A review of Thinking, Loving, Doing, John Piper and David Mathis.
It was reportedly John Wesley who identified orthopathy (right heartedness) as a corrective to too much focus on orthodoxy (right belief) and orthopraxy (right actions). In contrast, John Piper and his Executive Pastoral Assistant, David Mathis are concerned about a lack of right thinking in the evangelical church, and too much focus on passion and action in glorifying God.
They have collected a series of essays to address these issues.
It opens with a chapter by Rick Warren on “The Battle for Your Mind” which Warren identifies as our stronghold. Once Satan has infiltrated our thinking, then it is easy to lose our way. He identifies two ways that infiltration happens: through a worldview such as materialism or relativism; or through a personal attitude such as anxiety or fear. He uses Paul’s exhortation in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 to “take every thought captive” and applying four principles:
- Don’t believe everything you think
- Guard your mind from garbage
- Never let up on learning (learn for knowledge, perspective/wisdom, conviction, character and skill)
- Let God stretch your imagination.
R Albert Mohler Jr goes on to describe 14 effects of the fall on our thinking: ignorance, distractedness, forgetfulness, prejudice, faulty perspective, intellectual fatigue, inconsistencies, failure to draw the right conclusion, intellectual apathy, dogmatism and closed-mindedness, intellectual pride, vain imagination, miscommunication, and partial knowledge. These lead to the classic anti-intellectual beliefs of our age: moral relativism (no absolutes of right and wrong), anti-realism (what is real is what I feel), therapeutic universalism (all our problems will be solved through counselling), radical pluralism (no one worldview can be correct), and managerial pragmatism (we can control practically everything).
Then RC Sproul gives an inspired description of Acts 17 as countering the philosophies that confound us today (which are actually the philosophies from the time of Jesus and Paul); by emphasising Paul’s point that we exist and live and move in God, who created our very being.
Next Thabiti Anyabwile writes on encountering Islam with the mind of Christ, with some helpful advice for encountering Muslims:
- Remember the Gospel, that the plain message of the good news of Jesus is powerful for salvation
- Return to the world, go openly to confess Christ, but be as shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves
- Repent of fear, of the stereotypes of Muslim extremism, and our anxiety of confrontation
- Retrieve the reward, that faithfulness in evangelism to Muslims will lead to rejoicing in heaven.
Author of Crazy Love, Francis Chan writes an essay about humility, in which he talks about our need to genuinely love people. He talks about the need to love with actions as well as words, and the need to see with God’s eyes. His essay is full of heartfelt stories.
John Piper writes the conclusion in which he talks about the eight things he hopes the book will prevent:
- We hope you will not be naïve about the depravity of the human mind
- We hope that your mind will not be complicit in spiritual adultery, seduced by other worldviews
- We hope you will not be slippery with your mind, ignoring or manipulating the truth
- We hope you will not be romantic about the benefits of ignorance, that is, keep learning
- We hope you will not be childlike in your thinking, but mature
- We hope that you WILL be childlike in your thinking, that is, God-dependent, trusting, humble
- We do not want you to focus on thinking as the only way to know God, or unnecessary in knowing God, but as necessary for knowing God, leaning on his understanding and seeking his wisdom
- That you will not have a proud, loveless mind.
This book is much more about thinking, than loving or doing, and that is obviously the shortfall that John Piper sees within the church, and especially the US evangelical church. Hence it is a focus on orthodoxy with a hope that right feeling and right actions will follow.
I fear that our human tendency (reflected denominationally) is to focus on one area rather than achieving the balance that Jesus exhibited in his thinking and loving and doing, which so attracted and inspired and transformed people and the world.