The Intellectual or the Devoted?
Perhaps the major reason why the intellectual life is viewed with suspicion and distrust is because it is regarded by many as being an alternative to devotion. The prevalence of this view that devotedness and the intellectual life are mutually exclusive shows that we do not really understand the nature of this life, and that we have certainly not thought the matter through. is it not more reasonable that the more devoted one is to Christ, and the more one conforms his own life to Him, the more Christ challenges the whole man, his mind included, and demands as well as stimulates growth and development?
It is peculiarly unfortunate that this attitude which regards the devoted life and the intellectual life as alternatives is sometimes expressed in connection with Christian education. We sometimes hear someone saying that he would rather see our Christian colleges be second-rate, academically, than lose their devotion to the Lord. Let us be very sure of one thing, that we can never be very devoted to the Lord and His cause if we are satisfied with anything less than the best. Let us be devoted enough to want to excel. If we do not want to excel, we place ourselves in the rather odd position that affirms that mediocrity makes us feel safer. Surely the cause to which we have dedicated our lives deserves better.
Our Christian colleges exist for the purpose of developing young people intellectually, spiritually, and socially to live the Christian life. Too frequently it seems as though we think our purpose is to protect or guard them from life. We cannot isolate them forever, and we cannot do justice to them if we do not acquaint them with the challenges of life. If we do not do justice to those challenges, we are not doing justice to our students. And if we are mediocre in our treatment of the problems of life, we are deceiving ourselves if we think that we are successful in performing our task.
What I am appealing for is not a sterile, dry, irrelevant, academic braintrust that paralyzes all involved. What I do appeal for is a devotion to the Lord so deep, and a love for His Word so powerful, and an awareness of man’s need of God so moving that Christian education will become an enterprise so creative, so dynamic and therefore so demanding that it will call for the very best that is within us. Only when we have reached that level of devotion shall we fulfill our real purpose, and shall we overcome some of the problems we now face. Only then shall we move from our defensive posture and assume one that will enable us to serve the Lord more successfully. Only then shall we attract Christian faculty and students of superior ability who do not now think of a Christian college as a live choice. And only then shall we come to understand ourselves better.
–excerpted from Abraham J. Malherbe, “To Today’s Intellectual Challenges” in Lift Up Your Eyes, Being the Abilene Christian College Annual Bible Lectures 1965. Abilene Christian College Students Exchange: Abilene, 1965, pages 183-184.