Friday, July 8, 2016

the christian mind

From my bookshelf I picked up again the classic little work, The Christian Mind: How Should a Christian Think (SPCK, 1963; Servant Books, 1978), by Harry Blamires.  This author was encouraged to write by none other than C. S. Lewis, his tutor at Oxford.  Writing from mid-twentieth century Britain, Blamires examines our wholesale surrender to secularism and how to recover a uniquely Christian approach to thinking and dialogue.  

"We twentieth-century Christians have chosen the way of compromise. We withdraw our Christian consciousness from the fields of public, commercial, and social life.  When we enter these fields we are compelled to accept for purposes of discussion the secular frame of reference established there.  We have no alternative -- except that of silence.  We have to use the only language spoken in these areas." (p. 27)

"We have stepped mentally into secularism.  We have trained, even disciplined ourselves, to think secularly about secular things and -- irony of ironies -- have even managed to persuade ourselves that there was something more Christian about giving way in this matter and accepting the other fellow's mental environment.  In this way the Christian mind has died of neglect and disuse."  (p. 39)

Then Blamires goes on to identify the key marks or characteristics of Christian thinking:  Its supernatural orientation, its awareness of evil, its conception of truth, its acceptance of authority, its concern for the person, and its sacramental cast. These are notes sorely missing from today's discussions on our societal problems in twenty-first century America.  What Christian discussion brings to the table is that human life and flourishing involves something higher than mere nature or materialism, and that we must be able to discuss the existence of evil, the pursuit of truth (and avoidance of error), the proper role of authority, the worth of the individual, and the sacredness of life given by God.   

As an example, on the nature of truth, he writes...

"Christian truth is objective, four-square, unshakable.  It is not built of men's opinions.  It is not something fabricated either by scholars or by men in the street, still less something assembled from a million answers, Yes, No, and Don't know, obtained from a cross-section of the human race.  Christian truth is something given, revealed, laid open to the eye of the patient, self-forgetful inquirer.  You do not make the truth.  You reside in the truth.  A suitable image for truth would be that of a lighthouse lashed by the elemental fury of undisciplined error.  Those who have come to reside in the truth must stay there.  It is not their business to go back into error for the purpose of joining their drowning fellows with the pretense that, inside or outside, the conditions are pretty much the same.  It is their duty to draw others within the shelter of the truth.  If we start to dismantle it and give it away in bits to those outside, there will be nothing left to protect our own heads-- and no refuge in which to receive the others, should they at length grow weary of error." (pp. 113-14)

The print copy of this book, only 190 pages, is available in used condition for only pennies. It should be looked at again. 

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