My XFiles Friday series seems to have attracted the attention of a thoughtful and intelligent Christian reader named Jaya, “a girl on the brink of the rest of her life,” as her blog heading says, so I’d like to say first of all how delighted I am to welcome her to Evangelical Realism. Regretfully, I seem to have offended her with one of my posts.
He continues, “A lot of Christians seem naturally prejudiced against scholars and other highly-educated people, and the opening anecdote plays straight to that prejudice.” The implication to this argument is, of course, that Christians are not highly-educated, nor are they scholars, and as such have a sort of sour-grapes attitude toward them.
This I find highly ironic. Many Christians, myself included, recognize some of the flaws and biases which have invaded our educational system – but not all those who feel this way are Christian (just look at Indoctrinate-U). And not all who feel this way are “naturally prejudiced against scholars and other highly-educated people” – in fact, many of us ARE “scholars and other highly-educated people.”
Notice, I didn’t say “All Christians” or even “most Christians” were prejudiced against higher education and scholarship. I thought about what I wrote, and specifically did not claim that all Christians are hostile to scholarship and education because that would not have been true. I myself was a college-educated Christian for better than two decades, and have always been keenly interested in science and learning and discovering the truth. And, may I say, I was just as bothered then as I am now whenever I find myself confronted with Christians who seem to regard learning and thinking with hostility and suspicion.
For example, I recall one grim but sincere church elder who took me aside one evening after Wednesday night Bible study to warn me that I was thinking too much. “I’ve seen a lot of fellows like you,” he said, “who spent all their time thinking about things and asking questions and they all turned out to be atheists.” Naturally, I was quite appalled at the time, since I was still a fervent and committed Christian. If thinking is a sin against the Gospel, what does that imply about the Gospel? But this elder was unmoved. To him, too much thinking about the Gospel was not just a sin, it was a major cause of atheism.
I remember another time when I read a letter to the editor from the pastor of a local congregation that said something I thought was dangerously inconsistent with the historic Christian Gospel, and being zealous for the Lord, I decided to meet with this pastor and try and reason with him. The interview started pleasantly enough, but when he found out I had studied some New Testament Greek and could dig into the original meaning of the text, he became quite defensive. It turns out that he had no education beyond high school, and was quite proud of the fact. To him, his lack of education meant that his mind was not adulterated with the “wisdom of the world,” and therefore he was more open to the leading of the Spirit. The size of his congregation was proof enough that God was blessing him, not in spite of his lack of formal education, but because of it.
So yes, there are indeed thoughtful and intelligent Christians like Jaya, but there are other believers who don’t see higher education in quite the same way she does. They might, at times, make exceptions in the case of people who’ve attended seminaries or Christian colleges or other “safe” educational programs. But they still have deep reservations about what the Bible calls “the wisdom of men,” and it shows in the various stereotypes they use to portray professors from secular universities. As I said, such things bothered me when I was a Christian as well as now that I am not a Christian, but I think they bothered me more when I was a believer because if God were part of the real world, then knowing more about reality ought to bring you closer to God.
Jaya goes on to say,
The entire premise – of the WHOLE BOOK – is to show that, by studying the real world, one comes to the rational conclusion that God does, in fact, exist.
Indeed it is, which is ironic since that proposition is the exact reverse of the Biblical doctrine that Christians walk by faith and not by sight. But I think that topic should be addressed in a separate post.