|LUTHERAN CAMPUS MINISTRY
at WEST VIRGINIA UNIVERSITY
και μη συσχηματζεσθε τω αιωνι τουτω, αλλα μεταμορφουσθε τη ανακαινωσει του νοος
εις το δοκιμαζειν υμας τι το θελημα τομ θεου, το αγαθον και ευαρεστον και τελειον.
Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
|Good words from St.
Paul...especially for a campus ministry...and more than a
little appropriate for a Lutheran campus ministry at the
largest university in the state of West Virginia.
Why Choose This as a Watchword?Because there are some things that we want to remember. We want to remember that faith and intellect are not opposed to each other. The authentic life of faith (assuming no impediment) fully engages the intellect. Likewise, an authentic life of intellect (assuming no myopia) does not avoid questions of faith. At the Lutheran Campus Ministry at WVU, we affirm Anselm's Fides quaerens intellectum (faith seeking understanding). We affirm Augustine's Credo ut intelligam (I believe so that I may understand). Consequently, we will never ask a student, faculty or staff member, or anyone else who comes to us to check their brains at the door. Likewise, we will exhort those that do participate in the life of the campus ministry not to leave their faith in the pew. The renovation of the mind, under the illumining activity of the Holy Spirit, is part and parcel of sanctification. In this sanctification, as it is experienced proleptically, we enter into a deeper, richer, and fuller relationship with God, contemplating the Divine and living out our vocations in the world, proving what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Exegetical MusingsRhetorically, St. Paul juxtaposes "world" (αιων) with the "renewing of the mind." Two things should be noted. First, αιων, which has an English cognate, "eon" or "Šon," though translated in numerous English versions as "world," may be taken to mean "age." If Paul were a 19th century German Romantic, we could take him to mean the Zeitgeist: "Do not be conformed to the spirit of the age." But Paul is not a 19th century German Romantic. He is a former Pharisee who, as an apostle of Christ, has taken his Pharisaic apocalypticism to its nth degree. When we translate αιων was "world," we risk missing the tectonic collision of the ages. The Old Age is being pushed out by the New Age whose Lord is Jesus. The reign of sin, death, and the Devil is coming to an end. The New Age of righteousness and life in Christ is dawning. For Paul, then, conformation to the Old Age is nonsensical for those who properly belong to the New Age. This New Age, however, is breaking in but not yet manifest in its fullness. As a pilgrim people yet journeying to our proper homeland, there is a constant pressure to be conformed to this present age (αιων) or, to follow the dative declension which is paralleled by "the renewal of your mind," conformed by this present age (αιων). Indeed, it is possible for an ex-patriot to be so conformed by and to be so conformed to the conditions of his/her exile that he/she forgets his/her citizenship, perhaps not renouncing his/her citizenship in word but renouncing it in action. When such conformation to the Old Age takes place in action, even while claiming citizenship in the New Age, we may say that it is a nominal citizenship, a citizenship in name only. By implication, Paul calls the faithful to be conformed to the New Age, the Kingdom of God, and this involves transformation.
"Transformation by the renewal of your mind" is a potentially contentious turn of phrase. From a Lutheran perspective, we would want to avoid all notions of "works righteousness," but is this really an issue of justification? Given that these words are part of a paraenesis and that the general context of that paraenesis appears to address "how we live," sanctification would be the topic. Some are loath to admit sanctification as something we should even talk about, but to preach a gospel which does not include sanctification is to preach an impoverished gospel. It is God's will to not only reconcile us to himself but also to make us holy. Even though that perfect holiness God intends for his elect, that blessed condition when God is all in all, is eschatological, a foretaste of that feast to come is not excluded. Indeed, it is promised. By the Holy Spirit's dispensation of grace, the heart of the justified is warmed, the mind illumined. So it is that Paul writes of the renewal of the mind. This is the Holy Spirit's work This renovation of the mind, entailing the renovation of all our intellectual faculties, is begun by the Holy Spirit, preserved by the Holy Spirit, and strengthened by the Holy Spirit. That said, the regenerate, though possessing a passive righteousness in matters of justification, exercises an active righteousness in matters of sanctification. The will, bound in the post-lapsarian creature, is liberated in the regenerate such that the regenerate loves God and desires to do God's will, not because he/she fears punishment but rather because he/she knows no greater delight than to please the proper object of his/her affections. In the exercise of this active righteousness, the regenerate cooperates with the Holy Spirit, as the Holy Spirit gives and preserves strength and desire, to grow in learning and understanding of the things of God. Devout attention to the Word of God is, in the academy, to be mirrored by pious pursuit of the academic disciplines, for the Natural Law is also God's Law and the Book of Nature is also God's book, "for from him and through him and to him are all things."(Rom. 11:36) Therefore, the study of these things, especially when undertaken in true piety, is doxological.
