Two meditations on the cross 

Isaiah 53:1-5 (KJV)

Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

Meditation One 

Note: The first meditation is written as if Christ is speaking. Its first known use was by Lactantius in an Easter service during the Diocletian persecution. Some scholars claim it is the work of a desert monk, others a 2nd century prophetic voice, most retain Lactantius as the author. Debates over its authorship pales in comparison to its power and ability to transport the reader to the foot of the cross and reflection on Christ’ substitutionary work. 

“Does it please you to go through all of My pain and to experience grief with Me? 

Then consider the plots against Me and the irreverent price of My innocent blood. Consider the disciple’s pretended kisses, the crowd’s insults and abuse, and, even more, the mocking blows and accusing tongues. 

Imagine the false witness, Pilate’s cursed judgment, the immense cross pressed on My shoulders and tired back, and My painful steps to a dreadful death. 

Study Me from head to foot. I am deserted and lifted high up above My beloved mother. See My hair clotted with blood, and My head encircled with cruel thorns. For a stream of blood is pouring down like rain on all sides of My Divine face. Observe My sunken, sightless eyes and My beaten cheeks. See My parched tongue that was poisoned with gall. My face is pale with death.

Look at My hands that have been pierced with nails and My drawn-out arms. See the great wound in My side and the blood streaming from it. Imagine My pierced feet and blood-stained limbs. Then bow, and with weeping adore the wood of the cross. With a humble face, stoop to the earth that is wet with innocent blood. Sprinkle it with tears, and carry Me and My encouragement in your devoted heart.” [1] 

Meditation Two

Note: The second meditation is by St. Ambrose, a church father who is very well known. St. Ambrose writes on the mystery of the cross and how the cross changes everything. He reminds us that because of the cross, we are servants of the Lord and no longer slaves to the sin. 

“Oh the divine mystery of that cross! Weakness hangs on it, power is freed by it, evil is nailed to it, and triumphal trophies are raised toward it. 

One saint said: “Pierce my flesh with nails for fear of Thee.” He doesn’t mean nails of iron, but of fear and faith. For the chains of righteousness are stronger than those of punishment. Peter’s faith bound him when he followed the Lord as far as the high priest’s hall. No person had bound him and punishment didn’t free him since his faith bound him. Again, when Peter was bound by the Jews, prayer freed him. Punishment didn’t hold him because he hadn’t turned from Christ.

Do you also crucify sin so that you can die to sin? Those who die to sin live to God. Do you live for Him who didn’t even spare His own Son so that He could crucify our sins in His body? For Christ died for us that we could live in His revived body. Therefore, our guilt and not our life died in Him who, it is said, “bare our sins in His own body on the tree; that being set free from our sins we might live in righteousness, by the wound of whose stripes we are healed.” [2]



(1) Lactantius, Poem on the passion of the Lord

(2) Ambrose, Of the Holy Spirit 1.9

Bio - Lactantius

Lactantius (c. 240-. 320). Lactantius's writings have such a style and grace about them that he has been called the Christian Cicero. Lactantius lived thought intense persecution. He converted to Christianity, just before the publication of Diocletian's first "Edict against the Christians”, which began the Diocletian persecution. He subsequently lived in poverty according to Saint Jerome and eked out a living by writing until Constantine ended the persecution of Christians. Late in life was hired by Emperor Constantine to teach his son Crispus. Lactantius's writings defend the Christian faith and refute prevailing heresies. 

Bio - Ambrose

Ambrose (c. 339-397). Ambrose was the first Latin church father born into a Christian family. He devoted himself to studying the law and was rewarded by being appointed governor of the northern section of Italy in 370. Four years later, the people of Milan appointed him as bishop of their city. Ambrose faced down emperors while teaching the truths of Jesus on a weekly basis to the people. He did much to advance congregational singing, and composed an influential book on Christian ethics. Most notably Ambrose was instrumental in discipling a young Augustine. Without Ambrose we would not have Augustine.

Over the coming weeks, I am going to release additional material on the gospel of Mark. We will look at background, themes, theology and and the interesting style of mark’s gospel. This week we will look at the authorship of Mark and the evidence supporting John Mark as the author of the gospel.

Evidence for Authorship

Internal evidence: In the gospel no author is given. It is Anonymous.

External evidence: we have a first-century tradition claiming that John Mark is the author. John Mark was a companion of Paul (4:10) and later of Peter (1 Peter 5:13). Below is a selection of the evidence from the church Fathers. The evidence comes from the writings of the early church Fathers. Two second century sources uphold this position.

The Papias Tradition (c. 100–140)

The most important reference comes from Papias, (c. 100–140). Papias was the "Bishop of Hierapolis" which is near ancient Colossae, in modern day Turkey. The quote below is from Papias’ work, Exposition of the Oracles of the Lord, a commentary on the gospels written by Papias around 110 AD. The complete work has been lost but we have quotes from later church writers.(1) The references to Papias, come by way of Eusebius who quotes him in his work on the history of the church (c. 325).

As to the authorship of Mark Eusebius quotes Papias as teaching:

“The Presbyter used to say this also: “Mark became Peter’s interpreter and wrote down accurately, but not in order, all that he remembered of the things said and done by the Lord. For he had not heard the Lord or been one of his followers, but later, as I said, a follower of Peter. Peter used to teach as the occasion demanded, without giving systematic arrangement to the Lord’s sayings, so that Mark did not err in writing down some things just as he recalled them. For he had one overriding purpose: to omit nothing that he had heard and to make no false statements in his account.” (2)

The importance of Papias’ quote is his connection to the apostolic witness. Eusebius notes the connection.

“Papias thus admits that he learned the words of the apostles from their followers but says that he personally heard Aristion and John the presbyter. He often quotes them by name and includes their traditions in his writings” (3)

Eusebius goes on to shows that though Papias did not himself know the apostles personally, he was in direct contact with those who had sat under them, including Aristion, Polycarp, and the daughters of Philip the Evangelist.

So here We have a first-century tradition claiming that Mark accurately interpreted (or translated) Peter’s eyewitness accounts, turning Peter’s anecdotal stories into a connected narrative, though not necessarily in chronological order.(4)

 Anti-Marcionite Prologue (160-180)
A second-century sources also make similar claims. The Anti-Marcionite Prologue to Mark (c. 160 –180) identifies Mark as the author and links him to Peter:

“Mark . . . who was called ‘stump-fingered’ because for the size of the rest of his body he had fingers that were too short. He was Peter’s interpreter. After the departure [or ‘death’] of Peter himself, the same man wrote his Gospel in the regions of Italy.”(5)

Now, the date of the Anti-Marcionite prologues is disputed, with some scholars placing them in the third century but a majority date the writings to around 160-180 AD.

The odd statement about Mark’s ‘Vienna sausage’ like fingers may point to a reliable tradition, for only people who really know you get to call you “stubby fingers” and get away with it. (6) Or looked at another way, We may have here the first instance of a Christian inside joke, given Mark’s Gospel is short and little stubby fingers can only write so long. We get a short gospel (but that’s me just wildly speculating). In ether case, since someone who did not know him is unlikely to have invented let alone written such a solid smack of a remark. An “over share” such as that supports the authenticity of the tradition. The comment points to a reliable tradition given only good friends give nicknames like “stubby fingers” and then affirm the writing.

Next to corroborating the Papias tradition, we also find here are two additional pieces of information: that Mark wrote after Peter’s death and that he wrote from Italy. 
If written after Peter’s death, which has traditionally thought to have happened during Nero’s persecution of the church around 67-68 AD. Then the gospel was likely written around 67-69 AD. If it was written from Italy, likely Rome, then it was at the epicenter of persecution during the 60s AD. It can be concluded that it was written during a time of intense persecution. Following this line of thought it is reasonable to assume given time and place that it’s reason for being written involved the preservation of Peter’s apostolic witness and to encourage the church to be faithful disciples in persecution. (ie calling them to follow Jesus, and carry their cross to the end of the line, just like their Lord).

Further Testimony of the early church Fathers

Justin Martyr (ca A.D. 150) makes an indirectly connection to Peter as author of Mark’s Gospel. When he refers to Mark 3:16–17 where Jesus’ naming of Simon as “Peter,” and James and John as “Sons of Thunder” Justin even quotes a part of Mk 3:17 and cites his source as the memoirs of Peter.  (Dialogue with Trypho 106).

Irenaeus (A.D. 170) notes Mark recorded some of Peter’s messages after his death. "And after the death of these Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, also transmitted to us in writing the things preached by Peter." (Against Heresies 3.1.2)

Interestingly to this point, the Content of Mark's Gospel closely follows the content of Peter’s preaching. Parallels can be found between Peter’s sermon in Acts 10:36-41 and Mark’s Gospel.

Clement of Alexandria writing around, A.D. 180, about the same time as Irenaeus wrote something very similar except he states the Mark wrote before Peter’s death. "When Peter had publicly preached the word at Rome, and by the Spirit had proclaimed the Gospel, that those present, who were many, exhorted Mark, as one who had followed him for a long time and remembered what had been spoken, to make a record of what was said; and that he did this, and distributed the Gospel among those that asked him. And that when the matter came to Peter's knowledge he neither strongly forbade it nor urged it forward." (Quoted in Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 4.14.6-7).

Origen (ca. A.D. 200) "Secondly, that according to Mark, who wrote it in accordance with Peter's instructions, who also Peter acknowledged as his son in the catholic epistle, speaking in these terms: 'She that is in Babylon, elect together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Mark my son.'" (Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 6.25.5),

Tertullian (ca. A.D. 200), "That gospel which Mark edited may be affirmed to be of Peter, whose interpreter Mark was.” (Against Marcion 4.5)

Jerome (ca. A.D. 400), "Mark, the interpreter of the apostle Peter, and the first bishop of the church of Alexandria, who himself had not seen the Lord, the very Saviour, ..[Mark] published a gospel; but he narrated those things he had heard his master preaching more in accordance with the trustworthiness of the things performed than in order." (Jerome, Commentary on Matthew)

The consensus from Papias through Jerome, makes at least five important claims about Mark’s gospel:
1. Mark authored the gospel.
2. Mark was not an eyewitness.
3. Mark’s gospel obtained information from Peter likely his testimony and teachings.
4. Mark wrote after Peter’s death. Thus, sometime after 64 AD.
5. Mark wrote from Italy, likely Rome (during a time of intense persecution).

