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Thinking matters

The world is changing. I feel it in my fingers. I feel it in my toes.

Anti-intellectualism is sweeping through Western civilization and there is no high ground, no safe haven from the rushing tides. Constant technological advance is making modern life easier and more convenient every day, and while there are definite benefits to this, there is also a clear downside.

Shaking the lucky-8 ball of Google whenever a question arises has taken the effort out of thinking, and the ease with which modern people can get the answers has actually been demonstrated to have a negative impact on intellectual health. Even universities, the institutions of knowledge and learning are not free from this unstoppable force, albeit in a different way. While culture at large falls prey to not thinking hard about much at all, many academics have fallen prey to only thinking one way, blind and deaf to the cogent and coherent alternatives of opponents.

As with most cultural contagions that ravish the Western mind, the Church also falls victim, despite our allegiance to Another Land. I have seen this most notably in the following ways:

  • A separation between theology and piety (what you believe and how you live)
  • Redefining childlike faith as childish faith
  • A disdain for the past and the history of the Church
  • An over-emphasis on being led subjectively and directly by the Holy Spirit, to the neglect of his promised means of grace (the Word preached)
  • The belief that doctrine divides (an example being the existence of denominations)

I don’t sound the alarm as a concerned scholar, sitting in my ivory tower and nodding at all your indiscretions, but rather, as Mark Noll put it, a “wounded lover” of the intellectual gold mine that is Christianity. Apart from missing out on having your mind absolutely blown by the truths that the Bible teaches, an aversion to thinking in the Christian life is actually a sin. The command to love the Lord our God with all our hearts does not stop there, but is a call to devote every fibre of our beings to the pursuit of grace and knowledge, given to us through Jesus Christ. Attempting to love God without knowledge of Him is tantamount to attempting to love your partner or spouse while avoiding learning any of their hobbies, joys or deepest fears.

The way I see it, anti-intellectualism in Christians will result in three things:

  1. Stunted spiritual growth
  2. A hollow worldview
  3. Robbing God of glory that is all His.

I pray that you will join me as over my following few articles, I attempt to delve into these consequences, demonstrating not only the harm they are causing us, but also the joy and satisfaction that we are missing out on.

Free Audiobook of the Month: Think

Christian Audio is offering John Piper’s great book about the importance of Christian thinking as its free download of the month:

Piper urges us to think for the glory of God. He demonstrates from Scripture that glorifying God with our minds and hearts is not either-or, but both-and. Thinking carefully about God fuels passion and affections for God. Likewise, Christ-exalting emotion leads to disciplined thinking. Readers will be reminded that “the mind serves to know the truth that fuels the fires of the heart.”

I highly recommend reading or listening to this book.

Paul Helm on Philosophical Theology

Credo Magazine has a helpful interview with Paul Helm on the nature of philosophical theology and its purpose in the life of the church.

Here’s an excerpt:

[pk_box width=”600″ align=”center”]“Is Philosophical Theology important for the church today? Why?”

“It’s important that those who have responsibilities in the church should reflect on what they say, link it to the great Christian tradition of the relationship between church and culture. Otherwise we make mistakes, we unintentionally might talk nonsense. (‘At the Cross, God died’; ‘I prayed so hard, and God changed his mind’.) We need to know what our message means, and also what it does not mean. This requires continuous Bible study and theological reflection, but we also need to reflect on our theology. Theology is not just a game, but a serious business. For all these tasks some understanding of philosophical theology can help.”[/pk_box]

Read the whole thing here.

Source: Paul Manata and Patrick Chan

Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind by Mark Noll

Few sentences have had as great an impact on evangelicalism in the late twentieth century than the opening of Mark Noll’s 1994 book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. “The scandal of the evangelical mind,” he wrote, “is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.” For many, the book was a wake-up call to the anti-intellectualism of the church and the state of evangelical scholarship.

Seventeen years later, the Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at Notre Dame returns to the topic in a new book released this month: Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind.

Read more

Two New Books about Christianity and the Life of the Mind

It does not take much investigation to see that the Christian church no longer values the life of the mind and the pursuit of knowledge as highly as it once did. While there may be encouraging signs of change within Evangelicalism, for many the mind is still viewed with indifference, confusion, and sometimes suspicion. The Bible, however, commands us to use our minds and calls us to thinking that is rigorous, passionate, and God-centered. The writers of the New Testament make it clear that we cannot feel or act out our faith as responsible Christians unless we first think as Christians (Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:23).

Crossway Books has recently published two new books to help Christians in this area. Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God is authored by well-known pastor and author, John Piper, and The Gospel and the Mind: Recovering and Shaping the Intellectual Life is penned by associate professor of Christian studies at Union University, Bradley G. Green. Both titles look deeply at the task and privilege of thinking and how this is encouraged and sustained by the Christian worldview. With Christmas near, these books provide a great opportunity to fill the stocking of your friend or loved one with something that has both spiritual substance and intellectual bite.

Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God

In Think, Piper seeks to develop a considered theology of thinking that demonstrates it’s importance and necessity for the Christian life. Far from neglecting our emotions and our experience of God, he shows how our minds are in fact indispensable to knowing God better, loving him more, and caring for the world. We don’t have to choose between either our hearts or our minds, instead Piper argues that thinking carefully about God and done to His glory actually fuels passion and affections for God.

Endorsements:

“Piper has done it again. His outstanding book Think promises to shepherd a generation about the Christian commitment to the life of the mind. Deeply biblical and uniquely balanced, Think practices what it preaches: it is an accessible, intellectually rich study that calls the reader to renewed love for God and others.”
J. P. Moreland, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University

“An essential dimension of Christian discipleship is the life of the mind, and this may well be the most neglected Christian responsibility of our times. God has made us intelligible creatures, and he has given us the stewardship of intellectual faculties that should drive us to think in ways that bring him greatest glory. In this new book, John Piper provides brilliant analysis, warm encouragement, and a faithful model of Christian thinking. This book is a primer for Christian thinking that is urgently needed in our time.”
R. Albert Mohler Jr., President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“Thinking—the alert, meticulous, probing, logical, critical use of the mind—will be a highway either to godliness or to its opposite, depending on how it is done. Taking leads from Jonathan Edwards, John Piper surefootedly plots the true path here. His book should be, and I hope will be, widely read.”
J. I. Packer, Professor of Theology, Regent College; author, Knowing God

The Gospel and the Mind: Recovering and Shaping the Intellectual Life

In The Gospel and the Mind, Bradley Green carefully examines the nature of the relationship between the Christian worldview and the life of the mind. He endeavours to the show that it is not an accident of history that (to use the phrase articulated by D. Bruce Lockerbie) wherever the cross is planted, the academy follows. By distilling several key concepts that are necessary for a flourishing and meaningful intellectual life – creation and the importance of history, the centrality of a telos to all things, the value of words – Green then argues that it is the Christian worldview that uniquely provides these preconditions. His book is not only a compelling argument for Christianity but also immensely practical: reminding us of the fact that the cross rescued not just our souls and bodies, but also our minds.

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Endorsements:

“This remarkable and ground-breaking book is an adventure to read. Green argues convincingly that there is a strong link between Christian faith and the intellectual life of human beings. Given the Christian theological vision of God, human beings, and the world, learning has both a foundation and an animating purpose. Apart from Christian views of creation, history, and redemption, learning is adrift and without ultimate purpose. I strongly recommend this book for all those who long for the recovery of a vibrant intellectual life in our time.”
Stephen Davis, Russell K. Pitzer Professor of Philosophy, Claremont McKenna College

“The Enlightenment teaching that reason is a neutral universal act of thought free of tradition has been as decisively refuted as any philosophical theory can be. But the question remains of how to understand the embededness of reason in tradition. Green makes a convincing argument that Christianity contains just those foundational beliefs about reality that make the life of the mind possible. Christians who for two centuries have anxiously tried to conform their teachings to Enlightenment reason will discover—perhaps to their astonishment—that it is the gospel that makes reason in its fullest sense possible.”
Donald Livingston, Professor of Philosophy, Emory University

The Life of the Mind and the Love of God

The theme of this year’s Desiring God National Conference is one that is close to our hearts here at Thinking Matters. Much of what we do is concerned with encouraging the intellectual life of the church, and one of the inevitable and important issues that often arises is how we should view the life of the mind in relation to the worship and love of God. Over the last weekend, John Piper and Desiring God ministries gathered a group of speakers to address this question and several others related to the biblical call to think. The conference speakers included Albert Mohler, one the “reigning  intellectuals of the evangelical movement” (according to Time magazine), R. C. Sproul, founder and president of Ligonier Ministries and author of over seventy books, and Rick Warren, evangelical pastor and best-selling author of the purpose-driven series.

Conference Sessions:

Thinking Purposefully for the Glory of Christ
The Battle for Your Mind (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
Rick Warren
Audio: Listen | Download

Thinking Deeply in the Ocean of Revelation
The Bible and the Life of the Mind (Acts 17:22-28).
R. C. Sproul
Audio: Listen | Download

Thinking for the Sake of Global Faithfulness
Confronting Islam with the Mind of Christ.
Thabiti Anyabwile
Audio: Listen | Download

The Way the World Thinks
Meeting the Natural Mind in the Mirror and in the Marketplace (Romans 1:18-32).
Albert Mohler
Audio: Listen | Download

Think Hard, Stay Humble:
The Life of the Mind and the Peril of Pride (1 Corinthians 8:1-3).
Francis Chan
Audio: Listen | Download

Thinking for the Sake of Joy
The Life of the Mind and the Love of God.
John Piper
Audio: Listen | Download

For those interested, John Piper’s latest book Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God is also now available.