Dr. John Piper is the pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. His book Think The Life of the Mind and the Love of God is broken into eight sections, which helps the reader to follow the line of thought and argument he is making. In the first section of his work, Dr. Piper seeks to clarify why he is writing this book. Some notable quotes we will help us to understand why he wrote this book. On page 15 he says, “Thinking is one of the most important ways that we put the fuel of knowledge on the fires of worship and service to the world.” On page 15 he writes, “The ultimate goal of life is that God be displayed as glorious because of all that he is and all that he has made and done- especially the grace he has shown in the work of Christ. The way we glorify him is by knowing him truly, by treasuring him above all things, and by living in a way that shows he is our supreme treasure.” Dr. Piper states on page 30 that the point of this book is that “thinking is essential on the path to understanding, but understanding is a gift of God. That’s the point of this book.” He continues on page on page 30-31 with a story of Benjamin Warfield. Warfield taught at Princeton Seminary for 34 years until his death in 1921. He reacted with dismay toward those who saw opposition between prayer for divine illumination and rigorous thinking about God’s written Word. In 1911 he gave an address to students with this exhortation: “Sometimes we hear it said that ten minutes on your knees will give you a truer, deeper more operative knowledge of God than ten hours over your books. ‘What!’ is the appropriate response, ‘than ten hours over your books, on your knees?’”
In chapter one, Dr. Piper tells his own story to give his background, influences, and struggles, so the reader will understand why he writes this work. Chapter two tells the story of Jonathan Edwards and how he made a huge impact on Dr. Piper. In chapter 3 Dr. Piper clarifies what he means by thinking and explains the amazing act of reading as a means of thinking. Chapter four and five attempts to show that the thinking functions and how thinking functions in the process of coming to faith in Jesus Christ. In chapter seven he argues that relativism is neither intellectually compelling nor morally upright. In chapter 8 he seeks to help guard our minds against the intellectual virus of relativism by laying out seven harmful and immoral aspects of relativism. Chapters nine through eleven teach that the supposed biblical pillars of anti-intellectualism are very shaky. He continues by laying forth the biblical foundations for the robust use of the mind for the sake of loving God and man are deep and robust. In chapter twelve explains 1 Corinthians 8:1-3 and Romans 10:1-4. In chapter twelve Dr. Piper argues that without a profound work of grace in the heart thinking puffs itself up. With that grace, thinking opens the door to knowledge. Chapter 13 expands on the implications of chapter twelve that all learning, all education, all schooling, formal or informal, simple or sophisticated exists for the love of God and man.
Dr. Piper in this book argues for praying on our knees and studying the Word of God. His argument centers on an often misunderstood concept in the Church today- the engagement between the head and heart. He argues on page 19 that, “Loving God with the mind means that our thinking is wholly engaged to do all it can to awaken and express the heartfelt fullness of treasuring God above all things. Treasuring God is the essence of loving him, and the mind serves this love by comphrending (imperfectly and partially but truly) the truth and beauty and worth of the Treasure.”
One of the biggest issues in the Body of Christ today stems from this disengagement of mind and heart. Greek philosophy extolled the human body and knowledge to them was an intellectual pursuit. For the Christian the pursuit of knowledge has a goal that is knowing God and then serving Him. Dr. Piper rightly places the emphasis in this book on knowing God- thinking through what we know but not just knowing right facts or right information but in applying the truth. He rightly argues that many academic people do not think with great clarity.
In chapter 13, he wants the reader to understand that all scholarship is for the love of God and man. Often times scholarship becomes a way for scholars to share “what they know” and what people “don’t understand” but that is not the kind of scholarship Dr. Piper is calling for. Dr. Piper argues on page 168 that “Christian scholarship is not threatened but served when it is permeated by spiritual affections for the glory of God in all things.” He rightly stresses that scholars must be born again so they will have eyes to see the work of God in the Bible and the world. He stresses the pervasive influence of pride for the scholar and the non-scholar that life is fraught with the praise of man. Instead of ending on a negative note Dr. Piper leads us upward towards God and towards the person and work of Christ. Thinking has been good for the life of Christianity for as the Gospel has spread, Christians have started schools, hospitals and more. The longer Christianity has stayed the more serious and through the educational process has come.
Dr. Piper is not arguing against serious thinking about God and His Word but against the pride that often comes when one has been formally educated. Dr. Piper is not arguing against the school of hard-knocks. He is simply highlighting that our knowing should lead to humility instead of arrogance. He states on page 174, “God has revealed himself in his Word and his world. He means to be known through revelation of both because he means to be loved fully.” On page 175 he states that, “All branches of learning exist ultimately for the purposes of knowing God, loving God and loving man through Jesus. And since loving man means ultimately helping him see and savor God in Christ forever, it is profoundly right to say that all thinking, all learning, all education, and all research is for the sake of knowing God, loving God and showing God.”
Dr. Piper concludes his book Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God with a final plea. His plea for those who don’t love to think is first to be thankful and respect those who think. Here he encourages those who don’t love to think seriously to respect those who serve you with thinking, and to pray for vulnerable, wrongheaded thinking and to read the Bible with joy. He gives a please to those who love to think. Here he challenges thinkers to think consciously for the glory of Christ, to become little children, enjoy the Word of God like gold and honey and to think for the sake of love.
Dr. Piper concludes his work by proclaiming that, “Thinking that does not aim to display Christ and build people up is not worthy of God’s approval. We think and the Lord gives understanding. We seek it like silver, the Lord gives Not either- or. Both-and. Our thinking does not replace God’s grace. It is the gift of grace and the pathway to more and more.”
On many levels Dr. Piper’s book personally challenged me. As a seminary student it is very easy to fall in love with reading and thinking. Yet as one engaged in ministry I also know that reading the right books and thinking with clarity has a goal- helping people grow in Christ. I appreciate the work Dr. Piper has put into this book.
As usual with all of Dr. Piper’s work- it reflects a clear love for the God of the Bible and the people of God. I heartily recommend everyone read this book. Whether you’re not a thinker or you are a thinker- you will be challenged by this book. This book will challenge thinkers and non-thinkers to see that thinking has a goal- loving God and loving people. The goal of thinking well ought to be to love God, and love people. Sadly we live in a day when thinking is motivated by selfish desires, and Dr. Piper rightly calls Christians back to thinking rightly so they can live rightly before God. May the Lord use this book in a mighty way for the sake of His glory.