Conclusion: it is likely Mark in the pen (author) Peter is the eyewitness (Authority), the gospel was written to a persecuted people (audience) to encourage their faith by presenting the good news of their Crucified King enthroned on a cross (application).


1. Sadly his complete work has been lost. Today we only have scant fragments of Papias’s work from quotation made by church fathers. Sidenote: a reconstructed of those fragments has been compiled now called the fragments of papias. See ‘Fragments of Papias,’ in Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers vol. 1. (1885; repr. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2004)

2. Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 3.39.15 (translation from P. Maier,  Eusebius: The Church History (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1999), 129 – 30. 

3. Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 3.39.7; trans. Maier, Eusebius, 127, cf. Acts 21:8 – 9)

4. For strong defenses of the authenticity of the Papias tradition, see Robert H. Gundry, Mark: A Commentary on His Apology for the Cross (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 1026-45.

5. Cited by C. Black, Mark: Images of an Apostolic Interpreter (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1994), 119.

6. The same description is found in Hippolytus, Haer. 7.30.1 (see Black, Mark, 115 – 18). 




I am known as that guy who likes books. If I were a martial artist, I would be an black belt in book-fu. If I were a comic book superhero, I would be Batman but that’s for other reasons. In any case, I do love books and If you grew up with me the irony would be evident. Hopeful by the end of this post it will be evident to you as well.

At remnant, I am the guy in the chair. The guy obsessing over categories and definitions like a deranged garden gnome over a trespassing Chihuahua. The guy running intellectual logistics, connecting dots and thinking, along with the rest of the gang, of ways to help people learn more about the God we love. So as “that guy”, I just wanted to take a moment and maybe encourage someone, who may feel overwhelmed with the idea of studying the things of God. I hope to accomplish this through telling some of my story.

Why before what

“But why daddy?” my son asked that question 1000 times yesterday. He gets it honest. I have been told I was the same at his age. I never really grew out of it. I have to know why I should do something before I do it. Sometimes before I even ask what something is, I want to know why I should care. I think it is true for most of us. Here are a few reasons Why you should care about study.

A Christian should study to get to know God.

If you were given a map that guided you to the Worlds greatest treasure. What would you do with the map? You would study every aspect of it! You would know that map inside and out. The same is true when it comes to studying the Bible.

2. A Christian should study to uncover misguided ideas.

When a person becomes a Christian, they can bring with them a head full of bad ideas about God and his ways. Study helps to correct those misguided ideas. I thought of God as an old man with a shot gun who was happily waiting for you to step out of line. God is not like that but it took a summer of studying God's character to get that out of my head.

3. A Christian should study to learn how to handle life's problems.

God's word is powerful. Ps 19:7 reminds us Scripture makes the simple, wise. I spent my first 3 years as a Christian in proverbs, It put principles in me that have helped me through some very dark days and difficult problems.

The “What” is also a “why”

We have not yet answered the question what is study. Here is a definition from the dictionary; “the acquiring of knowledge, as by reading, etc.; careful examination of a subject; treating a subject in great detail; earnest effort or deep thought.”

That is a good definition but we will look at a passage in Mark to guide our thoughts in answering "What is study?" In Mark 12:29-30, Jesus is asked, "What is the greatest commandment?" In essence he is asked "What is God's top priority?" Jesus replies
The most important is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

Jesus basically says, The most important thing is Loving God. Jesus was quoting Deut 6:5 which reads "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." Did you read something different? Did you see what Jesus did? - He added the word "mind" - Jesus was highlighting something only implied in Duet 6:5. He was highlighting "loving God with all your mind." This is especially important since the way we love God with all of our mind is by studying his Word.

So What is study? Study is a way to Love God with your mind. Since the Bible teaches study as loving God with your mind, “what study is” gives us one more reason why it is important.

Those are just a few reasons why we should study? So we see study is a good thing. Now we must ask what is needed to study? What does it take?

Christian study takes overcoming obstacles.

Everyone has something they want to know more about, Christain’s are no exception. Ask someone at church, they likely could tell you what they “want to” study. Unfortunately, It is human nature to confuse good intentions and actual effort. We all want to study. Whether it is a Bible study you have longed to do or the theology book you had been itching to read. Maybe it’s a “study guide” from Remanent radio you just have not got too yet. In any case, everyone experiences obstacles that keep us from studying. Some obstacles are common to us all. Three of the most common obstacles are laziness, busyness and pride.

Growing up, I hated to read. I also had good reason. In the second grade, I was diagnosed with a severe form of dyslexia, a learning disability(1) that affects about 5% of the population. It did not help I was also diagnosed ADHD. In short, my form of dyslexia meant reading, spelling, math, and grammar, would be difficult to grasp. The ADHD meant I was more distractible than a hyper-active golden retriever. Add those together and you have someone who is fun at a party but will not be going to the library anytime soon.

As the specialist put it, “Dawson, you have the perfect storm of learning problems.” To which I nodded and smiled, but only heard “your dumb.”(2) The social stigma can be crushing. I did all I could to hide it, put up a false front, for fear of my shame being really exposed. One expert has described people who struggle with dyslexia, as feeling the same level of personal shame that “often matches, in intensity, the shame experienced over incest.” (3) The shame related to dyslexia is often ‘slow-drip’ trauma. Dyslexic children often feel abnormal every day, I can testify to the reality of such shame.

My parents were told I would likely struggle to learn just about everything. It was like I could only take in information at the same rate as someone drinking through a coffee straw. I still quip that my work flow is like that of a garden slug. I do half the work in twice the time. As long as I can remember reading was very hard. Words were my enemy. So I hated to read and hated even more to study.

Throughout High School, I squeaked by mostly on charm. Privately, one teacher encouraged me to find a good job working with my hands, which was code for all you’re capable of is being a farm hand. I was stubborn, competitive and could not stand to be told, “Your not good enough”. Up to that point, My only interest in going to college was for sports, after that moment it was on my bucket list.

After graduation, I was tested to found out among other thing, I read on an 8th grade level. I was 19. The specialist was not confident I could improve much in areas of comprehension and reading. In his professional opinion, I would likely never graduate college due to the course load and likely the foreign language requirements would be almost impossible for me to fulfill.

Undeterred, I got into a junior college by the skin of my teeth. Midway through the year, I became a Christian. When I met Jesus, everything changed. This rebellion preacher’s kid, now sincerely thought Jesus was awesome. I found myself wanting to know more about him. But reading was still very hard. Words ran off the page - my comprehension was almost nonexistent so when faced with the idea of studying God's word - I would hear:

Laziness, say, "You need your sleep." or "you know how hard it will be."

Busyness would say, "You have to go to the gym.”

Pride. would say "Do you really want to put yourself through that, you know enough already. You just need to do it.. maybe tomorrow.”

I avoided studying scripture and let my bible collect dust. The lies spoken to you may have been different but I think we have all heard those excuses in some form. It is true to say we have all let those obstacles stop us from time to time.

I had been a Christian for two months when a sermon pushed me to realize i really needed to read my bible. It felt like I was preparing to climb Mt. Everest. My discouragement drove me to prayer that way only a new Christian can, it went something like this, “God, I don’t like books and for some reason you do. Help me read your book. If you don’t help I can’t do this. Are you hearing me?.. I can’t, if you don’t......”

In Mark 12:29-30, Jesus begins his answer to "whats the greatest commandment?" in a very odd way, He says, "Hear Oh Israel The Lord our God is One." It may sound like an odd way to answer the question. But not if you were a Jew, in Jesus day. He was again quoting from Duet 6. He was quoting what was known as the Shema, a prayer every devote Jew prayed at the start of their day.

What was Jesus doing in beginning this way? He was reminding them that prayer is linked to loving God. It follows if we want to Love God with our minds, prayer should permeate your study time. Jesus was implying, "The one thing you need to do in study is pray!" Prayer and study are interconnected in God's economy. Just like breathing permeates all of Life, so to should prayer permeate all of our study.

Prayer needs to be our first habit not our last hope. Before we study we need to pray. As we study, pray. After we study, pray. Prayer should be apart of study like breathing is a part of living. The big question is What should we pray for? My top three requests on our ‘study prayer list’ should be praying to develop the three virtues. We should pray for help in developing desire, discipline, and determination. we will look at each in turn.

Desire: While some are eager to study; others need to ask God to give them the motivation. Some people just love to study. I was not one of them - at first, as I studied more, more grace was added. It did not get easier but I gave the effort and over time a flame began to flicker; Each sentence, warmth, each page, light. God was stirring in me an unquenchable flame of curiosity. So my curiosity drove me even deeper into his Word.

Although my curiosity is never fully satisfied, I have tasted truth that quench my thirst. I have known, what the Psalmist meant when he wrote: How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Ps 119:103) Pray for curiosity, then as you read no mater how slow, continually ask God the curious questions that come to mind.

Discipline: The world has many distractions which can keep us from fully knowing God. I am not a morning person. So I found nighttime was a great time for study. The amount of time is not important in developing discipline yet the act of being consistent is the key.

Consider the Promise of Hebrews 12:11, "For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." Discipline is not a matter of trying but training. Here is the difference, I can try to run a marathon or I can train for a marathon. When we see discipline as training, we have a mindset already postured for perseverance.

Determination: We need to be unwavering in our determination to learn what God wants to teach us. We should pray to have determination like Paul in Phil 3:12-14 or like Isaiah in Isa 50:7, "Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame." I love that verse.

Determination is necessary because failure will happen. I have learned to be thankful for the failures as much as my successes. As I read I found it never got easier but I began to love reading the Bible. I read with a hunger, line by line and detail by detail. Always painfully slow but my pace became a blessing. It kept me from falling into a common misstep people make in study. Richard Foster in his classic work, Celebration of Discipline explains:

"a vast difference exists between the study of Scripture and the devotional reading of Scripture. In the study of Scripture a high priority is placed upon interpretation: what it means. In the devotional reading of Scripture a high priority Is placed upon application: what It means for me. All too often people rush to the application stage and bypäss the interpretation stage: they want to know what it means for them before they know what it means!" (4)

In a plot twist only God could write, my agonizingly slow pace helped me become a better exegete. I just wanted just knowing what the text said, what the authors intended, even if it took me 6 hours to get it.

