Tag Archives: christianity

Church and Psychology

A “friend of mine”:http://jtf02.wordpress.com has started blogging. In his “first entry”:http://jtf02.wordpress.com/2007/08/31/church-and-psychology/, he shares his thoughts on the Church and psychology and the current tension between the two.

bq. For years the Church has tended to deny that psychological problems really exist. Some have openly stated that psychological problems do not exist, only sin exists and that what some would call psychological is actually sin. Others would claim that sin does exist but that psychological problems also exist apart from sin and at times with sin.

Go give a read, and better still, leave a comment and add to the discussion.

Dream Sequence

I had a dream last night – I was sitting in a church, listening while the pastor rolled off a diatribe against Hillary running for president and how we, as Christians, need to stand against her so that she cannot attain the office. What the pastor somehow managed to miss was that Hillary was actually sitting in his congregation this day. Someone who noticed got up and went to her to apologize and explain that it isn’t usually like this in this church, bringing the whole service else to a screeching halt. The pastor was unrepentant for his words, but was embarrassed only because his speech blew up in his face. Everyone else simply felt guilty because they agreed with what he said and now were faced with the very person against whom their feelings were directed.

The whole dream was somewhat unsettling and kind of sad because it was, in my opinion, a fairly accurate reflection on reality. I suspect that if this scenario was to play out in real life, it would probably look much like the way it happened in my dream.

This was just something I felt like sharing. There’s actually a couple of related thoughts that spawn from this, but I’m not sure yet if I’ll actually write them up. I tend to try to steer clear of political topics as much as I can, simply because they tend to make me feel stressed. But we’ll see – sometimes I don’t really get much of a choice in these things.

Will It End?

Of course I drag my feet long enough in responding to this that the original source article is no longer available. But Tobias Buckell “recently referred”:http://www.tobiasbuckell.com/2007/01/11/25-of-americans-believe-world-will-end-this-year/ to an AP article that reported that 25% of Americans think that Jesus will return this year. ((The actual verbiage is that 22% of Americans think that Jesus’ return this year is ‘highly likely’.)) To which I resond:

Why? What makes this year any different?

Now, granted, that quarter of the population may turn out to be right, but I _would_ be curious to know what ‘evidence’ they would refer to in making such a prediction. Matthew 24:36-39 makes it quite clear that no man will know when Christ will actually return. This from the mouth of Jesus Himself. Many have tried to predict His return, even being so conceited as to seat these predictions inside so-called ‘prophecies’. And time and again, those predictions have been proven wrong.

The only thing we can know with any assurance is that we live in the end times. Even Paul and other apostles of the early Church claimed that they were in the end times. But we don’t know how long they will last or when Christ’s return will occur. It’s best to live like His return could be any day, but it seems foolhardy to try to actually make concrete predictions about this event.

Riposte: Christians for Sanity

bq. I’ve said it many times before: creationism is just wrong, and one group that should be fighting it hardest is Christians. They are letting a vocal minority usurp their religion, and if they don’t speak up they run the risk of letting those people speak for them. (Source: “Bad Astronomy Blog”:http://www.badastronomy.com/bablog/2007/02/10/christians-for-sanity/)

Seriously? No, really – _seriously?!_ The group that should be fighting creationism the hardest is Christians? I disagree — vehemently. The folks who should be _supporting_ creationism most ardently are Christians – despite the claim made above, I don’t believe that creationists are even remotely in the minority of Christian faith (though I suppose I could be wrong – a lot could have changed while I wasn’t paying attention).

Now, while I wouldn’t say that the Bible should necessarily be “interpreted literally”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/2005/03/24/thursday-march-24-2005-at-0241-pm/#comment-1288 (there’s a lot of metaphor, poetry, and storytelling in there where literal interpretation would actually cause understanding to break down), I _do_ believe that it is inerrant. I also believe in a literal six-day creation cycle – the original texts are quite clear on this point. The Hebrew is very specific about the intended meaning. There is no cultural context would force a different interpretation of the events described in the first chapter of Genesis. There’s no poetry, no storytelling, no figurative speech contained in those first few pages.

Scientific claims run counter to the Biblical explanation of the universe and mankind’s origins. It’s been a continual source of contention for decades — and it always will be. But the folks over at “Answers in Genesis”:http://www.answersingenesis.org/ provide solid apologetical responses to the claims of secular science, answers that, despite secular science’s claims to contrary, are well-thought out, answers that take science facts, data, and evidence into consideration, and yes, answers that are even rational and logical.

