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Passionately Teaches the Mind to Love God and Man
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!