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BibleN.T. Wright

Lorin Friesen, Copyright ©, August 2014

NT Wright is a prolific author with an encyclopedic knowledge of the Bible and ancient biblical and Jewish texts. From 2003 to 2010 he was the Anglican Bishop of Durham. I have recently read several of his books: Paul and the Faithfulness of God, a 1658 page tome on Jewish, Greek, and Roman society and the theology of Paul published in 2013, Surprised by Hope (2008), Scripture and the Authority of God (2013), How God Became King (2012), Creation, Power and Truth (2013), and After You Believe (2012), as well as skimming through the first few chapters of The New Testament and the People of God (2004). I have also gone through some of the essays in NTWright webpage, such as Romans and the Theology of Paul. To put this in perspective, I have read more of NT Wright than all of the information contained on the mental symmetry website (currently at about 1900 pages). I believe that this is a sufficient survey of his recent work to gain a reasonably thorough understanding of his approach and his theology. While Paul and the Faithfulness of God obviously contains the most information, I found that the shorter books are quite important because they deal with the more practical aspects of Christian growth, which is not really covered in the academic tome.

In order to conserve pixels, I will refer to Paul and the Faithfulness of God as PFG, Surprised by Hope as SH, Scripture and the Authority of God as SAG, The New Testament and the People of God as NTPG, and After You Believe as AYB.

Whenever I analyze some writer or book, I try to use the analysis as a springboard for building something positive, because my primary goal is to construct a general understanding rather than merely critique the thinking of others. Therefore, this essay contains a very preliminary commentary on Romans 1-8, viewed from a cognitive perspective.

One of the primary features of Wright’s scholarship is that all of his writing is driven by a single paradigm. Using the language of mental symmetry, he is driven by a general Teacher theory. My research and writing is also guided by the single paradigm of the theory of mental symmetry, so I know from personal experience the strengths and weaknesses that result from paradigm driven research. In my opinion, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, by Thomas Kuhn, contains the best description of what it means to do paradigm driven research, and I notice that Wright refers in passing to Kuhn’s concept of ‘normal science’ in NTPG (p. 24) (That is the only reference to Kuhn that I could find.)

Wright’s level of scholarship is intimidating and Wright’s credentials as a biblical exegete are impeccable. For instance, the bibliography to PFG is 63 pages long. Therefore, the next sentence may seem like hubris on my part. In brief, I suggest that Wright lacks the expertise that is required to construct a system of Christian theology. This is not because Wright is unqualified. Far from it. Rather, I suggest that his expertise lies in the wrong areas. Using an analogy, suppose that a professor taught a class in physics by describing the history of the development of physics and by comparing the texts of different physics textbooks in order to trace the origins of various concepts. This would be a fascinating class to attend and one would learn a lot, however it has nothing to do with physics itself. That is because the laws of physics describe how the natural world functions. Learning physics and how it describes the world is totally different than learning the history of physics and how concepts of physics emerged throughout history. A physicist teaches physics, an expert in the history of physics teaches how physics developed, while a physics ‘exegete’ compares various physics textbooks. Wright is a world expert in the history of Christianity as well as the exegetical analysis of texts related to Christianity. However, Wright does not appear to have the same level of expertise in the content of Christianity.

Wright tells us the kind of expertise that is required to study the content of Christianity. “It is precisely because of the major restructuring of Paul’s symbolic world that ‘theology’ comes to have a different, much larger and more important place in his worldview, and thereafter in the Christian church, than ever it had in either Judaism or paganism...Jewish writers have often commented that ‘theology’, as that word is now understood, is largely a Christian construct, and they are right, for just this reason: that a fresh, reflective understanding of God, the world, the human race, and so on grew and developed to fill the vacuum left by the departing symbols of Judaism. It had to if the new worldview was to have any staying power. It is no accident that we have seen, at the very moments when Paul is hammering out the nature of his new, symbolically freighted community, that he reaches for his reworked Jewish-style monotheism. It wasn’t just that he needed some doctrinal stiffening, and found that particular doctrine useful for the task. Prayerful reflection on God, God’s ways, God’s work, God’s purpose, and ultimately God’s faithfulness – that task we loosely call ‘theology’ – had, quite suddenly, to take on a new role. Paul seems to have believed that this, too, was providential, and part of the meaning of the gospel. The Messiah’s people, he often insisted, were to be ‘transformed by the renewing of the mind’. Thinking clearly about God and his purposes was not just an intellectual luxury, an indulgence for long winter evenings. It was part of the solid ground upon which the single, central worldview-symbol would stand firm. The renewed people of God were to be renewed in their minds, learning to think in a way that was given, for the first time ever, the task of sustaining a worldview.” (PFG, 403).

This quote contains a number of key concepts. First, Christianity is held together by abstract theology. Second, this abstract theology is the basis for the concrete Christian worldview. Third, the core concept of theology is the idea of a monotheistic God. Fourth, the individual Christian is personally ‘transformed by the renewing of the mind’. Wright says here that Paul often insisted upon this approach and Wright himself repeats this phrase from the beginning of Romans 12 about a dozen times in PFG. Fifth, renewing of the mind leads to an abstract understanding which then ‘sustains’ a person’s concrete worldview.

Translating this into the language of mental symmetry, Christian doctrine needs to be described as a universal paradigm in Teacher thought. A concept of a Christian God emerges as a universal paradigm in Teacher thought applies to personal identity. Christian personal transformation occurs primarily internally and cognitively. The process of personal transformation involves submitting personal identity in Mercy thought to a universal understanding of God in Teacher thought. Notice how we have taken Wright’s concepts and restated them in more universal terms, which is precisely what we must do if one God holds everything together and if one must use the mind to understand the nature of this one God. Thus, the theory of mental symmetry tries to do precisely what Wright says that the Christian should do, and my primary goal in developing the theory of mental symmetry is to follow the advice that Wright gives in this passage.

This does not mean that one has to be a cognitive scientist in order to be a mature Christian, just as one does not have to be a civil engineer in order to build bridges. There is also the school of hard knocks. If a person tries, fails, and eventually succeeds in constructing enough bridges that stay up without falling down, then one will learn the skill of building bridges. The reason that one studies civil engineering is to avoid the painful route of learning through personal failure. Similarly, the individual who is experienced the gut-wrenching agony of having childish personal identity torn apart and reassembled in the light of eternal truth will instinctively know what a passage such as Romans 7 is describing. He may not be able to describe the process using the language of the cognitive scientist, but he knows at a deep personal level what it means to ‘be crucified with Christ’.

While Wright has the expertise that is needed to describe the history of Christianity and how Paul came up with the concept of theologically based personal transformation, I suggest that Wright lacks the expertise that is needed to actually describe both the theoretical side and the practical side of theologically based personal transformation. I will mention several reasons for making this statement here, and then we will look at them in more detail later.

First, Wright says that Paul is not talking about personal experience in Roman 7. “The sharpest statement of the apparent paradox is found in Romans 7, and the diagram above shows already, from quite a simple starting-point, what Paul has in mind in that dense and demanding, but also fascinating, passage. (I assume for present purposes that the ‘I’ in this passage is a rhetorical device, not unlike what we find in Galatians 2.18–21, through which Paul is able to describe what has happened to ‘Israel according to the flesh’ but without seeming to distance himself by telling the story in the third person” (PFG, 508).

“He identifies himself with the Israel thus spoken of; this is his story, the sad tale of the autos ego (“I myself”; compare 9:3).This does not, however, mean that it is what we would call ‘autobiography.’ As is often pointed out, Phil 3:6 pretty certainly rules out any suggestion that Romans 7 describes ‘what it feels like at the time.’ Rather, the passage is (as its derivation from chapters 5 and 6 should make clear) a specifically Christian analysis of the plight of Israel under Torah” (RTP, p.17).

Looking briefly at Philippians 3:6, Paul says that before conversion he was “as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.” I presume that Wright is concluding that if Paul obeyed the law blamelessly before conversion, then it does not make sense for Paul to talk about being unable to obey the law in Romans 7. However, I suggest that Paul is referring to two different types of obedience. As a Pharisee, he was very good at acting the way a Pharisee should act, and Romans 7 is specifically addressed to the individual who knows how to function under some set of laws or rules. Romans 7 describes the process of going from that type of behavior to a higher level of motivation. Using psychological language, Romans 7 describes going from extrinsic motivation guided by the ought self to intrinsic motivation guided by the ideal self. As Paul says in verse 6, “But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.” Paul says in the next verse that it was the commandment ‘you shall not covet’ that triggered this transition, which is the only one of the Ten Commandments that tells a person how he should think and not just how he should act.

Wright says that he used to interpret Roman 7 personally but no longer does, and he recognizes that his is not a standard interpretation. “Nor, despite many advocates, is Romans 7.13–20 a description of the normal life of the Christian, wanting to be holy and failing. Even though I once read the passage in this way, I read it thus no longer” (PFG, 1016).

This leads us to the second point, which suggests that Wright has an inadequate understanding of how the mind functions. While Wright accurately and carefully describes the legal nature of justification—God declaring a person to be righteous, one finds very little on the concept of sanctification, in which a person acquires the Godly character of being righteous. Instead, Wright translates all scriptural references to righteousness as the righteousness possessed by God rather than righteousness from God, and he interprets sanctification as the building of new habits. However, if one understands how the mind functions, then I suggest that is possible to make sense of these various forms of righteousness.

Third, he associates ‘dying to self’ and ‘being crucified with Christ’ with the physical act of baptism. “The two events which Paul sees as tightly joined together, baptism ‘into the Messiah’ on the one hand and the emergence of faith on the other (calling God ‘Abba’; believing that he raised Jesus from the dead; confessing Jesus as lord), are the necessary and sufficient evidence that the spirit has been at work through the gospel, that this person has died and risen with the Messiah, that this person has the Messiah’s death and resurrection ‘reckoned’ or ‘imputed’ to them (Romans 6.11) and that this person has passed beyond the sphere where ‘sin reigns in death’ (Romans 5.21) and so is quit of any obligation to ‘sin’ as a power or a sphere” (PFG, 1028). in contrast, I suggest that there is no inherent relationship between being dunked in a pool of water (or sprinkled by some water), being declared righteous by God, and dying to self. The first is an event, the second is a change in legal status in the sight of God, and the third describes personal transformation. We shall see later that these are all cognitively distinct.

Wright says that “The event of baptism –the action, the water, the going down in the coming up again, the new close – is not just a signpost to the reality of the new birth, the membership... In the new family. It really is the gateway to the membership... The important thing, then, is that in the simple but powerful action of plunging someone into the water in the name of the triune God, there is a real dying to the old creation and a real rising to the new – with all the dangers privileges and responsibilities that then accompanied the new life as it sets out in the as-yet-unredeemed world. Baptism is not magic, a conjuring trick with water. But neither is it simply a visual aid. It is one of the points, established by Jesus himself, where heaven and earth interlock, where new creation, resurrection life, appears within the midst of the old” (SH, 272).

Wright talks about ‘heaven and earth interlocking’ in the act of baptism. When a person internally dies to self—when childish identity falls apart inside—then, cognitively speaking, abstract ‘heavenly thought’ does interlock with concrete ‘earthly thought’. This is a major cognitive transition, which I suggest makes it possible for a person to experience a corresponding external and spiritual transition. However, to suggest that this gut-wrenching transformation is rooted in a few seconds of getting wet massively trivializes the meaning of the Christian message. Baptism is a meaningful symbol, not because it has meaning in itself, but rather because it symbolizes internal dying to self, which does have meaning. If one wishes to understand what dying to self really feels like, then I suggest that crucifixion is an accurate analogy, because it is a long and agonizing process in which the layers of identity are stripped away one by one until the core of identity finally falls apart, which is the sort of process that Paul is describing in Romans 7 and 8.

Fourth, Wight does not think that it is important to understand how the mind functions. “Just as we are focusing on one theme in his writings, something else is going on, as we might say, in another part of the wood, to which we need to pay attention as well. And these ‘themes’ turn out to be stories which actually belong closely together. Some structuralists, for all I know, might leap in at this point. They might say that the reason this question has a good chance of success is that what we call ‘drama’ actually relates, at a deep psychological or archetypal level, whether individual or corporate, to patterns and structures which are inalienably woven into all human life. I shall not comment on that, but I do think in this instance that the idea of underlying stories and/or dramas can and does prove remarkably fruitful” (PFG, 472). This quote describes the type of research which I do. I am continually looking ‘at a deep psychological or archetypal level, whether individual or corporate, to patterns and structures which are inalienably woven into all human life’. In other words, I am searching for universal cognitive mechanisms, and I have found that this leads naturally to an understanding of Christianity. Wright thinks that this type of research can ‘prove remarkably fruitful’ but he sees no need to head in this direction.

That brings us back to the analogy of the physics professor. Physics describes how the world functions. Similarly, I suggest that Christianity describes how the mind functions, how it should function, and how to get it to function. If one wants to go beyond studying the history of Christianity, or comparing various manuscripts about Christianity, then I suggest that one must examine what Christianity describes, which means studying universal cognitive mechanisms. But Wright feels no need to go in this direction, which is like a physics professor saying that there is no need to study the relationship between the laws of physics and the behavior of the natural world.

Theology and Worldview

Wright begins PFG by describing the relationship between theology and worldview, and the difference between looking at spectacles and looking through spectacles. What Wright describes is quite similar to the methodology used by mental symmetry. Therefore, we will take a look at this methodology and then use it to explain why Wright takes the perspective that he does. In other words, we will examine what it means to look through spectacles and then we will attempt to describe the spectacles through which Wright is looking.

Wright says that “One of the great gains of the last few decades of scholarship has been the emergence, as a main topic, of what I continue to call ‘worldview’, though others label it and approach it differently...The reason why it is important to study worldviews is that human life is complicated, confusingly multifaceted, and often puzzling – much like Paul’s letters, in fact. Study of Paul, as of the New Testament and much else besides, has for too long taken place in a (philosophically) idealist world, where thoughts and beliefs are passed to and fro as though between discarnate intelligences...But once we move from the one-dimensional world of disembodied ideas to the three-dimensional world of ordinary, full human life, the initial confusion caused by all the new elements will be rewarded, one may hope, by clarity, nuance, perspective and even, perhaps, relevance” (PFG, 24).

I suggest that Wright is describing what I refer to as mental networks, which are described in more detail here. In brief, a mental network is a collection of emotional memories that have combined to function as a single unit. Whenever one of the memories of a mental network is triggered, then this will activate the entire mental network, which will then use emotional pressure to impose its structure upon thought and behavior. A habit is an example of a mental network.

In other words, Wright is saying that theologians in the past have studied Paul’s letters the way one would discuss logic or way that one evaluates mathematical equations, as a set of abstract ideas disconnected from real life. This describes what I refer to as abstract technical thought. However, if one really wishes to understand the writing of Paul, then Wright says that one needs to look at the mental networks that drove thinking in Paul’s time. (Summarizing briefly, mental symmetry suggests that both abstract thought and concrete thought can function in one of three major ways: thatMental networks use emotions to drive thinking; technical thought is guided by carefully defined rules and procedures; and normal thought builds connections based upon similarities and differences, leading to metaphors and analogies. Thomas Kuhn’s ‘normal science’ would correspond with abstract technical thought, while his ‘revolutionary science’ describes normal abstract thought.)

Going further, whenever several mental networks are triggered simultaneously, then each will attempt to impose its structure upon the other. The emotional force exerted by a mental network depends upon the emotional intensity of the memories contained within that mental network, therefore the mental network with the strongest emotional content will impose its structure upon weaker mental networks, leading to a mental hierarchy of mental networks, in which core mental networks warp the structure of lesser mental networks. When a group of people share a similar set of core mental networks, then this leads to a culture. Those who are driven by their mental networks to act in ways that are consistent with the structure of my mental networks will be viewed as part of my culture, while those who are driven by their mental networks to act in ways that are different will be seen as part of another culture.

Wright describes the functioning of core mental networks. “Worldview elements are things we take for granted, things we do or use or see or say unreflectively because they are part of the furniture we only notice if someone has rearranged it, part of the wallpaper we only see if somebody has replaced it or splashed paint on it. To change the metaphor, worldview elements, though usually out of sight, become loadbearing, like the deep, hidden foundations of a house. Shake them, and we experience a mental or emotional earthquake; remove them, and the house collapses: we do not know who we are anymore. It is almost as if we had died and woke up in a new whole world – which is, of course, what Paul said of himself, and reminded other early Messiah people that they should expect to have to say of themselves” (PFG, 353).

Translating this into the language of mental symmetry, a core mental network will only become apparent when it is questioned—when it experiences inconsistent input. Until then, it will be used ‘unreflectively’ as ‘part of the furniture’. When a mental network continues to receive inconsistent input, then like a habit that is not being satisfied, this will lead to emotional discomfort and a strong urge to satisfy mental network. If a mental network continues to be suppressed then eventually it will fall apart. When core mental networks receive consistently inconsistent input, then the result will be a ‘mental or emotional earthquake’, and when they fall apart then a person will no longer ‘know anymore who he is’. I suggest that Romans 6-8 describe what it means to acquire a new set of core mental networks.

Everything that a person says, thinks, or does is shaped by his core mental networks. Using Wright’s language, we are always looking at the world through some sort of spectacles. “We may remind ourselves that a ‘worldview’ is not what you normally look at, but what you normally look through. (This is where the metaphor of ‘sight’ retains some use.) What we are now discussing is not the sort of thing humans habitually talk about or consciously engage in, but the sort of thing they habitually presuppose as they talk about, or consciously engage in, other subjects and activities. This is what some have called ‘prior commitments’: the basic set of beliefs which explain otherwise puzzling patterns of action. Worldviews are like spectacles; normally you take them for granted, and you only think about them when they are broken, dirty or out of focus. What is more, though ‘view’ implies ‘looking and seeing’ (which is indeed both an important dimension and a useful and perfectly helpful metaphor), in this modification and development of the worldview-model one might equally well say ‘encounter’ or ‘experience’. This (to repeat) isn’t, then, purely about the arrangement of ideas in people’s minds. It is about the pattern and meaning of an entire life” (PFG, 28). As Wright says, one only becomes aware of one’s own spectacles when they become broken or when one encounters people wearing different spectacles.

A person cannot exist without core mental networks. A person can use free will to suppress lesser mental networks, but core mental networks cannot be suppressed. Rather they must be replaced. The only way to replace core mental networks is by playing one set of mental networks against another. The mental network that is chosen will grow while the one that is not chosen will shrink. Therefore, when Paul says to ‘reckon yourselves to be dead to sin’ in Romans 6:11, I suggest that this choice is only possible because at this point the mind contains two incompatible sets of mental networks, one driving sin, and the other based in a knowledge of God and incarnation. In other words, it is only possible to ‘consider yourselves to be dead to sin’ if you can simultaneously consider yourself to be ‘alive to God in Christ Jesus’.

As we saw earlier, Wright distinguishes between worldview and theology. Similarly, mental symmetry distinguishes between mental networks that are composed of Mercy experiences (MMN) and mental networks that are formed out of Teacher theories (TMN). Mercy thought remembers experiences along with their associated emotional labels. For instance, ice cream tastes good, cod liver oil tastes bad. Collections of similar emotional experiences will turn into Mercy mental networks or MMNs. Culture and worldview are are driven primarily by MMNs, patterns of thinking and behavior constructed out of concrete emotional experiences. Teacher thought, in contrast, uses words to construct general theories. When many items fit together in a harmonious manner, then this order-within-complexity generates positive Teacher emotion. A general theory uses a single general statement to explain many specific situations. The greater the generality of the theory, the greater the resulting Teacher emotion. When a person continues to use a general theory, then it will turn into a Teacher mental network or TMN. Whenever a TMN is triggered by some situation then a person will feel emotionally driven to use that general theory to explain the situation rather than some other theory.

Thomas Kuhn says that a scientist who has acquired a paradigm (a general teacher theory that has turned into a TMN) cannot return to the mental state of functioning without a paradigm, and he will only be willing to let go of his existing paradigm if he is given an alternative paradigm. Thomas Kuhn says that scientific thought emerges in some field when thinking is driven for the first time by the TMN some general theory rather than the MMNs of experience, authority, and culture.

In a similar vein, Wright says that “One of the extraordinary achievements of Paul was to turn ‘theology’ into a different kind of thing from what it had been before in the world either of the Jews or of the pagans. One of the central arguments of the present book is that this was the direct result and corollary of what had happened to Paul’s worldview. Paul effectively invented ‘Christian theology’ to meet a previously unknown need, to do a job which had not, until then, been necessary” (PFG, 26). Notice the parallel. What distinguishes both scientific thought and Christian theology from what came before is the emergence of a TMN.

What characterizes a general theory is order-within-complexity, placing many different specific items within a single package. Similarly, Wright says that “Paul found himself inventing and developing this new discipline we call, in retrospect, ‘Christian theology’. The radically new worldview in which he and his converts found themselves was bound to face the question ‘why’ at every corner, and in order to answer it, and to teach his churches to answer it for themselves, he had to speak of one particular God, and of the world, in a way nobody had done before. This had an important result: the life of the mind was itself elevated by Paul from a secondary social activity, for those with the leisure to muse and ponder life’s tricky questions, to a primary socio-cultural activity for all the Messiah’s people” (PFG, 27). Notice the various elements present within this quote. There is the emergence of a new form of thought called ‘Christian theology’. This new form of thought wants to explain situations (it is always asking why), it is based in abstract thought rather than concrete experience, and it uses the concept of a single monotheistic God to bring order to the complexity of human existence. This describes a TMN.

Judaism before Paul was held together primarily by the MMNs of Jewish culture (we will see later that the order-within-complexity of doing Torah leads to an implicit TMN). Paul replaced these MMNs with the TMN of theology. “If it is the case that Paul’s worldview was constructed around the central symbol (with its attendant praxis) of the single ‘family’, the one ‘people of God’, the ‘Temple of the living God’, the ‘Messiah’s body’, with none of the expected symbolic praxis either of second-Temple Judaism or ancient paganism to help this central pillar stand up, then we have stumbled upon a reason, perhaps the main reason, for the new place given to what we now call ‘theology’, Paul’s theology in particular. We could put it like this: it is precisely because of the major restructuring of Paul’s symbolic world that ‘theology’ comes to have a different, much larger and more important place in his worldview, and thereafter in the Christian church, than ever it had in either Judaism or paganism” (PFG, 403).

