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Fully consumed?

An article from New Scientist magazine recently came to my attention which reports on a study conducted by Ernst Fehr of the University of Zurich, Switzerland, on “the link between religion and a willingness to inflict punishment”. It was found that religious cues, such as words like “holy” or “divine” act on the brain to “awaken the concept of appropriate punishment”. It goes on to mention that this can be beneficial to a group or society, in terms of ensuring “group cooperation” and going against the forces of “selfishness”.

Interestingly, the article finishes by quoting a scientist who says that “appropriate secular ideas, such as socialism should, in principle, be equally effective in priming group-oriented behaviour”. I am not at all sure history agrees with that verdict...

Anyway: as Christians, where does our motivation to do what is right stem from? A "concept of appropriate punishment"?

Or is there a much greater source of motivation for doing what is right? Greater because it is an intrinsic rather than an extrinsic motivator... Something that we can imbibe into our very beings, in the same way that the student imbibes the laws of music when they practice and learn an instrument - something that consumes us, infuses us, transforms us at the very core of who we are...

Psalm 40:8 says “I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.” (emphasis added).

Similarly, a passage from Jeremiah which is often quoted (not least, by the writer ofHebrews) has God saying “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (Jeremiah 31:33, emphasis added)

In other words, if God’s law is something that lives within our hearts, if it is something that God has written on our hearts, it can be said to be something we have imbibed and ingested.

Another way of putting it: this law is something that is woven into the very fabric of our beings.

And if it is indeed anchored so deeply in our beings, if it is at the core of who we are - how could we ever separate ourselves from it in our working or teaching lives? Surely that would be impossible!


  • How deeply "entrenched" is God's law in your heart?
  • Where does your motivation come from when you teach?
  • Is your faith something that you carry in your heart at all times and places, and does it affect how you teach? 
Robin Staple is the Stapleford Centre coordinator

Robin Staple is The Stapleford Centre's coordinator. He is passionate about God, theology and coffee - and especially about how the Christian vision for holistic and wholesome education can offer a real contribution to the common good of society.

Thoughts of religion prompt acts of punishment - New Scientist

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