Book Plunge: The Mind of the Spirit

What do I think of Craig Keener’s book published by Baker Academic? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

You can find many books on the thought of Paul, but how many books can you find on the thinking of Paul? We can say that we know what it is that he thought, but what about what he said about how to think? That is a topic that has been neglected largely, but thanks to the work of Craig Keener, we now have a dense scholarly work on the subject.

Keener looks at passages mainly in the undisputed Pauline epistles, though there is a brief look at Colossians 3:1-2. In these passages, Keener examines the way the ancients saw thinking and how Paul would fit in with them. The goal is to walk away with a renewed interest in proper thinking and especially in this case, proper Christian thinking.

There are also numerous excursuses throughout the book so you can see what is thought about a certain topic in the ancient world. There’s also a look at what the ancients thought about the soul. In addition, you will find a section stating advice for counselors and others on how to use the material.

Keener doesn’t leave any stone unturned. He is incredibly thorough seeking to cover every minutiae of a subject that he writes about. You will find a long section on Romans 7 for instance and whether it describes Paul’s own thoughts about a struggle against sin or something else.

The advice given to counselors is also good. Keener wants this book to be able to help people with psychological problems. It could be used also to help all of us as we all need to have some renewed thinking. None of us thinks entirely the way we should.

Keener also points out that it’s too easy for people on one side to lower people on the other. In some circles in Christian thinking, it is thought that not having an education is in fact a virtue. That means you’re more prone to just believe what the Bible says without man’s ideas getting in the way. On the other end, it’s easy for those on the more intellectual side to look at the behavior of more emotional people and reduce it to emotionalism. The more emotional thinking can be in danger of a religion based on impulses without content. The more logical thinker can be in danger of a religion with content, but no passion.

The truth is, we need both. That’s one reason I’m happy to be married to a woman who is more emotional than I am. We can better balance each other out that way and frankly, sometimes, her way of looking at something is much simpler and can see a small detail I’ve overlooked.

In recommending changes I would have liked to have seen, Keener does end with a section on advice to counselors and pastors and such, but I think it would have been good to end each section with a little statement on application. Many times, I was getting a lot of content, but no application. Something on each section I think could have further helped the process along.

While the excursuses were also interesting, they could be seen as distracting too. Does it matter to a counselor to know about dying and rising gods? For me as an apologist, it definitely matters, but I wonder if that could have made a counselor more hesitant.

Still, I did enjoy the reading and I think Keener would definitely agree with me on one aspect of all the work he’s done. Easier said than done. We can know a lot more about how to think better, but the school of hard knocks can make it hard to pass the exam. Hopefully we’ll all learn to improve more.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Emotional Intelligence

What do I think of Daniel Goleman’s book published by Bantam Books? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I love the life of the mind. That’s no big secret. Yet due to recent situations, a friend of mine, who also loves the life of the mind, recommended that I read this book. I really am thankful that I did because it did open me up to a newer way of looking at the world. As a Christian, it’s easy to really focus on the intellectual, especially in the apologetics field, but we are creatures who are meant to have emotions as well. In fact, if we do not have emotions, then there is something wrong with us. The reality is that many of us, especially men, tend to downplay this side of us and act like it’s foreign.

Goleman’s research shows that understanding our emotions could be even more important than IQ. Do I think he overstates his case sometimes? Yes. Do I think that there can be a tendency when we get here to do absolutely nothing to not offend anyone? Yes. Does that mean that there is not a case to be made? Not at all. Anyone would be greatly helped by reading the stories about how our emotions work and seeing what the latest evidence is on their study. There is something here that can apply to everyone in every walk of their life, including how they live in their day to day relationships.

Do we have reason to be concerned about marriage? Then you could heed the advice given. Do you have difficulty on the job? Then pay attention. Do you have children that are being bullied or even worse, being bullies themselves? Take note of what is said. A lot of difficulty could be due to unruly emotions and unfortunately as many of us know, it’s quite easy for the emotions to hijack our reason and make us suddenly do things that we would not do. It is at those times that we will look back later on and say “What came over me then that I did what I did?” What happened was an emotional hijacking.

From a pastoral perspective, much of this could be useful in counseling as well. Goleman’s research will show more on how the brain reacts to such situations as fear and worry. He offers advice on how to deal with each of these. Some situations he gives are pretty extreme and yet the principles worked. Consider Elementary school students who made a game called Purdy after the last name of someone who fired shots at their school. In the game sometimes, the kids could defeat Purdy before he got off a shot. This actually turned out to be a coping mechanism that gave the children control.

Overall, while not everything will be agreed with here, there is a clarion call to pay attention to the role emotions have. Having all the IQ in the world won’t be as effective for you if your emotions are constantly holding your reason hostage. Learning to take control of your emotions and how to properly focus and use them can be helpful in every are of your life.

In Christ,
Nick Peters