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Welcome.

(note:  This is the welcome and info article and it does not change.  Scroll on down for the most recent article addition.)

I believe in the power of truth.  I also believe in the power of freedom.  I am neverendingly impressed at how truth sets us free, and how freedom opens us up to the truth.  Though I have some posts that are personal to me, this is my ministry site.  I post articles about all kinds of things that are of interest to me… and I also find great joy in answering, or at trying to answer, or at least discussing, questions.  Feel free to ask them here.

I am still working on these sites, but the best way to navigate this material is either the tabs at the top of the page – these take you to totally different pages with targeted information.  If you are researching me as a personal therapist, click the Counseling/Therapy tab… if you are a man looking for encouragement, ideas and support in life, click on Phalanx… if you are considering me as a speaker, teacher, pastor, or consultant, that information should be available there.

Most of my work hours are spent serving at FBC’s South Campus in Tyler. Check out the amazing ministry there.

I am also the lead therapist at the Alethia Counseling Center in Tyler, Texas… and I love the team of Counselors we have here, so…

I want to introduce you to our team of counselors at the offices:

Millie Tanner, LPC.   As a Licensed Professional Counselor I see people who have different backgrounds, struggles, and ways of coping.  Pain can come from broken relationships, cold marriages, or the devastation of losing someone we love.  In those times a therapist can give encouragement and insight by asking the right questions to lead to a healthier way of living.  Through this many find freedom as light is shined on dark places in their lives.  www.tannertherapy.com

Zach Herrin, LPC.   I have been a counselor in some capacity for the last eight years. To recognize where you are gives you the freedom and choice to leave where you are.  Working with men and teens are high on my list, but I also love to help families and couples.  The counseling process can be encouraging and discouraging all at the same time but I believe from personal experience it can make all the difference… when we take the first step in asking for help.   www.herrincounseling.com

Keely Burks, LPC-intern.  I am a Licensed Professional Counselor Intern, which means I am qualified to do everything an LPC does, but I receive weekly super-vision from Chris Legg, LPC.  My desire is to see marriages healed and parent and child relationships reconciled. I consider myself blessed to come alongside people as they discover the truth of who they are, choosing not to believe the lies they previously subscribed to. www.keelyburkscounseling.com 

Amy Waters, LPC -intern.  Hebrew wisdom tells us that “in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”  The decision to seek counseling is both wise and brave.  It is a joy and a privilege  to come alongside people in this way.  As a LPC intern, I practice under the supervision of Chris Legg, as well.  There are few things more rewarding that seeing people get in touch with the truth and be transformed by it. www.amywaterscounseling.com

Nancy Mayer, LPC.  “What is my purpose?” Is a question I hear from clients seeking to understand their life journey and questioning what they can do to reach their true potential. As a licensed professional counselor, I am honored to be chosen to take this journey of discovery with my clients. Having a collaborative approach to counseling, gives the client and me an opportunity to grow and learn from one another. www.receivingthegiftcounseling.com

Allison Cooper, LPC-intern: I am an LPC-Intern with experience helping individuals, couples, and families. My Supervisor is Jennifer Brown.  I enjoy working as a team with clients to help them gain perspective, insight, and self-confidence when facing challenges.  It is my philosophy that through the therapeutic relationship clients can gain strength and find peace.

Josh Berger, LPC-intern: Life is full of storms. The ebbs and flows they bring can leave anyone feeling shipwrecked. My role as a counselor, under the supervision of Chris Legg, is a grounding one: to equip and enable you to see light through the darkness. Together we pursue truth and beauty and lasting freedom.  www.bergercounseling.com

If you are interested in scheduling with any of us, call us at 903 561 8955 today!

…If you are more interested in browsing my articles, then your best bet might be the catagories list to the right.  If you are interested in me writing an article on a given topic, you can request it in any comments section… I will try to get to it as soon as I can!

I will continue to post all new articles here as well as on the targeted site, so either option should still give you the chance to find what you are looking for.

Typically, my series, sermons and seminars will be found at:  Talks

Thanks for stopping in… God Bless you and Keep you.

Chris

More Information on my specific Counseling

My style of therapy is generally called “eclectic” which really just means I make use of many different styles and techniques of counseling.  I believe that every human life has intrinsic value, including yours.  No amount of pain, guilt, shame, regret, resentment, anger, depression, depravity, or brokenness can change that.  Every person has a story that is worth hearing, no matter how much hurt, love, purpose, abandonment or normality that life includes or lacks.

