The Habits of the Mind by James W. Sire

Sire describes himself as an intellectual wannabe, who wannaus to be intellectual wannabes too. Part of this book is an inspiration in exactly that direction, as the author identifies true intellectuals, discusses ideas, and presents practical helps. On the other hand, there is much that disturbs me here. For example, Sire’s favorite intellectual turns out to be John Henry Newman (to whom is devoted two chapters and numerous references). Newman was a Protestant who became heavily involved in the Oxford Movement and eventually converted to Catholicism. It is this Roman Catholic thinker, who denied the truths recaptured at the Reformation that is used as a model for the Christian intellectual. To me, who makes no claims to be in the intellectual camp, the use of Newman is only valuable to demonstrate how smart people can make incredibly dumb choices, when they reason outside of the box of Scripture. Newman is a warning, not an icon.

Additionally, Sire at least dabbles on the perimeter of Christian mysticism, often using heretical theologians as positive examples, and apparently has followed his mentor (Newman) down the road toward Catholicism.

The value of Habits of the Mind would be an unintended one, that of real, if unperceived, dangers of intellectual pursuit apart from the wisdom of God. The philosophies of men are bankrupt, why immerse oneself in them when the truth of Scripture is of so much greater value.

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