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Saturday, 5 November 2016

Christians - With Lower Intelligence?

It was early Sunday morning of last week, just a few hours after publishing my last blog, that an article making news headlines from the bedside radio shook me fully awake from my dawn snooze. Its BBC newscaster passing on the thrilling revelation that scientific research done in Finland has revealed that religious people have in general a lower intelligence quotient than non-religious people.

My first instinctive response to such a revelation was: Don't be so stupid! This was followed by: From where did these scientists get such evidence from to support their conclusions? After further thinking, and recollection of all the Bible teachings I have received, both from books and orally from the pulpit, had afterwards led me to conclude: Maybe theses Finnish scientists have a point after all! 

Then I had this visual imagination of Richard Dawkins, author of his popular book, The God Delusion, grinning from ear to ear in smug satisfaction, while in the USA, if the same revelation from Finland was broadcast across the Atlantic, neuroscientist Sam Harris would revel in his victory after declaring in his little book, Letter to a Christian Nation, that the whole of the United States, as he wrote:

Among developed nations, America stands alone in these convictions. Indeed, I am painfully aware that my country now appears, as at no other time in her history, like a lumbering, bellicose, dim-witted giant. Anyone who cares about the fate of civilization would do well to recognise that the combination of great power and great stupidity is simply terrifying, even to one's friends.

Neuroscientist Sam Harris.

Despite what my brothers and sisters in my own church would think by reading this, I have also come to the conclusion that the opinions of both Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris are not far from the truth. Let's face it: where scientists over the decades, even centuries, had researched all evidence and recorded such results in volumes seldom available to the public, if a discrepancy occurred, these researchers would quietly go back to the drawing board and start over again, or to redirect their conclusions if such new evidence were to fit in their previous results. Laboratories exist to put a theory to the test, to see whether practical experimentation upheld or denied a given theory. But when it comes to religion, different groups holding different beliefs continue to fight against each other, with each side refusing to give in to the other.

And that applies within the Christian faith itself, that particular religion both Dawkins and Harris were really aiming at, along with the late Christopher Hitchens with his book, God Is Not Great. These authors were aiming their arrows at Christianity, even if Islam and other religions had a mention in these books as well. Among this in-fighting within Christendom, Scripture quotes from the Bible are thrown at each other, very much like what children do at a snowball fight in the school playground, except that these quotes are hurled with anger, where in the playground, the motivation behind each snowball flight would be fun, maybe with an edge of teasing. But seldom, if any, of hatred.

Little wonder that with such a testimony, scientists up north in Finland has concluded that we who have a faith also have lower IQ's. Obviously, the rift between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism has never been about whether God exist as a Trinity, the Creation and Fall of mankind, the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ as Messiah, his death by Crucifixion, his Burial, and his Resurrection three days later, and his Ascension. There has never been a dispute between the two parties, whether the Church existing was started by Jesus himself, along with the Resurrection of the Dead. Nor has there been any dispute whether the Bible is the Word of God. In all these key doctrines, both Rome and the Reformers fully agree with them all. The rift between these two has to do with how a sinful person is redeemed. Is it by faith and works, as Rome insists? Or is it by faith in Christ alone, as Reformer Martin Luther taught, and as his followers teach to this day?

Perhaps all that should have been it. But instead, no. Even among Reformers there is a split whether a sinner who has faith in Jesus Christ can lose his salvation and be lost again, or whether the saved believer is an adopted son of God with the righteousness of Christ imputed into him, and therefore eternally secure. Then to add to all that, the question of whether the Biblical Young-Earth creationism should be upheld over the Darwinian concept of a very old Earth with its Evolution of Species.

In my forty plus years as a believer, I have seen it all. I have read both books written by Dawkins and Harris. And by reading these books, it was no mystery to me where they were coming from and where they were going. They were ridiculing us for believing in a vengeful God, in a Young-Earth Creation, and infighting among denominations. But with Creationism in particular, we are accused of being "willingly ignorant" of scientific facts, and therefore have restricted our intelligent learning, held in check by sincere belief in what they call laughable fantasy errors.

