This being the first post, I thought an introduction and statement of purpose would be fitting. I’m a white-collar professional in my mid-twenties with a penchant for philosophy and theology, based in the Midwest. I’ve been in the Church from birth and, up to now, have been relatively blind to the disservice that it’s doing to the men by permitting, even promoting, a lifestyle of mediocrity in all aspects of life. Instead, the Church ought to be equipping men to be all that they were created to be, and it is the aim of this blog to address that shortcoming from a theological perspective, which is a lens I have yet to see in the self-improvement sphere. That being said, there are many God-fearing men in this corner of the internet, but none that use the Bible as their primary source material, which is a shame because I believe that the Word is rich with both the motivation to become an exemplary man, as well as the concrete advice on how to do so. What follows is a breakdown of this site’s central passage, Mark 12:30, in the style that will be used for future content.
“And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.” Mark 12:30 (NLT). It’s a verse that gets a lot of play in sermons, on bumper stickers, and those cutesy text-art wall hangings. Unfortunately, those media often leave out any sort of definition of terms, leaving the consumer to wonder what exactly it means to love God in this way.
According to the doctrine of Divine Simplicity, God and his attributes are inseparable from one another – simply put, God is His attributes. From 1 John 4:7 & 8, we see that God is love, therefore, to love is to be like God. Thus, to love God, indeed, to love at all, is to be like Him. Fortunately, the Bible is not sparing on detail when it comes to describing God’s attributes. There has, fortunately, been much discussion about the nature of God’s attributes. Let us examine the features listed in the passage from Mark.
The first category of being which must reflect Godliness in order to obey the command made in Mark 12:30 is the heart. To properly understand what it means to align one’s heart with God’s, we must first understand what is meant by “heart” in the Scripture. It is clear that the Bible refers not to the physical organ in this passage – although, such references do exist, they are rare. Instead, the heart in this passage refers to the literary, metaphorical term – the essence of a man. As it is written: “As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man.” Proverbs 27:19 (ESV). So, what does it mean for the core of our being to align with the core of God’s being? At the risk of employing circular logic – it means that we should reflect the characteristics of God. We should strive to be like Him and, in our inevitable failings, rely upon Him to mold us into greater likeness to Him.
The next imposition levied in this passage is for us to cause our souls to conform to God’s soul – the realm of spiritual pursuit, a field of study that is well belabored in the contemporary Church. It is the soul which is the aspect of humanity that is referred to in passages like Genesis 1:27, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (NIV). God created a creature in His image, and that image resides in the soul. The pursuit of likeness to God in spirit is best illuminated in the passage from Galatians 5:22-23: “But the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (NIV). There are many excellent sermons on the Fruit of the Spirit, but which only address the temporal aspects of the Fruit, leaving their eternal ramifications, largely, unexamined. We will, in our endeavor here with this blog, explore the topic from an eternal perspective in depth.
The mind is the first criteria of likeliness to God which becomes viscerally impossible to attain. The previous categories are more nebulous and abstract – the concept of becoming like God in those areas doesn’t seem at all ridiculous. However, a human mind conforming to the pattern of God’s is utterly absurd. The human mind can’t even wrap itself around the concept of omniscience, much less attain it. And, make no mistake – God is all knowing. As it is written: “Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” Isaiah 46:9-10 (NIV). Obviously, this is a task far beyond even the comprehension of mortal man. Instead, we should strive for a comprehensive, rationally consistent, Biblical worldview, and absolute mastery over our chosen field. Not every man must be a theologian or philosopher, but every man ought to know what he believes and why he believes it. Men are to be kings of their house, (Ephesians 5:23). For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior (NIV)) and, as such, must establish the belief system within it. How can this be done if he does not know what it is that he believes? As well, not every man can or should be a corporate executive or hedge fund manager, but all men must strive to fulfill the potential which God has invested in him, for it is only by doing so that a man may be as like to God in mind as he may be.
Finally, we are call to likeness to God in strength. Again, this interdiction is unattainable. God is omnipotent, all things are arranged according to His will because it is His infinite power which makes it so. Mere man cannot hope to match this power; he can scarcely imagine it. Instead, as with our minds, we men must do the utmost with what we are given. We should, therefore, optimize our bodies to meet the work which God has set for us. As it is written: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV) This means that we must optimize our training and our diet to mold ourselves into the most capable versions of ourselves that we can: “Rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:7B-8 (NIV) Which is to say, we are to be warriors and train like it. We are the emissaries of God, his chosen instrument to portray His message and represent His glory in the world. It is impossible to do so well without being physically impressive. Like it or not, people judge God by His disciples. He promises us that when He calls us to be his ambassadors. No one wants to worship the God of weak men, and really, who desires weakness?
In summary, the Bible calls us to a higher standard. It is our privilege to pursue it. Remember: we are “more than conquerors.”
3 thoughts on “The Doctrine of Excellence”
I am so grateful to see a man of your young age addressing the Holy Scriptures; particularly, as they apply to God’s intention for his creation of male humans on this planet. Looking forward to future posts … vehoae
Looking forward to more