Showing posts with label life of the mind. Show all posts
Showing posts with label life of the mind. Show all posts

Friday, July 18, 2008

Anti-intellectualism No Answer to Dead Orthodoxy

"At many times in history, Christians reacted against academic versions of theology that deaden life. Examples like the Great Awakenings, the rise of Pietism, Kierkegaard's rejection of state Lutheranism, and the charismatic renewals come to mind. Too often, evangelicals today replace dead orthodoxy with anti-intellectual activism or moralism rather than with theologically vital spirituality. The model of piety valued most among evangelicals typically stresses inward moral holiness and outward Christian service set in opposition to reflective thought.

"...Indeed, the church cannot avoid theology in seeking to fulfill its mission. Though some think they can suspend theology, avoid the academic stratosphere, and achieve practical relevance, they succeed only in replacing a well-considered theology with a hodgepodge of theological scraps randomly interlaced with cultural ideas." - David Clark, To Know and Love God: Method for Theology, pp. 208-209.


Technorati Tags:

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Recommended Reading for Cultivating a Christian Mind

Byron Borger at Hearts & Minds BookNotes lists his top picks for books on the Christian mind. I join him in wishing that "every church library and Christian leader's bookshelf included a few of these." Of course, I'd add Harry Blamires' The Christian Mind. (HT: Steve Bishop)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Calling and Challenges of Christian Higher Ed.

David Dockery, president of Union University and author of the forthcoming Renewing Minds, discusses key challenges of Christian higher education with Christianity Today:
Our calling is for faculty and students in these programs also to learn to think Christianly about business, healthcare, education, social structures, public policy, recreation, and yes, about homes and churches as well. For to love God with our minds means that we think differently about the way we live and love, the way we worship and serve, the way we learn and teach, and the way we work to earn our livelihood.
Earlier this month Justin Taylor read a pre-publication volume of Dr. Dockery's book and gave it an enthusiastic review.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Take Care, Bud

Early morning telephone calls, at least in my experience, are rarely conveyors of good news. I was on the receiving end of such a call yesterday and it was no exception to the rule. I was jarred from semi-consciousness by the ringing of the telephone and immediately wondered who might be calling at such an hour. I thought it might be the person with whom I had a 9 AM appointment , letting me know that something came up that would preclude our meeting. If only it had been so minor.

On the other end of the line was my friend, Dave, with whom I have infrequent contact. He explained in a somber tone that his reason for calling so early was to reach me before I read my email. In the few moments between the conclusion of that sentence and the beginning of his next, I tried both to grip myself for whatever news he was about to share with me and to predict what it was. I failed on both counts. Dave proceeded to tell me that a mutual friend who has been
teaching history at a Christian school in Belize, Central America for two years had been brutally beaten to death while housesitting for a friend, a minister, who himself had been seriously beaten earlier this month. It's believed that this was a retaliatory measure by a native man in a relationship with one of the minister's daughters - a relationship of which the father disapproved. From what I've gathered from Belizean news sources, police are speculating that our friend Pete's murder is connected to the prior incident and that he may have been a victim of mistaken identity.

Pete's body was discovered in the backyard of the home beneath pieces of lumber. He was attacked from behind with a machete. There are no words to adequately capture the shock I experienced. It was nightmarish to think of someone I knew so well being the victim of such violence and contempt. It's almost unimaginable to think that Pete died so tragically.

Pete, Dave, a few other guys and I used to get together for breakfast on a biweekly basis almost 15 years ago to share what was going on in our lives, discuss theology and apologetics, and pray with and for each other. A local IHOP was our meeting place. A woman named Betty was our waitress. Over pancakes, crepes, scrambled eggs, and sausage we confided in each other about our temptations, dreams, joys, and sorrows. Oh, how I looked forward to those gatherings and hated when they ended. It was so good to have the company of brothers who shared a desire to know Christ better and who were committed to helping each other be more faithful to Him. At the time, Pete was working for the public works department of a local village doing janitorial work. From time to time he toyed with the thought of going back to school but he was filled with uncertainty and doubt about his ability to succeed. It was obvious to those of us who knew him that he was a keen thinker with a passion for learning so we encouraged him to pursue that aspiration.

