Van Til Tool

Using the Van Til Perspective as the tool to discover what life means and how it ought to be lived.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


An Introduction To Christian Meta-Thinking

A review of

John Piper Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God (Wheaton, Il: Crossway, 2010)
223 pp     $19.99     ISBN-10: 1-4335-2071-0     ISBN-13: 978-1-4335-2071-6

Reviewer: Forrest W. Schultz

     Thinking was very important in the process by which I became a Christian fifty years ago; and thinking has continued to be important in my life; and the Christian thinkers I have followed have been among those who champion straight thinking and who lament the continuing widespread lack of concern for it among evangelicalism. The church will not be straightened out without straight thinking about all subjects, including thinking itself. This meta-thinking, i.e. thinking about thinking, is the subject of John Piper’s latest book, which is the reason I chose to read and review it.
As the book’s subtitle indicates, an especial emphasis is given by Piper to demonstrating the strong connection which Christian thinking has to the love of God. He continually shows throughout the book the vital interdependency of loving God and thinking about God. Far from being rivals, the right kind of thinking about God and the right kind of love for God are in harmony and are inextricably intertwined and mutually reinforcing.

     Piper wisely chooses for his mentor in this subject the thinker who has dealt with it most profoundly – Jonathan Edwards, who is also the best example in history of the fusion of profound theological thought and vital personal piety. Piper laments the fact that this union of theology and piety found in Edwards has since his time “disappeared or is very rare. I hope this book will encourage some to pursue that union.” (p. 14) A very commendable goal!

     My assessment is that Piper has written a good introduction to this subject in his book. I concur with Albert Mohler’s appraisal that “This book is a primer for Christian thinking that is urgently needed in our time.” (jacket) It is solidly based on Scripture and shows how popular misunderstandings of certain Scriptures are fallacious. Good refutations of relativism and anti-intellectualism are also presented.


     In addition to the elements usually found in treatments of this subject, Piper includes some unexpected discussions. One of these is the importance of careful observation. Another one of these – a very useful one – is the importance of careful reading; and he recommends an excellent text for that purpose: Mortimer Adler’s How To Read a Book. A related discussion pertains to the matter of Scriptures which are difficult to understand. Piper claims that God purposely includes these in His Word for the purpose of prodding us into thinking! It is interesting to observe, something Piper fails to mention, that Adler also notes that we need books which are “over our heads” in order to lift us up! This is a refreshing riposte to the modern desire to make everything quick and easy to understand.
In this regard, if you are looking for a book discussing Edwards’s thought which will probably be “over your heads” and will probably be helpful in “lifting you up”, I would recommend Roland Andre’ Delattre’s Beauty and Sensibility in the Thought of Jonathan Edwards (Yale University Press, 1968). And, speaking of Yale, if you want to do research into Edwards online, I would suggest visiting Yale’s newly created website for this purpose