Top 10 Ways the Bible Changed My Life: #7. It Taught Me that Faith and Intelligence Go Hand-in-Hand
“If you feel like you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room.”…If you agree with this statement, step one is recognizing that there are people who are smarter than you. Can you do that?
It’s funny…because I’ve been called arrogant. I’ve been called egotistical and too full of myself. But unlike the people who called me those things, I actively seek out and want to be around people who I perceive to be better than me, smarter than me. I’m not offended or discouraged by them. They inspire me. Instead of belittling and diminishing them so they can feel like they’re down at my level and we’re equals, I’m inspired to better myself so I can rise up to theirs.
If you’re a high school basketball player and you want to improve, you don’t go scrimmage with a bunch of novice 5th graders. No! You seek out the best players on the block who are all college material. Being on the court with “superior” athletes, forces you to up your game if you want to compete.
That’s what reading the Bible and talking to other Bible scholars has done for me.
If you Google “Smartest Person in the World,” you’d see pictures with the likes of Marie Curie, Voltaire, da Vinci, and Einstein. It’s interesting…on the Business Insider’s “Top 40 Smartest People of All Time”…you won’t find names like Solomon, Hezekiah, Samuel, or Isaiah.
In 1st Kings 3:12, God himself said, “Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you.”
…none like you has been before you and non like you shall arise after you…God said that about King Solomon. Therefore, it is my opinion, that Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived. But still…what is wisdom? There’s a school of thought that “wisdom is the best application of knowledge to attain one’s goal.” I believe that.
Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of the Most Holy One is understanding.”
Alright, well what does that mean?
In my adult life, one of the most cherished gifts that I feel blessed to have is my intelligence. I think there are different types of intelligence. I’m terrible at math. I have no mind for gambling or understanding the mechanics of engineering. What I understand is human behavior. I understand what’s going on. Not just what others see, not just what’s on the surface. But also, the motives, ulterior motives, and intent. I pursue the truth, no matter how ugly or offensive or disrespectful it is. I understand the “why,” which scares people sometimes because it’s difficult to hide the truth from me.
But it’s not like I just rolled out of bed and “boom!” I have this gift of intelligence. When I was in my teens, I was an idiot beyond belief. Naïve, gullible, and stupidly optimistic. And I was a pathological liar, which is why I understand deception and the essence of why people lie. It wasn’t until I graduated college that I embarked on my own education, poring through biographies, historical events, and tragedies no one bothered to mention in school. My thirst for knowledge was insatiable! At 5pm, I’d start on one article, and before I knew it, it’d be midnight and I had already tore through dozens of Wikipedia pages stemming from that one article. I loved it!
In my 20s I spent years as a single man, a lot of time by myself. When you’re not always hanging out with friends or indulging in a social life, there’s not a lot to pull you out of your own head. Which means, (if you’re not playing video games or doing drugs), you’re constantly thinking, reflecting, analyzing, over-analyzing. Not just others, your co-workers and peers, but yourself.
To me, knowledge and learning…it keeps me forever young. The world is so big, there’s so much that’s happened. The year is 2020, I was born in 1986…that’s thousands of years worth of achievements, tragedies and triumphs that I have to catch up on.
And the thing that makes me different from a lot of people, is that I don’t just believe something just because it’s written on paper. History is written by the victors. And yes, you could interject here that the same thing could be said about the Bible, and to that, you have to use critical thought. How do you define truth? If you were born in the 1980s, how do you know whether anything that happened before the 80s really happened the way it was told to you? Don’t worry…I’m going to get to that.
To get to that…you have to understand faith. “Faith” is one of those words that has multiple meanings depending on who you’re asking. Kind of like, “judging” or “equality.” They mean different things to different people and if you haven’t studied those differences, then it’s very easy to be misled by those words.
Of the many definitions of “faith,” the most common one is “a strong belief in something in the absence of proof”. Already, I can feel tensions rising because as Christians, we see the word of God as proof.
One thing Christians, Atheists, Jews, and Muslims can all agree on is that a man called Jesus Christ did indeed exist. This is fact. This is truth. One of the things Jesus Christ said regarding faith…something that should cut straight to the core is this at John 20:29:
“Blessed are those who haven’t seen, and yet believe.”
