Sunday, January 07, 2007

Intellectual Faith - Good or Bad?

I have been doing a lot of reading from various people and their thoughts about the Christian faith and I have noticed something - the intellectualization of the faith - the faith in mere debate and radical study. I am wondering if this is a good thing or something bad?

I think studying and looking at the scriptures is an important thing - even the historical context of the faith is of importance to me - since I have only the early authors to rely on for accuracy in the biblical writings (ex: Matthew, Peter, Paul, James, and John). I have found through much study that many questions surround the validity of this faith - questions regarding the resurrection, the person of Jesus (did he even exist?), the sayings of Jesus (are these his sayings?), historicty of events in the texts (did they even happen?), is Jesus the Messiah, differences between Paul and the gospels, the Gnostic texts, errors in the bible (ex: contradictions), and tonnes of stuff about variations in the faith from early Christianity (ex: building of the canon). Basically, there is a question for everything you read about in the actual texts.

To be perfectly honest, how the hell do you know who is being intellectually honest and who isn't? Who is telling the closest story about what's true in the texts and who isn't? I find that both sides on the debate (believers and non-believers) have an agenda and it is hard to determine which side is being realistic. I have read stuff by atheists, muslims, fundamentalists, historians, jewish writings, professors, and blog writers...each one has their own sense of credibility if u ask me. So I look at the whole picture and think - well, who is telling the best story here?

I also take at a look at people that don't over intellectuialize this faith and I see the dearness of the faith to them - it's not that they aren't asking questions but they truly believe in God, no qualms about that. On an even closer look one will see that faith is dropping out in countries with time on their hands to merely study the texts as compared to those with less time on their hands due to hardship (in which religion continues to either grow or remain at an even level). It really makes you wonder about some of the sincerity of the faith that these texts were meant to produce and what it is producing in some circles. I think eventually faith communities in Europe and the America's will continue to drop until it becomes non-existent if things don't change.

What needs to change is always the big question. Maybe the reality of what those texts are supposed to mean in an intellectual community - since it is not yet irrational to believe the teachings of Jesus - which is only counter-acted by 'doing', not 'talking'. I think the faith of Christianity can have a greater impact if it becomes a religion of doing - mainly in sustainable programs for the communties churches reside in. People can speak for years and write all the books they want, but doing is something tangible and means something to both the doer and the reciever (which is not something we can put a price tag on). To me the doing means you actually believe the rhetoric you are saying - it's the step right after thinking it through. So in some sense, it's the doing that matters - not so much the lip-service.

But this is where I am at in life - I hear a lot of good things and bad things being said about the faith of Christianity - each side is as convincing as the next (no one seems to be winning the battle here). What I am yearning to see is the Christian faith revolutionize itself into a strong 'doing' community that will stand the test of time and not be washed asunder by rhetoric - which oddly enough - the services are built around. Talk is the beginning - but we have years of talk in church circles - we need some action - some 'doing' - some substance - a reason to believe that doesn't merely involve more 'talk'. Intellect is a good thing - I am thankful for all the thinkers - but action is greater - I am even more thankful for those that lay their life on those words and do something about it - for without them this faith is at a loss of words.

15 comments:

hineini said...

"well, who is telling the best story here?" (societyvs)

Wow, its like you took the words right out of my mouth societyvs, nicely done, I couldn't agree more with your boiling down of the central question.

For me, the criteria for deciding whats best in a situation depends on where you want to go or what you want to do. You seem fairly certain that action is of value (if not the highest value) so it would make sense to me that the people telling you stories that encourage action in the areas you value are telling you the best story.

Other than "He didn't just say what I think he did? Did he?" (your post from Sept 22, 2006) this one might be my favorite selection from your work.

Cinder said...

"To me the doing means you actually believe the rhetoric you are saying - it's the step right after thinking it through. So in some sense, it's the doing that matters - not so much the lip-service."

This has been on my mind constantly the last while. I want to be out serving and doing what needs to be done more than I have.

You make a huge point about the fact we can think things through forever, but it does no greater good if we don't take the action required to make things happen.

