Fit Bodies Fat Minds

Fit Bodies Fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don’t Think  And What To Do About It by Os Guinness

An intriguing book with superb insights from one of the most fascinating minds in Christianity. Guinness examines the inconsistencies of our current culture attempting to love God with their whole mind while titillating their minds with entertainment. Guinness is adamant that for one to love with all their being they must exercise their mind in knowing Christ and making Him known. I have plugged in a few paragraphs for one to view the clarity of a Christian mind abandoned from the world.

Pluralism

52 –  “Tolerance is the virtue of those who don’t believe anything.” G. K. Chesterton

53 – “…historian Martin E. Marty’s description, America is religiously speaking a ‘nation of behavers’ rather than believers. Truth is commonly regarded as divisive, clarity of distinctions is not prized, and serious thinking is reckoned unnecessary…Modern evangelical thinking is riddled with relativism. But only a part can be blamed on secularism and the secularity of the modern world. The deeper, older part—rooted in a bland tolerance that holds no convictions and an esteem for good behavior over sound doctrine—is our responsibility alone.”

Pragmatism

55 – “Pragmatism, many seem to believe, is all gains and no losses.”

An Idiot Culture

74 – “Elite Christian thinking has not only become too secularized but too specialized. The resulting specialization and professionalization of knowledge creates a world where only other specialists can understand specialized knowledge. Expert knowledge therefore comes to be pursued as an end in itself. A gap is created between experts and ordinary people—and people who are experts in one field are often ordinary people in the field next door. Worse still, Christian thinkers often become closer to the ‘cultured despisers’ of the faith than to their fellow Christians. And worst of all, such specialization fosters a myth of expertise and professionalism that creates dependency and becomes disabling for anyone but the professional. The point is surely clear. An analysis of the problems of popular Christian thinking must not be mistaken for the assertion that elite Christian thinking is any better than popular thinking. Modern Christian intellectuals pose the danger of hubris just as much as gnostic intellectuals did in the second century. As Irenaeus put it then, ‘it does not follow because men are endowed with greater and less degrees of intelligence, that they should therefore change the subject matter of the faith itself.’ Our urgent need is for reformation at both the highbrow and lowbrow levels–including ‘a bridging of the brows’ that allows deep truth to be intelligible and practicable to all God’s people in a whole and healthy way.”

Amusing Ourselves to Death

77 – “Television’s real potency, therefore, is its blending of instancy and image. Television’s real problem, however, is that through this blending entertainment becomes the master-style of television. The problem, Postman stresses, is not that television has too much entertaining subject matter, but that all subject matter on television is presented as entertainment….Americans no longer talk to each other, they entertain each other. They do not exchange ideas; they exchange images. They do not argue with propositions; they argue with good looks, celebrities, and commercials…Again, the deepest problem is not the mindlessness of television but how television transforms even the life of the mind into entertainment.”

78 – TV  discourse has a bias against understanding, TV discourse has a bias against responsibility, TV discourse has a bias against memory, TV  discourse has a bias against rationality, TV discourse has a bias against truth and accuracy.

All Consuming Images

93 – “preoccupation with style is a major ingredient of the emptiness in modern culture. Thus it affects the drive to sex and violence, which is the prime compensation for emptiness in a culture that has only one sin left—boredom. The modern world that is crammed with images and frantic with changing styles is a hollow world, but is too dazzled to see it. As I have argued elsewhere, hollowness is the disintegrative disease of weightlessness brought on by our crisis of cultural authority.”

The Humiliation of the Word

95 – “Images now dominate words—the visual over the verbal, entertainment over exposition, and the artificial (including virtual reality) over the real and the natural.”

95 – “Today…images blot out nature. The world of fields, hedges, wood, and rivers has been replaced by a paper jungle of photographs, reproductions, signs, billboards, bumper stickers, comic books, charts, diagrams, labels, logos, trademarks, advertisements, and so on. Like it or not, this paper jungle is our total environment, our omnipresent way of life, our daily visual diet. Put more accurately, it is the nonstop cultural bombardment that assaults us.”