Jesus Christ said this in response to Thomas, one of the Twelve Apostles. At this point, Jesus Christ had already been crucified. He had already been dead for three days before he rose up from the dead and visited his Apostles.
Thomas…didn’t want to believe it. The others were telling him that Jesus had been resurrected, but Thomas was like, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
Can you imagine? Here, we have an Apostle who was there. He himself witnessed the countless miracles Jesus performed during his three-year ministry. Thomas was there when Jesus turned water to wine. When he calmed the winds and water during a storm at sea. Thomas was there when Jesus healed so many, when he fed thousands. Thomas was there when Jesus resurrected Lazarus.
And now here he was, in straight up denial…demanding proof after all that he had already seen with his own eyes.
So when Jesus appeared before him, the holes in his hands…Then Thomas said, “My lord and my god!”
“Blessed are those who haven’t seen, and yet believe.”
Not everyone will have as Thomas had…a physical tangible confirmation from Jesus Christ himself that he had been resurrected. But I think we have something better than being there in person to witness those miracles. As I mentioned, Thomas himself was a witness, and yet he still had doubt. So when you hear people talk about how they need “proof”! As if they want to see the Red Sea parted or these miracles performed before their very eyes in order to believe…
I ask, what’s the point of seeing these things if you don’t know why it’s happening? It’s like when they say “Actions Speak Louder than Words…” Sure…but the thing is, actions can be misinterpreted. A woman could give me a flower as she walks by. And in my mind, I could think that she likes me and its her attempt to make her affections known…until that embarrassing thing happens when you realize she had given a flower to everyone else in the bullpen.
In reading the Bible cover to cover, it explains the “why”. As I mentioned in another point, “The World Starts to Make Sense.” If you read and believe that the is Bible is truth, your intelligence will increase because you’ll come to have a greater understanding of God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is the path of everlasting life. Is there a better kind of intelligence? Granted, we know that not everyone wants to live. And indeed, life can be hard and full of suffering…but that’s because Satan has made it so.
But imagine a world without Satan. Without sadness or suffering. Without cancer or homicides. Imagine a world without criminals, a world where debauchery and corruption are no longer celebrated, encouraged, and prospers. A world where sex doesn’t sell.
How many times have you heard it said, “if you’re so smart, then why aren’t you rich?”
How do you define “rich”?
Recently, I discovered a podcaster named Kevin Samuels where he gives relationship advice mainly to a black audience of mature men and women. He talks about what women can do to get a “high-value” man. Kevin Samuels claims to be a Christian. But his definition of “high value” is not relating to God or how much a man endeavors to be Christ-like…to him and many others, a high-value man is someone making 6-figures. He claims that those are the most desirable men.
Let’s say he’s right. That a man making six-figures is what makes him the most desirable to women. But what makes a man most desirable to God? As Christians, who should we care more about? Doing what’s desirable in God’s eyes? Or what’s desirable in the eyes of Men or Women?
To me, being rich relates to being blessed by God himself. Sometimes, God does bless you with money, material things, family and friends. But God knows we’re all different. Just because a majority of people care about money, doesn’t mean we all will. And sometimes, God gives us these things to test us. To see who will fall away, who will stop depending on him. (Prov 30: 7-9)
In Romans 5:3-5, the Apostle Paul tells us that “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing the suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.”
The “hope” we’re talking about in this context refers to a person having no “uncertainty” of something that’s going to happen. To those who suffer and endure, we do so knowing that a future is certain, but not yet realized.
“But Rock. All that sounds a lot like faith than actual intelligence. Intelligence is making a decision based on the evidence, the documented proof of what has happened.”
In a previous point about learning what practices were created by man...it’s only natural that anyone should question “how do you know if the Bible was not created by man?” In fact, I think it takes intelligence to ask and dwell on such questions.
We’re not in the Dark Ages, where people blindly followed the Catholic Church’s dogmas because they had no choice. Back then, the common man couldn’t read the Scriptures because they were written in a language they couldn’t understand. So serfs, peasants, and even rulers and noblemen had no choice but to believe that what the priests, cardinals, and popes were telling them, was exactly what God wanted. Thus, you get the crusades.
