Intuitionism, John Eldredge and Dangerous Desires

John Eldredge, a popular Christian author, writes, “Our days come to us as a riddle, and the answers aren’t handed out with our birth certificates. We must journey to find the life we prize. And the guide we have been given is the desire set deep within, the desire we often overlook or mistake for something else or even choose to ignore.” In Eldredge’s view, there is a primordial longing in every human’s heart that bubbles up, if rightly tempered, and reveals God’s will for us.

If most of us are honest, although it’s a little corny, this idea resonates with the way we like to think about spirituality. It bubbles up, and cannot be explicitly described. It is that ineffable thing that we all know, yet cannot say. But is it right?

At the L’Abri conference a few weekends ago I sat in on Henk Reitsema’s lecture on “intutionism”, a term he uses to describe a major shift in the way people think they know truth and make decisions—by intuition.

But what is intuition? Reitsema breaks it up into two major categories: first, scientific intutionism. But I’ll leave that for another blog post.

Reitsema’s second category is spiritual intuitionism. Spiritual intuitionism suggests that if one aligns himself with the right cosmic forces, holy scriptures, or disciplines, then divine goodness bubbles up out of the human heart. This bubbling begins in the sub-conscious—that which is below our cognitive thinking and reason, the stuff of desire—and, if rightly interpreted, helps humans make wise decisions. It is, of course, spiritual intuition.

Christianity cannot easily escape intuitionism’s gravity. While it may mark a returning positive interest in the more charismatic gifts, like tongues and prophecy, it also marks a rejection of biblical relevance. The problem with intuitionism is that it rejects the notion that the Bible is relevant to all of life—the Bible has nothing to say about whether I should take this job, buy this car, or date this person. So rather than developing a biblical framework for Christ’s deeply personal interactions with all of life, authors like Eldredge  propose a new framework. They argue that Christians should maintain, foster, and develop a sort of intuition, housed in our sub-conscious desires. So what’s wrong with this?

I think Christians need to beware of intuitionism’s optimism. The bible says that human nature and human desire cannot be trusted (Rom. 3:10-18). Moreover, it says that people are incapable, on their own, of changing their evil desires (Gal. 3:3). Christ’s work on the cross, and his Holy Spirit are the only things that empower heart-transforming changes (Rom. 8:13).  Intuitionism causes surface-level moralism or justified amoralism, which drinks at the well of every desire. At its worse, it implants itself in the place of the cross and ignores the power of God’s Spirit. Without God’s Spirit Christians dry up, whither, and wonder what happened. God seems distant, and unsatisfying. The cross becomes sour, and powerless. The dynamic, vital, and satisfying spirituality which only Christ offers, begins to look like a sham.

Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Do not let the attractive myths of intuitionism steal you away. Let Christ’s work transform your mind. Think through your decisions. Test your desires. Then you may find out God’s will, and be satisfied in his glory.


About Patrick K. Miller

Currently I am living in Columbia serving at the University of Missouri with Veritas, The Crossing's campus ministry. In December 2010 I graduated from Mizzou with a degree in English Literature. My beautiful wife, Emily, works is an Interior Designer with a local firm. I like espresso, 30 Rock, and books. My favorite old dead guys are John Owen, Augustine and Francis Schaeffer. You should read something by them.
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2 Responses to Intuitionism, John Eldredge and Dangerous Desires

  1. Neil Brunett says:

    You post on John Mayer’s ‘Who Says’ came up as I was searching for the lyrics one day, and I was intrigued by what you wrote, so I am back to read more.
    I have a question about what you wrote here. What does the Bible say about if you should take a certain job? It says plenty about how you should treat people and a whole lot about what God is like, but about which car to buy or which job to take… you lost me. So, I’m just curious to hear more of what you mean by that. Thanks! I enjoy your posts.

    • Patirck K. Miller says:

      That’s an interesting question that people (smarter than me) dedicate entire books to.

      So I will say a few things, then suggest a book.

      The bible rarely says anything specific pertaining to these exact, personal sorts of situations. This could lead us to believe that either God doesn’t care, or we (like discussed above) should follow our desires. However, the bible depicts an intimate personal God who cares deeply for every aspect of our lives and therefore gives us the freedom and the resources to make informed, righteous decisions.

      I hope that in writing about “dangerous desires” I did not imply that desire is bad. Intead, I mean that desires must be tested. When we make decisions we should test our desires by asking ourselves and our friends a lot of questions, “Do I want this thing for sinful reasons? By making this decision am I breaking any part of God’s moral law? Do I desire this change in conjunction with a desire for Christ?”

      But first we must pray. God answers prayers by his Spirit, in his word. He hears us. George Mueller wrote a tiny book called “Answers to Prayer.” Maybe check that out for more thought.

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