Thank you, Chris. It’s indeed a joy to be here tonight, even as I was preparing for this evening, reflecting on ten years of God’s amazing goodness to us as an institution, I remembered sitting in the auditorium ten years ago when this message was delivered that was the kickoff for the start of this institution. I can scarcely believe what God has done in that amount of time since then. So I’m eager for us to look back and be grateful and thankful for what God has done, but then we’re looking mainly forward and looking in anticipation toward what God is going to do in the next ten and twenty and thirty years or however long it takes before he returns.
So, I’m delighted to have John Piper, our chancellor, with us tonight, and many of you are already well familiar with him, but he is the founder and teacher of desiringGod.org. He was the pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church for 33 years and he has written over fifty books, and he is a speaker who has traveled far and wide and continues to spread a passion for the supremacy of God wherever he goes and among us as well.
I also count it a privilege to have Pastor John as my pastor for 28 years and my friend and colleague for more than that, more than we probably care to count. And so, as we sit together tonight, this is something of a culmination, in many ways, of what we have prayed about, dreamed about, and worked toward to see all of this come to fruition. So as Chris said, we’re really going to be examining thinking as a discipline of the Christian faith and why it’s so important.
The topic of the book, Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God, might sound a little bit like it’s an educational philosophy, which it is, but really, it’s a means of worshiping. It’s a means of loving the Lord in the way that he has commanded us to in the great commandment: “Love the Lord with all your mind.” And so with that, let’s launch into “Think Revisited.” What is thinking?
Thank you, Tim. I’m glad you put it in the context of years of friendship and seeing God do utterly amazing, unexpected things. We have minds and we have hearts. We have bodies, and they are all created by God. They are created for a reason. In our ordinary way of talking about hearts and minds and bodies, minds are for thinking, and hearts are for feeling or willing, and the body is for doing things — making all the things you do visible. And at every point, you can dishonor God by what you do with your mind or your heart or your body. And the Bible talks about glorifying God with your body, guarding your heart, and thinking rightly. So thinking is our business, and I would say it’s the use of the mind or the use of the reason in order to grasp or understand truth and put it to proper use.
Now, to expand that, I really do think that the six habits of the mind that we developed ten years ago in that message are still exactly what you’re supposed to do with your mind. So let me mention them. And we’ll probably come back to them, because I’ve thought through things in relation to the book and it’s time they come back. We think that the right use of the mind or the right point of the school is to help students inculcate and to instill in them habits of mind and heart. They really overlap, which will carry them forward for the rest of their minds, six of them.
The first habit is observation. We think with the mind. I’m treating the mind as the capacity to discern or perceive. The eyeballs do that physically, but the mind sees and construes and observes. And so observing accurately is a massively important part of thinking well. If I look at you and think you’re a woman, that’s a bad use of my mind. That could take us all kinds of cultural directions.
Secondly, on the basis of what you have accurately observed, you understand. You understand. You infer meaning from it. You make connections in it and you get knowledge. So observing, then understanding.
Thirdly, not before those two, but after those two, evaluating what’s good, what’s bad, what’s beautiful, what’s ugly, what’s right, what’s wrong. We do that with our minds by applying standards that we have gotten through observation and understanding. So we’re evaluating. That’s third.
Fourth, feel. Now, a lot of people wouldn’t include that in an educational goal, but you produce sick and immature people if they observe, think, evaluate, and are utterly blank emotionally. They can’t relate to anybody. Nobody wants to be around them. They make lousy pastors and lousy spouses. If you don’t know how to feel appropriately, like strong feelings for strong things and small feelings about small feelings instead of the other way around, that kind of proportionality is massively what our hearts do, but our minds regulate in various ways. So that’s number four.
Number five is apply. So I’ve done all that observing and all that understanding and all that evaluating and I now am feeling, and I should do something with all that. I should apply it to a relationship, to a conversation, to a school, to a marriage, and to my work, and there are all kinds of applications to be made of all this thinking and evaluating.
