Learning to Think Christianly
In this blog series, President Gordon T. Smith explores the topic of the Christian Mind - Thinking Christianly. Dr. Smith offers insights and personal reflections into how we can think more like Christ and less like culture. This series is published bi-monthly, on the 1st and 15th.
Learning to Think Christianly
What do we mean by “a Christian mind”? If we are going to talk about thinking Christianly, it only follows that we need to be able to give some kind of answer to this question. While there are perhaps many different ways in which this could be framed, at the very least, a Christian mind is marked by six distinctive features—ways of being, seeing and thinking—which I offer here as a way to foster conversation about what we mean by cultivating and encouraging a thoughtful way of fostering Christian identity.
Consider six words that give us a window into what we mean by a Christian mind: transcendence, truth, sin, reason, love and wisdom.
- Transcendence: A Christian mind cultivates an intentional awareness that what is real and what is true includes much more than what we can see, taste and touch. We share this perspective with all religious traditions, of course: an awareness of another sphere of reality beyond the material world. For the Christian, we specifically affirm that transcendence speaks of a Triune and personal God—Father, Son and Spirit, known to us through the revelation of God’s self in Scripture as the God who has created all things and is redeeming all things. From this perspective, a Christian mind leads us to worship.
- Truth: A Christian mind cultivates a love for truth and a commitment to name reality, to know the truth and then, of course, to live in a way that is consistent with the truth, because truth is foundational to human flourishing. While all truth is God’s truth, the heart or centre piece of truth is found through God’s self-revelation—in Creation certainly, but then centrally and specifically in Scripture. Thus Christians consistently read, proclaim and live by the Word. From this perspective, a Christian mind leads to obedience—deference to the truth.
- Sin: The Christian mind is one that recognizes that all things have been created by God and that there is a fundamental goodness to creation, that is, the physical, tangible world in which we live, including our own embodiment. But also, the Christian mind knows that there was a “fall” and it does not make light of the human predicament; we call sin “sin”; we use the “s” word to speak of the fragmentation of the created order and the reality that things are not as they were or are meant to be. And, of course, taken together with transcendence, there is the realization that the only hope for a fragmented world and the healing of creation is divine intervention. From this perspective, a Christian mind leads to humility, repentance and dependence on the grace of God.
- Reason [and discernment]: A Christian mind cultivates a commitment to clear, logical and rational thinking, exemplified by way of example by the articulation of the Gospel – of truth – as found in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. A Christian mind is reason-able and is resolved to foster the capacity to discern what is good, noble and excellent. From this perspective, a Christian mind leads to informed decisions and behaviour.
- Love: A Christian mind cultivates an awareness that truth and understanding are not ends in themselves, but means by which we can live lives of generous service for our neighbour. From this perspective, a Christian mind leads to service, a life lived for God and for the world.
- Wisdom: A Christian mind cultivates an openness to instruction, education and learning, such that Christians value highly the role of the teacher who is able to foster growth in knowledge which leads to growth in wisdom. From this perspective, then, the Christian mind is teachable.
What all of this presumes, though, is a disposition of the heart. Fear and anger undercut our capacity to cultivate a Christian mind. Understanding comes not merely through rational argument, but through the cultivation of faith and openness to the truth. For the Christian, we can thus speak of “faith seeking understanding.” We cannot assume, then, that we can argue someone into the faith merely through persuasive logic. All understanding and growth in wisdom is located within a person and a community that has a heart and inner disposition of openness, attentiveness and willingness to know God and live in the truth.