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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

An Entrepreneurial Worldview

Written by: on April 17, 2015

I was somewhat captivated by the answer to the question raised by the publisher in the abstract to A Brief Guide to Ideas by William Raeper and Linda Smith. The question is simple enough, “Philosophy—Dry and remote?”[1] It is obviously a rhetorical question; after all, there is the expectation that the answer is, “Yes! Philosophy is dry and remote.” But, “No!” responds the book reviewer with the suggestion, “Think again.” What is the publisher trying to do,  sell books? The astonishing claim is made that philosophy is “as relevant as tonight’s news, as immediate as the choices you make in a career.” Philosophy, then, is about what “makes the world tick,” or as the authors note, “philosophy is about ideas.”[2] In the introduction the authors express what this means and set the tenor for the book’s content:

Philosophy is not just about how to think; it is about how to live. Philosophy takes a closer look at the ideas behind how we live our lives. What we think is true affects our view of ourselves and how we treat other people and the world.

I was deeply moved (challenged) when I read this brief paragraph. In the margin I wrote the word “worldview” as I got a different perspective on how ideas shape who I am.

In retrospect I began thinking about why I have such an aversion to philosophy. Perhaps it was my first introduction, as a farm boy who I had never strayed more than fifty miles from home, to philosophy. I clearly recall the “dry,” staid, somber, and definitely unexcitable professor of my undergraduate introduction to philosophy. He always wrote his sedated comments on the blackboard; however, mostly he just played from hand-to-hand with the chalk until, by the end of the class, he would have calk dust everywhere. He always wore heavily  starched white shirts and a tie (no jacket). I know it ought not be so, but the only real memory I have of the class was his entry on one occasion into the classroom. Perhaps he was hurried in his preparations but he entered with six to eight inches of the starched shirt protruding out from his unzipped fly. Can you imagine trying to listen to a lecture as the prof flipped the chalk from hand-to-hand with the starched shirt serving like the main sail on a sailboat? Fortunately somewhere in the lecture as he turned to write on the board, he caught a glimpse of the protruding shirt and tucked it back in place without speaking a word or any change of expression.

I do not tell this little antidote with a disrespect attitude ; I do remember the beautiful rock garden on campus prepared and maintained by the doctor of philosophy and the deep sense of reverence for God and creation that I always felt when in the his presence.  He just did not “turn me on” to philosophy.  Perhaps my aversion stems more from a temperament that is not interested in discussing the “reality” of a sound that might have occurred somewhere in isolation in a forest.

In A Brief Guide to Ideas Raeper and Smith make us aware that ideas are powerful and shape who we are and how we view the world (worldview). It is not how “practical” or “impractical” the ideas may be or how common sense trumps all other application of ideas. One is formed not just the ideas one accepts or considers to be foundational concepts of life; it is also ideas that we reject or castigate as false, deceitful, or even evil that establishes how we view the world. If philosophy is the “love of wisdom” then the philosopher is in pursuit of ideas developing the skill of learning and thinking.

The Brief Guide to Ideas is arranged and written to easily engage the reader. As the authors note, the book is neither comprehensive in the ideas it covers nor exhaustive in an idea’s meaning. There are sixteen topics (very selective) with three essays written on each topic.  I found the brief introduction to each topic by the author to be very helpful before engaging the historical writings of philosophical thinkers that relate to the topic. The topics do have a chronological aspect but do not need to be read in any specific order. I read two specific topics that interested me: “How and What can we Know? Epistemology,” and “Anything Goes: Relativism versus Certainty.”  Ideas shape who and what we are and how we view life.

As I was previewing the book, I listened to an interview with Jack Welch on the Fox News Network. Jack Welch with his wife, Suzy, recently published a book about ideas and life: The Real-Life MBA: Your No-BS Guide to Winning the Game, Building a Team and Growing Your Career.” Hearing the interview and reading the editorial reviews makes the book an inviting read. “Winning, building and growing” are all ideas we want to understand and apply to our worldview. Welch was asked about how people, specifically young college age career minded people, can meet the challenges in the contemporary social and business environment. He responded with some “wisdom” ideas that could easily shape who we are personally and in the business world, especially in tumultuous and uncertain times. Welch referred to the fact that many young people express to him that they want to be entrepreneurs and question how they can succeed on this path. He noted that he only asks those interested in entrepreneurship one question, “What is your big idea?”

Ideas are the key to an entrepreneurial view of life and the world.

[1] William Raeper and Linda Smith, A Brief Guide to Ideas (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1997), back cover.

[2] Ibid., 11.

About the Author

mm

rhbaker275

12 responses to “An Entrepreneurial Worldview”

  1. Ron,
    I so appreciate you providing the “backstory” to your engagement with our reading this week, including your slightly humorous introduction to philosophy via your professor.

    Earlier in seminary, perhaps at the “height” of the published emerging church movement (pre-2010) it seemed very much in vogue to blast and lay at the feet of early Christiandom the fault of Christianity’s allegiance to Greek thought and influence. As you recognize so much of what we “know” comes from what we experience, the realm of the present.

    Your question (via Jack Welch), “What is your big idea?” makes me wonder if we might ask “What is God’s big idea?” What is God looking forward too? Asking that, pondering that, without having to know the right answer, but being open to what might be might foster and re-energize.

    Thanks Ron for your thoughtful insights and reflections.

    • mm rhbaker275 says:

      Carol,
      Thanks for your response… I suppose getting the chance to ask Jack Welch what he thinks, what is his idea, would make most of us set-up and take notice, after all he turned General Electric around bringing the company into the twenty-first century while making billions for the individual investor.

