Archive for October, 2013

I Can’t Believe I Did This. But I Did.

Friday, October 4th, 2013

I joined Twitter.  Yeah, it’ll be a challenge to stick to 140 characters, as I usually write about 20 times that, but if you’re interested in the thoughts floating around my brain, go ahead and follow:  @keelyemerinemix

Just think.  Three months ago I didn’t even know what Twitter was.  Our girl is growing up . . .

 

On The Bible And Counseling

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

I’m a believer.  In using the Bible as counsel, I mean.

While I’m most decidedly not a believer in using the Bible to “change” lesbians and gay men into straight women and men, and I don’t believe the Bible to be a handbook of specific answers to all of life’s ills, and I have concerns you may have picked up on regarding its use in the hands of unqualified, hyper-literalist “counselors” overseen by a man whose pastoring, described in simile, insults both sheep and wolves, I believe — passionately — that the Word of God offers us two things we can hold on to in strolling through green pastures or when clinging to rocks in the midst of turbulent waters:  It tells us what God wanted us to know about God’s work in history, culminating in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of the One foretold throughout it, and it points us toward relationship with that promised Messiah, Jesus Christ.

In announcing God’s Incarnate Son as the promised Lord and Savior who can be known personally and eternally by Jews and Gentiles, rich people and poor people, women and men, and every created soul, the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, and, for two-thirds of the Church, the books of the Apocrypha, are both love letter and personal invitation, news report and treasure hunt.  Unless you’re a Calvinist, like the Center for Biblical Counseling folks — in which case you don’t actually believe that at all and have to simply, perhaps desperately, in some cases pointlessly, hope in your “charitable” assumption that God maybe hasn’t condemned the struggling man or woman or adolescent you’re with to an eternal hell for no other reason than Divine joy at having them burn.  Nevertheless,  the Bible is what the Church has clung to from its inception and what each believer ought to cling to from the moment of their conversion.

The Bible itself promises, in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, that “all Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, reproof, correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.”  (NRSV)  We must never claim less for the Word than it does for itself — not because logic demands it, but because the Spirit in us confirms it.  The Bible, inspired by the Holy Spirit, written by men, infallible in its original manuscripts and superintended in its various translations by the same Spirit, tells us, first and foremost, about the promise and its fulfillment of Emmanuel, God in us.  What we find in there has as its ultimate goal the Glory of the God it proclaims, and as its practical and promised goal the means to impart to us God’s will in our sanctification — that righteousness that, like the Kingdom, is fully here and yet fully not yet, kept for us by the sealing of the Holy Spirit.

There is no burden not lightened by reliance on God.  There is no contentment not proved baseless without reliance on God.  And there’s no greater reverence for God’s Word than that which respects it too much to take it in the same way we commonly receive a carburetor repair manual for a 1974 Ford Maverick sedan.

It’s when we lose sight of the purpose of the Word — the way God worked in the people before Christ’s death and resurrection and the way God worked among them afterward — that we get it wrong, and often because, in our eagerness to show our reverence for the Word, we put into it and extract from it not “more than” it promises, but “different from” what it promises.  God did intend that the Spirit working within and among us would lead us to receive what the Word promises — a victorious Savior and Lord — to whose character we will be conformed.  God did not intend that we lock in chapter and verse to make the Spirit no longer needed, and the Divine Author certainly didn’t intend that we take the “Handbook for Life” as an annotated guide to What To Do About Everything That Comes Up In Life instead of a Spirit-led means of training for righteousness.

The Bible does, indeed, have much to say about, for example, household finances.  The literalist, sweating because he has no dill or cumin to tithe, believes he honors Scripture by delineating, for himself and others, and then practicing — with a wish that he could practice it for others — a firm, literal, guide to tithing.  The Bible literally commends ten percent of his income — his treasure.  But the literalist, having gotten that down pat, then hears about “time and talents.”  How, then, to offer those to God?  Maddeningly, the Word gives no guide to how we offer our time and our God-given abilities to our Lord, other than to do it — fully, always, and yet terribly vague in its instructions about what “fully” and “always” really mean.

The Bible says much about human relationships, although male counselors who deny the Athanasian Creed and orthodox, historical Trinitarianism, and who then support their twisted theologies of gender with their faulty theology, invariably dishonor Scripture.  With their Trinitarian Subordinationism — the erroneous doctrine that asserts that Jesus was not only subordinate to the Father in his Incarnation, which all Christians believe, but that Jesus’ subordinationism to the First Person of the Trinity is eternal, reflecting an ontological sameness and yet a “functional” difference, which no Christian ought to believe — Biblical “counselors” do enormous harm to the most precious of human relationships, marriage.  In commending to women the ontological sameness they enjoy with men, as Jesus does to his Father, and yet insisting on hierarchical roles and functions, which is not at all like Jesus and his (metaphorical) Father, they convince women that the conformation to the character of Christ that the Bible promises by the Spirit is a conformation to the sexual enmity and power-over hierarchy wrought by the Fall.

The wretched foundation of Biblical patriarchy, overthrown in the here- and not-yet Kingdom of Christ Jesus, becomes a thing of beauty to masculinists, subordinationists, and complementarians — the only men ever considered worthy in Christ Church, which operates Moscow’s Center for Biblical Counseling.  These mens’ slavish devotion to their pastor, Doug Wilson, is regrettable for myriad reasons, not the least of which is that they’ve chosen to ecclesiastically betroth themselves to a classical Christian scholar unable to grasp the very simple, painfully obvious fact that “Father/Son” language, and, indeed, much of the language we use in describing God, is metaphor — pictures and descriptions God graciously allows us, as finite beings, to take a step toward understanding the Infinite One.

Here’s a test:  Ask someone whose horrified at my assertion that “Father/Son” Trinitarian language is metaphorical how long after the Father his Son appeared.  When sputtering commences, remind them that there is no literal Father and Son relationship in which the two players are chronologically the same age.  As you both agree on the eternality of Jesus within the Trinity, ask them how something can be both an actual and a metaphorical — a literal and a figurative — depiction of the same thing.  It’s not fun, but it’s necessary.

The “Bible As Handbook” view of things other than God’s work in human history through Christ by the Holy Spirit looks reverent, scholarly, and faithful — while demanding of the Word that which it doesn’t presume to do, and lessening its power and beauty by insisting on its utilitarianism.  It honors the Scriptures to see in them what God intended:  An announcement of Christ and a directive to worship him.  It dishonors Scripture, but looks really, really, holy, to see in them a pat answer for an endless list of life issues.  It honors the Word of God to study it and meditate on it with an understanding that ALL parts were written FOR us, while absolutely none of them were written TO us.  That is, no Bible study is profitable if it doesn’t take into account, before reaching any application, of how the original readers and recipients would have understood it.  It does not honor the Word of God to triumphantly make universal what might well be cultural, to insist that the “just as I AM”  revealed to a people miles and millennia away from us is exactly “just as I am, here and now.”  Again, a test:  Ask a guy at church why he kisseth not the other men.  After all, it’s right there IN THE BIBLE …

The truth of God — God’s nature, love, plan, and power — is unchanging.  God has never learned anything.  Thankfully, we have.  This is why what appears to be Bible-honoring so often is cringeworthy.  I am an evolutionary creationist; I believe that God created every molecule and atom, photon and nutrino,  giant squid and elephant, and did so through evolution.  The thought, not original to me, that God wrote two books, the Book of Scripture and the “book” of Nature, is one I embrace passionately.  That’s a privilege of living in this century — a privilege obviously not available to the pre-scientific, pre-literate peoples to whom the two Genesis accounts were given.  Those accounts tell us THAT God created.  We have the profound privilege of living in a time when science can help us understand HOW God created — information that would’ve been completely beyond the comprehension of land- and sea-based peoples who assumed the Earth was flat and that the heavens were a bowl placed over the earth.  But there is responsibility in taking hold of this privilege, and that is the responsibility to make use of the knowledge we have to interpret the eternal truths of the Bible.

A truly sobering test:  Ask someone whose child suffers from seizures if they’re treating her for epilepsy or demonic possession.

There are endless examples, and all of them point to the danger not only of unschooled, theologically confused men offering “counseling” from the Bible and the Bible only, but of elevating the derivative, out of context, “application” view of the Scriptures over their Center and Source, Jesus Christ.  Christian Smith, in his marvelous book “The Bible Made Impossible,” illustrates the dangers of the “Bible-As-Handbook” model while beautifully, passionately, teaching a reverence for the Bible as Divine Invitation — the joyous announcement of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and his coming Kingdom.  It should be required reading for the Church; it ought to be impossible to seek help from the Center for Biblical Counseling without reading it.  The Church is full of promoters of Bible cures for cancer, Bible methods for financial success, Biblical dating models and Biblical courtship models and Biblical celibacy models; Bible promises for weight loss and sexual fullfilment and career guidance and housekeeping and proper attire, and Biblical admonitions against things that, actually, aren’t “admonitions against” at that thing at all (Onan and masturbation, for example).  In the hands of discerning Christians, those things may or may not be revealed in Bible study; if they are, they certainly aren’t the point of it, and they’re likely not revealed as absolutes but suggested as models (like the Genesis account of God’s giving Adam and Eve a plant-based diet that, the text suggests, did not include meat).

But in the hands of theologically deficient, power-hungry, unqualified ecclesiastical gossips — the antithesis of “discerning Christians” — these things, this list of “Bible Answers To …,” becomes a crowbar, a battering ram, a garden of thorns, and a text no more worthy of reverence and obedience than page 129 of The French Chef or the vapor-lock information in the carburetor-repair manual for the Maverick I drove in college.   And last night, as I took the anti-depressant that I’ve thanked God for over the last 22 years, after balancing the check register that shows God’s provision while nevertheless expecting me to figure out 21st-century ways to honor millennia-old admonitions to honor God with our money, I reflected on the peace promised to me in the Bible.

That peace comes from knowing my Lord Jesus, and anything that makes his love letter and journal to us into anything less, no matter how “biblically sound” or “spiritually reverent” it appears, is worth only the paper it’s printed on.  In the case of the Center for Biblical Counseling’s promise to “use only the Bible” to help people tossed to and fro in deep waters of despair, and whose needs are beyond what the Scriptures reveal solutions for, though, the worth and weight of that paper becomes, in my mind, rather … millstone-like.

.

Since Last We Spoke …

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

A few things have been happening here in Moscow relating to the Kirk’s egregious attempt to frame pastoral abuse and heavy-handed gossip between elders as “Biblical counseling.”

A week ago, I directed you to a series of Prevailing Winds posts from May 2011 that dealt with Doug Wilson’s encouragement of the courtship between a desperately lonely young NSA student and Steven Sitler, a former NSA scholar and protege’ of Wilson’s whose confessed serial pedophilia — which included the State’s admonition that, at risk of life in prison, he not be left alone, ever, with any children from the marriage — seemed not to perturb the Palouse’s Pontiff of Pomposity.  In doing this, in raking up the ugliest of Moscow’s ecclesiastical history, I pointed out that those seeking counseling from a Wilson-led Christ Church elder, one who insists on his right to share session information with whomever he want, need to consider the judgment and character of the man whose presence lurks behind every appointment.

The verdict of anyone familiar with Doug Wilson, even if the Sitler crisis was all they knew, would have to be that he is guilty of a depth of recklessness, impudence, selfishness, and malice generally not seen in the pastorate — or even among surly frat boys.  The Sitler incident was isolated in its particular circumstances; the self-servingly horrific judgment it showed isn’t.  Anyone not on Wilson’s payroll, unlike the majority of his elders, would conclude that this guy ought not have anything to do with establishing a “Biblical counseling” program anywhere near vertebrates.

Or high schoolers, which brings me to events of the last couple of weeks.

A friend notified me of a sign positioned near Moscow High School promising Free Pizza and Free Bibles on Tuesdays in a City-owned building directly across from campus — an informal free lunch and get-together moderated by a particularly weasily young Kirker.  Those of us in Moscow know that the MHS cafeteria is large enough only for a fraction of its enrollment; our students leave campus for lunch largely because they have to, and nothing lures young people with less than an hour to search for cheap calories than the promise of free pizza just for crossing the street.

