‘Cogito, Ergo Sum’ – But Maybe I Am Not?
“Cogito, Ergo Sum”. “I think therefore I am”, is a famous and profound statement made by the 17th Century French philosopher Rene Descartes. His point was that the evidence that he really exists is the fact that he can actually think about his existence! This is a somewhat circular but valid argument about the relationship between thinking and existing that actually has I believe an important Christian parallel.
To make my point we might reverse Descarte’s statement to ‘I don’t think therefore I am not (don’t exist)’, and then to Christianise it – ‘I don’t think (like a Christian) therefore I am not (a Christian’).
In Romans 12:2 we are told that a Christian is someone who, among many other changes that should be taking place, is experiencing the “renewing of the mind” by the Holy Spirit. That is, their mind and the way they think is being reconditioned so that they think with the “Mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). So too, as Descartes, the Christian will be able to say ‘I think (with the mind of Christ) therefore I know I am (a Christian’). This developing ‘Mind of Christ’ will inevitably result in a corresponding passion for what Jesus is passionate about, that is – things of the Kingdom.
It’s a long leap from this to Neil Postman’s now quite old book ‘Amusing Ourselves To Death’ (1985) but a highly relevant one. Postman bemoaned the fact that in the western world everything has to be entertaining. For example, TV news bulletins have to be dumbed down to ‘infotainment’ in order for people to watch them, children’s education has to be fun, and we see the regrettable results of this in comparison with other nations where education is not required to be fun! Everything has to have an amusement factor and that need for everything to be enjoyable infects church life also where the degree to which many will ‘like’ or ‘enjoy’ some ministry or gospel event affects their willingness to participate.
So for example an unconverted church member not thinking with the ‘mind of Christ’ may look at some congregational outreach activity and say “it’s not my thing, it’s inconvenient, I (or my kids) won’t enjoy it so I won’t be part of it.” The Christian, thinking with the ‘Mind of Christ’ however, will look at the same event and say “it’s not my thing, it’s inconvenient, and no I (or my kids) won’t enjoy it but we will be involved for the sake of Jesus who died for me”. Which type of mind do we have I wonder? For it is a lack of the “Mind of Christ” with its ensuing passions that is a major factor in congregational unfruitfulness.
Remember ‘Cogito ergo sum’ I think therefore I am. It is equally true to say “I think (with the mind of Christ) therefore (I know) I am (a Christian)”, because my passions will increasingly become Jesus passions.
Food for thought perhaps. If of course we actually do think that is!