Jack London

Pursuing Wisdom: Is something true because it’s Christian or Christian because it’s true?

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Jack London
Jack London

I was asked an interesting question after a recent chapel service, in which I had read a piece on the dangers of life from the author Jack London.

A leader came up to me afterwards and asked:

 

“Was Jack London a Christian?”

 

The question and the following comments in our short conversation, seemed to me, to reflect a common evangelical belief about truth. It’s a view that only what Christians say is Christian and therefore worth learning or hearing. It’s a belief about truth that is reinforced over and over in conversations, sermons, books and media. This view draws a hard line between sacred and secular. This dualistic thinking postures people in a battle stance, an “us vs. them,” the world “out there” thinks and believes one way and then there is our world “in here” which  believes differently.

 

I wish I would of responded by asking the question:

 

“Was what Jack London said, Christian?”

 

Because if something is true because it is Christian, then something that is true, can be called Christian too, regardless if it was said by a Christian.

 

C.S. Lewis, tackled this a bit in a section in ‘God in the Dock’ he wrote:
“To me, who first approached Christianity from a delighted interest in, and reverence for, the best pagan imagination, who loved Balder before Christ and Plato before St. Augustine, the anthropological argument against Christianity has never been formidable. On the contrary, I could not believe Christianity if I were forced to say that there were a thousand religions in the world of which 999 were pure nonsense and the thousandth (fortunately) true. My conversion, very largely, depended on recognizing Christianity as the completion, the actualization, the entelechy, of something that had never been wholly absent from the mind of man.”(p. 132)
Becoming wise is a higher goal than becoming educated, intelligent or well informed.

 

The brother of Jesus had this to say about wisdom: “Heavenly wisdom centers on purity, peace, gentleness, deference, mercy, and other good fruits untainted by hypocrisy” (James 3:17).

 

Notice there was nothing there about wisdom being Christian or non-Christian, sacred or secular. The question should be: Is it good, true or helpful? A wise person can discern truth from error in a way that allows them to pick-a-part something, disregard one part and hold fast to the other.
Aristotle said it perfectly: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

 

The Apostle Paul said it this way: “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good…” (1 Thessalonians 5:21)

 

I think the apologists for the new generation need to think like the church father Augustine, who said: “The truth is like a lion. You don’t have to defend it. Let it loose. It will defend itself.”

 

This posture allows for everyone to have a seat at the table to dialogue and debate and do the hard work of harvesting the good fruit of wisdom from the diverse orchard of human thinking about life, faith and God be they Christian or not.

 

Join SpokaneFAVS for a conversation on ‘Wisdom’ at its next Coffee Talk, at 10 a.m., Aug. 2 at Indaba Coffee. Blauer is a panelist.
Eric Blauer

About Eric Blauer

I am Frederick Christian Blauer IV, but I go by Eric, it sounds less like a megalomaniac but still hints at my Scandinavian destiny of coastal conquest and ultimate rule. I have accumulated a fair number of titles: son, brother, husband, father, pastor, writer, artist and a few other more colorful titles by my fanged fans. I am a lover of story be it heard, read or watched in all beauty, gory or glory. I write and speak as an exorcist or poltergeist, splashing holy water, spilling wine and breaking bread between the apocalypse and a sleeping baby. I am possessed by too many words and they get driven out like wild pigs and into the waters of my blog at www.fcb4.tumblr.com. I work as a pastor at Jacob's Well Church (www.jacobswellspokane.com) across the tracks on 'that' side of town. I follow Christ in East Central Spokane among saints, sinners, angels, demons, crime, condoms, chaos, beauty, goodness and powerful weakness. I have more questions than answers, grey hairs than brown, fat than muscle, fire than fireplace and experience more love from my wife, family and friends than a man should be blessed with in one lifetime.

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10 comments

  1. RIFF MATTRE

    Thanks again, Eric.
    I could not agree more.

  2. Eric, I agree with the much of what you write in this blog. And I don’t like to nitpick, but since it is related to the very title of the blog, I want to point out the logical weakness in the following statement: “Because if something is true because it is Christian, then something that is true, can be called Christian too, regardless if it was said by a Christian.”
    One way of understanding the logic of this statement is:
    All Christian statements are true. Therefore all true statements are Christian. (This is not quite the same as ‘can be called Christian’ but for a logical analysis, I believe that they can be equated.) But this is a logical fallacy.
    All A’s are B, does not mean that all B’s are A. For an example that shows the fallacy: All Jersey cows are cows. Therefore all cows are jersey cows. That is clearly not the case.
    And to show that is does apply to your statement here is the analogous cow statement:
    All Jersey cows are cows. Therefore all cows can be called Jersey cows. Unless ‘can be called’ means something other than what it usually means, this is false.
    On the other hand, I do agree that there are many statements made by non-Christians that are true and consistent with Christian teaching, even though they are not uniquely Christian. Such statements, when they include valuable insights can be meaningfully included in our Christian teachings.

  3. Deb,
    As far as truth goes, I do believe it’s all God’s or “Christian” in the sense of from Christ who is the full embodiment of wisdom. All light is from the father of lights.