After another Moscow citizen raised hell with the administration of the 1912 Building for allowing proselytizing on City property, the Kirk agreed to cease its pizza-lure program until it finds another location.  One problem solved, and God be praised.

But there’s a larger issue here, one infinitely more upsetting than the idea of religious proselytizing on taxpayer-funded property.  Christ Church’s Center for Biblical Counseling is downtown, just a few blocks from the high school.  Its “services” are free — a huge attraction in a town with not nearly enough mental health professionals, and where 50-minute sessions, if you’re able to get one, typically cost at least a hundred bucks.  And while CBC counselor Mike Lawyer is not a licensed psychologist or social worker or psychiatrist — the fields that generally constitute “qualified mental health counselor” — his work is presented as a ministry.  It’s free, it’s close to campus, and its services might be attractive to several hundred confused, lonely, teenagers and their families navigating the turbulent waters of adolescence.

Let’s be clear:  The Kirk’s assertion to my friend, that the Free Pizza Tues,days was intended as an outreach to Christ Church/Trinity Reformed kids at the high school is more than spurious.  It’s a lie.  Doug Wilson’s contempt for “government schools” isn’t simply his opinion; rejection of public education is a matter on which he brooks no deviation.  If you’re a Kirk parent, there is no matter of conscience, no personal conviction, no “this is best for our family” thinking when it comes to public schools.  The likelihood of finding a Kirk kid at Moscow High School is about as great as finding a Jewish kid at a White Supremacist institution.

But it’s very likely that you’ll find some kids at the high school who ARE unchurched, and who ARE in the throes of adolescent angst, and who might become convinced that the nice Dr. Lawyer would be able to help them — or who would tell mom and dad that the counseling they can’t afford can be had at the Center For Biblical Counseling.  Believe me — Wilson, et al, aren’t recruiting from Moscow High School in the hope of filling the black robes of New Saint Andrews.  By high school, these kids are well beyond any hope of fitting into Logos, Wilson’s K-12 foray into “classical Christian education.”  Their parents, suckling as they are on the teat of government largesse by sending their kids to Baal, Moloch, and Moscow High, aren’t likely to repent and come to the — ahem — light of Christ Church or Trinity.  And most of the students, once the pizza is nibbled down to the crust and the conversation turns to the Kirk’s breathtaking masculinism and homophobia and general contempt for unbelievers — that is, those unbelievers not chowing down in front of them — are less than likely to accept any Christ as Lord and Savior who looks at all like these of his disciples.

(Of course, the idea of evangelism by hard Calvinists is a curious thing, given that those who will come to Christ, in their theology, will anyway, regardless of any evangelistic efforts, and those whom God has reprobated can’t come to Christ, regardless, again, of any evangelistic efforts. This explains not only why the Kirk is not generally associated with evangelism, and, more to the point, why the odious behavior of its principles isn’t considered bothersome if it offends unbelievers).

It seems a fair bet that the Free Pizza  had a direct link to Free Counseling.  That’s disturbing.  The “free” counseling from the Lawyer and the “trainees” expected to pour forth from the “Counselor in a Week” sessions may not cost any money, but it’s far from free.  The payment extracted from counselees is immense:  vulnerability for reckless disclosure, emotional problems for a diagnosis of sin, a thirst for spiritual comfort for a Bible beating, and the presumption of qualification for the assurance of self-proclaimed expertise.  You pour out your heart; your counselor will pour out your heart to those around him and around you, and the Bible from which you ought to seek solace will become the battering ram into your thoughts, your actions, your beliefs, and your motivations.  Counseling by crowbar, it is.

The great Libertarian principle of TANSTAAFL — There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch — applies here.  And as Wilson himself says, a thing may be offered without cost — but it sure ain’t free.  While luring kids into your grip with pizza is considerably more crude than most Kirk machinations, it’s a necessary dip into the swamp of statism.  After all, if your congregants balk at seeking counseling from someone who slavishly answers to you, it might become necessary to troll the waters for the kids and their parents who don’t yet know about either your atrocious judgment or your astounding disregard for standards of professional counseling.

In this case, a thin crust and a slathering of marinara covers a whole lotta error.  Shame on them.  Boys of Anselm House, your community is on to you.