Rarely do I go to a store and buy a book with a title by an author I am unfamiliar with. Even rarer do I read said unfamiliar book from cover to cover in earnest and decide it has earned Praxis Circle’s selection for our Book of the Month—yet this is exactly what happened with Bradley G. Green’s The Gospel and the Mind: Recovering and Reshaping the Intellectual Life.

The title (and Green’s impressive credentials) caught my attention. At Praxis Circle, we emphasize the symbiotic relationship between faith and intellect, and more specifically, how the Christian faith has fundamentally shaped the intellectual life of Western civilization.

It was my great pleasure to discover that The Gospel and the Mind could serve as an introductory primer to this idea. In just a mere 180 pages, Green explains how the five pillars supporting the life of the mind (creation/history, teleology, faith, language, and morality) are best understood within the Christian worldview and why the Christian faith has always seemed to spur on intellectual life.

Green writes in his introduction:

“Indeed, in the Western world there is a rich tradition emphasizing the life of the mind. Much of that emphasis flows from our Christian inheritance, as seen in the biblical documents and in key thinkers of the West (Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Calvin, among others). As the modern world has jettisons its Christian intellectual inheritance, there has been a corresponding confusion about the value of the mind, even the possibility of knowledge at all, whether of God or the created order” (page 26).

His own summary of his thesis is this:

1. “The Christian vision of God, man, and the world provides the necessary precondition for the recovery of any meaningful intellectual life.

2. The Christian vision of God, man, and the world offers a particular, unique understanding of what the intellectual life might look like” (page 21).

In short, Christianity’s foundational principles and truth are what make purposeful thought possible.

One key takeaway from the book that underpins Green’s six chapters is the idea that the Judeo-Christian view of the world provides a meaningful trajectory forward toward an ultimate goal: knowing and loving God—via Augustine, one and the same. Creation, history, teleology, faith, language, and morality all find their foundation in this truth.

Green explains how modern and postmodern thought deny this truth to their core and therefore offer no goal forward. This leads to a random, arbitrary, and ultimately purposeless “knowledge” of the world that only serves to tear down, not build up any meaningful understanding of reality—leaving the secular thinker with no place to rest his head. Green goes as far to say that “Ultimately, you cannot affirm the reality of an overarching narrative encompassing all reality unless you can affirm the reality of God” (pg. 24).

In his closing thoughts, Green shares that he has essentially provided a non-traditional type of apologia for the Christian faith—one that will remind Christians of their rich heritage and the deep substance of their faith, and one that will prompt open-minded secularists to consider the value in bringing back Christian thought to the public square.

Green explains complicated subjects with a depth and clarity that any reader (from “beginning” to “seasoned” thinkers) will appreciate. He goes to great lengths to flesh out his main arguments by drawing from historical figures and context—a practice quite lost in much of academia today. With each chapter capable of being its own book, Green has masterfully served up key points to digest and ponder.

As an aside, Green also gets bonus points for citing, at length, modern day thinker and Praxis Circle Contributor Roger Scruton, who Green argues was often very close to the truth of things. Go Sir Roger!

It’s often said that academic thought is ten years ahead of mainstream thought. Published in 2010, Green’s book discusses philosophical ideas that have now found their way into today’s Western society and culture. He emphasizes the need for Christians to fight our slip into anti-intellectualism and instead show the world that we can offer a coherent response. By committing to read this book, many Christians will find themselves taking a necessary first step.

Now better equipped to understand the power and grace of God, I am beginning to understand how I happened upon The Gospel and the Mind in the first place.