In a previous post, I described how education and study can actually be a form of worship, a pursuit of God through the admiration of his work. The modern American Church, however, has let the mental life fall by the wayside in exchange for out-of-context Bible quoting, political ranting, and Instagram platitudes. I suggested four things will change this embarrassing situation.
First, Christians on the whole need to repudiate the religiously-driven conflict between academic work and faith, between Athens and Jerusalem, especially when it comes to the sciences. With humility and common sense, everyone ought to acknowledge that reading the Bible does not qualify one to comment on the finer points of microbiology. One isn’t, by virtue of being an expert in the holy texts, an expert in everything else to boot. Scientific discoveries of all stripes ought to make Christians ask, “Have we perhaps read the biblical texts wrongly?” rather than moving to close the lens on Galileo’s telescope.
Second, the individual Christian is responsible for cultivating her own mental life. For all of the hours lost in this generation to pot, porn, and video games, we owe the Maker of Life repentance. Teen-agers didn’t invent the vices they consume; we’ve handed those down to them. We live in the information age, and all one need do is pick a topic of interest or a person worth emulating and pursue it with curiosity. If books aren’t your favored vehicle for learning, listen to podcasts, watch debates, or work through online classes, all for free.
Third, let kids ask questions. I had horrible religious influences in my childhood who told me, wrongly, “Sometimes you need to stop doubting and just believe.” Ceasing questions to believe doesn’t lead you to Jesus. Ceasing the pursuit of truth doesn’t lead you to the one who said, “I am the truth.” And churches need to be places that are known for encouraging the intellectual curiosity of children.
Fourth, keep the Sabbath. The loss of this discipline has wrought destruction in Western civilization that is devastating while it is undocumented. A day of peace and reflection was not too much for the creator of the universe, I’m not sure how it’s too much for us. Keeping the Sabbath is the way to acknowledge that God can do more in six days than we can do in seven. So take a day to be at peace, reflect, think, and pray. Whatever the link between neurons and the soul, both of them are nourished by the Sabbath.
“I am not absent-minded. It is the presence of mind that makes me unaware of everything else.” – GK Chesterton