Evangelical Christianity has suffered for decades from a thinking disorder. I cringe when most evangelical church leaders are asked to defend their faith or a particular theological position in a television interview. It is almost always a train wreck. Christianity is usually portrayed as some kind of crutch for people who can’t think for themselves, and its defenders in the public square often inadvertently offer ample evidence to support this claim. 15 years ago, I opened Mark Noll’s The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind and agreed with its first sentence: “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.” Sadly, not much has changed. Skeptics walk into our churches every Sunday with legitimate questions and walk out (many for the last time) believing that our faith has nothing legitimate to offer that will stand up under the weight of intelligent scrutiny. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have valid, intellectually defensible answers to the deepest questions of life, and we can and must be equipped to engage the cultural conversation.
That is why I am so pleased that John Piper wrote Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God, and am so happy to recommend it. I have learned a lot from the sermons and books of John Piper, so it’s not all that surprising that I enjoyed this book. Think, however, is not typical Piper fare – and one doesn’t have to be a fan of his earlier works to appreciate or learn from this one. Piper says, “This book is a plea to embrace serious thinking as a means of loving God and people. It is a plea to reject either-or thinking when it comes to head and heart, thinking and feeling, reason and faith, theology and doxology, mental labor and the ministry of love.” Essentially, Think is a plea for Christians to avoid the twin dangers of anti-intellectualism on one hand and intellectual pride on the other. As Piper says, “I would like to encourage you to think, but not to be too impressed with yourself when you do.”
Starting with his own story and background in the pastorate and academia, Piper shares how Jonathan Edwards shaped his understanding of the relationship between thinking and feeling. For Piper, thinking is primarily defined as reading. And his chapter on “Reading as Thinking” is a very helpful chapter. I think that this chapter alone is worth the price of the book, as the information contained in it will be of value to students of any age – including those who just want to understand how to read their Bible with greater insight. In the later chapters, Piper clearly helps the reader with face two serious challenges – relativism and anti-intellectualism.
I think every student, every church and ministry leader, and everyone who has an interest in thinking about God should read this book.
[Disclosure of Material Connection: Crossway sent me a free review copy of this book. I was not asked to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”]