A big part of why I believe what I just said is that I am a proclaimed follower of Jesus, The Christ, into Life, death, and Life again.  I think life can often feel a lot like a series of life and death patterns.  I believe it is hopeful to know that those are a parable of the larger Epic story.  I believe in a Creator, and I therefore rationally think the most foundational thing in life is to have a right relationship with our Creator.

It seems reasonable to me that it would be impossible to over-estimate philosophically how important it would be for a created thing to know its creator.  After doing decades of research, of the major views on this problem, only Christianity has been able to offer what I consider the most reasonable answers. So, with that understanding, I am a Christian therapist.

However, as a “style” I am not exclusively what is called a “biblical counselor” nor do I offer counseling only for other Christians. Far from it. I agree with the way I was taught: I expose my faith, but am careful not to impose my faith on my clients. It isn’t always an easy integration, but that is my goal. The main way that my faith and philosophy impact my counseling is in regards to truth. I believe in the power of truth to set us free (John 8:31). I think it is vitally important for everyone to be able to acknowledge the truth about their lives – this point is also made in Orwell’s “1984” when it is noted that true freedom begins with the freedom to speak the truth.

Until we can say what we know is true, we are still bound. I make use of reality therapy techniques, Gestalt work, psychotherapy, Jungian archetypes, personality theory, paradoxical work, REBT, transactional analysis, and virtually anything else I come across that works and fits within what I believe is true.

I believe that each human being is so complex and unique that no one therapeutic theory covers everyone. Generally, I talk to people for about 50 minutes in the session, but the real work comes in the hours of integration in-between sessions. I encourage people to deal with the past and not ignore it – to speak the truth about their past. This is not about living in the past. Understanding, speaking and accepting the truth about our past is a work of the present.

I also encourage people to face the present and future honestly. Reality therapy becomes vital when dealing with the present. I think that many more people could really benefit from counseling than get it. It takes a certain level of emotional health to be able to risk coming in. Coming to counseling the first time can be pretty tough, so I applaud anyone strong enough to do it, especially those who are able to come in before they are in stage 4 sickness… Counseling isn’t meant to last forever, so come in with some specific goals and you and I will work together to identify and deal with those and any others that arise.

Final words for this section: beware of coming in for counseling when it is storming and the roof is leaking, and then quitting when the rain quits rather than when the roof is repaired.

any questions?

How often should a married couple have sex?  cross1

16
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Ok, just kidding. I know that most people are looking for a number, and even though you knew that I wasn’t going to offer one so easily, I know you are hoping for an easy answer even though you know one doesn’t exist. Answers? Yes. Easy ones? No.

First, let me start with encouraging you to run over and read about The Dangers of Expectations (both parts) and I also strongly recommend another article about being (and being a) disappointed/ment.

The area of sex is one of the most challenging topics for us to deal with because of the powerful emotions that are almost always entwined with sex.

Very few people start with sex in a healthy way.

Most of us are introduced to the topic way too early –whether sex play with a more “educated” child, abuse from an older child or adult, or early introduction to pornography – we are all working with mixed and damaged scripts about sex.

couple-in-bed-not-talking-300x200There is so much more to sex than frequency. Below, there is a link to a series of talks that capture the depth of the conversation and those talks are a healthy context for this conversation about frequency.

Outside of a deeper and more spiritual understanding of sex, just a conversation about “frequency” can lead to a lot more pain and problems than solutions.

That being said, this question of “how often” is one of the most common that I hear!

I have met with many couples about sexual issues over the years, and have rarely ever found a couple that both had the exact same desire for sex in regards to frequency.

Rarely have I even met a couple in which both are completely satisfied with the frequency of how often they engage sexually.

I have met way too many couple who had capitulated and given up and accepted defeat in this area. Neither of the spouses are happy or satisfied… but just vanquished.

They cannot consider of them both being able to win, so one of them just bears the brunt of the frequency or infrequency. What was once a source of strength, energy and encouragement for them both has become a taboo topic filled with silence or long lectures, misunderstanding and resentment, etc…

They have talked and talked but without any increase in understanding or improvement of the problem.

Please take the time to try to find some freedom in truth. Some of the truth that can lead to freedom, especially for married couples, is talked about here in these talks and articles. I honestly believe these will help more than a quick answer…

Now, here are some of my personal responses to these points.

