The Loneliness of Thinking Christianly

I got an email from a reader named Mark this morning, who told me he was frustrated by the lack of decent thinking among many in the Church. He said he’s looking for a higher conversation than is generally available.

Christians, we have to take this seriously. For the past three years or so, at apologetics conferences across the country, I’ve asked numerous groups this question: “How many of you who have a real interest in apologetics, worldview, and other aspects of Christian thinking feel very alone in your church?” In every case, at least three-quarters of the people raise their hands. That’s the loneliness of thinking Christianly. It’s wrong. In fact, in view of Christianity’s heritage, it’s downright strange.

Thinking Christianly, Past and Present

Christianity is a thinking religion, or at least it was until the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when a wave of anti-intellectualism washed over large segments of the Church. We live in an historically anomalous era, compared to Christianity down the centuries.

From Jesus, to Paul, to the early Church Fathers, to Augustine, to Gregory, to Boethius, to Magnus, Aquinas and the other Scholastics, to Erasmus, to More, to Luther and Calvin, to Edwards; and to the great leaders of science including Copernicus, Galileo, Brahe, Kepler, Faraday, Maxwell, Linnaeus, Mendel, and many more, the Christian faith has always been a welcoming home to great thinkers.

As a comprehensive explanation of reality–a worldview–Christianity still is a welcoming home to great thinkers. As a social institution, however, it hasn’t been; which is why there are still many, many thousands of thinking Christians who feel alone.

I think it also explains why such thoroughly abysmal thinking as you find among atheists like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris has gained a foothold in our culture.It has the appearance of erudition. Too few people can tell the difference between that appearance and the truth, which is that their work is riddled through and through with lousy assumptions, weak evidence, and fallacious reasoning. (Would you like documentation for that claim?)

Connecting Thinking Christians

I’ll repeat myself: the loneliness thinking Christians suffer is wrong. I’ve made it my entire vocational focus to work on correcting it, not only through this blog, but especially through my day job as National Field Director for the Ratio Christi student apologetics alliance. One of our initiatives is to gather local networks of lonely apologists for a day of fellowship and encouragement.If you’d be interested in helping organize a meeting like that, please contact me.

It’s going to take time to resolve the plight of the lonely thinking Christian. In the meantime, I’d like to introduce you to some other thinking Christians, to interact with on the Web. For a long time, before I found a church that welcomed deep thinking, it was websites like these that kept me in touch with others who cared about Christian intellectual life.

On the Web

Those few websites should be enough to get you started. The Poached Egg and Apologetics 315 sites function as portals into the thinking Christian Internet, with lots and lots of links. Besides those, I’m going to add some more here that I think are of special interest.

Christianity Is For Thinkers

I don’t know how many times atheists have laughed at my blog’s name, saying “Thinking Christian? What an oxymoron!” Let’s be honest: it might be true in their experience. They might never have met a thinking Christian. That’s a fact about Christianity as a social system in this particular time and place, however. It’s not the story of Christianity over time, and it’s not even the story about Christianity as a belief system today.

The faith we hold is intellectually secure, philosophically and historically robust. It’s been standing skeptics’ attacks for thousands of years, and still it stands.

Note to atheists and skeptics: I’m expecting some of you to see this as a post to jump all over, telling us that thinking Christianity really is an oxymoron after all. I suggest we just stipulate up front that that’s your opinion. Then you don’t need to say so here. This post was written for thinking Christians, especially the ones I’ve described as lonely. I’d appreciate it if you’d let us have a conversation together here. Thanks.

42 Comments