c) 2012' name='copyright'/>Michael DeShane Hinton: Quadripartite Nature, the Mind

Friday, June 22, 2012

Quadripartite Nature, the Mind

The body demands, “I need food!”  The emotions may lead us to Andre’s where we order Chicken Chassuer in French.  But as soon as we see the wine list the mind kicks in with calculations about the occasion relative to the price of offerings!

There are 10,000 variations on emotion and 100,000 if we count the nuances thereof.  For the most part we live by our feelings.  The worlds of art, music, sport, and romance are filled with emotion.  Religion and politics have colorful overlays of emotional appeal in the quest for good feelings.  How sad it is for those that lack emotions in significant ways or whose feelings are not fully developed or invested.  The person that feels deeply can love deeply and has a rich experience of life.  But because we are finite beings we can only imagine possibilities that soon and often might be frustrated by the realities of which our mind informs us, if we listen.  The mind causes us to count calories, keep a budget, set boundaries with people, weigh things by a cost-benefit analysis, follow rules, and amend behavior according to long-term rational self-interest.  Boring!  But we know it is “true” so will sometimes set side our feelings to listen to logic.  When that happens we may find that in the area of spiritual formation Jesus does not hesitate to reason with us, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits his life?”

Jesus said things like that because he wants us to think.

Other thinking passages are these:

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. –Isaiah 1:18 KJV

Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. –Luke 14:25-33 ESV

Notice how the cost-counting saying of Jesus above cuts across the strongest of emotional attachments that we have, the primary relationships that give us the most comfort and joy in life, including liking our own selves!  And so we finally get to the point where spirituality begins, in the life of the mind.

It is the mind that lifts the desires of the body to the level of refined emotion, which is the basis of human relationships, cooperation, love, and civilization.  Therefore, having proved itself in that way, the mind can take us to the next level, if we dare to go.  We find in Jesus an ally of the mind that calls us to transcend mere human civility in our loyalty to God, who is spirit (John 4:24).  It is this step in spiritual formation that may often separate us from others in a profound way and so seems counterintuitive to the conventional religion of church and family values.

But growth always requires pain and often means leaving others behind, figuratively and emotionally, if they will not go with us.  That’s what Jesus did.  John 8:31-59, for instance, records a heated exchange between Jesus and, oddly enough, “the Jews who had believed in him.”  It all began when Jesus said the truth would set them free.  They began to argue with him.  Accusations went back and forth to the point that Jesus said they were killers, liars, and followed their father, the devil!  They questioned the legitimacy of his birth, and said he was a Samaritan and had a demon!  In the end Jesus proclaimed himself God and the Jews wanted to stone him!

Then, standing before Pontius Pilate, who pointed out that his own people betrayed him, Jesus returned to the theme of truth:

For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice. –John 18:37 ESV

It is impossible to become truly spiritual if we spend our entire life establishing and maintaining attachments to people, places, and things.  Ecclesiastes, which is part of the wisdom literature of the Old Testament, concluded that such work is “futility and chasing the wind.”  After talking with Jesus the woman at the well went into town confessing, “Come see a man that told me everything that I ever did.”  Likewise, Paul also says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2 ESV).  Further, he wrote:

Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. –Romans 8:5-8 ESV

The emotions are closer to the body than to the spirit.  The mind is closer to the spirit than to the body.  That is why we Christians have battles within us between what we feel and what we believe.  We have feelings just like everyone else but the world looks at us and wonders about our loyalties because of our beliefs, which we sometimes live and sometimes don’t live.  So it does not help if we are confused about it, sending a mixed message!  But if we choose the higher plane, the spiritual way, and know why we have chosen then we help both ourselves and others to understand things more clearly.  That is what the mind does if we let it; it clarifies our values and causes us to live above the world and its games.

1 comment:

ByeGeorge said...

I love this Mike! Beautifully written and expressed. What a wonderful gift you have! Thank you for sharing it and this message today is quite timely for me with regards to my own journey.

Blessings my friend,