Fuel for the Thinkers of Today

Back when I had my coffee shop, The Mudd Puddle, our logo was “fuel for the thinkers of today.” You see, there used to be a golden age of coffee. The coffee houses were the places where people thought, networked, and celebrated. In fact, the custom of the tip came from a coffee-house in London. Customers would leave a T.I.P. as they were giving their order To Insure Promptness. Many thinkers, good and bad, fueled up on hearty doses of coffee. Voltaire drank over 50 cups a day, Beethoven was rather indignant to have 60 beans brewed per cup, and then there’s Pope Clement VIII, who blessed coffee as a Christian drink. But the coffee-house was also a place regular people would go to think and drink. Daniel Webster referred to The Green Dragon Coffee House in Boston as the headquarters of the revolution, since it’s patrons were the instigators of the Boston Tea Party. New York’s Merchants Coffee House is where a group of radicals met to construct the first plan for uniting the colonies. They waved a flag in front of the cafe in 1788 to celebrate the United States Constitution. This coffee-house also hosted the reception for George Washington after his inauguration. My vision for the Mudd Puddle was to create an environment where people could come to think and talk. And let me tell you, my expectations were blown away. I was only 22 years old when I was blessed to co-own this coffee shop with my mother. I had not been exposed to many other denominations beyond my (then) Baptist background. We had Christian books for sale and would sometimes have Christian bands come play. But we also played secular music, hosted poetry readings, and displayed local art. Although we weren’t a “Christian coffeehouse,” word travelled fast through our community that our little establishment was Christian-owned. It was both a pleasure and a challenge to learn about and have a face for all the theological distinctives in the Christian faith. I was able to move past many of my stereotypes and really engage the people behind them. We didn’t start any revolutions, but there was much more than coffee brewing in that place. Sadly, the memories of those times seem so far away. Most people nowadays like to take advantage of the drive thru. It just doesn’t seem like we want to invest time into purposeful conversation. Ryan Glomsrud’s Letter from the Editor in this month’s Modern Reformation Magazine reminded me of my golden coffee days. In reflecting on the magazine’s 20-year anniversary, Glomsrud restated their vision, emphasizing their strategy to encourage “conversational theology.” I love that. He hopes that Modern Reformation will be a venue to stimulate some of this conversation. I think this is the goal for many Christian writers. We hope that our blog posts, books, and essays will serve as fuel for the Christian mind. But we don’t want the reader to leave the car running idle while they go to get their groceries. We want you to put the pedal to the medal. I’m no longer serving up coffee (for profit, anyway), but I still want to stimulate thinkers. And my favorite topics are theological. Coffee houses provided a place where people could linger and reflect. These days, there seems to be more information coming in, but less reflection. Let me ask you, how is the quality of your conversations? I know that I would like mine to improve. And I think one way to develop richer conversation is by cutting out the Folgers, and moving on to the Jamaica Blue Mountain. My first exhortation is to get some theological fuel. Read. Then read some more. Read until your brain creaks, as Douglas Wilson says. But don’t be a selfish reader. The book isn’t finished when you’ve read the last page. Shape others by what you read. If there’s one great way to get passed small talk, it’s by discussing something you’ve read. Read things that make you think; and then think out loud. Secondly, read with discernment. Make sure you are using your gospel filter. This implies that you are already being discipled under God’s Word. Ask yourself questions like, what is the author suggesting about their view of the world, of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration? What presuppositions do they bring to the table? What is their message? Is it Christ-centered or man-centered? Do you agree with their conclusion? Do you like their tone? Maybe you have some theological blind spots that you need cleared up. Do a study. Get several books, and let them lead you to other good books. Compare what you’re reading with God’s Word. Talk to your pastor or a teacher at your church for direction. Open new doors in your closed mind. Trust me, it will grow. Your mind is a muscle and it needs a workout. Let God’s Word transform you by the renewing of your mind. Which reminds me: pray! Pray for wisdom while you read. Pray for answers and God will answer. Lastly, try to incorporate some opportunities for quality conversation. Have someone over to discuss what your learning. Ask good questions to learn from them. Don’t just learn from what you’re reading; learn from what others are reading as well. I host a monthly book club where we all read different books and review them (over coffee, of course). And just imagine the thinking you can do if you drink coffee while you’re reading… Related Article: Talking Small, Cyber-Culture Vs. Real Hospitality