From the roaring comments of those like Richard Dawkins and the Neo Atheists[1] to the great dissatisfaction we find in our pulpits, it seems as though in today’s society, the intellectual elite constantly insults the intelligence of his fellow man. While those like Dawkins find it necessary to attack maliciously the well thought out beliefs of others in this world, our preachers and teachers, professors and lecturers, are all “dumbing down” the truth as they perceive it so that people can understand. We must realize that being malicious toward any sort of belief system is moot because there is no person alive that believes something without sufficient reason, even if he or she is not able to verbally explain that reason. We must realize that even the neo-atheist believes what he believes for a reason. Furthermore, we must realize that a dumbing down of ideas always insults the intellectual capability of our audiences and will always fail to build them up.

There is a story that tells us of a God who created the universe and everything in it, including mankind. Over the course of six days, God created the natural elements we see on the earth up to and including life. On the sixth day, God created mankind in His own image and after His own likeness.[2]  Within the context of this creation story, we see a God whose very nature is creativity and who verbally speaks elements of creation into existence (i.e. light, sky, land, vegetation, the stars and our own sun and moon, birds, fish, livestock, beasts and mankind).[3] Because mankind was created by God, in God’s own image, we can notice some things that scripture reveals about his capacity for learning.

 

The creativity and the intellect of man

I want us to take a moment and consider all of the ideas and all of the ways in which mankind has applied what he has learned. Einstein’s theory of relativity teaches us so much about the universe as we can observe it. Newton’s laws of physics have provided a baseline on which we can learn according to the structure of the universe. There are man-made satellites orbiting the earth and giving us images that we now use everyday. Billions of cars race across highways and back roads. Mankind has developed several theories on its own origin and has gained dominion over the whole earth. Mankind creates worlds within the realm of fiction even to the point where he can now interact and be incarnate in those worlds. Books, movies and video games give mankind an escape from reality and an adventure through worlds unexplored. We are a creative people and I would argue that we should be a creative people.

According to the Biblical story mentioned above, mankind is creative because he was created in the image of a creative God. According to a more naturalistic rendering of the origin of mankind’s creativity, mankind started to become creative as his neural structures evolved. Either way we choose to look at it, it is unmistakable that mankind is a creative species; the only externally creative species on the planet. Therefore, when we are malicious toward the thought structure of belief systems of others, we insult mankind’s creativity, which must be afforded both according to scripture and according to secular scientific evaluations. According to the account in scripture, insulting mankind’s creativity literally insults God’s very own nature. According to a more naturalistic model, insulting mankind’s creativity literally insults any claim to the evolutionary development of mankind.

The same applies to mankind’s intellect. Insulting mankind’s intelligence literally insults God’s very own being. For the naturalist, it contradicts any sort of view one my have of the evolutionary process.

 

Secular approach to the minds of men

Taking all of this into account, then, we are forced to consider our natural disposition toward the minds of others. Secularism today promotes both the idea that moral truth is relative and that a highly evolved mind is able to discover more truth about the universe that we live in. In fact, even before Social Darwinism[4], mankind has naturally held some types of minds as more intelligent and more creative than other types of minds. Literate cultures consider themselves to be more intelligent even when oral cultures remember more of what they learn verbatim. The age of reason brought about a holding up of philosophy and now the age of science declares the cosmologist and the chemist to be the most intelligent people in our society while devaluing the intelligence of those who hold other types of knowledge.

Secular intellectualism seems then to pit some forms of knowledge against others. When knowledge from those different areas do not match up, one group seems to accuse another of not thinking seriously about certain beliefs or about certain theories. This is not a tendency of only the irreligious. I am speaking also of those within the church. We debate and we debate trying so pompously to convince others that the view we hold is the correct view, assuming always that people who think or believe differently than us are somehow less intelligent; or that they have not reasoned out their beliefs or thoughts.

Because of this, secular worldviews have created what we might call an intellectual elite. This is not a new phenomenon. Because we have created the idea of an intellectual elite, we have also burdened society with the overbearance of that intellectual elite. Thus, all of society depends on the intellectual elite for all knowledge. This is why many who are not considered a member of the intellectual elite listen to intellectuals on all matters.

For instance, Richard Dawkins, whose name I only use because he has made himself a public personality, is a scientist. He places great value on human reason, on the scientific method and on philosophy. He does not, though, place value at all in religion or in religious belief. If my desire is to learn science, I will learn from Richard Dawkins because his intellect respects science. If I want to learn about religion, however, I would rather learn from someone whose intellect respects religion. Even though Dawkins’ intellect is not a respecter of religion, so many people want to learn about religion from him simply because he is a member of what we call the intellectual elite. This is where education ends and indoctrination begins. A secular approach to the minds of men, it seems, will always end in some sort of indoctrination because mankind’s creativity and intellect is vastly insulted, devalued and ignored.

