Living with the Mind of Christ

by Lucy Toh

Dr Allan Harkness’ message was about having the mind of our Lord in what we do, learn and teach. He spoke of the importance of Christian teachers, not just bringing the sweetness of Christ into our schools in general ways such as in gracious conduct towards others, but the importance of specifically bringing the mind of Christ to bear on all aspects of our work – relationships, curriculum materials and processes.

The Lives of Christ’s Disciples

Dr Harkness explained that we would be called upon to reflect on our agenda as Christian teachers whether we were in school, lecturing at National Institute of Education (NIE), teaching in church or elsewhere. But first, we must consider the agenda of all Christ’s disciples in the light of Mark 12:28-34: “One of the teachers of the law … asked him (Jesus), “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is …Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no commandment greater than these.” “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

Dr Harkness observed that the principles of Christian living, common to all Christ followers, must apply to Christian teachers as His disciples. This is what life in the kingdom of God is about. Jesus’ challenge for discipleship is in terms of direction – towards God and towards others. The question “who is my neighbour?” is clear. The person who needs my neighbourliness is one, who has a need, which prevents him or her from growing into full and complete humanity. Think of whom that may be in our school setting... students? fellow teachers? administrative staff? cleaners?

He observed that the text is also concerned with its dimensions – loving God and those around us holistically, with heart, soul, mind and strength.

He asked us then to consider what Romans 12:1-2 meant to us as Christian teachers: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is–His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

In this text, Paul, like our Lord, challenges us to holistic discipleship. In the light of God’s mercies to us (Romans 11), how can we not offer ourselves totally to Him as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to Him? Dr Harkness suggested that living sacrifices could be understood as enlivened sacrifices. For without the Lord, we are as dead, but as Romans 8:11 states the Spirit of Christ gives life to us. A key feature of this holistic discipleship is renewed minds, seeking to grasp “the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God” (Romans 11:33-36).

Teachers, together with all of Christ’s disciples are called to live a life of worship. For worship is really all about the whole of life. Having chosen to take up our place in God’s new society, we change our allegiance, loyalties to those of God’s kingdom. Our conformity is to the values, attitudes, behaviours of that kingdom. This transformation comes when our minds are redeemed (Romans 12:2), radically affecting how we live by transforming our behaviour and attitudes. This is total, whole-of-life renewal and is for all Christians.

The Minds of Christ’s Disciples

Where does the use of our mind fit into our development as Christian disciples, and in particular, as Christian teachers? The New Testament has much to say about the sort of mind we have as Christians. Paul is confident that in the light of those who are unspiritual around us, “we have the mind of Christ” (1Corinthians 2:12-16). This has also been translated “we understand what Christ is thinking” or “we think as Christ thinks”. Christians are also called to “be infants in evil, but in your thinking be adults” (1 Corinthians 14:20). In terms of lifestyle and relationships with others, “let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). These are the things that we are to fill our minds with: “whatever is honourable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute...” (Philippians 4:8). Similarly, we are to “set [our] minds on things that are above...for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:2).

So what is the Christian mind? We can start by identifying what it is not. Os Guinness, the Christian author, states that it is not merely the mind of a person who is a Christian for it is possible to be a Christian and not think in Christian ways – in fact, a Christian could be thinking in un-Christian ways. It is also not simply thinking about Christian topics (e.g. prayer, Bible, etc). The lordship of Christ covers all of life, not merely the obviously spiritual. It is also not intellectualism or cerebral Christianity, which is concerned only with thought and does not pay enough attention to action.

John Stott, in his book “Issues facing Christianity Today” helps us understand what the Christian mind is: “the Christian mind is a mind which has firmly grasped the basic presuppositions of Scripture and is fully informed with Biblical truth”.

Os Guinness develops this further: “thinking Christianly is thinking by Christians about anything and everything in a consistently Christian way – in a manner which is shaped, directed, and restrained by the truth of God's Word and God's Spirit.” And “what we do with what we know is what Christian knowing is all about.”

Everything comes into the realm of our thinking as a Christian, both day-by-day concerns as well as the big issues of the world and life such as lifestyle, materialism, wealth/poverty, simplicity, work and unemployment, leisure, time, environment, marriage and divorce and sexual issues, human rights, racism, urbanisation and education!

All these are part of our agenda as God’s people, but at the specific level, we must ask and answer the question “what is our agenda as teachers who are Christian?”

The Minds of Christian Teachers

Dr Harkness suggested that too often Christians, who are teachers, limit their understanding and practice of what it means to be a Christian who is also a teacher. We may see that being a Christian teacher is about praying for our students and fellow teachers; to try to represent Christ in our relationships with others – to seek to point those who are not yet Christian to Christ, and to encourage those whom we know are also Christian. This is to do with relationships – and they are important, and must not be downplayed. But this is at the general level of using our minds, which applies to all believers.

What demands does Christ make on our minds at the level of the ideas of education? That seems to be a very specific area to which we, as Christian teachers, need to bring our redeemed minds.

Think about our teaching strategies. Do we adopt without question the syllabuses handed down to us to teach, without questioning their authority or the worldview they represent? What is the basis of our confidence when faced with the cut and thrust of meetings, curriculum committees, staff room conversations, training workshops, even teaching the subjects of the curriculum in front of our students, etc?

