Loving God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind is the great and first commandment. Are we obeying it? Loving God with all the mind means to engage in serious thinking. How much of our time is spent thinking about, meditating on, and learning His precepts? God blessed us with a mind so we can know the truth. He expects us to use it.
Historically, Missionary Baptist churches have struggled with being anti-intellectual and often suspicious of formal education. As a Missionary Baptist, I’m thankful for the men of the past who rose above that stigma. It’s only by focusing the mind on Christ and continually renewing it by scripture that a person can earn a quality education.
God created man in His image with the ability to think and communicate with Him. Eve lost her mind. She thought she had a choice and that she could determine what was best for her. Genesis 3:6 records the first example of empirical research and inductive reasoning. Eve saw the fruit of the tree had physical, emotional, and intellectual value so she reasoned it must be good. Her hypotheses concluded that God was wrong or He had lied. The experiment went wrong- she exchanged God’s truth for a lie (2Corinthians 11:3). Her reasoning ruined the human mind. Man would no longer care about God’s thoughts or possess spiritual insight. The mind would no longer be innately wise but inheritably dumb, dead to sin, and would think with the flesh not the spirit.
Because of the fall, scripture defines the unredeemed mind as debased (Romans 1:28), hardened (2Corinthians 3:14), blinded (2Corinthians 4:4), futile (Ephesians 4:17), darkened (Ephesians 4:18), hostile (Colossians 1:21), deceived (Colossians 2:8), depraved (I Timothy 6:5), corrupted (2 Timothy 3:8), and defiled (Titus 1:15). There are people always learning but never able to arrive at the knowledge of the truth (2Timothy 3:7) and some have zeal for God but not according to knowledge (Romans 10:2).
Thankfully, Jesus saves and redeems not just the soul and body but also the mind. The redeemed mind can comprehend God’s glory, discern the truth, and understand His will. Though the redeemed mind won’t achieve perfection till heaven, it has a new way of thinking and an ability to break sinful habits (Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:23, Colossians 3:10). For the redeemed mind to think Godly it must think through scripture, which is why Paul said to let the word dwell richly in us (Colossians 3:16, I Corinthians 2:12-13). Children of God should use their minds more after being saved than they did before (Romans 8:5). Thinking enables us to fellowship with God and reminds us of how dependent we are on Him (Psalms 39:3).
The Bible never creates a distinction between thinking and God providing the understanding because the two go together (Proverbs 2:1-6). The Holy Spirit helps us understand, but He doesn’t provide a short cut. Theologians call it illumination. As you read the Bible pray Psalms 119:18 (“Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of your law”) or Psalms 119:73 (“Give me understanding to learn your commands”). Illumination doesn’t replace the need for gifted teachers or mean that Bible study is easy, but it does mean we can know the Bible personally.The doctrine of the perspicuity of scripture teaches that the meaning of the Biblical text can be clear to any saved person who approaches it in faith and humility along with correct study methods (Deuteronomy 30:11-14). When a saved person prays, “Show me your precepts so I can obey them”, God will honor that request. He has revealed truth in scripture and has taken great pains to make sure His people can understand and obey it. Jesus never said, “Stop thinking about my word, I’ll just tell you what it means.” Knowing the truth requires diligent work.
“Come now let us reason” says the Lord (Isaiah 1:8). The context is repentance and salvation, but the principle is He expects us to think. Any philosophy, worldview, tradition, or teaching that contradicts scripture must be aggressively defeated. In 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 Paul said “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” A believer’s mind loves scripture and has a desire to know it, which leads to loving and obeying God. A person can’t just hear something once; they must think about and understand it. That’s why scripture commands us to meditate or chew on thoughts about God, His word, and His works. Psalms 119 mentions meditation seven times as a habit of someone wanting a relationship with God. Paul said to think on “these things”. What things? Think about things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praise worthy (Philippians 4:8).
What are the arguments against Godly thinking?