TMNs are sneaky. Everyone knows that experiences can be emotional, therefore we find it natural when people are driven by their MMNs to behave in ways that are not rational. In response, ‘scientific thought’ has tried to use rigorous logic and empirical evidence to transcend this experientially driven irrationality. However, whenever a researcher continues to use a general theory, then that theory will turn into a TMN which will then emotionally imprison that individual within his paradigm. This bears repeating. The average person is driven by MMNs based in emotional, subjective experiences. Academic thought tries to avoid MMNs by being objective and unemotional in order to follow the rigorous logic of abstract technical thought. But the thinking that began by avoiding MMNs ends up creating a TMN and being driven emotionally by this TMN. Like all mental networks, a TMN will only make its presence obvious when it is violated. Therefore, as long as the academic thinker who uses rigorous thought is interacting with colleagues who share his paradigm and his way of thinking, then he will appear to be driven purely by rational thought and not by emotions. However, if the academic thinker encounters a different paradigm, then he will feel emotionally driven to belittle that paradigm, and if he encounters situations which lie outside of the realm of his current paradigm, then he will feel emotionally driven to regard those situations is unimportant. Thomas Kuhn describes this type of emotional response to competing paradigms and extraneous data. That is why I say that TMNs are sneaky.

The Core TMNs of Wright

I suggest that Wright’s thinking is being driven by two core TMNs, one explicit and the other implicit, that these two are incompatible with each other, and that this incompatibility is causing Wright to place an inordinate emphasis upon certain Christian doctrines. I am not suggesting that Wright is altering the facts of Scripture or that he is being intellectually dishonest. He is far too rigorous a scholar to stoop to that level. Rather, I am suggesting that Wright’s core TMNs for causing him to emphasize certain facts while glossing over other facts. For instance, we saw this in Wright’s response to cognitive analysis. He mentions that it is interesting but then he moves on without saying anything further. Other examples will come up later on in this essay.

Wright’s explicit TMN is easy to determine because Wright describes it explicitly. It is stated succinctly in one of Wright’s smaller books. “Faced with his beautiful and powerful creation rebellion, God longed to set it right, to rescue it from continuing corruption and impending chaos and to bring it back and ordering fruitfulness. God longed, in other words, to reestablish his wise sovereignty over the whole creation, which would mean a great act of healing and rescue. He did not want to rescue humans from creation anymore than he wanted to rescue Israel from the Gentiles. He wanted to rescue Israel in order that Israel might be a light to the Gentiles, and he wanted thereby to rescue humans in order that humans might be his rescuing stewards over creation. That is the inner dynamic of the kingdom of God” (SH, 202).

Saying this more generally, Wright emphasizes that human history should be viewed as a narrative and that Second Temple Jews (the time of Jesus and Paul) viewed themselves as actors within a grand narrative. “The main point about narratives in the second-Temple Jewish world, and in that of Paul, is not simply that people liked telling stories as illustrations of, or scriptural proofs for, this or that experience or doctrine, but rather that second-Temple Jews believed themselves to be actors within a real-life narrative. To put it another way, they were not merely story-tellers who used their folklore (in their case, mostly the Bible) to illustrate the otherwise unrelated joys and sorrows, trials and triumphs, of everyday life. Their narratives could and did function typologically, that is, by providing a pattern which could be laid as a template across incidents and stories from another period without any historical continuity to link the two together. But the main function of their stories was to remind them of earlier and (they hoped) characteristic moments within the single, larger story which stretched from the creation of the world and the call of Abraham right forwards to their own day, and (they hoped) into the future” (PFG, 114).

For second Temple Jews, this grand narrative was not so much something in which they believed, but rather something that they practiced. “The fundamental Jewish confession, the Shema, is not a mere intellectual assent to a proposition about the inner being of the one God. It is a commitment, a moment of as it were saluting the flag, a personal statement of allegiance to this God in particular. To say, ‘Hear, O Israel, YHWH our God, YHWH is one’ is a way of saying, at the same time, ‘No other gods before this one!’ And that is a way of saying, ‘We are to keep ourselves from the idols of nations, and to do our best to work for the overthrow of their blasphemies.’ thus what might seem to us like abstract concepts about the one God or in fact be seen as a means of stiffening resistance to persecution, summoning up courage for martyrdom” (PFG, 179).

I have sufficient experience with Judaism and Jewish thought to know that Wright’s statements are both significant and accurate. Even today, Jews still view themselves as part of a national history that goes back thousands of years and they still view Torah (the law) as something that is done rather than believed. Wright says that God is carrying out a grand plan to save humanity and thus creation. I too have become convinced that human history is being guided by some invisible hand that spans the millennia. However, if humans are saved by ‘the renewing of the mind’ as Wright repeatedly states (and I agree), then it makes sense that one should study stages of cognitive development in order to make sense of history. But nowhere in either NTPG or PFG is there even a passing reference to Jean Piaget’s stages of cognitive development, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Kohlberg’s stages of moral development, or Fowler’s stage of faith development. That is why I suggested earlier that Wright lacks the expertise to adequately analyze his subject. As we shall see later, I suggest that Wright makes significant theological errors because he is interpreting the grand narrative of history from the perspective of the history of a group of people (the Jews) rather than from the perspective of cognitive development. This is most apparent when Wrights discusses righteousness, sanctification, and God’s current role for Judaism. Again, I am not suggesting that Wright’s knowledge of Scripture is inadequate, rather that his knowledge of cognition is inadequate and that this is causing him to misinterpret Scripture.

Wright does discuss social interaction, but I suggest that this is not the same as cognitive development. My recent research in the TESOL field has convinced me that is quite important to distinguish between these two. The Internet provides a good example of how these two relate. For the average person, the Internet is a place for social interaction: Facebook, YouTube, e-mail, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so on. But what is the Internet exactly? It is a (massive) collection of computers that are connected together. Everything on the Internet is stored on some computer. Whenever I access a web page, I am transferring information that is stored on some distant computer to my computer. Similarly, all social interaction involves the exchange of information between one person and another. More than that, I suggest that most social interaction is occurring internally within the minds of individuals, as mental networks interact with one another. I suggest that the mind uses MMNs to represent people. For instance, emotional experiences involving my spouse will cause a MMN to form within my mind that represents my spouse. When I think of my spouse or interact with my spouse, then that MMN will be triggered and it will predict how my spouse will respond. In other words, most of my interaction with my spouse (or some other person or group of people with whom I have had emotional experiences) occurs within my mind between the MMNs that represent my personal identity and the MMN that represents my spouse. This concept is expanded further in this presentation that was given at a 2014 TESOL conference. The point is that cognitive development is more basic than social development because social development is an expression of cognitive development, just as the Internet is an expression of computers. I am not suggesting that it is wrong to study social interaction. It is a valid and fascinating field of study. I suggest that the error lies in ignoring the cognitive and treating social interaction as the primary element.

For instance, In Language and Power, Norman Fairclough uses what he calls ‘members resources’ (which are very similar to mental networks) to analyze social interaction. (An analysis of Language and Power can be found here.) However, Fairclough later abandoned the idea of members resources and refers to people in a later paper as ‘social agents’. In other words, he starts by recognizing that people are driven internally by mental content, but he then focuses purely upon social interaction and pretends that cognition does not exist.

Fairclough helped to start critical discourse analysis, in which all social interaction is interpreted as power groups vying for social domination. Wright recognizes that such deconstructionism is a dead-end path and I agree. “All the deconstruction achieves is a nihilism in which the only relief is a kind of hermeneutical narcissism, taking one’s pleasure with the text letting the rest of the world go by unnoticed. It cannot successfully challenge real evil, since every challenge can itself be deconstructed into the hidden motivations of the challenger(s); and Scripture itself is thereby muzzled into silent connivance with radical evil” (SAG, 100).

Moving on, I suggested earlier that Wright is driven by two primary TMNs. We have looked briefly at the explicit TMN, which is Wright’s analysis of second Temple Judaism and its pragmatic view of human history as a narrative in which God is using the Jews to save humanity in order to restore creation.

Hidden behind this explicit TMN is an implicit TMN based upon the structure of Wright’s personal life. (This distinction is discussed in an earlier essay as a contrast between a person’s explicit and implicit concept of God.) Wright says that second Temple Jews acted out their beliefs. For them, theology implied action. I suggest that there is an important cognitive principle here. In simple terms, action predetermines understanding. As Maslow put it, if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Using the language of mental symmetry, Server skills bring stability to Teacher understanding. The way that I act and the skills that I have acquired will determine how I understand everything. I suggest that there are two primary aspects to this cognitive principle. First, if I lack understanding in abstract thought, if my thinking is not guided by some TMN, then the skills that I have acquired in Server thought will lead implicitly to an understanding within Teacher thought. In this case, everything in Teacher thought will look like a nail because all I have is my Server skill of hammering. Second, if I do have an understanding in abstract thought, then this understanding will become warped by my personal actions unless I specifically choose to apply each step of understanding with some concrete Server action.

One can see this distinction in the 1970 appendix to Kuhn’s 1962 book on paradigms and paradigm shifts. In the original volume, Kuhn defines science as a study of how the world ‘acts’. In other words, Server thought observes the physical environment for sequences that are repeated. For instance, Newton realized that every object that falls to the ground traces out a similar path—it carries out a similar Server sequence. However, in the 1970 appendix, Kuhn redefines science to be a description of how a group of scientists act. Notice the progression. First, people observe how the natural world acts and come up with laws of science. Then, people who are observing the natural world get together and form a community. This community then tells people how they should act in order to observe how the natural world acts. Eventually, learning to act like a scientist becomes more important than observing how the world acts.

How does Wright act? What are his skills? He is an exegete, a religious historian, an academic, and a clergy member. In other words, he lives in the realm of words, studying words, analyzing words, defining words, debating words, writing (many, many) words, and preaching words.

Wright occasionally refers in passing to his own profession. “This whole section, then, is about God. If we came upon it in the desert, smouldering with latent Presence, we might find ourselves impelled to take off our shoes. Removing shoes is not something exegetes often do (we like our footnotes the way they are), but granted that even exegetes may have a life, including a devotional life, outside the exegetical task, we may cautiously take that dimension as read and proceed to reflect on the other introductory aspects of the section” (PFG, 1158). In other words, Wrights views himself as an exegete and he realizes that much of his ‘life’ consists of interacting verbally with other experts (hence the footnotes).

Wright implicitly illustrates the social interaction that he has interacting verbally with other experts in the following quote. “That is why I take issue with Edward Adams’s otherwise careful model of the basic story, in which the purpose of God was to give his image and glory to human beings. Adams proposes an initial sequence for this drama that looks like this (with due commiseration for the groans that will come from our mutual friend Jimmy Dunn at the sight of another actantial analysis)” (PFG, 487).

Notice also how Wright begins his analysis of Romans 9-11 and the ‘Jewish question’. “It may seem demeaning to the historical and exegetical nature of our present task to allow such questions even the briefest of air time, but I think it is necessary because, having been around such discussions most of my life, I have observed these and similar pressures and have often had cause to wonder about their insidious effect on historical exegesis. I hasten to add (since, if I don’t, reviewers no doubt will) that I too have all kinds of interests, partisan views, quirky ideas, situational perspectives, hopes and fears about what might turn out to be true, and indeed about what Paul might really have meant, and whether that was true. Perhaps, at the risk of allowing autobiography to intrude upon a historical discussion, I should state one or two of these at the outset. First, for the first twenty years of my life I was not aware of what one might call the ‘Jewish question’. I had Jewish friends at school, but their ethnic identity and religion was taken for granted and was never a matter for comment, let alone discussion, let alone prejudice of thought or action. I remember only one moment, in my first twenty years, of hearing anything approaching an anti-semitic remark (it was directed against a Jewish friend whose Jewishness was otherwise taken for granted), and what I mostly remember about that moment was sheer puzzlement at its absurdity and complete irrelevance...Since then I have looked at the question from every angle open to me, not least through repeated visits to the middle east, including a spell as a visiting Professor at the Hebrew University. These visits (to put it mildly) have added several different and conflicting impressions and points of view. This increasingly dense and contested view of contemporary events has formed a counterpoint to my continuing attempts to understand Romans 9—11. Each time I come back to the passage I ask myself whether I am about to change my mind once more. (That has happened to me in other areas; serious changes of mind are one of the excitements and challenges of mature scholarship.) In some ways I would quite like to do so. I take no pride in holding a minority position. But as a historian and exegete I must stick to the text and try to understand what it actually says, not what I might like it to say.” (PFG, 1132).

Summarizing, we have seen that Wright’s explicit premise is that one should analyze Christianity from a second Temple Jewish perspective, and for second Temple Jews, what mattered was praxis, doing, action. But how does Wright himself approach Judaism? He thinks that it is ‘demeaning’ to give ‘even the briefest of airtime’ to analysis that is not ‘historical and exegetical’. He has had many discussions concerning Judaism and he worries about ‘their insidious effect on historical exegesis’. He has visited Israel several times and has thought about Judaism from many different viewpoints. However, he keeps coming back to approaching scriptural text as a historical exegete.

That leads us to pose the following question. What is ultimately guiding Wright’s thinking? Is he interpreting the Bible accurately, or has his skill of being a historical exegete turned into an implicit TMN which is emotionally driving him to interpret the Bible in a certain manner? Remember the tricky nature of TMNs. When a general theory or skill forms a TMN, then a scholar may think that he is still using only rational logic, but he will feel emotionally driven to belittle other forms of thought. When Wright says that it is ‘demeaning’ to give ‘even the briefest of airtime’ to analysis that is not ‘historical and exegetical’, that describes, not rational thought, but rather the sort of emotional response that a TMN generates.

A historical exegete studies and analyzes books and words. A book, by its very nature, has certain cognitive properties. First, a book is related to abstract thought, therefore a person who spends most of his time analyzing books is living, by definition, within abstract thought. Second, a book is disconnected from reality. A book may describe reality, but reading about an event is not the same as experiencing that event. Third, comparing and analyzing books leads to artificial theories. Remember that Teacher thought looks for order-within-complexity. If one makes a statement and then backs up this statement by quoting several related passages from different books, then the result will be order-within-complexity leading to the Teacher feeling that one has constructed a general theory. However, while referencing various sources may be a useful exercise, it does not explain anything. Referencing is often the first step in coming up with an answer, but it is not the same as providing an answer. However, it gives the illusion of understanding because it ties together the words of many experts in an integrated fashion. Fourth, a book is disconnected from application. Books use words, and speaking is not the same as acting.

Saying this all in the language of mental symmetry, books use words which are the basic building blocks for Teacher thought, books teach Perceiver facts that can become mentally divorced from Perceiver facts about reality, comparing books can lead to general Teacher theories that have no connection with reality, while talking and writing about books leads to Server sequences that have no inherent application to reality. Stated briefly, the exegete lives in an abstract world that is mentally divorced from the concrete real world.

Part of the problem is that many Christian theologians have historically insisted that there is no rational explanation for God and theology. Obviously, if no explanation exists, then one is reduced to referencing the various ways in which the ‘experts’ say that one cannot know anything. For instance, one might quote Wittgenstein (‘Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent’), Thomas Aquinas (‘Because we cannot know what God is, but only what he is not, we cannot consider how he is but only how he is not’), and John Scotus (‘We do not know what God is. Even God cannot say what God is because God is not anything. Literally God is not, because God transcends being.”), and give the impression that one has said something of great import because one has referenced esteemed historical experts. But the fact still remains that ignorance is ignorance, no matter who says it or how it is phrased, and ignorance should not be confused with knowledge. It is true that part of being an expert is knowing the limitations of one’s knowledge, but acknowledging what one does not know is quite different than insisting that one cannot know.

Notice the inherent contradiction between Wright’s explicit and implicit TMN. On the one hand, Wright is explicitly building his understanding of Christianity upon the pragmatic, concrete actions of second Temple Judaism, peopled by individuals who were so locked into concrete thought that they did not even have the concept of abstract theology. On the other hand, Wright is implicitly studying second Temple Judaism in a manner that is almost totally abstract. In popular language, this combination is known as being an armchair quarterback.

Wright recognizes this contrast in the following quote. “Ed Sanders, in a splendid recent passage, speaks energetically of the fact that, despite the bookishness of so much Pauline study, Paul himself ‘spent years of his life on the road, carrying (presumably on pack animals) his tent, clothing and tools – not many scrolls, if any. He carried the Bible safely tucked away in his head, where it belongs. As an apostle, he often supported himself by plying his trade...The real Paul knew anger, joy, depression, triumph, and anguish; he reacted, he overreacted, he repented, he apologized, he flattered and cajoled, he rebuked and threatened, he argued this way and that way: he did everything he could think of in order to win some.’ It almost makes one wish to leave the academic life and take to the road...it reminds us, in particular, that Paul’s ideas were not just ideas. They were part of a practical, down-to-earth world, and one way of being sure to misunderstand them is by forgetting or marginalizing that fact” (PFG, 353). In other words, Paul was not just an academic. He lived what he preached; he combined abstract thought with concrete thought. Wright, in contrast, muses about leaving the abstract world of academia in order to enter concrete thought.

Doctrinal Imbalance

We have just seen that Wright’s theory of Christianity explicitly emphasizes concrete thought and action while Wright’s skill of studying Christianity implicit emphasizes abstract thought and words. It appears that both the explicit theory and the implicit skill have formed powerful TMNs within Wright’s mind. When incompatible mental networks are simultaneously triggered, then they fight for domination. I suggest that Wright is responding to this incompatibility by preaching strongly the doctrine that one must live within concrete thought—while remaining within abstract thought. Obviously, such a strategy will not solve the underlying problem, because Wright himself is not submitting to his own message. The end result will be an un-balanced message in which Wright preaches categorically the need to live within concrete thought.

We can see this verbal fixation upon concrete thought in several major doctrines. The first is Wright’s doctrine about resurrection. Wright says again and again that the ultimate goal is not to leave the body after death and live as a disembodied spirit within an immaterial heaven. Rather, Wright emphasizes that resurrection means acquiring a new physical body and he points out that the heavenly city of Jerusalem descends to earth at the end of the book of Revelation.

One can tell from the following quote that Wright feels strongly about this doctrine. “We should recall in particular that the use of the word heaven to denote the ultimate goal of the redeemed, though of course hugely popularized by medieval and subsequent piety, is severely misleading and does not begin to do justice to the Christian hope. I am repeatedly frustrated by how hard it is to get this point through the thick wall of traditional thought and language that most Christians put up. The ultimate destination is (once more) not ‘going to heaven when you die’ but being bodily raised into the transformed, glorious likeness of Jesus Christ...Thus, if we want to speak of going to heaven when we die, we should be clear that this represents the first, and far less important, stage of a two-stage process. Resurrection is in life after death; it is life after life after death” (SH, 168).

Notice the connection that Wright makes between belief in the physical resurrection and applying Christianity in a concrete manner. “The classic Christian doctrine, therefore, is actually far more powerful and revolutionary than the Platonic one. It was people who believed robustly in the resurrection, not people who compromised and went in for a mere spiritualized survival, who stood up against Caesar in the first centuries of the Christian era... English evangelicals gave up believing in the urgent imperative to improve society (such as we find with Wilberforce in the late 18th and early 19 th centuries) about the same time that they gave up believing robustly in resurrection and settled for a disembodied heaven instead” (SH, 26).

I agree with Wright’s point and I think that it is significant. Using the language of mental symmetry, the ultimate goal is not to destroy the MMNs of childish personal identity, but rather to replace them with adult MMNs. The purpose of personal transformation is not to suppress identity but rather to transform it. The goal is not to avoid personal pleasure but to become capable of pursuing and enjoying lasting personal pleasure. However, the only way to transform concrete thought is by taking a detour through abstract thought. If one wishes to stop building one’s existence around childish MMNs, then one must choose to build one’s existence around the TMN of a general understanding. Using Christian language, the only way to stop serving the flesh (with its childish MMNs acquired through embodiment) is by serving a monotheistic God (whose universal character is represented mentally as a TMN). Thus, the end state may be heaven-on-earth, but the path to this leads away from earth and through heaven before descending back down to earth. As we shall discuss later, I suggest that science and technology provide a partial illustration of this process. It is taken as a given today that concrete problems need to be addressed through abstract research and that abstract research will end up transforming concrete reality. When we want to change our world, we fund the scientist, because we know that transforming concrete thought requires taking a detour through abstract thought.

Wright acknowledges that the path from current earth to future heaven-on-earth leads through a heaven populated by people without physical bodies. “All the Christian departed are in substantially the same state, that of restful happiness... This state is not, clearly, the final destiny for which the Christian dead are bound, which is, as we have seen, the bodily resurrection. But it is a state in which the dead are held firmly within the conscious love of God and the conscious presence of Jesus Christ while they await that day. There is no reason why this state should not be called heaven, though we must note once more how interesting it is that the New Testament routinely does not call it that and uses the word heaven in other ways” (SH, 171). This progression makes both cognitive and scriptural sense. And yet, Wright continually focuses upon the future bodily resurrection while downplaying the intermediate stage of heaven. This overemphasis implies that something is subconsciously driving Wright to preach strongly that Christians will not be living within the ‘abstract realm’ of a heaven that is completely divorced from the ‘concrete reality’ of earth. Stated crassly, it appears that Wright is preaching to himself and we are being caught in the crossfire. This would not be a problem if Wright were not regarded as one of the world’s top theologians. (One can see a similar tactic of using strong words to defend a verbal theory against contradictory actions in the current theological rejection of open theism.)

Why is it important to understand that one must go through abstract thought in order to transform concrete thought—through a disembodied heaven in order to reach heaven-on-earth? One can answer this question by looking at how the modern world treats technology. When technology is given to untransformed, childish minds, the end result is a shallow, meaningless, consumer society in which novelty substitutes for enjoyment and the acquisition of new toys replaces personal growth and development. We do not release our children straight into the modern world. Instead, we first send them to school for several years where they exist as ‘disembodied minds’ acquiring facts and understanding. Only then are children permitted to enter modern society. Why should the route to heaven-on-earth be any different?

The second area where Wright appears to have an imbalance is with the concept of Platonic forms, which he repeatedly condemns in no uncertain terms. “Plato remains the most influential thinker in the history of the Western world. For Plato, the present world of space, time, and matter is a world of illusion, a flickering shadows in the cave, and the most appropriate human task is to get in touch with the true reality, which is beyond space, time, and matter. For Plato, this was the reality of eternal forms. To oversimplify once more, we may say that Plato’s picture was based on a rejection of the phenomena of matter and transience. The mess and muddle of the space-time-matter world was an offense to the tidy, clean philosophical mind, which dwelt upon internal realities. It was not just evil that was wrong with the world; it was change and decay, the transitoriness of matter: the fact that spring and summer are followed by autumn and winter, that the sunset tails off into darkness, that human blossoming and flourishing are the prelude to suffering and death...The Platonist, the Hindu, and, following Plato, the Gnostic, the Manichaean, and countless others within variants of the Christian and Jewish traditions all say that these are the signs that we are made for something quite different, a world not made of space, time, and matter, a world of pure spiritual existence we shall happily have got rid of the shackles of mortality once and for all. And the way you get rid of mortality within this worldview is to get rid of the thing that can decay and die, namely our material selves. The Platonic strain entered Christian thinking early on, not least with the phenomenon known as Gnosticism. Since the Gnostics have been making something of a comeback recently, a word about them as appropriate. The Gnostics believed, like Plato, that the material world was an inferior and dark place, evil in its very existence” (SH, 88).

