I woke up this morning with this thought, “The Bible Civilizes the Mind”. It was one of those light bulb going on moments even though the statement is a pretty obvious conclusion. I recently started reading “The History of God” by Karen Armstrong and it presented me with several new ideas about God. At least these ideas are new to me. In it she described Philo’s distinction between the “essence” of God and the “powers” or “energies” of God. The “essence” and the “powers” are both parts of God. Whereas God’s “essence” is incomprehensible by all accounts, God “powers” are the way God communicates with us. By all accounts God’s “powers” are simply beyond our laws of physics. The prophets, the miracles, Jesus and the Bible are examples of these “powers”.
Although I took it for granted that it would be pretty near impossible to visualize what God looks like, I think our heart wants to try even though our mind knows it is foolish. When we find ourselves going through the “visualize God exercise”, we admonish ourselves for the naivety of our results. Eventually we beat ourselves up for being foolish about following our heart and try to move on. Yet our futility with visualizing God explains why the prophets, the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus are necessary. Our mind if left to its own decisions will wander off to various distractions at the first sign of failure. Our heart wants something bigger and more meaningful. Without help from the “powers” we eventually become self-centered and will only help others if it is in our best interest. The desire to be connected to something bigger than our meager existence fades away as self-preservation rules the day.
I imagine the first human beings were very self-centered and focused on self-preservation. They had some big problems with survival to deal with. In that environment I can understand why they may have chosen to ignore the needs of others. Yet early history shows that they bound together as a group and persevered. Everyone may have their own opinion why they succeeded when logic says they should have failed. It could be pure, random luck. I believe that the belief in God and God’s powers bound these early people together and had a civilizing effect on their actions like nothing else. Eventually over time these early God beliefs and the Bible changed society’s perception of what being civilized really meant. This aspiration for the moral high ground leads to the laws ingrained in modern day society. With the help of God’s “powers” we have the opportunity to continue to become even more civilized and full of life. Without this influence we are just cavemen with iPods.