The other day I was (surprise, surprise) in a coffee shop in the mountains, seated near the counter. A guy in his early 20s walked in wearing a TOOL shirt and a long ponytail. I could overhear his conversation as he approached the barista and they began chatting. Somehow it came up that she attends a Christian university and he clearly didn’t approve.
“Do they incorporate religion into all the classes there?” he asked. “Even the science classes? How does that work?”
She valiantly began explaining how they pray before every class and teach from a Christian worldview, but it soon became evident that she was being crushed in this conversation. He was well schooled in the writings of Dawkins, Hitchens and Nye and began doling out the punishment.
I use the word punishment because this poor barista has herself been punished by a church system which, for the past 200 years, has begun discarding intelligence within the church in favor of emotion, conversion experiences and passion. Ask most American Christians today any question deeper than “Does God love everyone?” and you’re bound to get some sort of response suggesting that that sort of discourse should be reserved for theological universities.
The other day a friend of mine said that he sees no merit in understanding Calvinism or Arminianism because he just wants to love God and love people. And it seems that the ball stops there for most Christians today. No need to know any more than that.
I would go so far as to say that there is even a fear in evangelical Christianity of knowledge. In my experience, this fear comes from one of two sources: People are scared that if they come to know too much, they’ll be like the Pharisees and will just become haughty and judgmental to others, thus weakening their love for God; or they’re afraid that they’ll learn too much and go off the deep end of liberalism and swim in the risky waters of universalism and other heresies.
We have replaced rich, robust theology in the church with emotional music and constant reminders that “God is love and loves you and He’s your personal Savior and loves your soul…” These words are great at bringing outsiders through the doors (because they’re true by and large) but poor at growing believers into mature witnesses with rich understanding of the deep things of God.
I have found the opposite to be very true. I have found that the more I learn about God, His Word and theology that describes Him, the more I can love and worship Him, because now there is that much more to adore and be amazed by. If my ability to worship God is a fire, learning more about Him only adds more wood to the blaze. After all, if you really loved God, wouldn’t you want to learn as much about him as possible?
Our logic is pretty backward here.
Quite honestly, I’m exhausted by Christians who don’t want to learn more. It’s one thing to not know much about our faith, but another to have no desire to grow.
I’m saddened that atheists are so passionate about what they believe that they will read stacks of books in order to define their beliefs, while we are happy to float along the surface with a (no offense) ‘Hillsong-deep theology’ and call it good. And we wonder why people are leaving the church in droves! A church that offers only emotional, squishy feel-good theology is going to lose the long-term wrestling match to a well-read and convincing atheist nearly every time.
Puritan Cotton Mather wrote, “Ignorance is the Mother not of Devotion but of HERESY” (caps lock his).
The mushy-gushy can only last so long.
Just as a marriage cannot be sustained by the tumble of infatuation, a life of faith cannot be sustained by passionate emotion. Yes, it may be a wonderful (and necessary) entryway, but without depth of knowledge and understanding, it will be “blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:14).
One of my theology professors is so passionate about this issue that he has brought up the same metaphor at least three times this semester. It goes something like this:
“Why do people say they want to ‘know God, but not know about Him? That is absolutely ludicrous!
Imagine if I told you ‘I love my wife, but I don’t know anything about her.’
You could ask me where she was born and I would shrug.
What type of music or food does she like?
I don’t know.
What color are her eyes?
No idea. But I love her.
See how insane that sounds? The more you come to know about someone, the more you are able to love them.”