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The Mind of the Spirit

Paul's Approach to Transformed Thinking

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In this major work, leading New Testament scholar Craig Keener explores an important but generally neglected area of Pauline theology, Paul's teaching about the mind. Paul speaks of the corrupted mind and the mind of the flesh, but he also speaks of the mind of Christ, the mind of the Spirit, and the renewal of the mind. In articulating these points, Paul adapts language from popular intellectual thought in his day, but he does so in a way distinctively focused on Christ and Christ's role in the believer's transformation. Keener enables readers to understand this thought world so they can interpret Paul's language for contemporary Christian life.

The Mind of the Spirit helps overcome a false separation between following the Spirit and using human judgment and also provides a new foundation for relating biblical studies and Christian counseling. It will appeal to professors, students, and scholars of the New Testament as well as pastors and church leaders.

1. The Corrupted Mind (Rom. 1:18-32)
2. The Mind of Faith (Rom. 6:11)
3. The Mind of the Flesh (Rom. 7:22-25)
4. The Mind of the Spirit (Rom. 8:5-7)
5. A Renewed Mind (Rom. 12:1-3)
6. The Mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:15-16)
7. A Christlike Mind (Phil. 2:1-5; 3:19-21; 4:6-8)
8. The Heavenly Mind (Col. 3:1-2)Conclusion
Postscript: Some Pastoral Implications
Appendix A: The Soul in Ancient Mediterranean Thought
Appendix B: Some of God's Wise Plan in Paul's Bible


"In this richly documented study, Craig Keener explores Paul's treatment of the human mind even as he deftly weaves through some of the most controverted passages in the Pauline corpus. Keener shows Paul's affinities with ancient philosophers while recognizing that Jewish apocalyptic expectations also framed the apostle's thinking. Like the philosophers, Paul held that fundamental convictions shaped character and behavior. And as an heir of the Jewish apocalyptic tradition, he believed that convictions should be shaped by God's action in Christ. In respectful but critical dialogue with an array of Pauline scholars, Keener, sensitive to the various ways in which contemporary Christians assess the balance between reason and the life of the spirit, applies his fundamental insight to illuminate individual arguments and Paul's overall theology. This will be an important book for anyone interested in the relationship of Pauline theology to its cultural context."

Harold Attridge, Sterling Professor of Divinity, Yale Divinity School

"Craig Keener has filled a significant gap in Pauline studies as only he could do: with thousands of references to ancient sources to help us understand Paul's perspectives in context. The result is a work full of exegetical, theological, and even pastoral insight into the human mind according to Paul--especially the mind transformed in Christ."

Michael J. Gorman, Raymond E. Brown Professor of Biblical Studies and Theology, St. Mary's Seminary and University, Baltimore

"In Romans, Paul interacts more fully with the thought world of his day than in any of his other letters. Only someone who is wholly familiar with the richness of Jewish scripture and tradition; with the ancient philosophies of Stoics, Platonists, Epicureans, and others; and with the reality of human experience can fully appreciate why Paul argues as he does and the effectiveness of his argument. Craig Keener is one such scholar, and his rich exposition of key passages in Romans, in ongoing debate with the history of interpretation, brings out the point and force of Paul's argument for his own time again and again, and in a way that reinvigorates Paul's argument for a very different time. Further exposition of related passages in 1 and 2 Corinthians, Philippians, and Colossians displays the same quality and enhances the value of the volume. And not to be missed is the concluding postscript, posing some appropriately challenging pastoral implications."

James D. G. Dunn, Emeritus Lightfoot Professor of Divinity, Durham University

"Only a scholar with Craig Keener's nous could write the most authoritative work to date on Paul's belief in the transformation of a person's mind from godless reasoning to possessing the mind of Christ. Keener describes the Pauline vision of the believing mind as one immersed in the Jesus story, freed by the Spirit's power, bathed in divine wisdom, and oriented toward heaven. This book will, quite literally, open your mind to Paul's theology of the mind."

Michael Bird, lecturer in theology, Ridley College, Melbourne, Australia

"In this insightful volume Craig Keener deals with a neglected aspect of Paul's theology: how faith in Christ and the Spirit of God empower the mind to think and understand in a new way. Drawing on his vast knowledge of Greco-Roman literature, Keener shows us how Paul is both similar to and different from his contemporaries. In doing so, he suggests how Christians today must be similar to and different from their contemporaries."

