Letter from America

March 26, 2007 at 3:40 am 7 comments

Jesse:

I read all the comments on the prophetic post. What worries me most about them is the willingness of so many of your brothers and sisters over there to regard all philosophy and theology as somehow unimportant, dangerous, or showing a lack in one’s relationship with God.

Scripture teaches us to “praise the Lord with the heart, and with the mind also”. This indicates to me that reason is in fact a gift from God and, when properly guided by study of Scripture and an examination of the teachings of the Church fathers, enriches and deepens faith, and guards the heart as well as the mind of the believer from false teachers.

Satan is the great deceiver, and his deception may be of the heart as well as the mind. Isn’t Satan capable of deceiving our experience? So reason and experience must check each other, with Scripture as a guiding source for both and the teachings of the Church fathers as a useful lense to keep us from reinventing the wheel, so to speak.

Jesse; through our friendship and through my study of events both ecclesiastic and political I have come to believe that the future of the church lies in large part with the global south, and that Africa will have a large role to play. I hope that the life of the mind will continue to have a large role to play as well, as I know it does with you.

A.J.

*The writer is a long-time buddy of mine, from the Lutheran tradition, with whom  I schooled in my student days in the US.  We mused and still muse about many things in God’s world.  In his free time, he loves to opine on politics, faith, history, indeed much else under the sun.  

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Entry filed under: Africa, Culture, Kenya, Literature, Media, Missions, Personals, Prophecy, Religion, Society, World.

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7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Toiyoi Birgen  |  March 26, 2007 at 11:10 pm

    American gentleman:
    You say, you believe “that the future of the church lies in large part with the global south, and that Africa will have a large role to play.”? I do not, though i fear for African Christians, as they are increasingly following in the northern ways.

    Now a Question: What do you think the church in the west (say the USA, which is no doubt a leader in many things), won’t have a lead in the future of the church?

    I will suggest an answer: Because of the great reliance (95%) on the mind (philosophy and theology) in the church at the expense of the heart. Is it a danger to rely on the mind that much? Yes:
    -the natural mind is an enemy of God (rom 8:7)
    -hence the renew the mind call (rom 12:2)
    -what is faith, but “calling those things that are not as though they are” (the mind walks by sight..)

    Guys, if we agree that the world (many of its thots, many of its philosophies, many of its systems, etc) is an enemy of God, is it not folly to know this and yet teach such (thots, philosophies, methods) to Christians and then get surprised that the Christians are not living a powerful and morally better lives than the non Christians in the world?

    Now if one relies on the heart and experience largely(say 95%), there is danger too, since “the heart is deceitful above all things..”.

    What is the right heart-mind mix? I do not know, but i know, that when one’s heart is genuinely seeking to walk in the Spirit (which is neither wholly mind nor wholly heart), he never really is in doubt on how to live or deal with important issues of life.

    Reply
  • 2. Toiyoi Birgen  |  March 26, 2007 at 11:13 pm

    Corrections:
    “I do not” should read “i do too”
    “what do you think”, should read “why do you think”

    I should rely on the mind more 🙂

    Reply
  • 3. A. J.  |  March 27, 2007 at 1:40 am

    In response to your question re: the decline of the American/western church: I don’t think it was actually philosophy which killed the church, but rather intellectualism.
    What is the difference?
    Philosophy, which is riggorously seeking after truth with reason (if you want a basic definition) doesn’t have any agenda other than using logic to figure out how things work. So if you use philosophy to bolster scripture, not in order to build up a system of your own, you can learn a great deal. Christianity is full of philosophers who relied on scripture as their guide; Dietrich Bohnhoeffer, Martin Luther King and the Niebuhr brothers are some modern examples, but Luther, Calvin, Augustine and even Paul all clearly use philosophy and theological reasoning in their writings.
    What killed the western church was intellectualism, the pursuit of reason for it’s own sake, with no concern for truth (this is also called sophism). So it became less important that philosophical claims be true than that they appear intelligent. Intellectualism also values change above all else, because in it’s desire to appear intelligent it must of necessity reject everything which came before. So the western church began experimenting with radical ideas simply because they were radical and knew.
    Finally, what makes the difference between the kind of philosophy I’d like to see in the church and the kind which has wrecked it in the West? The answer, I think, is intention. If your intention is self-glorification, and to be recognized for your reason and for being “smart”, then pride will lead you into error. If your intention is to use your god-given intellect to seek truth, than through prayer and careful study you can contribute much. (Incidentally, I think the same rules apply to seeking truth through experience).
    So yes, we should learn from the problems with the Western church, but we shouldn’t learn the wrong lesson; philosophy for it’s own sake is a death trap, but philosophy for the purpose of seeking truth and glorifying God can be an invaluable part of the Christian life.
    Thanks for your considered response to my letter.
    Blessings in CHrist,