Our belief in Creationism is the real target for their fiery darts. These people of high intelligence and learning just don't understand how any person with a sound mind can believe in a six-day creation, when all around us, so according to them, there is evidence everywhere around us that the Earth is billions of years old. They even point to the Grand Canyon as evidence of a gradual up-building of sedimentary strata as proof of uniformitarian geology taking millions of years to achieve, before the plateau was cut through by the Colorado River in comparatively recent geological times. I have stood inside the Grand Canyon myself. And from the vantage of Plateau Point, halfway down to the River from the Rim, I couldn't help but stare at the ledges of Tonto Plateau, the southern ledge of which I was standing on. The northern series of ledges gave me every impression of being raised beaches, because that is exactly what they looked like.

Raised beaches. Does that indicate that there was a time when the Colorado River was much greater in the past than at present? Did the waters of the River lap at the beaches on both sides of the rift, where now are left suspended halfway up inside the Canyon? Maybe the aftermath of the draining away the waters of Noah's Deluge into the Pacific ocean? Dawkins and his ilk may laugh at such a suggestion, or worse, turn away, completely ignoring me as too unworthy of any discussion, a waste of his time. But does this demonstrate my ability to think and analyse the scene according to the record in the Bible? Conversely, does this make me less intelligent than the atheistic Uniformitarian Geologist who holds opinions more in line with unbelieving society? Maybe in my analysis of the Tonto Plateau, I was wrong, and to this day I may be still holding on to error. But otherwise, I would never turn away from or shun the historicity of the Bible.

North and South Tonto Plateau, Grand Canyon

And that was the problem I faced in our church, especially during the 1980's. As our town developed high-tech industry, and became a hub for computer companies to trade, it has also became a magnet for a large influx of graduates. And they began to fill our churches, no longer the exclusive club for established families and senior citizens. Instead, singles groups began to grow and flourish, particularly after the end of the Sunday evening service, when each of us met in someone's private home. Also weekend trips for singles were organised as well, with myself going on one of them around 1980.

These unmarried graduates all believed in Theistic Evolution, that is, Darwinism under the direction of God rather than out of pure chance as advocated by Charles Darwin and his followers. But none of them would embrace a literal six-day Creation as a historical fact. To them, as I saw it, taking the Biblical record in a historical sense was a slur to their IQ's and their impression to the unbelieving world around them. If this is anything to go by, there seems to be some kind of contest between acceptance of secular knowledge and faith in Holy Scripture, creating a compromise between the two views which fails to impress the secularist and the atheist. Also, such a compromise between Creation and Evolution robs the Gospel of all its power. And this form of compromise does not look as if it's confined just to the high-tech computer programmer either.

In refutation of the scientists in Finland, British members of the established clergy are usually of above average intelligence. Take for example the last three Archbishops of Canterbury. They are:

1. George Carey - April 1991-October 2002.
2. Rowan Williams - December 2002-Dec 2012.
3. Justin Welby - February 2013-Present.

George Carey attended Kings College, of the University of London, and achieved a Bachelor of Divinity before ordination. His successor, Rowan Williams, attended Christ College in Cambridge, followed by Wadham College in Oxford, and achieved a Doctor of Divinity before his ordination; while our current Archbishop, who attended the world famous Eton College, afterwards was a student at Trinity College, Cambridge, and achieved a Master of Arts in Theology. It is also interesting to read that Archbishop Rowan Williams was against the teaching of Divine Creation in schools and instead, advocated the "truth" of Darwinism, and therefore this should be taught in schools without the alternative. As for the other two, we are not told of their stance in Creationism as a historical fact or whether they held to the idea of Theistic Evolution, as did the Christian graduates did back in the 1980's. But at least George Carey has testified of his conversion to Jesus Christ as a very enlightening, life-changing experience.

Archbishop Rowan Williams - Denies historicity of Creation.