My issue with the Calvinism branch of reformed theology is mostly based on the view that if one thing is true, others things cannot be… when often this is not the case biblically. If something appears to be paradoxical, it may be our error. The extreme views often held are either misunderstood or unnecessary.

I will also offer a percentage that expresses my own personal stance as compared to the full Calvinist view. A very strong Calvinist would score 100% on each one, many who would claim to be Calvinist… and especially “reformed” would not score 100%. I represent no one but myself here… these are my thoughts only.

I think this is a more accurate conversation, at least from my perspective, rather than referring to myself as a “four pointer” or something like that.

 Total Depravity: 80%

I believe that mankind and each man is depraved and plenty depraved… but not “totally” depraved according to the way I would use the word “total”. I typically like the “intensive” vs “extensive” clarification.

First, I think we are still created and still bear the image of God. That image itself is not depraved.  

Additionally, I am not as depraved as I could be – there are sins and perversions I have not ever engaged in. I think we represent (each) a cup of water with poison in them (which is poisoned enough) but not a cup of poison. If I use the word “total” to say “I colored a picture totally black,” I mean that there is nothing but black on the page.

Calvinists often say that mankind comes to God like a criminal comes to a policeman – in other words – runs in the other direction while hateful and resentful. I think this is accurate… but that even a criminal has some concept ofimages eternity in him (Eccl 3:11)… so I think it is plausible that we might seek God like a criminal seeks a policeman, when the criminal is falling off of a 1000 foot cliff and is Cop offers him a hand.

What I think is necessary to understand is that no one has the right righteousness, nor enough of it to cancel out our fallen-ness. 

Unconditional election: 60%, or depending on your definition of “unconditional”

The questions isn’t whether the Bible teaches election. It does (Eph 1:4). The questions are about what the term means and what, by existing, it cancels out.

There are things that God elects (Rom 9:10-13) but does He elect for Salvation unconditionally?

Could it be conditioned upon the works of man? No, passages like Eph 2:8-9 make that pretty clear that nothing man can do is what motivates God to save us.

My thoughts are that I can list out a dozen or maybe 100 passages that back the idea that God chooses with utter sovereignty (Rom 8:29, Rom 9:13, John 15:16, and Eph 1:3-11 just for a start) depends on no one but Himself to make that call.

I can also list out dozens of passages that defend the idea that man is responsible to freely believe in God (John 3:16-18, Rev 20:12, and even Eph 1:12-14!)

For this reason, I have come to the opinion that both are true. Man freely and honestly chooses. God sovereignly and freely (dependent on no one else). How is this logically coherent? There are several ways, but I like middle knowledge best.

Limited atonement: 10%, if that.

Verses in defense of the idea of limited atonement:

2 Tim 2:9-11. Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

Heb 5:9-11. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, 10 called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek,”  11 of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 

John 17:1-3… “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (ESV)

This passage might say that Jesus was only planning on dying for the flesh the Father had given him. It may not. It seems to be referencing the last phrase, which is about knowing the Father and the Christ…does that mean Jesus did not die for the other flesh too? It is not clear.

These, however, seem more clear:

2 Cor 5:14 “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

The word “all” here is the same as Romans 5:12

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…”

Romans 5:6. Look to Romans 5:6 – the Greek for “ungodly” is “without religion”  – I cannot believe that Paul MEANT to say “died for the ungodly elect” but left the word elect out.

John 3:16. Further, read John 3, Christ’s discussion with Nicodemus about how to be saved.  “For God so loved the ELECT that He gave His only begotten Son…?”  For God so loved the WORLD.

Acts 17:30, “All men to repent,” not just some men.  How could they repent unless their sins had been paid for? One problem with Calvinism is the quick leap to God calling upon people to do things they have no option of obeying as mystery.”

Romans 5:18.  “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.”

1 Tim 2:1 Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, 7 for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle–I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying–a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. (my underlinings)

1 Tim 4:10  “For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. (this one is the toughest one to me… it seems to actually delineate between believers and non and yet refers to Christ as savior of all)

Heb 9:11-12  “But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.”

Well, that oughta give some stuff to think about… now you can see why I do not accept the teaching of “limited atonement.” I understand the logic behind it, but I just think it is not scriptural.

Irresistable Grace: 60-80% depending on definitions.

To the degree that “irresistible grace” means “drawn,” I am on the same page.

I am not 100% on irresistible part, though.. can the Spirit not be quenched in regards to salvation? This is a problem, I know, sprung of the less than 100% agreement with UE.

