Think Deeply and Clearly
A Meditation on 2 Timothy 2:7
Think over what I say, for the Lord will grant you understanding in everything.
Timothy: Wait a minute, Paul. You tell me to think, but isn’t the organ of our thinking fallen and unreliable?
Paul: Yes, your mind is fallen and fallible. Yes, it is prone to self-justifying errors. But Christ is in the business of “renewing the mind” (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:23). Do you think there is some unfallen part of you that you could substitute for your mind? We are fallen and depraved in every part. You can’t retreat from thinking into some other safe, untainted faculty of knowing. Take note, Timothy: even in raising the objection against thinking you are thinking! You can’t escape the necessity of thinking. God’s call is to do it well.
Timothy: But, Paul, I don’t want to become a cold, impersonal intellectual.
Paul: There is danger on both sides, Timothy. There is cold knowledge, and there is a red hot zeal that “is not according to knowledge” (Romans 10:2). But thinking does not have to cool your zeal. In fact, in my life the vigorous exercise of my mind in spiritual things causes me to boil inside, not to freeze. You are right not to want to become “impersonal.” That happens when thinking is emphasized to the exclusion of feeling about people; and reason is exalted above love. But note this, Timothy: the abandonment of thinking is the destruction of persons. Yes, there is more to personal relationships than thinking, but they are less human without it. God honored his image in us when he said, “Come, let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18). Should we do less?
Timothy: But, Paul, shouldn’t I just take you at your word, and not ask so many questions? You’re an apostle, and speak for God.
Paul: Take what, Timothy?
Timothy: Your words, what you say in your letters.
Paul: Do you mean the black marks on the parchment?
Timothy: No. What they stand for. You know. What they mean.
Paul: How do you know what I mean, Timothy?
Timothy: I read what you write.
Paul: You mean you pass your eyes over the black marks on the parchment?
Timothy: No, I . . . I think about it. I ask how the words and sentences fit together. I look for what it means.
Paul: That’s right, Timothy. Thinking and asking questions is the only way you will ever understand what I want to communicate in my letters. And either you do it poorly, or you do it well. So “do not be a child in your thinking: be a babe in evil, but in thinking be mature” (1 Corinthians 14:20). As the Master said, “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).
Timothy: But, Paul, won’t I become arrogant and boastful if by using my mind I discover things on my own?
Paul: Timothy, you never have and never will discover anything “on your own.” And you would know this if you had thought more deeply about what I said. What I said was: “Think over what I say, for the Lord will grant you understanding in everything.” The Lord, Timothy, the Lord! “From him, through him, and to him are all things. To him be the glory!” (Romans 11:36) He is the ground and goal of all thought. So think, Timothy. Gird up your mind and think!
Praying Psalm 119:66 with you,