      My first response to the question “What is God’s big idea?” is I am small investor, can I even begin to understand. Yet, even the investor with only 100 shares in GE became a participate (by virtue of ownership) and a benefactor (by virtue of share value) in Jack Welch’s big idea. My “big question” (as in Bill’s post) is “What is God doing?” Can I conceive of God’s redemptive purpose to reconcile creation? In my asking, God invites me to buy into the recovery, pick-up a few shares, take ownership. God responds, as God responded to the prophet, “Look…be amazed…For I am doing a something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told” (Hab. 1:5). I am dreaming a little…

    • Richard Volzke says:

      Carol
      To add to the question, I’d like to know “What is it that God has in store for each one of us?” God wants us to grow and learn, while we rely on Him for all our wants and needs. If I had to guess what God is looking forward to it would be the days when we fulfill each part of the journey in which He has called us to.
      Richard

  2. Ron,

    I have also struggled with philosophy as a subject at times. Sometimes when I read this subject, I have no idea what the author is trying to say. To me that defeats the purpose of education! If we want someone to be interested in our subject, then we need to package it in an understandable way. But this is often not the case with philosophy. However, I agree with you that this book did a better job than most to package their material in a readable way. I felt that the book was rather balanced, and I appreciated that. The book allows the readers to make up their own minds about the material rather than shoving its thesis down their throats. It was a pleasant read. I will keep the book.

    I know you can’t tell me here, but let’s talk about your philosophy teacher was at Warner. I am dying to know who it was. 🙂

    • mm rhbaker275 says:

      Bill,
      Thanks…
      Okay, you are right, the prof was my teacher in undergraduate studies at Warner. I expect his son and daughter, who did their undergrad work at the same time, are still around. Do you have the experience, when you get a different perspective on things of thinking, “I missed something here; I wish had this experience to do again?”

      I am asking this same question, “Why have I never viewed philosophy from this perspective?” I wonder what Jason will say in our online discussion?

  3. Telile Fikru Badecha says:

    Ron, Great point, “One is formed not just the ideas one accepts or considers to be foundational concepts of life; it is also ideas that we reject or castigate as false, deceitful, or even evil that establishes how we view the world.” Also, as our ministry or business environments change the ideas that shaped our strategies also change. This means our worldview and how we do ministry continues to evolve from time to time. Thanks for your insight!

    • mm rhbaker275 says:

      Telile,
      Thanks,
      Living is choosing, not only what we do but what we choose to believe. Ideas frame the way we see ourselves and the world; our openness and willingness to consider, listen to, and seek to “know” ideas that are “philosophically” different determines our worldview. The “Guide to Ideas” has positively impacted my understanding of ideas and philosophy.

  4. Michael Badriaki says:

    Ron, thank you for this post. I enjoyed reading your description of the Philosophy prof, since I can relate with you about some of the teachers I had not necessary with philosophy, but another subjects.
    I also agree with you about the stigma of “dry and remote” that clouds subjects like philosophy and for many theology to fits the categorization.

    I gravitate to philosophy because even before any formal introduction to philosophy, I found myself philosophizing about life and faith. This is why I fell in love with the bible. When I started reading the word of God, it had and still has a double edged sword impact on both my minds and heart set. Like you, Proverbs does it, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
    Now that I am born again, the fear of LORD, the prayer for wisdom and being a disciple of Jesus Christ through loving God, loving neighbor and obey God’s instructions, such are my life’s big ideas.

    Thank you!

    • mm rhbaker275 says:

      Michael – you are correct…
      It is a common statement – maybe meant as a joke when somebody goes a little deep in thinking – we are all philosophers; “philosophizing about life and faith” as you say.

      I guess I just never thought about the Bible as a philosophy book … The Bible was always there, respected, honored (perhaps not read as much as it should) and it was to be believed and practiced. It seems to have been a common thread in much of the cohort posts that we all ask the “big questions” but at this point in our learning, we do see the quest for answers from a different perspective.

  5. mm Julie Dodge says:

    Ron –

    I think you struck a chord with several of us with your philosophy professor. I had an algebra in teacher in college, whom I found equally engaging. The only thing I remember from the class is that he wore leisure suits (think 1970’s). He would wear the exact same suit all week. And then the next week he would wear a different one. All week. And that’s what I remember.

    As I age I think I gain a deeper appreciation of philosophy and the big ideas. But I also search for the ways in which to live them out – which also struck me from Raeper and Edwards, as you note. Funny. I knew that wisdom, as written of in the Bible, informs how I live. But I never really connected philosophy to wisdom. It always seemed too abstract. Talk, chatter, ideas – they can all be found in many places. The important question seems to be, how then shall we live? Do these ideas inform that? If it all just stays in the world of the intellectuals it’s not all that useful. Perhaps that is why we are in this program – to bring meaningful ideas to the people we serve and work together to learn how to live.

    • mm rhbaker275 says:

      Julie,
      Thanks,

      Yes, you are right on target. I simply have not associated philosophy with wisdom or “ideas” the way Raeper and Smith presented it in “A Brief Guide to ideas.” Why have I never viewed philosophy from this perspective? I do not remember taking any philosophy class in my undergraduate work except the required introduction. We had a couple of books early in our DMin study on theology and we do understand asking questions, discussing and thinking about God makes us “theologians.” I feel like I have missed something in not reading this book long ago – or my one and only prof should have cleared this up for me. I hope I am not over doing it here, but this book really has changed my thinking.

  6. mm Clint Baldwin says:

    I like your note related to the publisher offering “think again.”
    This reminds me of a movie with George Burns in it that came out in the late 1970s, “Oh God.”
    In this film a phrase becomes popularized, “think God.”
    Yes, think again and again and again…
    As well, think God again and again and again and again.
    Thoughtfully critical engagement with the world is not something to be feared, but something to be relished. Truth, in its definitional essence, will not disappoint us wherever it is to be found.

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