his is Part 2 of The Modern Church: Imperatives. Please read Part 1 at here.
The second challenge facing the modern church is the challenge of intellectualism. Inadvertently pastors are reinforcing the notion Christianity is anti-intellect. We’re labelling the use of intellect anti-faith, anti-Spirit and carnal. That is a troubling misrepresentation of Paul’s submission on faith and intellect. If at all, what Paul was advocating in his letter to the Corinthians was recourse to higher intellect – the type only God possesses. He said in effect God’s lowest IQ point is higher than Einstein’s. God’s foolishness is wiser than men. 1 Corinthians 1:25.
The first casualty of this anti-intellectual stance is our theology. Our theology has been robbed of intellectual depth. It’s why we have a lazy definition of the logos. Someone long ago taught that “logos” means “written word” and “rhema” means “spoken word” and the over-simplification stuck. But until you dive into the history of philosophy you can’t fully understand what John was alluding to when he said Jesus is the logos and that “all things were made by him; and without him was nothing made that was made.” John 1:3. The concept of the logos predates Christianity by 500 years. The guy who originally propounded the concept was an eccentric philosopher named Heraclitus (c.535-c.475). In the conception of Heraclitus the logos is the organising principle of the cosmos. The brilliance of John was the intellectual leap he made, stating that that logos is not just a principle but is in fact a personage. And that his name is Jesus. Without scholarship we can’t preach the full gospel.
We run into a similar problem with another one of John’s statements – 1 John 4:2: “This is how you can recognise the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God…” As young Christians casting out demons on campus we’d often ask the demon manifesting if Jesus came in the flesh! Of course the demon would say yes, Jesus came in the flesh, and that used to puzzle me. Because of the knowledge I have now, I realise that was a dead giveaway to the demons we didn’t understand scriptures, that we had no clue what we were talking about. What John was talking about was the heresy of docetic gnosticism. That heresy denies the bodily manifestation of Jesus, says it was a mere semblance the apostles saw. Which is why John wrote, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the word of life.” 1 John 1:1.
Gnosticism was the greatest threat to Christianity at the time of the Apostles. It still is. Only now it has morphed into other forms and religions, including New Age. When you hear people call themselves Jesus Christ that is Gnosticism manifesting – the Cerinthian heresy version. Cerinthian heresy says Jesus went to Egypt to learn the art of Egyptians. That heresy claims that the “Christ” is a consciousness that descended on Jesus at baptism but left him just before crucifixion. It says that consciousness can alight on other individuals. Almost all the prominent religions in the world are based on Gnostic doctrine. It’s permeated media, academia and literature. Those funny documentaries about Jesus on National Geographic or Discovery Channel, the DaVinci Code, the Gospel of Thomas – they’re all gnostic heresy. The heresy has a seduction. It says salvation comes from enlightenment, which is exactly what the serpent told Eve. The big point is, poor scholarship, poor theology.
Pentecostals in particular are very fond of poor scholarship. Our theology tends to be summaries. We specialise in fast food theology. In propagating fast food theology we end up breeding poor intellect in church. We somehow imagine intellectual docility is discipleship. We’re training people to suspend their faculty at the door of the church. But such people are a danger to the pastor. They will turn out to be yes men who will take anything the pastor says, irrespective of the position of scriptures. It’s so easy for the pastor to fall into error under such circumstances. Abuse of power becomes feasible and control becomes a temptation to the pastor.
There’s a reason Jesus went for critical thinkers like Paul. There’s a reason God raised graduates to become pastors. The Holy Spirit is an intellectual. If he’s not he couldn’t have influenced the writings of Paul. It would mean Paul is more brilliant than the Holy Spirit. An unthinking, uncritical and un-examining generation of Christians is a danger to their faith and a danger to their nation.
Poor scholarship affects the body. The church suffered when the issue of tithe arose because many pastors could not articulate the position of scriptures on tithing. The debate escalated into personal attacks and spiritual threats. And yet the Bible says we must always “be ready to give a logical defence to anyone who asks you to account for the hope and confident assurance that is within you. But do this in a gentle and respectful way.” 1 Peter 3:15 AMP. The people weren’t tithing from knowledge. They were tithing from fear. They didn’t understand the covenantal basis of tithing. They couldn’t distinguish legislative tithing under the law, from worshipful tithing by Abraham, from covenantal tithing by Jacob. Perhaps if the people had been taught New Testament giving many churches will not be in the dilemma they’re in right now. The standards of New Testament giving are higher than Old Testament standards.