Redeeming weakness

When I entered college it was on a provisional bases. I was accepted under the condition I would be tested again after my freshman year. About a year after my conversion, I was retested and I was reading on a college freshman level. Everyone was shocked, most of all me. In one year, just reading the Bible, and God did what the specialists though was impossible. He gave me a gift. I could learn. On the ride home, I felt the years of shame and self hate melt away like ice in warm water. I still had dyslexia, but the Holy Spirit was up to something good. He was redeeming my time and preparing me for my future.

I began to loved to study and God opened the door for me to study religion in College. He even gave me a scholarship to study it. Me? the definition of dumb jock, got paid to learn about Jesus. For the next few years, I lived in the library fueled by curiosity and Campbell’s chunky soup.

To be clear it has never been easy. We were never promised easy. We are promised something greater, God’s never-leaving, never-forsaking always abiding presence. (If you know him - you know that is better.) I still have days when I can’t do what most take for granted. I still have days when I am lost in my insecurities. I still get anxious and flustered when I have to read out loud, still feel the judgment when it is slower than it should be. I still know the looks and what they mean. I still get way too angry, when people confuse unassuming for lack of calling or mix up a ‘pretentious-show-of-competence’ for God’s hand on a minister. But in my all too human struggle, it is his nearness that assures me he is at work. I find my solace in the knowledge that, God is at work in my weakness. I have a history with him to support it and a Bible full of stories that prove it.


Study has not changed my life. The one whom I study has changed my life. Now at 44 years, I look back at that impetuous boy of 19 and fondly smile. I remember the long nights and lost sleep, the slow progress forward. I did not know much but I knew I wanted to know more and that was all I needed.

I am thankful I didn’t listen to those who neatly placed me off to the side, in the box labeled “not going to amount to much”. I am thankful, the Spirit of God burned that label off and set me on a journey to “know him.”

What is true of me is true of all of us. Because I desired to know, God gave opportunity after opportunity like it was a lunchtime buffet at Denny’s. If you want to learn "no qualification" or "preconditions" - Just humbly want to learn - God will extend extravagant grace towards you.

I am an example of what God can do. Remember, no one is born an expert or a scholar such skills are developed over time through serious effort. Study is a process that takes time to develop. It is like a workout. you only get out what you put in. So be “all in” and in his time, God will use you in ways you may not yet understand.

I have not changed the world in a profound way. Nor can I clam to had a revolutionary idea or accomplish some great service for the kingdom. I have seen more than most but I am just a ordinary guy, about as special as a cement block. If he can do this for someone like me, then what about you?



(1) the term used is outdated, today it is “learning differences” as not to be stigmatizing and reflect the modern theory of issues like dyslexia. Researchers have determined it is more of a learning difference that conflicts with modern western forms of education. Fundamental to this is a biological disability which produces varying difficulties in decoding written language.

(2) I wrote another blog describing my childhood experience here

(3) Attributed to Gershen Kaufman, Ph.D., an expert on the culture of shame Quotes in Ben Foss, The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan: A blueprint for renewing your childs confidence and love of learning. (New York: Ballantine Books 2016) xxii. Also see “The psychology of shame”, Gershen Kaufman, 2004. Also consider, “89% of adolescents who committed suicide and left a note could have been identified with a learning disability based on spelling and handwriting errors found in the note.” From McBride, & Siegel, “Learning disabilities and adolescent suicide.” Journal of Learning Disabilities, 30, (1997). 653.

(4) Richard Foster Celebration of Discipline (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1988.) p. 69; Foster also suggests that study involves four steps: repetition, concentration, comprehension; and reflection. All aspect of reading I had to consciously work at to accomplish.



"Good news" for the eager

Many people have asked for podcasts recommendations or preachers who are our “go to’s” for good information. Everyone at remnant put their heads together and came up with two lists that will hopefully be helpful.


1.) Tim Mackie (Bible Project podcast)
.  The creators of BibleProject have in-depth conversations about the Bible and theology. It is a good companion podcast to the videos they produce. If you have not seen any of these videos my question to you is have you been living under a rock or Did 2020 take your internet? So see them at BibleProject videos.

2.) The Thinking Fellows Lutheran Podcast -
 The Thinking Fellows is a 45 minute podcast published weekly. It is hosted by Caleb Keith and Drs. Rod Rosenbladt, Scott Keith, and Adam Francisco. The Thinking Fellows have lay-level conversations about Christian doctrine, apologetics, and church history.

3.) Theocast - The primary focus at Theocast is to encourage christian to rest in Christ. We facilitate simple conversations about the Christian life from a reformed perspective through our weekly podcast. Their website is found HERE.

4.) Naked Bible Podcast - A good place to Dig Deeper into the bible. Dr. Michael Heiser discusses Biblical theology, stripped bare of denominational confessions and theological systems by exposing context and focusing on grammatical historical exegesis. also found on Here.

5.) Just and Sinner Podcast - Jordan Cooper's podcast is a good way to  broadening your theological horizons with a different stream. His website is foudn HERE.

6.) Mike Winger on Youtube, a pastor who has served in ministry for over 20 years in the local church (Christ Chapel Background). He is great at covering the breath and deepth of an issue. Appoching issues with a pastor's heart and clear headed common sense, Winger dives into stubjects like apologetics, cults/fringe Christianity, as well as, ethical issues and, book studies. Great for specific questions /episodes.

7.) The Bridgeway Podcast Weekly conversations out of Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City pastored by 'THE' Sam Storms.  The podcast is hosted by David Bowden, with regular contribution from from Lead Pastor, Author, and Theologian, Sam Storms.  They touch on topics related to preaching, worship, missions, children's ministry, reaching college students, engaging culture, and more.


Everybody has their favorite preacher. The guy you don’t mind hearing for 6 hours on a car ride across four states. (Word of advice; your spouse or roodtrip mate may not feel the same, so be open to changing it up a bit). Like I said, we all have our favorites. Here are a few of our favorites they may or may not be “your jam” but we can assure you, they all speak the truth!

1.) Dr. Sam Storms - The man, them myth, the theologian! His sermons are meaty like a Texas BBQ with a good helping of continuationism on the side. He has a great BLOG too.

2.) Martyn Lloyd Jones - Martyn Lloyd-Jones was a Welsh Protestant minister (Wesleyan-Calvinist) and medical doctor who was influential in the Reformed wing of the British evangelical and charismatic movement in the 20th century. He is one reason British charismatics are so dang balanced. He was the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London for over 30 years and most of his sermons were recorded or in transcript. He was known as the prince of preachers. Lets just say for a 'Brit' the old man can bring it!  Josh loves him!

3.) Voddie Baucham sermons - Voddie Baucham has been a professor, conference speaker, church planter and theological ninja (No joke, In 2014, He won the Pan American Championship in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu). Formerly a Pastor in Dallas Texas, He currently serves as Dean of Theology at African Christian University in Lusaka, Zambia. He is a clear and forthright biblical voice on many cultural issues. Michael describes his sermons in two words "expositional glory". Search Youtube, 'Voddie Baucham' or go to his sermon podcast  and you will hear the glory to which Michael refers.

4.) Peter Kreeft - Kreft is a professor of philosophy of Boston College. He’s considered one of the top Christian thinkers in the world. He is an author of over 75 books. A devout Christian, former Lutheran now Charismatic Catholic, yet remains highly respected among most protestants thinkers. If you enjoy literature (CS Lewis or Tolkien) Christian philosophy, or discussions of moral theology you will enjoy him. Kreeft may be old but he is a beast when it comes to moral theology. Also He has some great articles and lectures at his website, find it HERE.

5.) C. J. Mahaney - If  I (Dawson) were stuck on a desert island with an infinitely charged iPod but only one preacher on it, that preacher would be 'Paul the apostle' but this guy would come in second, distant second.   Mahaney is a Reformed Charismatic (sum might say much like Paul..??..). He is the senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville.






One could point to the importance of the Image of God in humanity. Being made in God's image means every individual person has an inherent dignity and worth. Also the necessity of personal faith to show the importance of the individual. Personal faith imply the centrality of the individual. Converts are made voluntarily without cohesion and thus since conversion is individualistic the religion is as well.

On the other side, Christian theology also teaches that individuals are "saved" by being (to use Paul's language) "in Christ", a collective concept. Jesus died for a people, the people of God, the new humanity "in Christ" (Eph 2). This means that the convert is now numbered among the redeem, made a part of the whole, body of Christ, the church (1 Cor 11-12).

So where should a Christian begin thinking about social issues? What is the proper starting point for a biblical social theory? How do we construct a Christian view of political realities? A fundamental category needed to answer those questions is the primacy of the individual or the collective. Should Christian begin from the point of the individual or from the group? Should we think of goods in terms of the whole or of its parts? Two giants in Christian thought weigh in on the issue: J. Gresham Machen and C.S. Lewis. I will gives Machen's answer then Lewis. Quick note on Machen – the ‘liberalism’ he is speaking of is not the current, progressive liberalism, but rather the theological liberalism of the early 20th Century. [1]

"It is true that historic Christianity is in conflict at many points with the collectivism of the present day; it does emphasize, against the claims of society, the worth of the individual soul. It provides for the individual a refuge from all the fluctuating currents of human opinion, a secret place of meditation where a man can come alone into the presence of God. It does give a man courage to stand, if need be, against the world; it resolutely refuses to make of the individual a mere means to an end, a mere element in the composition of society. It rejects altogether any means of salvation which deals with men in a mass; it brings the individual face to face with his God. In that sense, it is true that Christianity is individualistic and not social.


But though Christianity is individualistic, it is not only individualistic. It provides fully for the social needs of man. In the first place, even the communion of the individual man with God is not really individualistic, but social. A man is not isolated when he is in communion with God; he can be regarded as isolated only by one who has forgotten the real existence of the supreme Person. Here again, as at many other places, the line of cleavage between liberalism and Christianity really reduces to a profound difference in the conception of God. Christianity is earnestly theistic; liberalism is at best but half-heartedly so. If a man once comes to believe in a personal God, then the wow ship of Him will not be regarded as selfish isolation, but as the chief end of man. That does not mean that on the Christian view the worship of God is ever to be carried on to the neglect of service rendered to one’s fellow-men − ”he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, is not able to love God whom he hath not seen” − but it does mean that the worship of God has a value of its own. Very different is the prevailing doctrine of modern liberalism. According to Christian belief, man exists for the sake of God; according to the liberal Church, in practice if not in theory, God exists for the sake of man. But the social element in Christianity is found not only in communion between man and God, but also in communion between man and man. Such communion appears even in institutions which are not specifically Christian."

