Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Two Tasks

The following is an excerpt from an address given by the late Charles Malik entitled "The Two Tasks" given at the dedication of the Billy Graham Center in Wheaton, Illinois in the fall of 1980. Charles Malik was the Lebanese ambassador to the United States and president of the United Nations. He had a Ph.D. in philosophy from Harvard, and over 50 honorary doctorates. This speech is available in it's entirety as part of the book, The Two Tasks of the Christian Scholar by William Lane Craig.

I speak to you as a Christian. Jesus Christ is my Lord and God and Savior and Song day and night. I can live without food, without drink, without sleep, without air—but I cannot live without Jesus. Without him I would have perished long ago. Without him and his Church reconciling man to God the world would have perished long ago. I live in and on the Bible for long hours every day. The Bible is the source of every good thought and impulse I have. In the Bible God himself, the Creator of everything from nothing, speaks to me and to the world directly—about himself, about ourselves and about his will for the course of events and for the consummation of history. And believe me: Not a day passes without my crying from the bottom of my heart, “Come, Lord Jesus!” I know he is coming with glory to judge the living and the dead, but in my impatience I sometimes cannot wait and I find myself in my infirmity crying with David, “How long, Lord?” And I know his kingdom shall have no end....

In the nature of the case evangelization is always the most important task to be undertaken by mortal man. For proud and rebellious and self-sufficient man—and pride and rebellion and self-sufficiency are the same thing—to be brought to his knees and to his tears before the actual majesty and grace and power of Jesus Christ is the greatest event that can happen to any man....

But just as we are not alone with God and the Bible but also with others, so we are not only endowed with a soul and a will to be saved but also with a reason to be sharpened and satisfied. This reason wonders about everything, including God, and we are to seek and love and worship the Lord our God with all our strength and all our mind. And because we are with others we are arguing and reasoning with one another all the time. Indeed every sentence and every discourse is a product of reason. And so it is neither a shame nor a sin to discipline and cultivate our reason to the utmost. It is a necessity, it is a duty, it is an honor to do so.

Therefore if evangelization is the most important task, the task that comes immediately after it—not in the tenth place, or even the third place, but in the second place—is not politics, or economics, or the quest of comfort and security and ease, but to find out exactly what is happening to the mind and the spirit in the schools and universities. And once a Christian discovers that there is a total divorce between mind and spirit in the schools and universities, between the perfection of thought and the perfection of soul and character, between intellectual sophistication and the spiritual worth of the individual human person, between reason and faith, between the pride of knowledge and the contrition of heart consequent upon being a mere creature, and once he realizes that Jesus Christ will find himself less at home on the campuses of the great universities in Europe and America than almost anywhere else, he will be profoundly disturbed, and he will inquire what can be done to recapture the great universities for Jesus Christ—the universities which would not have come into being in the first place without him.

What can the poor Church even at its best do, what can evangelization even at its most inspired do, what can the poor family even at its purest and noblest do, if the children spend between fifteen and twenty years of their life—and indeed the most formative period of their life—in school and college in an atmosphere of formal denial of any relevance of God and spirit and soul and faith to the formation of their mind? The enormity of what is happening is beyond words.

The Church and the family, each already encumbered with its own strains and ordeals, are fighting a losing battle so far as the bearing of the university on the spiritual health and wholeness of youth is concerned. All the preaching in the world, and all the loving care of even the best parents between whom there are no problems whatever, will amount to little, if not to nothing, so long as what the children are exposed to day in and day out for fifteen to twenty years in the school and university virtually cancels out morally and spiritually what they hear and see and learn at home and in the church. Therefore the problem of the school and university is the most critical problem afflicting western civilization.

At the heart of all the problems facing western civilization—the general nervousness and restlessness, the dearth of grace and beauty and quiet and peace of soul, the manifold blemishes and perversions of personal character; problems of the family and of social relations in general, problems of economics and politics, problems of the media, problems affecting the school itself and the Church itself, problems in the international order—at the heart of the crisis in western civilization lies the state of the mind and the spirit in the universities.

The problem is not only to win souls but also to save minds. If you win the whole world and lose the mind of the world, you will soon discover that you have not won the world. Indeed it may turn out that you have actually lost the world.

This is a solemn occasion. I must be frank with you: The greatest danger besetting American evangelical Christianity is the danger of anti-intellectualism. The mind as to its greatest and deepest reaches is not cared for enough. This cannot take place apart from profound immersion for a period of years in the history of thought and the spirit. People are in a hurry to get out of the university and start earning money or serving the Church or preaching the gospel. They have no idea of the infinite value of spending years of leisure in conversing with the greatest minds and souls of the past and thereby ripening and sharpening and enlarging their powers of thinking. The result is that the arena of creative thinking is abdicated and vacated to the enemy. Who among evangelicals can stand up to the great secular or naturalistic or atheistic scholars on their own terms of scholarship and research? Who among evangelical scholars is quoted as a normative source by the greatest secular authorities on history or philosophy or psychology or sociology or politics? Does your mode of thinking have the slightest chance of becoming the dominant mode of thinking in the great universities of Europe and America, which stamp your entire civilization with their own spirit and ideas?

For the sake of greater effectiveness in witnessing to Jesus Christ himself, as well as for their own sakes, evangelicals cannot afford to keep on living on the periphery of responsible intellectual existence.

Responsible Christians face two tasks—that of saving the soul, and that of saving the mind.... If it is the will of the Holy Spirit that we attend to the soul, certainly it is not his will that we neglect the mind. No civilization can endure with its mind being as confused and disordered as ours is today. All our ills stem proximately from the false philosophies that have been let loose in the world and that are now being taught in the universities, and ultimately of course...from the devil, whether or not the human agents know it. Save the university and you save western civilization and therewith the world.

Wake up, my friends, wake up: The great universities control the mind of the world! Therefore how can evangelism consider its task accomplished if it leaves the university un-evangelized? And how can evangelism evangelize the university if it cannot speak to the university? And how can it speak to the university if it is not itself already intellectualized? Therefore evangelism must first intellectualize itself to be able to speak to the university and therefore to be able to evangelize the university and therefore to save the world. This is the great task, the historic task, the most needed task, the task required loud and clear by the Holy Ghost Himself.

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