Recovering the History of Western Civilization in a Pragmatic AgeMichael GoheenTrinity Western UniversityLangley, B.C.
Kevin Rudd's Vegemite Nearly Confiscated At Airport (Yahoo News 18 Sept 2011)Former Australian Prime Minister (and current Foreign Minister) Kevin Rudd had a run-in with security at the airport in Mexico City en route to New York when his Vegemite caused concern to authorities, who tried to confiscate it. Rudd was en route to New York for the United Nation's General Assembly when his Vegemite was flagged as "a potentially dangerous liquid," the Herald Sun reports.Rudd then did what any good-natured, high-powered politician would do and Tweeted about the incident, saying he needed "Foreign Ministerial intervention."He then tweeted: "Re: Vegemite Q's. Airport staff were surprised when I said it is good for you & I ate it for breakfast. They then waved me through."
IntroductionLive in pragmatic age where economic idolatry and consumerism is leading religious spiritEducation shaped by this spiritFirst subjects to go: those that dont contribute to jobsHistory, philosophy, theologyIs history one of the most important subjects?
Why is studying history of Western civilization important?Gives understanding of how our cultural life was formedEnables us to understand the religious beliefs that shape the world in which we live
. . . history is our most potent intellectual means of achieving a raised consciousness . . . (Neal Postman)
Incomparably the most urgent missionary task for the next few decades is the mission to modernity... It calls for the use of sharp intellectual tools, to probe behind the unquestioned assumptions of modernity and uncover the hidden credo which supports them... At the most basic level there is need for critical examination from a Christian standpoint of the reigning assumptions . . . in history (How do we understand the story of which we are a part?) - Lesslie Newbigin
Culture: Common way of life rooted in a shared core religious beliefs formed by a story.
Living at the Crossroads
Why is studying history of western civilization important?Gives understanding of how our cultural life was formedEnables us to understand the religious beliefs that shape the world in which we liveTells story of our culture in such a way that it invites participation
Our whole lives . . .
. . . are shaped by some story.
Fox and the CrowA fox compliments a crow: My you have a lovely voice; wont you sing me a song?
What is the meaning of this event?
Fox and the CrowThe crow sits perched high in a tree with a piece of meat. There is a famine in the forest and all the animals use different strategies in an attempt to get the meat. The fox compliments the crow. It opens its mouth; the meat falls out and the fox runs away with it.
Dont be deceived by flattery!
StoryxxxxxxxxxxxxBeginning Theme End Conflict/Resolution
Of what story am I a part?I can only answer the question What am I to do? if I can answer the prior question Of what story do I find myself a part?- Alasdair MacIntyre
Is there a real story, a true story?The way we understand human life depends on what conception we have of the human story. What is the real story of which my life story is a part? - Lesslie Newbigin
The way the world is. . . a story is the best way of talking about the way the world actually is.- N.T. Wright
Two stories that claim to tell the story of the way the world really is In our contemporary culture . . . two quite different stories are told. One is the story of evolution, of the development of the species through the survival of the strong, and the story of the rise of civilization, our type of civilization, and its success in giving humankind mastery of nature. The other story is the one embodied in the Bible, the story of creation and fall, of Gods election of a people to be the bearers of his purpose for humankind, and of the coming of the one in whom that purpose is to be fulfilled. These are two different and incompatible stories (Lesslie Newbigin).
Why is studying history of Western civilization important?Gives understanding of how our cultural life was formedEnables us to understand the religious beliefs that shape the world in which we liveTells story of our culture in such a way that it invites participationHow we tell the story will shape the way we participate
All histories are telling a story according to some heroSelectionArrangementEmphasisInterpretation
Invitation to participate in the story and place faith in the hero
Until lions have their historians, hunters will always be the hero of the story.
Where did these terms come from?Middle agesRenaissanceEnlightenment
What is the hero of the story?
Dictionary DefinitionsClassic: of the highest class; most representative of the excellence of its kind; having recognized worthModern: up-to-date; not old-fashioned, antiquated or obsolete.Medieval: middle (medius) age (aevum); outdated
Another way to designate eras:
How do we tell the story of our culture?Whose story?Which hero?Most histories of Western civilization assume humanist story and invite participation
Western creed: We must become gods Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) The Madman We have killed Godyou and I! We are his murderers! . . . Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of the deed?
Western creed: Knowledge is powerFrancis Bacon (1561-1626)Knowledge is . . . wisdom, virtue, knowledge of the divine, etc.. . . power:Control non-human creation by technologyControl human world by rational ordering of society
Western Faith:Rationalistic HumanismAutonomous man is capable of defining the world (Creator) and solving problems of world and bring about a new world of freedom, prosperity, justice, and truth (Redeemer) with his own rational resources.
Historical Development of Rationalistic HumanismRoots in pagan/classical period (to 5th c.)Preserved in medieval synthesis (5th-14th c.)Re-emerged at Renaissance (14th-15th c.)Salted and accelerated by gospel at Reformation (15th c.)Given tremendous thrust forward in Scientific Revolution (16th-17th c.)Came to mature expression in Enlightenment (18th c.)Challenged by Romanticism (19th c.)Given social embodiment in social, industrial, and political revolutions (19th, 20th c.)Spreading [economic globalisation and consumerism] and under attack today [postmodernity] (late 20th, 21st c.)
Polanyis metaphorModernity is the explosion of the flame of classical humanism in the oxygen of the gospel.
Invites Christian student to critical participation . . .Understand religious foundation of culture Affirm and love all the created goodness from historical development Oppose the idolatry that has shaped cultural development Affirm the salting effect of the gospel in Western culture
Romans 12.1-2Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of Gods mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to Godthis is your proper worship as rational beings. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what Gods will is--his good, pleasing, and perfect will.
Two problems leaving our students unequipped in spiritual battle . . . Humanist tellings of the story Little or no history at all!