The latest from John Piper challenges readers to engage their minds in pursuing, knowing and loving God. He says loving God with all our mind means.."our thinking is wholly engaged to do it all it can to awaken and express the heartfelt fullness of treasuring God above all things." (pg.85)
Readers will, in fact, have to fully engage their minds while reading THINK. Some chapters are easier than others to understand, but a few will take a 2nd or 3rd reading to fully grasp their meaning. Chapter 10 is easily the most cerebral, and readers will literally have to think hard about its meaning and application..but it's well worth the effort.
Chapters 6 and 7 are both brilliant. But for me, the best chapter in the entire book is Chapter 4, where Piper explains Jesus' encounter with the Pharisees and Sadducees in Matthew 16.. the study is nothing short of brilliant.
After finishing the book, I realized one of the reasons why I appreciate the author's latest..THINK is essentially one big Bible study. There are scripture verses on almost every page. And that of course is Piper's passion, to explain Scripture and help Christ followers to know God and treasure Him more passionately through His Word.
And I always appreciate Piper's bold and challenging statements.. "Desiring to be rich is suicidal." (pg.202) He knows it's not a sin to be rich, but he also knows the Bible's warnings against wanting to be wealthy. Great balance.
One small section I found unecessarily confusing. In Chapter 12, commenting on Romans 10:1, Piper writes that the apostle Paul's Jewish countrymen weren't saved because "they have a zeal for God.." (pg.162) To his credit, Piper clarifies just two short paragraphs later when he writes that their zeal wasn't based on knowledge. But I think the way it's worded first brings unecessary confusion to the reader.
Anyone at all familiar with Piper's writings knows how he's been tremendously influenced by Jonathan Edwards, who many call one of the greatest evangelical thinkers of all time. Chapter 2 talks about that influence.
After reading a good majority of Piper's books, and now his latest, I'm convinced he's one of the greatest thinkers of our time.
And for that, we should all be thankful.
on October 5, 2010
Those of you who have read anything by John Piper before know that you're in for a spiritual delight. Those of you who haven't are about to discover a delight in God greater than you had previously imagined! "Think" is a very readable and yet profound book that should be read by every thinking (or unthinking!) Christian. I plan on using portions of it with my high school Apologetics class. It's amazing how many books are written on how to use the soul and even the body - and how few are written on how to use the mind to love God and man. This is one of those rare and invaluable books.
The thesis and plea of Piper's "Think" is that Christians should "embrace serious thinking as a means of loving God and people." It's not exactly the thesis or plea you'd expect to hear from a Christian book on the mind, which would usually be something more like, "Oh no, the really brilliant atheists have captured the universities and the minds of our generation so we'd better find some even more brilliant Christians to outsmart and outthink them."
But Piper refuses to play this kind of mind game, in which the mind is seen as a largely academic and theoretical kind of faculty. Instead, Piper returns to his first love, which is the glory of God, especially as communicated through the theology of Jonathan Edwards. For Piper, thinking is not an end to itself and not primarily to do battle with atheistic thinking. Thinking is properly a whole person activity that leads us to fulfill the greatest commandment by loving God and loving neighbor. It is not a choice between head and heart for Piper, but a choice to employ both head and heart to know and love God and man.
Piper masterfully unfolds his plea for Christians to think in 13 chapters plus an Introduction. Along the way, Piper gives a lot of food for thought and has crystallized some of his best and most beneficial thoughts into insightful sentences:
Introduction - In the Introduction, Piper makes his plea to embrace thinking as a means of loving God and man and states that "the main reason God gives us minds is that we might seek out and find all the reasons that exist for treasuring him in all things and above all things."
Chapter 1 - My Introduction - is an autobiographical account of how Piper's passion to preach and be a pastor was ignited while thinking about Romans 9 for a book he was writing.
Chapter 2 - Deep Help from a Dead Friend - explores the idea that it is God's nature as the Trinity that is the foundation for human nature as head and heart, thinking and feeling, knowing and loving. He quotes Jonathan Edwards, who said, "God made the world that He might communicate, and the creature receive, His glory; and that it might [be] received both by the mind and heart."
