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Need to Know: Vocation as the Heart of Christian Epistemology

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How should a Christian think? If a serious Christian wants to think seriously about a serious subject--from considering how to vote in the next election to choosing a career; from deciding among scientific theories to selecting a mate; from weighing competing marketing proposals to discerning the best fitness plan--what does he or she do? This basic question is at the hear How should a Christian think? If a serious Christian wants to think seriously about a serious subject--from considering how to vote in the next election to choosing a career; from deciding among scientific theories to selecting a mate; from weighing competing marketing proposals to discerning the best fitness plan--what does he or she do? This basic question is at the heart of a complex discourse: epistemology. A bold new statement of Christian epistemology, Need to Know presents a comprehensive, coherent, and clear model of responsible Christian thinking. Grounded in the best of the Christian theological tradition while being attentive to a surprising range of thinkers in the history of philosophy, natural science, social science, and culture, the book offers a scheme for drawing together experience, tradition, scholarship, art, and the Bible into a practical yet theoretically profound system of thinking about thinking. John Stackhouse's fundamental idea is as simple as it is startling: Since God calls human beings to do certain things in the world, God can be relied upon to supply the knowledge necessary for human beings to do those things. The classic Christian concept of vocation, then, supplies both the impetus and the assurance that faithful Christians can trust God to guide their thinking--on a "need to know" basis.


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How should a Christian think? If a serious Christian wants to think seriously about a serious subject--from considering how to vote in the next election to choosing a career; from deciding among scientific theories to selecting a mate; from weighing competing marketing proposals to discerning the best fitness plan--what does he or she do? This basic question is at the hear How should a Christian think? If a serious Christian wants to think seriously about a serious subject--from considering how to vote in the next election to choosing a career; from deciding among scientific theories to selecting a mate; from weighing competing marketing proposals to discerning the best fitness plan--what does he or she do? This basic question is at the heart of a complex discourse: epistemology. A bold new statement of Christian epistemology, Need to Know presents a comprehensive, coherent, and clear model of responsible Christian thinking. Grounded in the best of the Christian theological tradition while being attentive to a surprising range of thinkers in the history of philosophy, natural science, social science, and culture, the book offers a scheme for drawing together experience, tradition, scholarship, art, and the Bible into a practical yet theoretically profound system of thinking about thinking. John Stackhouse's fundamental idea is as simple as it is startling: Since God calls human beings to do certain things in the world, God can be relied upon to supply the knowledge necessary for human beings to do those things. The classic Christian concept of vocation, then, supplies both the impetus and the assurance that faithful Christians can trust God to guide their thinking--on a "need to know" basis.

45 review for Need to Know: Vocation as the Heart of Christian Epistemology

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lee Bertsch

    Having read other books by Stackhouse and heard him lecture, I have become familiar with his approach to weighty subjects - take a deep breath and then go at them calmly, thoroughly, eruditely, and humbly. During the middle of the book I wondered about his claim of vocation as the heart of epistemology as it was seldom referred to directly, but in the last chapter there was a strong finish to that theme. This quote sums up a lot of what this book intends to communicate: "We trust God, yes, to do Having read other books by Stackhouse and heard him lecture, I have become familiar with his approach to weighty subjects - take a deep breath and then go at them calmly, thoroughly, eruditely, and humbly. During the middle of the book I wondered about his claim of vocation as the heart of epistemology as it was seldom referred to directly, but in the last chapter there was a strong finish to that theme. This quote sums up a lot of what this book intends to communicate: "We trust God, yes, to do what God alone cane do. But as God trains us in the glorious dignity of partnership, we do our part. And what is up to us to do is to position ourselves to look - really look - at the warrants we have in order to be persuaded by them; acquire the skills necessary to interpret them; locate ourselves in environments conducive to exploring and evaluating them; qualify our conclusions accordingly; and proceed gratefully into appropriate action. The category of vocation returns to help us apply this model now to any reader's situation. For God expects of each of us what each of us can do in order to accomplish what God has called each of us to accomplish. ... We each need to know whatever we particularly need to know. And God can be relied upon fully to teach us - but on a 'need to know' basis." (pg.237/239)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Michael Wu

    In his account of epistemology (how we arrive at warranted beliefs in our thinking), Stackhouse makes a creative move of linking knowledge with vocation: humans (and particularly the redeemed class of humans known as ‘Christians’), are called by God to advance flourishing in his world through their work, witness and worship. Since it doesn’t make sense for God to under-resource us to carry out our vocation, we can trust that “God will be (epistemically) faithful so that we can be (vocationally) In his account of epistemology (how we arrive at warranted beliefs in our thinking), Stackhouse makes a creative move of linking knowledge with vocation: humans (and particularly the redeemed class of humans known as ‘Christians’), are called by God to advance flourishing in his world through their work, witness and worship. Since it doesn’t make sense for God to under-resource us to carry out our vocation, we can trust that “God will be (epistemically) faithful so that we can be (vocationally) faithful”. In other words, people’s thoughts and beliefs are shaped and resourced providentially to carry out what they are created (and for some redeemed) to do. Stackhouse acknowledges the corrupting effects of human falleness on our thinking and ability to arrive at truth. But he makes a radical proposal: that the Creator’s purposes are sometimes, if not often (!), fulfilled by people holding wrong ideas, even if they are genuine seekers of truth. Since the ultimate goal of human life, and of the Christian life, is not to arrive at correct ideas, but to advance ‘the Kingdom of God’, it is conceivable that “God might well allow individuals... to think wrong thoughts in order to accomplish goods that can be achieved no better way.” This doesn’t excuse us from being intellectually diligent and responsible, but it does encourage us to humbly trust in God to providentially work through our own (and other’s) flaws and even stubbornness. The book explores the epistemological implications of vocation, as well as providing readers a practical framework to integrate various intellectual resources (experience, tradition, revelation, art and scholarship) and modes of consideration (intuition, imagination and reason) in their thinking. Echoing the philosopher Thomas Reid, Stackhouse’ Christian epistemology is one that trades on faith, hope and love. I heartily commend this book to Christians desiring to think well as part of their service to God, as well as anyone interested in a Christian perspective of human knowledge.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Matt Manry

    Some good, some not so good.

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    Taylor M.

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    Peter Neumann

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    Kaite

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