Community Gardens

Imagine that the biblical worldview is like fertile soil. Plant a person or idea in this rich loam and a beautiful and fruitful yield results. Imagine, further, how many more plants would grow in an entire garden.

Imagine that a garden is a learning community (formal and informal) created to grow Christian minds for the glory of God and the blessing of mankind. Imagine, also, the impact of countless community gardens over course of time. The long-term impact of learning God’s word profoundly would be extensive in the church and the world. Consider these possibilities.

Aspiring thinkers turn back to the Bible as an act of worship. They evaluate whom they listen to and where they learn. They turn away from negative speakers and false messages. They learn to distinguish between the trivial and the momentous. They reinvest their intellectual capacity in the true, good, and beautiful. They develop intellectual virtues in accord with the Scriptures.

Apprentice thinkers acknowledge with their whole mind, soul, and strength this essential truth: “Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deut 8:3). They learn the history, people, themes, and vision of the Bible. They study the cultures of the ancient Near East and Palestine. They practice intertextual reasoning and learn to think like the biblical authors. They listen to the global community and learn from the theological tradition of the church. Renewed thinkers learn to fear the Lord and grow in wisdom.

Those who acquire wisdom serve their local cultures, teach in their local churches, and mentor future leaders. Some are like Joseph and Daniel, serving with distinction in the world for the glory of God. Others function as ambassadors in the public square, like Dorothy Sayer and C. S. Lewis. Still others serve evangelistically as Francis Schaeffer and Tim Keller.

Maturing thinkers are wise stewards and honor God as apprentice leaders, builders, benefactors, and thinkers. They evaluate the world with biblical assumptions. They affirm what is positive and promote the common good. They also critique and challenge what is false and evil. They demonstrate the gospel in ways that are intellectually plausible and existentially credible, “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks” (1 Pet 3:15).

Imagine the positive impact of community gardens—nurturing Christian minds for the long-term to the glory of God and the blessing of mankind.

Cited by permission from my book Such a Mind as This: A Biblical-Theological Study of Thinking in the Old Testament (Wipf & Stock 2021)


Wisdom is to know what really matters and to act accordingly. What matters is not just a question of facts, but the knowledge of meaning of facts. Wisdom asks: What is valuable? What has purpose? What is most important? And, how can I apply or use it rightly?

The Bible testifies that our omnipotent and omniscient God is utterly wise. He alone knows what is most important and what to do about it. God is wise in the highest degree. In fact, God is wisdom.

What does he consider supremely important? What is most valuable in his eyes? What really matters to God as the foundation of wisdom and that guides him in all he does?

First, what matters most to God is himself and his glory.  For this reason, he designated himself as mankind’s great goal and everything he did in creation and does in redemption or will do in restoration is directed to this most valuable purpose. Augustine expressed this concept clearly: “God himself, who is the Author of virtue, shall be our reward. As there is nothing greater or better than God himself, God has promised us himself.”

In his wisdom, therefore, God ordained that we would be “conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom 8:29), “become partakers of the divine nature” (1 Pet 1:4), “establish [our] hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father” (1 Thes 3:13), “raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence” (2 Cor 4:14), and “present [us] blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 1:24).

Second, God never wavers from his original and ultimate end in creation, his “blueprint for the earth.” T. Desmond Alexander said: “Whereas Genesis presents the earth as a potential building site, Revelation describes a finished city. Underlying the construction of this city is the expectation that God will reside within it, sharing its facilities with people from every nation.”

God loves and embodies wisdom. He knows how to apply what really matters to him within creation. He always acts with reference to his glory, his love for mankind, and his earthly tabernacle. He can build whatever he designs and his ideas always produce positive consequences.

In brief, God is wise because he is good, thinks good thoughts, and does good things. This is divine wisdom and this is our God, the divine philosopher.



By the Waters of Babylon

Psalm 137 provides several insights about the experience of some individuals brought to Babylon in the first deportation (597 BC)—though largely negative in perspective. Read this citation from the psalm (verses 14):

By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion.

On the willows there we hung up our lyres.

For there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?

In verse 1, “waters” probably refer to irrigation canals that the exiles dwelled beside in ethnic settlements and were obligated to maintain. Two antagonists are identified in verse 3: “captors” (Babylonians) and “tormentors” (likely other captive ethnicities living nearby). This incident depicted in this psalm presumes a pluralistic setting: proximity to and friction with persons of other cultures, religions, and ethnic identities.

In their misery and disorientation, some of the deportees could not imagine serving God apart from the infrastructure of the Israelite state (monarchy, temple, land). Perhaps they did not listen attentively to the Lord or suffered from double-mindedness: “For they have not listened to my words,” declares the Lord, “words that I sent to them again and again by my servants the prophets. And you exiles have not listened either” (Jer 29:19). Perhaps they idolized the temple and Zion ideology—“the pride of your power, the delight of your eyes, and the yearning of your soul” (Ezek 24:21). Or as one commentator suggests, they did not discern this critical lesson: “Holy sites do not enable Yahweh’s presence among his people, but holy people do (Jer 7:3–11).”

The dejected singers in Psalm 137 provide a negative path to follow in the midst of cultural disorientation. The musicians were unable to imagine blessing and service apart from their former temple setting and their accustomed lifestyle in Canaan. The musicians in Psalm 137 had unwillingly transitioned from a mono-cultural to a pluralistic setting. They lost social, religious, and economic power.

They did not discern how their view of reality or themselves was conditioned by power and its loss. As a result, they did not perceive their opportunity or responsibility. They did not seek the common good for the glory of God, as Jeremiah counseled in his letter (29:4–7). They did not declare God’s name as exiles in their pluralistic context.

Clearly, we must not repeat the error of Psalm 137. Amid our “exiles” today, we must never forget our biblical priorities. Inordinate longing for past cultural domination and related forms of thinking is neither spiritually healthy nor intellectually pious.


How NOT to Love God With the Mind

 To become intellectually impotent and irrelevant as a follower of Jesus Christ, copy at least one of the following attitudes and behaviors:

Naive attitude: Some are blissfully unaware or ignorant by choice.

Curious but uncommitted: Many want intellectual entertainment, but are unwilling to discipline their minds or submit to programmatic learning.

Committed but undisciplined: Many view learning like a cafeteria and consume what is appealing, rather than what is nutritional.

Intellectual pride: Some think they know enough already or that they know best the path to knowledge.

Consumer approach: Some “shop” for knowledge, learning formats, and instructors that conform to their “buying” preferences. When study becomes difficult or boring, they take their “business” elsewhere.

Laziness: Some are not willing to pay the price of learning and self-discipline. They learn only what is interesting or easiest.

Triviality: Some are conditioned by inconsequential chatter through social media, so they are not prepared to read, write, or reflect deeply.

Passivity: Some fulfill the role assigned to them by society intellectual simplicity, private religiosity, and subjective spirituality.

Sacred-secular dichotomy: Some embrace modern secularism that declares spirituality and worldview are just private and personal, and only useful for Sunday at church.

Social obstacles: Many are distracted by the demands of culture (sports, parties, family).

Anti-intellectualism: Some resist study and reflection because their religious tradition minimizes the need for theology or thinking.

Fundamentalism: Some resist study due to “separation” from the world and do not interact with culture or worldview.

Capitulation: Some embrace the postmodern narrative and myth of progressthe past is irrelevant, authority is questionable, and every perspective is equally valid.