I encourage you to read the article, too. But read it with an open mind and an open heart. Really try to pay attention to what seems to be going on behind the scenes: Does It Matter That Atheists Are Smarter Than Believers?
Have you read it yet? And have you calmed down a bit? Good. Then let’s proceed. Here are some of my initial thoughts, and I’ll try to keep them succinct.
WHY WOULD THIS SURPRISE US?
Probably not the first reaction you were expecting. Hear me out. Think about the men that Jesus called to be his closest disciples. They were fishermen, blue-collar workers, a zealot or two, an accountant. They were by no means the religious or intellectual elite. Their IQs (with the exception of maybe Paul and Apollos in Acts) were probably average at best.
In fact, look at what we’re told about the apostles in Acts: When they observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and recognized that they had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13).
And just look at what Paul writes to the church in Corinth. It’s pretty much a rebuttal the the above article, yet it was written nearly 2000 years ago!
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-31)
Intelligence and wisdom by the world’s standards has never meant a whole lot to God. It’s not how his movement spread. It was not through logic and reasoning that Christ’s followers “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). Why should we be surprised if researchers have “discovered” what the Bible already claims to be true?
CORRELATION DOES NOT EQUAL CAUSATION
With all that in mind, it is important to note that just because there may be a correlation that does not mean that religious faith causes a person to be less intelligent. I have my wife to thank for the phrase “correlation does not equal causation.”
Christianity has always appealed more to those of lower social standing, the outcasts, the rejects, the nobodies. In fact, while the Christian faith seems to be declining through much of the West, it is thriving throughout Africa, South America, and Asia. The hub of Christianity tends to move away from wealth and power. Once a person becomes rich and powerful they tend to become their own god. They think there is no longer a need for the “crutch” of faith – a reality pointed out in both the above article AND in Scripture!
So does that mean that wealth, power, and intelligence cause people to lose their faith? Again, no. It has been my (and others’) experience that very few people actually “think” their way out of faith. It almost always has to do with cultural/societal factors. Many were burned by the church. Some feel their faith choked out by the pressure to “fit in” with their colleagues. But all that is the work of Satan, not academic advancement.
THE CHURCH COULD & SHOULD DO BETTER
The studies cited in the above article have all taken place mainly in the Western world over the last 100 years or so. In that context, yes, the church has lost substantial ground in the realm of academia. But it was not always so. In fact Theology used to be hailed as the “Queen of the Sciences.” The idea was that to know about creation one must know about the Creator. Sounds reminiscent of Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
And yet I look around the world, especially the Christian world, and wonder, Where are the Galileos and the Michelangelos? Where are the Newtons and the Bachs? What happened to the Pasteurs and the Leonardos?
Somewhere along the line (probably after Darwin’s theory hit it big) I think the church decided that higher learning was unimportant, at best, or evil, at worst. So we wiped our hands clean of physics, biology, chemistry, art, and music. We built our own Christian schools and universities. We focused on big-T Truths and abandoned the search for little-t truths about the universe.
I think that’s got to change. If we truly believe that God created to universe and everything in it, then there is NOTHING that we can discover that would shake our belief in him. There are still things about the universe we don’t understand. That’s to be expected. There are current theories we hold that may one day be proven false. It’s happened before and we’re still here. The face of science and academia is constantly changing, but the One who created it all never does.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). I think it’s time the church started acting like it.
[I have more points I could make, so this blog might get a part two sometime.]