The Greatest Commandment in the Bible comes to us in Matthew 22:37: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”. I want to take some time to look at loving the Lord specifically with all our minds. What does that mean? What does that entail? How do we go out doing that? What else does the Bible say about loving the Lord with all our minds? To help us with some of these, and other similar questions lets look at the book of Proverbs. To give us some structure let’s focus specifically on Proverbs 3:5-7 and we’ll toss in some related verses along to way for support.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.”
First and foremost who is this LORD? Well when you see LORD written in all caps like this in your Bible it stands for the name of God, YAHWEH, specifically God as covenant keeper. If you google the word Lord, the first result is, “Noun 1. someone or somthing having power, authority, or influence; a master or ruler”. Yahweh is Lord of heaven and earth. As Lord, He has the divine right to rule. He is in control of all His creation, time, space and matter. And He is present in His creation, not merely ruling from afar but He’s intimately close and intricately involved in the happenings in His universe.
Professor John Frame sees a pattern in God’s “Lordship Attributes” and has come up with a very helpful epistemological tool to help us look at the LORD’s universe which he calls “Triperspectivalism”. I know i’m tossing a lot at you right now but when we break it down it’s a piece of cake. Epistemology is the study of knowledge, so an epistemological tool is a tool that helps us study knowledge. At this point you may be thinking i’m a tool for using big words but i’m almost done. Triperspectivalism can be broken down for easy access. Tri = three, perspective = a way of seeing things, ism = a distinct practice, system or philosophy. So Triperspectivalism is simply a philosophical theory of knowledge that views all of life through three perspecives based on God’s Lordship attributes. The Lord has Authority, the Lord is in Control, and the Lord is Present.
John Frame makes the argument that since the Lord has these attributes and has made this universe that we inhabit, we can view this universe through three perspectives based on these attributes. He calls them the Normative Perspective, the Situational Perspective, and the Existential Perspective. Normative is based on the Lord’s right to rule and set Norms. Situational is based on the Lord’s control in every situation. Existential comes from the personal aspect of God’s presence as Lord in his realm.
Let’s look back at Proverbs 3:5-7 in light of these three perspectives.
Right now we’ll be focusing on the Normative Perspective for how we are to love the Lord with all of our minds. This perspective is based on God’s Authority, God’s right to rule. So when you see normative, think norms, rules, laws, standards etc. God is The Lord and what He says goes. He made this universe by the council of His own will, and He made us in His own image. If we want to understand His universe or understand ourselves, we must submit to His authority. We must fear the Lord.
So what does it mean to fear the Lord? Are we just supposed to be afraid of him squashing us like some sort of cosmic Godzilla? Well, God could absolutely squash us if He wanted to. The Bible tells us not to fear the one who can kill your body, but rather to fear the one who can kill your body and then throw your soul into hell.. aka fear the LORD . While “fearing” the Lord entails a healthy fear, it’s more than just being afraid.
Fearing God, in the biblical sense means to give reverence. To acknowledge God for who He is. It’s a holy submission to His will and His right as Lord. Proverbs is a book of instruction for fools and wise men alike. Right at the beginning of the book God tells us, through King Solomon, that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge and that fools despise wisdom and instruction (1:7). In the middle of the book we’re told that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and from God’s mouth comes knowledge and understanding (9:10). And close to the end of the book we’re reminded that fearing the LORD comes with blessing but whoever hardens their heart to the LORD will fall into calamity (28:14). All throughout this book of Proverbs we are continually reminded that wisdom, knowledge and understanding come from humility and submission to God, and to do the opposite is foolish and deadly.
The new NIV study Bible edited by D.A. Carson gives even more clarity on the heart behind fearing the LORD in the notes on Proverbs 1:7,
“The fear of the LORD. The book’s basic presupposition as well as the prerequisite for acquiring wisdom. It is a disposition cultivated in relationship with God. It entails the humility to accept the book’s teaching out of the conviction that God upholds it, rewarding the faithful with life and punishing the unfaithful with death. It also is an attitude that shapes one’s worldview and serves as the seedbed in which wisdom might be cultivated… Beginning. That is, the first step or fundamental requirement to achieve the goal of this book… Wisdom and instruction. Frames the book’s purpose and fundamental assumption to attain that end.” (NIV Study Bible, Zondervan 2015, ed. D.A. Carson, pg. 1195)
In order to love the Lord with all your mind, you must submit to His authority, His norms and standards. You must acknowledge the Lord as the ruler of your thoughts and submit to His Word. Think back again to Proverbs 3:7, we are told that the opposite of fearing the LORD is being “wise in your own eyes”. This autonomous (literally self-law) way of thinking is the very opposite of submitting your mind to the LORD. Being wise in your own eyes is the best way to destroy yourself and we are warned over and over that pride comes before the fall.
The Christian, seeking to love the Lord with their thoughts, should take St. Augustine of Hippo’s advice, “Crede, ut intelligas”, believe that you may understand. We should say with Anselm of Canterbury, “Credo ut intelligam”, I believe in order that I may understand. The Christian thinker has “faith seeking understanding”, for the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, knowledge and understanding not merely the end. We are not called to just fill in the gaps of our knowledge with “therefore God”, but rather we start with God and from that starting point we make sense of the universe He’s created. We don’t know everything about this universe but we submit to the One who does!
We are to destroy arguments and lofty opinions raised against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Cor. 10:5) because in Christ is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3). We are to avoid vain philosophies and empty deceit in human traditions (Col. 2:8) so that we aren’t deluded by plausible arguments (Col. 2:4) raised by philosophers and scholars and the debaters of this age. Remember that God will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and set aside the understanding of the experts, hasn’t God made the world’s wisdom foolish? (1 Cor 1:19-20). If you don’t believe that, read a history of philosophy book. Each of these autonomous philosophers throughout history seek to understand all of life by starting with themselves as the beginning of knowledge. Although they were brilliant men, their predecessors came along and showed their conceptual systems to be foolishness.
The Fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, knowledge and understanding. If we want to obey the command to love the LORD with all of mind, we must have holy reverence for Him in all of our thinking and submit to His word. He is our starting point, His word is a lamp unto our feet, and all of our thoughts should be in obedience to His authority.
Part 2 of this post will be on the Situational Pespective of Loving the Lord with all your mind: Acknowledging Him in all your ways and part 3 will be on the Existential Perspective: Trusting the LORD with all of your Heart.