The Care and Feeding of the New Heart: Thinking
Good day, my race-running friends in Christ (Philippians 2:16; Ephesians 1)! Great to have you back at the Training Table to chow down on some spiritually nutritious fare. RE: “a feast of the heart”.
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 East 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 of quiet time, the pathological busyness, the fear of depth or transparency in our relationships, and unconscious tactics to avoid any silence between sentences during conversations has gotten exponentially problematic!
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 numero 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 not 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 and avoid 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 the 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, our son 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)
Think and Converse in Community
I would add this: We must be a part of regular dialog with other hungry, honest, mature, logical, respectful, well-read THINKERS that helps us see what the outflow of our thinking really and truly amounts to… and commit to being transformed!
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-20)!
May God richly bless any desire of your heart for the depth and breadth of your thinking after Him, and applying thinking more deeply to being like Jesus Christ in word and deed, race-runners: The ultimate feast of the heart!
A Blueprint for Thinking, Ligonier Ministries
Think Like a Christian, Ligonier Ministries
Thinking Like Jesus, Nathan Bingham
Discernment: Thinking God’s Thoughts, Sinclair Ferguson
Thinking Biblically About Worry, Paul Tripp