Author: John Piper
Year of Publication: 2010
Reviewer: Ikenna Nwachukwu
John Piper feels that much of modern Christianity, especially the evangelical movement, has developed a rather frosty relationship with thought. The church emphasizes sense experience and emotionally charged encounters with the Divine, and encourages the faithful to seek the Lord who reveals Himself through a still small voice, in acts of provision and protection, and yes, through scriptures. But there always seems to be a warning attached, a warning not to approach the word with the philosopher’s mind, with the haughty style of the intellectual who tries to question the Almighty’s sovereignty and wisdom. We are to read the Bible with reverence, bow humbly before its contents, and get on with the job of being obedient doers of the word.
But Piper thinks this way of dealing with the Bible’s message, and the whole way of life it reflects and produces, doesn’t do much good for Christians. His point is that Christians should have a healthy thought life, one that brings glory to God through its robustness. Not thinking through what the Bible is actually saying to us, is dangerous. A lazy, emotional approach to the word results in flawed interpretations of it, false doctrines, and outright heresy- things which plague Christianity today. Christians who do not engage God’s word and the culture that surrounds them by examining them with the tools of systematic thought end up being unable to speak confidently about, and in defense of their faith when confronted by skeptics. Sometimes, even the simplest question about what they believe throws them off balance.
Think begins autobiographically. Piper shows us how thinking for him has been a practice of devotion to God, and how his intellectual pursuits have yielded some of the most profound moments of worship in his life. He turned to full time ministry when his academic project covering the book of Romans ignited a passion in him for the truth of the gospel.
In the next few chapters, Piper points out that reading literature (including the Bible) involves thinking- trying to make connections between symbols, words, sentences, ideas and themes. Thinking also plays a great part in the process of coming to believe in Jesus (potential converts have to weigh the options before taking the “step of faith”).
The extremes of thought are dealt with within the book as well. There’s an examination of the dangers of anti-intellectualism, and the problems it brings about for modern Christianity; there’s also a warning about approaching God’s word cynically and spitefully. The author’s submission at the end is that thinking to glorify God is not only possible, but a command. It doesn’t apply to meditating on Bible text alone; it embraces “all learning, all education, all schooling, formal or informal, simple or sophisticated”.
Think is a call to Christians to become more aware of what they believe, and how they believe. It is an appeal to the believer to use the mind God has given them as a tool, not only to properly divide the word, but also to love and worship their maker. Thinking is worship- when it is done to the glory of the Creator. As Piper says, God has given us our minds, so that “we might seek out and find all the reasons for treasuring Him in all things and above all things” (Page 15). There is real joy to be experienced in doing this.