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BiblePolitics under God

Lorin Friesen, June 2015

John Redekop is a Mennonite political scientist. (I know him personally and respect him both as a scholar and individual.) His 2007 book Politics under God examines the relationship between church and state from an Anabaptist perspective. (The back cover of his book has an endorsement from Chuck Colson as well as from two Canadian Mennonite members of Parliament.) Redekop’s description of ‘what God requires of a government’ as well as his analysis of the interaction between church and state are both well thought out and consistent with the theory of mental symmetry, and I found this book useful for thinking through how mental symmetry applies to politics. However, this analysis appears to be constructed upon an inadequate religious foundation.

This essay will first examine Redekop’s analysis and show how it relates to the theory of mental symmetry. We will then turn our attention to the inadequate foundation and use mental symmetry to suggest a better foundation.

For those who are unfamiliar with the concept of mental networks, an introduction can be found here. Applying this to politics, social interaction can be regulated either by Mercy mental networks (MMNs) that represent people or by Teacher mental networks (TMNs) that represent general understanding. A mental network will impose its structure upon the mind when it is triggered. When MMNs are in charge, then government will be interpreted as submitting to the wishes of people who possess emotional status. This describes a dictatorship or a monarchy. Teacher thought wants general theories that apply equally to all specific situations without exception. Words form the basic building blocks for Teacher thought, and most Teacher theories are constructed out of words. Therefore, when TMNs are in charge, then government will be characterized by the rule of law, because there will be a collection of written regulations that apply equally to all citizens, regardless of social status.

Notice that government is being defined cognitively. In other words, citizens will naturally demand the type of government that corresponds to the way that their minds function. If most people’s minds are ruled by MMNs of personal status, then citizens will gravitate towards a corresponding political system, whether this political system leads to beneficial personal results or not. That is because a mental network generates strong negative emotions when it faces incompatible input. Therefore, choosing a political system that is familiar will take emotional precedence over choosing a political system that is personally beneficial.

A government that is ruled by MMNs has the following characteristics:

It is based in personal status. Those who have status make the rules, while those who lack status are ignored. This will lead to major inequalities in wealth, because the poor and the disenfranchised will be ignored. Those who are in power will employ a form of tribalism, supporting individuals with similar Mercy mental networks while suppressing individuals or groups with different Mercy mental networks. This is the case in many African and Asian countries, where government jobs and government benefits are given to those who belong to the same tribe as the leader of the country.

It is arbitrary . Perceiver thought looks for facts that do not change. When the mind is governed by MMNs, then emotional pressure can overwhelm Perceiver thought, leading to rules that can be overturned arbitrarily—or ignored—by individuals with social status. Thus, rules will only apply to the average person, while important people will be above the rules. In addition, one gets government assistance by interacting with the right person, and the chances of success can be improved by giving a gift (or bribe) to this person.

A government that is ruled by TMNs is quite different:

It is guided by Teacher thought. Words form the basic building blocks for Teacher thought. Therefore, written regulations play a larger role than important people. Teacher thought looks for general theories that apply to many situations, and Teacher thought feels good when rules apply without exception. Therefore, the Teacher emotion of a TMN provides a motivation to apply laws equally to everyone, as opposed to the Mercy emotion of a MMN which motivates making personal exceptions to rules.

It has Server stability. Server thought looks for sequences that are repeated. This can be done by writing words down, which results in written regulations as opposed to verbal decrees. Server thought also leads to regulations, which are sequences of behavior that are always carried out in a similar manner. When MMNs guide government, then one accesses government by finding the right person. When TMNs guide law, then one accesses government by carrying out the correct regulation.

It has Perceiver stability. Perceiver thought looks for facts that do not change. Therefore, when Perceiver thought is functioning, then rules will apply to all individuals equally regardless of personal status. In contrast, MMNs tend to overwhelm Perceiver thought because they are based in specific experiences and individuals. For instance, “I know that the rule applies to everyone, but can you make an exception in my case?”

MMNs of culture and status are placed within this Teacher guided structure. When MMNs are in charge, then personal status and cultural connections are dominant. When TMNs are in charge, then emotional importance is given to the institutions and structure of government, and individual people and cultures have secondary importance.

Laws that are universal may feel good to Teacher thought, but this does not necessarily mean that they produce beneficial personal results in Mercy thought. For instance, the premise of one 1970s science fiction movie was that everyone was killed at the age of 30. This is an extreme example of a law that applied to everyone but did not generate beneficial personal results. Saying this another way, it brought pleasure to Teacher thought while bringing pain to Mercy thought.

Immanuel Kant suggested in his categorical imperative that any behavior that has lasting personal benefits can also be stated in universal terms. For instance, it is possible for everyone to own a house or apartment, but it is not possible for everyone to travel the way that the president of the United States does (with a revenue of 500 people, including 200 Secret Service agents, and a cavalcade of 45 vehicles transported in a C-17 military plane). Similarly, it is possible for everyone to tell the truth, but it is not possible for everyone to lie, because if everyone attempts to lie, then no one will believe what is being said.

The problem is that the childish mind is naturally based upon MMNs that come from living in a physical body with physical feelings, and it is only in the teenage years that the growing child becomes capable of comprehending abstract theory. This can be seen by looking at Piaget’s stages of development. Thus, even though a government guided by MMNs is unpleasant, it is also cognitively natural, because childish minds are naturally driven by MMNs.

Redekop talks about a government guided by God. In order to interpret this statement, one needs to determine how the mind represents a concept of God. (I have had an e-mail exchange with Redekop over precisely this question of how one defines a concept of God.) Suppose, for instance, that I say that everyone is a servant of Fred and is accountable to Fred. In order for this statement have meaning, I must know who Fred is and how he thinks.

The mind uses Mercy mental networks to represent finite, human individuals. If one represents God as a Mercy mental network (MMN), then this leads to the concept of a superman-like type of god with a small ‘g’, the type of god that one finds portrayed in tribal religions and Greek mythology. In order to mentally represent a Christian monotheistic, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, and yet knowable God, one must use a TMN of universal understanding.

This needs to be repeated because it is a key point. Redekop lists twenty characteristics of a government that is doing what God requires (starting on page 70). His description of a good government portrays a system that is guided by Perceiver rules and Teacher understanding which produces beneficial Mercy results. If good government in the eyes of God means following TMNs and not MMNs, then this implies that following God means following TMNs and not MMNs.

What God Requires of Government

We turn now to Redekop’s twenty qualities of good government. With the exception of some minor changes in emphasis, I would fully agree with these characteristics.

“1) A government has the God-given responsibility to rule.” If government does not rule, then the result can be anarchy. Using cognitive language, the default is for people’s behavior to be guided by childish MMNs. The only way to stop this from happening is by replacing childish MMNs with another kind of mental network that is associated with a concept of God.

“2) The government should uphold the general good... They may not govern in a way that benefits only some people, typically a minority, while grossly neglecting or exploiting the rest of the population.” In other words, government should not be motivated by MMNs based in the desires of specific groups or individuals. Instead, government should be guided by Teacher mental networks that are based in universality.

“3) A government should see its role as a trust. Governmental officials are merely the officeholders... The office of government is bigger than they are. It continues indefinitely; their time in office does not!” Tribal government is based in the MMNs of specific people with emotional status, such as chiefs, dictators, and nobility. Redekop, in contrast, is describing a government that is guided by the MMNs of Platonic forms. When the mind is ruled by the TMN of a general understanding, then this will lead indirectly to the formation of Platonic forms within Mercy thought—imaginary idealizations of real experiences that summarize the perfected essence of real situations, such as the American dream or the invisible church. Because a Platonic form emerges when Teacher thought modifies Mercy memories, a Platonic form is more stable, more universal, and more perfect than specific situations and specific people.

Placing the MMNs that represent people within the framework of Platonic forms is a core aspect of transforming childish Mercy thought. As Redekop points out, government is a Platonic form that continues, while officials are specific individuals that temporarily occupy government positions. Thus, the president of a country is not given respect because of his personal status (in Mercy thought), but rather because of the status given to the office of president (an indirect result of Teacher thought).

“4) People in government are required by God to practice integrity and honesty... If government leaders lack integrity and honesty, all their promises and policies are of little consequence.” Using cognitive language, Perceiver facts and Teacher understanding should guide personal MMNs within the minds of government officials. That is because mental networks guide behavior. The general principle is that people will form a government that is consistent with their mental structure. If the minds of government officials are guided by MMNs, then this will lead naturally to a government that is ruled by MMNs. Thus, government will only be guided by Perceiver facts and Teacher theories if a majority of government leaders are mentally guided by Perceiver facts and Teacher theories.

“5) A government should work hard to maintain a free society... the right to be in error, as the majority might assess beliefs, must be protected within broad limits even by governments of opposing faiths.” In other words, the role of government is not to impose the MMNs of some individual or group upon other individuals and groups, but rather to create a general system of Teacher-based order within which individuals have the freedom to function.

“6) A government should respect, promote, and nurture human dignity... God deems a single person to be more valuable than the entire physical world!” The general point here is that the very concept of value becomes meaningless if one does not give primary value to human beings. Using an analogy, there is no point in valuing and protecting cameras if one does not protect the camera of the eye, because all images are viewed through the lens of the eyes. If one loses one’s sight, then there is no point in having a camera.

While government should be guided by TMNs of universal order, the goal of these TMNs should be to bring long-term benefits to personal MMNs. Saying this another way, I suggest that a mental concept of God forms when a sufficiently general theory applies to personal identity. Therefore, a government that respects human dignity is a government under God.

“7) A good government has a social conscience and embraces a good measure of humanitarianism... Decent treatment of the destitute is a particular Christian virtue but also a mark of moral people who are not Christians. It is not right for government to adopt policies that make the rich richer and the poor poorer.” Cognitively speaking, the mind uses mental networks to represent people. Childish thought blocks off mental networks that are unpleasant or insignificant, while allowing mental networks that have power or social status to control the mind. One should not treat people in this fashion. Saying this another way, government should help all individuals, even those that make Mercy thought feel bad. A mind is driven by TMNs will naturally want the rules of government to apply equally to all individuals.

“8) A government should pay particular attention in its policies to the exploited and the marginalized. In any society, there are groups of people who seem to be more or less permanently at the bottom of the social and economic ladders. Often they have been exploited and mistreated... Government should not practice or tolerate such systemic discrimination against fellow human beings who are also made in the image of God.” This is a group version of the previous point. Groups represented by cultural MMNs that lack status should not be suppressed or ignored.

These two points are important. However, the postmodern Mennonite has a tendency to redefine self-denial as identifying with the cause of the exploited and the marginalized. (Thus, while these two points are true, I suggest that the exploited and the marginalized should not become the primary focus of government.) The solution, I suggest, is to place love for one’s neighbor within the mental context of the TMN of a concept of God, which is what Redekop is implying when he says that everyone is ‘made in the image of God’. Jesus makes a similar statement when placing the Golden rule within the context of loving God: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).

“9) A government is required by God to establish and maintain law and order, to the best of its ability... The institution of government, even of a non-Christian government, must be respected and obeyed unless its requirements contradict God’s law.” Two key points are mentioned here. First, the purpose of government is to create an environment of Teacher order based upon a structure of Perceiver rules (and Server regulations). Second, a Christian should have a mindset that respects the concept of Teacher-driven law and order, and should only disobey human law when submitting to the higher law of God.

“10) An inherent function of government is to regulate the exercising of power by other institutions and organizations... Government has the final human word. Within broad bounds it sets the limits of power for labor unions, corporations, ethnic and racial groups, families and tribes, religious communities, and all other groups and organizations.” This describes the Teacher concepts of domain and generality. The most general theory provides a general structure within which lesser structures function. We saw previously that government should not be guided by MMNs of personal status or culture. We see here that government should be guided by TMNs of general theory.

“11) A good government is committed to the pursuit of justice. The clamor for justice is universal. It is also timeless... In a good political system much emphasis is also placed on victim-offender reconciliation and on prisoner rehabilitation... lawmakers and all other government officials must themselves be subject to the laws they make. There is one law for all.” Three points are being made here. First, Redekop describes justice in universal terms, consistent with the idea of Perceiver truth being guided by the TMN of a general understanding rather than MMNs of power and status. Second, the goal of punishment is not to suppress offending MMNs but rather to lead to both personal and societal wholeness. Third, Perceiver rules should apply equally to all MMNs, regardless of personal status.

“12) A government should practice procedural fairness... There is no place for arbitrariness or for bribes... The same policies and rules should be followed for all racial, ethnic, and religious groups.” This is an expansion of the previous point. Teacher thought hates exceptions to the rule. The Teacher structure of government should function independently of the MMNs of religion, personal status, or culture.

“13) A government should practice fiscal integrity... there should be no unnecessary taxation, no unwarranted deficits, no graft, and no corruption.” This describes the functioning of Contributor thought, the part of the mind that is responsible for business and the bottom line. Contributor thought attempts to achieve beneficial results in a cost-effective manner. When Contributor thought (and Contributor persons) function in an autonomous manner driven by personal MMNs, then the goal will be to achieve benefits for oneself regardless of how this harms others. Therefore, Contributor thought needs to function within the TMN of a system of law and order without being warped by personal MMNs through corruption or graft.

“14) A government should implement fair trading laws... Tariff barriers and other hurdles intended to make others poor so that those who are already rich can be made richer are as displeasing to God as are falsified scales.” This describes a deeper form of corruption than the previous point. There are two sides to Contributor thought, a practical side that performs business, described in the previous point, and an intellectual side that works with rules and logic. Graft corrupts the practical side of Contributor thought, so that rules are broken in order to benefit personal MMNs. Here, the intellectual side of Contributor thought is being corrupted, so that rules are being passed that benefit personal MMNs. Practical corruption cheats by breaking the rules to benefit me. Intellectual corruption cheats by changing the rules to favor me rather than others. Third world countries are susceptible to corrupted practical Contributor thought that breaks the rules, and Western countries preach against this form of corruption. However, one often finds corrupted intellectual Contributor thought in Western countries, which passes rules that ‘tilt the playing field’.

“15) A government should strive for peace. While all governments in this fallen, sub-Christian world possess coercive capacity in military and police forms, God’s requirement is that all authorities seek peace as much as possible.” Notice how God is being associated with peace, an expression of a TMN based in universal order, as opposed to duelling childish MMNs.

“16) A government should promote public morality. Here we encounter a very challenging situation... governments should not use the arm of the law to try to force people to be Christian or even to behave in a Christian manner... government policies that, for example, oppose abortion as a means of birth control, reject slavery, require a day of rest each week, and punish rape, arson, or theft do so not specifically because the Bible teaches that such behavior is wrong, although that reality may carry considerable weight, but because such behavior is detrimental to society.” A key principle is being described here, which is the distinction between absolute truth and universal truth. Absolute truth bases Perceiver facts in the MMNs of personal authority, for instance, saying that something is true because it is written in the Bible. Universal truth, in contrast, is based in principles of universal cause-and-effect.

The thesis of Natural Cognitive Theology is that the Bible is an accurate description of the process of reaching mental wholeness—a universal process that applies equally to all human minds. Thus, the Bible ‘carries considerable weight’ because it appears to be an accurate description of mental cause-and-effect. Legislating morality is a ‘challenging situation’. As Redekop says, I suggest that the solution is to present morality in terms of the universal truth of cause-and-effect rather than the absolute truth of ‘Thus saith the Bible!’ This already occurs with universal physical law. For instance, when science showed that smoking causes cancer, then governments passed laws restricting smoking.

Summarizing, Redekop is saying that the Perceiver rules (and Server regulations) of government should be guided by Teacher guidelines of universality rather than based in the Mercy status of some specific source of truth.

“17) A good government realizes that it has responsibility for its physical environment. Governments have a responsibility to prevent the destruction of the environment... God made land and water, trees and clean air, for us to use, not for us to abuse... people and corporate agencies because God’s creation to be looted and destroyed, who poison water and air and fission plants, must be brought to heel.” This relates to the previous point. Laws of natural cause-and-effect are inescapable. But mentally recognizing and submitting to natural law requires a mind that internally submits to the TMN of general understanding. A mind that is driven by childish MMNs will tend to ignore natural law and then use personal status and force to avoid the consequences of violating natural law. One example would be building a factory or mine that pollutes the environment and then using one’s wealth to buy a home in an area of land that has not been polluted by one’s actions.

As Redekop implies, the preservation of nature should be motivated by the Teacher understanding of a concept of God, and not by a Mercy infatuation with the experiences of nature. Saying this another way, ‘tree hugging’ lovers of nature may think that they are protecting the environment, but they lack the understanding that is required to protect nature in effective manner rather than merely give the impression of protecting nature. That is because Teacher thought is needed to understand the universal laws that guide the natural world, while Mercy thought will fixate upon specific experiences while ignoring natural law.

Notice Redekop’s view is quite different than that of the typical American evangelical who tends to pursue economic growth regardless of the environmental cost. As an Anabaptist, I was taught that it is my duty to God to live frugally and live with humility in the physical world. This attitude can be seen in the famous Mennonite cookbook, More-with-Less,and it is also shared by many evangelical Christians. However one also sees in many Mennonites a growing tendency to ignore environmental issues in favor of economic progress. We will examine the environmental question in more detail after looking at the last three points.

“18) A good government is ready to listen to its critics. In many democracies those political parties that have lost elections are nonetheless given a special role in the legislature to serve as critics of governments... a good government does not suppress those who express criticisms and suggestions. Rather, it listens carefully and makes changes and corrections as these are warranted.” Saying this cognitively, humans are finite creatures with limited knowledge and awareness. If one wishes to gain a general understanding in Teacher thought that transcends personal MMNs, then one must be willing to learn from others. For instance, most of my recent research has involved reading and analyzing the theories of others. In contrast, when personal MMNs rule the mind, then one listens only to the accepted source of truth while ignoring people or groups who lack emotional status.

“19) All governments should acknowledge that they are servants of God... This is true even when governments deny it or ignore it or are not even aware of it. Time and again our God is called ‘King of kings and Lord of lords.” Teacher thought looks for general laws that apply universally. Therefore, when one discovers universal natural law, one is learning about the character of God. Natural law functions even when one denies it, ignores it, or is not aware of it. As the story of King Canute and the waves demonstrates, it is futile for human rulers to attempt to defy natural law. Quoting from the Wikipedia account, “Canute demonstrates to his flattering courtiers that he has no control over the elements (the incoming tide), explaining that secular power is vain compared to the supreme power of God.”

“20) All governments should acknowledge that they are accountable to God. It is one thing for a government to acknowledge that it is a servant of God, is something even more significant for government to acknowledge that it is ultimately accountable not only to the population of the country but also specifically to God... God, not they, will have the last word.” I suggest that God ‘will have the last word’ because natural law trumps human legislation. It is usually possible to act temporarily in a way that goes against natural law, but it takes effort and as soon as the effort is stopped then natural law will take over. For instance, one can go against the law of gravity by lifting a heavy weight, but as soon as one stops lifting the weight it will fall back to the ground. Similarly, it is possible to grow green lawns in the middle of the desert, but the lawns will only stay green as long as they are artificially watered.

In a similar manner, the mind is governed by inescapable cognitive mechanisms that will ultimately overrule human effort. If one uses one’s mind in a way that fights cognitive mechanisms, then this will take effort which cannot be maintained over the long term. The challenge is to use one’s mind in a sustainable manner that flows with the structure of the mind. For instance, the natural tendency is for the Perceiver person to try to suppress unwanted desires. However, this is not sustainable because it takes effort to suppress a mental network, and this mental network will eventually express itself in some manner. The solution is to develop new mental networks that express wanted desires, and then allow these new mental networks to express themselves freely. Transforming mental networks is a sustainable solution that functions effortlessly because it flows with the structure of the mind rather than attempts to overrule cognitive mechanisms.

Applying this to government, my basic premise is that Christianity is true because it is an accurate description of the universal, inescapable, natural law of ‘how the mind works’. This thesis is developed in extensive detail in Natural Cognitive Theology. Mental development is more fundamental than government because people will be driven by their mental networks to form a government that is consistent with their current level of their mental development. Government can be used to enforce minor shifts in behavior. However, if one wishes to institute a major change in personal behavior, then one must change the mental networks of people, who will then demand a new set of rules from the government. Going further, if one wishes to transform government, then one must transform the mind of the average citizen who will then demand a new form of government. In contrast, attempting to legislate morality is not sustainable, because it tries to force people to function in a manner that is inconsistent with their mental networks. Redekop says something similar: “Christians must always resist the temptation to use government power as a shortcut to try to achieve Christian behavior or belief. Becoming a Christian and living the Christian life involve voluntary commitment, and not external conformity compelled by outside coercion” (p.38).

Growing up in a physical body within a physical world naturally causes the mind to be driven by an inadequate set of childish MMNs that will lead to behavior characterized by traits such as strife, hedonism, xenophobia, power politics, and idolatry. The way to transcend this form of thinking is to construct the TMN of a concept of God based in general understanding and then place childish MMNs within the structure of this general understanding. Redekop’s description of a good government portrays a social environment that reflects this type of internal structure. However, it is not possible to impose this sort of government upon a population. Instead, the only way to achieve this kind of government is by transforming the mind of the average individual, who will then demand this sort of government. If a minority of individuals within this society lack mental maturity, then it is possible for government to use punishment and policing to limit the activities of the immature minority. But if a majority of individuals lack mental maturity, then they will reject a government that attempts to limit immature behavior.

Mennonites and Environmentalism

Before we continue, let us look briefly at the Paraguayan Mennonite view of environmentalism. The Guardian, a liberal British newspaper, published an article in 2010 questioning the environmental practices of Mennonites in Paraguay. The title of this article reads “Chaco deforestation by Christian sect puts Paraguayan land under threat. Wildlife and the world’s last uncontacted tribe both at risk as Mennonites turn Chaco forest into prairie-style farmlands.” The article explains that “The large Mennonite families and powerful co-operative farm groups have bought an estimated 2m hectares of land in the Chaco. What also used to be modest meat and dairy enterprises have grown into formidable agri-businesses dominating Paraguayan livestock farming. Mennonite communities, where an old German dialect is mostly spoken, now sport new pick-up trucks and have north American-style hypermarkets and restaurants.” In response, Paraguayan Mennonites placed a full-page advertisement in a local newspaper. I would like to examine this ad from a cognitive perspective, because I suggest that it reflects the typical historical Mennonite mindset as analyzed in the essay on Anabaptism.

The full-page ad starts by saying “We don’t understand why foreigners make such a big deal about some situations in Paraguay, that to the Paraguayans are really not that important. Livestock production and rearing have been attacked in a totally incomprehensible way. For the past 80 years, us [sic] Mennonites have worked and organised a production system in the Paraguayan Chaco that today has an important role.” Mennonites have historically been known for their pragmatic, agricultural expertise. Mennonites have also tended to live as separate communities, guided by MMNs of Mennonite culture. These mental networks are now being questioned by outside powers, and the Mennonite mindset finds this outside thinking incomprehensible because it is driven by a set of mental networks that are totally foreign to the MMNs of Mennonite culture.

“Just as this productive system is getting to be successful that our initiatives are attacked/criticised using invented environmental arguments with supposed violation of ancestral rights of the indigenous people.” In other words, outside influence is triggering the Mennonite persecution complex. Over the centuries, Mennonites have repeatedly had to pull up roots and move,is either because of government regulations that imposed TMNs upon Mennonite society, or by opposition from indigenous groups motivated by cultural MMNs. When outsiders attempt to stir up these feelings, then this opens deep wounds in the Mennonite psyche.

“We know the Chaco better than John Vidal and when he states that ‘life and the indigenous tribes in the area are at risk because the Mennonites are converting the land to pastures and farmland’, he is wrong. It is interesting to note that such a statement puts wildlife and tribes on the same level.” One sees here the traditional Mennonite skepticism regarding abstract theory, especially theory that lacks personal experience. This reflects the Anabaptist belief that theory must be backed up by application. This also opens historical ones because abstract theology has been used over the centuries as a rationalization for persecuting Mennonite faith and culture. Quoting from the Mennonite encyclopedia, “This fear of theology had its origin in part in the bitter experience of the Anabaptists (and later Mennonites) that it was the theologians who were their worst enemies, whether Lutheran, Reformed, or Catholic, and who were often responsible for prodding the rulers into harsher measures of persecution; Melanchthon and Bullinger are good examples of this.”

Anabaptism also believes that the central issue of Christianity is my personal attitude towards God and fellow humans. Therefore, placing animal welfare on an equal footing with human welfare is instinctively rejected as a mindset that is highly ungodly. One sees a similar mindset in Amish‘puppy farms’. On the one hand, the Amish will only accept technology if it enhances human social life. On the other hand, one can see from the puppy forms that animal social life is not a concern.

It is important to place human welfare above animal welfare. The Nazis, for instance, passed laws protecting animal welfare, while the same time herding Jews like cattle to the slaughter. Similarly, we all know people who shower love on their pets while finding it difficult to love fellow human beings. This is probably because pets accept the mental networks of their owners without question, whereas fellow humans attempt to impose their mental networks. The Contributor person, for instance, has a natural tendency to help the down-and-out (who do not threaten him) while competing with his peers (who do threaten him).

I suggest that the solution is to view all living creatures from an internal theoretical perspective. The Anabaptist tends to take an internal concrete perspective, focusing upon the MMNs of human attitude and family life. This preserves the MMNs of Mennonite culture while ignoring the personal feelings of animals as well as the gadgets of technology. The tree-hugging environmentalist typically takes an external, concrete perspective, identifying emotionally with aspects of the environment that trigger Mercy emotions, such as cute endangered animals, baby seals that are being bludgeoned, or awe-inspiring trees. Ecology tends to take an external, theoretical perspective, viewing humans as one aspect of the worldwide ecosystem—an aspect that needs to be limited because of its overuse of natural resources. An internal abstract perspective focuses upon the internal. Thus, it recognizes that humans are more important than either animals or the environment because humans are capable of a level of cognition and spirituality that transcends both animals and the physical environment. However, an internal abstract perspective recognizes that animals need to be treated humanely to the extent that they are cognitively similar to humans. For instance, dogs are capable of forming and being guided by mental networks; chickens and cows lack the affection of dogs, but are capable of experiencing personal pain. Using this logic, the British act against cruelty to animals was modified in 1993 to treat the octopus like vertebrates as a protected animal because of its unusual intelligence.

