dweller by the river

sojourner of earth attempting to understand the journey home

Tag: Books

Mind Shifts – Not Just For the Christian Walk, Surely

Metanoia is the Greek word for conversion: a ‘fundamental transformation of mind’. It is the process by which concepts are reorganised. Metanoia is a specialised, intensified adult form of the same worldview development found shaping the mind of the infant. Formerly associated with religion, metanoia proves to be the way by which all genuine education takes place. Michael Polanyi points out that a ‘conversion’ shapes the mind of the student into the physicist. Metanoia is a seizure by the discipline given total attention, and a restructuring of the attending mind. This reshaping of the mind is the principal key to the reality function.

The same procedure found in worldview development of the child, the metanoia of the advanced student, or the conversion to a religion, can be traced as well in the question-and-answer process, or the proposing and eventual filling of an ’empty category’ in science. The asking of an ultimately serious question, which means to be seized in turn by an ultimately serious quest, reshapes our concepts in favour of the kinds of perceptions needed to ‘see’ the desired answer. To be given ears to hear and eyes to see is to have one’s concepts changed in favour of the discipline. A question determines and brings about its answer just as the desired end shapes the nature of the kind of question asked. This is the way by which science synthetically creates that which it then ‘discovers’ out there in nature.

Exploring this reality function shows how and why we reap what we sow, individually and collectively – but no simply one-to-one correspondence is implied. The success or failure of any idea is subject to an enormous web of contingencies. Any idea seriously entertained, however, tends to bring about the realisation of itself, and will, regardless of the nature of the idea, to the extent it can be free of ambiguities.”

– Joseph Chiltern Pearce, The Crack in the Cosmic Egg: New Constructs of Mind and Reality (Rochester, Vermont, USA: Park Street Press, 2002), p. 24-25


I am absolutely sure that this man is one of the foremost academic authorities alive on how the spiritual realm actually works, and because I have always naturally taken to academics, this helps me in my spiritual walk much more than reading five or even ten theological books or books written to Christians by Christian leaders.

And yes, to pull this back to plant-relevance, I’m going to think about and talk to my plants differently from now on.

Theology, Evangelicalism, and Creation

“As we look around God’s creation, as we contemplate all that Christ has done for us (that great evangelical emphasis), as we recollect that the same God sustains us even in life’s darkest hours, we are talking about one and the same God doing all those things. It was St Thomas Acquinas who reminded us that theology leads not so much to understanding as to adoration. We need to recall that, in the end, perhaps it is worship at which evangelicalism is at its most authentic. As evangelicals contemplate all that God has done, the most authentic response is adoring God for what God is and what God has done.

We have a sense of dissatisfaction not with who God is, nor with the gospel, but with our grasp of this God,with our intellectual apprehension and the response we make to God. Recollecting (in its dual sense of remembering and picking up) the doctrine of the Trinity, in effect, allows evangelicalism to open its treasure chest, hold up its contents one by one, savour them, and realise that there are enormous riches there – riches that have been entrusted to us, that are there to sustain us in our mission and ministry.”

– McGrath, Alister, “Trinitarian Theology”,  in Mark A. Noll & Ronald F. Thiemann (Eds), Where Shall My Wond’ring Soul Begin? The Landscape of Evangelical Piety and Thought (USA: William B Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000), p. 59-60.

A Conservationist Approach

I’ve had a slower start to this blog than I initially wanted, partly because I’ve been occupied with nursury visits and ensuring that my five new plants get acclimatised with minimal shock and damage, and partly because I’ve been reading this book:

A Conservationist Manifesto by Scott Russell Sanders
Usually it takes me only a day to finish a book of this size, but Prof Sanders’ material is taking me a long time to get through because I am emotionally and mentally challenged by it. Some parts are downright depressing; he starkly lays out in black-and-white all the evils that our species has done to our planet, and just by looking around you on a everyday basis, you can tell that he is right.

It’s great, however, to know that there are amazing minds out there who also feel the same way that you do, and who have already written about it at length and who therefore can help you crystallise your own thoughts and convictions on the subject. (Click here for a good review of the book.)

The main thing I’m thinking about this weekend is this: We aren’t the only species on Earth that matters. When God created the universe, He did it because it pleased Him to do so. When He created the earth, He did it because it pleased Him to do it. When He chose to create man in His own image, it was because it pleased Him to do so.

God didn’t create the earth or the universe for man, nor did He give everything to man to be used as man saw fit. In fact, according to Genesis, these are the very first things He said and the very first job that He gave to man (who was the last species to be created):

Genesis 1: 28, NKJV
Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Genesis 2: 15, NKJV
Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.

To have dominion over something, or to subdue it, is not about having the right to do anything you wish to it and with it. It is the right to rule over it, and to exercise the power to take control of chaos and violence and effect harmony and peace.

We have been given divine authority to rule this world and maintain its health and prosperity as a whole, not to destroy it in pursuit of our own selfish desires. That is a charge. It is not a licence to do as we will. The earth does not belong to us. It belongs to the Creator. It hasn’t even been leased to us, to use a term that some preachers have been known to us. We aren’t renting space from a divine landlord (even if we were, we still wouldn’t have the right to trash the place!), we are merely put here to do a job because He knew that we need to have something to do to give us purpose and direction, and that left to our own devices we are unable to find a good one on our own.

I think that’s why we are all so obsessed with the notions of fate, destiny, and calling. Whatever term you prefer, it all comes back to the desire (secret/closet in the case of those who publicly deny it) to know what your existence is supposed to mean and what is is supposed to effect in the grand story of eternity. We want to choose our own paths, but we still wonder what we’re “supposed” to do with our lives.

Look at it seriously and objectively and I’m sure you will have to admit that the communities that are the most contented and fulfilled, who have the most drive and passion, and who have the best relationships, are those who are in some way involved in stewarding Creation. If you don’t agree with this statement, it probably just means that our definitions of some terms differ.

Why do I want to keep plants in my home? Why did I search until I found a species that I can tend successfully?

Because taking care of something that my Lord and my God created gives me a small opportunity, here in our steel-and-concrete city, to practice stewardship of the earth.

Because being responsible for the well-being of something that He made on a daily basis teaches me so much more than sitting in a plush modern “pew” in an expensive new building listening to one man telling me what he believes God wants me to know.

As to what I feel about church — that’s a matter for another post.