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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The Love Life of the Mind

Written by: on January 29, 2015

I remember clearly the afternoon our son, Ben, came home after one science class enthusiastically telling us what he had learned that afternoon in high school: the wonder of the Bacterium Flagellum Motor, a motor that has to be magnified 50,000 times to become visible to the eye, complete with drive shaft, propeller, hook region and even gears. He was in awe at what God had made, a discovery that, in turn, strengthened his wonder of God.

The highest heavens belong to the LORD, but the earth he has given to the human race.”

(Psalm 115:16)

As humans we have been entrusted with stewarding this amazing earth, and are called to love God with all our heart, soul, body and mind. But what that looks like? What does it mean to love and worship God with our mind as well as our heart and soul and body? What does it mean that the earth belongs to us?

According to Noll, evangelical Christians have sacrificed intellectual scholarly research of this world at the expense of spiritual and altruistic endeavours. He believes we are off balance in our focus and need to take up the calling to intellectually pursue the understanding and wonders that this world has to offer. As Colossians 2:2-3 states, “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

For Noll, at the heart of Christianity is “the revelation of God in Jesus Christ.” [i] Revelation conjures up images of learning and progress in understanding and knowledge, something which Noll believes is of utmost importance for the evangelical Christian. He goes to great length to explain how many evangelical Christians, though rich in spirituality and activism, are anaemic in the life of the mind, and need to return to intellectual and scholarly rigor, the kind that existed among the Christian saints of the forth and fifth centuries AD. Moreover, this scholarly pursuit must be firmly grounded in Christ, in whom “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” For Noll, there are so many more treasures in this world to be discovered, more understanding of this world to be gained. As Noll writes,

“The Bible’s story may indeed be considered a metanarrative subsuming all other narratives, or a truth that relativizes all other forms of knowledge. But as metanarrative and final truth, the Bible does not speak directly about everything else per se. It rather speaks of everything indirectly, because it speaks of the origin, redemption, and final purpose of all things… With the Scriptures’ own statements about themselves in view, attitudes towards studying the world – eagerness to exploit secondary ways of knowing – should be opened up rather than shut down. This openness to experiencing the world, in turn, is exactly what a biblical vision of divine creation, with Christ as the active agent, encourages.” [ii]

According to the author, Christ is the foundation and source for any field of scholarly research: “Whatever it true of the world in general must also be true for those parts of the world that emphasize intellectual life. The light of Christ illuminates the laboratory, his speech is the found of communication, he makes possible the study of humans in all their interactions, he is the source of all life, he provides the wherewithal for every achievement of human civilization, he is the telos of all that is beautiful. He is, among his many other titles, the Christ of the Academic Road.” [iii]

The Bible explains how Christ is the author of life and applying oneself intellectually into discovering the treasures that Christ has fixed can surely serve to strengthen one’s faith further, as was the case for our son Ben. Perhaps that is something of what it means to love God with our mind.

[i] Mark A. Noll: Jesus Christ And The Life of the Mind (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2011), xii

[ii] Noll, 129

[iii] Noll, 22

About the Author

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Liz Linssen

7 responses to “The Love Life of the Mind”

  1. Michael Badriaki says:

    Hi Liz, thank you for sharing about Ben’s story. I enough reading and listening to testimonials. I loved reading about how Ben had the opportunity to come home and share his enthusiastic stories. This is not common in certain parts of the world and yet that is such a healthy and motivating aspect in a child’s learning process. You write, “He was in awe at what God had made, a discovery that, in turn, strengthened his wonder of God”; that is awesome indeed that Ben was able to see God’s glory in the science he was learning.

    As I think more about Noll’s arguments, I also believe that when we did not love God with our minds by acknowledging Him in and with our intellectual practices and at the same time being respectful and thoughtful in the way we engage with others, we fail to transmit the joy of the Lord.

    Loving God with all our minds also calls believers to an intellectual depth. How do you think church leaders might make use of Noll’s work among a congregation?

    Thank you

    • Liz Linssen says:

      Hi Michael
      Thank you so much for your feedback. You ask a great closing question. Well, I think we as church leaders have a responsibility to both encourage our members to read, study and learn about God and this world. Plus a role in teaching our members well. God is the creator of the mind as well as the body, heart and soul, so we can indeed look to Him for inspiration and revelation of these mysteries that Paul talked about. 🙂

  2. Ashley says:

    Liz, like Ben, I love those moments that turn into awe! A Bacteria Flagellum Motor?! Who knew?! I remember the first time I sat in class and truly thought about the maginitude of the Milky Way, the galaxy, the stars, the light years..! God is so cool! And His creation has no boundaries! As I got older, my dislike for science prevented me from exploring further. I “left that up to the smarter people,” and used the excuse that “I had faith, I just believe” to trump my need for learning and stretching my mind. Reading your story about Ben reminds me of what I am missing out on. Why not ask quetsions and search for answers? Why not jump out of comfort zones and study realms I had once pushed aside? And how do we translate this need for learning to those we minister to? Ohhh, so many questions! Now I’ll be pondering all day 🙂

    • Liz Linssen says:

      Hi Ashley!
      Thank you for your kind feedback 🙂
      We have so much to learn, don’t we? I have never forgotten Ben’s joy that day because it taught me how science can undergird and deepen our faith in the greatest Scientist of all. I remember one time visiting an astrology lab, and we looked at some of the galaxies. When we saw a glimpse of just how vast the universe is, and how tiny we are, it really made me stand in awe of God. Profound moments of learning indeed!

  3. mm Deve Persad says:

    Thanks for sharing Ben’s story Liz, I appreciate the challenge: “The Bible explains how Christ is the author of life and applying oneself intellectually into discovering the treasures that Christ has fixed can surely serve to strengthen one’s faith further, as was the case for our son Ben.” There are people that I’ve met along the way, who have tried to come across as knowing so much about “God’s ways”; but the people that have made the greatest impression are those who have a deep faith in God’s truth demonstrated through their humility. They often have said things like, “The more I know God, the less I seem to know, but the more I trust what He knows.” I don’t think our intellectual pursuits are meant for us to master what God already knows, but rather to have an awe-inspired response, much like you’ve described.

    • Liz Linssen says:

      Dear Deve
      I totally agree. I like what you shared: “The more I know God, the less I seem to know, but the more I trust what He knows.” So true. I shared with Ashley about a visit that Willy and I once made to an astrology lab. We looked at the nearest galaxy, and it just made us realise how vast the universe is, and therefore how great God is and how tiny we are! The more we learn the more we must stand in awe. It’s the only response really. Thank you Deve.

  4. Liz, I to identify with Ben and his wonder and joy at the marvelous creation that God has bestowed all around us to investigate enjoy and bring us back to him. It was the human body, with all of its intricacies and fascinating metabolic functions that led me to study medicine. I recall days of looking at the functions that the human body carries on every moment of every day with great fascination and wonder at a complex God who certainly stoops down to engage with us. Absolutely wondrous! Too often people have pushed aside such intellectual pursuits in the sciences to their own hurt. Like Ashley’s comment, many people rely on what they seem to understand as faith. To study fields outside of religion would be to call into question the very faith that they believe saved them. I on the other hand found the study of science to be another avenue and door to the magnificent glory of the creator who now I knew both loved and continues to love me on any eternal level.

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