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The Christian Mind: How Should a Christian Think? (1963)

de Harry Blamires

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A now-classic book with insights as fresh and relevant today as they were in the 1960s Harry Blamires, a noted British Christian thinker who started writing through the encouragement of C. S. Lewis, his tutor at Oxford, makes a perceptive diagnosis of some of the weaknesses besetting the church today. He argues that the distinctively Christian intellect is being swept away by secular modes of thought and secular assumptions about reality. Blamires calls for the recovery of the Christian mind and challenges "not only secularism's assault upon personal morality and the life of the soul, but also secularism's truncated and perverted view of the meaning of life and the purpose of the social order."… (més)
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The Christian Mind: How Should a Christian Think? was originally published in 1963 and written by Harry Blamires who has been described by sources as an Anglican theologian, a literary critic, and a novelist – attributes to which this writer would include noetic philosopher. The edition of Blamires’ work that is under consideration herein forms part of the Christian Family Library compiled and published by Family Christian Press. This edition obviously has the purpose of being an educational tool as the original text and supplemental discussion questions are included in the total work by the editors. At less than 200 pages, the investment in reading time is not overly demanding, but the content requires a close read at times to grasp the fuller purpose and implication of Blamires thoughts. The text is divided into two parts. Part One explores the actual lack of having a Christian mind while Part Two explores the Christian mind as related to six different areas of life. A comfortable and profitable read that achieves the highly-desired purpose of helping the Christian incorporate a more eternal mindset to one’s life.

The identification of the problem, as perceived by Blamires, is put forth early in the work. Although the Christian mind does exist it exists within the narrow range of personal conduct (which one can hardly argue against), but in the broader frame of reference conforms itself to a secular evaluation and mindset for general mental activity and interaction with the world at large. No doubt this tendency, which is discussed by other authors, is a mindset which may be traced to the Enlightenment and the rise of objective, discrete, and measurable data as the only reliable and independent standard for mankind. Anything that cannot be examined and understood by the scientific mind is considered personal preference; therefore, lacking any generalized authoritative stance for the bulk of humanity. From this is grows the idea that the secular mind takes precedence, blunting the Christian mind from expressing itself. The secular mind thinks within a “frame of reference” which is only defined by the bounds and limits of this physical world, while the Christian mind thinks and accepts all things as related, “directly or indirectly, to man’s eternal destiny as the redeemed and chosen child of God” (44).

This then leads directly into the thoughts that are expressed in the first chapter of Part Two, The Marks of the Christian Mind, that the Christian mind has the prime mark of a supernatural orientation. This life is not viewed as terminating with the death of the individual, but is viewed as the beginning of one’s eternal life that finds completion in eternity. The Christian mind “cultivates the eternal perspective” (67). From this beginning, Blamires continues with an examination of the Christian mind as related to the awareness of evil, concept of truth, acceptance of authority, concern for the person, and its sacramental cast. In each of these categories Blamires draws lively, thought provoking, and sometimes humorous examples to help contrast the idea of Christian thought verses secular thought. There are times when Blamires’ vernacular is obviously rooted in his world and therefore the references can be obscure, but the context typically provides a frame of reference so little confusion is left regarding the author’s meaning and direction of thought.

Some remarks on the final chapter of Part Two might be in order, especially for those that may be unfamiliar with the idea behind what Blamires refers to as “a sacramental cast” (173). The Anglican Church and the Catholic Church, although distinct entities, do share some fundamental theological positions, ceremonial liturgy, and a significant role for the Church in the life of the individual. A sacrament therefore may be briefly defined, and likely poorly described as one outside those denominational traditions, as a rite or ceremony that requires the oversight of the Institutional Church to be considered a valid expression of that rite or ceremony. One doubts that this is the thrust to which Blamires gives his final thoughts, viewing his use of sacramental cast as the idea of having an essential worldview that recognizes the value and inclusion of the Divine in all aspects of life, particularly those areas which may be thought of as personal morality. Specifically, Blamires addresses in this chapter the problem of allowing the world to define for the young and/or less mature the nature and attitude of passionate emotion. Passionate emotion in the secular mind is distilled into mere physiologic function and stimulation, a position often exploited by the world, whereas the Christian view of relationship and self-sacrifice – as drawn from the example of the Divine – is only a secondary consideration.

Overall, a remarkable piece of Christian theology beneficial for those inclined to invest their time. Some quotes from Blamires:

“Christianity is emasculated of its intellectual relevance. It remains a vehicle of spirituality and moral guidance at the individual level perhaps; at the communal level it is little more than an expression of sentimentalized togetherness” (16).

“For the Christian mind earthly well-being is not the summum bonum, as pain and death are not the worst evil. Eternal well-being is the final aim and end of things here” (82).

“No Christian, thinking christianly, divesting himself of the easy self-deceptions of secularist thinking, will pretend that Christianity is an easy faith – easy to accept, easy to explore, easy to rest in, easy to explain. It isn’t” (120).

“The familiar antithesis between mechanization and Nature largely misses the point. We do not lament the increasing dependence upon mechanical contrivances because it removes man from the natural, but because it removes man from the supernatural” (163).

“Unless youth’s stirring urges and visions are seen to point beyond time, they will be worshipped as ends in themselves” (182).

“It is scarcely surprising that we have taken many steps already towards a withdrawn and departmentalized Christian spirituality severed form contemporary culture by the drugged inoperancy of the Christian mind” (190). ( )
  SDCrawford | Mar 28, 2017 |
Argues for the cultivation of a Christian mind as opposed to the secular mind.
  stmarysasheville | Jun 2, 2008 |
I was assigned this book for a college course and was greatly surprised at its quality. Blamires had C.S. Lewis as a tutor, and I've read some of Lewis's writings and have found them to be above average but not particularly special (many people do find his works special of course). Blamires, on the other hand, I find to be very unique - his book is top quality and very helpful. I'm surprised this isn't a very popular book, as it ought to be.

I have only two complaints, both of which are purely stylistic. First, the edition I have looks like it's a copy of an earlier edition, which makes the text hard to read (I got used to it after a while though). Some publisher should take it upon themself to retype this book and republish it. My second criticism is something that can't be avoided - the book was originally written in the early sixties, so a lot of the examples are dated (i.e. references to WWII, which was still in memory, also out-of-date terms like "jive", etc.). However, just a few of the examples are affected by this. The book as a whole could be reasonably passed off today as a recent work, since so much Blamires's criticism of the Christian mind (or lack thereof) still (sadly) applies.

However, the Christian mind today is being rediscovered, and the march of atheism is on the decline, with the march of religion in general on the rise. Even though things are looking up, Christians should keep Blamires's book in mind - not to get too comfortable with this (secular) world, for our real home is beyond bodily death. That we ought to have a supernatural orientation is basically the theme and summary of this book.

Superb book, and I really recommend this to anyone. This is definitely recommended for Christians, and also for any non-Christian who are curious and want to take a look at some of the problems Christians have today.
  franksvalli | Jun 3, 2007 |
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A now-classic book with insights as fresh and relevant today as they were in the 1960s Harry Blamires, a noted British Christian thinker who started writing through the encouragement of C. S. Lewis, his tutor at Oxford, makes a perceptive diagnosis of some of the weaknesses besetting the church today. He argues that the distinctively Christian intellect is being swept away by secular modes of thought and secular assumptions about reality. Blamires calls for the recovery of the Christian mind and challenges "not only secularism's assault upon personal morality and the life of the soul, but also secularism's truncated and perverted view of the meaning of life and the purpose of the social order."

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