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January 12, 2009

Devotional Journey—Day 8

The topic of today's devotional, intellectualism, has been hotly debated among Christians for centuries. The debate is not new to me. I was baptized Lutheran, went to Episcopalian churches as a child, a nondenominational church as a teen, a Reformed college for my freshman year, and an Assemblies of God school for missions. As a result, I've experienced a wide range of opinions and biblical teachings on the importance of an intellectual faith.

Rosalie De Rosset's charge for women is to refocus on knowing God's word and studying the faith, instead of a discussion on leisure activities and touchy-feely spirituality. While I have my opinions on the topic of loving God with our minds, we want to hear from you about the thought-provoking questions from today's devotional. Share your thoughts on these with the rest of us, or any other reactions you had.

? Do you agree with Rosalie that women's ministry focuses too much on emotions and family roles and not enough on "becoming an intellectual"? Do you agree with Carolyn Custis James that "all women are called to be theologians"?

? What do you think it means to love God with all your mind? Is a good study plan really a part of love?

? What is one specific way you'd like to build up the intellectual aspect of your faith?

By the way, it's not too late to join us for the 14-Day Devotional, or to download it to save for later. Click here to get your free copy of the Bible studies, or here to see the dozens of other training resources Gifted for Leadership offers for women leaders.


I was brought up in a denomination that taught that feelings were anathema; they might lead you to do something against God's word. I am now in a tradition that values feelings above thinking where 'thinking' people are sometimes regarded as not having been born again in the Spirit.

I think that some of us naturally prefer to understand the world through thoughts and some through feelings. 'Thinking' denominations should not disparage the more 'charismatic' denominations and vice versa.

We would all do well to try to learn outside our own preferred type from time to time. That goes for denominations as well as people.

As in all things, we need balance. When planning women's retreats for our church, we always begin with a study of scripture, with both small and large group discussion of what that scripture means in our lives as our primairy focus. However, we know that women are at different places in their faith journey, have different styles of learning and different needs. So, we also include opportunities for social activities and fun. Personnally, I could spend the whole weekend in intellectual pursuit of God's word, (That's my kind of fun!) but that would not appeal to all women. That being said, we do believe the scripture is the heart and soul of what we need to share with other women and is the starting point. All other aspects of life fall into place from there.

Loving the Lord with my mind is not a difficult concept for me. When I fell in love with my husband, I was eager to "know" everything about him. This knowledge informs my relationship with him. I've learned what pleases him as well as what does not. Why would it be any different with my God?

Anyone, or even anything, we are passionate about creates hunger for knowledge.

I want to know my God as fully as He has made himself known. To do this, I spend time daily asking the Holy Spirit to teach me as I study the Word. This is his ministry to believers, and he never fails me.

This intellectual pursuit of God leads to deeper faith, prayer that is divine conversation, and wisdom for living.

I’ll admit: I haven’t always been a great reader. Rather, I didn’t spend time reading books. I could say I had no time for books. But I find time for television or movies or other things I value. I’ve started feeling a growing discomfort with “watching” my life away. And so I’ve started reading some books. And WOW! I wish I’d gotten into it sooner. I LOVE hearing God speak through others; I love the connection that reading a book brings–to God, the world, others, and so much more. I would say, without developing our minds–without pursuing God through intellect in reading and conversation–we really ARE in the dark. I want to develop my intellect by reading more--of the Bible, of the great theologians. I believe this is a part of loving God more by giving him my best and by feeding my mind things that will challenge, strengthen and grow it closer to Him.

In order for me to love God with my mind, I must know Him and I know Him by how He reveals Himself (His Names, Character and Attributes) in the Word. Otherwise, I create a God in my image...based on my feelings and not truth. Women leaders need to share their love of the Word with others and provide times of study. However, the Word must be applied/appropriated in living out our lives. On the other hand, people were important to Jesus and they need to be important to us...we need to make time for relationships.

Today, someone very dear to me was diagnosed with inoperable cancer. The doctor told her she had three months to live.

Whether she thinks of herself as a theologian or not, I can guarantee she reached for her theology in that terrible moment. Her situation exposes the seriousness of the issue Hollie is raising.

I know it must sound crazy to suggest that "all women are called to be theologians," but frankly none of us can avoid it. Theology is woven into the everyday fabric of our lives. But we discover just how vital our theology is when we're reaching for it in a time of trouble. The moment the word "why?" crosses your lips, you are doing theology.

The real question we should be asking isn't, "Do I want to be a theologian?" but, "Am I a good one?"

Theology has been misused, distorted, and even used as a weapon. Little wonder it sounds cold and even distasteful to so many women. So let us throw out the bathwater, but keep the baby. Theology isn't about mastering abstract ideas and and big words or living in our heads. Theology is about a person. It is my relationship with God.

Knowing God doesn't mean divorcing my heart from my head. Real theology means I have to use both. And I'm not getting it if it doesn't start to change me--who I am, how I live in this world, and how I relate to others.