- J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, pg. 137-138

Now batting clean-up, C.S. Lewis on the twin errors of ‘Totalitarianism’ (Collectivism) and individualism:

"The idea that the whole human race is, in a sense, one thing —one huge organism, like a tree—must not be confused with the idea that individual differences do not matter or that real people, Tom and Nobby and Kate, are somehow less important than collective things like classes, races, and so forth.


Indeed the two ideas are opposites. Things which are parts of a single organism may be very different from one another: things which are not, may be very alike. Six pennies are quite separate and very alike: my nose and my lungs are very different but they are only alive at all because they are parts of my body and share its common life. Christianity thinks of human individuals not as mere members of a group or items in a list, but as organs in a body—different from one another and each contributing what no other could. When you find yourself wanting to turn your children, or pupils, or even your neighbors, into people exactly like yourself, remember that God probably never meant them to be that. You and they are different organs, intended to do different things.


On the other hand, when you are tempted not to bother about someone else’s troubles because they are “no business of yours,” remember that though he is different from you he is part of the same organism as you. If you forget that he belongs to the same organism as yourself you will become an Individualist. If you forget that he is a different organ from you, if you want to suppress differences and make people all alike, you will become a Totalitarian. But a Christian must not be either a Totalitarian or an Individualist.


I feel a strong desire to tell you—and I expect you feel a strong desire to tell me—which of these two errors is the worse. That is the devil getting at us. He always sends errors into the world in pairs—pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors. We have no other concern than that with either of them."

-C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Bk. 4, pg. 6

So, is Christianity collectivistic or individualistic? The two quotes above point to a more both/And answer. The theological starting point that best captures what Machen and Lewis where getting at is the Christian God. So A Christ followers reflection on social theory is God, the distinctly Christian God, revealed in the doctrine of the Trinity. The Trinitarian God of Christian faith gives us the proper categories for understanding a well ordered society

Only the Trinity can act as a guide for thinking about political realities. It protects from diminishing the value of the individual or the obligation to the common good. The doctrine of the Trinity as a starting point for reflection on social realities helps to join apparent unbridgeable opposites. Who said doctrine is dry and not relevant to current issues? Our God gives us a vision of how the individual and the many can be one. The analogy is helpful but not without flaws. It does brake down down at some point, a community can't be one as God is one. Yet the doctrine of the Trinity gives us a way to balance the tension between collectivism and individualism. I think that a beautiful beginning.



[1] A precursor to the modern progressive movement, rooted more in enlightenment epistemology than postmodern thought thus different in many ways but none the less progressive for its day.




 The Church is Anorexic
All these facts point to the present condition of the church as deeply anti-intellectual. It could be said that the church now has a kind of "Spiritual Anorexia." Anorexics (1) have an intense fear of becoming fat. The comparison between Anorexia and anti-intellectualism in the church is telling. Anorexia is a complex condition that involves, psychological, and sociological components just like the anti-intellectualism problem. The similarities don’t stop there; anorexia and the anorexic church both have a fear of becoming fat. The church sees the use of the intellect as the way one’s faith becomes fat and ineffective. So they fear what could happen as a result of using the intellect. It functions similarly to what William James named as the “Agnostic veto”. It is when the fear of the unknown or thought of a possible outcome can paralyze one from some action.

The fear of becoming religious intellectuals leads them to not seek spiritual food and they spiritually starve. Moreland puts it this way, “The contemporary Christian mind is starved, and as a result we have small, impoverished souls.”(2) Overtime the anorexics become weak and develop brittle and thin skinned, irregular heartbeats, and shortness of breath. Just like the complications to anti-intellectualism are weak Christians that can be easy offended, confused in their passions, and often shallow to the ways of the Spirit (breath). And just like anorexia all the complications lead to inhibiting the normal growth process.

What the church has sadly forgotten is that it is the mind that has the more direct affect on the spiritual life.(3) If we wish to regain a healthy vision of God we must first take some baby steps towards clearing our thinking up. The first step to be undertaken is repentance for the sin of anti-intellectualism. Then we begin the long prayerful journey of regaining a hunger for the deep riches of theology and faith.  The writer of Hebrews was familiar with this impoverished disposition of the soul. He describes the condition of the Hebrew Christians:

You are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.  (Hebrews 5:11-14)

The anti-intellectual disposition was among the Hebrews Christians. So what does the writer of Hebrews suggest? He thinks they should dig deep into the things of God and not just swim in the shallow side of the faith.

Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so. (Hebrews 6:1-3)

Second, we need to value knowledge for its own sake. One day, while home for the weekend from collage I thought I would mow the lawn for my dad. So, I brought the mower out of our shed and attempted to try to start it.  I tried over and over till I saw my dad go into his shop. "Hey, Do you know how to start this thing?" My old Preacher Father, "More than you, But less than Jesus!” Part of me wished I had kept my mouth shut. He reached down and pressed a small red button a few times then turned the key. The mower started right away! I was a little embarrassed. It was so simple. I was doing a lot of stuff yet I lacked the necessary knowledge. I didn't know I even needed to prime the mower.

Sometimes prayer is not enough, sometimes we need to come to a knowledge of the truth than utilize that knowledge in our life till it becomes wisdom. Yet if we lack knowledge, we will be caught in our foolishness. Just as the prophet states, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" (Hosea 4:6). But this need not happen, if we value knowledge, value truth, we can avoid the fate handed the recipients of Hosea’s denouement.

Without biblical and theological knowledge, your faith would be about as useful as signing to the blind. Consider this, if being a person that loves others as virtuous then without understanding that comes from good thinking such love has no direction, no moral imagination, even no wisdom. Thus such a weightless person can be easily manipulated by others. Over time the result is a religion of sentimentality. Or consider this, if a religious ritual or sacrament is a symbolic action pointing to a divine truth then when one’s action is done from an empty head the ritual is meaningless. The meaningful symbol in the action is lost in the lack of refection. Over time the practices becomes hollow ritualism. Empty heads repeating meaningless actions, from muscle memory, all the while God stands present with them, named but unacknowledged, weeping alone.

Third, we need to begin to individually cultivate a Christian view of the world. Christianity is the true frame from which all our truths flow. Dorothy Sayers aims at this loss when she wrote, “We have rather lost sight of the idea that Christianity is supposed to be an interpretation of the universe"(4) This will take study and time, reflection and prayer, contemplation and application. But I promise you, one day, you will wake to see the sun rise and in its viewing, your mind will be captured by how God’s mercy is new every morning. How it pour forth like rays of light, slowly changes the way you see the world.

Or one day, You may see the wind blow through a tree. The first thought that wanders through the landscape of your mind will be that God wills the wind, and like a loving Father providentially place you to see the wind as a loving reminder that His Spirit is ever moving and always unpredictable and still changing the lives of those who believe in Christ.


  1. The term anorexia is of Greek origin: an (α, prefix of negation), and orexis (ορεξις, appetite), thus meaning a lack of desire to eat. Anorexia is a psychiatric illness that describes an eating disorder.
  2. J. P. Moreland, Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1997), p. 80.
  3. J. P. Moreland, Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1997), p. 80.
  4. Dorothy Sayers, 1937-1944: From Novelist to Playwright, vol. 2 of The Letters of Dorothy Sayers, ed. Barbara Reynolds, preface P. D. James (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998),158.


In this post I want to pick back up on an idea i hinted at in the first post in this series. The metaphor of anti-intellectualism as poison. In this post we will look deeper at the effects of anti-intellectualism using poison as a guiding metaphor. we will conclude with some thoughts on how to begin to detox from this insidious poison.

A Untraceable Poison
In the world of deadly poisons, one substance stands out like LeBron James in a pick up game, it’s name thallium. In the 1800’s it became a smooth way to bump off someone. It gained the nickname, "Inheritance Powder." Saddam Hussein was in love with thallium. In the 1980’s Saddam, and his secret police, were fond of using Thallium to dispose of his enemies. They poisoned quite a few people in London with it, and he even poisoned some of his senior military men. It is all about the little things, like poison.

Why all the talk about poison? Because, thallium is much like anti-intellectualism, both are silent killers, both are highly toxic and both in there own way have changed the course of nations. Anti-intellectualism is a prevailing Bias in American culture and it is more than just stupid is as stupid does. It is a deadly poison killing the church today.

This poison has entered the vein of a church body when a group no longer values thinking for its own sake. In this way anti-intellectualism is not people just acting ignorant. It has an internal logic, that aims to promote a devaluing of the life of the mind often for the sake of more practical matters. Such poisoned institutions will produce learners and not very many thinkers. (1)

Os Guinness defines anti-intellectualism as, “a disposition to discount the importance of truth and the life of the mind.”(2)  The American church has a problem with anti-intellectualism. (3) Many scholars and cultural critics from within the church have written on the issue. One example is how Anti-intellectualism helps support the bad generalizations like what is good are the “simple people”, the “common people”, who are supposedly more honest and “real” than so-called “ivory tower” intellectuals. Yet biblically speaking, the good life is not found in some an simple life of the common people, a view of such a life with romantic and nostalgic blinders. Many in Christianity hold anti-Intellectualism as somewhat of a virtue. If truth be told it is a vice. “Anti-intellectualism is quite simply a sin. Evangelicals must address it as such, beyond all excuses, evasions, or rationalizations of false piety.”(4)

Dashboard Faith
Owen Barfield would say people given to this disposition have a “dashboard knowledge” (5) of the faith. By this he parallels the knowledge people have about their faith to the knowledge they have about their car. All they know is what the dials on the dashboard panel tell them. People with a dashboard knowledge of the Christian faith, have only a simple and superficial understanding, even though many may think it profound and deep because they are able to know when things are not running right, and when it is time to get a tune up (repent).  Biblical Knowledge is viewed by Christians as a means to “stay right with God” or “Know his love” but not as a knowledge system or worldview through which one views life and makes choices. The outcome is a church that does not value truth as much as the fleeting experience of truth.

