A Mind for God
by James Emery White
Available at Amazon
You don’t have to be a scholar to be interested in the life of the mind. In fact, if you’re a Christian, it’s important that you are. According to the apostle Paul, the believer, whatever his calling, is to ‘take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.’ (2 Cor 10:5).
Our mothers advised us to think before speaking. Sometimes, we remember to do this but what about thinking Christianly before speaking? According to Bertrand Russell, ‘Most Christians would rather die thank think; in fact they do.’ This is simply not true but it’s a challenge to the Bridget Joneses amongst us to pay heed not just to the murky areas of our thought life, but also to the muddled ones.
While it may be tempting to dismiss the need to think Christianly with legitimate fears of becoming puffed up with knowledge, it is also crucial to ask oneself, ‘Am I ensnared by the thinking of the current culture without even realising it?’ This is a particularly important question to ask if you:
- watch TV
- scroll through Facebook
- read the news
- know anybody who’s not a Christian.
I assume that is most of us. Even if you are not someone who exposes himself regularly to the external influences of the day, we all know that the mind can play tricks on us, perhaps more than ever when we spend time alone.
If you are interested in reading more on the subject, at just over 100 pages, James Emery White’s little book is a great place to start.
The book is particularly appealing for two main reasons.
First, because it is short! With only seven chapters and two useful appendices (recommended reading and resources) it can be read and absorbed in a few hours but stand you in good stead for many years when returning the ‘volleys against faith [that] come from every quarter and at every age’.
In his engaging and personal introduction, White cites Richard Hofstadter’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book Anti-Intellectualism in American Life in which he points out that lots of Christians consider humble ignorance a nobler quality than a cultivated mind. If ‘homo sapiens’ means ‘thinking being’, then surely to be fully human is to think.
White then gently leads us through concepts like Moral Relativism (‘what’s true for you is true for you, and what’s true for me is true for me’); Autonomous Individualism (‘our choices are ours alone, determined by our personal pleasure, and not by any higher moral authority’); Narcissistic Hedonism (‘I, me, mine’ – the toddler in us all) and Reductive Naturalism (‘life is accidental’). Having done so, he invites us to ask ourselves whether we are actually harbouring any of these world-views without acknowledging it.
Secondly, the book motivates us to read books. Describing our library as our ‘armoury’, he calls the reader to exercise his mind through reading as we exercise the body through going to the gym. We don’t get fit, either physically or mentally, if we don’t make it a priority.
“As iron rusts when not used,
and water gets foul from standing or turns to ice when exposed
to cold, so the intellect degenerates without exercise.”
Leonardo Da Vinci
Starting with the Bible, White gives us a framework for what to read to develop a mind for Christ and encourages us to take the time to do it.
I once asked a busy housemaster of a prestigious boys prep school how he managed to read so many books.
‘It’s important to me,’ was his simple reply.
Is it important to you?