I was thinking a bit about Daniel 1:20 which reads something like this:
“In every matter of wisdom and insight the king asked them about, he found them to be ten times better than any of the magicians and astrologers that were in his entire empire” (NET).
Do you believe that this happens still today? If not, why not? Was this just a statement that applied to Daniel and his friends and not to anyone else? What about the idea that we have the "mind of Christ? (1 Cor 2:16)?
Do you have any personal anecdotes of this occurring? While I personally don’t presume to have ten times more wisdom and insight than my non-Christian peers, there have been a few times in my laboratory work where others have been amazed at my experiments that left them with a sense of awe though this certainly was not the norm.
I caution against thinking of this as a generic endorsement of the mental acumen of “religious faithful” vs. the “outsiders to that group”. For one thing, it wasn’t that back then. There were a few among the Jews who outshone the rest [of the Jews] - and Daniel was prominent among those. The Hebrews would still have had their expected share of more ordinary folks even all the way down to the expected share of village idiots too (a role that I think most of us get to experience at some point or context in our lives … well … maybe I should just speak for myself.)
Likewise today, Christians shouldn’t expect to have some higher average of intelligence than the population at large, and in fact if they did, that might even fly in the face of some scriptural expectations in that regard. It isn’t the recognized wise and powerful folks who will tend to be the first to storm the gates of heaven. In fact, they will probably be the hold-outs who can maintain the “I can do life on my own without any of your outside help, thank you very much” attitude longer than most of us.
Babylon apparently had its share of intelligent people too. “Magicians and astrologers” I suspect is the code lingo of the time for what we would call political counselors and intelligence gatherers for leaders today.
We are studying Daniel in a men’s class at present. It seems that Daniel’s wisdom and tact was God given, and Daniel gave credit to God for it (though it must have been uncomfortable when Neb. fell down and worshipped him after he gave the dream interpretation.). Humility seems that one thing lacking in some Christian leaders.
One thing I can’t help but wonder is whether Daniel was a eunuch, since he was under the chief of the eunuchs.
Wisdom and intelligence of course are not the same thing, though some degree of intelligence is part of it. Daniel was part of the elite exiled, and no doubt was felt to have a lot of potential to be chosen to study and be part of the court. And there is even some who think he actually was in Babylon ahead of the exile.
If he was … then he would be by far the most famous of eunuchs wouldn’t he? Are there any other named biblical characters designated that way? It’s an interesting thought that hadn’t occurred to me before. [I guess the Ethiopian eunuch is pretty prominent, by title if not name in the N.T.]
But you are complicating things with this eunuch discussion because Isaac Newton… never married as Voltaire reportedly noted at the time of Newton’s funeral that Newton:
“was never sensible to any passion, was not subject to the common frailties of mankind, nor had any commerce with women—a circumstance which was assured me by the physician and surgeon who attended him in his last moments”
I’m inclined to think that the relevant comparison is to pseudoscience - magicians and astrologers - rather than to non Christians generally. Unfortunately Christians today seem at least as likely to be science deniers and conspiracy theorists as non Christians and so lacking in “wisdom and insight”. Unfortunate for all of us.
That’s probably a good idea, but I feel like you and I would be in opposition to a lot of the body of Christ. I know soooo many people who believe they have superior thoughts about reality (cough - like a pandemic) because the Lord revealed it to them or they are applying Biblical principles like this Ohio representative who said:
“This is the greatest nation on earth founded on Judeo-Christian Principles. One of those principles is that we are all created in the image and likeness of God. That image is seen the most by our face. I will not wear a mask,” Rep. Nino Vitale, a Republican, wrote on Facebook. “That’s the image of God right there, and I want to see it in my brothers and sisters.”
Or take some of my students who feel confident they understand theology and philosophy that enables them to reject large portions of modern science because they have superior knowledge.
A great point, kind of like survivorship bias where we only see the successes but not the rest of the people. Certainly, we are only getting a small fraction of the story of all the people in the Bible but not the random person named Jacob who was a pretty ordinary guy, had some kids, and died.
Hmm, I agree with you but probably most people I know would disagree with us again here.
What would you say to the person who says, yes non-Christians can be intelligent, but Christians have the intellectual advantage?
(The only thing that matters is faith expressed in love.)
No I don’t believe it happened in the first place. As in I know it didn’t. So there is no supernatural precedent for your work.
