Last week I attended my first ‘ministers fraternal’ – a meeting of different ministers from around mid-Canterbury. One of the things we spoke about was how we made decisions – the start off point being that the guy leading the discussion recognized in himself, and in others, that many decisions we made were based on ‘common sense’. So, given that we’re Christian, how do we make decisions?
The responses were intriguing. Representatives from the Roman Catholic church recognized that in their polity, decisions were made within a hierarchy – they did what they were told. Brothers from more Pentecostal congregations spoke of handing things over to the Lord, letting the Spirit guide them, receiving confirmation of their thoughts through Scripture, etc.
In the conversation the implicit thought was that ‘common sense’ was too worldly and not spiritual enough. The presupposition seemed to be that that the spiritual is contrary to, or at least distinct from, the intellect, the ‘normal’ workings of the human mind.
However consider Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:17-24. Gentiles live in the futility of their thinking. “They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” Remember that this in Ephesians 4 – the so called ‘imperatival’ part of Paul’s epistle. And yet action is inextricably linked to the state of your intellect. It is their thinking that is futile, and this futility characterizes their behavior. The reason for their alienation from God is their ignorance (agnoian), which itself has come from the hardening of their hearts.
Paul goes on to speak of the change in the Ephesians, speaking of them coming to ‘know’ Christ, being ‘taught’ in him, etc. This new knowledge leads to a new lifestyle (hence his ‘putting off/putting on’ language).
This isn’t neo-Gnosticism. It isn’t trying to divorce the spiritual from the cognitive. The point is that you can’t. To be spiritual is to know, to be taught in Christ. To be unspiritual is to be ignorant – to have futile thoughts. Of course in no way am I implying that my brothers at that meeting fell into the ‘futile gentiles’ category – absolutely not. But we need to watch that we don’t tear apart that which must stay together – the working of our minds and the working of the Spirit.