The Perils of Thinking Well

by Jonathan Hamilton

In general, we humans loathe discipline. Especially, it seems to me, modern humans. Especially, it seems to me, when that discipline is imposed upon me from some self other than myself.

We may well be the most un-rigorous, flabby generation yet to walk the planet.

All disciplines suffer as a result, but one that is exceedingly obvious is the degradation of the art of disciplined thinking. Take Monday’s Supreme Court ruling on the Hobby Lobby case, for example. If you’d like to see an unending parade of fools proudly flaunting their inability to think well, get a Twitter account and wait for a polarizing event like this to happen. The sheer volume of uninformed “bilge” (thanks to Carl Trueman for that fantastic term) and outright falsehood being spewed is overwhelming. I don’t yet consider myself to be a well-disciplined thinker, and it even makes me want to claw my eyes out (not literally, of course).

A favorite flab tactic is to play the emotion card. If I am too lazy to think well, but want to convince (or more likely, silence) my opponent, I’ll simply scream the loudest or cry the hardest. This particular type of flab is hanging off of just about every one of us to varying degrees and was clogging internet cables around the globe Monday.

One of the great ironies of the Monday assault on reason was the fact that the same mob who bungled their way through a so-called “defense of women” (as they disingenuously label their cause), is largely composed of the type of people who voraciously consume the on-screen rapes and murders of women in TV shows and movies, and the frequent, overt, shameless degradation of women through song (especially in the form called rap). UPDATE, JULY 5: The links in this paragraph are not graphic. They are links to tastefully written articles on these topics by Christian authors who strongly encourage the church to eliminate the consumption of sinful images, a needed admonition.

Of course, if you dare to interject a disciplined thought into the nonversation, watch out. You will instantly have an angry dozen or so of the bworst thinkers you’ve ever encountered rushing at you with handfuls of lard with which they intend to forcefully expand your own intellectual waistline, or if that won’t work, choke you with. It’s a rather grotesque experience, especially if you share my germaphobia.

In A.W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy (which is recommended reading for every Christian), he quotes from a Thomas Traherne book written in 1948: “As nothing is more easy than to think, so nothing is more difficult than to think well.”

Sixty-six years later it’s pretty obvious that he was right, and that we are lazy.

Proverbs 23:7 says of man that “as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” (KJV) Do you think lazily? If so, you are lazy. Do you think foolishly? Then you are a fool. Do you think in a godly manner? This shows you to be godly. Interestingly, it seems these early verses of Proverbs 23 are set in the presence of a flabby ruler, providing an extra layer of pertinence to this discussion.

If you choose to exercise intellectually and cut the fat, you will begin to rise above the bulging mob. Go yet further and give voice to well-reasoned thinking, and sneering heads will swiftly begin to pop up all around the herd as greasy hands scramble for fistfuls of lard. You will pay a price for thinking lean, muscular thoughts.

However, to learn the discipline of thinking well, and to use this tool to ably espouse and defend biblical truth is an activity of eternal consequence and eternal reward. The Bible nowhere glorifies ignorance, but rather encourages the renewed mind, sound judgment, and wisdom. If our pursuit and execution of well-reasoned Scriptural thinking brings glory to our God (and it does), what higher motivation could we have to pursue it with all of the might and vigor with which He has endowed us and to utilize it for the sake of His name?