A Mindless Faith

It seems that people are thinking less and less. I see it in my kids’ classes, I see it in politics and popular media, and worst of all I see it in the church. Few people care what what the bible says. Even fewer know what the bible actually means. The bible has become a grab bag of quotes that we use like fortunes from cookies to build our own theology. From the same book, we see people build prosperity theology and poverty theology. From the same book, people argue for and against alcohol. Opponents and proponents of slavery referred to the same book. What the bible says actually can be known, but it takes more than reading t-shirts and bumper stickers to understand it. Are you willing to invest the time?

The future of the health of Christianity in America is fundamentally going to depend upon whether believers are able to defend their faith. This is not a value that we hold. We value worship, the scriptures, giving to the poor, confessing sin, and having good solid families, but we [Christians] tend to be an intellectually lazy people. – JP Moreland

When I posted the above quote on my Facebook wall, Anthony Weber made the following statement:

It’s tough to love God with all your mind when you don’t use it. Intelligence is a gift (one which we share with God Himself), and yet we too often sacrifice it on the altar of emotion. A faith with no heart is cold, but a faith with no brains is stupid.

Romans 12:2 tells us to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” It does not say we should seek spiritual growth by the overwhelming of your emotions or by shared experiences. Yet, what do we do by and large? Feeling is easier. It is passive. All we have to do is react. Many books and theologies today come as a result of being emotionally moved rather than by an infusion of knowledge.

Paul instructs us to have the mind of Christ. That is both our starting point and our goal. We are not told to have the feelings of Christ. If we think as he thinks, we will be moved in the same way he is moved. If you have the mind of Christ, you can’t help it. Emotions are not unimportant, but they are secondary; they should not be the root of our faith.

Here are some quotes recently posted by Anthony Weber from a book called “God is Not One” by Stephen Prothero, followed by Anthony’s closing thoughts:

“Doctrine is particularly important to Christians…”

“For the most part, early Christians defined themselves theologically…”

“The major schisms in church history have been driven to a great extent by doctrinal disagreements, and Christians have had few qualms, at least until modern times, about rooting out heretics through institutions such as the Inquisition. Today the price of admission to the Christian family continues to be orthodoxy (right thought) rather than orthopraxy (right practice.)”

“Because of the Protestant’s insistence that all could (and should) read the Bible in their own language, by the light of individual conscience and with minimal (if any) reference to tradition, Protestantism itself splintered.”

“As evangelicalism expanded its footprint, experience and emotion trumped doctrine and the intellect.  Though more Christians came to see the Bible as the inspired Word of God, fewer seemed interested in what God had to say…Anti-intellectuals boasted of their homespun ignorance, and Christians embraced a Scarecrow faith, their hearts overpowering their brains….evangelicalism was an insurrection of the heart against the mind.”

“Like fundamentalism, with which it is often confused, Pentacostalism is a twentieth-century invention.  Unlike fundamentalism, which accents doctrine, Pentacostalism accents experience…”

“Whereas Luther liberated Christians from what had become for many a tyranny of good works, Pentacostalism liberates Christianity from the tyranny of belief…experience mattered more than doctrine.  And experience is Pentacostalism’s bread and butter – the experience of being inhabited by the awesome power of God.”

His claim is that Christianity is moving from a faith-based religion of orthodoxy to an experientially-based religion in which orthodox adherence to creeds is no longer significant. Assuming he is correct, here is my question:

Does it matter that experience is replacing doctrine as the foundation for our relationship with God?