St. Paul on Perceptual Plasticity and Theoretical Neutrality… Kind of.

Or When Theology and Undergraduate Philosophy Clash (Pt. 2)

I’m still reading that paper that I blogged about last time… you know the one I wrote while an undergraduate at UCLA. I still marvel at the fact that its so unapologetically Christian. This section of the paper is cool because its so deeply scriptural but yet it takes serious Churchland’s work on the philosophy of perception.

When Paul calls Christians to be transformed by the renewing of the mind he is calling Christians to a new way of thinking, a new way of looking at and interpreting the world that they live in, Paul is calling them to think “Christianly.”  In this verse, Paul contrasts the way of thinking which is characteristic of those in the world and the way of thinking which is characteristic of those who are a part of the body of Christ.  Paul seems to think that the transformation of the mind is not something that occurs automatically when one comes to know the truth of Christ’s lordship.  The transformation of the mind into a mind that thinks “Christianly” is a process that involves effort both on one’s behalf as well as on God’s behalf.  In Philippians 3:12 we notice that both God and us are at work in the process of learning to think Christianly, here Paul pleads with the Philippians to work out their salvation (i.e. their becoming holy), because it is God who is at work in them to will and work according to God’s good pleasure.  The transformation of the mind is a transformation that occurs not only when we have knowledge of what God’s will is but when we are able to apply that knowledge to our lives.  Paul Churchland who believes that all perceptions are theory laden, illustrates the idea that mere knowledge is not enough to create genuine transformation in his paper “Perceptual Plasticity and Theoretical Neutrality”. Churchland says that a physics student does not come to see the motions of common objects in a new way simply by memorizing Newton’s three laws.  Although most freshmen physics students do in fact memorize these laws, it is only those who have practiced the skills of applying those laws that come to see the motions of common objects according to those laws.  Although knowing the laws is vital to the transformation process, it is the application and practice which leads to the transformation of those student’s minds (Churchland 176)  The same can be said about the Christian walk.   Having knowledge of what is good and bad is vital to having one’s mind be transformed into the type of mind that thinks “Christianly”, but it is the practicing and application of that knowledge that leads to the transformation of the mind.   Once this transformation has occurred we will be able to think “Christianly.”

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