Practical versus theoretical religion

September 11, 2011

in Some Things to Think About

Michael Fallon in his book Change Leaders made a profound point that Christians must understand to follow Jesus’ leadership. “Day to day practice is the only experience that can engage and reshape the brain.” This raises a number of questions which, when answered, can expand our sense of what salvation and our church are all about.
1. What are we humans and what role does our brain play in our life? Secular thinkers would say that our brain is all there is — Christians believe that we have an immortal soul. Still, we do have a brain because we are “enfleshed spirits” not angels. So what is the relationship between our brain and our soul, our flesh and our spirit? They must be taken together and our lifelong learning consists in developing that integration. It’s not “mind over matter” but the harmony between our different aspects that ought to shape our lives.
2. What is Jesus’ role in achieving this harmony? Jesus shows us how, in practical ways, to balance our flesh and spirit. God is not a spirit, some sort of super-angel or mighty spiritual being. God became an enfleshed spirit, Jesus, to communicate his “life” to us and, in fact has done that through Jesus becoming one of us. We are adopted sons and daughters because of this but that doesn’t mean that we are fully constructed and complete at the time of our birth. Learning what we are and what it means to be God’s adopted child is a life-long learning task for every person. The great challenge (and mystery) of human life is becoming conscious of the fact that, in freedom, we are creating who we are as God’s child. Learning how to achieve harmony between our brain and our spirit is the core of this learning process.
3. What is the role of religion and church in our becoming conscious that, as God’s adopted child, creating harmony between the two sides of our nature, our flesh and our spirit, is the practical way we create our eternal soul? Basically we learn by doing what others are doing, by imitating. The community of believers learn from each other how to imitate Jesus. This is not a theoretical task but a highly practical one. The difficulty is discerning which behaviors and actions we want to imitate because everyone in a church community is an “amateur” at being a child of God. No one does it right all the time, even so-called saints. This is why Jesus’ primary teachings were about love of neighbor, forgiveness and humility. This is also why everyone must be part of a community of believing teachers / learners.

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