Thursday, October 14, 2010

What is a "transformed mind"? (Romans 12:2)

Trying desperately to find moments to write on Paul.  Argh!  Here's an excerpt from late night writing last night:
Such newness of life involves a transformed way of thinking that is different from the way unbelievers in the world think. For some, it is tempting to make Paul’s words in Romans 12:2 into a command to study and get a set of ideas right. Socrates allegedly once said that “Right thinking leads to right action.” Some personalities that are oriented around reason and thinking mistakenly take Paul to say that it is key that we get our ideas and worldviews in order, that if we can only get our ideas right, then everything else will take care of itself. Our “right ideas” will play themselves out into “right living.”

Unfortunately, this is just not the case. Most people have significant points of discontinuity between their professed ideas and how they live. Some of us do not realize it, but many would not change their way of life even if they did. How many people make no attempt to stop smoking or to control their eating even though they know it is horribly harmful to their bodies? How many people in the past have believed in God but continued to live in ways they themselves knew were wrong?

Further, more often than not, the ideas we profess come from our sense about life, rather than the other way around. The arguments we give are just as often meant to justify the conclusion we want to hold rather than real attempts to be objective about the evidence. In the rare occasion when you might get someone to admit their own inconsistency, many will simply confess that they just are not interested in the truth. We humans are simply not rational creatures for the most part, and those interpreters of Romans 12:2 who see the verse in relation to reasoning things out logically are destined for never-ending frustration.

In the end, though, logic simply is not what Paul means when he speaks of a transformed mind. The verses that follow make it clear that he is thinking about a way of thinking about each other, that is, about our attitudes toward one another, as in Philippians 2...

1 comment:

Angie Van De Merwe said...

One does live in a "world" of ideas, whether it is acknowledged or not. If one lives in a culture than affirms certain behaviors as "good", then there is no real analysis of that behavior, but, one is living "within" the world "created" by the cultural referent (the Scriptures being the referent). This is what group cohesion is about. One must "fit" the mores or norms in a given society. The Church has affirmed "group think", this is what denominations are about.

Given Romans 12 and Phil. 2, where one's body is a 'living sacrifice, and one's identity is "given over" to Christ" is really not short of Islamic fundmentalism. They also are willing to "die for the cause of Allah". And their identity is not a personal one, but a religious one.

When one confirms Acts as historically accurate, and agree that the Church has a right "to set another apart"(Barnabas and Paul) then one has stepped over the lines of appropriate behavior, according to our Western understanding of "law". One cannot "take another's life", without consent. And most in the free world would agree that killing and stealing of another's life or property, is wrong. Is "right thinking", then about transforming one's mind into "killing for Christ" ("His purpose or work") and away from rational Western understanding of justice?

Scripture is time bound, not eternal. It was written by humans, with their cultural understandings and prejuidices. So, it is hard to maintain in the Western modern world of today.