Archives For john piper

Train Your Mind

March 30, 2011 — Leave a comment

Discipline. It is the one area of life where there simply are not any shortcuts to victory. And as with our bodies, regular training of our mind is crucial if we are to get the best out of what we have been given.

How and what we think affects how we act. Ideas have consequences. What we believe informs what we will do so it is crucial that we spend time thinking, shaping our ideas, forming and, when necessary, destroying beliefs.

We live in a culture where instantaneous is only just on time. We demand instant results, instant decisions and instant action. Our statements are barely conceived before they are tweeted, sent by text, emailed or spoken aloud. Our minds are playing catch up with our mouths. Some celebrities fall foul of this, many of the rest of us get away with it.

Rational thinking has been relegated, replaced with the seemingly fresh ideas of spontaneity and living by impulse. This attitude has left a charged atmosphere where deep thinking is associated with snobbery and feeling has surpassed reason. Os Guinness describes this as “anti-intellectualism”.

“Anti-intellectualism is a disposition to discount the importance of truth and the life of the mind.” (Fit Bodies, Fat Minds).

The worrying thing is that it could now be said that it is becoming fashionable to be anti-intellectual. So, it turns out, if you want to be a counter-cultural Christian, start thinking. Guinness goes on to say,

“Anti-intellectualism is quite simply a sin. Evangelicals must address it as such, beyond all excuses, evasions, or rationalizations of false piety.”

The Buddy System

Back to discipline. My local gym have posters up highlighting the benefits of training with a friend. And aside from the fact that if I bring a friend they make a new member (and I receive a smoothie maker – ooo) they are right. It is easier to train in companionship with others.
So what does this have to do with training our minds? Quite simple: get a buddy, form a group, centre it around a topic and get on with it.

It doesn’t need to be complicated. It could be deciding to spend a year studying a theme and going through a few books together. Get together periodically, have a drink and talk through the ideas. Bounce thoughts off of each other. Give yourself and the group freedom  and permission to really think.

Wrestle with passages of the Bible. Look at a period of history. Examine contemporary culture. Look at the arts, the music, films, poems, popular art of today and yesterday. Think it through on your own and think it through with friends. Not only does the accountability help, different brains with different ideas will challenge you. They will test the robustness of your ideas and provide inspiration for new thoughts.

The Goal

Our minds are a great tool given to us. We can ignore them, we can use them selfishly, or we can use them in worship to God. Thinking well enables us to love better, as John Piper explains in talking about his book on this subject:

We have a responsibility to look after both our minds and our bodies to use both well.

The Royal Marines physical trainers use the phrase mens sana in corpore sano (a healthy mind in a healthy body). I like that.

Further Reading

  • Fit Bodies, Fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don’t think And What To do About It. Os Guinness. (UK|US)
  • Think. John Piper. (UK|US)
  • The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Mark Noll. (UK|US)
  • The Closing of the American Mind. Allan Bloom. (UK|US)

Do Unto Others

March 25, 2011 — 4 Comments

Brian McLaren has recently responded to an article John Piper wrote in the aftermath of the horrific earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan. Both men exhibit compassion and sympathy towards the victims of this tragedy and encourage Christians to help where they can.

In reading McLaren’s response, I was however slightly bemused that McLaren went after Dr. Piper’s theological position, which differs from his own, with the argument that it is sometimes hard to draw absolutes, “black and whites” as it were, from the Bible. Here is what McLaren says to John Piper’s response in an opening paragraph (emphasis mine):

“This response will no doubt be deeply satisfying for many people of a certain theological bent, those who want simple answers to go along with their aid and empathy. This clean and clear theodicy, an explanation for how evil and suffering can exist, resonates well with the old saying, “The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it.

But as I’ve suggested elsewhere, for all its air of confident piety, that axiom is more than a little misleading. I think the underlying meaning of the saying could be more accurately rendered like this: “The Bible says something which I interpret in a certain way, and I believe that interpretation, and that settles it!” Yes, acknowledging the complexities of the interpretive process has a way of reducing the simplicity of one’s answers. But in the interest of truth and honesty, we often have to let black-and-white, open-and-shut simplicity at least temporarily dissolve into the grays of complexity and even the darkness of perplexity.”

The ironic twist as that towards the end of McLaren’s piece, he then turns to Scripture, and the “jagged history of our planet”, himself to argue his black and white position. He makes statements about who God is, what He is like, what His purpose is for us:

“To me, as I reflect on the Scriptures and on the jagged history of our planet, it is better to say that God’s sovereignty is not totalitarian. God isn’t the kind of king interested in absolute control. God wouldn’t create that kind of relationship with the universe because God isn’t that kind of God. Instead, God creates space and time for a universe to be, to become, to unfold in its own story, its own evolution. God’s kingship is God’s absolute commitment to be with us, whatever happens, always working to bring good from evil, healing from suffering, reconciliation from conflict, and hope from despair. This is the God I see imaged in Jesus, born as a vulnerable baby, growing as a vulnerable boy, living as an unarmed man with courage and kindness. This is the God imaged as a king who washes the feet of his subjects, a king whose power is revealed not by killing and conquering but by suffering and dying . . . and rising again.”

I appreciate that theology can be hard, and I can support robust discussion between differing scholars as we seek to understand God through the Bible and the work of Jesus. No one person or stream holds a monopoly on the truth, although there may be more truthfulness found in some than in others.

In the process of our continuing theological discussions, surely it would be wise to employ ground rules and acknowledge common points of reference? The first of these could perhaps be the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:12.

Tough theological positions differing from our own that others hold, palatable or otherwise, need to be critiqued in the same manner with which we would want our own to be examined. At the end of the day we have a responsibility before God to continually pursue truth ourselves (Philippians 2:12), not for personal goals but as a continuing testament to the glory of God.

Whilst browsing I came across this video from the 2010 Desiring God pastors conference.

John Piper, to whom I owe much, explaining the heart of C.S. Lewis and the impact Lewis had on his life. Fascinating viewing. It unpacked for me many things that I had felt about Lewis but could not put my finger on.