A Brief Guide to Ideas by William Raeper and Linda Edwards provides a great overview of thoughts, philosophies and ideas of the Western world since almost the beginning. The book makes it plain and clear that philosophy cannot be brushed aside as lacking relevance in the present post modern, post Christian culture as it may be frequently thought. As the authors suggest: “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 (Raeper 1997, 11).” Raeper and Edwards provides a short yet broad overview on a host of these ideas.
The reading was quite helpful to me in gaining an understanding that Postmodernism, Platonism, Humanism, Existentialism, Feminism, Rationalism, Fundamentalism, New Age etc., are far more than mere terms but structures of thought that are constantly engaged in the journey of life since the authors provide a basic understanding of these structures and how life is influenced by them. The book unpacks the manner in which some of the world’s major thinkers and philosophers like Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Descartes, Kant, Locke, Marx, Nietche have wrestled with critical questions that influence life even today. (Goodreads – Bill’s Review n.d.)
Intelligent interaction with the world demands a broad yet clear perspective and appreciation of the ideas that cast every facet of life. These ideas are known to shape commerce, initiate humanitarian efforts, they either instigate wars or generate the desire and initiatives for peace; they have a deep impact on the manner in which God is perceived and how life and human relationship in general is approached(Ibid.). As Raeper so rightly points out, “The big questions about life and meaning and reality and God are still being asked, and perhaps more than ever we need the capacity to think, and decide on what basis our lives should be lived (Raeper 1997, 12).”
I have two particular thoughts:
The first thought is related to theology. It was Augustine who put forth that “Theology is the queen of all sciences”. During medieval times, theology was unquestionably embraced as the ‘queen of the sciences’. “Sophia” the Greek word for ‘wisdom’ was also accepted and together they dominated the thinking and practice of much of the Western world’s knowledge, understanding and acceptance of life following the middle ages. Consider this: for a Christian, Theology is the mother of all other sciences. It is theology that gives birth and becomes both the fountainhead and the foundation of all other sciences and gives meaning to them.
Secondly, my thoughts concern “Fundamentalism”. The term “fundamentalism” was originally coined by its supporters to describe five specific classic theological beliefs of Christianity, and that developed into a movement within the Protestant community of the United States in the early part of the 20th century, and that had its roots in the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy of that time. “Fundamentalism is the demand for a strict adherence to orthodox theological doctrines usually understood as a reaction against Modernist theology (Fundamentalism n.d.).”
In the present time “fundamentalism” has taken on more of a pejorative connotation than in the past. We hear of Hindu fundamentalism, Atheistic fundamentalism, Islamic fundamentalism etc. They are difficult to state and describe in clear and definitive terms. In simple terms, it may be said that ‘fundamentalism’ is holding rigidly to certain beliefs and insistence on those particular beliefs alone as true. “Fundamentalism” has come to be understood as an increasing intolerance toward any faith and belief that is other than and different, and that ‘Fundamentalists’ cling to the older religious and social customs, demonstrating a reluctance to join the mainstream that embraces freedom of religious beliefs. In societies where such fundamentalists are in majority, they gain power and become oppressive forces; posing a threat to the minorities despite their passive religious leanings. In India we see the rise of Hindu fundamentalism, in Burma and Sri Lanka, although Buddhism is a passive and tolerant faith and Hinduism has always been accommodative; minorities are oppressed through force and militancy in these countries. Can Christians also become “Fundamentalists” in such a manner?
Goodreads – Bill’s Review. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1388625.A_Brif_Guide_to_Ideas (accessed March 16, 2014).
Grassie, William. 3 2013. http://www.metanexus.net/print/essay/queen-sciences (accessed 3 19, 2014).
Raeper, William and Edwards, Linda. A Brief Guide To Ideas. Oxford: Lion Hudson, 1997.