And the last one is expressing. All that pretty much was taking in, and now applying and expressing. And I was thinking recently that thinking, if I were giving a talk tonight, I think I would have chosen not to talk about how to use my mind to get meaning out of this and out of the world, but rather how to take what I’ve got and put it in effective forms — both writing and speaking. I’m thinking especially speaking. Because I just hear so much speaking that’s just confusing. It’s confusing. And I want to say to people, “Would you just stop before you get into the pulpit or before you get behind a lecture or before you go on to do your podcast and just stop and get your thoughts in order and put some connecting links.”
It’s like “therefore” and “in order that.” I can’t follow you. I don’t know where you’re going. I don’t know what you’re doing. I don’t know the definition of your terms. I’m all confused. And there are so many people who really are quite bright, but they just can’t do anything with it. So that’s the sixth one. So that’s a long-winded way of saying thinking is a use of the mind or the reason on a quest for truth, and those six habits are what you do on the way there and when you find it.
Now in the book, you use 2 Timothy 2:7 as an illustration of the expectation that Paul lays out for Timothy of thinking, being a part of a process that leads to understanding. What’s the difference between thinking and understanding?
I love that verse. This is 2 Timothy 2:7, and it says, “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.” Understanding is the outcome, the successful outcome of thinking. And it’s the arrival at truth. And the reason that verse is so precious is because it endorses a school or a life of the mind in which you are going to devote significant energies to thinking. Because he tells him, he’s talking to a pastor, “Think over what I say. I’ve written to you some letters. When you read those letters, don’t just read. Don’t just check a box — ‘done my devotions.’ Think. Observe. Understand. Analyze. Evaluate. Feel. Apply. Express. Come to terms with what I’ve written there and do it with your brain. Do it with your reason.” Whoa, that’s not how you get God meaning out of this book, with your brain, hard thinking. That just sounds man-centered, worldly, self-reliant.
And then he follows up with, “You think, and the Lord will grant you understanding,” which shows mental effort is essential — not sufficient. Can you make those distinctions, get those words in your head? It’s essential, necessary. Because Paul said, “Do it.” And then he said, “And if God doesn’t give you this understanding, you won’t get it that way.” And so many people say, “If you get it from God, then you don’t need to think. Or if you get it from thinking, you don’t need God.”
I love the Bible for that reason. It won’t let us split ourselves like that. It won’t let us go a more charismatic route where you’re just getting revelation of what God wants you to know, or you’re over here with the orthodox Presbyterians, or me, and just thinking and thinking and crafting your doctrines and articulating everything with accuracy and not expecting anything from the Holy Spirit — that’s not really fair to the orthodox Presbyterians. That’s not what they would say. I’m just making opposite ends of the pole and we’re way off on the other end on this one.
So understanding is the successful use of the mind in arriving at truth. And that verse says you won’t get there without God. But you must get there by thinking.
And that’s the mystery in terms of how there are some people who do the thinking part but don’t seem to arrive at the understanding. And so that there’s always learning and never arriving at the truth is one of the challenges that we face. So how does a person avoid that trap?
For a certain kind of mind, thinking can be fun. Fun. It’s a game. I just read stuff and I love to interact with people and I like to trace out arguments, and I like to find new links nobody has seen, and it’s like Sherlock Holmes. He loved figuring crimes out. I don’t know if he cared too much about justice. He probably did. But you can love solving crimes without loving justice, and you can love studying the Bible without loving truth. To get there, there has to be in your heart a longing. The journey is not the point. So many today think the journey is the point. The journey is the means to the goal, and God is the goal. And the right knowing of God and the right loving of God is the goal. The journey can be wonderfully stimulating, and that’s why it can be so deceptive.
Here’s just an illustration. Three years ago, one or two of you might be here who took Philippians with me. It was my first time back in the classroom teaching Greek exegesis after thirty plus years or so. I love this. I love this. We get to spend thirteen weeks working through Philippians in the Greek text. We’re arcing every single paragraph. You’ll learn what arcing is. And I realized about halfway through this class, all of our time is being spent arguing about whether they’ve got these relationships right. The ground clause and the “therefore” and the “in order that” and the “although,” and with those two or three propositions together, whether they’ve got the relationship. And I realize we come to the end of several of these classes, and we haven’t talked about reality.
