One of the tragic casualties of our age has been that of the contemplative life—a life that thinks, a life thinks things through, and more particularly, thinks God’s thoughts. A person sitting at his or her desk staring out the window would never be assumed to be working. No! Thinking is not equated with work. Yet, had Newton under his tree, or Archimedes in his bathtub, bought into that prejudice, some natural laws would still be up in the air or buried under an immovable rock. Pascal’s Pensees, or “Thoughts,” a work that has inspired millions, would have never been penned.
What is even more destructive is the assumption that silence is inimical to life. The radio in the car, Muzak in the elevator, and the symphony entertaining callers “on hold” all add up as grave impediments to personal reflection. In effect, the mind is denied the privilege of living with itself even briefly and is crowded with outside impulses to cope with aloneness. Aldous Huxley’s indictment, “Most of one’s life… is one prolonged effort to prevent thinking,” seems frightfully true. Moreover, the price paid for this scenario has been devastating. As T.S. Eliot questioned:
Where is the life we have lost in the living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The cycles of heaven in twenty centuries
bring us farther from God and nearer to dust.
Is there a remedy? May I make some suggestions? Nothing ranks higher for mental discipline than a planned and systematic study of God’s Word, from whence life’s parameters and values are planted and Christ is made known. Paul, who loved his books and parchments, affirmed the priority of Scripture as the means to encountering Christ. And Psalm 119 promises that the God who speaks to us keeps us from being double-minded.
The average person today actually surrenders the intellect to the world, presuming Christianity to be bereft of intelligence. And many a pulpit has succumbed to the lie that anything intellectual cannot be spiritual or exciting.
Thankfully there are exceptions. When living in England, our family attended a church where preaching was taken quite seriously and one-hour sermons to packed auditoriums were the norm. Cambridge, being rife with skepticism, demanded a meticulous defense of each sermon text. When we were leaving Cambridge, our youngest child, who was nine years old, declared the preaching of this church to be one of his fondest memories. Even as a little boy he had learned that when the mind is rightly approached, it filters down to the heart. The matter I share here has far-reaching implications. We do a disservice to our youth by not crediting them with the capacity to think.
God places great value on the thought-life and its capacity to shape all of life. “As one thinks in his heart, so is he,” Solomon wrote. Jesus asserted that sin’s gravity lay at the level of the idea itself, not just the act. Paul admonished the church at Philippi to have the mind of Christ, and to the same people he wrote: “[W]hatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8). The follower of Christ must demonstrate to the world what it means not just to think, but to think justly. That is, in the words of aging David to his son Solomon, to “acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever” (1 Chronicles 28:9).
With hearts, minds, and bodies, we can follow the God of creation and the Son who stepped into it. After all, it is not that I think, therefore, I am, but rather, the great I Am has asked us to think, and therefore, we must.
Ravi Zacharias is founder and chairman of the board of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.