On Loving God with your Intellect

(Edited: Thursday, November 12, 2015)

MATTHEW 22:37 AMP

And He replied to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (intellect). [Deut. 6:5.]

Intellect: (noun)

the power or faculty of the mind by which one knows or understands, as distinguished from that by which one feels and that by which one wills.


I think a lot of the church traditions I’ve come out of are pretty good at teaching us to worship God with the part of us that “feels” and the part of us that “wills” but there’s something about worshiping God with the part of us that “knows” and “understands” that makes us feel helpless. Sometimes, I can control my emotions. Sometimes, I can control my will but I can’t really control the data I receive through my senses (not unless I actively lie to myself).

I think It’s amazing that He created us to love Him with the part of us that gets geeked out on taking in facts, on studying mountains, principles, science and logic and connecting it back to the Originator of the supreme pattern of life; and to know that is good religion; that is worship.

JEREMIAH 33:2-3 NCV

“These are the words of the Lord , who made the earth, shaped it, and gave it order, whose name is the Lord : ‘Judah, pray to me, and I will answer you. I will tell you important secrets you have never heard before.’

I don’t remember if I’ve ever heard that preached – how to love God with your intellect – but I think it should be. A huge part of us calculates, questions and studies everyday things. We should be comfortable loving God with that aspect of ourselves. It would probably stop a lot of Christians from feeling like their day job is “secular” or separate from worship.

I’ve found God many times in front of a computer screen, programming my brains out. I remember taking my first robotics class a few years ago. Our assignment was to create a robot that would not run into a wall. The test was on an L-shaped path. The robot was supposed to go straight, turn a corner and go straight again. Sounds easy enough, right? No. It takes a lot to create a moving robot that doesn’t run into walls. Hang with me.

I have a point. I promise.

-Elle Woods

STEP 1: Mechanically assemble the robot.

First, you are given

  • a core (the empty brain of the robot)
  • motors and tires (for movement)
  • sensors (to help it interact with its environment) and
  • lego pieces (to connect it all).

Assemble the robot of your choice

STEP TWO: code code code

Teach your robot basic survival skills by giving it’s empty brain instructions to follow. You’re importing libraries, connecting to the motors and sensors, naming them, telling them what to do in different situations e.g. Robot, when you sense an obstacle 5cm in front of you, turn and scan for a different path (and so on).

STEP THREE: incremental testing & debugging

Then (and this part is crucial), turn on your robot to watch it do things. It will do nothing. Proceed to spend 3 hours looking over your code to find the missing semi-colon that broke everything.

STEP FOUR: Potential infinite loop

Repeat steps 2 & 3 about 5000 times. Consider majoring in music. Try any combination of steps 1, 2 & 3.  Eventually, you will have an autonomous robot that doesn’t run into walls.

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To me, the study of technology is the practice of slowly comprehending the improbability that anything functional was ever created. I felt kind of amazed by myself after that project. I make it around corners without running into walls ALL THE TIME (and that’s only one of the things I’m good at). I had to bow before God’s artistic and engineering prowess. It was definitely a spiritual experience for me. If someone sits across a table from me and calls my existence a happy accident, I have the most difficult time seriously considering their viewpoint simply because of its statistical improbability. We could sit down and calculate the odds together. It’s not “the bible tells me so” or I just feel it or I wish it were so. I actually think so. I don’t believe we are an accident and that belief which was once purely spiritual, is now, for me, intellectually sensible.

Loving God is definitely “feel”-centric and “will”-centric but I think that is just a portion of what it means to connect your existence to Him/Her. Artists, writers, chemists, physicists and all sorts of other normal people easily discover the extraordinary in the ordinary as they open their intellect to God.

You know why parables are powerful? It’s because someone connected the dots on what otherwise would have been a boring story or an uninteresting data set and they made it divine. What is so amazing about a woman losing a coin? Jesus made it divine. That is loving God with your intellect.

But I’ve seen subsets of Christianity that encourage you to shut your eyes to the concrete and focus more on finding God purely in the mystical, the emotional, the ethereal… This approach often demonizes the intellectual process of accepting God however He might choose to show (or not show) Himself.

I get it. It’s scary and sometimes you get lost along the way. You’re not in control. It’s not about your emotional prowess. You just have to accept whatever comes. It is sincerely believing that God really is His own being, that He reveals Himself when and how He wants and that we are at the mercy of that.

But if He’s real, then He’s real, right?  If He’s good then He’s good. If He’s just, then He’s just. If all these things are true in scripture, then they’re true in the physical world right? So, let’s stand in real time and see if God shows up. One of two things will happen:

1. Truth will change for you or

2. Truth will be solidified for you

But whatever happens, is it not better  to have the truth than to have a lie?   The thing faith does, is that it leaps  into the questions and asks God, “Catch me.”

And I believe God is faithful to catch us.

PSALMS 91:15 NCV

They will call to me, and I will answer them. I will be with them in trouble; I will rescue them and honor them.

It sounds similar to Satan’s call for Jesus to test God but actually, it’s  closer to Peter’s bold prayer: “Lord, if it is really you, then command me to come to you on the water.” (Matthew 28:14, NCV)

Because if He really is who He says He is, then we will find Him wherever we look. And I won’t spend my time worried about Galileo’s claim that the earth revolves around the sun. It’s probably true… And God is the one that made it that way.

COLOSSIANS 1:16-17 CEV

Everything was created by him, everything in heaven and on earth, everything seen and unseen, including all forces and powers, and all rulers and authorities. All things were created by God’s Son, and everything was made for him.  God’s Son was before all else, and by him everything is held together.

Disclaimer: (I hate this part but with the Internet-age, I feel I have to add a few footnotes) Because the moment a Christian hints at intelligent design, there’s that awkward, “Oh. So you’re one of those, eh? Don’t believe in evolution?”

And… no. I’m not a biologist though I took some classes… But I do think the idea of evolution sans God is akin to believing that if I leave an iphone in a room long enough,  it will eventually become an iphone 6. I believe in guided evolution. Someone taught us to evole. Someone/something programmed us to evolve. That’s pretty much it. I wonder sometimes why we give technology the benefit of complexity even more so than biological beings. We’re so cool and so complex. Accidental seems insulting.

Part 2: On Loving God with your Heart and Soul