Develop Your Mind for God
- Whitney Hopler Live It Editor
- Updated Sep 19, 2006
The following is a report on the practical applications of James Emery White's new book, A Mind for God, (IVP Books, 2006).
In today’s world, a myriad of views clamor for your attention, while popular culture distracts you with mindless entertainment. It’s a challenge to develop your intellect and use it to think biblically about the world – but it’s vital to do so. If you don’t, you’ll be taken captive by competing worldviews and fail to make the truth heard above the chaos.
So make it a priority to develop your mind for God. Here’s how:
* Recognize that ideas have consequences. Know that ideas have great power to influence people. Come to understand ideas that are prevalent in the world and challenge biblical truth, such as: moral relativism (which claims that moral values are a matter of personal opinion or private judgment instead of something grounded in objective truth), autonomous individualism (which claims that moral authority rests with individuals alone, with no higher moral authority to guide or determine choices), narcissistic hedonism (which claims that personal pleasure and fulfillment are what matters most), and reductive naturalism (which claims that anything that can’t be examined in a physically tangible, scientific manner is unknowable and meaningless). Ask God to show you how these worldviews commonplace in secular culture have affected your own thinking. Then use your understanding of these perspectives to engage the world for Christ, seeking to help meet people’s unmet needs. Consider how you might begin to live in ways that could intersect with their deepest longings and questions.
* Read with a purpose. Don’t read simply to entertain yourself; instead, seek to expand your mind through your reading. Schedule time regularly to read and seriously study the Bible. Select a wide variety of books to read that represent thoughtful literature and help prepare you to understand and engage the world’s ideas. Be sure to read Christian books, but don’t limit yourself to those alone. Recognize that God’s truth can be found in some secular books, as well, and that those that contain opposing worldviews can help you understand the need for dialogue and redemption. Include some old, classic books on your reading list, because doing so is like engaging in a conversation with some of the noblest people of history and benefiting from their ideas and experiences. Don’t be intimidated by writing styles that demand more effort to understand than others; know that exercising your mind is worth it.
* Go beyond information to wisdom. As you encounter the vast amounts of information available to you through the media, don’t just soak it in without thinking about it. Instead, ask God to help you analyze and interpret the information well and grow wiser from what you learn. Ask yourself questions such as, “What’s right?”, “What’s wrong?”, “What’s reputable?”, “What is without merit?”, “What does this mean?”, “How does this relate to God’s purposes?” and “What should my response be?”.
* View learning as a lifelong process. Recognize that learning is something you should constantly be doing throughout your life. No matter how old you are or how long ago you graduated from formal schooling, see yourself as a student and devote yourself to learning as much as you can. Build biblical literacy (understanding God’s Word well), historical literacy (understanding the significance of historical events, especially as they show God at work in ages past), and theological literacy (understanding biblical answers to life’s great questions, and why they matter to you today). Pursue continuing education opportunities through community colleges, churches’ educational ministries, seminaries, the Internet, universities’ distance learning programs, libraries, mentoring programs, book discussion groups, etc.
* Learn how to think well. Carve out time regularly for reflection in silence and solitude, prayer, and Scripture reading so you can learn how to think wisely. As you ponder your thoughts, ask the Holy Spirit to renew your mind and help you separate fact from fiction and what is true from what is merely clever. Take time to consider our culture’s messages, and how they’re aiming to make you feel. Engage those messages by asking yourself tough questions about them and how you should respond. Don’t compartmentalize your life; instead, integrate your worldview into every aspect of your life so you think about every subject in light of your faith.
* Develop disciplines. Know that, to cultivate your mind well, you must do it intentionally and often counter-culturally. Don’t let life’s urgent activities crowd out what’s most important in your life. Decide that you will make it a priority to develop your intellect, no matter what your current circumstances. Schedule time to read four days a week, for about 30 minutes a day, in a place that’s as free of chaos and interruptions as possible – and guard your reading time. Sign up for a class that meets regularly, or schedule regular time to study something that interests you. Use your downtime (time spent waiting in line, in traffic, etc.) to learn by reading, writing, or listening. Every day, enjoy some quiet time reading the Bible, praying, and perhaps journaling as well. Periodically, get away for a retreat (either on a trip, or simply a walk in your yard or local park) to reflect and pray.
* Be able to answer, “So what?” Understand that the deepest question the world has about Christianity is, “So what?” Decide that you will use your intellect to help answer that question for people who are seeking the truth. Don’t simply explore ideas and arguments for your own sake; instead, prepare yourself to defend the faith, present reasons to believe, and motivate people to consider why the Bible’s message is important and should matter to them. Ask God to give you courage to use your mind to reach other minds for Christ.
Adapted from A Mind for God, copyright 2006 by James Emery White. Published by IVP Books, an imprint of InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill., www.ivpress.com.
James Emery White is the president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, with campuses in South Hamilton (Massachusetts), Boston, Charlotte and Jacksonville. He holds M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees in theology, history and biblical studies. He is the author of 12 books, including Embracing the Mysterious God, Serious Times and The Prayer God Longs For.