2C. An Anti-intellectualism Approach

➡ Average Reading Time: 3 minutes

Are we living in an anti-intellectual period of Christian history in USAmerica or anywhere else for that matter? Anti-intellectualism doesn’t mean being anti-academic. There are thousands of colleges and universities that are still growing. Anti-intellectualism doesn’t mean anti-scientific because science is still revered. Anti-intellectualism doesn’t mean anti-technology because technology is booming. Anti-intellectualism simply could be defined as “against the mind.” What we “think” is subordinate to what we feel.

Michael Horton, professor of theology at Westminster Seminary in California, wrote the following, referencing the 1964 Pulitzer Prize-winning book Anti-Intellectualism in American Life:[ref]Richard Hofstadter, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (New York, NY: Random House, 1966), 18.[/ref]

Evangelicalism has a legacy of anti-intellectualism that has not only crippled its witness to the watching world,

One of the great culprits in this whole enterprise is anti-intellectualism. In his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, Richard Hofstadter points out that the Reformed Faith built America’s only indigenous intellectual tradition, and as Puritanism degenerated into revivalism, the nation lost its intellectual balance. While the Reformed evangelists of the Great Awakening were also presidents of Princeton and Yale, evangelists ever since Charles Finney have actually boasted in their lack of education. Evangelicalism has a legacy of anti-intellectualism that has not only crippled its witness to the watching world, but has opened the church itself up to the most remarkable reaches of stupidity and incredulity.[ref]Michael Horton, “Sloth In Our Day,” Backwoods Presbyterian. http://backwoodspresbyterian.blogspot.com/2008/05/sloth-in-our-day.html (accessed June 1, 2016).[/ref]

Because of the “cult of the individual” and its propensity for dualisms and our need to be correct, i.e., one idea is right while another is wrong, we tend to make emotion our guiding light while thinking takes a back seat. Does our heart (emotions) inform our head? Or, does our head inform our heart?[ref]These are surely Western dualistic questions. Heart from a Hebrew point of view means the whole person, not a part of the whole person.[/ref] Or, do they work in tandem with each other to bring harmony in our lives? What passes for intellectual conversation often is simply the rhetoric of emotion. Both Left and Right in the political arena make claims of being intellectual while emotion drives their speech. Recently, I read an article in which a pastor argued that there was a standard for the church. His standard was the “church” he had joined twenty plus years ago. That was ground zero. Anyone standing in a different place than the excruciatingly narrow circle he was standing in, was liberal. This kind of reflection is a bane on our society and reflects how the “cult of the individual” leans toward anit-intellectualism.

James K. A. Smith in his book Desiring the Kingdom[ref]James K. A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic).[/ref] suggests that we act to know (think). He suggests that “what nourishes or fuels the “I” [individual] is a steady diet of ideas, fed somewhat intravenously into the mind through the lines of propositions and information.”[ref]Ibid., 42.[/ref] He builds a caricature of the human as a “bobble head.”[ref]Ibid.[/ref] He thinks that “rather than calling into question this reductionist picture of the human person, the church simply tries to feed different ideas through the same intellectual IV.”[ref]Ibid., 43.[/ref] It seems that the anti-intellectual could be seen as one who in the race to banish intellectualism has rather produced a rather precocious “bubble head” mentality, which looks intellectual but lacks the power thereof.

Smith, using an Augustinian focus on love, suggests that we desire, then we know. That puts a whole new spin on such passages as, “…he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psa 37.4), which would not mean that we create personal desires and God then gives them to us (most common way of understanding this passage), but that as we delight in him, he puts his desires in our being and from those desires, we think and act. For him, Scripture is about “renarrating the world” and done as community through liturgy.[ref]Ibid., 194.[/ref] Smith is not “against the mind” (he holds a Ph.D.); rather, he is for practices within a community, which lead Jesus followers toward the thinking process. The community has been left in the dust in the creation of the “cult of the individual.”

There is another concept that feeds the individual devotional reading of Scripture…

There is another concept that feeds the individual devotional reading of Scripture and seems to also raise some problematic issues when reading is done entirely within the “cult of individualism:” What is the role of the Holy Spirit in interpreting?

Take a moment to pitch in for Winn Griffin on Patreon!
■ First, click on the button below.
■ Second, on the Patreon page, click on Patreon button in upper right corner.
■ Finally, follow the instructions there.

Copy Protected by Chetan's WP-Copyprotect.

Read Me First


Throughout these sessions, I have used the word ecclesia (singular) for the usual word church and ecclesiae (plural) to indicate a church in a particular geographic place, i.e., the ecclesiae at Corinth, meaning the whole of the many smaller ecclesia that met in homes in Corinth. This is to distinguish between the Institutional Church model (IC) and ecclesia that meet in cities and towns around the world. The ecclesiae written about by the authors of the Second Testament were not the same as what the “church” has become over the years of its existence. Usually, but not always, folks think of a church as a place where they go to a building and set in rows of pews and listen to music and sometimes sing and listen to sermons by a pastor or senior pastor. The ecclesiae of the Second Testament time did not invoke this model.


I have discovered over the years that if you want to try and change minds about something special, you have to venture out and reword it in order to grasp a foothold for a new refreshed understanding of the idea presented by the word. Such is the case between "church" and "ecclesia."


Happy Reading!

Read Me Second


Referenced verses in the text of this study are not used to prove some point of view. They are merely markers where the subject matter is referenced by other books and authors. To gain a larger view of each quote, a serious student of the Holy Writ would take the time to view the reference and see what the background is. The background provides tracks on which the meaning of a text rides. So knowing the context of a referenced passage would help the reader to gain a more thorough understanding of an author than just the words quoted and marked by a verse number that was not a part of the original author's text, which as you might remember was performed on the text in a random fashion many years later.


Happy Reading!

Read Me Third


The verses that are referenced in these sessions are not meant to prove a point. They are simply pointers to where the idea being written about may have a correlation. In order to see if they accomplish the thesis presented by the original author, a student should read, at a minimum, the chapter in which the verse is found as well as trying to ascertain what the original author may have meant to say to the original audience.


Of course, this is a lot of work but it is beneficial work. If one does not understand what the author meant when it was written and the audience could not have understood by what was written, then the words on the page can mean anything that a present reader may assign as a meaning, thus distorting what God was inspiring for the original writer to write to the original audience to hear.

A great and recent book by N.T. Wright and Michael F. Bird entitled The New Testament in Its World would be a wonderful addition to your reading helps.


Happy Reading!

Jesus Followers


There are many synonyms to use for the word believer, which is the most common word for a person who has "converted" to follow Jesus. I have chosen "Jesus follower(s) or follower(s) of Jesus instead of the word believer in these presentations to allow the reader an opportunity to move away from the idea of believer which conjures up the possible thought of "ascent" to a set of doctrines that have been assembled by different groups over the centuries and show up in this day and age as a set of statements posted on web sites and other written material. These sets of beliefs are suggested by many as the ones that one should ascent to so that upon death the one who assents can go to heaven, i.e., just believe and you are good to go. Jesus followers/followers of Jesus suggest an action that one should take. Remember, Jesus told his disciples to follow him. Yes, belief is important, but one must move beyond belief to action.


(See "Discipleship" Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 182-188.)