“Christians Aren’t Smart”? I’m Not Offended

So, probably most of my readers have heard about this.  Some study supposedly found that people with a higher IQ are less likely to be religious.  The obvious take-away for the atheists is that they are smarter, and that is why they aren’t religious.

Most extant explanations (of a negative relation) share one central theme – the premise that religious beliefs are irrational, not anchored in science, not testable and, therefore, unappealing to intelligent people who ‘know better.’

These kinds of sociological studies can often be taken with a grain of salt (or perhaps an ocean’s worth of salt).  But even if there is something to it, statements like the one above are offensive, aren’t they?  It says Christians are a bunch of irrational dummies.  So why do I say, “I’m not offended”?

The first reason is simply that, even before I’d read the details, I’d made the decision not to be offended.  Just because someone does something offensive doesn’t mean I have to be offended.

A second reason, after reading further and a little thought, is simply that there’s a Biblical basis for believing that some of their conclusions are accurate.  (No, I’m NOT saying religious people are all stupid! :))

One of the co-authors said:

Intelligence may lead to greater self-control ability, self-esteem, perceived control over life events, and supportive relationships, obviating some of the benefits that religion sometimes provides.

Cut through the muck and humanistic language, and you get this:  people with higher intelligence (by societal measures of intelligence) tend to be more proud — and less religious.  Is this surprising?  Isn’t faith, by its definition, reliance on God rather than self?  Isn’t pride just the opposite of that?  Remember this verse?

James 4:6

But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.

In societies where military skill has been exalted almost as an object of worship, those with greater physical strength and skill have often been proud — and irreligious.  Everyone around them said they were the best thing to grace the face of the earth, so they often trusted themselves.

In cultures that have exalted wealth (which culture hasn’t?), rich people have tended to be proud, and been less religious.  What a surprise!

Pride and faith are bitter enemies.  So living in a culture where “intelligence” is exalted in importance as perhaps it never has been before, where everyone wants to be seen as smart, where no one wants to be thought of as not that bright, is it surprising that those who are bright would tend to be proud of it?  Is it surprising that they are less likely to exercise humility and faith?

But some people just aren’t as “bright” as others, are they?  Does God value them any less?  Should we?  A few other verses come to mind:

I Corinthians 1:18-20, 26-27

18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?

26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

“Not many wise men after the flesh….”  Do we believe the Scriptures, or not?  If so, why are we bothered by studies like this?

The offensive thing is a society exalting “intelligence” to the denigration of those who have a little less of it.  A decent culture wouldn’t even accept this kind of study.  It takes a sick society to place a higher value on people, or think they should be emulated, merely on the basis of their brain power.  Did you know that highly intelligent people can sometimes be wrong 🙂 (not to mention immoral, hateful, arrogant, etc)?

A lot of really solid Christians, who ought to know better (and usually do), get upset about studies like this.  This study simply fits what Scripture says, even if it is skewed somewhat (it may be) and even if the conclusions drawn are offensive.

If we keep a Scriptural perspective on the world’s measures of “intelligence,” studies like this don’t merit more than a shrug, and maybe the comment, “It looks like this fits with I Corinthians 1, which is what God has said all along.  I’m smart enough to see that.” 🙂

I’m not offended.  I’m just not.  If I have to choose which group I want to be in, I’ll take those who love the Lord their God, and love their neighbours as themselves, whether their IQ is high, low, or somewhere in between.

About Jon Gleason

Former Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
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4 Responses to “Christians Aren’t Smart”? I’m Not Offended

  1. I personally ignore such “studies” because they are obviously biased, having an agenda behind them. Think about it – what purpose would such a study have except to denigrate Christianity?

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