A popular video on YouTube shows a celebrity appearing on the Fox game show “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” The $25,000 question asked: “Budapest is the capital of what European country?” The contestant threw up both hands, looking totally perplexed. “I thought Europe was a country,” she said. Playing it safe, she chose to copy the answer offered by one of the genuine fifth graders: Hungary. “Hungry?” she said, eyes widening in disbelief. “That’s a country? I’ve heard of Turkey. But Hungry? I’ve never heard of it.”
Does the “dumbing down” of Americans in general bother you? What if I get a bit more specific and say the “dumbing down” of Christians in particular, as it relates to the faith they hold so dear? In these next three issues, we will examine a disturbing trend within evangelical circles. We’ll call it “anti-intellectualism.” Literally by the thousands we are choosing to sin against God by disobeying the first of the two great commandments. Jesus was asked, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all of your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment” (Matthew 22:36-38). Bertrand Russell said of this trend, “Most Christians would rather die than think – in fact, they do!”
Until the middle of the 1800s, Christians prized the intellectual life for its contribution to the Christian walk. As an example, the Puritans were highly educated people with a literacy rate close to 95%. Children were taught to read and write before they were six and studied art, science, philosophy, and other fields, as a way of loving God with their minds. Then there was a great awakening and revivals broke out worldwide. Much good came from these movements, but the overall effect was to overemphasize immediate conversion instead of its coming through longer periods of reflection and conviction. Simple emotional preaching replaced intellectually careful and doctrinally precise sermons. Personal feelings concerning our relationship with Christ were stressed over the need for a grasp of the nature of Christian teaching and ideas.
As a result of this shallow, theologically illiterate form of Christianity, the church as a whole lacked the readiness to engage in the war of ideas that began raging in the late 1800s. This attack came in three major areas:
- The ideas being promoted by David Hume and Immanuel Kant that brought into question God’s existence since we can’t experience Him with the five senses.
- German higher criticism that brought the historical reliability of the Bible into question.
- Darwinian evolution challenging the early chapters of Genesis and the very existence of a creator God.
In Losing Our Minds, Parts 2 and 3, we will look at four aspects of this trend that have continued into the 21st century:
- We will develop a better understanding of the definition of anti-intellectualism.
- We will look closely at the creation of the “empty mind.” We will look at four P’s that have led us down this path.
- Modernity’s creation of an idiot culture.
- Some cures for anti-intellectualism.
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