Monthly Archives: May 2013

Pride And Self-Acceptance: The Problem Of Identity In Theology And Psychology

I’m rather excited about this book that I mentioned yesterday by Terry Cooper so much so that I have to quote him at length today. Also, something else to think about with regard to this quote is the atonement. Maybe we need a greater acceptance because of how self-deprecating we are.

Rogers goes on to make an interesting speculation about why he and Freud differ so much in their basic views of the self. Admitting that this is only a hypothesis, Rogers suggest that even though Freud came to understand his own hidden dimensions through self-analysis, he was not able to fully accept those dimensions on his own. In fact, all of us are limited in what we can discover on our own. Once patterns of self-depreciation have been established, it takes another person to empathize with our inward journey in order for the full self-acceptance to be possible. As brilliant as Freud’s self-analysis was, it lacked the warmly accepting relationship that makes the disowned parts of the self easier to embrace. Rogers continues his speculation:

‘Hence, though he might come to know and to some extent understand the hidden aspects of himself, I question whether he could come ever come to accept them fully, to embrace them as a meaningful, acceptable and constructive part of himself. More likely he continued to perceive them unacceptable aspects of himself–enemies, whom knowing he could control–rather than as impulses which, when existing freely in balance with other impulses, were constructive. At any rate I regard this as a hypothesis worthy of consideration.’

While Freudians might wince at such a statement, it grows out of Roger’s deep conviction that we discover ourselves most deeply in relationship to an accepting other. Hence, Freud’s attempt to achieve self-acceptance in the isolation of his own analysis is similar to Luther’s attempt to gain a sense of grace through ascetic practices in a monastery. To put it religiously, we cannot muster up our own grace. It has to be mediated to us by a power of acceptance greater than we.


So What Is It? Pride? Or Low Self-Esteem?

Reading an interesting book right now. Sin, Pride and Self-Acceptance: The Problem of Identity in Theology and Psychology–by Terry Cooper. It concern’s a question of the human condition. Is our problem pride or low self esteem/self loathing. Is the problem that people think too highly of themselves or is that a cover for low self esteem? If say, you are in counselling, sure you may be temporarily down on yourself. But once your life is back to normal, pride will take over again. However, according to some, pride is a symptom not the primary problem.

So which is it?

The “pride” and “self-acceptance” are overall general models. So “inherent sinfulness” would be the overall model covering those two sub-categories to some degree. Thus, for the author, the question of the complexity of these two sub-categories is what he is working out in his book. For example, what is the self acceptance model? Well, what is the difference between self-love and selfishness? Are these two the exact opposite of each other? Could the person who is selfish love himself not too much but actually too little? That is, could said person have a lack of care for themselves which leaves them empty and frustrated and so they “snatch from life the satisfactions which they block themselves from attaining?” One might appear to care too much for themselves but in actuality be, an unsuccessful attempt, covering up and compensating for a failure to care for one’s true self. Truth be told, I think of some of Jesus’ last words, “Forgive them father for they know not what they do” in this context. Were those who nailed him to the cross being prideful or was that covering some deep seated inadequacy or inadequacies? Or what about Martin Luther King who suggested that his enemies, “prideful” as they were, were also in need of being set free.

Interesting stuff. Gotta keep on reading.


The Church As A Garden: A Metaphor And Some Practical Advice

Roger Olson has a great blog concerning all of the different interpretations within evangelicalism here. The e-mailer he refers to in his blog sees this as problematic. Personally, I welcome this state of affairs.

Anyone who is aware of James K.A. Smith’s work would recognize that he wrote specifically about this state of affairs in his book, “The Fall of the Interpretation: Philosophical Foundations for a Creational Hermeneutic” where he speaks of truth not as being uniform but rather pluriform. This has been talked about for years now by folks like Robert Brow, here.

If it is the case that there ARE serious differences within Christianity in general, I would still agree with Goldingay who says that Christians have much more in common than they do differences. But this commonality also means something else. It seems that a lot of Christian, when they speak about “the church” (usually some sort of negative criticism) they speak about it monolithically. This happens mostly among evangelical Protestant types. And so, all, Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox are bunched together to form a single whole and then the church is criticized for having a blind spot here or there or what have you.

