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MISPLACED AFFECTIONS:

THE NATURE OF A SPIRITUALLY UNDISCIPLINED LIFE

__________________

The Senior Thesis

Presented to

Dr. David P. Bertch

The College at Southwestern

__________________

In Partial Fulfillment

of the Requirements for IDE 4203-A

__________________

by

Wes Terry

April 16, 2009


ABSTRACT

MISPLACED AFFECTIONS:
THE NATURE OF A SPIRITUALLY UNDISCIPLINED LIFE

This thesis will present the major contributors to why believers fail to practice

private spiritual disciplines. It will first argue that busyness, ignorance, and sin are the

most common of these contributors and will then explain specifically how each element

affects believers in regard to their spiritual vitality.

Section one introduces the thesis, defines the terms that are used, and then

gives a general summary of the problem.

Section two establishes the three categories of busyness, ignorance, and sin.

Then, each category is unpacked to illustrate specifically how they hinder the use of

private spiritual disciplines

Section three proposes a general solution by introducing the theme of

realigning one’s affections

Section four unpacks each category and shows how, by realigning one’s

affections, each category serves not as a hindrance but as a catalyst for private spiritual

disciplines.

Section five provides a summary of the arguments and restates the need for one

to realign his affections so that they are all directed towards God.

Wes Terry B.A.


Advisor: David P. Bertch Ph.D.
The College at Southwestern

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2009


MISPLACED AFFECTIONS

Jesus said that a disciple’s ability to fulfill all that the law and the prophets

have spoken hangs on two premises: loving God with all of one’s heart, soul, and mind,

and loving one’s neighbor as oneself. Discipleship, when held to this standard, is shown

to be a continual process of knowing God truly, loving him fully, and demonstrating that

love by loving others. However, showing the love of God outside of true communion

with God leaves one feeling empty and incomplete. For many, those feelings are due to a

lack of private spiritual disciplines. One who recognizes the importance of private

spiritual disciplines will understand that who a disciple is will directly affect the way in

which a disciple lives. What a person believes will always inform and influence what a

person does. Orthodoxy always precedes orthopraxy.

If knowledge of God comes by revelation and the expression of one’s heart to

God is spoken through prayer, private spiritual disciplines are necessary for one to truly

live out the Christian life; especially to the standard that Christ gave his disciples. Why is

it so hard to practice private spiritual disciplines? Why do believers sometimes feel as

though their quiet times are empty, cliché, and ineffective? There is no shortage of books

which try to answer those questions but, despite the abundance of resources, casual

Christianity still plagues churches all over America. The following will seek to explain

why the lack of private spiritual disciplines in the lives of believers should be attributed

to three categories: busyness, ignorance, and sin, and how one, after identifying these

causes, can fight against them in order to establish a closer, more intimate, walk with

Christ.

4
5
Diagnosing the Problem

There is not an exhaustive or standardized list of spiritual disciplines, although

many are better known and more widely practiced than others. Spiritual disciplines are

those practices that help believers grow in godliness. In the words of Donald Whitney,

“Spiritual disciplines are scriptural paths where we may expect to encounter the

transforming grace of God.”1 These spiritual disciplines have commonly been broken

down into two categories: corporate and private.

Private spiritual disciplines grow one in grace and knowledge, but on a

personal level. Private spiritual disciplines are exercised in the context of an intimate

personal walk with God. Some common examples would be private prayer, devotional

time spent reading Scripture and or other wholesome literature, solitude, and fasting.

Sadly, it is the private spiritual disciplines that have been neglected the most by believers

today. It is necessary for believers to understand that just as God spoke to Elijah in a

whisper, he often times uses the quiet moments of life to speak the loudest. His plan is an

effective one but it requires getting away, getting alone, and getting quiet.2

Unfortunately, the quite moments of life that are needed to exercise private

spiritual disciplines are very rare in the lives of evangelical Christians. Author Dallas

Willard maintains that this lack of silence is due to overestimating the seemingly good

things that have come from what has now been deemed as social and theological

progress.3 But progress is not simply moving forward. Moving forward just describes a

1
Donald Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado
Springs: NavPress, 1991), 28.
2
C.J. Mahaney and John Loftness, Disciplines for Life (Gaithersburg:
Sovereign Grace Ministries, 1992), 71.
3
Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God
Changes Lives (San Francisco: HarperCollins Publishers, 1991), 16.
6
change in one’s location. The question to ask when determining progress is whether or

not the changes that have been made are improvements from the previous reality. As C.S.

Lewis wrote, progress is “not just changing, but changing for the better.”4 More than a

locative change, progress is improving the conditions of one’s location. When defining

progress in this way, it is clear that progress in the area of private spiritual disciplines has

been very slow at best. Again, Dallas Willard exposes the problem when he states that,

“the church at present has lost any realistic and specific sense of what it means for the

individual believer to ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus

Christ’ as 2 Peter 3:18 expresses it.” The saints of old might grimace at the current state

of affairs because while there seems to be intimacy between believers and their Lord in

speech, it is all together absent in their hearts.

Explaining the Conditions

Cultivating a dynamic relationship with God requires the same things that any

other relationship requires: time, understanding, and trust. An intimate walk with the

Lord does not happen effortlessly. Yet, many Christians, whether they would admit it or

not, have the notion that intimacy with God will miraculously “just happen.” While it is

indeed miraculous that God works in one to do works according to his good purpose, that

person is not passive in the process. It takes active involvement. Paul told the Philippians

to “work out their salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12) Man is never

robotic in the process of sanctification. He is morally accountable and one hundred

percent responsible. Consider this quote from author Jerry Bridges,

Though the power for godly character comes from Christ, the responsibility for
developing and displaying that character is ours. This principle seems to be one of
the most difficult for us to understand and apply. One day we sense our personal
responsibility and seek to live a godly life by the strengths of our own will power.
The next day, realizing the futility of trusting in ourselves, we turn it all over to
4
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: HarperCollins, 1952), 13.
7
Christ and abdicate our responsibility which is set forth in the Scriptures. We need
to learn that the Bible teaches both total responsibility and total dependence in all
aspects of the Christian life.5

If this is the case, a person who wishes to experience the Christian life in its

truest sense must develop disciplines that will spur him on in his spirituality when the

elements of life begin to rub against it. It is, therefore, necessary for one to actively guard

himself from and fight against those things that wage war against pious living. According

to this author, busyness, ignorance, and sin are the major armies in this war and so it

would be beneficial to explore these areas to see exactly why they have such power over

believers. The following will present each of these categories and explain in detail why

and how each one has negatively impacted a Christians desire to consistently practice

private spiritual disciplines.

Busyness

Busyness is a primary factor in preventing a person from exercising private

spiritual disciplines. “The business of America is busyness.”6 This is not a new problem

to American life. Americans have always prided themselves in their pragmatic philosophy

and in their efficiency when it comes to “getting things done.” Unfortunately, such

productivity has not come without its own costs. Speaking of this American phenomenon,

Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, “[American’s] occupations interest them passionately. They

are perpetually in action, and each one of their actions absorbs their soul; the fire that

they put into business affairs prevents them from becoming inflamed over ideas.”7 In
5
Jerry Bridges, The Practice of Godliness (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1983),
75-76.
6
Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Charles A. Anderson, Michael J. Sleasman, Everyday
Theology: How to Read Cultural Texts and Interpret Trends (Grand Rapids: Baker
Academic, 2007), 155.
7
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, trans. Stephen D. Grant
(Endianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 2000), 294.
8
other words, de Tocqueville points out that Americans are so busy taking care of their

daily affairs that they have neither the time nor the desire to stop and contemplate why

they are doing what they are doing.

Most individuals wake up with a to-do list on their mind and go to bed with an

agenda for the next day. Daily planners are filled to the brim with appointments and

tasks. Christians, who find themselves in corporate America, work jobs that demand

excessive allegiance from their employers. And, since time is money in a corporate

environment, employees are usually asked to sacrifice their time more than anything else.

Harry Blamires asserts that “men can be so engrossed in performing functions in

contemporary society that they have neither the time nor the energy left for merely being

human.”8 Thus, much of humanity, because of its full-fledged dedication to activity, is

living at a sub-human level.

