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Engaging with Extant Thought:
Listening, Affirming, Critiquing, Enriching (LACE)

Andrew Basden.



Some Christians are antagonistic to the world's thought. Others acquiesce to it, for example Christian businesspeople using popular business analysis techniques without question, or Christian researchers working on a theory without question, because that's their 'job'.

A growing number of Christians believe both are wrong, and that we should treat the world's thought as impaired insight.

The workshops on Shaping our Disciplines for Christ initiated by the Christian Academic Network argued that we both can and should contribute to the world's thought as explicitly and authentically Christian thinkers. Participants were encouraged to look at the paradigms that rule their disciplines or the presuppositions made within them - but did not give down-to-earth advice on how to actually engage with the world's thought.

Here we look at how we might engage with the world's thought.


In our areas or disciplines, a number of discourses are going on, which includes researchers tryihg to understand some phenomenon and construct theories to contribute to humanity's body of knowledge in their area, and practitioners employing the bodies of knowledge in practice. The discourses are often carried out in journals - academic and professional.

Take the example of a new theory or model being published. This generates discussion at conferences and in the academic journals, and at some time, people using it and writing about it in the professional journals. That is what we mean by 'discourse' here.

Christian thinkers can contribute to this as Christians without either antagonism or acquiescence, by four activities or attitudes, which may be expressed as Listen, Affirm, Critique, Enrich (LACE).


Example of Listening

Listening often has two stages, (1) to distance ourselves from our immediate impressions or reactions, (2) to find out what the other person really means. We can see these when we come across Baudrillard's [2007, 120] "The secret of theory is that truth doesn't exist."

Phase 1. This short statement could be interpreted as directly opposed to Jesus' statement "I am the truth", and therefore, if taken emotively and unthinkingly, as something to fight against. However, if we listen to Baudrillard, perhaps he meant something else. By listening, rather than merely reacting to words, we can see at least three things.

So, listening so far, we find reason to eschew our emotive reaction and think he might have meant something else.

Phase 2. Keeping on listening might give us clues about what he did mean. Baudrillard is trying to provoke us to considering things we take for granted about theory, in particular, theory's notion of truth. To the theoretical enterprise that is science and academia, 'truth' is seen as synonymous with theory: academics rely on established theory (broadly defined) and reliance means taking it as true. Everyday knowledge is not allowed as truth. But Baudrillard seems to be warning us to question that presupposition. Truth-as-theoreticians-take-it "doesn't exist", i.e. is a chimera.

Not only has this been argued by various postmodernists, but also the Christian philosopher Dooyeweerd argues it more deeply and from a different direction. He has a long discourse on the nature of truth. Truth is something we do, not something we know, and truth is founded in Christ. So, perhaps Baudrillard is saying, provocatively, what thinking Christians might actually believe.

Example of Affirming

To be written. See examples in Engaging with Secular Thought.

Example of Critiquing

To be written. See examples in Engaging with Secular Thought.

Example of Enriching

See example in Enriching Other Thought and various examples in Engaging with Secular Thought.


Baudrillard J. 2007. Forget Foucault, Interview with Sylvere Lotringer. Semiotext(e), Los Angeles, USA.

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Copyright (c) Andrew Basden at all dates below. But you may use this material subject to certain easy conditions.

Part of his pages, that open up discussion and exploration from a Christian ('xn') perspective. Written on the Amiga with Protext, in the style of classic HTML.

Created: 29 January 2017 as 'engaging-lace' for the Christian Academic Network. Last updated: 5 June 2019, added example of listening. 16 September 2020 link to enriching.html, and examples in nv/engage.secular.