18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.
19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.
20 And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.
21 Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours… 1 Cor. 3:18-21
You would be surprised to learn that many of the warnings to God’s people in the Bible are directed, not to the foolish people amongst the saints, but to the intelligent, the learned, the educated, the enlightened, and the wise – in short, to anyone with brains. These are the people who are most easily deceived in church. They are more susceptible to deception than the foolish people in church.
Did you ever notice the kind of people who sit under such worldly (but supposedly Biblical) teachings like motivational teachings and ‘power of the mind’ (“As a man thinketh, so is he”) teachings, prosperity teachings and all other kinds of false teachings? They are all highly intelligent and educated people. You wouldn’t understand what motivational preaching was if you’d never seen the inside of a classroom, would you?
Another aspect of this issue is the kind of scriptures that these preachers chose to preach on. Motivational preachers love Proverbs 23:7: “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…” They preach on it more than any other scripture. What they fail to realize is that the Bible is not talking about the grey matter within our skulls. On the contrary, the Bible is talking about the mind of the spirit. These are two completely divergent things, and they will never meet. The Bible talks of two different natures: the carnal nature and the spiritual nature. When we unwittingly give life to the human mind through these teachings, we are building up the carnal nature in us.
I am sorry to say so, but highly intelligent people love to have their minds soothed by high-sounding philosophies. And most of them are not aware they are listening to worldly philosophies, not the Word of life.
That is why the scriptures specifically warn those people who rely on their minds. The Bible holds that the human mind is enmity to the Holy Spirit and to our spirits also (Gal. 5:17). God encourages us to desist from giving place to this enemy.
There are people who become very defensive when you touch negatively on the human mind. They have many scriptures to ‘prove’ that the human mind is needed to build up God’s Kingdom. But that can never be. Our human wisdom is worldly wisdom, and God cannot allow it to be involved in building His Kingdom, for it is spiritual. Instead of being defensive, therefore, we should strive for humility, for “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (Jam. 4:6).
God speaks and deals with us through our spirits. The spirit, after all, is eternal; the human mind and human wisdom are temporal. Through the spiritual interaction God can transform our spirits into the image of Christ. It is only through our spirits that God can give the things that we truly need, things like humility…
[Below: Downtown Dar es Salaam]
When I taught and did advanced degree studies in seminary one thing troubled many of us, that those who had a mere three years of seminary thought they were now trained to do ministry. That claim proved they had not learned enough! And many great Christian voices were/are educated people (C. S. Lewis, Ravi Zacharias, etc.) who use their education to promote the Realm of God on earth, not feather their own ego. I have confronted many heresies, sometimes in very public forums, because I had a background that made me open to God exposing the tempting errors of false teachings. Those who use their education as a status to demand submission to their authority work on the wrong side. Those who honour the opportunity for training to serve God (like Paul and Moses) rather than personal advantage are indeed servants of the Most High God. But the tradition of “an educated clergy” went off track because discernment of gifts, of personal faith and a servant heart got buried beneath academics robes! Thomas a Kempis also argues strongly, like you, that knowledge can lead a person astray and one must be ever vigilant. Some knowledge leads to wisdom, the root of which is fear of God, so education cannot be categorically condemned as an evil, any more than one can argue ignorance is a blessing to God. Test the spirits, observe the fruit and watch who gets the glory is the issue, not how much one reads.
I believe that in this scripture Paul is talking about a work upon the inner man, not knowledge, spiritual or otherwise. It is no different from what he says in 1 Cor. 13 that if we could have all knowledge but not have love we are nothing.
Actually, I am not sure about that. It seems to me this passage refers to people like the Neo-atheists who believe their science proves God doesn’t exist, or an intellectual who is so smart she doesn’t have to learn at the feet of Jesus as Mary did, or who are so “competent in their field” that they do not have to consider the ways of God. Of course, knowledge, like faith, gifts, even prophecy, without love are nothing, doesn’t mean knowledge is evil, unless it lacks love (true love, heavenly love). Unless you want to say all modern apologists and Christians who are scientists and doctors have all erred? As they say, sometimes a broad brush covers too much…
As you know, David, Paul is talking to the church, not unbelievers, so this passage cannot be referring to neo-atheists. And Paul here is showing the Corinthian church the danger of thinking you are well according to what you know or the gifts you carry while you are not carrying your cross! In other words, true spiritual knowledge – true wisdom – is when we take up our cross and follow Christ. As you can see, it has nothing to do with whether one is educated or not.
In your blog you say people with brains are the most easily deceived, not ”some are” or “could be”. It is this blanket statement I questioned, and I see in your comment you now seem to agree, since being educated or not is not the point, which was my point. A person educated in the ways of God for serving God is not more easily deceived, but fortified. Somehow wisdom/knowledge mean only temporal information for you, and that may be confusing me.
The Bible says that knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. Someone with wisdom/knowledge is more likely to have question than someone less enlightened worldly-wise.