97 – “Atheist though he was, Asimov’s conclusion was more biblical than many Christians who reflect on the topic today. ‘There is a fundamental rule, then. In the beginning was the word (as the Gospel of John says in a different connection), and in the end will be the word. The word is immortal….But this stress on words is only because words are what we are. Created by a word-speaking God, human beings are word-speaking people. Unless words have meaning, everything becomes chaos. Unless words have power, everything becomes barren. In Hebrew, the ten commandments are the ‘the ten words.’ For the Jews, the heroism of Moses is partly that of an instinctive man of action who was not ‘a man of words,’ but whom God transformed into ‘the man who learned to speak.’

98 – “Historian Harry Stout of Yale University estimates that the average New Englander heard seven thousand sermons in a lifetime–about fifteen thousand hours of concentrated listening. There were no competing voices, he points out, so the sermon was an even more influential medium than television is today.”

98 – “…words are integral to the drama of revelation and salvation—in direct contrast to images and sight. The original unity of word and vision has been ruptured by sin, so now God is unapproachable by sight (‘No man shall see me and live’). Sight is now always associated with sin and hearing with obedience. Sight is also expressly linked to idolatry….Of course, the Bible is not anti-visual. Jesus is the Word made flesh. Word and vision are complementary and inseperable; words have power because they have pictures in them. Seeing is thoroughly proper—that is, when it is limited to that which can be shown. And hearing is never superior to sight. It is merely sufficient and necessary at a time when we have no sight of God without holiness.”

99 – “The link between images and idolatry is critical. Camille Paglia openly celebrates the triumph of the image as the return of paganism and idolatry–‘We are steeped in idolatry. The sacred is everywhere. I don’t see any secularism. We’ve returned to the age of polytheism. It’s a rebirth of the pagan gods.’ But too many evangelicals forget the biblical link between image, sin, and idolatry. They do not realize how our image-dominant culture is both essentially religious and decisively harmful to Christian notions of truth and falsehood.”

Cannibals of PoMo

105 – “In contrast, postmodernism announces itself as a break with modernism just as modernism did earlier with tradition. Where modernism was a manifesto of human self-confidence and self congratulation, postmodernism is a confession of modesty, if not despair. There is not truth, only truths. There are no principles, only preferences. There is no grand reason, only reasons. There is no privileged civilization (or culture, beliefs, norms, and styles), only a multiplicity of cultures, beliefs, periods, and styles. There is no universal justice, only interests and the competition of interest groups. There is no grand narrative of human progress, only countless stories on where people and their cultures are now. There is no simple reality or any grand objectivity of universal, detached knowledge, only a ceaseless representation of everything in terms of everything else.”

107 – “Modernism and postmodernism both have their insights, but both are equal dangers and equally inadequate half-truths. ”

107 – “Unquestionably the central impact of postmodernism on popular thinking is its philosophical reinforcement of the devouring, cannibalistic character of modern consumer culture.”

110 – “But perhaps postmodernism’s main challenge to the church is to our central mission as Christians: following Christ and making him Lord in all of life. The church cannot become simply another customer center that offers designer religion and catalog spirituality to the hoppers and shoppers of the modern world. Followers of Christ are custodians of the faith passed on down the running centuries. Never must we allow anyone outside or inside the church to become cannibals who devour the truth and meaning of this priceless heritage of faith. Letting the church be the church and the gospel be the gospel is integral to letting God be God.”

Real, Reel, or Virtually Real

131 – “The theology, politics, and cultural style are different, bu the heresy, blasphemy, and weirdness are the same. Paganism is growing up in our circles. A horror of great darkness is welling up in our own house. Yet judging by way heresy is published and marketed by respected evangelical houses and watched and read by millions of good evangelical viewers and readers, we evangelicals love to have it so. And this is only the beginning of the degradation of evangelical thinking that is coming unless we experience reformation.”

131 – “Our task, as followers of Christ, is not easy but it is clear: The challenge, in St. Paul’s words, is to ‘not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.’ Thus the currents are swift and the pressures strong, but a focus on the negative is far from negative. It is the first step to the most glorious positive of all, having the mind of Christ.”