Another theological "great" is, in my mind, David Pawson, now in his eighties, but according to what I have read about him, is still going strong. Pawson, unlike the three aforementioned Archbishops, is from a Methodist background, with one of his ancestors on his father's side personally knowing the founder of the denomination, John Wesley. For his Further Education, Pawson first attended Durham University, then went into further studies at Wesley House of Cambridge University to achieve a Bachelor of Arts in Theology. For the last couple of decades, Pawson wrote many books and made recordings, both read and listened to by many churches, not only in Britain, but around the western world, even as far as Australia. By browsing through one of his other books, Unlocking the Bible, he seemed unsure of the historicity of Noah's Flood being universal, having preference for John Pye Smith's Local Flood Theory, that is, the idea of the Deluge being confined to the Mesopotamian Basin. Yet indeed, Pawson, like the Archbishops, can be perceived as having higher-than-average intelligence, yet maintains his religious stance.

And I say "religious". Because Pawson, like Wesley before him, is a follower of Jacob Arminius, a 16th Century Dutch theologian who refuted Calvinism, and especially Eternal Security of the Believer. Unfortunately for Wesley and Pawson, there is a shady story about Arminius of having lied under oath in order to achieve his place in the church ministry. Throughout his life, Pawson has always been hard against Once Saved Always Saved, with his belief that such doctrine has caused most churches to compromise with the world instead of remaining devoted to God. This made him rather critical of other churches, and so in a belief that by publicly refuting Once Saved Always Saved, he could bring these churches to a closer devotion to God and personal holiness for each individual believer. In short, he uses the fear of Hell as a psychological tool to reform the churches, even expressing in his book, On the Road to Hell, that there are many Christian saints who has died in the past and are now in Hell.

The danger with such theology is that the atonement made at the cross by Jesus Christ is robbed of its power, the believer is left with the Roman Catholic concept of infused righteousness instead of imputed righteousness. The former means that the sinner himself must work to a level of righteousness before being accepted by God. The latter means that God sees us as already possessing the righteousness of Christ here and now in this life, even if we are not yet actually righteous on a daily basis. According to Pawson's teachings, not only is the Crucifixion, Burial, and Resurrection of Christ is emptied of its atoning power, but also the omniscience of God is denied. That is, God himself does not know what's going to happen next concerning each individual believer. Also denied is the omnipotence of God, his hand being too short to save completely without our help and daily co-operation. Added to this is the question whether or not every believer is an adopted child of God, begotten here and now into his family. For these reasons, I have always perceived Arminianism to be a heresy made potentially dangerous by its subtlety to being orthodox, that there are many churches and individuals who are sucked in without realisation of the danger, usually out of admiration for its scholars, advocates and teachers. I have also seen over the years that this kind of theology tend to make its advocates more critical of the churches and of each other, and more prone to be judgemental. I have experienced this kind of abuse, even to a point of hostility, by these Christians on several occasions throughout my life as a believer, along with seeing other believers who had suffered the same. And I'm not exaggerating.

So here am I, actually challenging the knowledge and intellect of someone who is perceived as far more intelligent and knowledgeable than I could ever be. Where does that place me? But a few things I am aware of: That maybe watching our discussion and acceptance of Divine Creation over Darwinism, the history of a major church split from Rome by the Reformers, and then a division within the Reformation over the eternity of our salvation - maybe these scientists in Finland were right after all.


  1. Dear Frank,
    God created Adam and Eve as adults, not newborns, and mature trees, plants, etc. The chicken-egg debate has an obvious Biblical answer -- God created the chicken, which then laid eggs according to His perfect design. My point is that he could have also created a mature earth, with mountain ranges, etc. appearing to be much older than they were in chronological terms. Interestingly, a number of scientists whom Dawkins quoted in his book, claiming their work supported evolution, have denounced him and denied that their work showed what he claimed it did.
    Thanks as always for the well thought-out post.
    God bless,

  2. Several years ago, a magazine published one of the MENSa tests for identifying geniuses. Out of curiosity it took the test and scored rather high, but not quite genius level. I had questions about some of their answers and did some research, discovering that in fact several of their answers were wrong. When corrections were made for their incorrect answers, I got the same score as the authors of the test, indicating I was as intelligent as they were. Unfortunately, people who did not make the same mistakes they did were considered less intelligent. Their claims of higher intelligence are based primarily on their pride rather than real measures of intelligence. God says the fear of the Lord is beginning, or basis for wisdom and intelligence.