Monday, April 27, 2009

Putting On the Mind of Christ

Putting On the Mind of Christ is the second book by Jim Marion that I have read.  Compared to the first, "The Death of the Mythic God", at least this one has a title that won't get you kicked out of church for reading.  I mean, what could be more Christian than putting on the mind of Christ?  But, it's perhaps more heretical than the first, at least compared to the teachings I grew up with.

I expected the book to be a "how to" book on being more like Jesus.  If that's what you are looking for, I don't think this is the book for you.  Rather than a how to, the first part of the book is a description of the different levels of consciousness one progresses until one reaches (or surpasses) the Christ level of consciousness.  I found this part of the book very difficult to get through and difficult to relate to as he made constant references to old, dead saints like Theresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, etc.  Many of these mystics' writings about the path to "The Kingdom" start at a level so far above the average person that it's almost impossible for us to relate to.  Jim Marion does start at the beginning and describes the path in great detail.  But, to see it laid out like that is almost disheartening because when most of us compare ourselves to saints or to Jesus, we can quickly see there is no way we're going to get there in a single lifetime.  Marion later makes reference to this fact when he is making his case for reincarnation.  And, he's absolutely right.  If it requires getting the Mind of Christ to enter the Kingdom, most Christians are not going to get it right in this lifetime.  If you're at all familiar with Spiral Dynamics or other models of levels of human development, the first part of the book will be very familiar to you.  Marion uses different terms and may have more levels than other models.  But, there are similarities.

In spite of the rather dry academic tone of the first 16 chapters, I took it as a spiritual discipline to plow through it and I'm glad I did.  First of all, there were some very good insights in there that I would have missed otherwise.  Secondly, at Chapter 17, the book has a divide and Book Two begins.  Literally, this book could have been two books because while the first part of the book was way over my head and not particularly of a lot of interest to me, the second part of the book was one of the better books I've ever read.

The second part of the book concerns problems particular to the Christian as he tries to follow Jesus into the Kingdom.  I think the biggest problem facing most Christians is that we have been taught Jesus did it all and there is nothing left that we can do or have to do.  It's taken me decades to realize that this is a false teaching and is extremely harmful to the spiritual development of Christians.  Rather than seeing our lives as a practice and making it our goal to progress a little every day, we use trite phrases and avoid the hard work of spiritually disciplining ourselves.  The first chapter in the second half of the book is "The Problem of Jesus' Last Name" and addresses Jesus' humanity and Jesus' divinity and what that means to us.  An overemphasis on Jesus' divinity (and the uniqueness of His divinity) has let many Christians off of the hook of taking up their own cross and doing the hard work that Jesus had to do.

The second chapter of the second half is the Problem of Good and Evil and the problem we get into when judge things as good and evil.  I think Marion does an excellent job of addressing the concept of being dead to the law and, as Christians, sin does not exist for us.  The concept that we can do as we please is very troubling for most Christians who are still looking for some sort of law to live under and who have simply replaced the law of Moses with a new law derived from the pages of the New Testament.  Marion points out that there are spiritual laws (the law of karma for example) and just because we can do as we please does not mean there are no consequences or that there are not skillful and unskillful acts.  This chapter was very good for me as I realize that one of the things I still struggle greatly with is "judgment".  Judging a thing good or bad, judging people, judging situations.  Later chapters address the problems with God's favorites (saints) and how putting them on a pedestal excuses us from trying to be like them.  This is where Marion addresses reincarnation more fully and explains why we should not allow the fact that these spiritual masters are further along the path than us to be an excuse not to continue along our own path because, he points out, we each have to walk the path ourselves and we each have to reach that point to enter into the Kingdom.  Later, he explains the after-death model of the Kingdom that he believes in. Pretty interesting stuff.

Overall, I think this book was very good.  But, it's certainly not for everyone.  It's not an easy read by any stretch of the imagination.  It will bore some to tears and I think it will challenge nearly everyone.  It's certainly not a paint-by-numbers approach to how to Put on the Mind of Christ and it actually can be very daunting to realize how far most of us have to go.  However, for the serious Christian practitioner who is looking for more practical spirituality than you get in the hour you spend in church on Sunday morning and who wants to explore what lies ahead as he seriously tries to emulate Jesus, I think it's a good book to have in your library.

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1 comment:

kc bob said...

Good thoughts Brian!

I think that many can get discouraged when they compare themselves to people in the bible.. it is caused by all of the preachers who put some of these folks on spiritual pedestals. A friend once told me that the bible is such a minuscule representation of the history humanity.. I tend to agree.. some insignificant spiritual giants were excluded from the pages of scripture.

I do think that we can do as we please.. God's will for us is much larger than we think. Of course it is never a good idea to violate your conscience - our inner law.

I liked what you said about good and evil being an issue of judging.. had not thought of it that way.. food for more thought.

Hope your week is going well.