When this happens, I see this as having a “thin” theology and not a “thick” one (to borrow from either Mirsolav Volf or McGrath, I can’t remember). By that I mean that there are distinctives between the different branches of Christianity plus distinctives WITHIN the branches themselves so as to result in different schools of thought, denominations, etc. That is, they are thick enough such that there are deep theological/philosophical roots to these differences, not differences that are not that important. This is why I would refer to the Body of Christ as a garden. There are roses, daisies, orchids, tulips, iris’ and so forth. This is God’s desire. So one flower or set of flowers in God’s garden can’t say to another flower or set of flowers, “We don’t need you” or “You don’t belong here.” That’s God’s business not yours or mine and He’ll sort out who belongs in the garden and who doesn’t.

That being the case, I get more than a little perturbed when someone from one tradition bemoans what is going on in another tradition because:

A. They are not a part of the particular tradition they are at odds with (which is probably why they are in another tradition altogether anyway). It’s really a family feud, not an outsider’s.
B. Each tradition should be allowed to exist without criticism. What I mean by that is
i) NOT that I can never look at another tradition and say, “I don’t agree with that.”
ii) What I mean is that I can look at that tradition and say, “I don’t agree with that but that is _____ tradition.” and fill in the blank with whatever particular tradition you may be referring to.

So there are a couple of things to say about the individual and (their relationship to) particular religious traditions.

A. I would say that it is not so much a case of, “Hey, why all the differences?” as much as it is a case of jumping into the deep end of a particular tradition. That is, in large part, find out why a particular tradition does what it does–teaches what it teaches. You just may find out that things can get pretty complex. Commit yourself to a particular tradition while being open to the idea that you don’t have the corner of truth on theology. That you may have something to learn and possibly change your position (no matter how strongly felt) on from/concerning another tradition. In other words, it is faith seeking understanding (which pretty much means growing in a pietistic faith not mere head knowledge). At the end of the day, you are responsible for your faith. You stand before God and are responsible for why you believe and practice what you do.
B. When you realize that there are “thick” differences between traditions, that is cause to be a little more understanding than offering some possible misdirected complaint about said tradition. Each one will be allowed to exist in the world without your shoving the so-called, “dirty laundry” before an unbelieving world. I put dirty laundry in quotes because many times what is perceived as “Christian Culture” and what doesn’t belong to “truth faith” is actually an outworking of a deep theological understanding of faith. It allows you to recognize the differences for what they are and that fellow Christians can live out the Gospel (as they perceive it), in different yet refreshing ways.


The Thaw, A Chat With A Friend And Possibly A Better Way

This past week I’ve been having a conversation on facebook with a long time acquaintance from back in my church youth group days. It’s a good conversation about Christianity and politics. He comes from the liberal tradion, wheras I come from from a sphere sovereignty/principled pluralism position. And even though we are pretty much completely at odds with each other, I really do enjoy having these conversations because at the least I gain more of an understanding of his position and at the most my thinking becomes more clarified at certain points. Maybe we don’t walk away having changed each other’s opinions but we are “sharpened” through such fireside chats.

The whole conversation started over the video that you may have heard from called, The Thaw

This is a rather tacky sort of video if not for the simple reason that it’s a bunch of teenagers and teenie-boppers whom have barely left the womb making political statements like they have it all figured out. Now, back in the day, when I was 16, I myself wrote in defense of Jim Bakker’s “PTL Club.” It made me feel good defending all the “good” things that Jimbo and Co. were doing with everybody else’s money and especially having my church pat me on the back made me feel extra special as I believed Being on Jim and Tammy’s side meant being on God’s side.

Needless to say, I was wrong.

I was wrong if not for the simple reason of hindsight and how much I’ve changed in my thinking on many things. In the video here we have a young kid who is what 11? 12? 13? who says he is going to let his little light shine in step with the rest of his Christian peers.

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How old is this kid anyway???

Regardless, I’m really not in favor of using children for any political proganda whatever side of an issue one may be on. Children, unless they are a prodigy, really don’t grasp complex issues. And, as with myself, may likely changed and become solidified in an opposite point of view as they get older.

Anyhoo, back to my long time acquaintance. My question to him was, in light of, “The Thaw” as poky as it was, was if government could ever overstep its’s boudaries. After some back and forth banter this was my last response to him:

OK…still don’t think you’ve responded to my question but I’ll ask it with an example. You have a Baptist denomination. Said Baptist denomination says as a part of their beliefs that children are not allowed to be baptized. They have their theological reasons. Is it not possible for government in his situation to say, “No, we will tell you that you have to teach and practice infant baptism.” Now, you may say that there are laws in place that stop the government from doing such things but I find that beside the point. Government, (in the U.S. at least) USEto have a state religion. Not just Christianity but a Puritan type of Protestant Christianity such that even those Christians who disagreed with it were pretty much considered illegal.

