As a Christian Apologist (one who gives good reasons for placing my trust in Christ), I enjoy learning, contemplating, and delving into the deep theological issues of the faith. Despite what some may perceive as a “debating discipline,” I didn’t get an education in apologetics because I want to win arguments. Rather, my Master’s degree in Apologetics is a call to love God with all my mind.
Prior to this, however, I have loved God with all my heart to the neglect of my mind. At one point along my faith journey, I discovered that my experiences with God, in of themselves, were not taken seriously by skeptics. I needed better responses than: “I felt God’s presence,” or “The Bible just spoke to me.” Although both of these experiences are true for me, they still do not answer the hard questions about why my faith in Christianity is true.
I’ve come to embrace that faith should not be based solely in my experiences with God. The faith journey of a Christian needs to include reflectivity by employing the life of the mind. That is difficult for some of us because we tend to favor one or the other: either loving God with all of our hearts or loving Him with all of our minds. It’s the “head-versus-the-heart” kind of faith, but does it have to be that way?
Christian churches tend to fall into these two kinds of camps, as well. There are Bible-based congregations that are inclined to avoid anything associated with the Holy Spirit or “touchy-feely” kind of experiences. Then, there are churches that lean heavily on the Spirit and personal expressions to the neglect of frequently teaching the Bible or doctrinal truths. I think that God would want churches to embrace both: the mind and the heart combined best expresses the fullness of faith in Christ.
A fullness of faith employs both aspects of the Christian life. If one leans too heavily on the intellect, for example, when trials come (and they most certainly will), what good is mere ‘head knowledge’ of God if one has not experienced His love and the comfort of His presence? Or what good are experiences with God without the knowledge of His character (i.e., God is good all the time), because feelings can go awry? The fullness of the Christian life lies both in the experience of a living relationship with Christ along with the knowledge of God.
How can this be accomplished? For those who are more cerebral in their relationship with God, to experience God’s presence might be a bit more challenging. If one tends to be analytical and academic, then releasing control of the mind to feel God in one’s heart needs to be practiced. When I say, “releasing control of the mind,” I am not implying some heretical New-Age mantra. It is a focusing of one’s thoughts on God while not attempting to figure everything out in that moment. To just “be with God” and enjoy the peace this brings is one way to experience His presence.
Some experience God through traditional forms of worship, be it sacraments or liturgical readings. Others sense His presence through contemporary worship, and still others sense God through contemplative prayer. Personally, I love to look at the beauty in nature, which declares the glory of God. I also reflect on God in my quiet times by praying and reading the Bible. No matter what path one takes to experience God’s presence, this is where relationship is found: in the quiet, reflective times with God.
For those who already experience God, to begin learning to love Him with all your mind starts with knowledge. For example, purchase an excellent study Bible that has great footnotes in it. I personally love the Apologetics Study Bible because the notes and articles in it help provide answers to tough questions about the Christian faith.
There are many excellent websites out there, too, that will help you learn about the evidences for Christianity, the history of the church, and anything you want to know about the faith. Always make sure the site has credible authors (those with a degree from an accredited institution are best; here are some I recommend). Taking courses online is an option, too, or attending Bible studies, and/or reading some great books on the faith to develop the life of the mind (see some of my favorites here) are all good ways to exercise the intellect.
Whatever direction you tend to lean in your faith journey, a good balance is best. Engage in relationship with Christ by using both your head and your heart, and you will discover that this is the most satisfying way to experience the fullness and richness of the Christian life.