Tag Archives: human nature

Brain-Hacking and True Virtue

In the article, The Strange Way Being “Good” Hurts Your Willpower featured on the blog Nir & Far, Paulette Perhach offers a brain-hacking solution to the human problem that the apostle Paul describes in Romans:

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

Romans 7:14-19

Here is the gist of Perhach’s argument (also listed in her article):

  • Moralizing your choices as good or bad opens you up to the risk of moral licensing (moral leniency).
  • Berating yourself for being bad when you make the wrong choices only increases your chances of messing up again.
  • Labeling your behavior as getting you either closer or further away from your ultimate goals is a powerful way to get around moral licensing.
  • Congratulating yourself on your progress induces the effect of moral licensing. Using your progress instead to remind yourself how committed you are to your goal will re-up your willpower to achieve it.
  • Catching the inner voice berating your past behavior and turning it toward planning a different outcome for the next day will make you less likely to repeat that undesirable behavior and get what you really want in the long run.

jon-tyson-232630

Sounds convenient, right? However, this current cult of brain-hacking, which is the focus of myriad recently published books, is opposed to the old paths of wisdom. Parts of these old paths are mapped out in many human traditions, but they have their full expression in the Scriptures, where they flow out of salvation by grace through faith in the crucified and risen Christ.

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Living On-Script In The Modern World

I have talked with many people over the years that were uneasy about the script they felt was associated with Christian faith. It looks to them like some kind of script in which Christians are expected to follow every line—leaving no room for free improvisation in the romance of living itself.

And yet I’ve also run into quite a lot of people who quickly tire of making up everything as they go along. This is especially the case when large groups of people are working together spontaneously in profoundly complex sets of relationships. What if one person wants to get married, but it’s the furthest thing from the mind of another? Is getting a job negotiable? What if a parent wants to write a script that includes their child leaving the house, but their child wishes to read a script of them staying in the basement rent-free?

Is there a script?

Most actors know that there are various relationships that films and productions can have to scripts. Some stick exactly to every word of the script, and others leave some freedom to the actors. But according to this metaphor, following Christ is a little bit more like being in the writing room. Continue reading Living On-Script In The Modern World

What Do We Do After No-Win Elections?

The problem with a no-win election is, of course, that there is no circumstance in which everyone wins. But the more that is at stake, the more the winner wins and the more the loser loses. We have many no-win decisions in our life that don’t bother us. I can’t tell you how many highway exits I’ve taken and all the times I’ve had to choose between fried fast food and Subway. I don’t much care for either, but I don’t lose much in that situation. It’s just a meal.

When much is to be won or lost

That’s not the case in federal politics. As the size and scope of government has dramatically increased since the second half of the 20th century, much more is now gained and lost at the federal level. Originally, the intention of increasing the size of federal government was to provide more things for people in need and to coordinate large and audacious goals among a vast people. Although this may be a noble ideal, Christians should be shrewd through realism about human nature. Wherever more is to be gained, more attention is paid. The more there is to be won and lost in Washington, the more Washington attracts people looking for a special deal, an angle to cheat, or a way to get a once and for all win for themselves or their ideology. So increasingly, very much against the intention of the American founders, the federal government has become the most intense battle in our society. It has become a winner take all war, and war terrorizes everyone.

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Pastoral Letter Extended 8: Proper lament

This is the eighth and final of a series of posts expanding on my Pastoral Letter post based on my sermon from June 28th.

8. Our lament of wickedness must be consistent.

If we’re going to be virtuous giants, we have to get our emotions in line with what’s true. When that is true of us, we will lament over wickedness…all wickedness. Continue reading Pastoral Letter Extended 8: Proper lament

A Pastoral Letter

To High Point Church in light of current events:

The majority of the New Testament books are pastoral letters written from a pastoral leader to a particular local church or churches with the intent of guiding them in how to think, feel and behave in reference to particular events of their day. While we normally teach from those letters, there is within the Church an important tradition of pastors from every generation following in that model of pastoral letters and speaking directly to their congregations in significant moments relevant to modern Christian life. As a pastor, I consider it my duty to help us reflect Christianly on the moment in which we live.

My letter this week is mainly in reference to the US Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, though it is also relevant more generally to other recent events. This letter revisits much of my sermon from Sunday, June 28th. To hear that message, follow this link.

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