It seems that here there is a very specific way in which we need to be grappling with the use of our redeemed minds – minds, which have firmly grasped the basic presuppositions of Scripture and are fully informed with Biblical truth.

The curriculum we teach is not free of values, or neutral fact. It is in fact a value-loaded interpretation of what the community wants the school (and we as teachers) to pass on. Thinking Christianly – having the mind of Christ – means to be increasingly aware of what these values are, their consistency or otherwise with Biblical values, and the extent to which various points of view may be able to be included in the marketplace of ideas represented by the curriculum. It means not merely to accept the status quo, but to look for opportunities to have a more visible Christian presence, to raise and share Christian perspectives in the multi-racial and multi-religious setting that is Singapore education. For those in administration or leadership, there may be scope for feeding in informed ideas.

Or in the classroom (especially for new teachers), we need to take time to think about how Christian values and perspectives can inform our teaching – both in content and delivery styles. We dare not fall into the trap of thinking that there are no Christian perspectives on the subjects of the curriculum. Geography, languages, the biological sciences, even mathematics, all the subjects of the curriculum may be thought through by Christians using their redeemed minds.

Furthermore, teaching in a mission school does not automatically mean that a teacher is involved in Christian education for the syllabus may be identical to that of non-mission schools.


As a Christian teacher, I am both challenged and a little daunted by Dr Harkness’ call to be more rigorous and discerning in what and how I teach, thereby applying the mind that God has given and redeemed through His Son. Thankfully, Dr Harkness ended his message by drawing our attention to three resources to help us to think Christianly in our educational institutions.

1. Each other
We need people we can interact with on the issues – whom we get to know, eat with, play with, celebrate with, weep with, worship with and learn with. These are fellow travellers on this specific part of our Christian journey! This is what makes a professional Christian fellowship like Teachers’ Christian Fellowship (TCF) important. It aims to bring together Christians interested in the field of education. This is not something that our local churches can readily provide as our church mates cannot be as aware of the issues we face in school as we are. We can come together informally or formally to study the Biblical perspective on these issues through Bible study groups or even theological courses.

2. Printed resources
There are numerous printed resources to help us including:

- The Charis Project at the United Kingdom’s Stapleford Centre has developed resources to bring Christian perspectives on values and morals into subjects such as mathematics, sciences and languages. See

- The English Curriculum Values Project sponsored by the Australian Council for Christian Education in Schools has developed curriculum materials, which employ a worldview approach to text study by senior secondary school students helping students to evaluate critically the values that vie for their allegiance, appreciate their own beliefs and actions, see the problematic consequences of particular worldview positions they hold, and to consider where they might lead in terms of actions and behaviours. In the hands of a Christian teacher, these materials could fulfil a pre-evangelistic role, with the potential to lead students along the path to Christian faith.

- Books such as Dr Brian Hill’s book, “That they may learn: towards a Christian view of education” (Paternoster 1990).

- Journals such as Journal of Education and Christian Belief (United Kingdom. and Journal of Christian Education, an Australian 46 year-old publication with Dr Harkness as the editor. See

3. The Spirit of the living Christ
Fundamentally, our greatest resource is the Lord Himself, who alone can work through these other means to bring us to an understanding of His own mind. It is He who will guide us into all the truth, who will teach us everything (John 14:26). Therefore, we need to keep close to Him, build and nurture that relationship and guard it zealously. Times with God cannot be rushed. In addition to necessarily short daily times, we need to seek other times for solitude, intimacy with God (e.g. in holiday times). He is the one who anoints and empowers us. We can also seek opportunities for sound theological/Bible training.

Conclusion and Reflection

This then is the agenda for Christian teachers – to make much more effective use of our redeemed minds, in both general and specific ways. It is most likely the latter that is the greatest challenge for us here in Singapore education. Dr Harkness challenged us to dedicate – and rededicate – ourselves to this most significant task and thus, live with the mind of Christ.

Dr Harkness call has been ringing in my ears since the Dedication Service, especially as I reflect on the Ministry of Education’s call for teachers and students to renew their sense of passion in teaching and learning. When I think of my own learning experiences, I realise that the best and most memorable ones involved strong emotions, a sense of wonder at the order, goodness and value of what I was learning that was nothing less than humbling.

Art Costa in his “Habits of Mind” framework speaks of the mental habit of wonderment and awe. There is passion in our Lord’s teaching and learning. Do we still burn with the fire of God’s awesome love and truth in our engagement with the people and the ideas He has created for us to know? Or do we settle for inadequate or erroneous methods, priorities or content because we will not commit the time to study what we teach? If the latter is true, could it be that we have lost a love for the teaching and learning enterprise the Lord has asked us to join Him in?

Let us not give up. We can take heart for as Christian teachers, more than any other learners or teachers, we have explicit access to the greatest mind that ever was or will be – and it is a great privilege and responsibility to be those who seek to reflect that mind as we allow it to be shaped, developed and sharpened in us.

This message was given by Dr Allan Harkness, Dean of Asia Graduate School of Theology (Malaysia/Singapore), at the Teachers’ Dedication Service on 5 July 2004 (Youth Day) at the True Way Presbyterian Church.