The key to true Biblical spirituality is found in integration of both heart and mind and it begins with an affirmation of both. This means rejecting a spirituality that is merely sentimental as well as rejecting one that sees emotion as mere self-indulgence and as an end in itself which, as such, isn't focused on God at all. This means rejecting a spirituality that rests in a self-martyr complex (self-pity) rather than in spirituality focused on gratitude to God. This means rejecting cerebralism, rationalism, scholasticism that are not informed by Christian compassion.
How do we arrive at a spirituality in which the heart and the mind sustain, affirm and endorse each other?
It begins with the renewing of our minds. No other religion has given such critical importance to the mind as Christianity. In fact, to be a Christian is to have the ability to think deeply, clearly, soundly. Paul writes in Rom. 12:1, 2, “Be transformed by the renewing of your minds, then you will be able to test what is good and noble and true.” We are NOT transformed by our own volitional actions or will, but by the grace of God. We choose to change our loyalty from ourselves and the things of this world to God, but it’s God who does the work in us as we respond to his truth and obey it. Our minds must be engaged by his truth and we must act upon it. Paul puts it this way in Col. 3:16: “Let the Word of God dwell in you richly (NIV).”
And so I take you back to the first two steps of this course in spiritual formation. The first focused on knowing God and the second on knowing ourselves. We need to understand the Lord's work in the world and live in light of who God is as well as grasp a correct understanding of ourselves as human beings, God’s creation, made in his image, but caught in the wretchedness of sin from which we cannot extricate ourselves.
If our minds are to be shaped by God and not the world, it means we have to choose what we focus our thoughts on. Paul describes those who are not in Christ as darkened by the way they think while those in Christ are to set their minds on things above (Col. 3:2, 10). We are what we think and, if the mind is the steering wheel of our lives, then we better make sure it’s connected to Christ and dwelling on the things of God. The human mind is conditioned by outside stimuli. It is not self-contained. The mind can only think what we feed into it. Our minds are conditioned whether we are aware of it or not.
Years ago, I did my master’s thesis in journalism on visual literacy. My point was that we should educate people not just on how to understand and correctly read written texts, be they literary, historical or whatever, but that we need to educate people re: how to understand, interpret and think knowledgeably and correctly with information communicated through visual media, with a particular look at semiotics (the study of signs and symbols). It concerned me then and still concerns me today that people’s minds are mindlessly (pun intended!) being formed by visual media.
Media theorist, Neil Postman, in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death, points out that we don’t think when we watch television or film because we aren’t given time to do so. If you’re reading a book, you can stop, think about what you just read, absorb it, rightly grasp it and then return to reading. But with television and film, the images go by quickly and we don’t have time to rightly assess and interpret them before another image comes and then another and then another. In this manner, we passively allow what we see to form our thoughts, our opinions, our worldviews. Indeed, television creates attitudes and priorities. It is, in fact, one of the most powerful forces in the battle for the mind. Unfortunately, most of what’s on T.V. is unbiblical. In fact, it legitimizes unbiblical behaviour. I think this is especially true with regard to sex. Fornication, adultery and homosexuality are treated as normal, acceptable and right. God is ignored, denied or maligned.
Dallas Willard asserts that "the process of spiritual formation in Christ is one of progressively replacing the destructive and inaccurate, with the images and ideas that filled the mind of Jesus himself." Expounding on that statement, he says, "And so we must apply our thinking to the Word of God. We must thoughtfully take that Word in, dwell upon it, ponder its meaning, explore its implications — especially as it relates to our own lives. We must thoughtfully set it into practice. In doing so, we will be assisted by God’s grace in ways far beyond anything we can understand on our own; and the ideas and images that governed the life of Christ through his thought life will possess us."
To read his article entitled The Transformation of the Mind, go here:http://www.dwillard.org/articles/artview.asp?artID=120
It’s important to note that, when it comes to the renewing of the mind, we aren't talking about intellectual and scholarly thought although that may have a place in it. ALL people, regardless of age, intellect or education can know the truth of God and act on it.
I will leave a discussion of the heart for another day.