The life of the mind and Malaysian Christians
This piece is sparked off by two events. The first was a story that was shared to me on the difficulties a scholar-pastor faced within a church he served. To cut the long story short, he was reminded that the church have no place for theological education.
The second story was shared to me about a Southeast Asian church which endowed a chair to a Western seminary which would produced pastors who will be exposed to the best minds that will be made available to this endowment. What is ironic for me is that these future pastors will serve churches in the West rather than local churches in Southeast Asia. A knowledgeable insider told me that this endowment could have created 2.5 chairs in a local seminary. More importantly, it could have served as a foundation of creating academic and theological excellence in our local context.
Makes me wonder whether local churches have this “not in my backyard” mentality. It is fine and well to talk about theology … but not in my backyard. Evangelicals (a tradition whom I grew up with) pay lip-service to “loving God” with our whole being (and yes, mind included) in our profession (Luke 10: 27) but tend to discard the mind bit in practice.
Over the years that I’ve been a Christian, I’ve observed that the quality of mind among evangelicals (and dare I say, also the larger community) is not exactly up to the challenge of following Christ in today’s world. Either we retreat to our comfortable little ghetto or our answer is based on shallow religious sentimentality devoid of serious thinking about the mind of God.
With a few exceptions, the live of the mind is almost non-existent in the local scene. Some, if not most brothers and sisters, would probably give a counter argument that the live of the mind is the path that leads to heresy if not apostasy. Thus it is best to avoid it.
The problem with this argument is it contradicts God’s commandment of loving Him with all our being which include the mind. More importantly, how do we discern the mind of God – if we profess to be the followers of Christ – on how to be the light and salt to the world (Matt. 5:13-16).
I don’t think religious sentimentality and the ghetto are the options that Christ has in mind. Will churches rise up to the challenge to encourage its congregations (more importantly, the younger generation) of the need to sharpen their mind or would we see a deterioration until all we have is a spiritually fit Christian with a flabby mind? This is the question which the community must ask it self.
I want to end by quoting Paul’s admonition to the Corinthian church (which I pray will not become relevant to us):
Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready (I Cor. 3: 1-2)