And I’m loving it. And they’re maybe loving it. But it’s intriguing. That’d be the word logically. “I find this intriguing.” I don’t like that word. Be careful using it around me, because if you use it I might say, “Finding stuff intriguing does not turn me on,” because it sounds like a substitute for truth. I think it was intriguing to me and them, and it just clobbered me.
So I began about halfway through that class pushing my nose and their nose through thinking about structural level things to reality. So if you say, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for God is at work in you,” and have your arc showing the ground you’re not saying anything. You don’t know anything. It’s a ground. What does it mean to work out your salvation? What does it mean that God is at work in you? You can get the relationship right and not know anything, and that would be like loving learning and never coming to a knowledge of the truth. Have you seen the reality? And that’s a lack of taste for reality, a lack of love for reality because a born-again heart’s going to be really disenchanted after a while with learning that does not come to the truth.
You mentioned earlier with regard to the anti-intellectual traditions that exist in some circles of Christianity. Why is that history there? And how do you see that as either a bad thing or a good thing as it relates to our topic tonight?
Years and years ago, I think it was right after I came to Bethlehem — so 35 years ago — I read Hofstadter’s, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. He’s got a quote in there from Billy Sunday, someone I remember. Only quote I remember. Billy Sunday said, “If I had a million dollars, I’d give 999,999 to the church and one dollar to the college,” and he quoted that as typical of the early twentieth-century anti-intellectualism — the fear and a disenchantment with education. And you ask: Why would that be? Here’s some reasons I can think of.
One is the Bible really does have some significant warnings in it about the dangers of knowledge puffing up. Love builds up. So give your energy to love, not knowledge. Knowledge just puffs up. He has hidden these things from the wise and understanding and given them to babes. Be a baby. By the wisdom of this world, God has been pleased not to show his reality. Circumvent. Go through preaching. So you’ve got biblical warrant to be suspicious of Bethlehem College & Seminary. People who talk about the life of the mind, write books like Think.
A second reason is you’ve got a lot of experiential evidence that guys go to school and lose their faith. Go to university, come back an unbeliever. They go to seminary and get stone cold in the way they read the Bible. That’d be a second reason why people would go towards being suspicious of the life of the mind.
A third reason that I can think of is the world is going to hell, and you’re sitting in your study reading Greek? Give me a break. There are people down the street who are perishing. Go talk to them. So the urgency of lostness and suffering. Get up and go to North Carolina and put some sandbags up or help people find a place to stay. Open your Chick-fil-A on Sunday. Did you hear or read about that? Chick-fil-A opened on Sunday and gave free meals? That’s just awesome. I just thought, way to go, Chick-fil-A. That’s so biblical. Don’t open on other Sundays, but only when somebody needs help, right?
So those are three good reasons to be suspicious of the life of the mind. So I’m going to cut those people some slack. My dad went to college and had an honorary doctorate, not a real hardworking doctorate. He earned his spurs in the pulpit other ways. I think the atmosphere I grew up in was pretty suspicious of the life of the mind, and I don’t think that hurt me at all.
Wheaton College opened some windows, Fuller Seminary opened more, and I hope that I am more careful and balanced now. C.S. Lewis said, “The salvation of a single soul is worth more than the preservation of all the literary masterpieces in the world.” Lewis said that. I didn’t say that. Lewis, who gave his life to understanding masterpieces, said that. That’s amazing. That’s capturing something remarkable. He criticized one time a guy who took him to task because his illustration of the Trinity was simplistic. You know how Lewis answered him? He said, “I would just like to hear your effort to explain Christianity to your barber like I have tried.” Yes! Yes! Intellectuals have to get their hair cut.
They jog. They go to the store. Do they believe people are lost? It’s not an either-or. Some people are called to a full-time life of the mind that’s not as pragmatic and immediately on the ground touching people as others. Thank God for the others. But those who are called to be intellectual live in the real world, and so when they’re jogging, they should be praying for whether the people under the bridge on the Greenway at 6:30 a.m. should be talked to or not.
So, what is the opposite then of anti-intellectualism? We can call it intellectualism. And what are the pitfalls or the positives with regard to that?