However, I do think it is impossible for someone to come to Christ unless God draws them. Certainly, part of that is that the Image of God plays a role here, as does the eternity put in the hearts of all men.

Also, does the irresistible grace apply to every person who believes? Could it be that some are drawn irresistibly, and not others?

Also, I think this argument is greatly augmented by Middle Knowledge again. In many ways, this argument is so linked to Unconditional election that the same arguments and verses apply, since if the teaching here is that God, once electing someone, saves them. I agree with this principle, but not that man has no role in the saving part. See the quandary? If UE is not 100% true, then IG is limited in the exact same ways.

Here are some verses that make it clear that people can only come to God is He chooses and draws them. God is not a passive member of the salvation of any human being.

John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”

Matthew 22:14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Romans 11:5,6 – “a remnant chosen by grace”

John 15:16 – “you did not choose me”

Romans 11:7 – “others are hardened”

John 17:9 – “I do not pray for the world, but those you have given me.” {This is an interesting verse despite the issue of “prayer” not “die.”}

Eph 2: “made us alive together with Christ – by grace you are saved.”… verse 8: by grace through faith.”

John 3:18 – belief is the source of “not being condemned” – unbelief is the source for condemnation.

Perseverance of the Saints 100%

Since salvation is dependent on God’s work, its maintenance is also dependence upon His work… which is settled. As Jesus once said… “It is Finished.” Since I am on the same page here, that once Christ has set you free, you are free indeed, then I will leave this one at that.

John Calvin (1509-1564) was a serious player in the reformation – the break of what is now known as the Protestant Church from the Roman Church. He had very strong opinions on the way that the Sovereignty of God trumps any freedom that mankind might have… which might be none.

Often today one misnomer for Calvinism is “reformed theology”. Actually there are many more who would share the theology of the reformers, but not the same theology as Calvin or his students.

Calvin was a serious player, but the reformation was not build around him. It was built around mainly 5 (ironically, what is it with that number in theology?) theological statements… the 5 soli (or sola) statements that were meant to distinguish the reformers from the Roman Catholic Church to which they were contemporary:

Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone)

Solus Christus (Christ alone)

Sola Gratia (Grace alone)

Sola Fide (Faith alone)

Soli Deo Gloria (To God’s glory alone)

These are the actual 5 tenets of reformed theology. Instead, what we think of as the 5 points of Calvinism sprung from a series of views of different people within the reformation.

arminius Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609) was    student of a student of Calvin.

His followers wrote the Five Articles of  Remonstrance in response to the  theology of Calvin:

 

  1.  God has decreed to save through  Jesus Christ those of the fallen  and sinful race who through the  grace of the Holy Spirit believe in him, but leaves in sin the incorrigible and unbelieving.
  2. Christ died for all men (not just for the elect), but no one except the believer has remission of sin.
  3. Man can neither of himself nor of his free will do anything truly good until he is born again of God, in Christ, through the Holy Spirit.
  4. All good deeds or movements in the regenerate must be ascribed to the grace of God but his grace is not irresistible.
  5. Those who are incorporated into Christ by a true faith have power given them through the assisting grace of the Holy Spirit to persevere in the faith. But it is possible for a believer to fall from grace.

In 1618, followers of Calvin’s original teachings at created the Canons of Dort refuting these 5 articles. These have been (often to the chagrin of Calvinists) simplified to these 5 points (these are the passages that a Calvinist put with the tenets). These are often referred to as “TULIP” because of the first letter of each item. I will offer a super-simplified explanation of each one here:

Total Depravity (Total Inability)

Total Depravity is probably the most misunderstood tenet of Calvinism. john-calvinSometimes, , though not always, when Calvinists speak of humans as “totally depraved,” they are making an extensive, rather than an intensive statement. The effect of the fall upon man is that sin has extended to every part of his personality — his thinking, his emotions, and his will.

Not necessarily that he is intensely sinful, but that sin has extended to his entire being.

The unregenerate (unsaved) man is dead in his sins (Romans 5:12). Without the power of the Holy Spirit, the natural man is blind and deaf to the message of the gospel (Mark 4:11f). This is why Total Depravity has also been called “Total Inability.” The man without a knowledge of God will never come to this knowledge without God’s making him alive through Christ (Ephesians 2:1-5).

