Cease Fire on Scholarship: 'Christian Anti-Intellectualism Is a Curse'

Ignorance is Not the Tenth Fruit of the Spirit

Cease Fire on Scholarship – Education is Not The Enemy

Ignorance is not the tenth fruit of the Spirit. Education is not the enemy. This,  in spite of what many  Fundamentalists, Charismatic, and Pentecostals proclaim as they worship the alleged “anointing” instead of Jesus, and in spite of all the faux-witty pulpitisms about seminaries being cemeteries and the like. The reason we have so many personality cults and quasi-cults masquerading as local churches is because some charming person with a gift of articulation “feels something in his/her heart” and teaches it as gospel. Education may not be the essence of the river of life, but it does provide banks in which it may safely and beneficially flow. 

I wish I had a dollar for every time I have heard clichés like the following from preachers and teachers over the years[1]. I have heard every one of these slanders in my Christian experience, some many times. 

  •  “I can’t be bothered with theology and Scripture study, I hear God’s voice. He tells me what to do and preach from the Word.”
  • “Scholarship, Hebrew, and Greek aren’t important. We need the anointing and the presence of God.”
  • “We don’t need education, we need the anointing.”
  • “We don’t need teachers. We just need the Bible and the Holy Spirit.” Even the Bible says we should have no need of teachers.
  • “If having the Holy Spirit is not enough to lead me in biblical understanding, then what hope do I have?”
  • “We all can’t be scholars.”
  • “God is not a system. We don’t need systematic theology.”
  • “Scholars and theologians are part of the problem. We just need to take the Bible at face value.”
  • “Too much studying gets in the way of revelation. It stops the flow of God.”
  • “We need spirit power not intellect power.”
  • “Doctrine is secondary and just divides people. We want to emphasize His supernatural power and miracles.”
  • “All that’s important is relationship and the love of God. People can’t understand, and don’t want to be bothered with difficult issues of biblical interpretation. It just undermines their faith. They just need to be told what to do, and to know that God loves them and wants to bless them, after all, sheep are dumb animals that require shepherds.”
  • “The gospel is simple. Don’t complicate it with all that “learning.”
  • “We want to get the people in “touch with God.” We do that with praise and worship, not doctrine.”
  • “Don’t bother getting an education, or going to college, Jesus will be coming soon.”
  • “Exegesis=Exit Jesus”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why just “sincerely feeling something in your heart” does not establish the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

The comments above really trouble me, and are reasons among many why many the at-large Charismatic/Apostolic-Prophetic church (my tribe in the family of God) as well as other Fundamentalist/Evangelical-leaning expressions are in the doctrinal mess of neo-Gnostic nonsense, New Age metaphysics,  and other aberrations that they are.

The hostility against scholarship came to full bloom in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century at the dawning of the Pentecostal movement. Educated secularists began attacking the credibility of the Bible, and education became the enemy of faith. Being Pentecostal was considered equivalent to being a rube, a simpleton, an uneducated country bumpkin. In reactionary response, people of faith, particularly from the Pentecostal tradition, began labeling education as the tool of the devil, and “anti-Spirit.”

Though significantly diminished over the years, the prejudice against education and scholarship still persists today, and frequently raises its ugly head in the Blogosphere of internet commentary.

Spiritual health requires two oars on our kingdom boat: Word and Spirit.

Spirit-less and stale academics are useless and bring forth death. Sanctified ignorance is a dead end leading to aberrant beliefs and practices. Neither an ignorant sincere person nor a scholar without faith are beneficial to Christ’s kingdom. 

Anointed ignorance is not the tenth fruit of the Spirit. Presence-less, power-less, transformation-less “accurate biblical information” . . .  is useless.

Jesus is simple. The Bible is not. A four-year old can understand gospel basics. You do not need to be a scholar to effectively minister for Christ and to disciple others in the faith. However, to “teach the Bible,” and require others to conform their lives to what you teach, requires more than sincerity and a sixth-grade reading level. The latter is why we have cults full of “sincere” people.

Indeed, scholarship is not the essence of the river of life. However, what scholars provide are the banks of the river that assure what flows there is clean, and that navigation is safe.

Crucified and resurrected scholarship, born out of the new creation nature, as a gift from the Spirit, is as life-giving as any other quality or gift in the new creation.

I find it comically sad, and not the least hypocritical and disingenuous, for “leaders” and bloggers who read Bibles translated by scholars, who use reference tools written by scholars, who proclaim allegiance to a new testament written in bulk, by the best educated scholar of his day (Saul/Paul) to demean the very discipline that makes those resources available to them! I would suggest the Spirit of the Lord is not as education-averse as many would believe.

If our faith is so fragile that the opinions of unbelieving, unregenerate “scholars,” or divergent views from other believing scholars, are somehow a threat . . . well, that doesn’t say too much about the vitality of the faith we profess. If we end up in reaction, we will miss the blessing and benefit the redeemed Spirit-filled scholars bring to the body of Christ.

Too often, cheap shots at scholarship are nothing more than the carnal insecurities of leaders who are threatened by people who might be more gifted,  skilled, or informed in an area themselves. Controlling and insecure leaders would rather take pot shots at scholars who challenge their beliefs and practices, than change either. Kill (slander) the messenger . . .

Can I suggest that we call a cease-fire on scholars and theologians? Many times I have literally wept openly in thankfulness, as I have turned to my library, or clicked my I-pad and availed myself of resources that other men and women gave their lives to produce. The Spirit meets me, and overwhelms me with the awareness that I am partaking in the download of another believer’s life . . . their virtue . . . for me. Their labor . . . their cost . . . their sacrifice . . .  for a treasure on a bookshelf or a swipe of a finger.

I would like to suggest that tears of thankfulness for scholars and theologians are more appropriate than ignorant, insecurity-based, internet cheap-shots.

 

Copyright 2017,  Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, www.stevecrosby.org. Would you like to partner with us in distributing our materials and perhaps generate some income for yourself?  Please go to www.stevecrosby.com for details of our Affiliate program. This ministry is sustained by the freewill offerings of those believe in the message of a radical grace in a new covenant understanding. If this article has been a blessing to you, would you prayerfully consider making a contribution through our Paypal button to help? Stephanos Ministries is NOT a 501-c-3 corporation Click here to understand why. Thank you and God bless you

 


[1] These are literally things I have heard leaders teach. These are not rhetorical fabrications for effect.

29 comments on “Cease Fire on Scholarship: 'Christian Anti-Intellectualism Is a Curse'

  1. Steve, Don and I thank God for putting you in our lives. We have always been eager to learn, and now we have you to call on … a spirit-filled scholar! You know the word and the heart of God!

  2. Hey Steve, this is something I have often struggled with since getting more personal with God. The upper studies of theology always seemed silly and unimportant compared to relationship. However, as you said, scripture and study provides the banks of the relationship river.

  3. LOL Just dealt with that recently. My problem was that someone was overly complicating a simple truth which is a problem with scholars who are trying to impress rather than exhort/heal/help other believers. A humble, Christ loving scholar will always be a blessing! I am looking forward to your next teaching sessions. Keep the faith in humility!

  4. Bwah ha ha…anointed ignorance is not the 10th fruit of the spirit! Love it! And I totally agree with the above comment by Barbara! I told Butch the other day that you can say more in one sentence than most can in an entire sermon. There is such a problem with the discouragement of scholarship coming from leadership in that the saints in the pews are then not doing their job of “testing” to see if what they are being taught actually aligns with the word of God. You end up with a bunch of people who just swallow whatever they are fed. Gulp! I’ve heard people raving about what a good sermon they just heard and when pressed have no other explanation for it than “it was so anointed!” Whatever that means. Obviously leaders do not want people to study or their own ignorance and misinterpretation of scriptures would be revealed.

    • “anointed” is a word that seems used out of context in many Charismatic churches…it makes an interesting word study, but the clincher is the rarity of its use in the NT and the primary reference in I John saying you are ALL anointed!

      • You’re right, Tom. It’s a veritable fetish/mantra within charismatic circles. I talk about it in a section in our book on healing, how too much is made of too little. I am afraid some folks worship a psychic buzz they call the anointing, rather than Jesus in His person. It is sad, scary, and epidemic.

  5. May I thank you for me being able to benefit from the many years of your scholarship. I am the better for all your effort, dear Brother…..I am most grateful for your input the few years I have known you and how you are always-always, willing to answer my questions. I consider you my best (human) source for Biblical knowledge. Thank you!

  6. Hi Steve and thanks again. I believe there are a couple of things to consider. The first thing you have already written about is the rejection of theology, theologians, and education and I agree with you here. The second is when a denomination or a believer relies on the theologian and scholar as an equal or in place of the teachings of Christ and the apostles. Lastly, I believe we should all seek to be scholars when it comes to our personal study and not put so much weight on being taught by our teachers. As Peter said: Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior. And Timothy who wrote: Study to show yourself approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed rightly dividing the word of truth.

