Belief Series: (Part 3) – Category Two – Intellectual Belief
Three Forms of Intellectual Belief:
1) General Knowledge, 2) Assumptions and Conclusions and 3) Solution Beliefs.
During our lives, our minds record what we are aware of through all of our natural senses. This raw data is free of any interpretation, emotion, or understanding. It is simply raw data. I suppose in the purest sense this might be what a newborn experiences when he is thrust into the world. He sees, hears, feels, touches and smells things for which he has no frame of reference. It is just raw data, lacking explanation or understanding. It is only after time, the development of language and other input, that the child can begin ascribing meaning to what he has experienced.
As he does this, he starts using his intellect to describe these experiences resulting in an accumulation of intellectual belief. Of course in his early years this is very basic and simple, but as he grows in knowledge, so does his intellectual belief.
As we experience life and develop language and as we establish a reservoir of experiences, and descriptions of them, we very quickly start associating each new thing with what we already know. As this occurs, we move from infantile raw experience to understanding – intellectual belief.
Intellectual belief is the knowledge gained from the experience, as well as any explanation and/or understanding that we ascribe to what we have experienced, as well as any solutions we develop by drawing from this knowledge gained to resolve any perceived problems we might encounter.
Intellectual belief has three subsets that include; general knowledge, assumptions/conclusions and solution beliefs. These subsets of intellectual belief serve us well as we attempt to navigate through all the new experiences we encounter. Depending on what and how much information we possess and intellectually believe, our responses to life will become more and more predictable and consistent.
This may explain why history repeats itself as we find ourselves doing the same things over and over again, based upon our ascribed understanding and explanations. There is an old adage that says, “There is more than one way to skin a cat.” However, you will skin it the same way over and again if you do not know any other methods.
1. General Knowledge
General knowledge is made up of the vast body of raw information we have accumulated throughout life, such as historical facts, skills, concepts, formulas, and directions. We believe that something is true because we trust its source. Such belief is obtained through the communication of others, our educational experiences—reading, studying, hearing sermons, memorizing Scripture—and our own reasoning and rationale. This general information is not the memory of how we acquired this knowledge, but rather the actual knowledge acquired as a result of our experiences.
An example of general knowledge might be the information that the girl in the coffee shop gave me—that their website was www.TPMCOFFEE.com and that I can order their coffee online. The memory of her handing me the advertisement and telling me about the website is an experiential belief, but the knowledge about the website’s address is intellectual belief gained from the experience.
So then, the general knowledge gained from the experience differs from the memory of how it was acquired. This knowledge is only the information that was gained. For example, I might have a memory of learning my “A-B-C’s” in first grade, and I might remember the teacher writing them on the chalkboard. My memory of this classroom event would be my experiential belief (what happened). However, the alphabet itself is not the memory of what happened, but rather the knowledge that I gained from the experience.
The “A-B-Cs” became part of my working knowledge (intellectual belief) which I now use daily. Even though intellectual belief has its roots in life experience, it is not about what happened. Intellectual belief is the academic or factual knowledge gained from the experience. My ability to spell is intellectual belief gained from my time at school.
Technically speaking, all thinking in the mind is memory since it is remembered anytime that it is accessed. But for this discussion, the word “memory” is being used to refer to an experiential memory—what we remember having happened or believed about what occurred.
Case in Point
Many years ago, in my high school, I learned how to type on a typewriter. I remember being in class and sitting next to a classmate named Clyde. Clyde was an irascible fellow who could not be trusted. I also remember taking a typing test given to see how many words per minute we could type. One day, Clyde deliberately sabotaged me. He slammed his hand down on my keys, causing all the key arms to spring forward and become entangled. All of this is my experiential belief—what I remember having happened.
Despite my being sabotaged, I also gained intellectual knowledge and belief about typing—how the alphabet is located on the keyboard (which has not changed), how to load paper in the machine, how to position my hands, and other intellectual facts about the typing process. (My skill level never really surpassed my four-finger method, which I still employ today.) All the intellectual information I gained from the experience is the general knowledge that I carried forward. My experiential belief is my memory of the event, as well as my memory of Clyde. My knowledge of where the letters are located on a typewriter is the intellectual belief that I gained from the experience.
Someone might question, “How can knowing where the keys are located on the keyboard be a belief? Is this not just knowledge?” If I were to ask them, “Do you believe that the alphabet is located on a keyboard?” They would probably say, “Yes.” Therefore, not only do they have the general working knowledge of this, they also believe it to be the truth.
Our intellectual belief is always increasing and evolving.
Intellectual information that becomes our belief is typically obtained through some source outside ourselves. It does not carry any emotional trigger points. Even though we believe the “raw data,” it cannot make us feel one thing or the other. It can be easily corrected, augmented, or changed over time. It is also possible that what we intellectually believe to be the truth is, in fact, not the truth at all, but rather misinformation. What we hold intellectually can be changed when the right criteria is met; but what we believe experientially—the memory of what we believed happened—cannot.
Later we will discuss a principle that we call the “Trust and Authority Principle.” We will discover that we are incapable of changing what we believe ourselves. We cannot talk ourselves out of anything that we believe to be true. It requires someone or a source outside of ourselves that we trust and who we believe holds a higher authority of knowledge than we do ourselves in order to bring this about. More is to come on this subject.
