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Religion of the Mind or the Heart

I often think back to a comment that I heard some years ago in Boston, as we were beginning our ministry there. One of our team members (a young gal from a mid-western state) innocently mentioned that “going to church in Boston is like going to school.” OK, so Boston is also called the “Athens of America” and has over 250,000 University students. You can forgive her making this comment!

But what I hear in this statement (which could be made in Bismark, Budapest or Bonn) is that the mind leads in our relationship to God not the heart. I hear a type of “Christian Darwinism” that puts down the “primitive” aspects of Christianity and exalts the more highly evolved, “civilized” aspects.

Enculturation is the fancy anthropological word used to describe “being trained in the values and behaviors of one’s parent society”. Certainly these “learned behaviors” that express our unique culture (whether Tajik, American, Korean, etc.), which we learned on our mommy’s knee, are an inevitable part of the human race.

The danger lies in the slow transformation of cultures through the centuries, from “primitive to civilized”, and the impact that has on our worldview, where these values and behaviors take root. For more on this important subject, please carefully read the following quote:

“All of us, by virtue of our enculturation in Western society in general, and in American society in particular, have deeply embedded within us certain ideas regarding what it means to be civilized and what it means to be primitive. We have been taught that civilization represents an advanced state of human development, with an extremely high level of achievement and sophistication in the arts and sciences, technology, government, and social institutions. To us, even our religion has long since moved out of the morass of superstition and magic [miracles].” L. Robert Kohls

Christianity is a “primitive religion”

Yet when I read my Bible I see a religion full of “primitive miracles”, most of the time involving “ignorant and uneducated men” (Acts 4:12). Miracles that involve spitting into someone’s eyes, rebuking trees and wind, speaking in tongues, conversing with donkeys, throwing hankies on sick people, becoming instantly blind or mute as a judgment (or worse, falling down dead!), dipping seven times in a dirty river to become clean, etc. The list is endless!

Of course the Apostle Paul had a brilliant mind and used it often for God’s glory as he argued with and persuaded the Gentiles. But he would be the first to speak out to our generation and say: “Oh, for a faith that is not resting on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God and the demonstration of the Spirit”! (I Cor. 2:4-5)

In the book “The Spiritual Expansion of the Church”, Roland Allen presents the case that groups in China “that have learned the gospel from the relatively ignorant and untrained are often found to have learned it both truly and deeply and to be anxious for more”

One of the times we see Jesus rejoicing the most is when the 70 disciples came back rejoicing that demons were subject to them, He, however, was rejoicing that the simplest amongst them got it right!:

At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, “I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.

Following Jesus must be the simplest thing one could ever do! (Watch out! I didn’t say easiest.) He is “more than enough” for every man, woman, and child on earth. Let us not let our minds get in the way and prevent ourselves or others from falling madly in love – from the heart! – with a Beautiful Savior.

Yours for the Least in the Kingdom,

Jeff Gilbertson

Categories: Uncategorized
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