In church this morning, a couple of points were made about faith and stepping out..."The moment we stop going forward is the moment we quit making ourselves available to resources, etc. which might be there for our use."..."Luck happens to those who take a risk...we never know what's out there if we don't take the risk."

Thanks for your past posts...they, along with other words, are pushing me to take the risk and begin the action.

BrotherKen said...

excellent thoughts! makes me want to do more that for sure. i know i am guilty of more talk than action lately.

-the faith in mere debate and radical study. I am wondering if this is a good thing or something bad? (society)

it's a bad thing when it negatively affects the doing part.

-Basically, there is a question for everything you read about in the actual texts.(society)

i agree. i just try to focus on what are the main things. "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity." 1 cor 13:13

-So I look at the whole picture and think - well, who is telling the best story here?(society)

here is a good question for ya... is god more pleased with a muslim that cares for the poor or a christian that does not? if you answered the muslim does that make his faith better than christianity?

-I think the faith of Christianity can have a greater impact if it becomes a religion of doing (society)

i think a lot about how much less hurt and crime there would be it that were so.

great stuff society!

Trailady said...

Awesome post! I too have pondered these things. I totally agree with your church-in-action idea. What good does it do to sit in pews? Why not go out on The Lord's Day and do good for the community. Help build a Habitat house or community center. Plant flowers in the park, give a hand at the homeless shelter, visit the dying and afflicted. Instead, the religious go through the same social routine and all the niceties every weekend within the confines of a church building. Most believers have church and expect the world to come to them. Why not BE church, step outside the comfort zone and really reach out??

SocietyVs said...

Thanks Heinini for the comment - much appreciated.

"so it would make sense to me that the people telling you stories that encourage action in the areas you value are telling you the best story." (Heinini)

Real odd thing about this - expecially in the blog-a-sphere is not very many people are making a call to action - to be honest I think the medium calls for rhetoric & debate more than anything at the present moment. To be honest, most books I have read seem to regard action as a minimal value compared to study or the message - but I am working on finding the books that make that push to action (or even the blogs). Maybe I will start that!

"here is a good question for ya... is god more pleased with a muslim that cares for the poor or a christian that does not? if you answered the muslim does that make his faith better than christianity?" (Brother Ken)

Thanks Ken for the comment. I think God enjoys the poor to be benefited by whomever is willing, religious or not - puts us all on the even scale and none above the next. I never saw God loving me more than another - even when I first came to the faith in 1992. Good question though!

Trail-lady I just read you last post and that was one of the most refreshing stories I have heard in some time - call me a sucker for reality. Thanks for coming by and leaving a great comment - I think you know what i mean by 'church in action'.

Awareness said...

Hi there. I love this post. I couldn't agree with you more....

I'm a strong believer in the "doing" when it comes to living your faith, but also when it comes to any "belief." I seem to be surrounded by academics.......theorists and thinkers who espouse all different political and religious beliefs....who have spent untolled hours research and writing brilliant papers on everything from marxism to feminism to atheism to whatever.......... they never tire of offering their opinion. Most work at the university as professors. NOT ONE of them has ever stepped foot in the soup kitchen. NOT one of them, has ever volunteered in their community. And yet, they have LOTS to say about their expert topic.

I am thankful for all the thinkers too, but I strongly believe that one can think and DO at the same time. Maybe some DOING would add some credence to their dissertations.

My faith continues to strengthen as I continue to work in the frontine....... I am no where near a full believer......... but I do know that every now and then I get a wink from the cosmos through a connection and it makes me stop and wonder.

You may be interested in Allen Tysick. He runs a Ministry in Victoria called Open Door.....for the homeless. I just read an article about him in the United Church Observer.....don't know if you can access it online, but there is probably info about him if you just Google his name. He is living his faith.........he inspires me.

Boy..........that was wordy....sorry about that.... :)

SocietyVs said...

Thanks Awareness - I will check this dude out!

Daniel said...

societyvs,

perhaps you have already stumbled upon the answer to your question without realizing it:

I hear a lot of good things and bad things being said about the faith of Christianity - each side is as convincing as the next (no one seems to be winning the battle here).