There is little room for leisure (of any sort) in the lives of most American

Christians. However, what one does with that small amount of free time communicates a

great deal of what is most important to him. “One of the most significant measures of a

person’s spiritual commitment is what he does with his discretionary or leisure time.”9

Even though the development of one’s spiritual life should take precedence over any

other thing, that is not always the case. There are multiple activities that fight for the

attention of believers; most of which carry the potential of having a negative impact on

one’s exercising of private spiritual disciplines.

Take for example how many hours of the day are spent by Christians watching

television. While the data changes with demographics, many Christians would say that
8
Harry Blamires, The Christian Mind: How Should A Christian Think?
(Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, 2005), 164.
9
Jerry White, The Power of Commitment (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1985),
67.
9
they watch at least two hours of television daily. There is nothing evil about two hours of

television, but there is something alarming about how drastically television can cut into

other activities. Leo Bogart, having studied extensively on the impact that television has

had on American culture, argues that it has stolen the once empty hours of the day such as

“sleeping, resting or sitting around” and has filled them with the euphoria of escapism.10

Bogart wrote his work in 1956. Television, since then, has only increased in its ability to

lure men and women, of all ages, into a dangerous detachment from their everyday

reality. This should be an issue of concern for any believer.

Television is not the only culprit. All forms of so called “new media” have this

kind of influence. Email, cell phones, pagers, pocket PC’s, desktops, laptops, social

networking, text messaging, and an interconnected human race beyond imagination have

seduced men and women into becoming busybodies with shallow relationships. A 2005

survey pointed out that “most Americans – including children – spend at least nine hours

a day watching TV, surfing the web, or talking on their cell phones. Of those hours, one-

third of the time is spent using two or more of those media at once.”11 Busyness has

plagued American communities at large. And, while it cannot be argued that technology

has no benefits, it clearly demands a very high price from those who submerse

themselves into it. Technology comes with a bias that leads one to think about the world

only through the “kind of rationality that is technology-like.”12

10
Leo Bogart, The Age of Television: A Study of Viewing Habits and the Impact
of Television on American Life (New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing, 1956), 60.
11
Mark Earley, "Breakpoint Commentaries: Get Unplugged," Break Point
Prison Fellowship, March 6, 2009,
http://www.breakpoint.org/listingarticle.asp?ID=11422/ (accessed March 9, 2009).
12
David F. Wells, Above All Earthly Powers: Christ in a Postmodern World
(Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2005), 36.
10
Technology is all about means. It serves as a perfect picture of American

pragmatism. As David Wells describes it, “Life is flattened out, its height and depth

surrendered as it is all reduced simply to process.”13 The more advanced the world’s

technology becomes the more likely people are to withdraw from reality. Having

abandoned an accurate understanding of that which is truly meaningful, they will instead

turn and retreat towards things that are meaningless: things that distract them. They will

retreat into the detriment of diversion.

The Detriment of Diversion

Excessive television usage, or any other form of escapism, is a gateway into

what Pascal called diversion. It is not the absence of leisure; rather, it is the misuse of it.

Peter Kreeft summarizes Pascal by saying, “We want to complexify our lives. We don’t

have to, we want to. We want to be harried and hassled and busy. Unconsciously, we want

the very thing we complain about.” 14 In the words of Pascal,

Man is so unhappy that he would be bored even if he had no cause for boredom, by
the very nature of his temperament, and he is so vain that, though he has a thousand
and one basic reasons for being bored, the slightest thing, like pushing a ball with a
billiard cue, will be enough to divert him.15

These words by Pascal show that all activity, from watching television to

playing pool, has the potential of leading one down the dangerous road of diversion. So,

in regard to the practice of private spiritual disciplines, this is not an argument against

television or any other form of activity; it is an argument against one falling into the trap

of diversion.

13
Ibid.
14
Blaise Pascal, Christianity for Modern Pagans, ed. Peter Kreeft (San
Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), 168.
15
Ibid., Pg. 174.
11
Theologian and philosopher Jonathan Edwards also put forth some warnings

about diversion by writing, “some diversion is doubtless lawful; but for Christians to

spend so much of their time, so many long evenings, in no other conversation than that

which tends to divert and amuse, if nothing worse, is a sinful way of spending time.”16

So, diversion can be present in every area of life: from the dullest conversation to the

most sophisticated technology. Given the odds, what should the believer do in response to

the detriment of diversion?

Consider this. How drastically would a person’s communion with God increase

if he were to just switch the amount of time he spent watching television with prayer and

reading Scripture.17 The results would be astronomical. Additionally, what one reads in

Scripture could have the potential of positively affecting that person for all of eternity

while what he saw on television might only impact him for two weeks, or two hours.

What a person experiences in prayer to God could invigorate him ten times more than a

night of mindless activity to escape boredom. So, diversion can be a dangerous thing. It is

what makes busyness such a problem in the Christian life. However, the problem of

busyness and diversion will not be solved by removing all activity from one’s life

because the problem is not exclusively an issue of how much one does; it is due to what

kind of activities one participates in and why one chooses to do so.

16
Jonathan Edwards, On Knowing Christ (Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust,
1997), 26.
17
The reader should note that television is just one example of what Christians
commonly use to divert their attention away from other things. Any activity has the
potential to serve as a means of diversion. Even Christian music and television have the
tendency of diverting one from truly experiencing the peace of God through rest and
solitude.
12
The Essence of the Problem

Many of the activities in life request the whole of a person as if to insinuate a

feeling of accomplishment. Yet, when all is said and done, one is left feeling dull,

unfulfilled, and wanting more. Why is this? According to Dallas Willard “the normal

course of day-to-day human interactions locks us into patterns of feeling, thought, and

action that are geared to a world set against God.”18 Many Christians are locked into a

lifestyle that is distinctly opposed to the life that Jesus called his disciples to live.

In essence, Christians are not only too busy; they are too busy doing the wrong

things with the wrong motives. When seventy percent of the activities that a person finds

himself involved in are hostile to the things of God, that person will discover that it is

hard to find pleasure in God while living out his day to day life. If all the things that

inform the worldview of a person are unchristian in principle, he will find it hard to

experience life as God has created one to experience it.

A study was done in 2007 by the Barna Group which found that “most of the

lifestyle activities of born-again Christians were statistically equivalent to those of non-

born-agains.”19 This should not be. The study went on to illustrate that if a person placed

Christians and non-Christians in a room with one another and was then asked to tell one

apart from the other based on their lifestyles alone, he would be hard pressed to find a

difference.20 This is the antithesis of orthodox Christianity. Christians are called to be salt

18
Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines (San Francisco: HarperCollins
Publishers, 1991), 160.
19
David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, Unchristian: What a New Generation
Really Thinks About Christianity and Why it Matters (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2007),
47.
20
Ibid.
13
and light. The people of God should be set apart as holy. The worldview of a disciple of

Jesus Christ should see and live life completely different than one who is an unbeliever.

A person with a Christian worldview will correctly see God as the only true

source of sustenance in this life and, because of that, he will align his lifestyle to

participate in activities that will nourish such a relationship. He will want to add to, not

subtract from, his holiness. This concept has been lost by the Christian community at

large. Many of the activities that Christians find themselves giving their allegiance to are

set against God and his purposes. Thus, when one is captivated by the busyness of life

rather than the Giver of life, he will begin to see those areas of his life conflict with his

ability to exercise private spiritual disciplines.

Sadly, this can even come to fruition in the context of local church activities.

The potential for losing sight of God in this environment is even greater because one may

cling to the false notion that involvement in the things of God will automatically result in

communion with God. Reggie McNeal paints a vivid picture of this fallacious thinking

with these words:

The elevation of one’s participation in church activity to being a litmus test for true
Christian piety might be the most ingenious ploy of the enemy ever. Rather than
tempt Christians and their spiritual leaders with works of wickedness, he encourages
more and more good efforts. The effect in terms of spiritual vitality is remarkably
the same. Tired Christians do no evangelize. They lose judgment and choose
expediency over values-based decisions and living. Very few make the connection,
because each new challenge from the church and pulpit adds another layer of
activity to their already-overcrowded lives.21

So busyness battles against the practice of private spiritual disciplines on both

fronts. It can infect believers regardless of the environment they find themselves in:

home, office, and the church. Deep communion with God will always be challenged with

21
Reggie McNeal, A Work of Heart (San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 2000), 142.
14
one’s allegiance to activities that fight against it. Yet, busyness is only one contributor to

why Christians fail to practice private spiritual disciplines.