Chapter 3 - Reading as Thinking - passionately presents reading as a most precious and amazing activity.
Chapter 4 - Mental Adultery is No Escape - provocatively argues that to not use the mind to know and glorify God is not only "mental adultery" but also "adulterous irrationality."
Chapter 5 - Rational Gospel/ Spiritual Light - finds Piper persuading the reader that the reason faith is what saves us is that (following the thought of J. Gresham Machen) faith means receiving something, not doing something or even being something. But in order to receive God by faith the mind must come to know God through the gospel and value Him (a kind of thinking) as the soul's and mind's greatest treasure.
Chapter 6 - Treasuring God with All Your Mind - does just what you think it will do.
Chapters 7 and 8 - both deal with Facing the Challenge of Relativism.
Chapter 9-11 - all deal with Facing the Challenge of Anti-intellectualism. Sadly, many American Christians don't see the need to think or use their minds because their religion is an emotional one. They might agree with Billy Sunday who said, "If I had a million dollars I'd give $999,999 to the church and $1 to education" or with D.L. Moody who said, "My theology! I didn't know I had any. I wish you would tell me what my theology is." Sadly (though Piper doesn't deal with this), most Christian Americans today have a very shallow theology but think they know they've worshiped God because they can feel it.
Chapter 12 - The Knowledge that Loves - finds Piper returning to his theme that "true knowing loves people" and "true knowing loves God."
Chapter 13 - All Scholarship is for the Love of God and Man - is yet another corrective Piper presents to the idea that scholarship is dry, esoteric, and removed from life.
Chapter 14 - Conclusion: A Final Plea. This may be the most important chapter of all because in it Piper challenges 2 groups of thinkers to think more lovingly. His plea to those who don't like to think is to: be thankful for thinkers, respect those who serve you by thinking, pray for vulnerable thinkers, avoid wrongheaded thinking, and read your Bible with joy. His plea to those who like to think is to: think consciously for the glory of Christ; become like children; enjoy the Word of God like gold and honey; and think for the sake of love.
"Think" is a thoughtful and soulful book that should be widely read. Pastors, professors, teachers, students, parents, and homeschoolers would benefit immensely from this brief but brilliant book. In fact, I can't think of a single category of Christian reader who wouldn't benefit from it. Highly recommended!
on September 30, 2010
When the Apostle Paul talked about God making foolish the wisdom of the world, he was not trying to discourage Christians from thinking too hard, according to John Piper in this book. Instead, "the main reason God has given us minds is that we might seek out and find all the reasons that exist for treasuring him in all things and above all things." Loving God with all our minds means fully employing our thinking in the pursuit of God.
The book starts with two chapters describing the author's personal journey and the inspiration that he has derived from Jonathan Edwards. After that come chapters on the relationship between reading and thinking, and coming to faith through thinking. There are two interesting chapters on relativism, in which the author points out that relativism is a moral choice as well as an intellectual choice. A follower of Christ submits to God's definition of truth, rather than choosing to define his or her own personal truth. Other chapters deal with anti-intellectualism, the wisdom of God and the relationship between knowledge and love.
Many readers will find some of the content challenging, but they should not let this put them off reading through the whole book as it is relatively brief (around 170 pages plus foreword and appendices). The book certainly succeeded in making me think, and the author's encouragement for Christians to engage in loving God with all of their minds is very helpful.
on June 27, 2011
I really enjoy John Piper as an author and a teacher, this book shows some of his talent. I found the font half of the book to be extremely interesting, but as the book went on I grew more and more excited for the end. John Piper did a wonderful job explaining the importance of critical thinking and using the christian brain. This is the perfect book for someone who comes from unintellectual form of Christianity where critical thinking, theology or science is regarded as distractions that will get us confused. I found the book extremely redundant, one of those books where you are hammered for 3 chapters on the same topic. Great book, totally agree with the thinking behind it, ideas were fleshed out a little further than I enjoyed enduring.
on January 17, 2011
This book by pastor-theologian John Piper reminds me of books on similar theme such as Mark Noll's Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, Os Guinness' Fit Bodies, Fat Minds, J.P. Moreland's Love Your God with All Your Mind and Gene Veith's Loving God with All Your Mind. These scholars and thinkers have written these excellent books (all of which are worth reading) based on their exposure to different worldviews and their effort to create or instill biblical worldviews.
