The Benefit of the Doubt

A blog about Dialogue, Doubts, and Christian Faith ~Travis Dickinson~

An invitation to the intellectual pursuit of God

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“Love the Lord your God with…all your mind” ~Jesus

The Command to Love

Jesus commands us to love God with all of who we are—our hearts, souls and minds (Matt. 22:37). One might find this as a command problematic since love isn’t the sort of thing we can turn on or off. When something is lovely, we experience loving feelings and affections toward that thing. And when it is not, we don’t.

But this of course assumes that all Jesus had in mind was the mere feeling of love. What seems more plausible in context is that Jesus was not dictating certain feelings we ought to have but dictating a certain approach. He was telling us that we ought to turn our affections, the deepest part of us, and our minds toward the relational pursuit of God.

I think we have at least a grasp of what it means to pursue God with our hearts and affections. Most Christians regularly pursue God in an impassioned way each week in a worship service. It’s perhaps less clear, but I think we have an idea of what’s involved with pursuing God with our souls. But I don’t think we have the first clue what it means to love God with our minds.

Pursuing God Intellectually

I want to suggest that loving God with our minds is to pursue God intellectually.

Okay, but what does it mean to pursue God intellectually? The picture that I’d like to paint is one where we bring our deep and difficult questions, our doubts, and our intellectual struggles into our pursuit of God. We need to think of this as a normal part of discipleship.

Unfortunately, we are not often encouraged to pursue God in this way. It is as if once we come to Christ, we thereby have it all figured out. But none of us have it all figured out. We have questions, or we just don’t grasp something and don’t even know what questions to ask. But then we struggle and we are not afforded the space to genuinely struggle with deep and difficult questions.

Skepticism?

I’m not recommending that we become skeptics always asking “why?” no matter what is said. This isn’t the proper posture. The proper posture is more like two people in love. When we fall in love with someone we tend to be intensely curious about that person. We want to know EVERYTHING! In fact, from the outside, this intense puppy-love curiosity is downright sickening. The two lovers will stare into each other’s eyes and want to know everything. This intensity has a tendency to wear off a bit but a marriage is in big trouble, in my view, if the spouses have lost all interest and no longer about the other. This is where two married people can live in the same house, do life together, and yet find themselves suddenly not knowing the other.

Perhaps an even better analogy is children. In fact as Christians, we are called to be like children (Matt. 18:3). People often picture a so-called “child-like faith” as an unquestioning and blind faith. But I think people who think this must not spend much time with children. Children are constantly questioning, constantly wondering! But again, children are not typically skeptical. They naturally wonder at the world and are filled with curiosities about how things work. Adults often get stuck in the grind and allow life to go mundane. We have wondrously amazing things all around us and we yawn as if they are familiar.

Not so with kids. Kids are curious. They ask questions. But when my kids ask me these crazy awesome questions about life, I never get the sense that they are trying to trip me up or usurp my authority. In fact, they are coming to me precisely because I am an authority in their lives and because of their love for me. They (for some reason) think I might be able to shed light on their curiosity.

This, it seems to me, is a beautiful picture of the way in which we should approach God intellectually. We pursue God with the deep and difficult questions precisely because we want to know God better. It is precisely because of our intense love for God that we wonder at various aspects of life.

It Ain’t Easy

Now, as adults, sometimes our questions are of a very serious nature and they may be very much a painful struggle. We want to know whether some terrible tragedy provides compelling reason to think an all good and all powerful God does not exist. We want to know why God feels absent when we want or even need him to be present. We may struggle with certain moral constraints that impinge on what we perceive as our happiness. None of this is easy, but none of this is outside pursuing God or the discipleship to which we are called.

In one sense, when we consider the fact that we are attempting to know God very God, the transcendent ground of all reality, it seems that it absolutely should be difficult. We should find ourselves running up the limits of human cognition all the time. Anyone who hand waves the problem of evil as easy (either for or against God) simply has not wrestled with this issue. Anyone who thinks that Scripture is straightforward on all matters (either for or against Christianity) has simply not wrestled deeply with the text.

Personally, I find myself time and time again far more satisfied by the answers Christianity provides with the deep and difficult questions of life. But I’m on that journey as we speak. Won’t you join me?

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2 Replies

  1. Dwight Ward

    Thanks for continually investing and challenging your fellow sojourners.

    Dwight Ward

  2. Matt

    Good thoughts. I appreciate your blog.