John Piper, in his latest book entitled, Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God, has provided the Christian community with an informative, insightful, and impassioned plea toward growth in the use of the mind, that Christians may effectively love God and others well. Intelligently combating relativism in the world at large, and anti-intellectualism within the church, Piper displays, convincingly, that God has given us minds in order to comprehend the Scriptures to the end of a burning worship within the heart.
Piper begins his book with a brief autobiographical sketch that recalls his personal growth in the understanding of thinking as a discipline that fuels the worship of God. He notes particularly the influence that the 18th century theologian, Jonathan Edwards, has had on his desire and ability to love God well in heart and mind. Influenced heavily by the Trinitarian theology of Edwards, Piper notes, “the mind serves to know the truth that fuels the fires of the heart. The apex of glorifying God is enjoying him with the heart. But this is an empty emotionalism where that joy is not awakened and sustained by true views of God for who he really is. That is mainly what the mind is for.”
As the book progresses, Piper demonstrates the primary importance of reading in the task of thinking well. Basing this on the fact that God’s clearest and most-authoritative self revelation has come through the pages of his written Word, the Bible, he implores the believer to pursue an understanding of the meaning of the text of Scripture, through the discipline of asking questions, to foster affections toward God based on truth. He graciously admits that this discipline may not come naturally for those raised in a culture of immediate gratification, but offers pastoral encouragement toward the maturity of one’s ability to benefit from intentional, focused, deeper thinking for the sake of understanding and enjoying God for who he is.
In the next two sections of the book, Piper demonstrates the God-ordained role of thinking in coming to the place of saving faith, and its role in loving God “with all your mind.” Piper’s defines loving God “with all your mind” as, “thinking [that’s] wholly engaged to do all it can to awaken and express the heartfelt fullness of treasuring God above all things.”
Piper’s section on relativism is perhaps the most helpful section in the book. Tackling relativism from the angles of implausibility and immorality, Piper demonstrates that relativism is essentially self-defeating and self-aggrandizing at its foundation.
Moving forward, Piper takes up the issue of anti-intellectualism in the church. Considering some of the critiques often cited against intellectual endeavors, he notes that the answer is not the abandonment of rigorous thinking. Piper’s remedy for anti-intellectualism is “humble, faithful, prayerful, Spirit-dependent, rigorous thinking. Some may initially be intimidated or discouraged by the exhortation to mature intellectually, erroneously assuming that more formal education is required. However, Piper notes, “There is no extensive correlation between extensive learning and the right use of the mind…the right use of the mind is always good no matter how much or how little education one has.” Thus, people from all walks of life, regardless of their level of formal education, have the ability to mature in the pursuit thinking well and worshipfully loving God “with all [one’s] mind.”
Piper then concludes the book with practical steps toward humble thinking. He notes ways that thinking has been good for the church, and ultimately does serve our love for others as we come to know the person of Christ and the reality of the cross more clearly and accurately through reading (thinking) and embracing the Scriptures.
I heartily encourage the reading of Think as it is wonderfully biblical, accessible, encouraging, convicting, and passionate about the importance of thinking clearly and accurately about God for his glory, our joy, and the good of our neighbor. Think offers the much-needed perspective that thinking and feeling are not in opposition to one another, but essentially complimentary.
I commend Piper’s Think to those naturally inclined toward intellectual pursuits as it offers guidance toward humility in that pursuit. I commend it to those dismissive of, or discouraged by intellectual endeavors, as it proves to be a helpful guide to the use of the mind for feeling deeply about the gospel and loving others well. I commend it to pastors as it provides a plea for thinking well in order to proclaim the gospel well. I commend it to lay-people as it serves to encourage the discipline and reward of thinking for every follower of Christ, no matter their vocation. I enthusiastically recommend Think!