Battling With the Secular Intellects


Written by Christy Bustaitis-Ritner for Biola University's Connections, Vol. 9. #3, Spring 1995.


The Apostles’ Creed. Although it isn’t a regular on your reading menu, we still refer to it today to clearly articulate the foundational beliefs of our faith. Unfortunately, over the past 100 years, the steel, wrecking ball of secular-based intellectualism has continued to swing back and forth, undermining our faith’s foundation and challenging us to wake up and participate in the battle for the mind, and, subsequently, the security of our “I believe in God the Father Almighty…”

Of course, intellectualism, when it is based on the biblical articles of our faith and correct logic, is a powerful weapon not only in defending our faith but also in pursuing the kingdom of God as a true source of reality and knowledge in our lives. “The question, however, at the heart of intellectualism,” states Dr. Dallas Willard, professor of philosophy at University of Southern California and noted author and lecturer, “is: Are our fundamental beliefs in the same category as, let’s say, the fact that the earth goes around the sun? According to the world’s academics and intellects: The basic articles of our faith as identified in the Apostle’s Creed do not fall within the domain of knowledge. They are categorized outside the arena of knowledge.”

There was a time when biblical doctrine was considered a valid and comprehensive source of knowledge similar o the American Medical Association’s authority for the field of medicine. “However,” Dr. Willard states, “in 1829, William Sumner, a Yale social sciences professor in today’s academia term, declared that the teachings of Christianity or any other religion were irrelevant to research.”

The president of Yale at that time – Nole Porter – questioned him, but did not fight Sumner on this proposition. “This was a powerful advancement for the secular society in the arena of truth and knowledge because from that time on, in the field of academics, the Bible, thus God, was defined out of existence!” Willard asserts.

And, the Scopes Trial of 1929 – the so-called “Monkey Trial,” did for the public generally what Sumner had done for academics – “proving” the Bible and the Christian religion to be irrelevant to the world of science and research. Since then, secular intellectualism has gained overwhelming momentum, and any revival towards a biblically-based philosophy of research, science or academics has been mainly limited to the student-life side of academics, but “has not touched what is being taught in the classroom,” Willard adds.

For an illustration, “If scientists in the Christian academic world will not even hypothesize how Lazarus’ physiology could have changed when Jesus raised him from the dead, how can we ever expect the secular scientists to do so?” asks Willard. “Unless we believe the kingdom of God is real and knowable, and we interact with it in our actual existence, we are left to struggle on our own, living merely human lives. Unfortunately, we, as Christians, many times believe the secular intellectuals instead: If the knowledge is not tangible – if we can’t see it, taste it, touch it – it is not real.

“But even what or who you reach out to for help is guided by what you believe. If you believe when you dial 911, you will get help, you’ll call. If you believe when you pray to God, He’ll answer you, you’ll pray. For biblical faith is a kind of knowledge – it’s a knowledge of the invisible world,” Willard affirms.

To help us absorb this knowledge into our hearts, Willard encourages, “begin to read your Bible as if it were written to you about your life.

“Also, set out to learn the basics of logic. The Bible and faith are completely logical – Jesus was a great rhetorician, who could use logic to outsmart any of His opponents. As you cultivate correct thinking, God and your faith will become very real to you, and you’ll be able to see through the reality that the secular intellects perpetually create.”

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DWillard.org is co-sponsored by the family of Dallas Willard, Dallas Willard Ministries, and FiveStone.