From a pastoral perspective, the quarantine has been quite a journey. It feels like a decade of events have happened in a short amount of time, doesn’t it? From race relations to disease to political wars, the world around us has been wrestling with truth, conflict, and power. As Christians, we’ve worked to steady our own ship: we know we should not fear, we should stay united, and we should be proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. But I want to offer up one more agenda item. It’s something I believe we’re losing the ability to do. In one word, “think.” I’m appealing to you to use the mind God gave you.
When I use the word “think,” I am using Merriam Webster’s definition: “to subject to the processes of logical thought.” It is the application of facts, intuition, and reason—all brought together. I’m pretty sure the culture around us in large part has stopped thinking. For us, as God’s people, we end up absorbing what the world around us is doing (2 Kings 17:33-41). The abandonment of the life of the mind is probably happening for a number of reasons. It at least has to do with social media (feeds confirm conclusions in small packages according to tribe) and political enmity (each side gets in line with “R” or “D” simply because it’s the opposite of the other side). What I want to do below is offer tools to think—to return to the glorious life of the mind—using it to its fullest for the glory of God!
How do I “think”?
Do your own homework.
We have a crisis of authority in the West. Trust in those who are supposed to be figures of authority has bottomed out (politicians, doctors, professors, etc). Worse yet, the free press—our watchdogs—don’t bark. Unbiased news—balanced reporting—journalistic integrity: these are becoming harder and harder to find. To apply an observation from the prophets: “His watchmen are blind, all of them know nothing. All of them are mute dogs unable to bark, Dreamers lying down, who love to slumber (Isaiah 56:10). In his book “Politics according to the Bible,” Wayne Grudem writes of what happens when the watchdogs sleep: “The people of a nation do not have adequate information to make wise decisions about their leaders and about the direction in which the nation is going.” We need to think.
Rather than being trained on what to think, we need to learn how to think. Understand logical fallacies, read widely, and don’t believe everything you hear simply because your favorite political party or news anchor said it is true. Think. The only authority and reporting that is always right is the Bible (John 17:17). Do not blindly give your mind to any other report or truth claim. Thoughtfully weigh the information you are given and do your own homework to confirm it is true.
Understand the other side.
“It’s just wrong!” That may be right, but do you know why an opposing claim is wrong? If not, it may be a failure to think—to understand the other side. It is one thing to articulate a conclusion you reached and quite another to do so fully understanding the other side. That individual is a thinker, explaining a well-thought-out position.
Sometimes, both “sides” are to be avoided (the “false dilemma” fallacy). In his book “Mere Christianity,” C.S. Lewis wrote: “He (the devil) always sends errors into the world in pairs–pairs of opposites … He relies on your extra dislike of one to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors. We have no other concern than that with either of them.” It’s important that we use our minds to understand all the perspectives in play. Logical, Scriptural reason will work with our conscience to lead us to a perspective (or neither, as the case may be).
I hope this challenges you to think more deeply and carefully. This is part 1 of 2: an appeal for the use of the mind. In the next post, I will offer two more answers to the question “How do I think?” Both will be strong Scriptural solutions—a means to return to the life of the mind.
With the affection of Christ, Pastor Michael