“I Am Therefore I Think… I Think?”
In celebration of the wonder and awesome nature of the human mind, and our unique capability to think; in support of the now hackneyed, yet never-more-true and still-unfulfilled-promise-of-educational-campaign-rhetoric, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste”, I want to offer up a piece about thinking from Eastern Indian-born, widely acclaimed Christian theologian, apologist and converted Hindu, Ravi Zacharias.
Allow me also to point out the stark reality that, in the brief span of time between when Ravi wrote the words below about “proactive contemplative time” and “thinking”, and TODAY, the avoidance, outright fear of quiet time, the pathological busyness, an addiction to gazing at some sort of TV, computer, cell phone, or game-thingy screen, and our unconscious tactics to avoid a brief pause between sentences during a conversation… has gotten exponentially problematic. If I could offer a word picture of how challenging it has become even for so many Christian folks to cut out some real quality quiet time with God each day, it would be The Scream, by Edvard Munch.
This is especially true of our beloved children. As many honest parents would admit – if there was time to slow down and think about it – the numbero uno mortal sin of the day is BOREDOM. This reality is now bearing the fruit of seeds sewn a few decades ago and I’m afraid we have not nearly begun to reap the whirlwind of this reality, dear friends. But it’s far from too late…
“The Dying Art of Thinking”
“The 17th-century French philosopher Rene Descartes (pronounced Day-Kart) is best known for his dictum, “I think, therefore, I am.” A cynic may well quip that Descartes actually put “des cart before des horse”, because all he could have legitimately deduced was, “I think, therefore, thinking exists.” I do not intend to defend or counter Cartesian philosophy; I only wish to underscore that thinking has much to do with life and certainty.
One of the tragic casualties of our age has been that of the contemplative life – a life that thinks; thinks things through; and, more particularly, thinks God’s thoughts after Him.
A person sitting at his desk and staring out of the window would never be assumed to be working. No! Thinking is not equated with work. Yet, had Newton under his tree, or Archimedes in his bathtub bought into that prejudice, some natural laws would still be up in the air, or buried under an immovable rock. Pascal’s “Pensees”, a work that has inspired millions, would have never been penned.
The Bible places supreme value in the thought life. “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he,” Solomon wrote. Jesus asserted that sin’s gravity lay in the idea itself, not just the act. Paul admonished the church at Philippi to have the mind of Christ, and to the same people he wrote, “Whatever is true . . . pure . . . if there be any virtue . . . think on these things.”
The follower of Christ must demonstrate to the world what it is not just to think, but to think justly. But how does one manage this in a culture where progress is determined by pace and defined by quantity?
What is even more destructive is that the greatest demand comes from neither speed nor quantity, but rather from the assumption that silence is inimical to life.
The radio in the car, Muzak in the elevator, and the symphony entertaining the “on hold” callers add up as impediments to personal reflection. In effect, the mind is denied the privilege of living with itself even briefly, and is crowded with outside impulses to cope with aloneness. Aldous Huxley’s indictment, “Most of one’s life . . . is one prolonged effort to prevent thinking”, seems frightfully true. The price paid for this scenario has been devastating. T. S. Eliot observed:
“Where is the life we have lost in the living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The cycles of heaven in the past twenty centuries bring us farther from God and nearer to dust.”
Is there a remedy? May I make some suggestions for personal and corporate benefit?
Study God’s Word
Nothing ranks higher for mental discipline than a planned and systematic study of God’s Word, from whence life’s parameters and values are planted in the mind – and are critical for the thinking person. Paul, who loved his books and parchments, affirmed the priority of Scripture: “Do not go beyond what is written.” Psalm 119 promises that God’s statutes keep us from being double-minded.
Read Great Books
The English-speaking world is endowed with a wealth of books. But much contemporary literature comes perilously close to a promiscuous religion with an appeal for the “feel better” syndrome, rather than the impetus to “go deeper.”
Read authors who stretch you and introduce you to other writings as well. Great writers stimulate your capacity to think beyond their ideas, spawning fresh insights and extensions of your own. Good reading is indispensable to impartation of truth. An expenditure of words without the income of ideas leads to conceptual bankruptcy.
Challenge the Mind
The church as a whole, and the pulpit in particular, must challenge the mind of this generation, else we betray our trust. The average young person today actually surrenders the intellect to the world, presuming Christianity to be bereft of it. Many a pulpit has succumbed to the lie that anything intellectual cannot be spiritual or exciting.
Thankfully there are exceptions. When living in England, our family attended a church Pastored by Roy Clements, one of the finest preachers in the western world. Every Sunday at two morning services he preached a one-hour sermon to a packed auditorium.
Cambridge, being rife with skepticism, demanded a meticulous defense of each sermon text from the assaults of liberalism. An introduction of a technical nature would take up to 15 minutes of his time before he entered into the heart of his message.
I mention this to say one thing. When we were leaving Cambridge, Nathan, who was nine years old, declared the preaching of Roy Clements to be one of his fondest memories. Even as a little boy he had learned that when the mind is rightly approached, it filters down to the heart. The matter I share here has far-reaching implications.
We do an inestimably great disservice to our youth by not crediting them with the capacity to think. We cannot leave this uncorrected.” (Ravi Zacharias, “The Dying Art of Thinking”, 1992, emphasis added)
Thank you so much, Christ-followers, for joining me at The Training Table to nourish your faith. I respectfully hope the content acts as a catalyst to continually challenge you to come to terms with your existing philosophical, personal and / or business presuppositions as means of remembering, revitalizing, rejoining, and renewing in your life!
Please think about… Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered reformation, revival, and constructive revolution so that God will be glorified and people blessed.
- Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth of the Bible.
- Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed.
- Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment.