February 22, 2016—I met a rare kind of person last week. He was what I’ll describe as a genuinely intelligent person. There are plenty of smart or knowledgeable people around, and given that I spend a lot of time around “academic types” I run into a lot of them from all fields. But there’s a difference between being merely smart, and being truly intelligent. And often it takes meeting a genuinely intelligent person to learn the difference.
The question of what constitutes intelligence has been around for a good while now. From the work of the statistically cold and psychometric-driven Binet and Thorndike to the nuance of Gardner’s multiple intelligences, to Goleman’s “emotional” intelligence we’ve sought to both identify and enhance intelligence, however defined.
Long before Alfred Binet took out his proverbial ruler to measure I.Q. St. Anthony the Great (c. 251–356) spoke about intelligence in the way I experienced it last week. Anthony wrote:
People are generally called intelligent through a wrong use of this word. The intelligent are not those who have studied the sayings and writings of the wise men of old, but those whose soul is intelligent, who can judge what is good and what evil; they avoid what is evil and harms the soul and intelligently care for and practice what is good and profits the world, greatly thanking God.
Honestly, I don’t recall as elegant a definition of what constitutes intelligence. Sometimes you just can’t improve on “old school.” Are you cultivating your intelligence?
Israel Galindo is Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning and Director of Online Education at the Columbia Theological Seminary. Formerly, he was Dean at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. He is the author of the bestseller, The Hidden Lives of Congregations (Alban), Perspectives on Congregational Leadership (Educational Consultants), and A Family Genogram Workbook (Educational Consultants), with Elaine Boomer and Don Reagan.
His books on Christian education include Mastering the Art of Instruction,The Craft of Christian Teaching (Judson), How to be the Best Christian Study Group Leader (Judson), Planning for Christian Education Formation (Chalice), and A Christian Educator’s Book of Lists (S&H), and Theories of Learning for Christian Educators and Theological Faculty.