We Need Sanctified Thinkers PART 2
The creative religious thinker is not a daydreamer, not an ivory tower intellectual carrying on his lofty cogitations remote from the rough world. He is more likely to be a troubled, burdened man weighed down by the woes of existence, occupied not with matters academic or theoretical but the practical and personal.
The great religious thinkers of the past were rarely men of leisure; mostly they were men of affairs, close to and very much a part of the troubled world. Neither will the sanctified thinker of our times be a poet gazing at a sunset from some quiet secluded spot, but one who feels himself a traveler lost in a wilderness who must find his way to safety. That others will later follow the path he makes will not be primary in his thinking. Later he will understand this, but for the time being he will be all engaged hunting the way out for himself.
To think well and usefully a man must be endowed with certain indispensable qualifications. He must, for one thing, be completely honest and transparently sincere. The trifler is automatically eliminated. He is weighed in the balance and found too light to be entrusted with the thoughts of God. Let but a breath of levity enter the mind and the power to do creative thinking instantly goes out. And by levity I do not mean wit or even humor; I do mean insincerity, sham, the absence of moral seriousness. Great thoughts require a grace attitude toward life and mankind and Cod.
Another qualification is courage. The timid man dare not think lest he discover himself, an experience to him as shocking as the discovery that he has cancer. The sincere thinker comes to his task with the abandonment of a Saul of Tarsus, crying, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” Thinking carries a moral imperative The searcher for truth must be ready to obey truth without reservation or it will elude him. Let him refuse to follow the light and he dooms himself to darkness. The coward may be shrewd or clever but he can never be a wise thinker, for wisdom is at bottom a moral thing and will have no truck with evil.
Again, the effective religious thinker must possess some degree of knowledge. A Chinese saying has it, “Learning without thought is a snare; thought without learning is a danger.” I have met Christians with sharp minds but limited outlook who saw one truth and, being unable to relate it to other truths, became narrow extremists, devoutly cultivating their tiny plot, naively believing that their little fence enclosed the whole earth.
An acquaintance with or at least a perception of the significance of what Kant called “the starry heavens above and the moral law within” is necessary to right thinking. Add to this a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures, a good historic sense and some intimate contact with the Christian religion as it is practiced currently and you have the raw material for creative thought. Still, this is not enough to make a thinker.
Man is a worshiper and only in the spirit of worship does he find release for all the powers of his amazing intellect. A religious writer has warned us that it may be fatal to “trust to the squirrel-work of the industrious brain rather than to the piercing vision of the desirous heart.” The Greek church father, Nicephorus, taught that we should learn to think with our heart. “Force your mind to descend into the heart,” he says, “and to remain there… When you thus enter into the place of the heart give thanks to God and, praising His mercy, keep always to this doing, and it will teach you things which in no other way will you ever learn.”
It is itself a cliché that the Christian faith is full of apparent self-contradictions commonly called paradoxes. One such paradox is the necessity to repudiate self and depend wholly upon God while at the same time having complete confidence in our own ability to receive and know and understand with the faculties God Himself has given us. That brand of humility which causes a man to distrust his own mentality to the point of moral diffidence and chronic irresolution is but a weak parody on the real thing. It is a serious reflection upon the wisdom and goodness of God to question His handiwork. “Does the clay say to the potter, What are you making?”
A religious mentality characterized by timidity and lack of moral courage has given us today a flabby Christianity, intellectually impoverished, dull, repetitious and, to a great many persons, just plain boresome. This is peddled as the very faith of our fathers in direct lineal descent from Christ and the apostles. We spoon-feed this insipid pabulum to our inquiring youth and, to make it palatable, spice it up with carnal amusements filched from the unbelieving world. It is easier to entertain than to instruct, it is easier to follow degenerate public taste than to think for oneself, so too many of our evangelical leaders let their minds atrophy while they keep their fingers nimble operating religious gimmicks to bring in the curious crowds.
Well, I dare to risk a prophecy: The sheep are soon going to become weary both of the wilted clover we are giving them and the artificial color we are spraying over it to make it look fresh. And when they get sick enough to leave our pastures, Father Divine, Mrs. Eddy and their kind will find them easy victims.
Christianity must embrace the total personality and command every atom of the redeemed being. We cannot withhold our intellects from the blazing altar and still hope to preserve the true faith of Christ.
From the book “God Tells the Man Who Cares” by AW Tozer