We rarely think about thinking. Many very smart people fail to see the assumptions hidden underneath their reasoning. How often do news articles assume that the only really reliable way of knowing truth is the scientific method?
I happen to believe that method is highly valuable, and I’m sure I’ve got my own hidden assumptions. But if God says I can “know” some things that science can’t see—like the love of Christ—then science can’t be the only way to know. “I know whom I have believed” (2 Tim 1:12). If science can’t tell me the most important truth there is, that God is working through Christ to reconcile the world to himself, then science also can’t be the best way to know. “By faith we understand” (Heb 11:3).
One of the biggest helps I’ve ever received to “take every thought captive”—and my favorite book of all time—is John Frame’s The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (DKG).
Here are just three major insights you could get out of DKG that might Christianize your own thinking:
1. Knowing is not a secular activity.
Secular society likes to believe that error stems from ignorance and environment. Lacking a concept of original sin, it cannot conclude that people believe lies because they love darkness rather than light. Secularism is still capable of monumental moral dudgeon, and sometimes I thank God that it is. But I’ve always felt that its diagnosis of the human condition has been lacking: secularism tends to point to physical causes only, not spiritual ones. And that’s an unsatisfying way to describe humankind and our choices—and our thinking. Why do people believe falsehoods, from moon landing skeptics to flat-earthers?
John Frame takes a fully biblical view of the results of the fall on man’s thinking (Eph 4:17). He knows that man owes allegiance to his creator in more than just our choices and even our loves; he teaches that we are morally responsible to know obediently (2 Thess 2:10–12).
Frame is far from claiming that all Christians all the time know obediently and truly. We, too, are affected by the fall. But by submitting as Frame urges to God’s picture of mankind in Scripture, we can know truth, and know that we know it.
2. Reason and emotion can’t be separated.
One of the West’s prevailing myths is that people ought to be ruled by reason, that emotion is unruly and untrustworthy. It’s as if emotion is fallen and reason is not. Not all Westerners think this way: the Romantics reacted (and I know this is a big generalization) by privileging emotion over reason, and their heirs are surely present in the West, too.
But Western rationalists and romantics share the assumption that individual people can be usefully divided into separate, competing “faculties,” usually mind, will, and emotion.
Frame shows that the Bible does not do this. God does not command my reason to command my emotion, or vice versa. He doesn’t command my will, either. He commands me.
3. It’s helpful to see the world from three perspectives.
Frame teaches that moral decisions involve three things: 1) a person 2) applying a norm 3) to a situation.
I have found this simple “triperspectival” schema to clarify moral questions over and over again. I have also watched other Christians stumble confusedly through moral discussions that could have been illuminated by what I think are ultimately biblical categories.
The problem with non-Christian ethical systems is generally that one of these three perspectives gets absolutized, the others minimized or even lost. “Non-Christian ethics tends to absolutize” one of the three perspectives, eliminating the others (74). Only the God of Scripture can bring them together.
The great thing about books is that it’s a sign of intellectual health for you to swoon over one book for a while and then start courting another (as long as the two are more or less consistent with each other: don’t fall for The Institutes of the Christian Religion one month and Mein Kampf the next). The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God has been holding steady as my favorite for a good while. But before that (to name a random few) it was The Pleasures of God and before that Perelandra and then Matilda and then, uh, Good Night, Moon?
I’m not going to come on this blog and tell you that every last book in the Logos catalog is going to change your life, or Christianize your thinking. But many of them could. Maybe The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God.
Mark L. Ward, Jr, PhD serves the church as a Logos Pro. His most recent book—“Highly recommended” by D.A. Carson—is Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible (forthcoming, Lexham Press).