With all your mind…

I teach a sort of informal logic class to a group of homeschool kids in my church (including my Darling Daughter and three ‘all man’ boys) and some kids in Texas join us via Skype (three lovely young ladies and dear friends). (We show them Labrador puppies and they show us a hedgehog.) One of the things I do as we begin each week is talk about the goal of our class…to think like Christians.

To support the importance of thinking like Christians I use the first three questions and answers of the Westminster Short Catechism:

Question 1: What is the chief end of man?
Answer 1: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever.

Q2: What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him?
A2: The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him.

Q3: What do the Scriptures principally teach?
A3: The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.

Working backwards, what we “believe” is not only saving faith, which is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9), but the content we build upon that gift. If you will, it is what we recite in the Ecumenical Creeds, Nicene and Apostles, among others. Bundled up in that ‘belief’ is thought. And going further, really, further back…If one of the ways that the Scriptures teach us how to glorify God is in what we believe, then how we think must, of necessity, be bound up in there as well. To meet our chief end, our primary purpose, we must think, and think well. Hence, we must think like Christians, to be able to understand that which presents itself before us, to the glory of God.

Of late I have been reading a ‘little book’ (small in size, big in ideas) written chiefly by John Piper and Don Carson, The Pastor as Scholar & The Scholar as Pastor (© 2011 by Desiring God Foundation and Don Carson, published by Crossway Books). Yesterday I had one of those “What he said” moments, reading Carson’s portion:

We should not proceed much farther without some brief reflections on one frequently abused text that is often applied to our topic. There is an evangelical tradition that treats what Jesus calls the “greatest” or “first” commandment as authorization for all Christian intellectual endeavor. Does not Jesus himself instruct us on this matter? He says that the most important command is this: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all you heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength (Mark 12:29-30).” Here, surely, is a dominical mandate for evangelical scholarship.

Well, yes and no. Certainly Jesus’s words lay a heavy emphasis on thought, on engaging the whole person, focusing on how we think as we love God – more so than our English translations always allow us to perceive. In English, to love someone with our heart (as in “I love you with all my heart”) bespeaks emotion: The heart becomes the focus of emotional engagement, while the head becomes the focus of mental or cerebral engagement. But in the Bible, the “heart” is the center of our entire being, not just of our emotions. In other words, it is very close to what we mean by “Mind,” except that it includes emotion, will and value system.

So to love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength includes a huge emphasis on what and how we think; the other two words – soul and strength – bespeak intensity, total engagement. Transparently, this means that using our minds and wills in a lazy, slapdash, or arrogant way is not only pathetic, but it verges on the blasphemous. And since all truth is God’s truth, we are not far from the inference that all Christian intellectual effort offered cheerfully and wholeheartedly to God – that is, all Christian scholarship – lies close to the heart of our calling. Whether you are tackling the exegesis of Psalm 110 or examining the tail feathers of a pileated woodpecker, you are to offer the work to God and see such intellectual endeavor, such scholarship, as part and parcel of worship.

(bolded text mine)

What he said.

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