Monday, December 22, 2008

Have Christians Lost Their Minds? Part I

Kairos magazine latest edition The Church's Neglected Treasure is fresh out of the stove. Here is an unedited draft of my article on the the loss and recovery of the Christian mind in our spirituality and mission.

As an inquisitive new believer in secondary school, I began asking how the Genesis account of creation in seven days explains those fascinating dinosaurs I discovered while watching documentary shows on T.V. Were they safe inside Noah’s ark? Did the flood wipe them out?

So in hope for some answers, I picked up the courage to ask my science teacher who also happened to be a Christian. He gazed at me somewhat quizzically and asked another question in return, “Tell me. Does God answer your prayers?”

I nodded sheepishly, baffled by how the quality of my “devotion time” had anything to do with the extinction of dinosaurs! Perhaps sensing my perplexity, he explained, “If God has answered your prayers, why do you need to ask so many things?”

From that day on, I found out that for many Christians an intellectual understanding of the faith is not important as long as we have an experiential feeling that it works! The heart is what you used in a relationship with God but the brain is what you used while studying science, economics and history in school.

This common suspicion towards the role of the mind in our spiritual life may sometimes be fueled by faulty interpretations of Bible passages: “What’s the use of reason since we should have faith like a child? (Matthew 8:13) Knowledge just puffs up our pride (1 Corinthians 8:1) so we should avoid secular studies. And shouldn’t we beware of hollow and deceptive philosophy? (Colossians 2:8)”

To begin with, we should not confuse the need for a childlike faith (humble, dependent trust in God) with childish thinking. To the Corinthians, the apostle Paul wrote, “Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.” (1 Corinthians 14:20) He also warned against a proud attitude that paraded one’s spiritual knowledge for self-glory instead of mutual, loving edification. The real problem is arrogance, not knowledge in itself. Therefore, our proper response is humility, not ignorance.

Indeed, we need to be careful of many deceptive ideas available nowadays. But we cannot beware of bad philosophy if we are not even aware of it in the first place. The cure is truthful, biblical and sound thinking (not the absence of it). C. S. Lewis once wrote, “Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.” The learned apostle Paul himself was familiar with the ideas of pagan philosophers so that he can discern truth from error. (Colossians 2:8)

Discipleship of the mind is so crucial because we are called to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul, all our strength and all our mind. (Luke 10:27) It is obedience to the greatest commandment of our Lord Jesus. Scripture also calls us to be transformed by the renewal (not removal!) of our mind less we be conformed to worldly patterns. (Romans 12:2)

But what practical value is there in developing a ‘Christian mind’? Isn’t it just theoretical, head knowledge that does not help us live properly?

Although there is partial truth to the perception that scholars sometimes split hairs over seemingly irrelevant issues, the best theologians often aid us not merely to gather data but to gain wisdom for life. After all, a good theory is a very practical thing just as having a good map is an immense help to reach unknown destinations. In the same way, an accurate mental map of reality guides our navigation through difficult decisions in the world.

Furthermore, what we believe to be true has a powerful influence over how we should live. For example, if we view human life as merely a biological machine, we won’t be terribly inclined to treat it with much dignity or respect. Or if we truly understand God to be holy and gracious as revealed in Scripture, our spiritual life gradually reflects His own character. Sound theology should flow from the head to the heart and finally to the hands. True knowledge and living experience enrich each other.

Read Part Two: Have Christians Lost Their minds?


steve martin said...

We haven't lost our minds...He has found them for us.

Christ Jesus is now conforming our be like His.

Thanks for a wonderful post!

A blessed Christmas to you and all here at this site!

Anonymous said...

Before one learn about God, one should first learn about Truth.
'In the beginning was "Logos"' (John 1:1)

What's the problem with Protestants this days? The pastor (shepherd) only knew 'their theology' but lack of philosophy.

In Catholic church, pastor candidates should do 4 years Philosophy before they could start learning Theology.

It's a pity that the Protestants church leaders lack of such qualification.

Protestatio said...

The Logos is not philosophy, The Logos is God and became flesh in the person of Jesus :)

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