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Final Web Event --- Christian Intellectualism

sschurtz's picture

Is an intelligent Christian an oxymoron? I posed a similar question about three months ago regarding Christian Feminism and whether those two aspects could work together.  During my search to find an identity that closely represented and accurately portrayed how I feel and want to represent myself I discovered a part of academia that I had not been aware of.  I found a truer identity and it helped strengthen both of these aspects of myself. This has made me reflect on another aspect that I have been judged on and that is the question of can someone be a Christian and an intellectual.

            You’re opinion is not as valid because you are religious. This is a personal topic for me. Christianity is a popular religion in the US and it is ubiquitous in many aspects of life in America. I understand that identifying as a Christian may seem like a non controversial or easy thing to identify as but it was something that I felt I could not share with other people up until recently. It wasn’t until the end of high school that I felt that I could truly identify as a Christian.  There were a couple years of Atheism, a couple years of agnosticism and a couple of years of simply reflecting and searching. So when I finally found and achieved what I had been searching for it was a very positive thing for me. I had backlash from some of my Christian friends who thought that I was not Christian enough or not a real Christian because I didn’t attend Church very often.  I didn’t openly identify as a Christian in that case because my behaviors, feminism and liberalism, did not always work with the ideas that their parents had instilled in them.  My parents have always let their children decide for themselves how they want to identify and represent themselves. In regards to my parents I am probably more morally conservative than them in some ways, which is an odd thing to be when you are a teenager. I didn’t have the backlash of having certain ideas that I cared about become less valid or being left out of the discussion because of my religion.

            I have had friends who do not like Christians and think that they are unintelligent and mindless. It wasn’t until college though that I started to receive some of this kind of attention on a more regular basis.  For me personally my college experience has been a struggle regarding my religion, not because I am questioning but that I have often felt that I cannot tell people, even close friends of my Christianity. I have had to deal with people telling me that my beliefs are stupid or that they hated Christians after I’ve identified as one. While I accept that many people may have personal problems with Christianity the amount of annoyance and judgment that I received was unlike what I have experienced in the past and it seemed unwarranted. I am not a very outspoken person about my beliefs, nor have I ever tried to convert someone. It was unsettling and annoying that the people who were being openly rude to me were at the same time not interested in hearing any of my beliefs behind it. I don’t think that my journey is what they would expect and to immediately think that what I say has less of a value because of my belief system is detrimental to me and to them. There are just so many assumptions made by others when you identify as a religious person that it can be a difficult thing to identify as one if you also want to be seen as an intellectual.

My experiences with people’s perception of my religion have been frustrating at times but they have not been severe. It calls back the idea of identity and how one wants to be perceived. It’s one of the reasons why Christian feminism speaks to me because I feel it accurately represents me. People don’t have preconceived notions about what being a Christian feminist is and it allows a little buffer before someone can make assumptions about your beliefs. 

I have not had a negative experience regarding religion in this class and it has actually been quite a positive experience for me. I am a Christian but I never felt like it was something I could identify with without fear of being judged or questioned. That changed over this semester and it was the first time in a long time that I felt that I could share some aspects of my religion in an academic setting and actually enjoy doing that.

I personally think that the way to strengthen and continue on a spiritual journey is to search out obstacles to your theories and beliefs.  When you remain stagnant and think that you know all that you need to know you are cutting yourself off from truth. It is why I think that it is important for Christians and religious people to debate or talk to people who believe in other religions or no religion at all.   I honestly don’t see a benefit to denying a fact. If something is truthful and is proven to be truthful, ignoring it will only be a detriment to your beliefs. I have always viewed when people do this to say that they see something that could jeopardize what they believe and instead of looking into it and trying to grow they just pretend it does not exist. What is the point in having strong beliefs about religion when you are unable to look at facts that could be truthful for fear that it may contradict your worldview?

Ricahard Dawkins “argues that you cannot be an intelligent scientific thinker and still hold religious beliefs. It is one or the other”(84).


For some Christians they think that they have to turn their backs on scientific inquiry and academic thought because it could possibly be contradictory to some of their religious beliefs; but to simply look past them or ignore them hurts their own beliefs. As a Christian I believe that science and intellect are parts of Christianity. These are not things that disprove your beliefs but become part of it.


            The idea of a Christian intellectual does not affect just scientific or academic inquiry but the study of your own religion. People don’t always take the time to learn about the differences in the branches of religions. During an exercise for the teach-in one group had a project where it used parts of identity. I really enjoyed their exercise.  A couple people got the word Jewish and said that it would not be accurate because they are not Jewish. Someone else got Catholic school girl but they did not think that was an accurate identity. The same goes for me. Although I am a Christian I am not a Catholic. Being a Presbyterian is part of my identity. Its one of the strongest elements of my heritage but when someone calls me Catholic and I correct them they are confused or annoyed. I am always willing to explain why I am not a catholic and make the differences between them easy to understand but people simply do not care about the difference.  It is not that I am insulted that someone called me Catholic but I don’t have the same beliefs as someone who is catholic. It is simply an inaccurate statement.


The idea of how different aspects of a religion are viewed by others is important not just because of identity but because these branches believe different things from each other.

