In the Great Commandment, the Lord Jesus commands His people in Matthew 22:37-40 to love Him with all of their heart, mind, and strength. This command is repeated multiple times throughout the Gospels and also again by the Apostles; especially the Apostle John in the Gospel of John and is more fully developed in 1st John.
Often it’s thought in some quarters of Christianity that we only need to love the Lord with all of our heart and strength. The life of the mind and sound doctrine then are often disregarded under the guise of fellowshipping with one another. And yet Jesus tells us to love Him with all of our heart, mind, and strength. Part of loving God is asking good questions of the biblical text.
Questioning in Christianity is often looked upon with some skepticism. There was a whole movement in the late 90’s into the early 2000’s called the Emerging Church. The Emerging Church sought to ask questions about how the Church was engaging in evangelism and discipleship. Over time the conversation emphasized more how on could reach people to the exclusion of sound biblical doctrine. Whenever a movement or a discussion moves away from the Bible, the people of God must move away from that discussion or movement. It doesn’t matter how charismatic the leader is. It also doesn’t matter how well its leaders write and speak about the conversation they are trying to help propel into national prominence. If the leaders of any movement move away from sound biblical orthodoxy grounded in the inspired, inerrant, sufficient, and authoritative Word; they must not be listened to any further. In fact, in as far as our leaders teach us the Bible in our local churches is the degree to which their authority is binding. The Word is authoritative for faith and practice not the opinions of man. This is why the pulpit is to take center stage in the local church. It is also why preaching is such a holy and high privilege.
Often though questions are looked down upon in some quarters of Christianity. It’s often thought that so and so who’s been at the church for so long should “know” that answer. This is the wrong approach entirely. This fosters not an environment of safety and help for people to grow in God’s grace and sound biblical doctrine. Instead, it promotes the opposite. It tells people they better be quiet about their questions because if they ask them, they will be judged for the asking questions. That’s not only wrong; it’s also not biblical Christianity. One reason why people feel this way is because seminary trained theologians often project their superiority over people because of their degrees; rather, than serving them in love and with humility. As Christians, we are to take the posture of a servant as Jesus did with the disciples when He took the humble place, not even a Jewish slave would when He washed the disciple’s feet.
You see, we are called as Christians to not only love the Lord with all of our heart, and strength but also with all of our minds. The Reformed tradition has a long and robust history of intellectual rigor and teaching sound doctrine. It also has a rich tradition of experiential and practical theologians who loved Christ, the Church, and the people of God. One of the best examples of this is men like John Owen who served both in the academy and in the local church. Men like Martin Luther also classify in this category as he was both an academic theologian and a pastor. So you see there’s no disconnect in biblical Christianity between loving God with all of one’s heart and strength and loving God with one’s mind. Instead, they are all linked together. And when Paul tells Timothy to guard his life and his doctrine what he is doing is following in the line of the Great Commandment taught by Jesus teaching there should be no disconnect in our lives between what we say we believe and how we are presently living. Sound biblical doctrine is the fuel for sound and right living before the face of God.
As Christians, we are to love the Lord with all that we are, and that includes our minds. In the process, we are to ask good questions not motivated by unbelief, but by the conviction of the truthfulness and clarity of the Word of God. We can ask questions that we may not know the answers to of our local church pastors or others who have been seminary trained at respected theologically conservative seminaries. Such people are a resource to the local church and should be utilized in the local church to help instruct the people of God. Such people also need to take a servant-hearted and humble approach to serving people when people ask them questions so they can grow in their knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures.
Wherever we are at in the Christian life, we all have questions. Some wonder about the problem of evil. Others struggle with the five points of Tulip. Others still wrestle with complicated issues related to issues of great moral and ethical significance. Wherever we are in our Christian life, and whatever our station in life is vocationally or in our families, we have an authoritative Word that lights the path God desires His people to walk upon.
In my experience in local church ministry, many Christians would rather live by their feelings or what they think is right; then by the authoritative Word of God. They would rather feel good and have a nice bed of roses; then embrace the rough edges and the hard path Jesus has called us too. Rather than a cross; they would have Jesus only perform miracles which He did and minister to hurting people. Such a vision though discounts why Jesus performed miracles. Often He performed miracles in direct response to the issues of people’s hearts, and sometimes He didn’t because of the unbelief of people’s hearts. You see Jesus sees through where we are at to the very core of our being.
Questions are good. More communication is good, not less communication. You and I need to ask good questions of the biblical text if we are going to understand it. We ask such questions from the conviction the Word of God is inspired, authoritative, inerrant, and sufficient to light the righteous path for the people of God. We don’t ask questions as Christians to be skeptical of the truthfulness or clarity of the Bible. Instead, we ask questions of the biblical text because we say we love God wholeheartedly, including with all of our minds.
If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask your pastor or other seasoned godly men and women of God. Avail yourself of the wisdom of older saints, even those who are dead who have made such a great contribution to the faith once and for all delivered to the saints. Men like Owen, Calvin, Spurgeon, Bunyan, Edwards, Luther, and more are all solid resources and deep thinkers who asked good questions from sound biblical convictions to help themselves and others grow in the grace of God.
One example of is this is Martin Luther the Protestant Reformer. He didn’t understand justification by faith. He lived in a time period when indulgences and abuses related to Catholic Church tradition existed in abundance. He was sent out from an Augustinian monastery to Wittenburg in the 16th century in which he lived so he would study the Scriptures. Determined as ever, he completed his studies and then set out to study the Word even as he was teaching future pastors in Wittenberg. Through his study, he came to understand the centrality of the doctrine of justification. Luther had questions and knew he needed to use his mind to love God and so he did. And now we’re all benefitting from not only from the study Luther did, and all he wrote, but also the questions he asked and the insights he gathered from his intense study which has framed much of the current theological discourse in the Church even to this day.
Love God with all of your heart, mind, and strength. And to be clear, the only reason you can love God like this is because He has taken your heart of stone and replaced it with a new heart, with new desires, and affections for Himself. So as you are seeking to ask good questions motivated by biblical convictions and confidence in the truthfulness of the Word of God, realize that this process, dear reader involves you growing in your own knowledge and understanding of the Bible.
Love God, ask good questions, all because you supremely love and cherish the One in Jesus who calls you Beloved. Your Beloved calls you to love Him with all that you are, including your mind. So as you love Him, ask good questions of the biblical text. As you do this, pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help you make sense of what the biblical text is saying. Please also ask questions of others who have biblical and theological training. Avail yourself of the riches of articles, podcasts, sermons available through ministries like Desiring God, 9Marks, Grace to You, Ligonier, White Horse Inn, and here at Servants of Grace. Learn to cherish the life of the mind, even as your heart, and strength are daily stirred to action by a passion for the supremacy of Jesus in all things.