- Hardcover: 224 pages
- Publisher: Crossway Books (September 15, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1433520710
- WTS Books
Many thanks to Crossway for this review copy of Think by John Piper.
The book begins with a Foreword from evangelical historian Mark Noll, who actually shared a dorm with Piper during their Wheaton days. In the Introduction, Piper states that the plea of the book is “to embrace serious thinking as a means of loving God and people. It is a plea to reject either-or thinking when it comes to head and heart, thinking and feeling, reason and faith, theology and doxology, mental labor and the ministry of love. It is a plea to see thinking as a necessary, God-ordained means of knowing God” (p.15). The basis of the book is Proverb 2:3-5 and 2 Timothy 2:7, and treatments of Matthew 22:35-40, Luke 10:21-22, 1 Corinthians 1:17-2:16 and 8:1-4.
The heart of the book is divided into eight sections. I. Clarifying the Aim of the Book. Piper reaches back to his teachings days at Bethel College and how a writing sabbatical of a book on Romans 9, The Justification of God, led to transition from academia to the pastorate at Bethlem Baptist Church. Anyone who has ever read or listened to Piper for a while knows that outside of the Bible his hero is Jonathan Edwards. Piper relates how Edwards impacted him as a thinker. II. Clarifying the Meaning of Thinking. Piper says, “But my main concern is how thinking relates to our pursuit of knowing God and loving God” (p. 41). Mortimer Adler’s classic How to Read a Book introduced Piper to serious reading. III. Coming to Faith through Thinking. Piper demonstrates how the Jewish leaders proved to be Aristotelian in their thinking and couldn’t escape “Mental Adultery.” He goes on to explore the nature of saving faith and how this is awakening. IV. Clarifying the Meaning of Love God. Vintage Piper emerges here. V. Facing the Challenge of Relativism. In Matthew 21:23-27, some Jewish leaders turn out to be relativists. Piper writes, “The whole system of relativism is a morally corrupting impulse” (p. 108). VI. Facing the Challenge of Anti-intellectualism. Matters may be summed up thus: “The remedy for barren intellectualism is not anti-intellectualism, but humble, faithful, prayerful, Spirit-dependent, rigorous thinking” (p. 123). Parallels are drawn between Luke 10:17-24 and 1 Corinthians 1:17-2:16. VII. Finding a Humble Way of Knowing. Insights drawn from 1 Corinthians 8 and Romans 10:1-4 reveal that “true knowledge” loves God and loves people. And “All scholarship is for the love of God and man,” according to Piper. VIII. Encouraging Thinkers and Non-thinkers. “Our thinking does not replace God’s grace. It is the gift of grace and the pathway to more and more” (p. 184).
With the help of his hero Jonathan Edwards, John Piper makes the case from 2 Corinthians 4:4-6 that regeneration must precede “saving faith.” Piper poses the question, “How can such a darkened, sinful heart produce a way of thinking that gives rise to saving faith?” Piper answers, “The answer is that God’s illumination and regeneration produce a profound change in the way the heart perceives reality” (p. 77). Earlier in the chapter Piper writes about the nature of this regeneration, “But to embrace Jesus as your supreme treasure requires a new nature. No one does this naturally. You must be born again (John 3:3). You must be a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:7; Gal. 6:15). You must be spiritually alive (Eph. 2:1-4)” (p. 72).
So according to Piper, the unregenerate thinker must first be regenerated, born again, be spiritually alive, be a new creation in Christ, before he or she can receive Christ through saving faith. But this makes no sense. If I’m already regenerated, born again, spiritually alive, a new creation in Christ, why do I then need to exercise faith in order to receive Christ?
Outside of my objection to Piper’s use of 2 Corinthians 4:4-6 and his placement of regeneration in his ordo salutis, I quite agree with his plea and especially his challenge to Christian scholarship to use their minds to love God and love people. At any rate, God continues to goad me through the writings of John Piper.