I should start this post with the caveat that I am not anti-intellectual, and don’t think I ever could be. I’m an academic, after all; I live by thinking about things (okay, and to teach things). On the other hand, I reject the intellectual idolatry of much of academia. So don’t read this post, or the previous post about how God chooses the foolish things to put the wise to shame, as taking a stand against intellectual pursuits. They are merely reminders that thinking about things, while important, is not most important.
My wife, after reading that earlier post, reminded me of an amusing and oddly appropriate memory lapse I made as a brand new convert to Christianity:
First, a bit of necessary background. My parents were raised in Christian homes but walked away from it before I was born. They raised me with a certain disdain for religion, but one set of grandparents sent me to some kind of Bible camp or vacation Bible school every summer. I enjoyed the games and the goofing off with other kids. I thought the Bible stories themselves were kinda weird. I disliked the more overtly religious elements, and spent a certain amount of my efforts during the last couple years trying to argue my fellow campers out of Christianity (I’m not aware that I had any success, I am now happy to say). I loathed some of the songs we were supposed to sing, and I grudgingly memorized all of the Bible verses we were supposed to memorize. For each verse, we memorized not only the text of the verse, but also the chapter and verse, so that we could cite it. There were probably only about a dozen verses that I ever memorized through the few years of summer Bible camp. And then I got a bit older, and stopped going to such camps, and having no use or interest in the Bible verses, I put those memories firmly behind me. A few bits of text stuck with me, but not much.
Fast-forward a number of years: I was living on my own and had given full expression to my hostility to Christianity. One September day, I was speaking to a Christian friend whom I had not seen since May. In the interval had happened the events described here and here. My friend had spent the summer overseas, and wanted to tell me about it. I had become a Christian, and wanted to tell her about it. She honestly didn’t believe me, and became sincerely upset that I was mocking her by pretending to convert to Christianity. I think by the end of the conversation she was cautiously willing to accept that perhaps I might actually have converted, but she wanted to wait and see.
I think it was during a later conversation with the same friend, but I’m not exactly sure in response to what, I had occasion to refer to “the Golden Rule.” This was one of those Bible verses I had memorized long ago as a kid, with the citation attached, so I said, “Yes, the Golden Rule, Proverbs 3:5-6.” She did a double-take, and asked me what I meant. I repeated, “The Golden Rule, which is Proverbs 3:5-6.” She said, “You may want to look up that reference.” I was annoyed. I didn’t need to look up “the Golden Rule,” because I had memorized it, and could still rattle off like anyone else, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I had memorized it as a kid, and I had heard it in broader culture several times since then.
Despite my grumbling, I did look up that reference, as she suggested. Instead of “do unto others…” I found a different “Golden Rule,” and one particularly appropriate to people inclined to intellectual arrogance, like me:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him
And he will make your paths straight.”
(Proverbs 3:5-6, emphasis added)