What Does It Mean to “Think Biblically”?
God cares about how we think. It is no mistake that we are created with cognitive faculties that allow us to learn, ponder, and assess things in ways that other creatures cannot. The Bible tells us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and all your strength” (Mark 12:30). Along these lines, Christians often talk about “thinking biblically” about the issues of life and culture that we often face. What does this somewhat-ambiguous phrase really mean?
The first thing we need to understand is that everyone has a worldview. I define a worldview as “a system and beliefs and values that help us understand and interact with the world around us”. How we think about various issues is directly linked to our particular worldview. A robust worldview answers some of the most fundamental questions of life, such as:
- Identity: Who am I?
- Purpose: What am I here for?
- Community: How do I relate to others?
- Truth: What defines reality?
- Origin: Where do I come from?
- Destination: Where am I going?
- Morality: What is right and wrong?
- Transcendence: Am I a part of something bigger than me?
Christianity answers these questions in Scripture. The Bible is the place Christians look to shape our worldview. Thus, when we talk about “thinking Biblically” we are referring to a process of developing a worldview that is shaped by Scripture that then interprets the world around us. As I stated earlier, a worldview is a collection of “beliefs and values”. Since the world we live in offers us differing ideas of what beliefs and values we should hold, some of those are going to “pass the test” of aligning with what Scripture teaches while others do not.
This is what Romans 12:2 is getting at when it states “Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect”. Consider of a few points from this passage. Notice first that this world has a “pattern”, aka a worldview. The “world” (referred to here as collective mankind without acknowledgment of God) has beliefs and values that it holds to because of our sinful nature as human beings. These are predictable “patterns” that are contrary to God. Next, notice that humans can be “conformed” to this pattern. This means that people’s beliefs and values are moldable. They can change via influence. They are not fixed realities in ourselves, but can be adapted. Third, notice that the way we change is linked to our “mind”. How we think is what shapes who we are. Fourth, our mind has a pre-determined condition that requires “renewing”. This implies that our default pattern is worldly and requires a “breaking-the-mold” approach to free ourselves from our sinful selves. Fifth, our mind renewal comes from intentional focus on the will of God. In this way, Scripture teaches us that God’s will contrasts with the patterns of this world. What God believes and values is different from what we believe and value. Sixth, God’s beliefs and values are called good, acceptable, and perfect. They are better and superior to our worldly ways of thinking. Seventh, in order for us to be renewed we must “discern” the difference between worldly thinking and Godly thinking. When people talking about “thinking Biblically”, this is exactly the process they have in mind.
Therefore, thinking biblically means identifying the beliefs and values that are being promoted by the world and assessing wether or not they conform to God’s will as revealed in the Bible. If they do, we accept them. If they don’t, we reject them. This is a crucial part of growing as a disciple of Christ and maturing as a Christian believer.
It pains me to say, but I often see many Christians failing to “think biblically” about issues in their lives or the world around us. It seems that many have a compartmentalized relationship with God, where they accept the need for God’s forgiveness but don’t allow for a full renewing of their mind to change their future thoughts and behaviour. Put differently, they accept salvation but not sanctification. They call themselves a Christian but don’t engage in the hard work of change to be conformed to the image of Christ. If you don’t believe me, scroll through social media. That is exactly the thing that prompted me to write this post. I regularly see believers of Jesus saying things and promoting things that are contrary to a Christian worldview without even realizing it. They, for one reason or another, are failing to “discern” God’s will and have become conformed to worldly patterns of thought.
This is why reading Scripture regularly is so important. God’s Word confronts us about the sinful patterns of thought in our lives and contrasts it to the way God thinks about things. As a result, when we read our Bibles we should regularly find ourselves in prayer repenting of our worldliness and asking God for help to change. When this fails to become a regular activity in our lives we can be sure that the process of renewal has waned and we are slowly being conformed to the patterns of this world.
Scripture must play a central role in our lives. If we are to follow Christ, it will mean a daily renewal and confrontation with ourselves that slowly kills what is earthly in us and allows the Spirit of God to more fully dwell in our hearts. I am pleading with any Christian who is reading this to not take this lightly. Being renewed is a lifelong process and one of the true marks of a believer. Those who fail to endure in this just might one day find that the God they once loved has become an irrelevant relic of their past and the patterns of the world have taken root in their lives. In such a case, a person is exposed for what they are—a Christian by label only, and apart from God’s grace.
Renewal is hard. Thinking biblically is hard. There are a hundred valid reasons for not wanting to do it. We may find Scripture boring or confusing. We may fall out of the habit of reading it. We may stop attending church for one reason or another. We may find a part of the Christian worldview offensive. We may surround ourselves with worldly thinking people. We may even fall in love with one of them. These can all be real challenges but we cannot allow them to become stumbling blocks in our lives. The moment we make peace with patterns of the world is the moment we begin conforming to them. It is like a stream that is flowing away from God and we must actively swim against the current or be swept away by it. Coasting is easy. Swimming is hard. It may seem silly but Dory was right about this one. Just keep swimming.