Matthew Part Three: Deep Dive
SOME CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHY | PAM BORROW
Over the summer, I was reading two things concurrently. In my devotional time I was reading the Book of Matthew, and for my academic nourishment, I was reading Desiring the Kingdom by James K A Smith, a Christian philosopher. I found there was a wonderful and unexpected synergy between the two. Let me explain.
Smith's fascinating book puts forward a challenging framework for seeing humanity. He proposes that the post-enlightenment world valued and focused on thinking as the highest function of mankind. Descartes’ famous "I think therefore I am" became the catch cry of a movement. Now, no-one is debating that what we think about is important–the scriptures have plenty to say about our thinking–however, does being able to think constitute our humanity or being? Perhaps not.
In the 20th Century, sociology and particularly the Church, church schools, and Bible colleges started to turn their attention to what we believe as the core of our being. There was a lot of emphasis on making sure what we believed was Biblical and doctrinally sound. Bible colleges and churches were striving to have people with Biblical Worldviews–believing this would help people process life on this planet in a way that is wise and godly.
There is so much value in a strong Biblical worldview, it means the big questions of life have a framework on which to sit. It means that when someone crazy starts shooting people in a school, people don't lose their faith wondering where God was, but rather can process this through a robust theology that understands that God will not override free will and that we live in a fallen world where evil abounds. It instead makes us more zealous to see our friends and family in relationship with Jesus and to be God's image-bearers on Earth to fight for a justice on the planet.
However, Smith proposes that "I believe therefore I am“ doesn’t go far enough to explain human behaviour. His proposition is that at the core of the human soul is actually love or desire and that the maxim of humanity is actually “We are what we love.“ This can be seen in the fact that some of us spend a lot of money on clothes, others on theatre or restaurants, some on sports or books–not out of a belief or thinking but just out of a love in our soul for those things. The things that we love create a view of human flourishing that we walk towards.
Let me unpack this. Our view of human flourishing on the Northern Beaches of Sydney may be to be married with three children, owning our own homes, having relatively new cars, running on the beach every morning, eating out on Friday and Saturday nights, being able to provide for our children to play rugby and do ballet, all riding bikes around Narrabeen Lake on a Saturday afternoon. There is nothing wrong with this life, however for a person who loves movies and reading in the morning, and antique cars, it would be misery for no other reason than it’s not what they love. We create a life that reflects what we love. The images we are bombarded with in the 21st Century would like to tell you that without the latest car, clothes, movies, shows, music, young good looking partner etc, you will not flourish.
So where is the connection to Matthew, you ask? Well, as I was thinking through that as humans what we love shapes us–that our heart is the key to our lives–it struck me that Jesus talked more in Matthew about our heart, its motives and desires than He ever did about what we believe or what we think. Jesus was very concerned with where our heart was leading us.
If we are to be people who follow Jesus, our heart has to be connected to Him and His Kingdom. I believe this is what He meant we he asked us to die to ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Him. We need to die to our own desires and agendas and instead align our hearts with His desires and agendas. If I am what I love and I want to be more like Jesus, I need to make sure He is first in my heart.
I may have to die to my desire for more shoes, my next holiday and even more theology books to live for His desires.
A broad reading of Matthew from the Sermon on the Mount to the tirades against hypocritical religious leaders showed me that Smith had stumbled onto what Jesus had said all along–it’s about what we love and what we desire. It’s about our hearts. The most exciting thing about letting go of our agendas and desires to live for Christ is that He takes us into a remarkable adventure–we get to be part of an exciting mega-narrative of God's plan for mankind. We get to be image-bearers of the loving God on planet Earth!
In the midst of it all, we find an abundant life that is more wonderful than the one that the perfect house, car, clothes, holiday could ever deliver. Those desires need to be constantly fed; there is always the new, which has outdated your stuff. However, in Christ, there is a well that doesn't run dry–a place where our deepest thirsts are met–the place our love and desires were created to be focused, their true north.
Pam Borrow is the Principal of C3 College. C3 College has Campuses at Oxford Falls and Silverwater, and you can study Creative Arts or Ministry and Theology, check it out at C3College.com