Thankfully, we have no excuse. The Bible has been translated in over 200 languages. It still stands as the most published book in the world (though Harry Potter and sadly 50 Shades is catching up). But lets get back to your question.
How do you know that the Bible wasn’t merely created by man?
Back before I picked up the Bible, I used to watch this video by Tim Minchin in 2011. It’s such a cool video. I watched it so many times. Minchin is a well-known Atheist, but that didn’t matter to me. I loved it. Still do for its art and line of reasoning. However, there was a line at 5:46 that always stood out to me. Minchin says that, “Science adjusts its views based on what’s observed. Faith is the denial of observation so that belief can be preserved.”
I dwelled on that for years. It sounds catchy. It makes sense. I’ve seen examples of it in daily life from my own family members who refuse to even hear a different point of view. It’s why they don’t engage in debates with Atheists, non-believers, or even other Christians with different beliefs. They have the mindset that “not everyone can be saved”.
But really, I think it’s indicative of how strong your faith is when it comes to the threat of the possibility that you might be wrong. This is a scary notion and it shouldn’t be a slight to anyone. Strong and weak are just relative terms. They vary from individuals and God judges us as individuals, not how well we are compared to others.
However, I don’t think I ever had that kind of fear. If I’m wrong, I want to be corrected. More than that, I had the heart of an intellectual explorer. Even if it meant going to dark places, such as understanding how men like Hitler or Goebbels were able to have such control and influence over an entire nation.
“Science adjusts its views based on what’s observed. Faith is the denial of observation so that belief can be preserved.”
For some reason, I always suspected there was a flaw in that line of reasoning. It could be his interpretation of what “faith” is. Blessed are those who haven’t seen and yet believe. In reading the Bible, I learned that faith and intelligence go hand-in-hand. When you read the Bible and take it to heart, you are “observing” so much. It’s our observation that strengthens our faith.
In 2010, at the age of 23, I began taking acting classes run by Scientologists who invited me into their homes and even gave me a tour of some impressive facilities in Downtown Clearwater. It was really enticing to join the Scientologists. They are beautiful people, down to earth, and treated me like an equal even though I was fat, broke, and barely out of college.
The most enticing concept they kept telling me was, “What’s true for you is true for you.”
As in, it’s okay to be yourself. But in the end, I passed on them. As cool as they were, I saw (observed) instances where their adoration of L. Ron Hubbard just seemed too much like idolatry and worship of him. I wasn’t nearly as religious as I am now, but I knew enough about God to know idolatry was one of his biggest pet peeves. Mind, you I could be wrong about Scientology, but it’s the way I perceived it. The way I “observed it”.
“Science adjusts its views based on what’s observed. Faith is the denial of observation so that belief can be preserved.”
I don’t think my decision to pass on Scientology has anything to do with faith. It was intelligence. To listen. To ask questions. And at the end of the day, make up my own mind based on the evidence and what has happened. I don’t want to say this wisdom was granted by God, just yet. Because I think such a statement has about a dozen insulting implications. So bear with me. I’m gonna break it down.
When people say things like, “Well, how do you know the Bible isn’t made up by man!” I can articulate an answer with genuine glee and excitement.
Keep in mind that some people ask that question and they really don’t care about the answer. Their intent is merely to insult you, to stumble you, or it’s a counterattack to get you to back off from proselytizing to them. Which is fine.
But then there are those who genuinely want to know your answer because perhaps…they too are looking for salvation. Some are Christians in search of guidance and have had that stumbling block tossed before them, causing them to question themselves (which I think builds character).
And some, aren’t religious at all, they claim they don’t care one way or the other, but pride themselves on their intellect and find it illogical to go on blind faith alone. These are my favorite to talk to because, believe it or not, a lot of them have actually studied the Bible and know more about God and Jesus Christ than most Christians do. They have the knowledge, and yet refuse to believe. And when they question me about my faith in the Bible, this is what I’d say:
1) The Bible doesn’t change. The scriptures were written thousands of years ago. The first five books written by Moses himself (Genesis-Deuteronomy). You could argue that the translation has changed, which is true, but the overall message of each single scripture is still contextually the same. Even if someone or a council altered the text to serve their own means, by now 2020, that truth would have been revealed.
The first Bible I read was the Jehovah’s Witnesses “New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures” from the ages of 28-30. Then, at the age of 30, I began reading Dr. John MacArthur’s Study Bible, the English Standard Version, which I recommend for everyone and even bought like 4 copies to give to close friends. The verbiage might be a little different, but the meaning is still the same. That’s the point. The Bible does not change…unlike culture, popular opinion, and what’s deemed acceptable by the mainstream society. Meaning, what’s hip and cool today, probably won’t be in 10-15 years.
2) The Bible accurately depicts human behavior. When you read the scriptures in its full context, from beginning to end, you begin to see patterns in the way humans behave. For instance, one of our biggest flaws is our forgetful nature.
An oppressed nation is primed for faith and deliverance. Once they are delivered, they’re full of gratitude and respect. But over time, as peace and prosperity reigns, that nation forgets how they attained that prosperity. They think to themselves, that they can live without that which has helped them (God). So they go their own way, depending on themselves (humans), leaving themselves vulnerable to enemies, and thus the cycle repeats itself. The nation I have in mind here is Israel. But they aren’t unique in their forgetfulness. Some of the world’s greatest empires have fallen essentially because they forgotten how they came to prominence.
How about false accusations? Racism. The abuse of power. Sexual immorality. Adultery. Murdering for selfish gains. Avarice. Greed. The Bible is more than just a rule book, it’s a history book full of human examples. The truth is, I can’t think of a single atrocity committed by human beings that hasn’t been done before and recorded in the Bible.
3) It has documented prophecies that came true. I get it. Living in 2020, if you told me about this ancient book that foretells the future…I’d probably keep walking. One could argue that a lot of the predictions that relate to human behavior could be attributed to critical thinking and deductive reasoning, more so than divine revelation. That’s why we have criminal profilers, to discern what the criminal will do next.
I could give you a list of Old and New Testament prophecies that have been fulfilled. But just because you read it on paper, whether it’s in the Bible or a Wikipedia page, doesn’t mean it really happened, right? We’re back where we started, going on faith that the Bible is true. Such as Jesus being raised from the dead after three days. How do we know that it really happened?
Let’s ask those questions again. How do you know that anything before your cognitive memory really happened as it was taught to you? What do YOU use as evidence? What’s YOUR proof?
Pictures? Documentation? Witnesses?
But wait! Witnesses lie. Witnesses can be bought. And we all know that history is written by the victors. So how do you really know that the history is accurate? If you only trust in what you yourself have personally seen, then isn’t your knowledge limited? Are you really intelligent? How do you know Pluto exists? Or that the Mariana Trench is really as deep as scientists claim?
I’m reluctant to answer that one for you. Because if you’re being honest with yourself, I think you’ll find yourself landing on the very thing you so badly wish to deny.
As children we have faith that our parents want what’s best for us and are trying to guide us to the best path for success. As citizens we should have faith in a legal system to administer and enforce justice. As students, we should have faith that our teachers and professors are providing us with knowledge we can apply to the real world.
Of these instances of faith, name one that can’t be corrupted, manipulated, or used to serve one’s personal agenda instead of accurate truth.
In Netflix’s “How to Fix a Drug Scandal,” we’re exposed to two crime lab chemists Sonja Farak and Annie Dookhan. These ladies were entrusted with providing accurate lab results about substances like cocaine and meth, which the prosecution then used as evidence that led to over 44,000 convictions. Turns out they had tampered with the evidence for reasons ranging from drug use themselves, and petty personal ambitions.
How do we know the Bible wasn’t created by man? Intelligence. It’s not just faith alone…but really, what makes sense. Every question I’ve ever had about why things are happening or how did we get here or what’s going to happen, has been answered by the Bible.
