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Reflections on thinking like a Christian

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*This article is from the MB Herald archives, originally published January 10, 1992, in the column “Christian Mind.” Author Walter Unger (1936–2018) served the church as a teacher, administrator, and board member.*

Thinking like a Christian is not just for academics. Actions flow from thought; if we think with the mind of Christ, we are more likely to live like Christ. This is incumbent upon all believers.

To think Christianly means always to hold before one a frame of reference which has a sovereign God at the centre, his revealed truth in Scripture as the unerring guide, and Christ himself as the touchstone of all truth. It is to think about all aspects of life, not just the religious, with such a mindset, relating all of life – cultural, political, economic – to man’s eternal destiny under God.

As I review more than 25 years of writing for the Herald (I am now in my tenth year as a contributor to “A Christian Mind,” and have submitted a total of 125 articles since 1964), indulge me as I take a brief walk down memory lane.

I have attempted to think Christianly about a variety of topics in my columns, and this I have done, I am sure, with varying degrees of clarity. I tried to reflect honestly a Christian viewpoint to the degree that I understood it at the time of writing, all the while realizing that my understanding is very limited and that we all see through a glass darkly (I Corinthians 13:12).

One of the themes running through all the “Christian Mind” columns of the past by brothers Thiessen, Pankratz and me is the need to apply the Christian faith to all aspects of life. For example, in my May 27/85 column “The shrinking umbrella of faith” I observe that what is intended to be a broad umbrella of faith, encompassing all aspects of life, has, for many shrunk to a personalized, privatized head covering. Earlier I had written, “The credibility of Christ and his teachings is staked in the personal and public lives of those who claim to be his followers” (“A Christian Mind,” Feb. 11, 1983).

Most Enjoyable

In my writing I have enjoyed reflecting on the impact of the Christian thinking and acting of men and women down through history. We owe so much to them. Indeed, we are dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants. Thus it has been personally enriching to research and write about revivalist and social reformer Charles Finney (April, 18, 1969), the sixteenth-century Reformers (Nov. 18, 1983) and martyrs (Mar. 8, 1985), evangelist John Wesley (Sept. 6/1985 and Feb. 2, 1988), and philanthropist-reformer William Wilberforce (Aug. 24,1990).

I have enjoyed doing human interest features on such disparate individuals as Garrison Keillor (Feb. 20, 1987), cancer-stricken baseball star Dave Dravecky (June 29, 1990), author Malcolm Muggeridge (Feb. 22, 1991) and most recently the much heralded basketball hero Magic Johnson (Dec. 6, 1991).

During my six-month stay in Oxford, I was caught up with and wrote about the Bishop Jenkins’ affair (Apr. 4, 1985), the debate between Jerry Falwell and David Lange (Apr. 5, 1985) and the impact of Anglican author and evangelist David Watson (Sept. 20, 1985).

It has been an enjoyable challenge to try to interpret various aspects of current cultural life and movements within culture from a Christian viewpoint. In the early 70s I delved into “The Age of Aquarius” (Sept. 21, 1973), the occult (Oct. 3 and 10, 1975) and the two rock musicals Jesus Christ Superstar (Jan. 11, 1974) and Godspell (Jan. 25, 1974).

In “A Christian Mind”, I have sought to interpret the movie E.T. (Nov. 5, 1982), Gandhi (Nov. 21, 1983), the video revolution (Jan. 14,1983) and, more recently, excursions into the afterlife as portrayed in the movie Flatliners and in contemporary accounts of near-death experiences (Sept. 28, 1990). I wrote three articles on the Christian in relation to sports (Jan. 28, 1966, Feb. 11, 1983 and Apr. 20, 1984).

When Martin Scorsese’s film The Last Temptation of Christ came out, I felt it was important to review it and Nikos Kazantzakis’s book, on which the film was based (Sept. 30, 1988). In my analysis of both book and film I asserted that they present a Jesus who never was and that such a vast departure from the Jesus of history simply cannot be glossed over in the name of artistic license.

Articles which for me were especially spiritually refreshing and flowed from my heart were those of a devotional nature. Examples are “Growth in godliness” (Oct. 11, 1985), “Choosing joy” (Jan. 20, 1989), “Feet of clay, Hearts aflame” (Oct. 26, 1990), “Life’s true significance” (July 19, 1991) and “When saints sin” (Nov. 8, 1991).

The Most Difficult

I must confess that I had a certain amount of trepidation when writing about the more theologically-oriented is sues dealing with matters over which many Christians disagree-healing, the teachings of influential media preachers, and the priorities of some Christian leaders. Into this category come articles like “Signs and Wonders-Wesley, White and Wimber” (June 12, 1987), “Televangelism’s widening credibility gap” (Apr. 15, 1988) and a series on the Faith Movement (June 23, 1989, Dec.8, 1989, March 29, 1990, and Oct. 11, 1991).

Although the latter articles stirred some controversy, it was gratifying to hear from readers who have been helped by them.

Two pieces which were particularly painful to write reflected on the more earthly side of people whom I admired – David Livingstone, C.T. Studd, and Bob Pierce (Dec. 12, 1985), and the controversy surrounding Walter Hooper’s role in handling the C.S. Lewis legacy (Nov. 10, 1989).

I hope I have been charitable in my writing. This desire was most clearly expressed in such articles as “Tolerance and truth” (March 7,1986), “The evangelical spirit” (May 16, 1986) and “The Mennonite room” (March 20, 1987). In the latter piece, I refer to C.S. Lewis’s analogy of the common belief of Christians as the hall and the various faith communions as rooms within Christianity. While affirming my own faith tradition, my Mennonite room, I want to be sensitive to those who are in other rooms and to those who are in the hall.

Writing in the Herald these many years has been a great privilege and has carried with it a grave responsibility. My desire is to truly reflect a Christian mind. The following 1558 prayer expresses that desire well:

God be in my head and in my understanding;
God be in mine eyes, and in my looking;
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking;
God be in my heart, and in my thinking;
God be at my end, and at my departing.

–Walter Unger is president of Columbia Bible College, Clearbrook, B.C., and a member of Bakerview MB Church.

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