The Intellectual Life and the Fruit of the Spirit

Author Brett Kunkle Published on 10/21/2014

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:22–24).

I love the intellectual life. I love the reading, the studying, the debating, the discussions, the ideas. I love all of it. But looming in the shadows are the various threats it poses to the fruit of God’s Spirit in my life:

  • In regard to love, it threatens my ability to love others whom I have intellectual disagreements with and whose ideas I find dangerous.
  • In regard to joy, it threatens to subtly remove joy from my life as it often requires a critical and skeptical eye toward ideas, which can lead to negativity.
  • In regard to peace, it threatens the peace I ought to live in with other believers even when I disagree. Indeed, I’ve had heated discussions that broke fellowship with my brothers in Christ for some period of time.
  • In regard to patience, it threatens my ability to be gracious and understanding as I interact with those who have difficulty seeing and affirming the truth. Specifically, I have to be very attentive to this with my own family.
  • In regard to kindness, it threatens my ability to be charitable to the ideas of others.
  • In regard to goodness, it threatens the priority I place on practicing spiritual disciplines and cultivating virtue, as I feel the continual pull to bury my head in books.
  • In regard to faithfulness, it threatens my faithfulness to God himself, as I give more attention to man’s written word than God’s written Word.
  • In regard to gentleness, it threatens the way I interact with non-Christians as I strive against the urge to persuade using only the “resistless force of logic.”
  • In regard to self-control, it threatens the priorities I must have in place as I battle for balance between the intellectual life and God, family, church, and other priorities.

As we continue to cultivate an intellectual love for God, let us be on constant watch for these potential pitfalls, and let us attend to our own virtue and life in the Spirit with as much emphasis and passion as our intellectual life.