28 July 2016

Two Ways of Thinking

by Dan Phillips

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Dan back in March 2011. Dan pointed out that there are only two ways to approach any subject: By starting with God and Scripture, or by starting somewhere else.

As usual, the comments are closed.
How can we figure out what to think about the big issues of spiritual import?

Well, we can ask a lot of questions, all centered around ourselves, or centered around other people. We can, for instance, ask how a concept makes us feel. We can ask whether it makes sense to us. We can test whether it fits the contours of our own personal thought. We can propose paradigms and syllogisms of our own crafting.

We can get into dialogue with others, and listen to them. We can hear their stories, and let those stories move us and mold and form our thinking. We can get a broader sample by reading bios, looking at polls, reading the mainstream media. We can embrace their questions and their rationales and their hierarchies, let them set the agenda for the endeavor.

We can sample this and that "faith-tradition," as broadly as we care to do. See what other men and women have done with it in the name of religion. If it important to us to be seen as (or to see ourselves as) cosmopolitan, we can search the world over 'till we think we find true love.

Then, once we've formed what feels right, what makes sense, what appeals, what best suits us — then, I say, we can launch, journey, and arrive.


Or we can be Christians.

While you're either looking for me to qualify that antithesis, or preparing to demand that I do so, let me just double-down by insisting that I mean exactly what I say. Thinking like a Christian, and thinking like anything else, are two fundamentally distinct processes. They are as different as night and day, and as irreconcilable as left and right.

There are fundamentally two ways to approach any concept, and only two. We can start with God and His Word, or we can start somewhere else; and the "somewhere else" usually boils down to ourselves. This is a philosophical methodology of ancient coinage.

My text here — one of many possible — is Proverbs 1:7.
The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of knowledge;
Wisdom and discipline, dense people belittle. (DJP)
"Beginning" here can mean several things. I bat this around in my book on Proverbs, and explain that I think it means beginning in the sense of starting-place.  It is the starting-place not in that we check the box and move on, but in the sense that, if we don't start with the fear of Yahweh, we won't get anywhere in knowledge or wisdom. I liken it to the alphabet. You don't get anywhere with reading without knowing the alphabet; but, having started with the alphabet, you never discard it. You use it constantly, because it permeates all you do when you read.

So likewise the fear of Yahweh is the starting-place of knowledge, and of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). We start there, or we get nowhere. And, having started there, we never leave it, because it permeates every thought and every chain of reasoning.