Discerning Reader Editorial Review
Reviewed 12/09/2010 by John Bird.
Recommended. Despite over-copious quoting, a challenging and encouraging book about the Christian thought-life.
In his philosophical new book, The Gospel and the Mind, Bradley G. Green argues two theses: "The Christian vision of God, man, and the world provides the necessary precondition for the recovery of any meaningful intellectual life," and, "The Christian vision of God, man, and the world offers a particular, unique understanding of what the intellectual life might look like."
Green says that our thinking, without Christ and the cross, is clouded by sin. Without a telos, or goal (Christian eschatology, for instance), there is no meaning to knowledge or education. "True education requires an animating and inspiring vision, which is the very thing the gospel provides, and which is the very thing missing in most construals of education today." Without a belief in creation, or a Sovereign Creator, there is no proper understanding of history or life. Even language becomes meaningless without belief in a created order and ultimate Truth. When our minds are separated from the gospel, we are intellectuals and philosophers with our heads in the clouds, not knowing where we're going or where we've been:
Knowledge is difficult, if not impossible, for the person whose will is misdirected, or for the person who is not led by Christ, who is the truth...Indeed it is the gospel that is at the heart of a genuine understanding and the true intellectual life, which has its own ultimate end in seeing God face-to-face.
Green calls his book an apologia. Therefore he writes to, and works to convince, both believers and non. Christians will find his arguments strong, and his quotes compelling. But will non-Christians? Green realizes that quotes from Christian thinkers, whether church fathers or not, great minds or not, do not often persuade an unbelieving audience. So he quotes Nietzsche and Einstein alongside Augustine and Aquinas: "The belief in an external world independent of the perceiving subject is the basis of all natural science." (Einstein).
Green writes with great clarity. I enjoyed his book and am challenged and encouraged by it. But I have one complaint which, though minor, and a matter of opinion, I will dwell on for a moment. Green stacks quotes one upon another with a vengeance. Pages pass without us hearing much more from him than, "He goes on further to say," or, "Consider, as well, what Augustine said." And, as is often the case with prolific quoters, the author's own voice is usually more clear and convincing than those he quotes. Certainly he has enough credibility to tell us that the "memory is a precious resource," without quoting A.G. Sertillanges. After all, we did choose to read his book.
The Gospel and the Mind challenges readers to think deeply about important issues. Green's message - that true knowledge is possible because the universe was created by an orderly God, and that knowledge is meaningful because it leads to and culminates in a loving God - is both encouraging and liberating. Like sin, the modern belief that there is no true knowledge or meaning outside of one’s self promises liberty but leads to despair. Green reminds us that true knowledge is possible, and so we are liberated, even morally obligated, to seek it.