Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Love God With Your Mind
Our churches are filled with Christians who are idling in intellectual neutral. As Christians, their minds are going to waste. One result of this is an immature, superficial faith. People who simply ride the roller coaster of emotional experience are cheating themselves out of a deeper and richer Christian faith by neglecting the intellectual side of that faith. They know little of the riches of deep understanding of Christian truth, of the confidence inspired by the discovery that one's faith is logical and fits the facts of experience, of the stability brought to one's life by the conviction that one's faith is objectively true. - William Lane Craig in Passionate Conviction.
J.P. Moreland’s masterful book is an apt antidote to what his distinguished colleague, William Lane Craig laments in the quote above. After reading Love Your God With All Your Mind attentively (with all electronic devices turned off), one will begin to know, by the grace of the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13), the “riches of [a] deep understanding of Christian truth.”
As a long-time Christian philosopher and apologist, when I read the first edition of this book, I was thrilled because the author, one of the most important and astute Christian philosophers of our day, developed a thorough, readable, deeply challenging spirituality of the sanctified intellect. More than that, I have used this modern classic as a textbook in many classes for many years, and I often recommend it as a tonic to the anti-intellectualism and fideism that sadly plagues much of Evangelicalism in the United States.
The spirit of the second edition does not differ from the first (published in 1997), and much of the material is repeated. However, Moreland, who is distinguished professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, has added two new chapters that give an apologetic for Christianity from natural theology and the evidence for the deity and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Although seasoned readers of Moreland (as I have been, since Scaling the Secular City ), will find much that is familiar here; chapters seven through nine set forth a muscular and articulate defense of essential biblical truths. Despite having read many of the arguments before, I discovered some profound new arguments to add to my apologetic quiver. Especially fascinating was the edition of a three-page argument from natural beauty to the existence of a divine Artist (175-177). This species of natural theology has not been adequately addressed in recent literature, to my knowledge.
The book is divided into four parts: (1) Why the Mind Matters in Christianity, (2) How to Develop a Mature Christian Mind, (3) What a Mature Christian Mind Looks Like, (4) Guaranteeing a Future for the Christian Mind. It also includes a long Appendix by Joe Gorra “on recommended resources” and another on “recommended organizations.” Rather than summarizing each section, I will highlight some of the many strengths of this volume.
First, like the apologist, philosopher, evangelist, and social critic and activist, Francis Schaeffer (1912-84), Moreland has a passion for the living God, for truth, for pertinent communication to our generation, for people, and for the objective truth of the Bible. (On this, see James Sire’s noteworthy introduction to the 30th anniversary edition of Schaeffer’s landmark book, The God Who is There .) While Moreland, like Schaeffer, has the spiritual gift of evangelism, he is, unlike Schaeffer, a professional philosopher of the highest caliber, having written a voluminous corpus of work in the philosophy of religion, ethics, metaphysics, philosophy of science, and more. And unlike some prolific evangelical authors (who shall remain nameless), these works are all impressive and worthwhile. But unlike most philosophers, Moreland has also written articles and books for the popular audience. For example, his book, The God Question: An Invitation to a Life of Meaning (Harvest House, 2009), is a marvelous apologetic aimed at the common thinking person. I could go on by citing The Virtue of Happiness and many more.
Second, Love Your God With All Your Mind is peppered with real-life examples from Moreland’s impressive ministry experience of over forty years. (In this, it resembles Schaeffer’s The God Who is There.) Before becoming a full-time academic, Moreland planted two churches and worked with Campus Crusade. Even after entering the scholarly world full-time, he continues to reach out to the world around him in many creative ways. This challenges the reader to not only develop a Christian mind, but to faithfully apply it to all of culture under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Third, while intellectually fertile on a theoretical level, the book is replete with specific examples and exhortations on how to cultivate the life of the mind for the cause of Christ. Moreland spends some time on the concept of intellectual virtue, appealing (without addressing the scholarly details) to what is called “virtue epistemology”—a practice Jesus himself defends (see chapter five of my book, On Jesus [Wadsworth, 2003]). I find this practical emphasis (rooted in intellectual wealth) to be rare in books on the Christian mind and cultural engagement. For example, Moreland urges us to pay scrupulous attention to our grammar when we speak, and to hold others linguistically accountable for this as well. This is no curmudgeonly pet peeve for the good professor. As Moreland says to those who resist his advice, “Isn’t a developed intellectual love for God worth the price of an initial embarrassment at such correction. After all, the alternative is to continue to allow one another to speak incorrectly and fail to realize the intellectual benefits that come from the correct use of language” (129). Moreland also offers sagacious advice concerning adult education in the church, preaching, and outreach. For example, he rightly advises that Christian education be made intellectually rich by requiring texts, assignments, and a fee for attending. This adds weight to what otherwise is often no more than a Christian coffee and donuts clutch.
A short review cannot do justice to a book long on knowledge, reason, wisdom, and passion for the Kingdom of God. Therefore, read it—and reread it. Then apply it for the glory of God.