Our Ground & Goal of Thought


As I continue in my reading of John Piper, occasionally a writing of his strikes my mind and heart in such a way that compels me to share it. This excerpt from Piper’s A Godward Life: Savoring the Supremacy of God In All of Life was perfect for me to read today as I face those who look down on theological study and frown upon theological and biblical education. There are those who say I “think too much” when it comes to studying Scripture. When I encourage young Christians to think about what they have read and spend time in meditation, there are those who say it is “futile and boring” as they will have no desire to do so. I beg to differ as meditating over Scripture and thinking about doctrine and theology in fact increases joy in God. Young believers are encouraged to have fun and teachers and leaders as a result are forced to form all of their lessons and biblical teaching around worldly fun. The fun of the world must enter the church in order to satisfy these young people since thinking and meditation over biblical teaching is not enough. My personal thoughts are that we should keep it simple, teach the Word, trust God, and encourage thinking. For any young person that I will disciple or teach, the Word of God will be central and thinking will saturate our discussions.

I truly enjoyed this word from John Piper as he outlines a possible discussion between Paul and Timothy over thinking in 2 Timothy 2:7 . According to Piper, this is how their dialogue would go:

“Think over what I say, for the Lord will grant you understanding in everything.” (RSV)

“Timothy: Wait a minute, Paul. You tell me think, but isn’t the organ of our thinking fallen and unreliable?

Paul: Yes, your mind is fallen and fallible. Yes, it is prone to self-justifying errors. But Christ is in the business of renewing the mind (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:23). Do you think there is some unfallen part of you that you could substitute for your mind? We are fallen and depraved in every part. You cannot retreat from thinking into some other safe, untainted faculty of knowing. Take note, Timothy; even in raising the objection against thinking, you are thinking! You cannot escape the necessity of thinking. God’s call is to do it well.

Timothy: But, Paul, I don’t want to become a cold, impersonal intellectual.

Paul: There is danger on both sides, Timothy. There is cold knowledge, and there is a red-hot zeal that is not according to knowledge (Romans 10:2), but thinking does not have to cool your zeal. In fact, in my life, the vigorous exercise of my mind in spiritual things causes me to boil inside, not to freeze. You are right not to want to become impersonal. That happens when thinking is emphasized to the exclusion of feeling about people and when reason is exalted above love, but note this, Timothy: The abandonment of thinking is the destruction of persons. Yes, there is more to personal relationships than thinking, but they are less human without it. God honored his image in us when he said, ‘Come now, let us reason together’ (Isaiah 1:18). Should we do less?

Timothy: But, Paul, shouldn’t I just take you at your word and not ask so many questions? You’re an apostle and speak for God.

Paul: Take what, Timothy?

Timothy: Your words, what you say in your letters.

Paul: Do you mean the black marks on the parchment?

Timothy: No. What they stand for. You know, what they mean.

Paul: How do you know what I mean, Timothy?

Timothy: I read what you write.

Paul: You mean you pass your eyes over the black marks on the parchment?

Timothy: No, I…I think about it. I ask how the words and sentences fit together. I look for what it means.

Paul: That’s right, Timothy. Thinking and asking questions are the only ways you will ever understand what I want to communicate in my letters. Either you will do it poorly, or you will do it well. So do not be a child in your thinking. Be a babe in evil, but in thinking be mature (1 Corinthians 14:20). As the Master said, ‘wise as serpents and innocent as doves’ (Matthew 10:16).

Timothy: But, Paul, won’t I become arrogant and boastful if by using my mind I discover things on my own?

Paul: Timothy, you never have and never will discover anything ‘on your own.’ You would know this if you had thought more deeply about what I said. What I said was: “Think over what I say, for the Lord will grant you understanding in everything.’ The Lord, Timothy, the Lord! ‘From him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory!’ (Romans 11:36). He is the ground and goal of thought. So think, Timothy. Gird up your mind and think!” (John Piper, A Godward Life, p. 122-123)

By His Grace — For His Glory — For our Joy

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