Poison in the Body
The dashboard view of faith is just one sign we have been poisoned. The poison of anti-intellectualism has bent us towards the pragmatic, the immediate and the experiential.  The poison is pervasive slowly killing both church and culture. The greatest problem with the poison is how it opens people to manipulation by changing how they think. It changes what we value as persuasive. We can see this in how people today construct a persuasive argument as well as what actually persuades people in our culture. Consider, exclusive reliance on slogans and talking points, the stress placed on controlling the narrative, the confusion over equating volume and conviction with clarify and logic. The countless times people talk over and past one another with no active listening in-between. Such examples point to what Schaeffer called “the escape from reason.”(6) Schaeffer was describing the now well documented, move from trusting a classic western epistemology including evidence and objectivity and rational verification of facts to a more personal, subjective and emotive foundation for verification. Alasdair MacIntyre in his landmark work, After Virtue gives a detailed diagnosis of this social disposition. He described this shift towards the pragmatic, immediate and experiential as a disposition where ‘emotivism’ was the only mode of discourse. (7) MacIntyre comments:

…to a large degree people now think, talk and act as if emotivism were true, no matter what their avowed theoretical standpoint may be. Emotivism has become embodied in our culture. (8)

Lamenting this problem, David Wells points out how this has changed our view of truth.

Truth is now simply a matter of etiquette: it has no authority, no sense of rightness, because it is no longer anchored in anything absolute. If it persuades, it does so only because our experience has given it its persuasive power, but tomorrow our experience might be different. (9)

Experience is not the issue. (10) The lack of an absolute is the issue. For a person not tied to an absolute, can be easily swayed. I'm such a contacts often driven by look productive, the preacher becomes performer, and a worship service becomes entertainment (11). This is why a culture under the influence of emotivism does not stomach reasonable arguments. They demand to be catered to, not reasoned with. In this light it is easy to see how totalitarian regimes like Nazism came to power. When a culture chooses to be swayed by the power of the presentation rather than the strength of the argument, then such a culture is poised to follow its leaders even as far as Treblinka, Maidanek and even Auschwitz. In MacIntyre’s view, western culture has lost control of its mind in following its heart.

We're not the first culture to go down this path. Napoleon’s France had a similar issue with anti-intellectual. In his day, Napoleon use this social disposition masterfully as a way to maintain support and stir loyalty. A well known story makes this point. Napoleon was reported to tell a certain story to stir his soldier’s patriotism. Once, while visiting a province he came upon an old soldier in full uniform but with one sleeve hanging empty. He proudly wore the coveted Legion of Honor. Napoleon asked, "Where did you lose your arm?" The soldier answered, "At Austerlitz, sire." Napoleon asked, "And for that you received the Legion of Honor?" The man said, "Yes, sire. It is but a small token to pay for the decoration." Napoleon continued, "You must be the kind of man who regrets he did not lose both arms for his country." The one-armed man asked, "What then would have been my reward?" Napoleon answered, "I would have awarded you a double Legion of Honor." And with that, the proud old fighter drew his sword and immediately cut off his other arm.

What a weird story of patriotic duty! It was apparently effective in stirring up in Napoleon's men a desire to sacrifice for the cause of France! Yet there is one problem with the story. Maybe you have already noticed the inconsistency. Maybe you asked your self the question. "How did the soldier cut off his arm with only one arm to do it with?" It is a nice story, very stirring, moving, motivating, but it wasn't true. And it's possible for the same thing to happen to us in a religious sense. We can get all "fired up" without much thought as to the truth of what we're getting excited about. We may enjoy ‘Napoleon preaching’ (heat without light) but it does us little good. Paul said of those who were motivated in such a way: “They are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge” (Romans 10:2). Now, zeal is good. We all need more of it. But we need to make certain that our enthusiasm is firmly based on the Christian knowledge of God. Zeal without knowledge is at the heart of emotivism. This cultural disposition has shrunk the intellectual life of the church to such a degree that Mark Noll wrote, “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.”(12)

A Scandalous Example
In Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth,  Pearcey tells a story of a new convert named, Denzel(13). Denzel became a Christian as a young man. Driven by curiosity and the commands of his new found faith, he began to look for ways to grow in his faith. As Denzel sought to grow and understand his new found faith, He asked a lot of questions, as people do when they love the subject being discussed. Sadly, many of His questions fell on deaf ears; He was hindered by leaders who could not answer his questions. Others who saw it fruitless to help him seek out answers to questions they saw as just ‘heady’. He was told to just have faith in the plain truths of Scripture. Later, Denzel got a new job where he met those of other faiths. He was confused by the way they seemed to have answers for people's questions. Denzel felt cheated and did not understand why only the Christians choose not to defend themselves from cynics, skeptics and other faiths. Eventually, He changed jobs and found work at a Christian bookstore.  There he found some books that gave him the answers he was seeking. The church did not help Him in his search. The church, other Christians were actually a hindrance. Let us speak plainly, other Christians were a stumbling block to Denzel's faith. Denzel learned not only do most Christians not like to think, they don’t believe in thinking. No because everyone is stupid but because the pursuit of knowledge, particularly theological knowledge (formative worldview shaping knowledge), was not valued as important. Many Christians find themselves with two feet firmly planted in mid-air. It is no wonder, Paul described such groundless faith as one easily, “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.” (Eph 4:14 NKJ). This is no little problem but a scandal and a sin. As Os Guinness reminds us:

At root, evangelical anti-intellectualism is both a scandal and a sin. It is a scandal in the sense of being an offense and a stumbling block that needlessly hinders serious people from considering the Christian faith and coming to Christ. It is a sin because it is a refusal, contrary to Jesus’ two great commandments, to love the Lord our God with our minds.(14)

A Detox for the Body
Os Guinness in his work, ‘Fit Bodies, Fat Minds’ gives us the antidote to this Evangelical anti-intellectualism. He calls this, “Thinking christianly.” He defines this way of thinking as “thinking by Christians about anything and everything in a consistently Christian way – in a manner that is shaped, directed and restrained by the truth of God’s Word and God’s Spirit.”

Guinness offers guidelines for Christians engaging their minds: (15)

1.) Count the cost – that is, be willing to endure ridicule, slander and abuse – for those in academic circles the cost of speaking against the “prevailing wisdom” may be damaging to one’s career.

2.) Commit to “thinking christianly” as an act of obedience, requiring concentrated, long-term effort. Thinking Christianly is an activity. It is a way of thinking not just memorizing certain propositions is true. It is a way of processing one’s lived experience thought a Christain view of the world. Thinking Christianly is seeing all of life in the light of Christian truth, and ordered all of life by the categories of Christian theology.

3.) Avoid certain pitfalls on the journey:

a.) It’s not a “head trip”, we are not promoting a new “intellectualism” – rather, it involves the whole self, mind, body and spirit. The self is an integrated whole: thinking, feeling and, doing operate in concert together. They are interconnected and intrinsically linked.
b.) It’s not a solitary trip – rather it requires the correction of other Christians
c.) It’s not a purely human activity – rather it is based on the ‘fear of the Lord that is the beginning of wisdom’
d.) It’s not about uniformity - rather it reflects the diverse cultural backgrounds, personalities, and perspectives that we bring to the task.

4.) Acknowledge that Christian knowledge brings with it the responsibility for acting on that knowledge

Christianity is a matter of both doctrine and devotion. We are in a supernatural move of god that involves the whole person, head and heart. Faith and reason are not at odds. They are not at war, nether are complete in themselves. Both are needed, both help qualify and clarify the other. Christians should not take a side for it is not necessary to do so. To take a side would reduce and so distort, the very concept of biblical and doctrinal truth. Truth is holistic. Let no one put asunder what God has joined together. Far better to see the Christian life as a way where head and heart come together to get the feet moving.


  1. Because anti-intellectualism values the uncritical learner over and against being a logical thinkers. Yet this is a distractive pattern even when the knowledge conveyed is Christian truth, uncritical learning produces knowledge in the service of ideology (this is indoctrination) while logical thinking produces persons in the service of God.
  2. Os Guinness, Fit Bodies, Fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don’t Think and What to Do about It (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1994), p. 9.
  3. And while over-intellectualism is also a problem and just as much a dead end where the mind is given to becomes a slave to the Noetic affect of sin, American deals more with anti-intellectualism.
  4. Os Guinness, Fit Bodies, Fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don’t Think and What to Do about It (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1994), pp. 18-19
  5. Owen Barfield, Saving the Appearances, A Study in Idolatry, (Barfield Press UK, 1988) 114
  6. Francis A. Schaeffer, Escapes from Reason (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1975). Schaeffer traces the history of ideas to show the worldview of modern western culture.
  7. “Emotivism is the doctrine that all evaluative judgments and more specifically all moral judgments are nothing but expressions of preference, expressions of attitude or feeling, insofar as they are moral or evaluative in character…Emotivism thus rests upon a claim that every attempt, whether past or present, to provide a rational justification for an objective morality has in fact failed.” Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, 3d ed. (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2007) 10-11, 19.
  8. Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, 3d ed. (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2007) 22.
  9. David F. Wells, God in the Wasteland (Grand Rapid, Eerdmans, 1994) 148-149
  10. Experience itself, is not the problem. The problem is allowing our experience (or lack of) to carry absolute persuasive weight. As well as points out experience is a relative concept therefore it can lend credence to the reliability of a thing but it should not be given the persuasive weight of an absolute. Scripture and the worldview it reveals to be authoritative in that way. We securely fastening ourselves to unchanging, absolute truth, by deep study of Scripture, to learn the unique view of the world it reveals. We should not absolutize those things that are relativize that is make cultural tradition, personal experience, (any relative concept), into an absolutes, giving it absolute persuasive weight. Nor should we relativize those things that are absolute, and so reduce Scripture (our weightiest absolute) to one line of evidence among many of equal value.
  11. Presentation must always be personal appeal to self-interest, passionate in plea and with a sense of eloquence. In whole segments of the church the language of the “gift of preaching” has been exchanged for talk of technique gimmick and novelty dominate. Every preacher should be taught basic practical dynamics of public speaking. I acknowledge the need for skills training in public communication. Yet what sets preaching apart from a political speech is not just the subject matter but the dynamic of The Spirit’s work. When the word of God is faithful preached the Holy Spirit abides in and works through the sermon to grow the Church. This is why the Protestant church has considered preaching as a means of grace.
  12. Mark Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1994), p. 3.  Here Noll’s investigates the modern intellectual lives of evangelicals and its origins.
  13. Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2004)
  14. Os Guinness, Fit Bodies, Fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don’t Think and What to Do about It (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1994), pp. 10-11.
  15. Os Guinness, Fit Bodies, Fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don’t Think and What to Do about It (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1994), whole last chapter

In this post we will look at 3 key distinctions and clarifications that makes the christian mind distinctly Christian.