Similarly, an internal, abstract perspective recognizes that humans live in physical bodies within an ecosystem that has limitations. Earth is not capable of supporting an unlimited population in a sustainable manner. However, humans will only learn how to live in a sustainable manner if they becomeinternally subject to general understanding. In other words, individuals and groups will naturally live in a manner that is in harmony with the physical environment with its TMNs of natural law if the MMNs of identity and culture within the minds of these individuals function in a manner that is in harmony with the cognitive environment with its TMN of how the mind works. People and groups that do not function in a cognitively sustainable manner will not naturally function in an ecologically sustainable manner.

Continuing now with the Mennonite full-page ad, “Erosion and desertification are inventions of ignorant people or people with bad intentions who are looking to obtain international funding for their own benefit. It remains that environmental projects for decades are wasted and leave no impact and little improvement for the groups involved.” Again one sees the Mennonite tendency to equate abstract theory with rationalization and bad intentions. Quoting further from the Mennonite encyclopedia, “The major reason for their suspicions of the dominant theologies was based on the ways they saw theological interpretation used to detract from the hard sayings of Scripture (for example, in relation to baptism or the rejection of violence), or to justify doctrines which appeared to make no demands (faith apart from discipleship).” In addition, relief organizations do have a tendency to sponsor large projects that do not benefit the average individual, while Mennonites relief organizations are known for their ability to bring pragmatic results. However, the Mennonite encyclopedia article also states that “Throughout their subsequent history, Mennonites have frequently dogmatized this critique and expanded it into a general anti-theological stance rather than discriminating between good and bad theology.” And that is what we see here in the Mennonite response to the abstract theory regarding ‘erosion and desertification’. Because abstract theory is often flawed, the temptation is for Mennonites to reject the very concept of abstract theory as flawed.

Continuing, “The Chaco is characterised by peaceful coexistence of the different ethnic groups living in the region. This has been possible, because, thanks to God, only the people directly involved have made the decisions, with no foreign interference.” Over the centuries, Mennonite communities have attempted to live as ‘the quiet of the land’, practicing their beliefs in separate communities with a minimum of outside interference. This is how Mennonite culture has interpreted following God, hence the phrase ‘thanks to God’.

There is also a tendency for modern Mennonites to reinterpret following God despite persecution as identifying with the poor and oppressed who are being oppressed by major power groups: “Since the coming of NGOs and other pseudo-scientific groups, especially foreign, things have begun to deteriorate in a way only comparable to the conquistadors of the 15th-18th centuries in America. Attacking/criticising production and its efficiency are only the result of envy and fear of being overtaken in the world market.” Notice how foreign NGOs are being equated with Spanish conquistadors and how both are being viewed through the lens of Mennonite persecution.

Continuing with the ad, “They are just stories with the aim of simple destruction, with no consideration of the consequences. It will be deplorable to see everything we have built destroyed, especially for Paraguay, for its people and that will see their painful history repeated.” Two painful histories are being described here. The first is the history of the Mennonites in Russia, who saw everything that they had built destroyed during the communist Revolution. (There are still a number of older Mennonites in the church I attend who remember experiencing this persecution in their early childhood.) The second is the history of Paraguay, which experienced adevastating war between 1864 and 1870. As this website explains, “The year 1870 marked the lowest point in Paraguayan history. Hundreds of thousands of Paraguayans had died. Destitute and practically destroyed, Paraguay had to endure a lengthy occupation by foreign troops and cede large patches of territory to Brazil and Argentina. When the last resistance ceased with the death of Lopez in 1870, not merely was the country a desert but the Paraguayan race was almost wiped out. At the beginning of the war the population had been 1,337,000. At its close there were left 221,000, of whom 28,000 were men, 106,000 women more than fifteen years of age, and 87,000 children. Since 1870 Paraguay’s domestic history was far from peaceful, many revolutions, usually bloody, having upset the country.”

The writer of the Guardian article is surprised at the strong response taken by the Mennonites to his critical article. The follow-on article begins by asking “What is it with Mennonites? Two weeks ago I wrote a piece from Paraguay on how the vast dry forest known as the Gran Chaco was being felled at an alarming rate mainly by people from this Christian fundamentalist sect... The piece I wrote went down like a lead balloon in parts of Paraguay where the Mennonites are powerful industrialists. Here’s a declaration by the Mennonite community, from a full-page advertisement placed in one newspaper.” This illustrates another historical Mennonite trait which is the ability to use political means to protect the welfare of the group.

Summarizing, one can see two levels of thinking. At the surface level of environmentalism, Mennonite thought tends to be driven by contradictory impulses. In the area of personal religion, Mennonites are taught to ‘live humbly before God’ as ‘pilgrims on the earth’, leading to the concept of being a ‘steward of God’s creation’. This tends to promote an attitude of caring for nature. In the area of personal economics, Mennonites have been known for centuries as agricultural experts, and the Mennonites in Paraguay are no different. This leads to the exploitation of nature through the development of farms. At the abstract level, though, Mennonites are suspicious—for legitimate reasons—of theory and theology. Thus when abstract science makes statements about the environment, the typical Mennonite response is to ignore these statements. (This last statement usually does not apply to educated Mennonites in North America. But even here one sees a pragmatic Mercy bias.) The result is a mindset that tends to be locally aware of the environment while globally unaware of larger environmental effects.

Turning now to the deeper level of Mennonite history, one sees the MMNs of Mennonite history shaping the response to outside pressure. Both Protestants and Catholics used abstract theology as an excuse for centuries to persecute Mennonites. More recently, many Mennonites lost everything and experienced great suffering during the communist takeover in Russia. Mennonites have survived by migrating when persecuted and then using hard work to build a new community in some isolated region. The result is a persecution complex: “The world hates us because we are trying to follow God. Just leave us alone and stop persecuting us. We can survive by working hard.”

I suggest that the solution for both problems is to place these MMNs within a general Teacher framework. Mennonite thrift and hard work needs to be placed within the larger picture of an abstract understanding of environmental impact. That is because human activity is now having a global impact. Similarly, the repeated pain of Mennonite history needs to be placed within the larger picture of an abstract understanding of how the mind works. Mennonite suffering has been redemptive for society as a whole, because Anabaptists pioneered a number of basic concepts which are now taken for granted by Western society as a whole, such as freedom of religion, separation of church and state, non-violence, believer’s baptism, and the priesthood of all believers. In these last two traits, believer’s baptism may seem like an inconsequential detail, but when the Mennonites started to practice it, it was a crime punishable by death. Similarly, the priesthood of believers may sound like an abstract concept, but it was forbidden for someone who was not a member of the clergy to preach. For instance , “the 1604 Canons of the Church of England forbade lay-preaching.” Lay preaching was still ‘illegal and dangerous’ in the 1700s when Methodism came to birth with its endorsement of itinerant lay-preachers. And it only became acceptable in the Catholic Church after Vatican II in the early 1960s, guided by the concept that ‘all the baptized share in the priesthood of Christ’.

One does not find either a persecution complex or a distrust of abstract theory in Redekop’s book on politics. In contrast, we have seen that his description of good government portrays what happens when concrete experience is guided by abstract theory. One finds a similar emphasis in Redekop’s description of the interaction between church and state, which we will now examine.

Church and State

Redekop describes three historical methods of relating church and state, one proposed by Martin Luther, one by John Calvin, and one by Anabaptism. Martin Luther viewed church and state as parallel authorities. Luther “insisted that Jesus’s ethic applies to all Christians, and he also acknowledged that worldly governments have to rely on the sword, something not permitted in Christ’s church. He tried to resolve this dilemma by arguing that when Christians serving the worldly regiment, and when his obedient citizens they may even have to kill, they do so ‘in a spirit of love.’ He even went so far as to assert Christian citizens may have to kill in order to preserve the political state” (p.47).

In essence, Luther was teaching the divine right of kings. In brief, the king is right because he is the king and if he tells you to kill someone, then that is the will of God and you should obey the king. Martin Luther used Romans 13 to justify this approach. Stating this more generally, one is supposed to follow biblical morality, but government can override biblical morality in the name of God.

As Redekop points out, this causes unchristian acts to be justified in the name of God, and it also leads to an internal split within the mind of the Christian believer: “Luther assumes that blatantly unchristian acts can become Christian if one has the right motive, a motive rooted in so-called political necessity, and especially if one holds the right office, a political office. Not surprisingly, he cites no biblical justification for such a view... Luther’s explanation of ethics creates a huge problem. Can a person really lead an integrated life under Christ’s Lordship if he must always be asking himself, ‘Am I doing this as a Christian or as a citizen?’” (p.49). Notice that Redekop is using a Teacher argument. Teacher thought looks for simple theories that apply to all situations. Teacher thought is especially disturbed when some area is governed by two competing general theories.

In contrast, this type of double-minded thinking naturally emerges when MMNs are used to represent God and other authorities. A mental network will attempt to impose its structure upon the mind when it is triggered. Therefore, religious situations will trigger MMNs that are associated with Christianity and God, while political situations will trigger MMNs associated with government and political authority. This leads to a fragmented mind in which morality is determined by the current context.

This fragmentation will occur even if God is revered as the highest authority with the greatest emotional status, because communication that is believed to be from God has to be interpreted and supplemented by communication from those who are accepted as representatives of God. Looking at this in more detail, when a person speaks, then I can see the physical body of that person and know who is speaking and what is being said. But because no one can see God, it is difficult to determine when God is speaking (or even if God exists). One can minimize this problem by claiming that God has spoken through some holy book, such as the Bible, but a book is still a finite object that can only address some subjects. Therefore, humans are needed to deal with topics that are not covered by the Bible. Using cognitive language, a mental network may have great emotional status, but if it lacks content, then the content will be imposed by a lesser mental network that does contain content. One sees this in the peace of Augsburg, in which the citizens of a state had to follow the religious choice (Catholic or Lutheran) of the local Prince. In other words, the religious content of the local prince ruled the minds of his subjects even though the prince was theoretically subject to God.

Thus, Luther’s approach tends to give lip service to God while serving man. Luther may have said that salvation is by faith alone and not by works, but in practice this turned into saying that one submits to God while actually obeying man. I am not suggesting that Luther followed this hypocritical path in all areas. However, in the critical area of life and death, this was the option chosen by Martin Luther. One can see this in Martin Luther’s treatment of the Anabaptists. Initially, he tried to convince Anabaptists to change by preaching from the Bible. When that failed, he told the state to execute Anabaptists: “After about 1528, in connection with his opinion that Anabaptism was essentially seditious and in view of the fact that the preaching of the Word, which he had hitherto believed would always be victorious, was failing here, he changed his mind and demanded a ruthless application of the penalty for blasphemy, as found in natural law... he said that heretics (Anabaptists) should be condemned even without trial and process of law. Even if the potentate acts too hastily, he is still right.” Initially, Luther saw Anabaptism as a theological error, but he eventually viewed it as a crime against the state : “This was not at all a matter of interference by the state in the inner realm of faith; it was a question of the preservation of public order, which lies in the hand of the sword of government. Anabaptism was punished as a crime against the public, not because its faith was different, but because it (in Luther’s opinion) disturbed public order through sedition and blasphemy.”

We will examine the question of pacifism in a moment, but let us first look at Calvinism and Anabaptism. Luther separated between church and state. Calvin tried to bring both church and state under the lordship of God. In the words of Redekop, “Whereas Luther stressed the separation of the two regiments and attributed to the government only a limited capacity for true justice, John Calvin saw all of society as a much more unified whole, an inclusive Christian body, so to speak. ‘Christ as head of his church is also precisely the Lord of this world’” (p.50). Unlike Luther, Calvin is taking an integrated approach that is compatible with Teacher thought. The problem lies in the details. How does this integration actually occur and how are the rules being enforced? When Calvin instituted this system in the city of Geneva, the integration occurred organizationally through external means. Redekop explains, “In Calvin’s Geneva, the church had great freedom not only in matters of doctrine and rigorous church discipline; it also had state-delegated authority to carry out rather harsh ecclesiastical punishment. Moreover, the church expected the state to help carry out the church’s mission, which included the punishment of those who were spiritually wayward. Not surprisingly, over time the functional distinction between the church and the city government in Geneva became blurred” (p.51).

One can understand the shortcomings of this type of integration by examining the precise nature of church and state. In simplest terms, church teaches about morality, which functions internally, whereas the state regulates external behavior: “Morality deals with motives, matters of the heart, internal values. Governments, on the other hand, deal with behavior, with external actions. Governments cannot, by enacting law, suddenly change people’s motives or values. Their mandate is to regulate and control behavior, particularly as it impacts people” (p.141). Thus, when one uses external, institutional means to integrate church and state, then one is implicitly placing state over church, because external means belong to the realm of the state. The end result is a kind of ‘thought police’, in which the government punishes people for what they think: “In Calvin’s reformed system, the ‘civil order,’ that is, the city council in Geneva, should suppress idolatry, blasphemy, and sacrilege because ‘this civil government is designed, as long as we live in this world, to cherish and support the external worship of God, to preserve the pure doctrine of religion, to defend the constitution of the church” (p.52).

