#GETBEYOND: “Faith is not intellectual”

Youth Specialties
July 27th, 2015

Well, if we are being honest… it is not intellectual.

At least it is not entirely intellectual.

When we try to make faith any one thing we put it into a box that both limits its abilities as well as its purpose. Faith is a matter of the head. But, it is also a matter of the heart and the hands. That however is now what we are talking about here. The problem with a lot of our modern faith is that the church has positioned itself against science and in some cases had developed a sort of thinly veiled pseudo-science subculture to fill in apologetical gaps. Unfortunately this has been going on for hundreds of years, some of the most notable instances being the church’s attempted silencing of Galileo, the rejection of Darwin’s work, Scopes monkey trial and most recently a refusal by many who are people of faith to engage in the findings dealing with climate change. Here is where I think we miss the boat and, as a faith, come across as anti-intellectual:


When we pretend that we are God we assume that our knowledge is infinite, final and completely authoritative. We bolster our observation, assumptions and paradigms as though they are infallible. Then when we do this, anything that challenges our paradigm, calls our understandings it into question or presents us with experience or knowledge that is contrary to our treatises we become defensive, angry and dismissive of net claims and evidence. This, of course, is the natural reaction when a challenge is made of an inflexible, concrete worldview. This modus operandi is also by nature intrinsically opposite to the scientific method which values question, experimentation and exploration.

We come across as anti-intellectual to others because many of us value a constant answer more than a better question.

So, do I think faith is anti- intellectual? I hope not.


I think the faith that Jesus taught was a faith of hard questions, not easy answers. Just look at his pedagogy when he taught the disciples and the crowds. Rarely did he just stand up and give them verbatim lists of do this and do not do that. He taught by asking hard questions, questions that did not have simple answers. He taught by telling stories, stories that did not always have one interpretation or application (truth be told he rarely interpreted his own allegories). He never gave a 5 tricks to a better life sermon or a 1,2,3 on how to best get to heaven. No, he left us with lots of questions, really good questions. Questions that we have chewed on for 2,000 years and will continue to chew on for a long time to come.

Embrace the questions, dismiss the easy answers and reclaim that we are not God.

Be thankful that we do not have to have it all figured out, and open ourselves up to a God who is still calling us to explore the unfathomable wonders of God’s creation.

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STEPHEN INGRAM is the Director of Student Ministries at Canterbury United Methodist Church in Birmingham, AL, a coach with Youth Ministry Architects, and author of “Hollow Faith and [extra] Ordinary Time.” ORGANICSTUDENTMINISTRY.COM

The #GETBEYOND series of blog posts are building toward the powerful conversations we’ll be having about the future of youth ministry at NYWC. Join Stephen and thousands of other youth workers at NYWC as we look to the future of youth ministry and wrestle with how to get beyond our discomfort of addressing these kinds of questions and frustrations from students. Ready to register? CLICK HERE

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Youth Specialties

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