The Evangelical Aversion to the Mind

Some evangelicals view the mind negatively. This can be observed in the way many Christian teachers interpret Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” They assert this verse to be saying that we should follow the direction of the Holy Spirit rather than the conclusions of our mind, which they view to be carnal.

This perspective represents a misunderstanding of the passage. The verse that follows states, “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” These verses are not opposing the use of the mind, but rather they are advocating the use of the mind advised by Scripture as opposed to the mind rejecting Scripture. For example, the verses beyond this one call us to give to the Lord. Doing so makes no sense if we reject the truth of Scripture, but it is totally reasonable if we accept a biblical worldview.

Those who view this passage as opposing the use of the mind in determining God’s will in effect are asserting that the Holy Spirit works through the feelings and not the mind. It is assumed that inner urgings represent the ministry of the Holy Spirit while the conclusions of the mind, even the mind saturated with Scripture, do not.

However, it makes all the sense in the world to believe that the Holy Spirit works through mental processes related to the study of Scripture to give us guidance. After all, God chose to communicate with us primarily through the words of a Book.

This negative attitude that many Christians maintain toward the mind in large measure derives from a misunderstanding of faith. Many Christians believe that the converse of faith is reason. Therefore, we should be guided by faith and not reason. However, an examination of Scripture reveals that the converse of faith is sight. This conclusion is succinctly stated in 2 Corinthians 5:7, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” The verses before and after deal with living on earth as opposed to living in heaven. We cannot see heaven, and therefore the Christian life entails a walk by faith. Hebrews 11 is replete with examples of men and women who committed their lives to that which they could not see.

A major problem with contrasting faith and reason is found in the fact that though faith entails confidence in things we cannot see, it nonetheless represents belief in realities that make all the sense in the world. Faith does not entail leaping into the dark but walking in the light. Scripture asserts twice, “The fool has said in his heart there is no God.” (Ps. 14:1; 53:1) A person does not need to reject reason in order to embrace faith, but instead one needs to reject reason in order to deny the existence of God and the veracity of Scripture.

The difference between belief in that which is unseen and that which is irrational is evidenced by our belief in gravity. We cannot see it, and yet belief in gravity rather than being irrational is compelling because the evidence for the existence of gravity is overwhelming. Likewise, though we cannot see God and the spiritual realm, evidence for its existence permeates our world.

One wonders how much the secular emphasis on being guided by feelings has shaped the evangelical inclination to minimize the mind and maximize the subjective. In Isaiah 1:18 God invites, “Come now, and let us reason together.” It is dangerous to discount the rational aspect of our relationship with God. Doing so leaves us wondering through life without a map.

I plan to dedicate my next post to discussing the historical roots of this evangelical tendency to view faith as being contrary to reason. Then in a later post I intend to provide overwhelming evidence that belief in the existence of God constitutes the only rational perspective.

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