I started my project about Christians of different Myers Briggs types because of comments I’ve received from INTP Christians. INTPs are often stereotyped as the “least religious type” and hearing from so many INTPs made me curious about how different types approach their faith. And so I’m very excited to share this post where we dive-into the perspective of INTP Christians.
This is the fourth post in a series talking with Christians of different personality types. When you start discussing faith with different people of different types, you notice not all the personalities feel equally valued and understood in Christian churches. If Christianity is a faith meant for all people why aren’t we doing a better job of connecting with all personality types?
Our walks with God don’t all look the same. We’re influenced by our backgrounds, variations in beliefs, and individual personalities. And even though the goal is for us all to become “like God,” that doesn’t mean we become indistinguishable from each other. God created great variety in people and I believe He did that for a reason. So let’s spend today’s post hearing from and talking about the unique perspectives of INTP Christians. I also want to take a moment to thank the five INTPs who got in touch with me, shared their perspectives, and let me quote them.
Identifying With Bible Characters
The first question I asked people was which Bible characters and/or stories they identified with most. The INTPs’ choices reflect highly individual thought processes and ways of relating to the Bible. The only overlap is that several INTPs explain their choices by saying they personally identify with an aspect of their chosen character’s story.
Meredith says she relates to Moses not wanting to confront Pharaoh “probably because he didn’t want to come across as stupid and weak,” “to Asa, doing good stuff and being devoted for a while, and then pouting at God’s disciplinary measures when I messed up,” and to Solomon, who “was a very intellectual person.” Anonymous commenter kittyess also mentioned Solomon, but in her case it’s because he was “struggling with the apparent meaninglessness of life yet trying to find joy and contentment in life through God.” The fact that two INTPs mentioned Solomon, together with this type’s interest in digging down to the truth of the matter, is the reason I chose a quote from Ecclesiastes for this post’s title.
Apryl is another INTP who resonates with a character because of how she interprets his motivations. She writes, “My favorite Bible character has to be Samson. … Most people look at him as though he was a mindless brute, but I think he was sorely misunderstood. He was a Nazarite from birth, and so had no say in the matter. And by the time he met Delilah, he was probably tired of his own reputation. He wanted … to have someone admire and love him for who he was, instead of for what he was.”
Ralph said, “I love the story of Nathanael, the story of Nicodemus. I love the creation story. And then of course I love the letters of Paul.” And one INTP who responded under the name ms4runr said, “have never identified with any biblical character that I can think of. Sometimes lately, I think of Peter and his tendency to blurt out things before he has completely engaged his mind.”
Frustrated Gifts and Talents
Most of the INTPs I heard from know they have gifts. They’re just frustrated trying to use them. For Apryl, the frustration is largely rooted in gender expectations (a common problem for Thinking-type women). She writes, “While I can cook a mean casserole, I would much rather be discussing apologetics or doctrine, so the women’s duties in the church as well as women’s Bible studies are not particularly interesting or challenging to me.” Not only is she frustrated because she isn’t encouraged to use her knowledge and gifts, but she’s also frustrated because she doesn’t “have the aptitude for service or the natural gift for nurturing and comforting” that’s expected from women in her church.
Meredith also mentioned this problem. She writes that “as a woman, people expect me to be able to listen to problems and react compassionately but I tend to either try to solve their problems, or feel like a jerk for talking about myself when I try to relate and explain that I understand how they feel.” She also writes that people have stopped asking her to get involved because, in her words, “I haven’t delivered very good results in the past.”
Other INTPs have found a way to use some of their talents. Kittyess enjoys mentoring others and “talking one-on-one about life, faith, challenges, etc.” She does find it difficult to make those connections, though, and wishes the church would support a mentorship program. When she is in a situation where she can teach it goes very well and she says, “Many people have told me that my writing has encouraged, challenged, or otherwise benefited them in their walk with God.” (Meredith also mentions writing as a gift, though she wasn’t sure how to use her talent in the church directly.)
Ralph also mentions that he’s “considered a good teacher.” However, he adds that he is “dying a slow death” as he holds himself back from using all his gifts. In particular, he says, “I find it very hard to use my intuition in church.” He finds that people do not respond well to his ideas and insights into the “concepts and principles of in the bible” because “my ideas and my views are not of the typical Christian type” and they’re seen as impractical.
As made clear by the fact that I heard from five INTPs when writing this post and know at least three others in-person who are Christians, the INTP personality isn’t necessarily anti-religious. It does, however, seem that they are unconventional in the way they approach their faith. We touched on this when talking about their gifts and talents, but it merits a closer look. INTPs are a fairly rare personality type and on top of that they don’t tend to blend into social situations as easily as the more rare INFJs (for example). It’s very likely they’ll be misinterpreted and stand-out among their fellow believers. This can frustrate the people around them as well as the INTPs.
