We Are Shaped by What We Think Great

images-1I had a thesis I wanted to test out. I work with university professors, and I’ve noticed that while they are not all alike, many of them share similar characteristics. And depending on what side of the academic aisle the professor lives and works in (broadly: the sciences or the humanities), they seem to have different shared characteristics. So, here was the thesis I set out to test one day: people are shaped by what they think. My hypothesis was that if I were to walk through one of the science buildings on a university campus and talk to science professors, they might be cold, calculating, “objectively” rational, and to the point. On the other hand, if I were to walk through some department within the school of liberal arts, I might find professors who were friendly, willing to dialogue and listen, and (perhaps) more comfortable holding seemingly contradictory beliefs. I know, the thesis isn’t very scientific, and it was more of a hunch than a genuine thesis. Still, I was curious. So, with a friend, I set out to test my thesis. We first went to one of the science buildings on campus (a large midwestern university campus) and began to ask professors if we might ask them a few questions about spiritual topics. And as predicted, many professors were quick and cold in their response: “I don’t have time to discuss those kind of questions,” “no,” or “there is nothing interesting to say regarding religion.” When we did find a willing participant, the answers were quick and to the point and not very profound. It was almost as if the professors were saying, “look, we learned in our first year of graduate school the god hypothesis is not necessary, now move on already!” We lasted less than on hour in the science building.

Undaunted, we continued on to the English department. Our experience was much different. The first door we knocked on found a professor who writes fictional works that explore spiritual issues. So, she was happy to chat. The conversation jumped all over the map—and it was clear by the end that this professor was indeed very nice, open, and in fact comfortable holding many views, some of which were contradictory. The next door, another willing professor. He answered our questions thoughtfully and indicated a desire to meet again and continue the conversation at another time. We walked to the next office down, and found a professor of Rhetoric. We began to talk and he pulled out a paper he had just written examining the rhetoric of the evolution-creation debate. It was a fascinating discussion. We left with the promise to come back again and continue exploring these issues. And I walked out with my little hypothesis confirmed—people are shaped by what they think. Of course, not all science professors are cold, calculating, and disinterestedly rational. I know many who are kind, engaging (and still the paradigm of rationality). The same for humanity professors—many are engaging and do hold very consistent beliefs. But I think the general point holds, or at least it did that day: what we think about shapes us (to some degree or another).

I’d like to add to this hypothesis: our lives are shaped by what we think great. That which is ultimate in our lives will shape us. We are shaped by what we know and by what we consider ultimate in our lives. Ask yourself:

  • What do you think great? What competes in your life for greatness?
  • Are you convinced that God is greater than anything else that you might embrace to draw life from or find joy in?


Be careful of “should” here. Of course, God “should” be greatest in our life, right? But, is God actually greatest in your life? Is God enough? In your heart of hearts, do you believe that there is nothing you need besides God and His approval for eternal joy?

The reality is, God is enough. God really is Great—it all really is about God and His glory. Are you convinced that only in God we can find wholeness, satisfaction, and peace? Does the primary text (the words and actions you actually speak and do) as well as the subtext (what you actually communicate with your words and actions) of your life communicate “God is great”? Do you believe that? My hope is that my life and yours would ring out with the message of the psalmist: “For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods.” (Psalm 96:4)

For more on the Greatness of God see here and here.








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