Russell and Duenes

Thank You, Lord, For the Life of the Mind

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I was not interested in the life of the mind and soul until well into my late teens. I thank God that He awakened in me a yearning to love him, not only with body and soul, but with my mind as well. So I would like to give thanks to those men and women God used to create this desire in me.

Garry Poe: Mr. Poe was my AP English teacher my senior year in high school. Up to that point, I never truly cared about academics or doing well in school, except insofar as “doing well” kept me in my parents’ good graces. Yet here was a teacher who had a passion for learning, and particularly for reading and writing. We had to write practice AP English essays every Friday, and at first, I did terribly. I had never really had to write before. But I struggled through, read the books he assigned, and wrote the essays. And eventually I found that I enjoyed the process of reading and learning. I also passed the AP exam.

Ed Duenes: My father is not particular “bookish” or academically-oriented, in the formal sense; and my brother and I used to scoff him when we were boys as he would tell us that learning had to do with building up a “data bank” in our minds. Yet I always knew that my dad was a superb pilot, and not by accident. He pursued his flying, as he pursued many things, as a “thinking man’s game.” It wasn’t until I started flying myself that I realized the importance my father put on thinking well. Based on his example, I dove into aviation with zest, enjoying the sustained thought that went into doing it well. It was the first “thinking man’s” activity I engaged in, and I have my dad to thank for setting me an example. He flew with excellence because he thought with excellence.

John Piper: My Intervarsity leader at UCLA, Alex Van Riesen, introduced me to John Piper, and it has been one of God’s greatest graces to me. For the first decade or so of my Christian life, John Piper had the largest influence on me, by far. Indeed, no other author has influenced me more, even to this day. He had that blend of heart and mind in the Christian life which appealed to me somewhere deep in my soul. I remember coming across one of his books in college, a book which had portions of the Greek New Testament text in it, and thinking that I wanted to learn Greek myself so that I could read the text in the original. Piper turned me on to thinkers like Jonathan Edwards, John Calvin and John Owen (that’s a lot of “Johns”). I am eternally indebted to him for setting me on a trajectory, as a young Christian, of thinking deeply about life and faith.

Ellen Goldsmith (Quarry): Dr. E is a friend and counselor, who spoke powerfully into my life for over ten years. It was her influence that ultimately persuaded me to attend seminary at Talbot School of Theology, and she also helped me to think about and read the Scriptures in ways I never would have otherwise.

David Alan Black: He was my beginning Greek professor. Loved him. Still love him. He read or spoke seven languages, but he clearly loved the language of the New Testament. From the first day of class, he inspired me to want to read the Greek New Testament. Going to his class, at 8:00 am no less, was like Christmas morning. There was always something there to thrill my mind and heart. I read all of his books on NT Greek I could get my hands on. To this day I still regularly translate from the Greek text. What a gift Dr. Black was.

Dallas Willard: I did not find my way to Dallas Willard until the mid-1990s, but I thank God I did. Here is a man who can speak about God and His kingdom in a way the average layman can understand, and then turn around and write a brilliant philosophical piece that seems like it causes your head to break open. He’s another guy who proves that one need not check his brains at the door before trusting wholly in the Bible. Dallas stimulated me to think more critically on a worldview level.

Douglas Wilson: He’s just a pastor, but I find him to be unique among the evangelicals I read. He has helped me find my way into deeper reflections on epistemology and the reality that there is no spiritually neutral territory anywhere in the universe. It’s been a true pleasure to read his blog on a regular, mostly daily, basis.

David E. Pierce: Professor Pierce was my oil and gas law professor at Washburn. One thing that comes clear from sitting under his teaching is that he has thought long and hard about the subject of oil and gas law. If there is an issue to be researched, he is going to research it thoroughly. He’s not just going to read a few cases on it here and there. He’s going to read every case on it, and read them numerous times. He urged us to write clearly and succinctly, and forced us to be precise and accurate. I am grateful to have been his student.

I’m grateful for more than these people in my intellectual journey, but these stand out to me this Thanksgiving. The old commercial used to say, “The mind is a terrible thing to waste.” I quite agree, and I had been wasting mine for a good many years; too many. I often wish I had those years back. But praise God for His mercy, and for the joy of  learning and growing in the life of the mind.



Written by Michael Duenes

November 26, 2014 at 8:23 pm

Posted in Duenes, Thank the Lord

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