Updated: Mar 1, 2021
I write to you today hoping to increase your interest in theology. You see, so many of us have attended local churches that are faithful to provide preaching from God’s Word, funding for missionaries, relief for the poor, meals for those in need, and support for nonprofits such as crisis pregnancy centers, but most of us have not been taught how to think theologically.
In other words, we know what the Bible says, but we don’t understand how to connect the dots of Scripture to everyday life. For instance, most of us think that thinking is not a big part of Christianity. We never really thought about how important thinking is. Why think when we can pray and defer all the thinking to God? Why bother to think when we are not academics or experts? Why think when there’s no Bible verse that says, “Thou shalt think”? Why think when it is obvious that some people get goofy precisely because they think too much?
Earlier this year, I co-taught a course called, Pause To Think And Pray. In it, I challenged students to consider what happens when Christians fail to think. I even went so far as to suggest to them that I believe it is sinful not to think.
Granted, not everyone is able to think. Babies, for instance, don’t have enough language to think yet in terms of thoughts. Severely handicapped people such as those with advanced cerebral palsy or Alzheimer’s disease appear to have limited thoughts. Others
who are afflicted perhaps with traumatic shock or post-stroke brain damage are certainly not sinning by failing to think. My point is not to moralize or indict anyone in a way that is unrealistic or unfair.
Instead, what I am saying is that Christians need to think. So often we do not.
So let’s connect some dots here.
First of all, the top commandment in Scripture includes the mandate to love God with “all our mind” (Matthew 22:37-39). Think about it: love is neither thoughtless nor mindless. Part of being loving is being thoughtful. We have to think about who God is because we easily forget. Every trust problem we have that is related to doubting God is tied to our wrong thinking or lack of thinking. Similarly, if we don’t pause to think, we won’t think of others. By default, we will focus on ourselves.
How many times have we sinned by not thinking? We just go with the crowd. That’s what Dr. Simone Gold (M.D, J.D.) did on January 6, 2021 at the Capitol riot. In her words, she entered the building “assuming it was legal.” In other words, she went into the building without thinking. Despite her prestigious University of Chicago medical degree and her Stanford law degree, photos of her indicate that she was somewhat blinkered by her participation in what got so out of hand.
Had she paused to think, perhaps she would have chosen to separate herself from the crowd that reportedly degenerated into a mob. Had she paused to think, she might not have traveled to D.C. for that trip. Soon after she was arrested, she said that she “regrets” her actions.
A more extreme case is that of Adolf Eichmann, Hitler’s helper, who essentially worked as the Chief Operations Officer (COO) of the Third Reich. At trial in Jerusalem after WWII when the Nazi regime was exposed in court for systematically arranging for mass murder of Jewish people, Eichmann said he was just following orders -- thoughtlessly, mindlessly following orders. Eichmann was not accused of killing anyone directly himself. A big part of his sin was that of not thinking.
Lest we shoo away these two examples or dub them to be “too political” to reveal anything to us about our fallen nature, how about if we consider another example?
Have you ever felt proud of yourself for not judging? Have you ever assured others that, of course, you are not judging as to whether something is right or wrong, advisable or inadvisable, wise or foolish?
Well, if you have ever done that, then you may have chosen to disobey Jesus’ clear commandment in John 7:24: “Do not judge according to appearances, but judge with righteous judgment.”
One has to think in order to judge. We can even pray for good judgment because we do not want to make poor decisions. But if we don’t pause to think, and we just assume that things are how they appear, then we are all set up to be fooled by any magician, so to speak, who knows how to trick us with appearances.
Ah, but now, we have to think even further to ask how Jesus’ commandment in John 7:24, “Judge with righteous judgment” fits with Jesus’ commandment in Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge lest you be judged.”
Connecting the dots of Scripture and wisely applying them to our lives is the work of theology.
Now that Americans no longer live in a Judeo-Christian culture, it is all the more urgent for every one of us to learn how to think theologically. We must learn to connect the dots. We must learn to think lest we find ourselves mindlessly following the crowd and thoughtlessly participating in something we regret sorely later. Right On Mission is here to help you learn how to think so Christianly that you find the moral courage to act with integrity as a Christ follower, even in the face of opposition. Come to one of our courses. See our offerings here.
Sarah Sumner, Ph.D, MBA