The good mental OS

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:1–2. ESV

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The screencap of me working on this. Pretty meta, huh?

Being a bit of a tech geek (amateur) means that I find different things interesting and exciting. As I now await with baited breath the coming of yet another permutation of MacOS, I was struck by how this provides some good insight into Romans 12.

When Paul says that we need to not be conformed to this world, it finishes the statement that we need to instead be transformed by the renewal of our minds, that by testing we may discern the will of God, what is good, acceptable and perfect. I’ve often only thought of this as a simple call to allow for Christian ideas to be the basis of my understanding, and not ideas that the world has. I was thinking that a Christian should simply have a list of beliefs about what is true, and then understand the world from that perspective.

In light of the above application, it seems that Paul is getting at something far more fundamental. The renewal of a mind isn’t just replacing one set of ideas for another, but is rather an alteration of the basic understanding of things around us. To use the computer analogy, it isn’t like changing programs on a computer, it’s like changing an operating system. It doesn’t necessarily change the things we think about, but it does change the way we think about the things we think about. In a good OS update, it can cause things to run more quickly and efficiently, and cause damaging programs to no longer do their damage. Some things cease to run, but many other things run and run better, and some new tasks even become possible.

Similarly, the Christian change Paul is talking about isn’t having the right opinions on specific moral and social issues, but instead working through all facets of our lives in a different way. The change is a fundamental one. Where we were once based on a worldly understanding which was fundamentally at odds with God’s truth, we begin to think from a different perspective, even when we are thinking things that kinda look like worldly ideas. Of course, this will mean that opinions that are sinful will work less and less readily on our new operating system, and new ideas, Godly ideas that we find in God’s Word, will begin to make more and more sense.

One would think that these verses, coming as they do right after Paul tells us to give our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, that we’d understand that the change in view here is a very profound one, not merely a change in surface opinions.
This also isn’t to say that the result is a mind that invariably comes to “Christian” opinions from the outset. If that were the case, Paul wouldn’t have to tell us that “by testing” we would be able to “discern” the will of God. The Christian mind doesn’t magically know what would be Godly, but instead works through the implications of an idea, an action, or a decision from a fundamentally altered mind.

There are important implications for this on a range of issues, from apologetics, to cultural contextualization, living your faith and evangelism. God willing, I’ll try to reflect on these over the next couple of days.

Author: Stephen Dawe

Steve is a part-time vocational elder Calvary Baptist Church, St. John's as well as a full-time student at Memorial University of Newfoundland, in the Religious Studies Department.