Not too long ago I suggested at the Scottish Baptist College that we go for a while with the tag line: ‘think toughly, feel deeply, act courageously’. I am not sure where I got it. I thought I read it in a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. but I have not found it since. I regret suggesting that title as I could have used it now for IBTS Centre Amsterdam!!!
It seems to me that ‘thinking toughly’ involves bringing some rigour to reflections. This involves a bit of discipline so that instead of ‘one’s heid being all over the place’ we approach different issues with a degree of ‘consistency’. To approach with consistency requires as starting point – a hermeneutical position – a place from which we can stand in order as it were to view and make sense of the world and all that there is.
We all have these starting points and so in that sense looking at something as ‘objective’, without ‘prejudice’ is somewhat impossible. Recognising this, being reflexive, is part of thinking toughly. It allows us and others to know our perspective and to work with it or to challenge it.
I want my starting point, the place in which I make sense of being in the world to be the person of Jesus Christ and his life, death, and resurrection as found in the biblical witness. Often, however, I find myself reflecting from other starting points: pragmatism, necessity, common sense etc etc. etc. and it takes discipline to pull back to that place where I want to be found.
Strangely, however, I find comfort in the fact that I find this starting point hard – because it suggests that it is something which is ‘over and against me’ rather than simply a product of my own self interest. Here is a paradox – on the one hand I would like ‘mind of Jesus’ to reign in me from day to day. On the other hand I am afraid that when I think that it is then it is no longer the mind of Jesus I am following because I am not Jesus.
Here I guess is where we need other ‘like minded people’ to help. like minded in that they are not simply prepared to think with us but to think with us from a shared starting point in which we recognise that our starting point is one towards which are always aspiring and striving because it is never fully ours. To me when Jesus said ‘follow me’ it is a reminder that he is somehow always ahead even though present.
This does not lead to a theoretical abyss of non decision but to a humilty of acting in faith and being ever open to learning and change even as we yet take side and position. Ayer…thinking toughly…can be hard work.