BOOK REVIEW | What Does It Mean to Be a Thoughtful Christian?

“People are looking for an authentic and integrated way of seeing life that brings coherence to all of life’s experiences-some of which are quite confusing.” Dockery, David, What Does it Mean to be a Thoughtful Christian? p. 74

1 Peter 3:15 commends Christ followers “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,”. Unfortunately, that’s not always the first thing that Christians are known for. Some err on the side of being aloof while others are on the opposite end with being legalistic and belligerent. I love that Peter uses the words gentleness and respect. I don’t believe that he is saying to be a wilting wallflower or a clanging gong…get involved, build relationships, and use your words and actions intentionally and thoughtfully to win people for the sake of the gospel.

I first met Dr. David Dockery on a tour of Union University my senior year of high school (1996) when he was the college president there. Since then I’ve continued to follow his career, listen to some of his teaching/preaching online, and have done my best to read things that he has written. My first impression of him was such a blessing and I was struck by the way that he maintained a pastor’s heart while being wholeheartedly committed to Christian scholarship. He was recently named the President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. If you haven’t read about Southwestern, you should know that there are quite a few things to sort out there that have gone on over the last 20+’s not a role for someone who is aloof or a wilting wallflower.

I recently ran across this little book called How to be a Thoughtful Christian that Dr. Dockery wrote and found it to be so helpful. It really articulated a lot of what I’ve been feeling in the midst of the cultural whirlwind we find ourselves in. Christians shouldn’t get caught in the whirlwind, but rather station themselves in a place that they can see what is going on and respond thoughtfully in hopes of rescuing others from the whirlwind for the sake of the gospel.

I reached out to thank Dr. Dockery for writing such a helpful book and to ask if he knew where I could buy 50 copies in bulk for my teachers as a gift for the end of the school year. He replied quickly and asked for the address and gifted the books to us! I love his heart for Christian education and for building up fellow believers.

While reading, I highlighted several things and have posted those notes below…

  • Thoughtful Christians:
    • think with faith and truth;
    • prioritize the pattern of Christian truth;
    • pattern their worldview by Christian truth;
    • affirm the authority of the Bible;
    • value the Christian intellectual tradition;
    • emphasize reading and culture;
    • lives faithfully
    • serve the church, the culture, and the world. p. 11
  • Thoughtful Christians are encouraged to be intellectually curious and to grow in their understanding and appreciation of God, of his creation and grace, and of humanity’s place of privilege and responsibility in God’s world. p. 16
  • Thoughtful Christians recognize their dependence on God in seeking to follow this course, for such a lofty calling, as noted, can only take place as our minds are renewed by God’s Spirit (Romans 12:2). A serious commitment to faith thinking, to the renewing of minds, esteems exploration and genuine intellectual struggle while wrestling with the culture-shaping ideas and issues of the past and the present. We do so with faith commitments, seeking to discover and expound God’s truth as it has been revealed in creation and redemption, and as it has been made alive and understandable for us by the ministry of God’s Spirit. p. 17
  • The ultimate purpose of the Spirit was to bring life and renewal to Christ followers, drawing them together into the new community, the church of Jesus Christ, and to empower this community for mission, which was the spreading of good news and exalting the name of Christ. p. 27
  • An examined worldview, however, is more than a private personal viewpoint; it is a comprehensive life system, shaped by Scripture and influenced by key Christian doctrines, as well as the Christian intellectual tradition, that seeks to answer the basic questions of life. Aware of the challenges of this “secular age” and the loss of plausibility structures, a Christian worldview helps encourage wholehearted devotion to distinctively Christian thinking, providing what Graham A. Cole describes as a frame of reference that tells a coherent story while illuminating the actual world in which we live. p. 33
  • We can think rightly about God because he is knowable (1 Corinthians 2:11), yet we must remain mindful that he is simultaneously incomprehensible (Romans 11:33-36). God can be known, but he cannot be completed known (Deuteronomy 29:29). p. 34
  • Developing a Christian worldview is best understood as an ever-advancing process for us in which Christian convictions more and more shape our participation in culture. This disciplined, vigorous, and unending process will help shape how we assess culture and our place in it. p. 38
  • People are looking for an authentic and integrated way of seeing life that brings coherence to all of life’s experiences-some of which are quite confusing. p. 74

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