The Sacrosanct Mind

Jon Trott needs to link to my blog  from his blog right now!!!

It occured to me this morning lying in bed that of the things I value most in life, my mind is the greatest. Now if you asked me whether I considered myself a truly smart person, an intellectual or an artist, I would be embarrassed to reply “Yes.” But I do spend most of my valuable time in mental exercise. I love reading five or six books at a time. With this activity comes the very real threat of information overload and very little control over what goes through my mind. An athlete these days spends a considerable amount of time suiting up and/or toning up so as to protect him/herself from injury. In the mental realm as a believer in Christ I have the Word of God to protect my mind. Now all of this sounds very basic, even fundamentalist. This idea was drilled into me from childhood. But this morning when the thought of “Take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” came to me, I realized that somehow I value any thought for my ability to think it, for my freedom to think it, and don’t see a need to take  it captive. Captive sounds like such a militant dominating kind of thing. Thoughts are just thoughts right? I mean thoughts are harmless, they come and go. Why would I need to take them captive?

Here are the verses in question:

2 Cor. 10:2  (NASB)
2  I ask that when I am present I may not be bold with the confidence with which I propose to be courageous against some, who regard us as if we walked according to the flesh.
3  For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh,
4  for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.
5  We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,
6  and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.

The Dictionary of New Testament Theology Vol. 3 (p. 591) says Paul uses the word  for captive, aichmalotizo, in reference to the ongoing battle that is the Christian experience.

Reflecting on his Christian expereince, Paul writes: “For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members” (Rom. 7:22f.;–doulos;–I Am, art. ego eimi, NT2 (c)). On the other hand, his concept of the new life as an exclusive union with the Lord allows him to use aichmalotizo of the service of Christ: “We lead every thought into captivity to make them subject to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5; cf. 2:11; 3:14; 4:4).

In this way taking thoughts captive to Christ is pitted against having thoughts captive to sin. (Dylan) You Gotta Serve Somebody. Now the humbling reality is that either way, I am not the one in Authority. I remember reading Ralph Waldo Emerson in college and being stunned by the sheer audacity of his Self Reliance:

Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world. I remember an answer which when quite young I was prompted to make to a valued adviser who was wont to importune me with the dear old doctrines of the church. On my saying, “What have I to do with the sacredness of traditions, if I live wholly from within?” my friend suggested,—“But these impulses may be from below, not from above.” I replied, “They do not seem to me to be such; but if I am the Devil’s child, I will live then from the Devil.” No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature. Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this; the only right is what is after my constitution; the only wrong what is against it. A man is to carry himself in the presence of all opposition as if every thing were titular and ephemeral but he.  [Concise Anthology of American Literature, Third Edition, pg. 591.]

Now all of this smacks to me of the same pretensious blow-hardedness (if that’s a word) that I encountered the other day from a loud fan behind me at the White Sox game. It was the bottom of the ninth and the Sox were down a few runs. The manager kept in the starting pitcher. This fan went nuts! It was like his pants were on fire. All the insults he and his friend had shouted at the opposing pitcher were now aimed at the Sox manager. A few fans got up to leave and he started insulting them! “What kind of Sox fans are you!” In this fans mind the whole world around him was his to command because of the Season tickets he purchased before the season. Maybe he lives that way. (No wonder he was unmarried!)
At any rate, whether its Emerson’s assumed license to command because of learning (or  in existence), or this fan’s right to command because of his loud voice and tradition of being a fan, neither men have any real control, either of themselves or the world around them. And they witness to me of my own pretentious love affair with my mind. I’ve heard it called mental masturbation. Not a pretty picture.

A Closing Prayer

Dear God for today (because that’s all I have) I surrender control of my will to yours. “I offer myself to you–to build with me and to do with me as You will. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Your will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Your Power, Your Love, and Your Way of life. May I do Your will always!”(The Third Step Prayer, Alcoholics Anonymous, pg. 63)


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