By Jessica Burke
Veith, Gene Edward, Jr. Loving God with All Your Mind: Thinking as a Christian in a Postmodern World. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2003.
When I graduated from college, a sense of finality and relief washed over me. That stage of life was finally over. My education was done.
Except, by the grace of God, it wasn’t.
Shortly after my graduation, my husband started his seminary education. As he came home excited to tell me about what he was studying, I realized how much I yet had to learn. My schooling may have been over, but my education was not.
In Mark 12:30, Jesus tells us to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, and mind. One who has abandoned his own education has put himself at a significant disadvantage to loving God with all of his mind. What does it mean to be a Christian who loves God with all of his mind? How does the Christian remain engaged with his intellect? And why should we?
Gene Edward Veith, Jr., who classical educators may recognize as the co-author of Classical Education: The Movement Sweeping America, wrote an exhortation to the church to continue pursuing learning. In Loving God with All Your Mind, Veith explains that as Christians grow in knowledge and wisdom, they can “engage the contemporary intellectual world without weakening or compromising their faith” (12). Christians must do so for the sake of the church and for the sake of the lost.
Getting Educated as Christian Vocation
Veith reminds readers of the urgency of reading and thinking well. Scripture upholds the necessity and imperativeness of an education because it is a book. Because He has chosen to reveal Himself through His living word, “reading is, for Christians, literally a sacred gift and obligation” (19). Throughout history, Christianity has encouraged literacy and education because of the centrality of the Living Word, the Bible. More so, the Bible supports the pursuit of knowledge and historically “swept away the superstitions of paganism and opened the door to Western science, technology, and culture” (22).
But how can Christians do this when so many higher education institutions attack all of our beliefs? Veith compares the education of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in pagan Babylon to our modern Christian students in secular universities. Although their education was sanctioned by Nebuchadnezzar, their giftings were from God. God not only allowed their education in “the literature and language of the Chaldeans” (Daniel 1:4), but He used it for His purposes. Veith uses this example to remind us that all knowledge is God’s, even in disciplines traditionally considered secular.
That’s not to say, as any Sunday school student knows, that being educated in ancient Babylon was easy for God’s children. Veith uses Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s example of abstaining from king’s food as a model for modern students to consider when presented with ungodly requirements at their schools. And like them, the modern Christian student may aspire to be ten times better “in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them” (Daniel 1:20).
The Modern and the Postmodern Mind
When I was in college, my Victorian literature professor asked for all the Christians in the room to raise their hands. “You’ll either fail this class or abandon your Christianity before the end of the semester,” he said to us. Another professor assigned literature so sexually graphic that I withdrew from the course. And yet another professor called Christians bigots. This was in the early 2000s; the university has only become more antagonistic in the years since. But it’s not just the higher learning institutions. Many professions and workplaces are unfriendly to Christians.
Veith offers readers with an overview of the contemporary mind and academic climate. He examines common attacks against Christianity and presents ways that we might counter those attacks. For example, when someone claims that God is aloof from human suffering, we can respond that the Christian God came down to earth as a man only to suffer from poverty, persecution, and execution. He recommends that we do not argue or even become defensive, but to calmly explain Christian beliefs.
To accomplish this, a Christian must know doctrine to be able to articulate doctrine. This refers us back to the first section of the book: the necessity of reading and studying the Bible for the sake of the gospel. Our study of the Bible is not just to equip us for evangelism, but also as a means of protecting ourselves from false doctrine and teachers.
Attacks on Christianity come in less direct forms as well. Traditionalism sometimes “looks to human accomplishments and human institutions more than to the Word of God” (70). On the other end of the spectrum, there is also progressivism that tends to reject traditional religions and instead look to revolutionary ideas. And many disciplines exclude God from their field altogether. Despite numerous types of attacks, Veith exhorts the Christian not to “shrink from the combat, refusing to think or to confront opposing ideas. To do so is the leave the field to the enemy and to deny Christ the full extent of His reign” (94).
The Christian Mind
In contrast to the descriptions of modern and post-modern minds, Veith closes out his book with by describing the Christian mind. He argues that Christianity provides an “intellectual framework that is actually superior to any other worldview for the pursuit of knowledge” (13).
To arm us for the intellectual battles, God has provided us with many defenses. First, the Christian is armed with the Sword of the Spirit. The Word of God has the power to destroy the enemy’s campaigns. We also have the body of Christ to meet together with. We must remember that participating in Bible study and prayer is to tap into enormous spiritual power. This will seem especially true when confronting hostility to the faith. Encountering spiritual opposition can make a Christian hunger for God’s Word, drawing from it nourishment that is constantly renewing and life-giving (104). Also, a biblical worldview gives the Christian an intellectual advantage by accepting the full range of human and natural knowledge.
Loving God with All Your Mind is an accessible text that will be valuable to any reader. For those Christians not yet committed to continuing their education outside of schooling, Veith presents compelling arguments for pursuing knowledge and truth to the glory of God. For the Christian parent or teacher who thinks that education is about accomplishments, Veith teaches that education is about our heart and affections so that we might serve others and spread the gospel. And for those who are already committed to being lifelong students, Veith encourages readers not to be afraid of antagonistic fronts and arms them with tools for a hostile world.