Tag: Thinking

In Praise of Private Writing

One of the most fascinating portions of Jonathan Edwards’s collected works is a 350 page section entitled “Miscellaneous Observations” and “Notes on the Bible.” This section comprises a large collection of Edwards’s personal notes on various subjects including philosophical, theological, and biblical musings. The depth and breadth of these writings are remarkable.

But what is most intriguing to me is not the content of these writings, despite the profound and deep insights contained in Edwards’s notes. Rather, it is that fact that these notes were never originally intended for publication. While it’s true that Edwards would use some of these notes in later sermons and publications, they didn’t originate for that reason. These notes were Edwards’s private thoughts on Scripture and theology, and it was here that Edwards was forging and refining his convictions. Continue reading “In Praise of Private Writing”

Before You Can Say, 'I Disagree,' You Must Be Able To Say, 'I Understand'

New Testament Exegesis Gordon FeeI am currently reading New Testament Exegesis by Gordan Fee for my Greek Exegesis class. As I was perusing the section about the use of commentaries and secondary resources, I found a paragraph that was extremely helpful to me; not only in writing exegetical papers, but for writing in general and for verbal communication as well. Fee gives wise counsel as he writes on page 33,

A student is not bound to reproduce slavishly the interpretations of others, but you are bound to assess critically what you read. Before you can say, ‘I disagree,’ you must be able to say, ‘I understand.’ It is axiomatic that before you level criticism you should be able to state an author’s position in terms that he or she would find acceptable. After that, you may proceed in six directions:

a. Show where the author is misinformed.

b. Show where the author is uniformed.

c. Show where the author is inconsistent.

d. Show where the author’s treatment is incomplete.

e. Show where the author misinterprets through faulty assumptions or procedures.

f. Show where the author makes valuable contributions to the discussion at hand.

This is excellent counsel, especially for writers. It is simply easier to misrepresent someone’s position and to set up straw-men (weak arguments that your opponent isn’t making) in order to appear as though you have the superior argument. It is difficult to work through the principles Fee provides above. But when you follow this kind of approach to theological discussion and dialog,  you are not only misleading your readers, you are harming yourself, for you are forging patterns of thinking that will lead to greater and greater confusion and lack of clarity. Do the hard work of thinking well, and you and your readers will be blessed.

Think Better: Go on a Run

Donald Whitney, in his book, Simplify Your Spiritual Life, reminds us to “Remember the Physicality of Spirituality.”  He writes,

Our bodies are not merely disposable containers for our eternal souls.  God could have made us to be disembodied souls, living forever in a condition like the souls in Heaven live while waiting for resurrected bodies…But He created us to be complete as a unity of body and soul…

The relationship between our bodies and our souls, Whitney contends, is significant.  He continues,

One of the ways the body can have a positive effect upon the soul is through recreational physical activity.  Because most spiritual practices [disciplines: reading, writing, study, meditation, etc.] are by definition spiritual and not very physical, if our daily work is mostly mental and sedentary then there’s little diversity in the kind of stimuli we experience.  And the monotony of that can lessen the impact of our spiritual practices.  The variety that recreational physical activity provides to the brain cells and muscle fibers of a body may help to refresh the soul that dwells in it.

Whitney quotes Winston Churchill to underscore his point:

But reading and book love in all their forms [as hobbies] suffer from one serious defect: they are too nearly akin to the ordinary daily round of the brain-worker to give that element of change and contrast essential to real relief.  To restore psychic equilibrium we should call into use those parts of the mind which direct both eye and hand.  Many men have found great advantage in practicing a handicraft for pleasure…if one were interested in them and skillful at them–would give a real relief to the over-tired brain.

Personally, I have experienced the benefits of adding physical exercise such as walking, running, biking, basketball and weight lifting to the disciplines of reading, writing, studying and meditation.  Almost without exception I am able to think more clearly and efficiently after having taken an extended run or playing some good games of basketball at the church.  I have also experienced the muddled thinking and spiritual dryness that tends to follow long times of little or no physical recreational activity.

So are you experiencing cloudy thinking?  Are you weighed down by your spiritual disciplines?  Are you finding them unfruitful of late?  Maybe you need to go on a run.

Photo: David Fulmer