‘For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent (1 Corinthians 1:19).”
We live in an entirely different age to that of the writers of the New Testament – people like Paul, Peter and James. Our ways of thinking are different, because of our so very different culture and the increase of knowledge in our times. Computers and technology have changed everything; not just our understanding of the universe, but the ways in which we live.
In the time of the Roman Empire an extensive network of roads enabled rapid travel between the provinces and the seat of government at Rome. They facilitated the movement of military forces for maintaining law and order, and they greatly helped with the transfer of strategic information.
In our age, particularly in the Western World, the majority of people are literate, unlike those who lived in Israel at the time of Christ. Today loads of people read the Bible, and as they do, they exercise their grey cells for gaining insight into the scenarios presented in the books of the Old and New Testaments. If they are like me, they try to imagine what life was like for the biblical characters; for example, what was the reaction of Philemon after reading Paul’s letter which asked him to receive back into his keeping, the slave Onesimus. Did he feel like forgiving him for absconding to Rome, where in God’s providence he met and served Paul, and subsequently became a Christian?
Both Paul and Philemon intelligently applied the teachings of Jesus to good effect. I have no doubt whatsoever that Onesimus and Philemon were amicably reunited.
Intelligence is a requisite for both understanding the Scriptures and for applying them. It’s not just a matter of the Holy Spirit doing the work. Yes, the Holy Spirit is a necessary Helper (John 14:26) for understanding God’s Word. Those who do not have Him as their Helper are unable to comprehend the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 2:6-15).
Intelligence and Biblical Application
My dictionary defines intelligence as the capacity for learning, reasoning, understanding and similar forms of mental activity; aptitude in grasping truths, relationships, facts, meanings. etc..
Well, you can be intelligent and apply logic; you can take in facts and learn from experiences, but that does not make you a child of God (John 1:12). Indeed, Paul states: ‘But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty (1 Corinthians 1:27).’ Therefore, even the least able, the weakest and the feeble can become believing children of God.
Although the above is true, Paul exhorts Christ’s followers to transform their minds (Romans 12:2) – that is to exercise their grey cells for bringing about behaviour that conforms to the will of God, i.e., to live in accordance with the doctrine of Christ (2 John 1:9) and to obey His law (Galatians 6:2) of love (John 13:34).
We have to do the ‘thinking’ and we have to do the ‘learning’. We have to apply our knowledge and wisdom for accomplishing good works (Ephesians 2:10); for being lights to those in darkness (Matthew 5:14-16), and for preaching the gospel, and for carrying out Christ’s command to make disciples (Matthew 28:19).
Intelligent Applications, Systems and Machines
In this space-age when men have set foot on the moon and intelligent probes have been sent to remote planets, an increasing number of Christians are making use of mobile phone applications to help them understand the Scriptures.
I have three very useful ones, but, as with all things, they have to be tested for their accuracy and truthfulness (1 Thessalonians 5:21). At all times I must intelligently examine what they teach.
As these gismos become more sophisticated we must be vigilant, because their ‘intelligent’ input influences our ways of thinking, and hence, our decisions and actions. As a man thinks, so he is.
Intelligent machines have their limitations, but technology is evolving rapidly, and innovative and creative designers are constantly improving their machines’ capabilities. Some machines can mimic ‘cognitive’ functions that are similar to those of the human mind; i.e., they ‘learn’ and ‘problem solve’. A quite frightening development is machines that are capable of understanding human emotions, and they can be programmed to react to them; therefore they can influence a person’s decision making.
Nano technology gives the real possibility that these machines can be integrated into the neural systems of a human – into the brain itself. It is even possible for a machine to have an understanding of ‘self-awareness’, and the ability to interact with similar machines.
There’s no doubt that these humanised, robotic machines will increasingly play a part in the way we conduct our lives in the future. In God’s predestined plan they may be tools of satan.
The Bible appears not to make any direct reference to them, but of the ‘end time’ Daniel 12:4 states: ‘“… you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end, many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.”’’
Perhaps this points to an age when men and women no longer think for themselves; instead they are controlled by machines that do the thinking for them. They travel to and fro under the direction of implanted, so-called mind-enhancing machines, and they have mechanical extensions fitted to their limbs, like those of fictional ‘cyborgs’.
Their desire is to live forever, but it is God who has the last word: “Surely I am coming quickly (Revelation 22:20).”