Many college students—as well as plenty of post-college adults—have. Between responsibilities and distractions, many of us believe that we have no leisure time to read. There’s always something competing for our attention—something more urgent, more interesting, more fun.
An additional deterrent from reading is the availability of information. We can Google more than we would ever care to know. Therefore our culture is often more focused on acquiring information than on internalizing and appreciating what we learn. The best illustration of this comes from one of my favorite books, The Picture of Dorian Gray: “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
Discipleship of the Mind
InterVarsity has always believed that our minds, like all of creation, were designed by God to bring him glory. We are stewards of the gift of intellect—the capacity to reason, question, create, and imagine. From inductive Bible studies to InterVarsity Press booksand Graduate & Faculty Ministries, InterVarsity seeks to make disciples who value intellectual pursuits, equipping them to be a redeeming influence in the world.
We aim to take seriously Jesus’ command to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30, emphasis added). This means we love God not only through emotional prayer meetings or overseas mission trips. We love our Maker also by studying him and the universe he has created.
The Bible—and Beyond
The challenge and beauty of discipleship of our mind is that it goes beyond mere recall or look-up; it requires thinking critically, internalizing what we learn, and applying it to further growth. We cannot engage in “bulimic learning”—that is, consuming information only to regurgitate it in a short period of time.
This can be particularly hard in the area of Scripture, since we’re not usually graded on our knowledge of God. Studying the Bible or reading Christian books depends on our own motivation. But we can’t allow ourselves to feel satisfied by merely having God’s written Word on hand to reference as needed. On the contrary, we must joyfully devote ourselves to continual study and to reflection on how God is speaking into our lives. That’s truly loving him with all we are.
Developing our minds, however, also includes reading a wide range of materials. What kind of fodder is helpful for deepening our minds, skills, and experience? Here are a few suggestions:
Christian and non-Christian resources: God speaks through both Christians and non-Christians. There are believers who eschew all things “secular,” including education and literature, but that attitude separates us from our neighbors, whom we are called to love. As theologian John Wesley articulated: “To imagine that none can teach you but those who are themselves saved from sin is a very great and dangerous mistake.”
The sciences: Understanding the sciences allows us to appreciate what God has made. The psalmist declared: “The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it” (Psalm 89:11). Both heaven and earth belong to him, so we ought not to disregard either.
World news: Being informed about the world strengthens our evangelism. Too often preachers compromise their good message with bad examples and uneducated statements. Regarding this, Augustine wrote: “If [nonbelievers] find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books and matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learned from experience in the light of reason?”
Vocational topics: Reading increases our knowledge and skills, which is especially pertinent for our vocations. It keeps us abreast of new discoveries, policy changes, and best practices. We glorify God by seeking to become better at the professions into which he has called us.
This list is by no means exhaustive. It simply aims to spark our thinking about reading not as an obligation but as the mark of an intellectual and spiritual person—one who loves God with both heart and mind.
What have you been reading to disciple your mind? Leave us a comment.
Christopher K. Lee is an InterVarsity alumnus and aspiring writer. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in health management at San Diego State University. In his spare time, Christopher composes and produces music. For a sample of his works, please visit http://christopherklee.bandcamp.com.