Wednesday, January 25

Thoughts on Thinking

The Winter 2012 issue of Leadership Journal included this quote from Jon Dyer:

"As we cultivate the skill of scanning screens, many of us find it more difficult to read a book word by word and line by line. We seem to cultivate either the skill of deep reading or the skill of scanning ... but it is difficult to to maintain both skills.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt publicly worried about the effect of this kind of reading - and about the impact of the internet as a whole: 'I worry that the level of interrupt, the sort of overwhelming rapidity of information - and especially stressful information - is in fact affecting cognition.

A good portion of the Christian life requires the ability to concentrate and focus on ideas over long periods of time. Spiritual depth requires the ability to pray for more than a few minutes, to read and memorize Scripture - not to search for it online, and to love God with our hearts and our minds. This means that we must be careful to cultivate and retain the skill of deeply reading and deeply contemplating the things of God, something the internet and digital technologies do not seem to foster."   Jon Dyer, From the Garden to the City: the Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technology

l admit that I love technology. It can make life easier and more comfortable. And technology can provide a lot of entertainment. I also believe that my computer, iPhone, and iPad are useful tools professionally and even spiritually. 

But they are also distractions. 

Our first action in the morning or when we get home at night is to turn on the radio or television. Anything but silence. We get our news and form our political convictions based on fifteen second sound bites on a thirty minute newcast. Our authority becomes the "group think" of Wikipedia. 

Technology doesn't promote meditation. It doesn't encourage deep thought. It doesn't provide for contemplation. Technology specializes in the quick and the shallow. It often provides surface answers that masquerade as wisdom.

We don't read deeply.

We don't think deeply.

We are content with shallow. But I don't know that I've ever heard shallow used in a positive context - especially when it refers to people or thoughts or opinions or faith.

Years ago, Richard Foster wrote:

"Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.”   Richard Foster, The Celebration of Discipline

Centuries ago, David wrote:

Blessed is the one

who does not walk in step with the wicked

or stand in the way that sinners take

or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,

and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,

which yields its fruit in season

and whose leaf does not wither—

whatever they do prospers. (Psalm 1:1-3 NIV)

Jesus told us:

"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matthew 22:37, 38 NIV)

At the heart of our discipleship is to not just love God with our hearts and emotions, but with all of our mind and thought. One of the key factors for a life that is stable and productive and strong is meditation on the things of God and the Word of God.

But you are going to have to fight for that. It is not our natural bent. Our world will fight against it. Other people won't understand it. But it will be worth it. And we need people who read deeply, think deeply, and meditate deeply on the things of God and their application to the needs of our world and the Church.

Howard Hendricks once said, "The secret of concentration is elimination." So what will you eliminate so that you can concentrate? What will you do to make room in your life to read and think deeply?

One of the things I am going to try to do in 2012 to make room in my life is turn off the TV at 9:00. This will give me more time to read and write, helping me to go "Deeper" and "Wider". (Those are two of my words for 2012. You can read about them here.)

I don't always get it done. It is still a discipline I am learning. But it is one I need so that I can get out of the shallow waters and into the deeper and more enriching places.

1 comment:

Brandon Smith said...


Great thoughts! Myself and some of the students in our ministry are getting ready to embark on "Facebook Free February." The concept is very much in line with what you are saying here.

I am going to point our students in the direction of this post.

Thanks for sharing!