This blog grows out of my conviction that every aspect of our lives is sacred and is to be nurtured and celebrated as a good gift of God. Most of the posts will be the sorts of things you would expect from a historian and worldview teacher, but some are likely to be a bit surprising. Since God created all things good, including all aspects of human life, everything is interesting and important from the perspective of a biblical worldview. Everything under the Sun and under Heaven is thus fair game here. I hope you find it interesting and enjoyable.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Body and Mind

When many Christians discuss on “spiritual growth,” they generally mean Bible study, prayer, and other “religious” activities. But while that’s an important part of spiritual growth, it’s only one part of the picture.

Since God created all things good, it is safe to say He values them, and so we should as well. This means we need to be concerned about growth in all areas of our lives, not just “religious” or “spiritual” activities. Limiting Christian growth to things like prayer and Bible study is actually more Gnostic than Christian—it suggests that there’s a radical split between the physical and the spiritual, an idea that has no foundation in the Bible.

Our souls are the critical point for personal development, since we need to use our will to choose to take actions that will lead to growth. But developing the soul directly is difficult. Rather, the soul is generally developed indirectly, through building habits of body and mind that will feed and shape it. So let’s look at these two areas.

Ideas about spiritual growth usually ignore the body, but that is a serious mistake. Our physical strength (frequently described in Scripture in terms of endurance rather than raw power) is a critical component to anything we want to accomplish in life. Put simply, if we are tired or lack energy, it is extremely difficult to focus on anything, and we are more susceptible to temptation and more likely to fall into easier (and generally bad) habits.

Without physical energy, it is impossible to cultivate the mind and the soul, a fact recognized by the classical idea of “a sound mind in a sound body.” (It is also the legendary origin of kung fu, which is said to have grown out of exercises that were taught to monks at the Shaolin temple to keep them from falling asleep during meditation.) So it is important to commit ourselves to a process of physical development. This includes taking care of our health (since our bodies are temples of God) and cultivating our energy through diet, exercise, and rest.

With increased energy, we are in a better position to cultivate the mind. Christians tend to assume that this means knowledge of Scripture, and that is certainly part of it. But this is only part of building the mind. If God is the source of all things and Jesus is Lord of all, then God is interested in all of life and we can study any and every subject as a legitimate part of our personal development and as a spiritual activity.

This includes advancing in our professional life. Whatever you do for a living, unless it is criminal or intrinsically immoral, it is a sacred and holy calling by God for your life at this time. Professional development is therefore also a spiritual activity.

If you’ve been a student you already know how to learn, and all those skills can be applied here. But learning for transformation rather than information is a slightly different process. You need to learn new information, but you also need to let that new information sink deep into you to change how you think. We are transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2). So how do we do this? That will be the subject of the next post.