Eventually, Pete did leave and completed a master's degree at Bemidji State University. At times he was shaken in his faith as he encountered historical scholarship built on the foundation of anti-Christian presuppositions. To his credit, however, this led him to increased study and prayer. He would frequently write to let me know about his interactions with fellow students (most of whom were younger than he) and professors. We exchanged many emails about matters such as the historical reliability of the New Testament texts, the sovereignty of God, election, epistemology, and an assortment of apologetic issues. The personal value of his correspondence, much of which I had saved and most of which he signed off with "Take care, bud," spiked with yesterday's news.

Pete returned to Illinois in search of a job in which he could utilize his education -- preferably in a historical museum somewhere. While he searched, he worked as a customer service representative for a nationally known paint company headquartered in the area. During this time he, Dave, and some other guys consistently met on Saturday mornings for extended prayer for one another, their friends and families, and the body of Christ stateside and abroad. Born out of the realization that prayer is a means of waging spiritual warfare, this weekly meeting came to be known as "Fight Club."

A few weeks ago Pete had sent me and some other guys a draft of an email he had composed to one of his former students who was struggling with doubts about the existence of God. Pete was asking for input concerning any revisions we thought would improve it. I couldn't identify any. It was thorough, well-researched, and compassionate. His care for the young man to whom he was writing was evident as was the fact that he took his questions and concerns seriously. Pete wrote as one who knew well the mental and emotional duress that accompanies doubt. It was a joy to see his earnest, skillful attempt to feed another hungry soul with the fruit yielded from his own languishing for truth. In response to a letter I had sent commending him for his letter to his former student, Pete wrote back and told me that he had accepted a position as an adjunct world history professor at a local university. The school at which he regularly taught is closed during the summer months so he began teaching a summer class at the university earlier this month. A transcript from one of Belize's local news programs quotes the school's vice president:


Peter was a gifted teacher. The students were having so much fun in his class. Whenever I’d say, "Peter how is class going?" he would say, "This is so much fun." He just radiated excitement, he just loved to teach and the students were responding to that.
Pete regularly read this blog. To the best of my recollection, he never left a comment but he frequently told me how much he appreciated it, especially the links that introduced him to new sites. Whenever I checked site traffic by location and saw an ISP in Belize, I was pretty confident it was Pete. From now on, if ever I see a visit from Belize, I'll be certain that it's not. It was satisfying to know that by means of the blog I was pointing Pete to resources that were helpful to his growth.

In his email to me, Pete related the following insight that I share in hope that it might encourage and inspire someone:

I had this weird thing happen in the last 6 months where I gave into the realization that I am a good teacher, an academic and an intellectual. I was thinking of myself as the janitor and truck driver for a long time and the reality is I am not those things. I have been really pouring into apologetics like Schaeffer, Nancy Pearcey, Darell Bock, and reading that big book by [Craig] Blomberg on the gospels. Crazy thing is I am understanding what previously I had so much difficulty understanding. God is pretty interesting like that. Things come when you need them. He has told me not to fear these apologetics and big questions,but to dive in and explore.
By saying that he wasn't a janitor or a truck driver, Pete wasn't disparaging either or taking a stance of superiority. There wasn't an air of snootiness about him. He knew what it was to work hard and he had the utmost of respect and admiration for those who made their living so doing. Pete took the truth of every person being the image of God seriously and I never knew him to be one to shy away from associating with someone on account of his or her socio-economic status, race, or educational level. I think what he was getting at was that he had, by the grace of God, become what he once thought he could never be. Not only that, he also learned the invaluable lesson that to acknowledge what one is good at needn't be an expression of sinful pride but can be an honest and grateful assessment of the gifts God has entrusted to be used in His faithful service.
Pete's testimony reminded me of James Sire's book, Habits of the Mind: Intellectual Life as a Christian Calling, in which he relates his own desire to become an intellectual and the obstacles (both internal and external) to his achieving that goal. As to what an intellectual is in general and a Christian intellectual in particular, Sire offers the following definitions, neither of which necessitates formal education:

An intellectual is one who loves ideas, is dedicated to clarifying them, developing them, criticizing them, turning them over and over, seeing their implications, stacking them atop one another, arranging them, sitting silent while new ideas pop up and old ones seem to rearrange themselves, playing with them, punning with their terminology, laughing at them, watching them clash, picking up the pieces, starting over, judging them, withholding judgment about them, changing them, bringing them into contact with their counterparts in other systems of thought, inviting them to dine and have a ball but also suiting them for service in workaday life.