Let My People Think

132 – “…It is surely the easiest thing to look for what we lost where we lost it—except that humans characteristically either forget what we lost or look for it anywhere except where it can be found. This is certainly true of the Christian mind, or, more simply, just of wisdom. Exactly what it is, where we lost it, and how we can find it again are urgent but basic questions.”

133 – Neil Postman argues “Watching political commercials is hazardous to the intellectual health of the community…the television commercial has mounted the most serious assault on capitalist ideology since the publication of Das Kaptial.”

133 – “We evangelicals need to confess individually and collectively that we have betrayed the Great Commandment to love God with out minds. We need to confess that we have given ourselves up to countless forms of unutterable folly.”

135 – “First, thinking Christianly is not thinking by Christians. As a moment’s thought will show, it is perfectly possible to be a Christian and yet to think in a sub-Christian or even an anti-Chrisian way. Jesus said bluntly to his disciple Peter, ‘Away with you, Satan. You think as men think, not as God thinks. Second, thinking Christianly is not simply thinking about Christian topics….Third, thinking Christianly should not be confused with adopting a ‘Christian line’ on every issue….developing a Christian line is impossible without first developing a Christian mind…Expressed positively, thinking Christianly is thinking by Christians about anything and everything in a consistently Christian way—in a manner that is shaped, directed, and restrained by the truth of God’s Word and God’s Spirit.”

137 – “What matters above all–whatever term we use—is that the idea and practice be kept simple, practical, and biblical. When all is said and done, the points to love and obey God by loving him with our minds. For the Christian mind is a combination of intellectual light and spiritual ardor that, in Dorothy L. Sayers’s term, is simply the ‘mind in love’ with God.”

139 – “Other have made the equal but opposite mistake—of seeking to escape foolishness altogether, including the neccesary scandal of the ‘foolbearer.’ Thus a common but false motivation for evangelical engagement in higher education is an overwhelming desire for respectability–as if academic success were a milestone of social mobility on the long, painful climb out of the intellectual slums of fundamentalism. Yet our Lord himself was dismissed as ‘mad’ and ‘posessed,’ and the Apostle Paul was told by the Roman governor Festus that he was ‘out of his mind’ because of his Christian thinking. We can expect no less.

143 – “A fourth misconception concerns the idea that thinking Christianly is a form of uniformity–in other words, that if we all think Christianly we will all think the same way. When this happens, the goal of thinking Christianly collapses into a frantic search for the one particular correct way of thinking or acting. The result is the fallacy of ‘particuluarism,’ the uniformity of a particular ‘Christianly Correcty’ way of thinking…But particularism is equally extreme and equally fallacious because it denies two requirements of thinking Christianly that oppose all uniformity: the importance of diversity and the fact of human fallibility…By virtue of being created in the image of God, all of us as human beings naturally desire coherent meaning. But by virtue of the Fall, we also have an added drive to debase coherence into systems of meaning that are centered on ourselves and closed to God. Thus even as Christians we are prone toward turning faith in God into a system of thought about God. In so doing we remove all mystery, tie up all the loose ends with our human logic, and finally reduce even Christ to being a mere part of our system of ideas…For instead of Christ judging our human ideas, the name of Christ is made to justify our human ideas and countersign our human endeavors…”

146 – “Modern knowledge is characteristically noncommittal. Much is known, but all is consequence-free. What we know and what we do about it are two different things…Never has more been known; never has less been required of what is known…the common reaction to modern knowledge is, So what? Who cares? What do you expect me to do?…The Christian idea of the responsibility of knowledge is rooted in the notion that God is there and that he speaks. He is therefore the one with both the first decisive word on life—in creation–and the last decisive word–in judgment.  Thus human life is essentially responsible, answerable, and accountable…Sin, for example, is a deliberate violation of the responsibility of knowledge–human beings become responsible where they should not be (playing God) and resue to be responsible where they should be (denying guilt).”

