[Mar 12:30 NKJV] 30 ‘And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This [is] the first commandment. (emphasis mine)
A lot has been said in Christian circles about the importance of loving the Lord with all your heart, but not much has been said about the necessity of loving the Lord with all your mind. I don’t want to take away at all from the importance of loving the Lord with all your heart, but I want to encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ to not forget the gift of the mind in which God has given them (the topics of soul and strength shall have to wait). In fact, I will be creating an entire new category in this blog called “pragmatic reasoning” to deal with how to love the Lord your God with all your mind. Since I am introducing a new category to the blog this post is going to be a bit longer than usual so please excuse that.
Pragmatic means “
And you shall love the LORD your God… with all your mind… (emphasis added)
Faith doesn’t require you to check your brain in at the door.
When Jesus was asked which is the greatest commandment he responded with the above stated verse. This then, is probably one of the most important verses in the Bible and should be taken seriously. Thankfully, Jesus didn’t just tell us to love the Lord our God and leave it at that. He told us how to love the Lord and what to use. The word for mind there is “διάνοια“ dianoia (Blue Letter Bible, 2014) and it means “(1) the mind as a faculty of understanding, feeling, desiring. (2) understanding (3) mind, i.e. spirit, way of thinking and feeling (4) thoughts, either good or bad.” It is interesting to note here that in using the faculties of the mind for understand and forming thought it is not entirely disconnected from our feelings. This is the pragmatic (practical) side to reasoning. This is why it is important to know what we think about God and why we think it, because it directly relates to how we feel about God as well. An example would be to understand more deeply how much God loves you. When you know that God loves you, you then can more easily love Him and others back.
This is why it is important to know what we think about God and why we think it, because it directly relates to how we feel about God as well.
All too commonly Christians feel as though they need to check their brains at the door in order to exercise their faith towards God. Rather, Jesus actually commands us to use our minds to love the Lord. That said, we will leave the study of a reasonable faith for another time and focus more on some of the tools we can use to better love the Lord.
What tools can I use to better love the Lord with my mind?
There are a few tools which we will be discussing and using in the coming posts of this category. The first two are the fields of apologetics and polemics. These two fields are partly theological and partly philosophical. It is not intended necessarily to be a defense of those fields (that will come later) but merely an introduction to them.
Apologetics contrary to what you may think at first glance does not mean apologizing for our faith. Rather, it means to give a reasonable defense. It is derived from the Greek apologia meaning “to give an answer.” It is the “art of persuasion” and is rooted in 1 Peter 3:15 when “Scripture itself urges us to ‘make a defense [apologia] to everyone who asks you to give an account (logos) for the hope (elpidos) that is in you” (The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics. 2008.). Apologetics is the field that answers external criticism of the Bible and Christianity. For example the claim that the Bible is untrustworthy is something that the apologist would answer. While apologetics is primarily a tool the Christian can use to defend their faith against outside criticism I have found it to be extremely encouraging to my personal faith as well. We live in a world and era where the majority of education is secular and despite my personal experiences with the Lord my mind has been constantly assailed by the doubts cast upon it by many a modern scholar. It is helpful to know that there are Christians out there who have devoted themselves completely to this battle of the mind and have provided very reasonable and logical defenses to the faith. A good introductory and comprehensive text to a pragmatic apologetic is “I don’t have enough faith to be an Atheist” by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek. You can find my book review of this work here.
Polemics “deals with non-orthodox teachings that arise from within the church” (Prelude to Philosophy. 2014). When apologists defend against the external attacks against Christianity polemicists rally against the internal heresies that arise within the church. Most of the New Testament books were written through the use of polemics. The Apostle Paul was constantly refuting false doctrine and we can follow in his footsteps when we do too.
How do I use these tools?
You can use these tools through the use of prayer, the Word of God, logic, and science (in that order). Primarily it is the job of the Holy Spirit to illuminate and teach the mind, and convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgement (John 16:8-15). That said though, we too are called to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” ( 2 Tim. 2:15). We are to study the Word of God diligently, to use our mind and understanding in conjunction with the help of the Holy Spirit, and to offer to others a defense as to why we believe (1 Peter 3:15). This is the work of apologetics and polemics.
I think most of you will agree with me that we should employ prayer and the word of God when dealing with attacks from outside and within the church so I will not defend the use of these two very important tools. You may not be willing to accept the usefulness of the tools of logic and science though. If you do not want to use these tools then you do not have to. You would already make a great warrior for the kingdom if that is all you used.
But God has given you a mind.
And Jesus has commanded you to use it.
Moreover, there are those who have true intellectual stumbling blocks. So you should use your mind to help them.
The use of logic and reason (and the facts and science which back them up) can help to clear the way of intellectual stumbling blocks so that the unbeliever can either accept Christ or have no excuse but to deny God for no other reason than avoiding accountability to a holy and righteous God. We know that we can not prove God, but we can at the least make it more reasonable and logical to believe than to disbelieve.
Be Skillful in War
In the Old Testament a valiant man of war was able to “…bear shield and sword, to shoot with the bow, and skillful in war, who went to war.” (1 Ch. 5:18). There was no weapon to the valiant man that he did not feel comfortable wielding. The Bible and prayer are our main weapons, but who is to say that apologetics and polemics cannot be our bows in which we shoot from a far?
The more skillful a warrior I am the better I will be in war. The more skillful and well rounded the Christian the better they will fight the spiritual battle that is not against flesh and blood (Eph 6:12). With the Word of God and Prayer we fight the majority of the battle, but there is also the casting down of arguments where we must do battle in the mind.
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, -2 Cor. 10:4-5
So, what’s your point?
Obviously, in this post I have not said a whole lot that is practical to you just yet. That is the goal of this new category and I will be getting a lot more specific in my posts concerning particular apologetic or polemic topics in the future. My main goal was only to introduce you to the category and to encourage you to endeavor to use your mind, both in loving God and in loving others. In other words, perhaps just some food for thought. 😉
Dictionary.com. Retrieved from http://dictionary.reference.com/.
Blue Letter Bible. Retrieved from http://www.blueletterbible.org/.
Hindson, E. Caner, E. 2008. The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers
Foreman, M.W. 2014. Prelude to Philosophy. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press