On this point, also, we see the idea developed within our beloved intellectual elite that those who are not part of the elite are not as intelligent. While it might be true that these individuals may not behold as much of the same type of information or that they are not equipped to communicate that information well, it is difficult to measure the intelligence of another human being (short of performing an IQ test I assume). Because this community, though is seen as less intelligent, the intellectual elite participates in a “dumbing down” of ideas.

We have all heard of the Big Bang theory. It is a theory about the origin of our particular universe. It is said that at one point, a point of near infinite energy and gravity rapidly expanded converting energy into mater and initiating a series of cause and effect that produced time itself. At one point, all time and space came into being and it all began with energy. Energy, though, cannot be created or destroyed according to Newton’s third law. It can only be turned to matter and back to energy again. The universe as we know it, according to big bang cosmology, did not come from nothing. Yet, when good scientists are explaining the origination of the universe, they will describe it as coming from nothing because many of them are afraid that laymen will not be able to understand. We see the same thing when pastors and teachers in the church describe a God who created everything from nothing, ex-nihilo. Did not God exist at the origin of the universe? Did He not create everything? Does this universe not have its origin in Him? Through this misexplanation, now, there are a vast number of people that do not understand the Big Bang theory or scripture because they have been presented in a sickly manner. The same has happened in regards to education concerning all areas of science, religion, philosophy, and even in our Sunday School classrooms and pulpits regarding an explanation of scripture. The intellectual elite has for a long time insulted the creativity and the intelligence of their audiences. It seems we are afraid to begin conversations about difficult ideas because we are afraid that people will not understand those ideas rightly. If we do not challenge our audiences, though, how do we expect them to ever understand? Why do we pit types of intelligence against one another? Why do we treat some as if they believe or think the way they do without reason? We need to respect the creativity and the intelligence of others to a greater degree. Even the neo atheist believes what he believes for some reason. We do not reach him when we have malice toward him because of his disposition. In the same way, we fail to reach our congregations, our classes and those we are discipling when we assume they are without reason or that they are incapable of understanding.

 

Biblical approach to the minds of men

Contrary to this secular approach to our treating the minds of our fellow man, scripture holds the “intellectual elite” to a higher level of accountability. Simply the fact that mankind was created in God’s own image, as we have discussed, lends to us the capability of both human creativity and human intelligence. If every human being bears, in some part, God’s image, then we are driven to respect both their creativity and their intelligence.

We respect creativity by praising God for the innovations of man, remembering that God even chose to use creative and intelligent human minds to give us His scriptures. When a relatively new idea is presented, we consider it seriously. We admire works of art and practice worship through song and dance because we were crafted after a creative God. We respect intelligence by being open about what we have learned and always resolving to learn from others. We do not hold back concepts because they might be too difficult for our hearers (or readers) to understand, and we certainly do not ridicule others because of their beliefs. Instead, we sit down with them, having a reasonable conversation about those beliefs so that both belief systems might be honestly evaluated in the context of rational thought. When learning (which I pray is always) we constantly refer to a greater authority than ourselves. Remember, we were created in God’s image. We are not gods ourselves and therefore must rely on some higher authority for our learning.

All-in-all, I pray we remember this, that a biblical model of approaching the minds of our fellow men is much more desirable than the model secular society has developed because it places all people on equal ground before God. We remember that no one believes without reason, and we are therefore willing to discuss those beliefs openly and learn. Though we my criticize or discern between correct and incorrect beliefs, we do so respectfully, knowing that our treating of others as if God actually exists may very well lead them into the Kingdom of God.

As for the neo-atheists like Dawkins, I admire their creativity and their intellect. I only hope that one day they will choose to cease finding authority for learning in the power of their own reason. I hope that one day they will stop striving to be gods and realize that all men are on a very real equal ground before a holy and righteous God who will judge all men. I hope they will realize that the Biblical narrative presents truth and tells the story of a God who created mankind, of mankind rebelling against God, of God leading history in such a way as to foretell mankind’s redemption, of a God who has now redeemed mankind, and of a God who will restore creation to His very own glory. I hope one day, each of them becomes a part of that kingdom, trusting in Jesus Christ as the only savior and lord over mankind.[5]

For the rest of us, let us treat others as if God actually exists, respecting others’ creativity and intelligence.

 

[1] Neo-Atheism is a branch of atheism that is not content simply with living itself without any deity higher than mankind. It concerns itself with the annihilation of any god-confessing belief system.

[2] Genesis 1

[3] Some debate might be made as to the actual time span and whether or not God’s words were the creating act or merely revelatory, but I must spend time on these subjects later so that I can stay on topic.

[4] Social Darwinism is the application of Darwin’s theory to the interactions of one human being to another. For instance, Hitler wanted to cleanse the world of less evolved races of humanoid in order to advance the evolutionary process.

[5] This paragraph outlines the one story told in the Holy Bible

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