The Thinking Christian
A Poem by Mike Garner
Loving God with the mind
Contemplating God’s greatest work
Image bearing humanity
I will begin with myself - I am a human being
Searching for that image that likeness
I am alive, a being – so is God
Theology is always ontological
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”
For many in the world of Christianity the formation of a title with the words intelligent and spirituality would engender a distraction as though a misnomer was at play or at least an oxymoron. This is an unfortunate perception because spirituality without the presence of intelligent thought is a fickle exercise in seduction, a self-deception, and voids any authorial dependency upon an intellectual approach to scripture and life. This state of affairs allows unquestioned statements to pass for wisdom, and the erratic quaking’s of physical response to indicate ‘spirituality’.
To truly be spiritually attuned to God is to embrace wisdom
Intelligent spirituality is an awakening from death, from darkness, into life and light. Intelligent spirituality is the incorporation of mystic and intellectual into a flowing synthesis of knowing; knowing God and humanity, understanding reality, adept at scripture, and always exhibiting a desire to learn about everything. The person displaying intelligent spirituality longs for the constant application of theology to every aspect of life in the present and all of history. Intelligent spirituality is to face reality and bear the burden of reality as an agent of God’s redemptive work in the earth.
Any spiritual practice that abandons intelligence for feeling, for communicating the transcendent through ceremony, is simply void of intelligence, because intelligence is meant to engage reality, the present moment - with the vigor of articulated truth. Transcendence brings us nothing, it is beyond us - only the practical application of spiritual living that meets the physical reality offers us any change or benefit. Intelligent spirituality always seeks truth in all matters and is not subject to the ideological powers of symbols, ceremony, or state institutions. Intelligent spirituality is intricately produced from the study of scripture for the sake of all humanity. It is expected that all God’s children would grow in grace and the knowledge of Jesus. God does not desire that his (peacemaking) children remain ignorant.
Education and Life Experience
God chose Moses, formed Moses’ life, and called Moses who was educated as an Egyptian, seasoned with age, and lived life within three different cultures; Egyptian, Hebrew and Midianite. When Jesus’ uneducated disciples were failing at understanding the full impact of his life, he chose an educated Pharisee to live out the life that for Jesus had been cut short. Paul was an older man, a man of multiple cultures he was a Jewish person, educated like a Greek, and a citizen of Rome. Paul also depended upon the educated to read his letters publicly and teach those who were not privy to education. The finest of the prophets, like Jeremiah, were educated persons. To whom much is given, much is required.
I was speaking with a student from a local Christian university. He was majoring in social justice and studying environmental justice. When he shared this with me I laughed, smiled, and said, “Now that is a definite misnomer.” I was simply aghast at the implications of such thought. Justice is a relational word in scripture, it is applicable to people. People can ‘do justice’ and act with ‘mercy’ as they walk humbly with God. The abuse of our environment is always a matter of failed justice in human affairs. You cannot provide healing or protection for the environment without the application of justice in human affairs.
An intelligent spirituality in relation to such an erring title as ‘Environmental Justice’ presupposes that the title is misleading and unhealthy for spiritual development. Shall we deliver justice to the environment? The scripture clearly associates the connection of humanity’s ethical and moral behavior with the ground. The failure in Eden left us to inherit a world with thorns and thistles. Hosea cries out that the shedding of blood is so common in the land that the land itself responds with a lack of life.
Therefore shall the land mourn, and everyone that dwelleth therein shall languish, with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven; yea, the fishes of the sea also shall be taken away.
Not only do we destroy our living environment through acts of greed, it is God who has created the world in such a way that our moral behavior is reflected in the earth. Achieving justice is always first and foremost a matter of healing human relationships. Further Justice is set in poetic parallel lines with righteousness and the two are inseparable. The practice of the prophets is to also set the poor parallel with the word righteousness. You cannot heal the environment without restoring the relationship lost between the powerful and the powerless. This is a matter of justice. God is the healer of the land and this occurs only as humanity lives in merciful and just relationships with one another, especially in matters of land and economics.
The Spiritually Intelligent
A spiritually intelligent person knows that the healing of the world begins with the healing of human relationships between culturally distinct groups, between the rich and the poor, and healing is a matter of justice. Justice as a theological practice is not penal oriented but restorative. Justice in theological use is mindful of the systemic structures of evil present in all institutions. The surrender of the finer human attributes of love, compassion, mercy, redemption, reconciliation, and sharing to institutional rules is to lose our humanity.
Justice does not, in our world, work its way down from the top to the bottom and God is not found in the halls of power. Rather, God is found where injustice has caused the most harm. The spiritually intelligent know that bringing human touch and a listening compassionate ear to the poor is to experience the harmonious presence of God’s love. It is a spiritual act to educate and empower the poor. It is a prophetic act to advocate on their behalf. Spiritual intelligence seeks to liberate the poor by creating an environment of sharing and communal flourishing.
A spiritually intelligent person is always compassionate and practices readings of scripture from a lens of compassion rather than a legal lens. Spiritual intelligence refuses the keepers of doctrine to interfere with the freedom of reading with morality as applicable to scriptural claims inconsistent with the heart of scripture revealed in the canon (the canon within the canon).
A person maturing in spiritual intelligence experiences moments of deep intellectual catharsis. These revelatory moments overcome the mind with God’s view on reality and provide clarity of vision. These times enable confidence in the reasoned speech of the recipient and are empowering to the soul. This spiritual experience is the product of learning to love God with one’s mind through constant contemplative thinking, waiting and searching. All of life is an opportunity to learn from God and interpreting life in this manner accrues to spiritual intelligence. It is born of an awareness that God is always watching, a consciousness of divine presence even when absence of God is experienced. Intelligent spirituality refuses to release God from the forefront of all thought at all times. The spiritual intellect produces an indomitable faith.