The Hidden Jesus by Donald Spoto

The Hidden Jesus: A New Life by Donald Spoto

The book was a healthy read seeing that it helped me understand the views of Jesus from a different angle then myself (Catholic Theologian). One of the reasons I picked up this book is because Spoto is known for writing biographies and I was curious to see how a professional biographer would handle Christ. Although Spoto is a master with words, I don’t think he would argue that the whole canon of Scripture is inspired from Genesis to Revelation.  Spoto does try to highlight specific areas of Jesus life that we just don’t know that much about. I have included some paragraphs that I enjoyed in The Hidden Jesus.

108 – “But randomness does not necessarily imply purposelessness; what we call chaos may not be disorder at all, but rather a clear sign of the limitations of our comprehension. Our sense of what is proper pattern and order may, in other words, not be the only sense of pattern. A random moment—an exception in the expected order of things—then becomes the carrier of an even greater significance than the pattern itself. Ordinary human experience validates this approach. In our own individual histories, is not a moment of apparent accident or chance often later seen as the bearer of great significance and even as the beginning of a new stage of life? If I did not attend this school at such a time, for example, I would not have had this inspiring teacher, taken this important course of study or gained this lifelong friendship. If your parents had not met at such and such a moment, they would not have become your parents. If you had not attended this or that meeting, you would not have met the love of your life or begun an important career. It is no exaggeration to assert that the most important elements of human life and love are as dependent on what we might be called purposefull accident as on deliberation, intent and goal-directed action. The French novelist and playwright Georges Bernanos put it well: ‘Ce que nous appelons hasard, c’est peut-etre la logique de Dieu’–What we call chance may be the logic of God.”

143 – “Jesus is very much aware that those who ‘lust in the heart’ —who intend to translate desire into mere selfish gratification–will lose themselves in the bargain; they will have no higher frame of reference for their actions than the pursuit of pleasure. If alcohol or food, sex or influence become addictive, if they control us, we have to employ radical surgery, just as a gangrenous limb must be amputated, the body invaded with a scapel so that disease  may not destroy, or tons of infected hamburger recalled so that people will not become ill. Extreme measures are thus often called for in the world of the body: is the life of the spirit less important….There is a modern mania about purity in foods, an obsession with weight, cholesterol, sodium, vitamins, exercise—all of them legitimate issues, to be sure. But while there is high energy spent on what goes into our mouths, where is the concern for what goes into our eyes and ears, for what feeds the spirit? There is so much that is lovely to see, hear, read, behold: why are we so often indifferent to the violence and ugliness that assault and diminish us, often in the name of news or entertainment? In the name of freedom, perhaps something of our humanity is chipped away when we claim so proudly that nothing offends us. A very great deal ought to.

149 – “One of the most powerful examples of forgiveness emerged from an experience of such horror that it is difficult for us to imagine. During the Holocaust, countless children were exterminated at the Ravensbruck concentration camp. When the place was at last liberated, a piece of paper was found, placed with the body of a dead child; on the paper were words written by an uknown dead prisoner: ‘O Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all the suffering they have inflicted on us—remember instead the fruits we have bought, thanks to this suffering: our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart which has grown out of all this. And when those who have inflicted suffering on us come to judgment, let all the fruits which we have borne be their forgiveness.’

245 – “The Jesus whom faith proclaims as the Lord of the universe is no longer defined and limited by time and space, as he was during his life in the flesh; he is, however, accessbile to human beings who are still defined by time and space. And if some reply that the only way for an ‘intelligent person’ (whatever that means) to accept the Resurrection is to reduce it to something only historical and verifiable, then we are in the realm of what the American Scripture scholar Luke Timothy Johnson has called ‘epistemological imperialism,’ a denial of any realm of reality outside one’s control—which is neither good history nor good science. Such objectors have made a prior judgment that material explanations are the only rational, sound justifications for everything in reality. The problem with this narrow perspective is that it has no room for artists, poets, composers, for those who give their lives to another in love and for those who give loving lives of service to many. The language of faith, like that of the poet, the lover and the mystic, does not simply relate secular facts about what occurred in history at a particular moment in time. Faith experiences and speaks of the divine initiative and intervention in the world, and that claim (as the distinguished Jewish Talmudic scholar Jacob Neusner has said  ‘does not come before the court of secular history, to be judged true or false by historians’ ways of validating or fasifying ordinary facts.'”