I presume that the reader is familiar with Plato’s allegory of the cave. Notice that Wright is making a sharp distinction between the concrete reality of space and time on the one hand, and the abstract, eternal Platonic forms that lie behind space and time on the other hand. Wright views Platonic forms as a rejection of concrete reality with its change, decay, cycles, and mortality, and he says that people believe in Platonic forms in order to deny their physical bodies. Finally, Wright lumps together Platonism, Hinduism, Gnosticism, and Manichaeism.

In contrast, I have found the concept of Platonic forms to be very useful, but I view them as a way of integrating abstract thought with concrete thought rather than a way of dividing one from the other. Stated briefly, a Platonic form is an imaginary image in Mercy thought that emerges as Teacher understanding idealizes Perceiver categories of real experiences. For instance, the Platonic form of a circle is an idealized, imaginary picture that represents the essence of all real circles.

Wright admits that he has no problem with the idea of Platonic forms as an idealization and universalization of reality. Paul “might have had some sympathy for Plato’s belief that one ought to look through and beyond the material world to the transcendent truths that might be glimpsed there as if behind a veil, but he would have had none at all for the way some of his contemporaries were interpreting the Platonic tradition to the effect that the material world was essentially a bad place from which one ought to long to escape” (PFG, 1369).

What disturbs Wright is the way that people use Platonic forms is a way to escape from reality. Thus he lumps together Hinduism and Gnosticism, which do regard the physical realm is evil and attempt to deny it, with Platonic forms, which idealize reality and do not necessarily run away from reality.

Again, one is left with the distinct impression that Wright is preaching to himself, using abstract words to try to convince himself to stop living in abstract words. Using the language of mental symmetry, his explicit TMN of practical theology is struggling with his implicit TMN of living and working as an exegete.

Looking at this topic more generally, Plato suggested that Platonic forms themselves combine in an idealized manner, leading ultimately to the Form of the Good. Similarly, I suggest that a mental concept of the Holy Spirit emerges as a universal theory in Teacher thought adjusts the Perceiver facts that organize Mercy experiences, leading to the imaginary image in Mercy thought of many experiences, objects, attributes, and people interacting in an idealized, harmonious manner. This mental process is described in greater detail in thisvideo segment. In other words, Platonic forms are not a denial of reality but rather an idealization of reality. And instead of causing a person to become divorced from reality they motivate a person to improve reality. For instance, the invisible church is a Platonic form based upon an idealization of all the actual experiences that one one has involving church. The result is a mental concept of ‘the perfect church’. We joke that it is not possible to join the perfect church because if we joined then it would no longer be perfect. However, that is not the point. Instead of continually shopping for some church that embodies the perfect church, we should use our mental concept of the perfect church (the Platonic form of the invisible church) as a motivation to improve the church in which we are, in order to make it more like the perfect church.

Wright says repeatedly that the Holy Spirit enables the Christian to act in a moral fashion. For instance, the early Christians regarded “Resurrection as referring metaphorically to baptism (a dying and rising with Christ), and resurrection as referring to the new life of strenuous ethical obedience, enabled by the Holy Spirit, to which the believer is committed.” (SH, 46).

Wright defines what he thinks it means to live in the Holy Spirit in the following passage. “Every act of love, gratitude, and kindness; every work of art or music inspired by the love of God and delight in the beauty of his creation; every minute spent teaching a severely handicapped child to read or to walk; every act of care and nurture, of comfort and support, for one’s fellow human beings and for that matter one’s fellow nonhuman creatures; and of course every prayer, all Spirit-led teaching, every deed that spreads the gospel, builds up the church, embraces and embodies holiness rather than corruption, makes the name of Jesus honored in the world – all of this will find its way, through the resurrecting power of God, into the new creation that God will one day make. That is the logic of the mission of God. God’s recreation of his wonderful world, which began with the resurrection of Jesus and continues mysteriously as God’s people live in the risen Christ in the power of his Spirit, means that what we do in Christ and by the Spirit in the present is not wasted. It will last all the way into God’s new world. In fact, it will be enhanced there. I have no idea what precisely this will mean in practice. I am putting up a sign post, not offering a photograph of what we will find once we get to where the signpost is pointing” (SH, 208).

Notice how Wright is idealizing the experiences that he does have about Christianity. As a clergymen, he interacts socially with parishioners, therefore he idealizes acts of love, gratitude, and kindness. He is a capable pianist, and so he idolizes works of art and music. Christianity currently places a great emphasis upon self-denial, therefore helping the down-and-out is idealized, as is building up the church in general. All of these are good things, but I suggest that Platonic forms extend far beyond this to new forms of technology, new forms of government, new forms of social interaction, trade, travel, and commerce, and new ways of thinking. One can get a glimpse of what this means by comparing physical existence today with physical existence several centuries ago. Repeating this, I suggest that we can learn a lot about what it would be like to live in a fully transformed world by studying what it is like to live in a partially transformed world. In contrast, Wright concludes that he has ‘no idea what precisely this will mean in practice’.

I suggest that this combination of vision and cluelessness is another byproduct of living in the realm of books. A Platonic form is an idealization of existing experiences. However, suppose that one reads books describing events that occurred in a far-off land that is totally different than current reality. For instance, think about the typical Trekkie who knows everything about every Star Trek episode, but often struggles with real-life relationships. Would not something similar happened to a scholar who spent so much time reading about life 2000 years ago in the far-off land of Judea? Such a study would lead to the emergence of Platonic forms, but they would have no relationship to current reality. Using the language of the Trekkie, such a person would know all about ‘dilithium crystals’ and ‘reversing polarity’ while having ‘no idea what precisely this would mean in practice’.

Wright makes similar strong statements about the new heavens and earth. “The second Temple texts themselves tell strongly against an ‘otherworldly’ salvation; against (that is) the notion that the ultimate aim of humans in general and Jews in particular was the escape of saved souls from their present embodiment and indeed from space, time and matter altogether. In the texts we have studied, and in particular in the continuous story we have been examining, the aim and goal does not have to do with the abolition of the universe of space, time and matter, or the escape of humans from such a wreckage, but with its consummation. We could in fact read widely in the Jewish literature of the time without gaining any sense, except for one or two short passages taken out of context, that the writers had in mind the souls of the righteous leaving this present world and going off forever into a non-spatial temporal eternity. That Platonic vision, as I have argued elsewhere, cuts clean across the robustly creational hope of the great majority of first-century Jews, Pharisees included” (PFG, 163).

He feels quite strongly about this subject. “At the risk of arousing thunderbolts of wrath and showers of angry meteorites, I venture to suggest that the scholarly construct of a ‘parousia’ in which the space-time universe would cease to exist, followed by the second order construct of a delay in this event which then precipitates a new sort of Christian self-consciousness, has been an enormous black hole in historical understanding into which legions of scholars have sucked one another through the gravitational forces of their unremitting zeal for the traditions of the fathers” (PFG, 165).

Again, we find Wright using abstract thought to attack the idea of living in pure abstract thought. Wright is railing against the idea of ‘the abolition of the universal space, time and matter’ and a ‘parousia in which the space-time universe would cease to exist’. But what is happening cognitively when one is constructing a universal theory of Christianity and human existence upon the study of texts from a distant era? One is using words to transcend the universe of space, time and matter, because one is mentally inhabiting a world that has nothing to do with the current physical world. One is using abstract thought to escape from ‘present embodiment’.

In contrast, I suggest that one should use abstract thought not to escape the here-and-now, but rather to bridge the here-and-now with the then-and-there. Consider, for instance, the law of gravity. It does not exist anywhere. It makes no sense to say that ‘the law of gravity lived in London in 1763’ because the law of gravity is independent of space, time, and matter—not because it lies outside of space-time but rather because it applies to all of space, time, and matter. Therefore, one can study about how objects fell to the ground in New Testament times without becoming mentally dissociated from how objects fall to the ground today here-and-now. That is because the law of gravity is universal.

Compare this with the Wright’s formulation of Christianity. One gains the distinct impression that Christianity is not truly universal but rather lived primarily in Israel during the time of the second Temple. Of course, Wright would never say this explicitly, but this is being conveyed implicitly by his implicit TMN of being a historical exegete who focuses upon second Temple Judaism.

This is one primary reason why I insist upon taking a cognitive approach to Christianity as well as existence in general. While the culture, technology, symbols, mindset, and worldview of second Temple Judaism were massively different than the way people act and think today, people back then had the same brains as people today. They were subject to the same underlying cognitive mechanisms as we are today. Therefore, by studying how they think one is also studying how we think. When one gains an understanding of universal cognitive mechanisms, then the resulting Platonic forms become universal and inescapable, because they apply everywhere.

David says something similar in Psalm 139. “O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O LORD, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high, I cannot attain to it. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night, even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You. For You formed my inward parts; you wove me in my mother’s womb’” (NASB).

Notice David’s emphasis upon the cognitive. God has search David internally. He knows his habits, his skills, his thoughts, and his understanding. The result is a concept of the Holy Spirit that extends everywhere to all situations, even in the absence of external input.

Wright talks a lot about Paul building Christianity upon the foundation of a monotheistic God and I agree that this is a profound concept. For instance, “As Wayne Meeks has rightly insisted, for Paul the symbolic power of the unity of the church is grounded on the equally symbolic power of the oneness of God, not as a mere dogma to be learned or affirmed, but as the sustaining and stabilizing force for the life of the community. The christological reworking of monotheism, which we shall study in more detail later on, then becomes the ground plan for the careful appeal for unity when faced with conflicting consciences. As we have already seen, making the question of idol-meat a matter of conscience, rather than a matter of strict rules, is a major move away from a strict Jewish position, a move which is itself grounded on monotheism” (PFG, 392).

But using words to preach the existence of a monotheistic God is not sufficient. Instead, I suggest that one must construct the concept of a universal, monotheistic God, which means using Perceiver thought to search for universal truth, and then using Teacher thought to look for simple concepts that tie together this universal truth. Wright has done this within the confines of second Temple Judaism, but that is still a very narrow basis on which to build a universal concept of God. Again we come to the conclusion that Wright lacks the expertise to adequately tackle his subject. If one wishes to come up with a universal understanding, then one must know enough about many subjects rather than very much about one subject. In the language of mental symmetry, one should use normal abstract thought rather than abstract technical thought.

Before we continue, let us return to the idea of a redeemed creation. Wright says that “to put it bluntly, creation is to be redeemed; that is, space is to be redeemed, time is to be redeemed, and matter is to be redeemed. God said ‘very good’ over space-time-and-matter creation, and through the regaining of this world from its present corruption and the decay mean transformations we cannot imagine, the one thing we can be sure of is that this redeeming of creation will not mean that God will say, of space, time and matter, ‘Oh, well, nice try, good while it lasted but obviously gone bad, so let’s drop it and go for a nonspatiotemporal, nonmaterial world instead.’ (SH, 211).

I have suggested that universal understanding lies outside of space and time. However, as Wright verbally insists (but does not personally practice), the ultimate goal is not to remain within abstract understanding but rather to use understanding to transform the reality of space and time. Science and technology give us a partial illustration of how this works. For instance, constructing a computer chip requires a detailed understanding of the laws of physics and the construction of ultra-clean multibillion-dollar factories. A computer chip is completely alien to anything that existed in the past, and yet it is still built out of matter within space and time. But building a computer chip did not ‘mean transformations we cannot imagine’. Rather, it was driven at every stage by transformations that people imagined in precise detail guided by a deep understanding of how nature functions.

Similarly, as I have been gaining a more complete understanding of how the mind functions and how quantum theory and relativity say that the universe really functions, I am gradually gaining a more precise imagination of how human minds could exist within a transformed physical reality that is like current space-time and matter but fundamentally different. Some of these concepts are explored in this essay. But it is also becoming crystal clear to me that the untransformed mind which clings to physical reality may long for a transformed universe, but it is mentally incapable of actually living there. As Wright clearly states, independent abstract thought was only starting to emerge in the Roman era. Using the language of Piaget, Roman society was stuck within the concrete operational stage and had not yet progressed to the formal operational stage. Jesus’ futile attempt to get his audience to transcend concrete thought and physical reality can be seen in this brief look at John 6. Thus, I question why Wright is studying people who are incapable of abstract thought in order to learn more about a future realm that requires abstract thought. This is like studying pre-scientific alchemists in order to learn about the nature of modern technology, or like trying to learn more about computers from an old grandmother who grew up in the time of the model T Ford.

Moving on, I suggest that the Wright has an unbalanced view of cognition and personal transformation. We have already seen that Wright avoids talking about the cognitive. As this biography page explains, “Wright is particularly critical of evangelicalism’s tendency to equate justification by faith with justification by inner personal religion to the exclusion of the Church and the sacraments, and its opposition of inward faith to outward performances. He argues that evangelicalism has all too easily read Paul’s teaching on justification through the lenses provided by existentialism and romanticism. The faith/works opposition becomes a matter of inner feeling over outward ritual, or sincerity over conformity to external rules.”

As was mentioned before, Wright says numerous times in his books that a person is ‘transformed by the renewing of the mind’, quoting from Romans 12. However, he never discusses the passage that this phrase introduces, which is the description of spiritual gifts. This is rather significant, because the theory of mental symmetry began with an analysis of the spiritual gifts described in the passage that follows the command to be ‘transformed by the renewing of the mind’.

Instead of examining cognitively what it means to be ‘transformed by the renewing of the mind’, Wright focuses upon the building of new habits. This blog summarizes what Wright advises in After You Believe (AYB). “The central idea of this Wright book is that a return to instinctual practice of Christian virtues is the only way to save Christianity. Too many Christians today don’t function like genuine Christians because a true Christian ethic eludes them. Most of this, Wright claims, is due to a misunderstanding of what it means to be a Christian postconversion. Too few people grasp how the basic truths of Christianity should inform our practice of the Kingdom of God on earth, and how the Kingdom should undergird our beliefs. Wright’s solution to the problem is to instill Christian ethics in people the same way a drill sergeant teaches his military charges how to rebuild a gun while blindfolded. Everything about the Christian life needs to be so instinctual and second nature that we no longer think about what we’re doing, but it instead comes naturally. Wright claims this occurs through a synergistic practice and methodical incorporation of five elements: Scripture, Stories, Examples, Community, and Practices.”

In other words, Wright says that one is personally transformed not by learning to think in new ways, but rather by repeating actions until they turn into skills and habits. But what skill has Wright himself perfected? The writing of books. Again, it appears that Wright is not following his own advice. He says that action and not cognition is the key to sanctification, but he himself is overflowing with cognition. There is nothing wrong with learning new habits (or writing books), but I suggest that sanctification goes deeper than the mere acquiring of new reflexive actions. We will examine AYB in more detail later, because it is in this book that Wright describes his understanding of what it means to be ‘transformed by the renewing of the mind’.

What happens when a man who lives in books tells people what to do? The recommended applications will end up being rather limited. At the end of SH, Wright says that “Christian holiness consists not of trying as hard as we can to be good but of learning to live in the new world created by Easter, the new world we publicly entered in our baptism. There are many parts the world we cannot do anything about except pray. But there is one part of the world, one part of physical reality, that we can do something about, and that is the creature each of us calls ‘myself.’ Personal holiness and global holiness belong together. Those who wake up to the one may well find themselves called to wake up to the other as well. And that leads us to precisely into the next, and final, chapter” (SH, 253). Other than the overemphasis upon the physical act of baptism, I would agree totally with this statement. In fact, it leaves the reader on the edge of his chair, wondering what it means in practical terms ‘to live in the new world’.

Wright’s first suggestion is to have a fancier Easter church service. “For start, consider Easter day itself. It is a great step forward that many churches now hold Easter vigils, as the Orthodox Church is always done, but in many cases they are still too tame by half. Easter is about the wild delight of God’s creative power – not very Anglican, perhaps, but at least we ought to shout Alluluias instead of murmuring them; we should light every candle in the building instead of only some; we should give every man, woman, child,, dog, and mouse in the place a candle to hold; we should have a real bonfire; we should splash water about as we renew our baptismal vows” (SH, 255). So living in the ‘new world’ means splashing water, lighting candles, and shouting Alleluias.

His second suggestion is to redeem space and time by focusing upon church buildings. “What happens when we think of space, time, and matter as being renewed, not abandoned, within the life of the church?... Jesus does indeed declare that God calls all people everywhere to worship him in spirit and truth rather than limiting worship to this or that holy mountain. But this does not undercut a proper theology of God’s reclaiming of the whole world, which is anticipated in the claiming of space for worship and prayer. Church buildings and other places where, in Eliot’s phrase, ‘prayer has been valid’ are not a retreat from the world but a bridgehead into the world, a way of claiming part of God-given space for his glory, against the day when the whole world will thrill to his praise. It is nothing short of dualistic folly, then, simply to declare without ado...that old church buildings and the like are irrelevant to the mission of God today and tomorrow” (SH, 260).

His third suggestion is to give proper respect to the rituals of baptism and the Eucharist. “Successive Christian generations has struggled to find language do justice to the reality of what happens in baptism and of what happens in the Eucharist. It is perhaps not surprising that they have largely failed because in fact the sacraments are designed to be their own language, ultimately untranslatable, even though we can describe what is going on from various angles, themselves all inadequate” (SH, 262).

Wright says that if Christians give proper respect to church services, church buildings, and church rituals, then they will go out and change the world. “The church that takes sacred space seriously not as a retreat from the world but as a bridgehead into it will go straight from worshiping in the sanctuary to debating in the Council chamber – discussing matters of town planning, harmonizing and humanizing beauty in architecture, in green spaces, in road traffic schemes, and... In environmental work, creative and healthy farming methods, and proper use of resources. If it is true, as I have argued, the whole world is now God’s holy land, we must not rest as long as that land is spoiled and defaced. This is not an extra to the church’s mission. It is central.” (SH, 265).

All I can say is that none of this has anything to do with being transformed by the renewing of the mind. There is nothing wrong with having a meaningful worship service, and it is good to humanize the urban environment and adopt healthy farming methods. But all of these are secondary external expressions of internal cognitive change in which the mental networks of childish identity are torn apart and transformed.

Wright says that “the major task that faces us in our generation, corresponding to the issue of slavery two centuries ago, is that of the massive economic imbalance of the world, whose major symptom is the ridiculous and unpayable Third World debt. I have spoken about this many times over the last few years, and I have a sense that some of us, like old Wilberforce on the subject of slavery, are actually called to bore the pants off people by going on and on about it until eventually a point is taken and the world is changed... I simply want to record my conviction that this is the number one moral issue of our day” (SH, 216). Notice what Wright is claiming. He says—on the record—that Third World debt ‘is the number one moral issue of our day’. I agree that Third World debt is a major problem and the psychopathic mindset that typifies those who economically rule the world makes me vomit. But I suggest—and I can back this up with both Scripture and cognitive theory—that the number one moral issue of today is a lack of personal integrity and a lack of respect for honesty and truth. The first step of becoming a Christian is not physical baptism but rather having law in the heart. Quoting from Jeremiah 31:33, “‘This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,’ declares the Lord.

‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people’” (NASB). Saying this cognitively, the new covenant is based in understanding that transforms personal identity.

Wright finishes SH by talking about love. “Paul is urging that we should live in the present as people who are to be made complete in the future. And the sign of that completeness, that future wholeness, the bridge from one reality to the other, is love” (SH, 286). This is a profound statement. Using the language of mental symmetry, in the same way that Teacher thought looks for general theories that bring order to complexity, so Mercy thought wants experiences, people, and situations to be integrated by the bonds of love. However, talking about love is not the same as living in love. That is because childish MMNs do not naturally cooperate in a loving manner but rather strive for dominance, each attempting to impose its structure upon the other. Childish MMNs must be transformed by Teacher understanding before they become capable of interacting in a loving manner.

Implicit versus Explicit TMN

We have been looking at the implicit TMN of Wright in the light of his explicit theory. I would like to turn the spotlight on me for a few paragraphs, because I too am driven by both an explicit and an implicit TMN. My explicit TMN is obviously the theory of mental symmetry, which I have been using to explain as many subjects as possible. I have recently been realizing that I am also driven by an implicit TMN—the spectacles that I look through in order to build my explicit TMN. As far as I can tell, I implicitly assume that I can continue to do research while doing enough work to pay my bills, having enough social interaction to keep me sane, playing enough violin to express my personal Mercy emotions (I play violin professionally), while assuming that my physical body will continue to function in an adequate manner to allow me to do abstract research.

Over the years, I have tried very hard to keep these two TMNs consistent with one another. On the one hand, I have always tried to apply new understanding gained by the explicit TMN of mental symmetry to my implicit TMN of personal existence, no matter what the personal cost. In other words, I have tried in some way to practice what I preach, and I have discovered that opportunities to apply my understanding always seem to present themselves at opportune times, suggesting the hand of divine providence. On the other hand, I have also done my best to expand my understanding to include as much of personal existence as possible. Saying this another way, my goal is not just to build an abstract understanding but rather to construct a mental ‘house’ in which I can live.

Until recently, I thought that this was sufficient, but I am currently facing a new level of struggle. Will I continue to be driven by two compatible but independent TMNs, or will I allow all of my personal existence to be driven by my explicit TMN of the theory of mental symmetry. For instance, I recently damaged my hand and had to stop playing violin totally for several months, and I can currently only play a few minutes a day. I started playing the violin when I was three years old. It affects me very deeply when I cannot express myself emotionally through music. Implicit TMNs based upon long-established skills start to crumble. However, as I am going through this current (emotionally painful) process, I am beginning to sense a level of personal integrity and wholeness that is greater than what I have felt before.

That brings us to the topic of Paul and Roman 6-8. As Wright analyzes in great detail, Paul was explicitly formulating a new way of thinking, acting, and interacting. “In particular, the communities which came into being through the gospel were to embody that new world in the ways which our disjointed categories have separated out. They were indeed to be a kind of philosophical school, teaching and modelling a new worldview, inculcating a new understanding, a new way of thinking. They were to train people not only to practise the virtues everyone already acknowledged but also to develop some new ones, and with all that to find a new way to virtue itself, the transformed mind and heart through which the creator’s intention would at last be realized. They were indeed, despite their lack of priests, sacrifices and temples, to be a new kind of ‘religion’: to read and study their sacred texts and to weave them into the beginnings of a liturgical praxis. In that worship, they believed, heaven and earth came together, God’s time and human time were fused and matter itself was transfigured to become heavy with meaning and possibility. These communities were indeed, despite their powerlessness or actually because of it, on the way to becoming a new kind of polis, a social and cultural community cutting across normal boundaries and barriers, obedient to a different kyrios, modelling a new way of being human and a new kind of power” (PFG, 1490).

