Having the Mind of Christ, Ben Sternke and Matt Tebbe. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press/Formatio, 2022.
Summary: Looks at the changed paradigms one must understand to experience deep and lasting change in our lives.
If one is thoughtful at all about one’s Christian life, we grasp that somehow, this means becoming more like Christ in our attitudes, dispositions, and behavior. In short, it means change, even radical transformation in our lives. Catechesis, spiritual disciplines, and faithfulness in the ordinary are all a part of it. The authors of this book contend that along with these good things needs to come a transformed perspective–new paradigms, new ways of thinking grounded in how God engages with us in Christ.
The authors identify eight axioms that reflect this new way of seeing. In fact, they liken them to corrective lenses, that bring reality into focus for us. The eight axioms are:
Axiom 1: God Is Love, So It’s All About Love
Axiom 2: God Is Always Present and at Work
Axiom 3: God Is Just Like Jesus
Axiom 4: God Meets Us in Our Messy Reality
Axiom 5: God Cares About (All of) It More Than We Do
Axiom 6: God Does the Same Work Through Us and in Us
Axiom 7: God’s Love Always Reckons with Power
Axiom 8: God Transforms Us Through Embodied Participation
On the face of it, none of these statements seems earthshaking. Yet there is a certain “bluntness” in these axioms and fresh insight in the chapters that elaborate them that makes this come alive. For example to talk about God being love takes the authors into the idea that our lives are meant to be lived in loving communion with God–all the time, in all the ordinaries. For God to be always present and at work means we don’t have to persuade God to be working but to look for that presence and work. God doesn’t “show up.” He’s already there. I love the symmetry of God doing through us in the world what he is doing in us, but also recognize how we try to separate that work, bottling it up in us or trying to do in the world what we are not allowing God to do in us.
Perhaps the most challenging chapter is the one on God’s love always reckoning with power. The authors make the point that “God’s love is not powerblind.” They point to examples in the ministry of Jesus in which he recognizes power, redistributes power, and redefines power. They write:
“God’s love in Jesus works inside the current system of power to bring equity and justice to the marginalized and oppressed, while at the same time seeking to subvert and upend the current system of power that created the conditions for inequity and injustice to begin with. In other words, God’s love doesn’t simply put new people on the top of old oppressive hierarchies. God’s love seeks to topple the unjust hierarchies and show us how to live together in love, practicing justice and peace with one another to establish communion-in-love with one another and God” (p. 123).
Each chapter includes with an experiment of trust to help integrate the new paradigm into our lives. As the book concludes, the authors invite us into active trust, defining belief as acting as if something is true. They propose a cycle of compassionate awareness toward what is happening in our lives, bringing what we see of ourselves into creative alignment with what we see in the gospel and discern the lies we’ve believed and the truth to which we are called, culminating in cooperative action with God involving our embodied lives and relationships.
This is a helpful book not only for young believers but for those who have been following Jesus for some time. We easily take our eyes off God and make it about what we need, ought, or should do. Did you notice that each of these axioms begins with God as the subject who acts? Having the mind of Christ is having a mind centered on who God is and what God is doing in the world and with us, and in light of that, our only sensible response of loving, trusting, and acting in faith. And in that is the transformation we long for.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher.