Christian Anti-Intellectualism: A Work of the Flesh: 'Scholars Aren't the Enemy'


Christian Anti-Intellectualism

Whenever I bring up the topic of the importance of culture and context in understanding the Scriptures, folks sometimes respond with: “What about new converts, or uneducated people?” Aren’t you putting the gospel out of reach of the “non-scholar masses?”


However, Christian anti-intellectualism is a work of the flesh just as much as sexual immorality. Only it is more dangerous as it has been given tacit approval under a form of perceived superior spirituality in large segments of the Body of Christ.

From the first second of a REAL conversion a human is indwelt by the Spirit and that is good enough for kingdom fruitfulness!

I have the privilege of working with a church where new converts are present in good proportion and have seen this with my own eyes. This blog is not rhetoric and philosophy for me. They are amazingly effective, transformed, and empowered, operating in the gifts of the Spirit, and they don’t know Genesis from Revelation . . .  in the beginning of their walk.

It’s because they are REAL, SPIRIT-BORN, SPIRIT-REGENERATED, SPIRIT-EMPOWERED, NEW CREATION converts. They’re not the phony-baloney “with every eye closed, every head bowed, no one looking around, the room dark, soft music playing, slip up your hand, embarrassed-of Jesus-from-the beginning, emotionally guilted and shamed into a “response,” biblically baseless, FALSE CONVERTS of western fundamentalism. The new converts I am around know Jesus and His love and power from the first second of the new birth.  New creation life . . .  works. Period. It’s just not seen very often in our punch- their-tickets-like-immigrants -at-Ellis Island theology of evangelism: “ca-chunk, next!”

New converts and “uneducated” folks can share the life and love of Jesus unhindered because they are partakers of the indwelling Spirit. New converts  haven’t had a chance yet to be filled up, and messed up, with “Bible stuff” that is rubbish. In many ways, they are freer and unencumbered to minister effectively, not having any “Bible doctrine” they have to “defend”  . . . yet!

First century apostles and new converts had an advantage we do not have: they shared common language, culture and context. They were not charged with trying to understand 2,000 year old writings from another time, language, culture, and context. To act as if this gap does not exist between ourselves and the Bible, and to downplay its importance, is simply naive.

Bible worship propagated by the imbalanced, out of proportion, and over-exposed pastor/teaching gift (defined as westerners do, inaccurately) is indeed, a grave and pervasive problem. However, if someone is going to presume to teach from the Bible, and expect others to conform their lives to what is being taught, then a 8th grade equivalent education (the real average in the USA) and the “anointing of the Holy Spirit” is NOT ENOUGH.

People  downplay the importance of scholarship when they read from Bibles translated by scholars and use resources written by scholars, just to preach from the pulpit: “You don’t need an education. We don’t need any of that, we just need the Holy Spirit and anointing.” It is true that everyone does not have to be a scholar, but it is also true that you may have to be willing to learn from one, or yield to one. Christian anti-intellectualism is disingenuous and hypocritical. 

What is really being done when Christian anti-intellectualism is pushed, is the perpetuation of ignorance often under the guise of some self-perceived form of superior metaphysical spirituality, and the setting up of a cult-control center where people are dependent on the authority of one person in the pulpit, rather than being equipped to challenge what that person in the pulpit might be saying or teaching.

Christian anti-intellectualism is based in fear of what one might not properly understand at a given moment. Folks don’t know how to be well in Jesus without having a “ready-answer” for everything. So when something comes along that challenges long-held beliefs and practices, it triggers a deep fear response:

“Oh no, I may be wrong! Maybe I was wrong in the past! Oh no, maybe what I believe today is wrong! Oh no, then how can I have any assurance if I don’t know that everything I believe at this moment is right?  Oh no, let’s double down on  what I understand today!” 

It is somewhat embarrassing to need to point out that the folks like that have their intellect as their God. The very thing they accuse scholars and intellectuals of. Jesus, me, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are all I need, is simply a lie based in insecurity, though it makes for catchy amen-moments from thundering fundamentalist pulpits. It is saying in fact: “I am an island of understanding, getting “direct downloads” from heaven,” and the like. It is a horrible spiritual posture that reflects the individualism of American/western evangelical, fundamentalist culture not any biblical precept or kingdom principle.

We are not islands. We are woven into the fabric of the eternal life of Christ, in the Eternal Bride of Christ with everyone who has ever gone before us, the present generation, and the generations yet to come.  We are one with each other in ways that can make some Protestants squirm. When we fail to read the great minds and scholars of previous generations, or our own, (especially from those without our own tradition!), to learn from them, to be challenged by them, and to adapt and change our beliefs and practices as the result of being educated by them, we are the proudest of the proud. We are saying to those who have gone before us: “We don’t need you.” It is an anti-incarnational, anti-Body, anti-unity, anti-church, relationally dis-integrated philosophical posture of an independent spirit . . . death grip on a KJV Bible not withstanding!

One of the greatest moments in my recent life happened when I wept my way through a book about the indwelling and the image of God written by a Greek Orthodox writer. Oddly, I am starting to weep as I write this, just thinking about that moment. I had an encounter with the Lord. (Yes, a metaphysical, supernatural, spiritual encounter in the manifest presence of Jesus. That’s for all my charismatic friends out there who think rationalism and the supernatural “things of the Spirit” are incompatible!). I had to put the book down several times as I was literally weeping so hard that I literally could not continue reading it. Weeping for two reasons: weeping in amazed joy over the depth of insight, and sobbing in deep, gut-level,  repentance for decades of Protestant Reformation-based arrogance (Those “smells and bells” people, how can they know anything? They are not committed to “the Bible” like we are  . . . [sic]) and for being one of the very people I just referred to in the previous paragraphs. It was me.

I have been forgiven, healed, and set free to learn from greater minds than mine–regardless of whatever label they may carry or uniform they may wear– the subjective fruit being that my own mind is improved as a result of partaking of those who have gone before me, as well as those currently around me. I am not afraid of what I do not know. Learning new things and abandoning old ideas, doesn’t make me nervous. It doesn’t mean I automatically reject what has been, nor swallow everything I read, nor jump on every passing fad that someone is espousing at the moment. But the reorientation of my inner life to a more accurate understanding of Christ and Him crucified, is a daily, moment-by-moment, living, reality for me. It’s a life of perpetual re-gospelization–free of the elitist, hyper-spirituality-induced cycles of elation and disappointment set up by the teachings I received in my Latter Rain/Charismatic youth. I am sincerely thankful for my spiritual cradle and the hands that rocked it, but I am glad I am out of it, and not rocking one myself.

Part of the problem for so many groups is that it has been years if not decades since they have seen any REAL converts in any significant numbers. Where new life is present, there is so much life and love there is no time for internal Bible squabbles. There is often so little REAL and HEALTHY DISCIPLESHIP occurring, so little REAL EQUIPPING of the saints, (rather eternal infancy and dependency on the preacher/teacher) that groups become calcified teaching centers or philosophy societies  around the Bible, with soul-attachments to personalities, rather than kingdom incubators for the transforming life and love of a Risen Lord, designed to fill the universe.



Stephanos Ministries

Stephanos Ministries

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18 comments on “Christian Anti-Intellectualism: A Work of the Flesh: 'Scholars Aren't the Enemy'

  1. Good stuff, Steve!

    I just posted an article which could be a companion to this, “The Law, Grace, and the Process.”

    Pentecost equipped His disciples to deal with their “audience” in a supernatural way: “And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born?”

    Thank you for your heart to bless and build the saints!

  2. Love this post – thanks so much for sharing it!

    The vital importance of real and true conversion – I cannot tell you how many meetings I have been in where the “selling” and “shaming” is pushed. Haven’t we learned that if a person(s) has to be talked into salvation, that they will need to be continuially talked into it. (I digress, but this gives the sad, but true picture of the weekly “sales meeting” so many congregations have become.)

    Isn’t this post about proper balance of understanding and experience?

    I see you explaining the importance of laying a proper foundation and then going on in learning/teaching to continue to grow and mature. How can we go and make disciples if there is no teaching, how can we grow in the understanding of the truth if don’t need to continue to learn?

    Thanks again – I appreciate what you bring, and what I am able to learn from you.

  3. Good stuff bro! Some of the works of the flesh are more manifest than others; so much depends on your perspective or bias.

    Paul wrote that “we have the mind of Christ” which implies a plurality to achieve it.

  4. The Dynamic of Christian Maturity
    Humility and Diligence in Biblical Discourse
    Alan Allison
    All Christians are at different levels of understanding and maturity. Admittedly we each came to Christ knowing little of His word. A perennial dynamic in the church is that there will be new believers continually added to our number. At the latter end of each of our journeys, some having done much study of God’s word, we pass on to our final reward. Yet, has there been a bible student that has completely attained an exhaustive understanding of His infinite word before passing on?
    Each generation, in light of the scriptures, must test and examine what they have been taught by the generations that went before them. This is how many saints such as Athanasius, Augustine and Luther have improved the universal church’s understanding of scripture.
    Who of us that have studied God’s word for many years have not discovered some error in our understanding that we held to be true for years? I trust that you will agree with me that it is this understanding of our own potential ignorance that must be admitted in order to have the humility to listen to one another. When a Christian is no longer willing to be questioned or taught because he thinks that he knows all there is to know about a certain teaching, even though he has not given due diligence to studying an opposing position, he is not being humble. This lack of humility regarding God’s word may also be an indication that such a person has little regard for what God’s word says, yet those whom God esteems are they that are humble and contrite in spirit and tremble at His word (Is 66:2). Who would argue that one can speak the truth in love and yet not listen in love to the concerns of his brothers to whom they speak?
    When an occasion of discourse arises, if our attitude is right, regardless of the whether or not we are discovered to be right or wrong, everyone is a winner. If I am wrong then I can upgrade my understanding. If I am right I am confirmed in my conviction and have become just a little better at presenting my view to the benefit of my brother.

  5. Well said, Steve. My journey out of religious bondage was greatly facilitated by others who shared their deeper understanding of culture, language and context in a couple of books that blew up the paradigm I was functioning in. I have also been brought to tears many times since by life giving, Christ revealing truth that works like eye salve to the scales that have been created by false teaching. Thanks for giving much of your life to Spirit led study of the scriptures.

  6. Pingback: Stephen R. Crosby: Christian anti-intellectualism is a work of the flesh just as much as sexual immorality… | Romania Evanghelica

  7. I agree with the main points of this article. Early in my walk with Jesus it hit me strongly “God gave me a brain to think with.” Until then I was following my Pentecostal and evangelical friends who taught you don’t need the Old Testament. Just the New testament and whatever more “mature” believers say. Since then it’s helped me to be able to question what others say is the “truth” and also discard beliefs I have and find out different

  8. Where you wrote: “They were not charged with trying to understand 2,000 year old writings from another time, language, culture, and context. To act as if this gap does not exist between ourselves and the Bible, and to downplay its importance, is simply naive.”

    There still seems to be, in my mind at least, that while those of Jesus time shared those contemporary traits they still would have been burdened with the sum of cultural influences prior to their time. Their “God” view would have been such and such and that Jesus vision, even though expressed within Jewish story, still went beyond their vision of how the God or gods behaved and what they required. It seems evident in the ways it appears that Jesus’ revelation of the Father was “missed” throughout the writings.

    To me this seems to make our time doubly difficult for seekers of biblical understanding as not only are we separated by culture and context we often inherit and retain the same distorted visions of the ethics of deity reaching well into the archaic and superstitious which keeps many from even asking the questions… out of fear.

  9. Woo! Good read. Encouraging and affirming, thank you. I was a theology major while at the same time attending one of the *the* most charismatic churches ever, so I can really relate! Reading, thought, prayer, and the Lord’s leading called me back to the ancient tradition. I keep the charismata, the mystical, the close relationship with the Spirit; but I have had to throw out what didn’t fit and leave the misguided movement behind. I think we can relate!

    I would like to know who that Orthodox writer was, and what the book was, please!

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