To what end? That is precisely the question that must always be asked, but the answer, if it is to be truly meaningful, cannot be constrained by the non-apocalyptic imagination. Paul points to the eschatological end of the human creature. "Perfect" (τελειος) is mistakenly taken in a rather narrow English sense of the term "perfect/perfection" to mean "without error or defect." While it is certainly true that the human creature, ultimately perfected by God, will be without error or defect, this condition of being without error or defect is merely descriptive of a derivative quality of God's perfecting action. "Perfect" (τελειος) is about the "end" (τελος) of humanity, it's completion, it's end purpose for which it was created. In its verb form, "τελεω" can be translated as "to end," "to complete," and "to make happen." In this eschatological sense, the "perfection" of the human is about being/becoming what God always intended us be in the end. This eschatological condition is inextricably linked to the sublime contemplation and reification of what is "good" and what is "acceptable," freighted terms in the Greco-Roman world, "the good" expressing the Divine and "acceptable" our relationship to "the good." This is the "will of God:" that the human be holy as God is holy. That that holiness will only be known in its fullness in the eschatological perfection of the human by the Divine's translation of the human's physical life into a spiritual life does not negate proleptic enjoyment of the same.
"To prove" (δοκιμαζω) can be taken in this sense of "test," which connotes manifesting or demonstrating this prolepsis of perfection, thus verifying the promises of God. "To prove" (δοκιμαζω), however, can also be taken to mean "to regard as worthy" or even "to examine." This draws our attention back to "mind" (νους). Too often we disconnect faith and intellect. While faith should not be equated with intellective knowledge, neither should it be divorced from it. "To fear, love, and trust in God above all things" engages the intellect, our reason, and rational faculties; it engages our attitude, our purposes and intentions, and our very way of thinking. Some forms of Christianity ask that we turn off our minds and locate our faith in the affective dimension alone. This stunted form of Christianity does not take seriously Paul's instructions and mode of argument, for, in the preceding verse, Paul summons us to offer up our bodies as a living sacrifice.
I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.(Rom. 12:1)
This is described, in most modern translations, as an act of "spiritual worship," but λογικος ("spiritual") can also be translated as "reasonable" (as in the case of the Authorized Version). Of course, in the Greco-Roman context of the epistle, "spiritual" makes sense because it pointed to something held to be metaphysically and ontologically true, but, also within that philosophical matrix, such a transcendent or spiritual reality had, as a chief mark, rationality (or reason) in contrast to what was considered the rather unreasonable marks of the corrupt mundane. The modern tendency to divorce reason from the spiritual would be inconceivable in Paul's context. Consequently, the summons "to prove" inextricably connects to the renovation of the mind. Reason and intellect bend themselves to the task of discerning the will of God, manifesting in the embodied life what is "good, acceptable, and perfect."
It is a mistake to think that "which is your spiritual worship" modifies "God." Grammatically, a stronger case can be made for "holy and acceptable to God" being an appositive phrase describing "living sacrifice." This "sacrifice" (θυσια) is an oblation, a pouring out of oneself. It mirrors what is said of the Christ, that "he gave himself for us as an offering and sacrifice to God."(Eph 5.2) Connected to Christ through baptism (q.v. Rom 6), we are connected also to his sacrifice. Our life becomes sacrificial, but not in the sense that it is merely giving up things to prove that we can give up things. Rather, our entire life is an oblation of thanksgiving to God. In the economy of benefaction, nothing is withheld: all is transformed. This sacrifice which we render to God is "living" (ζωσαν) not only because we render it in a life that is turned toward God, but also because it is a true life, the return of life to creatures who where once dead, for ζαω is "to live again." This is what it means to live (συζαω) with Christ.(q.v. Rom. 6:7) Paul admits no gnosticism, for this new life (καινοτητι ζωης) in which we walk involves the body (σωμα). It is the whole being, not just the soul, which is transformed by the Divine act. The resurrection of the body and its translation into a spiritual existence is prefigured by a life of holiness manifested bodily here and now.
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