Ignorance

Another contributor to why Christians find it hard to exercise private spiritual

disciplines is because of ignorance.22 There are many believers who simply do not know

how or why a person should exercise private spiritual disciplines. If one lacks knowledge

in the area of private spiritual disciplines, it would also mean that his desire to exercise

them would be lacking as well. The problem of ignorance is really a manifestation of

tyranny. However, unlike other forms of tyranny, the tyranny of ignorance is one that is

brought about from within.

Again, de Tocqueville made a startling connection when he wrote, “Life there

[in America] is passed in the midst of movement and commotion, and men there are so

busy acting that little time is left to them for thinking.” 23 This tyranny of non-thinking is

usually unnoticed and brought on very slowly, but the truth is that there has been a

progressive deterioration of the American mind and Christians have not been exempt

from this problem. While meaningless activity is an issue, the problem of ignorance may

very well be more alarming for the Christian who fails to exercise private spiritual

disciplines.

22
This is not meant to be degrading or to insult the intelligence of any given
person. Rather, it is meant to communicate the general lack of knowledge that many have
concerning private spiritual disciplines.
23
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, trans. Stephen D. Grant
(Endianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 2000), 294.
15
The Loss of the Mind

Herry Blamires submits that the “Christian mind has succumbed to the secular

drift with a degree of weakness unmatched in Christian History.” 24 The Evangelical mind

has been brainwashed to believe that the mind is useless unless it is beneficial to one’s

experience or pleasure. According to J.P. Moreland, “the contemporary Christian mind is

starved, and as a result we have small, impoverished souls.”25 This argument is not

presented here to show that all Christians are idiots. That is not true. However, if the

Christian community continues to believe that ignorance is the highest end of all

education, in all fields of learning, idiocy is not far behind. However, the problem is more

complex than what one may think.

It is well known that in today’s information age knowledge of any given topic

is only one Google search away. With the click of a button one can be exposed to more

knowledge over any given topic than ever imaginable. Nancy Gibbs, writing on this

phenomenon, quotes James Trunzo as saying, “We are inundated with information. The

mind can’t handle it all. The pace is so fast now, I sometimes feel like a gunfighter

dodging bullets.”26 It is not a wonder why ignorance has plagued the Christian

community. The ability to access such incredible amounts of information over virtually

everything has led to disparity over knowing anything. Thinking well has become

pragmatic. It is only useful in the moments of immediate necessity and has value only in

regard to how beneficial it is to one’s experience.27 The problem of ignorance is


24
Henry Blamires, The Christian Mind (London: SPCK, 1963), 3.
25
J.P. Moreland, Love Your God With All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the
Life of the Soul (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1997), 80.
26
Nancy Gibbs, "How America Has Run Out of Time," Time magazine, April
24, 1989.
27
William James, Pragmatism (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company,
1981), 29.
16
fundamentally an issue of one’s attitude towards learning and his motivations for

accessing theavailable information.

A lack of resources is not the issue. There is a wealth of information

concerning private spiritual disciplines in Scripture alone. Add to that the abundance of

audio resources, videos, books, conferences, and educational courses over private

spiritual disciplines and one has more than enough content to be able to properly

understand and exercise rigorous piety. So if limited resources are not the problem, what

is? Perhaps exploring the problem of ignorance as a spiritual dilemma will shed some

light on how serious it really is.

The Christian Mind Under Attack

The problem of ignorance is closely connected to the problem of busyness. The

issue lies in the battle that rages between worldliness and holiness. Christians are required

to be conversant with an overwhelming amount of information because they have

committed themselves to a tremendous amount of activity. While commitment to activity

is not bad, in and of itself, when those commitments hinder one from the pursuit of God

they have stolen opportunities for one to enjoy activities that will. Likewise, the pursuit

of knowledge in those areas of hindrance will also take away from the pursuit of

knowledge regarding the things of God. As Francis Schaeffer put it, the particulars will

begin to eat up the universals. Nature will eat up grace. The temporary will eat up the

eternal.28 Before one knows it, the way reality was once seen will suddenly be reversed

and, eventually, this paradigm shift will lead to despair.

Ignorance eliminates the time that is needed to learn the things that are truly

worth knowing. The God of techno-driven information through outlets such as the
28
These descriptions are borrowed from Schaeffer’s "upper story" and "lower
story" concept. Francis A. Schaeffer, The Francis A. Schaeffer Trilogy: The Three
Essential Books in One Volume (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1990), 215.
17
internet has led to a drought of truly meaningful information. What is needed to reverse

these trends? Joe Carter writes, “by unplugging the god of Technology you might find

something new in the pause – a still small voice sharing the information that truly

matters.”29 Sadly, this pause has been all together absent in the lives of most believers and

the result has been an unrestricted devotion to information that distracts from one from

Christ and weakens the mind.

The Apostle Paul pleaded against this type of devotion in Romans 12 when he

said that Christians should not “be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the

renewal of their mind,”30 that by testing they might discern what the will of God is. The

tension that one feels between fulfilling his own desires in contrast to fulfilling the

desires of God is described in the Bible as spiritual warfare. It is a serious battle that is

not easily won. Consistent devotion to God, especially when it comes to the mind, is a

constant struggle between the flesh and spirit. It is a spiritual battle on an earthly

battleground and should be recognized as such.

Paul understood the battle that rages between worldliness and holiness. In

Ephesians 6 he described it as a spiritual battle that required spiritual weaponry. It was

not a war against flesh and blood, but against the “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly

places.” (Ephesians 6:12) However, many Christians no longer subscribe to that theory.

Consequently, their minds no longer function as distinctively Christian. Instead, their

minds have become conformed to the pattern of this world. Author J.P. Moreland explains

that this conformity has led to what psychologists describe as the empty self which “is

constituted by a set of values, motives, and habits of thought, feeling, and behavior that
29
Joe Carter, "Info-techno Sabbath: Unplugging The God Of Information
Technology," Boundless, September 27, 2007,
http://www.boundless.org/2005/articles/a0001584.cfm/ (accessed March 18, 2009).
30
Romans 12:2 Emphases Added.
18
perverts and eliminates the life of the mind and makes maturation in the way of Christ

extremely difficult.”31 Such a condition needs to be addressed because to dismiss the

problem of ignorance as unimportant or unspiritual is to embrace carnal Christianity and

unfruitful ministry. The problem of ignorance must be taken for what it is. It is not just

laziness. It goes deeper than that. It is a serious sin that has disastrous consequences.

Implications of Ignorance

This mindset of ignorance is running rampant among believers today and it has

resulted in moral bankruptcy and intellectual suicide. Mark Noll calls it a scandal.32

Relativism has become commonplace because there is no knowledge of truth.33 In today’s

climate, to be an intellectual is to be socially awkward and to have convictions built on

propositions is to be unfairly prejudicial. As Dallas Willard explains, “the fashion of the

age has identified mental sharpness with a pose, not with genuine intellectual method and

character."34 It is now common for one to view the skeptical mind as the true voice of

reason while the person of faith is seen as clinging to fairytales. This has not always been

true historically and may be part of the reason why the practice of private spiritual

disciplines has been neglected by so many believers. Faith is no longer seen as

intellectually honest and so for one to grow spiritually means that he must check his mind

in at the door.
31
This results in a mind that is individualistic, infantile, narcissistic, passive,
sensate, hurried and busy, and void of any interior development. Moreland’s explanation
of these characteristics shows in detail how the epidemic of the "empty self" has plagued
many Christians today. J.P. Moreland, Love Your God With All Your Mind: The Role of
Reason in the Life of the Soul (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1997), 88.
32
Mark Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,
1994), 3.
33
Os Guinness, Fit Bodies, Fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don't Think and
What to do About It (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994), 9.
34
Dallas Willard, In Search Of Guidance: Developing a Conversational
Relationship with God (San Francisco: HarperCollins Publishers, 1993), 235.
19
It is important to consider the concept of intellectual suicide in the context of

private spiritual disciplines because those disciplines hinge on one’s knowledge of God.

