Book Review: Love Your God with All Your Mind

love-your-god-with-all-your-mind.530_1Introduction

J. P. Moreland is professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University in La Mirada, California. An active Christian apologist, Dr. Moreland has spoken and debated on over 175 college campuses around the country. He has authored twelve books and published over thirty articles in journals which include Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, American Philosophical Quarterly, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, and Faith and Philosophy. In addition to his scholarly contributions, Dr. Moreland is also a church planter and has served with Campus Crusade for Christ for ten years. To say that there is much to be learned from this professor, author, and pastor’s years of scholarship and experience is an understatement. There is, perhaps, no better place to begin learning from Dr. Moreland, than his self proclaimed most successful book, Love Your God with All Your Mind, originally published in 1997, updated, revised and published in 2012 by NavPress.

Summary of Contents

The book is written in ten chapters and divided into four parts; Why the Mind Matters in Christianity, How to Develop a Christian Mind, What a Mature Christian Mind Looks Like, and Guaranteeing a Future for the Christian Mind.

In chapter one, Dr. Moreland takes the reader on a quick tour of American history to explain his perspective on how the mind of Christianity, which he quickly clarifies as the intellectual life of the Christian, was lost. He covers the obvious cultural adversaries of secularism and scientism, not science as a discipline and method of observation but as a worldview, but it is Moreland’s conversation about the rise and impact of anti-intellectualism from within the cultural context of the Church that is most interesting. According to Moreland, beginning in the mid-nineteenth century three Christian awakenings broke out in the United States. While much good came from these movements, Moreland suggests they negatively impacted the intellectual richness of the Christian tradition and “their overall effect was to overemphasize immediate personal conversion to Christ instead of a studied period of reflection and conviction…[as well as] personal feelings and relationship to Christ instead of a deep grasp of the nature of Christian teaching and ideas.” (Moreland, 1997, p. 23)

Chapters two and three define terms and establish the foundation of the mind in the life of all people, and more specifically, the Christian. Believers, according to the book, are intent on living a life that brings honor to God. Moreland pleads a case that carefully cultivating one’s intellectual life is not just one way to accomplish this task, but it is the very emerging picture of a serious Christian disciple. Further, the author demonstrates that reason, knowledge, and truth are within the very nature of God Himself, and he gives the scriptural basis undergirding the priority for cultivating the mind which Christians should value. In illustrating the role of the mind in the process of spiritual transformation, Moreland discusses the difference between the mind, the body, and the soul and how a person interacts with beliefs, weighs them, and is changed by them.

Chapters four and five comprise the next section describing the characteristics of, and how to, respond to what Moreland calls an epidemic in American culture, the emergence of what psychologists call the empty self. The empty self is an inherently individualistic, narcissistic, and passive person that the author argues poses a threat to the intellectual development of Christians and the Church. The book starts to transition at this point, providing application, and actionable steps to help Christians begin to “clear the cobwebs” of the mind and start developing a sharpened intellect. Christians, the book shares, should learn the basic skills of logical thinking and begin to grow in greater understanding of how to shape logical arguments and be aware of logical fallacies.

Chapters six and seven begin the third section of the book with a discussion about the role a sharpened Christian mind plays in evangelism.  Moreland prefaces with a quote from Peter Kreeft and Ron Tacelli that apologetics is not about saving the church, but saving the world. The case is made that Biblical evangelists routinely referred to evidence that justified belief and that the goal of evangelism should not solely be to grow the church numerically, but also to impact culture. Arguably, the author’s most profound idea of the section, and perhaps the book, is to consider that Christianity’s impact on culture is clearly disproportionate to the numbers in our pews. The book moves into a succinct response to the two leading cultural adversaries to Christianity, scientism and secularism, the latter Moreland further defines as moral relativism.

Chapters eight and nine give guidance on how to begin growing the Christian mind in the context of a local congregation. Determined devotional reading, Moreland writes, nourishes the soul by “entering into the passage and allowing it to be assimilated into one’s whole personality.” (Moreland, 1997, p. 164) This is accomplished through discipline and growing a skill set for effective devotional reading. The author shares approaches and techniques effective in his own discipline. The section closes by discussing five models for integrating a Christian worldview into the vocational lives of Believers. This section is extremely helpful in providing cases studies that cover a wide array of industries and scenarios to help the reader understand how the Christian mind can interact and inform secular fields of work and study.