I’m hearing two questions. Let me try to answer both. Intellectualism is a bad word. Emotionalism is a bad word. Any time you put “ism” on the end of something, it tends to make it bad. That’s helpful to know that. So I would define intellectualism as a use of the intellect out of proportion with other facets of your personhood. I doubt that anybody thinks too much. But in proportion to kissing your wife, petting your dog, talking to your neighbor, you can study too much.
“All I do is study. I don’t ever kiss her. I don’t pet the dog. I don’t talk to my neighbor. I think.” That’s intellectualism. Or better, closer to the heart, if the heart has become shrunken and sick with inability to respond appropriately to anything emotionally, but the mind is exquisitely sharp, that’s intellectualism. Very damaging, very harmful — harmful to the person, harmful to families, harmful to schools and churches.
So we should avoid that by being biblically balanced, praying in the morning not only “open my eyes that I may see wonderful things,” but “satisfy me in the morning with your steadfast love.” See, satisfy. You can plead with God to do both, and then you won’t be guilty of intellectualism.
So then, you’re getting at the next point: What is the role of the Holy Spirit in thinking?
He doesn’t replace thinking. He doesn’t whisper exegetical answers in your ear. “What does this text mean?” You don’t ever do this. “Father, would you please just tell me what the second verse in Romans means, Romans 5? Just tell me.” That’s not his role. His role is to quicken me from the dead and to give me the gift of faith and incline me to Christ and his word. Without that, I may be a superficial scholar in a university with no faith, but I won’t lead anyone into ultimate truth.
As we consider the role of the Holy Spirit in thinking, that seems a lot less discipline-oriented. And in other words, there’s not much that we can do in that part of the process. And so how do we develop and cultivate that aspect of our thinking and understanding?
The main way to avail ourselves of the power of the Holy Spirit in helping us think, and I was only up to step one and lost my train of thought, is to pray. We plead for him to do his work in our life. He inspired this book, the Bible, so we pour over this book. That pleases the Holy Spirit. This is where he does his work. He brings my heart into conformity to this word because he’s at work here (in my heart) and he was at work here (in the word).
And so his role, then, is to remove all the barriers, especially these emotional barriers. If I hate self-denial, I just like comfort, it’s going to be very hard for me to read “He who would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross” and give you a compelling interpretation of that verse because I will be so opposed to it. I’ll either just skip it or distort it. And this happens in hundreds of places where our preferences distort our reading.
And so what we’re praying is, “God, overcome that distorting effect of my sinful self.” Because we all have it. All of us have misguided, sin-shaped preferences that cause us to read either with carelessness or deviousness. And either of those is destructive to us and others. It’s huge. We cannot do good, Christ-exalting, people-helping exegesis without the help of the Holy Spirit.
How can we look at thinking as serving the ultimate ends of loving God and loving man? Or maybe to put it in a different way, can’t we just love God without doing the hard work of thinking?
Until that last phrase, I thought my answer was going to be easy. I think you can love God without doing hard work of thinking. I don’t think you can love God without thinking. So you tripped me up there. That’s good. I’m glad you did. I don’t want to give the impression everyone’s got to be a scholar to love God. But if you shut your mind off, you cannot know God, and if you don’t know him, you can’t love him. You love a figment of your imagination. Jesus said the first and great commandment is, and it can be Luke’s version, “You shall love the Lord your God from all your heart, by all your soul, and all your strength and all your mind.” He’s the only one who uses a different preposition with “heart” than the other three.
I didn’t notice that until I was writing that book. But I was interpreting loving God with your mind this way, and I still believe this: When he says, “Love God with your mind,” I think he means, use your mind to throw the kindling of truth on the fire of the heart. A lot of people say “love God with your mind” means the very functioning of your mind is a loving of God. I think that’s deadly wrong. To call thinking loving God obscures the fact that loving is an effectual delighting, treasuring, cherishing, and valuing of God. The fruits of right thinking and right obeying come from it. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” If you love me — they’re not the same.
So when Luke says ex kardia, I think that’s Luke’s way of saying, “You got it, Piper.” He didn’t really say it that way. He’s saying to love God from the heart is the essential meaning of what love is. The other three, soul and strength and mind, are means to the end of getting the heart where it’s supposed to be in loving God. So with my might, I’m going to do what I can to get my heart in love with God. And with my mind, I’m going to do what I can to get my heart in love with God. With my soul, I’m going to do everything I can to get my heart rooted in God, knowing God, loving God, so that I am sweetly affectionate toward God.
So my understanding, then, is you cannot love God without at least some use of your mind to know God and to see why he is lovely. If you interpret love to God as doing things for God, making sacrifices to God, which is fruit, not what love is, if you do that, then the function of the mind to provide truth for the heart isn’t as important. You just do things for him. How the heart is relating to him is kind of negligible. But if you believe what I believe, mainly that loving God is a massive, affectional, valuing, treasuring of God from the heart, then the heart has to have something to work with.
It has to see beauty. It has to see loveliness if we’re going to love God, which is very different from saying, “Just tell me what to do, God. You tell me what to do, I’ll go do it, and then call that love.” That’s not love. Love is: “I see you as more beautiful than anything so that I can obey Jesus when he says, ‘If you love mother or father more than me, you’re not worthy of me. If you love son or daughter more than me, you’re not worthy of me. Which means if you don’t have an affectionate attachment to me that’s greater than your affectionate attachment to your children and your wife and parents, then you don’t love me.’”
One of the things that we talk about at the school is that we study God’s word, and we study God’s world. And in the process of studying God’s world, we often are reading materials written by good thinkers, but who are not necessarily illuminated by the power of the Holy Spirit. So how are we to evaluate or to consider the works of nonbelievers who don’t have the power of the Holy Spirit in them to help them to see the ultimate truth, the ultimate reality of whatever subject they’re writing about?
So to answer that question, it’d probably be most helpful to just remind ourselves that special revelation, which is the Bible, which is final and authoritative in formulating criteria of truth in all matters, is one kind of revelation. And general revelation, natural revelation, is everything else outside this book. “The heavens are telling the glory of God.” That’s natural revelation. Or, and this is more relevant for an unbelieving scientist that’s written a book that we’re going to read to try to understand the endocrine system. “Go to the ant, thou sluggard. Consider her ways and be wise” (Proverbs 6:6). Does not nature teach you that homosexuality is wrong? This is against nature (Romans 1:18–27).
So Paul is arguing that written on our hearts and in our very personhood are truths that if we were not blind, we could and should know. He even says in the earlier part, “Everybody knows God, and because they know God and suppress God, they’re accountable,” which has enormous implications for how you do evangelism. Everybody you ever talk to knows God. It’s astonishing, isn’t it? In every culture, at every level, everybody knows God. And something has gone wrong in them that keeps it pushed down, and God at any moment might prick that. At least something you say might go right through that, and lots of stuff that’s buried down there in their human givenness would say, “Yeah, that makes sense.”
So, natural revelation makes it possible for unbelievers to see millions of true things and write books about them that can be helpful. Maybe another comment here to clarify. We were trying to come up with a segment about the sufficiency of Scripture, and we didn’t have to have it for this conference. And Kevin DeYoung proposed a sentence of meaning, and I shouldn’t mention Kevin, but I love him so much. He won’t mind. I actually got back to him and the six others on this email chain and said, “I think this is going to take more time than we have, because I can think of three problems with Kevin’s definition.” Because he had stated the sufficiency of Scripture in such a way that it seemed to imply if you have the Bible, you might be able to teach algebra or teach in medical school.
Millions of facts in the world that are needed to do good are not in the Bible. Like, to get from here to my house, the Bible will not tell me which streets to take. My life may hang on that. Or if I got a call and Noël says, “You need to be here in five minutes.” I’d have to run. It takes seven minutes to walk it. I could do it in five if she was that desperate. But I know a shortcut. I’m not going to 8th Street. That’s not in the Bible. And her life might hang on it. And there are thousands of such things. Go to the ant, thou sluggard, and become a doctor by studying what the Bible doesn’t say. Now, you can’t love people, you can’t know God, you can’t do ultimate, ultimate good for people without the Bible.
So all that to say, there is plenty to learn from unbelievers as they look at the world and write down what they see. Some of them are very shrewd observers. They’re just not making any ultimate sense out of it. And we can do that. We can take their raw material and make ultimate sense out of it.