A great guide for us is a mid 20th century scholar, Harry Blamire and his classic work, The Christian Mind (1963). Blamire was an Anglican theologian, literary critic, and novelist. Whose career spanned the latter part of the 20th century. He died at the age of 101 in 2017. Interestingly, C. S. Lewis was his tutor at Oxford. Lewis later became a friend and mentor to Blamire.

Blamires wrote on what he saw as the loss of the Christian mind and he pulled no punches. For example:

There is no longer a Christian mind. It is a commonplace that the mind of modern man has been secularized. For instance, it has been deprived of any orientation towards the supernatural. Tragic as this fact is, it would not be so desperately tragic had the Christian mind held out against the secular drift. But unfortunately the Christian mind has succumbed to the secular drift with a degree of weakness and nervelessness unmatched in Christian history. It is difficult to do justice in words to the complete loss of intellectual morale in the twentieth-century Church. One cannot characterize it without having recourse to language which will sound hysterical and melodramatic. (1)

Blamires left no doubt what he thought about the state of the Christian mind. Balamire contnues, “We have too readily equated getting into the world with getting out of theology. The result has been that we have stopped thinking christianly.” Christianity has been “emasculated of its intellectual relevance,” convictions are looked upon as “personal possession,” As individualism lends support to selfish rights based thinking our understanding of community is eroding with it. Being a good neighbor is no longer understood as looking out for one another but means stays out of the other's business, with an occasional polite thing to say at the mail box. Even int he church, We have been reduced to encountering one another on the shallow level of guarded vapid speech and glib small talk. (2)

Blamires explains that Christians have grown so accustom to secular thinking that they are not even aware that it is secular. As Christian mind shrinks, secular thinking about Christian matters expands. For example, the Christian preacher who thinks christianly about Sunday’s sermon but thinks secularly about all other aspects of church life. After all Church "must" be run like a business if it is to succeed. Right? Sadly such thinking is more anthropocentric than practical.(3) How about someone who treats "worldly possessions as status symbols rather than as serviceable goods”.(4) Most people can hardly understand the contradiction.

Blamires’ big emphasis was on dispelling the sacred secular divide. He thought on the difference between thinking Christianly and thinking secularly is rooted in the radical distinction made by the apostle Paul in his Corinthian letter. For Blamire, 1 Cor 1:20 made clear the followers of Jesus should not expect the message of the cross to impress the social and cultural elite. In Corinth, as well as in Blamire's day on into our own the intelligentsia reject the meta-narrative of salvation history and the revelational epistemology of the Christian mind. Paul's words against social status and cultural elitism was more of an attack on underline pride. A pride that would bring them to reject the gospel as foolishness. His critique was never in favor of some bare Fideism (5) but a call to reclaim the Christain virtues of thinking well. Likewise, the apostle Paul does not use this fact to disparage the importance of the mind. In Christ, the mind realizes its true significance, not as a capacity for self-advancement and self-expression, but as a gift to be developed and disciplined for the sake of the truth—all God’s truth.(6) The importance of the mind is a positive tension challenging all believers to a rigorous engagement and rethinking of all of life in accord with the person and work of Christ.

Three Key Distinctions

I. Blamire's distinction between the scholar and the thinker:

“The scholar evades decisiveness; he hesitates to praise or condemn; he balances conclusion against competing conclusion so as to cancel out conclusiveness; he is tentative, skeptical, uncommitted. The thinker hates indecision and confusion; he firmly distinguishes right from wrong, good from evil; he is at home in a world of clearly demarcated categories and proven conclusions; he is dogmatic and committed; he works towards decisive action.”(6)

To be clear, Blamires referred to the scholar as a type, not to all scholars. He had in mind the proud, self-reliant academician. What we need, he claimed was more thinkers less academics.

“The thinker challenges current prejudices. He disturbs the complacent. He obstructs the busy pragmatists. He questions the very foundations of all about him, and in so doing throws doubt upon aims, motives, and purposes which those who are running affairs have neither the time nor patience to investigate. ”(7)

Higher education as a necessary intellectual enterprise was encouraged by Blamires. The dark side of scholarship as a self-serving, career-enhancing, ego performance was exposed. Blamires was critical of a scholar who cornered truth as his or her very own intellectual property. Thinkers, on the other hand, rejoice when others express the truth that they have understood and embraced. They never think to themselves, “That’s my idea and you stole it.” The scholars are competitive. They want credit for their good ideas. Thinkers are cooperative. They want the fellowship of fellow thinkers.

Blamires’ contrast between the self-promoting scholar and the Christian thinker reminded me of Søren Kierkegaard’s contrast between the genius and the apostle. Kierkegaard pointed out to praise the apostle Paul for his brilliance or eloquence is to miss the heart of his message, that it was from God. You you can't read first Corinthians without thinking if you called Paul a genius he might slap you then rebuke you. Not because he was slow, he likely was brilliant. Paul would not have let anyone celebrating him as clever and creative, as if He came up with it all by himself. As if it was His new idea.

Paul was an apostle, called and appointed by God, to proclaim the revelation of God. His authority resided in his calling from God and in the message given to him by God to proclaim. His voice was heard, not because he was a great speaker, but because he was bore to the revelation of God. Kierkegaard defined genius as a person who by virtue of his or her extraordinary abilities, personal uniqueness, and self-sufficiency. In contrast, an apostle is one who is called of God, submissive to God, and compelled by God to be faithful, come what may. By way of this distinction, Kierkegaard complained that “the pernicious thing” about Christian discourse in his day (one might say ours as well) was that “the whole train of thought [was] affected.”(8) Preachers relied on their own ingenuity and profundity in such a way as to make truth depended on their abilities and powers, instead of relying on the authority of the Word of God in the Spirit’s power. It was “their” teaching not what the word taught. He goes on to compares the leisurely life of the Genius/Scholar, who is “momentarily clever, and afterwards a publisher and editor of the uncertainties of his cleverness,” to the faithful life of the follower of Christ, who lives purposefully and obediently under the authority of God. (9) In relationship to the truth, Kierkegaard, contended that the former is an idolitor, the latter beautiful.

II. Blamire describes six tenets of the Christian mind.

We should seek to secure these categories as a fixed point in our mind. Absolutes that help us navigate the currents of our the ever-changing always shifting world in which we live.

(1) A Supernatural Orientation: a mind that cultivates the eternal perspective, that believes in the fact of Heaven and the fact of Hell, that understands that all of creation, all of history, all of humankind is under the sovereign control of the triune God. Lost to many even among Christians is the reality of the demonic, the actuality of miracles and the power of the Spirit.

(2) An Awareness of Evil: a mind that understands the pervasive and pernicious presence of evil, that is alert to the tragic extent of human depravity and resists evil in all of its manifestations within fallen creation. The Christian mind is sensitive to the extent that evil pervades our own judgments. The tragedy of this world is not primarily social nor political, but personal. G. K. Chesterton was asked to write a article on the subject “What’s Wrong with the Universe?” He responded to the editor’s request with two words, “I am.”

(3) A Conception of Truth: a mind that is transformed by the revelation of God, that is founded on doctrines of Divine Creation, the Incarnation, the Redemption, etc. The truth of the gospel is an audacious truth that must “be defended for the right reason.”(10) We must not beguile unbelievers into thinking that Christianity is good because it builds self-esteem, strengthens marriages, offers comfort, and leads to success. Blamire writes:

“We have to insist that the Christian Faith is something solider, harder and tougher than even Christians like to think. Christianity is not a nice comforting story that we make up as we go along, accommodating the demands of a harsh reality with the solace of a cherished reverie. It is not a cosy day-dream manufactured by each person more or less to suit his own taste. It is a matter of hard fact..... We Christians appreciate its hardness just as much as those outside the Church. We are as fully aware of its difficulties as the outsiders are. We know that, in a sense, Christianity leaves us with an awful lot to swallow... We must outdo the unbelievers in agreeing with them on that subject." (11)

(4) An Acceptance of Authority: a mind that submits to the God-given nature of truth, revelation, and the Church, that finds its freedom in surrender to the will of God, and that leads “to that state of personal inadequacy, human dependence, utter lowliness and lostness, which brings the Christian to his knees and throws him into the hands of our Lord.” (12)

(5)The Christain mind has Concern for the Person: a mind that values the human person in light of the Incarnate One, that holds to the sacredness of the human personality, and that seeks to preserve the person against all forms of dehumanization.

Blamires identified various forms of dehumanization some are eerily applicable even today. The Christian ought to be committed to “pointing the finger of condemnation” at including “servitude to the machine,” “the eerie loneliness of personal solitude in the midst of the crowded urban civilization,” the exalted status attributed to the user of “mechanical gadgets,” behavior modification, transactional relationships, and target-market evangelism.

(6) A Sacramental Cast: a mind that is focused on “life’s positive richnesses,” that is life-affirming, rather than life-rejecting, and that revels in the beauty, truth, and goodness derived from the Divine Nature. (13)

Blamires describes the Christian mind’s positive view of life

“A living Christian mind would elucidate for the young a finely articulated Christian sacramentalism which would make sense of, and give value to, the adolescent’s cravings towards the grandeur of natural scenery, towards the potent emotionalism of music and art, and towards the opposite sex. A living Christian mind will not be content to refer to these things only in cold abstract terms which annihilate wonder and transmute them into bloodless modes of experience, unrecognizable as the stuff of passion and exaltation. Nor will the Christian mind allow these richnesses of life to be vaguely identified with sins of the flesh, or even with a life of the body which it is the Christian’s duty to transcend.”(14)

We could always remind ourselves that the Bible call us to a pre-modern view of the world.That doesn't mean we can't be analytic scientific it means in the day-today living would it be more poet than mathematician. But as anyone in the arts no the best among them, have a keen analytical mind, yet still see the world brimming with beauty, Love and life.

