The Christian Mind

Christian ThinkingIn The Christian Mind, Harry Blamires lays out the case that Christians do not have a distinctive, world impacting thinking or that what little thinking that exists is highly siloed from the everyday world because of how we fragment our life in order to work with non-Christians.  His argument is highly compelling and deeply problematic to how a Christian worldview should be lived for God’s glory.  Read the passage below and then spend some time pondering how you think and act to see if his description resonates with you and your everday experience.

The mark of the Christian mind is that it cultivates an eternal perspective.  That is to say, it looks beyond this world another one. It is supernaturally orientated, and brings to bear upon earthly considerations the fact of Heaven and the fact of Hell.

In this respect the religious view of life differs so fundamentally and comprehensively from the secular view of life that it seems scarcely possible for the Christian to communicate intelligibly with the modem secularist. And indeed this is our most acute problem today. It seems virtually impossible to bridge the gap between ourselves and our unbelieving fellow-men so as to present to them, vividly and convincingly, the Christian view of the human situation.

The Christian mind sees human life and human history held in the hands of God. It sees the whole universe sustained by his power and his love. It sees the natural order as dependent upon the supernatural  order, time as contained within eternity. It sees this life as an inconclusive experience, preparing us for another; this world as a temporary place of refuge, not our true and final home.

But outside the sphere of Christian thinking there a totally different view of things. Modem secular thought ignores the reality beyond this world. It treats this world as The Thing. Secularism is, by its very nature rooted in this world, accounting it the only sure basis of knowledge. The only reliable source of meaning and value. Secularism puts its trust in this life and makes earthly happiness and well-being its primary concern.

The modern rejection of Christianity, rooted as it is in a hard-boiled sense the secularism, has at its heart a total failure to sense the dependence of man, the creatureliness of man. Its most basic presupposition, implicit in all its judgments, is that this which we experience directly with the senses constitutes the heart and totality of things. Hence the collision between the Christian Faith and contemporary secular culture. For all teaching of Christian revelation deals with the breaking-in of the greater supernatural order upon our more limited finite world. That conception is at the heart of the doctrine of the Incarnation.  It is at the heart of every claim to individual experience of God’s love and power. The greater breaks in upon the Smaller. But if our world here is seen as the totality of things, or even as the dominant sphere of existence, then the notion of the greater breaking in upon it cannot be entertained If This World = All that Is, then there is no Greater-than-lt to break in upon it.  The idea of God can be entertained only if you have first thought of man as someone than whom there could be Someone greater; only if you have first thought of the universe as something than which there could be Something more stable and important. Secularism is so rooted in this world that it does not allow for the existence of any other. Therefore whenever secularism encounters the Christian mind, either the Christian mind will momentarily shake that rootedness, or secularism will seduce the Christian mind to a temporary mode of converse which overlooks the supernatural.

For the truths of Christian revelation, one and all, put this life decisively within the framework of a bigger one; and the Christian mind, thinking Christianly, cannot for moment escape a frame of reference which reaches out to the supernatural

In this respect the Christian mind has allowed itself to be subtly secularized by giving a purely chronological status to the eternal. That is to say, the Christian has relegated the significance of the eternal to the life that succeeds this one. In doing so, it has enabled itself to come to terms with the secular mind on a false basis. The basis is that here and now Christians and secularists can share the same conceptions, attitudes, and modes of action within the temporal sphere, since the essential difference between them – i.e., the dispute whether or not there is God’s eternity beyond this world-is one which begins to be applicable only when this life is ended.

We are not suggesting that arguments of this kind are consciously articulated. They are not.  We are trying to capture in words the sly process by which the Christian mind de-Christianizes itself in this respect without intending to do so.  Its conscious motives are good. It wants to operate in harmony with the secular mind wherever possible. Thus over laudable ventures in fruitful fields of activity—social, cultural, educational, political—the Christian comes to terms with the secularist. He argues thus: ‘This venture is a worthy one. These secularists are engaged in it because they’re good men with high ideals anxious to serve a humanitarian purpose. Christians can co-operate with them because their work is good.” Thus the Christian reasons and he acts accordingly. But, in cooperating with secularists the Christian necessarily, for all practical purposes, ceases to proclaim that in his eyes this work is God’s work undertaken in God’s name, for God’s people, in Gods world. He will put into the background of his mind, when questions of policy or practice e to be discussed with the secularists, the fact that this sanitarian work is for him part of a gigantic debate between good and evil which splits the universe. He will keep quiet about the temporariness of this life, the insecurity of earthly fortune, the ceaseless creaturely dependence of man upon that which is beyond this world.

The Christian works side by side with the secularist.  He prays sincerely in private about his work.  But for tactical day-to-day purposes he does not talk Christianly about aims, plans, and policies, because he is talking secularists. In other words, his mind ceases, at the level of communication, to think Christianly. Indeed the Christian trains his mind, forces it, to think secularly – so as to help the job in hand to be done efficiently. In this way, by gradual stages, the Christian loses the habit of thinking Christianly over the field of practical affairs in which he is actively involved. Setting out with the charitable aim of co-operating with good secularist activities, the Christian has slowly divested himself of the habit of thinking Christianly and acquired the habit of thinking secularly, except in reference to his personal spiritual life and his private moral code.

Hence the modern Christian, schizophrenic who hops in and out of his Christian mentality as topic of conversation changes from the Bible to the day’s newspaper, or the field of action changes from Christian Stewardship to commercial advertising, or the environment changes from the vestry to the office.  No doubt the laity are more schizophrenic than the parish priests. On the other hand observation suggests that bishops and other high dignitaries are more schizophrenic than either.

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