A Steadfast Mind (2)

And there are three parts of this steadfastness of the mind:

(1) full purpose of cleaving to God in all things;

(2) a daily renovation and quickening of the heart unto a discharge of this purpose;

(3) resolutions against all dalliances or parleys about negligence in that discharge…

– John Owen, The Power and Efficacy of Indwelling Sin

A Steadfast Mind

The steadfastness of our minds abiding in their duty is the cause of all our unmovableness and fruitfulness in obedience; and so Peter tells us that those who are by any means led away or enticed “fall from their own steadfastness” (2 Pet. 3:17). And the great blame that is laid upon backsliders is that they are not steadfast: “Their heart was not steadfast” (Ps. 78:37). For if the soul be safe, unless the mind be drawn off from its duty, the soundness and steadfastness of the mind is its great preservative.

– John Owen, The Power and Efficacy of Indwelling Sin

Religion and Science

Sometimes people ask if religion and science are opposed to each other. They are – in the sense that the thumb and fingers of my hand are opposed to each other. It is an opposition by means of which anything can be grasped.

— William Henry Bragg, British physicist who with his son won the Nobel Prize for physics for their work in X-ray crystallography

A legitimate conflict between science and religion cannot exist. Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.

— Albert Einstein

(Quotes taken from John Blanchard’s Has Science Got Rid of God?)

Sound Mind in Sound Body

“A thinker does not spend his life in the processes of digestion.” So says Sertillanges. What has this to do with The Intellectual Life? A lot. He quotes the following (I assume these are from Aristotle, but I may be wrong):

The different dispositions of men for the operations of the soul depend on the different dispositions of their bodies.

To a good bodily constitution corresponds the nobility of the soul.

Sertillanges goes on to say that “Minds can only communicate through the body,” and that “the mind of each one of us can only communicate with truth and with itself through the body.” Thus, it follows that (Sertillanges puts this in the form of a rhetorical question) –

… in order to think, and especially in order to think ardently and wisely throughout a lifetime, it is indispensable to subject to the requirements of thought not only the soul and its various faculties, but also the body and the whole complex of its organic functions.

Practical suggestions then follow, such as: “Endeavour to keep well.” “Live as much in the open air.” “Every day you should take exercise.” “Look after your diet.” He also has this to say to lovers of pleasure:

A lover of pleasure is an enemy of his body and therefore quickly becomes an enemy of his soul. Mortification of the senses is necessary for thought…

Very good advice! We’ve heard it all before: A sound mind in a sound body. All that is left is to follow it.

Purity of Thought, Purity of Soul

In ch. 2 of The Intellectual Life Sertillanges points out that “Purity of thought requires purity of soul.” He quotes St. Thomas of Aquin:

The exercise of moral virtues, of the virtues by which the passions are held in check, is of great importance for the acquisition of knowledge.

He then asks, “What are the enemies of knowledge?” He mentions “sloth, the grave of the best gifts”, “sensuality, which makes the body weak and lethargic, befogs the imagination, dulls the intelligence, scatters the memory”, pride, envy and irritation. It is these obstacles which prevent a man of study from reaching the level of his own gifts.

Great personal intuitions, piercing lights, are in men of equal powers the consequences of moral progress, of detachment from self and from the usual commonplace things, of humility, simplicity, discipline of the senses and the imagination, of an eager impulse towards the great ends.

The Intellectual Life

I’m presently reading A.D. Sertillanges’ The Intellectual Life. I first came to know about this book while reading James Sire’s Habits of the Mind. Yesterday I found a secondhand copy of this book at a local secondhand bookstore. I was so happy with my discovery I felt like kissing the book! I’ve just finished the first chapter –  “The Intellectual Vocation” –  and I found it really inspiring. Here are a few quotes I liked:

If you are designated as a light bearer, do not go hide under the bushel the gleam or the flame expected from you in the house of the Father of all. Love truth and its fruits of life, for yourself and for others; devote to study and to the profitable use of study the best part of your time and heart.

Do not prove faithless to God, to your brethren and to yourself by rejecting a sacred call.

Every truth is practical; the most apparently abstract, the loftiest, is also the most practical. Every truth is life, direction, a way leading to the end of man.

Work always then with the idea of some utilization… Listen to the murmur of the human race all about you; pick out certain individuals of certain groups whose need you know, find out what may bring them out of their night and ennoble them; what in any measure may save them.

Jenson on the Christian Calling to Intellect

"Christians' calling to intellect is the calling to nurture the word, to tend books and foster argument … We serve a talkative God, who does not even seem to be able to do without a library. In his service, we will be concerned for talk and libraries. And some of us will have the privilege of spending a lot of time at that concern."

— Robert Jenson, Essays in Theology of Culture, (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, 1995) 

Christian Scholarship

"The point of Christian scholarship is not recognition by standards established in the wider culture. The point is to praise God with the mind … Ultimately, intellectual work of this sort is its own reward, because it is focused on the only One before whom all hearts are open."

— Mark A. Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1994) pp. 248-9, emphasis added.