If one wishes to place church over state, then one must integrate using the realm of the church, which means using internal means. This can only be done if one has an internal structure that ties together the realm of the church and the realm of state in integrated manner, which means having a general understanding of church and state. The natural laws of science provide an understanding of external reality, while the theory of mental symmetry provides an understanding of the internal realm of Christianity. Calvin was unable to do this, because neither of these theories existed during his time. Calvin (1509-1564) lived just before scientific thought emerged through individuals such as Tycho Brahe (1546-1601), Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), and Galileo Galilei (1564-1642). Similarly, until recently, not enough was known about the mind and the brain to construct a general understanding of human thought and religion. Thus, Calvin was forced to use external means to integrate church and state because he lacked an internal understanding. Redekop agrees that the state should not attempt to regulate thought and doctrine: “By utilizing the political authorities to inflict temporal, often extreme, punishment for presumed sins or unacceptable beliefs in the religious realm, Calvin obscured the distinction between sin and crime and went far beyond the responsibilities the New Testament assigns to the state as well as to the church” (p.53).

Related to this is the question of how rules are enforced. How are people punished when they violate the rules of either church or state? The key concept of natural law is that punishment comes naturally from violating universal law. When a person jumps off a cliff, for example, there is no need for a judge to impose any punishment. Instead, the law of gravity will function automatically, irrevocably, and inescapably. Calvin did not know that the mind is governed by inescapable mechanisms that function as relentlessly as the laws of physics—which his era also had not discovered. Therefore, Calvin felt that divine law had to be enforced by human authorities, not realizing that it was already being enforced by universal cause-and-effect. Again, we see that Calvin’s attempt to integrate church and state led to state ruling church rather than the other way around.

Finally, when state rules over church, then external behavior will become emphasized rather than internal belief: “Calvin attaches too much worth to the merely external expressions of Christian behavior. Throughout Scripture, and particularly in the New Testament, the essence of true Christianity is defined as being internal. The language refers to heart, mind, and spirit” (p.54).

Let us turn now to Redekop’s description of Anabaptism, and how it relates church and state. He mentions several aspects of how Anabaptism has historically viewed the relationship between church and state. We will describe each point, and then see what happens when one views this point from the Teacher perspective of universal law.

“The Christian church, as a faithful body of believers, functions largely as an alternative society. Even when the faithful believers live among the unconverted, the faithful community is functionally and ethnically distinct from the kingdoms of the world” (p.63). Anabaptists lived as a society because they believed that Christians should follow the example of Jesus, and Jesus lived in the real world. They lived as an alternative society because they were not permitted to live in normal society.

An alternative society is also required when applying Teacher understanding. First, in order to apply an understanding, one must first have an understanding and submit personally to this understanding. Those who lack this internal structure are not capable of participating in a community where truth is applied. Second, because humans are finite, application requires the cooperation of a group of like-minded individuals. Hence, an alternate society. However, the goal of this society is not to withdraw from the world but rather to create an example that can be followed by the rest of the population. And if one applies an understanding of universal law based in ‘how things work’, then this will naturally lead to benefits that will be desired by others.

Redekop says that “Society, through government, has certain valid claims on Christians, since they are also citizens of the earthly kingdom, but any governmental claims and commands are secondary and must be rejected if they conflict with what is required in the Christian community” (p.63). In other words, one must always be law abiding, but one submits to the law of God rather than the law of man when they come into conflict. This principle is especially true when one sees the law of God as a Teacher understanding of inescapable, universal law. For instance, if the government tells me to to climb out of the trench in order to get mowed down by machine gun fire (as was the case in World War I), then natural law takes precedence over government law, because natural law says that I will get wounded or die if I am shot. Of course, government can try shaming those who do not sign up to join the Army, or take the extreme measure of saying that anyone who does not climb out of the trench to face the machine guns will be shot. But these are all temporary measures that require effort. Eventually, the supremacy of natural law will become sufficiently obvious that the soldiers will mutiny. Saying this more generally, if one does not know how the natural world functions, then it makes sense to submit to government law. But when one discovers how the natural world functions, then this knowledge will naturally motivate a person to stop behaving in a manner that violates natural law regardless of what government says, because natural law cannot be avoided while government law does not always apply and it can be altered.

Moving on, “the state exists primarily to maintain law and order among non-Christians and ranks far below the church and significance. It is at best a mixture of good and evil. God has no absolute norm for it” (p.64). The reason for this becomes apparent when morality is based in an understanding of universal natural law. Government laws are not needed by those who possess an understanding. Instead, they are required to limit the actions of those who lack understanding, in order to stop them from sabotaging the efforts of those who do possess understanding. And government is inferior because it uses artificial external means to substitute for a lack of understanding. For instance, those who understand the law of gravity know that it is dangerous too walk too close to the edge of a cliff. Fences with warning signs are required for those who are either unwilling or unable to submit personal identity to an understanding of gravity. But a government-mandated fence blocking a cliff is a mixture of good and evil. It is good because it protects citizens from personal harm, but it is bad because it conveys the impression that punishment comes from people rather than from natural law.

Next, “although God ordained the political magistracy, Christians should not hold office in it... The reasoning was that the weapons in the worldly realm are carnal and ‘against the flesh only’, while Christians’ weapons are spiritual. Christians are armed with truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and the Word of God” (p.64). When government rules by Mercy status, as was the case when Anabaptism began, then it makes sense to prohibit the holding of government office, because MMNs of personal status are in direct conflict with TMNs general understanding. In contrast, when secular government is guided by the TMNs of the rule of law, then it is possible for Christians to serve in aspects of government that are guided by the rule of law. Redekop refers to this modified understanding as reformed Anabaptism: “In harsh dictatorships, the involvement by reformed Anabaptists would likely be very minimal. Perhaps it would not even be permitted. In mature democracies, on the other hand, where government and church have significant overlapping agendas, it could be very extensive. In this approach, the church can support good government policies... the early Anabaptists would have been puzzled by such reasoning. And that is hardly surprising, given that they experienced the state as negative, intolerant, oppressive, and often very brutal. In recent decades, many contemporary Mennonites have moved toward this understanding” (p.91).

The ‘weapons’ of the Christian also makes sense when viewed from a Teacher perspective. ‘Truth’ describes Perceiver facts that apply in all situations; ‘righteousness’ is personal action is guided by Teacher understanding; the TMN of a general understanding will impose ‘peace’ upon personal MMNs; ‘faith’ describes personal behavior that is guided by unseen understanding rather than immediate visible results; and the ‘word of God’ refers to a general understanding of universal law based in Teacher words. These weapons are ‘spiritual’ because they are based in the unseen, whereas the weapons of the world are ‘carnal’ because they impose force upon the physical body.

Continuing, “Anabaptists acknowledged that some governments are worse than others. Some rulers persecuted and killed them; others at least let them live!... At whatever ethical level a government functions, Christian citizens should always urge it to be more enlightened, more just, and more God- pleasing” (p. 65). When MMNs rule the mind, then the natural tendency is to divide people and groups into categories of good and evil. Teacher understanding, in contrast, is gained gradually as one forms a more complete understanding of universal law and as one acquires the ability to allow this understanding to guide personal behavior. Thus, those who focus upon studying and applying natural law will always be at the cutting edge of learning how to function more effectively in a way that is consistent with the character of God, as revealed through universal law. And the rest of the population will naturally want to follow this example, in order to experience the benefits that come from following universal law rather than fighting it.

Next, “because of the strong emphasis on peace in the New Testament, the Anabaptists refused military service. They saw the use of the sword as contradicting the call to follow Jesus. In fact, they also asserted that the use of the sword was, in the final analysis, also not in the interest of the larger society” (p.65). We will look at the issue of non-violence in more detail later. However, the general principle is that physical force makes it more difficult to gain Teacher understanding. First, one is changing the focus from internal understanding to external sensation. Second, one is producing artificial feedback that makes it more difficult to discern the natural feedback that comes from universal law.

Finally, “because the world is largely an evil place, the best option for followers of Jesus is to withdraw from the malaise as much as possible, to be a separated people even in a physical sense where that can be done... Given such a mindset, many Anabaptists sought to be ‘the quiet in the land.’... Accordingly, for many of them farming held much appeal and although initially most were craftspeople in towns and cities, large numbers took agricultural pursuits” (p.65). The early Anabaptists probably tried to be ‘the quiet in the land’ primarily to avoid the spotlight so that others would leave them alone. However, when one views following God from a Teacher perspective, then one acquires an even stronger reason for being ‘the quiet in the land’. That is because obeying universal natural law has its own rewards. When an activity provides its own benefits, then there is no need to look to others for approval, and seeking approval uses up time and energy that could be spent more profitably pursuing the goal. For instance, if I grow tasty vegetables, I do not need approval from others, and the more that I seek approval, the less time I have to grow and enjoy tasty vegetables. And if I succeed in growing especially tasty vegetables, then others will naturally come to me in order to experience similar benefits. For many of the early Anabaptists, growing tasty vegetables was not just a metaphor but an actual means of seeking natural benefits through an understanding of nature.


Non-violence is a core aspect of Anabaptist belief. As Redekop points out, “A particular set of problems arises with reference to involvement in the military. For all Christians, but especially for those committed to nonviolence, ethical issues related to taking human life must be faced... suffice it to say that the ethical tensions relating to Christians choosing military involvement are different from those choosing other kinds of political activity and should not be seen as a reason for avoiding the usual civilian political activity” (p.123).

Saying this more clearly, being a soldier is not a normal job. Many jobs are dangerous, and could lead to injury or death. For a soldier, injury and death are the primary purpose. The ultimate job description of a soldier is to kill or be killed.

Redekop says that many Christians approach this topic in a Lutheran-like fashion: “This basic question is, of course, still relevant for the bulk of mainstream Christians and evangelicals who still hold to Lutheran ethical dualism. Christian soldiers, I am repeatedly told, do not kill as Christians; they kill as citizens!” (p.61). But neither the body nor the mind support such a distinction. When one ‘kills as a citizen’, one does not merely kill the ‘citizen part’ of a victim. Instead, one kills the entire person.1 And one is not just killing something. One is killing someone who is just like me. And if humans are made in the image of God, then killing a fellow human blasphemes my concept of God. And for those who survive, when one experiences the atrocities of war, then the resulting traumatic MMNs do not just impact the secular part of the mind. Instead, they affect all of the mind. One of the basic premises of Anabaptism (which is also a basic concept of mental symmetry) is that behavior cannot be separated from theology. When the primary goal of behavior is to destroy the existence of someone who like me who is made in the image of God, then this behavior will damage one’s theology in major ways.

The Christian parachurch organization Campus Crusade (now known as CRU) offers counseling to American soldiers suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. Their webpage says that PSTD is an issue that affects all American soldiers: “A year ago Cru Military, a Cru ministry, asked a group of Army soldiers and their spouses, ‘What are the greatest challenges you face?’ The men and women had been randomly selected, but every single one of them spoke about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).”

War impacts a soldier both physically and emotionally. Quoting further from the CRU webpage, “After hearing heart-wrenching calls for help from the men and women they interviewed, the staff members in Cru Military knew they had to do something. ‘In our heart of hearts we knew that if we walked away from what we now know, it would be the height of hypocrisy,’ said Major General Bob Dees (Ret), executive director of Cru Military. ‘We now knew the greatest need in the US military. Our military members fight two wars - one on the battlefield…and one in their souls after they return home. For thousands of veterans and their families, despair has become an unwelcome, but constant companion.’ In response, Cru Military created the Bridges to Healing Ministry, designed to help Christians and churches provide spiritual care for men and women suffering from combat trauma.”

In other words, the premise that one ‘kills as a citizen’ is simply not true. Instead, ‘the greatest need in the US military’ is the ‘despair’ in ‘their souls after they return home’ that is caused by the horrors of war, and the response should be for ‘Christians and churches’ to ‘provide spiritual care for men and women suffering from combat trauma’. It is good to help soldiers recover from PTSD. But the true ‘height of hypocrisy’ is to claim that one kills as a citizen when going out as a soldier and then claim that one suffers as a Christian when returning as a traumatized and wounded soldier. When one kills, one is killing human beings and one is killing as a human being, and this will impact one’s existence as a human being—and one’s concept of God—at the deepest level. (As I have mentioned elsewhere, the nastiest e-mail that I have ever received was from an American evangelical Christian to whom I suggested that killing others damages one’s mind. He had killed in the Vietnam War, and he made it clear in his e-mail that he had the mental concept of a God of divine wrath and slaughter—and that my statement had blasphemed his concept of God.)

Looking at this from a positive perspective, the basic premise of mental symmetry is that every person contains a mind with seven interacting cognitive modules (Mercy, Perceiver, Server, etc.) and that each cognitive style is conscious in one of these modules. For instance, as a Perceiver person, Perceiver thought is conscious in my mind, while the other six cognitive modules are subconscious. One of the major breakthroughs in my research occurred when I recognized that my mind was composed of cognitive modules that were like conscious thought, and when I made a mental covenant with these cognitive modules that I would not attempt to kill them but rather give them them the right to live. For instance, I would not shut down Mercy emotions the way that a Perceiver person often does. I would not be a typical Perceiver conservative who refuses to lose control to Contributor plans. And I would not be a typical Perceiver stick-in-the-mud and squelch Exhorter excitement. Instead, I would do my best to provide each cognitive module with the input that it required. This may sound like a corny idea, but I suggest that this response reflects the manner in which subconscious thought tends to be mocked and belittled. But belittling and shutting down subconscious thought is self-defeating, because one has to live with the consequences of a mind that is functioning in survival mode. If one wishes to achieve mental wholeness, then one must give all cognitive modules the permission to function without shutting them down. This does not mean that one satisfies all of the whims of subconscious thought. Instead, one treats cognitive modules as children who need to be trained, who provide joy and fulfillment, and who are capable of meaningful, helpful interaction if they are trained kindly and simply. And using personal pronouns is appropriate, because each subconscious cognitive module in the mind functions like a real live people with that cognitive style. Exhorter thought within my mind, for instance, is like a childish version of the conscious Exhorter thought that exists within the Exhorter person. How one is treated will affect how the other is treated. If I suppress Exhorter thought within my mind, then I will treat Exhorter persons in a similar manner. If I dehumanize Exhorter thought, then I will also tend to dehumanize Exhorter persons.

