I speak and write often of “thinkingly Christianly.” I even have a podcast by this title. You may wonder what I mean by “Christianly” and how this is related to “thinking.”
By this I mean one who thinks and lives as a Christian, someone who has embraced what C.S. Lewis called “mere Christianity”—the essential, core, foundational teachings of Jesus that unite all His followers. These may be understood as a four-act play or a four-chapter book (this article discusses how movies retell the various aspects of this story over and over again):
Chapter 1: Creation. God created everything and what he made initially flourished. The earth produced crops in abundance. People worshiped God and enjoyed their relationship with Him, as well as with one another and the rest of Creation. There was no anger, envy, bitterness, hatred, theft, murder, or anything else to disrupt the harmony and wellbeing that characterized this era. To learn more about this, read Genesis 1 and 2. (By the way, while Christians agree that God created all things, the timeline and process by which He created are secondary, “intramural” debates upon which Christians disagree. They are not part of mere Christianity. One may say the same of the next three chapters—there are internal debates concerning the details, but all agree with these main points.)
Chapter 2: Fall. Something went horribly wrong. People chose to reject the gifts of grace, peace, and abundance that God provided, and decided they could do better on their own. Worship evaporated. However, the result was not greater prosperity, but just the opposite. All of Creation was affected, and now all human beings live their lives apart from God, in conflict with others and in a more hostile and inhospitable environment. For more see Genesis 3.
Chapter 3: Redemption. God implemented a plan to redeem all things and restore peace, wellbeing and flourishing. Since the rebellion of Chapter 2 was against God himself, the debt was infinite. Therefore it could only be paid by God, and not a mere mortal. However, since it was humans who rebelled, and therefore stood guilty of death before the Holy One, the debt had to be paid by a human who was perfect and therefore could be a substitute for the rest of us. Only God Himself becoming a human, living a perfect life and dying in our place could meet both these conditions. Paying the debt and becoming the substitute is what Jesus of Nazareth did for us. I discuss this in further detail here. For more see Genesis 4 through the book of Jude, as the majority of the Bible describes God’s work of Redemption. A few summary passages are Genesis 12:1-4, Isaiah 53, John 1:1-4, 12, John 14:6, Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, Romans 5:8, Romans 10:9-13 and Ephesians 2:8-9.
Chapter 4: Restoration. Restoration is the chapter in which we now live. With the Way made in Chapter 3, God is inviting all people back into a healthy, loving relationship with Himself, others and the rest of Creation. We can again worship, and again flourish. This is available to all of us, as a gift from God. As is true of all gifts, we must each decide if we are going to accept this gift of redemption and restoration, or reject it. God will not force it on us. To accept it we must simply agree with the facts of Chapters 1, 2 and 3 and receiving His redemption as a gracious gift. Those redeemed are then invited to be part of the effort to see all else redeemed. For more see the final book of the New Testament—Revelation—that tells the story of God’s final Restoration of all things. Other passages regarding this are Jeremiah 29:4-8 (discussed below), Isaiah 1:17, Zechariah 7:9, Micah 6:8, Matthew 5:7-9 and Luke 6:27-35.
So by “Christian” I mean a person who believes Jesus is who He claimed to be: God who took on human nature in Jesus and was therefore the only One who can pay the debt we owe to an infinite and Holy God due to our rebellion. As a result a Christian is restored to a right relationship with God, and as a result all else. This does not mean that all will be easy for the believer. A life in right relationship with God, “glorifying God and enjoying Him forever” will also involve challenges, suffering, persecution and failures. Yet it will be worth it to be restored to a proper relationship with the Creator and Sustain or all things.
This “believing” has intellectual and volitional components (our minds and our wills are both involved). Intellectually we must give assent to this. We must believe the truths of Chapters 1, 2 and 3. We will have questions. That is fine. However, we must be seekers of answers. The good news is that there are answers. These books and websites provide adequate reasons to believe.
Yet to give intellectual assent is not enough—it is “necessary but not sufficient.” We must also choose to place our faith in what we know to be true. Here’s an analogy: let’s say you need to fly to Los Angeles. You have never flown before, and you are worried. So you study aviation. You learn everything you can about aerodynamics, the forces of lift, drag, thrust, and weight, Bernoulli’s Principle, and so on. You come to have complete confidence that a plane can safely take you to L.A. But this alone doesn’t get you to L.A. You have to take the next step to buy a ticket and get on the plane. Both the knowledge and choice to act on it are necessary, but only together are they sufficient.
So it is for us in this Fourth Chapter. Each of us must give intellectual assent to these Truths. But we must also take the next step and personally place our faith in Christ as our redeemer. Doing so is quite simple: “ If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved . . . For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” (Romans 10:9, 13)
As mentioned above, thinking is central to who we are and all we do. Thinking is crucial because God created us in His image. God is a Person, meaning He has intellect, emotion, and will—He thinks, feels, and chooses. So we, as human persons, share these essential capacities. To deny the value of our intellect, emotion or will is to deny God’s image in us and how He wants us to live as human persons.
Therefore, part of flourishing personally and in relation to God, others and the rest of Creation is learning to think well about all these relationships. It is loving God with our minds, in light of who we are, who He is, and our relationship with Him. It is loving others with our minds, meaning understanding others as co-image bearers of God, and therefore of intrinsic value and to be respected and engaged in appropriate ways. Moreover, it is loving all of Creation with our minds, meaning understanding the true nature of all things and having proper relationships with all things in light of this knowledge.
By growing in our understanding of all things by thinking well we grow in our relationships with God, others and the rest of Creation. This is thinking Christianly.
Such “Christian thinking” will have deep, profound, and exciting implications for every aspect of our lives. It will lead to a life well-lived. We will be truly and fully human, living as we were created to live, and thus flourishing in all ways: spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, volitionally, physically and socially.
Thanks for your interest in thinking Christianly with me. Grace and peace to you.