This is the final instalment in my Christianity Is… series. If you want to catch up on what I’ve written so far, you can find the introduction here, Christianity Is…Pure here, …Physical here, …Emotional here, and …Purposeful here.
This being the final post, the idea of how this topic fits in with the rest has come up a few times now, but I want to start by clarifying exactly what I mean when I say that Christianity is intelligent. What I emphatically don’t mean is that Christianity is only for academic people. Of course there’s a place for academic study within Christianity, but the topic in this case is far broader than that. This is about the need for an understanding of our faith that can support all the other aspects that I’ve written about already.
What sort of understanding am I talking about? It falls into two categories: understanding exactly what it is that we say we believe, and understanding why we believe what we do. I’m hoping that the need to understand what we believe is self-explanatory, but that doesn’t make it any less important. A good understanding of what it is that we believe, based on the Bible, the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and the wisdom of Christians around you, is what will allow you to build up a strong sense of right wrong, to understand God’s will and his purposes in the world, and to be able to give non-Christians a good idea of what Christianity actually is.
Understanding why you believe it is also important, and it’s one that I feel it’s important to bring a bit of Biblical weighting behind, as it’s not necessarily as intuitive as the first form of understanding. Before I do though, I just want to say that, as someone who grew up in a Christian family, learning what Christians believe was easy for me, as I was taught that by my parents and Sunday school teachers. Understanding why I believed that was a more personal thing, and it was one of the most important factors in ensuring that I remained a Christian. To put it bluntly, if you don’t know why you believe what you do, then that belief is in danger of becoming very fragile very quickly.
Peter instructs us, in the first of his letters, to ‘always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have,’ and to do this with ‘gentleness and respect’ (1 Peter 3:15). In the context of the chapter, I think that the point that he’s making is that our actions – the outworking of what we believe – should make an impression on people. Christians living authentic, Christ-like lives should make a difference. However, it is not enough to make an impression if you can’t tell people why you’re living differently.
At the heart of this is understanding the gospel message. I’d imagine that every Christian has a slightly different reason for why they believe what they do, but at the heart of all of our lives has to be the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and the message of good news that he brought to earth with him. This is the news that God desires freedom for everyone, whatever their gender, ethnicity or social status, and that he has made a way for us to have that freedom at no cost to us, but at great cost to himself. And it is that remarkable truth, and the amazing, incredible loving grace that accompanies it, that draws us to God and sparks that hope within us. Jesus is the cornerstone of our faith, and to understand what or why we believe what we do, first we have to understand what it was that he came to do.
To do this, we need the Bible, with its account of his life and teachings, and with all the other writings that come together to give us the fullest, most accurate picture of the character and actions of God that we have, and we also need a relationship with the living Jesus, so that we can come to know God himself, to learn what he likes and dislikes, and what he wants to happen in our lives and in the world around us.
This is the intelligence that Christians need – the knowledge of who Jesus is and what he has done for us.
There’s also value in terms of ‘rational argument’ when it comes to defending or explaining Christianity. Paul ‘reasoned with’ some of the people that he came across in his travels (Acts 17:2). In the instance of that passage, Paul was showing the Jews why Jesus was the messiah based on their own Scriptures. What is clear from the ministry of Paul and the other apostles is that there isn’t just one way of talking to people about Christianity, but reasoned, intelligent conversation was one of the methods employed. Today, people can become Christians based on reasoned conversations about topics like science and history, and the way that those fields point towards God. It’s definitely not the only way of talking to people, but it works for some, and there are definitely people who are gifted in that kind of communication. What is important is that Christians don’t run away from rational argument, in doing so weakening their ability to respond to such challenges.
At this point in the other posts I’ve said how the aspect in question relates to the other four, but as this is the last topic it’s intersections have already been talked about in the other posts, so I’ll just let you go back and read them to find out how it relates to purity, the physical aspects of Christianity, emotion and purpose.
To wrap up …Intelligent, then. The most important thing to take away from this is that we Christians need to understand what we believe, and why we believe it, and the core of both of those issues lies in the gospel message of Jesus.
And that’s where I want to leave this series. At the heart of everything that makes Christianity what it is is Jesus’ sacrifice and his teachings that led up to it. If you’re a Christian, then I can’t stress how important it is that in everything you do, in every area of your faith (and I’m talking to myself with this as well) that you don’t lose sight of this. If you’re not a Christian, but you want to learn more about faith, then there is no better place to start than reading Matthew, Mark, Luke or John (the first four books of the New Testament, all available for free at sites like www.biblegateway.com), and, if possible, asking a Christian that you know any questions that you have after this. If you have any sort of desire, then don’t sit and do nothing about it, because you could be missing out on the most amazing truth that has ever existed in our world.