It’s Not a Sin to Think

The English humourist P. G. Wodehouse once said: “Some minds are like soup in a poor restaurant—better left unstirred.” On a more serious note, the renowned English Christian John Stott said this: “Knowledge is indispensable to Christian life and service. If we do not use the mind that God has given us, we condemn ourselves to spiritual superficiality and cut ourselves off from many of the riches of God’s grace.”

Yet my title may concern some folks. ‘Wow, did he just say it is a sin not to think? Yes I did. And in this case I am writing to a Christian audience. ‘So where do you get that in the Bible?’ some might ask. Hey, easy as. You might recall that someone helped us greatly in this regard.

One of the greatest needs for Christians today is to start using the minds that God gave us:

A lawyer came to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” Wow, the greatest commandment. So it is a very good thing indeed that Jesus answered him. He said: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:34-40; also found in Mark 12:28-34 and Luke 10:25-8 – all appealing to Deuteronomy 6:4-9).

So there you have it: the greatest person who ever lived is asked what is the greatest commandment. Every single one of us should stand up and take notice. Loving God with the totality of our being is the answer. And that includes using the mind that God gave us.

It is with the mind of course that we think, as well as reason, question, evaluate, discern, judge, test, reflect, remember, and ascertain. Clearly, if we refuse to think and if we refuse to use our minds, then we have just violated the greatest commandment there is. And that my friends is sin.

Why this article?

I have written often about this issue before, so why bring it up again? Well, often my circumstance can dictate what I write about. And often what I go through can come in waves or clusters. For example, if I write a piece on dealing with hatred and persecution, it might be because I just received a whole bunch of ugly and vile comments or hateful emails in the space of a day or two.

In this case I came upon 6 or 7 rather extreme cases of Christians who clearly seem not to be able to think. Some really outrageous and stupid remarks or comments all came my way in a very short period of time, so I felt the need to once again write on this topic. As I said on the social media the other day:

One of the great sins I see today in the Christian church is the blatant refusal of far too many believers to obey the greatest command of Christ: to ‘love God with all our minds…’ The number of utterly stupid, uninformed, ignorant and just plain idiotic comments I see almost daily on my website and on the social media does my head in. It makes me want to weep. I want to ask God for his forgiveness for the way we misrepresent him and drag his name in the mud with our brainless and reckless remarks and beliefs. Lord, forgive us! Please Lord, let your people think!

As to the recent batch of comments that came my way, I best not go into much detail about them. However, it can be said that some of these were so appallingly bad, so moronic, and so off base, that you really have to wonder what some believers have lodged between their two ears. I cringe when I see some of these remarks. How can some believers be so clueless and so brainless?

Worse yet, some of these Christians actually seem to delight in and are proud of their ignorance and foolishness and lack of understanding. One of these folks said to me, “Also i like to keep it simple”. That much was clear. But there is a big difference between being simple and being simplistic.

On the one hand the gospel itself is simple enough for a child to embrace, yet complex enough for the best minds to never come close to fathoming. The truth is, plenty of what we find in the Bible and in theology – as well as in other areas – can be quite deep, complex and difficult to understand.

Being willing to dig, to learn, to study, to read, and to think carefully about these things is essential. There is nothing at all godly or spiritual about not using the brain that God has given us. There is nothing Christlike about relishing our own unwillingness to think and study for the glory of God. We are to be mature in our thinking and understanding.

We are to move beyond childish things. We are to love the Lord with ALL our mind. As C. S. Lewis rightly stated in Mere Christianity:

God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than of any other slackers. If you are thinking of being a Christian, I warn you: you are embarking on something that is going to take the whole of you, brains and all. But fortunately, it works the other way round. Anyone who is honestly trying to be a Christian will soon find his intelligence being sharpened: one of the reasons why it needs no special education to be a Christian is that Christianity is an education itself.  That is why an uneducated believer like Bunyan was able to write a book [The Pilgrim’s Progress] that has astonished the whole world.

What can we do?

It must be said of course that I am not here speaking about those with genuine mental disabilities or cognitive impairment. I am talking about normal Christians who do have a working mind. It is a sin for them not to use it. Sure, some folks might be smarter or brighter than others – maybe even have higher IQs and the like. But that is still no excuse. Some Christians will just have to work harder at this and put more effort into it.

This is true of all areas of life. In Christ we are to grow and mature in all spheres. For example, some folks have terrific social or relational skills. They have always been great people persons, even as non-believers. But that was never me. I had very little mentoring or role-modelling in this regard while growing up, so I was always poor at people skills.

I can let that be an excuse for the rest of my life, or I can try to do something about it. I can work on it. And that I have sought to do. I got some assistance along the way, as in having a wonderful and sociable mother-in-law – that helped quite a bit in this regard. So if you think I am bad now, you should have seen me 50 years ago. I am slowly improving!

It is the same with the use of the mind. Not everyone will be a great scholar, a gifted teacher, a rare intellect, or another Einstein. But we can all work on using our minds for the glory of God. And practical steps can be taken here. For example, simply turning off the idiot tube (TV) and forcing yourself to read a little bit every day would be a good start.

And if you are an adult who does not have good reading skills, you can always take some remedial reading courses, even at an older age. And if your basic knowledge and understanding of Scripture and theology is very poor, you can do all sorts of things to remedy that as well. There are zillions of online resources alone.

A big part of the problem is people today are no longer taught how to think, and to reason and to assess things carefully. They are simply taught to emote. They run on their feelings and have next to no intellectual and analytical skills. So that has to be dealt with.

Five years ago an important article appeared by Adam J. MacLeod titled, “Undoing the Dis-Education of Millennials.” It was an excellent piece, and I quoted from it here.

Let me again offer just a brief bit from that article:

I teach in a law school. For several years now my students have been mostly Millennials. Contrary to stereotype, I have found that the vast majority of them want to learn. But true to stereotype, I increasingly find that most of them cannot think, don’t know very much, and are enslaved to their appetites and feelings. Their minds are held hostage in a prison fashioned by elite culture and their undergraduate professors. They cannot learn until their minds are freed from that prison. /

A main point of his piece is this: “Before I can teach you how to reason, I must first teach you how to rid yourself of unreason. For many of you have not yet been educated. You have been dis-educated. To put it bluntly, you have been indoctrinated. Before you learn how to think you must first learn how to stop unthinking.”

This is just as true for Christians as for non-Christians. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones put it in his exposition of Romans 14:

“The great trouble in the Christian life is ever that we must re-learn how to think. The old way of thinking is of no value here; we are in an entirely new realm. So that is why the Apostle says, at the end of 1 Corinthians 2, ‘We have the mind of Christ’ (v 16). We need this mind, and we must learn to cultivate and to develop it and to let it govern our thinking on all these various problems and difficulties.”

As a first step in all this, if you have been intellectually lazy, or worse yet, have delighted in being an airhead for Christ, what you need to do is repent. You have been sinning against God. When Jesus said we are to love God with our mind he meant it.

So we either obey Jesus here, or we stop pretending that we are interested in being his disciple.

Bill Muehlenberg

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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