Review of Love Your God with all Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul.

“Love your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt 22:37). With this, the first and greatest commandment, Jesus emphasizes, among other things, the use of the intellect in loving God. In a work reminiscent of Mark Noll’s ‘The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind’, J. P. Moreland scolds evangelicals for the growing anti-intellectualism he sees in the contemporary church. In his estimation, anti-intellectualism within the church is partially responsible for the rise of a post-Christian society in the West (p. 21ff). If Moreland’s judgment is accurate, his accusation is cause for concern and alarm! He properly calls upon evangelicals to fulfill their responsibility to cultivate Christlike minds. To enable us to achieve that goal, he identifies the main “hobgoblins” that contribute to the current problem, discusses appropriate countermeasures, and explores several implications of successfully re-establishing obedience to the first and greatest commandment.

In the first of ten chapters, Moreland traces the emergence and effects of anti-intellectualism within American evangelicalism. Its origins, he claims, are located in the Great Awakenings of the mid-eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Moreland characterizes these movements as generally good, but observes that they were marked by “emotional, simple, popular preaching instead of intellectually careful and doctrinally precise sermons” (p. 23). This characterization is probably less accurate of the First Awakening than it is of the subsequent New England theology and the Second Awakening, though Moreland’s point remains. As Nathan Hatch demonstrated in ‘The Democratization of American Christianity’, the Second Great Awakening produced a “populist” Christianity that was unprepared for the intellectual challenges of the nineteenth century. This shrinking of the “evangelical mind” has contributed largely to its subsequent marginalization.

In chapter two, Moreland argues that the “cultivation of reason should be a high value for the Christian community” (p. 44). As one might expect, his argument is based primarily on biblical teaching. Moreland constructs a compelling case that the Scriptures “attest to the importance of our minds in our spiritual formation in Christ” (p. 49). He emphasizes three central texts: Romans 12:1-2; Matthew 22:37-39; and 1 Peter 3:15. While Moreland affirms the centrality of Scripture study in developing one’s intellect, he rightly addresses the value of extra-biblical knowledge as well. The chapter concludes with a treatment of several misconceptions of what Scripture says concerning reason.

Moreland next concentrates on the mind’s role in spiritual transformation. If sanctification is, as John Wesley put it, “to be renewed in the image of God, in righteousness and true holiness,” then the mind must play a central role. “The mind,” Moreland argues, “is the soul’s primary vehicle for making contact with God” (p. 67). This declaration is followed by a lengthy and, at times, technical discussion of the soul’s structure. Not surprisingly, the “substance dualist” position is defended (basically the idea that one’s brain is a physical substance with physical properties, while the soul is a mental substance with mental properties; for a more detailed discussion of this, see Moreland’s Scaling the Secular City, Baker Books, 1987).

In chapters four and five, Moreland addresses specific hindrances to building and utilizing a Christian mind and suggests several habits for overcoming these obstacles. He identifies these hindrances as characteristics of an “empty self,” which is motivated “by a set of values, motives, and habits…that perverts and eliminates the life of the mind and makes maturation in…Christ extremely difficult” (p. 88). In order to avoid this “empty self” condition, Christians must nurture strong habits of the mind. Moreland identifies five groups of virtues necessary for such development and devotes twelve pages to practical application. This includes brief treatments of proper English grammar and syntax, as well as basic reasoning skills.

In the following three chapters, Moreland examines “different aspects of a properly functioning Christian mind…[in] different areas of life in which a growing Christian mind is essential” (p. 124). The areas are evangelism, apologetics, worship and fellowship, and vocational life. He makes considerable effort to demonstrate the necessity of intellectual excellence in all aspects of Christian life. He also provides evaluations of and responses to skepticism, scientism, and moral relativism (VII), and sketches various models of integrating a Christian worldview and vocational life (IX).

