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Archive for the ‘A Project of Faithful Thinking’ Category

Top Ten Conservative Colleges

Young America’s Foundation recently (last fall) compiled their list of the Top Ten Conservative Colleges. Unlike the MSN Encarta lists, this one is serious-for-real. These colleges embody, so thinks YAF, real conservative princples (and not just political ones). A description accmpanies each. From the YAF page:

In the market of American colleges and universities, a wide variety of rankings exist. Each year, U.S. News & World Report releases its “America’s Best Colleges” edition. The magazine grades each institution based on factors such as peer assessment, graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, and student selectivity. Yet, it does not rank the overall experience that colleges offer. That is why Young America’s Foundation presents the following list of ten institutions that offer a holistic conservative experience for students.

Although there are more than ten colleges and universities that could make the list, Young America’s Foundation deemed these ten institutions the best, but not in a particular order. Each year, we intend to re-evaluate these rankings.

Many conservative students seek ‘conservative’ alternatives in higher education, but they may not know that many institutions nationwide fit these criteria. The 2004-2005 “Top Ten Conservative College” list features ten institutions that proclaim, through their mission and programs, a dedication to discovering, maintaining and strengthening the conservative values of their students. The listed colleges offer an alternative to the liberal status quo, because they allow and encourage conservative students to explore conservative ideas and authors. Most offer coursework and scholarship in conservative thought and emphasize principles of smaller government, strong national defense, free enterprise, and traditional values. Many have a religious affiliation, but some do not.

This is not an exhaustive list of conservative institutions and should not be taken as such. Nor should it be the only source consulted in a college search. Young America’s Foundation recommends that this list serve as a starting point. Parents and students should read several sources and admissions materials, consult with friends and counselors, and make visits.

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[Note: This entire series of posts can be read in a single html document here.]

Conclusion

In the present Western sociopolitcal context, and certainly here in the United States where I live, the greatest danger for faithful Christian thinking is that of Gnosticism, the divorcing of mind and thinking from the body and the will. This has many permutations, the lines between each of which are not always distinct. There are those seek to parse the Tradition either to dismantle it or to set in place a burden of law not even the Pharisees had the temerity to establish. There are those who are diligent to know and understand their faith in accord with all the generations of Christians gone before them, but fail also diligently to observe the practices of the Faith observed by these pioneers, whether that be in sexual chastity (an absolute necessity in our sexually saturated culture) or in the self-control of appetite and the stewardship of money, which so easily lead to the godless commodification of the treasures of faith. But there are also those who, having dismantled the faith, rush into behaviors and ideologies promoted by the non-Christian world, but with a zeal that only new converts espouse and lacking the genuine world-weariness of the profligate.

Faithful Christian thinking rejects this mind-body split, and for very good reason: God himself became man. In so doing, the unity of what it means to be human was strengthened and transformed. Mind, soul and body form a unity of thought, action and will, neither one divorced from the other, for in the dissolution of these bonds, all of us become less than truly human. Any project which would elevate one aspect of human nature over another, or any apart from dependence on the Holy Trinity is a project of dehumanization. Any project which would seek immortality apart from life in God, or wisdom and knowledge apart from Christ Jesus, is a project not only doomed to failure but also fated to enslave all those who adhere to its principles.
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Building on Christian Foundations for Faithful Thinking: Tracing the Implications

2. Christian Thinking is Holy Thinking

If it is the case that truly Christian thinking is, at its core, a partaking of the divine nature, and if Christian thinking, to be faithful, must be whole, and can only be whole insofar as it is in real communion with the Holy Trinity, then it clearly must also be the case that Christian thinking, if it is to be faithful, must be holy. For our God is a consuming fire, whom, without holiness, no one will see.

This, of course, means that the Christian cannot, in his thought life, sexually objectify a person (or lust after them). A Christian cannot use his powers of reason to plot revenge. Nor can the Christian willfully and with reflection engage the will toward greed or heresy. These guidelines are, or at least traditionally have been, rather obvious.

But it also means that faithful thinking reflects the Trinitarian image in which we humans have been made, and must manifest the likeness of God which is, as Christians, being renewed in us. Though the first action God took after creating mankind was to bless them, the first words of God to the humans he had made was a command, “Be fruitful.” The first Gospel to come from our Lord’s mouth, in his earthly ministry, was a command, “Repent.” We always already are given a command when we approach God. “Be still.” “Take off thy sandals.” Our primary manifestation of holiness in thinking is obedience. “We take captive every thought to the obedience of Christ.”
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Building on Christian Foundations for Faithful Thinking: Tracing the Implications

1. Christian Thinking is Whole Thinking

On the basis of the foundations for Christian thinking which I have laid out previously, it is clear that Christians cannot be faithful in their thinking and at the same time dichotomize it. That is to say, a Christian can neither dismiss the subjective aspects of knowing nor can they eschew objectivity. A Christian understands that no human being can have purely objective knowledge. We believe that as creations of God, ours is a contingent knowing, inescapably subjective per se.

But this subjectivity is balanced and transformed by the only being who can claim pure objectivity, the Holy Trinity. The Christian has access to the objectivity which God himself provides in and through the Holy Spirit and his testimony in the Church, the Scriptures and the life of the Church, also known as Tradition. There is no other focal point outside the Holy Spirit’s work in the Body of Christ through which any of us can have access to unchanging Truth.
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Building on Christian Foundations for Faithful Thinking: Tracing the Implications

I will review briefly the previous points. I noted that all human knowledge ultimately must have to do with the reality that is the Holy Trinity. The Holy Trinity is the source of all reality, all existence, and all our human knowing is true and right only insofar as it is in genuine fellowship with the Trinity.

Similarly, since the Holy Trinity is the basis for all reality, then human knowing is ultimately personal communion, or, in neologistic terms, hypostatic koinonia. Human knowing is a partaking of, a joining in, the personal fellowship with the Trinity that grounds reality, as well as with one another. Human knowing is not so much mastery of information as it is loving God and loving one another.

This being so, then, Truth is personal. Jesus calls himself the Truth, and St. Paul says of our Lord, that “in him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowlege.” We do not, in the end, know facts. We do not store bits and numbers in our minds. No, the beginning and the culmination of truth is the Person of the Christ. And insofar as we know him, we cannot be led astray.

But if Truth is personal, then ultimately knowledge is not so much the storage and retrieval of information, nor the ability to connect together relevant facts. Rather, in its most full sense, knowledge is love. Love of God, love of the Trinity; and love of our neighbor.

While I have, in the course of making these points, traced already some of the implications of them, I wanted here to begin more at length to address these implications. There will necessarily, then, be repetition with what has gone before, but also, I hope, some building on those previous comments. I will examine these implications via two main foci: 1. Christian Thinking is Whole Thinking; and 2. Christian Thinking is Holy Thinking.

[Next: Tracing the Implications: Christian Thinking is Whole Thinking]

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Christian Foundations for Faithful Thinking: Knowledge is Love

I have argued that all Christian thought is based on and comes from the reality of a Trinitarian God. Because the foundation of all reality is the Trinity, then knowing and truth are hypostatic koinonia. Furthermore, Truth is Personal because it is a Person. And if these premises are true, then it follows that true knowledge is love.
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Christian Foundations for Faithful Thinking: Truth is Personal

If knowing is communion, then the other side of that is Truth is Personal. But this is not such a leap, after all, Jesus calls himself the Truth. St. Paul says of Christ, that “in Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Truth is absolute, because Truth is a Person: namely, Christ; or more broadly, the Holy Trinity.

But we are not used to this understanding. Ours is an inheritance from the Enlightenment, and for us, truth is exclusively propositional, intellectual. But this conception has led to the Cartesian problem of the split between mind and body. This semi-Gnosticism has made its way into modern Christianity as well. On the one hand there are the mainline liberal churches which boil Christianity down to a few main propositions–keeping them as vague and general as possible for the sake of ecumenism–which have no real connection to morals and ethics, aside from some nice slogans. For example, the Episcopal Church officially has no doctrine on sexuality. The concept of love for one another gets bandied about, but when it comes to what one does with one’s body, it doesn’t matter. On the other hand, in the more conservative evangelical world, there are, indeed, moral truths, but once again, these things are relegated to intellectual propositions and moral codes, for the most part.

But if Truth is Personal, then it is also Incarnational. If Jesus is the Truth in his Person, this has to mean that Truth is embodied. So in faithful Christian thinking there is no mind-body dualism. There are intellectual truths, to be sure, just as there are truths about one’s person and body. But these are not split, but are joined together in perfect union. So when Paul exhorts us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, he calls this our “reasonable worship.”
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