Sunday, August 22, 2010

The power of an idea

“What is the most resilient parasite? An idea. A single idea from he human mind can build cities. An idea can transform the world and rewrite all the rules” - Dom Cobb (Leonardo Di Caprio), Inception

One of the things that really resonated with me when watching Inception was the concept of planting an idea in people’s minds. The film seemed to think that you needed to enter into people’s heads to plant ideas in there. But in reality that isn’t true at all is it?

Ideas are deliberately planted into our minds all the time.







Shop windows

All try to plant ideas in our mind, through advertisments, sponsorships, great design, music, and clever marketing. They try to tell us what we need, what we want, what we should look like, what’s good and what’s bad, what our lives should be about, what’s important to us.

Politicians do exactly the same thing, in fact, anyone with a public voice is trying to do it. Their motivation might be for your good, in some cases, but in most cases its a means of gaining your custom, your support. 

Sometimes its even people making casual suggestions or comments, all of which plant a seed in someone’s mind, whether its conciously or unconciously.

We all get our opinions from somewhere.

We all get our ideas from somewhere

We all get our knowledge from somewhere.

There is rarely anyone who is truly neutral. Everyone comes from a certain perspective and background, which has impacted how they see the world and ultimately how they see God.

How often have you been in a discussion about some issue and somebody said to you 

“They are saying now that.....”


“People are saying now that....”

It happens all the time doesn’t it? I notice it all the time.

It has no source, no direct quote, no name. But apparently this is a statement of fact. 

No its not fact. Its not even your opinion. Its come from somewhere else, something you’ve read, some thing that has been said somewhere you’ve come into contact with. I do it a lot as well, and its an easy thing to do. But that idea that somehow this thing is true has been fed to us and we’ve not really checked where it came from.

It happens with critics of Jesus and religion. They come up with a set of criticisms which often is based on assumptions planted in their mind  - that what we believe and our worldview is somehow subject to a different set of values and critiques than their ‘correct’ worldview. One of the biggest problems with Richard Dawkins is that he takes the idea of God and religion and almost put it in a separate category from his own worldview - because he assumes that his is right, and that what he believes and his worldview isn’t in the same category, that it doesn’t involve any faith whatsoever, and therefore is exempt. 

They don’t think about where their ideas come from. They don’t fully conceive of the fact that all world views are just that - world views. They are all ideas about how we see the world and all should be applicable to the same rules. Ultimately though he doesn’t get that the values that he has come up to believe in and the freedoms he has ultimately come from the values of Jesus entrenched in our culture.

You see, both God and the enemy plant ideas in our minds - but for different reasons, and in different ways, and with different motives.

God intends them for good. The quote at the top of the post is spot on - an idea has immense power. If it is fully realised then it changes the world, and can impact many people. For example, the idea for Facebook. Someone originally came up with this little idea, and it mushroomed into one of the biggest websites around. Someone came up with the idea for the internet, mobile phones. 

Ideas change the world.

But as with all things which have immense power, its been used for evil too. The idea that all Jews needed to be exterminated. The idea to blow up the Twin Towers.

These ideas changed the world. But in a very negative, painful way. Those ideas were never intended for anything other than evil.

God plants ideas in our minds too, and He can do it in subtle ways - but He never does it in deceptive ways. The difference between Him and the enemy is that the enemy will use anything to get his ideas into our minds, he’ll be deceptive, he’ll trick us.

The fall of man is the prime example of this - and of the power of an idea. Satan put the idea into Eve’s mind to eat the apple of the tree of knowledge, he deceived her into thinking it would make her life better, and she and Adam both gave into that.  

That idea definitely changed the world.

I think its really important also that some ideas seem good or start with good intentions. We might thing we’re doing something for good, but often it turns out badly. That’s why it’s not often good to make decisions without wise counsel. Making rash decisions often leads us astray in life. Think of all the impulse decisions you’ve made. Advertisers love this idea, they so often use advertising to make us think that unless we buy their product straightaway then our lives won’t be as good, and we have to do it at that moment. 

Advertising online, on tv and even as we’re walking through shops, special offers on things, they all lead to these kind of decisions. An idea is planted in our mind and we are rushed into making a decision.

All these deceptive ideas are designed - whether its from media, people or Satan directly - to make us feel like we have a need, like something is missing from our lives. That something is wrong and that making that decision, or buying that product will solve it. It comes from a desire to feel validated, to feel valued and worthwhile, to make ourselves feel better. At a very deep level many ideas play on that. Hitler’s drive and ambition, and the decisions he made, may ultimately have been made out of his own insecurities, and to boost his own ego by destroying the lives of others, by making himself better than others - and one of the reasons so many supported him would have been that for a percentage of the population, who were in dire financial cicrumstances, it would ultimately have played on their insecurities and fears.