  7. Hi Steve – your post above sparked the below reaction in me. It is not directed at you by any means, but is rather a plea to the Body of Christ at large: if we say we believe the Bible, then why do we say that the Bible is the “Word of God”? The Bible says that Jesus is the Word of God, not itself (John 1). The reason we believe the Bible is the “Word of God” is because that’s what our leaders have said it is and that by diligently studying it, we can access eternal life (isn’t this the same mistake that the Pharisees made?). However, when you read the Bible for itself in proper historical and cultural context, something entirely different emerges. We find that in God’s infinite wisdom, He made Christianity to be based solely upon an actual spiritual relationship with the living Lord Jesus Christ and Him alone, not some book that wasn’t published in its entirety for at least 300 years after He died and wasn’t accessable to the “average Joe” for another 1500 years due to extremely high rates of illiteracy worldwide and the exhorbitant cost of books. Also, which would we rather have: a book about someone or an actual relationship with the person the book is written about? I’ll take the actual relationship any day. Now, can God use the Bible to speak to us? Absolutely. He can also use other Christians, movies, things in nature, and even non-Christians to reveal Himself to us (all of which I have personally experienced). But an actual spiritual relationship with the risen Lord Jesus Christ is non-negotiable as the single entrance criteria to everlasting life. I fear there will be many surprised and shocked Christians on the day they stand before Jesus and He tells them “Depart from Me, I KNOW you not!” They will be laughed out of Heaven for trying to quote Bible verses at Him to prove they deserve to be admitted to Heaven. The book isn’t the Person! And isn’t this why Paul suffered the loss of all things so that he might KNOW Jesus, not to write parts of a book? He also said that he determined to KNOW nothing but Christ and Him crucified. We’ve made the same error as the Muslims in that they believe their holy book (the Quran) to be God. That’s why they totally lose it and go ballistic (both figuratively and literally!) when somebody desecrates it. We need desperately to humble ourselves, repent, and discover Jesus as the “Author and Finisher” of our faith, not rely on reading a book every day according to some schedule or faithfully attending a Wednesday night Bible study or going every Sunday morning to a “church” service. God forgive us for being such arrogant, ignorant, and illegitimate sons and daughters of God for promoting a book over actually knowing the living Lord Jesus! OK, I’ll take a breath now… Kerry

  8. Besides, appreciating your insights/thoughts on this; Steve, I have enjoyed the aftermath of comments it has generated. Stimulating, others to engage. A healthy thing for the saints. Let’s hear it for all humble servants of His who are enriching others through the importance & blessing of scholarly teaching:
    Hip Hip Hurrah
    Hip Hip Hurrah
    Hip Hip Hurrah

  9. Steve, I don’t count myself as a theologian and am so grateful to men like Mr. Strong, Mr. Vines, Mr Greene … and so many more who have done the hard yards with such attention to detail and give the sense to so many Scriptural passages. Your message is a great reminder of what Paul was teaching us in 1 Corinthians 12 about the various parts of the body. We need each other.

    • Thanks Jeanne. You’re right. that’s the whole point. We need one another, including those who “labor” in the scriptures in a scholarly way. Indeed, we don’t all need to be scholars to be very effective in the kingdom. but we all should RELATE to scholars either personally or through their works.

      That is the essence of “one-anothering” . . . the body.

  10. Great blog! …”reasons among many why the at-large Charismatic/Apostolic-Prophetic church (my tribe in the family of God) is in the doctrinal mess of neo-Gnostic nonsense, New Age metaphysics, and other aberrations that it is.”

    I love this sentence for several reasons:
    1. I’ve never thought of my being in a “tribe”, and it expresses the idea so well…I happen to be (mostly) in the same ‘tribe’.
    2. “neo-Gnostic nonsense” describes what I recently discovered for myself in reading Ramm’s Protestant Biblical Interpretation…seeing how the Gnostics in the early church were not so much evil people as ones who believed they were given special knowledge hidden from the masses and not apparent in the plain sense of Scripture. Eureka! That is what some of the teachers are doing today…taking obscure OT passages and reporting that the Holy Spirit directly revealed a hidden meaning to them (usually in a ‘wilderness’ setting like Jesus and Paul!).
    3. “Doctrinal mess” is a good phrase as well. Right handling of Scripture is not difficult, but it is not enhanced by total ignorance of the original context and word meanings.

    • Thanks Tom. Sounds like our journeys are similar. I think it is criminal what folks do with obscure OT passages and their alleged “prophetic” insights of the same. So much nonsense would just stop if we were honest with ourselves and the handling of Scripture. Context and culture . . . context and culture . . .

      Ramm is great from a Protestant perspective. It’s a must have from my point of view.

  11. Sorry to come in late to the show but i really like this and i am keenly aware that we are living in a time that has swung the pendulum toooo far in the opposite direction. I am always calling Seminary = Cemetery because mine was but they dont have to be. I know you have been brought to us for this reason. It shall manifest!

    • Thanks. The issue isn’t seminary=cemetery. Seminary is a good idea. It means to be “seeded”, literally, semenary . . . it depends on the nature of the seed and the one doing the seeding! Yes. They can be institutions of death, but you are exactly right. They don’t have to be if the nature of the seed is good and the one doing the seeding is alive in Him.

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