There are so many ways to interpret intelligence. When I was in 7th grade, a classmate was so adept at puzzles he could likely take apart and put a car back together. However, I could cause one to break by getting near it. He wasn’t a very high scorer on written tests, though. It sure seems that the environment is a big factor.
Growing up in a literate society also seems to help this a lot. So, maybe reading the Bible (as opposed to not reading anything) would give a boost to IQ scores, too. However, like has been said elsewhere, intelligence is difficult to measure.
I also remember a boss of mine who once said, “A lot of people graduate from college with a lot of dollars, and no sense”!
We let Matthew write out a test on whatever field it is that he studies and we will let him go against Mark.
I’ll write a study on native snakes and moths of the southeastern coastal USA and I’ll also go against Mark.
We will bring in Francis Collins and have him also go against Mark in genetics.
We will select two of the Christian doctors here and let them go against Mark in medical procedures.
We will have Mark go against a Christy in translating biblical names into other languages.
At the end we will see did we just overwhelming defeat Mark in those tests lol.
I presume almost no one here at least believes that just because we are saved we are 10x smarter than nonbelievers. I imagine with Daniel it would have been specific. I guess I would imagine it was tied to his dream reading thing if it even existed. Im not actually very familiar with that story in general.
I would probably just give them an “innocent” query - “why do they think so?”, and then leave it there even if they had some answer that they themselves were satisfied with.
Because for myself (even if I wouldn’t bring it up to try to dissuade somebody else about it) I remain unconvinced from my own anecdotal life experience that it could be well-evidenced that one huge group of people is on average more intelligent than another huge group of people. Not that it couldn’t be possible, but I doubt I could possibly have any serious or “accurate” handle on such a widely open-ended question, and even more-so, I doubt anybody who thinks that they do have a good handle on it in favor of their own tribe could be doing anything more than a good job fooling themselves.
There are so many different kinds of intelligences, for one thing. So any appraisal of what qualifies as “intelligent” would tell us more about the appraiser than it does about the people they think they are appraising.
I think it all depends on whether or not one’s peers were products of public education or homeschooling. According to all the definitive homeschooling resources, it makes kids at least ten times smarter than public school kids, though they will most likely dress worse and dance poorly in comparison.
I think there is a difference between wisdom and insight and intelligence. Wisdom and insight entail a moral component of applying intelligence and resourcefulness in a just, righteous, and empathetic way. So, I would say to the degree that Christianity shapes one’s morality and makes a person wise and insightful, it gives an advantage over those who have not been shaped by any comparable influence.
I don’t think “the renewing of your mind” that happens with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit makes you smarter (or more athletic or more beautiful). God has to work with the raw materials he gets when you present your body as a living sacrifice. But I do think character affects things like perseverance, integrity, responsibility, cooperation, discernment and other traits that might make your innate intelligence a more valuable asset to others.
That might be a better take and consistent with some writing I remember a while ago from various theologians - for example when comparing the Egyptian magic workers to Moses’ miracles in Exodus 7-8 or how the “witch of Endor” was surprised when she actually brought back Samuel from the dead, implying that what she normally did was nothing compared to when the power of the true God showed up.
I don’t know but it’s just “common knowledge” for many people I know that they will be subject to special insights that non-Christians do not have, not just about spiritual things but about the physical world as well. Daniel is just one potential Scripture that people use for this. For example, I posted above an example of Henry Morris, one of the co-founders of the modern YEC movement, arguing prayer and reading the Bible led to all of Newton’s amazing discoveries.
There are also those verses about solomon praying for wisdom. I’ve definitely seen people pray for wisdom and truly believe that things like lucid dreaming to propel solve something was by the Holy Spirit and so on.
Also those verses about “ don’t be worried what to say before the councils I’ll give you the words “ and so when they are preaching and feel passionate and go off they say it’s the influence of the Holy Spirit.
Then obviously the whole speaking in tongues and interpreting prophecies is also talked about as being special wisdom from god.
It’s even kind of related to the “ I’m feeling called by god to do this or that” type of argument.
Assuming positive stereotyping is okay … I agree. But they do have competition. As a teacher I was also very impressed with the few Iranian and Finnish students I had as well as many East Asian students. But East Indians are right up there with any of them. In all those cases you have long standing traditions of valuing family and education as well as a strong religious foundation. Not to say those traditions are spread evenly across the population of course.