When Christians sacrifice true knowledge of God for pragmatic methods of soothing their

infantile theology and half baked worldview, the consequences are disastrous. For

example, the development of a well reasoned and theologically sound understanding of

the Christian religion would suddenly be seen as foolish and dogmatic, being stupid

would become cool, and learned ignorance would become the ultimate end of all

education.

Such ends may not be a present reality in today’s age but it is only a matter of

time before the ignorance of the day leads to widespread idiocy. Herbert Schlossberg’s

words ring true, “Christians must avoid the intellectual flabbiness of the larger society.

They must rally against the prevailing distrust of reason and the exaltation of the

irrational.”35 Ignorance is a deadly weapon in the hand of the enemy and it must be fought

against with all of the strength one has available to him. If believers fail to think in a way

that is distinctively Christian, who will be there to save the world from her awaiting

despair? If the Christian community does not wake up to the fact that their minds are

shrinking along with the rest of the culture, all hope is lost.

The Loss of the Eternal Perspective

Akin to the problem of ignorance is the refusal of Christians to think in terms

of the eternal. The Christian belief in eternity is one of the most important of all orthodox

convictions.36 Concerning matters of eternity, it is important for the Christian to maintain

a proper balance in his or her life. According to an orthodox Christian worldview, the

35
Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction (Nashville: Nelson, 1983), 322.
36
Mark A. Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994), 34.
20
eternal should always inform the temporary. The supernatural should always inform the

natural. To reverse the two or to cling wholeheartedly to only one will result in a

Christian mind that views reality wrongly.

For example, if one only focused on eternity, he might feel led to increase his

level of ignorance because “this world is not his home” and he is “just passing through;”

thus there is no real need to accumulate knowledge regarding things of this world because

his true home is in heaven. On the other hand, if one adopted a mentality that saw all of

life’s necessary knowledge as pertaining only to the immediate, he would fall into a

naturalistic philosophy and, subsequently, would lose sight of the fact that the creation

was made by an intelligent, personal, creator. He would fall into the fallacious thinking

that the temporary is all that is needed for an accurate understanding of the world.

The refusal by Christians to think in terms of the eternal will lead, and indeed

has led, to an absence of distinctively Christian thinking.37 Christian thinking needs both

a view of the eternal and of the temporal because a view of the eternal and supernatural

helps one to understand that which is temporal and natural. The eternal must inform the

temporal. The supernatural must inform the natural. The problem of ignorance is really

due to a reversal of the binaries. The temporal has become more important than the

eternal and, at times, the eternal has lead to a reckless abandon of the temporal.

“To accept life in this world as a gift from God, to live as though a deeper

understanding of existence leads to a deeper understanding of God, requires dedicated

and persistent thought, even as it requires dedicated and persistent spiritual vitality.”38 An

imbalanced worldview will open the flood gates to viewing God and his creation in a way

37
Ibid.
38
Mark A. Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994), 35.
21
that it was never intended to be looked at. Every mind is a slave to its worldview. The

Christian should be enslaved to a worldview that views the temporal through the lens of

the eternal. Any other worldview will rot the mind, misrepresent reality, and, as the

following will show, it will pave the way for sin and guilt to trap one in the jail of their

wrongheadedness.

Sin and Guilt

Sin and guilt may seem like a catch all category, but it is a necessary one. Sin

has separated man from God ever since the fall of Adam. “Shame makes us want to reject

ourselves, feel as if God has rejected us, and fear the rejection of other godly people.”39

Most believers would say that they struggle with sin in various areas of their life.

According to Jesus, the source of sin is in the heart. (Matthew 15:19) Therefore, the

effects are pervasive. Sin can be found in one’s thoughts, actions, desires, and

motivations. For some men it may be lust or gluttony while for others it may be pride or

self-righteousness. Some women struggle with backbiting and gossiping while others

constantly fall into anxiety and selfishness.

Most sin, when seen for what it is, leaves a believer with a feeling of guilt and

shame. Pastor John MacArthur sees sin as the one and only cause of a guilty conscience.

“True guilt has only one cause, and that is sin. Until sin is dealt with, the conscience will

fight to accuse.”40 Just as Adam and Eve hid from God in the Garden of Eden because

they were ashamed of their nakedness, one will often resist the prayer closet because of

the shame he feels from his unconfessed sin. Such a condition will spiritually starve a

person. In the words of Matthew Henry, unconfessed sins have the power to “engross the
39
C.J Mahaney and John Loftness, Disciplines for Life: Steps to Spiritual
Strength (Gaithersburg: Sovereign Grace Ministries, 1992), 61.
40
John MacArthur, The Vanishing Conscience (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1994),
91.
22
whole soul, as they are apt enough to do insensibly, so that there is neither the time nor

heart for the evening devotions, either in private, or with the family.”41 The power of sin

is rooted deep within the soul and the effects of it damage the totality of one’s being.

Persistent sin also has an effect on one’s self-image. This has been most clearly

illustrated by C.S. Lewis when he described the human reaction to the moral law. Lewis

asserts that the less sin one has the more apt he is to see himself as a sinner. The more sin

one has the more apt he is to seeing himself as basically good. Explaining this he writes,

“When a man is getting better he understands more and more clearly the evil that is left in

him. When a man is getting worse he understands his badness less and less. A moderately

bad man knows he is not very good: a thoroughly bad man thinks he is all right.”42 The

latter is basically what it means for one to be “worldly” minded.

David Wells defines worldliness as at a system of values which has at its center

“our fallen human perspective, which displaces God and his truth from the world, and

which makes sin look normal and righteousness seem strange. It thus gives great

plausibility to what is morally wrong and makes what is wrong seem normal.”43 Wells

attributes this mentality to modernism and says that such thinking has jeopardized the

Christian’s view of God. Well’s also submits that if the Christian community is to be

revived it must recover its understanding of God’s moral nature and his divine

providence. “Without this recovery, evangelical faith would lose – if it has not already

lost – its moral pungency and its spiritual authenticity.”44


41
Matthew Henry, Experiencing God's Presence (New Kensington: Whitaker
House, 1997), 132.
42
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1980),
93.
43
David F. Wells, Losing Our Virtue: Why the Church Must Recover its Moral
Vision (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998), 4.
44
Ibid.
23
Well’s wrote those words in 1998. Such advice should be heeded now more

than ever because the redefining of sin has slowly but successfully permeated the

Christian culture and, as Well’s would say, the Church has lost her moral pungency. The

Christian community has marginalized itself and consequently it has withdrawn its divine

authority for the sake of cultural relevancy. Unfortunately, both parties, the culture and

the Church, have lost their vision of biblical morality. Author Os Guinness describes the

condition of a culture which has lost its vision of morality with the following words:

“Each transgression serves as the permission and the dare to press on to the next. The

result is an entire society following the addict’s piecemeal slide into bondage and a

civilization’s descent into decay.”45 Modern man has redefined sin and the results of such

ignorance can be seen everywhere one looks.

Sin Redefined

Active participation in sin is not always the source of what keeps one from

practicing private spiritual disciplines. Sometimes one’s involvement with sin takes on a

more passive role that is closely integrated with the category of ignorance. There are

many who feel the effects of sin and guilt without even acknowledging it because sin has

been redefined to mean something completely different than what it represents in

Scripture.

