Monthly Archives: May 2012

Critical Christianity

Recently I have been struck by the number of non-thinking Christians. Christianity is not simply a cultural affiliation for those raised in the Western Tradition. It is a distinctive Weltanschaaung with non-trivial implications. The problem with compartmentalized Christians is that their faith and their thinking are seen as two separate affairs which negatively affects both their faith and their thinking. Their faith is naive, and their thinking is deficient. While I agree that the foundational truths of Christianity (i.e. those necessary for salvation) are understandable to 13 year olds, I also believe that faith and reason are not incompatible, and furthermore that worshiping God with our minds is actually a command, and thus not an optional extra.

This is expressed so wonderfully in Bethlehem Seminary’s Core Values:

“If God has inspired a Book as the foundation of the Christian faith, there is a massive impulse unleashed in the world to teach people how to read. And if God ordained for some of that precious, God-breathed Book to be hard to understand, then God also unleashed an impulse to teach people how to think about what they read—how to read hard things and understand them, and how to use the mind in a rigorous way. Therefore, we endeavor in all of our intellectual inquiry to love God with our minds by thinking deeply and humbly about his word and his works.”

Tim Keller provides a great example of this in his discussion on ““Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople” (PDF) where he asks “How do we correlate the data of science with the teaching of Scripture?”  Also watch the debate between Professor Richard Dawkins and the Archbishop Rowan Williams on “The nature of human beings and the question of their ultimate origin.” If Christianity is such a big part of your life, why haven’t you thought about it at least as much as all the other areas?

The Emperor has no clothes…

I wrote an article for this week’s Mail & Guardian with the original title “The Emperor has no clothes on” which subsequently got changed to “Back to the real basics” which is perhaps less obscure but far less sexy. Nevertheless I am quite attached to the analogy from Anderson’s fairy tale and I am committed to using it with reference to the SA education system at some point in the future. The article is available on the M&G website here, and in PDF version here. There is also a nice article from The MercuryLack of accountability hitting pupils hard” which quotes some of my research. All in all it was a good week…


“The chief reason why one war has always followed another throughout history seems to me to be in large measure due to the fact that the self-sacrificing idealism, without which battles cannot even be fought, much less won, and with which youth is so generously endowed, is featured in times of war and discounted in times of peace. When youth are faced with the necessity to undergo hardships, sufferings, and death in order to save their countries from disaster, they are implored to become idealists. Even the most crass-minded realist knows that no other philosophy can sustain men’s minds in moments of crisis. Once the crisis is over, the order of the day to youth is that they all put away their idealism as they do their outmoded weapons of combat. He who sacrifices his personal interest in the cause of the common good in war is called a hero. He who imagines that such principles of behavior should be put into practice in times of peace is apt to be thought of as an unrealistic, starry-eyed idealist. The one has a crown as the reward of his labours, and the other a cross.”
John M Fletcher in The Virginia Quarterly Review (quoted in Race Attitudes and Education by E G Malherb 1946)

Reading roundup.

  • “This is not just a problem of the need for more money or doing what we are doing better,” says Berdegué. “The challenge that we all have today is to decide what kind of development we should aim for and what we need to make that happen.”