John Piper, Think: The Life of The Mind and The Love of God. Wheaton: Crossway, September 2010. 224 pp. Paperback, $15.99.
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There are a handful books I’ve read recently that I wish I would have had the privilege to read before starting seminary. John Frame’s Doctrine of the Knowledge of God is probably the main one, but John Piper’s most recent book, Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God is probably a close second.
Of the two, it is definitely the shorter and could probably be read in a long afternoon. Both endeavor to think Biblically about knowledge. Frame’s book is more philosophical in its outlook and his book is basically a philosophy of knowledge built on the Scriptures, yet conversant with the history of philosophical reflection on the same topic.
Piper’s book is more devotional I guess you could say. While Frame does exegetical work, Piper’s book is more of an extended rumination on several passages of Scripture related to the life of the mind. In Piper’s own words, his book is different because it is:
…less historical than Mark Noll’s Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, less punchy than Os Guinness’s Fit Bodies Fat Minds, less philosophical than J. P. Moreland’s Love Your God with All Your Mind, less vocational than James Sire’s Habits of the Mind, and less cultural than Gene Veith’s Loving God with All Your Mind. (p. 16)
Piper’s distinctive then is to offer more exposition and more meditation on the subject of thinking Christianly. He says this book is for students, as in “any person who studies, investigates, or examines thoughtfully.” meaning that everyone is unavoidably a student of something. For his efforts, I think Piper succeeds quite well in setting out a biblical case for thinking well, no matter what the objects of your thought are. But he certainly does more than just that.
To give a quick rundown, here’s the ground Piper’s book covers:
- Chapter 1 tells his own personal story (sharing his struggles and his former theological convictions)
- Chapter 2 introduces Jonathan Edwards (of course) and his influence on Piper’s thinking
- Chapter 3 clarifies the aim of the book and what Piper means by “thinking” and therefore reading
- Chapter 4 shows that thinking functions, while Chapter 5 shows how thinking functions
- Chapter 6 digs in deeper to the biblical basis for loving God with all your mind
- Chapter 7 is an argument against intellectual relativism showing it to be unethical
- Chapter 8 extends that discussion but focuses on the effects of such relativism
- Chapter 9 covers the sense of anti-intellectualism that unfortunately shrouds the church today
- Chapter 10 is an extended meditation on Luke 10:21 and Chapter 11 does the same for 1 Corinthians 1:20
- Chapter 12 is a warning against knowledge exalting itself using 1 Corinthians 8:1-3 and Romans 10:1-4
- Chapter 13 is the final conclusion that all thinking exists for the love of God and the love man
Piper summarizes his goal for the book this way:
In summary then, all branches of learning – and this book is about thinking – exist ultimately for the purposes of knowing God, loving God, and loving man through Jesus Christ. And since loving man means ultimately helping him see and savor God in Christ forever, it is profoundly right to say that all thinking, all learning, all education, and all research is for the sake of knowing God, loving God, and showing God. “For from him, and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” Rom 11:36 (p. 21)
For that reason, this is definitely a book I wish I had read upon starting seminary, to then keep everything I do in perspective. It is far to easy to pursue knowledge for its own sake, even theological knowledge. Piper’s book is a good antidote to this, among other things. He helps to put thinking, learning, reading, and researching into a proper biblical perspective and how they should function within the body of Christ. For anyone you know that is serious about thinking or how is a perpetual student of God’s word, this book is a great read.