Frank J. Matera, professor emeritus, Catholic University of America

"As disordered desires in and outside the church run rampant under the banners of freedom and entitlement, they are fueled by gnostic bifurcations that split mind from body and spirit from physicality. But embodied holiness, or conformity to the image of the Son, means having those desires reordered to Christ through minds renewed by the Spirit. With a comprehensive biblical and contextual lens and a holistic view of renewed humanity, Keener reminds us of this nonnegotiable reality. He invigorates our understanding of the mind of the Spirit (and thus of Christ) and offers a New Testament view of Spirit-enabled, holy reason that orders the passions of God's children individually and communally. A valuable contribution indeed."

Cherith Nordling, associate professor of theology, Northern Seminary

"Craig Keener's The Mind of the Spirit is a welcome contribution to a largely neglected area of research. While careful to locate Paul's writings within the range of relevant contexts and to read them with both historical-critical rigor and remarkable erudition, Keener never loses sight of the continuing theological vitality of the question. In his analysis, the transformation of the mind that is here explored is never separable from the reality of the Spirit or from the community united by that Spirit to Christ himself. The result is a work of both scholarly and pastoral significance."

Grant Macaskill, Kirby Laing Chair of New Testament Exegesis, University of Aberdeen

"Keener exegetes key passages on the mind in Paul with both his trademark attention to detail and expansive knowledge of ancient sources. As a Pentecostal, I appreciate the academic finesse of his work, but beyond intellectual appreciation, I am deeply grateful. My gratitude stems from feeling understood; Keener has also lived in a world where the tension between the Spirit and the mind is very real. He insists upon envisioning a new world where the Spirit calls to human spirits and minds, and human minds and spirits respond."

Holly Beers, assistant professor of religious studies, Westmont College

"What an enormous gift this book is to Christians in psychology and counseling, with its learned and thorough yet readable organization of what we might call the apostle Paul's 'applied cognitive psychology,' based on a redemptive-historical anthropology. Those working on a distinctly Christian version of contemporary psychology really need this kind of work if the project is to advance, so I'm filled with appreciation and gratitude."

Eric L. Johnson, Lawrence and Charlotte Hoover Professor of Pastoral Care, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

"Craig Keener's The Mind of the Spirit is a comprehensive, thorough, biblical, and helpful book. It will be of great benefit not only to theologians, integrators of psychology and theology, pastors, and seminary students but also to counselors, therapists, and lay church leaders and teachers. I highly recommend it!"

Siang-Yang Tan, professor of psychology, Fuller Theological Seminary; author of Counseling and Psychotherapy: A Christian Perspective

The Author

  1. Craig S. Keener

    Craig S. Keener

    Craig S. Keener (Ph.D., Duke University) is F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary. He is author of 30 books, 5 of which have won awards in Christianity Today. More than a million copies of his books are in...

    Continue reading about Craig S. Keener


"The Mind of the Spirit introduces the reader (thoughtful lay person as well as scholar) to the understanding of the role of the mind in Paul's writings, which Keener places on the backdrop of Greco-Roman and Jewish thought. Such juxtaposition illuminates and clarifies Paul's own conception of transformed thinking in the life of the believer. Although books abound on many aspects of Paul's theology (soteriology, Christology, ecclesiology, anthropology, etc.), relatively little scholarship has addressed Paul's understanding of the mind in a comprehensive way. Keener's work redresses this omission compellingly and authoritatively and is now the definitive treatment on this topic. . . . As we have come to expect from him, Keener's treatment of the original sources is impressive. . . . We are once again indebted to Keener for his compellingly argued study--a study that both challenges the mind and aims to transform it."

Victor Copan,

Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

"This is a thorough, well-reasoned book and would be helpful for anyone seeking to better understand Paul's arguments on how the Holy Spirit and the human mind interact. It also provides a great starting point for interdisciplinary research between biblical scholars and psychologists who want to further explore these cognitive themes."

Sydney Tooth,

Expository Times

"The distinctive feature of the book is the extensive use of Graeco-Roman sources to illustrate Paul's vocabulary and thought. . . . The book is scholarly, with footnotes occupying a third of each page. . . . However, the main text is accessible to a wide readership, and there is even a postscript on 'pastoral implications.' The book is full of insights and certainly makes the case that cognition, understood in the light of both Jewish and Graeco-Roman writings, is extremely significant for an understanding of Paul's theology."