Paul was also explicitly building a universal understanding. “The slogan ‘all truth is God’s truth’ is a modern coinage, but Paul would have agreed with it whole-heartedly, just as he was prepared to say that all food was God’s food: the earth and its fullness belong to the lord. Paul’s vision of physics, as we saw, was of an integrated cosmos in which heaven and earth, meant to work together, had come together in Jesus the Messiah and were united afresh, through the spirit, in the lives and especially the worship of those who belonged to the Messiah. His understanding of ethics, rooted in Jewish creational monotheism, was that of a genuinely human existence in which the new creation was coming to birth” (PFG, 1508).

And what held everything together in Paul’s thinking was the explicit belief in a monotheistic God. “How do we know that this God desires that single family? Because God is one. Just as in Romans 3.30, the singleness of the one God himself undergirds the singleness, the unitary Jew-plus-gentileness of the family. Monotheism, freshly understood through Messiah and spirit, provides the ground and source for the fresh christological understanding of election” (PFG, 872).

But Paul also had an implicit TMN based upon the training and discipline he had received as a Pharisee. Did he preach his explicit TMN of Christian doctrine while continuing to live within his implicit TMN of academic and religious training? The answer is given in Philippians 3. “We are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (NASB).

Paul had excellent religious, ethnic, and academic qualifications. He was a good Jew. But he realized that he had to choose between the explicit TMN of his new Christian theology and the implicit TMN of his Jewish training, and so he chose to abandon his old implicit TMN and cling totally to his new explicit TMN. And the following passage suggests that Paul received divine ‘encouragement’ to let go of his old externally based skills and be guided totally by his new internal understanding. “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (II Cor. 12:7-10).

Romans 7-8

I suggest that this is the sort of mental transition and Paul is describing in Romans 7. Roman 6 describes the transition from doing the wrong thing to doing the right thing, whereas Roman 7 describes the transition from somewhat doing the right thing for the wrong motive to actually doing the right thing for the right motive. This second distinction became obvious to me when teaching in Korea. Korean students, often driven by Korean mothers, generally pursue education with great fervor but inadequate motivation. What the typical Korean student wants is not education but rather the appearance of education, not training but rather the diploma on the wall. In other words, the typical Korean student is somewhat doing the right thing for the wrong motive.

I suggest that Romans 7 is triggered whenever a person is living under some system of rules that come from the physical environment, some set of extrinsically created MNs that contain Perceiver and Server content. This is different than Roman 6 where the sinful nature is driven by MNs based in idolatry in which emotion overwhelms content and the goal is immediate gratification. This law abiding set of MNs might come from the expectations of some group or society, for instance Kuhn’s later definition of science being what a group of scientists do, or it could result from the rules of common sense gained through embodiment, the physical requirements of living in a mortal body in a physical world. These rules might emphasize Perceiver rules as Christian doctrine tends to do or they might emphasize Server actions as Jewish praxis tends to do. The point is that one is acting in a way that is guided by a set of rules that ultimately come from the external environment. Stated simply, the motivation is extrinsic but law-abiding.

Examining this in more detail, I suggest that Romans 7 and 8 describe the following steps:

1. I cannot rebel from these rules because they are legitimate, and rebellion will destroy mental structure. (v. 2,3)

2. These rules may be legitimate but they are inadequate because they are not held together by a concept of God based in general Teacher understanding. (v. 4)

3. The goal is to transform these extrinsic rules held together by the environment into intrinsic rules held together by Platonic forms and a Teacher understanding. (v.6)

4. Extrinsic rules can only govern physical actions, because people judge what they see and natural law affects what I do.

5. The first step is to enter the cognitive realm by looking at motivation rather than action. (v.7)

6. One will discover that the mind is lawless because extrinsic rules cannot govern thinking. (v.8)

7. Attempting to regulate my thinking will lead to a struggle between Exhorter urges and Perceiver and Server restrictions. (v.10)

8. But my actions are driven by my thoughts, therefore disturbing my thinking will also make my actions dysfunctional. (v.11)

9. The problem is not with the rules. They are probably good. (v.12)

10. The problem is with me, because the real internal me is lawless. (v.13)

11. My fundamental problem is embodiment, leading to extrinsic motivation. However, there are universal rules that are based in Platonic forms. (v.14)

12. I want to be intrinsically motivated by Platonic forms, but I am driven by the extrinsic motivation of embodiment. (v.15)

13. Identity begins with desire. Exhorter urges imply mental networks. Therefore, observing my desires tells me that the core of my identity is now being guided by Platonic forms. (v.16).

14. This means that the part of my mind that is driven by embodiment is not really me. (v.17)

15. I realize that embodiment with its extrinsic motivation is inadequate, but those mental networks continue to drive my behavior. (v.18)

16. My goal is to be motivated by Platonic forms, but my actions head in a different direction. (v.19)

17. Observing this tells me that I am now following intrinsic goal-oriented behavior. However, the MNs of embodiment are getting in the way. (v.20)

18. I understand in Teacher thought that this is a universal principle. (v.21)

10. This Teacher understanding gives me the emotional ability to follow Platonic forms, but I am still trapped by the MMNs of embodiment. (v.22)

11. I am really stuck. How can I get free of the limitations of embodiment? (v.24)

12. I am now split. Part of me is now driven by intrinsic motivation guided by a rational understanding of universal principles, but part of me is still trapped by physical need and social convention. (v.25)

13. By following this process I have constructed a mental concept of incarnation and my personal identity is being guided by this concept of incarnation. (8:1)

14. This means that I am now subject to a new set of rules guided by incarnation, general understanding, and Platonic forms. (v.2).

15. Extrinsic motivation is insufficient, but incarnation based in a general Teacher understanding is sufficient. (v.3)

16. I can now choose to follow the rules intrinsically. (v.4)

17. There is extrinsic motivation and there is intrinsic motivation guided by Platonic forms. (v.5)

18. Extrinsic motivation leads ultimately to fragmentation. Intrinsic motivation leads to wholeness and internal integrity. (v.6)

19. Extrinsic motivation based in embodiment cannot ultimately be guided by Teacher understanding. (v.7)

20. Universal Teacher understanding leads to the Platonic form of the good, which can guide all of personal identity. Incarnation translates this understanding and these goals into a plan to be followed. (v. 9)

21. If the plan of incarnation is followed, then personal behavior is being guided by Teacher understanding (this defines righteousness, which will be discussed later). However there is still the problem of embodiment. (v.10)

22. But the plan of incarnation is based in a universal understanding that covers everything including physical existence. The combination of Platonic forms and plan of incarnation is sufficient to transform even MNs of embodiment. (11)

23. If the plan of incarnation is sufficient, then it is possible to follow Platonic forms completely and have growing internal integrity. (v.12,13).

24. When all of identity is governed by Platonic forms, then personal identity is an expression of general Teacher understanding and I will know that the MMNs of personal identity are now consistent with the TMN universal understanding of God. (v.14,15).

25. And the MMNs of personal identity are also now consistent with the Platonic form of the good. (v.16)

26. This means that the MMNs of personal identity will also be shaped and guided by understanding and Platonic forms. But this means going through a process that may temporarily violate the rules of embodiment. (v.17)

27. However the goal is worth the journey. The eventual lasting external benefits that result from intrinsic motivation guided by understanding and Platonic forms are far greater than the temporary external discomfort caused by following intrinsic motivation (v.18).

28. The physical world is designed in such a way that it can be transformed by those who follow intrinsic motivation guided by Teacher understanding. (As a partial illustration, science can lead to technology, which makes the world a better place.) (v.19).

29. Transformed minds can transform the world. (v.20,21).

30. Transforming the physical world is a painful process. (v.22)

31. Platonic forms make it possible to gain a partial glimpse of this eventual external transformation, but the real struggle is using Platonic forms and understanding to transform our physical bodies. (v.23)

32. But we must be driven by intrinsic motivation and not extrinsic motivation, and intrinsic motivation will not fail. (v.24,25)

33. This process is no longer driven just by Teacher understanding but by an interaction between Platonic forms and Teacher understanding. This goes beyond merely submitting to Kant’s categorical imperative to a desire to implement the ideal society. (v. 26). (I do not just want to follow understanding, but I also want to live in a better world; there is now both theoretical research and applied research.)

34. Those who have reached this stage of loving Teacher understanding and following Platonic forms will find circumstances providentially working together in a way that expresses Teacher order-within-complexity and leads to good Mercy results. (v.28)

35. One can now see retroactively that there was an external process guided by a real God corresponding to the cognitive process. God was able to use his universal Teacher understanding to predict those who would be able to reach this stage, and so he ‘enrolled’ these individuals in a ‘special school’, he arranged their circumstances, and he ensured that they would achieve lasting external benefits. (v. 29,30)

36. If a real God has arranged everything, then we can be sure of success. (v. 31,32)

37. We do not have to worry if we violate systems of behavior established by groups of people. (v.33)

38. There is a real incarnation who has gone through a physical death and resurrection and not just a cognitive incarnation that is gone through internal death and resurrection. (v.34)

39. If incarnation is really guided by Teacher universality, then nothing can thwart the plan of incarnation. (v.35).

40. The path may lead through bad experiences but everything will work out in the end. (v. 36, 37)

41. Nothing physical or nonphysical can thwart a plan that is guided by a real incarnation and a real God. (v. 38,39)

It may appear at first glance that the goal of this process is to deny the physical body in a Gnostic manner, but that is not the case. Instead, the goal is to transform a mindset in which the physical environment and the physical body govern the mind into one in which the physical environment and the physical body are an expression of the mind. Using religious language, the goal is to replace idolatry with glory.

Notice also that there is a gradual transition from cognitive to external, from concept of God to real God, from Platonic form of the Good to real Holy Spirit, and from concept of incarnation to real incarnation. As step 35 suggests, it is quite possible that the entire process is being driven both cognitively by a concept of God and externally by a real God. The point is that one does not have to believe in God in order to follow this process. It is possible to follow it for purely cognitive, psychological reasons. However, by the time one reaches step 35, the concept of a Christian Trinitarian God will become so pervasive internally that a person will have no choice but to act as if such a God exists. The cognitive wholeness that a person achieves by this stage will be so compelling that a person will feel inescapably driven to extend this internal wholeness to the external world.

The secular materialist may claim that it is stupid to follow a process of personal transformation that forces a person to believe in the existence of a Christian God. However, from a strictly logical perspective, it is better to follow a plan that definitely leads to mental wholeness and may lead to physical and cosmic wholeness, than to follow a plan that destroys mental wholeness and definitely leads to physical annihilation. When a soldier dies for his country, we call him a hero, but if personal life ends at physical death then it is utterly absurd to shorten one’s finite existence for the sake of some plot of ground or group of people. Similarly, scientism embraces the theory of evolution with its view of corporate progress, but it is utterly absurd to follow a system that helps the group at the expense of the individual, because I am an individual. Any answer that does not include the survival of ‘me’ is utterly and totally absurd. As Paul says in first Corinthians 15, “For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” (NASB)

Notice the difference between what I am saying and what Wright says. Wright verbally asserts the necessity of believing in physical resurrection, but he does not describe the process of getting from here to there. In contrast, a cognitive approach makes it possible to understand the scriptural steps that describe the process that leads from here to there. Wright describes in great detail how the thinking of Paul changed, while denying Paul’s description of how everyone’s thinking can change by insisting that Romans 7 and 8 do not apply to the mind.

The Enlightenment

I have suggested several times that science and technology are a partial illustration of the process of personal transformation. That brings us to the topic of the Enlightenment and how it relates to Christianity. Wright says that the Enlightenment created a separation between science and religion, between the material and the spiritual, an assessment with which I would agree. “To this western picture – which as anyone who has read this book to this point will be well aware does scant justice both to Paul and to ‘justification’! – the Enlightenment added its own extra spin. God and the world were to be sharply separated. Not only was the Christian destined for a completely different world; he or she had no business, quā Christian, trying to alter the course of the present one. A Platonist eschatology combined with an Epicurean polity: with God removed from the world, humans had to run it themselves, and any suggestion that the kingdom of God might have to do with theocracy, with things happening at God’s behest ‘on earth as in heaven’, was dangerous heresy. Many atheists insisted on this division in order to keep the rumour of God from spoiling the secular paradise; many Christians, to keep the filth of the present world from spoiling the spiritual one” (PFG, 1485).

Wright adds that science and technology provide a secular, material expression of the Christian message of redemption. “This meant that the Enlightenment was offering its own rival eschatology, a secular analogue to the biblical picture of God’s kingdom inaugurated by Jesus. Christianity had declared that God’s kingdom had been decisively inaugurated by Jesus himself, particularly through his death and resurrection. This sense of a one-off historical moment in the first century, however, had been so muted in much Christian theology – eschatology being replaced by systems of salvation ethics – that the Enlightenment’s cuckoo-in-the-nest move was made all the easier, and has in fact often gone unremarked. It was this eschatological takeover bid which caused Enlightenment thinkers to pour scorn on the Bible’s picture of the coming kingdom, in a move which is still taken for granted in many circles today...This ‘we-know-better-now’ move, so characteristic of various strands within Enlightenment thought...disguised the fact that the Enlightenment’s alternative was equally wild and fanatical: the belief that world history, up until now a matter of darkness and superstition, had turned a decisive corner – in Western Europe and North America in the 18th century! – and come out into the light, not least through science and technology” (SAG, 88).

Wright sees that secular science has scorned religious thought and he notes that secular technology has not transformed the individual, and so he attacks the ‘salvation’ generated by the Enlightenment as a false salvation. In contrast, I suggest that this physical ‘salvation’ is incomplete rather than false. It has transformed our world because it has followed the path of Christianity in the objective and the material, but it has not transformed people because it has not follow the path of Christianity in the subjective and the spiritual.

Wright admits that the Enlightenment has brought partial salvation. “As it has become fashionable to question the assumptions and activities of the Enlightenment, it is worth saying from the start that it brought many blessings to the world. Science and technology have worked wonders... as well as catastrophes” (SAG, 83).

Wright says that “Paul also knew that he had to think through, and to teach, a coherent and integrated vision of the one God and his world which would serve and sustain that already large and complex whole in the way that the great philosophies had served in relation to their wider world. Here again I regret that space has forbidden the study of integrative models in the greco-roman world itself. I would like to have explored more fully the ways in which someone like Cicero actually integrated, in thought as well as practice, the worlds of politics, religion and philosophy, in each of which he was a prominent participant. But we can at least see the way in which Paul integrated them. His implicit and sometimes explicit engagement with the great philosophical systems, particularly that of the Stoics, retaining his Jewish integrity but doing his best to ‘take every thought prisoner and make it obey the Messiah’, has been explored in chapter 14. What we now glimpse is that this engagement is itself part of a wider reconciliation or integration” (PFG, 1508).

I agree wholeheartedly with this statement. What is needed is a concept of a monotheistic God based in a universal Teacher understanding that ties everything together. But instead of asking how the Enlightenment fits within the concept of a monotheistic God who ties everything together, Wright attacks the Enlightenment. I suggest that Wright’s specialization as a historical exegete is to blame. A person who bases his ‘universal understanding’ in a realm of books that describe there-and-then will not naturally see how this understanding applies to here-and-now.

Wright describes the method by which the Enlightenment brings partial salvation. “The Enlightenment thus offered to the world a new analysis of, and solution to, the problem of evil, standing in radical tension to those offered in classical Judaism and Christianity. The real problem of evil, it proposed, is that people are not thinking and acting rationally, and Enlightenment rationalism is going to teach them how can create the social and political conditions to make it happen. The biblical scholarship which grew up within the Enlightenment world went along for the ride, reducing the act of God in Jesus Christ to mere moral teaching and example...The point was this: if enlightenment progress is solving the problem of evil, all Jesus needs to have done is to point the way, to show people what love and compassion look like. Being reasonable, people will follow his example. If they do not, they need more teaching and reason” (SAG, 89).

Wright complains that the Enlightenment says that the solution to the problem of evil is rational thought and education. However, I am convinced that the solution to the problem of evil really is rational thought and education. The problem is that the unregenerate mind is only capable of thinking rationally about the physical world and it can only set up physical schools of education. It can transform the world but it cannot transform people. It can teach people truth about the world but it can only teach them partial truth about themselves. What is needed is law in theheart, rational thought in the subjective. Instead of merely enrolling in a physical school of ‘salvation’, one needs to enroll internally in the cognitive school of salvation guided by a mental concept of God, the Holy Spirit, and incarnation. If one approaches Christianity from this cognitive perspective, then I suggest that there is no ‘radical tension’ between the Enlightenment and Judaism and Christianity. Instead, Christianity extends the partial physical salvation of the Enlightenment to the realm of the personal and the spiritual.

Wright agrees that rational thought is needed to study Scripture and he suggests that the blind faith of fundamentalism is inadequate, which I think is an accurate assessment. “To affirm ‘the authority of Scripture’ is precisely not to say, ‘we know what Scripture means and do not need to raise me more questions.’ It is always a way of saying the church in each generation must make fresh and rejuvenated efforts to understand Scripture more fully and live by it more thoroughly, even if that means cutting across cherished traditions...Those who refuse the attempt to think freshly about the Bible are often shutting themselves up inside one particular kind of post-Enlightenment Western worldview – the ‘fundamentalist’ one, in which all kinds of things in the Gospels and Paul have been screened out, despite the claim to be biblical” (SAG, 92).

Using rational thought to study Scripture is good. But if one ignores cognition and science, or lacks the expertise to relate Scripture to cognition and science, then one may quote that a person is ‘transformed by the renewing of the mind’ but not know what this means, and one may proclaim that God’s purpose is to transform all of creation but have no idea what this entails. Again, I suggest that Wright lacks the expertise to adequately deal with his subject.

Righteousness

Let us turn our attention now to the topic of righteousness. My general premise is that the process of personal transformation can be divided into three stages. This is described in more detail in other essays. Summarizing, the first stage is ‘law in the heart’, in which the Christian prayer of salvation makes it possible for a person to practice personal honesty. The goal of the first stage is to construct a mental concept of God by building a general Teacher understanding based upon Perceiver facts that apply universally—including to personal identity. The second stage is ‘righteousness’, which I define as acting in a way that is consistent with the character of God. The goal of the second stage is to become righteous. The third stage is ‘dying to self’. The first two stages constructed a grid of Perceiver truth and Server skills (held together by the TMN of a general Teacher understanding) within which personal identity can live. During the third stage, the MMNs of childish personal identity fall apart and are replaced by adult MMNs that do live within this grid of rational understanding. We will focus here on the second stage of righteousness.

Wright talks about ‘doing on Earth as it is done in heaven’. In order to accomplish this, one must first know how it is ‘done in heaven’. Using the language of mental symmetry, in order to become righteous in the second stage one must first build an understanding of God in the first stage. Common sense provides a partial illustration of this principle. Any person who continues to live in the physical world will gain an understanding of ‘how the world functions’. Science describes how the world functions in formal mathematical terms, but everyone has the common sense to know that objects that are dropped fall down, that collisions between large objects and small objects lead to the destruction of small objects, and so on. One does not have to try to act in a way that is consistent with common sense. Instead, the Teacher emotion of understanding naturally guides a person to perform Server actions that are consistent with this Teacher understanding. That is why it is important for children to spend a lot of time out in nature, because this will give Teacher thought an understanding of ‘how the world functions’. If a child spends too much time in an artificial environment free of natural cause-and-effect or spends too much time living in alternate reality, then common sense will be inadequate.

I suggest that a similar principle applies to personal salvation. The goal of the first stage of salvation is to gain a general Teacher understanding of the character of God, by observing how the world functions and how the mind functions. Learning how the world functions is fairly easy because the physical world can be seen, experienced, and sensed. Learning how the mind functions is much more difficult, because thought cannot be seen and experienced, and personal emotions get in the way. That is why one needs divine assistance as well as a method for dealing with the guilt that is generated by personal honesty.

Now let us move on to the second stage of sanctification, or becoming righteous. Cognitively speaking, there are two forms of righteousness. There is true righteousness and there is man’s righteousness. If a person continues to perform certain Server actions or acquires a practical skill, then the resulting order-within-complexity will lead to an implicit general understanding within Teacher thought. This, I suggest, describes man’s righteousness because it emerges when a person repeats actions. Notice that any set of actions that is repeated will lead to an implicit Teacher understanding. True righteousness emerges when a person first gains a general Teacher understanding of how things work, and then is guided by Teacher emotion to act in ways that are consistent with this understanding. (Remember that a Teacher theory is based upon order-within-complexity. Any action that is consistent with understanding leads to greater order-within-complexity, which generates positive Teacher emotion.) One can see the difference between human righteousness and true righteousness by comparing Kuhn’s two definitions of science. Initially, Kuhn defined science as a study of how the natural world functions. When this understanding leads to technology, this is an example of true righteousness, because Teacher understanding based in universal principles comes first, followed by Server actions that apply this understanding. Later, Kuhn redefined science as how a group of scientists behave. This is an example of man’s righteousness, because people are acting in a certain manner and the resulting order-within-complexity is leading to positive Teacher emotions. The starting point is Server actions, which leads to Teacher understanding. True righteousness has a standard, because the world only functions in one way and minds only function in one way. Man’s righteousness has no standards, because any set of actions that is repeated by a group of people, such as learning how to kill others, learning how to heal others, learning how to take advantage of others, or acting in service to others will lead to a sense of Teacher order-within-complexity.

I should add that becoming righteous requires altruism. That is because when some thought or action triggers a mental network, then that thought or action will become added to that mental network. For instance, if the mental network that represents some authority figure motivates me to perform some action (such as driving within the speed limit when a police car is within sight) then that action will become mentally connected with that mental network. Therefore, if a thought or action is to become connected with the TMN of a mental concept of God, then I must perform that thought or action in the absence of any other motivation. (For instance, I must drive within the speed limit because it is the safe thing to do regardless of what others are doing or who is watching.) Saying this another way, becoming righteous requires altruism (Kant’s categorical imperative). While altruism is required to mentally attach some behavior to my concept of God, I suggest that once a behavior has become mentally attached it is not necessary to continue the altruism.

This principle is described in Matthew 6. “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you” (NASB). Notice that Jesus specifically talks about a person practicing his own righteousness, implying that it is possible for a person to acquire the trait of being righteous.

I have mentioned that the Christian ‘prayer of salvation’ makes it possible to follow the personal honesty that is required in the first stage of salvation. Looking at this in more detail, order brings pleasure to Teacher thought while chaos brings emotional pain. In simple terms, Teacher thought wants rules that apply everywhere without exception. Childish identity, in contrast, is driven by fragmented MMNs that pursue hedonistic and short-term goals in a chaotic manner regardless of universal rules, long-term consequences, or general understanding. The end result is that a mental concept of God abhors childish identity while childish identity runs away from a mental concept of God. The solution is to insert Contributor incarnation between Mercy identity and a Teacher-based concept of God, which one can illustrate by using the analogy of enrolling in a school. The rational adult sees the child as a repulsive bundle of personal chaos. However, if the child enrolls in a school, then the status of the child will change from being a ‘rebellious hodgepodge of feelings’ to ‘being a student of the school’. Instead of seeing the disorder of the child, Teacher thought will view the child as a part of the structure of the school. Using biblical language, if the individual ‘accepts Jesus Christ as Lord’, then God will declare the individual to be righteous—as an ‘official member of the school of salvation’. Wright analyzes this declaration of righteousness in extensive detail and what he says is consistent with what is being stated here. The point is that such a declaration of personal righteousness by God will function cognitively, based upon the structure of the mind, regardless of whether a real God exists or not. In other words, it is possible to view the Christian prayer salvation in purely psychological terms, and it will work when approached in such a manner.

