MIND YOUR FAITH
Mind Your Faith: A Student’s Guide to Thinking and Living Well
David A. Horner
Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011
In Mind Your Faith, David A. Horner makes the argument that Christian students at secular universities can be aided in preserving (or developing) authentically Christian approaches to their mind, faith, and character through adequate training in thinking, believing, and acting in ways that are in line with what he calls a “biblical Christian worldview.”
Horner begins Mind Your Faith with a preface entitled, “Sanity in the University: Getting Started,” in which he presents the book’s thesis and aim. At the end of that preface he introduces a concept that will appear throughout the book: the Old Testament figure of Daniel as an example of what it looks like to be a faithful Christian while in college. He writes, “In the Old Testament book of Daniel we can find a model for doing college well… Its story begins with Daniel as a college-age man, who, with several friends, exhibits biblical thinking, faith and character within a religiously alien, sometimes hostile intellectual and cultural environment.”
Horner weaves the example of Daniel throughout the remaining chapters of Mind Your Faith, which is divided into three parts: Mind, Faith, and Character. “Mind” is further divided into six chapters, which support Horner’s claim that “our thinking undergirds everything else that we do, including our believing and acting.” These six chapters are “Loving God with Your Mind,” “The Truth about Truth,” “The Truth About Belief and Knowledge,” “Thinking Contextually: Finding Common Ground,” “Thinking Logically: Ask Good Questions and Give Good Reasons,” and “Thinking Wordviewishly: Connect the Dots.”
The second part of the book, “Faith,” makes the case that “flourishing as followers of Jesus in the university requires both thinking well and believing well—a life of reasonable faith and faithful reason.” Part two is divided into four chapters: “The Nature of Faith: Getting It Clear,” “The Necessity of Faith: Faith and Reason,” “Challenges to Faith: Handling Doubts and Objections,” and “The Credibility of Faith: Worldviewish Apologetics.”
In the third part of Mind Your Faith, which is entitled “Character,” Horner claims that “thinking well and believing well are expressed in living well,” in other words that a good mind and a good faith lead to good character. This part is presented in only two chapters, which are “College Life and the Good Life: A Moral Vision,” and “Lessons from Le Chambon: A Moral Example.” Finally, after the main text of the book, Horner offers an appendix made up of an extensive list of resources “to help you go further in each of the areas discussed in Mind Your Faith.”
David A. Horner is professor of philosophy and biblical studies at Biola University in La Mirada, California, a university that is “interdenominational yet theologically conservative.” Holding a PhD from Oxford University, Dr. Horner “serves as research scholar for Centers for Christian Study, International, an effort to develop intellectual Christian communities within secular university contexts, and as president of The Illuminatio Project, whose aim is to bring the light of a classical biblical vision of goodness, truth and beauty into the thinking of the church and culture through strategic research and communication.”
Much of the motivation for Horner’s many vocational interests and the impetus for writing Mind Your Faith can be traced back to three experiences he had as a freshman in college. Within that first year of college, a friend of his became addicted to drugs and died by suicide, another friend “was drawn into an anti-intellectual cult,” and Horner himself “almost lost [his] faith.”
According to Horner, these and other similar experiences are quite common for Christian students (by which he seems to mean Evangelical Christian students) at secular universities. He writes, “Secular universities can be moral minefields” that offer young people ample opportunities to party, do drugs, binge drink, and have casual sex. In addition, while students are in class they will likely have their “traditional moral beliefs, values and practices… called into question, critiqued, even ridiculed.” He warns that “the moral fallout from many students’ university years—sexually, psychologically, physically, relationally—can be devastating.” When Christian college students act in ways that contradict their own spiritual, moral, and behavioral standards, Horner calls this “losing your mind.” He has written Mind Your Faith to help students to keep from “losing their minds” by learning to “mind their faith.”
The theology that informs every aspect of Mind Your Faith is easily recognizable as traditional Evangelical Christian theology that relies heavily on the Bible as its source. Solidly Trinitarian, Horner’s theology affirms that “the God of the Bible” is “our Creator and Redeemer,” who is “revealed supremely in Jesus,” and who works through the Holy Spirit “to help shape us to become like Jesus.” According to Horner, “Our faith in God… involves everything about us—trusting him with our life, including our eternal life, and committing ourselves to follow him and his will in obedience for the rest of our life.” These traditional theological norms are of extreme importance in Mind Your Faith because for Horner they provide a firm, stable grounding during a season in life when many students begin to loosen their connection to “the God of the Bible” and because these norms call students to grow in faithfulness to this God during college rather than using college as an excuse for living in ways contrary to the Christian virtues.
AIM OF BOOK
Horner is very clear in communicating his aim for Mind Your Faith in Chapter 1 when he writes, “The aim of Mind Your Faith is to help you keep from losing your sanity: to go to college without losing your mind, your faith, and your character.” Mind Your Faith is written for college students to provide them with an intellectual framework that will not only help them not to “lose their sanity” in college (act in ways contrary to their own Christian standards), but that will enable them to grow in mind, faith, and character. Horner writes, “There may well be no period in your life that is more influential and life defining. The stakes are high. So it makes sense to approach the time you spend in college as intelligently as possible.”
STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
Horner’s overall purpose of equipping Christian college students to develop a well thought-out Christian faith that can be communicated in rational, intelligent ways is of great value. Many Christians lack the foundational knowledge and vocabulary to have intelligible dialogue about their faith not only with people of other faiths and those critical or hostile to faith, but even with other Christians. Mind Your Faith is a great resource to help college students and other Christians to think through the implications of holding to a biblical worldview. This book demonstrates to young Christians that it is possible to be an intelligent, well educated, and logical Christian that does not fall into the moral and intellectual traps that can seem to be set throughout the experience of attending a secular university.
While Mind Your Faith can be of great value to many readers, this book also has some rather obvious blind spots, many of which derive from the author’s apparent presupposition that there is one valid form of the Christian faith, which is both conservative and Evangelical. Horner’s arguments are almost exclusively supported by quotes from the work of other Western white males, most of whom are also conservative Evangelical Christian authors. Every quote that is offered as an epitaph at the beginning of each chapter and all but one of the dozens of quotes that are set apart in the margins of Mind Your Faith are written by Western white men, most of them conservative Evangelical Christians. The only quote not from a white man is from an Asian-American male neoconservative economist. The perspectives of women, non-Western peoples, and people of color are absent from Mind Your Faith.
Finally, while Mind Your Faith is aimed at college students, because this book is quite intellectually rigorous and heavily philosophical, only those students that are already mature in their faith and willing to invest the time and mental energy into studying this book (it must be studied rather than merely read) will likely find value in it. While it is accessible, it is not a book that could easily be fit in during a semester’s studies or that is likely to be read during a break by the average college student. Collegiate ministers, however, can find much wisdom in this book that can be shared with their students and, perhaps, studied with those few students who might be up for the challenge of Mind Your Faith.
 Horner, D. A., Mind Your Faith, 29.
 Ibid., 33.
 Ibid., 139.
 Ibid., 207.
 Ibid., 245.
 Mind Your Faith, back cover.
 Horner, D. A., Mind Your Faith, 15.
 Ibid., 19-20.
 Ibid., 49, 154.
 Ibid., 155.
 Ibid., 26.
 Ibid., 18.