The Intellectual Life of a Christian
Growing up I never had a desire to read. I was the guy who would do all he could to find CliffNotes, SparkNotes or any other summary of an assigned book that I could. It wasn’t until 2005, when the Lord really took hold of my heart, that my passion for books came along. Although I have recently begun buying more books on my Kindle, nothing replaces the smell of pressed ink and the feel of soft grainy pages that comes with real books. Its the whole experience that I enjoy when I walk into a book store – the aroma of book paper, wooden shelves and brewed coffee coupled with the sound of silence so quiet that you can almost hear others’ thoughts as they read through books aloud in their mind.
Every now and again I’ll pick up a book and as I begin the prose are so powerful and eloquent that its as if I’m sitting down with the author as he passionately expounds on his well-researched thoughts over a cup of coffee.
I was reminded of this the other day when I was out and about working, and I decided to take a break and walk into our local Barnes & Noble. I walked straight to the philosophy section and one book stood out to me because of its familiarity. You see, I have a the same book, but this new edition had a new essay. The book I picked up was Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature by Richard Rorty. I turned to the appendix to read this previously unpublished essay of his called The Philosopher as Expert.
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Now, I know what you may be thinking, “Well, Matt, isn’t Richard Rorty an atheist? Why would you want to read an atheist’s writings?” If that’s you, I can empathize with you because I used to be of the same thinking. Early on I thought that I only needed to read that which affirmed my worldview, but this is not the way a Christian ought to read. Yes, we ought to funnel everything through the filter of Scripture to check it against truth, to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5), but we also must be well-read as believers if only to be informed as to what many of the thinkers of our time are teaching. A philosophy mentor of mine once said, “I don’t trust any Christian who only has Christian books on his book shelves,” and I completely agree with him in the sense that a Christian who is informed of the popular ideas is better equipped to discuss and interact with them from a biblical worldview. About this idea Saint Augustine of Hippo in On Christian Doctrine once remarked:
For we ought not to refuses to learn letters because they say that Mercury discovered them; nor because they have dedicated temples to Justice and Virtue, and prefer to worship in the form of stones things that ought to have their place in the heart, ought we on that account to forsake justice and virtue. Nay, but let every good and true Christian understand that wherever truth may be found, it belongs to his Master.
Translation: All truth is God’s truth, so pick the meat from the bones (pull the truth from the untruth), as well as get a better understanding of other worldviews.
Now, I’m not one for dedicating an entire post to a book, but in this case I’m going to make an exception. I’ve recently been reading a book that I’ve wanted to read for some time now, and it has been so rich and enjoyable that I can’t help but pass this wisdom on to you. I would also highly recommend any writings of this particular author, James W. Sire, to you. What he writes are books that one can tell have been slowly, meticulously and prayerfully worked through in order to bring not merely information, but knowledge and wisdom to his reader. I picked this book up out of my bookshelf recently because the theme for this year at my church is discipleship, and I thought to myself, “What a great time to study the discipleship of the mind…”
In this book, Habits of the Mind: The Intellectual Life as a Christian Calling, he makes note of his favorite author, theologian and philosopher, John Henry Newman…