“The Christian mind is the mind that processes everything through the grid of its intimate relationship with Jesus. The Christian mind, therefore, is not simply a mind that thinks on Christ or the mind that attempts to think in Christian categories. The Christian mind is a mind that refuses to think at all unless it is in union with Christ.”
It was Mark Twain who once said, “Of all the things I’ve lost, I think I miss my mind the most.” Twain’s comment was, of course, a nod to the fact that at times, we all become so overwhelmed by life’s demands that we lose our capacity to reason and act accordingly. If I were to commandeer Twain’s statement, I would say it like this: Of all the things we’ve lost as Christians, I think we miss our Christian minds the most.
A Clergyman’s Error
This statement is by no means a hyperbolic critique on the Church. That we, as 21st Century believers, have collectively lost our Christian minds should not be a matter of much debate–it should be an accepted reality. But, just in case you are unconvinced, I offer you the following example.
I recently heard a moving speech by a clergyman, explaining to his congregation why he had, for all intents and purposes, abandoned belief in the God of Holy Scripture. His reason for doing so, he stated, was because he could not conceive of a God who would allow millions of innocent people to die, while simultaneously preserving the lives of other more divinely preferred people. I believe that a brief analysis of this comment will demonstrate that our clergyman friend had indeed lost his Christian mind.
First, this statement does not appeal to scripture but to self. He said, “I could not conceive of a God,” rather than saying, “This is how the Bible speaks of God.” Frankly, I would have preferred to first know what the Bible said about God before hearing what the clergyman thought about God.
Second, the cleric’s statement established a false dichotomy between God’s retributive righteousness (the punishment levied for sin) and God’s remunerative righteousness (the blessings believers receive for being in Christ). The Bible clearly teaches because God is righteous, the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23a–retributive righteousness); yet, out of the selfsame righteousness of God comes the gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23b), which is accompanied by his blessing and favor through Jesus Christ our Lord (remunerative righteousness). The two are in perfect harmony–like two sides of the same coin.
Third, the clergyman mistakenly divided sinful humanity into two categories: “innocent” and “preferred.” Scripture clearly states no one stands innocent before God except through the finished work of Christ (Rom. 5:1-2; Eph. 2:1-10; Jude 24-25). Moreover, there is no such concept in scripture as “preferential treatment” for sinners–only that of unmitigated grace.
It is abundantly clear our clergyman friend had replaced the God of the Bible with a personalized God, uniquely contextualized to fit his preferences of what he thinks God ought to be. And naturally, the only way he could maintain a vestige unity within the church body (to counteract his glaring privatization of the Christian faith), would be to allow his individualized, highly contextualized God to commune with another believer’s individualized, highly contextualized God for the purpose of fostering mutual harmony.
I offer this example because I wish to draw your attention to the unmistakable shift that has occurred in this clergyman’s thinking. His now defrocked Christian mind has been replaced with an overwhelmingly secular one. His statements are awash in secular conceptions of justice, equity, humanity, and spirituality. But he is not alone. The secularizing of the Christian mind is as pervasive and well-rooted within our circles as well. And if we continue this trend of rejecting the Christian mind (just like our clergyman friend), we would be in danger of tacitly embracing the secular mind in its place.
Now, lest you conclude that the rest of this article will be strictly devoted to decrying the lost of the Christian mind, let me assure you that it will not. Instead, I wish to talk about what we must do as a community of believers to achieve a thoroughgoing Christian mind.
What is the Christian Mind?
We begin this brief exploration into the Christian mind with the question: what is the mind? The average dictionary would define the word “mind” as the part of a human being that engages in conscious thinking, feeling, and decision-making. In secular thinking, the mind is most associated with the brain. The Scripture, however, associates the mind most closely with the heart, not the brain. From a biblical perspective, your mind specifically, and the things it generates, reveals a great deal about you: your passions, interests, thoughts, hatreds, delights, fears, and intentions. “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Prov. 23:7).
How then should we conceive of the Christian mind? Let us start by dividing the secular mind into two types that are, perhaps, most prevalent in our society today. For this, I turn to one of the most able social commentators in recent memory, Dr. Neil Postman.
In his now famously-imagined Graduation Speech, Dr. Postman outlines the two mindsets of our intellectual forebears: that of the Athenians (or Greeks), and that of the Visigoths. Dr. Postmen credits the Athenian mindset for giving us the wonders of Philosophy, political democracy, logic and rhetoric. He then points out the second mindset–that Germanic tribe known as the Visigoths–may be credited with more sinister social outcomes such as brutality, brutish behavior, unsophisticated linguistics, and the ushering in of the period known as “the dark ages.”
Though both civilizations in their original form have long passed away, Dr. Postman contends the spirit of these civilizations lives on in the modern world. Postman asserts that you are of the Athenian ilk if your mind tends to those things that advance human flourishing and promote harmony among men. On the other hand, you are of a Visigoth persuasion if your mind gravitates toward self-preservation and anti-intellectualism.
Postman concludes his speech with a call for us to associate more closely with the mindset of the Athenians and to disdain the Visigothian way of thinking. Faced with such sharp contrast, we may well ask ourselves the question, who among us would not want to be associated with the Athenian mindset rather than that of the Visigoth? Now, while I would wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Postman that it is preferable to have a societal mindset more akin with the Athenian, I would contend that even the Athenian mindset is ultimately insufficient. I would also argue, contrary to Dr. Postman’s assessment, that the Athenian mindset is not the only acceptable mindset for society.