Wright mentions a second divine declaration of justification that occurs during the final judgment, which leads to a resurrection of the physical body and a renewal of the physical environment. Obviously, if the path of personal transformation is only a cognitive one, then this second declaration of justification will not occur. A person cannot use mental tricks to fix his body or transform his world. However, as was mentioned previously, the transition from cognitive to physical, from concept of God to belief in an actual God is a subtle one. It is not a case of choosing one day to take a grand leap in order to believe in the existence of God. Rather, one finds that one is increasingly thinking and acting as if God exists and that one is becoming increasingly suspicious that personal events as well as the course of history are being manipulated by some divine intelligence. One sees this sort of subtle mental shift occurring repeatedly within Roman 7, because a person observes how he is now thinking, feeling, and acting and then concludes that his concept of self and/or God has shifted. In other words, I suggest that following universal cognitive principles naturally morphs into genuinely Christian faith.

Let us now summarize the various kinds of righteousness. First, there is inherent divine righteousness. A being who lives in universal Teacher thought will naturally act in a way that is consistent with universal Teacher thought. In other words, God has a character that is inherently righteous. Wright describes this as the covenant-faithfulness of God. Second, there is the declaration of righteousness given to someone who says the Christian prayer of salvation. Wright describes this but regards it as a function solely of a real God. However, mental symmetry suggests that a mental concept of God can also declare personal identity to be righteous when a person internally says the Christian prayer of salvation (What matters is the internal decision to submit personal identity to an internal school of character guided by general Teacher understanding and governed by personal honesty. I suggest that the specific words that are spoken are secondary.) Third, an apocalypse or divine righteous judgment occurs when a real God changes either the rules that govern the physical body or the rules that guide creation. Obviously, only a real God can do this. (Mental symmetry suggests that developing all of the mind leads to the concept of a Christian Trinitarian God, which implies that mental structure reflects the eternal character of God and will never be changed. As Wright repeatedly emphasizes, Scripture teaches that people will eventually have transformed bodies and live in a transformed heaven-and-earth. The implication is that any transformed body and environment will remain consistent with the structure of the mind.)

Fourth, man’s righteousness describes the implicit Teacher ‘understanding’ that occurs whenever a person gains a skill or acts in a consistent manner. Cognitively speaking, there is no inherent relationship between human righteousness and universal Teacher understanding, between acquiring a skill and submitting to a mental concept of God. Fifth, (true) righteousness describes a person who naturally performs Server actions that are guided by a universal Teacher understanding of the nature of God. Because Server actions are performed in the physical world, and because Server actions are being guided by a universal Teacher understanding that is based upon how the world functions, I suggest that righteousness, as practiced by a human, can be viewed either from a cognitive perspective as a person being guided by a concept of God or from a religious perspective as God guiding the actions of a person. And if a real God ‘energizes’ the TMN upon which a mental concept of God is based, then there is really no difference between these two. On the one hand, a real God requires a mental concept of God to energize, and on the other hand a mental concept of God requires energy from a real concept of God. The point is that it may be difficult to determine whether the desire to be righteous is being generated by the TMN of a general understanding or by a real God who is adding energy to this TMN. (My general thesis is that the spiritual realm interacts with the cognitive realm by energizing mental networks.) Finally, there is imputed righteousness, in which a person acts in a manner that is consistent with the character of God in a simulated situation. For instance, we are told that Abraham believed and that was imputed to him as righteousness. Abraham lived in a primitive tribal society that had no concept of universal Teacher understanding. But when faced with a difficult choice, he chose to behave in a manner that was consistent with the understanding of God that he did have. Imputed divine righteousness recognizes that what really matters is that Server thought in a person needs to be guided by Teacher thought under emotional pressure. Such a person has acquired the skill of using his mind in a righteous manner even if his understanding and his knowledge and skills are inadequate. Using the mind in a righteous manner is more important than having precisely the right mental content, because when such a person is shown greater light then he will embrace this light rather than running into the darkness to hide. Saying this another way, what I know does not matter as much as what I do with what I know. (Imputed righteousness works because Teacher thought builds general theories that apply to many similar specific situations. Therefore, as long as a simulated situation is similar to a genuine situation, then what matters is making the correct cognitive response under emotional pressure.)

Notice that this inherent ambiguity solves the dilemma faced by Wright. Wright notices the distinction between man’s righteousness and righteousness and concludes that righteousness involves only a real God and has nothing to do with human effort. However, righteousness requires a mental concept based in universal principles. On the one hand, this mental concept resides within the human mind and is constructed by human effort, but on the other hand it is based in an understanding of how the world and the mind function, and not only do these universal principles have nothing to do with human effort, but human effort gets in the way of understanding these universal principles.

How do these various forms of righteousness relate to what Wright is saying? Wright describes the first three in great detail and as far as I can tell what he says is consistent with what is being stated here.

First there is inherent divine righteousness. “The faithfulness of God at the end of verse 3 [of Romans 3] is then, still, the determination of the covenant God to do what he has promised, even if the people through whom the promised blessings were to be delivered seem to have let him down through their own ‘faithlessness’. This becomes clear at the start of the next verse, where alētheia, ‘truth’ or better ‘truthfulness’, substitutes for pistis, ‘faithfulness’” (PFG, 838).

Then there is justification or being declared righteousness. “1. There is the powerful work of the spirit through the gospel, which ‘calls’ people to faith. It is on this basis alone that people are declared to be ‘in the right’, the correlate of which is that they are, again on that basis alone, full members of the family, the people of Abraham, the people of the Messiah. This is justification by grace through faith in the present” (PFG, 1028).

Wright clarifies exactly what this means. “‘It is not a descriptive locution, but an illocutionary speech-act of declaration and verdict.’ The judge’s declaration works on the analogy of other speech-acts which create a new status or situation: ‘You’re fired’; ‘I pronounce that they are husband and wife’; ‘I declare the meeting adjourned.’ The declaration creates and constitutes a new situation, a new status. We stress again: this is a declaration, not a description. It does not denote or describe a character; it confers a status. In that sense, it creates the status it confers. Up to that point, the person concerned cannot be spoken of as ‘righteous’, but now they can be and indeed must be. Thus the status of being ‘in the right’, reckoned ‘righteous’, is actually created by, and is the result of, the judge’s declaration. That is what it means to say that the status of ‘now being in the right’, dikaiosynē, has been reckoned to the person concerned” (PFG. 947).

There is also divine righteous judgment. “2. There is the unbreakable promise that, by the same spirit, all the people thus described will in the end be raised from the dead to share the ‘inheritance’ of the Messiah, the worldwide inheritance promised to Abraham. ‘The one who began a good work in you will thoroughly complete it by the day of the Messiah Jesus.’ It is the spirit who will raise these people from the dead, the spirit who indwells all those who belong to the Messiah (Romans 8.9). So, among the advance signs that this will happen, we note that the same spirit enables these people to put to death the deeds of the body, to walk ‘not according to the flesh but according to the spirit’” (PFG, 1029).

Wright compares his definition of justification with that of others. “More recently, we have had proposals that the actual meaning of ‘justification’ itself can be focused on the inner transforming work of the spirit. In the second category, we have the fierce reaffirmation of a strict protestant emphasis, in which ‘justification’ denotes simply the divine declaration pronounced over faith, through which ‘the righteousness of Christ’ is imputed to the believer, and in which any attempt to add anything else – ‘transformation’, ‘being in Christ’, ‘ecclesiology’, ‘ethics’, whatever – is deemed to be a dangerous dilution of divine prerogative, leading people to rely, for their sense of identity and assurance, on something about themselves rather than solely on the sovereign grace of the one God. Over against both of these positions, and mindful of the impossibility in a book of this size of debating with more than a limited selection of conversation partners, I wish to argue for a third option. I agree with the first viewpoint that Paul’s language of ‘justification’ is closely, carefully and consistently integrated with all other aspects of his soteriology. But I agree with the second that the word ‘justification’ itself retains a very particular and clear-cut meaning which cannot be expanded to cover those other aspects” (PFG, 914). (Only an exegete like Wright would write 1539 pages and then complain about the ‘impossibility in a book of this size of debating with more than a limited selection’.)

Wright’s comments make sense. ‘The inner transforming work of the spirit’ describes sanctification, the process of becoming righteous, and not justification. I think that Wright is accurate in defining justification as a legal change in status before God. Using the school analogy, justification is the change in official status that occurs when one goes from being a child to a ‘student enrolled in school’. I also agree with Wright that human salvation requires both human and divine participation. As Protestants insist, one is not ‘saved by works’; one is not saved by remaining within concrete thought and performing correct actions. Instead, salvation involves a detour away from concrete thought through abstract thought. Because of man’s inherent sinfulness, taking this detour requires actual divine help in many different ways, and taking this detour means building one’s mind around a concept of God in Teacher thought rather than personal identity in Mercy thought. However, I also suggest that even though salvation is not possible without divine assistance, it also appears that at each step of the way the individual person who is being saved must also choose to respond or act in some manner.

The problem lies with the last three kinds of righteousness. That is because we have seen that Wright teaches man’s righteousness rather than true righteousness by saying that sanctification involves the acquisition of new habits, and we have noted that Wright himself practices man’s righteousness by submitting to the expectations of being an academic scholar (his implicit TMN).

The closest that Wright comes to talking about true righteousness is in the following passage. “Between (1) the beginning of the work of the spirit and (2) its triumphant conclusion, Paul envisages a spirit-led life which does not in any way contribute to initial justification, or to the consequent assurance of final justification which that initial justification brings, but transforms the life of the person who has already come to faith. This transformation enables such a person to ‘live by the spirit and not fulfil the desires of the flesh’ (Galatians 5.16); or, in the language of Romans 8, to have the ‘mind of the spirit’, the phronēma tou pneumatos, rather than the ‘mind of the flesh’, the phronēma tēs sarkos. Such people will then ‘put to death the deeds of the body’; from a study of Paul’s own congregations we may conclude that he knew as well as we do that this does not happen automatically or easily. It is too shallow to call this ‘ethics’, since it goes way beyond either a deontological framework (discovering the ‘rules’ and trying to keep them) or a utilitarian/consequentialist framework (figuring out and implementing the greatest happiness of the greatest number) which the word ‘ethics’ regularly refers to. It obviously works quite differently from existentialism, which reduces ethics to ‘authenticity’; and to emotivism, which reduces ethics to personal predilection or prejudice. It is better to speak, at this point, of the transformation of character which is such a regular Pauline theme: ‘We also celebrate in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces patience, patience produces a well-formed character, and a character like that produces hope. Hope, in its turn, does not make us ashamed, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the holy spirit who has been given to us’” (PFG, 1030).

I think that this is an accurate description of sanctification, the process of becoming righteous. (After all, Wright is quoting here from the Bible.) But notice that Wright does not know how to fit this description of sanctification into his general understanding. He says what sanctification is not by quoting different historical viewpoints, but then instead of saying what righteousness is, he resorts to quoting from the Bible without saying anything. This, I suggest, is an example of confusing referencing with explaining. Referencing says how other sources approach the question, while explaining provides an answer to the question.

When a biblical passage does talk about righteousness, then Wright tries to explain it away in terms of justification or divine faithfulness. For instance, “And the key verse in all this, which has puzzled generations of commentators, is [Romans] 8.10: the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is life ‘because of dikaiosynē’. ‘Because of righteousness’, say older translations, as well they might; but what does this mean? It means, I suggest, that once again Paul has scooped up an entire train of thought from elsewhere in the letter and has placed it, in this highly condensed form, at the heart of the present argument. Here there should be no doubt: dikaiosynē refers to the verdict ‘righteous’ issued in the present over all those who believe, issued because of the Messiah’s faithfulness, his self-giving to death. In this single line Paul has taken the whole argument of 3.21—4.25, as indeed he already did in 5.6–11, and is drawing the consequences, as he already promised in 1.16–17. Just as Romans 3.24 indicated that ‘being in Christ’ belonged at the heart of the exposition of justification, so Romans 8.10 indicates that ‘righteousness’ – the status which results from the verdict of the divine court, the polar opposite of ‘condemnation’ as in 8.1, the status which carries with it the notion of ‘covenant membership’ as in Romans 4 – belongs at the heart of the exposition of ‘being in Christ’” (PFG, 901).

This is quite a convoluted ‘explanation’. However, if one understands how the mind functions, then I suggests that Paul’s reference here to righteousness makes simple sense. Something has to hold the mind together, either the MMNs of personal identity or the TMNs of a general understanding. When a person constructs a mental concept of God in Teacher thought and continues to act in a way that is consistent with the resulting TMN, then he acquires the trait of being righteous and this will hold his mind together and give it ‘life’ to continue.

One further clarification. Wright says that “Monotheism of the sort which fired Saul of Tarsus meant invoking God as creator and judge, and also as the God specifically of Israel, and doing this within a framework of actual events, including not least the fierce opposition by pagan tyrants, leading in some cases to torture and death. Jewish monotheism was rooted in prayer, particularly in praying of the Shema. To pray this prayer was not to make a subtle affirmation about the inner nature of the one God, but to claim the sovereign rule of this one creator God over the whole world, and to offer oneself in allegiance of mind, heart and life itself in the service of this God and this kingdom” (PFG, 623). In other words, for second Temple Jews, belief in God was a matter of life and death, and not just a matter of theological debate. Similarly, I suggest that when a person finds himself at the stage of Romans 8:10, then righteousness will be a matter of cognitive (and possibly physical) life and death. The implicit mental networks based in embodiment that have held the mind together until now are falling apart. When righteousness allows such a person to keep going, then it will feel as if one has stepped off the edge of the cliff and is being held up solely by some invisible force. It is a juxtaposition of terror and peace. Again, Wright’s explanation suggests that he lacks the expertise (in this case based in personal experience) to adequately analyze his topic.

After You Believe

I have suggested that Wright defines Christian transformation as the building of new habits. I have also quoted some blog posts about what Wright recommends in After You Believe (AYB). We will now take a few pages to look at this volume in more detail, because it does contain a lot of helpful—though limited—information. (The quotes are referenced by chapter and subchapter rather than by page number.)

Wright recognizes that what is really needed is not external rules but rather internal character. Quoting a banker after the crash of 2008, Wright says that “Keeping rules is all right as far as it goes, but the real problem in the last generation is that we’ve lost the sense that character matters; that integrity matters. The system is only really healthy when the people who are running it are people you can trust to do the right thing, not because there are rules but because that’s the sort of people they are.” (AYB, 1.3)

Wight summarizes that “You can divide theories about human behavior into two: either you obey rules imposed from the outside, or you discover the deepest longings of your own heart and try to go with them. Most of us wobble about between the two, obeying at least some of the rules either because we think God wants us to or because of social convention, but reverting to pursuing our own dreams, our own fulfillment, when given the chance” (AYB, 1.4). Using the language of mental symmetry, what really matters is the mental networks that drive behavior, the ‘deepest longings of your own heart’. External rules place restrictions on how these mental networks are expressed, but they do not change the underlying mental networks. If one wishes to become personally transformed, then core mental networks must be torn apart and reassembled, which Scripture refers to as ‘dying to self’ because personal identity is composed of mental networks and when identity is transformed then it feels like self is dying.

Wright adds that “Human ‘character,’ in this sense, is the pattern of thinking and acting which runs right through someone, so that wherever you cut into them (as it were), you see the same person through and through. Its opposite would be superficiality” (AYB, 2.1). This is also a significant point. Using the language of mental symmetry, the goal is to have the entire mind driven by a set of consistent mental networks.

What Wright says so far is good: We need to change inside, what really matters is what drives us emotionally, and we need a pure mind that is driven by consistent drives. The problem lies with Wright’s limited description of how the mind works. Stated simply, Wright equates the entire mind with concrete thought, and he suggests that transforming the mind means changing concrete thought. In contrast, mental symmetry suggests that developing concrete thought can change the mind, but transforming the mind requires taking a detour through abstract thought. Saying this another way, developing concrete thought leads to man’s righteousness, while taking a detour through abstract thought leads to true righteousness.

Wright describes his general thesis: “What I have proposed, and will develop in the rest of this book, is basically a Christian answer—Jesus’s own answer, in fact—to the tradition of moral thinking that goes back to Aristotle. This tradition was well developed in the ancient world, and serious first-century readers who came upon the teaching of Paul and other early followers of Jesus would have had it in mind as they pondered what was being said. It was Aristotle, about 350 years before the time of Jesus, who developed the threefold pattern of character transformation. As noted earlier, there is first the ‘goal,’ the telos, the ultimate thing we’re aiming at; there are then the steps you take toward that goal, the ‘strengths’ of character which will enable you to arrive at that goal; and there is the process of moral training by which these ‘strengths’ turn into habits, become second nature” (AYB, 2.3).

On the diagram of mental symmetry, Server thought and Mercy thought lie on the diagonal labeled ‘concrete thought’. Mercy thought contains the emotional experiences which provide the goals for concrete thought, while Server thought contains the sequences of actions that are carried out to reach a goal. Thus, what Wright is describing here is the development of concrete thought. (Concrete thought is described in more detail at the beginning ofthis essay.) This is good, but it is only part of the picture. However, notice Wright’s basis for suggesting this thesis. He says that he is giving ‘a Christian answer’, but he is actually quoting Aristotle. In other words, Wright is telling us to develop concrete thought, consistent with his explicit TMN of pragmatic Christianity. However, Wright is coming up with this advice by using abstract thought to quote historical experts from the Greco-Roman era, consistent with his implicit TMN of being a historical exegete. So, Wright is using abstract thought to quote outdated experts in order to tell us to develop concrete thought.

Notice that Wright (quoting Aristotle) defines ‘moral training’ as acquiring habits that become second nature. Wright explains how habits turn into second nature. “Character strengths don’t happen all in a rush. You have to work at them. Character is a slowly forming thing. You can no more force character on someone than you can force a tree to produce fruit when it isn’t ready to do so. The person has to choose, again and again, to develop the moral muscles and skills which will shape and form the fully flourishing character. And so, just as a long, steady program of physical training will enable you to do all kinds of things—run in a marathon, walk thirty miles in a day, lift heavy objects—which you would previously never have thought possible, so the long, steady program of working on the character strengths, the virtues, will enable you to live in a way you would never have thought possible, avoiding moral traps and pitfalls and exhibiting a genuine, flourishing human life. Part of the point of all this is that you will then do certain things automatically which before you would have struggled to do at all” (AYB, 2.3).

In other words, if a set of actions is repeated enough times, then it will turn into a habit, and this habit will naturally express itself when a person encounters an emotional crisis. I suggest that this is an accurate description of man’s righteousness. It is very similar to what Matthew Kelly suggests in Rediscover Catholicism. Using the language of mental symmetry, if a set of similar Server actions is repeated, then the underlying order-within-complexity will cause an implicit TMN to form within Teacher thought, and this TMN will drive a person to perform this practiced skill.

Wright describes this process of building new habits in more detail. “As with the ‘putting off,’ so the ‘putting on’ is a matter of consciously deciding, again and again, to do certain things in certain ways, to create patterns of memory and imagination deep within the psyche and, as we saw from contemporary neuroscience, deep within the actual physical structure of our mysterious brain. Gradually, bit by bit, the ‘putting on’ of these qualities—qualities that seem for the moment so artificial, so unnatural, so ‘unlike me’—will in fact transform the character at its deepest level” (AYB, 5.2).

Wright recognizes that Protestant Christians will naturally view his advice as ‘salvation by works’. “The very mention of virtue, in fact, will make many Christians stiffen in alarm. They have been taught, quite rightly, that we are not justified by our works, but only by faith. They know that they are powerless to make themselves conform to any high and lofty moral code. In many cases, they’ve tried it, and it didn’t work. It simply left them feeling guilty...So the question that the Christian tradition, particularly the Western Protestant tradition, might raise against the whole topic is this: Aren’t we then just whistling in the wind, with all this talk of virtue? Yes, maybe airline pilots and other people need to practice their skills and learn to keep a cool head, but does this have any significance beyond a purely pragmatic one, that certain tasks demand that some people develop certain abilities? Is this really relevant in any way to the serious business of living the way God wants us to live? Can it really teach us anything about Christian morality or ethics? If even the God-given Ten Commandments prove impossible to keep, why should the supposedly character-forming virtues be any different?” (AYB, 2.7).

So how is Wright’s advice different than ‘salvation by works’? Wright says that “God’s love comes to us where we are in Jesus Christ, and all we have to do is accept it. But when we accept it—when we welcome the new choir director into our ragged and out-of-tune moral singing—we find a new desire to read the music better, to understand what it’s all about, to sense the harmonies, to feel the shape of the melody, to get the breathing and voice production right…and, bit by bit, to sing in tune...There is the sequence: grace, which meets us where we are but is not content to let us remain where we are, followed by direction and guidance to enable us to acquire the right habits to replace the wrong ones.” (AYB, 2.7). In other words, for some reason, when we ‘accept God’s love in Jesus Christ’, then we find that our desires change, and guided by these new desires we build new habits.

But how does ‘Accepting God’s love in Jesus Christ’ lead to new desires? Wright says that it allows us to believe that we are already living in ‘the new heavens and earth’. “The first revolution I propose, then—a revolution for many modern Christians, though many in previous generations, and some already in our own, would simply take for granted much of what I’ve said so far—is that thinking of Christian behavior in terms of virtue, and reframing virtue in terms of the promised new heaven and new earth and the role of humans within it, provides both a framework of meaning for, and a strong impetus toward the path of, the holiness to which Jesus and his first followers would call us. This points to the second revolution, which is where this proposal not only clarifies and energizes Christian living, but also poses a challenge and a question to the wider non-Christian world. It isn’t enough to pursue our own goals in private, precisely because the ‘goal’ we have in view is not an escapist heaven but God’s kingdom of restorative justice and healing joy, coming upon the whole creation” (AYB, 2.7).

Notice that Wright is talking implicitly about being guided by a universal Teacher theory, because a ‘new heaven and new earth’ describes a new Teacher system of order-within-complexity. And when Wright talks about ‘God’s kingdom coming up on the whole creation’, this means that all of existence is being ruled by a new universal Teacher system of order-within-complexity. Translating this into the language of mental symmetry, Wright is telling people to look at life through a new paradigm, a new general Teacher understanding, a new mental concept of God. The resulting TMN motivates a person to behave in a new manner-- a manner that is consistent with the Teacher understanding of the ‘new heaven and new earth’.

This advice is consistent with what mental symmetry suggests. However, how is Wright constructing his new mental concept of God; how is he building his understanding of the ‘new heaven and new earth’?

