Friday, August 8, 2014

More Than a Feeling: INTJ Faith

Some people who have studied personality types rank INTJs as the least likely to believe in a Higher Power or be identified as religious.

I, a self-identified Christian and person who considers herself both deeply spiritual and religious, tried to reconcile this disconnect. What is different for or about me?

Before I start listing those things that come to mind, I want to say this upfront: Spiritual things are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2) Whatever else I say in this post, all spiritual awakenings are to the glory of God. They are the work of the Holy Spirit and no personality type can claim they are simply better at faith or spiritual things or that God chose them because they deserved it. No one gets to boast. (Ephesians 2)

That said, here are a few reasons I think my story might be different from other INTJs:

1. My pastor (for most of my life this has also been my dad) did not over-emphasize the emotional side of faith. Some of my fellow church members were more emotional than others, but it was not required as evidence of faith.

2. I was not raised in a raucous, rowdy religious tradition. Services were orderly. "Fellowship Time" (aka greet your neighbor, shake hands, or hug) was the most awkward section of a service. (And honestly, I still don't like it, even though I understand it better now.)

3. I was taught systematic theology from an early age. When I asked questions like, "But why do we believe this?" I was given thoughtful answers, by both my parents and youth leaders. "Just because we always have," was never the default answer. ("Just because" being probably the worst response you can give an INTJ on any question.)

4. I was taught apologetics. Josh McDowell. Henry Morris. Ravi Zacharias. Lee Strobel. The evidence for and against the historical Jesus was debated and discussed.

5. My love of reading was encouraged. When I was a teenager my dad loaned me all his Francis Schaeffer books. Later, as an adult, I picked up C.S. Lewis, G.K Chesterton and Dorothy Sayers, among others. Do I believe exactly like these great men and women? No, of course not. But they are evidence not just for a risen Christ, but that learned people can believe in God, a saving Christ, and spiritual things.

6. My habit of debating was encouraged instead of squashed by my first youth director. One interesting product of this: my favorite sparring partner was my future husband. And yes, I would argue a point I didn't believe to the death, just to win an argument. (Some things never change.)

7. Back to the Holy Spirit again. Faith is a mystery. We are incapable of coming to God on our own. In His grace and mercy, God saved me according to His own will and I am forever changed and grateful for this.

Frankly, I don't know how my fellow non-religious INTJs get through life. Life is hard. It's scary. It can be incredibly lonely.

INTJs are great at imagining an incredibly realistic horrible chain of events and bad at asking for help when it comes to pass. We respect and trust very few of our fellow humans. For this INTJ, the fact that I am NOT the ultimate authority or expert is a relief.

God made me. He saved me. He loves me (yes, "just as I am").

And because of that I will serve Him and praise Him and love Him and seek His glory, not because of a feeling I have but because it would be nonsensical if I didn't.

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Mystie said...

This was a great post! Faith and Scripture are so intellectually stimulating and satisfying, but only to those who have been given the eyes. Maybe the categorization for INTJs means you're not likely to find one who is a nominal Christian.

Ginger Harrington said...

What a blessing to receive thoughtful rather than pat answers as you were growing up. You have been nourished by great thought and that is what God is using as you share through this blog. Happy to be visiting from Thoughtful Thursdays.

Jamie Oliver (@va_grown) said...

Love this! I'm an INTJ/INTP (strange split, I know) and have much the same read. Every time our pastor says "We must be THINKING Christians." I just feel like jumping up and shouting (I never actually would!) YES! There is no reason why we can't examine our faith and God's Word closely, as long as we do so in the light of the Holy Spirit. It can hold it's own. And I think our personality type may lend itself to strong faith, because when it makes sense, we stick with it. :)

Laurie Elise said...

Oh, you don't know how encouraging this was! As a young Christian, homeschooled, crazy-about-Jesus INTJ, I have often felt like the ultimate misfit in the INTJ camp (that, and common INTJ traits such as sarcasm, stubbornness, arrogance, and a need to be right are NOT things I like or encourage in myself). Your blog is like a breath of fresh air, and especially these discussions about faith! Thanks so much!

Logan Etheredge said...

Hi! I am a young (15yrs) INTJ female, and was wondering if you could elaborate on what "Jesus loving you as you are" looks like for you. I used to be a much stronger Christian than I am now, but was surround by the 'sugary sweet, homophobic, stereotype' Christians. After really coming to terms with the fact that I am not that stereotype and realizing that I was basically the stereotype INTJ, I struggled with believing that Jesus actually loved me "as I am". This caused life altering issues such as depression and eventually a major loss of faith (as a coping mechanism to the depression). I know this information is probably TMI, but I was wondering if you could explain what living as an INTJ Christian female looks like for you in daily life, beliefs, "Jesus loving you as you are", etc. Thank you.

morethenlifemommy said...

Amen sister! I really dont know how non believer INTJs do it! Dont know how i did it before i got saved! I was miserable, dark, and used everyone! When INTJs follow Christ it really makes them more amazing, cause we are able to be not held i bondage to our biggest faults. And give a peace that is unattainable otherwise!

Karen said...

Hi, Logan. Thanks for taking the time to comment. While I do believe that God created me the way I am for a reason, and that He loves me unconditionally, I also believe that God does not leave us the way we're found. He is constantly refining us to be more like the image of His son. Ultimately, I think that's the goal for every child of God. The goal is not to make everyone look more like us, it's to be more like Jesus.

So, while I don't apologize for my personality type (and I do not think God intends for us all to be the same), I see personality differences as a way God refines the rough edges of our character. For example, I don't necessarily "feel" like keeping my opinions to myself, but sometimes that is the right, or spiritually mature, thing to do. And sometimes I don't "feel" like going to church services, but I believe it is right for me to go, whether I'm feeling it or not.

I enjoy the logical side of my nature because it allows me to read some deeper, more theologically rich books and debate some deep topics. I've noticed some women shy away from those activities but I thrive on them. I encourage you to study the Bible and other Christian authors you trust. Wrestle those doubts. Enjoy the way God created your mind, but don't fall back on your personality as an excuse for things you don't want to do.

Hope that helps in some way. I've prayed for you over the past months. Depression is real and a difficult struggle. I'm praying that God will give you strength as you fight it.

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