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Bad Elephant

• Greg Boyd

In the third installment of our Crux of the Matter series where we’re looking at how to have difficult conversations with those we disagree with, Greg furthers the discussion of the relationship between our conscious reasoning and our subconscious feelings and emotional based instincts. Although we like to think of ourselves as rational logic driven decision makers, research continues to show that much of our reasoning is ad hoc and only serves to reinforce our already existing opinions and desires. In this message Greg tackles why these findings don’t need to lead to a deterministic world view as well as how to resolve the tension between being created in God’s image being and also born with a subconscious that pushes us away from Kingdom values.

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In a cultural moment when everyone seems to be using the world they find around them as evidence for their own rightness, Christians have an opportunity to shine through in a distinctive Jesus-looking way. But in order to do this, we have to understand our own psyche and who is driving the preverbal bus inside our head. The human condition is one of being conflicted. As Paul notes in Romans 7:19-20, we often end up doing the things we don’t want to do while avoiding those things that we know would truly bring life. In this context, sin can be seen not only as an individual choice down a path that we know better, but also as this cosmic force or separate entity that creates a downward pull on all of us. It doesn’t excuse our actions, but it does help explain them.

We can liken the brain to an elephant that operates on emotions and feelings, as well as a rider trying to steer the elephant by reason and logic. Unfortunately, in evolutionary history, our metaphorical elephant wandered around developing neural pathways for survival for a long time before reason came in to the picture. Although we like to think of ourselves as rational, well thought out individuals, it turns out just not to be the case. The brain secretes pleasure chemicals when we take an action to that is helpful for our survival, and unfortunately that has reinforced many activities that are antithetical to our kingdom call. The elephant is going around where it pleases, and reason’s job often becomes just looking forward for obstacles and how to avoid them, as well as justifying past actions. Much of our thinking simply becomes a rationalization. Wherever we end up, it feels right, almost by design.

Anything that gets in the way or challenges the rightness of the elephant’s actions are seen as bad, and even mistakenly labeled as something that threatens survival. The amazing thing about the human brain though, and one reason we shouldn’t view this discovery in a fatalistic way, is that humans have the ability to ask a 3rd question: should the elephant get what it instinctively wants? Is the map the territory? Sometimes we don’t recognize this ability we have because to go against evolution is very difficult. The elephant is hard to turn. There has to be something we want more than what the elephant wants. It turns out that Godliness can and must be chosen. It doesn’t come naturally.

Elephants are master judgers as this has been an essential skill for survival. But what has changed for humans is that we have turned this ability into a ranker of peoples’ value and worth. We have elevated being right as the highest goal and therefore assume we can define reality based on our own desires. Since reason often follows the decision, the thinking goes, “since I want to go this way, then this is the way reality must actually be.” But we as Kingdom people must see that Calvary did away with all brokenness comparisons of worth. The accuser nature has been destroyed. We were sick and found a healer. We were sinners and found a savior, and there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.

So how do we reconcile being made in God’s image, but also having inherited such a messed up self-centered brain? It turns out that nature as we find it is not as God intended it to be. One way to look at creation and evolution is as a cycle of spiritual warfare where God creates, the enemy corrupts, and then God brings about good even despite the evil corruption. In this case, the Genesis narrative is not so much a videotape of exactly how things happened, but rather a description of the nature in which we find ourselves. We are created in God’s image with a desire to be with him, but also with a temptation to define reality based on our wants and get our life from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This story is a perfect representation for how we relate to our elephant.

A couple quick principles were shared to help us steer our metaphorical elephant in the right direction. The first is to continually be getting all our life from Christ. We need significance, worth, and love, and if we’re not getting it from Jesus we’ll seek it elsewhere. The rightness of our beliefs is a tempting replacement, but ultimately fails to satisfy. Getting more information will not change the direction of the elephant. We need to create a new, experienced reality in our imagination. Lastly, when talking with others we need to always make loving the other person a higher priority than being right. Paul tells us to “above all, clothe yourself in love,” and “let everything you do be done in love.” This is clearly to be our highest priority and is a way for the rider to steer the direction of the elephant little by little over time. This can create a big difference of the lifetime of an individual.

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Topics: Creation, Discipleship, Free Will, Imagination

Sermon Series: Crux of the Matter

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Focus Scripture:

  • Romans 7:19-20

    For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

  • Colossians 3:14

    Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

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2 thoughts on “Bad Elephant

  1. Greg says:

    I like your messages. Your a preaching machine. I think I heard you say that once. Your cool keep up the good work. Your friend In Christ.

  2. Jerry says:

    I’ve been really jazzed by the recent sermons and podcasts (Rehnew.org) and am adding my two cents in an attempt to connect some dots to (ALL) this good stuff from these two locations.

    Greg’s Podcast https://reknew.org/2020/05/does-god-read-my-thoughts-podcast/.