So, if a Church wants to say that something is a sin (which ESSENTIALLY THAT IS WHAT CHURCHES DO, though there may be quite a bit of variance on HOW they will go about doing so) government has no right to say to said church, “You can’t say that it is a sin.” Government has no right to act as the religious conscience of a body of believers. So, when I asked this question about whether it is possible for goverment to be able to act expansively in this way, the answer is, “Yes. They CAN and at times they do.”

I’ll put up another scenario but pretty much saying the same thing. Say, you have all religions sitting at the “public square round table.” The Christians come along and say, “We think everyone ought to honor God through Jesus Christ. Let’s get the government to ensure that this happens. We’ll only have “religious holidays” (no Santa Claus or Easter Bunny) and people can only worship on Sundays. They must all go to the a Church that teaches, thus and thus. Stores and malls will remain closed on Sunday to give people a rest based on our belief that God “rested” on the seventh day.” Now imagine if government enforced this. IN THIS INSTANCE this would be government priviledging one religion above the rest. Not only a particular form of Christianity over-against other forms but Christianity in general over against other religions ie., when Canada decided to endorse Sunday shopping, many conservative Christians bemoaned the fact that she was becoming post-Christian. But many Christians are of a religious conscience that this is not important for various theological reasons. So, in their eyes, this is not a real threat to the idea of Canada being post Christian.

And that is all I’m trying to ask. Can a government over extend it’s boundaries becoming the religious conscience of the Church in general and churches in particular. I’m also asking can government act in such a way as to treat all religions equally and fairly not priviledging one religion above the rest. The answer to that question is also, “Yes, they can treat all equally and fairly not priviledging one over another.”

The third question is, “Can this be done on the basis of Christian conviction? Again, lastly, “Yes. Christians can allow for other religions (and sin, not saying that other religions are sinful) to co-exist. One can see this in scripture as well as advanced via developed theological understandings of a history of Christian political thought as well as an “all ready/not yet” understanding of Christian doctrine, ie., as Christians, we live inbetween the times. After the ascension and before the eschaton. Thus we don’t live in a triumphal, Christian theocracy in a sense.

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Now, let me address some of your other issues. Which though important basically ended up being used to avoid my questions.

A. Religion is not protected itself but the freedom to choose is, ie., human sacrifice.

First, the law is there to protect not simply the freedom to choose, but the freedom to EXERCISE your religion. The freedom to PRACTICE it. Guess, what, that freedom goes outside the church building. In other words, when it comes to the public square, I don’t hang my religious hat up at the door (as if that is even possible). In saying that (and in saying everything else I’ve said on this thread) religion is not absolute. This again, is something I say, based on an a priori religious conviction concerning government and politics. What I mean by that is this: Based on my religious conviction, God has a place or role for government or governing powers. Part of this religious conviction is that government’s role is to ensure life. It does this through a variety of ways. Conservatives are short-sighted on this because when it comes to abortion, they look only towards saving the unborn but don’t think much else about ecology, water supplies, health insurance, strong families and communities (and the list could go on) for the SUSTAINANCE of human life. So, “…governments bear responsibility to uphold the peace and welfare of the political community. Therefore, they have authority both to prohibit certain actions that degrade or destroy human life and to restrict conduct that disrupts public concord. These legitimate acts of government must apply universally to all citizens. On occasion, therefore, governments may be obligated to restrain or prohibit certain practices even though some citizens consider them proper to the exercise of their religions.” (Center for Public Justice). Now, in one sense, guess what? This applies to agnostics and atheists. But in another MORE ULTIMATE SENSE, you can’t have both Christians and atheists views being the GROUND for this. You can’t have Christians who say this and atheists who say the opposite of this–exclude all religion from the public domain on all levels. Those two are antithetical to each other and the twain shall never meet. Sorry, I think the atheists should lose here. All that would be happening under an ultimacy is one view being priviledged by another. What would you rather have? An ultimate view that dictates all religions should be banned from public life (perhaps even private?) or one that recognizes that people are religious (and can’t help but practice both privately [in churches] and publicly [because religion ultimately spills out beyond your home and place of worship] as well as recognizes that one sees atheists and agnostics (both in one sense religious themselves) as having rights to be free from religion ie., if they want their own schools, teach their kids that there is no God, have their own clubs, etc? I say the second one is the way to go. In such a case, there is no imposition of my Christianity or religion upon the agnostic or atheist. In the ultimate sense yes. In the less ultimate sense no. But it goes both ways.

