The New Athens Statement

There is a way for Christians to fix our broken society.

Too few Christians have found it.

The answer is:

We must restore the life of the mind within Christianity.

For that purpose, we are pleased to announce The New Athens Statement.

The statement was prepared by Jacob Brunton, Ryan Graber, and Cody Libolt, with input from our readers. It identifies our understanding of the role of the mind in several areas:

-Theory of Knowledge
-Moral Theory
-Social/Political Theory

The statement summarizes a distinct school of thought, which we call the New Athens School. Anyone who understands and affirms the statement is, broadly speaking, a member of this school.

We will use this statement in our efforts to raise awareness of our system of thought and to identify candidates for the New Athens Certification.

Thank you to our readers who helped by offering valuable input.

At around 1000 words, the statement captures our key contentions and the logical connections between them, and it lays the groundwork for larger FTNCI projects to be announced soon.

About Our Organization

For the New Christian Intellectual (FTNCI) is a leadership training organization designed to help writers and other intellectual advocates.

  • We provide free material to equip writers with a robust foundation in philosophical reasoning.
  • We offer editorial services for writers and other content creators.

FTNCI is committed to the importance of rigorous, integrated philosophical thought for the Christian life. 

Our philosophical commitments are represented in the following statement.

The New Athens Statement


And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for the one who comes to God must believe that He exists, and that He proves to be One who rewards those who seek Him.

-Hebrews 11:6


Introduction

Many Christians and churches lack a correct orientation toward objective truth. The problem is philosophical. We offer two core contentions:

1) Christianity is rational.

2) Christians need a robust understanding of moral reasoning and sound philosophy.

Four ideals qualify a Christian as having the robust understanding that is needed for personal excellence and for cultural leadership.

The four ideals are:

  • Individualism
  • Reason
  • Rational Self-interest
  • Individual Rights

Background:

Man being in the image of God translates into a high view of the individual mind. We esteem man’s rationality as being essential to his own life.

Specifically, we esteem the way we utilize the mind in practical life. Man is the integrated being of mind and matter. As the crown jewel of God’s material creation, he is to use his mind to cultivate and dominate the material world, to the glory of God.

Scripture envisions man as a rational, productive being. For that reason, we must prize and defend the ideals of individualism, rationality, rational self-interest, and individual rights.

Implicitly, these ideals once formed the foundation of Christian society. They are needed, if Christian voices are to confidently defend Western Civilization against all ideologies that oppose human flourishing on earth.

Individualism:

Each man is created individually in the image of God as a rational creature. His unique means of surviving and thriving is the application of his own reasoning mind to the facts of reality.

Only the individual person can reason about reality in order to understand it accurately. There are no collective minds.

The individual person, not the collective, is primary. Individuals do not exist for the sake of the collective. Rather, collectives exist for the sake of individuals.

When the individual mind is respected in essential spheres of life, from epistemology to ethics to political theory, the result will be a set of individualistic ideals, which follow.

Reason:

To fully realize his God-given nature (and thus to fully glorify God), man must choose to use his rational faculty.

Being rational means:

  • Holding the truth as one’s ultimate goal and standard in belief formation.
  • Seeking intellectual integration.
  • Holding reason as supreme in our pursuit of truth and our processing of it.

We must uphold respect for the individual mind in the reasoning process. Each person must think for himself. Indeed, there is no other form of thinking than to “think for oneself.”

Man has a method for determining truth from falsehood: He applies observation and logic. These are the foundation of all human knowledge.

Christians should reject arbitrary authority as a means to knowledge. Faith comes as an effect of thinking, not as its cause. Christians should reject blind faith and any view that implies it.

Rational Self-interest:

In ethics, respect for the role of the individual mind leads to a moral code of rational self-interest. Values are values to individual minds. The individual person is properly the recipient of the values he achieves by following a moral code.

To respect man’s nature as a rational being, we must treat each person as having a mind that is capable of identifying its values and seeking them.

A man is not a means to the ends of other men. A man has no unchosen obligation to a group. It is right that a man love himself. He should follow the path of greatest values for his own life. Contrary to some teaching, these points are both consistent with, and taught by, Scripture.

Christians should reject the moral code of self-sacrifice for its own sake—the code that claims man’s motive ought not be for his own joy or prosperity. That code sets up “death to self” as an ideal. Such an approach is neither found in Scripture, nor supported by logic.

Individual Rights:

Political theory asks how man should exist in community. To respect the role of the individual mind in politics is to affirm that the individual person is the primary unit of consideration. The individual has rights, while the group does not.

All earthly goods come from the productive work of individual minds. In order for there to be earthly goods, individual minds should be left free to produce. It is proper that each person’s rights (and thus his mind) be respected.

A right is a moral principle defining an individual person’s freedom of action. The initiation of force violates individual rights. It is immoral to do so.

Man’s reason is his primary means of survival. Man’s reasoning ability is unable to function under duress. To the extent that a man is put under coercion, he is unable to live as his nature requires him to.

More broadly, to the extent that force is initiated in a society, the distinctly human way of life is inhibited. To the extent that force prevails, the consequences are despair and destruction.

Physical force is the greatest danger to an individual mind. The initiation of force (either physical coercion or its close relative, fraud) is the most important kind of social evil.

The evil is such as to warrant the creation of civil governments designed with the sole purpose of upholding each person’s individual rights.

Government leaders should prohibit rights violations between members of the society while carefully avoiding committing any violations themselves. That is the only proper purpose of a civil government. Proper governments respect and protect individual rights; they do nothing else.

A government that initiates force against its own people (for social programs, for education, for helping, or regulating) is an inversion of justice. It eventually becomes the greatest threat to human flourishing.

Conclusion:

The above-stated ideals are necessary to reorient Christians toward sound philosophy, objective truth, skillful moral reasoning, and the preservation of civilization.

We commit to work and pray for the day when these truths will become the basis for cultural reform.


For reactions or feedback on this statement, please email us here.

For further steps, please visit New Athens.

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