It’s time to pick up my series on Basic Discipleship of the Mind again with my fifth suggested “resource” for Christian thinking: experience; immersion in life. I’m stretching the word “resource” again here, but even though the word doesn’t fit all that well, it still represents an essential element in developing a Christian mind. I worded it this way previously:
Experience: immersion in all of life, including genuine community nearby, the larger community of world awareness, and the global, transgenerational community of great art (including music, theater, film, literature, and visual arts).
I don’t know anyone who can actually do all of that and still hold down a job. That’s okay, though, I didn’t write it as a to-do list that must be checked off, item by item. What I want to say is this: that thinking from within some kind of Christian bubble is not Christian thinking.
My daughter’s school assigned her to read Albert Camus’s The Stranger over summer vacation. Camus was an existentialist, probably the second most prominent after Sartre, and in my opinion better than Sartre as an author of fiction. He was definitely not a Christian, and The Stranger is definitely not a Christian novel. I read it in college—not as an assignment but because I’d been told it was a good and important book—and I’ll be reading it again with my daughter. What I remember most about it is that its atheistic absurdities helped cement my Christian convictions. I can’t predict how my daughter will respond to it—she’s a voracious reader but she tends not to like books this dark—so I’ll speak just for myself: reading good literature, including good atheistic literature (hard to find in the past few decades, but there has been some in the past) has been good for my growth as a Christian.
Being involved in the community has been good for me, too; and I couldn’t consider myself to be developing in Christian thinking if I weren’t at least somewhat aware of what’s happening in the rest of the world. Christian thinking is not thinking only about “Christian” concerns. It’s developing one’s Christian convictions in the context of the most urgent current questions. We cannot escape those questions; whether we know it or not, they affect us. This is the world in which God has called us to live and follow him. How much better to be aware of what’s going on in matters of race, gender, global religions, economics, environment, and so on, than to be mindlessly buffeted by their currents in our culture!
Yes, there’s too much going on in the world to keep up with it all. I don’t write on all of these topics because I don’t think I have a good enough grasp on them to treat them properly. I’m in this discipleship-of-mind process, too. Having been trained as a musician, I understand great music a lot better than I do theater and film; and I know I don’t appreciate great painting and sculpture the way it deserves. I don’t understand Islam as well as I think I should. I wrote last time in this series about allowing ourselves time to grow—and committing time toward growth. If I thought I had to arrive at the end by tomorrow, what hope would I have?
We are all on a journey. We’re walking toward Christ, walking with him—and walking through the world he has assigned us to live in. It’s the world we need to be interacting with as his disciples. It’s the world to which he calls us to bring an authentic, genuine, thoughtful witness for Christ.
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