Monday, February 28, 2005

In the FoxHole - Part IX
Maintaining a Theocentric Mindset

In the FoxHole, part I - Strength before Strength
In the FoxHole, part II - Pain as Teacher

In the FoxHole, part III - Waiting

In the FoxHole, Part IV - Strength in Christ

In the FoxHole, Part V - Learned Optimism
In the FoxHole, Part VI - Abiding in the Vine
In the FoxHole, Part VII - Practising His Presence
In the FoxHole, Part VIII - Avoiding a Monomaniacal Focus

When I was reading Seligman's Learned Optimism, one of what seems to me to be a pervasive biblical truth - that God is good - encouraged me to believe that an orientation of general optimism is consistent with reality. Even the need for a Christian Theodicy is - in my mind - covered by the long-term optimism that's envisioned in Collins' Stockdale Paradox (which is not to suggest that Collins' formulation is a theodicy!).

Recall that Seligman suggests the optimist takes three views about negative events or circumstances:

  • they're not pervasive;
  • they're not permanent;
  • and they're not the optimist's fault.
As we mentioned before, Seligman writes, "Optimism is just a useful adjunct to wisdom. By itself it cannot provide meaning" (p. 291). One biblical concept that does invest optimism with significance is the wisdom of a theocentric perspective. God's goodness is subsumed under such a perspective.

Viewing life's negative circumstances and events with a theocentric perspective means

  • that we set our minds on the Things of the Spirit

    Romans 8:5-8 (all references are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted)

    For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. 8Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

    • what are the "things of the Spirit"? They include the Spirit's fruit.

      Galatians 5:22,23

      But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

  • that we set our hearts on where God is

    Matthew 6:19-21

    19"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

  • that we always seek first His Kingdom

    Matthew 6:25-33

    25"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

  • that we set our minds on things above

    Colossians 3:1-3

    1If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

  • that we delight in what God says

    Psalm 1

    1Blessed is the man
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
    nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
    2but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.

    3He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
    that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
    In all that he does, he prospers.
    4The wicked are not so,
    but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

    5Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
    6for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked will perish.

Maintaining a theocentrically oriented paradigm as it's maintained through these focuses helps us to keep life's negative circumstances and events in proper perspective.

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