“Cognito ergo sum.”
Rene Descartes (1596 – 1650), French philosopher
Back in the 20th century, while visiting a friend in Tennessee, I heard a guy named Bob address a gathering of Christian musicians and pastors. Bob was introduced as a prophet. Decked out in an old t-shirt to cover a pot belly, he issued the following prophetic call:
“Lose your mind over Jesus!”
He spoke long enough to make it clear that he practiced what he preached.
Unlike Bob, I don’t see faith as a lobotomy. Unlike Karl Marx, I also don’t see religion as opium. As a Christian, I strive to be a critical thinker without being a critical person.
Jesus established a track record of out-thinking the Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes and others who tried to trap Him with trick questions. He knew the Scriptures far too well to be hoodwinked and His reasoning skills left His critics confused and frustrated.
One day after Jesus “silenced” some Sadducees, another law expert asked Him which was the greatest commandment in the Law. Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37). Mark’s gospel includes a fourth way to love God: “with all our strength.” (12:30).
So, do we love God in three ways or four? No, we love Him in one way; with every ounce of our being. Loving God is our polar star. As everything else in the universe rotates, that star stays steady in the sky.
Jesus continued, “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:38). In other words, our greatest love begins with God and belongs to God. But it does not stop there.
God wants our love in the form of wisdom, temperance, and courage. He wants our thoughts, values and passions. He does not call us down some yellow brick road in search of our brain, heart or courage only to discover that we had them inside all along. Rather, Jesus calls us to use our brain, heart and soul to look outside our sinful selves to the God of the Universe to love Him first.
With the decline of thinking has come a diminished affinity for gratitude, trust and love. Technology, entertainment, medicine, industry and academia can flourish but our quality of life will regress if the quality of our thinking erodes, regardless of other forms of progress. We are called to be good thinkers but were not born only to think. We are here to love God first and love our neighbor as ourselves. Think about it.
Good thinking is a means to an end, not an end in itself. It should inspire wise thanking, trusting and loving. The words “think” and “thank” both come from the same pre-historic Germanic root. To this day, both concepts involve connecting cause-and-effect concepts. Thus, good thinking and good thanking run together. After all, God is the ultimate cause for everything we need and are. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). He is the ultimate object of our thanking and the ultimate aim of our thinking.
This essay began with a notorious Latin line from a famous French philosopher. It is time to translate it: “I think, therefore I am.” I am grateful for this affirmation, but good thinking does not stop there. Not all who love to learn will learn to love. Nevertheless, learning to love is the highest form of learning we can pursue. Think that through and you might just end up in the arms of the great “I AM.”