The Spiritual Discipline of Thinking

I just finished a rather big (530 pages), but readable, book on thinking–Surfaces and Essences: Analogy As The Fuel and Fire of Thinking.

Don’t let the size scare you off. It is quite an enjoyable read packed with everyday examples and ending with the fascinating examples of mathematicians pursuit of solving quadratic equations (don’t worry if you’ve forgotten all about them, it’s not a re-hash of high school algebra) and the development of Einstein’s thinking as he came up with his many theories that explained gravitation and mass-energy unity.

Analogy is the selective exploitation of past experiences to shed light on new and unfamiliar things belonging to another domain. Analogy-making is the lifeblood of cognition. It is also is the wellspring of creativity. As they explore analogy making, they touch on the education establishment’s tendency to believe in teaching things–especially science and math–with formal logic rather than analogy. This latter is ironic because so many advances in math are accomplished through analogy and not through formal logic.

Some church denominations have a foundation of tradition and the Bible. Some say “only the Bible.” As I have wandered from church to church in my life, many years ago I made a (to me) remarkable discovery. Even the churches that are one way or another tied to the Reformed Bible-only view have traditions. Go figure.

This book’s summary of research and story of stories added to my knowledge and experience about how importance of story over lists of facts. Even in science and technology. Partly because sometimes what we take as facts really aren’t.

This insight includes Bible study where we err if we think it’s all about learning a list of things–perhaps a list of rules.

I have begun NT Wright and Michael Bird’s 980+ page 4.5-lb. “summary” of Wright’s scholarship to date The New Testament in its World. They write in the introductory chapter, “If you try to read [the New Testament] as a ‘how-to’ book, which sadly is how some people approach it, you may end up frustrated, thinking it would have been better if the spirit had given us something more like a car manual or railway time table. No: the New Testament is designed to draw us into the story of God’s plan, to rescue the world from chaos and idolatry and to launch his new transformative creation…This rescue and this launch have happened in Jesus.”

Sounds as if they had read Surfaces and Essences before it was written!

Go dive into the story. It’s fascinating…and life-changing.

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