Ideas Have Consequences is title of well know philosophical work by Richard Weaver. First published in 1948, the book argues that the decline of the West began with the rejection of absolute truth by the medieval scholastics, and that this decline has continued into modern times.
While we do not share the author’s analysis of origin of the decline of the West, his prescription for curing it, or even what constitutes Western Civilization, we can appreciate his insight about the importance of ideas. All practice – the actions we take, the words we use – are the result of some prior theory. John Robbins put it this way,
Not only do ideas have consequences, but only ideas have consequences: Human actions are not independent of ideas but the results of ideas (The Religious Wars of the 21st Century).
Given the practical mindset that dominates in the US and throughout the West, the notion that ideas are logically prior to, and more important than, actions may seem strange to many. One 20th century theologian who well understood the importance of ideas was Gordon Clark. For Clark, ideas were not merely the thoughts that a man thinks, they were the very definition of the man himself. Clark wrote,
the definition [of a person] must be a composite of propositions. As a man thinketh in his (figurative) heart, so is he. A man is what he thinks…a person is the propositions he thinks (The Incarnation, 54, 55).
It is not true that we are what we eat. We are defined, not by what we consume at the dinner table, but by the thoughts we think. And the thoughts we think have consequences for all eternity. Our very salvation depends upon our understanding of, and accepting as true, the propositions of the 66 books of the Bible, especially the Gospel of Jesus Christ.