A rather convincing line of argument against Christianity goes simply like this:
1) If God exists, then God has revealed Itself to humankind
2) If God has revealed Itself to humankind, It wouldn't reveal itself in an obscure, confused, or unbelievable manner
3) God has revealed Itself to humankind via Christianity
4) If Christianity is true, then there should be a fairly large number of historical and logical evidences which support it that are insurmountable, or nearly so, by skeptics.
5) But (4) is not the case
6) Therefore (3) is not the case
7) Therefore either (1) or (2) is false, or God does not exist

SocietyVs said...

Daniel. I enjoy the fact you approach it in such a rational manner - but the premises are somewhat flawed at points or need elaborate expanding upon to make a better case.

"1) If God exists, then God has revealed Itself to humankind
2) If God has revealed Itself to humankind, It wouldn't reveal itself in an obscure, confused, or unbelievable manner" (Dan)

Number 2 is a supposition - supposing to think in terms of God or the revealing of God. That aside, Jesus came as a 'man' - one might consider that as not quite obscure - and not to mention the many prophets to Israel - then we get into books on the subject - some might say there is more evidence than point #2 lets on.

"4) If Christianity is true, then there should be a fairly large number of historical and logical evidences which support it that are insurmountable, or nearly so, by skeptics." (Dan)

I am guessing outside sources - historical, archealogical, or even cultural. Fact is cultural is an obvious - it's stayed in most every culture it's been brought to (even the internet). But historical artifacts and history writers in general - admit to the religion existing - but as to specifics they don't make much claims - unless the bible itself is counted as reliable (which in a lot of circles it is dismissed).

chris said...

In the end it all comes down to faith. You either have the faith to believe there is a God, or you have the faith to believe there isn't a God. Both views require faith! I agree that the Christian scriptures are inconsistent, and those that cling to the idea of infallibilty have much faith as well! Could it be that God's truth is written in our hearts, and not in a book? I read the gospels with admiration for Jesus because he basically denies religion. And on several occasion he refers to the Jewish scripture as their scriptures. That implies to me that he didn't cling to a written law, but rather God! But I believe in his existence and teachings. Keep questioning, Jason. You can't go wrong seeking the truth. You may, however, be suprised at what you find! I for one believe God is love without prejudice!

SocietyVs said...

Thanks Chris - I generally agree with your world-view - after all - it's just a book - it means nothing without some real experiential living. I also see the problem with clinging to 'laws' and the reason for 'grace' - no one can ever fulfill the standard of the laws and be 'perfect' - and I don't think Jesus is shooting for that anyways - it seems to real answer is in improving the human condition that leans toward self - sometimes over and above the welfare of the next individual - in this Jesus' teachings excel any writer I have ever seen - or they elaborate on his teachings in theirs. Jesus seemed a lot about relationships - and Paul - and this requires us to live, not just talk or read. Maybe that's that strength of the faith.

SocietyVs said...

New study just came out mentioning that we don't rely enough on 'gut instinct' and that we 'think' things through too much - the scientific study noted that people who used instinct and didn't over-think the process were likely to make a better more rational decision - which somewhat backs a lot of what I said in this blog. Maybe we need to use more instinct - which I will note - we all use in daily life - just another proof of the 'leap of fsith' phenomenon.

Cinder said...

"the scientific study noted that people who used instinct and didn't over-think the process were likely to make a better more rational decision"

if i just go out and do what my gut tells me, it's definitely more rational. when i sit back, hashing things out, i end up second-guessing and sometimes letting other people's opinions sway me or at least water down the original plan of action. i think if gut-instincts were relied on more, instead of the over-thinking of things, there would be more action on a lot of levels.

karen said...

society, I'm late to comment here...I've been looking for your blog, but sometimes you don't link over at YBMT; found you at Chris Ledgerwood's!
Love your thinking! I LOVE to intellectualize the Christian religion...it's actually what brought me TO Jesus, believe it or not. I love Phillip Yancy's work and Bart Ehrmann...both make my head spin with possibilities! The Gnostic gospels really point to the deity of Christ. Love it. I'm going to take some time and read more of YOUR stuff! Keep at it!

Karen said...

that was nice...then I don't link on your blog! :-)