And so, as we consider the source of whatever it is we’re examining and studying, do we need to distinguish between godly wisdom or godly informed knowledge and worldly wisdom as we consider the value or the application of those things?
The word “wisdom” makes the answer to that question yes. Knowledge might be another question. Two plus two is four for everybody. It’s not worldly or spiritual. What you do with it is. How you feel about it is. But wisdom ordinarily means I’m using my observations, my data, my assessments, to propose ways of life that are wise, implying good, helpful, flourishing. That’s either going to be worldly or spiritual, biblical or worldly.
And so that’s a good distinction — knowledge and wisdom. Once you move from observation and the gathering of facts and the putting pieces together like that, up to the level of “I’m making proposals now for how to live” — which is what Jordan Peterson does. I read his book the 12 Rules for Life. He’s extremely influential right now. Millions of people go to his YouTube channel. He’s not just handling data. What makes him so incredibly fascinating is he’s preaching — big time. Getting himself crucified and loved. That’s what everybody does who preaches. And so he is proposing wisdom. And he’s not getting it right.
At one level, he is, because he says a lot of factually true things about the nature of manhood and womanhood, for example. Children and discipline, for another example. But if you tried to say, “Where’s that going in terms of ultimate wisdom?” He hasn’t got that figured out yet. He says so.
In your book, you talk about relativism, and the particular dangers that it poses. What is the danger of relativism, and do you see it as a problem in the evangelical church today?
Yes, it is a problem, and it has always been a problem. It’s not like a new problem. And there are several kinds of relativism. There’s even a good kind. Somebody said, “The word of God is like a body of water that has a shallow enough place for a baby to wade and deep enough for an elephant to swim,” and I thought to myself, “Relatively speaking, an elephant is big compared to a baby. Compared to an ocean, that’s a lousy example.” This ocean is deep enough for an elephant to swim in? That’s about eight feet. Relatively, an elephant is tiny. It’s like plankton. So that’s good relativism, to be able to know that kind of thing. Are elephants big? You should say it depends. It’s relative to whether you compare it with a baby or an ocean. So that’s good relativism.
The most extreme relativism that I’m concerned about is the kind that denies that there is absolute truth. And thus, relativizes everything by saying, relative to me, this is good. This is true. This is beautiful. As far as you’re concerned, I don’t have any idea whether that’s good or true or beautiful to you. That’s the ultimate and worst kind of relativism. No truth, therefore no standard, therefore everything only valued in relation to an individual. The autonomous individual becomes the god, the criterion for deciding what is true, right, beautiful for me.
That’s pretty rampant in our day and I would say easily comes over into the church. And the reason I said it was not new is because of this story in the Bible that I think I have a whole chapter on it in the book, where the Jewish leaders, they come and say, “By what authority are you doing these things?” And Jesus says, “Let me ask you a question before I know whether I want to” — this is my paraphrase — “before I know whether I want to deal with you. I don’t deal with everybody. I don’t cast my pearls before swine. The baptism of John, from man or from God?”
And they huddle up, right? Remember that? They huddle up and they say, “If we say it’s from God, he’s going to say, ‘Why didn’t you believe him?’ And we didn’t, so he’s going to nail us. And we don’t want to be nailed. We love our skin. And if we say it’s from man, the crowd might mob us because they think he’s a prophet. So why don’t we say we don’t know.” So they come back and say, “Jesus, we don’t know.” Jesus wouldn’t talk to them. Jesus hates that. He hates that. They know what truth is. They know what they think. And they’re not going to let that truth have any effect on their skin. They’re thinking, “We’re going to protect our reputation from the mob and from the backlash we’re going to have when Jesus nails us, and we’re going to keep ourselves safe in our cocoon of truthlessness.”
I hate that. Jesus hates that. And that infects all human beings at one level. We all love our skin. We all tend to bend the “truth.” It’s amazing when you’re in a conflict with your wife. When she’s nailed you, she’s got you, you just said something that’s unhelpful or you forgot to do something, it’s amazing how creative we can be with truth. So yes, it can infect the church at lots of levels.
Can you think of an example of the kinds of things that you’ve seen in terms of how relativism has made its appearance in the church?