The anti-intellectual stance of the church is creating a crisis of faith in the youth church as well. The kids can’t reconcile Genesis with science. For some reason there’s an unexamined belief science is opposed to God, which is really hogwash. Concerning Jesus Colossians 2:3 tells us, “In him lies hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” – be it nuclear physics, molecular biology, organic chemistry, quantum mechanics, computer science or cosmology… Truth is you can’t fully understand Genesis 1 and 2 without studying quantum mechanics and cosmology. The genius of God is that he wrote difficult science in prose, reduced it to folklore.
One of the things we should be teaching in Children’s Church is the Periodic Table. It’s a great tool for teaching Genesis. It explains how the elements in the early universe were formed. Don’t just conclude the Big Bang theory is wrong. That’s an ideological stance. That theory is one of the greatest proofs of Genesis. It proves the universe has a beginning, just as Genesis says. The Big Bang theory was a big debate in science, and the idea didn’t come from an atheist it came from a reverend father – a physicist named Father Georges Lemaitre. Every time you tune your radio and you hear cackles that’s part of the faint glow from the cosmic background radiation in the early universe. It’s the sound of Genesis. Those wild grainy dots on your TV… They’re partly static from Genesis. Science can’t be opposed to God. God created science. Some scientists are opposed to God no doubt – just as there are geologists who are opposed to God, and doctors who are opposed to God, and lawyers who are opposed to God, and even reverends who are opposed to God. But science can never oppose God. Science is the methodical discovery of God’s intellect, an exploration of his personage.
There are five conceptual manifestations of God in scriptures – God the Government, God the Compassionate, God the Financier, God the Commander-in-Chief and God the Scientist; And yet the first impression God wants us to have of him is that of a scientist. That’s the God we met in Genesis. He’s a creative genius. A 21st century church can’t be effective without scholarship. Let there be scholarship.
The last challenge tackling the modern church is with regards church and politics. The prominent thing here is the ill-preparedness of the church. That ill-preparedness manifests every election cycle. The church gets into the fray usually three months to election. The church never prepares, never plans long term.
The operative principle of the order of Melchizedek is that the church plays at the intersection of the priesthood and the kingship. We pray and strategise. The sons of Issachar weren’t stargazers or a spiritual enclave. They were analysts, researchers and strategists. They worked with data, analysed trends, developed anticipatory strategies. It’s why the Bible says the sons of Issachar understood the signs of the times. They understood political equations. It’s why they aligned with David. 1 Chronicles 12:32.
When it comes to politics the naivety of the church is troubling. When a politician graces a Christian convention you can be sure he didn’t come to listen to Hallelujah Chorus. He wants endorsement. He’s come to negotiate. He needs the numbers. But because the church has no agenda it ends up being a one-sided negotiation. Pastors are only too happy to have access to politicians. To what end?
Democracy is a game of numbers. The church never leverages her numeric value. Christians will rather pray people out of power than participate in politics. The Bible says that when a demon is chased out and he realises the place has been swept clean he goes and brings seven meaner demons. It’s a shame some Christians are still wondering whether to participate in politics or not. In 2019?! These were issues from thirty-five years ago.
I recall this particular incident from when I was in university. A Christian brother named Soji Omole ran for Students Union President. He was a charismatic and absolutely brilliant fellow, but the Christians had a huge challenge supporting him. And he needed them to win. They weren’t sure a Christian should participate in student union politics. They set aside a day to pray on the issue – the very day of the elections. They gathered in the sports arena. They finished praying at 6pm. The elections ended at 5pm. Soji lost but the Christians were happy they had prayed. Wonders!
How can righteousness exalt a nation when the righteous won’t participate in governance?
If we don’t encourage the congregants to participate in politics we may wake up one morning and find that the Bible has been declared hate speech. If you doubt look around.
In summary, a pastor must:
- Execute his individual mandate
- Be sensitive to context
- Preach sound theology
- Understand the political terrain
This concludes The Modern Church: Imperatives series.
If you’ll like to receive Jesus into your life please pray this prayer: “Father I acknowledge that I am a sinner, that Jesus died for me, that you raised him from the dead. Father please forgive me. I accept Jesus today as my Lord and my Saviour. Amen.”
© Leke Alder | firstname.lastname@example.org.An unthinking, uncritical and un-examining generation of Christians is a danger to their faith and a danger to their nation. Click To Tweet Science can’t be opposed to God. God created science. Click To Tweet The standards of New Testament giving are higher than Old Testament standards. Click To Tweet