A Christian intellectual is all of the above to the glory of God (27-28).
Farewell, for now, to a dearly loved Christian intellectual.

UPDATE - 7/19/07: A local Illinois newspaper has a writeup about Pete that includes reflections on his life from his dad.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Strange Bedfellows

"What, then, is the position of the thinking Christian, face to face with the cultural situation which I have described? As he reads the things worth reading, whether imaginative or polemical, he is continually meeting with accounts of the human situation or with critical analyses of man's current lot, which make him sit up and say: This is profound and penetrating. This represents a deep and wholly human response to present-day life. It is so crucial, fundamental, and illuminating that it cannot be overlooked. It touches me pre-eminently as a Christian. Yet this writer is not a Christian. I share his vision for a moment over this issue or that, and the next minute I am jerked back into awareness that he and I are poles apart, separated by a chasm, by a contradiction in our most basic presuppositions. But (and this is the tragedy) the only way I can pursue this vital current of thought further is by more reading of non-Christian literature written by sceptics, and by discussion of it within the intellectual frame of reference which these sceptics have manufactured. In short, there is no current Christian dialogue on this topic. There is no Christian conversation which I can enter, bringing this topic or this vision with me.

"There is no Christian dialogue in which the issues are being thrashed out that disturb the rebellious artist and the rebellious prophet. Thus the thinking Christian who is concerned over these issues finds himself fitfully and perversely at one with fiercely - and even blasphemously - non-Christian writers and, at the same time, mentally out of touch with his fellow-Christians. And he scarcely dares to say (how difficult it is to clinch the thing in words anyway) exactly what it is, hidden away among the rabid obscenities of a Henry Miller or the irritable resentments of a Martin Green, which hits him in the eye and searches him out, not just as a man but as a Christian."


Harry Blamires, The Christian Mind: How Should A Christian Think? (Servant Books, 1978), 11-12

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Thinking Christianly

In an article appearing in the UK's Youthwork Magazine John Allan muses about the wondrous capacities of our minds and points to resources for training them to think Christianly (including this blog). We can never have too many voices encouraging those involved in youth ministry to take the life of the mind seriously.

Thanks for the kind endorsement, John, and greetings to those on the other side of the Atlantic (or anywhere else, for that matter) who got here by way of his linking.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

John Stott Praying for Apologists

Jeff Clinton's posting the following quote from John Stott's Your Mind Matters prompted me to take the thin volume from my shelf and thumb through it once more. As Jeff points out, though over 30 years old, Stott's petition is as timely today as when originally penned. I wonder, then, why we don't hear it uttered more frequently in our churches. The kind of laborers Stott prays for are not the kind that usually come to mind when we ask the Lord to send workers into his harvest :
I pray earnestly that God will raise up today a new generation of Christian apologists or Christian communicators, who will combine an absolute loyalty to the biblical gospel and an unwavering confidence in the power of the Spirit with a deep and sensitive understanding of the contemporary alternatives to the gospel; who will relate the one to the other with freshness, pungency, authority and relevance; and who will use their minds to reach other minds for Christ (52).
I was surprised to see that my copy of the book is clean, free from any underlining or marginal scribbles. That probably means that I first read it prior to getting into the habit of marking books up as I read them or I just thought it was all so good that I would have marked everything! Here's another of Stott's many noteworthy thoughts concerning why the fact that human reasoning is fallen is no excuse for failing to engage people intellectually in our evangelism:
It is quite true that man's mind has shared in the devastating results of the Fall. The "total depravity" of man means that every constituent part of his humanness has been to some degree corrupted, including his mind, which Scripture describes as "darkened." Indeed, the more men suppress the truth of God which they know, the more "futile," even "senseless," they become in their thinking. They may claim to be wise, but they are fools. Their mind is "the mind of the flesh," the mentality of a fallen creature, and it is basically hostile to God and his law.

