This review appeared in the Jan-Mar 2013 vol. 170 no. 1 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.Subscribe Today
Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of GodCrossway, Wheaton, IL October 4, 2010
Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, intends this book as “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. It is a plea to see thinking as a necessary God-ordained means of knowing God” (p. 15).
After an introductory chapter Piper briefly tells his own story of his discovery of the importance of the life of the mind. He defines thinking as “the amazing act of reading. The best reading of the most insightful literature (especially the Bible) involves serious thinking” (p. 19). As might be expected, Piper pays tribute to Jonathan Edwards’s example in the second chapter. Of Edwards, Piper rightly observes, “Theology and piety found a union in Edwards that has disappeared or is very rare. I hope this book will encourage some to pursue that union” (p. 34). Both these chapters merely wet the reader’s appetite for more. Each chapter could have been expanded into a book length.
Later chapters discuss how thinking functions in coming to faith in Christ and then growing in godliness. Piper argues that the life of the mind is necessary in order to love God well, as Jesus Himself instructed in the Great Commandment (Matt. 22:37). Later chapters then address anti-intellectualism, particularly relativism, pragmatism, and subjectivism. Concluding chapters provide biblical foundations for an integration of knowledge and love. Piper closes with two pleas, one for those who love to think and another for those who do not. He encourages the latter to honor and respect those who do think, pray for the vulnerable, avoid wrongheaded thinking, and continue to read the Bible and apply it to their lives. Those who love to think he encourages to think consciously for the glory of God, with childlike humility, for enjoyment, and for the sake of others. Piper concludes, “Thinking that does not aim to display Christ and build up people is not worthy of God’s approval. It may produce wonders—antibiotics, buildings, bridges, books, big-screen TVs—but the final stamp will be: Disapproved” (p. 184).
Two main passages of Scripture are the biblical support for Piper’s thesis. In the conclusion he returns to these two texts and reiterates his point. He writes, “Paul’s word to Timothy: ‘Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything’ (2 Tim. 2:7). And the plea of Proverbs: ‘If you call out for insight and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding’ (Prov. 2:3–6). We think, and the Lord gives understanding. We seek it like silver; the Lord gives it. Not either-or. Both-and. Our thinking does not replace God’s grace. It is the gift of grace and the pathway to more and more” (p. 184).
In the Foreword Mark Noll writes, “The point of Christian learning is to understand God’s two books—Scripture and the world—and, with that understanding, to glorify God. The pages before you communicate that point well. Pick them up, read them, test them by the Scriptures, reflect on their portrait of a loving God. In a word, think about it” (p. 13). This is good advice. When used as intended and as a means to loving God and others, this book is a helpful tool and is recommended for all Christians. Those who recognize their responsibility to be thinking Christians will be encouraged in their pursuit and will become better thinkers if they apply Piper’s insights. Those who are not inclined to think of themselves as thinkers might be encouraged to consider taking the task of thinking more seriously and be less intimidated by the prospect. Those who prefer not to think will find Piper encouraging them to continue to read and apply the Bible. That, after all, is good advice for all Christians.
—Glenn R. Kreider