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Existential Competency

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Is that even allowed to be said today? There are actually people who are intellectually highly gifted.

This goes so far that these people not only think more and faster than the average, but in a profoundly different way.

How different is very difficult to describe because not all highly gifted people think the same way according to my subjective experience.

Even among highly gifted people, there are those who think mainly with the left hemisphere of the brain. As we have known since Iain McGilchrist’s book, “The Master and his Emissary“, this does not mean that they think more theoretically and less creatively, and I quote one of his other books:

One way of looking at the difference would be to say that while the left hemisphere’s raison d’être is to narrow things down to a certainty, the right hemisphere’s is to open them up into possibility. In life we need both.

McGilchrist, Iain. The Divided Brain and the Search for Meaning.

Another way of thinking of the difference between the hemispheres is to see the left hemisphere’s world as tending towards fixity, whereas that of the right tends towards flow.

McGilchrist, Iain. The Divided Brain and the Search for Meaning.

Even though highly gifted people are said to question everything, it is always interesting to see the underlying motivation as well.

Some will question things to better integrate them into their conception of the world, and they do so masterfully.

Others question because they suspect there is more. They want to go deeper, detached from conventions or their own worldview.

But let’s start from the beginning.

I believe that no area of personality is as well researched as cognitive general intelligence.

There are normed intelligence tests that reveal that humanity moves along a Gaussian bell curve based on scores on such tests. That is, most people have an average intelligence quotient (IQ), with fewer and fewer represented at either end.

So, we can assume that slightly more than ⅔ of people have an IQ between 85 and 115, with an average of 100. 2.1% are above 130, and 0.1% are above 145.

People with an IQ above 145 are called gifted.
So much for the most basic theory.

Postmodernism, with its fear of hierarchies, has recently invented several other so-called intelligences to make it possible for anyone to be gifted somewhere.

The problem with this is not so much the existence of such gifts, but the dilution and approximation of the term. Intelligence is a scientifically relatively clear and colloquially clearly outlined term. Why aren’t the other so-called intelligences called competencies, talents, or abilities?

We are talking about things like creative, existential, emotional, sensory or physical competence.

I am mainly interested in existential intelligence or competence.

Existential competence has a high and complex focus on meaning, values, ethics, morality, ecological connections, and the nature of reality.
We can also place here the understanding of the spiritual.

As with intellectual intelligence, there are people who exhibit high existential competence. Highly gifted are about 2% of people.

Contrary to the nature of intellectual intelligence, existential competence depends on extensive use of the right hemisphere of the brain.

After all, we are talking about the big picture, the reality, and not the image.

We can put it this way: spirituality and God relationship are matters for the right hemisphere, fundamentalist religiosity and literal Bible interpretation are matters for the left.

Questions and wisdom are here opposed to certainty and knowledge.

So, we can confidently assume that most pastors in the traditional church are not outliers or overachievers in existential competence.

This, by the way, is important and true. Take politicians: for their part, they do not represent outliers in intellectual intelligence. If politicians were more than averagely gifted intellectually, most citizens would not understand them, and they would not be elected.

Research suggests that people only understand others when they are no more than one to two deviations above them. That is about 15-30 points in IQ. Similarly, we can only have satisfying, challenging conversations with people who are no more than one to two deviations below us. So to be able to appeal to a majority of people, a politician should have an IQ of 115-120 at most. That’s about university level.

It is the same with pastors. If they were existentially highly gifted, their parishioners would not be able to follow them.

And so, the averagely gifted become pastors. This reassures the congregation. They have an example to follow. And they are usually offered the assurance of the left hemisphere today, “It is written. You just have to believe it.”

And, of course, if a pastor were intellectually gifted, that would be difficult, too. But I won’t elaborate on that now and leave it to the reader to think it through using the example of politicians.
In addition, there is the leftward bias of the congregation—not politically, of course, but in terms of hemispheres.

So, we generally have averagely gifted church leaders who confuse the map with the territory, or put in the way they understand it: the Bible with the Word of God, the letter with the Spirit. Without even realizing it because the left hemisphere does not know what it does not know. And they would never admit it.

Some of these pastors have high social skills, which is in line with the concept of shepherding. However, more and more are convinced by the American trend that the pastor should not get too involved with his flock, lest he lose his anointing. Thus, they are no longer using the competence they would have.

But the other offices are not filled at all. From the prophet with the high existential competence, the teacher with the high intellectual and existential competence, for example, it is demanded that they be socially competent, simple in the expression, and submit themselves to the map, the doctrine, without asking.

However, it would be precisely the model of shared leadership that would allow gifted people to be co-responsible. Then not everyone would have to be a shepherd, not everyone would have to be able to guide people in implementation like the apostle, or explain the gospel to people like the evangelist. These functions need social competence. And, of course, there are teachers with average intelligence and a strongly left-leaning way of looking at the world.

The Bible shows us, for example, Elijah, a socially incompetent, existentially highly gifted prophet.

I have a romantic idea: Priscilla and Aquila were taken aside by Paul because Aquila had an intellectual and existential high talent, but did not get along with the people. Paul taught the two social skills, and Priscilla learned to translate what Aquila preached to the people. This is not in the Bible and is probably more autobiographically motivated.

But Paul was certainly highly gifted. That is why Peter called him difficult to understand and complicated. We still see that today in his Greek nested sentences and his ability to create a coherent theology.

I am aware that the church needs leaders who understand it.

Today, however, they refuse to work with people who are gifted. Both sides would benefit.

The administrators have taken over the community. They have pushed the spiritual people out and decided they don’t need them anymore. They administer the tradition and the faith. They don’t call it that. They call it preserving, even guarding.

That’s not what Jesus meant when he asked if he would still find faith when he came back.
Faith is doubt, not certainty. Faith is trust, not knowledge.

To believe does not require existential or intellectual giftedness. But people with high gifts can describe the path. Thus, God has given everyone his or her gift.

I wish that we respect all talents. Without fear and feelings of inferiority.


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