(One footnote removed)
Today Christianity is on the very periphery of learning in our culture. More problematically though, learning is on the very periphery of Christianity. The idea that the Holy Spirit works through the renewing of the mind, which is what the Bible teaches, has been replaced by the idea that the Holy Spirit works through the removal of the mind. The dedication of one’s mind to God in the service of his Kingdom is looked upon today with suspicion in particular by evangelicals, for whom on the whole anti-intellectualism has become almost an article of faith. This has been going on for a long time but it is getting much worse. When I was a young Christian in my early twenties I was regularly encouraged to burn my books by my more spiritual Charismatic friends, who insisted that my interest in reading was hindering the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. But at least people read the Bible and took it seriously, even if they often misinterpreted its teaching and insisted that all they needed was themselves, the Bible—which they read only in translation and seemed oblivious to the throng of translators surrounding them—and the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Today, forty years on, the Bible has almost been dispensed with altogether. People claim they are Bible believers of course, but it means very little in practice, except perhaps in some Reformed Churches, where things are a little different and Scripture is still given lip service. Otherwise people increasingly rely merely on what they call “pictures” for guidance, i.e. personal revelations in the form of a vision or “picture,” not what the Bible teaches. These pictures pop into people’s minds. They may say things such as “I had a picture. I don’t know what it means but I think it’s for you.” In house groups people will ask “Has God spoken to you this week, have you had a picture?” The important thing about these “pictures” is that they must be rationally exogenous, since it is believed that the Holy Sprit does not use our minds but rather bypasses the mind. If the Bible is consulted it is used as a source of proof texts for the “pictures,” a sort of Bible bingo, where texts are taken out of context, and the purpose is not to understand the message of the Scriptures quoted but to justify and back up the “pictures,” which have primary importance. Though, to be honest, even this pretence of a commitment to Scripture is no longer common. The use of the mind in this perspective is unspiritual and necessarily something that is incompatible with being led by the Holy Spirit. It is like being in a preliterate society sometimes. I have heard Christians insist that the mind, the understanding, is a serious hindrance to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and it is believed that the Holy Spirit cannot work with people who use their minds. This, to my knowledge, has not happened before in the history of Christianity except among heretical sects and cults. It is a complete rejection both of what the Bible teaches, because we are commanded to worship, i.e. serve, God with our whole being, including our minds (Mt. 22:37), and a rejection of the historical faith that portends serious problems for the Christian community and the Great Commission. It seems like the Churches, in particular evangelicals, are determined to enter their own bespoke dark age in which the faith becomes a socially irrelevant mystery cult.
What we need is a new commitment to learning and understanding that is at the heart of the Christian faith, and a committed embodiment of that understanding in how we live as a real community that models to the world what the true social order is—the Kingdom of God. Of course, this must be pursued in the Spirit, i.e. by seeking the help, guidance and empowering of the Holy Spirit in the whole person in the whole of life. But the deliberate cutting off of such an important aspect of human life as the function, use and relevance of the mind for the practice of the Christian faith can only be of the very greatest harm not only to the individual believer, but also to the Christian community, the world, and the Kingdom of God, which is meant to grow and increasingly displace, and eventually replace, the godless culture that surrounds us. We shall either reverse this disastrous trend or the Christian community will enter a new dark age of ignorance in which the blind will stumble from one ditch to another in a pointless wandering of defeat in the wilderness until God raises up a new generation that will serve him by being willing to be led and empowered through the renewing of their minds by the Holy Spirit. “Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men” (1 Cor. 14:20).
An ignorant and superstitious people will always be slaves.
If we wish to be free — never mind become the head, and not the tail, in our society — we need to respect learning and logic, and have the Holy Spirit rule in the manner He has chosen, in the renewal of our mind.
Romans 12:1-2, English Standard Version
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.