This is a form of non-violence that extends beyond Mennonite pacifism, because it deals with the internal source of war. As the apostle James says, “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel” (James 4:1-2). When a person is at peace with himself, then it becomes unthinkable for him to be at war with fellow human beings. When a person gives subconscious thought the right to live, then it becomes inconceivable to terminate the life of a fellow human being.

Applying this further, I suggest that the fundamental issue regarding abortion is not physical life but rather mental life. Those who suppress unwanted mental networks will naturally think that one should have the right to ‘abort unwanted fetuses’, while those who respect mental life will also respect physical life. Unfortunately, those who preach against abortion are often quite willing to commit mental murder. Jesus made a similar connection in the sermon on the Mount: “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell” (Matt. 5:21-22). I am not suggesting that mental murder is the same as physical murder. Physical murder is much worse than mental murder because physical murder destroys another human being in a total manner that cannot be undone. Instead, I am pointing out that mental murder usually comes before physical murder and that it motivates physical murder. Therefore, if one wishes to stop people from wanting to kill each other, then one needs to deal with the underlying cognitive issue of mental murder.

The question of non-violence has to be addressed when examining the relationship between church and state because the state has an official monopoly upon killing: “Only governments have the power to enforce their policies not only by persuasion and education but also by fines and imprisonment and ultimately by control over life itself. Although many governments do not employ this ultimate power, only governments can practice capital punishment and, concerning external affairs, employ military might... In free societies, of course, governments greatly limit their potential control of citizens and organizations, but they never give up the potential power to control citizens and organizations. That is what distinguishes governments from all other organizations” (p.27).

The fundamental problem is that humans live as embodied minds. On the one hand, the human mind is composed of interacting cognitive modules. If one wishes to achieve mental wholeness, then one must follow the path described by Christianity (this is analyzed in Natural Cognitive Theology). On the other hand, the human mind is housed within a vulnerable physical body. Physical vulnerability forces the childish mind to develop, but it also causes it to develop in an inadequate manner that is governed by childish MMNs, and it also makes it possible to use physical force to damage, control—or silence—the mind. Saying this more simply, humans serve two masters. The church rules the mind because Christianity describes the process of reaching mental wholeness, while the state rules the body because the state has a monopoly over execution.

Anabaptists chose to submit to the church rather than the state. They decided that they would not participate in the state, employ the weapons of the state, or be swayed by the state. They did not understand that submitting to the church leads to mental wholeness, but they did realize that following the Bible leads to a better society than one controlled by the weapons of the state. They did not have an understanding of how the mind works, but they did follow the example of Jesus, an incarnation who acted in a manner that is consistent with how the mind works.

This led initially to great physical vulnerability, and many of the first Anabaptists were martyred for their beliefs. However, in the longer term, this made it possible for Mennonites to live in communities that were more prosperous than surrounding communities. As a Mennonite, I am aware of the shortcomings of Mennonite history and culture. However, Mennonites have followed the path of ‘sowing to the spirit’ sufficiently over the centuries that one can gain an idea of what happens when one pursues this option. And concepts that Anabaptists pioneered at great personal cost are now accepted either as norms or as legitimate options by Western society.

Looking at this in more detail, Anabaptists started by choosing a path of humility and non-violence that followed the example of Jesus. Humility gave them teachable minds that were not blinded by MMNs of personal status. Non-violence meant that they could not use physical force to impose MMNs upon other individuals. And by following the example of Jesus, they indirectly acted in a manner that was consistent with the universal character of God, because Jesus always acted in a manner that was consistent with the character of God: “Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner’” (John 5:19).

When one stops imposing MMNs and submits to a general understanding of how things work, then one experiences personal benefits. The Mennonites experienced these personal benefits in pragmatic form because they did not possess an abstract understanding of the nature of God, but rather used concrete thought to copy the example of Jesus. As a result, the Mennonites were able to exchange this pragmatic personal benefit for physical protection and cultural freedom. As the Mennonite Encyclopedia relates, “Prussia’s Duke Albert in the second quarter of the 16th century, Philipp of Hesse in the middle of that century, Russia’s Empress Catherine II in the 18th century, North American communities in the 18th century and 19th century, and many others have tolerated, indeed welcomed, Mennonites, despite their refusal to bear arms, because of their honesty, diligence, and farming skills. Prosperity was often short-lived, however, as ruling officials shifted to persecution, compelling Mennonites to seek refuge in friendlier lands.” More generally, a “group must have some skills to offer their host governments or monarch. The Russian Mennonites were an unusual mobilized diaspora in that they were predominantly rural, whereas most such mobilized diasporas have been urban; the Mennonites’ skills were agricultural, rather than mercantile or industrial” (p.9).

Normally, one views pacifism as a form of weakness. However, when the Mennonites moved from Prussia to Ukraine, they negotiated from a point of strength and not weakness. Quoting further from the Conrad Grebel Review, “In almost all instances, foreigners would accept Catherine’s privileges as offered, and settled where they were assigned with no negotiation. The Mennonites behaved differently... They surveyed and chose the land they wished to settle on; and they negotiated a special deal, which gave the Mennonites greater economic and political privileges than other foreign settlers had received. Obviously, such negotiations implied that the Mennonites had something to offer the Russian state, which they did. They were well known as excellent agriculturists who had drained and successfully farmed the swampy land of the Vistula river basin in northern Poland” (p.10). In other words, the Mennonites did not have the backing of political force, but they did have the backing of a pragmatic knowledge of how the mind works and how the world works, as illustrated by their Protestant work ethic and farming expertise.

Summarizing, Mennonites came up with a partial solution to the problem of physical vulnerability. When there is anarchy, then everyone commits violence and kills. It is better for a state to exist that has a monopoly on violence and killing, because this limits the extent of violence. As Redekop says, “if governments are unwilling to rule, then they will invite disobedience, defiance, insurrection, and perhaps even anarchy” (p.71). However, one then has to deal with state-instituted violence and murder. The partial solution is to submit to the rules of the state as much as possible in order to avoid punishment from the state, while offering the state benefits in exchange for freedom from military service.

What does one do if the state breaks down and the community is threatened? The Mennonites in Russia faced precisely this question in the Civil War that followed the Russian Revolution. Most of them abandoned pacifism and formed self-protection militia (selbstschutz). In the short term this protected the Mennonites from harm. However, I discussed this issue with a Mennonite historian who has studied this era and he said that the villages which did not take up arms to protect themselves fared better in the long term than those which did. That is because the Mennonite reputation of non-violence acted as a shield of conscience to help protect those who chose not to defend themselves through the use of physical force. In contrast, charges of hypocrisy were levied against the Mennonites who did take up arms, leading to societal and official disfavor. I am not suggesting that this was an easy decision. I personally have never been faced with a physical threat. However, I have chosen more than once to follow an internal path of mental wholeness—even at the cost of giving up a career, I know the mental benefits of making such decisions, and I also see the self-deception that results from placing personal status and economic well-being above mental wholeness.

God and Country

Redekop makes some comments regarding the relationship between God and country with which I would heartily concur.

A “problem exists when the government of any country claims God is a modern-day mascot, patron, or ally, as happens often... He is no tribal deity. God clearly and unequivocally describes himself as the King of Kings and Lord of lords who will judge all people and all authorities” (p.102). Culture is defined by the set of MMNs that a group of people share in common. When God is mentally represented by an MMN, the result is a tribal deity, a god with a small ‘g’ who reinforces the mental networks of some group of people. Teacher thought, in contrast, looks for universal theories that apply to all specific situations. Thus, a concept of God that is based in a TMN will lead to the idea of a universal being who judges ‘all people and all authorities’.

Evidence suggests that God often guides history by playing the mental networks of one group against those of another. This can take the positive form of cross-cultural interaction or the negative form of one country attacking another. As Redekop says, one lesson taught by the Old Testament is that God uses one tribe to punish another, and may even use the enemies of his chosen people to punish his chosen people: “Neither Luther nor Calvin... allowed for the possibility that God was using one country, perhaps even an evil country as in Old Testament times, to punish another country, even Israel, his own chosen nation” (p.53).

A mind that uses MMNs to represent God would find this method abhorrent, because such a mind equates the MMNs that represent God with the cultural MMNs of God’s chosen people. For this very reason, using tribal groups who are not ‘chosen by God’ to punish groups who are ‘chosen by God’ is an effective method of teaching people that a concept of God should be based in a TMN that crosses cultures rather than in a MMN based in one specific culture. Paul describes a similar method of teaching Jews a cross-cultural concept of God by blessing other nations: “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... 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” (Rom. 11:11,13-14). A similar statement could be made regarding today’s fundamentalist Christian, who often feels that Christianity is being overwhelmed by secular influences. Even if the Bible really is the word of God, the fact that the Bible is no longer respected by the average person is helping to teach the lesson that biblical truth should be viewed from the Teacher perspective of universal truth rather than from the Mercy perspective of absolute truth.

This is consistent with Redekop’s observation that “not all good ideas emanate from the Judeo-Christian worldview. Governments can benefit from humanitarian ideas rooted in other faiths and philosophies” (p.110). In other words, if truth is universal, then it can be discovered universally. Christianity is the best religion not because the Bible is the source of absolute truth, but rather because Christianity most clearly describes the path by which the mind becomes capable of accepting and following universal truth. Other religions and philosophies can also act as sources of universal truth to the extent that individuals within these groups become capable of accepting and following universal truth. Using an analogy, suppose that everyone is dying of some disease and that my group has a book which describes the cure for this disease. Honoring this book, memorizing its description of the cure, or preaching this description will not cure anyone. Instead, one must apply the cure. If other groups discover and apply part of this cure, then they will end up healthier than a group that possesses the complete answer but refuses to apply it.

A similar fallacy is the assumption that God is related to religion. In the same way that a tribal concept of God equates deity with the MMNs of some culture, so a religious concept of God equates deity with the MMNs associated with some set of religious rituals, people, events, or holy books. Redekop quotes William Templeton as saying: “it is a great mistake to suppose that God is only, or even mainly, concerned with religion” (p.118). The danger here is to flip to the other side and conclude that God has nothing to do with religion or that all religions lead equally to God. Truth may be universal, but the path of cognitive development that one must follow to be capable of discovering, acknowledging, and submitting to universal truth is rather narrow.

American Christendom often believes that there is a special relationship between American history and Christianity. Redekop says (and I would agree) that this is a false belief: “The American flag is not the Christian cross and the pledge of allegiance is not part of the Christian creed. In resisting the domestication of God, Christian citizens in all lands must be careful not to confuse God’s favor with God’s favoritism and must not allow legitimate patriotism to become idolatry” (p.195).

I suggest that the reasoning behind this goes beyond mere tribalism. That is because American history (or at least the myth of American history) is a partial illustration of the path of Christian fundamentalism. The Christian fundamentalist believes that the Bible was revealed by God to holy men in the past and that one becomes a Christian by believing in the message of the Bible in order to become a member of God’s family. Similarly, the American Christian fundamentalist believes that the American Constitution was revealed by God to the founding fathers in the past and that one becomes an American by believing in the Constitution in order to become a member of God’s chosen country. The American Constitution is a well-crafted document, and America has become successful by applying to some extent the message of Christianity. But recent American history is making it abundantly clear that even the best Constitution in the world cannot help those who talk about it but refuse to follow its message. Similarly, even if the Bible is the word of God, it cannot help those who talk about it but refuse to follow its message. Going further, what saves people is not the Bible or the American Constitution itself but rather the extent to which these revered documents describe universal principles and lead people to know, understand, and apply universal principles. Saying this another way, one does not have to be an American to follow the American dream. Instead, many non-American societies are currently doing a better job at pursuing the American dream than America.

A Basis for Morality?

So far, everything that Redekop has said is compatible with a Teacher perspective, and it is also consistent with what the theory of mental symmetry would suggest. However, when one examines Redekop’s ultimate basis for morality one sees not personal well-being in Mercy thought guided by a general understanding in Teacher thought, but rather a focus upon others guided by the Mercy-driven religious attitude of self-denial. In other words, one sees the traditional Mennonite combination of peripheral common sense driven by an inadequate Mercy foundation. Historically speaking, most Mennonite common sense has dealt with pragmatic issues such as medicine, housing, and agriculture, and Mennonite thought has been distrustful of abstract theory and theology. However, Mennonites have been forced to learn common sense in the abstract area of politics, because Mennonites had to negotiate with political powers in order to gain religious freedom. Redekop’s book contains extensive common sense and general understanding guided by abstract thought. But it is interesting to note that this abstract thought occurs precisely in the area of thought where Mennonites have gained significant abstract expertise, namely politics.

