A commenter on Mere-O pointed out that the intellectual Jews skeptically asked Jesus “who is my neighbor?” to get out of the problem of dealing with what they already knew to be true about the Gospel. This came in response to a post I made pointing readers to Dr. Sanders’ comments on Middlebrow about the “simplicity” of the Christian faith. My reply immediately follows:
Your point is well taken, but if you look at Sanders’ post, you will find he is not talking about the skeptical intellectual. Rather, he refers to the one who earnestly desires to know more about God.
When you say, “…what we need to know, we already know,” I must distinguish. If we know Jesus is the Son of God, He died on the cross for our sins and rose again, in a sense we know enough. But the human mind is capable of far more complexity than that. The Bible pushes us to think hard about what it means for Jesus to be the Son of God (and fully man), for Him to die for our sins, and how God raised Him from the dead.
One of my mentors asks his students: “If I tell everyone I love my wife, but after years of marriage I can’t tell you the color of her eyes, would you not suspect my claim?” His point is that if we love God, we should get very serious about finding out who He is. We must – and get to – know Him more.
I think you are rightly pointing out that many “intellectuals” would rather put debates between themselves and the penetrating issues that require a change in belief*, e.g. the Good Samaritan story and context. But let us not heep them all together. Instead, let us not only allow room for genuine inquiry, but also encourage such inquiry and even demand it of our fellow Christians to the maximum capability God has given them.
*By belief, I mean more than simple assent to a proposition. Rather, it is something that reaches down to the core of the human person and influences action.