I know how antagonistic secular science is toward all concept of creation and intelligent design — and I’m even fine with that. You can please everyone, and people who ardently believe a certain ideal become very angry and hateful toward people who believe differently than them (and sadly, this also applies to many Christians). I respect the belief that Christians should be on the front lines opposing creationism; it’s an opinion, but nothing more. But those Christians who “celebrate Darwin Day”:http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn11145-christian-faith-in-the-iotheri-good-book.html are, I believe, grossly and dangerously in error. I believe that a Christian _can_ believe in evolution and the Big Bang and still be a Christian, but I believe that their beliefs with regard to origins theory are very, very wrong.

Call me a goofy whacko, if you will (oh, you already have?), but you simply can’t tell me all this around us came about by accident, not even by citing the “2nd law of thermodynamics”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/2007/01/26/presuppositionalism-science-and-faith/#comment-10675 at me. I recognize the value of science and acknowledge its importance. But I don’t believe that traditional secular science has a prayer (I just love irony) of explaining the origins of this universe or of mankind. It’s simply too limited and conducted by a creature that is itself far too limited to explain or understand something that big and complex.

A Conflict of Viewpoints

Man, I really hate “falling under a label”:http://tamino.wordpress.com/2007/01/17/this-blog-is-different/ that seems to generate so much animosity and antagonism from folks in the scientific community – that being, in this case, Creationist (as opposed to the term ‘denialist’ that is also mentioned). It honestly makes it difficult for those of us who are genuinely interested in the study and research in those fields to actually have calm, rational discussions with these folks because they’ve already labeled us as ‘quacks’, ‘kooks’, and ‘idiots’. We never even get a fair shake to ask our questions because as soon as we do, we’re blown off with some sarcastic, derisive answer. I am actually quite hesitant to identify as being with any one particular camp exactly because of the reaction I know I will get – I _hate_ being written off just out of hand. It kind of annoys me, really.

I’ve deliberately subscribed to RSS feeds from a number of science blogs recently because I want to stay abreast of the things that are being discussed in the scientific community. I have to admit, though, that I have to grit my teeth through just about every single one because the comments and snide remarks directed at Creationists and people of faith who hold opinions and beliefs that differ from those popularly recognized in the scientific community set me right on edge. Granted, a lot of this animosity some of these folks bring on themselves due to ill-informed arguments and general ignorance, but some of it is truly undeserved, as well. There’s something about people of faith being involved in science that almost instantly seems to generate the hostility of secular scientists. It makes it tough on those of us who do belief in a literal 6-day creation but who also want to be involved in, at the least, the discussions going on around the scientific community.

Consider me a true skeptic, I guess, who also holds Creationist beliefs. I know _I’m_ not going to get in your face about things, but I _will_ look at the evidence presented with as impartial a mind as I can.

So, I guess I’d just like to see the hostilities dialed back.

Fernando Ortega

Being a piano player myself, I’m always somewhat partial to music that makes primary use of my favorite instrument. I’ve also always been a sucker for slower, more lyrical music. So it should come as no surprise that I really like the music of “Fernando Ortega”:http://www.fernandoortega.com/. For Christmas this past year, I requested a few of his CDs, since I didn’t have any in my collection yet. I was especially interested in two of his songs – “Grace and Peace” from The Shadow of Your Wings and “Our Great God” from Storm – but I didn’t specifically request them because I didn’t see any reason to be picky. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I received two of Fernando’s albums, both of which were the very ones I had been most interested in. Both albums have been active in my music playlist ever since.

Christians and Scientific Discussion

I stumbled across another interesting “science blog”:http://highlyallochthonous.blogspot.com yesterday, this one focusing primarily on Earth Science. In “this entry”:http://highlyallochthonous.blogspot.com/2006/12/truth-in-science-on-newsnight.html, Chris Rowan makes a couple of statements that all scientists (especially _Christian_ scientists) should take into consideration:

Furthermore, to properly interpret criticism you need a firm theoretical understanding of the theory you’re criticising.

This is one the primary reasons why lately I’ve tried to curtail myself from writing on topics about which I have very little knowledge and expertise. There are few things so embarrassing as making a dogmatic point only to find out you’re wrong and then have to backpedal.