Kittyess struggles with certain tasks seen as “normal” for Christians to do. She wants “other people to know the Gospel and to believe it as true,” but has “a hard time determining when and how to share it.” She goes on to say, “I don’t want to force my beliefs on someone, I want them to follow Jesus because they have experienced His love and desire to know Him. So I’m usually better in encouraging people who are seeking or new believers, rather than convincing people to consider Christ.”
On a more personal level, kittyess shares, “while I can understand and believe in deep theological/spiritual truths, and communicate about them in unique ways, I struggle with living them out in daily life/in a practical way.” She thinks this has to do with being an intuitive type rather than one that’s more in touch with the sensory world. Ms4runr also mentioned she’s had struggles with learning how to follow God. She writes, “My biggest challenge as a Christian is to follow God in true relationship, doing what I hear from the Father, rather than another’s agenda. Separating from this has been traumatic yet freeing.”
Search For The Right Fellowship
The biggest struggles for INTP Christians seem to revolve around their relationships with other believers. One INTP woman who has been a Christian for 35 years (screen name ms4runr) says that even though she returned to church “strictly for fellowship” after leaving for several years, she still has difficulty connecting with people. In the past, she has tried to start small home groups to fill her craving for “in-depth conversation about God” but the people weren’t interested. Her brethren are being friendly in their own way, but not in the way that connects with an INTP. She writes, “I am not comfortable engaging in small talk with people. I do not feel connected until I have had meaningful and usually intense spiritual discussions. I need to connect through my head first, then heart.”
Connecting at a heart level doesn’t come natural for Apryl either. She struggles “to like others and enjoy their company, to help others and ask for the help of others. It’s difficult to ‘not forsake the gathering of the believers’ because I don’t particularly enjoy the groups of people with whom I’m encouraged to associate. Being social is difficult enough as it is, and because I can’t find many people that I can connect with in the way that is satisfying, substantive, and meaningful, it’s easier for me to go to church, listen to the sermon, and exit stage left as quickly as possible.”
Because Apryl isn’t comfortably social in the way other people expect, she says, “I’m then seen as cold and aloof (which I’m totally not!), instead of a soul tortured by small talk and disappointed by the lack of connection.” Similarly, Meredith says she feels like she’s not taken seriously because, “I think I can come across as cold and unfeeling when I should come across as compassionate, and I come across as too impractical for more direct people. … I think it would be a bit better if I were a man, but since I’m not, I’m more like the wrong side of a magnet and people avoid me and my awkwardness after a couple interactions.”
The expectation to socialize is hard on Ralph as well. He’s a teacher in his local church and part of the international apostolic network, yet struggles with expectations that go along with those roles. He writes, “People expect me to feel something in worship, get excited by examples and testimonies, [and] spend time with as many people as possible after church so nobody feels neglected.” But those things don’t come naturally to him.
Ralph also said the church today doesn’t seem to be for people of his personality type. He says “The church today is for extroverts, as it focuses on meetings.” It’s also “sensory, as 75% of the people will not understand principles or concepts and need examples, need to be shown down to walking them through.” And it is “feeling, as experience is valued higher than knowing. Yet still, the church is not relational, as we are superficial and private.” No wonder INTPs find their experiences in today’s churches frustrating.
Connecting With Logic
Though all the INTPs who commented expressed frustrations with connecting to other Christians, they aren’t all dissatisfied with their churches. In fact, two said they’re very happy with their current congregations. So what are these two churches doing right that catches the attention of an INTP type?
Meredith says her church is good at connecting with INTPs and explains, “I’m pretty sure our head pastor is an INTP, and we live in a college town, so most are highly educated, and the one or two that aren’t formally educated are very wise and I appreciate that even more.” Apryl also says, “I love systematic theology. I love apologetics. I need logic and reason and facts and evidence. Luckily, my pastor is an INTP as well, and so he preaches exactly the way I learn. I could listen to him for hours!”
It’s not that every church who wants to connect with INTPs should do go out an hire an INTP pastor, though. Like most of us, INTPs are simply looking for people who speak their language. They’re hungry for information and they want to listen to teachers who aren’t afraid of getting deep in to analytical discussions. In fact, they’ve much happier to listen to logical teaching than something that resonates on an emotional level.
This is very different than the direction many churches have taken toward encouraging an emotional faith experience. Feel-good platitudes, emotional music, and shallow sermons aren’t going to fly with an INTP. As Apryl says, “So many people approach their faith as an emotional endeavor, and that isn’t how I operate. … God is found in the systems He created, and his imagination and creativity and intellect is where I feel the deepest emotions of connection with Him.”
In much the same way, kittyess says that “Logical teaching with uniquely insightful perspectives into the text connect with me best.” She also says, “I struggle with a lot of modern preaching (and worship styles) that cater to SFs–they are loud, overly emotional, and surface-level. I don’t mind some emotional appeal, but it’s difficult for me to appreciate a sermon based solely on a pastor preaching with a fiery passion but not actually teaching me something.”