Dr. J. I. Packer says it best in his book, Knowing God:

We are cruel to ourselves if we try to live in this world without knowing about the God whose world it is and who runs it. The world becomes a strange, mad, painful place, and life in it a disappointing and unpleasant business, for those who do not know about God. Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life, blindfold, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you. This way you can waste your life and lose your soul.

So I'm sticking to what I said. You are a theologian. And Rosalie De Rosset is right. We need to use our minds to pursue a deeper understanding of the God who holds our lives in His hands.

If want to explore the importance of theology for women further, read When Life and Beliefs Collide: How Knowing God Makes a Difference.

A few days ago, i had a conversation with my husband about the fact that most young ladies that have risn to the top of their careers often miss it or rather are unsuccessful in their roles as wives and mothers. Intellectually, it seems they are up there but their home is in disarray.
I believe it’s true that most women ministry focuses more on emotional and family issues rather than intellectual issues. This is due to the fact that women are more of emotional beings and are family and relationship oriented more than men. Most men see women as less intelligent and may i say less 'intellectually sound’ than their male counterparts. That is why few women stand out when it comes to intellectual issues.
The time has come for us women to develop ourselves intellectually, read more, be more aware of things happening in our environment, focus less on our emotions and selfish desires, and begin to combine well our roles as wives, and mothers so that we can stand out as leaders, and role models in our careers, churches, ministry and be who God intends us to be.

This lesson hit me exactly where I have been over the past few months. As I work toward another deadline on the long road of PhD studies, I often look around and feel that I am doing the Christian life all-wrong. Most women in my church have time go read the latest Christian inspirational book, serve daily at our church’s kitchen, and mark each of their child’s first words with a scrapbooking sticker. When I finally have a chance to seek refuge from the rigor and criticism of academia, I find that I must abandon my intellect to pursue the life of the spirit. Must we allow this dichotomy to persist? Surely Christ’s youthful pursuit of knowledge in the temple demonstrates a need to passionately serve Christ in the knowledge of his scriptures. THANK YOU, for your words this morning, Rosalie. I feel liberated and encouraged as I embark on another day in the life of the mind with a spirit of faith.

Loving God with all your mind. If you compare Mark 12:30 with Deuteronomy 6:5, you will find that Jesus ADDED this phrase to the quote. It begs to ask the question "Why?" Perhaps becasue He was addressing the learned, who thought they knew all there was to know about the law? Because He knew that they needed to give over even their intellect, which they held so dearly, to the service of God? This fact only goes to support that which was writen here.

I came to Christ as a married adult during college. I was majoring in science. However, God made Himself real to me in a way that was undeniable, even though He could not be empirically proven at that moment. It required an intellectual leap, or at least an intellectual “letting go.” Truth was not and is not limited by what I could see with my eyes, nor is it derived by any amount of logic. There are always the “given’s,” those things that must be accepted before one can begin reasoning.

One might conclude that I am building a case for a touchy feely Christianity. God forbide. Once we accept the foundational truths- God Is. He gave His Son, and a few more- we must apply our God given minds to our life and belief, knowing that there are times we will be asked to move past what our eyes can see and our minds can reckon. We must develop our own theology; a theology that we can embrace as true and valid for our own life rather than the words of .... a great speaker, charismatic leader, powerful writer, or televangelist.

I am convinced that everyone must own his or her own set of beliefs based primarily on careful study of the Word of God, tempered by reading the works of others, and seasoned with personal experience. Otherwise, we are prone to being tossed by every wind of doctrine. Otherwise when a leader, such as Jim Jones, tells us to drink the Kool-aid, we will. And we will die.

I sometimes speak to homeschooling parents about teaching critical thinking skills in their homes. I remind them that many of them homeschool so that they can impart their values to their children. Then I tell them it is impossible. Parents must teach children to develop their own values. As long as children are living on borrowed convictions, they are at risk of being seduced by any wind that blows. And so are we.

As humans, we're made up of emotions and of intellect. Women's ministry materials (including TCW sometimes) though, do tend to lean too much towards emotions and be very shallow, and, well, a bit ooey gooey, pure fluff. That's why I avoid materials aimed purely at women.

Now, my question is how do you have a deep walk with God if you don't know your theology?

@Cynthia - "I must abandon my intellect to pursue the life of the spirit." I can empathise with this one. It can become a lonely place to be for a more academic / 'intellectual' woman.

Do you agree with Rosalie that women’s ministry focuses too much on emotions and family roles and not enough on “becoming an intellectual”? YES. And it creates imbalances. We're not all like that, and we're not all about that.

What is one specific way you’d like to build up the intellectual aspect of your faith? I'd love to study with likeminded women. But as that is impossible at present, I'll continue to talk with likeminded women over the web. It's like water for a thirsty soul.

I'm writing a series of lessons for a publisher right now for a curriculum series. Once again, I'm challenged by Scripture. I want to sense His greatness. I want to probe the harder scriptures, and there are many. I want to understand the context, and setting, and meaning before I write or speak it. But I also want to feel God, just as Jeremiah spoke it throughout his teachings. I want both a heart and mind relationship with my faith.

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