Can intellectuals be Christians? Eric Metaxas reflects on how scientists, artists and other significant figures who shaped our culture have relied on their Christian faith throughout the centuries.
Questions for Discussion and Personal Reflection
- Is it surprising to hear that some of the greatest minds in history have believed in God?
- How can you help to counter the popular misconception that smart or thoughtful people never have faith?
That's one thing we don't talk about a lot in our culture. We don't mention those tons of people that you would respect and, and you're already impressed by them and everything they've ever done, and then you find out, "Oh, they believe that, well I didn't know that. I thought that all the smart people didn't believe that." Well, that's not true. My favorite examples of incredible people— William Wilberforce, this— I wrote a book about him so I know his life intimately. This is a guy who led the battle, uh, to abolish the slave trade in the British Empire. You want to talk about an amazing human being who spent his whole life doing good when everybody, uh, thought he was nuts for for wanting to end the slave trade. He says, "No, this is wrong, and I'm going to dedicate my life to this." He was a politician in British Parliament, and Lincoln and Frederick Douglass and all these people looked to him as the hero on the issue of abolition. Where did he get that motivation? From his profound Christian faith. Amazing human being did what he did, uh, that I think any good person would say, "Well, yeah, that was, it was a wonderful thing that he did." Well, he did it because of his faith, because he believed these things. Um, you know, that's just, uh, a one example. I mean, we could talk about the great, uh, uh, poets. I'm a writer. We could talk about Dante. Um, we could talk about Milton. Um, some of the finest literary minds, uh, have believed this. John Updike, of all people, wrote a poem in 1961, I believe, um, where he talks about the literal resurrection of the body of Jesus. It's not just, you know, Jesus rose in the hearts of his disciples or whatever, but you know, uh, a Harvard graduate, a genius, John Updike, you know, writes a poem specifically on the subject. Flannery O'Connor, without a doubt, one of the greatest writers of the 20th Century, she believed this profoundly, um, and wrote about it. And, uh, you know, you could sort of look in any, in any field. Isaac Newton, uh, kind of a bright dude. Uh, Isaac Newton, you know, the man who discovered gravity, who invented calculus— I mean, we can't fault them for that, but even if you enjoyed calculus, I didn't like calculus— think about the mind, a mind that invents calculus, a mind that discovers how the universe works, he believed all of this stuff. We're led to believe this, in this day and age, that scientists don't believe that stuff. Well, most scientists in the history of science did believe that stuff. You just tend not to hear that because scientists today, uh, tend not to be so, uh, on-board with that, but it's like in any direction you, you, you go in, you find people that you admire. Martin Luther King Jr., uh, Reverend Martin Luther King, he believed that stuff, and, uh, he told his, uh, followers to turn the other cheek, to not fight back. Uh, Jackie Robinson, uh, did what he did because he was a profound Christian. You know, in the field of music, there's zillions of people. Johnny Cash, uh, it was nowhere to be found in the biopic "Walk the Line." Good movie, but it didn't mention the fact that he had a profound Christian faith, that he would appear with Billy Graham. He would, he and his wife, June Carter Cash, would play at Billy Graham's Crusades, and he had an incredibly vibrant Christian faith, and he sang about it, and it's what got him off drugs alcohol and you know, like, legendary person of faith. Johnny Cash. I mean, you know, uh, Mary J. Blige reads the Bible everyday. I mean, there's so many people that believe these things, but we just tend not to hear about it a lot in the media. It's not something that is, uh, you know, uh, maybe so popular to talk about, but it's true. I think it kind of encourages us that it's okay for me to believe it if these great people believed it.