This book found its way on to my reading list in a way I can’t remember – but I am very glad it did. The contributors read like a who’s who of intelligent evangelicalism; David Mathis, Rick Warren, Al Mohler, R.C.Sproul, Thabiti Anyabwile, Francis Chan and John Piper, and the topics each of the essayists engage with are vitally important. The endorsements are interesting too – one might expect to see Wayne Grudem chip in, but its exciting to see Shane Claiborne write too; “Read this book, throw it, love it, hate it. But allow it to move you closer to Jesus and closer to the poor. So read it – and then think, love and do“. With that as an introduction, there is a compelling case for this being a book worth reading. “Thinking. Loving. Doing. Glorify God with heart and mind” is a great title, too.
David Mathis’ chapter, which is also the introduction, sets the scene perfectly, and rightly quotes Billy Graham, in challenging us; “will the Western Church heed the Great Commission call to disciple the nations, or will we “turn increasingly inward, caught up in our own internal affairs or controversies?“. This bold challenge is vital. Mathis then informs us, the readers, of the intent and aim of the contributors and their various essays; “In the first three chapters, Warren, Mohler and Sproul issue a pointed challenge for rigorous thinking“. Chan and Anyabwile are looking at the question of Doing, which is strengthened by the fact that Anyabwile writes as a former muslim, whilst Chan “rattles our cages with a highly testimonial exposition.. the right use of knowledge is taken into the service of acts of love“. Piper closes the book looking at Loving. As an introduction to how a book works, and a starter for ten to whet one’s appetite, Mathis nails it.
The ‘Thinking’ chapters are interesting, and reflect the different styles, emphases and contexts of their three authors. Warren writes of “The Battle for Your Mind”, ranging from mental illness, the role of the Devil, and gives us four superb principles for fighting the battle. He closes with a bold challenge to thinkers and doers; “Those of you who are thinkers, you need to do more. Those of you who are doers, you need to think more. It’s not one or the other. It’s both-and“. This is a challenge I need to take seriously. Mohler writes a typically scholarly essay, “The Way the World Thinks: Meeting the Natural Mind in the Mirror and in the Marketplace”, where he engages fiercely with the challenge that followers of Jesus need to be thinkers. I always enjoy Mohler’s style – perhaps it is my Baptist upbringing – and the way he flows from context into a superb exposition of Romans 1 is very helpful. He follows this with a masterful study into the way different minds work, the noetic effects of the Fall, and he closes with a wonderful challenge; “Our intellectual discipleship must be demonstrated in the renewing of our minds – by the word and through the Spirit and in the church. Keep thinking – until Jesus comes“. Sproul is an author I’ve not yet managed to read at length, but I thoroughly enjoyed his chapter, “Thinking Deeply in the Ocean of Revelation: The Bible and the Life of the Mind”. Sproul wonderfully contextualises a passage of Acts, and masterfully thinks through some Greek philosophers, concluding with the simple notion of the sufficiency of revelation for human thought.
Thabiti Anyabwile writes a powerful essay on relating to Islam; “Thinking for the Sake of Global Faithfulness: Encountering Islam with the Mind of Christ”. He opens with a completely true statement: “the fullest expression of Christian living is a combination of head, heart, and hands. It involves receiving truth through the head, which ignites new affections in the heart and flows out in action through the hands“. Anyabwile, as a former Muslim, is well placed to write this essay, and it shows in his calm treatment of a religion that is often demonized by the American media. He writes with intelligence on issues of Pluralism, Sharia Law, and ultimately gives a very helpful model for Christian engagement with Islam. Francis Chan is one of my favourite living Christian authors and speakers. His chapter title reflects the reason I’m a fan; “Think Hard, Stay Humble: The Life of the Mind and the Peril of Pride”. He bases his essay first of all on a wonderful exposition of 1 Corinthians 8:1-3, and I was very grateful for his bold, true statement that “Knowledge: Essential but not Sufficient“, one that is a challenge to everyone who follows Jesus. As an essay on humility, too, this is superb. I’d love every theology student to read it!
John Piper’s conclusion is very Piper-esque in title, and that is no bad thing; “Thinking for the Sake of Joy: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God”. Given that Piper has spent his many years in ministry sounding the trumpet for Joy in the Christian life (Christian Hedonism anyone?) this is a very appropriate chapter, but also an utterly fitting close to the book. Piper is very helpfully clear that there are things that “Thinking. Loving. Doing” are meant to prevent, and things that it is meant to Awaken and Increase. Each of these are big challenges, expertly summarising the positions of the other contributors. Piper ends, as we should all begin, at the Cross; “To that end may the cross of Christ, the deepest, highest, clearest revelation of God in history, be the focus of your thinking. There is no other place where you can see him more clearly or love him more deeply. Here is the place where your thinking will be most deeply purified, and the worth of God will be most fully magnified. Amen“.
I loved this book. And it has provided me with many challenges as I embark on the next bit of my journey with Jesus. The wonderful thing throughout is the lack of secondary issues clouding the book, and the utter focus on Jesus. Intelligently, lovingly, biblically so. This is an excellent book, for every Christian. It has the advantage of being highly readable, whilst also very deep. I hope many will read it!