A Conversation on the Life of the Mind, Part 3

Throughout this series RTB editor Maureen Moser and I have been discussing the importance of loving God with our mind (see part 1 and part 2). Scripture is clear that believers are obligated to love God with their entire being (Luke 10:27). Unfortunately, some circles within Christianity give loving God with the intellect the short shrift. Believers are almost always aware of the need to be sincere in their faith—but what about the need to be careful and correct in their thinking?

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Maureen: Are you saying that the life of the mind is the most important aspect of the Christian life?

Ken: No. The most important aspect of Christianity is the truth of knowing the Triune God through the redemption that is initiated by the Father, accomplished by the Son on the cross, and applied by the work of the Holy Spirit. The gospel is the “good news” that we can be forgiven of our sins and be reconciled to God through faith.

But the life of the mind is an indispensable aspect of the overall Christian life and worldview. In fact, when the life of the mind is ignored or devalued, the fullness of the Christian worldview cannot be fully appreciated.

I’m concerned that too many believers think they must choose between being spiritual (or moral) on one hand or intellectual on the other. Yet instead of an either-or situation, it can definitely be both-and. The life of the mind is a critical part of one’s overall devotion to God.

Also sometimes Christians think that if they’re not gifted cerebrally, then they can’t participate in loving God with their mind. This is false. Generally speaking, all believers, regardless of intellectual level, can grow in using their mind as part of their service to God.

Maureen: You have a huge library and you seem to always be reading and reflecting about ideas. Would every Christian have the obligation to pursue the life of the mind to the extent that you do?

Ken: No, I’m likely an exception. I’m probably even obsessive-compulsive when it comes to the life of the mind. I sense that God has called me personally to pursue tenaciously the life of the mind to his glory. For me, it’s a burning passion. It grows naturally out of the way God designed me to reflect his image and the degree to which I understand the Christian world-and-life view.

But I do sense that God has also called me to be a type of evangelist for the life of the mind in a culture and church age that generally not only neglects the intellect but too often promotes anti-intellectualism. I’m convinced that anti-intellectualism is one of the evangelical church’s greatest problems today. Again I wonder how nonbelievers would view Christianity if church members were known as thinkers, not just feelers.

So, I do think all Christians should seek to attempt to love God with their intellectual faculties.

In part four of this series will include a quiz for people to take.

9 responses to “A Conversation on the Life of the Mind, Part 3

  1. Great post Ken. I completely agree that we tend to be long on emotion and short on reasoning in most congregations. As you mention, there are wonderful possibilities for sharing our faith that come about by working on our reasons for belief. Christianity succeeds on both very simple and very complex levels, and there is great joy in discovering this truth. Unfortunately, too many of us stop at the level of our own personal satisfaction, and miss the joy that comes from personal discipleship. Thanks!

  2. I appreciate your comments, John.

    I like your idea that the truth of the Christian world-and-life view travels on various tracks (some simple and some complex).

    In my experience the framing of the life of the mind in terms of the believer’s love for God seems to help believers see the need to use their cognitive faculties in devotion to the Lord.

    Blessings upon your continued work for the Kingdom.

  3. I am listening to a book called the Pilgrim’s Progress and I am amazed at how well John Bunyan goes through all the pitfalls that a Christian may face throughout his journey. One such pitfall was when Christian meet with Talkative. I believe Talkative was well exercised in the head knowledge of God’s precepts but he was lazy in the application thereof, and thus he was seen as a hypocrite. His enormous amount of knowledge actually stumbled others and ruined many. If we focus too much on Mind, we may be in danger of becoming Talkative. I do believe though that if someone with head knowledge is also mindful of his/her thoughts, and willing to take action against faulty thinking (for s/he should be aware of what God considers as faulty thinking if the mind is a focus), the body will follow in action, and virtue will soon become a habit.

  4. Hi, Sean.

    Thanks for your comments.

    In my opinion too many Christians create an artificial dichotomy between head and heart. I prefer to address the subject from the vantage point of loving God with all of my faculties or in other words with all of my being (Matthew 22:37). It seems to me true devotion to the Lord will include both spiritual-moral dedication as well as careful thinking (a well trained mind).

    Best regards.

  5. Good point, Jesus makes a distinction between the heart, mind, soul, and strength, as if they are all distinct (Luke 10:27). If we look up Deut 6:5 the word heart is used but my guess is that because Jesus uses both mind and heart, when he quotes Deut 6:5, thus heart in Hebrew carries both meanings in this context. Here is an interesting quote:

    Sirach 21:26 The heart of fools is in their mouth: but the mouth of the wise is in their heart.

    By the way, Ben Franklin quoted this in his Almanack. It seems here that the heart may represent the feelings/heart, and mind (thinking faculties). My interpretation is that here the fool impulsively allows his mouth to spout out his heart/emotions (feelings, without understanding or thought) while the wise person allows his mind (reasoning abilities, understanding) to take the reins of his mouth’s every word. It is as if the mouth had its own will, but subject to the mind/heart, if applied. I suppose our strength, and soul are also distinct from the mind and the heart/emotions. I looked up soul and it too can mean mind and strength for the Greek. I suppose strength must mean vitality, and soul means our living bodies in context of Luke 10:27.

  6. Sean:

    Concerning Matthew 22:37,

    “And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind'” (ESV).

    Here’s what the distinguished New Testament scholar D.A. Carson says about this passage:

    “From the viewpoint of biblical anthropology, ‘heart,’ ‘soul,’ and ‘mind’ (v. 37) are not mutually exclusive but overlapping categories, together demanding our love for God to come from our whole person, our every faculty and capacity.”

    The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 8 Matthew (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), 464.

    I agree with Carson. I don’t think Jesus is dividing human beings into various parts (heart, soul, mind) but rather is using a form of synonymous parallelism which emphasizes the whole person.

    Best regards.

    • Hi Kenneth
      When Carson says overlapping, might we view the Heart, Mind, & Soul as three overlapping circles in a Vinn diagram? In that case there would be some regions within each category that might be mutually exclusive, or they may all exist within one circle some smaller than the others. I would view the ideal situation as the person as the Universal set, The soul as a large circle containing the mind, the mind as a large circle containing the entire heart/emotions. A worse case scenario would be where all three are mutually exclusive in a person, and there might even be other new sets within that person such as demons, with control of the their mind, heart, and souls. I suppose the ideal situation could not occur unless the Holy spirit was also in there.
      Godspeed
      Sean

  7. Pingback: A Conversation on the Life of the Mind, Part 3 | Tomasz Zadarmo

  8. Pingback: A Conversation on the Life of the Mind | Tomasz Zadarmo

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