John Piper's Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God. Using our thought processes for God's greater glory.
I saw John Piper's book, Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God, on the book table1 in church last Sunday and was intrigued by it. For why would he write, of all subjects, about thinking? Except for mentally handicapped individuals, all of us pretty much think, to some degree. It's as natural to us as breathing.
But there is a sense in which we do not think rightly. Either we think about the wrong things or we don't think at all. Either we are too caught up in the life of our mind (that is, in scholarly studies) or we're too emotionally-driven to do any proper thinking.
"All my life I have lived with the tension between thinking and feeling and doing," writes Piper in the first chapter, a statement that shows how close the subject of thinking cuts to his heart. And anyone who is familiar with John Piper probably knows (1) that he spent a great deal of time—twenty-two years—of nonstop formal education plus another five years teaching in seminary before he committed his life to pastoral ministry, and (2) that he can get very emotional in his sermons as he continually urges people to be passionate for God and to delight in Him. What then is the connection between the intellect and the emotion?
Throughout the book, John Piper, who calls thinking "indispensable on the path to passion for God", turns to two main passages, Proverbs 2 and 2 Timothy 2, both of which urge believers to think carefully.
Mark Noll, who wrote the foreword, summarized the thesis of the book as such:
The real life problems are two sides of the same coin. From the one side, spiritually minded people may conclude that since the Holy Spirit is the source of all life and truth, it is not important to work at thinking, reading, and learning. From the other side, intellectually minded people may conclude that since God wants us to think, read, and learn, these activities are supremely important in and of themselves.
Piper strikes hard at both conclusions. He holds up instead the results of patient biblical exposition ranging through the Scriptures to underscore two alternative truths that speak directly to the contemporary situation. First, against anti-intellectual tendencies, he argues that careful thinking is integral to a full apprehension of the gospel. Second, against the prideful use of the intellect, he argues that clear thinking following biblical patterns will lead away from a self to a full delight in God's grace as the key to every aspect of existence.
The dichotomy between thinking and feeling and doing is non-existent. Didn't Jesus say we should "love the Lord [our] God with all [our] heart and with all [our] soul and with all [our] mind [emphasis mine]" (Matthew 22:37)? The take-home message of this book screams John Piper's signature all over it:
"Our thinking should be wholly engaged to do all it can to awaken and express the heartfelt fullness of treasuring God above all things."
This book couldn't have been more timely. We see in our day a new generation of Christians who do sloppy thinking; they're more easily swayed to believing other false, unbiblical doctrines because they don't study God's Word as they ought. We see, too, the emergence of so-called Christian thinkers who get puffed up with knowledge, and who, because of their pride, are eventually swayed to believing other unbiblical teachings as well.
I'm thankful that John Piper devoted two chapters to relativism—the belief that there is no absolute truth, or if there is, we cannot know it. He explains why it is unethical and dangerous. Any reader will profit from learning more about it.
Nobody exemplifies the harmony of the life of the mind and the love of God more than Jesus. Our Lord stands as our guide. He was the son of a carpenter. He didn't go to the best schools in his country. And yet, we know He studied the Bible well because He memorized Old Testament passages, He asked questions in the synagogue, and He taught God's Word faithfully. Jesus used His mind to delight in and know more about His Father. That is, according to Piper, the purpose of all scholarship: to behold the glory of God and to treasure Him supremely.
1. Ate Salyn Soriano then bought this book for me for my 25th birthday. So, many thanks, Ate Sal!↩