Lovbe Your God with all Your Mind by MorelandI always have a book on my Kindle that I am reading for those times when I have some free time to read while waiting in the car or elsewhere but I don’t have a book with me. Right now I am reading J.P. Moreland’s excellent book Love Your God with all Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul.

The gist of what Moreland is getting at is that Christians of all people need to be using their minds and God given reason in all of life but they are not – and it is a shame. The necessity of Moreland’s book is a reminder of Mark Noll’s most famous opening line in his book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is no evangelical mind.” Both of these books are must reads for all Christians.

To Moreland’s book again. In chapter four, Moreland discusses seven traits of the empty self. The empty self is “constituted by a set of values, motives, and habits of thought, feeling, and behavior that perverts and eliminates the life of the mind and makes maturation in the way of Christ extremely difficult.” (Kindle Loc. 1507)

Reading through these seven traits is very sobering and will cause you to proclaim, “God help us!”

1. The empty self is inordinately individualistic – That is to say, people so often so what they do for personal reasons (1) alone or (2) as a first order reason. How often do people give the reason for not doing drugs because of how it effects others or God? Christians follow this same kind of self-centeredness all the time.

2. The empty self is infantile – “Created by a culture filled with pop psychology, schools and media that usurp parental authority, and television ads that seem to treat everyone like a teenager, the infantile part of the empty self needs instant gratification, comfort, and soothing. The infantile person is controlled by infantile cravings and constantly seeks to be filled up with and made whole by food, entertainment, and consumer goods. Such a person is preoccupied with sex, physical appearance, and body image and tends to live by feelings and experiences. For the infantile personality type, pain, endurance, hard work, and delayed gratification are anathema. Pleasure is all that matters, and it had better be immediate. Boredom is the greatest evil, amusement the greatest good. (Kindle Loc. 1529-1534)

3. The empty self is narcissistic – “The narcissist evaluates the local church, the right books to read, and the other religious practices worthy of his or her time on the basis of how they will further his or her own agenda. God becomes another tool in a narcissistic bag of tricks, along with the car, workouts at the fitness center, and so on — things that exist as mere instruments to facilitate a life defined largely independent of a biblical worldview. (Kindle Loc. 1542-1545)

4. The empty self is passive – “Many factors have contributed to the emergence of passivity as an aspect of the empty self. But in my view, television is the chief culprit, and its impact begins early in life. Elementary school children watch an average of twenty-five hours of television per week, and high schoolers spend six times as many hours watching television as they invest doing homework. 6 Studies indicate that such widespread television viewing induces mental passivity, retards motivation and the ability to stick to something, negatively affects reading skills (especially those needed for higher-level mental comprehension), weakens the ability to listen and stay focused, and encourages an overall passive withdrawal from life. 7 The widespread passivity of the empty self explains the proliferation of magazines like People, of television shows like Entertainment Tonight, and of an overidentification with sports teams and figures. Passive people do not have lives of their own, so they must live vicariously through the lives of others, and celebrities become the codependent enablers of a passive lifestyle. The very idea of a Christian celebrity is an oxymoron. But for the passive, empty self, it is a spiritual life-support system. (Kindle Loc. 1558-1567)

5. The empty self is sensate – “In a sensate culture people believe only in the reality of the physical universe capable of being experienced with the five senses. A sensate culture is secular, this-worldly, and empirical. By contrast, an ideational culture embraces the sensory world but also accepts the notion that an extra-empirical, immaterial reality can be known as well — a reality consisting in God, the soul, immaterial beings, values, purposes, and various abstract objects like numbers and propositions. Sorokin claimed that a sensate culture will eventually disintegrate because it lacks the intellectual resources necessary to sustain a public and private life conducive of corporate and individual human flourishing. And this is precisely what we see happening to modern American culture. The widespread emergence of the sensate self has caused us to be shallow, small-souled people. (Kindle Loc. 1578-1584)

6. The empty self has lost the art of developing an interior life – “The self used to be defined in terms of internal traits of virtue and morality, and the successful person, the person of honor and reputation, was the person with deep character. In such a view, the cultivation of an interior life through intellectual reflection and spiritual formation was of critical importance. In the last few decades, however, the self has come to be defined in terms of external factors — the ability to project a pleasurable, powerful personality and the possession of consumer goods — and the quest for celebrity status, image, pleasure, and power has become the preoccupation of a self so defined. A careful development of an inner life is simply irrelevant in such a view of the good life. (Kindle Loc. 1587-1591)

7. The empty self is hurried and busy – “Because the empty self has a deep emotional emptiness and hunger, and because it has devised inadequate strategies to fill that emptiness, a frenzied pace of life emerges to keep the pain and emptiness suppressed. One must jump from one activity to another and not be exposed to quiet for very long or the emptiness will become apparent. Such a lifestyle creates a deep sense of fatigue in which passivity takes over. And fatigued people either do not have the energy to read or, when they do, choose undemanding material. (Kindle Loc. 1596-1600)