Piper's approach is different in that he draws solely from the Bible and in that he limits himself mainly to Proverbs 2:3-5 and 1 Timothy 2:7. He writes that his approach is that of a Bible expositor and in that he has succeeded because the book read like a series of sermons. Thinking is a serious aspect of discipleship, Piper suggests and that such thinking "is wholly engaged to do all it can to awaken and express the heartfelt fullness of treasuring God above all thing."
This book seems to be seeking a balance between the "anti-intellectualism" of some churches and "over-intellectualism" of the academia, However unlike his other books, I find it difficult to decipher what Piper is really trying to say in this book. While I agree with his emphasis on reading and understanding the Bible (which he equate to thinking) and his asserting that thinking is loving God, I find it difficult to apply his conclusion to the rest of the world who are mostly illiterate, do not have access to the Bible, and to the category of people who are intellectually impaired. And also in most of Africa, Asia and South America, most pastors and Bible teachers are not theologically trained. I refuse to accept that because of these handicaps, the Christians in these regions are defective in their thinking and hence not able to love God with their minds. I believe the power of the Holy Spirit transcend the inability of believers to read and write and that these inabilities do not handicap their relationship with the Triune God.
on January 22, 2013
Back in the college I was a big John Piper fan. He works a very methodical, moving through each point carefully and thoroughly. In fact, my only complaint then was that his works were a bit too long. But as time moved on and I began reading more, I started finding Piper's works to be repetitive and superfluous. It sort of pains me to write a bad review for John Piper, but this is my honest response.
When I saw that Piper had written a book on the subject of the mind in our Christian faith, I was thrilled. It appeared like he was finally diverging from his usual style of Christian hedonism. Sadly, I was mistaken.
Now, I do not disagree with anything Piper has written here, however his arguments were either stale or unnecessary. For the entire book he is strongly defending his position however he does mention any detractors until after page one hundred. In my opinion, if you cannot adequately describe your opponent's position you can never adequately defend your own position. Piper should have laid out anti-intellectual arguments first and work from there. Furthermore, when Piper finally approached the anti-intellectual claims, they all came from a different era; most of them over a hundred years ago. I really did not feel any dissension that would require Piper to write an entire book to counter.
And to top it all off, I felt like his attack on relativism was quite poor. He just marked relativist as dumb evildoers who are paralyzed from any action because any action requires a statement of truth. It is not impossible for a relativist to stick some truths - they can't just go around believing in round squares. I honestly felt like I heard better arguments in my Philosophy 101 class.
Clearly, relativism and Christianity cannot co-exist. This is why Christians should use their mind. We should use our minds fully. Our minds are a gift of God and an instrument we can use to love God and love others. It is only one piece in the numerous ways we can connect with God, but it is a very valuable piece.
Once you have read Desiring God who have read every single thing written by John Piper, though Thinking. Loving. Doing. is a great work written by Piper and friends that is simple, short, and to the point. It is a much more useful read than Think.
on April 30, 2011
Evangelical Christianity has gotten a well-deserved reputation for anti-intellectualism. One has only to watch most TV evangelicals to see this in action. Partly to counteract this anti-intellectualism in the Christian faith, Piper explains in almost exegetical fashion, how Christians must use their minds far more than they do. We are commanded in Scripture to use our minds, to think, to ponder, to discern, to understand. But Piper is also careful to teach the reader how to obey the Biblical commands to rely completely on God's wisdom and discernment instead of our own. Piper has managed to give us his "both-and" method of obeying both commands (THINK! AND trust God) at once without overbalancing toward our own judgments and without presenting an antinomy. In short, Piper biblically roadmaps a thinking, intellectual pathway to obeying God completely while explaining how the mind must first process information in order to do that. This is an exceptional piece of work, a quantum leap from well-meaning but dangerous Christian proclamations that one need not think, just obey. Piper says we cannot properly obey God unless the mind is first deeply involved in the process of understanding Who it is we obey and what God is asking us to obey. Piper's book is another in a recent and welcome line of books explaining why Christianity really is (and should be) a rational, intellectual faith, not a blind leap in the dark. The book is not easy reading for the layperson or for those used to "lite" Christianity, but it is well worth the time and effort.