Oh, I should have thought about that ahead of time. You want to give me one and I’ll massage it?
We can come back to that. In the book, you describe reading as the primary pathway to thinking. Do you want to talk more about that? Why do you view reading as so essential to the process of thinking?
If we lived a million years and we were one hundred times more observant and intelligent than we are, we might not need to read. We could just observe life. Got a million years to make sense out of everything, we’ve got one hundred times more observation powers and reasoning powers than we have, and we can make sense out of things. Everything we need to know and enjoy, we can get from just looking at the world for a million years.
Well, we’re not going to live a million years and we’re not smart, and God has ordained that his word be in a book and that lots of otherwise works are books. And so the very fact that the Bible exists — God could have done it with videos, could have done it with podcasts, could have done it with drama. He did it with a book. This is never going to change. You can’t rewrite history. God ordained it. He communicated his will and himself through a book.
This means knowing involves reading. And reading involves thinking, because thinking is the construing, first of the definitions, then the phrases as you come to terms, then the clauses as phrases with verbs become clauses, and then paragraphs as clauses connect with conjunctions and become paragraphs, and then paragraphs unite to make sweeping points. That’s the use of the mind and it’s written that way. We don’t have any choice. This book dictates thinking.
It dictates one kind of thinking in Proverbs, another kind of thinking in Romans, another kind in a parable. We’ve got all kinds of challenges of what to do with the brain when we meet this book. But the book defines the use of the mind in the discovery of truth. So that’s my main reason for upping reading above everything when it comes to what you do to think. You read, and you read here first. And you cannot get meaning out of this book without thinking.
So what if we’re not good readers?
Then you need good preachers. I remember sitting in my living room at 960 Oakwood in 1975 teaching at Bethel and having over my assistant pastor friend named David Livingston. He came with his fiancée, Karin, who now is his wife. And they brought with them a couple, and I don’t remember the guy’s name, and the three men are sitting in the living room, David and we’ll call him Tom, and me. And the conversation’s getting slow.
And David looks at Tom and says, “What are you reading these days?” Not a good question. Not a good question if you don’t know somebody. And he said, “Not really anything.” David didn’t believe him. He said, “I just mean, you know, magazine, newspaper.” “I don’t read.” David wouldn’t stop. The guy doesn’t read anything! Okay. I believe he’s a Christian. I was flabbergasted. It was a real wake up moment. That guy needs a loving, caring Sunday school teacher and preacher.
This is off topic. He’s married and she’s a reader. I’m making this up. But there were people at Bethlehem like this, and I dealt with them, because I believe husbands should lead. Husbands are called to be initiators and protectors and providers and be heads of their homes and love their wives the way Jesus loves the church, which means leading devotions. This guy can’t read, or doesn’t read. He had an eighth-grade education, she’s got a college education, and now, Piper, you tell him to lead this family.
They came into my office because she wants him to lead. But he looked at me and said, “I can’t lead her.” They had three kids, and I said, “Can you say this? ‘Honey, I’d like to have devotions tonight after supper.’ Can you say that?” “Yeah, I can say that.” “Okay, good. Can you say, ‘Hey kids, it’s time for devotions. Come on in.’ Can you say that?” “Yeah, I can say that.” “Can you say, ‘Mama is going to read us a chapter in John.’ Hand her the Bible. Can you say that? That’s leadership. You can do this.” No excuses. You can do this. She had a different gift. She’s not the leader. She doesn’t want to be the leader. But she can read, and she’s smarter than him. Better than him in everything. It’s irrelevant. This is irrelevant in a man-woman relationship.
There are people who don’t read, and what do you do if you’re not a good reader? Listen to books. Listen to your Bible on a headset. Go to bed with it on. Get up with it on. Brush your teeth with it on. Drive in the car with it on. Immerse yourself in the Bible through your ears if you have to. If you can’t read, do it that way. There are preliterate cultures all over the world who can do it that way. Bibles on tape exist in thousands of languages for people who can’t read yet.
Well, we’ve got a lot more that we could cover, but we are unfortunately out of time. And so thank you, Pastor John, for helping us Think Revisited on this wonderful book. So let’s thank Pastor John.