The Thinker Defined

From Harry Blamires’ The Christian Mind:

“[It] is a feature of our culture generally that as we are rich in scholars so we are poor in thinkers. . . .The thinker challenges current prejudices. He disturbs the complacent. He obstructs the busy pragmatists. He questions the very foundations of all about him, and in so doing throws doubt upon aims, motives, and purposes which those who are running affairs have neither time nor patience to investigate. The thinker is a nuisance. He is a luxury that modern society cannot afford. It will therefore naturally, and on its own terms justifiably, strive to keep him quiet, to restrict his influence, to ignore him. It will try to pretend that he does not exist. . . .

But the Church cannot do without thinkers–or prophets, as she is wont somewhat pompously to call them. She cannot afford to ape the secular world in suppressing the thinker, in trying to replace him by the scholar. She destroys herself in doing so. For the secular world is true to itself in rejecting the thinker. It serves the laws of its own preservation in rejecting him. But the Church is false to itself when it rejects the thinker. And therefore, in so far as it adopts the fashion of the secular world and tries to submerge thought under learning, prophecy under scholarship, wisdom under know-how, it strives to secularize itself; in other words to destroy itself.

I am not in general a two-spheres thinker, but Blamires’ designation of secular and Christian thinking is pretty interesting. And whatever you call the two activities–scholarship and thinking are as useful as any terms–his analysis is pretty much spot on. Nothing else explains the proliferation of the ephemeral, and the triumph of the trivial, so well.

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