Redekop recognizes that Christian morality leads to both personal and societal well-being: “Many Christian virtues are desirable as public policies not because they are Christian but because they have general utilitarian value; they are intrinsically good for society” (p.157). Redekop also recognizes that Christian ethics describe universal principles: “Christian ethics are good for everyone, even if they cannot be the definitive norms for the state” (p.84). However, this is inconsistent with the core of Redekop’s Christian morality.

Redekop explains his basis for truth in the following series of questions: “Test my analysis carefully. Are my statements true to Scripture? Are my observations and suggestions too time bound? Are they too situation specific? Are they tied too closely to the workings of the free and open democracy? Is my analysis of the biblical texts in line with historical Anabaptist view of Scripture? A biblically-based analysis of political reality should, after all, be applicable to all situations and should incorporate a defensible interpretation of the key biblical texts” (p.22). We see here four different concepts of truth being combined. First, truth is being based in the authority of the Bible. Second, truth is being rooted in Anabaptist culture. Using the language of mental symmetry, Perceiver thought is basing truth in the emotional status of Mercy mental networks (MMNs). Third, the Bible is being viewed from the cross-cultural perspective of general understanding, because Redekop is looking for an interpretation of the Bible that extends beyond specific situations within Mercy thought. Fourth, Redekop is basing truth in the concept of a ‘free and open democracy’. Here, Redekop is searching for universal truth rather than absolute truth. Notice that the first two concepts take precedence over the last two concepts. Instead of searching for universal truth, the Bible (a source of absolute truth) is being interpreted in universal terms, and Redekop is concerned that he does not place too much weight upon the idea of a ‘free and open democracy’.

Redekop’s ultimate basis is what he calls ‘a high view of Scripture’: “Readers will note that I emphasize the notions of ‘conservative Christianity’ and ‘conservative Christians.’ While there are obviously other important categories, I stress these for three reasons. First, this category encompasses all believers who accept Scripture as the inspired word of God with applicability to all areas of life. They thus take biblical ethics as normative... Second, I focus on this category of Christians because that is the one to which I belong... And third, I deal with this group because I deem it to be the most consequential one. If one does not have a high view of Scripture, it is difficult to sharpen issues of agreement and disagreement between political and Christian perspectives” (p.22).

There are two problems with ‘a high view of Scripture’. The first problem is that we now live in a post-Christian world which views the Bible as an obsolete, ancient tome. One can see what this means by comparing belief in the Bible with a belief in dogheads and monopods. Pliny the Elder, an esteemed Roman historian, wrote in his Natural History of the three monstrous races of ‘dogheads’, ‘monopods’, and mouthless ‘ Astomi’. For the typical postmodern mindset, there is no essential difference between Pliny’s natural history with its dogheads and monopods and the Bible with its demons and angels. And even if the Bible is given more respect than Pliny’s history because of its status as a holy book, how does one distinguish between, say, the Bible and the Quran?

The second problem is that a ‘high view of Scripture’ actually ends up distorting the content of Scripture. Cognitively speaking, having a high view of Scripture implies having a low view of self. That is because mental networks struggle for dominance. If the Bible is mentally supported by an MMN with great emotional status, then this MMN will impose its structure upon the MMNs of personal identity.

This religious attitude of self-denial lies at the heart of Redekop’s view of Christian morality. He describes how a government based in Christian ethics would function: “Could it ever happen that a government might actually decide to govern entirely according to the highest Christian ethic of selflessness and perhaps give away its financial reserves, eliminate all means of protection, and leave the country vulnerable to military attack?... As I read political history, such a situation has never occurred. It is also very unlikely ever to occur in the future” (p.85). Notice how Christian ethics are being equated with the religious attitude of self-denial.

Redekop contrasts the self-preservation of government with the self-sacrifice of Christianity: “The primary guiding commitment for national government, the guardian of the state, is self-preservation. The overarching, guiding commitment for Christians is obedience to God. In secular political life, status, popularity, power, and control are held in high esteem; in the Christian life, servanthood, submission, sacrifice, love, and worship of God are most important. As we have seen, there is considerable overlap of enlightened political agendas and certain Christian ministries, but we must not ignore the basic differences. The tensions are real” (p.37).

Let us analyze these adjectives. I have suggested that the childish mind is driven by a conflict between MMNs of personal status and culture. This will cause ‘status, popularity, power, and control’ to be ‘held in high esteem’. Thus, these aspects of secular political life are an expression of childish thought with its MMNs rather than mental maturity, and mature behavior will avoid these motivations. However, I suggest that servanthood, submission, sacrifice, and worship of God are all related to self-denial, which is an expression of the religious attitude. Therefore, what is being contrasted is not secular thought versus religious thought, but rather childish secular thought versus fundamentalist religious thought.

The key is understanding what it means to be ‘obedient to God’. In order to decipher this, one must understand the nature of God. This was discussed briefly before. We will now examine it in more detail. Mental symmetry suggests that two cognitive modules function emotionally: Mercy thought and Teacher thought. Mercy thought attaches emotional labels to experiences, and the mind represents people as Mercy mental networks, or MMNs, which form when a collection of emotional experiences form a network and function as a unit. For instance, when I think of grandmother, what comes to mind might be a small house with a garden, chicken noodle soup, the game Parcheesi, and small wooden boxes stored on shelves in the basement. When I think of grandmother, then this collection of specific emotional experiences, abilities, likes, and dislikes predicts how grandmother will behave. That is how an MMN functions, and the mind uses MMNs to represent people because people live in finite bodies and generate emotional experiences. Teacher thought, in contrast, feels good when there is order-within-complexity, when a general theory ties together many specific experiences. The mind uses Teacher mental networks, or TMNs to represent general theories. When a theory continues to be used, then it will eventually turn into a TMN, which will then explain a situation when it is triggered. For instance, as I have mentioned elsewhere, I remember when the theory of mental symmetry turned into a TMN within my mind, because I would behave in some manner, and then a few seconds later, Teacher thought (which is subconscious in my mind because I am a Perceiver person) would explain why I was behaving in that manner. Notice that a general theory does not occupy any specific location. For instance, while it makes sense to talk about John being in Vancouver on the third of March, it does not make sense to talk about the law of gravity being in a specific location. Instead, the law of gravity is independent of space and time.

That brings us to the nature of God. How does one mentally represent a universal being who is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and who exists outside of space and time? According to Christian theologians, this describes the God of Christianity. It does not make sense to use an MMN to represent this sort of being. But it does make sense to use a TMN to represent this kind of being. However, the childish mind does not naturally think in terms of TMNs, because it is incapable of abstract thought. Instead, the childish mind thinks in terms of concrete individuals and MMNs.

This needs to be repeated. If one wishes to understand the nature of a monotheistic God, then one must use Teacher thought and TMNs rather than Mercy thought and MMNs. How one mentally represents God will determine how one attempts to obey God. Representing God as an MMN will lead naturally to feelings of self-denial, because I will feel that the mental network that represents God possesses greater emotional status than the mental network that represents self. In contrast, representing God as a TMN will lead to a desire for righteousness, which means behaving in a way that is consistent with my understanding of the universal nature of God. Saying this another way, when one uses an MMN to represent God, then obeying God will be equated with denying self, because the same cognitive module (Mercy thought) is being used to represent both man and God. If the MMN that represents God is imposing itself upon thought, then this means that the MMNs of personal identity are not imposing themselves upon thought. But when an MMN is used to represent God, then the result is not the Christian concept of a universal being but rather a type of superhuman Greek god, written with a small ‘g’. However, when one uses a TMN to represent God, then it is possible to obey God and preserve self at the same time, because different cognitive modules are being used to represent God and man. Obeying God will then be seen as thinking and behaving in a manner that is consistent with universal law and order, pursuing long-term personal benefits that everyone can enjoy. Experiments have shown that even when people say that they believe in a universal Christian God (based in a TMN), most individuals will still instinctively behave as if God is some finite person (based in an MMN).

What Redekop says about good government as well as the interaction between church and state is consistent with obedience to a Teacher-like concept of God, in which one thinks and behaves in a manner consistent with universal law and order, and pursues long-term personal benefits for everyone. However, what Redekop explicitly says about obeying God reflects a Mercy-based concept of God backed up by a religious attitude of self-denial.

The solution, I suggest, is to flip the cart with the horse. Instead of using the ‘horse’ of fundamentalist religious belief to pull the ‘cart’ of political common sense, one should use general understanding as illustrated by political common sense to pull the cart of religious belief. It is good to interpret the Bible in universal terms, but I have found that this is not enough, because the ‘cart’ of universal truth is still being pulled by the ‘horse’ of absolute truth. All education, secular or religious, starts with absolute truth and blind faith in authority. However, there comes a time when one has to ‘say it in your own words’, which means describing and examining truth without quoting from the Bible (or from the textbook). If the holy book or textbook that is being studied really is an accurate description of universal truth, then one will discover that this can be done, and when one returns to the holy book or textbook, one will find that one now understands the text more clearly, without being mentally clouded by attitudes such as self-denial. This can be done with Christian doctrine. If one approaches God and Christianity from a Teacher perspective of universality rather than from a Mercy perspective of authority, then it is possible to use the theory of mental symmetry to develop a systematic theology of Christianity that is consistent with the content of the Bible. Redekop has taken a similar approach to politics, using a Teacher perspective of universality to develop a general description of ‘what God requires of government’. What Redekop has not done (possibly because his area of expertise is politics and not cognition) is to take the final step of ‘flipping the cart with the horse’ in order to view Christian ethics from a Teacher perspective.

Redekop explicitly says that every political system that has attempted to apply Christian ethics has failed. He has studied historical examples in which “civil government implements a Christian ethic or at least makes that its goal... Many such experiments involving small communities have been attempted in the British Isles, Continental Europe, the United States, Canada, and elsewhere. John Calvin’s Geneva could be described as such an experiment. All of these efforts have failed. Even when a political experiment begins with only fully committed Christians, fallen humanity rather quickly deteriorates to the point where persuasion fails and coercion must be employed to maintain law and order” (p.90). In addition, he states that any political party that bases itself in Christian ethics is un-electable: “It is not yet been demonstrated that a party fully committed to biblical teaching can win at the polls in modern times” (p.155).

This bears repeating. On the one hand, Redekop says that ‘it is the church, not the state, that is the bearer of the meaning of history’ (p.23). And yet on the other hand, he concludes that all efforts to implement a government based in Christian ethics have failed. Why advocate a solution that does not work? After all, Mennonites are well known for coming up with pragmatic solutions that work, and Redekop has extensive experience in the area of politics.

The solution, I suggest, is to take Redekop’s analysis of good Christian government and use the same kind of thinking to analyze Christian ethics. Taking this step will lead to a transformation in one’s concept of God. My experience is that this transformation does not change one’s concept of God into something that contradicts Scripture, but rather into something that stops contradicting Scripture, because a concept of God that is based in MMNs is inconsistent with Christian theology. (This transformation is also described in Natural Cognitive Theology.)


In order to back this up, let us look at self-denial. We will examine some scriptural passages, describe the inherent contradiction within self-denial, and then see how following a concept of God that is based in Teacher thought leads to traits that may appear similar to self-denial but are in fact driven by self-preservation.

The classic biblical passage about self-denial is Philippians 2: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:3-11 NASB).

The word translated ‘selfishness’ is eritheia, which means ‘electioneering or intriguing for office’. ‘Empty conceit’ is an accurate translation, as is ‘lowliness of mind’. ‘Esteem’ comes from hegeomai, which relates to social and political status, while ‘important’ comes from huperecho, which relates to personal status. Thus, Paul is telling us that social interaction should not be guided by MMNs of personal status. Paul does not say that one should ignore personal interests by practicing self-denial, but rather that one should include the interests of others in addition to personal interests. A similar attitude is found in the Golden rule, which states that one should love one’s neighbor as oneself, not that one should love one’s neighbor while ignoring self. Going further, I suggest that regarding others as ‘more important than oneself’ makes a person teachable. The individual who believes that he is more important than others probably will not learn from others, whereas the one who regards others as more important will gain in understanding because he is willing to learn from others.

Paul then tells us to follow the example of Jesus. MMNs naturally struggle for personal power, but Jesus did not follow that route by ‘grasping onto power’. Instead, he was obedient to God, this obedience caused the MMNs of personal identity to fall apart and die, and this was followed by God giving Jesus a name that is above other names. This process makes sense if one views God from the Teacher perspective of general understanding. Think, for instance, of the child who is born into a rich home. He could rely upon MMNs of personal status and wealth. Or he could choose to acquire an education and submit to the TMN of understanding rather than MMNs of personal status. He would then acquire a name, an identity that is based in Teacher thought rather than Mercy thought. For instance, instead of being known as John the rich kid, he might be known as Dr. John the neurologist. In order to become a neurologist, he would have to stop relying upon personal status and be guided instead by understanding. Of course, studying neurology is an inadequate example, because neurologists can be rather haughty individuals who look down their intellectual noses at less educated common folk. But that is because neurology studies the object of the brain in an objective manner, while ignoring deeper issues of personal transformation. However, a neurologist does know far more about the brain than the average individual, and this expertise was gained by submitting to the TMN of general understanding rather than relying upon MMNs of personal status. And any rich kid who uses wealth and status to buy—or cheat—his way through a medical education will make a rotten neurologist; instead of acquiring a good name, he will gain a bad name.