Unconditional Election

Unconditional Election is the doctrine which states that God chose those whom he was pleased to bring to a knowledge of himself, not based upon any merit shown by the object of his grace and not based upon his looking forward to discover who would “accept” the offer of the gospel. God has elected, based solely upon the counsel of his own will, some for glory and others for damnation (Romans 9:15,21). He has done this act before the foundations of the world (Ephesians 1:4-8).

This doctrine does not rule out, however, man’s responsibility to believe in the redeeming work of God the Son (John 3:16-18). Scripture presents a tension between God’s sovereignty in salvation, and man’s responsibility to believe which it does not try to resolve. Both are true — to deny man’s responsibility is to affirm an unbiblical hyper-Calvinism; to deny God’s sovereignty is to affirm an unbiblical Arminianism.

The elect are saved unto good works (Ephesians 2:10). Thus, though good works will never bridge the gulf between man and God that was formed in the Fall, good works are a result of God’s saving grace. This is what Peter means when he admonishes the Christian reader to make his “calling” and “election” sure (2 Peter 1:10). Bearing the fruit of good works is an indication that God has sown seeds of grace in fertile soil.

Limited Atonement (Particular Redemption)

Limited Atonement is a doctrine offered in answer to the question, “for whose sins did Christ atone?” The Bible teaches that Christ died for those whom God gave him to save (John 17:9). Christ died, indeed, for many people, but not all (Matthew 26:28).

Matt 26:27-28

And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. NASU

Specifically, Christ died for the invisible Church — the sum total of all those who would ever rightly bear the name “Christian” (Ephesians 5:25).

This doctrine often finds many objections, mostly from those who think that Limited Atonement does damage to evangelism. We have already seen that Christ will not lose any that the father has given to him (John 6:37). Christ’s death was not a death of potential atonement for all people. Believing that Jesus’ death was a potential, symbolic atonement for anyone who might possibly, in the future, accept him trivializes Christ’s act of atonement. Christ died to atone for specific sins of specific sinners. Christ died to make holy the church. He did not atone for all men, because obviously all men are not saved. Evangelism is actually lifted up in this doctrine, for the evangelist may tell his congregation that Christ died for sinners, and that he will not lose any of those for whom he died!

Irresistible Grace

The result of God’s Irresistible Grace is the certain response by the elect to the inward call of the Holy Spirit, when the outward call is given by the evangelist or minister of the Word of God. Christ, himself, teaches that all whom God has elected will come to a knowledge of him (John 6:37). Men come to Christ in salvation when the Father calls them (John 6:44), and the very Spirit of God leads God’s beloved to repentance (Romans 8:14). What a comfort it is to know that the gospel of Christ will penetrate our hard, sinful hearts and wondrously save us through the gracious inward call of the Holy Spirit (I Peter 5:10)!

Perseverance of the Saints

Perseverance of the Saints is a doctrine which states that the saints (those whom God has saved) will remain in God’s hand until they are glorified and brought to abide with him in heaven. Romans 8:28-39 makes it clear that when a person truly has been regenerated by God, he will remain in God’s stead. The work of sanctification which God has brought about in his elect will continue until it reaches its fulfillment in eternal life (Phil. 1:6). Christ assures the elect that he will not lose them and that they will be glorified at the “last day” (John 6:39). The Calvinist stands upon the Word of God and trusts in Christ’s promise that he will perfectly fulfill the will of the Father in saving all the elect.

Next time, as requested, I will offer up my own personal thoughts on each one of them.  But, please d
on’t blame anyone else for my folly.

Check this out:  I or We?

 

 

The uncommon life

Popular historian and self proclaimed former Christian-turned-atheist, Dr. Bart Ehrman, in his debate with Dr. William Craig, clarified that a historian’s job is not to tell “what” happened, but what was “most likely” to have happened.

He goes on to explain why that makes it impossible for him to hold to the idea of a historical miracle.

If the historian is looking for what is most likely to have happened, then he could never accept a historical miracle since miracles are never the most likely thing to have happened… “by definition.”

I can totally see his point. Though not anywhere near as well trained in history as he is, I am very well trained and even more experienced in human lives.

In this, I have come to accept an oxymoron… and apparent (though not literal) paradox.

Everyone has an uncommon life.

Everyone’s lives are extraordinary.

Everyone’s lives are filled with coincidences that strain even the most credulous person’s sensibilities.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that maybe the most unifying factor in people’s lives is that we all have experiences… often defining experiences… that are extraordinarily unlikely.

In my experience most people who can stomach the concept of a miracle believe that they have experienced them.