The theology of sin has been repacked in a way so that it will placate the guilty

conscience and accommodate casual Christianity. In this way, ignorance and sin work

together to prevent one from exercising private spiritual disciplines. However, it is

extremely illogical to say that sin is not a serious issue. To redefine sin as unspiritual or

45
Os Guinness, Unspeakable: Facing Up to the Challenge of Evil (New York:
HarperCollins Publishers, 2006), 104.
24
as morally irrelevant is quite absurd. Author G.K. Chesterton explained the attempts of

modern theologians to redefine sin with the following words:

If it be true (as it certainly is) that a man can feel exquisite happiness in skinning a
cat, then the religious philosopher can only draw one of two deductions. He must
either deny the existence of God, as all atheists do; or he must deny the present
union between God and man, as all Christians do. The new theologians seem to
think it a highly rationalistic solution to deny the cat.46

Regardless of how illogical it may seem, sin is no longer seen as a spiritual

issue. It is not separation from God. Christians, instead of treating the source of sin only

mask its consequences with psychotherapy and pharmaceuticals. This is not to say that

medicines and therapy are unnecessary. However, such methods do need to be

reevaluated when they are the primary means of addressing sin because the concept of sin

as a spiritual issue is all of a sudden uncomfortable and unpopular. Dr. Henry Brandt

describes that this shift in thinking by Christians was made after modern science had

already abandoned the idea. “[When] psychologists were becoming distrustful of the

sickness approach to personality disturbances and were beginning to look more favorably

at moral and religious precepts, clergymen were getting caught up and bedazzled by it.”47

In other words, just when the medical field began to distrust their medicines to

treat sin, the Christian community adopted those same failed policies because sin as a

spiritual issue was no longer popular. Sin as a moral issue was seen by the Church as

culturally taboo and therefore they sacrificed an orthodox understanding of sin in order to

be culturally relevant. Seeing sin from this viewpoint not only shows up at a grassroots

level but it is also present in the scholastic community. Unfortunately, when Christian

46
Chesterton, G.K, Orthodoxy, ed. Craig M. Kibler (Lenoir: Reformation Press,
2002), 33.
47
Henry R. Brandt and Kerry L. Skinner, Breaking Free From the Bondage of
SIn (Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 1994), 92.
25
theologians adopt this view of sin, it makes the impact of “redefined sin” even more

damaging.

Christof Gestrich submits that “human sin cannot possibly be a necessary part

of human self-realization in freedom, dignity, and love. If human identity involves such

self-realization, sin at any rate is not found along its path, but blocks its path.”48

Statements like these, from theologians like Gestrich, serve as a cesspool for the type of

liberal theology that glorifies man-centered righteousness and discourages Christian

humility. Sin is a sickness. However, it is a sickness that can only ultimately be cured

through God’s grace.

Gestrich’s worldview conflicts with Christian orthodoxy because it is rooted in

naturalism and evolutionary theory. Sadly, he is not alone in his convictions. One’s

feelings of guilt, according to Freud, should be attributed to the Oedipus Complex, not

rebellion against God.49 Voltaire violently rejected the doctrine of original sin.50 Thinkers

such as Locke51 and Rousseau52 saw the human condition as naturally good. None of

these men had an accurate understanding of sin and yet their ideas have infected a large

number of believers today. “The sad news is, the word ‘sin’ has nearly disappeared.”53
48
Christof Gestrich, The Return of Splendor in the World: The Christian
Doctrine of Sin and Forgiveness (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997),
59.
49
Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents (New York: W.W. Norton &
Company, 1961), 93.
50
Malcolm Hay, The Prejudices of Pascal (Great Britain: Aberdeen University
Press, 1962), 97.
51
John Locke, Second Treatise of Government (Indianapolis: Hackett
Publishing Company, 1989), 8.
52
Colin Brown, Philosophy and the Christian Faith (Downers Grove:
InterVarsity Press, 1968), 81.
53
Henry R. Brandt and Kerry L. Skinner, Breaking Free From the Bondage of
SIn (Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 1994), 98.
26
The even sadder news is that the consequences of sin are still present and just ignored.

Modern man will pay the price. Eliminating the word sin from the human vocabulary will

not change the nature of sin, nor will it cure the condition of the human heart. As Stanton

Norman writes, “We deceive ourselves if we believe that we can either minimize or

eliminate the reality of sin simply by ignoring it or changing its name. Redefinitions or

misunderstandings about sin do not lessen our accountability.”54 In fact, such efforts

could themselves be considered sinful.

In today’s ethical environment there are no moral absolutes. Restraints on

human behavior are seen as oppressive and prejudicial. Who is anyone to claim a

certainty of right and wrong? The culture of today could be summarized with those

famous words in book of Judges: “everyone does what is right in their own eyes.”

Because of this mentality, sin has all the more power over believers because they fail to

see it for what it really is.

To challenge an idea or person as being sinful generalizes a person as an

intolerant fundamentalist. As Dennis McCallum illustrates, “The grossest possible sins

one could commit in the religious arena are showing intolerance and claiming

objectivity… Those who think they are objective are naïve, and dangerous.”55 Sin can no

longer be objective because that would give sin a point of reference. In a relativistic

society there can be no point of reference: only flux, only uncertainty.

O.S Hawkins explains the consequences of such thinking by writing these

words. “In this anything-goes day of ethical relativism, resisting temptation seems to

require a kind of moral fortitude that is not only practically unheard of, it is certainly
54
R. Stanton Norman, "Human Sinfulness," in A Theology for the Church, ed.
Akin, Danny (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Academic, 2007), 410.
55
Dennis McCallum, The Death of Truth (Minneapolis: Bethany House
Publishers, 1996), 200.
27
unaspired to. We can excuse almost anything and everything.”56 This kind of climate

leaves little room for the practice of private spiritual disciplines. If there is no need for

fellowship and communion with one’s creator, there is likewise no need for a person to

involve himself with the practices that will increase the effectiveness of such a

relationship.

Proposing a Solution

Given the many fronts that fight against one’s desire and ability to practice

private spiritual disciplines, the thought of a vibrant personal relationship with Christ

looks very dim. Busyness removes all forms of leisure: whether physical, mental, or

spiritual.57 Overly stimulated minds will often retreat down a path of ignorance instead of

filtering information for the meaningful and significant. They will turn to diversion rather

than devotion. In addition to busyness and ignorance, sin and guilt join forces in order to

compromise a believer’s relationship with God and to blind believers from the

implications of human sinfulness.

The reader may notice, while it is easy for one to point out the problems,

solutions are not always so common-place. Complainers are seldom changers. Yet change

is what is so desperately needed in stimulating the vitality of private spiritual disciplines

in the lives of believers. In order to present a discourse on how this change might present

itself, the reader should recognize the positive element to each category. In short, the

solution to every category is not necessarily a change in activity or content but rather a

shift in one’s affections and thinking. The solution rests in a believer’s ability to think and

56
O.S Hawkins, Moral Earthquakes and Secret Faults: Protecting Yourself
From Minor Moral Lapses That Lead to Major Disaster (Dallas: Annuity Board of the
Southern Baptist Convention, 1996), 42.
57
Pieper Josef, Leisure: The Basis of Culture (Indianapolis: Pantheon Books,
1952), 48.
28
act Christianly. It is contingent on a Christian’s decision to see God, himself, and his

world as it truly is and to think and act in such a way that his affections are properly

aligned. To explain this idea, the following will illustrate how each category possesses an

element that one can use to realign his affections. Essentially, it will explore how what

was once a hindrance to exercising private spiritual disciplines can be redeemed so that it

serves as catalyst to growing in grace.

Busyness

For example, there is a positive element to busyness. Busy people are

committed people. They do not have a problem with laziness necessarily. In fact, most

people stay active in order to prevent the feeling of monotony. Richard Winter explains,

“We are not made for monotony. Even rats in a maze will try to escape monotony by

taking different routes to the food. Working for long hours at a repetitive task often

produces dissatisfaction and inefficiency.”58 A lack of commitment is not the issue.

However, if commitment and laziness are not the problem, what is? It has already been

argued above that the type of activity one is involved in could be problematic. However,

a simple change in activity will not remedy the situation. Solving the problem of

busyness runs much deeper than changing one’s activities. The solution is a change in

one’s affections for activity.

Since the solution to busyness may take some effort to unpack, an illustration

from Chesterton will be helpful. He writes, “In truth, the chief mark of our epoch is a

profound laziness and fatigue; and the fact is that the real laziness is the cause of the

apparent bustle.”59 Chesterton shows his genius by taking the idea of busyness as
58
Richard Winter, Still Bored in a Culture of Entertainment: Rediscovering
Passion and Wonder (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 19.
59
G.K. Ghesterton, Orthodoxy, ed. Craig M. Kibler (Lenoir: Reformation Press,
2002), 183.
29
progress and reversing it. He sees senseless actively merely as unnecessary commotion

that is fueled by laziness. Chesterton presents busyness not as a balancing act of all things

available but, rather, as the absurdity of such efforts. The problem of busyness is not

necessarily a problem of participating in too many activities per say. It is a problem of

participating in too many pointless activities. The problem of busyness manifests itself

most clearly when one searches for meaning in activity that is meaningless.

