Thursday, March 30, 2006

Associations of Ideas

Trilogies have long been useful to me in thinking about life and ministry. Certainly, meditating on the Trinity – Father, Son, and Spirit, is valuable and needed for us all. From Dorothy Sayers, this thought was enriched by her discussion of Idea, Word, and Expression. And then theology has long suggested the trilogy of roles for the Son: Prophet, Priest and King. Also, I grabbed hold of Richard Hays’ use of Cross, Community and New Creation in his book, The Moral Vision of the New Testament. This led me to realize that my own discipleship must be characterized by courage, compassion, and creativity. Admittedly, I probably missed major portions of his argument in the book, but I co-opted the trilogy, nonetheless. Eugene Peterson, in his books on the pastorate, defines the role as being a combination of theologian, pastor and poet, even as he is involved in the functions of student of Scripture, servant in prayer, and spiritual director. I have taken this further in the life of our church with a commitment to thought-ful understanding of the Gospel, a care-ful attention to one another in ministry, and a meaning-ful participation in kingdom living which must be, by definition, counter-cultural. Finally, in recently reading Will Metzer’s book on evangelism, Tell the Truth, I have been thinking about the makeup of the human individual, and the familiar trilogy of intellect, emotions and will, though I feel more comfortable using Bible terms like heart and spirit than those used in popular psychology.

Like the old, three-legged stool, I find a certain stability in these collections of words and ideas. The test, I suppose, is if they actually help me to understand important concepts accurately, and then implement the truths properly. The tools can be used to spot weaknessess, areas of neglect that would produce an imbalance, and therefore, sin. They prod my mind to look for new associations, like working a puzzle, without irresponsibly taking hold of every new idea that flies about.

What patterns and outlines are important in the way that your mind works? And in all of our thinking, what walls or fences need to be moved or torn down, since, instead of corraling complementary concepts, they obstruct the free flow and proper association of ideas that are now segregated in our minds? Also vitally important, are our formulations helping us to not only hold correct beliefs, but to also put our beliefs into godly (and Christ-like, and spiritual) practice.