Category Archives: Learning/Education

DON’T BE THIS GUY

There are many things that make us Americans comfortable giving our opinions on every subject from socialism to Seinfeld’s show.

It feels good to sling out whatever we think. For too many of us Americans these can be thoughts that are not well formed because there is little study that has gone into them.

During times of upheaval it does not seem practical to pull back and study. It is more tempting to register our opinion, even if our understanding of the issue is thin.

I am not on Facebook or Twitter, but I see and hear enough to know that these are not the places where one learns to be thoughtful and sensitive to the complexity of issues.

The radical thing might be reading a serious book, especially by someone who doesn’t fit in your tribe. 

WHAT WHITE CHRISTIANS CAN/SHOULD DO

I am sixty-two years old. I am white. I was not responsible for either of these two things, but I am responsible for many other things.

A good friend asked me what we as Christians in the majority culture here in America can do with respect to the racial crisis. There are many things, but here are a few in no particular order, except for the last which is of first importance.

*We Christians need to stop being so consumed and/or afraid with how terrible we believe America is at this point in its history. Instead, we should spend our time making sure we are clear on all of God’s truth, compassionate to every person, and courageous even if it is costly. This will keep us Christians plenty occupied. It is animated by the reality that “judgment starts with the household of God.” (I Peter 4:17)

*It is great to have African American friends, but you will not have much to offer any friend if you are not grounded theologically. I used to give disclaimers whenever trying to promote the study of theology for all Christians. No longer. Knowing what and why you believe the Christian faith to be true is the most practical pursuit of life. This leads to my next thought.

*If you unable to give compelling reasons for why the trinity has much to offer not just with the racial conflict in America, but with many other pressing matters, please study up before you go out representing what Christians believe. The unity and diversity of the trinity has far-reaching implications for all sorts of things. Again, get studying if you can’t articulate in compelling and clear language all that the trinity (and other Christian beliefs) has to offer.

I have asked several Christians why the trinity is compelling including a Dallas Seminary trained pastor. Except for my wife and a handful of others, I typically do not receive a great response. Most Christians sign their church’s doctrinal statement with a thin understanding of what they are agreeing to. I concur with J.I. Packer that the most pressing issue for the church is robust education. Again, no apologies.

*We must make concerted efforts to get out of our echo chambers. Most of us live in some sort of echo chamber. In addition, we should avail ourselves of theological education that is increasingly aware of two thousand years of Christian reflection not just what happened after the Protestant Reformation. All the major Protestant Reformers would agree with me on this!

*There is a good chance many of us have significant homework to do. Homework is another word I used to apologize for when talking with adults! To quote President Bush #41 “Not going to do it. Wouldn’t be prudent.”

If you have not read it, begin with reading Narrative of a Slave by Frederick Douglass. There are many more things I would add, but that is a good place to start.

*Be aware of false dichotomies. Believing that people need to trust Jesus as Savior is not at odds nor diminished by acknowledging “structures of evil” or “institutional racism.” Or “white privilege.” If we want to be biblical, we will need to juggle many truths at the same time.

We Americans do not tend to be the most thoughtful people. The great observer of American life, Alexis de Tocqueville, appreciated several things about America. However, he saw the problem of superficial thinking in our country almost two hundred years ago. American Christians are not immune from the tendency to emphasize one (many times valid) truth at the expense of other truths.

*Last, but obviously most important, we will need God to convict, direct, and motivate us to do these things, things many of our fellow Christians either denigrate or worse still, do not think about at all.

I am grateful to my friend, Dr Vince Bacote of Wheaton College, for his input on this post. As it is always said at such points, but with good reason, I alone am responsible for the content. I am glad that Vince agreed that what I wrote should be “common sense” among Christians. Sadly, foundational truths should not be assumed in our day and age.

 

 

                                                                                                                                   

WHAT A BOOK!

I read a lot of history.  Usually, I have to read long books (400 pages plus) to get as much insight as this much shorter one by Gregg.  In only 166 pages the author gives intellectual insights on every page.  It is a feast for both heart and mind.

The writing is clear and compelling.  Gregg knows the flow of Western ideas very well.  He communicates with ease some of the main currents of thought.

It is rare that the number of my markings (or marginalia) exceeds the number of the pages of a book I have read, but this is one of those rare times.

I highly recommend this balanced and beautifully conceived book!

DELIGHT IN LEARNING

From my forthcoming book on history, Making Connections: Discovering the Riches of the Past:

According to neuroscientist, Daniel Levitin, we are hardwired (he thinks due to evolution, I think due to God) to name our world. Not only are we hardwired to do so, but we delight in doing so:

This innate passion for naming and categorizing can be brought into stark relief by the fact that most of the naming we do in the plant world might be considered strictly unnecessary. Out of the 30,000 edible plants thought to exist on earth, just eleven account for 93% of all that humans eat: oats, corn, rice, wheat, potatoes, yucca (also called tapioca or cassava), sorghum, millet, beans, barley, and rye. Yet our brains evolved to receive a pleasant shot of dopamine when we learn something new and again when we classify it systematically into an ordered structure.[1]

With respect to history, it is easy to see that classification (knowing some of the differences between the Renaissance and the Enlightenment) provides a necessary scaffolding to keep learning and delighting in one’s understanding of the world.

[1] Daniel J. Levitin, The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in an Age of Information Overload (New York, NY: Dutton, 2014), 32.