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Monday, August 01, 2011

On Philosophers and Magicians

C.S. Lewis, theologian, philosopher and writer

 I have a couple of friends who keep trying to lure me into a name-dropping philosophical debate. I suspect someone's just waded through a college philosophy course and is wondering what to do with all that stuff they just shoved into their brains. I resist the urge to play the "I can quote Kafka." game.

Now don't get me wrong. There are many philosophers and theologians (who are also members of that particular intellectual caste) whom I greatly admire. A friend of mine admires Kierkegaard, for instance, and I too find some of the things he writes very enlightening. There are theologians like Dietrich Bonhoffer, Martin Luther and C.S. Lewis whose work I find of vast benefit to the faithful and to me personally.  Reading Lewis' brilliant book "Mere Christianity", for instance, was one of those Gestalt "Aha" experiences for me. Unlike many lesser philosophers and theologians, Lewis makes things clearer rather than more complex.

I judge the value of philosophers and theologians by how clear they make things. In the world I find there are two types of practitioners of this ilk - I think of them as prophets and magicians. The prophets make the way forward clearer for their readers and skillfully direct their readers' attention toward something which is greater than themselves. Magicians, on the other hand, merely confuse, misdirect and show off their own dazzling vocabulary and intellectual prowess in order to draw attention to themselves and to gain the befuddled admiration of their readers.

Magicians are amusing to watch, but I can hardly take them seriously.

Tom King

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