When the right criteria is met (Trust and Authority), intellectual belief can be changed, altered, augmented or completely dismissed by simply providing new information that proves the first belief to be in error. Whereas, nothing can change experiential belief —that which we remember to have occurred. This is an important distinction between the two. I believe and will always believe that my teacher taught me how to spell “cat.” I believe this is true because I remember being there and this is my memory. There may be inaccuracies in what I believe that can be corrected, but my memory of what I remember, cannot be changed.
Intellectual belief does not produce emotion.
Some might say they feel emotion about some of the general knowledge they hold. For example, they may say they have strong passion about their political or theological views. They may say that if they are challenged, they feel strong passion to defend their views about the Bible or their political candidate. They may indeed feel emotion when someone challenges the views they hold, but whether the emotion is related to the actual general knowledge or not must be determined.
In these cases we need to evaluate what the person is feeling and why he is feeling it. It is unlikely that they are feeling emotional about their general knowledge of politics or Bible verses. It is more likely that they feel emotional because their beliefs are being challenged or questioned. It is the confrontation that has triggered their emotions and not the intellectual belief they hold. We probably do not feel anything when we think about our political or theological views in general, but we may feel a strong sense of passion if we believe we are being threatened, attacked, or voted against.
Yellowstone or Jellystone?
Intellectual belief is changeable, unlike experiential belief which is fixed and static. It can be changed when we are offered new belief by a trusted source that we believe holds a higher authority of knowledge than we do ourselves. We will continue to be convinced about what we believe intellectually until the moment we come to realize that it is flawed information. The moment we are persuaded by a trusted source that our intellectual belief is inaccurate, we will quickly and easily exchange it for the new belief. Our belief will change instantaneously as we are persuaded of the new information as being the truth. This same principle holds true in the ministry session. We are instantaneously persuaded of the truth when the Spirit (our trusted source) persuades us of His perspective since He holds a higher authority of knowledge than we possess.
As we have said, experiential belief (our memory of what happened) is fixed, and nothing can change it. What I remember happened will always be what I remember to have happened, even when given verifiable evidence to the contrary. Again, I may discover that what I remember having happened was in fact not so, but this does not change what I remember having happened. My memory remains fixed.
Some time ago I was visiting my parents and sitting in their living room. I asked them about one of our past family vacations to Yellowstone National Park. Both quickly responded that we had never been to Yellowstone. I was taken aback by this because I clearly remember being in that park. Dad finally said, “Ed, I think that you are mistaken. We have never been to Yellowstone. We went to Yosemite National Park.” Even though I believe what they told me, it still feels true that we were in Yellowstone. I remember seeing a sign with characters who I thought were “Yogi Bear and Boo Boo.” My parents told me that that, too, was incorrect, since it was “Smokey Bear” and not the cartoon characters I watched on television. Somewhere back there in my childhood mind, I mixed up the cartoon series “Jellystone Park” with “Yellowstone Park” when in fact I was never in either.
Today I believe (intellectually) that my parents are correct, but I still remember believing that I was in Yellowstone even though I now intellectually know that I was not. My experiential belief remains in tack even though intellectually I believe that I have never been to Yellowstone.
To explain further, if a trusted friend gave me directions to a new coffee shop in town which he says has bigger and better donuts, then because I trust him as my friend, I’m likely to follow his directions without hesitation. I would do this because I trust the source of my information; I believe the accuracy of his directions; and I really like donuts. The directions he gave me are now my intellectual belief. The memory of him giving me the directions is my experiential belief. This memory of him giving me directions cannot be altered by anyone, not even myself. However, should I find myself driving in circles and not finding the coffee shop based upon his directions, I may begin to doubt what he has told me. I am not doubting the experience of him giving me directions, only the intellectual information he gave me. My intellectual belief begins to waver.
If I stop and ask for directions and discover my friend’s directions were probably wrong, my intellectual belief may already be altered. If I follow the new directions and find the coffee shop, my intellectual belief will completely change. Intellectual belief can be changed when I am supplied what I believe to be trusted and indisputable evidence to the contrary. However, my experiential belief (the memory of my friend giving me directions) remains fixed.
Much of what we believe about the Bible is General Knowledge
We may say that we believe the Bible from cover-to-cover and may even be willing to die for this belief. Even so, much of what we hold in our minds from the Bible pages is general knowledge and not heart belief. Remember again the principle, “We feel whatever we believe” for it applies here as well. Do all Scriptures we know feel absolutely true to us? If so, then why do we still possess doubting and reservation about any of it. Someone will say, “I don’t! I believe it!” If this is true, then why do you worry over your finances, have recurring fear and anxiety, doubt your salvation from time-to-time, ever ask, “Why GOD! Why me?” We will explore these questions and more in the following section.
Characteristics of General Knowledge
- Is intellectual (factual) knowledge gained from a life experience, in contrast to the memory of the event itself
- Can be changed and altered when challenged with credible and trustworthy information
- Is continually increasing
- Is useful for navigating life
- Can be combined and synthesized with other intellectual beliefs, forming new ideas and concepts
- Is the basis for “Solution Beliefs,” “Assumptions and Conclusions,” and beliefs that hold anger in place.
- Does not produce any emotion