Pascal also explored the theme of senseless activity in one of his Pensees on

distraction. “All of our life passes in this way: we seek rest by struggling against certain

obstacles, and once they are overcome, rest proves intolerable because of the boredom it

produces. We must get away from it and crave excitement.”60 Peter Kreeft, commenting

on this Pensees writes, “Even the rich and powerful need diversion – especially they –

which proves that even they – especially they – are unhappy.”61

Many Christians over commit themselves because of the belief that

commitment is synonymous with productivity. Likewise, there is a notion that any type of

accomplishment will inevitably result in happiness. It does not. Often times, one’s

commitment to activity for activity’s sake is the antithesis of what is required for

worthwhile accomplishments. Additionally, those achievements could drive one towards

insanity, not happiness. For example, the man who works long hours to provide for his

family may do so because he wants the best for his family. However, his absence from the

home fights against the very thing that he is working for: namely, the comfort of his

family. Thus, when his family begins to complain about his absence from the home, the

father hears those whom he is providing for complaining about his providence. In reality,

60
Blaise Pascal, Christianity for Modern Pagans, ed. Peter Kreeft (San
Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), 177.
61
Ibid.
30
though he is willing and able to accomplish what he has set out to do, doing so has led

him to insanity and not happiness.

Changing Affections

However true this may be, there is hope to be found in the fact that the problem

does not lie in one’s level of commitment. Most believers are very committed to

something. Therefore, if the problem does not lie in one’s level of commitment, it must

lie in the object of his affections. Augustine said that “God can be understood by the

things He made. It is the love of things made, instead of the Maker, that makes us subject

to the world.”62 There is nothing wrong with involving oneself with the activities of life

because much of God can be understood by what He has made. However, when a

person’s affections are found only in the things that God has made instead of in Him there

will remain a sense of restlessness and longing in his heart. The heart naturally longs for

its maker; thus too deprive oneself of the affections that will satisfy that longing will

leave the soul craving for something deeper than casual leisure.

This may sound grim but the problem of busyness is actually an easy one to

address. If it is true that one’s affections for activity are rooted in the idea that activity

will alleviate boredom, increase productivity, and lead to happiness there is not much that

needs to be changed. Theoretically speaking, all that needs to be changed is the object of

one’s affections. If one were to replace his desire for activity with a desire for God there

would be a dramatic shift in all three areas: boredom, productivity, and happiness. The

chief end of all activity would be to find God in the midst of any and all things that are

done during the day.

Additionally, the use of private spiritual disciplines would be seen as essential:

not auxiliary. Take, as an example, boredom. When one places his affections in God
62
Augustine, Confessions (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2005), 142.
31
instead of activity, it will alleviate boredom. The reason that affections for God alleviate

boredom is because all of life, when it is under the lordship of Christ, is an area to

experience the wonder of God. If one is totally captivated by God, regardless of the

environment, boredom will be eliminated. Both stillness and activity would serve as

opportunities to worship. In fact, quiet moments of solitude would take on much more

meaning when seen in this light. Boredom would be replaced with gratitude and

distraction would be replaced with awe.

Affections for God instead of activity would also increase productivity. When

all of life’s activities are filtered through the grid of whether or not it will glorify God,

projects would be chosen more wisely, worked on more diligently, and finished with

more integrity. Private spiritual disciplines would become integral to all of these areas

because one’s work would be directly connected to one’s communion with God. To put it

another way, given the proper affections, man will be able to find God in his work.

This fact alone would raise the standard of excellence in every area of life:

home, work, and leisure. Better than that, it would remove the common split that people

make between what is sacred and what is secular. Proper affections for God in the midst

of every activity would mean that there is no such thing as a “secular” job. All activity

would fall under the Lordship of Christ and would be sought after so that the glory of

God might be experienced in one’s daily activity.

Lastly, placing all of one’s affections in God is the only thing that will give a

person a true sense of happiness. When one places all of his affections in the concept of

activity for activity’s sake, he will find his happiness in things that are fleeting. There is

always one more dollar to earn, one more repair to make, and one more season to watch.

At the moment happiness is felt, one has no time to enjoy it because there is a new race to
32
be run. There is a new rabbit to chase. On and on it goes until the futility of life is finally

realized.

Unlike affections for activity, affections for God place happiness in joy that is

everlasting. Private spiritual disciplines are not seen as obligations to sooth a needy God.

They are seen as springboards to better submerse oneself in the joy of the Lord. Every

activity, regardless of its importance, becomes an opportunity to experience God. Richard

Winter writes, “The test of our spirituality is neither in our best clothes nor in our

religious settings but in our response to the everyday and the unavoidable.” 63 Every

moment, activity, and desire of life, when experienced in the context of one’s affections

for God, can be a source of joy. So, the abundance of activity may never change in the

life of a believer. However, his philosophy of life can be dramatically different. Activity

and commitment may remain unchanged but “the ends” of all activity can be

exhaustively satisfied when they are rooted in love for God.

Ignorance

In the same way that there is a positive element to busyness, there is also an

upside to ignorance. Ignorant people are not incompetent; just unenlightened. Just

because most believers suffer from information overload does not mean that they are

unable to exercise their minds intellectually. The problem does not lie in the believer’s

inability to think; it lies in his lack of desire to think christianly.

So much of the Christian mind is devoted to worldly things. Not all worldly

things are bad or sinful, they are just worldly. They just make one more worldly minded

and less heavenly minded. They put the mind in a state of allegiance to the immediate and

urgent rather than the eternal and essential. The world has created a machine which draws

63
Richard Winter, Still Bored in a Culture of Entertainment: Rediscovering
Passion and Wonder (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 135.
33
men into its hum and distracts them from reality. As author Harry Blamires put it,

“Servitude to the machine is a mark of contemporary worldliness, and as such is a

challenge to the Christian mind.”64 The hum of worldly thinking entices the masses and

thus makes it even more dangerous to the Christian mind.

Therefore, such leanings must be avoided. Dedication to the machine has

catastrophic consequences. It leads to a type of thinking and doing that is oblivious to the

prospect of the eternal. It filters out one’s devotions so that he only thinks about what can

be seen in his immediate surroundings. “To function in a machine is to function sub-

humanly – to act in a preordained, automatic pattern which precludes the exercise of

purpose, creativeness, choice, and reason.” 65 One of the ways in which a person can free

himself from the mechanical thinking of the age, which carelessly devotes itself to the

status quo, is found in the discipline of thinking in a way that is distinctively Christian.

However, this also requires that one properly align his affections.

A Theology of Christian Thinking

The Apostle Paul told the Corinthians to “take every thought captive to obey

Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5) Ignorance, as it is seen in preventing one from practicing

private spiritual disciplines, will be eliminated when one begins to see how his thinking is

directly proportional to his spiritual well being. There is not a split between what one

does and what one thinks. Further, just as activity and busyness can be redeemed by

placing it under the lordship of Christ, one can also learnlove God with the totality of his

mind by thinking thoughts that have been redeemed and informed by Scripture. Author

Gene Veith writes, “Scripture brings all intellectual activity under the Lordship of Christ.
64
Harry Blamires, The Christian Mind: How Should a Christian Think?
(Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, 2005), 156.
65
Harry Blamires, The Christian Mind: How Should a Christian Think?
(Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, 2005), 165.
34
‘Every thought’ – that includes everything from mathematical abstractions to the fantasies

of the imagination – is claimed by Jesus Christ.”66 The Christian mind should always

outthink the unbelieving mind because only the Christian mind thinks from the realm of

ultimate reality. All truth is evaluated by the embodiment of truth, Jesus Christ.

“For the Christian, the mind is important because God is important.”67 It is God

who created everything that can be seen. God made possible the development of science.

He is the one who gave mankind the mind that was needed to understand the

complexities of nature, human relationships, beauty, and philosophy. As Mark Noll

summarizes, “Who, moment by moment, maintains the connections between what is in

our minds and what is in the world beyond our minds? The answer, in every case, is the

same. God did it, and God does it.”68 The mind must be reclaimed but it needs

redemption that is wholistic.