    Something about what Greg said about “the 7 pieces of information” rang a bell and with some research I found that was from a course, Theo-synergistic-Neuro-Transformation, Greg and Al Larson put together, which by the way Paul Edde was one of the teachers.

    From the course outline:

    The brain is bombarded by 100 million bits of information per second. If we did not have a way to eliminate this enormous amount of info we would live in total, mental chaos.

    The reticular activating system, base of your brain, deletes 98% of this information based on what you think is important, what you focus on most.

    The 2% or two million bits of information then get into the nervous system and the mind acts on it deleting, distorting, generalizing and organizing into 5-9 chunks of meaning. This Map is no Longer the territory.

    Meaning is determined by the beliefs that are installed. The subconscious mind, what the Bible calls the heart, acts on data up to 1/3000th of a second. The conscious mind operates, act on data, at 1/30th of a second. The subconscious mind is 100 times faster than the conscious mind.

    The subconscious mind acts on this vast amount of info automatically, robopathically, like a machine Proverbs 23:7. This is the reason the bible says watch your, Proverbs 4:23, innermost thoughts, pictures and words.

    Greg’s Podcast https://reknew.org/2020/05/do-you-have-a-simple-way-of-explaining-the-trinity-podcast/ has a connection with this.

    Adding to Greg’s thoughts on “both particle and wave”, consider fields (particles) as Jesus the Word the pattern of activity – and energy (wave) the Spirit as underlying the onward flow and expansive impulse – have a unified field (the Father) as speaker that transcends both as a creative trinity.

    The triune brain: subconscious reptilian (habits and procedural memory) – mammalian (emotion and learning) and conscious neocortex (higher functions such as sensory perception, generation of motor commands, spatial reasoning, conscious thought, language)

    Correlating the above two consider: Holy Spirit/Soul – Jesus/Body – Father/Spirit

    From the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, as Greg described, we know the future as open in that God knows it as possibilities.

    Greg’s Podcast https://reknew.org/2020/05/greg-boyd-chats-with-thomas-jay-oord-podcast/ about what God can and can’t do.

    Just a side Note: (nothing to do with what follows)
    In the podcast (at 15 min) Tom Oord considers the Big Bang was not from nothing but from a prior existing Universe. In a recent conversation with Al Larson he was toying with the idea “We are a portion of the fallen Angels that asked for a 2nd chance”. Correlating with Tom’s thinking leads me to the questions when and where? Moving on:

    God peruses us. We need to cooperate with God for a change. God can’t do it without our permission.

    In the sermon Bad Elephant Greg says that the reality of each now moment starts in our imagination.

    The Father, as the CREATOR of each now moment of the cosmos as a whole, brings all possibilities both good and evil to our imagination. Note: From the prior moment God takes every being’s say so and adds and subtracts from the two kingdoms.

    Jesus having experienced physical pain and human emotions, as REDEEMEER, provides a new set of patterns of only good possibilities.

    The Spirit uses this new pattern as its goal by deriving knowledge from the heart, as SANCTIFIER of your soul, and transforms evil patterns to the new, but only with your say so.

    Ephesians 6:12 for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

    From the course outline:

    Flesh and Blood become the final result (a deleted, distorted, generalized three dimensional holographic reference beam) only after the VALOG (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, olfactory and gustatory) object beam has been processed by the subconscious or conscious mind.

    As Jesus followers our reference, the beam of light that illuminates truth, comes from the Spirit and the word of God (Jesus). (End outline)

    From science successive levels of nested Holon hierarchies (morphogenetic fields) of self-organizing habit patterns, a collective memory which each level draws and contributes, are built up, maintained and inherited. Consider these as thrones, powers, rulers, authorities, principalities but both (good and evil).

    For material (particles) each level is a whole containing parts from atoms to molecules, organs, organisms, planets, solar systems to galaxies. (They are others oriented by nature but are affected by pattern realms of a different nature).

    At the cell level there are varying types (liver, bone, skin etc.) which are protein assembly and distribution facilities making 2000 proteins a second. Each protein is a string of several hundred amino acids, and an amino acid is a molecule having twenty or so atoms. A cell has 200,000 protein machine controlled opens with specific key format to accept specific materials, keep the bad stuff out and expel waste products. Messengers unravel the DNA for instructions on building the proteins and maintaining the protein equipment used in the manufacturing process. To insure accuracy there is a two-step (RNA) process organizing them into preselected strings, joining them together and checking to be certain each string is folded into specific shapes. This would be a type of morphogenetic field.

    Other habit patterns exist at social hierarchy’s example: self, family, club, group, board, church, race, gender, department, company, industry, political, economic, national etc. A given level could have millions of nested levels of behavioral habits.

    Emotional pattern realms are at the highest level example: fear, worry, jealousy, love, joy, peace etc.