B. You say that you find my fear of government becoming godlike to be unfounded. What I mean by that is really omni-competent and expansive in areas that are the proper domain of individuals or institutions. Maybe an example will suffice. Been talking about this for sometime now.

Education. I think the responsibility of educating of children is PRIMARILY left up to parents. This is not to say that if a parent is not properly educating their child that the government should never step in. But again, ULTIMATELY, it is the parent who has the GOD-GIVEN RESPO NSIBILITY to teach a child aside from the basic three R’s according to their values, tradition and histories. In Ontario, we have basically two school systems. Public and Catholic. Now, say you have a black muslim mother with four kids. She doesn’t like what she sees in the public schools. They’re teaching things that she doesn’t agree with morally (cramming moral beliefs and practices down her children’s throats) as well as cramming down her children’s throats a “national history.” Basically, a one size history that fits all. But in her thinking, it leaves out some substantial elements to her own personal muslim history. After all, who the hell is the government to say, “Hey, our view of history is the correct one.” Sure, they may, in part do this because her they want to have a unified country. However, what has happened is the opposite especially in the schools themselves. They become legal battlegrounds instead of places of education. To add insult to injury? What the government in Ontario has done is say, “Listen, if you want to educated your children according to your values, traditions, and histories? You’re going to have to pay for it yourself–on top of the taxes you already pay for the public schools.” In effect, what the goverment has done to said black muslim mother is treat her and her children as a second class citizens.

If you are a non-religious person, you can send your children to public schools. Your tax dollars go to those schools. If you are a Catholic, your tax dollars go to your system if you want to deem them there. But everyone else? You can’t put your tax dollars to your own parochial, home school, private system. If you want to do that, you have to not only pay for the public school but also the private on top of the public in order to educate your child as you see fit. That’s not government’s responsibility. It’s responsibility is to undergird those who have the PRIMARY responsibility, the parents. Not detract from that. I’m not suggesting as conservatives do to “get government out of the school.” No, I’m suggesting that government has a role to play in the education of children. It’s role is to BACK the parents. As it stands now, the government thinks of itself as an octopus with tentacles that expansively reach beyond it’s boundaries over into that which is the proper sphere of others.

Now, we can talk about how we are how government is suppose to represent the people and if she doesn’t well we can change her. I’m not exactly sure what anyone would mean by that. Change a democracy to a communism? Change the regime in power? Or simply reform the existing structures through legislation such that government is prohibited from expanding in this way. I’d think that the last option is the better one as government is not completely omni-competent in every area just yet. I would say she hasn’t gone that far completely. She does, at times recognize her boundaries while at other times fails to do so. So a lot of the time there is this ebb and flow when it comes to government omni-competence I think.

Lastly, with regard to the HHS Mandate, it’s not like Catholic organizations were providing contraceptives in their health plans. So these employees didn’t have them to begin with. Rather, they were mandated to go against their beliefs. The other thing is, the government itself provided an exemption KNOWING this was a problematic for religious organizations. Again, this video I put up earlier is helpful in explaining this. It’s the second one down: http://new.livestream.com/calvin-college/events/2039287


Karl Barth and C.S. Lewis on the Birth of ‘Chronological Snobbery’

An interesting post from an online buddy of mine that is worth the read.

Karl Barth and C.S. Lewis on the Birth of 'Chronological Snobbery'.


