The Operating System of the mind

the os of the origin of consciousness - the operating system of the mind

I just finished reading this piece by Mark Robertson, in which he refers to "malware theology". I like the term, and I think it's a good jumping off point to explain the purpose of a lot of my writing.

Life is about action. Very little else matters in the long run, because just about everything else we do is an elaborate attempt to deceive ourselves. We write blog posts to feel important, we "like" comments on Facebook to give each other ego boosts, we gather in churches to tell ourselves that we care, we attend certain gatherings and social functions so that we can feel like we are certain types of people. And it's all a ruse.

Controversial theologian Peter Rollins explains it well. When asked whether he denied the resurrection of Jesus, he answered:

I deny the resurrection of Christ every time I do not serve at the feet of the oppressed, when I turn my back on the poor, when I close my ears to the cries of the downtrodden and lend my support to an unjust and corrupt system. But there are moments when I affirm that resurrection. I affirm it when I stand up for those who are forced to live on their knees, when I speak for those who have had their tongues torn out, when I cry for those who have no more tears left to shed.

This isn't just a cute statement to make you feel guilty. He's being completely serious: the only beliefs that matter are the ones we're acting on; the only beliefs we have are the ones we're living right now.

We may sit on the couch for the rest of our lives, thinking of ourselves as runners, buying running gear. We may spend our evenings in Starbucks, hating coffee, thinking of ourselves as sophisticated.

If we could realize the disconnect between our self-concept and what we actually do, maybe we would wake up and realize we never actually enjoyed running. Maybe we would sell our fancy running shoes, and get into yoga. Maybe we'd find a tea shop. Maybe we'd decide the couch wasn't so bad.

Action is what matters, but action is determined by mindset, by the core software of our being.

The operating system of the mind consists of our thoughts, our viewpoints, the stories we tell ourselves. Layer upon layer of concepts, woven together, shaping how we see and interact with the world. And embedded within it all are ideas and beliefs that are like viruses, eating away at our ability to act, covering us in assumptions and outlooks that shut down our interface with outside reality. We all have this, minds filled with malware.

Philosophy and theology are tools to change our minds, and so change our actions. Philosophy and theology allow us to reconfigure our mental software.

What I am constantly looking for is the anti-virus, the system upgrade that will allow us freedom, that will give us the courage to act decisively.

Writing is the tool I use to search for that upgrade.


Mark's post was interesting, although until he got to the very end and finally mentioned serving others, (binding up the broken-hearted, taking care of widows &orphans) the article seemed entirely self-centered , more about him longing to spend his life in an "endless summer" of surfing & hanging with his friends, with nary a thought or concern about anyone outside his perfect little bubble. I'm glad he seemed to have finally made the connection that being a Christian is about others, not just about enjoying and interacting with God's creation, which in itself is fine, I love to enjoy his creation, but that is the "gravy" not the meat and potatoes of being a Christian and servant of God. Up until that final paragraph he was describing a version of "Lite" christianity.

As for Rollin's quote about whether he "denied" the resurrection of Christ, while he technically was correct in what he said, that is, that we either affirm or deny Christ by how we live our lives, by whether we help others in need or ignore them, his answer is at the same time a little too "coy" for my taste. He seems to be afraid somehow to come right out and say plainly what he believes, or doesn't in fact, believe. This is in exactly the same vein as a post of his I read back at Easter about whether the resurrection had to be "historically factual" in order to be spiritually real and effective. He wants to straddle the fence, and that in my opinion is the same as denying Christ. And he should know the Bible well enough to remember what Jesus said about those who deny Him before men, that He will deny them before the angels in heaven. I actually like many of the things I have read of Rollins, but he still seems to want to "skate on thin ice" as regards his belief in Christ as the incarnated, crucified and resurrected Son of God. This does both his readers and himself nothing positive to help them enter the Kingdom.

Finally, the "system upgrade" or "antivirus" as you put it (you are such a geek ! lol) that will "allow us that freedom, that will give us the courage to act decisively" is the same one that has been doing that since Pentacost 2,000 years ago. Its the Holy Spirit , the same One that empowered a handful of uneducated fishermen from a backwater region of a small, enslaved country to "act decisively" and change the entire history of the world. How much more courage does anyone need than the courage to literally give your life for what you believe. Christ said "I am the way, the truth and the life" and whoever accepts this truth is "free indeed". Its really very simple.


Thanks for the reply. :) As far as what Mark said, I think some of us would tend to see a connection (if not an identification) between "living life as an endless Summer", and caring for others. Compassion seems to come from the same source as whatever it is that helps us enjoy creation. It's this carefree attitude, in the middle of intense distress, that seems characteristic of early Christians. They were able to enjoy the simple things - like eating, swimming, and cooking - even while their ship was sinking with them in it!

As far as Peter Rollins, I'm not concerned with his personal belief system. I just want to know if what he said is true: "Our actions ARE our beliefs". Obviously, I think it is true. What do you think?

As to your last point, I would tend to agree. However, it's clear that most of us, no matter how Christian and sincere, aren't automatically freed of our mental viruses. Very few of us are enthralled enough in the simple wonders of creation to enjoy our food while chained to a sinking ship!

I would agree that the right attitude is or could be in sync with "living life as an endless summer" I was just noting that the first part of his post seemed self centered rather than God/others centered. A life in Christ is and should be a life of joy, even on "a ship that is sinking" . As for Rollins, I see your position on his views, although I would modify that to say "our actions should reflect our beliefs", as you can do something without believing in your actions, either by outside compulsion or "going along with the crowd", or to give someone a false impression of your true nature. This is in line with the Biblical passage where Christ dismisses some people with the words "I never knew you" even though they protest that they have done many good works, but apparently for the praise of men rather than the glory of God. I also agree that it is hard for anyone to be "free from our mental viruses" no matter how dedicated we are as Christians. In fact, the closer we strive to be "holy as your Father in heaven is holy" the more the "god of this world" will strive to tempt us and lead us astray. It's a life long struggle for even the most dedicated, as Paul noted in his own life "I do what I do not want to do". That's why only having the Holy Spirit to guide and empower us gives us the ability to enjoy the wonders of creation and know the love of God for us while still living in this world of pain, sorrow and destruction. We can see the "bigger picture" and know that there is a better existence both now and later for those who walk the path of righteousness.

There are certainly actions we can take that are negative or deceitful. But that's the point.

It's not about what we say, it's not about the parties we go's about what we do in the hours and years of life outside of our public image.

That verse you referenced is saying exactly this.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21 – 23)

This "prophesying" and "driving out demons" is exactly the kind of showy self-deception that is totally irrelevant. It's like going to church, or hanging out in Starbucks, or putting a PETA sticker on your car.

These "actions" don't matter. The only thing that matters is the reality of what you choose the rest of the time.

(Side note: For those not familiar with the story I referenced above, this isn't about defeatism, or passively not doing anything. The apostle Paul knew his ship was going down, knew there was nothing he could do about this, and so took a leisurely meal as the ship descended into the waves. He then grabbed a piece of driftwood, rode it to shore, and was shortly proclaimed a god by the natives.)

You are right that "showy self-deception" is totally irrelevant in God's eyes, and should be in ours also. I would say however that what we do and say in private should be the same as what we do and say in public, but in the spirit of humility we should not "brag about" our good deeds in public, just quietly be consistent in our actions and words in both areas of our life. This does not mean we have to spend every waking minute "serving others" and denying ourselves any type of pleasure whatsoever. Its our overall mindset that is important. In the story of Paul you referenced recall also that Paul was confident because of two things. First of all, he had been faithful to the will of God in all things, having been told by the Spirit they should not have tried to attempt this leg of their voyage during winter, it was the captain who followed his own will and tried to make the next port. Second, Paul had been assured after they were caught in the storm that everyone would be saved if they now listened to Paul's advice. That is why he urged all of them to eat one last meal before they were shipwrecked, as they would need their strength to survive. The lesson: obey God's will and your actions will reflect this obedience.

It's weird: when I was self-centered (spot on, there), I was invited to speak at groups, church, et al. Now I will never be allowed. And yet, I am much more concerned with widows, orphans, reprobates. Much freer to love (actions=beliefs), now that I don't try to "sound selfless."

No more worries about telling my story, nor do I need affirmation that I am "other-centered." When I try to "seem right" I was far more the pharisee than when I declared spiritual bankruptcy and stopped trying to be so damned righteous all the time.

Mark, thanks for the reply to Micah's and my discussion of your article. It reflects not only your honesty but a sad truth in contemporary Christianity, which is that those who "appear" righteous and aren't bashfull about proclaiming their "righteousness" to the world are often taken at their own word by the unwary and naive, and given undue and undeserved acclaim. The other side of the coin is that those who quietly serve God and others with humility are often ignored or dismissed as "not dynamic enough" or "not leadership material". But that is OK, for as Christ said, each will receive the reward due them, the prideful in this life and the humble in the next. You have obviously made the right choice, may God bless you in your walk with Him.

Thanks for the kind word Steve. I am most energized in the secular environment, so it works out quite well. When the smoke-and-mirrors are gone, the quiet servant leaders (often the dropouts, the failures, the fools) will be the invaluable church in America and the age to come.