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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the www.comereason.org Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.
Thursday, September 01, 2016
If you were asked to choose the most intelligent person in history, who would it be? Einstein? Newton? Socrates? What about Jesus? Jesus valued the life of the mind and it showed as he confronted his critics.
Last month, I had the privilege to give two talks for the Speaking The Truth in Love Conference. Here's my talk entitled "Jesus: The Smartest Man Who Ever Lived, "explaining how Jesus wants to engage our minds as much as our hearts.
To watch the other video from the conference, click here.
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
Ideas matter. They matter because they shape how we understand the world in which we live. They matter because they motivate us to want to change or why we desire to keep things the same.
Dallas Willard made his living in a world of ideas. As a Christian philosopher he would routinely think through different ideas and how they could impact the larger society. His book, The Divine Conspiracy, is a masterful work provoking Christians to live their lives consistently with Christian ideals.
In one section, Willard underscores how powerful ideas are b quoting economic John Maynard-Keyes. Keyes states:
"…the ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back."
Willard then goes on to opine:
One could wish this were true only of economics and politics. But it is true of life in general. It is true of religion and education, of art and media. For life as a whole, Keynes's words apply: "I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas." Not immediately, as he acknowledges, but after a certain period of time. The ideas of people in current leadership positions are always those they took in during their youth. "But, soon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil."1People love to believe in conspiracies. Whether it's the grassy knoll, a faked moon landing, or the CIA blowing up the World Trade Center, it's easy to think that evil acts can only be brought on by some powerful group hiding in a secret back room.
The power of mere ideas is a matter about which intellectuals commonly deceive themselves and, intentionally or not, also mislead the public. They constantly take in hand the most powerful factors in human life, ideas, and most importantly, ideas about what is good and right. And how they handle and live them thoroughly pervades our world in its every aspect.2
The truth of the matter is that the "conspirators" are those who teach in classrooms or make subtle claims in otherwise benign entertainment. They want to remake society into their particular view. That shouldn't surprise anyone. If a person believes their views are true, of course they would seek to persuade others to hold it as well. But it does mean that Christians should also be prepared to argue how those views are not true and have good reasons demonstrating the truth of Christianity.
If Christianity tells us the truth about good and evil, man and morality, and the nature of the world, then we must inject our ideas into the public sphere. It's the best way to thwart a culture of evil.
2. Willard, 1998. 5-6.
Saturday, March 28, 2015
This is the fundamental fact of our time, from which reason must be redeemed: the incomprehensibility of reason and knowledge in naturalistic terms. Reason and knowledge are not to be found in the sense-perceptible world. It’s just that simple. If you have to understand everything in terms of the sense-perceptible world, reason and knowledge are gone. That is why you have the many strained and forced interpretations of knowledge and consciousness and reason, including all of the creative arts, and all of the areas of expression of the human spirit that we study in the academy—the forced interpretations of these as sociological, as behavioral, or even chemical. Even the interpretation of love has to be put in a naturalistic mold. I’m reminded of a man who said "Sawdust is wonderfully nourishing if you will substitute bread for it." When you try to put truth into the naturalistic mold, it’s gone. It is the same when you try to put evidence, when you try to put logic, logical relationships, probability, all of these fundamental things into a naturalistic mold. There are many dimensions of evidence, and many of them fall in a very variegated way within what we would call "sense-perception," but not sense-perception in the narrow sense that the naturalist wants to take it. And so we have to simply understand that the sociological, behavioral and chemical attempts to treat knowledge, reason, and creativity are due to the fact that the only categories available are the ones posed by the naturalistic world-view.Check out the rest of Willard' paper here.
So of course, that’s why I say only the Christian knowledge-tradition can save knowledge in our time. If we don’t have that, we have a constant struggle within our Christian schools with what one writer has called "the problem of stemming the drift". The question comes up, "What is it about higher academic life that seems to make it such a hard-and-fast rule that given enough time, any institution, no matter how rooted in orthodoxy, will sooner or later slip away from its anchors?" In an article that appeared in "World Magazine" in May of 1997, Joel Beltz tries to address this. He quotes Gaylen Byker, President of Calvin College, on the problem. "The problem" is: How do you secure faculty for first-class programs in Christian colleges, without losing them to the secular mindset? When you’re hiring faculty you begin to think thoughts like, "Is it really important that a math professor hold to his school’s theological position?" With regard to experts in the various subject matters, Byker comments—and it’s very true in this simple statement he makes—"It’s hard to justify hiring a third-rate Christian when you can get a first-rate non-Christian." Those are his words, and I think we all understand this is a serious problem, not something to be dismissed.
Saturday, December 20, 2014
Often, it seems to me, we see and hear his deeds and words, but we don't think of him as one who knew how to do what he did or who really had logical insight into the things he said. We don't automatically think of him as a very competent person.Willard sums up Jesus'value of the intellect thusly:
He multiplied the loaves and fishes and walked on water, for example—but, perhaps, he didn't know how to do it, he just used mindless incantations or prayers. Or he taught on how to be a really good person, but he did not have moral insight and understanding. He just mindlessly rattled off words that were piped in to him and through him. Really?
There is in our culture an uneasy relation between Jesus and intelligence, and I have actually heard Christians respond to my statement that Jesus is the most intelligent man who ever lived by saying that it is an oxymoron. Today we automatically position him away from (or even in opposition to) the intellect and intellectual life. Almost no one would consider him to be a thinker, addressing the same issues as, say, Aristotle, Kant, Heidegger or Wittgenstein, and with the same logical method.
We need to understand that Jesus is a thinker, that this is not a dirty word but an essential work, and that his other attributes do not preclude thought, but only insure that he is certainly the greatest thinker of the human race: "the most intelligent person who ever lived on earth." He constantly uses the power of logical insight to enable people to come to the truth about themselves and about God from the inside of their own heart and mind. Quite certainly it also played a role in his own growth in "wisdom." (Luke 2:52)
Sunday, November 09, 2014
Truth and reality do not adapt to us. It is up to us to adapt to them. A four thousand year old tradition does not become truer as the years go by. If it is false or wrong, it simply continues to be a long-standing error. If it is popular, it is widespread. If adopted by the powerful, it is authoritative. But it is still wrong. Acceptance of its right to exist in a pluralistic society does not make it any more correct, and will be of no help to those following it when they finally run into reality.
Some of my intellectual friends say that this is true in the domain of "fact," but that religion is the realm of "faith." They are victims of the unfortunate delusion of current culture that "fact" is limited to what is sense-perceptible. Hence they say that whether past or current living species where created by God or not, for example, is a matter of "faith." The implication is that for faith things are, somehow, as you think them to be. Much of what is now written in support of pluralism or "inclusivism" in religion assumes that there is no "way things are" with God, or at least that we cannot know how they are. Hence all views of God are said to be equally true because all are equally in the dark--an astonishingly fallacious inference.
— Dallas Willard, "Being a Christian in a Pluralistic Society"
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