Beginnings: Ancient Christian Readings Of The Biblical Creation Narratives

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Thought I would post this. Bouteneff’s book, though a little dry, is an excellent example of biblical scholarship on this question. As some readers may know, there has been controversy over whether Paul thought Adam was real. Here is what Bouteneff says:

BEGINNINGS: ANCIENT CHRISTIAN READINGS OF THE BIBLICAL CREATION NARRATIVES

At the Birth of Christian Reflection
Paul and the New Testament

The letters of St. Paul, together with the other letters traditionally associated with him, feature important material about creation. They portray God as the one who calls non-existing things into being and identify Christ as the chief agent of creation. Although these fundamental tenets are not explicitly grounded in the Hexaemeron narrative, what Paul and the other NT authors did with the paradise narrative, and in particular with the person of Adam, was groundbreaking and seminal, based as it was on an inchoate portraiture emerging from Second Temple Jewish texts. Although we cannot attribute to Paul a fully formed “theology of creation,” his importance for how Christians read Genesis is difficult to overestimate. It is because of Paul’s theology that we see Adam as the forefather of humanity, the progenitor of sin and a type for Christ.

The patristic and liturgical tradition focusing on Adam as the “old man” that has to be put off so that the “new man,” Christ, can be put on has its origins in Paul, even if his intentions in establishing this dichotomy rested primarily in his bid to establish a new relationship between Jew and Gentile.

Further down:


PAUL’S ADAM

Who is Adam for Paul, and what is his role in the existential situation of humanity? His answer—and that of the other Second Temple authors we have studied, with the glaring exception of Philo—would be essentially the same. For the scriptural and deuterocanonical authors, Adam both represented humankind and also figured as a character in a scriptural narrative and, through this story, as the first ancestor in a genealogy that led to Noah and beyond. Paul was not averse to the sporadic use of allegory, but he did not allegorize Adam. Yet he is finally uninterested in the question of who Adam is, caring only about what Adam is and the role he plays in counterpoint to Christ.

Indeed, there is a sense in which Paul’s use of Adam is simple and minimal. Putting Adam and Christ together in Romans 5 is merely a way of showing how the actions of one lone figure can have profound (though opposite) effects on many people. Romans 5:15-19 is all about showing how the effects of Adam and Christ are both broad and deep, the one leading to death and the other to grace and justification. However basic this may sound, one should not minimize the significance of the choice of Adam as exemplar in this context, since for Paul’s Jewish predecessors Adam was not the most obvious example of the protosinner whose transgression brings mortal consequences. Paul might just as well have chosen Cain, Aaron, or Abraham; instead he ratchets up the importance of Adam as the first human and the first sinner. Asserting Adam’s broad and earth-shattering significance for “the many,” Paul establishes Adam as “a type of the one who was to come” (5:14).

So Paul’s Adam is the first in a lineage of sin and, through sin, death. Linking Adam’s function with his primordial setting makes him, in effect, chiefly a symbol: he is a stand-in for (fallen) humanity in general and subsequently a type for Christ, an icon of the “old self that is to be put off in favor of the new. Yet given Adam’s genealogical significance, he is at least implicitly a person before he is a symbol. Adam is the first sinner, and he died; thus he stands as first in a universal lineage of sinners and mortals.^ it is all the more interesting in retrospect to notice that the paradise narrative does not present itself as an account of the universal fall of humanity. The story describes God’s creation of persons as works in progress, persons who overreached their proper place, thus failing to attain immortality and beginning a series of declines that led to the depravity of Genesis 6 and the flood. Making the first sinner and the first-made human being one and the same person has the effect of opening out the genealogy, the effects of sin, and therefore the scope of salvation, which now incorporates the Gentiles. The dividing line is no longer between Jew and Gentile but between the old dispensation (or old Adam) and the new dispensation in Christ.


Prohibiting the Free Exercise Thereof: The Affordable Care Act And Other Threats To Institutional Religion

I want to put up a video that I just concluded watching. As far as I’m concerned you can see some troubling issues going on with regard to government and religion–specifically, how government is doing the EXACT OPPOSITE of what it’s supposed to be doing in protecting the free exercise of religion beyond the four walls of a church or the privacy of your home. Religion just doesn’t work well when it is confined by another religiously based ideology that pretends to be neutral but is anything but.

In this video, Theis’ talks about the issues in the context of religious charities. Religion as defined by the government according to Theis is:

1. Churches and close affiliates.
2. Hire people of it’s own religion.
3. Religious organization must serve members of it’s own religion.
4. The main purpose of the religious institution must be to inculcate religious values.

Later on Theis says: “Jesus himself couldn’t pass muster. That’s because of who and HOW he helped.” This would stand Christ’s admonition to serve your neighbour from the parable of the good Samaritan on it’s head. Think about it.

Prohibiting the Free Exercise Thereof: The Affordable Care Act And Other Threats To Institutional Religion