I’ve watched a number of Christians debate certain scientific points, and it quickly becomes evident that these folks clearly have a less-than-adequate understanding of the other side of the argument. So most of the time arguing is spent trying to get the Christian to understand the point that the secular scientist is trying to make, rather than actually debating the merits of the argument itself and the supporting (or damning) evidence from both camps.

And let’s be clear – “evolution can’t explain x, therefore ID” is not an example of the scientific method in action, and “an unspecified intelligence at some point did something to DNA by some unspecified mechanism” is not a scientific hypothesis. When you make some positive hypotheses about the nature of God- sorry, The Designer- and when and how he has done his designing, and show (by experiment, not assertion) that your hypotheses explain the facts better than evolution does, then biologists might start taking ID seriously.

In the field of science, I’ve seen researchers on both sides of a lot of issues fall into exactly this kind of trap. Most commonly, it is the Christian scientists ((Let me be clear here – when I say ‘Christian scientist’, I am _not_ referring to the particular philosophy/religion/cult of Christian Science; I am merely making a distinction between the average secular scientist and the scientist who possesses a belief in a creator God.)) who will make specific claims, only to have them fall under the weight of evidence from evolutionary scientists.

As a result, I have to wonder how much of science from Christian research organizations is founded on actual evidence and research and how much is simply airy exclamations based on theological beliefs. Don’t get me wrong – I do believe the Bible to be accurate, and I believe in a literal, 6-day creation and intelligent design. But I fear that far too many scientists who are Christians try to make science fit into theology. I believe that science and theology _can_ complement one another, even when they seem to be in opposition. ((I attribute this to the fact that mankind’s understanding of the universe is finite and that there is likely no way possible that we will ever be able to understand everything, even under the best and most rigorous scientific study.))

I believe that Christian scientists do a great disservice to both science and theology when they try to force scientific evidence to fit their own personal theologies. I think that fear plays a large part in _why_ they try, though – science and rationality sometimes have a way of shaking one’s faith in the existence of God, especially when they seem to support the traditional Darwinian evolutionary viewpoint. But rather than facing their fear and examining fact, far too many Christian scientists take information gleaned in the scientific community and try to force it to fit a specific mold. Consequently, they come off looking like fools and their research is quickly debunked as garbage. ((For the record, I’m sure that even if they had indisputable evidence backing their claims, there would be those in the scientific community who would laugh and scoff. You always have naysayers.))

At any rate, it’s a little food for thought, and as always, this entry is open for discussion and debate. And I believe that reading through Chris’ site may inspire some interesting and new story ideas.

Ick Factor

Boing Boing: Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence trike drag (queen) race, SF

I’m linking to this particular article for only one reason. I’ve considered writing about this for a little while now, but this quote was the catalyst:

bq. Scenes like this make me proud to be American.

Popular sentiment, this one. And I suppose that’s ok. America is, after all, a nation known for its freedoms and liberties. It’s the very reason this country was established, so that people could worship there God/gods (or not) however they see fit, so that people could be free to live their lives however they want – within certain limitations, of course.

I’ll be honest, though. This sort of thing does not make me proud. It does, in fact, make me feel physically nauseated. As a Christian, I do have a moral problem with homosexuality. I do think that homosexuals have the right to live their lives how they want, even to marry, if they wish. That’s part of what this nation is about, after all. But I’ve stated my opinions on the moral and legal nature of this issue before, so this is nothing new coming from me. Morally, I object, but legally I think they have the right.

Physically, though, the thought of two men having sex, even just kissing, makes my stomach clench, makes me feel like vomiting. Even were I to come to a place where I believed that homosexuality was an ok thing on a moral level (never gonna happen), I would still have this physical reaction to the idea.

It makes me wonder. All these people who are pro-gay, who say they are so proud to be an American when they see things like this, in particular the ones who are very heterosexual, do they feel any sort of physical reaction when they think about it? Or do they simply not think about it enough to allow such reactions to rise up? Would they look at their _lack_ of reaction and say that it is a good thing, that it is a sign of progress, of… evolution toward a better, more welcoming world for all? I don’t know because I’ve never seen anyone address this side of this topic.

I’m just grossed out by the thought. It’s part of what adds fodder to my belief that homosexuality is _not_, in fact, natural or normal, that is really just a perversion of the human nature, of the way things are supposed to be. And holding it up under even the evolutionary microscope (which I also believe to be complete bunk), it still doesn’t make sense because it threatens the preservation of the species.