There are no off limit areas for the Christian intellectual. Christianity embraces

all of the complexities that are required for true learning. Again, Noll summarizes,

“Christianity gives a conceptual foundation for creativity, comprehensiveness, and

mystery, so that the pursuit of all truth can be energized by the love of God.”69 So while

ignorance may be a major contributor to the lack of private spiritual disciplines being

exercised by believers, it is not an unsolvable problem. The answer is to encourage

intellectual activity that is rooted in a deep love for God.

66
Gene Edward Veith, Loving God With All Your Mind: How to Survive and
Prosper as a Christian in the Secular University and Post-Christian Culture
(Westchester: Crossway Books, 1987), 88.
67
Mark A. Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994), 51.
68
Ibid.
69
Ibid., Pg. 11.
35
It has been said that if one will make learning fun it will increase the number

of people who participate in it. However, if one will make learning a form or worship, not

only will there be a numerical increase, there will be an increase in joy for the persons

who participate in such learning. The command to love God with one’s mind was not

given to weigh one down in his educational pursuits; it was given to increase his joy in

God while loving him with his totality of his intellect.

Implications of Christian Thinking

This spans across every field of learning. Christian thinking encompasses the

arts, the sciences, philosophy, anthropology, linguistics, geography, history, geology,

oceanography, and every other intellectual discipline. Dedication to God and his Word

does not mean disengagement from learning about earthly matters. Rather, dedication to

God, for the Christian mind, will give all types learning a new source of energy and life.

Why? Because the end goal one has for exercising his mind will be in knowing God truly

and experiencing him fully; regardless the intellectual discipline one finds himself

involved in. Thinking Christianly does not replace thinking, nor does it limit the fields of

learning. It makes all learning rich, fruitful, and a source of joy.70

Jonathan Edwards would be a good example of someone who had properly

aligned affections and distinctively Christian thinking. His affections for God not only

influenced his activities but also his thinking.71 Edwards illustrated that if every thought

was weighed with the glory that it brought to God then it would result with a shift in

one’s thinking. Edwards held that nature should not be studied because nature is a good in
70
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1980),
83.
71
Wainwright gives a detailed explanation of how Edwards balanced the heart
and mind that space will not allow for here. William J. Wainwright, Reason and the
Heart: A Prolegomenon to a Critique of Passional Reason (London: Cornell University
Press, 1995), 53.
36
and of itself. Rather, nature should be studied because it points to a creator who is good in

and of himself. One can derive maximum joy from studying nature if his affections are

directed towards and rooted in God. The location of one’s affections will determine one’s

motivations.

In his hallmark Religious Affections Jonathan Edwards wrote, “We see the

world of mankind to be exceedingly busy and active; and the affections of men are the

springs of the motion.”72 If the Christian’s affections are exercised in such a way that God

is not the fountain head of all that can be known, his pursuits in learning and education

will be severely truncated. The mind will be deprived of seeing God’s glory in creation.

The mind will be blinded from what it was made to search for. As Mark Noll said, “It is

not simply advantageous to love the Lord with the mind; it is also good, sweet, holy,

beautiful, and honoring to God. The last reward to be had from the exercise of a Christian

mind is to know God better, and that reward requires no other justification.”73

Noll also believed that Jonathan Edwards was one who thought in a way that

was distinctively Christian. Noll writes that Edwards “held strenuously to the conviction

that God’s action was the basis for human reaction in every area of life…Edwards’s

theories of knowledge all presupposed the foundational activity of God.”74 Christian’s

with that foundation will be able to properly align their affections and harvest a sound

mind. However, a refusal to think of the world in this way will result in a reversal of the

binaries. And, as it was mentioned earlier, nature will eventually eat up grace.

72
Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections (Carlisle: The Banner of Truth
Trust, 1997), 30.
73
Mark A. Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994), 80.
74
Ibid.
37
Going further, private spiritual disciplines are crucial in the area of the

intellect. Christian thinking encompasses every field of learning but it is one’s private

spiritual disciplines that take knowledge out of the realm of academia and place it in the

realm of Christian practice. The Christian mind, when harvested correctly, will be very

well informed. It will not be ignorant. The Christian mind will likewise not be

complacent with just possessing knowledge. It will be responsible to act. As Harry

Blamires describes it, “The Christian mind is the prerequisite of Christian thinking. And

Christian thinking is the prerequisite of Christian action.”75

A Wholistic Approach to the Disciplines

Private spiritual disciplines serve as a catalyst to join these two forces. They

battle ignorance on both fronts. Learning becomes dynamic. For example, reading

Scripture makes one a knower truth. As Harry Blamires illustrates, “Secularism asserts

the opinionated self as the only judge of truth. Christianity imposes the given divine

revelation as the final touchstone of truth.”76 So not only is truth known but it is believed

to be trustworthy. As Chesterton wrote, “A man was meant to be doubtful about himself,

but undoubting about the truth”77 Spiritual disciplines help to establish one in the truth so

that he can stand confident in his convictions.

Spiritual disciplines also make one a doer of the truth.78 Christians who have

committed themselves to private spiritual disciplines cannot hide behind the dichotomy

of knowing but not doing. The two are unified. Just as faith without works is dead,
75
Harry Blamires, The Christian Mind: How Should a Christian Think?
(Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, 2005), 43.
76
Ibid., Pg 107.
77
Chesterton, Gilbert K, Orthodoxy, ed. Craig M. Kibler (Lenoir: Reformation
Press, 2002), 56.
78
James 1:22-25
38
orthodoxy without orthopraxy is a wrongheaded way of living out the Christian faith. For

one to live and think as distinctively Christian there must be a unification of the two.

Faith and works go together.

For believers, there is a unity of “knowing-doing, believing-obeying,

orthodoxy-orthopraxy, theory-practice… Christian intellectuals are those whose

intellectual lives are lived to the glory of God. They will do what they claim to know.”79

Thinking Christianly will release one from a state of ignorance and stimulate learning

that positively influences both the mind and the will. However, this is only possible when

one filters all of his thinking through the grid of whether or not his thoughts are

glorifying to God.

What is it that God wants from the mind of man? C.S. Lewis asserts that God

“wants a child’s heart but a grow-up’s head…he wants every bit of intelligence we have

to be alert at its job, and in first-class fighting trim.”80 When one desires to love God with

all of his mind, it requires that he think thoughts that begin and end in God because of an

inward hunger to know him as he truly is. Likewise, a well developed Christian mind will

not only know God truly and richly, but will act accordingly.

This is why a Christian worldview is so essential. When a person learns of the

true character of God his affections will change. His thoughts and attitudes will dwell in a

house that is built on convictions instead of ignorance. Christian thinking becomes the

lens by which one views all of life. To see life from this lens means that one will seek to

“take seriously the sovereignty of God over the world he created, the lordship of Christ

over the world he died to redeem, and the power of the Holy Spirit over the world he
79
James W. Sire, Habits of the Mind: Intellectual Life as a Christian Calling
(Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 105.
80
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1980),
77.
39
sustains each and every moment.”81 This type of thinking will then equip one to fight

against the next area of hindrance: sin and guilt.

Sin and Guilt

Sin and guilt, which seem to be most desperate of the all the categories that

have been presented so far, have a positive element to them only because of the merciful

nature of God. As Dr. Henry Brant points out, “The bad news is, there is no human

remedy for sin. The good news is, repentance for sin before God brings instant

cleansing.”82 Christians who struggle with sin or suffer from guilt are not eternally bound

by the chains which bind them. Those chains have been broken by the power of Christ

through forgiveness.

However, for one to experience the joy of this forgiveness he must slay his sin

and guilt with the sword of confession. There is no room for rationalizations, excuses, or

man-centered justifications for one’s sin. Redefining sin will not remove the

consequences of its permeating effect. The solution to sin is found in God’s grace and

forgiveness. And, to receive that grace and forgiveness, there must be confession.

“Confession enables one to come out from underneath the shadow of his sin and walk

freely into the marvelous light of God where all things are made new.”83 It is a beautiful

and liberating concept but it is still one of the most ignored practices in the lives of

believers today.

