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3 Ways We Mishandle Our Minds

There are three mistakes commonly made by disciples when it comes to the mind. The first mistake is neglecting the mind.

Neglecting the Mind

In Mark Noll’s influential book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, the first line bluntly states, “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.”[1] You might think Noll’s assessment is too broad, but among many evangelicals there is a certain resistance to the life of the mind.

We’d rather concern ourselves with spirituality or the practical concerns of Christian life and ministry. “Intellectual stuff” is fine for some people, but for the rest of us, it just gets in the way. It’s a distraction. The result is that our spirituality becomes disconnected from careful thought, and our practical concerns begin to look suspiciously similar to worldly concerns.

God created us as rational beings who think, reason, and believe. Thinking isn’t incidental to who we are; it is fundamental. Christian philosopher J. P. Moreland says, “The mind is the soul’s primary vehicle for making contact with God, and it plays a fundamental role in the process of human maturation and change, including spiritual transformation.”[2] This quote echoes Paul’s assertation in Romans 12:2 that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds.


“Thinking isn’t incidental to who we are; it is fundamental.”


The call to discipleship also calls us to carefully attend to our minds—how we think, what we think, and why we think. This doesn’t mean that every Christian must be a scholar, not at all. But every Christian does have a mind that thinks; therefore, every Christian has an obligation to love God with that mind. Neglecting the mind will undoubtedly lead to malformed disciples.

Disconnecting the Mind

The second mistake is related to the first. It is the mistake of separating the mind from the rest of our discipleship. It’s not that we don’t care about thinking. We may care deeply about pursuing knowledge and thinking well. However, some of us have disconnected that pursuit from our lives as disciples. Knowledge is important to us; it just isn’t important to our faith. Perhaps we have been seduced by the false dichotomy that sees faith and reason as having little to do with each other.

This dichotomy is proven false because biblical faith is most certainly not irrational or without reason. A verse like 1 Peter 3:15 makes this clear. This verse assumes the reasonableness of our faith in urging us to be prepared to give the reason (apologia) for the hope that we have. This dichotomy also misses the crucial fact that our beliefs aren’t isolated to our minds; our beliefs give direction to our lives. Moreland puts it well when he calls beliefs “the rails upon which our lives run.”[3] What we believe is ultimately seen in our behavior, so loving God with our minds is not just about thinking well. It is about acting well.

Idolizing the Mind

The third mistake is the opposite of the first one, the mistake of caring about nothing other than the mind. To put it another way, some of us are at risk of loving our minds rather than loving God with our minds.

There is great value in delighting in complicated theological ideas, in diving into the depths of biblical exegesis, historical theology, or philosophical reasoning. Yet there is great danger in detaching the intellect from a heartfelt relationship with God.


“There is great danger in detaching the intellect from a heartfelt relationship with God.”


Throughout its history, the church has been blessed by rare intellectuals who have gone to unusual lengths to passionately seek after the truth. One of those people was Thomas Aquinas, a careful and thorough thinker who continues to positively influence Christian belief hundreds of years after he lived. Yet Aquinas was also a man of deep personal conviction who prayed this simple prayer each day of his life:

“Grant me, O Lord my God,
a mind to know you,
a heart to seek you,
a wisdom to find you,
conduct pleasing to you,
faithful perseverance in waiting for you,
and a hope of finally embracing you.”[4]

Aquinas didn’t just delight in ideas; he delighted in his Lord. For people like Thomas Aquinas, reason is an aid to knowing God better, not a means for puffing oneself up (see 1 Corinthians 8:1). Those of us who love the life of the mind should avoid the temptation of allowing that love to spoil into idolatry, where our discipleship looks less Jesus and more like the Greek philosophers in Athens who loved nothing other than “talking about and listening to the latest ideas” (Acts 17:21).


[1] Mark Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 3.

[2] J. P. Moreland, Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul (Carol Stream, IL: NavPress, 2012), 79.

[3] Moreland, 86.

[4] Pope Benedict XVI, Holy Men and Women: Of the Middle Ages and Beyond, trans. L’Osservatore Romano (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2012), 78.


Come to the 2024 Gathering and receive a free copy of Chad Ragsdale and Daniel McCoy’s book The Disciple’s Mind: How to Think Like a Disciple of Jesus!

For a podcast series with the authors on The Disciple’s Mind, click HERE.


Excerpted from Chad Ragsdale and Daniel McCoy, The Disciple’s Mind: How to Think Like a Disciple of Jesus.

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