A lot of people criticize the Bible and depict God as a dictatorial tyrant. There is a lot of bloodshed, genocide, and destruction in the Old Testament. Of that, there is no doubt. But if you read to find out “why”… it makes sense.
The Book of Deuteronomy lays out God’s law for the Israelites. If you obey, you will be blessed and have his protection. However, if you disobey and choose to do whatever you want…Guess what! Punishment and bad things happen. And yet, some people still see this and blame that the death and destruction is all God’s fault. To me, that is what’s truly illogical.
If I built a grand beautiful castle, everything from the waterways, the gardens, the vineyards, and even paid the soldiers to protect and guard everyone in it…am I not allowed to post a set of rules for its tenants to follow? And what do you think I’d do if the tenants start breaking my rules, treating my house badly, abusing and harassing my other guests, and disrespecting the guards? What do you think I’d do if I sent messengers to warn them of my displeasure only for these tenants to beat, spit, and even kill those messengers? What would you do?
And what would you do if you sent your only begotten son to this castle, to try and teach these unruly tenants of their bad ways and how they were breaking the rules…only for these tenants to flog your son’s back and nail him to a cross. How would you feel? What would you do to those tenants?
Yes. I’m well aware that some would answer, “You know what! I’d simply have no rules!”
Turn on the TV. There’s your society with no rules. This is a society governed by emotions and feelings. Morality is no longer a matter of right and wrong, but popular opinion. And the problem with that, is just because a thing is right to you and your community, doesn’t mean it’s right for me and my community.
Thus, conflict ensues…which will invariably lead to fights, battles, and war. That’s not faith talking. It’s intelligence. It’s wisdom. It’s prudence.
The intelligence I have is what I garnered by reading the Bible. Even if you don’t want to read all of it, the Book of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes are my favorite when it comes to delicious pure golden wisdom. I think they’re the most practical books when it comes to understanding life.
“Well, what about the Muslims. The same thing could be said for them and their beliefs!”
I haven’t read the Quran. I’m sure I will, but in reading the Bible, Jesus and the Apostles already make it explicitly clear that the only way to salvation is through Jesus Christ alone. Through faith in Him, that he died for our sins and our repentance, our turning away from bad things and to God…This is the only way we can receive everlasting life.
So if I picked up the Quran and it tells me anything contrary to that essential principle… I suppose the only point in reading it would be to understand Muslims better.
“See! Right there, you’re already proving yourself closed minded!”
That’s not true. I can read about cocaine without having the narcotic flow through my bloodstream. I can read about Muslims and the Qurans without believing in Muhammad and Allah.
Or is your argument that anyone who doesn’t believe is close-minded.
“NO Rock! You’re saying you’ve already rejected Muhammad and Allah before you even picked up the Quran because you were already told that Jesus is the only way! That’s what makes you closed minded.”
Maybe…but say you’re correct. Is that wrong?
“Your argument is that faith and intelligence goes hand in hand. But it’s faith that’s preventing you from having an open mind that Jesus Christ might be wrong about being the ONLY way to salvation.”
“So then, what you’re saying doesn’t make sense. And this whole essay is pointless.”
You’re in an empty room full of doors that all look identical. Only one leads to life, and all others lead to death and destruction. How do you know which one to choose? In front of each door is a book, a set of guidelines teaching you about what’s beyond the door, the deity beyond each door. One is called Jehovah. Another, Allah. There’s one for Buddha. There’s even one called Hollywood.
When you open the book and see how people live behind each door…it’s up to you, to pick which one appeals to you.
That’s what you don’t understand. My being a Christian and believing in what Jesus said…no one has a gun to my head, I’m not being pressured. I don’t even care about heaven or hell. I volunteer to be a Christian of my own freewill. Jesus Christ was a man who existed on earth, who preached that our sins were forgiven and that he was the messiah. He said this defiantly in the face of ravenous mobs who spit on him and called for his life. Who, while nailed on a cross, still prayed to God to forgive us.
If I’m closed-minded to the fact that Jesus himself might be wrong, it’s because I choose to believe that he is right. What you call close-minded, I call conviction. Even if you think to yourself that you simply won’t choose and you’d rather stay in that empty room full of doors and not pick any…in that instant, do you really exist?
