Valuing God’s Incomparable Gift, the Human Mind

Valuing God’s Incomparable Gift, the Human Mind

The Bible tells us that God created humans in his “image and likeness.” What does that mean exactly?

Let’s first consider the nature of God. To begin with He is pure spirit. He is also all powerful, all knowing, all wise, all loving, and all present. Also, as Jesus says of himself, and thus of the Father, He is “the way, the truth, and the life.”

With that in mind, in what ways are we NOT like God? We are not pure spirit. We are not all powerful, all knowing, all wise, all loving, or all present; nor are we the way, the truth, or the life.

What part of God’s image and likeness, then, DO we share? We have an imperishable spirit (soul) that, unlike our bodies, survives death. That spirit (soul) is composed of mind, emotion, and will, which enables us to seek, find, and embrace truth, and choose to please rather than displease God.

Mind is of special importance in that it evaluates our emotions, directs our wills, and guides our pursuit of understanding and wisdom. Mind is referred to throughout the Bible, but seldom in great detail. Here are the major references:

“Blessed is the man who . . . delight(s) in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. . ..For as he thinks within himself, so he is.” Psalm 1: 1-6Proverbs 23:7

“Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding. . .. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” Proverbs 3:13, 4:7

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2

Think about . . . whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable.” Philippians 4:8

“The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer.” Proverbs 15:28

Such passages, and many others, encourage and/or exhort us to apply our minds in ways that lead us to God. But they do not explain how to apply our minds. We are left wondering “How do I ‘meditate on the law’? What exactly should I do to ‘find wisdom’ and ‘gain understanding’? How do I go about ‘renewing’ my mind? How should I go about thinking about what is ‘noble,’ ‘right,’ ‘pure’ ‘lovely,’ and ‘admirable’? What steps should I take to ‘ponder’ these questions?”

Over the centuries philosophers, ethicists, logicians, theologians, and saintly men and women offered insights into the use of our minds. In many cases, those insights still exist, but they are generally found in esoteric tomes not readily available to the average person. Secular courses in Critical Thinking filled the gap from the 1970s to the early 2000s. However, contemporary culture has deemed such instruction harmful to self-esteem. The consequences have been the neglect of mind and the loss of both common sense and wisdom.

It is imperative that we regain appreciation of God’s incomparable gift to us—our minds—and improve the way we use them. Following are three ways to accomplish this.

Know Yourself

This first step is to identify your mental characteristics and habits, so you can understand what needs improvement and what does not. The following questions guide us to that understanding: 

Are you an impulsive thinker or a careful thinker? In other words, do you feel you must take a position on every issue that arises, or do you tend to hold off deciding until you examine the issue more closely?

How many of your opinions did you borrow from others rather than developing them yourself? Be cautious in answering this one. Keep in mind that the more you hear an idea said by others without questioning it, the more likely you are to embrace it, and the longer you embrace it, the more you are likely to forget that you never evaluated it.

After forming an opinion about an issue do you close your mind to other views? Or do you instead remain alert for new information? If you find such information, do you re-examine your opinion for validity?

Do you assume your primary news source is objective and unbiased and thus never test it to be sure? Or do you occasionally compare it to other news sources to test your assumption.

Do certain situations trigger an emotional, rather than rational response in you? If so, do you trust those emotions before acting on them?

Is there anything you dislike about your political party and its initiatives? Is there anything you like about the opposing party and its initiatives? Are you too unfamiliar with the opposing party to answer the previous question?

If someone asks why you hold a particular view, do you feel comfortable answering, or do you feel defensive and/or offended that the question was asked?

Improve Your Mental Habits

The next step in improving your mind is to develop good mental habits so that you will respond consistently and well to whatever intellectual challenges you encounter, and therefore be less vulnerable to error or manipulation by others. Here are some key ways to do so: 

Be curious about events. Keep abreast of the news. Don’t limit your attention to one news source. Alternate news sources occasionally. When the issue seems important, check multiple sources, and note the differences and similarities of their reporting. Be alert for bias and/or selectivity in reporting. If a source proves unreliable, stop using it.

Ask many questions before forming opinions. With a controversial issue, ask “How many viewpoints are there on the matter? What evidence do people offer to support their positions? Is there additional evidence that is not mentioned? Which argument does the evidence support?” If the matter in question is a problem that needs solving, ask “What solutions have been suggested? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?” Note that to answer this question you must carefully consider what consequences each solution is likely to produce and whether they are desirable or desirable.

Finally, after answering and answering such questions, decide what viewpoint or solution deserves your support.

Avoid Errors in Thinking

Errors in thinking can occur at various times: In your approach to issues or problems; In getting and evaluating information and forming a judgment; and in reacting to other people’s disagreement with you.

Avoid errors of approach: For example, that the errors of assuming your own opinions needn’t be examined; that being convinced about something proves that it is true; that familiar viewpoints are more trustworthy than unfamiliar ones; that if one event occurs soon after another, it must have been caused by the other; or that widely accepted ideas must be correct.

Avoid errors in making judgments: For example, these: Looking only for evidence that supports your view. Confusing assertions with evidence—the former are of little value without the latter. Overgeneralizing—drawing broad conclusions from limited examples, such as saying all Hispanics are Catholic or all police officers are racist. Oversimplifying—ignoring complexity, for example by saying, “I know myself better than others know me,” which is true in some ways but false in others. Judging prematurely—that is, embracing the first judgment that comes to mind, without considering other possibilities.

Avoid Errors in Reacting to Criticism: Such errors have in common the refusal to admit the flaws others have identified in your statements or actions. For example, pretending you said something different from what you actually said; or twisting the critic’s comment to something he/she did not say; or ignoring the criticism altogether and instead attacking the other person’s motives or character.

By using these ways of improving our minds, we not only show our appreciation of God’s incomparable gift to us. We also enable our eyes to see and our ears to hear and thereby create fertile ground in which “the word” can bear fruit. (Matt 13:16 and Mark 4:10-20)

Copyright © 2023 by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero. All rights reserved

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Vincent Ryan Ruggiero