    The habit power of these fields would increase as more conformed to, and in so doing, would also increase the hierarchies within, above and below as they correspond making it easier for other nested levels who follow to conform.

    Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.

    The patterns of this world are to subconsciously follow one another (mimetic theory) which leads to conflicts and rivalries, lording over one another, ending with putting me first and others second. Hell you might say.

    Tom Orrd, in the podcast (at 19.25 min), says he is neutral on demons and Satan. From that thinking if a morphogenetic field in the absence of anything conforming is neutral, then possibly we, by conforming are the Satan. Walter Wink would say these patterns have a corporate personality, an impersonal spiritual reality. I still could see then if a person perseverates over a given pattern of this world that over time they would be obsessed by it. Greg and N. T. Wright discuss this https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=iAwsBFBRGT4 (starting at 1.00.45)

    Jesus by living a sinless life, always doing the Father’s will, created a new set of patterns, a servants attitude of putting others first, the Kingdom of heaven. Christ fields, developing patterns, of sharing, community, cooperation, mutuality, healing, justice and peace.

    As Greg said we are transformed by thinking on: Philippians 4:8 whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

    That puts us in a conscious mode where we can hear God’s whisper; the first step in following Jesus is faith starting with HEARING.

    From the course outline:

    Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling of stress caused by holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a functional cognitive drive to reduce this dissonance by modifying an existing belief, or rejecting one of the contradictory ideas. (End outline)

    Consider the conscious is testing the subconscious and they are at odds. Romans 7 21-23 The battle field of the mind

    So we have a choice on hearing to continue following the pattern of this world or approve a change (DOING).

    We are very good at seeing the plank in one another’s eye however we have no idea of the root cause.

    Matthew 7:5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

    We have the same problem. We have no idea of the root cause. We need to work with the Spirit to locate the root cause and no longer conform to the old pattern of this world but by spiritual transformation, a repetitive new habit (21 days to make or break), disconnect and reconnect to the corresponding new pattern.
    Greg’s book – Escaping the Matrix – page 181 The Theater of life in Christ
    Note: (You can see the other exercises at the end of this post)

    Science can test the energy in the brain generated by thinking on Philippians 4:8 versus fear, worry, etc. It’s like comparing a laser beam to a flashlight. So when we install a new program in our subconscious belief system it disconnects us from a pattern of this world, with all the hierarchies, and reconnects us, at 1000 times the power, to this new pattern affecting all the hierarchies and increasing the kingdom.

    Jesus replaced the law and the prophets with one thing. As I have loved you (while you are yet sinners) you must love one another (while they are yet sinners).

    We are to have a servant’s attitude suffering our judgements for the purpose of winning a heart (another’s subconscious believe system). https://reknew.org/2020/05/how-can-we-be-free-given-the-infinite-variables-that-influence-us-podcast/

    When we take planks out of our own eye we increase the power of the kingdom. They will know we are Jesus followers by our love in an area where a plank is removed and because they are good at seeing planks they will notice this. This gives us an opportunity to tell them about what Jesus and the Spirit did in this area and invite them to follow Jesus to work on their planks. That’s really good news!

    One more thought: Greg’s Podcast https://reknew.org/2020/05/can-i-accept-jesus-after-death-podcast/

    Greg commented on Matthew 5:25-26 Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

    Greg commented that purgatory might be a name for that prison.

    We have an opportunity to change the patterns we are conforming to while we are yet on this earth or continue doing these things over and over until we die. I think we will get crowns for the patterns of this world we overcome but suffer loss for the ones we do not.

    C.S. Lewis in his book – The Great Divorce depicts we may spend time coming to the point of remorse for the pain we caused others and on the reverse side coming to the point of forgiving those who caused us pain.

    A big part of that loss will be the knowledge that put not overcoming these patterns we failed to settle matters and in so doing plant seeds in the kingdom but instead continued in these old patterns essentially making hell for one another. That’s a big loss in not moving the Kin Dom forward.

    As Greg said sin is not allowed in Heaven!

    So in the end death and hell (the patterns of this world) get thrown into the lake of fire and some of us until we come to the point of letting go (suffering loss).

    Jesus came to SAVE us from hell (our subconscious patterns of this world) a present reality NOT to send us there a future event.

    Escaping the Matrix (You can purchase this from Greg’s rack of books in the lobby)
    Exercise 1 – Assessing our Bondage to the Matrix – Page 24
    Exercise 2 – Becoming a Detective of Your Mind – Page 43
    Exercise 3 – Discovering the Modalities of Memory – Page 64
    Exercise 4 – Experiencing Jesus – Page 111
    Exercise 6 – Exercising Faith in Your True Identity – Page 137
    Exercise 7 – Silencing the Judger and Releasing the Lover – Page 158

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