Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Consider This: You're Brilliant!

Not a day goes by that we don't take many things for granted. But particularly among these is our ability to reason. Human beings are brilliant creatures and have been born into a world full of potential and responsibility. Unfortunately, however, we rarely stop to think about the implications of such an amazing capability as human reason and logic.

C.S. Lewis writes that, “Acts of thinking are no doubt events; but they are a very special sort of events.” And, “They [acts of thinking] are insights into, or knowings of, something other than themselves" (Miracles, p. 25,26). If I have understood Lewis correctly, then acts of human reason are (at the very least) a unique kind of behavior that allow one to perceive something other than or outside of oneself. This basic concept is helpful in understanding the uniqueness of human reason and ought to provoke human beings to consider the implications of such a capability. Instead of discussing the nature of reason and logic, I would much rather present my thoughts on their implications.

Working out of this foundational concept – that acts of reason are insights into other-than-self realities – there are crucial implications for all human beings, especially for Christians. The first is that humankind is relational: we have the unique capability to relate to that which is outside of our own being. In other words, we are made for relationships. And not just with other human beings but with the whole of creation as well! If we are to take this implication seriously then we ought to consider how we relate to both one another and all of creation.

The second implication is that through reason we have been given the ability to value. This facet of human reason is intimately linked to the character of God. Since the earliest accounts of God’s interaction with humanity, God has been a God of value – a Being that judges and measures all reality unto Himself (or Herself or Itself). Therefore, through value we can assess, analyze, and critique everything with which we relate in a manner not unlike God. Because God has bestowed to us this wonderful ability to make inferences based on value, we must act accordingly. It is with great care that we ought to assess and discern that which God values so that we may live in a way pleasing to God.

Without reason there is only assumption (and not even educated assumption! It’s practically impossible to imagine what assumptions without logic would be like; perhaps we might be more like animals?). A Christianity based on assumptions is far too dangerous for my liking. However, the gifts of reason and logic allow human beings to study scripture with critical minds. This will no doubt lead to the use of explanatory methods and other critical study methods.

Although these are not all of the implications, human reason must be acknowledged as a unique act of knowing that allows us to relate, to value, and to study critically all of reality outside of our own selves.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Aristides on the Early Church

The more I learn about the earliest followers of Jesus, the more I am challenged to consider what it means to live as a Christian today. The many accounts and letters in the New Testament certainly reveal the revolutionary behavior of the early Christian communities, but possibly even more stirring are the accounts of those who witnessed the early Christians living the Way of the Kingdom of God - a lifestyle so upside-down and contrary to the norm that pagans were both irritated and amazed.

Consider the following picture painted by Aristides, a philosopher around A.D. 125:

They walk in all humility and kindness, and falsehood is not found among them, and they lone one another. They despise not the widow, and grieve not the orphan. He that hath, distributeth liberally to him that hath not. If they see a stranger, they bring him under their roof, and rejoice over him, as it were their own brother: for they call themselves brethren, not after the flesh, but after the spirit and in God; but when one of their poor passes away from the world, and any of them sees him, then he provides for his burial according to his ability; and if they hear that any of their number is imprisoned or oppressed for the name of their Messiah, all of them provide for his needs, and if it is possible that he may be delivered, they deliver him. And if there is among them a man that is poor and needy, and they have not an abundance of necessaries, they fast two or three days that they may supply the needy with their necessary food.