Jim Cook has a M.A. in Biblical Studies and a M.A. in Philosophy of Religion. He lives near Boulder, Colorado and serves as the director of the West region for Christian Leadership Ministries.
We live in a culture where information is coming at us like a freight train that is approaching the speed of light. Getting on board or just getting out of the way can be hazardous to your health. The big problem is that we can be overwhelmed by so much information, and we often don't know how to prioritize the information or where to focus our limited time. When we try to grasp the dazzling array of bits and bytes that confront us, we find it much like trying to take the proverbial drink from a fire hose; when we try to explain or give structure and meaning to the data, we find ourselves trying to put the ocean in a tea cup.
Many of us applaud such problems: who among us prefers ignorance? Indeed, some of us are partially (if not largely) responsible for this state of affairs. We either contribute to it by adding to or deepening the pool of knowledge or by helping to create the "demand" for that ever-widening and deepening fund by virtue of our insatiable curiosity to know.
But this torrent of ideas presents us with another struggle. Besides sorting through this menagerie of information, we have to discern what is to be trusted and what is to be rejected. This is not a struggle between ideas and human relationships (interesting though that is). Rather, it is a perennial tension of a different sort, between what Augustine referred to metaphorically as the tension between the City of God and the City of Man. He puts it this way in his City of God:
". . . Accordingly, two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self. The former, in a word, glories in itself, the latter in the Lord. For the one seeks glory from men; but the greatest glory of the other is God, the witness of conscience. The one lifts up its head in its own glory; the other says to its God, "Thou art my glory, and the lifter up of mine head."
This tension plays itself out in academia, in the world of ideas, in a veritable cornucopia of ways. Because Christians believe that some ideas are better than othersthat some ideas are truer than othersand indeed because Christians believe that there is Truth about the way things ultimately are, independent of anyone's opinion, we often run against the prevailing currents of the Academy. For this reason we should read and think carefully about the perspectives Dr. Nicholi presents in the article "When Worldviews Collide," where he compares and contrasts two important schools of thought about the nature of man. We should also take time to understand the emerging postmodern view in academia, as explained by Stan Wallace, so that we might develop our own penetrating analysis. And we should pay attention to Dennis McCallum's vision for presenting the gospel to our postmodern culture.
In short, it is by matter of defensive necessity that we seriously reflect on what the dominant secular paradigms have to say and what we have to say about them as Christians. The credibility of the gospel is at stake.
But there is a positive side to this encounter as well. In serious engagement, in careful thought, in arduous intellectual effort we might more fully discover what it means when we are asked what it is to love the Lord our God with all our mind.