Steve Moyise,

Journal for the Study of the New Testament

"Although studies of various aspects of Paul's theology are abundant, some remain overlooked or neglected. Craig Keener . . . throws the needed spotlight on a significant dimension of Paul's theology, namely the impact of God's transformative Spirit on the believer's mind. . . . This is a superb and clear study that not only highlights an important dimension of Paul's theology but offers significant pastoral consequences for the interrelationship of psychology and spirituality today."

Donald Senior, CP,

The Bible Today

"Keener provides a thorough engagement with Paul's view of the mind. Drawing upon a wealth of scholarly learning and a vast range of sources, Keener sets Paul's theology of the mind in its first-century context and draws out numerous exegetical and theological insights. Although disciplined historical work forms the core of this study, the reader is also invited and exhorted to consider the relevance and pastoral implications of Paul's vision for the church of today. . . . This work has relevance not merely for students of Paul's writings, theology, and context, but also for preachers, pastors, and other church leaders."

Tim Sinclair,

Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology

"A significant academic volume that fills a scholarly vacuum and has equally significant pastoral implications. . . . It will be welcomed by scholars--especially since there has been little attention paid to this sort of topic in Pauline studies. Others, too, can benefit from this analysis of these Pauline texts in context, for many of the topics Keener addresses will be of interest to non-specialists. . . . Furthermore, Keener himself wants this material to be relevant for the church--and it is. . . . Keener's reading of Paul reminds us how important it is for Christians to think Christianly, in dependence on the Spirit."

Michael J. Gorman,


"Keener provides a thorough engagement with Paul's view of the mind. Drawing upon a wealth of scholarly learning and a vast range of sources, Keener sets Paul's theology of the mind in its first-century context and draws out numerous exegetical and theological insights. . . . Keener's prodigious use of footnotes is indicative of a near-exhaustive engagement with ancient texts from both the Jewish and Graeco-Roman milieu. This attentiveness to Paul's first-century context allows a fresh and clear delineation of the apostle's unique approach to questions, shared by Jews and pagans, concerning the relationship between the mind, passions, and the Law. In a postscript, Keener suggests some pastoral implications. . . . This postscript indicates why an ongoing neglect of this aspect of Paul's thought and theology would be to the detriment of the church. Therefore, this work has relevance not merely for students of Paul's writings, theology, and context, but also for preachers, pastors, and other church leaders."

Tim Sinclair,

Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology

"Keener has written a tour de force on the mind of the Spirit that not only provides focused exegesis on the selected passages in Pauline letters, but also treats Jewish Scripture and tradition as well as the ancient writings of various philosophers. . . . His writing displays his biblical prowess and expertise on the topic, while also revealing his personal side, a charismatic background and multidisciplinary preference, and his pastoral concern. I recommend this book for seminarians, clergy, and those interested in how the Christian mind and the work of the Spirit intersect."

John Park,

Review & Expositor

"[This book] will stimulate scholars, pastors, counselors, and thoughtful Christians to reflect anew on the transformative intersection of God's Spirit and the human mind. . . . Many readers, especially multicultural evangelicals with a high view of the Scriptures, who value studying the Bible in community, can expect to be encouraged and empowered in their faith. . . . Keener's extensive treatment of ancient Greek philosophies from Platonism to Stoicism brings out how much Paul appreciates the worldviews that influenced his readers' day to day decisions. In contrast to such competing values, Paul offers his readers a distinctly Christian alternative. . . . Keener has convinced me that Paul adhered to a vision of God's new order, which has already broken through and empowers us through the mind of the Spirit to live as a new creation now."

Grace May,

Africanus Journal

"Keener makes a welcome contribution to scholarship on Christian anthropology and psychology not only by working carefully through key Pauline texts that connect the mind to the Spirit and Christian character but also by situating these themes among the philosophical ideas at work in Paul's world. Keener's pervasive knowledge of ancient texts enables him to draw out many insights into Paul's thinking which at times parallels and at times deals polemically with ancient philosophies. The book repays careful reading due to the manner in which Keener has brought these texts and topics together into one organized study. . . . Not everyone will agree with Keener's understanding of the debated issues in Romans 7, but everyone can benefit from absorbing the coherent portrait that he paints of Paul's psychology that involves a Spirit-formed mind in union with Christ. Keener's portrait springs from careful and patient exegesis of key Pauline texts and from a mature understanding of the philosophical trajectories of Paul's Greco-Roman-Jewish environment and therefore deserves to be grappled with as Christians strive to be conformed to the image of Christ in the church, in counseling contexts, and in daily life."

Kent Capps,

Books at a Glance