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JRF

JRF’s #1 – Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God by John Piper

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There is probably no other living author who has shaped me more than John Piper. God used his classic book Desiring God to profoundly impact me in college.  From that point on I read anything by Piper I could get my hands on (but he kept putting books out faster than I could read them).  But there came a point where I decided to take a haiatus from reading John Piper, just because I felt myself being tempted to get my theology from him rather than from the Bible.  While many at my school were “MacArthurites” I was fast becoming a “Piperite”.  I hope that in the few years off I have grown in my discernment and I am excited to continue being challenged and encouraged through pastor Piper’s ministry.

As the Apologia group is discussing this book next month I decided that I would break my Piper fast by reading Think! The Life of the Mind and the Love of God.  Piper is the perfect person to write this book as he is well known for coining the profoundly true phrase, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him”.  The idea of being satisfied with God makes most in our culture think of engaging our hearts in glorifying God.  However in this book, Piper shows that glorifying God and being deeply satisfied with Him involves the mind as much as it does the heart.  Perhaps even more importantly, He shows that the heart and mind are not and cannot be at odds with each other in this endeavor.

Highlights:

  • Jesus’ Response to Relativists: the boldness and clarity with which Piper exposits Christ’s dealings with the relativistic Pharisees was powerful.  I am so used to thinking of relativism as a modern (or “post-modern”), but the human heart and mind has always been sinful and has always looked for ways to manipulate the truth for personal gain.   I was challenged that I don’t always see how destructive and truly evil moral relativism is.  What power we have in the Truth of the Gospel which has the power to set people free from the bondage of sinful thinking!
  • Anti-Intellectualism: This section got a bit rabbit-traily for me but I appreciated Piper taking the time to distinguish between “child-like faith” and child-like thinking. Big difference.
  • The Necessity of Scripture in Knowing and Loving God: This wasn’t necessarily a distinct section but rather a clear theme that ran through the whole book.

Criticisms: I have three

  • Chapter Two: One of the major thoughts driving this book comes from Jonathan Edwards.  Its a great thought about the nature of the Trinity but Piper presents it as Gospel truth without providing any Scriptural support.  He just takes Edwards proposition and builds on it, which made me a bit uneasy.
  • Size: This book is at once too large and too small.  I believe that Piper could have  presented the main point of his book – that “the work of thinking serves the experience of worship and love” (p.36) and that knowing truth outside of God is ultimately folly -in a more direct, concise way.  Solomon said that with one verse (Prov 1:7).   On the other hand I felt it was too small to fully explore all the boxes he opens along the way to explaining his main point.
  • Missiology: Although he touches on this here and there, I wish that Piper would have dealt more with the implications and practice of glorifying God with the mind for those who are illiterate or amongst a people group with no written language and/or Scripture in their language.

Some Favorite Quotes:

- But what about relativism? It poses as humble by saying: “We mere mortals cannot know what the truth is – or even if there is any universal truth.” This sounds humble.  But look carefully at what is happening.  It’s like a servant saying: “I am not smart enough to know which person here is my master – or if I even have a master.”  The result is that he doesn’t have to submit to any master and can be his own master.  His vaunted weakness is a ruse to cover his rebellion against his master. p. 112-3

- When you are deeply peaceful and confident that, because of Christ, God will bring you safely to his eternal kingdom and be the all-satisfying Treasure of your life forever, then you are free to see the truth, and love the truth, and speak the truth no matter what, and joyfully spread a passion for the truth whose name is Jesus p. 116

- The mind provides the kindling for the fires of the heart. p. 184

- (discussing I Cor 8:1-11)  ...Paul had said love builds up (v.1).  That implies that any knowledge that does not stand in the service of love is not real knowing.  It is prostituted knowing.  It’s as though God put surgical tools in our hands and taught us how to save the sick, but we turned them into a clever juggling act while the patients died.  Knowing and thinking exist for the sake of love- for the sake of building people up in faith.  Thinking that produces pride instead of love is not true thinking.  We only imagine that we are thinking.  God does not see it as thinking.  It’s not surgery; it’s juggling. p.160

Overall this was a great book.  I am excited to discuss it at Apologia. 3 out of 4 stars.

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