It has been said that you can go into a Minister’s study and discover when he died. You simply look at how recently he has bought and read new books. The saying isn’t referring to physical death but rather “brain death”!
I increasingly see the importance of good theological education for Ministers. Numerous churches suffer from a lack of it. Also some ordinands who do theology don’t really take it seriously. They can’t wait to get on with evangelism, or preaching or pastoral work. Why bother with all this theoretical stuff?
Even ordinands who do take theology seriously often soon forget about it in the busy, non-academic life of the average church. It’s all right if you have a lot of students and academics in your congregation. You probably need to keep the old grey matter active. Having said that, sometimes more intellectual Christians who are very scholarly in, say, science or technology, seem to switch their minds off when they come to church or think about the Faith. They naively and unquestioningly accept what they are told by preachers and never think it through, facing up to challenges and difficulties.
The results of such disuse of the mind by Ministers and more intellectual Christians are negative. The shallowness of their thinking shows in superficial sermons, Bible studies or discussions about the Faith. They are vulnerable to fundamental doubts, if ever such things should pierce their cosy fundamentalism. And they are unable to help people asking serious questions about the Christian Faith. This is why some young people from Evangelical Churches don’t survive when they go to college and face intellectual challenges for the first time.
Such shallow thinkers tend to be very threatened by serious questions and to spring onto the defensive with great vehemence. They frantically grab at any “evidence” (however unreliable) to support their ill-thought-out views.
According to the NT we are called to love God with all our mind, as well as the rest of our being. We are to “be transformed by the renewing of [our] mind … [to] be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will.” We are to have our minds “set on what the Spirit desires”. To “be made new in the attitude of [our] minds”. We are to settle disputed matters with our minds. We are to “be perfectly united in mind and thought”.
I’d love to have spent more time at Tyndale House Library in Cambridge when we lived in that area. It is said to be the finest biblical library in Europe. The odd weeks I spent there were very rewarding. My son is Professor of Theology and Ministry at Durham University. In addition I married a theological graduate which means our general conversations are often fairly heavyweight!
I also enjoy the challenge of reading scientific books too: especially on cosmology. We needn’t be afraid of questions or scientific discoveries and theories.
Having said all this, don’t let anyone think I’m belittling the will or emotions. It is obvious that we are to use our wills in obeying Christ. After all, the two greatest commandments are obviously addressed to the will. We are to obey them. We must “say no to ungodliness and worldly passions”. We must “not let sin reign in [our] mortal body”. We must “live by the Spirit” and so “put to death the misdeeds of the body”.
Emotions have their place too. For example, “joy” and related words appear 99 times in the NT. It is part of the fruit of the Spirit and a characteristic of the kingdom. We are to “rejoice in the Lord always”. In fact it is to be an “inexpressible and glorious joy.” Little wonder OT worship included dancing, clapping, shouting, tambourines and the like.
We are to love God with our whole selves: mind, emotions and will. So the modern trend amongst some Christians of under-valuing the mind is quite wrong. But I like the feelings too!
© Tony Higton: see conditions for reproduction