All this is true. But the fact that man's mind is fallen is no excuse for a retreat from thought into emotion, for the emotional side of man's nature is equally fallen. Indeed, sin has more dangerous effects on our faculty of feeling than on our faculty of thinking, because our opinions are more easily checked and regulated by revealed truth than our experiences (16).

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Why Should Christians Study Logic?

Jeff Fuller at the Reformed Evangelist recently posted a helpful article from ChristianLogic.com giving these reasons:
  1. To Logically Defend Your Faith - Apologetics
  2. To Defeat the World's Philosophies by Advancing Biblical Reasoning
  3. To Prove Your Doctrines from the Bible
  4. To Apply the Logical Implications of God's Commands in Your Life
  5. To Be a Good Steward of Your Mind
  6. To Seek Wisdom in Living Your Life
  7. Jesus Was a Logical Man

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Church-Based Theological Education

Stonebriar Community Church, where Chuck Swindoll serves as senior pastor, has developed a theology program endorsed by J. P. Moreland and John Frame among others. It's a part of Credo House Ministries. Here's how they describe it:
Most simply put, The Theology Program (TTP) is on a mission to reclaim the mind for Christ by equipping people, churches, and pastors, to understand and defend the Christian faith. The Theology Program is a program of Christian theology (study of God) and apologetics (defending the faith) created with all believers in mind. TTP seeks to give people who may never have the time, ability, or circumstances that allow them to attend full-time seminary the same opportunity to study the great and rich Christian heritage of truth. Here, you will learn theology historically, biblically, and irenically (in a peaceful manner). The contents of TTP are created from a broadly evangelical perspective, engaging other traditions in a persuasive yet gracious manner. In short, we seek to help people think theologically by understanding what they believe and why they believe it.
We believe that all people are created in the image of God and therefore able and desirous to engage in a deep level of theological training that has traditionally only been offered at seminaries. TTP courses are designed with you in mind, walking you step by step through this comprehensive program.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Suggested Reading

Doug Groothuis has posted a list of recommended reading for developing a Christian mind. Of course, I'd add Harry Blamires's The Christian Mind. What additions would you make?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

What God Has Joined: More on Head and Heart

Well, I told you it wouldn't be easy letting go of the "18 inches between head and heart" thing. Two of my friends have weighed in on the matter in comments but I think the subject is so important I wanted to bring it to the surface here.

Byron said:

Allow me to protest a tad, Keith; I think that it all depends upon what you mean when you speak of a head/heart dichotomy. I use this analogy---hey, maybe I need to give it up---but I think that the way I intend it to be understood isn't necessarily at variance with your point. When I speak of "head", I'm speaking of mere intellectual assent, as opposed to "heart", signifying not so much an opposition to head as a trust in , a commitment to, an obedience in, those things which the "head" rightly understands. In my understanding, then, I wouldn't speak of a head/heart dichotomy, as though the two were opposed in some either/or scenario, so much as I'd think of "heart belief" involving a commitment to, a fulfillment of, those things to which the "head" mentally assents. 'Zat make sense?

Yes, that does make sense. What Byron wants to make clear is that knowledge, assent, and trust are essential to biblical faith. With that I'm in full agreement. I think, however, that there are more biblical ways of communicating that concern than by making a head/heart distinction. For example, James warns us against deceiving ourselves by only hearing the word and not doing it (James 1:22). 



The critical issue is, as Byron noted, one of obedience to that which I assent to and obedience originates in the heart. Paul, for example, is grateful to God that the Roman Christians became "obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which [they] were committed" (Romans 6:17). Throughout the Bible, belief and obedience are intertwined and, at times, used interchangeably. In John's gospel, believing in the Son is contrasted with disobeying Him (3:36). According to Psalm 78, the Israelites in the wilderness "did not believe in God and did not trust his saving power" (v. 22). Again, belief, trust, and obedience are in mind. What was the cause of their unbelief, lack of trust, and disobedience? The answer is given in verse 8. They were "a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God." (I take this to be an instance of poetic parallelism demonstrating that heart and spirit are different ways of referring to the same thing.)

