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Cruciform Living

It's how intellectuals - and all of us - should live.

Mark Stephens, “Cruciformity and the Public Intellectual: Christian Weakness for the Common Good,” Christian Scholar’s Review, Summer 2020.

Mark Stephens’ focus is on Christian intellectuals and how they should pursue their calling in an atmosphere of division and hostility. Stephens is writing for academics and thinkers, but his insights, to a very real extent, albeit by degrees, also apply to pastors and Christians generally.

An intellectual is “a thinker who aspires to the exercise of power, authority, and public influence, through the instrumentality of ideas.” Intellectuals these days tend to be celebrities, but the Christian must not seek such for himself. The Christian intellectual must have Scripture as his primary and defining standard, and he must seek to engage the public square in the posture of a cruciform life – humble, hospitable, and ready to suffer. The Christian intellectual’s “crucicentrism should affect the shape of a thinker’s practice, such that their contribution to the common good is definably cruciform.”

By examining the Gospel of Mark, select epistles of Paul, and the book of Revelation, Stephens draws out three aspects of the cruciform life. Intellectuals must be humble, not self-seeking. They must present a welcoming and loving demeanor. And they must suffer rejection, scorn, and worse without trying to fight fire with fire, realizing that the way to victory is through suffering.

He concludes, “the deployment of intellectual power must conform to the pattern of the crucified Christ. Embracing that pattern will involve love toward one’s enemy, but it will also mean embracing a counter-cultural paradigm in which victory is achieved through sacrificial self-giving.” A way of life that every believer should work to realize.

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