By quoting the Bible. “I have become increasingly convinced that a method of reading the gospels which has been popular among Western scholars for many years is not only flawed in itself, offering an apparently sophisticated reading while denying something quite basic (that Jesus really did and said substantially what the gospels say he did and said), but is flawed for a particular reason directly related to the subject of this book: it is flawed because the whole worldview driving the scholarship in question screened out the very possibility that there might be a larger truth that the gospels were trying to express but that didn’t fit into the categories the scholars had available. And that larger truth, in which the Sermon on the Mount makes the excellent sense it does, is this: God’s future is arriving in the present, in the person and work of Jesus, and you can practice, right now, the habits of life which will find their goal in that coming future. This is, if you like, Jesus’s answer to Aristotle” (AYB, 4.1).

Wright says that we need to read the Bible from a new perspective. We need to view it as a description of ‘a larger truth’. In other words, we need to view it as a TMN, a general understanding that turns into a mental network. Again, what Wright says is consistent with what mental symmetry suggests. The big question is, how does one turn the words of a book into a universal understanding? How does one transform belief in the Bible into a mental TMN that can drive behavior?

By using magnificent imagery to emotionally inflate the words of the Bible. “The early Christians held out a breathtaking, radical vision of the ultimate goal of all things: the new heavens and new earth, the renewal of all things, the new Jerusalem “coming down from heaven to earth” (Revelation 21.2), a world flooded with the joy and justice of the creator God. The question must then be asked: What place, and what role, will human beings have within this new world? Only when we answer that question can we begin to understand the virtues by which, in the present time, our characters can be formed. What were we made for, and how can we learn that future language here and now?...The book of Revelation, so often dismissed as merely dark, strange, and violent, holds out a vision not only of all creation renewed and rejoicing, but of human beings within it able at last to sum up the praise which all creation offers to its maker, and to exercise that sovereignty, that dominion, that wise stewardship over the world which God always intended for his image-bearing creatures. They will be priests and rulers, summing up the praises of all creation and exercising authority on behalf of God and the Lamb. ‘Priests and rulers’! The phrase has a grand ring to it, reminiscent in many minds of a bygone age of courtly life, royal robes, and grand pageantry. Distance (in this case, distance in time) lends a certain charm—but also, perhaps, a threat. Do we really want to live in a world like that, an olde-worlde costume drama of nobility and formal religion?” (AYB, 3.2).

Yes, the phrase ‘priests and rulers’ does have ‘a grand ring to it’, and it does bring to mind a bygone age of courtly life, royal robes, and grand pageantry’, but how does one know if this has anything to do with present reality? After all, reading about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table also has ‘a grand ring to it’, but we all know that that is pure fantasy. Notice that Wright is again trying to tell people what to do in concrete thought by using abstract thought to quote passages from old books written in distant civilizations. I am not suggesting that Wright’s words are necessarily wrong, or that the book of Revelation is like a tale of King Arthur. That is because a city of God descending from heaven to earth illustrates the process by which scientific thought descends from the heaven of abstract understanding to the earth of concrete technology. The biblical description is an analogy of a known process.

Teacher thought uses emotion to evaluate theories. This emotion can be provided either by Teacher thought or by Mercy thought. Building a general theory generates positive Teacher emotion. A Teacher theory becomes more general when many similar situations can be related through analogy or metaphor. Using flowery language and referring to exotic situations generates positive Mercy emotion. A Teacher theory feels more general when it has ‘a grand ring to it’ and brings to mind ‘a bygone ages of courtly life, royal robes, and grand pageantry’. Dictators are very good at using flowery language to motivate their subjects into devoting their lives to unworthy aims. As Napoleon Bonaparte said, “A man does not have himself killed for a half-pence a day or for a petty distinction. You must speak to the soul in order to electrify him.” Again, I am not suggesting that Wright is functioning at the same level as Napoleon. However, if all one has is flowery language and exotic imagery, then there is no way of distinguishing the genuine Teacher theory from the counterfeit, the voice of the real God from the proclamation of the false deity.

If Wright has a genuine Teacher theory of how the new heavens and earth will function, then he should be able to describe what it means to live in the new heavens and earth. Instead, he describes the future kingdom as the opposite of the current kingdom. “Jesus didn’t say, as do some modern evangelists, ‘God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.’ Nor did he say, ‘I accept you as you are, so you can now happily do whatever comes naturally.’ He said, ‘If you want to become my followers, deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me’ (Mark 8.34). He spoke of losing one’s life in order to gain it, as opposed to clinging to it and so losing it. He spoke of this in direct relation to himself and his own forthcoming humiliation and death, followed by resurrection and exaltation. Exactly in line with the Beatitudes, he was describing, and inviting his followers to enter, an upside-down world, an inside-out world, a world where all the things people normally assume about human flourishing, including human virtue, are set aside and a new order is established. Jesus would have said, of course, that it’s the present world that is upside down and inside out. He was coming to put it the right way up, the right way out. That shift of perception is the challenge of the gospel he preached and lived, and for which he died” (AYB, 4.3).

Wright recognizes that current thinking is woefully inadequate. “‘The heart is deceitful,’ declared the prophet Jeremiah (17.9), ‘and desperately wicked.’ Pessimistic? No: realistic. Jesus would have agreed—and, however much this is a slap in the face for those of us who naturally incline toward a romantic philosophy or ethic, we cannot expect to understand Jesus’s moral demands, and how they ‘work,’ unless we confront, or rather are confronted by, his analysis of the deep-level human disease and dilemma, and the astonishing way he seemed to assume that he could prescribe a cure for it. Just as Jesus’s kingdom-announcement was not made into empty space but into enemy-occupied territory, so his challenge to each human life was not posed to people whose hearts were tabulae rasae, wax tablets clean and ready for fresh writing, but rather to people whose hearts were pretty much as Jeremiah had described them. Habits had already been well formed, and, as Shakespeare saw, they were very often the wrong habits. Often—this is what ‘he deceitfulness of the heart’ actually means—they were wrong habits masquerading as right ones” (AYB, 4.4).

Again, I am not questioning Wright’s statements but rather his basis for saying them. I agree that the MMNs that are acquired in childhood motivate behavior that is deeply flawed. As Wright says, the human heart is not a tabula rasa, but rather full of wrong habits that have already been well formed. I also agree that one needs to ‘die’ to these childish MMNs. The problem is that it is not possible to die to something that defines my existence. If ‘Jesus’ moral demands’ are defined as the opposite of how the world functions, then the reference point is still the world and not the words of Jesus. How can one die to the world if one is defined as the opposite of the world? If one wishes to truly live in a manner that is consistent with a new heaven and earth, then one must have a clear understanding of how this new heaven and earth functions. One must head toward the new creation and not just away from the old.

Does Wright have a clear understanding of how the new heaven and earth function? Instead of giving us understanding, Wright gives us ritual. In the words of a well-known limerick, I suggest that ‘Wright has not written rite right I say’. (Sorry, I could not resist.) “The life to which Jesus called his followers was the kingdom-life—more specifically, the kingdom-in-advance life—the life which summoned people to be kingdom-agents through the kingdom-means. We could sum it up the way Peter and Revelation do, echoing the ancient call of Israel: they were to be kings and priests. The habits and practices of heart and life to which they were called were the habits and practices which demonstrated in advance that God’s kingdom was indeed turning the world the right way up, cleansing the world so that it would become the dwelling place of God’s glory. And that work would begin with, so that it could work through, their own hearts, minds, and lives. Central among these practices were, of course, the baptism which spoke of God’s washing and renewal (renewal of heart, renewal of covenant), and the shared bread-and-wine meal which spoke of Passover, of Jesus and his death and resurrection, and again of covenant renewal. But flowing from these practices, these corporate habits which formed the heart habits of individual disciples, was the acquiring of the habits of heart, mind, body, and fellowship which spoke of the telos of the kingdom itself and gave evidence of that quest to be teleios, ‘complete’” (AYB, 4.4).

Again, I am not questioning the symbolism of baptism and Eucharist. Rather, I am suggesting that rituals are an inadequate basis for understanding how the new heaven and earth functions. That is because rituals by their very nature tend to lead to the implicit TMN of a ‘second nature’, rather than the explicit TMN of a general understanding. As Wright complains, “Many Christians couldn’t easily explain what happens in baptism or why they do it. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the practice has become a mere bit of formal ritual (though that, too, does happen). It may well mean that, as with virtue itself, it has become second nature. This is how we join the family: by plunging into water and coming up again! By dying and rising with Jesus the Messiah! I sense that, at least in the churches I know best, baptism may in fact need more explanation, and more working through in terms of how its meaning becomes a living reality for the core congregation and also for those on the fringe who want their baby baptized but are far from clear why. But the regular practice of baptism says something to the congregation, something that should go deeper and deeper until it becomes second nature” (AYB, 8.6).

One reason why aiming for just a ‘second nature’ is inadequate is that Server actions are specific whereas Teacher understanding is general. Repeating a certain set of actions will eventually cause those actions to become ‘second nature’, but what is being repeated is a set of specific actions. (Server sequences become general when they are turned into exemplars, but that requires an interaction between Teacher thought and Server thought, guided by a general understanding in Teacher thought.) This may lead to implicit Teacher emotion, but what drives the mind is Exhorter thought, which looks for a combination of strong emotion and novelty. (One can see on the diagram of mental symmetry that Exhorter is connected to Teacher and Mercy.) The end result is that one still goes through the motions, because a mental network is being triggered and it is imposing its pattern (now largely through the cerebellum, the ‘autopilot’ of the brain), while Exhorter thought, attempting to escape boredom, drives the mind to focus on other issues. In contrast, a general Teacher understanding ties together many similar, but slightly different specific actions. Because true righteousness is driven by Teacher understanding, and because a Teacher understanding covers many variations, there will be enough variety to prevent Exhorter thought from getting bored. The general Teacher theory may be the same, but the specific expression of this theory will change.

Wright recognizes the problem of boredom and lack of meaning but has no real solution. “The normal Protestant objection to virtue, as we’ve seen, is that it’s just hypocrisy, ‘putting it on’ when you don’t yet fully mean it. The standard answer is that this is the only way to acquire the deep-rooted characteristics of faith, hope, love, and all the rest. If we wait to start practicing these things until we “mean them” from the bottom of our hearts, we will wait a long time and probably mess up a lot of lives, including our own, in the process. But now we face the opposite problem: the charge that liturgy and other aspects of formal worship have become ‘just a habit,’ implying that because worship is a habit you don’t really mean it. At one level, the two charges cancel one another out. If you’re just putting it on, it isn’t a habit; if it’s a habit, you’re not just putting it on! But there’s a serious point underneath this second problem. Virtue, whether individual or corporate, is never something that can be taken for granted. Once the habit is formed, by many conscious choices and decisions, it has to be maintained in good running order” (AYB, 7.1)

Wright mentions the apparent hypocrisy of ‘putting on behavior’ that one does not yet fully mean, and he says that virtue should not be taken for granted. But that is what happens naturally with man’s righteousness. The repetition of actions in Server thought comes first, while the understanding in Teacher thought comes later. First one puts it on, and then it acquires meaning. And because specific Server actions are being repeated, keeping Teacher understanding explicitly engaged is always a struggle. True righteousness, in contrast, begins with understanding and then adds application to understanding. The meaning comes first and then the actions.

When one builds upon the structure and repetition of how a group of people behave, then, by definition, one is building upon man’s righteousness. Wright defines much of his Christianity in terms of man’s righteousness in the following passage. “Second, I mean the actual living family and fellowship of which I am a part. In my tradition, this means the unit we call a diocese, overseen by a bishop. This unit functions as an extended family, with its own local culture and traditions, and its own ordering of its common life. This unit understands itself, not as an independent body owing no allegiance to the large unit we just looked at, but as one instantiation of it, as though that entire family across time and space were boiled down to just this group. Within this relatively local setting—dioceses differ considerably in size, even within my denomination, but the principle is the same—there is a more sharply focused context within which we are to learn how to be the royal priesthood. The habits of heart and mind here are rather more obviously corporate habits: this is how we have learned to behave” (AYB, 8.5). Notice that he specifically defines ‘how to be a royal priesthood’ as ‘how we have learned to behave’, ‘we’ being ‘the unit we call the diocese, overseen by a bishop’. Again, there is nothing wrong with building habits or creating traditions. The problem lies in using this as a basis for defining Christian practice.

True righteousness, in contrast, gains a Teacher understanding of how God behaves (the first stage of salvation), and then acts in a manner that is consistent with this (the second stage of salvation). How does one know how God behaves? God is a universal being, therefore one looks for universal principles. (This is consistent with Wright’s suggestion that Christianity is centered upon the concept of monotheism.) One can observe the natural world to look for universal principles that describe how the physical world functions, leading to science, and one can observe the moral world to look for universal principles that describe how the human mind functions, leading to Christian doctrine (This methodology is used to derive core Christian doctrines in other essays.)

When one gains a Teacher understanding of universal moral principles, then I suggest that righteousness is a fruit that naturally grows. That is because the Teacher emotion of understanding emotionally drives a person to act in a way that is consistent with God’s universal nature, while the beauty and loveliness of Platonic forms emotionally motivate a person to pursue goals that express higher values. Behaving in a righteous manner in the midst of a chaotic world may still be a huge struggle, but the struggle is between following higher, enlightened emotions and following lower, more base desires, choosing between following one set of mental networks or another. In contrast, when Wright talks about ‘fruit’, his description sounds more like man’s righteousness and the struggle to build new habits. “The point of using the term “fruit,” after all, is that these are things which grow from within rather than being imposed from without. Once we get over the common misperception that, if it is fruit, it ought to happen without our making any effort or thinking it through—actually, any Christian with any self-awareness ought to realize the flaw in that quite quickly!—then we are free to recognize that the different varieties of fruit are, like the virtues, characteristics that need to be thought through, chosen with an act of mind and will, and implemented with determination even when the emotions may be suggesting something quite different” (AYB, 6.4).

Does Wright recognize the existence of universal moral principles? He poses the question. “First, can we use ancient non-Christian traditions to help us in our moral quest, or must we only use the scriptures? Second, can we address our non-Christian contemporaries on moral questions, or can we merely say to them, ‘Look at us: because we’re Christians we do it differently’? If there is no major distinction—if we can read Aristotle and Paul side by side, shrug our shoulders, and learn from both with equal profit, and if we can contribute our two cents’ worth of wisdom to today’s questions of public morality along with everyone else—then we have clearly taken a large step away from the world of the gospels and the epistles. On the other hand, if there is no overlap, no point of contact, then we are in a closed world. We are sealed off from learning anything new from the outside but also, more worryingly, sealed off from being able to give anything. Why should the world take any notice of us? If I stand up in Parliament and say that because I live in a world shaped by the faith and life of the Christian church I don’t believe in euthanasia, those in that place who don’t share that faith will smile and say, in effect, Very well, but since we don’t start from that Christian premise, we won’t take any notice. Is there no continuity between Christian morality and that of the wider world? If we claim that Christian faith produces genuine humanness, must there not be many areas of massive overlap on which we can work toward agreement?” (AYB, 7.4).

In the same way that Jews struggle over whether God is a universal God or just the God of the Jews, so I suggest that Christians struggle over whether biblical truth describes universal truth or just Christian belief. In other words, is a fact true because it is written in the Bible, or is the Bible accurate because it describes facts that are universally true?

Wright’s approach to truth is ambiguous. On the one hand, he regards the Bible as the source of truth, rather than as an accurate description of truth. “Reading the Bible is habit-forming: not just in the sense that the more you do it the more you are likely to want to do it, but also in the sense that the more you do it the more it will form the habits of mind and heart, of soul and body, which will slowly but surely form your character into the likeness of Jesus Christ” (AYB, 6.2)

On the other hand, he adds that scriptural truth describes universal patterns in a coherent manner. “Scripture, then, is habit-forming and character-forming. But scripture trains us to listen to and learn from stories of all kinds, inside the sacred text and outside, and to discern patterns and meanings within them. And stories of all sorts form and shape the character of those who read them. No matter how many smaller stories there may be within scripture, and how many million edifying stories there may be outside it, the overall drama of scripture, as it stands, forms a single plot whose many twists and turns nonetheless converge remarkably on a main theme, which is the reconciliation of heaven and earth as God the creator deals with all that frustrates his purpose for his world and, through his Son and his Spirit, creates a new people through whom his purpose—filling the world with his glory—is at last to be realized” (AYB, 6.3). Thus, Wright is stretching towards the idea of universal truth, but he lacks the expertise to pursue this path more fully because he has specialized in historical exegesis.

And instead of answering this important question, Wright uses historical exegesis to compare the writings and attitudes of ancient authorities. “There is much more that could be said at this level, but not here. I hope that among the effects of this book will be that I have alerted virtue theoreticians to the wealth and depth of material in the New Testament, which they have normally ignored by going straight for the major subsequent exponents, such as Aristotle and Aquinas. And I hope, conversely, to have alerted New Testament ethicists to the fact that Jesus and his first followers can be understood within the context of ancient pagan theories of the moral life, not in terms either of straightforward borrowing or simplistic “topping up,” but in terms of a transformation of the theory itself. The early Christians believed that they were the true Temple of God, filled with God’s glorious presence by his Spirit and called to reveal that glory to the world. They therefore saw themselves standing in a relation to all other temples, Jewish and pagan, as the reality stands to the parodies” (AYB, 7.4).

But what about today? How does one find universal truth in today’s world? Wright does not answer this question. Again I suggest that referring to ancient authors is not the same as answering the question.

However, when it comes the question of sexual morality, then Wright does give an answer that applies to the present world, because he has observed universal moral principles in his job as a pastor. He begins by quoting as usual from ancient sources. “Just about everybody in the ancient world took it for granted that people had, to put it straightforwardly, as much sex as they could get...The early Christians shared the view of Jews, ancient and modern, that this kind of behavior was dark and dehumanizing, distorting the very essence of what it means to be human” (AYB, 7.6). But then he gets personal. “Those of us who care pastorally, or in families, for people who have embraced the present habits of society will know, the bruises and wounds caused by those habits are deep, long-lasting, and life-decaying. The church is often called a killjoy for protesting against sexual license. But the real killing of joy comes with the grabbing of pleasure. As with credit card usage, the price tag is hidden at the start, but the physical and emotional debt incurred will take a long time to pay off” (AYB, 7.6). Here is universal moral truth that applies today and does not just quote ancient sources. There is nothing wrong with quoting ancient sources. But if one wishes to discover universal truth, then one must extend one’s horizons beyond merely quoting ancient tomes.

In conclusion, what Wright describes in AYB is primarily the development of concrete thought through the building of new habits. Wright stretches beyond this by using the words of the Bible to inspire concrete thought, but he does not take the next step of viewing the Bible as a description of universal moral truth that can create a mental concept of God that is sufficiently universal to transform concrete thought.

Current Israel

Moving on, I suggest that the distinction between true righteousness and man’s righteousness combined with the three stages of personal salvation makes it possible to explain God’s current role for Israel, as well as the description in Romans 11 about the falling away and restoration of Israel.

Wright goes to great lengths to insist that he does not believe in successionism, which says that God has replaced Judaism with Christianity. Instead, he says that the Jewish law and the Jewish promises are all fulfilled in Jesus, the Jewish Messiah.

“Paul has (dare we say!) replaced the solidarity of Israel, and/or his group of ‘the pure’ within Israel, with the solidarity of the people of God who find their identity ‘in the Messiah’. He is horribly, tragically aware of the enormous question that this raises about those of his kinsfolk who do not believe in Jesus as Messiah, but it is a tragedy, a matter for tears and earnest prayer (as in Romans 9.1–5 and 10.1), precisely because he believes that Israel’s God, through Israel’s Messiah and his death and resurrection, has himself redefined the family as he always warned that he would, and has done so thoroughly, explicitly, effectively...We should note here, as we shall see in more detail in the proper place, that this has nothing whatever to do with something called ‘supersession’ or with the strange notion of ‘anti-Judaism’. On the contrary: it is based on, and coloured all through by, a massive reaffirmation of the goodness and God-givenness of Israel, Israel’s call, Israel’s scriptures, Israel’s promises, Israel’s destiny within the creator’s overall purposes. Anti-Judaism, characteristically, rejects all this; Paul insists on it. (The real ‘supersessionism’ is of course the claim that the Christian movement, including Paul, looked back on ‘Judaism’ as part of a world of ‘religion’ which had now been swept away; which only goes to show once more that the category of ‘religion’ is probably the wrong tool for understanding New Testament theology.)” (PFG, 367).

However, as far as current Judaism is concerned, I suggest that there is no essential difference between these two viewpoints, because in both cases God is now finished with the Jews as a distinct, chosen group of people. In both cases, Jews can only have a relationship with God by abandoning the religion of Judaism and embracing Christianity.

We will begin our discussion by looking at Jeremiah 31 and its comparison of the old covenant with the new covenant. “‘In those days they will not say again, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, And the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ But everyone will die for his own iniquity; each man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth will be set on edge. ‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,’ declares the LORD. ‘But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,’ declares the LORD, ‘I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, “Know the LORD,” for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them’” (NASB).

Notice that the passage begins by stating that a transition will occur from treating people as members of a group to treating them as individuals. In the old covenant, God delivered the group of Israel out of Egypt, whereas in the new covenant, the law will be written upon heart of the individual and every individual will have a knowledge of God.

How can one teach the process of salvation when people regard themselves as members of a tribe and are incapable of thinking as individuals? This dilemma describes the social situation that existed when Judaism came into being. The new covenant can begin with law in the heart, which is the first stage of salvation, because people are capable of responding as individuals. However, when people view themselves as members of a tribe then I suggest that the only alternative is to begin with a modified second stage of righteousness. If God tells a group of people what to do, and if this set of prescribed actions and rituals forms an integrated structure, then this group of people will be held together by a form of righteousness, because the actions of their culture are guided by instructions from God. This is what happened cognitively when God gave Torah to the Jews. The result is a form of man’s righteousness, because the Jews define themselves as a group of people who behave in a certain way, similar to Kuhn’s later redefinition of science.

This means that is possible for Jews to view Torah in one of two major ways. One alternative is to view it from the Mercy viewpoint of culture, which means that it is held together mentally by the MMNs of personal and group experience. The Jew who takes this perspective will see himself as part of a distinct culture that is superior to other cultures because his culture was dictated to him directly by God. The end result is what is known in Hebrew as chutzpah, an arrogant attitude of personal and ethnic superiority. This type of Jew has a tendency to be more evil than the average gentile, because he combines a structured mind and society with a lack of conscience. Conscience will not work if I believe that I am fundamentally different than other people. For instance, white slave owners in pre-Civil War southern states could flog their slaves and pray to God in the same room without feeling qualms of guilt because they believed that there was an inherent difference between black and white.

