God and become more like Him. Again, spiritual growth and transformation come as the result of growth in our knowledge of who God is.
Jesus refers to the importance of loving God with our minds when He gives us the greatest commandment in Matthew 22:37: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” The way that we love God with our minds involves studying His Word and increasing in our knowledge of Him, as well as using our reasoning abilities, and scientific and historical facts, to make sense of how the world around us reflects God’s creative power and working through history. A common thought in our culture today is that science and faith are mutually exclusive- you cannot hold religious beliefs and affirm science at the same time. But this is simply a misunderstanding of what science is meant to do. The purpose of science is to study the natural world. It is NOT the purpose of science to declare that the natural world is all there is. Supernatural events and philosophical concepts are beyond the scope of what science can tell us.
What science and historical facts CAN do is reveal amazing realities that actually point to the existence of a Creator and the reliability of the Christian faith. In fact, there is abundant evidence for God’s creation of and interaction with the universe. The truth is that a Christian worldview goes hand-in-hand with science and history. If you are interested in reading about these topics further, I will recommend some resources at the end of this post. Virtually any good apologetics book will also contain at least some information on the interaction between science, history, and faith. Simply put, we can value scientific and historical facts and simultaneously hold a strong, evidence-based Christian faith. For those of us who function on a more intellectual level, this is good news.
Knowing things about God has great value, but it also poses a danger. The Corinthian church was notorious for their arrogance. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 8:1-2, “We know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.’ This ‘knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.” Knowledge without love quickly turns into prideful arrogance that not only fails to benefit anyone, but actually causes offense and disgraces the name of Christ. And those who think they know everything are missing some of the most important and basic character traits that a Christian is supposed to possess- love and humility.
A similar idea is expressed in the beginning of 1 Corinthians 13, the famous “love chapter.” Verses 1-2 say, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” The main purpose of spiritual gifts, including knowledge, is to encourage and build up the church in love. Our gifts and abilities should be used to benefit others, not as a source of pride or attention-seeking behavior.
Those of us who are more intellectually-minded and have the gift of knowledge need to be careful to use these abilities for our own spiritual growth, and to humbly teach, instruct, and guide others. After all, any theological wisdom or knowledge that we have to share does not come from ourselves, but is revealed to us by the Holy Spirit.
“Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.”
1 Corinthians 2:12-13
Here is a list of scientists, historians, apologists, theologians, writers, and philosophers whose work I have benefited greatly from. Ask the hard questions- there are answers.
William Lane Craig
Also, the website Got Questions is a great resource, with answers to hundreds of thousands of questions regarding the Bible and the Christian faith.