            There is a difference between others viewing you as not being an intelligent person because of your religion and for a person to actually ignore academia because you see it as a problem. The issue with an intelligent Christian comes down to two things; the perception and the belief. These are two different problems. Christians are seen to not believe in science and turn their backs on academia, which is not true of many Christians, but there are some Christians who do these things. To me the idea that you can’t believe in science and Christianity does not make sense with my beliefs. I receive the stereotyping that happens when people assume these things.

An issue I have is that Christianity and other religions have so many different elements and sides to it that each religious person has a slightly different view or belief. Essentially by assuming that Christians all must believe one thing they are lumping everyone together. As I wrote about in my last paper, the way I view feminism in Christianity is different from others.  Many Christians do not agree with feminists and feminist ideals while many feminists do not agree or believe in Christianity because it is subversive to women. There are core tenants to a being a protestant Christian that someone could reasonably assume that all Christians believe in. The idea of Jesus’ teachings and so on. But it is a detriment to assume that what you believe about a religion that must be what the person who identifies with the religion believes. Things are not so cut and dry in life. You are putting people into boxes when you assume their beliefs.

It is an assumption that Christians cannot also be intellectuals. It is insulting to Christians who do believe in scientific thought and inquiry. There is the issue of is there biblical evidence to back up the idea that a Christian should be an intellectual.

            I don’t see why a Christian cannot be an intellectual. It is not because I am a Christian that I believe this. It is because I don’t see the evidence for it as an educated person. Even if you are religious it makes no sense that if you see some part of academia that is contradictory to your beliefs to ignore it. It does the person not benefit to simply deny that it exists.  It actually strengthens your religion and faith to see each challenge and see how it works into your worldview. Turning a blind eye to problems will not help you in your life.


“The miracles of the Bible are not a problem if we first accept the presence of a Creator God and we see that those miracles are consistent with His stated mission and His nature.”

There are ways to work science and Christian beliefs into a cohesive belief if you can study it from an academic standpoint.


I have never understood the idea that someone could turn their backs to science or fact because it complicates things. I actually enjoy these struggles. As someone who believes that faith can be a struggle and something to constantly work on. I believe that science and intellect are parts of Christianity. These are not things that disprove your beliefs but become part of it.

As a Christian Feminist I don’t feel that I can completely align with one group. On one side my religion poses a problem. On the other side my feminism is a point of contention. In almost every religion it seems that women are put into submissive and lesser roles and as a feminist I don’t believe that women should occupy these roles.  With Christian feminism I had to accept that there are some parts of the Bible that make women the lesser. I don’t agree with that idea and part of my beliefs is looking for other elements that portray women as equal to men and other feminist ideas. During my search I found that things were not so simple regarding scripture and feminism. There are no simple answers and people will not agree very easily. There is almost always room for personal interpretation. This goes into the idea of a Christian intellectual. I have to accept that some parts of the Bible don’t agree with some of what Science has proven.


 Ricahard Dawkins “argues that you cannot be an intelligent scientific thinker and still hold religious beliefs. It is one or the other”(84).


It seems that for naysayers of the idea of a Christian Intellectual their beliefs boil down to science seeming to be in conflict with Christianity that “you can be either scientific and rational or religious”(Keller 87).  I have never liked the idea of someone saying that they believe or they do not believe in science. To me science is something that everyone should accept exists. Believing in a religion shouldn’t make science less real or true but instead make it a complement. Find ways to understand how they work together. There should be more Christians who are intellectuals and less who simply follow the Word. I think that having questions about your faith and religion is a good thing. “Miracles are hard to believe in, and they should be”(95).  A Christian should study the Bible the same way you make an academic inquiry. It is important to study more and try to understand problems and look for solutions.

 One of the ways to tackle the idea of a whether a Christian can also be an intellectual is to understand why people think they can’t be. One of the largest issues is the issue of evolution and how Christianity deals with science. There are theories that connect scientific principles with Christian ideals. I have personally met many Christians who adamantly believe in evolution and think that there is no reason why it is contradictory to the Bible. I know other Christians who are creationists who think that “Genesis 1 makes any kind of evolutionary process impossible”(88).  It is not to say that a Christian cannot be an intellectual if they are a creationist but I think that if you refuse to look at science or academic study that is outside of the Bible than you cannot be an intellectual. It should not be you either use the Bible to explain your beliefs or you use science to explain your beliefs. It should be an appropriate thing to be able to use all the knowledge at your disposable and make informed and better decisions based on that.


My identity is not just a cysgendered, female , Christian but the intersectionality of my beliefs and my identity. I would want to stride to be a Christian intellectual, someone who does not turn their back on science. Understanding how my beliefs intersect and how they work together helps strengthen each part of what I believe in as well as strengthening them as a whole but also together. Intersectionality is vital to people’s understandings of others. On both sides people do not just have one thing they believe in but many factors and identities.


It was my first paper this year that jumpstarted me wanting to study Christianity through less of a religious lens and more of an academic lens. For that paper I found an identity and an area of academia that I was not aware had existed. For this paper I took part of what I was looking at during my first paper and posed another question. This time around the answers were much harder to find. It was more of a struggle to try to find an answer to this question.



"Scientists Upthrough Newton's Time (1643-1727) Held the View That God Had Created a." Can an Intellectual Be a Christian. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Dec. 2013. <>.


Keller, Timothy J. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. New York: Dutton, 2008. Print.