The following is an excerpt from Mark Dever’s address at Georgetown University titled “Is Becoming a Christian Intellectual Suicide?”
In order to affirm the broad sweeping claim that becoming a Christian is intellectual suicide you must be certain that there are no exceptions to that claim and the reality is that there are plenty of exceptions.
When we look at ethical issues, what sense does it make to say that John Newton or William Wilberforce were anti-intellectuals when they were leading abolitionists, but also devout Christians. What does this mean in reference to a Martin Luther King Jr.
When we turn to the arts there is the painter Michelangelo, the poet John Milton, the musician Johann Sebastian Bach or the writer, lecturer, and literary critic at Oxford, Cambridge C.S. Lewis.
Are we to assume that all of these people have committed intellectual suicide? If so, what can that mean about these men?
In Political theory there was Sir Thomas More and Sir Francis Bacon and Edmund Burke who all called themselves Christians. Alexander Hamilton who designed parts of the United States finance system. All of these men had their political theory affected by their faith. Abraham Kuyper was the Prime Minister of the Netherlands in the early 1900s but also a noted systematic theologian.
In recent years on both sides of the US political divide in both theoretical and practical politics one can find confessing Christians from the likes of Robert George at Princeton to Jimmy Carter and Chuck Colson and Stephen Colbert and Barak Obama and most of the justices in the Supreme Court call themselves Christians.
Have all of these people committed intellectual suicide? Well ok, but what does that mean when we look at people like this and you say they have committed intellectual suicide?
Historically there have been several major philosophers from Thomas Aquinas to Jonathan Edwards who were Christians. Even modern philosophers today Alvin Plantinga at the University of Notre Dame, Keith Yandell who was until last year the head of the Philosophy department at the University of Wisconsin and also an evangelical Christian.
In sociology there is Peter Berger in Boston who is a strong Lutheran.
In economics Donald Hay at Oxford.
In Mathematics there was Blaise Pascal who was a passionate Christian.
In Psychology Paul Vitz the professor at NYU.
In biology there is E. J. Ambrose a very noted cell biologist in London.
In physics there is Ernest Rutherford who was the founder of the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge or James Clerk Maxwell the pioneer in electromagnetic research.
In Chemistry there was Robert Boyle who founded the modern discipline.
Both Historical & Contemporary
I hope you noticed that there are both historical and contemporary scholars in these lists of scholars in case you thought modern advancements in science and technology have somehow made it anti-intellectual to be a Christian.
What Do You Really Mean?
If at the end of the day such a charge simply means that I disagree with you. That statement is a little more honest and shows a little more self-knowledge then saying all Christians are anti-intellectuals.