Two conclusions can be made. First, what is being described here is a general process of death-and-resurrection that really works in the real world, and not just some Christian ethic that will fail when it is applied. Second, one can find partial examples of this principle in the secular world. However, these secular examples apply the principle peripherally to objective areas of personal existence. The solution, I suggest, is to apply death-and-resurrection to the core of personal identity and not just the periphery.

Another classic passage regarding self-denial is Jesus’ statement regarding ‘taking up one’s cross’: “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.’ But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.’ Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS’” (Matt. 16:24-27).

The contrast here is between conservatism and transformation. Peter is attempting to cling to the MMNs of personal identity. Jesus, in contrast, says that MMNs of personal identity need to be transformed by the TMN of a concept of God. What is being emphasized is not the Mercy attitude of self-denial but rather the general Teacher process of death followed by resurrection, because Jesus says that death and resurrection is a universal process that applies to everyone. Jesus is using selfish language of profit, exchange, and loss. But he is saying that the ultimate goal is the internal goal of saving one’s soul and that this transcends the external goal of ‘gaining the whole world’. The self-denial of ‘losing his life’ by itself is insufficient. However, paying the price of ‘losing his life’ for the ‘sake of Jesus’ will lead to the selfish goal of ‘finding life’. But, as with the passage in Philippians, the eventual reward will come from God in Teacher thought and not from people in Mercy thought. Notice that Jesus is not saying that it is wrong to seek personal profit. Instead, he is pointing out the inadequacy of trying to gain possessions while forfeiting one’s soul, because the soul is more valuable than possessions. One can see this illustrated by America, which is losing its position as a pre-eminent country because too many of its citizens are ‘selling their souls’ in order to get rich. Compare this with a country such as South Korea, which is getting more prosperous because its citizens pursue education and not just material wealth. (I lived in South Korea for several years and know the inadequacies of South Korean motivations. However, I suggest that the illustration is still valid.)

A focus upon the reward rather than upon self-denial is also seen in Hebrews 11, another classic passage about self-denial: “Let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 11:1,2). There is self-denial in this passage. However, one does not focus upon what is being ‘laid aside’ but rather one ‘runs the race’ and ‘fixes one’s eyes’ upon the example of Jesus. Thus, the emphasis is on the process and the goal rather than upon what is being denied. And Jesus did not glorify self-denial, but rather ‘despised it’, regarding it as something to be belittled, being motivated by the personal goal of ‘the joy set before him’.

Turning now to a cognitive perspective, I suggest that self-denial inherently contradicts itself. We have seen that the mind uses mental networks to represent people. Personal identity can be defined as the set of mental networks that continually come to mind. For example, when I am watching a movie then I may temporarily identify with one of the characters on the screen. However, when the movie is over then my permanent identity will be defined by the mental networks that I cannot ignore, including the mental network that represents my physical body and the mental networks that represent my knowledge and skills. (Personal identity begins in the child with mental networks that represent the physical body and it then expands to include personal knowledge and skills. For instance, I know facts about computers and I know how to build and repair computers. This knowledge has turned into mental networks that become activated whenever I think about computers. Therefore, this knowledge is part of my identity.)

If self-denial is consistently practiced, then the emotional experiences of self-denial will turn into a mental network that becomes part of personal identity. But self-denial is a suppression of personal identity. The result is a contradiction in terms. For example, when a person becomes aged, then it appears that personality tends to become reduced to conscious thought combined with core mental networks. My mother is now 95 years old and is becoming forgetful. She is a Mercy person who is conscious in the realm of MMNs. She has always emphasized self-denial, but the mental network of self-denial has now become a primary aspect of her identity that is continually being triggered within her mind which then imposes itself upon her environment, leading to conversations such as: “Mother, please have a piece of toast.” “Oh no, I cannot take this piece of toast because I am sure that you want it.” “Mother, please have some more soup. Oh no, I cannot, because that would be taking more than my share.” Ironically, self-denial has become such a pervasive aspect of my mother’s personal identity that it turns into an imposition of herself upon others that makes it difficult for others to take care of her. (My mother is very sweet and is doing amazingly well for her age. However, her current behavior illustrates quite clearly the inherent contradiction of pursuing self-denial).

A similar statement was made of Mahatma Gandhi, another Mercy person. Quoting from an NPR article, “He was a University College London-educated lawyer who donned a loincloth to identify with the poorest of the earth but cultivated wealthy contributors. In fact, at the time he was assassinated, he lived in a mansion lent to him by a rich industrialist. The bowl and sandals he used were props of a kind, to remind himself, and the world, of India’s poor. He rode third class on trains, to visibly associate with the poor. But Congress Party members would buy scads of tickets to surround him with security. Sarojini Naidu, president of the Indian National Congress, once memorably observed, ‘It costs a lot of money to keep this man in poverty.’” Notice how self-denial turned into an identity that defined the self of Gandhi. This self-denial had to be supported by others, because self-denial, by definition, does not support self. In order to receive this support from others, Gandhi had to cultivate the approval of wealthy benefactors. Simply stated, he had to seek approval from others in order to live a lifestyle that did not seek approval from others.

We have looked at self-denial, which attempts to suppress MMNs of personal identity. Following Teacher understanding leads to a form of behavior that may look like self-denial but is actually quite different. I suggest in Natural Cognitive Theology that the process of personal transformation goes through the three stages of constructing a concept of God, following a concept of God, and being transformed by a concept of God. In each stage, one practices humility for selfish reasons. Looking at the first stage, if God is a universal being who does not change, then one can learn about the character of God by searching for universal truth, general principles that are independent of the opinions of people. I suggest that these general principles can be found externally in how the world works and internally in how the mind works. Focusing upon personal status and the opinions of people will blind a person to seeing how things really work. Thus, one practices humility in order to avoid self-deception, because self-deception can result in stupidity, and stupidity can have harmful personal effects. (This relates to what was said earlier about regarding others as more important than oneself.) The end result is a general understanding of the character of God, as revealed through universal principles of how things work.

Moving to the second stage, one practices altruism in order to become righteous. Righteousness naturally acts in a way that is consistent with God’s character. Using cognitive language, it is behavior that is guided by the TMN of an understanding of universal law (which was constructed during the first stage). The childish mind is already filled with MMNs and these MMNs will naturally motivate behavior. Therefore, the only way to become righteous is by being motivated by a TMN while not being motivated by MMNs. This principle is described in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus warns, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 6:1). Saying this another way, one will only be motivated by a concept of God if one is not motivated by concepts of people. Righteousness has a personal benefit, because one will naturally think and behave in a manner that is consistent with how things work; one will naturally function in a way that cooperates with the structure of the universe rather than fights it.

Finally, during the third stage, one chooses not to seek social status because one wants lasting personal rewards. That is because the real reward comes not from the approval of people but rather from knowing how things work. For instance, suppose that one purchases a car. One does not buy a car in order to park it in the driveway so that one can receive approval from other people. Instead, one buys a car in order to drive it. Similarly, one does not learn about natural law in order to teach it to others or receive approval for knowing about natural law. Instead, one learns about science in order to transform the natural world through technology. Similarly, one does not practice righteousness in order to receive approval from people. Instead, the goal is to acquire the personal benefit of functioning in a way that is consistent with how the mind works. Therefore, focusing upon the opinions of people will distract a person from achieving the real reward.

Comparing Church with Politics

Redekop compares the qualities of church with that of a political party on page 156 of his book. We will examine some of these adjectives in the light of what has been said.

Redekop says that for church, the highest virtue is ‘love’, while the highest virtue for a political party is ‘justice’. The church is ‘other-oriented’, whereas politics are ‘self-oriented’. We have seen that Redekop equates Christian love with self-denial, hence the combination of love and other-oriented. However, I would suggest a slightly different combination. I define love as mutually beneficial interaction between mental networks. The goal of Christianity is to transform mental networks so that they they motivate people to think and behave in ways that are consistent with mental wholeness. Thus, Christianity makes it possible for people to interact naturally in a way that is mutually beneficial—guided by feelings of love. In contrast, politics deals with the external realm, which is not the ultimate source of motivation. Thus, instead of regarding politics as self-oriented, I would view it as dealing with the peripheral aspects of self, while church involves the more central aspects of self. Government works best when it provides a framework of laws and procedures—justice—within which people can interact guided by the internal motivation of love.

Redekop says that ‘God and the Bible’ act as the source of moral authority for church while ‘leader’s views’, ‘party policy’, and ‘public preference’ guide politics. The reality, I suggest, is somewhat different. When the basis is a fundamentalist belief in ‘God and the Bible’, then the attitude of fundamentalism will interpret biblical content through the lens of self-denial and replace the concept of universal truth, which expresses the character of the universal being of God, with absolute truth, which is based in the pronouncements of a specific holy book. This bias is seen in Redekop’s description of church ethics as ‘absolutist’ and ‘altruistic’. In contrast, when one is guided by a general Teacher understanding of how the mind works, then this leads to the concept of a God that corresponds with the biblical description of a Trinitarian, monotheistic, universal deity, and it leads to an understanding of universal truth that is consistent with the content of the Bible. (This is described in Natural Cognitive Theology.) Turning to politics, a government may be officially guided by the MMNs of public opinion, but people will naturally demand a form of government that is consistent with the structure of their mind. Whenever there is a discrepancy between these two, then there will be strong pressure for government to reform to reflect the internal content of the average individual. Summarizing, both church and politics are ultimately guided by cognitive development. One may say that church follows God and the Bible, but this obedience is highly affected by one’s level of mental programming. Similarly, one may say that state follows public opinion, but public opinion is also determined by the average level of mental programming within citizens. Thus, both church and state are actually subject to cognitive mechanisms that function at a deeper level.

Moving further, Redekop says that the scope of church is ‘a global family of believers’ while the scope of a political party is ‘one country or jurisdiction within it’. It is true that there is an emotional resonance between individuals who are following the Christian path of personal transformation, even when they belong to different cultures. Part of this can be explained psychologically, because a similar cross-cultural emotional bond can be seen between third culture kids, who typically feel more at home with global nomads such as themselves rather than individuals who live in merely one culture. Christians like to think that they are connected by a ‘spiritual bond’, and such a bond may exist. However, having traveled to 37 countries, my experience is that the mental networks of culture often run deeper than mental networks associated with either Christianity or personal transformation. Thus, in practice, the ‘global family of believers’ has a natural tendency to fracture along cultural and national lines. Going the other way, political policies in one jurisdiction may be officially separate from those in another jurisdiction, but they are are heavily influenced by laws in surrounding regions. Thus, there is a sense in which politicians also belong to a ‘global family’.

Redekop says that “it is very problematic for the Christian Church, or even a segment of it, to function as a political party... It is impossible for it to be true to a biblical calling if it gains political power. The Christian ethic puts the welfare of others ahead of one’s own; political parties campaign to be elected do not do so. The church does not employ coercion; the state does.” I would agree with Redekop’s conclusion, but would suggest different reasons. As Redekop says elsewhere, church deals with the internal whereas state handles the external. Combining these two leads to the sort of thought police that we saw in Calvin’s Geneva. (A much stronger form of thought police is emerging today as technology acquires the ability to determine what a person thinks and does in private) If church and state are to integrate in a healthy manner, then church should be given the permission to make people feel inadequate, while state should reserve the right to punish people physically. Stated simply, church acts as the carrot for society whereas state plays the role of the stick. The carrot leads society from the front while the stick prods society from the back. This means that the standards of church should always be higher than the standards of state. In other words, church uses conscience to internally motivate a minority of citizens, these provide an example to the majority of citizens, the state passes legislation guided by the opinions of the majority, and the state then uses physical force to keep the stragglers in line.

The problem is that church is no longer accepted by society at large as a legitimate source of conscience. That is because Christian conscience tends to be taught as absolute truth based in the Bible, and postmodern thought now questions all sources of truth. As I have mentioned several times, I suggest that the solution is to base conscience in universal truth, guided by a knowledge of how things work. We have seen that Redekop advocates following this approach. Mental symmetry extends this Teacher-based approach to the core of Christianity. For instance, instead of saying ‘Do not do this because the Bible says that it is wrong’, church should say ‘Do not do this because it leads to harmful personal consequences’, and this verbal message should be backed up by church providing an example of the beneficial personal consequences that result when one follows a more wholesome alternative.

Instead, what often happens today is that evangelical Christians preach absolute truth from the Bible in order to suppress forbidden MMNs and then are caught in the hypocrisy of themselves satisfying these same forbidden MMNs. The example that is currently in the news is that of the Duggar family, who were heavily influenced by the teaching of Bill Gothard, whose teachings have ended up hurting a lot of people, and who himself has had to resign from his organization because of satisfying forbidden MMNs.2 Whenever one is preaching against some thought or activity, then this emotionally reinforces the mental network representing that forbidden behavior, which means that Exhorter thought will be attracted to that mental network and generate a drive to fulfill that mental network. Saying this simply, the more time, energy, and emotion that one spends on forbidden behavior, the more one is creating a drive to carry out this forbidden behavior. Evidence indicates that Gothard the bachelor spent too much time around pretty girls, got too emotionally involved in the lives of these girls, imposed too much emotional authority on these girls, and devoted too much energy to what these girls should and should not wear, while at the same time preaching that men should free themselves from impure thoughts. That is like saying, ‘Do not think about pink elephants’ while at the same time getting emotionally involved with pink elephants and describing these elephants in great detail.

