“Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking.” Those words, attributed to Steve Jobs, were widely shared shortly after his death in 2011. Depending on the way in which Job’s words are understood they both agree and disagree with the goal of John Piper in his book Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010). We can simply live with other people’s thinking, which is not always a bad thing, for much wisdom has come before our era. Or we can think deeply about what we learn today, so that our faith rests and grows on a solid foundation.
Piper asserts that thinking, i.e. giving serious consideration to the things one is called to believe, is needed for a person to come to faith in Christ, and for one who has that faith to then grow as a Christian. Rather than simply having ‘faith,’ without understanding what that may mean or how it may call one to live, he makes a “plea to see thinking as a necessary, God-ordained means of knowing God. Thinking is one of the important ways that we put the fuel of knowledge on the fires of worship and service to the world.” (15)
Using a writing style that is conversational and very readable, Piper starts with a description of his early career, first as a scholar and then a pastor, showing the role that thinking played in broadening and deepening his faith. He writes “But thinking under the mighty hand of God, thinking soaked in prayer, thinking carried by the Holy Spirit, thinking tethered to the Bible, thinking in pursuit of more reasons to praise and proclaim the glories of God, thinking in the service of love – such thinking is indispensable in a life of fullest praise to God.” (27)
The middle of the book contains a discussion of the importance of thinking in a person’s coming to saving faith in Jesus Christ, showing from the Bible that faith isn't something that is simply ‘acquired’ but must also be understood. We don’t have faith merely by believing a text such as John 3:16. Thinking is essential to understanding the meaning contained in the text.
Later in the book Piper explains several ways of thinking that may sound acceptable to modern readers but which are actually contrary to the kind of thought that helps believers to understand God. He demonstrates the fallacies within relativism, which is a rampant thought-form in the 21st century, and he also shows how pragmatism and subjectivism are both forces that lead to an exaltation of human thinking, rather than a deepening of godly wisdom. He concludes with a discussion of the connection between knowledge and humility, demonstrating that while thinking nurtures spiritual maturity and deepens faith it does so in a way that continuously exalts God.
In Matthew 22:37 Jesus said “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Throughout this book Piper connects loving God with thinking about God deeply, saying “loving God with all our mind means that our thinking is wholly engaged to do all it can to awaken and express the heartfelt fullness of treasuring God above all things.” (91, italics Piper)
And “treasuring God above all things” is what a life of Christian faith is all about.