The final chapter and section of the book is the author’s challenge to Christian leaders to lead local congregations in recapturing the intellectual life of Christians in the church, and how to accomplish that through discipleship, sermons, worship services, and intentional church staffing and structure.

Critique and Evaluation

Love Your God with All Your Mind is an excellently written and well-organized articulation of the need for intellectual development in the life of Christians, the Church, and the world. Moreland’s powerful ability to concisely state the role for reason in the life of the Christian soul is effective and influential. This reader’s first struggle with the book comes in chapter three when Moreland introduces the five states of the soul. Considering the importance the book places on differentiating the soul and mind from the body and the role they play in spiritual transformation, this entire section is less than a full page and leaves the reader with a large responsibility to assume the author’s full intent. This section also illustrates a flaw in the author’s writing style, where he spends a great deal of time fleshing out his first point, then rushes past subsequent points, sometimes including two or three in the same sentence. The following pages expounding upon the role of a belief and how one interacts with a belief is a powerful call to conviction about just how dismissive Christians have become of really understanding Christian doctrine, history, and the Bible itself.

Another criticism comes in chapter five when the author gives a brief lesson on the principles of logic. This section was as brief as it was congested. Readers, especially those with no familiarity with the principles of logical reasoning, will easily need to review those pages multiple times before feeling comfortable with the assertions of the author. However, the book provides a very helpful quiz within the chapter and provides the answers in the notes section.  Readers should take their time with that chapter, and the quiz, to gather a firm grasp of the principles presented. This reader found it quite convicting, and truly lamentable, to realize just how much of the public debate in this country has been driven by inherently flawed arguments, specifically the fallacy of the ad hominem argument.

Finally, Love Your God with All Your Mind offers practical suggestions to church leaders to recapture the intellectual mind of Christian. At times the suggestion can seem radical, such as churches moving away from a senior pastor structure to a plurality of elders. Moreland’s discussion of the five models of integration of the Christian worldview and vocational lives of Believers is an excellent resource to pastors.

Application to Ministry

Dr. Moreland’s work is timely and responsive to a cultural dilemma facing the church today. In commenting about the purpose and effect of his work in the years since its first publication, the author describes how his book is almost a direct response to a work written by Christian historian, Mark Noll.

[The book] came out just a few years after Christian historian, Mark Noll, wrote his infamous book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Eerdmans, 1994), where he opened with these words:

“The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind”. Indeed, that was not too far from the mark at that time. Noll provided a historical-cultural treatment of the problem. Others have approached it differently. In some sense, my book tries to reckon with that “scandal,” but…I think it is a scandal related to inadequately integrating and cultivating “the role of reason in the life of the soul,” which my subtitle suggests. In other words, the “scandal of the Evangelical mind” is a problem related to discipleship. (Moreland, 2013)

Thus, this book is a practical call to discipleship but unfortunately, and perhaps illustrating the point of the book, many may not take the time to read Love Your God with All Your Mind because of the pervasive lack of interest in the intellectual life. For this reason, this book is a valuable resource to pastors and disciple makers; and they should make good use of it. Chapters eight and nine are practically a how to guide for challenging church members to think critically and value their intellectual life as being directly related to their worship of God. Most compelling to this reader was chapter nine’s discussion about integration of the Christian worldview into the vocational lives of Believers. As previously stated, the use of case scenarios from a diversity of industries and professions serve as a model for how churches could structure small groups or entire conferences to connect and equip Believers to live their faith in their vocation. The connection of faith to work is not just a hot topic in the church today, but vital to connecting the message of the Gospel to a new generation of workers and industry leaders who may never darken the door of a church.

Summary

Love Your God with All Your Mind is a must read for pastors and disciple makers ministering in the North American context. Much fruit could come from churches across the nation emphasizing the role of the mind in the life and expression of Christian worship and churches could consider introducing this very text through small group studies or discipleship classes. Portions of the book are hurried and more time could be spent developing the author’s thoughts. Overall, the book is an excellent read and resource.

 

 

REFEFRENCES

Moreland, J. P. (2013, August 19) About Love Your God With All Your Mind. http://www.jpmoreland.com/books/with-all-your-mind/

Moreland, J. P.  Love Your God with All Your Mind.  Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1997.