Wright describes this attitude. “But their use of ‘works’ (sabbath, food laws, circumcision and so on) as the way of ‘hunting for the law of righteousness’ was the way of using some of the badges of Torah-keeping as the way of doing what Deuteronomy 9 warned them against, setting themselves up to be inalienably God’s people, and keeping everyone else at bay. But this itself was not outside the divine purpose. That is the point of the ‘stumbling stone’ image. Israel has misused the Torah, but God seems to have intended that Israel should do just that” (PFG, 1178). Notice the combination of man’s righteousness and religiously based racial superiority. Where I would differ from Wright is in suggesting that it did not have to be this way. As we shall see in a few paragraphs, God’s plan of cognitive development still works when his chosen people view themselves as a superior race, but it would have worked much more efficiently—and with a lot less human suffering—if they had not adopted this attitude.

The other alternative is to view Torah from the Teacher perspective of order and universality. In this case what holds everything together is the TMN of a divinely ordained structure. The Jew who takes this perspective will view himself as part of a larger plan, a grand scheme to bring the understanding of God to the rest of the world, to serve as a ‘light to the nations’. This type of Jew has a tendency to be more educated and wiser than the average gentile, because he combines a structured mind and society with an understanding of God.

Wright describes this mindset as well. “Once we get our heads back into Paul’s world of second-Temple Jewish reading of scripture, however, we can not only make sense of this key concept, but also of the related concept of the tsedaqah or dikaiosynē of God’s people. This too is polymorphous, but coherently so. Clearly at one level the word denotes what we rather flatly think of as ethical behaviour. But when we speak of the behaviour of Israel as YHWH’s people, ‘ethics’ is not enough. We are talking about covenant behaviour. Because of Israel’s strong belief in an ordered society, ultimately responsible to God as the judge, this moves to and fro, in and out of an implicit law court situation, as we saw with Judah and Tamar and with David and Saul, so that ‘righteous’ can sometimes mean ‘morally upright’ and sometimes ‘in the right’ in a legal sense” (PFG, 802).

The key distinction between these two viewpoints is the definition of God. Is God a tribal God who is only the God of the Jews and who supports the Jews while ignoring others, or is God a universal God as proclaimed in the words of the Shema. (Hear oh Israel, the Lord your God is one.)

Wright says that Paul reformulated Judaism from a Teacher perspective, building Christian theology upon the doctrine of monotheism, insisting that God is the God of everyone and not just the God of the Jews. “The law was given through angels ‘at the hand of a mediator’, in other words, Moses. Moses, however, cannot be the mediator of the single family. He is the mediator of a law which separates Jews from gentiles, as James and those who came from him to Antioch were insisting, and as Peter agreed. No, insists Paul: the God of Abraham desires a single family, and that family cannot therefore be constituted by Torah. How do we know that this God desires that single family? Because God is one. Just as in Romans 3.30, the singleness of the one God himself undergirds the singleness, the unitary Jew-plus-gentileness of the family. Monotheism, freshly understood through Messiah and spirit, provides the ground and source for the fresh christological understanding of election” (PFG, 872). Notice how Paul is replacing ‘a law which separates Jews from Gentiles’ with a ‘single family’, based in ‘God is one’.

What Wright appears to be missing is that these are universal cognitive principles that still function. For centuries, Jews during the Dark and Middle Ages acted as a ‘light to the nations’, as they were invited into and then kicked out of one European country after another. In each case, Jewish training and intelligence jumpstarted the local society. Jews acted as a ‘light to the nations’ primarily because after 132 AD they no longer had their own country and could no longer pursue the path of pure tribalism. Even today, Jews who focus upon ethnic culture and chosen status can be very evil, while universities are filled with Jews who focus upon learning and understanding.

Notice that all of this is functioning at a group level. Jews have always been chosen as a group and not as individuals. If a Jew wishes to be chosen as an individual, then personal faith has to be added to the corporate righteousness of Torah. Personal salvation has always come to a believing remnant of the Jewish nation. Christianity, which started with the death and resurrection of Jesus, made it possible for individuals to begin with the first stage of salvation, which is law in the heart. In contrast, Judaism begins with the second stage of salvation through Torah (an organized set of actions that leads to a form of righteousness) applied by the group and individual Jews become individually saved as they personally add the first stage of salvation.

That brings us to Romans 11, where Paul says, “I say then, they [the Jews] did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be! But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” (NASB)

Unfortunately most Jews chosen to view Torah from the Mercy perspective of culture and racial superiority. This had two historical results. On the one hand, scientific thought did not emerge. It could have emerged in Alexandria just before the time of Christ, but it did not. (That idea is pursued further in this essay.) Thus, the Old Testament Jews failed as a nation to act as a light to the rest of the world. On the other hand, Jewish practice of Torah did provide sufficient Teacher understanding to act as a basis for Christianity, and provided a culture within which incarnation could live in a righteous manner. (Notice how often Jesus says that he only does what he sees the Father doing, which is a description of righteousness.) Thus, the Jews may have failed as a nation, but there was sufficient cognitive development to found a new religion upon a higher level of cognitive development, upon individual faith and theology rather than corporate action and praxis. In the language of Piaget, while the Jews were stuck mentally at the concrete operational stage, Christianity with its theology could begin to function at the formal operational stage. Moving forward, I suggest that Christianity is also doing a poor job of carrying out its mission. Christian doctrine, together with the atonement of Jesus makes it possible for personal identity to be guided by abstract understanding. As Wright says, Paul invented theology. But Christianity has only partially reached the goal of using rational understanding to transform childish identity. Instead, the secular world has followed a partial version of the Christian message of personal salvation, transforming the physical world but not people. One can see this partial solution in the approach of Wright. He talks repeatedly about basing Christianity upon theology rooted in the concept of a monotheistic God. And he says that ‘one should bring every thought captive to the knowledge of God’. But proclaiming a monotheistic God and saying that everything should be integrated, is not the same as actually integrating all knowledge around the mental concept of a monotheistic God.

This is where the Jews still have a valid role to play in the divine plan today as a chosen people. The Jewish focus on divine structure leads the Jew in the direction of scientific thought, which explains why so many Jews win Nobel prizes. In addition, Israel is currently a hot bed of technology (as well as a hotbed of racism, ethnic superiority, and chutzpah). All of this applies to Jews as a group. The individual Jew still has to be saved by adding personal faith to corporate Torah. But as long as Christianity remains pseudo-intellectual and is not formulated as a general Teacher understanding, it will be despised by the average Jew as intellectually inferior. However, if Christianity were formulated as a rational Teacher theory, and if Christians followed the path of personal salvation sufficiently to extend the partial success of science and technology to the subjective, then this would attract the attention of Jews as a group. In Paul’s words, “I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11:25,26). This does not mean that every Jew will instantly become a Christian. Rather I suggest this describes a paradigm shift in which Jews as a group realize that they have been skipping the first stage of personal salvation. This paradigm shift will be triggered by jealousy, because the Jews will see for the first time a ‘chosen group’ of individuals who are more successful than they are. Theory suggests that such a paradigm shift would cause many Jews, not necessarily to convert to Christianity, but to accept Jesus as their Savior and Messiah. Notice that one is not talking here about comparing the two religions of Judaism and Christianity, because that adopts an us-versus-them Mercy-based attitude, precisely what one is attempting to avoid. Rather, the real question is how to add the first stage of salvation (law in the heart) to a group of people who have been taught to skip the first stage and start with the second stage of righteousness. That is not a parochial question of religious preference, but rather a universal matter of cognitive development.

I should add that when Christian fundamentalism is combined with a Judaism rooted in racial superiority, then the results are not pretty. One often sees this combination in the ‘messianic Jew’. Such an individual can view himself as doubly chosen, doubly superior to the Gentile non-Christian. However, observation suggests that he is actually doubly bound, mentally imprisoned in two rigid systems. Similarly, when right-wing American Christian fundamentalism combines with Israeli hyper-nationalism at the group level, then the end result is hatred and war and not the building of God’s kingdom. In contrast, if a Christianity of personal transformation guided by general understanding were to be combined with a Judaism of research and development in the wonders of natural creation and cognition, then I suggest that the result would truly be ‘life from the dead’.

Summarizing, Judaism begins with the second stage of personal salvation while ignoring the first. The focus is upon Server actions and the righteousness of the group. Christianity, in contrast, starts with the first stage of personal salvation while ignoring the second. The focus is upon Perceiver truth and personal change but instead of constructing the concept of a universal God, the average Christian proclaims it. And instead of being guided in righteousness by a concept of God, the average Christian (including Wright) does not understand the concept of righteousness. These are not two separate families but rather two aspects of a single family, each emphasizing a different part of a single integrated message. And the way to bridge these two branches of the same family is to complete the connection between the first and second stages of personal salvation, which means constructing an adequate concept of God.

Wright responds to the idea of Israel ‘being saved as a group’ by saying that “a majority of exegetes today have held Paul to be saying, basically, four things. First, he announces a new ‘mystery’, in addition to what has already been said and perhaps even trumping or contradicting some of it. Second, the content of this ‘mystery’ is that the ‘hardening’ on the majority of ‘Israel’ is only temporary, and that it will in the end be removed, allowing those formerly ‘hardened’ to come to be saved in a large group. Third, this large group will be added to the presently existing Jewish ‘remnant’, this total (and totally Jewish) group being what Paul means by ‘all Israel’. Fourth, the parousia of Jesus will be the time when, and perhaps also the means by which, this will happen...I wish to argue, not for the first time, against all four of these points” (PFG, 1231).

Looking at the first point, Wright says that Paul cannot be talking about a new mystery. “It is highly unlikely that when Paul says ‘I do not want you to remain in ignorance of this mystery’ he is referring to a new ‘mystery’, a secret piece of wisdom or doctrine which he is about to reveal” (PFG, 1232). Instead, “What Paul describes as a mystērion in Ephesians 3 is what he has spent half the previous chapter spelling out in detail, namely the coming together of Jews and Gentiles in a single body. This is not a new point, then, but a drawing of attention to the depth and power, to the heaven-and-earth nature, the fresh revelation, of the point just made” (PFG, 1235).

I agree. However, what exactly is happening when Jews and Christians become united under a single paradigm, as I am suggesting? This describes precisely the mystery to which which Paul repeatedly refers, ‘namely the coming together of Jews and Gentiles in a single body’.

Secondly, Wright questions the concept of temporary hardening. “By the same token, the notion of ‘hardening’, as we have seen it developed in chapters 2 and 9, and as Paul expresses it again in 2 Corinthians 3, does not of itself encourage the idea that this ‘hardening’ is a temporary condition to be followed by an automatic unhardening...Much as we might like to hope for a sudden universal unhardening, this is simply not how the notion of ‘hardening’ itself functions. As we saw, the ‘hard and impenitent heart’ of 2.4–5 was what came about when the ‘kindness’ of God, meant to lead to repentance, was refused, so that the ‘hardening’ was the prelude, not to a sudden mercy despite the lack of repentance, but to judgment” (PFG, 1237).

And Wright wonders why Paul would have such anguish for his people if the hardening is only temporary. “If, after all, Paul really did believe that those at present ‘hardened’ would sooner or later be rescued by a fresh divine act (perhaps sooner, if he did indeed expect the parousia in a short time), then why the tears? Why the unceasing anguish of heart? Why the heartfelt prayer for ‘their’ salvation, and the careful exposition of what it would take to bring that about (10.1–13)?” (PFG, 1238).

However, the book of Jonah describes precisely a situation in which God judges Nineveh because of their sins and then changes his mind when they repent. Besides, the idea of ‘automatic unhardening’ assumes that Israel and the world today are the same as Israel and the world in the time of Paul. Jews today are at the forefront of rational and scientific thought. Science did not exist during the time of Paul. Similarly, thanks to psychology and neurology we now know a lot about what it means to be ‘transformed by the renewing of the mind’, knowledge that did not exist during the time of Paul. Kuhn says that a new paradigm is often accepted only by the next generation of scientists, while we are looking here at the distant descendents of the initial group that was hardened. Given enough time and sufficient generations, even obstinate scientists can accept new ways of thinking. This explains Paul’s tears. The hardening will eventually end, but how many generations will it take for this to occur, and how many people will have to suffer before a new paradigm emerges that makes it possible for Jews to view their Messiah from a different perspective?

Third and fourth, Wright complains that “So strong has the majority view been that it has simply been assumed, not usually argued, (a) that this refers to a new event over and above anything yet described, (b) that ‘all Israel’ here can only refer to Jews, (c) that this may therefore refer to a mode of salvation other than that described in 10.1–13 or envisaged in 11.14, 23, and (d) that this will take place at the parousia” (PFG, 1239).

In contrast, I suggest that Paul is referring to a new corporate event experienced by Jews. When the Christian message is translated into a form that is consistent with the local culture then people often do convert en masse. The classic modern example is the story of Peace Child by Don Richardson. This does not describe a new mode of salvation, but rather a translation of the existing mode of salvation, just as Don Richardson translated the concept of atonement into the language and culture of the Sawi people. The word parousia means appearance. Thomas Kuhn says that when people adopt a new paradigm then they literally see things that they did not see before. The world may not have changed, but it appears completely different.

The Resurrection of Jesus

Wright says that the death and resurrection of Jesus plays a central role in theology of Paul. Describing this in more detail, “As with monotheism and election, so with eschatology: Paul’s complete vision of what lay in the future, and of how that hope had already been ‘inaugurated’ in the present, can be comprehended in terms of the modification of Jewish eschatological beliefs by means of (a) Jesus as the crucified and risen Messiah and (b) the gift of the spirit. Of course, there is a sense in which Paul’s theology is ‘eschatological’ through and through – not that he spent all his time talking about the future, but that all his thinking, on all key topics, was shaped by his belief that in Jesus, and especially in his death and resurrection, the expected ‘end’ had come forward into the middle of history, and that by the work of the spirit, implementing the achievement of Jesus, the long-awaited renewal was already starting to take place. This has been clear throughout the previous two chapters. In both monotheism and election, something promised in Israel’s scriptures, and hoped for in the second-Temple period, had now, already, come true – albeit in a new and shocking form” (PFG, 1046).

In other words, there will be a ‘divine righteous judgment’ in the future in which everyone receives physical resurrection. For Jesus, this future resurrection has already occurred, which means that Jesus’ resurrection is a foretaste of what will eventually happen to everyone, a glimpse of the future brought into the present.

This concept makes sense, however if one understands the process of personal salvation, then I suggest that it is possible to take it much further. Stated simply, I suggest that the partial illustration of the process of personal salvation provided by science and technology also provides a glimpse into the future. The process of personal salvation has three major stages: law-in-the-heart leading to a Teacher-based concept of God, sanctification in which a person becomes righteous by acting in a way that is consistent with his concept of God, and dying-to-self where a person dies to his old nature and acquires a new personal identity that lives in the structure of truth and righteousness that was constructed during the first two stages. One finds these same three stages in the development of science and technology. During the scientific revolution, thinkers such as Galileo and Newton looked for universal natural laws in order to build a Teacher-based understanding of the physical world. During the industrial revolution, Server actions and skills that had been guided by culture were replaced with actions and skills that were guided by a rational scientific understanding of the physical world. Finally, during the consumer revolution (which started around 1880), normal life was transformed by new gadgets as people started to live in a new world of personal convenience. I am not suggesting that all scientists were Christians, though many were. I am also not suggesting that people were personally transformed. (Newton, for instance, was not a nice person.) What I am suggesting is that the physical environment was transformed by taking the Christian message of personal transformation and applying it to the physical world. Thus, when it comes to science and technology, I suggest that we are already living in a partial realization of the future resurrection.

As I have already suggested, this means that we do not have to view the future resurrection as something utterly mysterious about which nothing can be said, as Wright does. “God’s recreation of his wonderful world, which began with the resurrection of Jesus and continues mysteriously as God’s people live in the risen Christ in the power of his Spirit, means that what we do in Christ and by the Spirit in the present is not wasted. It will last all the way into God’s new world. In fact, it will be enhanced there. I have no idea what precisely this will mean in practice. I am putting up a sign post, not offering a photograph of what we will find once we get to where the signpost is pointing” (SH, 208).

Instead, we can acquire the type of thinking is needed to live in a resurrected world by gaining a scientific education and learning how to use technology. We can learn cognitive principles by studying how science transformed the world and use these principles to understand Scripture. We can observe how people respond to new technology and learn what it feels like to live in a transformed world. We can gain from quantum mechanics and relativity a clue as to what a transformed universe might be like. But this means going beyond the narrow expertise of a historical exegete.

In a similar manner, the average citizen of Paul’s time would have gained a partial understanding of the new religion of Christianity by looking at the partial example provided by the Roman emperor and the Roman empire. Wright explores this parallel between Lordship of Jesus and the Lordship of the Caesar in some detail. “Paul understood the nascent church to be living within a long story, that of Israel itself. After many apparent disasters and wrong turns, this story had finally been brought, by a massive (‘apocalyptic’!) act of fresh divine grace, to the decisive and climactic fulfilment which had been envisaged from the beginning and which, despite ongoing disappointments, had been promised repeatedly thereafter. Israel’s long history had at last reached its royal conclusion, even though nobody had imagined that the Messiah would himself be crucified and raised from the dead to attain his enthronement. But, as we saw in chapter 5, at exactly the same point in time the Roman world was being taught to understand its own history in a new way, which corresponds uncannily to this strange, and now strangely fulfilled, Jewish narrative. Horace, Livy and above all Virgil had celebrated the rise of Augustus as the unexpected royal climax to the long history of republican Rome, producing a new world order of peace, justice and prosperity...There cannot, in the last analysis, be two parallel eschatological narratives of world domination. Either the history of Rome provides the true story, with Christian faith content to shelter, as a ‘permitted religion’, under its banner. Or the history of Israel, climaxing in the crucified and risen Messiah, must be seen as the true story, with that of Rome, however much under the overarching divine providence, as at best a distorted parody of the truth” (PFG, 1281).

I think that this is a significant point, however I suggest that it is important to approach it from a Teacher perspective rather than a Mercy perspective. Mercy thought thinks in terms of tribes, cultures and competing groups of people (That is how childish Mercy thought thinks. When childish MMNs are transformed by Teacher understanding, then MMNs interact on the basis of love.) seeing Rome and the Caesar as a competitor to the church and Jesus adopts the childish Mercy perspective of cultural conflict, of ‘us versus them’. A Teacher perspective, in contrast, looks for general patterns. The Roman empire may have been a counterfeit kingdom, but it made the two concepts of incarnation and a universal monotheistic God thinkable. It provided a mental pattern that could act as the framework for a new general understanding. Just as the understanding and experience of current science and technology turns the idea of a new heaven and earth from a vague undefined vision in the future into something that can be discussed and analyzed, so understanding and experiencing the Roman empire turned the idea of Jesus’ new kingdom from a vague undefined vision in the future into a known concept that could be discussed and analyzed.

First, people experienced, at least to some extent, what it was like to live in a society that was guided by universal Teacher structure rather than purely by Mercy status. The Roman Empire brought the order-within-complexity of law, stability, trade, commerce. Living as a Roman citizen within this Teacher-based structure was vastly different than living as a barbarian under the thumb of some Mercy-based tribal chief. As Wright says, “Only Rome could claim a worldwide ‘obedient allegiance’ at the time of Paul’s writing. Only of Caesar did people tell the glowing narrative of how he had come to be hailed as kyrios or sōtēr. Only of Augustus’s empire did poets sing of a story hundreds of years old now arriving at its royal climax and bringing justice, peace and prosperity to the world. These were the claims that were etched in marble, stamped on coins and celebrated in public festivals in precisely the world where Paul announced Jesus as lord, where he spoke of the gospel-shaped and gospel-revealed new world of justice and peace. However much Paul believed that Caesar’s claims had been overturned in the fresh apocalypse of the cross, they remained the public and powerful manifestation of the powers that had ruled the world” (PFG, 1318).

Second, while the typical Greek or Roman God was merely a larger version of the average human, driven by the same childish MMNs. the Emperor-as-God was something different, relating the human Caesar to the universal law and order of the Roman empire. Again, I am not suggesting that ancient Christians should have sacrificed to Caesar, just as I am not suggesting that current Christian should worship at the shrine of consumerism. However, in both cases, I suggest that one should regard the secular kingdom as a partial, incomplete illustration of God’s kingdom rather than as the enemy. To some extent, Wright recognizes this principle when discussing Rome. Unfortunately, he does not recognize this principle when discussing the Enlightenment and scientific thought.

Romans

Wright builds much of his theology upon an analysis of the book of Romans. Earlier on, we examined Roman 7-8 from a cognitive perspective. I would like to conclude this essay by taking a brief look at Romans 1-6. This is not a complete analysis but rather is meant to provide a preliminary cognitive framework for a more detailed look. As before, I will describe the cognitive principle, refer to the associated verse or verses and allow the reader to connect the two.

Before we begin, I should mention that I have found the analogy of school and a system of education to be very helpful in understanding justification and sanctification. Therefore, I will be referring extensively to this analogy. I am not suggesting that one must attend university in order to become a mature Christian. And, when I talk about developing abstract thought, I do not mean becoming fluent in math and physics. Wright explains this fairly well. “The Messiah’s people, he often insisted, were to be ‘transformed by the renewing of the mind’. Thinking clearly about God and his purposes was not just an intellectual luxury, an indulgence for long winter evenings. It was part of the solid ground upon which the single, central worldview-symbol would stand firm. The renewed people of God were to be renewed in their minds, learning to think in a way that was given, for the first time ever, the task of sustaining a worldview. To be clear: as we have seen, ‘worldviews’ are things you look through, not at. They are things you take for granted. My point here is that in order for the worldview to remain in place Paul believed it was necessary for the Messiah’s people constantly to explore and think through the actual object of their faith, in other words, God himself, his purposes and his promises. Wisdom, prior to this a luxury for the leisured, was now offered to the slave, the shopkeeper, the housewife.” (PFG, 404) This describes a form of education that everyone can pursue, a form of abstract thought that extends far beyond learning to manipulate mathematical equations.

I should also mention that I will connecting the biblical term ‘God’ with a general understanding in Teacher thought. That is because a mental concept of God emerges when a general understanding in Teacher thought applies to personal identity. I am not suggesting that God is only a mental concept. However, a mental concept that is based in a universal understanding in Teacher thought has characteristics that match the description of God the Father in the Bible. (This correspondence is analyzed more detail here.) This leads to the hypothesis that a real God is similar to a mental concept of God. (This explains the biblical concept that man is made in the image of God.) In addition, the inherent ‘sneakiness’ of TMNs means that when a person’s concept of God turns into a TMN, then this will warp interaction with any real God. Thus, not only does the correspondence between a Teacher-based mental concept and a real Father God appear to be scripturally accurate, it also appears to be cognitively unavoidable.

We will start at chapter 1 verse 16.

