I was talking with a friend about modernism, postmodernism, reason, and imagination recently. In all the discussions about -isms, there is a question about much all these -isms really apply to the lives of real people. I will stand by the notion that human reason doesn’t have all the answers. For one thing, reason isn’t in a vacuum, and the premises we bring to the table highly influence our rationale conclusions.
My friend said that if he thinks about the average person, how many people are rational? Because, it seems like many, perhaps most, people, seem anything but rational, that if anything, we don’t use reason enough to make decisions. It’s a valid point. How do we even quantify reason?
We live in a so-called modernist culture that is now more postmodern. But really, in recent times, how much do we really teach people to think? The most valuable thing I got out of my college education was critical thinking skills and better problem solving skills. I learned the value of appealing to source material and statistics. I even learned that stats can be misread and misinterpreted. I learned that truth is sometimes more subjective than we make it out to be, and common sense sometimes is nothing more than a notion oft-repeated.
As Christians, in appealing to Modernism and Absolute Truth, we are sometimes, well, wrong. There were Christians for AND against slavery, to give one example. I remember my dad, who was a minister, say, “What if we find out one day that a lot of what we currently believe is wrong?” And in his journey, in my journey, as learners, we sometimes have to admit, when we look closer, that we are wrong. I do believe some things about the Christian faith are fundamental to being a Christian (the incarnation and divinity of Christ, for one). But, having been exposed to more than one type of Christian thought, I see it as anything but homogenous. Two Christians, both referencing the Spirit of Christ in their lives, comes to different conclusions on what it true sometimes.
So, to be clear, I value reason, but not the elevation of reason to the point where human reason can figure everything out. Reason and critical thinking, and dare I say, creative thinking, are important, and dare I say, much of our thinking is not sufficiently critical or creative. Christians talk about absolute truth, but too often we stop learning, stop seeking, stop wondering, and simply parrot words we hear, words we studied long ago. And hey, it takes time seek truth, and even then, does the truth change our lives? Or are they words? Words we don’t believe as much as we say we do?
Critical thinking is important. We need more of it in the Christian community. But we also needs God’s Spirit in us. We need both Intellect and Creativity. We need Truth and Spirit (John 4:23).