Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Renewing the Mind Through Meditation

By Shirley Anne Leonard

My wife Shirley Anne wrote this piece a few days ago. I thought I would share it with others here.

Why don’t we have victory? We have never sat down and meditated long enough on the Word. What is meditation? Well, if you know how to worry you know how to meditate. Meditation is ruminating, working something over and over in you mind. Our minds just naturally do this all day long. Usually it is about how bad things are, about the ache in our bodies, or this or that problem confronting us.

Controlling the mind is like pushing one of those grocery carts that has a bad wheel and is always trying to swerve to the left. You have to purposely keep turning it back to the right. The good fight of faith is not always with an outside adversary, it’s more often with our own minds.

When the Word says to renew our minds, that’s not just a nice suggestion. God tell us that because He knows that if we let our minds go their natural way they take us down the wrong road — the road to sickness, worry, frustration and depression.

The Lord has another way to go. He tells us to think about ourselves and circumstances the way He does. Where does He say that? Well, He tells us to have the mind of Christ. If you have the mind of Christ then you are thinking the right thoughts. We’re victorious over the world as He was. Remember what Jesus said: “I have overcome the world.” And so can you!

So if someone asks you if you’ve ever meditated, don’t say “No.” You have meditated (worried) about all the wrong things. The solution is to sit down several times a day and purposely meditate on a verse of Scripture that tells who you are and what you can do — like the TV preacher who holds the Bible up at the beginning of a service and asks everyone to repeat the words, “This is my Bible. I am what it says I am and I can do what it says to do.”

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Physical “Laws” and “Miracles”

Commentators customarily speak of the “laws” of the physical universe, such as the law of gravity, the law of inertia, or the laws of thermodynamics. Such terminology tends to portray the universe as a closed system of cause and effect in which natural phenomena cannot behave contrary to the “laws” of physics, mathematics and the like. Nor can any external power interpose to contravene those “laws.”

What such usage fails to recognize is that the term “law” is poorly chosen when applied to the operation of physical phenomena. “Law” is a construct of human culture and interaction, and the operation of laws depends upon social structures for enforcement and personal motives of compliance. That is, to be effective a law must be obeyed, and obedience requires the decision of a sentient being. The substance of the physical world consists of electrons and other subatomic particles. To ascribe to such phenomena the property of obedience to a law is to anthropomorphize them — to credit them with qualities or behavior applicable only to sentient beings, particularly human beings.

Phenomena of the physical realm do, indeed, behave in predictable ways, at least under “normal” conditions (recognizing that “normality,” itself, may be as questionable concept here as “law”). But to describe such behavior in terms of “laws” is only an inaccurate way of saying that the behavior of these phenomena has followed typical patterns. A solid object dropped from a third-storey window will, absent any extraordinary condition such as hurricane-force winds or strong magnetic attraction from a higher storey, be observed to fall to the earth. But to call such behavior the operation of the law of gravity is to ascribe mechanisms of enforcement and obedience to phenomena that have (as far as we can tell) no capacity for choice or decision. (And as for gravity, no one understands what it is anyway; it is not the same as magnetism.)

As Bernard Lonergan pointed out a half-century ago (Insight: A Study of Human Understanding, 1957), observed phenomena form a statistical continuum of events within a system. But such a continuum can never cover all possible eventualities. Statistics constitute an admission of ignorance; if all facts and events were known there would be no need for a statistical abstraction from specific observed data to a generalized system. On the statistical continuum there is always the possibility of a non-systematic “empirical residue” (to use Lonergan’s term), i.e., events that do not fit into the hypothesized continuum.

All of the above is relevant to the consideration of so-called “miracles,” or events that appear to run counter to the “laws” by which the physical universe operates. As stated above, no such “laws” are operative in the behavior of non-sentient phenomena. The observation of repeated events, such as the falling of an object when dropped from a height, can only form a statistical continuum masking our ignorance. No matter how often the phenomenon is observed, the probability that it will occur the next time in the same way cannot be extended to infinity.

What we call “miracles,” far from being perturbations in the operation of physical “laws,” are simply events that do not fall along the line of the hypothetical statistical continuum. They are non-systematic “empirical residue.” As to how and why such events occur, no explanation may be possible in terms of the four-dimensional world in which the physical “laws” are said to operate.

Jesus calmed the storm with the command, “Peace! Be still” (Mark 4:39). The disciples asked, “Who then is this, that he commands even wind and water, and they obey him?” (Luke 8:25). Such language may be the only way human beings can speak of the inbreaking of the non-systematic into a supposed closed system of physical laws. But in speaking this way we need to recall that Scripture testifies to the way Christ is ever “upholding the universe by his word of power” (Hebrews 1:3). The phenomena of the universe are not blindly obeying physical laws. In some way inaccessible to our comprehension they are responding to the “word” of their Creator.