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This paper was written by W.Simpson.

Mr. Simpson runs the LogosWord Website. He reminds his readers that he is not a theologian, 'just a layman with a laptop and a growing bookshelf'.

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Articles > Charismatic Theology > Maker of the Mind

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  An example of this struck me recently on hearing one teacher exhorting us to ‘listen to our spirits’ to discover God’s voice and direction, because apparently ‘God doesn’t speak to our minds’. Although I believe the desire to encourage spiritual sensitivity in Christians is commendable (there are too many ‘practical deists’ in the Church), there is a problem with this counsel that needs addressing. To begin with, the formulation of the advice seems rather artificial. We do not meet with any command to ‘listen to our spirits’ in scripture. It seems the biblical writers did not believe the voice of God was confined to the pneuma. Rather, the whole person is involved in listening to the Spirit (cf. Ps. 143:7-8; Heb. 3:15; 4:12; 1Jo. 4:1-3). And this leads us to our second and most important point: This widespread tendency to divide the spiritual and mental faculties into separate boxes (not to mention the even commoner antithesis between physical and spiritual life) is entirely foreign to Hebrew thought, which is much more holistic.

 

  To illustrate, in the Old Testament there is no word for ‘body’ that is distinct from ‘mind’ or ‘spirit’. Apparently the biblical scribes did not think of the body as having an independent status or reality. The Hebrew word basar, which is the closest approximation to ‘body’, refers to the total life of a person[8]. The New Testament, although less concrete in its terminology, does not depart from this essential emphasis either. God created the whole man, spirit, soul and body, and considers them a unity together capable of response to its Creator’s touch; Paul significantly speaks of all three as an ‘it’ (which is ‘you’), not a ‘they’[9] (1Th. 5:23). The faculties of ‘mind’ and ‘spirit’, often vastly separated today in popular preaching, are both united in the Bible by their identification with the ‘inner man’ (or ‘the hidden man of the heart’. Rom. 7:22,23,25; 1Pet. 3:4)[10]. Likewise the terms ‘spirit’ and ‘soul’, whilst occasionally differentiated (1Thes. 5:23; Heb. 4:12[11]), are more often used synonymously in scripture (compare Matt 10:28 with Jas 2:26; Luke 1:46 with v47; John 12:27 with 13:21 etc).

 

  However, ‘Holism need not entail the denial that wholes contain distinguishable parts’[12]. Although terms like ‘spirit’, ‘soul’ and ‘mind’ are each used interchangeably in contrast with ‘body’ or ‘flesh’ in summing up man’s basic composition (Matt. 10:28; Rom 12:1-2; 1Cor. 7:34), demonstrating their close relations, they need not be viewed as exactly synonymous (cf. 1Cor. 14:14). If we picture man’s spirit as God’s channel into man, then the mind of the believer is waiting at the mouth of the river with outstretched arms to receive whatever God has to give him. In fact, whenever there is consciousness of an intelligible message from God, the mind is present and active (1Cor. 14:14). And of course, where the mind is active, the body also, for everything we think and do is done with corresponding physicochemical activity in the body. The mind, distinguishing God's voice from the background noise of our frail humanity, and even from demonic interference (1Jo. 4:1-3), is where God’s reasonable words are received and ‘heard’ in the flesh by the discerning Christian, even if we should allow that, technically speaking, the communication is passed through the spirit[13].

 

  Our primary concern here is not to write an anthropology, but to draw attention to an important aspect of Hebrew thought which will guard us from forming unbiblical, compartmentalised views of spirituality and life in general. The evils of this mindset can hardly be underestimated. It is through ‘partitioned thinking’ that people divide up their daily activities into the ‘sacred’ and the ‘secular’, instead of inviting God into their whole lives, that some suppose God only cares about healthy souls, but not healthy bodies, and that others imagine that religious truth belongs to another sphere, where rigorous intellectual endeavour is somehow out of place. To a greater or lesser extent, these unwarranted divisions, based more on inherited Greek philosophical assumptions than on careful, systematic study of the scriptures, work to fragment and dissolve our Christian devotion. The person who accepts, in whatever form, that God speaks to the ‘heart’[14], not to the ‘head’, will find it hard to resist the tacit suggestion that the mind – even the renewed mind – is therefore unimportant or obstructive in matters of revelation and can be (or even should be) sidestepped. He is subconsciously presented with an idea that will come into play time and again in his approach to his faith, and, if left unattended, will do its best to trip him up. For where an unwarranted divorce is made between that which God has joined together, the effects are invariably harmful and destructive: The anthropological dualism of the Greeks with its ‘soul versus body’ dichotomy led Christians into the practice of asceticism with its ‘harsh treatment of the body’ (Col. 2:23). The spirit-mind dichotomy of the Gnostics spawned a dualistic conception of knowledge that effectively shut down the intellectual discernment of many Christians during the early centuries of the Church.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | Footnotes

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User Contributed Comments

Chuntyhamilton
Monday 16th of May 2005

Many of the arguments between secularists,scientists and 'fundementalist' christians seem to revolve around the Old Testament and are often carried out at the exclusion of delivering the Gospel of Christ. Surely our role as Christians is the delivery of the Gospel of Christ rather than entering into contention about the nature of Old testament writing which is quite often the preferred arena of the secular and the scientists.


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