81
Mark A. Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994), 253.
82
Henry R. Brandt and Kerry L. Skinner, Breaking Free From the Bondage of
SIn (Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 1994), 98.
83
Andy Stanley, It Came From Within: The Shocking Truth of What Lurks In
the Heart (Sisters: Multnomah Publishers, 2006), 126.
40
The words of the apostle John ring as true today just as they did when he first

wrote them. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If

we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all

unrighteousness.” (1 John1:8-9) The apostle John knew that sin was a major factor in

preventing one from growing in grace and that the only hope for deliverance was through

confession. Confession is what it takes to make deep fellowship possible. Confession

alone will free one from the prison of sin. It is a promise from God and one that should be

claimed daily.

However, confession is uncomfortable because it means, first, coming to terms

with one’s sin and, second, losing one’s sense of self-righteousness and pride. C.S. Lewis

describes the process well when he says that “before we can be cured we must want to be

cured. Those who really wish for help will get it; but for many modern people even the

wish is difficult.”84 This is all a result of how one views God. Can one cling to his own

righteousness and measure up to the divine standard? If not, there must be confession.

Confession, in the context of stimulating private spiritual disciplines, works on

two levels. Confession should be offered both to God and to other people. Both are

biblically necessary. Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, said that being reconciled to a

brother takes precedence over bringing one’s gift to the altar.85 Author Richard Foster

writes, “The discipline of confession brings an end to pretense. God is calling into being

a Church that can openly confess its frail humanity and know the forgiving and

empowering graces of Christ.”86


84
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1980),
99.
85
Matthew 5:21-26
86
Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline (San Francisco: Harper and Row,
1988), 157.
41
Why is it that Christians ludicrously avoid the practice of confession? Why do

people of faith resist the very thing that will release them from the prison of sin and guilt?

Any excuse, when placed under the light of the cross, is unsatisfactory. The positive

implications of confession are far too reaching to dismiss as undesirable. Just because the

practice of confession might serve as an insult to one’s pride in no way grants that one

should resist the free grace of God. One must relocate his affections. He must care less

about himself and more about his maker: less about his independence and more about his

need for a Savior.

Implications of Confession

Confession is extremely liberating for the Christian. Confession overcomes

relational barriers, releases one from the feeling of condemnation and guilt, and prevents

pride from ruining one’s fellowship with God. The discipline of confession, though

distasteful to our pride, is necessary. To the extent that God knows about one’s sins, that

person, too, needs to acknowledge. God knows every sin that one has ever committed:

past, present, and future. Thus, for the Christian, anything less than full disclosure is less

than full release.87

The thirty-second Psalm is a perfect picture of this. It opens with images that

describe the disparity felt over unconfessed sin to God. “For when I kept silent, my bones

wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy

upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.”88 This an accurate picture

of what guilt does to one’s soul. However, the Psalmist, after meditating on the

forgiveness available in confession, writes these words, “let everyone who is godly offer

87
J.I. Packer, Growing in Christ (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1994), 192.
88
Psalm 32:3-4
42
prayer to you at a time when you may be found… You are a hiding place for me; you

preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance.”89

King David understood the joy that was available to the person who

maintained a clear conscience before God. He wisely chose the liberty of confession over

the prison of shame. So, while sin and guilt may be the most influential factors in

preventing one from practicing private spiritual disciplines, hope is not lost. Confession

propels one into the joy of experiencing the forgiveness of a merciful God. Just as the law

of aerodynamics overcomes the law of gravity, so the bondage of sin can be overcome by

experiencing freedom in Christ.90

As the Apostle Paul stated in his well known letter to the church at Rome,

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law

of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”

(Romans 8:1-2) Christ has accomplished what was impossible for man. He then imputed

his righteousness to those who believe in him by faith. One’s sins are washed away and

he stands clothed in Christ’s righteousness. One’s identity, if they are a Christian, is found

in the person of Jesus Christ. Again the words of Paul are appropriate as he told the

Galatians “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who

lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)

A failure to exercise confession and receive forgiveness is fundamentally an

inaccurate view of self. It is similar to the inaccurate view that was described concerning

sin. In essence, for a Christian to not avail himself to the grace available in Christ is to

suffer from a severe identity crisis. Unlike Paul, a Christian who does not see himself

89
Psalm 32:6-7
90
Henry R. Brandt and Kerry L. Skinner, Breaking Free From the Bondage of
SIn (Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 1994), 167.
43
clothed in the righteousness of Christ views himself wrongly. Likewise, a Christian who

does not live as though it is Christ living through him, lives antithetical to his new nature.

A denial of Christ is a denial of truth. It is moral relativism on a different playground.

Writing on this connection Dennis McCallum submits that to deny the truth available in

Christ it is the ultimate loss of self.

Compelled to act without a foundation in truth, we are put in a position of not really
knowing why we do what we do, or why we believe what we believe. It’s all a
matter of where and with whom we happen to be at the moment. Consequently, we
lose a sense of who we are – we lose a sense of identity – in a world of equally valid
but dissonant alternatives.91

The loss of self-identity is frightening for any culture. It is most frightening for

the Christian community. For a Christian to not identify himself with the person of Christ

is the saddest form of hypocrisy. Paul warned Timothy of such people saying they would

be men “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power… always learning

and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” (2nd Timothy 3:5-7) Relativism is

not a new problem, but it is still a problem. The loss of truth is the redefining of sin. The

redefinition of sin is the marginalization of confession. For the Christian, especially for

the sake of private spiritual disciplines, this must be avoided by loving the truth,

identifying with Christ, and being faithful in the practice of confession.

Conclusion

The ability for one to exercise private spiritual disciplines is readily available

to each and every believer. No person is too busy, nor are they incompetent. No guilt can

withstand the embrace of a loving heavenly Father. No sin can separate one from the

reconciliation that was made available in Christ for those who believe in him. All that is

needed is a fundamental shift in the way one thinks about God and the world. It requires a

91
Dennis McCallum, The Death of Truth (Minneapolis: Bethany House
Publishers, 1996), 155.
44
shift in how one views progress. It means viewing progress as drawing nearer to the place

one needs to be. As C.S. Lewis reminds his readers, “If you are on the wrong road,

progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case

the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”92

Progress should be evaluated by the level of worship one can experience in his

achievement, not the amount of material gain or worldly pleasure. Decisions should be

made and thinking should be weighed with the glory that it brings to God, not with how

much diversion it creates in the mind of the thinker. Sin should be hated with the same

intensity that God hates sin. It should not be redefined and reestablished so as to confine

with complacent Christianity.

All of these things require fundamental changes in one’s worldview. The

Christian must exist in an environment where he submits every area of his life to the

lordship of Christ and views each and every moment as an opportunity to enjoy God.

Whatever one does should be done for the glory of God. All of life begins and ends in

God. As Calvin so eloquently stated,

We must be convinced not only that he created the world, sustains it by his
boundless power, governs it by his wisdom, keeps it going by his goodness, rules
the human race with justice, puts up with it in his love and shields it with his
protections, but also that there is not an atom of light, wisdom or justice, power,
integrity or truth to be found anywhere but flowing from him and generated by him.
Obviously, then, we must learn to expect everything from him and ask for it,
gratefully acknowledging him as the giver of all we receive. This awareness of
divine perfection is the best way to learn piety from which true religion springs.93

True piety is known and realized in the life of a Christian when he has an

accurate understanding of God; when his view of God has transformed his heart, soul,

92
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1980),
28.
93
Calvin, John, The Institutes of Christian Religion, ed. Tony Lane and Hilary
Osborne (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1987), 25.
45
and mind. Private spiritual disciplines will be exercised correctly when they are seen as

indispensible for Christian living. They will deeply root one in the joy of communing

with God. With those roots in place, leisure will be found in the midst of life’s busiest

moments, knowledge of God will be pursued in every field of education, and the practice

of confession will be welcomed, not avoided.

So, how does one go about obtaining such a worldview? Such an answer

deserves no new insight. The words of the wise King Solomon will suffice. “Fear God

and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”(Ecclesiastes 12:13) May

every Christian change their thinking and doing to a paradigm that sees God as the

supreme source of joy, the object of every affection, the reason for every activity, the

author of every learned truth, the forgiver of all sin, and the ultimate end to all of life.
46

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