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J. P. Moreland, professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, has written an absolute must-read in his book, Love Your God with All Your Mind. Moreland’s basic argument is a simple but profound one: modern evangelicalism in the West has become largely anti-intellectual, and has lost much of its cultural power. The church needs to revive Christian intellectualism in order to engage the world and fulfill its vocation.
Moreland starts out by making the argument that since the Enlightenment a
Many have rightly hailed this book as a game-changer. Unfortunately, not enough have. It’s hard to put this book’s importance into words. It changed my life in college. Enough with the praise; let’s begin.
Moreland’s thesis is developing a Christian mind is part of the essence of Christian discipleship (Moreland 43). Further, since the mind is a faculty of the soul (72, more on that later), one cannot develop one’s soul in relation to God without taking the mind into account. Yet Moreland is not
J.P. has some worthwhile things to say, and his intentions are good. However, there are some significant issues with it. First, there is sort of an underlying sense that the mind is of such importance to the person, to growth, and to God’s design that it almost completely eclipses all other faculties in value. It almost seems as if the implicit argument is that salvation is accomplished by the cross, but sanctification is through reason, and while J.P. would never say this explicitly, the text h
Second, the first half of the book in particular contains a host of problems. Many of his earlier arguments are not well reasoned, making good sized leaps of logic. Various problems are announced and then the cause is asserted to be a weakening of intellectualism in the church and Western culture as a whole. However, the cause and effect relationship is insufficiently presented and often rather dubious. You might even argue that he uses subtle appeals to emotion, a technique that he decries as flawed later on.
Additionally, he makes at least one major hermeneutical error and various dubious exegetical interpretations, most often in an effort to stress just how crucial the intellect is. While not proof-texting exactly, his goal of upholding the mind often seems to overshadow a fully objective perspective of the texts in question.
Moreover, he assumes that the intellect is capable of solving any given problem when applied sufficiently. While he, again, would never say that God is unnecessary, the implication seems to arise from the text; a right mind is sufficient, which negates dependence on God except for in the development of the mind. However, even in his examples, there are times when the manner in which the arguments were made could potentially have missed significant spiritual and psychological places that God might have desired to more fully explore and develop.
This brings up his denigration of the psychological. He posits, with insufficient backup, that the cause of psychological problems is wrong or poor thinking and that psychological treatment is nothing more than narcissistic efforts at self-gratification. I am fairly certain, having interacted with J. various times since this book was written, that this would be far from his perspective now, but it taints various parts of the text as it is written.
His distaste for the psychological belies a suspicion and even denigration of emotions in general (though not entirely). The difficulty is that there is much in psychology and neurobiology to suggest that thought, emotion, and decision-making are intertwined so completely that one cannot so easily separate the mind out and exalt it while denigrating or at least ignoring the emotions the way he does. The real problem, to J. in this text, is always an intellectual one and can always be thusly solved. A particular danger here is that in the process of solving intellectual problems, one may miss the rest of the person, which may result in other kinds of harm.
J. also overgeneralizes with his audience. There is the assumption that any Christian will find satisfaction and confidence (oddly enough, emotions to be sought) in being told that it is okay to be active in an intellectually rigorous environment. Further, all Christians will experience satisfaction and confidence with enough time and effort in such circumstances. While this is certainly true of a certain subset of persons, it is not true overall due to personality differences and potential psychological considerations.
And finally, I just found the second half of the book mostly dull. The lessons in logic in particular might be useful to those that think in that fashion and desire to develop that aspect of their mind, but I do not believe that that particular style of analysis is necessary for Christians universally. His connections to worship and spiritual growth were valid, but hardly doing either topic justice and perhaps stifling them due to the narrowness of J.’s theological anthropology.
Again, what J. was aiming for wasn’t bad, but it is overstated and blown out of proportion. Rather than trumpeting the need for Christians to develop their minds, even potentially at the expense of other faculties, the call ought to be for Christians to develop their whole persons. We need not only Christians with solid minds, but stable, well-boundaried, and appropriate emotions; deep, significant, and healthy relationships; strong virtues and psychological capabilities; and so on. The mind is but one aspect of the person, and can be overemphasized in various ways. Yes, develop it! But develop the rest of the soul as well.