Circa mid-1970s. We started every Young Life club with the same song – Thinkin‘, page 90 in the old brown Young Life Songbook. We would sing the first verse (see below), then allow the kids to yell out what they might be thinking about and then we’d insert that instead of “Thinkin‘” in subsequent verses. Without much thought, they would yell out things like, “Hockey, girls, fun, basketball, boys,” etc. Not much depth, but we sure had fun!
I fear that we live in a time in which deep thinking has waned to a dangerous point. Several years ago, James J. Howard III, the CEO of NSP (now Xcel Energy) was speaking to a group of engineers, applauding their creativity and depth of thought. He wrapped up his speech with: “And if [this information age] seems overwhelming, there are a number of spin doctors eager to package the information for us. Our political candidates talk in sound bites, interpreted by political pundits.” He went on to name some of the pundits (both political and non-political) as “whoever’s putting the latest twist on the story.” He closed with a powerful and telling statement – “We don’t ever have to come up with an original thought.” It reminds me of something I heard the late Howard Hendricks say several years ago…
Hendricks was known for his famous comment that 70% of Americans don’t think, 20% think they think but merely rearrange their prejudices, with only 10% of us actually thinking. (He ‘claimed’ it was a study – I’m guessing he was speaking from personal observation.) The day I heard this adage (about 20 years ago), I determined that I wanted to be part of the 10% that actually thought. I still aspire to that (maybe someday 😊).
All his life Hendricks challenged people (mostly seminary students) to become deep thinkers, to not simply buy into the company or party lines (speaking mostly from a religious perspective). One of Hendricks’ favorite scripture passages was Romans 12:2 – Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing or your mind. One of the claims-to-fame of modern Christians is an ability to name and push back against the “patterns of this world.” However, we then settle for and conform to another set of patterns, which is not what the Apostle Paul was suggesting!
In this passage and throughout his writings , Paul encouraged people to become deep thinkers – to think through what they believed and why they believed – leading to renewed minds and thus transformation. Jesus walked into a religious world where the leaders quit thinking and simply focused on conforming to the party line. Jesus challenged them with hard questions to which they had no response except to repeat the party line. They were 1st Century pundits! Jesus didn’t have much patience with people that focused on conformity (I think, for example, of the sevens woes he leveled on the religious leaders – Matthew 23:13-33).
Jesus wanted thinkers, not regurgitators and conformers. So did Paul. I encourage all of us to become thinkers – its transformative. And directional. This is the second half of Romans 12:2 – As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete.
Can you imagine what our world might look like if Christians became deep thinkers?