It has been said, “He who doesn’t understand history is bound to repeat it.” How true. So to understand how we got to the point of needing to blog about learning to love God with our minds it seems helpful to first understand our history leading to this point. (My thanks to J.P. Moreland and Frank Pastore for first introducing me to some of these ideas. In fact, the influence of J.P. Moreland on my thought can be traced throughout all I will write on this blog. I consider it one of the greatest honors and blessings of my life to have been JP’s student and friend for the past 30 years.)
Let’s go back over two hundred years. At that time all Christians understood the centrality of the Christian mind for a healthy life (spiritual life included). Churches were the centers not only of spiritual activity but also of intellectual activity. There was a very strong connection between the church and higher education. In fact, 106 of the first 108 colleges in America were founded by Christians to promote loving God with our mind.
In those days the most thoughtful people were Christian pastors and theologians. When there were questions, they were the ones everyone wanted to hear from. If TV had been around in those days they would be the ones every host would want to interview on his or her news show.
One example is John Wesley (1703 – 1791). We know of him as one of the greatest evangelists of those years. That he was, riding tens of thousands of miles on horseback over 60 years, sharing the gospel with hundreds of thousands of people. He was once asked to speak to group of young ministers and share some “words of wisdom.” His insights, based on years of effective outreach to others, are as helpful today as they were then. In his “An Address to the Clergy,” in The Works of John Wesley, 3d ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1979), he told these young ministers there are four things they must know to be successful in ministry to others:
(1) Know how to pray effectively (we all readily agree with this one)
(2) Know how to share your faith effectively (again, no argument)
(3) Know how to explain biblical passages in context so the Scriptures can be understood (so far, so good)
(4) Have a mastery of logic and philosophy to be able to present well-structured, sound, persuasive arguments (what–really?)
That’s right—for Wesley and other believers of his era, it was just as important to be able to engage in rigorous thought as what we often think of as more “spiritual” activities. They understood the Lord’s command to love Him with their whole beings, including their minds.
So what happened? Three intellectual shifts led to a widespread cultural shift that resulted in believers no longer seeking to love God with their minds. I’ll share what these three shifts were in the next few weeks…
Until then, grace and peace.