Deep thoughts of God matter. They ignite worship and prayer in the soul; they strengthen us in trials and suffering. The Puritans understood this well. Though not perfect, the Puritans understood that enjoyed doctrine protects the heart from the treason of sin. Put most bluntly, the Puritans understood that without rich and robust theology savored in the soul, there is no Christianity.
The world welcomes the notion of a loving God. Yet its excitement vanishes when we use the word Trinity. But God is love precisely because he is triune. Many in the church, understandably, struggle with the concept of the Trinity.
How do I know this? I listen to Christians pray.
Believers address the Father and thank him for dying for their sins; they thank Jesus for sending his Son; and they attempt to activate the Holy Spirit through emotional-worship music.
Why do we struggle so? Because we, as humans, tend to shy away from thoughts that we can’t quite get our hands around. But we loosen our grip to our detriment. One of the soul’s great secrets is that rigorous and dependent thinking upon God is the means to refreshed affections for God. John Piper writes that our thinking must be “wholly engaged to do all it can to awaken and express the heartfelt fullness of treasuring of God above all things.” God formed the mind to serve the heart. We cannot love what we do not know, and we cannot praise what we do not prize.
Contrary to what many believe, deep study of God does not necessarily (and should not) lead to pride or staleness, but can (and should!) lead us to increase our affection for the God on whom our minds are set. The more we discover of God, the more we delight; the more we see of him, the more we savor.
And the Puritans understood this connection between mind and heart. They understood that God crafted the head to serve the heart: that thinking less of God is not the secret to a thriving soul, but instead the nourished soul digs deeper into the beautiful character of the Almighty.
Let me provide an example. Consider how John Owen (1616–1683), regarded by many as the most refined (and admittedly complex) Puritan thinker, uses his grasp of the Trinity to inform his affections for God.
Communion with God
In his classic work Communion with God, Owen instructs Christians not only how to worship the triune God as a whole, but also how to distinctly worship and enjoy each person of the Trinity in their particular role and function.