Summer Book Club: Love Your God with All Your Mind

This post represents the first online forum regarding books on our professional summer reading program. 

The first of our suggested books was J.P. Moreland’s Love Your God with All Your Mind: The role of reason in the life of the soul. His discussion regarding the state of Christian thinking in the life of the believer was specific to the church but has direct application to the mission and outcomes of Christian schooling. The forum questions direct you to think about the minds of Christian school graduates.

After reflecting on the questions, respond with your evaluation, thoughts, and suggestions. Hopefully this reflection will prompt us to not only evaluate this outcome but identify ways in which we can improve our performance in this key area.     

  1. Moreland argues from a position that believes there is a devaluing of the mind within evangelical circles. To what degree do Christian schools devalue the Christian mind? Generally speaking do students within Christian Schools develop and sharpen their minds?  In what ways do schools either miss the mark and or sharpen the minds of students? 
  2. Moreland's book includes ways to awaken the minds of people within the church. What recommendations or changes in practices would you suggest as a means to graduate Christian thinkers?
  3. How would J. P. Moreland respond to the debate on the use of secular vs. Christian textbooks? (Remember, your answer should reflect what you believe J.P. Moreland's answer would be based on the book’s content as opposed to your own opinion.)
  4. Do you have any additional insights?  Feel free to make additional comments that reflect your own thinking on this topic.  

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2. I loved Morelands suggestions for how to improve the mind of the church population as a whole. I think it is of incredible value to have a group of elders (leaders) teaching and equipping those whom they are directly responsible to under-shepherd. I still believe that sunday school format might not be as effective as training fathers (and mothers) to begin the process of instilling a love for learning through personal exploration and inquiry. It is absolutely crucial that this "expanding the mind of the soul" be done by parents. Modeling is a primary was that children learn. When modeling on top of careful work with the children is done it will reap incredible benefits. But alas, the main problem is we as believers in the west have bought into the lie of liesure and comfort. We must get rid of this mindset by continually pressing on and pushing forward in our pursuits to expand our minds, hold reasonably thought out beliefs and converse with unbelievers in an intelligent yet Spirit-led way.

2. I loved Moreland's chapter about the church.  The problem with the church is that it "has become primarily a hospital to soothe empty selves instead of a war college to mobilize and train an army of men and women to occupy territory and advance the kingdom until the King returns."  I think that churches need to evaluate their training.  Sermons and Sunday school classes alike need to be evaluated to see if they are in fact moving the congregation/members toward the goal of being trained believers.  One of Moreland's suggestions for sermons is that there be better notes to go along with the sermon, as well as reading material if necessary and relevant.  This will encourage the members of the church to be more involved and will help them internalize the information that they are receiving.  When the goal is to train and deepen the intellectual knowledge and understanding of the members, the church will find that it will thrive.  I agree with Moreland when he says that every so often, a sermon needs to be taught on a higher level, on the level of about 1/3 of the congregation.  This will intellectually stimulate many of those who may feel like it's over their head.  If sermons aren't intellectually stimulating, there is nothing to be learned.  Sermons can't be watered down to reach absolutely every level every time.  There needs to be a challenge.  Of course, there needs to be a balance of this, so that not every sermon is way above the heads of the crowd, but the variety will help to reach all members of the congregation.  As we are developing the intellectual mind, there needs to be leaders in this to model how to study and apply truth.  The church should be more intentional in developing the younger intellectuals to bring about a new generation of the Christian mind.  

2. I liked the author's example and idea of meeting with a member in the body of Christ regularly to read through books that might help each other grow spiritually and intellectually. The meeting also serves as an opportunity to hold one another accountable by praying together for each other's needs in all areas of life as well as for the needs of the community and beyond.  

2. We need to not be so lazy and of this world. There are those who do nothing in the church and some are even in leadership roles. We have to change this and reactivate the love for Christ. If our minds are set right, God will help us do this by convicting those around us at retreats, church services, movies, social activities, church events, study groups, etc. We need to be heard and we need to disciple others around us. It's not just about discipling until they come to church or become a Christian. We need to continue walking along with them because they might stumble by being confused, hurt, and/or lazy. Often times these stumbling situations can be remedied or avoided if we just stay with them. I have witnessed both occasions and seen people stop being Christian more times when their teacher left. This is easy in society because we silence God in our country. However, it would be easy just to be along with them in their journey.

1-      I am from a society where the problem of the “empty selves” is not just a devaluing of the mind, but of every other aspects of the being. Just like J.P. Moreland described, society longs for entertainment more than anything else. Generally speaking, students do not like the word effort and have become indeed very shallow. Parents support this by allowing their children to spend hours playing video games or watching television instead of spending time conversing with them, encouraging them to read or play outside. Unfortunately, this societal problem has crept into the evangelical circles as well. Christian educators, in the public and in the Christian schools, can stand against this general intellectual (and even emotional, and physical) apathy by coming along side parents and children in a holistic approach (body, mind, and heart). The goal would be to teach students, with the active involvement of parents, to be aware of, curious about, and engaged in the world around them. It would also be to teach them to dig deeper, try harder, and not give up in the face of adversity.  

This can be done through various methods and activities. For example, rallies in different subjects, debates, guest speakers in various vocational fields, community service,  field trips, nutrition classes, etc. I think that in order for zeal to overcome apathy, Christian Educators should help future generations long for excellence, in all aspects of life. 

How would J. P. Moreland respond to the debate on the use of secular vs. Christian textbooks? (Remember, your answer should reflect what you believe J.P. Moreland's answer would be based on the book’s content as opposed to your own opinion.)