The bottom line -  and I make no apologies for suggesting this idea to you - is that we are all trying to find our validation from something or someone other than God, something created. Negative ideas get planted in our mind by the world around us which are designed to tell us our lives will be made better, and our egos and insecurities will be satisfied, if we make this decision or buy this product, or support a particular political party. 

God puts ideas in our hearts and minds which are for the good of others, and the good for His kingdom - and ultimately, whether its obvious to us or not, they also work out for our best. The difference with these ideas is that God usually makes it really clear they are from Him - not always at first, sometimes He wants us to come back to Him so He can affirm these ideas and be in control of how they impact our lives - but He never deceives us. 

These are ideas which are for the good of the other, ideas which seek to benefit other people and promote the values of Jesus. God even puts good ideas in the minds of non-Christians - all the scientific advancements in curing disease, in the work of major charities which aren’t necessarily Christian, all ideas which bring good into the world, which bring God more into the world, they are ultimately from God, whether we know it or not, or whether a person believes in God or not. 

Sometimes following through with these ideas isn’t easy. A calling or vision from God is essentially an idea being planted in us, but its not always easy to be obedient. Often it involves risk and faith, which is why wise counsel is so important, and why we need to take time making decisions. 

But ultimately it may often take courage to follow through on an idea from God, because He wants us to trust Him and to get closer to Him through that - and when that is the case we need to ask God for the courage to follow through and take those decisions.

Even good idea that we come up with, which aren’t given to us in prayer, worship or a ‘Christian’ environment - intellectual ideas, philosophical ideas, ideas that engage our brains as much as our hearts, ideas about justice or the environment - often they take a big risk and much courage to pull off. Scientists often go through many failed experiments before they come up with a cure for example, people often have to risk their reputation or their finances to get an idea or company off the ground, which ultimately can go on to make a huge difference in the world. 

William Wilberforce’s idea to bring an end to slavery was a great example of this. This idea ultimately consumed his life and became tied into his identity - and it changed the world for the better. 

Of course many ideas have been corrupted and used for negative ends, as is human nature. But there are ideas fed to us which aren’t good, which aren’t of God, which don’t seek to promote the way of Jesus, which only seek to serve themselves and the people who come up with them. They use the creative impulse given us by God for negative, self-serving purposes. 

So how do we deal with all this?

I think one way of dealing better with this is awareness. 

Paying attention to what’s being fed into our brains. Not necessarily counting all the adverts, messages that are being fed to us, but being aware that those things are out there and having our eyes open to them. Listening to the tone of people’s voices when they speak. It makes a huge difference. I try to do this now, and it does make a difference, it helps put perspective on things and you become less affected by them.

I think another thing, one that I’ve already mentioned, is to always try to take counsel when making a decision. Or at least, take time over making it. Never be rushed into making a decision, never allow others to compel you into making instant decisions. And try to avoid impulse decisions - though of course, sometimes God does occasionally ask us to act spontaneously, but when He does He makes it pretty clear it’s Him.

One other thing I have always done though is try to see God in anything, anywhere. I have always believed that we can see God anywhere, in anyone or anything, if we have our eyes open to see Him. If we change our perspective and try to see God in everything, to try and see the bigger picture, then not only will the negative things not affect us as much, but God may well speak to us through them. God could speak truth into our lives through the words of people who may not have intended them that way. God can use anything, anywhere for good. 

Ideas can change the world. There is no doubt about that. 

Jesus ideas about how to live, His teachings, have changed the world. They have shaped the values of western society, and its laws. The irony is, that people today are more and more blind to see this, people argue against the Christian faith and don’t realise that many of the freedoms they have and ideas about justice come originally from the teachings of Jesus in the Bible.

One of the biggest ironies of our time, I would argue.

If God gives us an idea and we follow it through, and are faithful, then even if the change isn’t obvious, it will make a change. It will bring something different and good into the world.

We just need to be aware that ideas are being fed to us all the time, to be wise enough to discern between which are good and bad, and be wise when making decisions and taking action. 

Then, when we know an idea or calling is from God, we need to have the courage to follow it through, whatever it is.

In doing that, we grow to know God more deeply and it becomes ultimately more easy to discern which ideas are His, and which aren’t. God can use anything or anyone to speak to you and plant a seed of an idea in your mind - but so can the enemy.

Just keep your eyes open, and make your decisions wisely and courageously.

Posted via email from James Prescott