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Habits of the Mind: Intellectual Life as a Christian Calling [Paperback]

James W. Sire

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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
62 of 64 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From One Wannabe Intellectual To Another 20 Nov 2000
By E. D. Seaman - Published on Amazon.com
Our society has often labeled Christians as non-thinking weaklings who need a crutch to make it through life. Unfortunately many proclaimed Christians often mirror such an image, perhaps because they are Christian in name only and have never experienced spiritual rebirth or maybe they have been led to believe 'blind faith' is the only faith. Thankfully, James W. Sire reminds all of us that Christians too have a mind, and True Christians also have the Truth with which to engage a world hostile to Christianity.
Sire divides the book into ten chapters, each dealing with an aspect of the intellect. The first chapter "Confessions Of An Intellectual Wannabe" will strike a chord with many wannabe intellectuals, such as this reviewer. The next two chapters explore the thought of John Henry Newman, a true intellectual that we all wannabe! The next five chapters explain what 'thinking' actually feels like and how to develop the intellect--spiritual disciplines for the mind. One of the most profound exercises is that of lectio divina. Warning don't try this without supervision, unless of course you already know the Truth--Jesus Christ.
Christ as an intellectual, yes He was and still is the smartest man to ever walk the earth--think about it, is discussed in chapter nine. The final chapter discusses the responsibility of all us Christian intellects and wannabe intellects. Sire handles a deep subject with care and a delicate wit. For those who realize that Jesus Christ is the Truth and are ready to engage an intellectual world hostile to True Christianity this is the book for you. If you don't think your smart enough, join the fight anyway, all intellectual wannabes are welcome!
Semper fi & agape, Ed D.
44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent treatment of a neglected topic. Read and grow. 11 Mar 2001
By Douglas Groothuis - Published on Amazon.com
Few contemporary evangelical writers have so profitably and profoundly explored the meaning and implications of the Christian worldview and mind as James Sire. Now his wise, well-informed, and witty book puts us even further in his debt. The chapter, "Jesus, the Reasoner," is worth the price of the book. It demonstrates that Jesus prized and exemplified the life of the mind.
Be sure to read Dr. Sire's other books on related themes: "The Universe Next Door, 3rd ed.," "Why Should Anyone Believe Anything at All?," and "Discipleship of the Mind."
Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D., Denver Seminary.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Habit Forming Reading 17 July 2001
By A. Parker - Published on Amazon.com
Of all "Christian World View" books published in the last twenty years, this reigns supreme. Though certainly never intended to be practical or prescriptive, Sire provides the greatest service to 'Intellectual Wannabes' by discussing exactly what it means to be a Christian intellectual. His own history provides an able model for aspiring thinkers. However, the real inspiration lies in holding up Jesus as the ultimate thinker. Jesus' incontrovertible logic is emphasized. Jesus' mind and wit bolsters our own courage to stand up for His truth in a world flailing for standards of verity. Via his discussion of wholistic disciplines, Sire encourages engaging and stretching the mind inside a wider integration of being (mind, body, soul, and spirit). He spurs us on to acquire holiness and to live the truth beyond mere mental ascent. Sire encourages us to develop the intellectual habits necessary to go forth and live truth.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Endure the first two chapters -- it gets better. 18 Dec 2003
By Wesley L. Janssen - Published on Amazon.com
To my mind, such as it is, Sire's Habits of the Mind begins rather feebly -- the author relates personal experiences of coming of age in a salt-of-the-earth and decidedly "anti-intellectual" home environment. He describes his college-aged self as an "intellectual wannabe". I nearly dismissed the book after the first few paragraphs, but, entirely based on my high opinion of the author's The Universe Next Door, I pressed on. In chapter three, the author finally turns to the themes he presents best and begins to achieve the kind of resonance that characterizes that earlier volume. Opening the tenth (final) chapter, examining the concept of intellectual responsibility, Sire reflects on his "wannabe" confession and offers another: "Being an intellectual is after all . . . nothing to particularly admire or condemn."
This of ideology: "Truth cannot be constructed. To live in ideology is, as [Vaclav] Havel so eloquently reminds us, inevitably to live in a lie. Truth can only be revealed. We cannot be creators, only receptors."
And this of humility: "Without [humility] every virtue begins to become a vice. A passion for truth becomes a certitude that we . . . now possess it. . . Lack of humility -- arrogance -- is, in fact, one of the most frequent charges against intellectuals. Sometimes this charge can not be avoided . . . The real problem, however, is not the charge that you are arrogant but the distinct possibility that you actually are. Self-examination is always in order."
Quoting Richard John Neuhaus: "Few things have contributed so powerfully to the unbelief of the modern and postmodern world as the pretension of Christians to know more than we do. . . If Christians exhibited more intellectual patience, modesty, curiosity, and sense of adventure, there would be fewer atheists in the world, both of the rationalist and postmodern varieties."
Endure the first two chapters -- it gets better. As an examination of intellectual curiosity and intellectual courage, as these may be for some "a Christian calling", this is a very good, if not quite great, volume. In fact there are many `quotables' here that may remind the reader of Pascal's Pensees. A minor flaw: the volume (2000) contains a few more `typos' than most books. Perhaps a dozen or so where one might typically expect 2 or 3. Particularly noticeable given that the author is a long-time editor. But the thought here is less flawed than the proofing; for many books it is the opposite. The consideration of "reading directed thinking" versus "thinking directed reading" is quite valuable.
This of the theistic view of knowledge: "Our knowledge of God, our theology, is itself a boon to our knowledge of the universe. . . In other words, because God is the all-knowing knower of all things, we -- being made in His image -- can be the sometimes knowing knowers of somethings. . . All this is a gift of God, a 'supernatural charity'. . . it is not the 'autonomy of the human intellect,' our own or that of anyone else."
Recommended reading although not for all readers.
22 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Please, Please, PLEASE Read This Book!!! 16 July 2004
By Trent Dougherty - Published on Amazon.com
If I could give this book 10 out of 5 stars I'd do it! I'm going to keep this short, because I could easily overdo it on this book. Suffice it to say that if I could force everyone in Christendom to read just one book in there whole lives it would be this book. If I had Bill Gates' money I would by millions of copies of this book and send one to every pastor, Priest, and parishioner in the English-speaking world. Then I'd have it translated into every known tongue and have them sent overseas. I simply don't recommend books with any greater enthusiasm. I only had one person every not like this book and he was a cocky grad student who went into it thinking he was reading analytic philosophy - duh! The book is called Habit's of the *Mind* but it aims at the *heart*. People usually don't form good *mental* habits until they get a *passion* for the Truth. Sire also draws on current research in virtue epistemology (don't worry about the terms) to show that or *character* can help or hinder us in the search for Truth as much as our IQ's. The book is chock-a-block full of great quotations. It is written for the unsophisticated but can be appreciated by anyone. I'm a philosophy instructor at a large research university and I love this book for its inspirational character. I just can't say enough good things about this book. Read it and start thinking rightly today!
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