Thoughts on Thinking

–Summer of 1998

Thoughts on Thinking

“I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately… and that usually gets me into trouble.” This offhanded comment by a young man drew hearty laughter from our student body in a recent public assembly. But as the laughter abated, I began to reflect on his statement. Why should thinking be a dangerous exercise? Is there something inherently treacherous about using one’s mind?

Someone has said, “It is difficult to think; it is more difficult to think about thinking; but it is most difficult to write or talk about thinking!” Although the task may be challenging, let us consider what the Bible has to say about thinking.

First of all, God’s Word clearly indicates that man is capable of thinking; he does have a mind. This may seem like a silly point to make, yet a predominant view in many secular colleges and universities is that what appears to be reflective thinking in man is actually a sequence of voluntary nerve impulses that are following prescribed circuits traced out over time by the natural process of evolution. There is no “mind” that transcends the electrical currents dashing to and fro throughout the “gray matter” called a brain, many contemporary philosophers insist. Thus, in an evolutionary world-view, man is stripped both of his mind, and, of course, the responsibility that goes along with it, such as making moral choices. It is mildly ironic, if not humorous, for one to be in the position of arguing with tightly-knit logic that he or she does not, in fact, have a mind and is not actually thinking! But when the Bible presses the seal of “God’s image” upon mankind, inherent in that lofty bequest is the gift of a mind that is capable of real, meaningful thought.

Secondly, Holy Scripture clearly indicates that God expects His children to think. Jesus’ parable of the talents points out the fact that we are responsible to use wisely all that we have been given, be it great or small. Certainly, this includes, among other things, the diligent use of our God-given minds. Sadly, in recent years, the Christian community at large has not always been perceived as a thinking people. This is partly due to an unfair stereotype that depicts Christians as “behind the times” and “out of touch,” because of our sharp opposition to the man-centered ideologies that have embedded themselves within the moral fabric of our society. But on the other hand, there are sometimes valid reasons why stereotypes are formed in the first place; and, sadly, too many Christians have taken the position that “thinking is dangerous,” that the acquisition of knowledge is somehow antagonistic to the values and ideals of the Church, and, therefore, should be shunned. However, Biblical injunctions such as Paul’s charge to Timothy to “study to show thyself approved unto God” (2 Tim. 2:15) soundly contradict any notion that Christians should “check out their brains at the door.”

Finally, the Bible does make it clear that it is wrong thinking, not right thinking, that is dangerous. Eve was thinking when the hue of the forbidden fruit was reflected in her eyes. But she was thinking wrongly, and the results were tragic. It was a sequence of thoughts that led King David to place Uriah in harm’s way in an attempt to make murder look like an accident. But they were the twisted thoughts of a fallen man. Whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, praiseworthy, virtuous – think on these things, the apostle admonished (Philippians 4:8).

There is only one defense against the treacherous shoals of misguided thinking; that is for the sailor on life’s sea to continually adjust his intellectual compass in accordance with the steady beam from the lighthouse of God’s inerrant Word. In the beam of the lighthouse there is moral, ethical and intellectual safety. Apart from the constant beam, thinking can indeed be dangerous.

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