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Cultivating the Life of the Mind: Threat No 3 - Partisan Propaganda

Part of our vision for the Christian life, and thus for what it means to be a university, is that we diligently foster our capacity for critical confident, creative, and compassionate thinking: we cultivate the life of the mind. But unfortunately, this is not always encouraged. There are forces or movements that go against this grain and seemingly undercut this vital dimension of the life of the Christian community. I find it helpful to speak of three such threats: pragmatism, sentimentalism and, to be considered here, partisan propaganda.  

Cultivating the Life of the Mind: Threat No 2 - Sentimentalism

We need to make the case for communities of teaching and learning that have a fundamental commitment to cultivating the life of the mind – something that is essential to the mission of the church but also to what we mean by Christian formation and discipleship. As noted, though, this commitment and resolve is under threat from at least three sources:  pragmatism, sentimentalism and partisan propaganda.

Cultivating the Life of the Mind: Threat No 1 - Pragmatism

There are at least three ways by which and in which the work of scholarship and the tending to the life of the mind is being discounted and undervalued – ironically or tragically when it is most critically needed. In these postings, I will be speaking of three threats: pragmatism, sentimentalism and partisan propaganda. All three of these in some form or another discount, if not actually undercut, the vital place of the work and contribution of the scholar, and as such the life of the mind in the life and witness of the church.

The Christian Mind is a Crucified Mind

Tomorrow is Good Friday and while it is possible to ask about every season in the Christian calendar and the implications for a Christian mind – what does Advent or Easter or Pentecost mean for how we think about the Christian mind? I am choosing here to focus on this day and ask: can we speak of the Christian mind as “crucified” – all as part of exploring what it means that the Christian mind is shaped and informed by the God story.

Learning to Think Christianly

What do we mean by “a Christian mind”? If we are going to talk about thinking Christianly, it only follows that we need to be able to give some kind of answer to this question. While there are perhaps many different ways in which this could be framed, at the very least, a Christian mind is marked by six distinctive features—ways of being, seeing and thinking—which I offer here as a way to foster conversation about what we mean by cultivating and encouraging a thoughtful way of fostering Christian identity.

The University Mission: Cultivating the Life of the Mind

I grew up within a religious subculture that was very resistant to the idea of scholarship and learning and the intellectual life; my revivalist upbringing viewed critical thinking as a threat to the Christian life, rather than an essential dimension of what it means to be Christian. But I thank God for my mother, who early on had me reading C.S.Lewis and Jacques Ellul and Russian novelists. I thank God for L’Abri—the Francis Schaeffer-inspired community of learning in Switzerland—which was such a vital community in the 1970s and 1980s, and challenged college-age young people to think.

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