Paul is building his mind upon the TMN of ‘the gospel’ even when is not respected by the MMNs of culture and identity. That is because a TMN based in a universal understanding of God can transform personal identity. This ‘gospel’ may have started as a religious message, but it is actually a universal understanding that can be stated in either religious or secular language. (1:16)

This TMN is revealed gradually. Each new aspect of Teacher understanding must be applied through Server action in an intrinsic manner (faith) that follows internal understanding rather than external guidelines. Whenever one acts in a way that is consistent with understanding in the absence of external clues, then one will gain further understanding. (1:17)

However, if one does not act in a way that is consistent with the understanding that one has, then this will create an inconsistency between personal actions and verbal understanding, leading to negative Teacher emotions. (1:18)

A mental concept of God is based in universal principles. There are universal cognitive principles, and there are universal natural laws. Ignoring universal laws has inescapable consequences, because the laws are universal. (1:19,20)

1) The first step downhill is to have a general understanding of the nature of God in Teacher thought and choose to ignore it (not honor), or fail to recognize that good experiences in Mercy thought require an underlying foundation of Teacher understanding (not thankful). This type of response will twist Teacher understanding and prevent Teacher understanding from shining upon childish Mercy identity. (1:21)

Instead of recognizing the existence of universal principles, people will view themselves as a source of understanding. But when people become the source of their own understanding then there is no longer any way of distinguishing truth from error. (1:22)

A general Teacher understanding leads to Platonic forms that are more idealized and more perfect than reality. Reality is never perfect. Therefore, if basic values are based in reality rather than Platonic forms, then one is choosing a standard that is by definition imperfect. (1:23)

2) When Platonic forms no longer act as the ultimate guide, then childish MMNs will be free to rule unimpeded, causing the MMNs of society to become corrupted. Using a school analogy, when mature adults control the classroom, then there will be a healthy learning environment. But when the students are allowed to control the classroom, then the environment itself will disrupt learning. When the mind is ruled by childish MMNs, then Perceiver thought will become emotionally overwhelmed and will be unable to evaluate information, distinguish truth from error, or discover universal principles. (1:24)

3) Perceiver thought builds connections between Mercy experiences. When Perceiver thought is unable to function in the presence of emotional pressure, then the mind will begin to fragment. The primary fragmentation is the split between male and female thought. The male mind naturally emphasizes Perceiver facts and Server sequences while downplaying emotions. The female mind lives within the emotions of MMNs and TMNs while downplaying facts and sequences. (There is good psychological evidence for this distinction.) Mental wholeness requires the cooperation of male and female thought. When the male side of thought becomes separated from the female side of thought, then ‘female’ intuition will no longer be guided by ‘male’ reasoning. Religion will become purely emotional and mystical with no doctrinal content. Art and culture will turn into an expression of personal feelings that rejects rational analysis. (1:26)

Similarly, instead of using facts and skills to build the TMNs of understanding and/or the MMNs of personal benefit, research become purely objective, driven by personal competition between researchers, and business will become driven by objective standards such as making money, driven by personal competition between businessmen. Similarly, instead of regarding games as a way of having organized pleasure, there will be a focus upon professional sports, in which people compete for the sake of competing. Eventually, both research and practice will become mentally twisted because those who began by attempting to ignore emotions will find themselves driven implicitly by unhealthy mental networks. (1:27) (Homosexuality may be an aspect of this, but I suggest that one is dealing with a cognitive split between male and female thought that is far more extensive.)

4) The very idea of universal Teacher understanding will become questioned. Research will be replaced by deconstructionism, and all information will be viewed as based in power groups. Similarly, no one will care about long-term benefits or about building a better society, but the primary goal will be to seek personal gain no matter what the cost to others or society. The result will be a completely fragmented mind, driven purely by childish MMNs, a dog-eat-dog world in which everyone is clambering over the other in order to achieve personal ‘success’. (1:28-31)

Even though everyone can clearly see that this type of society is personally destructive, people will still lift up fallen heroes as examples to follow. (Think, for instance, of the TV shows and magazines that expose the follies of the rich and famous while simultaneously giving them honor and status.)

Mental networks only become activated when they are triggered. Therefore, it is possible to suppress an unwanted mental network by making sure that is not triggered. When a person condemns another person, this indicates that the actions of the condemned person are triggering some unwanted mental network. Why is that unwanted mental network there? Because the person doing the condemning is in some way behaving in the same way as the person being condemned. (2:1-3)

God allows unwanted mental networks to continue existing in order to give people time to transform these mental networks. The individual who refuses to change his mental networks is setting himself up for a major internal crisis when the TMN of a general understanding becomes unveiled. (2:5)

What matters is the nature of core mental networks. Is a person being driven by long-term value and internal integrity, or is he suppressing truth and violating universal principles? When the TMN of a general understanding becomes unveiled, than those who suppressed Perceiver facts and violate Teacher understanding will experience major internal conflict, while those who pursued goodness will find inner wholeness and value. (2:6-11)

Childish MMNs by their very nature lead to death and fragmentation. A system of rules merely makes this inadequacy explicit. Knowing a system of rules makes no difference, what matters is whether the rules are being obeyed. (2:12-13)

Those who lack a formal system of rules are still guided internally by the interaction between Perceiver facts and personal identity within Mercy thought—by the internal struggle between rational thinking and rationalization. Eventually, this internal conflict will become externally obvious. (2:14-16)

Paul now describes the attitude of the Jew who regards his chosen status from a tribal Mercy perspective. Such an individual claims to belong to a special group that has been given special knowledge and has a special relationship to God. In other words, the TMNs of divinely inspired Torah are viewed as the servant of tribal MMNs. (2:17)

The tribal Jew is confident that his culture knows what Server actions are approved by God because his ancestors were given Torah by God. Because other cultures lack Teacher understanding and do not have the inside connection with God that he does, he tells others what to do, he corrects their errors, and he teaches them (2:18-20)

(A similar attitude can be seen in today’s fundamentalist Christian, who boasts that he is a Bible-believing Christian who knows God. Because he studies the Bible, he knows the will of God and what has eternal value. He preaches the Bible to the ignorant non-Christian who is walking in darkness, and he founds schools of biblical learning because he is convinced that the Bible is the source of absolute truth. The academic can also have a similar attitude. He boasts that he has a PhD and that he knows science. Because he has studied in university, he knows how the universe functions, and he knows universal truth. He imparts knowledge to the unlearned masses who walk in darkness, he founds institutes of higher learning because he is convinced that academia is source of universal truth. Notice that the problem with fundamentalism is not with the content of the Bible but rather with the attitude of the fundamentalist. I suggest that an air of superiority emerges when Christianity becomes defined as what the Bible says, instead of viewing the Bible as a description of universal cognitive principles. Similarly, the problem with academia is not with science or research, but rather with the attitude of the academic. I suggest that an air of superiority emerges when science becomes redefined as ‘how a group of scientists behave’ rather than as a study of how the world behaves. Therefore, I suggest that all the references to ‘tribal Jew’ in the next few paragraphs can refer also to the fundamentalist Christian and the academic snob.)

However, proclaiming the truth is quite different than applying the truth. The tribal Jew (or fundamentalist Christian, or academic snob) views Mercy status as the source of Perceiver truth and Teacher understanding. (My culture has Torah, given by God! My religion has the Bible, given by God! My community practices science, the key to understanding Nature!) When Mercy thought rules over Teacher thought, then Mercy categories between ‘us and them’ will be more fundamental than Teacher universality. Instead of viewing Teacher understanding as something that applies universally to everyone, it will be viewed as something that comes from us. This is a form of theft, because a group of people is stealing something that belongs to God. Truth and understanding belong to Teacher thought and TMNs, they are not the property of people and culture with their MMNs. (2:21)

The mind uses mental networks to represent people. Universal understanding comes from a TMN in Teacher thought, but the tribal Jew (and... and...) is submitting emotionally to the MMNs his culture rather than the TMN of a general understanding. Cognitively speaking, this is adultery, because one is being unfaithful to a mental network that represents a person. The tribal Jew is convinced that his Mercy source of truth is ‘holier’ than the Mercy-based idols followed by those around him. However, by associating Torah (or the Bible, or science) with his culture rather than with his concept of God, he is ‘robbing temples’. (2:22)

The person who proclaims absolute truth without submitting to this truth is dishonoring the concept of universal Teacher understanding. Those who look from the outside will observe this hypocrisy and respond by attacking the concept of God. (2:23-24)

Circumcision (or accepting Jesus in your heart) can be compared to being enrolled in an elite school. If one learns and applies what is taught in the school, then attending the school has value. But, if one refuses to learn what is taught, then one has not really enrolled in the school. (2:25).

Gaining an education is more important than attending an elite school. (It is not the piece of paper that you have hanging on your wall that counts but rather the education that you have acquired.) The one who acquires an education without attending an elite school will end up superior to the one who enrolls in an elite school but learns nothing. (2:27)

It is not the physical school that you attend but rather the internal school that counts. The real student is the one who has enrolled internally, who allows Teacher understanding guided by Platonic forms to transform personal identity. Such an individual is driven by intrinsic motivation based in the TMN of a general understanding rather than motivated extrinsically by the MMNs of status and culture. (2:28-29)

Are there any benefits to being given Torah (or the Bible, or science) by God? Is it good to be enrolled in an elite school? Yes. First of all, the textbooks and the curriculum are guided by general Teacher understanding. (3:1-2).

Even if students refuse to learn the material, this does not change the quality of the material being taught. The textbooks are not wrong just because students refuse to learn from them. (3:3)

The tribal Jew may confuse the TMN of his message with the MMNs of his culture, but it is important to realize that that these two are not the same. The content that is being taught needs to be judged on its own merits. (3:4)

This means that universal Teacher understanding is being proclaimed by people who do not know what it means to apply understanding. Because this message describes universal principles, those who violate this message will experience painful consequences, and when others see the hypocrisy of those who are proclaiming the message, they will think that God is playing favorites. But how else will people learn that the world and the mind are governed by universal principles? (3:6)

Why then is the tribal Jew (or fundamentalist Christian, or academic snob) being judged? After all, he is spreading the message of universal truth. Why not continue doing this? (3:7-8)

The point is that merely proclaiming God’s message of universal truth to others does not transform personal identity. Speaking the truth to others does not change me. (3:9)

The fundamental problem is that people are not applying their Teacher understanding. In fact, they do not really have a general understanding, and they are not attempting to construct a mental concept of a universal God. Because concrete action is not being guided by abstract understanding, concrete thought is pursuing useless goals. (3:10-12)

Teacher thought and Teacher words are being poisoned by childish MMNs. Speech is being ruled by Mercy divisions of us-versus-them and Server actions are being used to destroy ‘them’. No one knows what it means to be guided by Teacher integration rather than Mercy divisions, and no one is willing to submit the MMNs of childish identity to the TMN of a general understanding. (3:13-18)

Tribal Jews need to realize that the real audience for their message is themselves. They need to stop talking and start submitting personally to their mental concept of God. Unfortunately, this is not possible. That is because the untransformed mind is not capable of acting in a way that is consistent with Teacher understanding, but it is capable of recognizing that personal identity falls short of the universal standard. (3:19-20)

However, a new method of personal transformation has now emerged which does not depend upon following some system of rules. It starts with a general Teacher understanding that was revealed in the Jewish (and Christian) Bible (or in nature). One could compare this to the setting up of a school. The curriculum of this school reflects God’s righteousness, because it is based upon universal principles of how the mind and the world function, rather than upon how a group of people behave. Everyone can choose by faith to enroll in this school regardless of whether they are Jew or Gentile, religious or secular, and everyone needs to attend this school because no one is acting in a way that reflects universal Teacher understanding. (3:21-23)

Jesus Christ the incarnation set up this school. By enrolling in the school one can be declared righteous and one can receive the gift of education. In order to set up the school, Jesus the incarnation had to go through death and resurrection, making it possible for God to view sinful people in a new way and interact with them in a new manner. (3:24-25)

God had to set up the school in a way that was consistent with universal Teacher understanding. He could not declare a person righteous in a way that violated his own righteousness. The method of personal salvation by which childish identity is transformed by universal understanding itself has to be consistent with universal understanding. (3:26)

If the method itself is driven the TMN of general understanding, then there is no room for building upon cultural MMNs. This itself is a universal principle. (3:27)

God is not just a tribal God based upon the MMNs of Jewish culture (or a ‘religious’ God based upon the holy book of the Bible). Rather, God is universal and the new school of salvation is based upon universal principles that apply to everyone universally. (3:28-30)

Does school ignore rules? No. Rather, it teaches the general understanding that lies behind rules. (3:31)

Abraham was the founder of the Jewish nation. He may have followed the path of man’s righteousness and may have acquired good habits, but this did not lead to a general Teacher understanding. Instead, he started with some understanding in Teacher thought and then acted in a way that was consistent with this understanding. He believed that allowing Teacher understanding to guide Server actions would lead to beneficial Mercy results. The end result was ‘imputed righteousness’. (4:3)

Concrete thought applies Server actions to reach Mercy goals. This leads to a sense of cause-and-effect, or effort and reward. In contrast, the person who enrolls in school leaves concrete thought behind, he recognizes that he is being driven by ignorance, and he accepts the status of being a student. (Again, remember that we are looking at enrolling personal identity in an internal school of salvation guided by a mental concept of God and incarnation. This is similar to what a person does when gaining an education, but goes far deeper.) (4:4-5)

Emotionally speaking, this is a completely different way of functioning. Teacher thought looks for order-within-complexity, and it wants universal laws to apply without exception. The method of ‘works’ attempts—and fails—to follow the unreachable demands of Teacher thought. Teacher thought sees the chaos and imperfections of personal identity and responds by condemning childish personal identity. In contrast, the method of ‘justification’ prevents Teacher thought from viewing personal identity directly by covering it with some intermediate structure. The end result is that childish identity is no longer condemned by Teacher thought. (4:6-8)

Is this just a religious solution, or does it apply universally? It is universal because it worked for Abraham before Judaism began. Abraham did not have a general understanding, but he applied the understanding that he did have, believing that it would lead to good results. This defines what it means to enroll in school. One goes to school in order to gain a general understanding, believing that applying this understanding will produce beneficial results. The concept of school is a universal concept that is more basic than any specific school system, such as Torah, the Bible, or University. (4:9-12)

It is not the school system that makes it possible to transform the concrete world of Mercy experiences, but rather the cognitive step of allowing Teacher understanding to guide Server actions. Being guided by Teacher understanding is totally different than following some system of rules within concrete thought. If following a system of rules were sufficient, then there would be no need for school. (4:13-14)

Rules demonstrate the inadequacy of childish concrete thought. (4:15)

What matters is allowing personal identity to be guided by universal understanding (faith), so that understanding can provide benefits for personal identity (grace). This relationship is itself a universal principle, and the person who personally submits to this principle is allowing personal identity to be guided by universal understanding. Teacher thought is capable of transforming childish MMNs and makes it possible to create totally new Mercy experiences. (4:16-17)

God promised Abraham that he would have many descendents. But Abraham and Sarah were physically too old to have children. However, Abraham believed God’s promise that he would have children—that he would experience physical, personal benefits. There was no ‘school’ for Abraham to attend, but what Abraham did was like attending a school, in which one submits personal identity to a general Teacher understanding, believing that this will lead to a transformed personal identity. Because of this similarity, Abraham was given imputed righteousness. Like building a habit, ‘growing strong in faith’ does not occur instantly. Instead, one builds Perceiver and Server confidence step by step as one chooses to walk in the path of faith. However, this is not a struggle to reform the MMNs of childish identity. Rather, the starting point is the TMN of a verbal understanding and the struggle is to add Server actions and Perceiver facts to this new TMN. (4:18-22).

Christianity is based upon a similar method, in which one is declared righteous when one accepts Jesus as Lord and believes that God raised Jesus from the dead. Cognitively speaking, incarnation translates between general understanding in Teacher thought and personal identity in Mercy thought. (This is discussed in other essays.) Incarnation is like the curriculum of a school, because it is both an abstract system of knowledge and a concrete path of learning. (Incarnation ties together abstract Contributor thought and concrete Contributor thought.) When a student enrolls in a school, he believes that the understanding that he gains will make it possible for him to reenter the concrete world as a transformed individual. On the one hand, the student is being justified, or declared righteous, because he is now viewed by Teacher thought as a student of the school. On the other hand, the student is being given imputed righteousness, because as he goes through the school, he must continue to gain new understanding, applying this understanding, and believe that he will eventually graduate. (4:23-24)

Using the school analogy, Jesus himself was condemned because everyone was ignorant and a school did not exist. Jesus was resurrected in order to set up the school. (4:25)

When a person enrolls in the school of salvation, this removes the emotional conflict between Teacher understanding and childish Mercy identity, because the student is now part of a program of education, and a program of education exhibits Teacher order-within-complexity. Personal identity will now start to receive the benefits of being guided by a Teacher understanding (grace), and Mercy thought will begin to find pleasure in imagining how understanding can transform reality (hope of the glory of God). (5:1-2)

School is a restrictive environment, but one needs to find pleasure in this environment. One must continue to remain in this narrow world, and one must be repeatedly tested to ensure that one has learned the material. As Teacher understanding is internalized, this creates Platonic forms within Mercy thought that give internal glimpses of how things could be (hope). As these Platonic forms become tied together by a universal Teacher understanding, then one is no longer driven only by the TMN of general understanding also by the MMN of a concept of the Holy Spirit. One begins to grasp that understanding makes a new form of social interaction possible that is based upon cooperation and love rather than competition and domination. (5:3-5)

When the conditions were right, then Jesus the incarnation went through death and resurrection in order to set up a school of salvation for those who were ignorant and childish. God in Teacher thought shows that he loves personal identity in Mercy thought by having incarnation go through death and resurrection in order to set up a school of salvation for childish individuals whom Teacher thought finds repulsive. (5:6-8)

If enrolling in the school of salvation transforms the relationship between Teacher thought and childish Mercy identity, then surely learning the material will save students from the painful consequences of violating universal laws. If the death and resurrection of incarnation made it possible to become enrolled in school of salvation, then surely following the plan of incarnation by studying at this school will lead to personal salvation. Students of a school can now take pleasure in understanding, and can find joy constructing a mental concept of God. (5:9-11)

Childish MMNs lead naturally to personal, societal, and physical fragmentation, and because everyone begins life with childish MMNs, everyone experiences this fragmentation. However, a person who is immersed in the MMNs of his culture will not be aware of the flaws of that culture. Personal and societal shortcomings become apparent when a system of rules is set up. Moses and the system of Torah set up an alternative system of mental networks that made it possible to view and evaluate the MMNs of culture. (Similarly, the best way to understand one’s own culture is to live for a while in another culture. However, if all cultures are equally driven by childish MMNs, then the only way to gain an outside perspective is by introducing a TMN rooted in an organized system of actions.) (5:12-14)

One can compare the effects of childish MMNs with the result of a TMN introduced through a school of salvation. Teacher thought wants universal rules to apply without exception. Therefore, as soon as childish MMNs drive a person to start violating the rules, Teacher thought will reject Mercy identity, leaving childish Mercy identity free to continue on its destructive path. In contrast, the path of education can learn from failure. It is the individual who recognizes that he is a failure who gains the most from enrolling in school. Saying this another way, one cannot teach a person who thinks he knows everything. A school curriculum packages Teacher understanding in a way that can be received by the individual (abundance of grace) and makes it possible to apply this understanding (gift of righteousness). Education can transform society. (Again, current education only illustrates this partially. We are looking here at a more complete form of education. However, the principle still applies and historically speaking, most systems of education began as branches of the church (5:15-17)

In the same way that violating Teacher understanding leads to a mental split that results in societal and personal chaos (as described in Romans 1:19-31), so acting in a way that is guided by Teacher understanding can also spread. A system of rules makes it obvious that childish MMNs are inadequate, and rules increase violations because Exhorter thought, which drives the mind, is attracted by the novelty, excitement, and mystery of ‘forbidden fruit’. However, when people realize that they are violating the rules, then they also become teachable, making education possible. (5:18-20)

One sees here the three stages of salvation. Law in the heart gives grace, as the Mercy pain of personal honesty is replaced by the Teacher pleasure of a general understanding. Grace reigns through righteousness, as Teacher understanding guides Server actions. This leads to eternal life as personal identity is reborn. This entire path is guided by incarnation, the founder (concrete Contributor thought) and curriculum (abstract Contributor thought) of the ‘school of salvation’. (5:21)

[ I am probably missing some significant parallels between Adam and Jesus. Again, I emphasize that this is an initial attempt to explain this passage.]

If a sense of personal inadequacy motivates learning, why not continue to fail so that one can learn more? This is stupid, because the whole goal of education is to become educated and not to remain ignorant. One enrolls in school in order to die to childish stupidity. (6:1-3)

The school of salvation has been set up in such a way to take the student through the process of death and resurrection. If one allows childish identity to die in school, then a new identity will emerge. If childish MMNs fall apart, then they will no longer drive personal behavior, and one will no longer think and act like a child. (6:4-7)

A TMN that is based in universal understanding applies everywhere, by definition. Therefore, when one allows childish MMNs to fall apart, and when one builds personal identity upon the TMN of universal understanding, then it is only necessary to go through this process once, because the mind is now held together by universal truth that does not change. Notice that at this point in the process, the mind contains two incompatible sets of mental networks. There are the MMNs of childish identity, and there is the TMN of a general understanding. It is not possible to choose to suppress childish MMNs. But it is possible to choose to follow a TMN rather than childish MMNs. (6:8-11)

Because it is possible to choose between competing mental networks, one must decide not to follow childish MMNs, which drive the physical body to act in ways that are inconsistent with general Teacher understanding. Rather, one should start to form a transformed identity by choosing to actions that are guided by the TMN of general understanding. The goal is to stop being driven by childish MMNs, because one is no longer living within concrete thought but rather one should allow concrete thought to be transformed by abstract thought. (6:12-14)

This does not mean that following the rules is no longer important. That is because one is dealing with core mental networks that drive a person’s entire being. One cannot continue to choose between competing mental networks. Instead, the mental network that is chosen will grow at the expense of the other, and eventually it will no longer be possible to choose to follow the weaker mental network. If one chooses to follow the TMN of understanding, then one will become righteous, but if one chooses to follow childish MMNs, then one will fragment mentally. (6:15-16)

Those who used to be driven by childish MMNs are now being driven by the TMN of understanding. In the same way that one had no choice but to follow childish MMNs, so the TMN of understanding can become so powerful that one has no choice but to follow understanding. Just as childish MMN used to drive a person to seek instant gratification and violate the rules, so if one continues to allow the TMN of a general understanding to guide actions, then this will lead to sanctification. (6:17-19)

The person who is driven by childish MMNs has no concept of righteousness. There is no personal benefit in following childish MMNs because it leads to fragmentation and disaster. In contrast, the person who is irrevocably driven by the TMN of a universal concept of God acquires the character of being sanctified and obtains the Mercy benefit of eternal life. (That is because personal identity is now built inescapably upon universal, eternal principles.) (6:20-23)

Romans 7-8 were discussed earlier.