A Beautiful Mind
There is, in fact, an even more beneficial mind for society and it is the Christian mind. On this point, we turn to Harry Blamires who gives this most insightful definition: “To have a Christian mind is to accept all things with the mind as related, directly or indirectly, to man’s eternal destiny as the redeemed and chosen child of God.”
To state the matter differently, the Christian mind is the mind that processes everything through the grid of its intimate relationship with Jesus. The Christian mind, therefore, is not simply a mind that thinks on Christ or the mind that attempts to think in Christian categories. The Christian mind is a mind that refuses to think at all unless it is in union with Christ. It is a mind that does not dare to ideate without direction from Christ as it is revealed in the scriptures.
The Christian mind does not merely think in a what would Jesus do sort of way, but in a how does this thought (or thought pattern) glorify my Lord and advance His kingdom sort of way. Therefore, the Christian mind is not optional for the Christian, nor is it a matter of preference. The Christian mind must be pursued and achieved because without it, one has neither Christ nor a fully functioning mind. Once again, I return to my original premise, how do we regain a thoroughgoing Christian mind?
Achieving a Thoroughgoing Christian Mind
Again, Blamires’ is helpful on this point. He tells us to achieve the Christian mind, we must think supernaturally, sacramentally, have an awareness of evil, a conception of truth, an acceptance of authority, and a concern for others. While Blamires’ has done us a great service in proffering this well thought-out list, I am afraid he assumes too much. Let me explain.
Blamires’ conception of how to achieve the Christian mind assumes a body of knowledge is already in place–a body of knowledge which must be in place before his categories can be applied. Blamires’ list assumes we have a doctrinal understanding of what is true, spiritual, sacramental, and truly evil. He assumes we know what constitutes authority, and how to care for others. He further assumes that as believers, our minds have been saturated with the scriptures. In all fairness to Blamires, why shouldn’t he assume these things? Throughout the long history of Christianity, the hallmark of the Christian mind has been that it is first and foremost saturated with the scriptures. On this point, Spurgeon’s comments concerning John Bunyan are instructive. Spurgeon writes,
“Read anything of his [Bunyan], and you will see that it is almost like reading the Bible itself. He had studied our Authorized Version, which will never be bettered, as I judge, till Christ shall come; he had read it till his whole being was saturated with Scripture; and, though his writings are charmingly full of poetry, yet he cannot give us his Pilgrim’s Progress—that sweetest of all prose poems—without continually making us feel and say, “Why this man is a living Bible!” Prick him anywhere; and you will find that his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his soul is full of the Word of God.”
Is your mind saturated with the scriptures? Do you read the Bible ferociously enough to become Bible saturated?
I ask this question not to guilt you, but to simply make the point that one cannot possess the Christian mind without first having a Bible-saturated mind. You must first have a body of knowledge so saturated with Scripture that whatever else is in your mind that is not scripture has to take a swim in it. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the Christian mind is the Bible-saturated mind. But could it be so simply? Can the Christian mind be achieved by simply saturating oneself in God’s word? The answers to these questions take me back to my time at seminary.
During my Seminary days, students aspiring to Hebraic Linguistic greatness would often inundate my Hebrew professor with questions on how to become better linguists. Each fervent inquiry received the same response: take your Hebrew Bible and your lexicon, find a desk in a quiet spot, then sit down and translate Hebrew for many hours. A dazed, almost disappointed look would invariably cross the students’ face after hearing the “formula” he gave.
Every one of those students wanted to be a Hebrew scholar, but no one wanted to do what was truly necessary to become one. Not one student wanted to sit behind a desk for hours translating Hebrew. But I daresay that if the selfsame student had been told that the secret to linguistic success lay in eating more fish (for Omega 3’s), or an esoteric new age exercise, there would have probably been more willingness among them–even excitement.
I have no doubt that everyone reading this post wants a Christian mind, but are you prepared to do what it takes to get one? Now I could tell you that you could achieve the Christian mind by eating a fish-fillet sandwich, or drinking noni juice. But I am confident you would readily see through the folly of such proposals. My friends, I earnestly hope you will also see the folly in trying to obtain the Christian mind simply by reading good Christian literature, listening to good Christian music, and engaging in good Christian activities. Even the reading of Calvin, Piper, and Sproul cannot produce in you a Christian mind. The only thing that can yield a Christian mind is a Bible-saturated mind.
This is the point of Romans 12:2. The essence of a renewed mind, or “Christian mind,” is a mind that has been saturated with Scripture. When the Christian mind is saturated with scripture, it not only thinks rightly, but it also acts rightly. This is why Paul’s exhortation to renew our minds in Romans 12 is given in light of the gospel he has previously outlined in Romans chapter 1-11. The Gospel, which is the word of God, stands as the foundation of the Christian mind.
The secular mind is free to stand on the principles of Marxism, postmodernism, secularism, and socialism. The secular mind is at liberty to follow the wisdom acquired from books such as Rules for Radicals, The God delusion, Mien Kampt, The Humanist Manifesto, God is not Great, and Animal Liberation. The secular mind may obey the voices of men such as Christopher Hitchens, Peter Singer, Richard Dawkins, and Stephen Hawking.
But not so with the Christian mind. The Christian mind stands on the principles of scripture, follows only the wisdom of Scripture, and obeys exclusively the voice of Christ as found in scripture.
So how does one achieve the Christian mind?
I leave you with the Holy Spirit and with these words from a song I learned as a child: “Read your Bible, pray every day and you’ll grow, grow, grow.” Saturate your mind with the Scriptures and you will achieve the Christian mind.
This article previously appeared on raanetwork.org, and is used with permission.