    “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” -James 1:17

    So I guess I am claiming all truth or “cow-ness” is ultimately from Him, through Him and to Him. If it’s true it can lead to the One from which truth shines forth like light beams from the Sun.

    I do believe that “all the treasures” of wisdom are hidden in Him.

    “Him in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” -Colossians 2:3

    Sometimes this wisdom’s source is hidden even from those sharing it.

  4. RIFF MATTRE

    When I read this post, I didn’t sift it through a logic sieve. I was simply reminded of a quote from Buddhist teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, “When you are a truly happy Christian, you are also a Buddhist. And vice versa.” Though I call myself Buddhist Christian, my faith is one, not two. My experience is Siddhartha found enlightenment through the same God by which Christ speaks. Different languages, different practices, the same Truth. Was Deb docked points for turning in homework so late?

  5. Couple thoughts. seems like a strained use of the term “Christian”. Truth is truth, but Christian is strictly associated with Jesus Christ, it literally means “little Christ”. They don’t logically go together. Also, the truth mentioned in scripture is presented as incompatible with the world’s idea of what truth is. That very divisive statement that came from Jesus lips concerning Himself includes a reference to truth. You all know it, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father, but through Me.”

    John 14:16,17 says, “And I will ask the Father and He will send you another Comforter, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. You (christians) know Him, because He dwells with you and will be in you.” Trying to mix God’s truth, and what the world considers to be truth is a dangerous position for a Christian to take, in my opinion.

  6. St. Augustine: “If those who are called philosophers, especially the Platonists, have said things which are indeed true and are well accommodated to our faith, they should not be feared; rather what they have said should be taken from them as from unjust possessors and converted to our use. Just as the Egyptians has not only idols and grave burdens which the people of Israel detested and avoided, so also they had vases and ornaments of gold and silver and clothing which the israelites took with them secretly when they fled as if to put them to a better use. They did not do this on their own authority but at God’s commandment, while the Egyptians unwittingly supplied them with things they themselves did not use well.

    In the same way all the teachings of the pagans contain not only simulated and superstitious imaginings and grave burdens of unnecessary labor, which each one of us leaving the society of pagans under the leadership of Christ ought to abominate and avoid but also liberal disciplines more suited to the uses of truth, and some most useful precepts concerning morals. Even some truths concerning the worship of one God are discovered among them. These are, as it were, their gold and silver, which they did not institute themselves but dug up from certain mines of Divine providence, which is everywhere infused and perversely and injuriously abused in the worship of demons.

    When the Christian separates himself in spirit from their miserable society, he should take this treasure with him for just use of teaching the gospel. And their clothing, which is made up of those human institutions which are accommodated to human society and necessary to the conduct of life, should be seized and held to be converted to christian uses. —Saint Augustine “On Christian Doctrine” book two, #6o

    • “All scripture is inspired by God, and suitable for reproof, for correction and for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished for every good work.” Apostle Paul, II Timothy 3:16,17, Bible

  7. Absolutely, I agree, but that does’t teach that if something isn’t in the bible you can’t use it Dennis. It’s not a prohibition or a law. It’s not meant to isolate and limit education, thinking, reading and study. Paul himself didn’t follow that line of thinking in his own preaching in Acts 17 where he quotes pagan poets etc. Jude includes a quote from the ‘extra-bbiblical’ book of Enoch in his letter. But if you want your kids or students to only read the bible you are free to do so. I do not fear learning but I do fear teaching that fails to teach people how to learn and discern. I don’t support teaching people just what to think…but how to think.

  8. Hey Eric,
    I just thought we’d trade quotes first, eh? I wouldn’t say not to read or study anything else, of course. I just see so much deception and truth claiming out there that isn’t even close. To study evolution as truth, for example, even though it is not is just a recipe for 2 or 3 generations to become atheists. Not a hypothetical by the way. My conviction is that first a person turns their life over to Jesus Christ, the Truth. Then there is necessity to become thoroughly familiar with what scripture declares as truth, then do your study in whatever field or area you want, but to put everything to the test of scripture. If it contradicts what God says is true then it is to be rejected. To mix Budhism with biblical truth is just to reject parts of the bible, because they are mutually exclusive. I’d rather a relatively ignorant person in terms of the world’s learning and have eternal life in Jesus Christ than the most intelligent person in the world’s eyes but destined for eternal hell. Researchers in all disciplines are biased by their worldview. Atheist scientists totally reject the supernatural as having anything to do with the real world, but they are totally wrong. You will never convince them otherwise. The bible says that this is a heart condition not an intellectual problem. Paul, in I Cor. 2 declares that no unregenerated person can understand spiritual truth, there is a veil that can only be lifted by the Holy Spirit as a result of salvation. It separates people in their abilities to research and know truth.

    Paul’s arguments in Acts 17, were in my opinion, his heartfelt attempt to start where they were in order to bring them to an understanding of the real truth of the gospel. I don’t think he held any desire to make sure he included ‘all’ truth in his worldview. He in other places stated he would become all things to all men in order to win them to Christ. If that is the goal, then praise God, I’m in. If it’s just an attempt to appear more diverse for diversity sake, then I have more important ways to invest my time, for the good of others.

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