I'm a firm believer that we should allow the Scriptures to guide us in our use of biblical terms and concepts. It's much too easy to fall into using biblical vocabulary in unbiblical ways thereby changing its meaning.  A few days ago I picked up Marva Dawn's new book, Talking the Walk, in which she examines a number of key words in biblical faith whose meanings have become distorted or ignored. Dawn, who was an English literature major and teacher, writes in the introduction: "...I am solemnly concerned about the corruption of words in contemporary Christian faith. When we speak bad theology, we live badly theologically. When our theologians and pastors and communities reject or abuse significant words in the heritage of faith, our Christianity is reduced or decimated." Though "heart" is not one of the words she investigates, I think it has been corrupted by being torn from its canonical context.

As Jerry (read with open eyes) pointed out in his comment, the Bible does not ascribe intellectual activity to one part of a person while assigning trust to the heart. I understand that Byron doesn't intend to convey a dichotomy between the heart and head when he speaks of the 18 inches between them, but I think that such language, no matter how well-intended, distances people from a biblical perspective on the unity of the person. 



Another problem is that in our setting people are prone to associate "heart" primarily (if not exclusively) with the emotions. Distinguishing between "head knowledge" and "heart knowledge," and implying that the latter is superior to the former, can also serve to perpetuate and strengthen the misconception that reason, education, and intellectual rigor are inimical to Christian spirituality.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Preaching to Rational Creatures: A Lesson from the Puritans

Thanks to Peter Bogert at Stronger Church for posting this quote from Joel Beeke's chapter in the book Whatever Happened to the Reformation?. I thought readers of this blog would appreciate it as well.

First, Puritan preaching addressed the mind with clarity. It addressed man as a rational creature. The Puritans loved and worshiped God with their minds. They viewed the mind as the palace of faith. They refused to set mind and heart against each other, but taught that knowledge was the soil in which the Spirit planted the seed of regeneration. Puritans thus preached that we need to think in order to be holy. They challenged the idea that holiness is only a matter of emotions.
The Puritans preached that a flabby mind is no badge of honor. They understood that a mindless Christianity will foster a spineless Christianity. An anti-intellectual gospel will spawn an irrelevant gospel that does not get beyond "felt needs." That's what is happening in our churches today. We've lost our Christian mind, and for the most part we do not see the necessity of recovering it. We do not understand that where there is little difference between the Christian and non-Christian in what we think and believe, there will soon be little difference in how we live (245-246).
If that wasn't enough to make me want to read the book, I see that David Powlison contributed a chapter called "A Flourishing of Fresh Wisdoms: The Call of the Hour in the Ministry of the Word."

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Thoughtful Praise

Christians are sometimes leery of theological learning for fear that such efforts run the risk of divesting the faith of mystery. But that need not be the case. If anything, our sense of mystery should be enlarged by our study. C. H. Spurgeon eloquently conveyed this in a sermon on Malachi 3:6:

There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can comprehend and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go on our way with the thought, "Behold I am wise." But when we come to this master science, finding that our plumb-line cannot sound its depth, amid that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought "I am but of yesterday and know nothing."
Theology, properly pursued, should not only inform our intellects but shape our characters. In other words, it should nurture Christian virtues. Every encounter with material that requires me to mentally reach beyond the level to which I'm accustomed and with which I'm comfortable, is an opportunity to practice patience, perseverance, and self-denial. Taking the time to read and reread something that I initially find confusing and/or irrelevant to my immediate concerns can teach me something of what it means to listen attentively to another in love, not insisting that everything revolve around my concerns. And, as Spurgeon reminds us, far from breeding arrogance, our growth in the knowledge of God should strike us with the awareness of how little we really know.

Related to that point is one that Reformation 21's Richard Phillips made recently about the relationship between the Christian worldview and wonder:
One of the best things about the Christian worldview is that it opens the door to wonder. The reason is that Christianity contains something greater than bare cause-and-effect. Ours is a worldview without a roof, so it not only has room for mystery and glory but it constantly points us towards these wonderful things. It is said that the longer Darwin lived, the less taste he had for music, poetry, and literature. His worldview made his life smaller and smaller. But the Christian can and should see wonder in all things. From something as simple as a leaf, to the baby's cry, to the crashing cosmos, Christians should constantly exclaim in wonder, "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is thy name in all the earth!"
If our theology does not evoke praise, we have not gone far enough.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

How to be a Constructive Influence in an Anti-Intellectual Church

Greg Koukl has some very helpful advice for believers in churches that don't see the importance of cultivating clear thinking. Don't grumble. Be a patient, exemplary, and strategic part of the solution.