A Small-Group Suggestion
Apryl writes, “I’ve sat in churches where they delved into things in such a cursory way at such a shallow level, that they weren’t telling me anything I didn’t already know. Depth is key, and that’s hard to find. That doesn’t appeal to most people.” Because most people aren’t looking for what INTPs want, it’s tough for churches to cater specifically to INTPs in messages to the whole congregation. Kittyness suggests that teachers “could find a balance between logic and emotional appeals in sermons and worship. They could be intentional about welcoming and connecting new people, and provide a way for introverts to connect to a small group of people more easily than having to find someone in a large crowd at church to engage with in small talk.”
Her suggestion about small groups seems a good one. Ralph says he loves “to dialog in a small group of thinkers, books all around us, with breaks alone to refocus and go deeper.” If they can get the right kind of small group together, there won’t be as much pressure for whoever’s leading the group to appeal to a wide range of people and interests. In groups like that, INTPs can get into the sort of things that interest ms4runr, who says, “at this point in my life I am interested in understanding God’s design for community both historically and relationally. I am also drawn to studying the true meaning of the Hebrew and Greek words. I am amazed at how many of the standard evangelical doctrines are based on misinterpretations of verses and history.”
Ralph is the INTP who got into the most specifics about what an ideal sort of church would look like for him. He says it “would be small, but networked heavily to other groups. It would be gift oriented. It would be lead by a diverse team of fivefold ministers. It would reach all people and not settle for the ones low on the Maslow pyramid of needs, traditional in thinking, and middle to lower class. And even after conversion, it would not try to make people fit into those categories.” He says this church “would be known as the place of answers for all challenges of the world, because we knew the God of all answers – that includes global warming, food and water supply, premature death, and many more. And it would be known as the place we love each other, just as Jesus said. And we love our enemies.”
Why Are Some INTPs Christians?
Most INTPs I’ve talked with say they are Christians for one or both of these two basic reasons: 1) it makes sense to them, and/or 2) there’s something about this faith that touches them at a deep heart-level. And now, as I’ve done in the last three posts, I’m going to get out of the way and let the INTPs who shared their stories tell you in their own words why they believe the Christian faith is the right one:
- Meredith: I really love Christianity because it actually makes logical sense while also touching the heart. …
As I got older, I figured as long as there is a God to pray to, if he is the Christian God, then he will lead me to the truth if I ask him (a father would not give his son a stone when he asked for bread, right?), so I did. Most of my proof since then has been small invisible things; primarily understanding things that non-Christians simply can’t see. A couple years ago I had my first personal supernatural experience, that unfortunately had to do with demons rather than anything cool and exciting like my imagination had always been carried away with. …
What I really like about Christianity is that rather than trying to do something impossible and achieve perfection to reach God, I want to do my best simply because he has already reached me. Similarly, I like that where I fail to feel close to other human beings, there is always God, so I’m not really alone. It is this sense of having him around that was my first proof of his existence.
- Apryl: I’m a Christian because I can’t not be. It doesn’t make sense. There is order in the universe, the system is complex, and because of this, there must be an Author. I want to know that Author, to tap into his creative intellect, to know the whys and the hows of it all. I have to know! I believe that Christianity is the right faith because it puts me into the most proper position in relation to the Author and His creation. It makes sense to me, and when my intellect is satisfied, I’m at peace.
- ms4runr: As for why I am a Christian, I answered a call, one that went straight to my heart and soul, one that changed my life dramatically and permanently. There have been challenges, but the experience of knowing the true God leaves any other belief in the dark. I see a big picture of how God is working. Nothing else answers the dilemma, nor solution, for mankind.
- kittyess: When I look at the world around me and ponder what I’ve learned in my advanced studies in science, I can only conclude that there must be a Creator. The ways God has reached out to me and shown His love and faithfulness in my life are what draws my heart to Him, and are why I believe that the Creator is a loving God who wants to know me and be known in return.
- Ralph: When I compare Christian faith with Islam: Allah cannot love, but love himself, because he had no object to love before creation. God Father, Son and Holy Spirit is love from the beginning.
Comparing it to Hinduism and Buddhism: God believes in his creation. There is a possibility to grow, not just to strive for nihilation and nirvana. We are allowed to and encouraged to think, to create, to love, because we are made in the image of God. Thus, there is hope and relationship, and there is meaning.
Comparing with humanism: humanism without God provides no reason to live. With enough time past, nobody will remember you. So why even bother keeping the species alive? Christian faith gives me a reason to live for: eternal fellowship with God, never ending creating.
Your turn! If you want to share your Christian INTP story or talk about INTPs in the churches, comment here! And if you’re a different personality type looking to contribute an upcoming blog post in this series contact me or head over to the original post. I’d love to feature you! Please note: unless you tell me otherwise, I’ll assume that by getting in touch you agree I can quote you directly and credit you by first name (or screen name) and Myers-Briggs type in future projects.