III. Clarifying our term: anti-intellectualism

Blamires’ description of the Christian mind helps make some important distinctions about the Christian understanding of anti-intellectualism. The term is also used in the hard sciences and in sociology.

In the scientific, it comes up in discussions over scientific methodology. Anti-intellectualism is a label used to describing anyone who doesn't hold to a naturalistic materialistic worldview. So to be anti-intellectual in this group means you reject the scientific method in its modern incarnation as the only means to knowledge. This group defines reason as synonymous with the empirical method. Christian differ with this group at the point of worldview. We hold to an open model of the universe. They hold to a closed model of the universe.

The sociological understanding of anti-intellectualism is wide reaching with conservatives as well is post-modern thinkers having written on the matter. The literature outline three major types:

  • religious anti-rationalism,’ the view that emotion is warm (that is, good) and reason cold (bad), an outlook often complemented by absolute systems of belief (primarily conservative Protestantism);
  • populist anti-elitism,’ public skepticism first of the patrician class of ‘gentlemen politicians’ and old money and later public hostility toward progressive politics and support of such figures as Joe McCarthy or George Wallace; The internet is seen as the tip of the spear of anti-elitism, with its democratizing influence the Internet is working to banish expertise altogether giving a voice to people who shouldn't have one.
  • unreflective instrumentalism,’ beliefs and behavior indicating that knowledge is worthless unless it immediately and directly leads to material gain, such as profits or higher salaries and wages. (15)

In this view reason is seen as logical but socially constructed by language thus logical within a system but ultimately relativized outside formative culture. Given the diversity of perspectives some researchers more helpful than others. Overall anti-intellectualism is understood as oppressive and leading to an insidious mistrust of the academic establishment. Each type is seen as problematic in that they hinder social progress, the implication, often left unsaid, is society ought to uproot them and trust the experts again.

The Christian understanding of anti-intellectualism starts with our faith commitment to view things through a Christian worldview. Blamire’s description (above) is helpful on this point. It respects the objective view of facts within the science camp rejecting they’re worldview. We can agree with and learn from much of the analysis from the sociological camp while also rejecting the bulk of their remedy.

Christians see reason as a human faculty that enables humanity to use of the basic rules of logic, in conduction with the ordered form of the universe to gain understanding. Often the other two camps will speak of the Christain positions, especially Blamire’s, as actually promoting anti-intellectualism. Yet from a Christian perspective, the other two positions lack intellectual virtue or a proper view of the whole. In practice, both groups used as a pejorative to secure their own power and influence by delegitimizing other bodies of knowledge.




  1. Harry Blamires, The Christian Mind (London: SPCK, 1963), 3.
  2. Blamires, 38, 16, 40, 13.
  3. Or consider, the Christian who claims practicing homosexuality is a sin, but refuses to take that stand publicly, because it may turn people off, is thinking secularly. How is this thinking secularly? It seems you're just being wise about evangelism? First such thinking is thoroughly disingenuous for the person who you might lead the faith does not understand the expectation of the faith in a particularly contentious area within our culture. Doesn't mean we go out of our way to pick a fight. Love is our method. Love is the only way we are to speak truth yet we speak truth nonetheless. Furthermore such logic is thoroughly pragmatic assuming the if it works its right principle. Second, there's no categorical divide between the secular and the sacred. Third, there is no ethical distinction between the public and private, personal ethics and social ethics are one and the same in the Christian tradition.
  4. Blamires, 29.
  5. Fideism is an epistemological theory which maintains that faith is independent of reason, or that reason and faith are hostile to each other and faith is superior at arriving at particular truths.
  6. Harry Blamires, The Christian Mind, p. 51.
  7. Blamires, p. 50.
  8. Søren Kierkegaard, The Present Age & Of The Difference Between A Genius and an Apostle (New York: Harper & Row, 1962), p. 103
  9. Kierkegaard, p. 106
  10. Blamires, p. 120
  11. Blamires, p. 120
  12. Blamires, p. 146
  13. Blamires, p. 173
  14. Blamires, p. 175
  15. from a ‘A Brief History of Anti-Intellectualism in American Media’ Claussen (2004) who follows the word of Hofstadter and Rigney (1991)

Do Ideas Have Consequences?

“Ideas are overrated,” a young friend once said to me. After a moment I asked him, “So you’re telling me that you hold to the idea that ideas are overrated.” Now a little puzzled and a little unsure he responded “Yes?” “So ideas are not overrated but important, for your idea about ideas is important, well at least to you.” NO!… Yes?? He squinted his eyes and his lips became thin. “You may be right but I think ideas are overrated.” “Just as long as we agree that ideas can be dangerous,” I told him. With a shrug he muttered “I guess so.”

The story highlights a common error about ideas: ideas are overrated. This is a common notion in today’s culture. People often do not believe that ideas have power. They say, ‘Beliefs don’t affect human choice. Only what I do really matters. This is how a person can be smart and anti-intellectual. You don’t have to be stupid to be an anti-intellectual. You just have to believe a few bad ideas about the nature and value of knowledge.

If you don’t believe ideas have power consider the witness of history. Historian Richard Weikart, in his book From Darwin to Hitler, shows the dynamic impact the idea of evolution had on the morality of the great thinkers of Germany, particularly Nazi thinkers. (1) Weikart concludes that “Darwinism played a strategic role not only in the rise of eugenics but also in the rise of euthanasia, infanticide, abortion and racial extermination – all ultimately embraced by the Nazis.”(2) Victor Frankl, a psychologist and Auschwitz survivor, echoed the same sentiment when he wrote.

The gas chambers of Auschwitz were the ultimate consequence of the theory that man is nothing but the product of heredity and environment – or, as the Nazis liked to say, ‘of blood and soil.’ I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidanek were ultimately prepared not in some ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and in lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers. (3)

Consider a personal anecdote from R. C. Sproul. After graduating college with a philosophy degree Sproul needed to get a job. Apparently, the job market was flooded in philosophy, Sproul could only find work as a janitor in a hospital. One night, while talking with a fellow janitor, he found out his coworker had a PhD in philosophy. The coworker was from Germany and had seen Hitler rise to power. Hitler understood the power of ideas. As Hitler rose to power, he soon began pushing all professors that did not “toe the party line” out of the universities. When Sproul’s coworker protested and spoke against the Nazis, they imprisoned him and murdered his wife and children. However, the coworker managed to escape with his youngest daughter. When Sproul asked why he did not teach, the man replied that teaching philosophy had destroyed his life and the lives of those he loved. He could not go back because the pain was too deep. Reflecting on that experience, Sproul writes:

I was pushing a broom because I lived in a culture that sees little value in philosophy and gives scant esteem to those who pursue it. My friend was pushing a broom, on the other hand, because he came from a culture that gave great weight to philosophy. His family was destroyed because Hitler understood that ideas are dangerous. Hitler so feared the consequences of my friend’s ideas that he did everything possible to eliminate him-- and his ideas. (4)

Anti-intellectualism begins with the assumption that ideas don’t matter. Such an assumption is poison both for people and for Nations and even for the church.


  1. Richard Weikart, From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics and Racism in Germany New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004). Also see William Dembski and Benjamin Wiker, Moral Darwinism: How We Became Hedonists (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2002).
  2. James Emery White, A Mind for God (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006) 25.
  3. Viktor Frankl, The Doctor and the Soul: Introduction to Logotherapy (New York: Knopf, 1982) xxi.
  4. R C Sproul, Consequences of Ideas: Understanding the Concepts That Shape our World (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2000) 8-9.

'People are different by design. One way we can speak of this difference is by the concept of personality types.  After having a conversation about personality and spiritual development I dusted off some old notes and took another look at how personality traits and temperament influence our practice of the  spiritual disciplines (prayer and bible study etc.).


Personality, preference and Spiritual Disciplines


Personality types are helpful descriptions that enable us to get a sense of who we are. Because of our personalities, we have preferences, and our preferences relate to how we relate to and process the world. Robert Kaplan and Dennis Saccuzzo believe "the underlying assumption of the MBTI is that we all have specific preferences in the way we construe our experiences, and these preferences underlie our interests, needs, values, and motivation"[1]  Just as we tend to favor either the right or left hand, so too we exhibit a particular direction in the way we view life, God, and even how we practice spirituality.

The danger with preferences when it comes to spiritual disciplines are that we practice what is easy or comfortable to us. Our personality type naturally inclines us to some disciplines more than others. We enjoy those spiritual disciplines that are in line with our personality and rarely, if ever, engage in the disciplines that actually take, discipline! When you were young Christian this is part of the process. But there comes a point you must enact some measure of structure and discipline if you are to grow as a christian. This a far cry from legalism for  grace opposes merit not effort.

I’m not necessarily advocating that you take a personality test, just that there is a measure of wisdom in knowing yourself. Especially, when it comes to practicing the spiritual disciplines, knowing your natural tendency and  common avoidance explains why you do some spiritual practices but not others. In An Invitation to a Journey, theologain Robert Mulholland notes,

“Left to ourselves in the development of our spiritual practices, we will generally gravitate to those spiritual activities that nurture our preferred pattern of being and doing. The shadow side of our preference will languish unattended and unnurtured...The results of such one-sided spirituality can be devastating to our spiritual pilgrimage.” (Mulholland Pg 69)

So for the undisciplined knowing what practices will be a good entry point is wisdom. Also for those a little farther along the path knowing that resisting your preferences and doing some spiritual disciplines that are harder for you is the next big step in growth. Those things that run against our preferences  needs to be developed and strengthened.

Just because we are not inclined or “good” at doing something does not excuse us from action, particularly when that action is commanded by Scripture! No one gets to say because of my personality type, that scripture does not apply to me.


Understanding Myers-Briggs

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a helpful tool for grasping the effect that personality has on our life with God.   Myers-Briggs is comprised of 8 preferences in pairs on a sliding scale

E - I     extroversion ----- introversion
S - N   sensing ------ intuition
T - F    thinking ----- feeling
J - P     judging ----- perceiving

The first and last pairs are called attitudes because they represent the orientation of the individual in regard to the world and where they gain energy and motivation.

E – extrovert: stimulated by the outer world of people and things
I – introvert: derives energy from the inner world of ideas, concepts, feelings, and spirit

J – judging: primarily concerned with how things should be.
P – perceiving: primarily concerned with how things are.

The middle pairs of preferences are called functions. They have to do with the method one uses to relate to the world or to oneself.

S – sensing: concentrates on what is available to the senses (visible, audible, etc.)
N – intuitive: concentrates on the inner sense of things

T – thinking: uses the intellect to arrive at a conclusion through reasoning
F – feeling: makes decisions based on how one feels about things

Since the Myers-Briggs is an epistemological-based assessment. It is very helpful in the field of education. David Keirsey an educational psychologist categorized the 16 Myers-Briggs types into four major temperaments. The simplified groupings touch on the predominate way we gather and understand information as well as our general temperament in relationship to the world.

SP: The Artisans
SJ: The Guardians
NF: The Idealists
NT: The Rationals

One thing of note, Myers-Briggs is not a personality test. In populate culture a personality is thought of in a deterministic way, like it is a fixed absolute that determines who you are.  Myers-Briggs is an Assessment or indicator of your preferences and personality traits that you currently hold. If used correctly it can function as a self-assessment to identify areas in which to develop. Part of Christian growth particularly in the areas of character and ones inner life (desires, and preferences) aims at becoming a whole person. Said another way, Part of holiness is whol-i-ness. Seeking wholeness is fundamental to becoming a mature human, who exhibits basic self-awareness, social and relational appreciation, natural empathy and clear headed thinking.

Christian seldom ask the question, "Which area of life do I need to work on to become a whole person?" Some people are good at being Christian but unable to spend a day in solitude, silence, and self-reflection without turning on the TV or swallowing their tongue. Others can't sustain personal relationships without becoming codependent or burning every bridge in sight. Since i am on this rant, still others are so spiritual they act like odd balls of uncomfortable awkwardness or "holier-than-thou" dysfunction. Sadly the reason is because they skipped over growing as a human and ran head long into Christian experience and practice.

Assessments like the Myers-Briggs help you see yourself from a vantage point. Such a perspective allows the person to learn about themselves in a constructive way. This new perspective opens an avenue in which you can give all you know of yourself to all you know of God. An avenue that allows you to work on balancing overtly strong preferences with its counterpart bringing them to a balance and understand how God personally made you to most naturally engage with him. As well as see those aspects of yourself where you need to exert more discipline for you don't naturally engage in those disciplines.


Personality, prayer and how we most naturally engage with God.

Below are some characteristics of each Myers-Briggs type and some notes on how they will tend to experience God in prayer and in the existential aspects of spiritual life. Look for both the one most like you and unlike you realizing that both are important in becoming well rounded christian. But first, let me set the stage by introducing Lectio Divina.

Lectio Divina (“sacred reading”) is a historic, time-tested method of Scripture study and prayer dating back to the Middle Ages. (If you are getting nervous, go read Martin Luther’s “Letter to My Barber” and you’ll see that this is exactly what he prescribes). Here are the various aspects of practicing the Lectio Divina. They are not steps per say more aspects but many move through them in the order given.

Lectio: slow, thoughtful reading of a text of Scripture
Meditatio: welcoming this word from God into our lives; chewing and ruminating on it
Oratio: responding to God in prayer
Contemplatio: Listening to the Holy Spirit and enjoying the presence of God


NT Characteristics - The Rationals

  • Logical, rational, intellectual
  • Thirst for truth
  • Long to understand, explain, master, excel
  • Straightforward and direct
  • Tend to be impersonal/insensitive
  • Appreciate excellence and seek to avoid mistakes
  • Demanding of self and others
  • Love planning; tend to be very future-oriented
  • Generally excel at whatever they do

NT Prayer:

  • NT’s are the most mystical and contemplative of all the types. They thrive on earnest, thoughtful pursuit of the good, the true, and the beautiful.
  • Authors Michael and Norrisey recommend that NT’s practice “Thomistic Prayer,” which is essentially discursive meditation: taking a biblical/theological truth and “walking around in it,” studying it from every angle and contemplating its facets and implications.
  • NT’s will especially thrive in the Meditatio step of Lectio Divina.

Thomistic Study and Spirituality
Recommended by St. Thomas Aquinas and using syllogistic methods of thinking (looking at it from every angle) and orderly progression of thought from cause to effect (rational thinking to arrive at an appropriate conclusion). NT's have a great thirst for truth and for the freedom that flows from knowing truth. They desire to comprehend, explain, predict and control. The tend to be leaders, and also tend to pursue perfection and see stupidity and incompetence as the worst possible faults. They can be overcritical and are often work-a-holics. They are poor losers -- very competitive. They tend to be impersonal in relationships. NT spirituality is ordered and question-oriented. May use seven auxiliary questions: "what, why, how, who, where, when, with what helps" to explore the text. the discipline of deep Bible study with a systematic method, consulting commentaries and theologians as you come to the objective and reasonable meaning of the text is natural to this type.


NF Characteristics - The Idealists

  • Creative
  • Optimistic
  • Verbal/outspoken
  • Great need for self-expression
  • Deep feelings; love affirmation, hate criticism
  • Excel at empathy, understanding, compassion
  • Natural “rescuers” of others
  • Want their outer life to be totally congruent with their inner self
  • Often dissatisfied with the present

NF Prayer

  • NF’s must experience personal relationship with God. They are always looking for deeper meaning, insight, significance. Journaling is often key to the prayer life of an NF: they tend to pray best “at the point of a pen.”
  • Michael and Norrisey recommend that NF’s practice “Augustinian Prayer,” or transposition: imagining the words of Scripture as if God is speaking them directly to me, right now, in my current situation.
  • NF’s will tend to thrive in the Oratio and Contemplatio steps of Lectio Divina.

Augustinian Prayer and Spirituality
Named in honor of St. Augustine -- who developed rules of spirituality for the monks and convents in North Africa. The key word is projection, using creative imagination to transpose and apply Scripture to today's situation. Especially used by NF's who are usually creative, optimistic, verbal, persuasive, outspoken, writers and speakers; good listeners, counselors, conflict resolver and peacemakers. Handling negative criticism is difficult for NFs, but they blossom under affirmation. Visionaries. Prayer is a discourse between God and the self. Journaling prayers and writing a confession to God is an natural discipline for the NF. What is meant by confession means more than just asking for forgiveness of sins. It means probing one's past to see God's hand and search out one's inner motives and psychology in a written conversation with God. (For more on this way of writing read Augustine's confessions).


SJ Characteristics - The Guardians

  • Deep sense of obligation
  • Want to feel useful – givers, not receivers
  • Very practical, common-sense
  • Strong work ethic
  • Value tradition, authority, structure
  • Conservative and stabilizing
  • Guardians of the values
  • Tendency toward pessimism

SJ Prayer

  • SJ’s prefer regimen and routine, so liturgy is especially helpful and meaningful to them. They enjoy a sense of connection with history and with the past. Prayer books and tools will be especially helpful to them.
  • Michael and Norrisey recommend “Ignatian Prayer” for SJ’s: becoming part of the biblical scene through imagination. For instance, as you read of the crucifixion of Jesus, you imagine what it would be like to stand there in the crowd; as you read of the Exodus, you imagine what it would be like to be one of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea.
  • SJ’s will thrive most fully in the Lectio phase of Lectio Divina.

Ignatian Reading and Spirituality
People drawn to this kind of reading often have a strong sense of duty, and a good imagination. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit Order, developed this method in the 16th century. He took his inspiration from the psalms, which show a way of praying rooted in God's character and past works. In remembering and celebrating the salvation event, the people relive, participate in, and symbolically make past events real. practically it involved reading the bible with ones senses. Through multiple reads one engages what it would have smelt like, looked like, sounded like,  until the reader can fully engulfed themselves in the story.  Casting oneself back into the events of the past, one imagines the scene through all five senses, making the story real and present and becoming part of it.


SP Characteristics - The Artisans

  • Impulsive
  • Dislike rules and structure
  • Action-driven, crisis-oriented
  • Flexible, adaptable
  • Live in the present, love the “new thing”
  • Cheerful, witty, charming
  • Good entertainers
  • Thrive on risk and challenge
  • Best at short-range projects; dislike long-term planning

SP Prayer

  • SP’s have the least need for long periods of formal prayer. They tend excel at “practicing the presence of God” – experiencing God’s presence in the events of every day. Because SP’s are very sensory, being out in nature is key to experiencing communion with God.
  • Michael and Norrisey recommend “Franciscan Prayer” for SP’s: spontaneous, free-flowing, active prayer that emphasizes tangible acts of service and devotion. They embody prayer in all they do. Doing good deeds for others or giving gifts to others are prayerful, devotional activities for SP’s – more than all the other types, “their work is their prayer.”
  • SP’s will thrive most fully in the Oratio phase of Lectio Divina

Fransiscan Prayer and Spirituality
St. Francis introduced this type in the 13th century. It is characterized by an attitude of openness and willingness to go where the Spirit calls. SP's are impulsive free spirits, often witty and charming. They love action and work best in a crisis. They are good at unsnarling messes, making them good negotiators and diplomats. They tend to be flexible and open-minded, living in the present. They are best at short-range projects, because they need to see results. Centering life in God. Creation is a Bible – every sense is impressionable; Gospels are appealing as another example of the incarnation of God in creation. Appreciate the grand gesture, and given to just behavior. Although very sacrificial, SP's don't respond well to the symbolic. They usually dislike formal prayer, preferring spontaneous, impulsive prayer or seeing work, celebration, or enjoying nature, etc. as prayer.

End notes
[1] Kaplan, R.M., & Saccuzzo, D.P. Psychological testing: Principle, applications, and issues. (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth 2009) p. 499 A helpful book in this area is "Prayer and Temperament: Different Prayer Forms for Different Personality Types by Michael and Norrisey"

Suggested readings
Harbaugh, Gary L. God's Gifted People (Augsburg, 1990).
Keirsey, David and Marilyn Bates. Please Understand Me (Gnosology Books, 1984).
Michael, Chester P. and Marie C. Norrisey. Prayer and Temperament (The Open Door, 1984).
Oswald, Roy M. and Otto Kroeger. Personality Type and Religious Leadership (Alban Institute, 1988).


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