By Ed Rybarczyk
Probably like me you know folks who openly proclaim, “Oh, yes, I’ve given my heart to Jesus!”
Yet, when you share a cup of coffee, they express ideas that clash with biblical teachings. Listening to them you discern that clash all the while they are agreeable, congenial, and even nice. Again, when it comes to how they live their lives and spend their energy, you discern an obvious disconnect. Or still more narrowly, when they talk about American society, or what plagues culture, or what kinds of things might heal our nation they suggest solutions that, again, break with biblical categories. They are comfortable with notions of governmental utopias apart from the existence and judgment of God.
What is going on? Increasingly, I am learning, they have given their hearts to Jesus but not their minds. Earnestly they want to connect with God through their emotions but they variously process reality apart from the character of God, the biblical teachings, and the wisdom of the Church. On Sunday they readily participate in worship. Yet when they live their private lives, when they vote, and when they articulate their understanding of morality, next to nothing of the identity of Jesus Christ or His words informs their mindset.
Jesus revealed what should characterize His disciples when He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,” Matt. 22:37 (NASB). His identity-framing command there in Matthew was taken directly from Moses’ own great Shema, “Hear (shema), O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might,” Deut. 6:4-6 (NASB). For centuries on end worshiping Jews had recited the Shema as their pledge of allegiance to God. So Jesus was saying, “with Me that ancient and central Shema-core abides: you shall give your entire self to God, including your mind.”
Frankly? It’s a daunting command. Give our entire self to God?! Give even our intellectual processing to King Jesus? That’s terrifying! Are we all called to earn a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies? Should we all be professional pastors? No, and no. That’s not what Jesus was saying.
What He was saying is that he commands the entirety of our identity. It’s rather terrifying – and that is how people in the Bible regularly respond to encountering God: in terror – that God is a totalizing being! He thinks He is the Lord of everything. We don’t get to say we believe in God and then nonchalantly commit crimes. We don’t get to say we enjoy worshiping God in corporate gatherings, but then live in a day-to-day reality that is cut off from the character of God. We don’t get to feel warm feelings about Jesus, but then indwell a worldview – an intellectual processing lens – that is divorced from biblical teachings. We don’t get to have Christian hearts and secular minds.
How’d we get here? How’s what I related above about intellectually disconnected believers even possible? Well, I cannot here unpack Western secularism’s history, but we should realize that that above-described and now-too-common dynamic of a heart-and-mind disconnect is rooted in the secular dogma that there are two kinds of truth. There is public truth and there is private truth.
Public truth is the kind of truth – we used to call it common sense – that “everyone recognizes and lives with regard to.” Private truth is truth that goes to one’s own opinions, dreams, and goals. Public truth is objective. Private truth is subjective. Public truth involves things like science and engineering. Private truth involves things like morality and religion. Public truth concerns what is. Private truth concerns what ought to be. Public truth is king. Private truth, that waif, is kept in the closet.
However, we should be mindful (pun intended) that science is not really so objective. When, during the recent pandemic we were told, “trust the science,” we were being cajoled to split private truth away from public truth and so to hand over the power of our own agency to “experts.” But the truth is? Science rests upon premises that it cannot itself prove. For instance, as A.I. scientist Marvin Minsky once put it, if “the human mind is just a 3 pound computer made of meat,” how can we possibly trust that human minds can solve the problems that best humanity? Or, if it is impossible to know True-Truth, why on earth do we trust the future of humanity to “experts”?
Still more? Who do you know who lives life based on raw science? Just who do you know who makes decisions that are one-hundred percent objective? No, the secular power-play now is that what used to be the most cherished things – religion, beauty, goodness, and morality – are relegated to the private domain. And so the most important things in life to all of humanity are no longer allowed in the public square. Now that’s a disconnect!
My friend, secularism has been around now for a solid two hundred years. Even emotionally sincere Christians have breathed in and breathed out – like water washing through a fish’s gills every single moment of its wet life – the intellectual liquid of secularism. And so – with the help of the educational system, the pervasive influence of pop-culture, and the power of the purse used strategically by politicians – secularism pervades most everything that goes to intellectual formation here in the West. Is it any wonder then that so many Christians do not do reality with the mind of Christ?
To remedy this heart-vs-mind disconnect I host worldview workshops for churches, youth groups, and Christian organizations. We think together variously about what is a worldview? What is a Christian worldview? How does a biblical worldview compare to a secular worldview? And what does it mean to have the mind of Christ? (1 Cor. 2:16).
Today we are living in an unprecedented era of intellectual darkness. That intellectual darkness spills over directly into moral confusion and darkness. Hence, it is time for believers to dig into their faith like never before. Help us, Holy Spirit, to have minds on fire for the risen Christ!
Ed Rybarczyk, Ph.D., is both an ordained minister and a retired History of Theology professor. He now produces and hosts the Uncensored Unprofessor podcast @ uncensoredunprofessor.com. He can be reached at [email protected].