It was Galileo who said, ‘I do not feel obliged to believe that that same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forego their use.’
And A.W. Tozer reminds us, ‘the mind is good – God put it there. He gave us our heads and it was not his intention that our heads would function just as a place to hang a hat.’
Neglect of the Mind
But the mind is apt to be neglected by well-meaning Christians. Os Guinness has written, ‘whenever evangelicals have an experience of direct, personal access to God, we are tempted to think or act as if we can dispense with doctrine, sacraments, history, and all the other “superfluous paraphernalia” of the Church and make our experience the sum and soul of our faith . . . . We are still attracted to movements that replace thinking and theology by other emphases relational, therapeutic, charismatic, and managerial (as in church growth). Whatever the other virtues of these movements and the unquestionable importance of piety, we must courageously repudiate anti-intellectualism for the sin it is.’
But biblical Christianity ‘lays great emphasis on the importance of knowledge, rebukes anti-intellectualism for the negative, paralysing thing it is, and traces many of our problems to our ignorance. Whenever the heart is full and the head is empty, dangerous fanticisms arise.’ (John Stott)
Some Key Texts
Briefly, we may summarise as follows what Scripture says about the mind:-
1. God made it, Psa 8:5f
2. Satan wants to use it, 2 Cor 4:4
3. God’s word addresses it, Lk 24:45
4. God wants to transform it, Rom 12:2
5. God’s people should strive for unity of mind, 1 Cor 1:10
6. God commands that we love him with all our mind, Lk 10:27
What is a Christian Mind?
Put simply, ‘a Christian mind is a mind which thinks Christianly about everything.’ (Stott).
Or, a little more fully, Harry Blamires tells us that
A Christian mind is one which has grasped the basic presuppositions of Scipture and brings a biblical world-view to bear on the issues and questions posed by the contemporary world. Although some Christians do not want to be told to use their minds -indeed, they may think that it is unspiritual to do so – Paul’s teaching in 1 Cor 14:20 is for us to be adult in our thinking. The Christian mind is a mind trained, informed, equipped to handle data of secular controversy within a framework of reference which is constructed on Christian presuppositions.
A Christian mind thinks within a framework provided by the fourfold biblical scheme of creation fall, redemption, and consumation, and is able to evaluate the phenomena of life in the light of it.
A Christian mind asks questions, probes problems, confesses ignorance, feels perplexity, but does these things within the context of a profound and growing confidence of the reality of God and of his Christ. We should not acquiesce in a condition of basic and chronic doubt, as if it were characteristic of Christian normality. It is not. It is rather a symptom of spiritual sickness in our spiritually sick age.
Why is it important to have a Christian mind?
A proper use of the mind
1. glorifies God, because he made us rational beings in his own image and has given us in Scripture a rational revelation which he wants us to understand.
2. enriches us, because every aspect of our discipleship (e.g. worship, faith, obedience) depends for its maturing on reflection (e.g. on God’s glory, faithfulness and will).
3. strengthens our witness to the world, because we are called not only to proclaim the gospel, but also to defend, argue, and explain it, so that people will be persuaded of its truth, Acts 17:2f; 19:8; 2 Cor 5:11; Phil 1:7.
What are the marks of a Christian mind?
According to Blamires, a Christian mind is characterised by
1. Its supernatural orientation (it looks beyond time to eternity, beyond earth to heaven and hell, and meanwhile inhabits a world fashioned, sustained and “worried over” by God)
2. Its awareness of evil (original sin perverting even the noblest things into intruments of “hungry vanity”)
3. Its conception of truth (the givennes of divine revelation which cannot be compromised)
4. its acceptance of authority (what God has revealed requires from us “not egalitarian attachment, but a bending submission)
5. its concern for the person (a recognition of the value of human personality over against servitutde to the machine)
6. its sacramental cast (for example, recognising sexual love as “one of god’s most efficient instruments” for the opening of man’s heart to Reality)
Stott says that Christian thinking is
1. theological (focused on God and his incarnate word)
2. historical (informed by the past, responsibly alive in the present and thoughtful about the future)
3. humanist (deeply concerned for persons)
4. ethical (submissive to God’s moral standards)
5. truthful (committee to god’s self-revelation in nature and Scripture)
6. aesthetic (appreciative of beauty as well as truth and goodness).
The Christian mind’s basic contours thus relate to God, history, persons, ethics, truth, and beauty.
Based on Stott Issues Facing Christians Today (various editions)