Awakening to the Intellectualism of the Bible

by Dr. James Willingham

The Bible is an intellectual book; it is the most intellectual book ever written.  Holy Writ tells us of the Being who inspired it:  the God who is Omniscient.  Since Scripture is so inspired, it follows that we can expect that it should reflect the intelligence commensurate with such a source.  The source of Omniscience is revealing Himself (the masculine term is used in deference to the revelation God has made of Himself in the Book – not to any chauvinistic adherence.  God is truly above the sexual differences between male and female, having created them for His own purposes.  As to the pronoun usages which indicate sex, the real purpose is to make known that the Being who created us is personal.  In fact, there are three persons, the three person God, three in one) in a manner that communicates with human beings.  The use of logic in the written word, Roms. 12:1, reasonable service in the KJV, in the Greek, logikan,  a form of the term for logic, tells us that God is communicating in a logical, rational manner or, in other words, He is communicating in a manner to be understood.  The problem with the understanding will, usually, be the result of dislike for the ideas, concepts, precepts, practices, and natures revealed.

I had been converted from atheism by a vision (one said it was a delusion) of Jesus standing before me, looking at me, with His arm raised like He was knocking at a door.  My response was to run the other way, but He ran with  me, so to speak, and before that evening was out, I had called on Him to forgive me of my sins.  A burden was lifted off of my heart that I didn’t even know I had.  Then I cried tears of joy for the first time in my life.  Later, I was called to preach and served two churches, consecutively, for about 3.5 years.  I wound up in a state university, working on a Master in American Social and Intellectual History.  By B.S. Ed., was from a Black State University in History, and it actually encompassed 155 semester hours taken in some six schools.  During that time I had begun a research project at the suggestion of a Black professor, a research in church history which I carried on for six years, covering more than 250 sources, and totaling some 3,000 5×8 notecards (about 6,000 pages of writing as I used both sides of the cards).  the research covered all 2,000 years of church history, dealing primarily with such groups as the Montanists, Novationists, Donatists, Paulicians, Celtics, Waldensians, Lollards, Petrobrussians, Arnoldists, Anabaptists, Baptists, and others.  One might call it an eye opening experience as I saw how the ideas of the Bible influenced behavior.

During that Master’s program the thought came to me that I ought to consider the Bible in an intellectual light (after all, I was studying intellectual history).  If the Bible is inspired by Omniscience, as it claims, I postulated, then it follows that it should reflect that depth of wisdom commensurate with such a source.  Writing a Master’s thesis based upon some of the research helped me to think through the matters involved.  The idea that the truths of Scripture shoulatd make a believer balanced, flexible, creative, constant, and magnetic resulted from the observation of believers in history and how their faith affected their behavior.  This is not to say all faiths are positive  in their effect.  Some are demonic and diabolic.  Some are merely human and cannot survive trials.  But true saving, biblically based faith, even with short comings (perfection being reserved for the future life), adds a constructive influence to the life of a believer.  While they do not become perfect by any means, they do change for the better, a change noted by those around them, those whose lives are affected by them.

Intellectually, the Bible has a depth to it that is most difficult, when it comes to comprehension.  We seem to lack discernment, when it comes to matters of depth and detail where wisdom resides.  The Bible calls for the use of the mind.  Even the first requirement of the Gospel, repentance, metanous in the Greek, means a change of mind based upon thought, upon reflection, and this is followed by faith.  Now faith is not a gullible and blind belief; it is an evidentiary based trust, and that is the only reason why faith faced with the seemingly insurmountable trials will trust in God’s greatest purpose in the hardship as the only means for endurance.

I was reading a comment by Dr. W.A. Criswell yesterday on the doctrine of Predestination, and, while Dr. Criswell claims to be a Calvinist and yet makes comments that are seemingly incongruent with the claim, he declared that belief in that teaching put iron in the souls of men.  He might as well have said that it also put the spirit of self evaluation and criticism in them, too, for I have found instances in the history of the Puritans where they criticized themselves.  As a result they made corrections in their conduct.  Consider how much they have been criticized for the execution of a group of people for witchcraft, a deplorable fact, but they did criticize and correct themselves.  Few ever wonder how many died as a results of such accusations in Europe during that century (the 17th).  I once saw the numbers, and they are numbing, to say the least.  It took people of iron to build a civilization in the wilderness, and they made mistakes.  Their treatment of the Indians is a case in point, but there were exceptions.  The Pilgrims executed three of their own numbers for the murder of one Indian as proof to the Indians that they were in earnest about doing right.  Roger Williams paid the Indians for the land he wanted, and he chided his puritan friends in the Massachusetts Bay Colony for their not paying the Indians for the land.

The American Republic was called a “Calvinistic Republic” in the first history books of America.  Dr. George Bancroft wrote a work that was published and studied for 50 years, and he used the term.  When you look at the fact that laws and practices of the New Republic were based upon the Bible and the Christian faith, you have to conclude that the attractiveness of the new nation came from the fact that law abiding citizens who were that way due to their belief in the Bible, that fact, I say, was the cause of such attractiveness, such freedoms, such opportunities, that the world wanted to come here and they wanted to imitate it. But in the past 100 years or so, due to various reasons, we have lost much of that power, because we have let forces loose in this land, in our schools, in our financial, Industrial, governmental, and other areas of our nation with the consequent result of a breakdown of our society,  But a process is now beginning to take place which will restore the freedoms, the depth of thought, the wherewithal to deal with the incomprehensible future now rushing upon us, and all because the intellectual book is coming back into view among the people of this land.


About dr. james willingham

B.S. Ed. Lincoln Univ., Mo., '67; M.A. (American Social and Intellectual History) (GPA 3.7) Morehead State Univ., Ky. '71; work toward a Ph.D. in American and Black History, 6 hrs. Univ. of South Carolina and 12 at Columbia Univ., NY, Spring and Summer of '71 respectively; M.Div. '74; D. Min. '76 Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, NC; M.A. '88 Liberty Univ., Va, (counseling). Honors: Phi Alpha theta - the International Honor Society of Historians; Pi Gamma Mu - The National Honor Society of Social Scientists Graduate Assistant, Morehead State, '69-70; Lecture: The Stanley Elkins Thesis: A Critique. Summer Afternoon Lecture Series Columbia University, Summer '71; Instructor, South Carolina State College, 1970-72 (taught 4-5 sections in American History. taught one course in Philosophy, Spring of '71), Adjunct faculty" Richmond Community College, Rockingham, NC 1985, taught two quarters of Political Science. Thesis for M.A. in American Social & Intellectual History: "The Baptists & Ministerial Qualifications:1750-1850." Prospectus for Doctoral Dissertation at Columbia University, Summer of '71, "The Baptists and Slavery." Instructor Seminary Extension: Greater Gaston Baptist Association, Gastonia, NC, 2002-2004. Taught Systematic Theology, Baptist History, Church History, Preaching, Isaiah, Hebrews Introduction to New Testament Theology. Pastorates: Pilot Knob Baptist Church, Belle, Mo., '62-64; Elston Baptist Church, Elston, Mo., '65-66; Gum Springs Baptist Church, Moncure, NC., '72-83; Heritage Baptist Church, Rockingham, NC, '84-96; Interim, Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, Casar, NC, 1/2001-3/2001. Chairman, Historical Committee, Sandy Creek Baptist Association, '77=81; Chairman, Historical Committee, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, '85-86. Annual Sermon, Sandy Creek Association, 1981 Lecture: "The Genius of Orthodoxy: Eldresses." BSCNC. Delivered as Chairman of the Committee Fall of '85. Play: The Mirror of Our Past. Visual History of Jersey Baptist Church
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