Why is our culture so rapidly departing from a Christian view of the world? Where the Judeo-Christian worldview essentially shaped our national consciousness 100 years ago, how have we come to our present state where Christianity has been virtually excluded from having a credible voice in the public sphere? In reading an article in JETS recently, I stumbled across what I think was a prophetic insight from Charles Malik, former Lebanese ambassador to the United States and President of the United Nations.
“If you win the whole world and lose the mind of the world, you will soon discover that you have not won the world. Indeed it may turn out that you have actually lost the world…”1 – Charles Malik
On September 13, 1980 Malik gave an address at the dedication ceremony to the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College, Wheaton Illinois. As a professing Christian he spoke with clarity and conviction concerning a growing danger within the evangelical church that if not addressed could spell disaster, not only for the church, but for the nation to which Christ commanded us to “go and make disciples”. He states:
The greatest danger besetting evangelical Christianity is the danger of anti-intellectualism. The mind as to its greatest and deepest reaches is not cared for enough. This cannot take place apart from profound immersion for a period of years in the history of thought and the spirit. People are in a hurry to get out of the university and start earning money or serving the Church or preaching the gospel. They have no idea of the infinite value of spending years of leisure in conversing with the greatest minds and souls of the past and thereby ripening and sharpening and enlarging their powers of thinking. The result is that the arena of creative (and I would argue critical) thinking is abdicated and vacated to the enemy…”2
It is the undeniable witness of history that in the development of Western civilization and thought, it was the church that existed and led as THE centre for scholarly thought and education. The earliest universities grew out of Christian cathedral schools, and even down into modern times many of the most notable universities were established by churches. This doesn’t mean that all Christians should aspire to a university education, but demonstrates what has been historically true for the church of Jesus Christ since its inception; namely that the concern of the church is the careful tending of the mind. The New Testament certainly bears witness to this priority.
- Mark 12:30 – ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
- Romans 12:2 – Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
- 2 Corinthians 10:5 – We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
It is not enough therefore to concern ourselves only with surrendering our ‘hearts’ to God. Without further explanation, I’m not even sure what that means. Our ‘heart’ after all is the locus of our will or desires. Our ‘heart’ answers the question: “what do I want?” To be sure this is of ultimate importance to God, for it was our hearts he came to redeem from sin. But can we in any way sever what takes place in our hearts from what takes place in our minds? Of course not. If you want to know what your heart desires, that is easily determined by identifying what you most often think about. Our heart directs our mind, but conversely our mind directs our heart, for the more I think about a thing the more aware of its desirability (or lack thereof) I become. Hence Paul’s command for the Christian to “set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set you mind on things above, not on earthy things.” (Col. 3:1,2)
In light of this, it is out of obedience to Christ and our love for his truth that we as Christians first make the development of our minds (and for parents the minds of our children) our greatest priority. After all, as our minds go so go our lives. Too much is at stake to simply let the pastor or “ministry professionals” do all the thinking for us. While God may not have given us all great intellects, he does expect us to fully use what intellect he did give. Are you thinking as well as you could?
But as I look across the cultural landscape of Canada today and the kind of thinking that is taking our culture captive, the most apparent need also for our nation is a Christian church full of thinking Christians. Our culture is captive to false ideas about a great many things. Our task therefore is not only to exhort them to “believe on the Lord Jesus and be saved” (cf. Rom. 10:9), but also we must “gently instruct them” so that they will “come to their senses and escape the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” (2 Tim 2:25-26) Our task is not only rescuing souls, but rescuing intellects. To quote Malik again:
“No civilization can endure with its mind being as confused and disordered as ours is today. All our ills stem proximately from the false philosophies that have been let loose in the world and that are now being taught in the universities.”3
Prepared to Answer exists to serve the church toward this end of training up the Christian mind. Because in Christ we have come to a “knowledge of the truth”, faithful discipleship necessarily entails growing through education in greater and greater understanding of that truth. As Peter commanded: “Add to your faith, goodness, and to goodness, knowledge”. (2 Peter 1:5)