As an apologist, from time to time I have had friends or church members approach me and ask what would be a good book to help them better defend their faith. Usually, this is prompted by some recent conversation where they've received some criticism on Christianity. They are usually looking for a "silver bullet" book, i.e. a single title that will address the specific issue with a quick comeback their interlocutors cannot refute. Such books do exist to some extent; Paul Copan’s True For You But Not For Me and Gleason Archer’s Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties are immediate examples that come to mind. But I am hesitant on just tossing out a couple of titles and walking away.
You see, in dealing with atheists, skeptics, and those in aberrant religious movements, one sees the scripture abused in many different ways. I am constantly confronted by arguments that use poor reasoning, passages taken out of context, or modern meanings forced onto ancient texts. Unfortunately, too many times I’ve seen Christians who try to defend their faith become guilty of these exact same abuses. Sometimes, it feels like you are giving a power tool to a toddler; while the tool is the right one for the job, in immature hands it can damage the project and possible hurt the operator! This is where Love your God with All Your Mind plays a pivotal role. The book doesn’t tell you what to say, but it helps you better understand the fact that Christianity has always been a faith of the intellect as much as one of the heart. It doesn’t teach you apologetics as much as it teaches you that a disciplined, thoughtful approach to how we develop our intellect is as much an act of worship as raising our hands on Sunday morning or dropping money in a plate.
The book is clear and accessible. It’s not overly large. J.P.’s chapters include titles such as “The Mind’s Role in Spiritual Formation”, “Harassing the Hobgoblins of the Christian Mind”, and “Clearing the Cobwebs from My Mental Attic”. Each chapter helps take the man or woman in the pew from being a passive or even anti-intellectual Christian to a mature and thoughtful believer. J.P. shows how Jesus Himself modeled a strong intellectual capacity when dealing with questions from the Pharisees or Sadducees. He notes that charges of faith and reason being opposed to one another are actually lies that the enemies of Christianity promulgated. Somehow the church swallowed these lies and now believes that faith and reason live in separate spheres. With no intellectual stimulation or the ability of even their pastors to take on the difficult objections so common today, it’s no wonder that kids going off to college quickly drop out of church for what they see as a more satisfying combination of secular scholarship and morally loose living.
NavPress has this month released a completely new edition of the book for its fifteenth anniversary, and it has been revised and expanded with a lot of new content. Specifically, chapters seven through nine have been completely replaced. They now contain a more direct apologetics message and present J.P.’s case for the existence of God and why the New Testament accounts of Jesus’ ministry, message, and resurrection are reliable. On top of that, J.P. and Joseph Gorra have produced a great study guide to accompany the book that can be downloaded from J.P.’s web site for free.
I think that Love your God with All Your Mind needs to be read by every Christian. The challenges believers will face will not be easier in the future. In fact, given the popularity of books by the New Atheists as well as the more prominent chatter found on the Internet and social media, Christians are being pressed harder for real answers for their faith. That is why I usually put it on the top three books that I would recommend to any Christian. The Christian mind affects all aspects of Christian life, and the modern church has by and large abandoned its responsibility for nurturing that mind to maturity.
Even the fundamental Christian activity of evangelism relies heavily on the life of the mind. One of the quotations that J.P. offers in the book is from one of the early leaders of evangelicalism, J. Gresham Machen:
1. Machen, John Gresham. What Is Christianity? Grand Rapids: Eerdman's, 1951. 162. As cited from Moreland, J.P. Love Your God with All Your Mind. Colorado Springs: Nav Press, 1997. 63.