A question about Intellectual pride and relata

I wrote:

Thanks for visiting the Tank, for your thoughtful question, and especially for your concern for truth and honesty before God...

See my comments below (sorry so late, but I typically run 4-6 months behind in email)
I've just recently discovered your web page and am excited to see this resource here - you've made a great contribution to the ol' "market-place of ideas" that has been quickly forming over the medium of the Web as of late, and an invaluable resource center for respectable Christian scholarship.

One question though: In reading your biography you mentioned you were reading an article by some apparently ignorant Christian author who was "upsetting" you by his shallowness or something. Sounded alot like me. I'm in my third year of philosophy at XYZ, and have a deeply unsettled mind when it comes to Christianity, and in particular, the form by which I have lived my Church-life for the past number of years - a Vineyard Fellowship. While I have never had a problem with the orthodoxy, per se, the orthopraxis gets to me - in particular as manifested by the lay people and their ultra charismatic over-spiritualisation of seemingly natural phenomena and social peculiarities.

I actually have had other emails similar to yours about this group--certainly not uniformly, of course, but nonetheless occasional...I know precious little about it personally...

Anyways, whenever the attitude comes over me to vent my dissatisfaction with their weak explanations and groundless proposals, I get back the regular stuff about being too rationally minded, etc: I'm sure you know the deal.

yep...I know that well...I get a comment like that about the Tank from well-intentioned Christians about once a week...>

But what gets to me is that: I do have to confess to having a certain amount of intellectual high-mindedness when I feel that I can see what others cannot into the truth of an issue, or at least an explanation that isn't so riddled with moronic inconsistencies (oops! there it is). How do you feel about the claim that a certain amount of Christian explanation, even aside from any charismatic taintings, must be left outside of the realm of careful criticism, and that even if an argument or philosophical criticism of a problematic issue isn't foolproof, that nonetheless it may still be a good one simply because it only portends to appeal to the "masses"?

a couple of points here:

  1. I always ask for data! scripture, intuition, history--whatever...Paul and Peter always 'tested the prophecies', so I like to follow their example...granted, I will accept the phrase 'the Spirit gave this to me...' as DATA, but NOT AS 'conclusive warrant'--if you get my drift...ALL of it is data, but it might be (1) non-compelling and (2) ambiguous...

  2. I also recognize the reality that the community of 'saints' is the normal measure of truth...that the Spirit (on ordinary matters of praxis and faith) will give consensus on CRITICAL issues at around a 65-80% consensus level (after the requisite discussion and back-n-forth goes through--like the Canon process)...not much more than that, at any given time...so I also look at the opinions of Godly men and women as to how THEY understand a particular piece of data...but again, this counts as powerful evidence/data, but not to the point from exempting me from making a careful decision before the Lord--I must be 'firmly convinced in my own mind' or it may be sinful!!! (see Romans 14.5 and 23).

  3. I also weight the data more heavily if coming from godly teachers--but not if it is way outside their competency...I would not trust Billy Graham to provide quality data on exegetical matters involving comparative semitic grammar, but I would consider very carefully any observations he might make about patterns of revival in the global community.

  4. Fortunately (ironically), I have a personal tendency to over-analyze things, and to see providential patterns where none probably exist--generally due to very small sample sizes in time--so I am very sensitive to this from others! I can spot a phony/tenuous observation quickly, since I have made so many of them myself over the years!

  5. and it finally, finally, finally boils down to this--Romans 14 over the years as convinced me that I will answer to God ALONE for what I believed and what I accepted and what I chose...I will held accountable for 'how I heard'...I will give people (in love) the benefit of the doubt, but that only STARTS the EVALUATION PROCESS...'test all things--cling to that which is good', remember...

hope this helps...

How do you defend your critical and careful approach to issues, while avoiding the temptation to posit yourself above the masses as somehow superior?

Actually, I don't have time to do defensive work! It turns out I have too many people wanting the answers I try to come up with, and too much positive feedback from hungry minds! Not that I am Paul, of course, but Paul did not defend himself very often--and only when critically important to the mission...so I try to follow his example...I just try to meet needs as they come up...I am just a question-taker...

and God has blessed me with enough faults and failures and aberrations and mutancies, that I don't tend to have the temptation to feeling 'superior'!! ;>)

(as if I even had time to parade around in that fancy attitude either!)...I personally have the opposite problem, of feeling inferior to 'normal' Christians in 'normal' relationships and non-isolated lives and communities, and with 'normal' challenges ['normal' in the statistical sense, most of the time--even thought the value aspect of that bothers me occasionally]

How do you humbly present your mind "as a living sacrifice" before its creator?

For me it is quite simple...I don't value 'mind' above anything else actually...It's just a tool, like money or influence or leadership or attention to detail or musical ability or encouragement or even simplicity of spirit...and, I have learned from one or two quite vivid experiences in my life, that if and when God wants to 'turn my mind off' to teach me, all He has to do is blink, and I cannot solve the simplest of cognitive or communicative problems...I learned that important lesson in the summer of 1972...funny experiences, actually...plus, talents like that are subject to 1 Cor 4.7...

And, in the final analysis, I realize that I have so little else to work with, and I am so dwarfed by the honor of using this scrap that I have to honor the Crucified One...I revert back to the Little Drummer Boy's statement--"I have no gifts to bring; but I'll play my drum for Him"...I have no gifts to bring; but I'll think and write for Him">

Does any of this make sense?

Of course it does, my friend...of course it does...it goes with the territory, as they say...;>)

If it doesn't, perhaps it is enough to say that it comes out of my personal challenge of, on the one hand, resisting the temptation of intellectual high-mindedness, and on the other, wanting to understand how to fit with the Christian norm, while refusing to give up the integrity of my critical and ultimately philosophical approach to Christian problemata.

As long as you keep struggling with that, that's a good sign...the balance is difficult, elusive, and sporadic (in my case)...but in the hands of a God, it can be an awesome thing...>

One of the things that actually helped me adjust to this niche I live in, was the book Philosophers Who Believe (IVP)...I saw men and women of God--no two of which were similar in lifestyle!!!!!!!! I was so encouraged by their diversity that it was subsequently much easier to accept my own abnormalities as (1) okay (within reason, of course) and (2) even a gift from God (amazing thought!)...you probably have seen that or similar books, but you might look at that pattern again from this perspective....

thanks again for visiting, for your honesty, and for your openness to His reshuffling of your thought-life.

hope this helps,
glenn miller


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