If you’re going to be a Christian, you need to be as smart as you can be

C.S. Lewis has some words to live by for you
C.S. Lewis has some words to live by for you

I guess I will start this post by linking to something a friend of mine named Joel Furches wrote about an atheist engineer. (link is dead)

He writes:

As an Aerospace Engineer for the U.S. Navy, Jason Pratt is not inaccurate when he describes himself as a rocket scientist for the government. He has flown F-14 Tomcats and the F/A-18F Super Hornet. He was a test pilot of the FA-18B and D Hornet, the FA-18F Super Hornet, and the T-45 Goshawk. His pedigree with all things aeronautical is well established. As was his atheism.

Pratt grew up in a single parent home. He and his sister were raised by their mother, who felt it was her duty to introduce them to church in their teenage years. The church Pratt attended was a religious shell: a ritualistic facade with little reference to actual scriptural teachings. He went through the ceremonial steps as a matter of form, and the moment he was confirmed by the church, he confirmed himself an atheist, and left the church in his dust. His family took this with barely a nod, and as soon as she was confirmed, his sister followed his example.

After High School, Pratt entered college to study engineering. Academically, he proved himself quite brilliant, and flaunted that brilliance at every opportunity. He describes himself as very much a “self-righteous atheist” in college.

He found his atheism very freeing, morally, living by the code of “do whatever you want as long as nobody gets hurt.”

Says Pratt:

“I started to meet other students, and some of them were claiming to be Christians. I even had some of them as roommates. Having had some church background, I knew the type. They were hypocrites, deluded by the silly book that they claimed they believed in. And so I frequently took pleasure in ridiculing them. I would mock them. I would look for any reason to bring out things that they would claim they believe and I would just make fun of them, and mock their God and the Bible that supposedly guided them.

“I generally enjoyed playing the intellectual superior, and I enjoyed challenging what they believed.”

Not much surprise to Pratt, most of the Christians he met had no ability to defend their faith against his ridicule.

[…]One day, however, Pratt met a fellow engineering student named John Thatcher. Thatcher had a perfect GPA, which was somewhat intimidating to someone like Pratt, who took such pride in his own intellect. Thatcher was a very likable guy. He was also a Christian. This made things difficult for Pratt.

At the same time, Pratt discovered that his Academic Adviser – a leading authority in the field of Thermodynamics – was a Christian. This discovery was made when Pratt went to his adviser’s office one day in order to request some help from the brilliant man. As Pratt approached his office, he was shocked to find a scientific article, arguing Thermodynamics from a Christian perspective, hanging from his office door. Pratt was so infuriated, he stormed away and never spoke to his adviser again.

Confused and upset that these two very intelligent men would believe in superstitious nonsense, Pratt made it his goal to truly examine the claims of Christianity for the first time.

This reminded me of a quote from atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel.

He says this:

“In speaking of the fear of religion, I don’t mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility toward certain established religions and religious institutions, in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence. Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehoods. I am talking about something much deeper–namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers.

I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”

(”The Last Word” by Thomas Nagel, Oxford University Press: 1997)

I think in general, it’s a good thing when Christians strive to be different from the culture around them. Obviously, that means having different moral values and different goals than what’s popular and acceptable for non-Christians. It means not openly engaging in activities that are forbidden to Christians, like not getting drunk, not having premarital/extra-marital sex, etc. And I think it also means being as smart as you can possibly be about about areas that touch on your Christian worldview. Why? Because like the story above says, being informed and having the answers is attractive to people who are searching.

It doesn’t help God for you to be wild and stupid

In my life, I have sometimes tried to lead other Christians to study harder things and to get better jobs. Most of the time, this works. I can get young Christians to not study English or Drama or Art History, and instead get them to study Engineering or Computer Science or Nursing. And if they already are studying hard things, then I encourage them, I buy them books, I play games with them and ask them how things are going. Once they have the degrees, I encourage them to get jobs, to work in the summers, to open investment accounts, and pay off their loans.

The point is this – what you study and what you do for work and how good you are at your job plays a massive role in whether you will get into conversations with non-Christians at all. It is not good service to God to bungle your education and career because you were more interested in feeling good, having fun and seeking thrills. You will lose opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others that way.

Managing your money – paying off debts and investing early and often – is part of that signal of maturity that you send to others. And don’t underestimate the importance of marriage and children – something I don’t have. If I had a successful marriage, and lots of well-behaved children, that would help a lot as well. Especially if people could come over to a warm and happy home. It sends a message. However, if you’re going to stay single, then keep your self-control and be content with it. That sends a message, too.

Life is short. Don’t do what feels good. Do what works.

6 thoughts on “If you’re going to be a Christian, you need to be as smart as you can be”

  1. I was reminded of a quote by John Lennox a Christian mathematician and apologist who said: “Atheists believe Christianity to be a fairy tale for those who are afraid of the dark. Well, atheism is a fairy tale for those who are afraid of the light.” This was a great read. It’s something I’ve harped on as a theology teacher to youth for years now. We have been given a sound mind. Thanks for the read.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. >Managing your money – paying off debts and investing early

    ~ I realized something about this just recently… It can sometimes be tough raising support to do missions overseas. I have even heard of people giving up and planning for another day.

    Here is the thought… if you go out on the mission field at say a much later age (many are doing so btw) – and you invest early and invest well, then you can go without having canvass around churches to raise support.

    It just may free you up from some extra worries that you might otherwise have and you may be able to do more work and more efficient work. It could also be a great way to retire – actively doing the Lord’s work.


  3. One other comment comes to mind:

    ~ When I worked on a project at Coke, there was a guy at my workplace who was just this obnoxious, arrogant, cocky atheist guy. He talked big about how he had ridiculed his mother, Christian doctor, for working for the poor in 3rd world countries via a missions organization.

    One night, a few of us guys, including said atheist from work went out to dinner and somehow the conversation wound up on philosophical issues and the way the discussion went, these guys were stating one flawed idea after another. However I was not able get in a word to point out errors and such. Just the way things were… when theres too much loudness, I have more difficulty stepping in.

    Anyway… not to worry however… when I got back home I looked up a bunch of articles from Reasonable Faith and emailed it to my cocksure friend along with the following verse:

    “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” ~ 2 Cor. 10:5

    ~ The next day I saw him and he was visibly shaken up. He had apparently not known that Christianity had such high caliber reasoning behind it. Sooee . . . so for a few weeks he just avoided me like the plague. He had no answer.

    My point is just this: Some Xtn may say that “Hey. This high brow intellectual stuff is just not for me. I just can’t access it.” Fine. However at least know some names and books so that you can get it out to people. You may not be good on your feet and be able to respond. Thats fine but at least know a few good websites and book titles so that you can email some links to them. At least be familiar.


  4. We are to be as gentle as doves but as wise as serpents for we are sent out as sheep among wolves.

    I think apologetics has its place and I’ve studied Van Til, FF Bruce, and numerous other apologists. But be careful how much you rely on apologetics. Nothing can separate fools from their sin and folly but the new birth which they can experience only through repentance and faith.


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