Don’t Leave Your Mind in the Parking Lot

R.C. Sproul at the Ligonier National Conference

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We are living in a period of church history that may be classified as mindless. It is an anti-intellectual period of Christian history—not anti-scientific, or anti-technological, or even anti-educational, but anti-mind. While teaching in a seminary classroom I would sometimes ask a student what he thought about a particular proposition. The student would sometimes respond, “I feel that the statement is incorrect.” I would stop him and say, “I didn’t ask you how you felt. I wasn’t inquiring into your emotional response. I was asking you what you think about it.”

Thinking is done by the mind, and Christians are called repeatedly in sacred Scripture not to leave their minds in the parking lot when they enter into church but to awaken their minds so that they may think clearly and deeply about the things of God. Some people say that God does not care about the mind but only the heart and that an emphasis on the mind leads to rationalism, and from there to modernism, postmodernism, and all else that stands in antithesis to biblical Christianity. It is true that what you think in your mind will never get you into the kingdom of God until it reaches your heart, but we have been created by God in such a way that the pathway to the heart is through the mind. We cannot love with passion that which we know nothing about. The book that contains the sacred revelation of Almighty God, His Word, is addressed in the first instance to our minds. Therefore, the more we understand the truth of God, the more we will be gripped by it in our hearts and changed by it.

R.C. Sproul, 1 & 2 Peter: St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary, p. 38 (Kindle Edition)

Posted by Aaron Armstrong

Aaron is the author of several books for adults and children, as well as multiple documentaries and Bible studies. His latest book, I'm a Christian—Now What?: A Guide to Your New Life with Christ is available now.

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8 Replies to “Don’t Leave Your Mind in the Parking Lot”

  1. […] R.C. Sproul: Don’t Leave Your Mind in the Parking Lot […]

  2. I think that, to a certain extent, Dr. Sproul is doing a disservice to his students with that type of response.  People use sensory language (“I see what you mean,” “I hear you loud and clear” or “I feel for you.”) to communicate their emotions in ways that they are most comfortable with.  I’m a visual learner, so I use sight imagery in my speech a lot.  I will say “I see” rather than “I understand” or something like “looks good to me” to indicate agreement quite often.  I hope that all makes sense.

    When I read the student’s response – “I feel that the statement is incorrect” – I saw someone stating a basic disagreement with a premise and stating such in language that was comfortable.  For Dr. Sproul to focus on the semantic difference between the student’s response and the response he wanted to hear tells me that he places maybe a tad bit too much emphasis on the way the student words the response to the possible detriment of the validity of the response itself.

    All that being said, though, I’ll have to admit that I agree with his ultimate premise.  I think back to when I first met the woman that would ultimately become my wife.  Led by our hearts alone, our relationship was wholly superficial.  It was great.  We were both in love with one another and life was great.  It wasn’t until we began to really evaluate our relationship and get past that heady initial phase of our relationship that the foundation for our life together began to take shape.  We began to consider our life together with our minds and that was what really gave things root, and our relationship grew exponentially from there.  In the same way, our relationship with Christ can’t – won’t – take root in our lives if we don’t just know God but know about Him.

    Understand that I’m not trying to compare a worldly relationship to our relationship with God as such.  I’m just using an anecdote as an example.  I agree that, as Dr. Sproul ultimately explained, loving God with only your heart and not your mind as well leads to you not having a completely grounded relationship with Him.  We need to be more firmly planted in His truth so that we are not so easily swayed by the things of this world that often tend to beat us down.

    Thanks for the blog, Aaron.  I’ve really enjoyed this site since I’ve found it.

    1. My feeling is that you haven’t really thought through what you just posted.

      1. OK.  In the interests of open discussion, would you care to actually point out what it is that you are taking issue with?  Your response as it stands has the tone of not much more than a drive-by snipe.

        1. Chris, Firstly, I think you may have taken my comment too seriously. Secondly, Dr. Sproul is challenging his students to critical thinking, which seems so difficult in the culture in which we live. It was a “Teaching Moment,” not a personal criticism. We all have tendencies toward expressive language. Sorry for the offense. 

      2. Thank you for the clarification.  No actual offense taken, honestly.  More puzzled than anything.  Allow me to apologize for misreading your comment.  The Disqus system wouldn’t allow me to respond to your comment directly, but I couldn’t let it go without a response.

  3. You raise an interesting point — “feel” vs “think.” I believe (notice how I sidestepped that one!) that this might be a problem that is semi-related to English (and to other languages that use them interchangeably and not necessarily to all languages or cultures). I find that women are more comfortable with the “feel” word and men with “think” — but in the end they are using them the same way. Thoughts? Feelings? Anyone else see this?

    1. Good point, Amy—some of the semantics depend on personality types as well; those who are more inclined to make value statements based on feelings often say “I feel like…” rather than “I think…”. 

      But I wonder if our linguistic imprecision isn’t part of the problem? The fact that we use fundamentally different words (thinking vs. feeling) to communicate the same idea often leads to confusion. Am I off-base?

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