    A. J.

    Reply
  • 4. Toiyoi Birgen  |  March 27, 2007 at 7:07 pm

    AJ,
    Thanks. Now i agree with you mostly, for:
    (i) if empowered with great analytical mind, one should use it to further the cause of Christ as much as possible, e.g. Paul
    (ii) A christian should never be scared with arguments from great minds as most of us normally are

    BUT i still must add, that:
    (i) Our enemy drives the world system of thot(after all he is the prince of this world)
    (ii)Our enemy has perhaps millions of years of experience and an understanding of the workings of the human mind and heart,
    having had the benefit of a large sample to people to work with
    (iii)Understands that we all want to be lifted up and philosophy puffs ups not a little

    SO IF
    (i) We borrow ideas advanced by his prophets(some innocent)
    (ii) If we seek truth using his methods

    How do we expect our ideas and minds not to be corrupted?

    Now, consider the choice of Christ’s apostles:
    How many could be considered men capable of playing with philosophies? They were not even theological “trained” as the scribes or pharisees were. And yet these men are they who formed the foundation of the church. Christ apparently considered obedience to him more important to church leadership than the great understanding of the mind. Including Paul to the mix still means over 90% of the church fathers were unschooled in both theology and Philosophy.

    Now consider your basic definition of Philosophy: “Philosophy, which is rigorously seeking after truth with reason ” True, True.

    But which truth? Our truth, or the world’s truth? If our truth, we would be having most of the college educated individuals as believers in Christ. But they are not. Why, because our truth is not sought in this manner. The truth of Christ is already out there, to be simply believed, not sought. This makes it available to ALL, both to the PHD philosopher and the normad in Turkana.

    What can be wiser than that?

    Now, AJ, we are probably saying the same thing (i hope we are), but, having seen how Christianity is lived in the South, and having seen how it is lived in the west (US), and feeling sad that the sheep in the west have been given a raw deal by their sheperds (who i am sad to claim, now mostly glory in the achievements and seek their own gratification), i felt the need to press to KA readers how not to fall into the trap of the enemy

    Reply
  • 5. A. J.  |  March 28, 2007 at 4:16 pm

    Toiyoi:
    I do think we mostly agree, though there are probably some small details where we differ. First, to clarify/emphasize, I am not saying that philosophy can ever replace faith, merely that it can help bolster it. There is an old saying that philosophy is the hand-maden of theology. I would take this further and say that philosophy can be the hand-maden of faith as well, so long as we Christians make sure that it stays in it’s proper place.
    It is true that a fair number of the church fathers were not philosophers or theologians before they follow Jesus (though I submit that following him as long as they did would have given them a grasp of it). There is also a long tradition of thoughtful and well-schooled theologians going back to Paul as you identified. I think that experience and reason balance each other out, and I’m basically just advocating not throwing the baby out with the bath water.
    And if the enemy has had thousands of years and millions of subjects to practice on, is not God himself the father of all knowledge, and is not Christ also called the logos (word) of God, which could also be translated logic?
    Yes: I think we’re saying the same thing but with different emphases. This probably has to do with background; I was schooled in a place which intentionally grappled with faith-reason issues regularly and deeply, and where many fellow Christians either gave themselves wholely to the thought systems of the world or simply stopped thinking to protect their faith, both of which outcomes worry me greatly.
    Blessings,

    A. J.

    Reply
  • 6. Toiyoi Birgen  |  March 28, 2007 at 6:07 pm

    @AJ.
    OK and agreed. Thanks for taking your time to respond.
    @KA
    Thanks for providing these opportune moments

    Reply
  • 7. KA  |  March 29, 2007 at 10:52 pm

    @ T – Glory to God. U r most welcome.

    Reply

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