Keener on Paul on Transformed Thinking

keenerSlowly working through Craig Keener’s The Mind of the Spirit: Paul’s Approach to Transformed Thinking and finding it to be not only rigorous and thorough (who could expect anything less from Keener?) but personally penetrating and acute on many levels. He’s giving many reasons for me to think more carefully about my anthropology in general and the importance of our minds in particular. As I’ve said elsewhere, “it is the content in our minds that drives the direction of our hearts. We live from the inside out. What we think (as well as how we think) matters because what goes into our minds comes out in our lives. Yes we have moments when we act before we think, but predominantly our thought life dictates the course of action that we take.”

To this end, Keener admonishes:

The one who trusts in Christ’s work for being put right forensically should also trust in Christ’s work for being put right behaviorally. Instead of merely trying to control their sinful impulses (though self-control is also a fruit of the Spirit, Gal. 5:23), believers may be conscious that Christ is living through them. In Pauline theology the Spirit of Christ lives in believers (Rom. 8:9-10), Christ lives in them (8:10; Gal. 2:30), and Christ is “our life” (Col. 3:3-4; cf. Phil. 1:21).

Charles Sheldons’ late nineteenth-century question, “What would Jesus do?” is an apt one for Pauline theology, but perhaps even more fully, Paul would urge believers to consider “What is Jesus like?” and to confidently expect that same moral character to be expressed in them. (p 134, emphasis mine)

This moral transformation, Keener assures us, is no mere “cognitive strategy,” nor is it wrought by virtue of solidarity with Abraham (p 33), but instead begins with a full embrace or “reckoning yourselves” dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Rom 6:11). “Even the law-informed mind [Rom 7:22-23] is helpless to defeat bodily passions” (p 141). Only where the Spirit initiates does transformation begin and peace result. Human effort, though necessary, is not sufficient to produce Christlikeness.

There is much more in this newest from Keener and I’ve more to read from it. But I wanted to post something sooner than later because I can see it’s an important contribution on Pauline theology and anthropology, both academically and practically. Although a Postscript includes “Some Pastoral Implications,” (pp 253-265) readers will find them throughout; for me, the “implications” propel me forward to finish….the book and the race set before us!

See also my essay “Our Strength, His Power: Who We Are and Why It Matters“.

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