Believer and Intellectual: a Personal Journey

Speaker: Categories: Mar 09, 2002

 

[1hr, 19min, 34sec / 48min, 21sec]

ABOUT THE TOPIC:

This presentation was originally titled:Intellectual and Spiritual: Can You Be Both?Does the change to the current title [Believer and Intellectual: A Personal Journey] suggest a major shift in focus or are the two virtually synonymous? If not, what are the differences? Which of the terms might be most comfortably accepted if assigned to you:BelieverorSpiritual? And how about the termintellectual, is that an identity, which you would appreciate or regret? Is it at all likely that the differentiating betweenintellectualandbeliever/spiritualmight have experienced change in your own experience over time? If so; what factors might have been involved in such a shift? Was such change, if any, perceived as positive or negative; good or bad?

Editor McLarty provides the following overview:“From our earliest days, the orbit of Adventism has circled the double foci of simplistic faith and intellectual questing. Early Adventist leaders had a fundamentalist confidence in the Bible, but their evangelistic arguments for the Sabbath and historicist interpretation ofDanielandRevelationwere inseparably linked with the study of classic works of history. Well into the 1900’s every Adventist minister was expected to be familiar with atheist Gibbon’sRise and Fall of the Roman Empireand D’Aubigne’sHistory of the Reformation. Crucial elements of Adventist preaching were absolutely dependent on secular historical sources. (For example: the date 1844, Catholicism as the beast, the churches of Revelation, the change of the Sabbath to Sunday, Rome as the fourth kingdom in Daniel.)”

He then notes:“Like the church, My own personal journey has been shaped by intense belief and an intense engagement with the intellectual world. From early childhood I struggled to make sense of God and my own experience using the language of evangelical piety. I was an anguished penitent desperately trying tobe good enough for heaven. I identified with the conversion stories of Martin Luther, Ellen White, and John Wesley. And I did find relief from guilt in a classic conversion experience. But another struggle began [when I asked]:Does God exist?Do we need him?I [then] became enthralled with the world of books, scholarship and art. I discovered some people made sense of the world without God. Some could even write with exquisite eloquence that there was no sense to be made [in any way]. Then I began reading geology and nearly left the ministry. Could integrity permit a person to bebothan intellectual and a believer?

"For years,"he continues."I experienced the difference between the assertions of faith and intellect as a competition, a zero-sum game in which every win was mirrored by an associated loss. No longer.  [Today] I see religion, scholarship, math, music and art asdifferent languages, each offering distinct and precious opportunities for conversation about and engagement with, the Creator and the Universe. No one language is adequate. Through reading, I have become acquainted with a small constellation of intellectuals who have found rich satisfaction in believing. This virtual community helped me in my own efforts to live in both worlds."

In concluding this introduction to the topic, he notes:"I am no scholar. I think of myself as a theological artist. In this presentation, I will recount my own adventures in the worlds of faith and learning, confident that if I come close to the truth about my own journey, it will be helpful to others. I am an unabashed believer with profound respect for human knowledge and art.

ABOUT THE SPEAKER:

John McLarty is pastor of North Hill Christian Fellowship, a Seventh-day Adventist Church in Federal Way, Washington, and pastoral consultant for WindWorks Fellowship, a lay-led church plant in Olympia. He is a mentor for the"In Ministry"M. Div. program offered by Andrews University. Since 1998 he has been the editor ofAdventist Today.

He began his ministerial career in New York where he pastored the Babylon Seventh-day Adventist Church on Long Island and the Church Of the Advent Hope in Manhattan. He served for six years as a writer and producer for the Voice of Prophecy and for a year and a half hosted a live call-in radio program on LifeTalk Radio.

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