1. Knowledge is not the way God breaks the stronghold of sin. Maybe if you are referring to head knowledge alone. The Holy Spirit opens the mind and heart. But reasoning to present Christ clearly and rationally is what Paul did (Acts 17:2-4). God intended for us to use the mind in knowing and presenting the truth, not just our testimony or experiences. It’s the power of God’s word that breaks rock, smashes the heart, and is sharper than any two edged sword (Jeremiah 23:29, Hebrews 4:12). Knowledge of God’s holy law works as a school master causing conviction and proving the need for repentance (Romans 7:7).
2. Holiness doesn’t require thinking. The Bible says that knowing the truth does lead to holiness (John 17:17, John 8:32, I Corinthians 6:15, James 4:4). There are people who intellectually know the truth but still live in sin. Isaiah 29 teaches that when the heart goes away from God it drastically alters the mind to the degree that a person can’t understand truth though it right in front of them.
3. Christ entrusted the gospel to unlearned and ignorant men (Acts 4:13).“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men they marveled and they took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus.” The NIV says “unschooled and ordinary”. They weren’t schooled in the religious circles, but the disciples displayed knowledge of Christ, so they took note of them. Christianity doesn’t require a master’s degree in theology, but the use of the mind is always good no matter how much education a person has. Not all intellectual people will reject Christ. “Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes some of whom you will kill and crucify and some you will flog in the synagogues and persecute from town to town” (Matthew 23:34). What about I Corinthians 1:26-27 where Paul says, “Consider your calling brothers, not many of you were wise according to worldly standards.”? Paul seems to be contradicting that idea until you realize he’s talking about a divinely revealed wisdom of God. He says preaching the cross is the wisdom of God. God made foolishness the wisdom of the world because the wisdom of the world tries to circumvent the cross.
4. I thought I was supposed to be childlike? Wisdom isn’t always contrary to God, just like being childlike is not always good. We are supposed to be mature, thoughtful, and discerning using our minds (1 Corinthians 14:20). But didn’t Jesus say, “Truly I say to you unless you become like children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”? Jesus requires humility in our thinking depending on Him. The wise and understanding are the proud. In I Corinthians 1:17-2:16, Paul quotes Isaiah 29:14 which states, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” These passages are dealing with pride keeping a person from the truth. God’s wisdom makes man dependent and helpless like little children and that’s spiritual wisdom. These children are those who know and feel themselves helpless and unworthy of any good from God. Like children saved people realize they are utterly dependent on Christ and that Christ is the way to and the sum of wisdom. The wise and understanding vs. little children do not correspond with the educated vs. the uneducated. Jesus is not saying the uneducated get the grace of revelation and the educated don’t. The warning Paul and Jesus made are not warnings against careful, faithful, coherent thinking.
5. Doesn’t knowledge make me prideful? Paul got really blunt talking about food sacrificed to idols (1 Corinthians 8:1-11). The knowledge that there was only one God caused the Corinthians to flaunt their right to eat without caring for weaker Christians. Knowledge is susceptible to pride because it can be tempting to think of knowledge as a possession someone can attain. Love requires using knowledge to build up the faith of others, not a person’s own ego. Paul isn’t saying Christians shouldn’t have knowledge. Ten times in the letter he gets on them for the things they didn’t know. We are not free from pride by neglecting serious thinking and turning away from knowledge. That attitude leads to exile and destruction (Hosea 4:6). Proverbs instructs us to get wisdom and whatever we get get insight (Proverbs 4:7).
Romans 12:1-2 teaches the believer’s body and mind are to be offered to God as a living sacrifice. Unfortunately, by neglecting the mind believers’ lives are being conformed to the world instead of the precepts of God. Garbage into the mind will be garbage out in the way a believer lives. Not using the mind to praise and glorify God is a huge mistake. God saves and renews the mind so that all learning, knowledge, or wisdom can glorify Him (Romans 11:36).