Thinking Christian

I just learned of a blog I'm sure to be visiting regularly - Tom Gilson's Thinking Christian. Here's how he describes it: "Encouraging followers of Christ to engage in the historic tradition of excellent Christian thinking, and inviting others to think in a fresh way about their lives and beliefs." Check it out.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Emerging Scholars Network

I added a new link today. No, it has nothing to do with the Emergent Church. It's a ministry of InterVarsity designed to promote distinctively Christian scholarship among believers in Christ involved in higher education. Here's its mission statement:


The Emerging Scholars Network is called to identify, encourage, and support the next generation of Christian scholars, at all stages of their academic careers, who will be a redeeming influence within higher education as they:
  • Love God with heart, mind, soul, and strength as they follow God's call in discipleship
    and spiritual formation
  • Exhibit excellence in research, teaching, and service
  • Influence the university, the church, and the world by practicing their disciplines from a profoundly Christian viewpoint
  • Embody the gender, ethnic, and social diversity of the church within the academy
Benefits of free membership include substantial discounts from Christian publishers (InterVarsity, Eerdmans, and Zondervan), discounted subscriptions to Books & Culture, Mars Hill Audio Journal, and The Christian Scholar's Review.

Here's an endorsement from J. P. Moreland:
Now is the time to be intentional about identifying, encouraging, and supporting the next generation of Christian scholars. Unfortunately, while well-intentioned, for many years churches and ministries have not seen the big picture and therefore have not encouraged believers to consider a calling to the university and intellectual labor as important work for the Kingdom of God. This ignores or misunderstands the desire of God to redeem the university and see His Truth and Grace embodied within the academy, and throughout the culture as a result of the influence of higher education. But God continues to gift and call believers to serve the Kingdom as Christian scholars. The Emerging Scholars Network is, without question, the single most exciting example of this moving of God currently afoot. With unusual insight the Emerging Scholars Network seeks to cultivate this next generation of Christian scholars, an endeavor that is long overdue. But its time is now and, in light of the urgency of the hour, my heart takes courage to see it launched. My prayer is that God would see fit to let it flourish.

Monday, April 18, 2005

The Other CIA

After partaking in light refreshments, the members took their seats in a large circle. The group consisted of Christians from many of the churches in the area. Every time the door to the room in which they were meeting opened, conversation halted and eyes turned nervously in that direction. Would they be found out? What would other believers think if they knew what the members of this group had in common? "Unspiritual" and "impractical" were charges leveled against most of the group's members. Many of them knew the hurt of being prematurely judged as arrogant or, as it was more commonly put, "puffed up," so they tried to hide their mutual condition until they felt it was safe. Panic turned to relief when familiar faces appeared.

Steve, one of the regulars, arrived with a guest, a friend from work named Evan. Evan didn't know what to expect and had come with apprehension. Steve had told him about the group many times before, urging him to check it out as he thought he would benefit from it. Evan had consistently declined the invitations, politely insisting that he didn't have the same problem as the others in the group. Many nights when he couldn't sleep, he'd read the flier Steve had given him that explained why and for whom the group existed. It contained the following excerpt from Cliff Williams' book, The Life of the Mind: A Christian Perspective:


People who engage in the life of the mind - those who think and learn - read, visit libraries, buy books, explore new topics, talk to others about what they are thinking, listen to lectures, and join discussion groups. They like ideas. And they like talking about ideas. What fascinates them is a new discovery, an old classic, the thoughts of an astute observer of human nature, or research into how things work. They like to learn, and they like being with others who like to learn.

Christians who think and learn participate in these same activities and have these same interests. They, too, read and explore. They want knowledge, both of topics that are directly connected to Christian concerns and those that are not. And they like talking with others about what they learn. If you were to ask them what their life passions are, they would mention reading, thinking, and talking about ideas, including Christian ideas (p. 15).
One night, after reading the description, the walls of denial came tumbling down. "That's me! That's me!" Evan thought to himself, tears welling in his eyes. The next day he told Steve he'd like to go with him to the next meeting, an announcement Steve was excited to hear.

