Intellectuals in Love

The story is told by Charles Hodge, famous 19th century theologian,

of the most popular professor at Princeton in his day. 


Philip Lindsay was a man actively sought by many universities in the Mid-Atlantic States to be their president.  Hodge explains, “Lindsay told our class that we would find one of the best preparations for death was a thorough knowledge of the Greek grammar.”  “This,” comments Dr. Hodge, “was his way of telling us that we ought to do our duty.[1]

“Tell me what you love, I will tell you what you are” is the famous connection between knowing and doing.  A. G. Sertillanges continues the idea,

Love is the beginning of everything in us . . . Truth visits those who love her, who surrender to her, and this love cannot be without virtue.”[2]

intellectuals booksSubmission to truth shows one’s affection.

We should all be “intellectuals” in some measure.  Famed American pastor-scholar Jonathan Edwards preached to his flock that study is

“. . . Not only for the instruction of ministers and men of learning; but for the instruction of all men, of all sorts, learned and unlearned, men, women, and children. . . .[3]

Christian learning for Christian duty must be linked with Christ’s passion.  B. B. Warfield explains

There is no mistake more terrible than to suppose that activity in Christian work can take the place of depth of Christian affections . . . the foundation stone of your piety. . . . That is to be found, of course, in your closets, or rather in your hearts, in your private religious exercises, and in your intimate religious aspirations.[4]

Love for God’s law, testimonies, commandments, precepts, and words[5] in Psalm 119 is more than emotion.  Hebrews placed feelings in the background while love’s commitment took the foreground.[6] To “love God’s law” was intensively[7] intentional for the believer.  Psalm 119:47 complements the love of the study of Scripture with “delight” in Scripture.[8] Festive, exultant[9] enthusiasm[10] is present as the writer cheers Heaven’s Book.  The resulting pleasure from such teaching is a word such as “bibliophile”— book lover.intellectuals bibles

Two decades ago I first met the efforts of some to squelch the growing love of study.  Craig, one of my most passionate students, was being told by some on a ministry trip that his desire to spend time reading was self-centered.  “Who would want to quell this young man’s burgeoning desire to grow?” I thought!  Edwards reminds us

So there can be no love without knowledge.  It is not according to the nature of the human soul, to love an object which is entirely unknown.  The heart cannot be set upon an object of which there is no idea in the understanding.  The reasons which induce the soul to love must first be understood before they can have a reasonable influence on the heart.[11]

intellectual libraryGreat joy is gained from study and its application to real world living.[12] Psalm 119:18 was often my classroom prayer, “Open my eyes that I might see wonderful things in Your law!”  The great teacher of preachers, Haddon Robinson, called for “evangelistic scholars”[13] to put feet to head knowledge.  And anyone who wants to motivate a classroom need read Howard Hendricks Teaching to Change Lives[14] at least once a year to watch the seamlessness of study with joy.  The Christian teacher requires a passionate love for truth.  Samuel Solivan proposed the term orthopathos (literally, straight love) linking orthodoxy (straight teaching) with orthopraxis (straight living).

Delight and truth must hold hands walking down the road of duty.[15]

So, Lindsay was right: a theologian’s best preparation for death means the study of Greek grammar.  Love of study (whatever field in God’s creation ignites our passion) shows one’s love for God.  John W. Peterson expressed it best in a forgotten hymn A Student’s Prayer. The first stanza summarizes why intellectuals are in love.[16]

God, the all wise, and Creator of the human intellect,

Guide our search for truth and knowledge, all our thoughts and ways direct.

Help us build the towers of learning that would make us wise, astute,

On the rock of Holy Scripture: Truth revealed and absolute.

intellectuals new bookMark has been in love with God’s Truth since he was brought into The Kingdom in 1966.  He now teaches his students to be in love at Capital Seminary & Graduate School.  First published in 2009, this essay is now the first chapter in Dr. Eckel’s new book I Just Need Time to Think! Reflective Study as Christian Practice (Westbow, 2014).


[1] B. B. Warfield. 1911. “The Religious Life of Theological Students.” In Selected Shorter Writings of B. B. Warfield, vol. 1, 414.

[2] A. G. Sertillanges. 1921, 1998. The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, Methods. Trans. Mary Ryan. Fwd., James V. Schall. (Catholic University of America Press): 19.

[3] Jonathan Edwards. 1849. “The Importance and Advantage of a Thorough Knowledge of Divine Truth,” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards in Four Volumes (Leavitt, Trow and Company): 3:2-4, 4-7, 7-8, 11, 14-15 as quoted in an edited version of those remarks entitled “The Discipleship of Study” in The Great Awakening and American Education, 207.

[4] Warfield, 424, 422.

[5] Psalm 119: 47, 48, 97, 113, 119, 127, 159, 163, 165, 167.

[6] George J. Zemek. n.d. The Word of God in the Child of God. (For a free copy of this exceptional hardbound commentary, write to: Psalm 119 Commentary, P. O. Box 428, Mango, FL 33550): 233.

[7] Zemek, 95.

[8] The first occurrences are in Psalm 119:14 and 16.

[9] Derek Kidner. 1975. Psalms 73-150. In the TOTC, J. Wiseman, ed. (IVP): 420.

[10] Gary G. Cohen. 1980. sus. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. (Moody): 2:873.

[11] The Great Awakening, 202.

[12] Craig Mattson, PhD, presently serves as professor of communication at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, IL.  I had the joy of hearing him speak to students this past year.  Craig epitomizes depth of scholarship with depth of passion.  May his tribe increase.

[13] Haddon Robinson. 1985. “The Theologian and the Evangelist” Journal of the Evangelical Society 28/1 (March): 3-8.

[14] Howard Hendricks. 2003. Teaching to Change Lives. (Reprint, Multnomah).

[15] Reference to Samuel Solivan, “Orthopathos: Interlocutor between Orthodoxy and Praxis,” Andover Newton Review 1 (Winter 1990): 19-25 quoted in Robert W. Pazmino, By What Authority do we Teach? (Eerdmans, 1994): 120.

[16] A play off the theme addressed by James W. Sire in Habits of the Mind: Intellectual Life as a Christian Calling. (IVP, 2000): 76-77.  Sire uses a great many of the ideas found in Sertillanges.  See ftnt. #3.

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  1. Thank you so much for writing this Mark. I have struggled for years with well meaning, passionate, Christ loving believers who shunned my joy of intellect and actively sought to change me even though the mere act of doing so would be to shun God’s desire for my life. For me to be truly like Christ, is to know and understand His Story (history) and the cultures of the people he created. I love learning, I love God, the two are not mutually exclusive.

  2. Absolutely Derek! Thanks for your good response here. Loving God with our whole person is the point. You can be assured I stand with you! May God bless your intellectual prowess for His glory.

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