One of my favorite books is Love your God with all Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul by J. P. Moreland. In his book, Moreland offers and encourages the use of tools for the believer to intellectually defend his/her beliefs. Tools such as logic and reasoning help us in the process of spiritual transformation as we use our minds as a filter by which we evaluate the information that the Christian community offers. This was a new concept to me and as I read the book I couldn’t help but feel frustrated that I was never taught this in my IFB experiences.
As a result of this understanding I thought it would be a good idea to include a post about the intellectual component to our faith and the issues that the IFB have with intellectualization or using our minds to worship and draw closer to God.
IFB churches typically teach a kind of intellectual suppression where free thought and open mindedness is discouraged. There is an unfortunate mind set where philosophical questions are at best not understood and at worst not welcome.
When it comes to thinking about the faith, the IFB teaches that thinking is not appropriate. I remember distinctly my churches teaching us that we need to follow what is being taught by the pastor. We were discouraged from thinking about our faith and the Word in ways other then what the IFB taught. Even now as I enjoy knowing God on a more intellectual level I can’t help but feel secluded from the typical church goer who seems to be simply following a predetermined set of beliefs.
The IFB churches I attended also discouraged a sort of emotional response to spirituality. Suppress your emotions and intellect and experience God and the Word on an entirely spiritual plane was the message taught from the pulpit. I remember trying to have discussions with my Sunday School class or parents and being told that we just need to “follow it by faith”.
That was never good enough for me. I feel a certain sense of loss when I think about experiencing God and the Word on a strictly spiritual level. We are more then just spiritual beings. We have a mind, intellect, body and emotions. I believe that God wants us to use them all to experience, worship and draw closer to Him. The IFB would have us be only spiritual beings. To focus only on the spiritual, in my opinion, is to mock the creator and sabotage our full potential for experiencing Him.
For example, I feel extremely close to God when I study or am surrounded by nature. God’s creation draws me close to Him as I think about the miraculous act of life and creation. The awesomeness of His power is intellectually tantalizing to me and it helps me gain a sweeter appreciation for Christ and the work of Creation. If there were no church or formal worship I could still experience God in a way that is uplifting and amazing. Trying to tell IFBers this is met with what amounts to hysteria as they consider the idea of experiencing God in a way that is counter to their way of thinking.
The physical realm brings on a certain spiritual response for me. The IFB teaches that this is wrong and that truly experiencing God is only done in the context of a local IFB church and in the way that they teach.
I remember sharing my thoughts about this topic to an IFB friend. I told him that I grow and mature spiritually as a result reading scientific books that teach me about creation and the wonderful physical processes of nature that sustain life and the awesome power this reflects in the creator. I explained that, as a result, science IS spirituality for me because it allows me to experience God in a unique and appreciative way. Unfortunately, all he knew to do was warn me about neglecting the Bible and that spiritual maturity could really only come from reading the Bible and praying. He admonished that I use the KJV and become a member at a “local Bible believing, Bible preaching church” (in other words an IFB church). It truly was beyond his comprehension to think of spirituality in the context of the emotional/physical.
To me, spirituality is so much more then our just our spirituality. It’s unfortunate that the IFB is so closed off to the greatness that lies beyond their belief system. It’s cultish and abusive to advocate the neglect of other areas of our lives and focus only on the spiritual.