"I see you have a guest with you tonight, Steve," the leader said.
"Yes, this is a friend of mine from work. His name is Evan."
"Welcome, Evan. We're glad to have you with us. Would you like to tell us why you came?"
Evan seriously considered answering "No" but knew that he'd regret it if he let the opportunity pass. He had to face the truth. Nervously he stood as all eyes in the circle were turned on him. "Hi," he started. "Well, like Steve said, my name is Evan......and I'm a Christian intellectual..."

For years I've imagined such meetings of Christian Intellectuals Anonymous, only with myself as the confessor. I frequently felt ashamed of my cognitive leanings. Christians who enjoy thinking and consider it a vital part of what it means to follow Christ are often stigmatized. In some Christian circles, "intellectual" is a pejorative. Reason, study, and learning are regarded with suspicion as though inherently antagonistic to Christian faith. I was reminded of this anti-intellectual trend this past weekend by the following paragraph in Al Mohler's review of Brian McLaren's A Generous Orthodoxy:

McLaren is also honest about the fact that he lacks any formal theological education. As a matter of fact, he seems rather proud of this fact, insinuating that formal theological education is likely to trap persons in a habit of trying to determine right belief.
Haughtiness is a temptation against which every believer, regardless of his or her level of education, must be on guard. Poverty, whether material or intellectual, is no more cause for boasting than is wealth.


Reflecting on this subject made me recall having read of a note given to John Wesley by another evangelist. It read: "The Lord has told me to tell you that He doesn't need your book learning, your Greek and Hebrew" to which Wesley replied:
Thank you sir. Your letter was superfluous, as I already knew the Lord has no need of my 'book learning' as you put it. However, although the Lord has not directed me to say so, on my own responsibility I would like to say, the Lord does not need your ignorance either.
In Habits of the Mind: Intellectual Life as a Christian Calling, James Sire defines an intellectual as one:
...who loves ideas, is dedicated to clarifying them, developing them, criticizing them, turning them over and over, seeing their implications, stacking them atop one another, arranging them, sitting silent while new ideas pop up and old ones seem to rearrange themselves, playing with them, punning with their terminology, laughing at them, watching them clash, picking up the pieces, starting over, judging them, withholding judgment about them, changing them, bringing them into contact with their counterparts in other systems of thought, inviting them to dine and have a ball but also suiting them for service in workaday life (pp. 27-28).
"A Christian intellectual," he adds, "is all of the above to the glory of God."

Christian intellectuals don't belong in a recovery group but in churches, homes, classrooms, boardrooms, offices, studios, stages, and all facets of society. As Nancy Pearcey reminds us in her excellent book Total Truth: "A religion that avoids the intellectual task and retreats to the therapeutic realm of personal relationships and feelings will not survive in today's spiritual battlefield." So if you're in "the other CIA," come out. We need you.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Spring Break

I'll be computer-free for the next five days, enjoying extended time with my family, so I won't be posting anything.

In The Christian Mind, Harry Blamires identifies six marks of the Christian mind and devotes a chapter to each. They are: its supernatural orientation, its awareness of evil, its conception of truth, its acceptance of authority, its concern for the person, and its sacramental cast. Here's a selection from his chapter on its supernatural orientation:
The Catholic tradition of our Church is that the Christian life is a life for the full man. There is no room in Christendom for a culture of the spirit which neglects the mind, for a discipline of the will which by-passes the intellect. It may be that the dominant evil of our time is neither the threat of nuclear warfare nor the mechanization of society, but the disintegration of human thought and experience into separate unrelated compartments. . . In so far as the Church nurtures the schizophrenic Christian, the Church herself contributes to the very process of dismemberment which it is her specific business to check and counter. For the Church's function is properly to reconstitute the concept and the reality of the full man, faculties and forces blended and united in the service of God. The Church's mission as the continuing vehicle of divine incarnation is precisely that - to build and rebuild the unified Body made and remade in the image of the Father. The mind of man must be won for God.