Instead, MMNs of personal and physical desire need to be placed within the framework of a general Teacher understanding of mental wholeness. I have attempted to describe some cognitive principles regarding sexuality in the essay on Anabaptism.

Paul describes these various attitudes at the beginning of the book of Romans. The end of the first chapter describes a general population that is driven by unhealthy, childish, lawless MMNs: “God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful” (Rom. 1:28-31). The instinctive response is to preach against this destructive behavior. However, focusing upon forbidden behavior leads naturally to performing the same behavior: “Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things” (Rom. 2:1). The solution is to seek long-term personal benefits, guided by a knowledge of cause-and-effect (which is easy to acquire because one can see all around oneself the destructive results of childish behavior) placed within the general Teacher understanding of a concept of God, “who will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation” (Rom. 2:6-8).

A General Overview

We will finish this essay by describing the relationship between church and state in general terms, using the two axes of abstract versus concrete and internal versus external. This leads to the four quadrants of abstract internal, abstract external, concrete internal, and concrete external. As Redekop says, ethics deals with internal and government with external: “Morality deals with motives, matters of the heart, internal values. Governments, on the other hand, deal with behavior, with external action” (p.141). Science comes up with a general understanding about external reality; it is abstract external. Theology, in contrast, is abstract internal. Finally, Mennonites have historically emphasized concrete internal, by focusing upon personal attitude, turning their back on the state and physical force, and downplaying theology. One can place this in a grid:

Internal (ethics)

External (government)

Abstract (TMNs)



Concrete (MMNs)



It is interesting to compare this grid with that made by McCauley, a researcher in the cognitive science of religion, in his 2011 book Why Religion Is Natural and Science Is Not.

Appeal to Agents

Natural cause and effect




Maturationally Natural

Popular Religion

Common sense (technology)

I agree with McCauley that popular religion can be explained cognitively in terms of MMNs that the mind uses to represent people, which develop naturally in the childish mind. I also agree that both theology and science involve abstract thought rather than the ‘maturationally natural’ thinking of concrete thought. And I agree that science is cognitively different than technology. What is different is my suggestion that Christian theology can be explained by understanding the structure of the mind and that the mind can represent both science and theology naturally through the use of TMNs. Related to this, I suggest that the Anabaptist combination of Protestant faith, application of doctrine, following the example of Jesus, and non-violence causes it to be a partial pragmatic illustration of an internal theology based in the structure of the mind.

Physical violence functions at the level of concrete external. It takes advantage of physical vulnerability to control people: “If you do not obey me then I may imprison you, hurt you, torture you, or kill you.” Thus, physical violence reduces everything to the level of concrete external; any person who says or believes the wrong thing can be killed. That is how government functioned in the 1500s when Anabaptism came to birth. In contrast, imagine what it would be like to live as a disembodied mind within a ‘spiritual realm’. (Swedenborg explores this concept. His theology is wonky, but his description of a spiritual heaven is quite interesting.) In such a spiritual realm, external ‘reality’ and physical location would reflect internal mental networks. Humans can be controlled physically because they inhabit physical bodies with physical limitations and vulnerabilities that occupy physical locations. In contrast, a disembodied mind within a spiritual realm would have mental limitations and mental vulnerabilities. A disembodied mind would be governed by its core mental networks; it would be subject to the control of beings who manipulated those core mental networks, and it would be restricted to locations that resonated with these core mental networks.

The contrast between spirit and flesh is described by Paul in his letter to the Galatians: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Gal. 6:7-9). Paul makes it clear that he is talking about basic principles of personal cause-and-effect backed up by the character of God. Building one’s mind upon the concrete external leads to corruption. When society is functioning at the level described at the end of Romans 1, then one is surrounded by examples that illustrate the corruption that occurs when one builds one’s mind upon the concrete external. However, notice that Paul does not separate between flesh and spirit in Gnostic fashion. Instead, he says that one achieves the ultimate personal selfish goal of eternal life by building upon the concrete internal. And like Swedenborg, he describes eternal life as having its source in the spiritual realm: ‘the one who sows to the spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life’. But he adds that this process of going from external to internal and then back to external takes time, and that it will fail if one ‘loses heart’—if one lets go of the concrete internal. This tells us that spiritually based eternal life is internally vulnerable. Because of this, one should ‘do good’. In other words, one should not take advantage of physical vulnerability but rather allow the concrete external to be guided by concrete internal standards of goodness.

This describes the path that Anabaptism has tried to follow. Initially it led to physical vulnerability. However, in the longer term, it made it possible for Mennonites to live in communities that had more goodness than surrounding communities. As a Mennonite, I am aware of the shortcomings of Mennonite history and culture. However, Mennonites have followed the path of ‘sowing to the spirit’ sufficiently over the centuries that one can gain an idea of what happens when one pursues this option. Concepts that Anabaptists pioneered at great personal cost, such as freedom of religion, separation of church and state, non-violence, believer’s baptism, and the priesthood of all believers, are now accepted either as norms or as legitimate options by Western society.

Notice the importance of following a path of non-violence, because violence is a sign that one is ‘losing heart’ by giving up on the concrete internal and that one will no longer ‘do good’ but rather use physical force.

Western society as a whole is taking a different path. Instead of heading from concrete external to concrete internal, it has gone from concrete external to abstract external. A general Teacher understanding of physical law was developed by individuals such as Galileo and Newton during the scientific revolution, this transformed actions during the industrial revolution, and this led to a new external personal environment during the consumer revolution, which began in about the 1880s.

Thus, one currently finds three different trends within society. First, ‘sowing to the spirit’ uses the concrete internal to transform the concrete external. Second, science and technology use the abstract external to transform the concrete external. These two transformative influences have tended to operate in isolation from one another. On the one hand, those who pursue the concrete internal realm of ‘the spirit’ are suspicious of abstract theology, while on the other hand, those who pursue the abstract external realm of science are generally convinced that nothing exists except the external. Third, there is also a trend to express the concrete external free of any constraints from either religion or science, verbalized as the general statement that every ‘lifestyle’ should be fully respected without pronouncing judgment.

We have discussed the Anabaptism focus upon the concrete internal as well as its emphasis upon non-violence. Science and technology have also had a profound impact upon human violence. First, technology makes it possible to minimize human suffering through advances such as modern medicine and the development of consumer devices. A washing machine, for instance, is far more pleasant than a washing board.

Second, technology makes violence repulsive by amplifying it. This first occurred during the First World War when technology transformed war from a struggle between human groups to a conflict between human flesh and ‘the guns’. This is portrayed in a poem by Gilbert Frankau: “We are the guns, and your masters! Saw ye our flashes? Heard ye the scream of our shells in the night, and the shuddering crashes? Saw ye our work by the roadside, the shrouded things lying, moaning to God that He made them - the maimed and the dying? Husbands or sons, Fathers or lovers, we break them. We are the guns!” (The cognitive transition that occurred during World War I is analyzed in Natural Cognitive Theology.) Before World War I, European society was governed by MMNs of social status and personal importance. The carnage wrought by World War I was so horrific that the alternative to non-violence became hell-on-Earth. And this is not an exaggeration. For instance, during the battle of Verdun which lasted 303 days, 10 million artillery shells were fired and 300,000 soldiers died. One French lieutenant, who was later killed by a shell, wrote in his diary, “Humanity is mad. It must be mad to do what it is doing. What a massacre! What scenes of horror and carnage! I cannot find words to translate my impressions. Hell cannot be so terrible. Men are mad!” It is interesting to note that this lesson has only been partially learned in the United States, probably because America did not participate in the early stages of both world wars and because the horrors of modern war have never touched American soil.

Third, the TMNs of science bring external law and order to society. That is because Teacher thought appreciates order-within-complexity. Thus, when TMNs of science govern society, then the physical infrastructure and social interaction of such a society will be characterized by law and order. However, this structure will tend to be inhuman because the internal and spiritual are being ignored.

The transformation generated by science and technology has impacted Anabaptism in several ways. First, Mennonites no longer have to make special arrangements with local authorities to follow a path of non-violence, because non-violence is now accepted by most Western countries as a legitimate option. Second, it is now possible for Anabaptists to cooperate with government in areas of common interest. Redekop describes these areas of overlap: “For the past half-century or more, state, provincial and national governments have provided large financial grants to church groups for the operation and construction of hospitals, homes for seniors, and other healthcare facilities... Other examples that could be cited deal with food banks for the hungry, employment centers, recycling operations, educational programs for immigrants, day care and nursery programs, housing projects, as well as housing and programs for people with physical or mental disabilities... In all these undertakings, the overlapping interests and agendas of church and government have produced major benefits for society” (p. 137). Notice that these all involve external, concrete means of helping people in need, thus combining the external emphasis of government with the concrete religious attitude of Mennonite culture.

One major indirect result of science and technology is the growth of government. As Redekop says, “Government is big and growing. Its tentacles now impact the church and the life of individual Christians in massive ways” (p.98). That is because both government and science deal with the external realm. What typically happens is that science discovers that some substance is harmful, some action is dangerous, or some process can be abused. The internal path of ethics would respond by teaching people and allowing conscience to guide behavior. In contrast, the external path of government responds by passing legislation and using official punishment to guide behavior. Therefore, when science comes up with new understanding regarding the external world, the natural response will be for the government to come up with new regulations, and not for church to come up with new theology. However, I have learned that this does not have to be the case, because the research of psychology, sociology, and neurology played a major role in helping me to develop a general understanding of theology.

One problem with this approach is that external criteria will be used to evaluate legislation. Redekop says that “in most countries the government now makes claims and demands that specifically contradict how Christians ought to live. In many Western countries, for example, including Canada and parts of the United States, such demands include the approval of same-sex marriages and other practices that both church and state previously rejected” (p.99). One can analyze the logic behind such government decisions. The rule of law, guided by Teacher thought, believes that all entities should be treated equally under the law. But when one focuses upon the external, then entities will be defined by their external characteristics, while internal principles of moral cause-and-effect will be ignored. This works when equality is being given to external groups that have no inherent internal differences. For instance, there is no cognitive difference between a black person and a white person, or between slaves and masters. However, there are significant cognitive implications to treating same-sex marriage as equivalent to traditional marriage.

Notice that abstract internal has not yet been discussed. N.T. Wright makes the case that Paul invented theology, and this makes sense. Thus, theology has existed for almost two millennia. What is new is the idea of packaging theology as an abstract, internal, general theory. This is what I have attempted to do in Natural Cognitive Theology, and as far as I know, it has not been done before. But merely constructing a cognitive meta-theory of theology is not sufficient. Instead, one must also extend from the abstract internal of theology to the abstract external of science, which I have also attempted to do in Natural Cognitive Theology by using mental symmetry as the basis for a philosophy of science. And one must also extend from abstract internal theology to concrete internal spirituality, which means viewing theology from the vantage point of personal transformation. This is also described in some detail in Natural Cognitive Theology. Summarizing, mental symmetry is an abstract theory of the internal realm of human cognition, which can be applied to the abstract internal realm of theology, the abstract external realm of science, and the concrete internal realm of spirituality.

This has implications for the Anabaptist focus upon non-violence and pacifism. Violence occurs when the concrete external is used to overwhelm other aspects of thought and existence, and violence is effective because humans live in vulnerable physical bodies that are trapped within the concrete external realm. When the concrete external is modified by either the concrete internal or the abstract external, then this limits violence, making it easier to follow a path of non-violence. The theory of mental symmetry makes it possible to go one step further by using a cognitive meta-theory (in the abstract internal) to tie everything together. However, while this theory has transformed both my understanding and my personal identity, it has not yet affected the physical realm of the concrete external. If this last step could be taken, then Anabaptist nonviolence would become not just a valid option but actually a defensible option. I do not know exactly what this means, but mental symmetry predicts that there is a ‘spiritual realm’ that reflects the internal world of mental networks as well as an ‘angelic realm’ that reflects the abstract world of words and power, and the Bible refers to both spirits and angels. (This too is discussed in Natural Cognitive Theology.)

For now, all I can say is that the theory of mental symmetry has led me much further than I thought that it would. And I also know that the TMN of a general will drive a person to take that theory as far as possible. Time will tell where this leads.


1 I remember reading about this logical fallacy in a book on multiple personalities. Occasionally, peripheral personalities would attempt to kill the physical body in order to get rid of other personalities, not realizing that destroying the body would kill them as well. This suggests that one is dealing here with a deep cognitive split at the level of multiple personalities.

2 Disclaimer: Bill Gothard’s advanced seminar teaches the same system of cognitive styles that is used by mental symmetry. And if I remember correctly, I attended two of Gothard’s seminars in my teenage years. However, I did not get my understanding of cognitive styles from Bill Gothard and I have never interacted with Bill Gothard. In addition, his emphasis upon submission to authority inhibits critical thinking and creates opportunities for abuse, his paramilitary training program confuses state and church, his treatment of scripture lacks rigor, and his narrowminded view of ‘godly life’ turns life into a prison surrounded by forbidden fruit.