Connecting With God intellectually.
The intellectual pathway is not about having a high IQ – it is about connecting with God through learning new concepts and insights. Worshipping God with your mind as you increase your comprehension about scripture, or have an intellectually stimulating conversation about theology and the world today. When we use our mind to be curious – even asking questions about God – we can grow closer in our relationship with God.
Studies show that even those who press into their doubts about God, and think deeply about their wrestling – end up with a more vibrant and deep faith. The intellectual pathway helps us stay curious about God, ourselves, and the world God loves! It helps us to recognize just how complex God truly is.
We see the pursuit of God intellectually throughout the scriptures. Jesus says in Mark:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
Proverbs 1:5-7 focuses on the importance of seeking wisdom and understanding:
“Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance— for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
Pursuing a connection with God intellectually can look like a study of scripture, church history, theology, apologetics or historical creeds. When we include our mind in our pursuit of God, we will find that we expand our understanding, and the questions will bring us to new places – after all, the word “quest” is right there in the word question!
The Bible Project
- Head to https://bibleproject.com/explore/themes/ where some scholars have made artistic videos that explain the major themes of the Bible. The videos and other resources are free to use. There are many themes told through 5 minute videos.
- For this experiment, pick one video a day for a week and consider these questions:
- Wonder about the experience you have had with the Bible in your life up to this point. How does it compare to these stories? What is familiar, what is bringing new perspective?
- As you watch the videos consider the reality of God as the main character of the overarching story, or metanarrative.
- In each video, what is God as the main character trying to accomplish?
- Find a conversation partner and talk through what you discovered in this experiment.
Seeing From The Other Side
- Grab a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle from top to bottom.
- Consider a theological or ideological issue that you feel passionate about and write it at the top of the left column.
- Bring to the surface some of the reasons you hold that position and write them down in bullet points on the left column.
- Now think about the reasons that may be connected to your faith or what you think God cares about. Write those down on the left side as well.
- Now your goal is to think through the opposite or a very different perspective than your own on the same issue. Write that perspective on the top of the right column.
- Think about the reasons someone may have come to that conclusion. At first, you may feel in your mind that you want to refute the reasons you came up with. Instead just write them down on the right side.
- Now think about how someone may come to this opposing conclusion if they are a Christian. How might they understand their faith through a lens that leads them to come to this understanding.
- Observe both sides of the paper – and consider how thinking through how others arrive at their point of view can expand your mind. Notice how it could give you the ability to listen to others with more empathy and understanding even if your position does not shift.
- Sit down with a piece of paper and write at the top – “questions for or about God”
- Now set a timer for 5-10 minutes. In that time, write down as many questions that you would ask God if you could hear an audible answer.
- Consider questions about God – or about the world. Questions about how things work or why things have happened or are happening.
- Open up your mind to be curious about positive and interesting things as well as things that may cause you to feel sad or discouraged.
- If you get to a point where you feel like you run out of questions, let your mind follow the trail one question may lead you down. Notice how questions are generative – they can often lead to more questions.
- Write as many as you can, no one needs to see this – it’s just an exercise. No question is too dumb or is off limits.
- When the timer goes off, sit with your list and allow yourself to consider that God is the one with all the answers to these questions. You may feel frustrated that you don’t have some of the answers that mean a lot to you. That’s ok, you can tell God how you feel.
- Let your mind consider how God’s understanding is infinite compared to our finite minds and let it lead you to a place of awe of who God is.
Interview The Other
- Consider an area in your life where it would be very clear that someone would be in another category as you. For instance, someone who is in a different political party than you would typically affiliate yourself with, someone with a different religious background or someone who grew up primarily in a different country.
- Ask them if you can interview them about their perspective because you are doing an experiment in seeking to understand people who are different than you.
- You may come up with your own list of questions based on the specific person who you are interviewing. Here are some questions to get you started:
- What current event headline has affected you the most lately and in what way?
- What would you say are the best aspects of your religion/culture/political party
- What would you change about your religion/culture/political party if you could
- What are some ways that you feel like you, or people like you are misunderstood
- What stereotypes do you believe others have about your religion/culture/political party and what do you agree with and disagree with?
- Do your best just to listen and to ask questions. Unless the person asks you a question, continue to respond with additional questions. Ask any follow up questions that seem appropriate to your prepared questions.
- Two great follow up questions are: Could you tell me more about that? Could you help me understand this better?
- After your interview, consider what God may want you to notice or reflect on. Pray and listen to God as you consider what the Spirit may want to teach you as you listened.