The following is adapted from a series of devotions written for the Crosswise Institute of Concordia University in Irvine, CA and delivered June 25-29, 2018. The theme of the Institute that year was “Science and Your Mind,” an exploration of the pursuit of knowledge in the context of the Christian faith.
WITH ALL YOUR MIND
But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And onse of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 22:34-40
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Heart and soul we understand. They seem to go to do together like that obnoxious piano ditty. Heart and soul are the spiritual sweet spots, right? That’s where “religion happens”. Jesus in your heart. Joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart. Give your heart to Jesus. Jesus Savior of my soul that goes wafting off to heaven in some spiritual ecstasy. It all terribly spiritual and religious, though not necessarily Christian.
But what about your mind? But how on earth do you love the Lord your God with all your mind?
Your mind is a first-article gift from God who made you and all creatures, who gave you your body and soul, eyes, ears, and all your members, your REASON and all your senses. You only get one mind. Take good care of it. And use it.
Our reason makes us uniquely human. Apes and chimps, even dogs, cats, and birds can observe things and connect a few dots. Koko the gorilla could learn sign language and tell us a few things about gorilla life. Great fun. You have to love that inter-species communication, if that’s what it really was. But we humans ask “Why do the dots exist in the first place?” Who are we? Where did we come from? Why are we here? We look for meaning and purpose and pattern. We are able to imagine the unseen; to conceive of the inconceivable.
We have a mathematical symbol for “infinity” (a sideways 8), but we have no clue as to what infinity looks like. Comedian Steven Wright once quipped, “I was bored one afternoon so I rounded infinity.” We laugh, but we have no idea what infinity is. We can reason outside of ourselves, beyond ourselves, to the infinite, the eternal, the holy. Transcendence is outside the realm of our sensory experience but well within our vocabulary. We have imaginations. We can hold images in our minds that are not in front of our eyes. Reason makes us perfectly suited to be images of God, his priestly representatives to the creation. To reason, to use our minds, is to do priestly work, image of God work, human work.
The vocation of science, one reason you’re here this week, is a use of your God-given reason and senses. Seeking pattern, mechanism, and model in the created world. Testing, probing, exploring. Trying to understand how things work and how God does what He does. And while you’ll never be able to get a bead on the Creator by your reason and senses, you can certainly get a good sense of how He works. Science is the study of God’s work. It’s an exercise of our God-given dominion, lordship and stewardship of creation.
Nicholas Copernicus, the Polish astronmer and 16th century contemporary of Luther. who first proposed the radical notion that the earth orbited around the sun even though the sun appears to move across the sky, wrote this: “To know the mighty works of God, to comprehend His wisdom and majesty and power; to appreciate, in degree, the wonderful workings of His laws, surely all this must be a pleasing and acceptable mode of worship to the Most High, to whom ignorance cannot be more grateful than knowledge.”
Ignorance is not bliss. And willful ignorance is a sinful neglect of the gift of your mind. Don’t think for one nanosecond that you can’t be a thinking scientist and a faithful believing Christian at the same time. Many of the great forefathers of science – Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Boyle, Pasteur, Heisenberg – were all Christians. I was a chemist before I became a pastor, and I was a baptized believer in Jesus before either of vocations. In the laboratory, I was a chemist who happened to be a Christian. In church, I was a Christian who happened to be a chemist. I didn’t forget the periodic table and quantum theory when I went to church on Sunday. And I didb;t forget the small catechism and Scriptures when I went to the lab on Monday morning.
It’s only in our modern age that faith and reason appear to have come unglued, which is why we’ve lost our collective mind, not to mention our heart and soul. We think we’re gods rather than God’s image and priests. We worship the creature (aka Mother Nature) and deny the Creator. We talk about a genetic code but deny there is a Coder. We speak about the Big Bang but deny the One whose finger pulled the trigger “in the beginning.” The danger in our material way of thinking is not evolutionary theory or big bang theory or billions and billions of astronomical and geologlical years. The danger is in our thinking that if we understand “how” something works, then we know everything there is to know. Preooccupied with the how, what, and when, we neglect the Who, why, and what does it this mean? Those are the questions science can’t begin to answer. “Let all mortal flesh keep silence.” Those are the questions of ulitmate importance.
We’ve literally and figuratel lost our minds. We’ve turned science into a religion and religion into a science. We read Moses as though he wrote a science textbook, and we read Darwin as though he wrote inspired Scripture.
We need a “meta-noia,” a repentance, a “change of mind.” We need a mind that is redeemed, renewed, transformed, and conformed to the mind of its Maker. Jesus sets our disordered minds back in order again. He not only gives us a new heart and the breath of His Spirit, He gives us a new mind – His mind, the mind of humility and death-on-a cross servanthood. A mind that is open to wonder and mysteryt, alive with curiosity and creativity, filled with wisdom that gives way to prayer, praise, and thanksgiving not just in the liturgy but also in the lab.
The 16th century astronomer Johannes Kepler, who also happened to be a Lutheran, put it this way: “To do scientific research is to sample in the delight in the Divine Creator’s work and to partake of His joy.”
God made gave you a mind; Christ redeemed your mind; the Spirit sanctifies your mind and conforms it to the mind of Christ. You got your mind back. You’re in your right mind again, thanks be to God. Now go and use that mind. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and with all your mind.