By Samuel Nesan
The undiscipled mind is an open door for heresy and apostasy.
I recently stumbled across a quote posted by a pastor on Facebook which said, “an ounce of testimony is often more helpful to hungry hearts than a pound of doctrinal teaching.” While it is unclear what the pastor was intending to communicate, the great divide between the mind and the “heart” is very telling.
In some Christian circles today, the mind is despised and perceived as the enemy of faith. It is common to hear Christians resorting to the mantra “I have a simple faith” in response to intellectual challenges they face. As several apologists have pointed out, we must distinguish between having a child-like faith and a childish faith. The former is a growing faith, curiously inquiring things through questions and being entirely open to acquiring knowledge. That is how children generally are. A childish faith, on the other hand, is a stubborn refusal to pursue maturity. It embodies a desire to remain the way it is and is often hostile to anything that challenges it. It masks its hostility to reason by appealing to faith, experience, and emotions. It is the prevalence of this type of faith, that has resulted in Christianity being perceived as unreasonable.
When we look to the Scripture, we do not find the great divide between the heart and the mind as we see in modern Christianity. On the contrary, Paul commands, “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature” (1 Cor 14:20 ESV). The author of Hebrews reproves his readers, “Although by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to reteach you the basic principles of God’s word. You need milk, not solid food!” (Heb 5:12). In fact, Jesus, when asked about the greatest commandment replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt 22:37). To merely love God with one’s heart, would be to ignore the greatest commandment according to Christ who told us to also love God with all our “mind”. In fact, it is impossible to love God with our hearts but without our minds because the heart cannot love what the mind despises.
In America, where I currently reside, Christianity held a firm footing in the universities and the schools during the Puritan period up until the mid-1800s when Christianity began to slowly shift from a more theological understanding of the faith to an experiential and emotional understanding of it. The desire to know one’s faith was gradually replaced by the desire to feel one’s faith. The undiscipled mind is an open door for heresy and apostasy. It was in this period, that secularism and heresies thrived. Darwinism rocked Christians in the scientific department, challenging their understanding of Creation. Secularism and Liberalism shook Christians in the philosophical and theological departments, while Higher Criticism assaulted Christians, challenging the authority and inspiration of Scripture. This period also saw the rise of cults like Mormonism which caused so many to abandon the faith and to embrace heresies. Why was the church unable to effectively respond to all these challenges as the likes of Athanasius, Tertullian and Justin Martyr did in the past? I suspect it was due to its failure to effectively disciple the mind of the believers. As Jen Wilkin states,
Bible literacy matters because it protects us from falling into error. Both the false teacher and the secular humanist rely on biblical ignorance for their messages to take root, and the modern church has proven fertile ground for those messages. Because we do not know our Bibles, we crumble at the most basic challenges to our worldview.
In our day, heresies and secularism have grown so rampant that we have grown accustomed to it. It is time to stop glorying at the state of biblical illiteracy and to start discipling the minds of every believer that God has placed under our care. Believing parents, pastors and church leaders are what stand between young Christians and the institution that will challenge everything they took for granted. We must go beyond merely feeding hungry hearts of and start filling empty minds with Scripture.
One of the chief purposes for engaging in Apologetics is to help disciple the mind. In the words of the late Ravi Zacharias, “helping the thinker believe, and the believer think.” We need to reclaim the mind for the glory of God and the advancement of the gospel. We need believers like the apostle Paul who had a heart for the gospel and a mind for understanding and communicating biblical truths to a world which stands in opposition to it. A Spirit-filled evangelist who could intellectually engage the philosophers of his day in Athens where Socrates stood, and a biblical teacher who could engage the heresies that were threatening the church. It was this same Paul, who after penning half the New Testament, closes his final epistle prior to his execution with the following charge:
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
2 Tim 4:1-5 NASB