But people want their personal freedoms, but more importantly people don’t like to be told they’re wrong, let alone have to fight against their ‘natural’ ((Read: sinful)) urges. Rather, they embrace them and tout them as the next best thing, the next logical step in the evolution of mankind.

Whatever. I just know that I think it’s wrong, and the gay pride movement is one of the last things I would ever hold up to show my pride in being American.

Take it for what it’s worth.

A Noticeable Shift

Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen a noticeable shift in focus on my blogroll. A lot of the blogs I’ve been reading that deal with faith and spirituality issues have been thinned a great deal while my writing-related blogroll has expanded substantially. I’m actually rather amused by the shift because it says something about my interest levels in these two types of blogs.

The trimming of faith-related blogs from my blogroll is not indicative of any disinterest in the topics and issues of the Christian faith. No, I’m still quite interested in such topics, and I continue to keep the “Open Dialogue forum”:http://open-dialogue.com/forum running in the event that anyone would care to use it for discussion, as still happens occasionally. The trimming does, however, reflect my dissatisfication with the vast majority of faith-based blogs on the web these days. Most of the ones I’ve read seem to ultimately only spin their wheels in an endless cycle of philosophical and theological rumination. Except that, instead of digesting truth and processing it to some worthwhile end, most of these individuals seem to prefer to spit it back out onto the ground, a warm, soggy mess that, in the end, never yields any kind of spiritual nutrition.

I guess you could say that I’ve grown frustrated with the seemingly endless process that most Christians today go through of spending entirely too much time wondering aloud about the nature of our relationship with God and what we as Christians are to do about it. It could be that these folks are, indeed, physically active in their churches and communities trying to apply the truth of Scripture to their lives and reflect Christ to those around them. If such is the case, however, it is not reflected in the content of their blogs. What I see are continual arguings and bickering among folks who are supposed to be of like mind, rehashing issues and ideas and topics that have been hashed over and over again, seemingly with no ground gained. I find this both troubling and particularly frustrating to watch and be a part of. They never leave the communities of their local churches because they’ve become mired in the process of “figuring things out” rather than taking the Good News to those who’ve never heard. They’ve lost sight of what they are to be about and what it is they are here to do.

For a while I lent my voice to the din, expressing my thoughts and sharing in the process of learningm, but in recent weeks, I’ve opted to back out and back away from most of these ongoing discussions. The words, actions, and reactions of so many involved – Christian and non-Christian alike – have served only to exacerbate my cynicism toward the American church. So, rather than continue to involve myself through this medium and risk losing myself completely to such negative attitudes, I’ve backed away and left them alone, choosing instead to take a more personal, one-on-one approach with folks via email, IM, and face-to-face encounters. And these I find much more satisfying.

In the vacuum this change has brought, I’ve begun to more aggressively pursue my writing, and so my writing blogroll has expanded to fill the void left by the trimming of my blogroll’s other half. Writing has given me that creative outlet my inner artist has so craved and proven to be much more refreshing than I could have expected. I still don’t get to write nearly as much as I’d like to yet, but I’m becoming more and more involved in the writing community. In the process I’m getting to kill two birds with a single stone – I get to write all these fun stories while being able to periodically talk about faith-related issues with interested people.

It’s an interesting ride, to say the least, and I feel content in being able to have, in some ways, the best of both worlds.

Faith

“Eric Bailey”:http://www.xanga.com/YOYOY008 has what may be the “most profound statement on understanding faith”:http://www.xanga.com/YOYOY008/534408149/faith.html that I’ve heard in quite some time. He recaps the story of Abraham and Isaac, the sacrifice commanded by God on top of that mountain, and Abraham’s unquestioning obedience. Eric also points out the impossibility of faith, the juxtaposition of two things that cannot both be true. Powerful, dynamic faith not only believes that both can be true but that both will occur. Surely, Abraham both believed that God would make a great nation from Isaac and that he would sacrifice his son. Hebrews states that Abraham actually believed that God would raise Isaac from the ashes.

Here is the most notable quote from Eric’s thoughts, the summary and point of his contemplations:

You not only have to know that the mountain will move, but that it is impossible to move it.

And you must know both without any doubt.

… Get it yet?

Faith is something of a divine madness — It transcends understanding, it transcends words, feelings, expression, life…

Or, at least, it _should_.

Abraham.

Go give the whole thing a read. He makes a most insightful point.