2011: Time to trim that “mind fat”

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Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is true worship. Do not conform 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.

-Romans 12:1-2, NIV

These verses show that how we think is intimately connected with who we are and how we act. I don’t wish to suggest that we are simply brains on sticks. Certainly not, we are a complicated interaction of mind, soul, and body. It is important, especially perhaps for evangelicals, to remember that mind is no less a part of our being than soul and body.

Os Guiness has suggested that we have fit bodies and fat minds. He wrote a book by that title, which contains this telling subtitle: Why evangelicals don’t think and what to do about it. We’re naturally concerned that our souls be reconciled to God through Christ. We’re concerned that we take care of our bodies (as evidenced by the proliferation of spiritually-themed exercise and weight loss programs). Google “Christian weight loss programs” and you will get more than 3.6 million responses. There are, however, few intellectual boot camps for Christians. Few resources for training the mind.

Paul’s words to the Roman church suggest that an essential part of faithful living in a fallen world is renewed patterns of thought. Growing up, I would have primarily applied this concept to personal, moral thoughts (i.e., renewing your mind means no longer having impure thoughts about attractive women, no longer thinking that it is acceptable to cheat on a high school quiz, etc.). Granted, the renewing of our minds would certainly entail the transformation of thoughts like this. However, these things are only the tip of the iceburg.

God is interested in our delving into deeper patterns of thought, patterns of thought that extend beyond our own inward and internal thoughts (i.e., what we think). God is also interested in what we think about and how we think (our process or method).

Followers of Christ need places to talk about what we think about important matters and how we go about arriving at the conclusions that inform our being and doing. Paul’s letter to the Romans reminds us these things are already being shaped and acted up by forces external to us. Paul refers to, “the pattern of this world” (v. 2). John R W Stott points out in his classic book, The Christian Counter Culture (IVP) that Jesus challenges his followers to chart a course that in informed by the values of the kingdom of God. Jesus outlines these in the Sermon on the Mount. This sermon is a manifesto, a starting place, for the renewing of the mind which is rooted in believing what God has said and done in Jesus Christ. That renewal is extended through the apostolic witness to Christ contained in the rest of the New Testament.

This is our foundation, our starting place. And the work of the Christian is to be so saturated by Scripture that the ways we think and act become profoundly informed by the same values that are expressed in Scripture. We go beyond Scripture such that we form arguments based on revelation to teach us how to act on matters not expressly addressed by Scripture following the lead of those great souls who have gone before us.

And we do this in the context of a community that is perpetually coming to God in prayer, Word, and Sacrament: humbling ourselves before God for the purpose of turning our lives over to him.

This is as much discipleship as receiving Holy Communion, reading Holy Scripture, or praying the Divine Hours. This is the discipleship of the mind that Paul calls us to in chapter twelve of Romans.

How do you understand the Bible?

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Scot McKnight has posted a link to a hermeneutics quiz he developed for Leadership Magazine. Take the quiz to give you some feedback on how the ways you interpret the Bible relate to others in the evangelical community. I scored low (67/100) on  the progressive side (66 was the cut off). I’d encourage you to sit with several of the questions and answer them honestly. For me it was the foot washing one. I get the spiritual significance of foot washing (intellectually) but in reality the way I treat the text doesn’t match. At the installation of The Rev Canon Sam Wells as Dean of Duke Chapel, the service included his washing the feet of members of various constituencies that form the Duke community. I admittedly felt a real internal dissonance at the thought of doing that, which provoked (short lived) reflection. Try it for yourself.

Purple State of Mind | Screening

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I am heading over to North Carolina School of the Arts for a viewing of an interesting documentary, Purple State of Mind. Here’s how it is described:  

Welcome to a conversation between two old friends. Welcome to a real conversation about the things that divide and unite all of us: our memories, our identities, our beliefs, our choices.Craig Detweiler and John Marks have known each other for twenty-five years. When they roomed together as sophomores at Davidson College, they were devout Christians. It was Craig’s first year in the faith, John’s last. After college, they parted ways, and when they met again, years later, they never talked about what happened… until now…Their conversation starts as a bull session between pals and becomes a story about how people make friends, and how they lose them; how people change, how they grow, and how they deal with the big stuff: death, sex, the meaning of life, God. The conversation between Craig and John captures in all its intimacy and difficulty a one on one reckoning between two people who want to understand each other but won’t compromise their beliefs.At a time when the country is ever more divided over questions of faith and doubt, welcome to a new way of talking… welcome to a new territory of the heart. Welcome to a Purple State of Mind. 

I’ll write a review of it soon.