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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Desire for Knowledge

Tenney Frank, in his book Life and Literature in the Roman Republic describes how the quality of literature decreased in the late Roman Republic. He notes that the literary writers acquiesced to the wishes of the audience. He writes “It is not surprising, therefore, that these audiences – eager for entertainment which might exclude all possibility of having to exercise the intellect – finally demanded an extravaganza that appealed solely to eye and ear.” We see much the same when we look at the current state of the entertainment industry in our days. Much of prime time television tends to be sit-coms which titillatingly appeal to the eye and ear. Very little intellect is required when viewing these programs. The purpose of many movies appears to be to provide a visual spectacle. As in the times of the late Roman Republic, the entertainment fare available caters to the whims of the audience.

Outside of documentaries, which tend to engage one’s mind, most programs on television offer mindless entertainment. Our minds are never exercised. These programs erode our desire-for-intellect IQ and it begins to atrophy. The mindless drivel of their content tends to stultify our minds, resulting in a paralyzing dullness. This dullness has become so pervasive that it has not only affected our homes, but also our schools and society at large. In many inner city schools the desire-for-intellect IQ is virtually non-existent. The depth to which we have devolved can be seen in an assignment given by a law professor to his first year law students. The students complained that the papers they were to read were almost incomprehensible. The professor retorted that they must understand for whom these papers were originally published – New England farmers. They were the Federalist Papers, written when our nation was in the process of being born. This example shows how far down we have sunk. When the intellect of modern day graduate students is inferior to that of less educated farmers of former days, we are in desperate straits.

God desires that we have a high desire-for-intellect IQ. Many passages in Scripture speak of the necessity of our studying God’s word. The prophet Hosea states that without knowledge the people perish. The Apostle Paul says we should study to be approved to God. Many passages in the Old and New Testaments speak of the studying of God’s laws and his word as having a high priority. They all imply that we must have a desire to know God. We are to love God with our minds as well as our hearts.

When the intellectual malaise which we observe in our society infects the church, it also is in trouble. Dallas Willard, in The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives, notes that while we would reject an analyst or surgeon with shallow thinking, we easily put our minds away when it comes to religion. The focus of many church youth programs appears to have more interest in keeping their young people entertained than in a serious study of God’s word and the deepening of their spiritual lives. Many church services contain little more than pabulum which does not engage the mind. The author of Hebrews has sharp words for the Christian who constantly has a need for milk instead of solid food, noting that solid food is for the mature individual who can discern good from evil (Heb 5:11-14). By implication, those on milk cannot make such discernment.

The desire to know God requires a decision on our part. We have to make it a priority. Where is your desire-for-intellect IQ? Is it in the 150s or in the low 70s?

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