People Who Introduced Me to the Life of the Mind

According to Scripture, every part of human beings, including our minds, has been created in the image of an infinite, eternal, and triune God. Being created in God’s image (the imago Dei) enables humanity to experience an amazing life of the mind and to be, in effect, hunter-gatherers of truth. Therefore, the mind takes on an eternal dimension and we have an obligation to use our mind to the glory of our Creator. Jesus himself speaks of loving God with our entire being, which includes the mind (Matthew 22:37).

Passing on the Life of the Mind
As any regular reader of my Reflections blog knows, I am passionate about the life of the mind to the glory of God. I owe much of that passion for the life of the mind to a number of people who modeled it for me. Here I’ll introduce a few of them, explain how they influenced me, and connect them with some of their educational and scholarly works. My hope is that my readers will take the pursuit of the life of the mind more seriously and consider learning from some of the people who taught me.

C. S. Lewis (1898–1963): The very first book that I read as a Christian was Lewis’s contemporary classic Mere Christianity. Lewis had one of the great minds of the twentieth century and beyond. While Mere Christianity is one of Lewis’s more popular books, it is nevertheless chock-full of critical ideas that challenged me to sharpen my thinking. Because I consider this book a masterful work, I have reread it many times over the years along with other Lewis books. I have a chapter on Lewis in my book Classic Christian Thinkers: An Introduction (see chapter 9) that will help introduce you to Lewis’s life as well as a summary of the content of Mere Christianity.

Walter R. Martin (1928–1989): My first teacher of the Bible, Christian theology, and apologetics was the original Bible Answer Man—my mentor and former boss at the Christian Research Institute (CRI) Walter Martin. He taught me to think carefully about arguments and truth claims that impacted my faith. Martin was one of the leaders in the countercult apologetics movement that started in evangelicalism in the 1950s. Martin’s most influential book The Kingdom of the Cults evaluated the then-new religious movements that had begun in America in the nineteenth century—like Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, and the Latter-day Saints. It also includes an evaluation of other more recent religious sects as well. For more about my former teacher and friend, see my article entitled Christian Thinkers 101: A Crash Course on Walter Martin.

Douglas Wessell (1928–2018): My first college instructor in philosophy was Doug Wessell, Philosophy Professor Emeritus at Cerritos College. Professor Wessell was the best college teacher I ever had. He introduced me to the history of Western philosophy as well as the world’s major religions. He helped me to think carefully about the big questions of life. Doug became my friend and academic advisor and had a huge influence on the direction I took in school and in my vocational career. He was a Christian in the Lutheran tradition but you would never know it in the classroom because he introduced each philosophical and religious system as if he affirmed it himself. His intellectual fairness was impressive and exemplary. I served as an adjunct instructor of philosophy at Cerritos College for a decade and, for a time, shared an office with my old professor.

John Warwick Montgomery (1931–): The first time I heard the expressions “the life of the mind” and “Renaissance Christian” was from the distinguished Christian apologist, theologian, and attorney Dr. John Montgomery. As a scholar, Montgomery has earned eleven degrees, written some forty books, and participated in high-profile debates with famous critics of Christianity. He gave a lecture on the topic “Becoming a Renaissance Christian” at the Simon Greenleaf School of Law (now Trinity Law School) in 1982. That lecture hooked me on pursuing the life of the mind as part of my devotion to God. Montgomery effused on the life of the mind. One of his more popular apologetics works is History and Christianity.

Mortimer J. Adler (1902–2001): Mortimer Adler was one of the most influential philosophers and educators of the twentieth century. In my opinion Adler may have been one of the most educated persons of the century. He chaired the board of editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica and was editor of the Great Books of the Western World. He also worked as the director of the Institute for Philosophical Research. Adler especially appreciated the Aristotelian and Thomistic philosophical traditions as he rationally defended the existence of God and wrote about various theological topics. He converted to Christianity late in life, first joining the Episcopal Church and later becoming a Roman Catholic. In the 1940s, Adler wrote a book on reading (How to Read a Book) that became a bestseller and a modern educational classic. In the 1970s, his colleague Charles Van Doren helped him revise the work. Reading Adler’s work transformed my entire intellectual life. Adler influenced me significantly through his many books (more than 50) and public talks and I had the great pleasure of interacting with him through email shortly before his death at 98 years of age. For more on Adler, see my article Wednesday Wisdom from Thinker Mortimer J. Adler.

These men introduced me to the life of the mind and I’ve written about their influence as an expression of deep gratitude. If you aspire to pursue the life of the mind to the glory of God, I hope you’ll learn more about these men by following the article links and reading their excellent books.

Reflections: Your Turn 
Who inspired you to develop your mind?

In these three books I write about topics having to do with the life of the mind: