Intellectualism --Part 1

Part 1

August Van Ryn

There is what we believe to be an erroneous idea that the intellectual must be reached on his own level; that if we are to be of any help to the unsaved educated person we must acquire a higher education ourselves, especially on a theological level. Scripture rejects that viewpoint totally, in my judgment.

First: It is useless because the “natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14). The Bible says that the unsaved intellectual “walks in the vanity of his mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in him, because of the blindness of his heart” (Eph. 4:18). It is useless to reason with an unbeliever about divine things because he cannot understand. It is not through understanding one is led to believe but it is through faith that one learns to understand (Heb. 11:3).

Second: To reason with unbelievers in order to convince them of the truth is unfair to them because it credits them with the capacity to understand God’s things; the Bible plainly states they cannot do so. It is not without deepest meaning that the Lord Jesus was crucified at Calvary, “the place of a skull.” A skull has no means by which to understand, its brains are useless, so are the brains of an unsaved person. The Word of God is not preached to the mind, but to the heart. We read in 2 Corinthians 4:4 that Satan blinds the minds of those who do not believe, but we read in verse 6 that God shines into our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Third: It is wrong to recognize a class as though it needed the claims of Christ presented to it in a different way than to others. God knows only two classes — the saved and the lost, and both of them need the same humble message of their guilty condition in the sight of God and the need of turning to God in repentance and saving faith in Christ. It is this that Paul had in mind when he wrote: “The preaching of the Cross is to them that perish foolishness” (1 Cor. 1:18). Not the Cross, but the preaching of it is foolishness to man. The gospel is a proclamation of God’s command; not an invitation to an argument or discussion. It is this that the educated person specially resents. When a young man in the States receives a greeting from the President of the United States to join the army, he is not asked for his opinion on the matter or whether he believes it or not, he is simply told to obey or else. Even so the gospel is preached for the “obedience of faith,” not for the consent of the mind. The servant of Christ is to preach the gospel; not to prove it. The order to join the army is couched in the same words to the intellectual as it is to the ignorant, so is the gospel. It is not preached to convince the mind, but to convict the soul.

Man loves to reason; it feeds his pride, and so it is wrong to cater to his pride. Listen to God’s servant Paul: “Casting down imaginations (the Greek word is “reasonings or logical arguments”), and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). Paul says that human reasoning exalts itself against the knowledge of God. Most intellectuals deny the authority of the Word of God. These human reasonings must be cast down and this only happens when the human thoughts are brought into obedience or subjection to Christ. The captive of sin will never become a captive of Christ until he surrenders and bows in lowly submission at the feet of Jesus.

Man’s thoughts must be brought into submission because whenever the natural man thinks in relation to divine things he thinks wrong. It is not for nothing that the wicked is told to forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord Who will have mercy upon him and will abundantly pardon” (Isa. 55:7).

Some Human Thinkers

Naaman is one who came seeking a cure for his leprosy and said: “Behold I thought he would surely come out to me” (2 Kings 5:11); but he thought wrong. In Esther 6:6 we read: “Now Human thought in his heart, to whom would the king delight to do honour more than to myself?” But he was wrong too. The rich man in Luke 12:17 thought within himself: “What shall I do? Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years,” but, oh how mistaken he was! The great apostle Paul (and if there ever was an intellectual, he was one) said, “I verily thought with myself I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth” (Acts 26:9). But he learned to repent bitterly of that folly. All these were wrong, and you see why, don’t you? It is because they all had self in view; “To me,” said Naaman; “to myself,” said Haman; the rich farmer thought within himself, Paul said, “I thought with myself.” Man loves self, and none more so than the educated one. Scripture does not say in vain that “knowledge puffeth up.”

The latter is seen in the delight intellectuals usually find in the use of big words. I came across these recently in a religious magazine… “The world’s esuriency”, and the “thaumaturgic Christ.” Would you believe it? If it weren’t so sad this polysylabalistic bombastic verbosity would be ludicrous. It is of course meant to magnify the minister, while it minimizes the message. It is said that someone went to hear a famous London orator in the morning and came out with the comment: “What a wonderful speaker!” At night he went to hear Spurgeon preach and exclaimed: “What a Saviour Jesus is!” Oratory serves no higher purpose than to hide the cross behind the preacher, and every faithful servant of Christ should sedulously seek to avoid this. I was told many years ago that “when I wanted to say spade, to say spade and not an oblong instrument employed in the pursuit of agriculture.”

Needless to say the use of vain words is strictly condemned in Scripture by precept and by example. “Never man spake like this Man” (John 7:46). The Pharisees in their intellectual pride asked of Him: “How knoweth this Man letters, having never learned?” (John 7:15). Jesus had not been to the seminary either; He had had no formal education, so how could He know? The answer is found in that wonderful verse in Isaiah 50:4: “The Lord God hath given Me the tongue of the learner (as it should read) that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary; He wakeneth morning by morning; He wakeneth Mine ear to hear as the learner.” Our blessed Lord learned God’s Word as He walked daily in communion with Him; He learned it in the school of God; and that’s the place for every child of God to learn God’s Word and God’s mind; not in a seminary. That’s where the disciples learned and men marvelled at their wisdom and their boldness, and they recognized that they had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13). They were unlearned and ignorant men; that’s the kind God delights to use and mainly does use, because there are so many of them. God uses the weak things of the world to confound the mighty, and the foolish to confound the wise. God, of course, often uses highly educated believers as well, but such higher education is totally unnecessary for power and blessing in the ministry of the Word.