on March 27, 2015
There is a tension between loving God and thinking about Him. Some Christians favor the emotional side of our relationship with God. Others disdain the emotional in favor of the intellectual. This book has helped me to realize that I can love God more, and I can exercise my mind to consider Him and His Word. I can love Him with all my heart, and still analyze Him with all my mind. He can take it. So can I. This book helps me understand more clearly how I can--indeed, MUST-- make this a reality in my life. I found the book challenging, and enlightening--like most of Piper's books. I urge you to read it!
on May 19, 2013
"Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God" by John Piper is a call for Christians to take seriously the role of God-honoring thinking in the Christian life. Written in response to various strains of anti-intellectualism that have afflicted the Church in the past several decades, the goal of Think is to encourage "serious, faithful, humble thinking that leads to the true knowledge of God, which leads to loving him, which overflows in loving others" (154). What distinguishes this book from others written by evangelicals on the importance of the life of the mind in Christian faith - notably, Mark Knoll's Scandal of the Evangelical Mind and Os Guinness' Fit Bodies Fat Minds is its emphasis on biblical exposition over cultural, historical and philosophical analysis. But the ultimate goal is the same: to wake Christians up to the ways in which our thinking is inextricably linked with our affection for God.
Indeed, biblical exposition is this book's greatest strength. Piper is very adept at carefully exegeting a passage of Scripture, highlighting its nuances and bringing readers to a mature and responsible understanding of its context and its message. The two passages that drive the book's analysis are 2 Timothy 2:7 and Proverbs 2:1-6, but many other passages from both the Old and New Testaments are given careful consideration as well. In his exposition of these passages, Piper persuasively demonstrates that God uses thinking as a means of enacting regeneration and sanctification in the believer's life; he also distinguishes between humble thinking that honors God and serves man and dangerous thinking that merely puffs up.
While I appreciated Piper's thoughtful teaching of Scripture and agreed with the majority of his argument on the importance of thinking in the Christian life, I didn't walk away from this book with a burning desire to share it with all my friends, although I do think many would be encouraged by it. For one, while I understand that Piper's objective in writing this book was to privilege the exposition of Scripture over cultural analysis - and I appreciate that goal - I couldn't help but desire more commentary on the cultural trends that often impede our ability to think rigorously. Perhaps my dissatisfaction on this score stems from my having recently read David Wells' book The Courage to Be Protestant, which, in addition to being fantastically written, fluidly blends cultural analysis with biblical teaching. I can't really fault John Piper for not elaborating on something that happens to be a pet interest of mine; he does a fine job of executing the aims he establishes in Think's introduction. I do think, however, that more cultural analysis could potentially make this book more engaging.
While the teaching of this book is solid, it also suffers from a somewhat lackluster presentation. There were a several unclear passages that seemed to contain typographical errors and one or two other passages that were needlessly callous toward sensitive postmodern readers. Those of you who know me well know that I hold to a complementarian view of manhood and womanhood and that I'm not the type to get my feminist undies in a tangle over every perceived slight against women. Nevertheless, I still found myself grimacing over a passage in this book that used gender exclusive language in a scenario that really called for gender neutral language. (See his comment about professors and their wives on page 108). I don't think that a passage like this one means that Piper is some kind of misogynist. Rather, I think it betrays a rushed attitude toward the publication of this book. Had more editing been done, I believe this passage would have been revised so as to not needlessly offend select readers. And I really do think it's important to revise careless passages like this one. One thing I love about David Wells' The Courage to Be Protestant is that the only thing about it that could be potentially offensive to postmodern readers is the Gospel presented therein. Nothing else. Wells doesn't compromise biblical truth to impress readers but he does write in a winsome and sensitive way. As much as I appreciate John Piper and his ministry, I can't honestly say the same for this book.
