The Christian Intellectual

The Christian Intellectual. Religious Perspectives. Written by Jaroslav Pelikan. Published 1965.Modern man is threatened by a world created by himself. He is faced with the conversion of mind to naturalism, a dogmatic secularism and the opposition to a belief in the transcendent. Today, the Christian intellectual is on the defensive.

The challenge to creation: Theophilus of Antioch, creatio ex nihilo. “the prophets taught us with one consent that God made all things out of nothing; for nothing was coaeval with God: but He being His own place, and wanting nothing, and existing before the ages, will to make man by whom He might be known; for Him, therefore, He prepared the world.”

Tertullian refuted the claim that matter existed before creation. “If God could make all things out of nothing, Scripture could quite well omit to add that He had made them out of nothing, but it should have said, by all means that He had made them out of matter, if He had done so; for the first possibility would be completely understandable, even if it was not expressly stated, but the second would be doubtful, unless it were stated.”

Thomas Aquinas declared that the world was a product of divine creation, not eternal with God, it is a doctrine, not of reason, but of revelation.

Finally, most of the private colleges and universities in North America, and several of the public institutions owe their origin to religious foundations, which regarded religious studies as essential to the University’s curriculum and research in religion as basic to its program of scholarship and publication. The development of the truly educated man can come only through a renewal of tradition. The past and the present, far from being opposites, actually require each other for completeness. Seen in this relation to the modern world, tradition is a power for liberation, setting one free from the dictatorship of the claim that his own time or culture or school is the goal toward which history has been moving. For the true Christian intellectual this renewal of tradition is the only way to find an intelligible connection between Christian thought and both “natural philosophy” and the “humanities.” Tradition in this sense is the very opposite of the traditionalism that uses the dead series of the past as a club to beat down all creativity in the present. Authentic tradition is a function of the critical memory and the creative imagination. It is an organism getting out of itself in order to see itself. Only that man is truly educated who has learned this art. Only that man is a Christian intellectual who protects himself against both traditionalism and iconoclasm through the renewal of the tradition of Christian faith, thought, worship, and service…. Jaroslav Pelikan

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