Intellectualization Deception

One of my favorite books is Love your God with all Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul by J. P. Moreland. In his book, Moreland offers and encourages the use of tools for the believer to intellectually defend his/her beliefs. Tools such as logic and reasoning help us in the process of spiritual transformation as we use our minds as a filter by which we evaluate the information that the Christian community offers. This was a new concept to me and as I read the book I couldn’t help but feel frustrated that I was never taught this in my IFB experiences.

As a result of this understanding I thought it would be a good idea to include a post about the intellectual component to our faith and the issues that the IFB have with intellectualization or using our minds to worship and draw closer to God.

IFB churches typically teach a kind of intellectual suppression where free thought and open mindedness is discouraged. There is an unfortunate mind set where philosophical questions are at best not understood and at worst not welcome.

When it comes to thinking about the faith, the IFB teaches that thinking is not appropriate. I remember distinctly my churches teaching us that we need to follow what is being taught by the pastor. We were discouraged from thinking about our faith and the Word in ways other then what the IFB taught. Even now as I enjoy knowing God on a more intellectual level I can’t help but feel secluded from the typical church goer who seems to be simply following a predetermined set of beliefs.

The IFB churches I attended also discouraged a sort of emotional response to spirituality. Suppress your emotions and intellect and experience God and the Word on an entirely spiritual plane was the message taught from the pulpit. I remember trying to have discussions with my Sunday School class or parents and being told that we just need to “follow it by faith”.

That was never good enough for me. I feel a certain sense of loss when I think about experiencing God and the Word on a strictly spiritual level. We are more then just spiritual beings. We have a mind, intellect, body and emotions. I believe that God wants us to use them all to experience, worship and draw closer to Him. The IFB would have us be only spiritual beings. To focus only on the spiritual, in my opinion, is to mock the creator and sabotage our full potential for experiencing Him.

For example, I feel extremely close to God when I study or am surrounded by nature. God’s creation draws me close to Him as I think about the miraculous act of life and creation. The awesomeness of His power is intellectually tantalizing to me and it helps me gain a sweeter appreciation for Christ and the work of Creation. If there were no church or formal worship I could still experience God in a way that is uplifting and amazing. Trying to tell IFBers this is met with what amounts to hysteria as they consider the idea of experiencing God in a way that is counter to their way of thinking.

The physical realm brings on a certain spiritual response for me. The IFB teaches that this is wrong and that truly experiencing God is only done in the context of a local IFB church and in the way that they teach.

I remember sharing my thoughts about this topic to an IFB friend. I told him that I grow and mature spiritually as a result reading scientific books that teach me about creation and the wonderful physical processes of nature that sustain life and the awesome power this reflects in the creator. I explained that, as a result, science IS spirituality for me because it allows me to experience God in a unique and appreciative way. Unfortunately, all he knew to do was warn me about neglecting the Bible and that spiritual maturity could really only come from reading the Bible and praying. He admonished that I use the KJV and become a member at a “local Bible believing, Bible preaching church” (in other words an IFB church). It truly was beyond his comprehension to think of spirituality in the context of the emotional/physical.

To me, spirituality is so much more then our just our spirituality. It’s unfortunate that the IFB is so closed off to the greatness that lies beyond their belief system. It’s cultish and abusive to advocate the neglect of other areas of our lives and focus only on the spiritual.

Updated: October 9, 2011 — 8:43 pm


  1. Don,
    Your section that says [I believe there is a conspiracy among power-tripping fundamentalists to keep people at an infantile stage of faith development and dependent upon church hierarchy. when people see they have direct access to the divine, their unquestioned loyalty to church authority disappears.] brought up something that I have been thinking about. I was thinking about the correlations between the IFB and the Catholic church at the time of the Reformation. It was mostly in regards to the IFB’s stance on the Bible, but your comment about church hierarchy got me to thinking again. I wrote down my thoughts a few weeks ago and will just copy and paste them here:

    People like Luther, Tyndale, Calvin, etc wanted people to have a Bible in their own language. In that time, the Catholic Church set itself up as the sole authority regarding religion. People could not read the Bible in their own language, so they had to rely on the Catholic priests and bishops to tell them what the Bible said and what it meant. The IFB is the same way. Instead of teaching their people how to read the Bible accurately, they demand that people use a translation that they don’t understand and they will be the go-between if, for some reason, someone doesn’t understand what something means. The Holy Spirit is supposed to help us with our understanding, but they take that part of the Trinity out of the equation. IFB pastors will tell you that they do encourage their people to read their Bibles, but the only thing they recommend a person use is Our Daily Bread or something equal to that. So, people will read one or two verses, a life application story, and go on with their day thinking they’ve “had their time with God” for the day. I believe that this is a way to control what their people are learning and how they perceive what the Scriptures mean.

    In the time of the Reformation, copies of the Bible were burned. The Catholic establishment DID NOT want people to be able to read and understand the Bible in their own language. That’s why everything was in Latin. The same is true regarding the IFB today. No, the IFB doesn’t literally burn Bibles, but they do “burn” them through their preaching. If a person reads and understands the Bible for themselves, then they will see that what the IFB teaches is wrong. That happened with the Catholics way back when.

  2. Steve, the IFB avoids anything that would stir emotion, therefore they have a cold and shallow approach to God. One of their apologists says that God appeals to the mind, not the heart, so it is cerebral. Therefore they quench the Holy Spirit. On contemplation, I believe there is a conspiracy among power-tripping fundamentalists to keep people at an infantile stage of faith development and dependent upon church hierarchy. when people see they have direct access to the divine, their unquestioned loyalty to church authority disappears. there is a long history of persecution of contemplatives, charismatics and mystics within every faith tradition because they threaten the power structures.

  3. Hi Amber, welcome back! I come around very regularly and thought I had read em all, but somehow missed this one. I’m like you I would like every IFB/MOG on this planet to read this. My favorite line:

    “Trying to tell IFBers this is met with what amounts to hysteria as they consider the idea of experiencing God in a way that is counter to their way of thinking.”

  4. haven’t been over here in a while. You have some new posts up. I like this one and can think of about 1,000 people that need to read it lol. Thank you 🙂

  5. We saw this, and it bugged us; but we didn’t know what was bugging us. The adult Sunday school class at the IFB church we went to – was just another sermon – except with a powerpoint. ;o)) There was no discussion – no Q&A. Everything was a lecture – even when we tried having conversations with the pastor and his wife. Our oldest daughter heard one of these “conversations”/lectures with the pastor’s wife and told me after we got into the car, “Just tell her ‘hi’ and ‘bye’. Do not engage her in conversation.”

  6. I always enjoyed Dr. Bob III discuss current events from a Biblical perspective in our daily chapel at Bob Jones University. I thought IFB churches were strictly regulated by BJU. Of course, the churches are independent, but I didn’t think that it would be feasible for an IFB church to be so at odds with BJU that the school would ostracize the church and “excommunicate it”. What kind of a nut job church did you attend? Was it unholy to sing “How Great Thou Art” (when I in awesome wonder consider all the works Thy hands have made, etc.) Surely, verses 1 and 2 should be banished from their hymnal!! They must have strayed the 10 years I’ve been at the Salvation Army (which wasn’t much better). We just had a really good pastor (who left the denomination).

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