DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Transformation

Written by: on February 27, 2020

Another week with Pinker, and now I understand more why people dislike him. Although I picked up on his voraciousness last week when it came to religion.[1] This week, while reading Blank Slate, it seemed I discovered that much of his writing when approaching his opponents, he deploys an attacking style rather than dismantling their arguments. This is picked up by many but most notably from behavior scientist Henry D. Schlinger. Schlinger writing in the conclusion of his review says,

If the above is any indication, the scholarship in the Blank Slate is less than exemplary and probably represents a case where personal ambition has clouded objectivity. In the examples I’ve described, Pinker engaged in less than adequate scholarship, misrepresentation or misunderstanding of, and unnecessary personal attacks on, those with whom he disagrees. Such strategies might sell books, but in the long run they do not serve objective science.[2]

 

I hold heartily agree with Schlinger in the fact that Pinker chooses to use language that would “trigger” both sides of the argument in order to cause more chatter about his work. As far as said work, Pinker aims to expose what he calls the extreme view and highlight why the moderate view is seen as extreme.[3] He tries to accomplish this by exposing the three-headed monster of empiricism  (the blank slate), romanticism (the noble savage) and dualism (the ghost in the machine). Pinker wants everyone not only to acknowledge but accept the fact that most of who we are is rooted in the physical nature passed on to us, not from external forces or culture.[4] The big question for me is, how does our faith fit into the nature vs nurture debate? This, in turn, led me to think about the word metamorphosis.

On the way to becoming a butterfly, a caterpillar passes through four stages of growth and development. It begins as an egg; it progresses to the larva or caterpillar stage; it proceeds to the pupa or transformational phase, and, finally, it becomes a butterfly.

The transformation process is called metamorphosis, which is defined as “a change of the form or nature of a thing or person into a completely different one, by natural or supernatural means.”[5] The key to understanding metamorphosis is realizing that the caterpillar does not turn into something it was not. The transformed creature is not disguised as a butterfly; its butterfly potential was always inside it. The stages of its life cycle are distinct, each serving a different purpose. However, all four phases are connected, and all play a role in the creature’s preordained transformational process.

Metamorphosis is a profound process. The English word is derived from the Greek word metamorphóō, which is defined as follows: “(from 3326/metá, ‘change after being with’ and 3445/morphóō, ‘changing form in keeping with inner reality’)—properly, transformed after being with; transfigured.”[6]

The same word used in Scripture to describe inner transformation is also used widely to describe transformations in nature and other applications. Although human transformation can be compared to that of the caterpillar’s in terms of the life cycles that are key to growth, substantial differences must also be recognized. Unlike the physical change the caterpillar undergoes in becoming a butterfly, there is no automatic change in the physical form associated with personal transformation in humans. Instead, transformation is an inner work that begins with the new birth, is matured by inner healing, and leads to outward manifestations such as behavioral changes and changes in dress and style, for example. In summary, I see how God can use “what we are born with” and “the environment around us” to shape us into whom he was called (designed) us to be. In short, it is not nature vs nurture it is both working together.

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[1] https://blogs.georgefox.edu/dminlgp/pinker-the-stinker/

[2] Schlinger, Henry. “Not So Fast, Mr. Pinker: A Behaviorist Looks at The Blank Slate. A Review Of Steven Pinker’S The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial Of Human Nature.” Behavior and Social Issues 12, no. 1 (2002): 75-79.

[3] Pinker, Steven. “The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature.” The Skeptical Inquirer 27, no. 2 (2003): 37-41.

[4] Allan Lane, “It is All In The Mind,” https://www.theguardian.com/books/2002/sep/21/featuresreviews.guardianreview

[5] “Metamorphosis,” Google.com, accessed February 27, 2020, https://www.google.com/?client=safari&channel=iphone_bm#channel=iphone_bm&q=metamorphosis+definition.

[6] G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley, and G. Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. 4, s.v. “metamorphóō,” (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995).

About the Author

Mario Hood

Most importantly, I am married to the love of my life, Misty Hood, and I'm kept on my toes all day every day, by my son Dalen and daughter Cola Hood. I also serve as the Next Generation Pastor at Church On The Living Edge in Orlando, Florida, under the leadership of Senior Pastor, Dr. Mark Chironna as well as being a Youth and Family Life coach.

8 responses to “Transformation”

  1. mm Tammy Dunahoo says:

    Brilliant metaphor, Mario. You and I used some of the same thought from Schlinger. Its interesting to think about the transformation or maturing process God calls to in becoming like Christ and the outcome of our faith. And then, compare that to the maturing process of some like Pinker or Peterson and what they become with age and more knowledge. Schlinger’s reviews seem to be pointing that out and quite telling that it casts a shadow on the science Pinker promotes.

  2. mm Rev Jacob Bolton says:

    I agree with Tammy, marvelous metaphor Mario. Made me link both Pinker and “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” together. Not many can do that . . . but you can. Thank you!

  3. mm Jenn Burnett says:

    I wonder how Pinker would engage with the butterfly metaphor? I enjoyed it and am chewing on the ramifications within human nature. How does what is present in our DNA from the beginning predetermine what we will become? Just as a caterpillar requires certain conditions (nurture) to fulfil its destiny, so too do people. But whereas the butterfly becomes beautiful, what if what we grow into is less beautiful? For example many genes that predetermine mental health ‘problems’ are not expressed until puberty. The metamorphases in these cases is still genetic, but less desirable. Is this brokenness or the plan of God? Or sin impacting the plan? Or from a Foucaultdian perspective is the problem with the people in power who define what is a ‘mental health disorder’? What do we do with this theologically? Thanks for your insight Mario!

    • Mario Hood says:

      All great questions that I sure we won’t know fully into the eschaton but worth wrestling over until then. I think we do have to always remember that sin / brokenness is a part of what we believe but that doesn’t excuse us to make “abnormal” (whatever that means) people feel less than human.

  4. mm Mary Mims says:

    I love this Mario, and I agree that it is both nature and nurture that God uses to make us who we are and who He always intended us to be. Thank you for connecting us with theology; that’s what’s most important.

  5. Great post Mario, Your metaphor made me think of how God put everything we need to become the people created us to be, in order to fulfil His purposes. I’m complete as I am and do not need to wish that I was someone else and I should not only be contented but I should pursue my dreams with confidence. I write this because in my ministry work, I come across people that think they’re inadequate or not worthy but by reconciling them to God and His truth, they’re set free to accept themselves and allow God to transform them.

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