‘Love God with all Your Mind’ culminates with Moreland’s suggestions for recapturing the intellectual life in the Church. These suggestions are placed within the framework of a proposed philosophy of ministry, with special attention given to relevant biblical texts. Whether we reject or accept Moreland’s proposal, the fact remains: the evangelical Church must overcome its anti-intellectual bent. As Moreland wisely observes, “Paul tells us that the Church—not the university, the media, or the public schools—is the pillar and support of the truth (1 Tim 3:15).”

In order to make this work even more practical, Moreland supplies two invaluable and extensive (thirty-three pages in all) appendices. In the first he compiles a list of some fifty organizations, magazines, publishers, and the like that offer resources for the intellectual life. The second contains a selective but lengthy bibliography, covering a whole spectrum of relevant topics.
Love Your God with all Your Mind offers an astute assessment of one of the evangelical Church’s biggest problems, anti-intellectualism. This book challenges its readers to conscientiously promote intellectualism, both individually and corporately.

This review was originally published in Areopagus Journal 6/2 (March-April 2006): 30-31.

10 Responses to Review of Love Your God with all Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul.

  1. L Shelton says:

    If we cannot articulate the reasons for our faith in God as Creator, Savior, and High Priest, then why should anyone leave their empty-self to join us in our emptiness? In a post-modern world, where not only our neighbors, but often our own “churched” kids are leaving behind the belief in absolute truth, our ability to articulate the God-story/Christian worldview is more critical than ever. This book is great and should be distributed widely within the church.

  2. Keith says:

    L (?),

    Thanks for stopping by! Certainly I agree that the ability to articulate a solid defense of one’s faith is of paramount importance. Training for this needs to begin at a young age. Of course, while I broadly agree with your assessment, I have two minor points of divergence. (1) You ask, “If we cannot articulate the reasons for our faith in God as Creator, Savior, and High Priest, then why should anyone leave their empty-self to join us in our emptiness?” I think this is a fair but misguided question. A. Even if every Christian on earth were completely incompetent/unable to give even one good reason for their faith, the truth of the Gospel would remain true. Thus, this question may be answered: Because if they don’t, they will spend eternity separated from Holy God. (2) You said, “In a post-modern world… [even] “churched” kids are leaving behind the belief in absolute truth…” I agree that the abandonment (whether intentional or unintentional) of truth, especially by our beloved youth, is cause for alarm—certainly, as you say, Moreland’s book is a must read, for this reason and others! However, it is a bit hasty to refer to ours definitively as “a post-modern world,” at least at this juncture; the modern chapter of history is far from over. At best one could say that our world is “hyper-modern,” bearing marks of both modernity and post-modernity.

    I know you didn’t intend to begin a discussion on modernity vs. post-modernity; I’m not either (unless, of course, someone is interested). I merely mean to prevent this buzzword “post-modern” from being flung about carelessly. Incidentally, I don’t think you were doing that; your post merely sparked my thoughts. We appreciate your thoughts and comments here!

  3. Tagel says:

    i benifieted a lot from JP.it is a very helpful book.it rerally transformed my mind

  4. Keith says:

    Tagel,

    Thank you for commenting! Yes, Moreland’s books are very helpful, especially this one. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it!

  5. Linda says:

    I am about to lead a SS class using this book as a guide. It is extremely important that our minds are used to be grounded in our faith and to further the kingdom of God. Many times are senses are called upon as our source of faith, i.e. how we ‘feel’ about it, not that emotionalism is bad. It’s just that our emotions change with the seasons in our life, and cannot always be trusted. A renewed mind, however, is much more steadfast.

    I would like to ask you… do you have any suggestions for books to use along with this one to balance out any misconcentions or misunderstandings concerning this message?

    Thank you!

    • chiara mara says:

      Deuteronomy 6:5
      ”And you shall love JHWH your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might/strength”.
      See also Deuteronomy 4:29, 10:12.
      Why not with all our minds? Why not with all our bodies? Good God knows our weaknesses. The snake of vanity can enter through our senses and can raise up in our minds. Bare this in your heart.
      Hallelujah!

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