Posted by: Billy Marsh | June 4, 2007

Created To Be Thinkers: A Defense of Christian Intellectualism

Your Mind Matters

Stott, John. Your Mind Matters: The Place of the Mind in the Christian Life. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2006.

In Your Mind Matters, John Stott quickly dismantles the anti-intellectualism of his day, or of any day for that matter, concerning the role of the mind in the believer’s life and more specifically with respect to his involvement with the Scriptures. This is a poweful little book packing a whomping 85 pages of text and 91 pages altogether with the inclusion of the endnotes in the back of the book. Originally, the material for this classic work began as a set of lectures which Stott delivered in 1972 as his presidential address at the Inter-Varsity Fellowship Annual Conference. This humble plea for a balance between orthodoxy and orthopraxy was intended to combat the rise of absent mindedness with regard to the substitution of experience, traditions, and society for sound biblical doctrine. In particular, Stott had in mind three main categories of Christians which exemplified this approach to the Scriptures, namely Catholics, Radical Christians, and Pentecostals. Here, I will give a brief outline and summary of this priceless booklet and then a final encouragement of why this short masterpiece should be on everyone’s shelf.

In chapter one, “Mindless Christianity”, Stott identifies his target audience as the three Christian groups that I mentioned above who he considers as prime examples of the type of anti-intellectualism that “regards theology with distaste and distrust (15).” As a remedy to this predominant worldview, Stott desires to demonstrate that true Christian intellectualism is not anti- or hyper-intellectualism but instead resembles “a biblical balance” and avoids “fanatical extremes (18).” Stott poignantly states his aim by saying, “I am not pleading for a dry, humorless, academic Christianity, but for a warm devotion set on fire by truth (18).”

In chapter two, “Why Use Our Minds”, Stott teaches that thoughts always shape actions. Therefore, experience cannot function as the supreme standard of truth. Next, he launches into an in-depth discussion developing a biblical theology of the Christian mind from creation, revelation (general and special), redemption, and judgment. A very valuable section is his venture into looking at the implications of God’s revelation in creation and Scriptures and his thoughts on “rational revelation.” He states that revelation in nature is visualized and in Scripture it is verbalized. Both types of revelation call for the discernment of the mind. Moreover, he shows that Christianity needs the mind to play a major in its livelihood due to the fact that it is a “revealed religion.” Next, Stott looks briefly at the nature of OT and how the “Wisdom and Poetry” literature teaches that only fools hate knowledge. Likewise, in the NT much of Paul’s letters are packed to the brim with repetitive terminology such as knowledge, wisdom, discernment, and understanding.

In chapter three, “The Mind In The Christian Life”, Stott delivers a masterful section on six main areas of the Christian’s walk which must entail the role of the intellect: Christian worship, Christian faith, Christian holiness, Christian guidance, Christian evangelism (an especially good section), and Christian ministry.

In the final chapter, “Acting On Our Knowledge”, Stott recounts the practical applications of the previous chapter’s content and then closes with a citation from Proverbs 2:1-6. A good summary of Stott’s aim for these lectures which materialized into this classic Christian work may be heard in this quote: “God never intends knowledge to be an end in itself but always to be a means to some other end (79).” To which I would say, the glory of God, the salvation of the lost, and the holiness of his people. All knowledge of God’s self-revelation ought to serve as a means to the eternal worship of our Triune God.

This book would be a wonderful source for a small group or youth group. Personally, I believe anti-intellectualism is still alive and well in evangelicalism, especially the further you drive away from the Seminaries. To the dismay of the contemporary American church, our culture is growing more and more intelligent everyday to the point that witnessing encounters are requiring you to have an MDiv just to carry on effective conversations. This would be a valuable book to have put away in your heart and mind, and also on your shelf as a resource which presents itself as one of those literary works where every sentence seems to be written in perfect form with incredible perspicuity. You can find it cheap online at many different places. I think I got my copy brand new for $3. Buy it, read it, tell me what you think!

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