Commitment to Christ: The End of The Trail Intellectually?

By Keith Miller | November 2, 2009

Keith, I am dancing around the decision of committing as much of my life as I can to as much of God in Christ as I can understand. I’ve been told that this is an intellectually honest way to move into a life with God in the center. But my question is: does that mean I’m putting on intellectual blinders or castrating the investigation of new aspects of reality as these come to my attention?

For a long time the notion of making a “total commitment to Christ” seemed like a kind of intellectual suicide to me. In some vague way I had gotten the idea that such a commitment would lead to a narrow, fragmented intellectual life made up of “religious” thoughts, books, and conversations on one hand, and “non-religious” ones on the other. I guess my sense of loyalty made me feel that once I “joined” Christ, I could never again question his existence or his way of life. Since I felt that I would be obligated to think “Christian thoughts,” I believed that my mind could not roam in new fields and seek new truths with the freedom to examine anything—a freedom which is very important to me.

However, in the act of offering as much of my life as I could at a particular time to as much of Christ as I could grasp at that moment, I began to learn some fascinating things about the intellectual effects of trying to make a serious surrender of one’s future to God.

I am discovering that in trying to find God’s will and the shape of the Christian life I have begun an adventure so great that its total completion will always be ahead. And this has had a unifying effect on my intellectual life that I had not counted on at all. Years ago the Harvard psychologist Gordon Allport pointed out that the striving for a goal beyond one’s reach is thought by many psychologists to be the greatest power for unifying the diverse elements in a personality structure(1). Certainly this has seemed to be true in many of the developmental stages of my life.

As an adolescent, for instance, the overriding purpose of playing basketball affected every part of my living: what I ate, what I drank, how much I slept, and how I did my studies.

My whole life was ordered by my desire to play basketball well during high school. I did many other things, but having a single dominant incentive gave me a way to establish my priorities and unify my life during a period that could have been very fragmented. As it turned out, the goal of being a great “all American” player was beyond my reach. But this only made the unifying effect continue as I played. Because, as Allport pointed out, the achieving of a goal is often not nearly as unifying as the pilgrimage in search of it. For instance, the Allies were much more unified in fighting the Second World War than when we had won it and should truly have had unity.

In trying to commit my life to finding and participating in some of the purposes of Christ, as I can determine them, my energies and abilities are gradually being focused and are working together. I have a point of reference for my learning: what does a book or a new experience in a different field have to say about the world and life as Christ presented them? I have a hypothesis which I can test in all areas of thought and relationship. And I sometimes experience a freedom to experiment with and challenge old methods and patterns of teaching the Christian message.

But at other times I push away from God and want to be rich or famous. On such days I have two or more different dominant goals. And I gradually begin to feel split and torn in my attempts to focus all my energies on one or the other. Many times I want to be God’s person but want more to be a famous writer someday. And I get caught in a real conflict of motives . . . until I begin again and make a primary commitment of my whole future happiness to Christ—whatever the outcome may be with regard to my other dominant goals. Often following such a commitment, I find that paradoxically I am free to work at my secondary purposes more honestly and creatively, because my ultimate happiness does not depend on succeeding there anymore.

It seems that so many young people today are feeling disintegrated in their lives. They appear to be searching for something, a unifying adventure that will bring into a single focus all of their abilities and energies. I guess I am projecting my own experience on them, because that is what I was looking for all my life: an adventure with a meaning and purpose beyond my grasp—a hypothesis with which to integrate all truths. I guess if I were a professor, I would go and tell them what a relief it is to have found such a unifying adventure in the Christian life . . . because it is.

The staking of a [overall] goal compels the unity of the personality in that it draws the stream of all spiritual activity into its definite direction.

Alfred Adler

Psychologies of 1930 (2)

Of course education never is complete, and the process of integration extends throughout life; but that is its fundamental purpose—that out of the chaos which we are at birth order may be fashioned, and from being many we may become one.

William Temple

Nature, Man and God (3)

Lord, help me to realize fully the paradoxical freedom that is found through trying to commit all of life to you. Sometimes I am amazed that this commitment has issued in creativity and a freedom to look in all areas for truth, when I had thought it would mean a narrower, restricted intellectual life. Sometimes at first as I read philosophy and psychology, I was afraid I might find out that you are not real. But I thank you that it is through the strength which comes in this relationship with you that I find the courage to examine even the evidence which might destroy my faith. I find that as I continue to pray,

read the scriptures and join Jesus in loving the Father and his other children—on the adventure of learning about God in all aspects of Reality.

“Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’”

Jesus

1 Gordon Allport, Pattern and Growth in Personality

2 Alfred Adler, Psychologies of 1930, ed. Carl Murchison (Worcester, MA: Clark University Press, 1930); see chapter 21, “Individual Psychology.”

3 William Temple, Nature, Man and god (New York: The Macmillan company, 1956), 233.

One comment | Add One

  1. Ted Weaver - 12/29/2009 at 10:35 am

    Hi Keith,
    I want to thank you for the encorragement I received from reading your book,
    (Taste of the New Wine) some 40
    years ago. I’m also excited about
    finding your website through Daily
    Guideposts 2010 Devotional I re-
    ceived for a Christmas gift.
    Thanks again,
    Ted

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