John Piper is the former pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. His theology and ministry have focused over the last 40 years on a key biblical principle. It seems to show up in one form or the other in all his books and sermons. It’s this: that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. God’s self-exaltation and our everlasting joy are not at odds. They happen together. His worth is magnified when we treasure Him above all things. Our joy in Him reflects his glory.
This theme is developed in a different way in THINK: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God. This outstanding book is basically an admonition for Christians to think – to think deeply – to think about God’s revelation both in Scripture and in nature.
The Great Commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37.) Piper points out that “loving him with all our mind means that our thinking is wholly engaged to do all it can to awaken and express this heartfelt fullness of treasuring God above all things.”
Though Piper has a doctorate in theology he’s by no means an ivory tower scholar. He’s a lover of God who lives in the trenches of life. He thinks deeply about God as He is revealed in the Bible and in the world. One quote I like is, “I am pleading for fiery thinking, not formal education.” Here’s another one, “Knowing and thinking exist for love – for the sake of building people up in the faith. Thinking that produces pride instead of love is not true thinking.”
Piper develops the theme of thinking from two passages of Scripture, one in the New Testament, the other in the Old.
- “Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this” (2 Timothy 2:7.)
- “And if you look for it (wisdom) as for silverand search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:4-6.)
Notice in both these passages there is command for the believer to think, to search diligently for wisdom. In addition, in both there’s a promise. As we think in this way, God will open our minds to understand. In this we see both human responsibility and divine sovereignty.
Piper believes strongly that thinking is essential in knowing God. However, he makes it abundantly clear that “thinking is not at the expense of feeling or delighting or loving. Both are essential to being human and both are essential to glorifying God.” Hence, the title and the subtitle THINK: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God.
One of the great implications of this book is that thinking and loving God go hand in hand. Some Christians see intellectual pursuits as unnecessary – all we need to do is love God and serve Him, but they often end up lacking depth in their walk with God in this complex world. Others of a more intellectual bent understand that God wants us to think and understand, but they see this as an end in itself and thus lack passion and zeal in their Christian lives. Piper shows scripturally how the two are necessary and complement one another.
Another important sub-theme of the book, besides the challenge of anti-intellectualism, is the challenge of relativism, which is devastating because in this belief system there is “no objective, knowable reality outside ourselves.” In two insightful chapters Piper shows us how Jesus handled the relativism of the elders and chief priests.
A Final Plea
In his conclusion entitled “A Final Plea”, the author admits that there are Christians who have little inclination to think. Knowing that John Piper himself is a deep thinker, I appreciate what he says to these brethren, “My plea is not that you get a different personality. Not everyone should be energized by the challenge of thinking. … you are a very normal part of the great majority of human beings.” Then he gives these believers five pieces of advice:
- Be thankful for thinkers.
- Respect those who serve you with thinking.
- Pray for vulnerable thinkers.
- Avoid wrongheaded thinking. (By this Piper means a Christian should really examine what he/she hears from pastors and other Christian leaders to determine if it is truly biblical.)
- Read your Bible with joy.
Piper expands the final point with these words, “Just keep reading the Bible. Memorize it. Enjoy it. See Christ everywhere in it. Treasure him more and more. And apply the Bible to your life, all of your life.”