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Full Gospel, Fractured Minds?: A Call to Use God's Gift of the Intellect

1 rating: 3.0
A book by Rick M. Nañez

Do you sometimes feel you have to check your intellect at the church door, leaving reason behind to embrace the Christian faith? Do you hunger for a 'full gospel' that includes the mind as well as heart and Spirit? Full Gospel, Fractured Minds? challenges … see full wiki

Tags: Book
Author: Rick M. Nañez
Publisher: Zondervan
1 review about Full Gospel, Fractured Minds?: A Call to...

Can There Be a "Full Gospel" Mind?

  • Feb 8, 2006
Rating:
+3
The Pentecostal revival and the Charismatic renewal movement have made many valuable contributions to world Christianity. Through them, for example, the worldwide church has experienced God's empowering presence and grown exponentially over the course of the last century. Unfortunately, these "full gospel" movements have not made significant contributions to the vitality of the Christian mind in the modern world. Instead, with notable exceptions, they have been largely indifferent or, in many cases, downright hostile to the life of the mind.

The causes of and cure for Pentecostal-Charismatic anti-intellectualism is the subject of Rick M. Nañez's new book, Full Gospel, Fractured Minds? A Call to Use God's Gift of the Intellect (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005). Nañez is currently an Assemblies of God missionary educator in Quito, Ecuador, but he has also served as pastor in stateside AG churches. This is his first book with Zondervan, a leading evangelical publishing house.

There are two parts to Full Gospel, Fractured Minds? Part 1, "Anatomy of the Fractured Mind," covers the biblical teaching regarding the life of the mind (chapters 1-4) as well as the historical, sociological, and theological sources of "full gospel" anti-intellectualism (chapters 5-10). Throughout these chapters, Nañez's working definition of anti-intellectualism is "a prejudice against the careful and deliberate use of one's intellect." My only quibble with this definition concerns the word prejudice. A prejudice suggests an instinctive and unreflective bias against something. While many Pentecostals and Charismatics are prejudiced against the intellect in this way, many others-notably the "full gospel" leaders whom Nañez cites-make arguments against the careful and deliberate use of the intellect. This is ironic, of course, since one has to use one's intellect in order to make an argument against using one's intellect. Such self-contradictory arguments are unfortunate evidence of how deeply anti-intellectual some Pentecostal and Charismatic leaders are.

Part 2, "Ammunition for the Full-Gospel Mind," makes the case for the cultivation of reason, logic, education, theology, apologetics, philosophy, science, and reading by Pentecostals and Charismatics (chapters 11-17). Chapter 18 offers a brief but fascinating survey of Christian leaders through the centuries who have combined intellectual depth with spiritual vitality. Chapter 19 argues that "full gospel" Christians cannot effect change in their culture without taking the intellectual high ground, and chapter 20 suggests practical ways that lay believers and ordinary churches can promote the life of the Christian mind.

I came away from reading Full Gospel, Fractured Minds? both energized and demoralized: energized because I have found a kindred spirit. Like Nañez, I am an Assemblies of God minister who loves to collect and read books. And like him, I firmly believe that the cause of Christ cannot move forward unless Pentecostals and Charismatics refuse to get "stuck on stupid" and start to love God with all their mind (Matthew 22.37).

Nevertheless, I was somewhat demoralized because of the depth and extent of anti-intellectualism in "full gospel" circles. No doubt my demoralization arises from my personal circumstances. I was reared in a home and spiritually reared in a church that valued education. My mother was a school teacher. My father, who has a doctorate in pastoral theology as well as a law degree, was the senior pastor of my home church as well as an adjunct professor of religion at a nearby Christian liberal arts college. Many of the members of my home church were teachers and college professors. I never experienced the kind of "full gospel" anti-intellectualism Nañez describes precisely because everyone I knew valued the life of the mind. I knew it existed, but I thought it was abnormal.

Nañez's description of the historical, sociological, and theological sources of "full gospel" anti-intellectualism shows that I was wrong. Historically speaking, anti-intellectualism shows up in the twin well-springs of the modern Pentecostal revival: Charles G. Parham's Bethel Bible School and William Seymour's Azusa Street Mission. Both eschewed serious thinking and "book learning," and instead promoted spiritual immediacy and supernatural guidance. Their animus against the life of the mind continues as a significant theme in the lives of their spiritual progeny. But their anti-intellectualism was even more deeply rooted in the themes and techniques of nineteenth-century revivalism, which was often virulently anti-intellectual because of its democratizing tendency to level distinctions between the learned and the unlearned. (See Nathan Hatch's The Democratization of American Christianity for an excellent historical study of this tendency.) Historically and sociologically, then, there never really was a "full gospel" mind to begin with.

But Nañez also describes five theological doctrines that restricted the development of the mind among Pentecostals and Charismatics. These include:

* "the concept that if the Holy Spirit `teaches all things,' `leads into all truth,' and delights in using `ignorant and unlearned men,' then why unnecessarily put yourself through the rigors of mental and intellectual discipline?"
* "The very idea that foreign languages [i.e., tongues], the future, deep insights, and information all otherwise unknown, can be mainlined into the soul and then gush forth through the lips of a believer, can become a potent catalyst for anti-intellectualism."
* "the belief in the `rapture' of the church" which promotes "tendencies toward escapism" and results in an attitude that denigrates "wast[ing] precious time preparing our minds" instead of "just reach[ing] the lost."
* The "critical mistake" of equating sanctification with scorn for "high culture, thinking of it and `the world' as one in the same, or...calling that which is not explicitly Christian `worldly.'"
* An "altar theology" that stresses "an instantaneous blessing of cleansing and power [which] can be received by faith rather than by the arduous process of `seeking.'"

From a historical, sociological, and theological point of view, then, it seems that Pentecostalism and anti-intellectualism go hand in glove.

Can we really form a "full gospel" mind out of such anti-intellectual resources? I believe there are good reasons to be hopeful. First, Pentecostals and Charismatics attempt to ground their beliefs and practices on the solid rock of biblical teaching. An honest and careful examination of what the Bible teaches about the life of the mind (such as is found in chapters 1--4 of Nañez's book) will lead them to reconsider their anti-intellectualism. Second, Pentecostals and Charismatics have always been students. They are the habitual founders of schools and editors/writers of periodicals. There is, in other words, a current of learning and communication whose flow can be turned toward more biblical purposes. And third, God is more than capable of raising up leaders and thinkers such as Donald Gee and Rick Nañez himself to advocate a biblically balanced and mind-enriching "full gospel."

May their tribe increase!

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