One of my favorite books is Love Your God with All Your Mind by J.P. Mooreland (1997). The title comes from Matthew 22:37, in which Jesus was asked to identify the greatest commandment, to which He replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” As the title of his book implies, Mooreland challenges believers and the church to not forget engaging the last thing in this list – our minds – when it comes to loving God.
Mooreland claims that “the mind is the crucial component in the spiritual journey” (76). If we stop for a moment to think about the importance of thinking (a process called “metacognition”), it’s hard to identify something more influential in discipleship than the mind. What capacity do we use to read and study God’s Word? To understand our faith? To learn from others? To teach others about God? To share our faith? To discern truth? The answer is obvious. Without engaging our minds, it would be impossible to do any of these things, and impossible to grow in our knowledge and relationship with God.
Academics are important in the life of a disciple of Christ, because they engage our minds by sharpening, stretching, and challenging our thinking about God in a myriad of ways. In science and math classes, we can love God by learning about His awesome creation and how the universe is perfectly designed. In language arts, we love God by learning the skills we need to read His Word and to communicate effectively with others. In history, we love God by learning how all of human events fit into the arc of the Gospel – creation, fall, redemption, and (coming soon!) glorification. If it’s true that God has something to say about every subject, and every subject has something to say about God, it follows that studying these subjects – when they are taught from a Biblical worldview – helps us to love God with our minds.
Of course, loving God with our minds – especially when it comes to that academic subject that isn’t our favorite – is not always easy. Neither is discipleship! But Mooreland writes: “Nothing that is worth doing is pleasurable or easy in the early stages of learning how to do it. But through regular practice, patient endurance, and proper mentoring, skills emerge and habits are formed that enable a person to be good at the activity in focus… If we are to love God adequately with the mind, then the mind must be exercised regularly” (119-120). Parents can encourage their children in this process not only by supporting them in their homework and schoolwork, but also by asking questions about the way things work, reading together, memorizing scripture, playing board games, taking educational trips, and finding out more about something that interests their students (cataloging foreign coins, baseball cards, and Shopkins are favorite activities in our house). And, try to limit “mindless” activities (we know what those are!) whenever possible.
Whether at school or at home, we need to create space and time for learning, thinking, and stretching our children’s minds, because – just like their hearts and souls – they need their minds to love God fully.
Moreland, J.P. 1997. Love Your God with All Your Mind. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.