J.P. Moreland would respond in favor of both secular and Christian textbooks. Moreland emphasizes the importance of a "developed mind" (105) that is "willing to learn from our critics" (109). Who are our critics? Our critics are those of an opposing view, and sometimes they have truth to their claims. A believer should listen to the opposing side. Moreland emphasizes the quality of humility as a virtue relevant to an intellectual life. With a humble attitude, open mind, and desire to intellectually mature, a student can learn from secular readings.
Secular readings strengthen not only a student's understanding of other world views, but their own as well. Moreland says, "we need to learn to argue against our own positions in order to strengthen our understanding of them" (109). A student should be educated not only about their own worldview, but other peoples worldviews as well. Knowledge from both secular and Christian sources will help a student be well rounded in all truth because all truth is God's truth.

1. I do appreciate Moreland's insight into the minds of Christians today. Especially that the Church is no longer an intellectual center in society.  He says, "the church is no longer a major participant in the war of ideas." This isn't to say however that some churches are not cultivating high levels of reasoning, theology, and philosophical thought. In my view and experience there are churches especially within more "traditional" (quotes added because contemporary evangelicals call them traditional) contexts, especially Reformed circles (most of my experience), that place a high value on intellectual pursuits. I don't believe the small number of Christian schools in these circles devalue the Christian mind.

I do believe that many Evangelical Christian Schools overlook high level intellectual pursuits because they are spending more of their energies on what the Church and Home ought to be emphasizing. I do believe that Christians in these schools sharpen their minds but primarily in the realm of evangelical thinking. To put it simply, in these circles there is still a negative reaction, as described in the book, to "wordly" intellectualism, and greater focus on spiritual formation. This is good but in my estimation Spiritual formation and intellect are often out of balance in evangelical schools because the school is trying to do too much.

Unfortunately, you can only criticize them so much. Great emphasis in these schools is placed on the Bible, scripture memory, and other spiritual disciplines that undoubtedly shape the intellect. I think these institutions are viewed by the world as they are because they are generally caught in a bubble and perhaps do not have the ability to see the world except through the separation of the secular and sacred.

I hope this isn't overly critical, but too many Christian schools look exactly like public school, but with the Bible, prayer and chapel. The issue I have is that Christian and public schools are fundamentally different. Of course I'm not saying that they should have nothing in common, and perhaps they will have a great deal in common, but I think Christian schools should look distinct from public schools. Consider the motive of each institution is providing education. According to the Department of Education, public school exist to  "promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness". While no one would say this is a worthless pursuit, the Christian should see this as incomplete at best and sad or empty at worst. Public education has set the bench mark at "student achievement" and "global competitiveness". That means that public schools see education as an end in itself, and that the best scenario for public school students is that they compete globally. Thats it! They have no further aspirations. I hope that Christian schools are shooting higher than competing globally, but with the Bible, prayer, and chapel.
The Christian school MUST have a greater purpose, and that purpose should be reflected in the way we educate. Math is more than the numerical reality of our ordered world, its 3 dimensional - its tangible. 
I simply find it hard to believe that God created this amazing discipline and gave us an incredible capacity to understand it, but intended for us to sit in a chair and memorize steps and rules. 
Biblical integration is more than christianzing a discipline. In fact a discipline cannot truly be "christianized". Math is Gods, its divine, it has been secularized. Christians have the inside track. We know the God who ordered reality so that 2 groups of 6 oranges will always mean that there are 12 oranges. We speak to the God who designed the intricacies of the aviary lung and the mammals eye. We should be equipping our students with divine insights into science and then hurling them at the cynical scientific community, who can only watch as our believing scientists uncover God within every chromosome. I certainly don't have all the answers, but I have to believe God has equipped his church with them. 

2. Moreland gives many suggestions of practical applications for the church, and I think some of them can be incorporated into a school setting. For example, Moreland talks about making sure that sermons are of good quality and not just consisting of how-to's. I think that by teaching critical thinking in schools we would be able to help students think deeply about topics rather than just trying to come up with simple "Christian formulas". Another way to graduate Christian thinkers is to encourage them to read books that are written from both a Christian perspective as well as from other perspectives. If students are only reading from a Christian perspective, they will be more likely to take I everything it says as truth rather than analyzing it to see if they agree with the beliefs. Their minds need to be challenged intellectually.

I enjoyed reading Moreland's suggestions on how to recapture the intellectual life in the church. His points were valid and interesting. "Many of the things we do in the local church are good and should remain a part of our philosophy of ministry. But no business, movement, or group will survive and flourish if its resistance to relevant and important change is rooted in the idea that we should keep doing something simply because that's the way we've always done it." (221) I think this quote sums up the chapter well. As Christians we must recommit ourselves to developing richer, deeper, more powerful churches and christian schools for Jesus Christ and the good of others in the community and ourselves. 

 Moreland argues from a position that believes there is a devaluing of the mind within evangelical circles. To what degree do Christian schools devalue the Christian mind? Generally speaking do students within Christian Schools develop and sharpen their minds?  In what ways do schools either miss the mark and or sharpen the minds of students?

Posted by Kristen Dickerson

I feel that I have experienced both extremes of a Christian school. I attended high school that did not focus on developing a Christian mind outside of academic excellence! On the other hand, I currently work for a school that tries to develop the Christian mind in their students through a number of tactics, including integrated curriculum, service activities, etc. However, even in this environment when the value of a Christian mind is much greater, I do not believe it is still as developed. I feel that Christian schools underestimate the deceptiveness of their students, who are experts at "playing the part to fit in." I feel that Christian schools can put more value on the Christian mind but being more intentional about developing it in their students.


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