Thursday, September 27, 2007

Being Human

I will be beginning a series of blogs on the book, Christians who Counsel, by Ray Anderson. He begins chapter one discussing a theological anthropology of human relationships. In the creation account of Genesis 2, where God says that Adam is "not good" by himself, we can often be completely dismissive of the true significance of what is being said here. God admits that his presence is not sufficient for the human creature to be complete. Even after bringing the animals to Adam, God realized that Adam needed a companion that would be the female to his maleness.

This declaration that the solitary human is not good is important. From it we can correct any belief that we have that unhappiness in life is necessarily a spiritual issue, between God and the individual. Here we see that God created us to be in relationship with one another. That relationship is to be one of equality and co-laboring.

Personally I find that this theological truth relieves me from thinking that my spiritual growth only comes from private prayer and meditation and that social relations fell into a different category. On the contrary, it is clearly evident that God created us to be in relationship with both God and other humans. Jesus taught that the two greatest commandments are to obey God and love your neighbor. Neither can be separated from the other.

Anderson's conclusion is that there are three parts of being human that support one another. They are relating to yourself, relating to others, and relating to God. Relating to yourself properly means that you see yourself as God's creation and thus see value and purpose in your life and beauty in your life. Relating to others means that you have relationships that create meaning for your life and that allow for mutual help in times of need. Finally, relating to God means placing yourself in humble obedience to God's will and living in his grace.

This theological anthropology reminds us that we were created for real relationships and so true "spirituality" means that we are living with others in a vulnerable and open position. For therapists, it is the reminder that we can bring the kingdom of God simply by having fellowship with those who are in isolation, whether physically or emotionally. We can help people who have tried to live a full life in 2, 1, or even none of the three relational areas and bring them to wholeness in God's image for them.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Transforming Initiatives

I've been taking a class in Christian Ethics over the summer that has really been opening me up to the Biblical view of how we should live out our Christian lives. My professor, Dr. Glen Stassen has suggested that the Sermon on the Mount ought to be the central focus of Christian ethics. Here Jesus talks about the Old Testament law and expands on each law. For example:
"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' 22But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.

23"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift." (Matthew 5:21-23)

But while we often think that Jesus is merely raising the bar for us to make holiness a more difficult standard to obtain, we forget that, if that is what he is doing, he would simply be creating a more rigid legalism. But in fact that is not what Jesus does. Jesus does not say, "Do not get angry with your brother." It is not a command. But Jesus does command that, if our brother has something against us then we ought to go be reconciled. Jesus does not offer us legalism; he offers a solution.

Think that this is only the pattern here? Jesus does the same for nearly all of the other teachings. Jesus speaks in hyberbole regarding to lust saying, "If your eye causes you to sin, cut it out" (v. 29). Again, Jesus is providing a solution: lust leads to adultery so get yourself away from the situation that causes you to lust.

The real point is that Jesus offers us solutions, or as my professor calls them: transforming initiatives. These are ways to get ourselves out of the cycle of sin that we find ourselves within. It offers much more than a higher standard. It offers us a way to find freedom from sin. That, not legalism, is Jesus' way.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Waking Moments

I think one of my most creative times is when I've woken up from sleep but haven't gotten out of bed. It seems that my mind has fewer restrictions and tends to free associate better. Perhaps it's the lying down that does it (which might explain Freud's technique).

The reason I'm writing this is because I have come up with several great ideas for blogs in the last few days when I have rising from my slumber and each time I've lost the idea over the course of the day. I hope that this serves as a reminder that my mind is a delicate instrument and sometimes I need to help it out with a few Post-It notes.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Climbing Mountains

Last Sunday I hiked Mount Whitney. This 22 mile hike to the highest point in the lower 48 states was a grueling, intense accomplishment. But I had the advantage that I knew what to expect and I knew when it would be over. But sometimes life brings us mountains that remain in front of us for months and even years. Those types of mountains are the ones that truly test our perseverance and character.

I would like to think that climbing Mount Whitney proves that I am a tenacious and persevering man. But the truth is that my character is tested more often in the day to day. Just today I sat idly by while letting my dad and brother work on the sink, knowing that I had been asked a week ago to fix a broken faucet. And yesterday I spent about 4 or 5 hours on the Internet looking at clips from a TV show.

These seemingly small character flaws are my real mountains. I have long disliked my own tendencies to be lazy and unhelpful but progress in these areas has been slow. Times of growth have been thwarted by backsliding to old habits. The humbling truth is that I have not given myself completely to change in these areas. My true character has been revealed. But I like to think that, even if I have idled for awhile or even retreated, that I can head back up the mountain and make another attempt to change.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Psychiatrists Don't Tend to be Religious

Psychiatry was found to be the least religious type of physician, according to a study published by Live Science. Why do religious people stray from religion? Perhaps it is because the history of psychoanalysis. But I think that this is just another reminder that psychology needs the input of Christianity to be more relevant to the general population.