Think: Part One

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The following is an excerpt from Dick’s book: “Too Christian, Too Pagan.”

To order Too Christian, Too Pagan

Think

I am an aging man of ordinary intelligence who loves books, ideas and concepts. I live in a culture that often devalues these, preferring rather to bestow worth on amusement and commerce. I’ve spent over a decade in broadcasting, an industry that generally and begrudgingly accepts displays of on-air intelligence only if they are subservient to humor or moderated by outrageous profits. In Christian broadcasting one manager expressed concern that I was delivering a show “too intelligent for Christian radio.

Over thirty years ago Harry Blamires sounded the alarm about the deterioration of the Christian Mind, saying. “the mental secularization of Christians means that nowadays we meet only as worshipping beings and as moral beings, not as thinking beings. His warning was updated by Ambassador Charles Malik who said in a 1980 lecture at Wheaton College, “I must be frank with you; the greatest danger besetting American Evangelical Christianity is the danger of anti-intellectualism. The mind, as to its greatest and deepest reaches, is not cared for enough.” (1980 IVP, The Two Tasks, p33).

Then in the 1990’s Dr. Mark Noll issued a clarion call on behalf of a more thoughtful Christian, concluding that the scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is so little of it.

These comments could be set aside as the rants of an elite crew of stuffed shirts were it not for the fact that Jesus commands us to love the Lord our God with all our heart and mind. It is not sufficient to love God with your heart, leaving the “mind” part to “smarter people. Loving God with your mind is not just an optional choice, or just for people who listen to classical music and wear tweed with leather elbow patches, or for those with time left over after watching baseball or Oprah. Today’s abandonment of the mind is disobedience to God. Os Guiness concludes, “anti-intellectualism is truly the refusal to love the Lord our God with our minds as required by the first of Jesus commandments.” But I am warning you, in what is generally an anti-intellectual culture and Christian sib-culture, your commitment to thinking will make you counter-cultural.
Why is the witness of God’s presence in the world of our minds so important?

1) Our minds reflect our status as the only species created in God’s image. Our human ability to possess, develop and express our thoughts in complex language differentiates us from the animals and is evidence of our unique place in God’s created order.

2) We are commanded to love the Lord our God with body, heart and mind because each is important to God. This holistic view of human potential would was very familiar to the Jewish, Roman and Greek contemporaries of Jesus. As a matter of fact the Greek Olympics celebrated “arete,” a word meaning the complete, well-balanced person training to develop body, mind and spirit. The Greeks would not revere an illiterate athlete or a sedentary academic.

3) Ideas have consequences. Karl Marx’s political and economic theories ruined millions of lives in the twentieth century. Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory has dominated 20th century life in overt and subtle ways. As each generation faces the onslaught of novel ideas, Christians in that generation need discerning minds to defend and advance the faith.

4) The Apostle Paul says we are not to be conformed to the world’s ideas, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12). This discerning mind enables us to weigh the essence and implications of thoughts and ideas gaining contemporary acceptance.

5) People need to hear a reasonable faith. Today we communicate and defend the gospel in an age dominated by scientific naturalism, intellectual and moral relativism and theological pluralism. A thoughtful approach to each of these is essential if you desire to influence intellectually curious seekers or even to parent your children. Thirty years ago, Francis Schaeffer observed what happens when this work goes undone.

“I find that everywhere I go-children of Christians are being lost to historic Christianity…They are being lost because their parents are unable to understand their children and therefore cannot help them in their time of need…We have left the next generation naked in the face of twentieth century thought by which they are surrounded.”

Some people will come to the faith through their minds.

We’ve already demonstrated that Aristotle showed the importance of both emotion (pathos) and reason (logos) in persuasion. While some spiritually restless people will feel their way into the kingdom of God, others will think their way there. Fredericka Matthewes-Green’s tells the wonderful story of the Genoveses finding God. (National Review February 24, 2997, p55) Eugene Genovese has enjoyed a brilliant career as a historian and his wife Elizabeth, also an academic, helped launch the feminist movement. Together they founded the magazine Marxist Perspectives which was one of many reasons they were dubbed “the royal couple of the radical academic.” But their intellectual curiosity and honesty led them down an unexpected path. Eugene tells the story this way.

“In the Southern Front I spoke as an atheist; one reviewer said that I protest too much. When the book came off the press and I had to reread it, I started wrestling with the problem philosophically, and I lost.”

In the meantime, Betsy was going through her process, and one day announced she’d had a conversion. Now, she and I talk about religion a lot, but for six months we hadn’t. So we were doing it separately.

On a philosophical level what I came to decide was that being an atheist involves as great a leap of faith as being a theist. Deep down I think I knew that; it was just my preferred leap of faith. But I was troubled by this even as an undergraduate, when I read the Brothers Karamazov and encountered Ivan’s question; “If there is no God, is not everything permissible?”

(Read the rest of THINK, tomorrow).

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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    Posted in Staublog in March 17, 2005 by | No Comments »

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