And, lastly, I did take issue with the book's conclusion, which seemed to undermine the argument that we ought to be thinking Christians because God uses thinking as a means to kindle our affections for him and other people. In the conclusion, Piper has some suggestions for two groups: "those who don't love to think" and "those who love to think." In order to encourage those who don't love thinking, he writes, "My plea is not that you get a different personality. Not everyone should be energized by the challenge of thinking" (179). Hm. Then, several paragraphs later, in an attempt to discourage the people who don't like to think from jumping to wrongheaded conclusions, he writes...
"...even though you don't think often about the way you think, try to avoid the worst mental mistakes in dealing with the Bible and those who teach it. For example, if you are listening to a preacher and he says something like, `God can't be completely sovereign and yet humans still be responsible for their choices,' don't suddenly jump on that misguided intellectual train. Instead say to him, `Sure he can; both are in the Bible.' Then go on about your work" (181).
In addition to being somewhat patronizing to the people he labels as not loving thinking ("then go on about your work"???) I feel like, here, Piper is encouraging people to be complacent in their lack of critical thinking, which is completely contrary to the objective of this book! I affirm the Bible's view of compatibilism when it comes to God's sovereignty and man's responsibility. I'm on board with Piper's theology here, and I do affirm that the most persuasive evidence for compatibilism is that both are clearly taught in the Bible, often within the same verse. But, one's thought process should not stop with the kind of rote recitation that he's advocating for here! And, perhaps it's the teacher in me, but I also dislike the notion that there are simply large populations of people out there who are destined to never, ever love thinking, especially since I agree with Piper that thinking is such an essential aspect of the Christian walk. Thinking is hard, and in this day and age, there are many distractions and temptations that love to thwart us as we try to engage seriously with weighty ideas. But, it's a goal we all ought to diligently pursue, because, the more we do it, the more we will love it. I was somewhat put off by his dismissal of the non-thinkers, especially given the purpose for which this book was written in the first place.
Despite my criticisms, which seem to outnumber my praises, I do affirm the value of Piper's biblical teaching in this book. It's just not as good of a book as it could have been.
on January 10, 2011
Getting John Piper's new book Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God in the mail from Crossway a month back I was very excited to dive in to this work. My excitement only rose as I read C.J. Mahaney's endorsement of it:
"Do you ever wish you could feel more deeply about things you know are true? Has it been a while since you were moved to tears at the thought of Christ's death for your sins? It's not mysterious: those who feel deeply about the gospel are those who think deeply about the gospel. In these pages John Piper will convince you that thinking is the sturdy foundation for our easily misguided affections. If you want to feel profoundly, learn to think carefully. And start by reading this book!"
Amen and amen to that! I certainly want to think deeply and feel deeply about the gospel. And I want help with knowing how to do that better.
So, it was with this attitude that I embarked upon reading this book. After a few great introductory chapters I quickly realized that this book wasn't the how-to manual that I may have been hoping for. Instead it is a thoughtful laying of the theological foundation for why thinking is important and how it relates to faith and God's regenerating work in our lives.
Evaluating this book strictly based on my expectations would result in a negative review because I was looking for less of a technical theological treatment and more of a practical "how do I think deeply" book. However, as Dr. Piper even states in his book, the author of a book has something in mind that they intend to convey through their writing. Judging this book by my uninformed expectations instead of in accordance with what it was actually about would be unfair.
So what was this book actually about? Why was it written? Piper says:
"The aim of this book is to encourage serious, faithful, humble thinking that leads to the true knowledge of God, which leads to loving him, which overflows in loving others."
In classic John Piper fashion he starts off with laying the foundations for thinking deeply as a means for enjoying in and glorifying God through the telling of his story and his favorite theologian's, Jonathan Edwards, writings.
I also love how he describes what loving God with our mind means:
"I will suggest that loving God with the mind means that our thinking is wholly engaged to do all it can to awaken and express the heartfelt fullness of treasuring God above all things."
