The Danger of Intellectualism

By Dan Walters

The Apostle Paul warns us in Colossians 2:8, “Beware led any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” He expresses a similar thought in 2 Corinthians 11:3. “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve, through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” Perhaps we need these warnings of the New Unity Movement, of such men as Ketcherside, Garrett, Kilpatrick, and Fudge, are the result of theological speculation, based upon the traditions of such theologians as Luther and Calvin., They contain their own perverse form of logic and human wisdom, but they could not have been formulated from a simple study of the Bible alone. Ile more I read the writings of R.L. Kilpatrick, for instance, the more amazed I become that he and his associates have been able to deceive any brother who is well grounded in the Scriptures. Kilpatrick could just as well be a Baptist, Methodist, or Presbyterian, as a member of God’s church. Any brother who could answer such a denominationalist in debate could answer Kilpatrick. There is simply no new material being presented.

Why, then, have certain young preachers been deceived by these apostate brethren, when they would have Probably never been deceived by a Methodist preacher? One answer is that any person who has long been a member of the church of Christ has a strong bias against any material presented directly by a denominational clergyman. But the young preacher of today is not necessarily biased against the theological intellectualism which forms the heart of denominationalism. Most of the brethren who have been deceived have been aspiring intellectuals. I here use the word “intellectual” to refer, not to intelligence and knowledge alone, but to a love of sophisticated terminology and complex abstract reasoning which transcends basic logic and common sense. And there is a difference between an intelligent person and an intellectual, there is also a difference between a Bible student and a theologian. Someone once defined an intellectual as an individual who is educated beyond his intelligence. This may be close to the mark. The modern theologian is a religious philosopher who is not content with simple Bible statements, but insists upon harmonizing everything into a semi-logical pattern which fits certain preconceived theological assumptions.

We may have unknowingly started some of these young preachers down the wrong road. Consider the modern emphasis upon both secular and theological education as a qualification for preaching the gospel. Consider the heavy theological books, many of them written by sectarians, which young preachers are expected to own and to master. For example, I once received a letter from a young preacher in the Philippines who requested that I send him several expensive and profound theological volumes that were recommended to him by some “big name” American preacher. I have never felt the need to own these works myself, and here we are talking about an inexperienced young man who lives in a poor country with a high rate of illiteracy. I sent him several copies of Douthitt’s Bible Topic Studies and Nicholls Pocket Bible Encyclopedia, and did not receive a reply.

We have raised a generation of super-educated young preachers who are intent upon acquiring more and more academic knowledge in the field of theology, who are given recognition for such achievement, and who have not even mastered the fundamentals of simple Bible knowledge. Beside, many of them are not old enough and experienced enough to possess that wisdom which does not come from books. Worse, we recommend that they sit at the feet of Calvinists and other alien sinners and false teachers, either literally in the schools or through the medium of the books. We would not ask a Calvinist theologian to come and preach a sermon or teach a class in our local church. Why then do we subject ourselves and our young brethren to their influence? There may be a place for a few reference works, in the field of dead languages for instance, that have been written by non-Christians. But when it comes to commentaries and other books which must of necessity contain the element of opinion, it seems to me that we have enough of these which have been written by New Testament Christians.

Such old warriors as J.D. Tant and Joe H. Blue did not have much worldly education. Some assume that they would not be effective in our modem age. I disagree. And I am certain neither of these brethren would have had any trouble with Ketcherside, Garrett, Kilpatrick, or Fudge. Brother Blue stated that when he started preaching he had in his saddle bags his Bible and a copy of The Gospel Plan of Salvation by T.W. Brents. Brother Tant authored a book of short, simple sermons, The Gospel X-Ray, which would be of more use to a young preacher than all the works of learned sectarian doctors. These two books, along with the booklets I mentioned earlier, a Cruden’s Complete Concordance, and a good Bible would provide sufficient tools for many years of work in the vineyard of the Lord. Let us get back to the basics, lose our shame of simple and direct sermons, and leave the theologians in their “theological cemeteries.”

Guardian of Truth XXVII: 19, p. 596
October 6, 1983