The cool thing about the Bible is that it explains all of this would happen and why we as Christians shouldn’t be all that hurt or offended by such questions. I don’t want to sound elitist here…but the truth is God chooses us. Even those who haven’t read the Bible have God’s moral code imprinted on their hearts. (Acts 17:22, Romans 1:20, 2:15)
Acts 16:14 talks about how God opened the heart of Lydia when Paul was preaching in Macedonia. This is just one of many examples of God choosing who he grants salvation to. It’s evidenced by the way we live our lives. Just like how, in Exodus 9:12, it tells us that God himself hardened Pharaoh’s heart to make him obstinate so he wouldn’t listen to Moses and Aaron.
You could read these examples and choose to believe God’s just toying with us. One could reasonably ask, “why would he harden Pharaoh’s heart? If he wanted, he could have opened his heart like Lydia’s so he would let the Hebrews go.”
Here’s where things get really interesting. Because this whole time, I’ve been talking about intelligence and how smart I am…but I also mentioned that if I feel like I’m the smartest person in the room, then I’m in the wrong room.
When you read the Bible, you enter the right room. Because no matter how smart I think I am, I not even on the scale when it comes to Jehovah’s infinite wisdom and intelligence. This is what it means to have a humble heart. As arrogant and self-assured as I might sound talking to humans, when it comes to God, I adapt the attitude of one who barely knows anything. To him, I am a perennial student. My eyes and ears open.
He teaches us, through his word the Bible. And reading the Bible with a humble heart, you accept these truths.
1) If you read something that seems wrong or an injustice to you, it doesn’t mean God’s wrong, but you yourself lack understanding.
2) If a Scripture seems to contradict another scripture, it’s likely because you’ve misinterpreted it.
3) If a law or principle seems to conflict with what you want to do, or how you live your life, it’s you that needs to change. Not the Biblical law or principle.
For instance…you could choose to see the example of Pharaoh and think it was wicked for God to harden Pharaoh’s heart, knowing full well how it led to their destruction in the Red Sea and the death of Pharaoh’s first born.
Or, you could abandon your own human notion of what you think is right and trust that God’s will is always just. I get it. That’s a tough one. What’s the point of even caring, or having human compassion if we’re not supposed to get mad when tragedy strikes? When I read the Book of Revelation, I wept at the idea that 1/3rd of humanity will be wiped out during the Great Tribulation.
This is where faith and intelligence goes hand-in-hand. It takes me to the question of, “Why did God plant the tree in the Garden of Eden if he knew Adam would disobey and bring sin in the world?”
If God is all powerful and all knowing, then everything that will and has followed was forseen by him. And if you look at it with that approach…I can’t help but relax. Everything happens for a reason. If God didn’t put that tree there and Adam never sinned, how would we ever know the extent of what we do know about God, his grace, patience, forgiveness, and salvation?
If God didn’t harden Pharaoh’s heart, how would the Israelites ever know to trust in Moses’s leadership? How would they even grasp the power and might of Jehovah of Armies? The 10 Plagues. The food from heaven. His assistance in the wars and battles that came before taking the promise land of their forefather, Abraham.
Everything happens for a reason. If you don’t understand those reasons, pray for it. Pray for the understanding. Pray that God opens your heart and blesses you with the comprehension. The answers are there. This is but one essay from the millions that were ever written by centuries of evangelists who have come before me. If you look for the answers, if you pursue the truth in earnest, you will find it. Because God sees your effort. He will reward you and provide those answers.
I believe Christians like me are made to help the non-believers that other Christians are reluctant to reach out to. My boss and mentor is one of the top Criminal Defense attorneys in the state of Florida. One thing he taught me was, “Rock…no one cares what you know until they know that you care.”
The best way to let them know that you care…is to demonstrate that you understand their point of view. To understand their point of view, you have to listen to them, ask questions, get to the heart of what they care about and to a certain extent…even empathize with them.
So…when I picked up the Bible and started reading it cover to cover, the world started to make sense…And my faith got stronger. Thus…intelligence and faith went hand-in-hand.