Think to Learn and Learn to Think


Learning to think is hard to think about. It takes a lot of brain power.  It means surrounding yourself with resources and friends that cultivate thinking and fleeing from things that would otherwise cause your mind to operate on cruise control.

How many times has this happened to you: 1) you read a page and realize you can’t articulate what it said 2) you choose to entertain yourself with a movie rather than talk to your wife or family or reading a book 3) you spend an hour mindlessly drifting through youtube watching some guy at his mom’s house learning how to play the guitar.The culture has successfully gagged the mind. It is set on filling our minds with activities that require little or no thinking: from video games to never-ending T.V. shows, America no long wants to think. Why? It’s too depressing to think. People reach their elder years and wonder why they can no longer remember very well because they have never exercised the mind. Imagine (which will take some thinking) arriving at age 55 and having no analytical power left, no ability to synthesize or organize or follow a train of thought. That would be a tragedy.

You cannot love the Bible and despise the mind.

As young Timothys, it is unimaginably important to learn how to think and think critically. As believers, we have great reason to think and think hard about the Scriptures and our God who is revealed in them. Few do. We should.

Some Helpful Thoughts: Towards Thinking Well

Begin by reading your Bible! You would not believe how much each book requires you to think. Do you think you know the Bible pretty well? Try this: how many main characters do you think are in the book of 1 and 2 Samuel? You may be thinking, “Well, there’s Samuel . . . and David . . . that’s it, right?” Try again. There are over 40 MAIN characters in the book of 1 and 2 Samuel! And each of those characters are meticulously crafted by the author in order to convey to you how God deals with humanity throughout all time! In other words, there may be a little more to thinking through a narrative than you first thought.

In the New Testament, there are God-inspired clauses, conjunctions and prepositional phrases that are meant to carry you along in a single train of thought in order to draw a massive conclusion. All of this requires the mind to think thoughts after the Author. God inspired grammar; God inspired clauses, and He meant for us to think. It is a demanding book. So start reading your Bible.


Memorizing helps keeps the mind sharp because it is continually thinking about what it’s trying to retain! And there is nothing better than continually thinking about the Bible. Memorize the Word.

Read the Puritans

If you want a real exercise in thinking, read the Puritans. You will never be so stretched in your thinking than thinking with John Owen, Jonathon Edwards, Richard Sibbs and Samuel Rutherford. They will cause you to think deeply about your Savior and about the soul.

An Example from Timothy

Paul exhorted Timothy to “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding” (2 Timothy 2:7). This word “think” is in the imperative. It’s a command. Paul wanted Timothy to reflect/think about what he had told him in order to understand him. Timothy’s entire salvation was dependent upon thinking rightly about the Scriptures and about God. It’s biblical. We are told to “love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt 22:37). Timothy had to think how to rightly dividing the Word of God; he had to think how to exhort older men as fathers; he had to think about the reliable men to whom he would entrust the Word of God; he had to think about doctrine; he had to think how to preach the Word.

Commence thinking now.


4 Responses to “Think to Learn and Learn to Think”

  1. Adam Says:

    Great “thoughts” brother Carey. You are one who has always spurred me on in the study of the Scriptures and the life of the mind. And I couldn’t agree with you more. May we heed this challenge!

    I also find, it takes not only a re-orienting of my time, to give myself more to the Word and to thinking about the things of God, but also a re-orienting of financial resources and priorities to get good books on my shelves.

    Of course, blogs like this help. Thanks boys, praying for you.

  2. Matthew Cunningham Says:

    Great post Carey.

    This exhortation to think reminds me of a paradox that I was struggling with a few years ago. The issue is this: if God desires that even little children can understand, to some degree, who he is, what place remains for us to ponder and consider the complexities of theology? Also, what do we say to people who ask, “What is the point of reading theological works? Why not just read my Bible?”

    The answer came to me after reading an artticle by John Piper called, “Why God Inspired Hard Texts.” The meat of the explanation is this:

    “That God is love unleashes the impulse of simplicity, and that God is God unleashes the impulse of complexity.

    That God is love unleashes the impulse of accessibility, and that God is God unleashes the impulse of profundity.

    That God is love encourages a focus on the basics, and that God is God encourages a focus on comprehensiveness. One says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). The other says, “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).”

    Piper is saying that because of the depth of God, there is always more to consider, ponder, embrace, and rejoice in.

    Good work bro!

  3. Bryce Says:

    Great post Carey. It is hard enough to try and make myself work on thinking. The harder part is conveying the importance of thinking to those of us we come in contact with everyday. You were dead on when you said that our culture has successfully gagged the mind. I couldn’t agree more.

  4. Josh Says:

    Well said bro. Honored to be walking with you for a season of life “thinking” about hard things together. Thanks for setting a strong pace.

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