Thursday, June 18, 2009
Mind and Heart
For most of my Christian life I believed that the mind was to rule the emotions, emotions are untrustworthy and must be disciplined by the mind. That bubble was burst when I learned about the noetic effects of sin. "Noetic" comes from the Greek word which is transliterated in English as "nous" and it means mind. The noetic effects of sin are the effects of sin on the mind. In other words, our minds have been corrupted by sin as has the rest of our being. Thus, it behooves us to ask why we think our minds are any more trustworthy than our emotions.David then goes on to talk about some ways to submit our emotions to discipline - it is wonderful reading, and a vitally important lesson. Please read it all.
At the same time, just as all of life is to be brought under the Lordship of Christ, so it is with our minds and emotions. We can and must subject them to the Lordship of Christ. That's fairly easy to see when it comes to the mind. As we read, study and memorize Scripture we are training our minds, we are renewing our minds (Romans 12:2), and we tend rightly to see the mind as something we can and should discipline.
Emotions, well, not so much. We tend to see emotions as if they just are. We feel what we feel, we can't help it. We can work with or around our emotions, but in general we don't believe we can discipline them.
Those who are depressed or grief-stricken or in the grip of some other powerful emotion, may submit that emotion to medication, but they generally don't submit that emotion to discipline.
Yet, the Scripture teaches that we can and should command and discipline our emotions.
But I want to spin off of it just a bit. This has amazing ramifications for how we figure out who is and is not "a Christian." Certainly Evangelicals think it is all about "what we believe." - but that is a function of the mind - a mind just as corrupt as the rest of our being. How can we rely on its expressions for the determination of our state of salvation?
I think most of us in the reformed tradition would tend to make the same argument about ecstatic entrances into God's presence - and here David has demonstrated that our path is equally open to question. So how do we know?
Of course, I think Calvin worked it our pretty well, but in this day and age trying to sell that is like trying to sell refrigerators to Eskimos. People just don't buy Calvinism unless they are well into seminary. How do we deal with this with Joe Pewsitter, or in the mission field?
May I suggest we don't? I think we need to learn to embrace the mysterious in our faith. Why? Well, that is where I can say I have had my closest encounter with the image of God in me. Call it encountering "spirit" as opposed to either reason or emotion. Yes, this sounds amazingly Zen - perhaps I am borrowing, but that is not my goal. My goal is to find God, Creator and Savior. To do so, I need to remove both my corrupt mind and my corrupt emotions from the field of play.
I think there are meant to be mysteries in our faith - we are not intended to know it all. I'd tell you to think about it, but that would be counter productive. Just try it - embrace a mystery.