Chapter 3 was probably my favorite chapter titled: "Reading as Thinking." God has graciously revealed Himself in a specific manner in a book, the Bible. And reading any book, and especially this book of God, inherently requires thinking. So Piper pleads that we would read and think carefully as we read God's Word that we might strive to understand what the author's of Scripture intended to convey. This concept is so foundational and so important, yet it can easily be the most overlooked or unattended. Piper wants to encourage us to work hard to understand the Bible in the power of the Spirit by asking questions and working to answer them. What an essential practice!
In the remaining chapters of the book Piper seeks to answer many questions that challenge the role or need to think deeply as Christians.
Chapters 4 and 5 work through how thinking works in our coming to faith in Jesus. What role does thinking play? What role does the Holy Spirit play? How do our darkened natural minds (apart from Christ) affect our thinking? Though God intends that we use our minds, we can't apprehend the beauty of Christ in the gospel apart from the gracious work of the Holy Spirit. So, it is through that gracious work of the Holy Spirit that our minds eyes are opened to behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus.
Chapter 6 turns to working through the question of how thinking works in fulfilling the great commandment to love God. With the mind that God has given us and the Spirit's enablement we are able to "know the truth and beauty and worth of God through Jesus and treasure him above all things and spend our lives expressing and pursuing this in as many ways as our minds can pursue."
Chapters 7 and 8 helpfully look at the challenge of relativism and how Jesus responded to some New Testament relativists: the chief priests and elders. He shows how often the case with relativism is that "They don't care about truth. They care about their skin. Therefore, they take the God-given handmaidens of truth--thinking and speaking--and prostitute them as slaves of self-protection." He also goes on to show the evil and destructive effects of relativism to help warn us against it.
Chapters 9 - 11 address another challenge: anti-intellectualism. It looks at some of the common passages (Luke 10:21 and 1 Corinthians 1:21) used to actually make the case against careful and rigorous thinking. It shows how Jesus and Paul aren't actually against careful thinking, but are against arrogant and godless thinking. Piper's hope is for a humble, Spirit-dependent thinking that is in accordance with God's Word.
Chapters 12 and 13, in light of the challenges of relativism and anti-intellectualism looks at how we can even attempt to think with so much danger involved in it in "Finding a Humble Way of Knowing." The lesson derived is that:
"Thinking is dangerous and indispensable. Without a profound work of grace in the heart, knowledge--the fruit of thinking--puffs up. But with that grace, thinking opens the door of humble knowledge. And that knowledge is the fuel of the fire of love for God and man. If we turn away from serious thinking in our pursuit of God, that fire will eventually go out."
And chapter 13 especially focuses on the broader work of Christian scholarship:
"Therefore, the task of all Christian scholarship, not just Biblical studies, is to study reality as a manifestation of God's glory, to speak and write about it with accuracy, and to savor the beauty of God in it, and to make it serve the good of man."
Finally, the conclusion has a plea to non-thinkers and thinkers.
To Those Who Don't Love To Think:
1. Be Thankful for Thinkers.
2. Respect Those Who Serve You With Thinking.
3. Pray for the Vulnerable Thinkers.
4. Avoid Wrongheaded Thinking.
5. Read Your Bible With Joy.
To Those Who Do Love To Think:
1. Think Consciously for the Glory of Christ.
2. Become Like Children.
3. Enjoy the Word of God Like Gold and Honey
4. Think for the Sake of Love.
Given it's aim, this book is great. Piper raises many questions that one may ask in thinking through the place of thinking in the Christian life. Whether the question is about where thinking is located in the Bible, the role of thinking in salvation, the Christian life, or Christian scholarship, Piper carefully seeks to work through Biblical answers to these questions and give us a foundation for humble, dependent, rigorous thinking for the glory of God and the good of others. If you have questions as to the need for thinking, the plausibility of relativism or anti-intellectualism, or if Christian scholarship is even a good thing, then this book will hopefully be a worthwhile read for you. Let's think hard about God, His Word, and His World for His glory and the good of others!