One of the comments posted in response to my blog following the death of Ted Kennedy earlier this week made me stop and think. This is what Jim wrote (for which I am grateful):
I really do struggle with scripture, I think I have mentioned this before, and I cannot make too many definitive statements about God. What I do know though, is that there is a God who is responsible for the beginning of events, everything else has been a series of links in a chain of reactions. I consider myself to be a direct creation of ‘nature’, which I use in a very broad way of speaking. My mind is nature’s child, largely inflicted with all of nature’s imperfections. My soul is God’s alone, and it is not within the power of nature to ever posses it. I have learnt that if I love my soul, then God will find a common ground in the psychology of my physical mind, and this can be achieved through prayer and meditation which will nurture and strengthen the bond of mind, soul and faith.
Life is always going to be a battle between the nature of your mind and the time you give to your soul. This way of thinking has taught me to look at some of the more difficult scriptures in a new way. Instead of reading them like linear narrative, I have learnt to explore the emotions and reactions they provoke. Even two seemingly hypocritical statements Will take your mind on a journey through the possibilities. Maybe this is the intention for the mind, so it can find its soul.
1. Jim struggles with Scripture. I struggle with Scripture. Anyone who says they don’t is lying. Scripture is there to be struggled with and fought with. Not to struggle and grapple with it is to be indifferent to it – or to play games with it. Struggling with Scripture means you take it seriously and think what it says (and doesn’t say) matters enormously.
2.I know what Jim is getting at about ‘mind’ and ‘soul’, but I am not sure I agree. Plato divided the person into body and mind/soul and this false dichotomy has caused us problems ever since. But Hebrew and Christian anthropology won’t release us from a body/mind/spirit unity. That’s why Romans 12:1-2 is so important: spirituality is seen in how we use our body and this is all shaped by the forming of our mind.
So, no anti-intellectualism here. And no anti-body stuff either. And don’t ‘spiritualise’ what can’t be cashed out in terms of body and mind.
But, Jim’s point is slightly different. I think what underlies his (pragmatic understanding of the self) is that, made in the image of God, there is something in us that is preciously and infinitely valuable. We are loved by God to death and beyond – as he has proved. But our mind (the way we see God, the world and us) is always vulnerable and limited as well as wonderful and full of potential. Being Christian (and struggling with the Scriptures is part of this) involves the re-grinding of the lens behind the eyes (as I have phrased it elsewhere) – a process of re-seeing the world and God and, therefore, learning to see, think and live differently.
I am with Jim in this. Constantly learning, open to being challenged that my vision is limited and my ‘mind’ not doing justice to my ‘soul’ – as Jim put it.