It seems that everyone has experienced million-to-one odds… and been the one… in multiple experiences!

THE UNCOMMON LIFE This level of “oddity” is so “common” that it inspired Tom Clancy once said that “the difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.”

Mark Twain is given credit for “…Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t.”

So, at FBC Tyler, we are about to embark on a few weeks of looking at some of the “extraordinary” lives in the Bible… the likes of Paul, Jesus, Mary, Zacchaeus, David, and others… and at the same realizing that their lives are extraordinary…

Just like yours…  Just like ours.

Is Barack Obama a Christian?

Much has been made in the last few days as to whether Barack Obama is a Christian.

As seems to almost always be the case, the media assumes (maybe rightly) that we have way too short an attention span to look at questions like these with any depth or intelligence.

I will risk it… though even this is a radical oversimplification.

The reason this debate is ongoing is essentially the same as the debate as to why Obama has said regularly that ISIS and other Muslim groups are NOT Muslims.

Here is the distinction that I think he is making is that he seems to distinguish between: people who have a real “faith”, as he understands it, and “radicals” – meaning people who think of god as a “God” (meaning the driving and ultimate purpose of their lives).

This is why he makes the distinction between Muslims and “radicals” or “extremists.”

Here is one of the great challenges for Evangelicals is that we seem to think that what we mean when we say “Christian” is the same thing as what other people mean.

Just last week, in Womenary (www.Womenary.com), in our study of Ecclesiology (the Study of the Church), we talked about this very topic.

In addition to conservative and other more traditional understandings of Christianity, there are a few other major segments of those who call themselves “Christian.”

One of the is under the heading of “Liberal” theology.

Before you connect that to the political stance of liberalism, remember that the “ “traditional” understanding of “liberal” is to move away from the “traditional” view or the status quo and toward something new-er. In politics, that is not really true anymore, but in theology, it still is.

For our conversation, we will look at the one that matters most here:

Liberation Theology.

The basic teaching of liberation theology is that the Christian life is defined by praxis (practice) over “Doxy”(praise).

ccIn this movement, what unites Christians is not our common belief in Christ, or our common confession or even our common creeds, but our common practice in trying to create social justice. In fact, this theological view is often referred to as a “Social Justice” movement.

Between their interpretations of the writings of the Hebrew scriptures, especially the prophets, and some of the teachings of Christ about the poor, this movement believes that the key tenets of Christianity are not about a personal relationship with a savior but about a movement that holds that social unrest is needed to make needed changes in societies and among peoples who have been mistreated under colonialism, slavery, and oppression. (How is that for a sentence, by the way?)

In the United States, a common version of this is what is called “Black Liberation Theology.” It has the same tenets, but while the movement originated in South and Central America, in the US, it is primarily about the social injustice African Americans have faced in the United States. There is also the “Feminist Liberation Theology” movement.

It seems evident to me that in this movement, social justice is not a result of the gospel of Jesus Christ, it is the gospel of Jesus Christ.   I hope that is a way of saying it that those within the movement would be able to approve of and hopefully, embrace.

Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ, where Barack Obama learned the version of Christianity that he claims, is a part of this movement.

Of course Barack Obama is a Christian, as he defines it.

What creates confusion is that many do not define it in a similar way.

Back to ISIS (and other terrorist groups), of course they are Muslim… in the way that they define Islam.

Others, like the President, would say that what they believe is not real Islam – though even conservative numbers would indicate approximately 19% of Muslims worldwide are “radicalized” and, it seems, would also not be “Muslim” by the President’s definition… but this is a side point I am making and I should get to it.

(http://www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2014/nov/05/ben-shapiro/shapiro-says-majority-muslims-are-radicals/)

Some in the Christian world have labeled “Liberation Theology” as too different in its tenets to be considered Christian.

Richard Niebuhr (PhD Yale. Leading Christian theological ethicist) once described this theological stance as the view that “A God without wrath brought man without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the administrations of Christ without a cross.” The Kingdom of God in America (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1959).

Obviously, Barack Obama and most within that movement might disagree.  I would assume they would prefer to distance themselves from what I would define as Christianity as well.

For all Christians, clearly, the work of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth involves the amazing work around the world of Christians taking care of “The least of these” (Matt 25), the good works cannot replace the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross. And these works do happen. Anywhere in the world, where people are hurting or in need, there are those ministering to them, often at great personal risk, in the Name of Jesus Christ.

However, Jesus did not die just to make us better people, or merely to live as an example, or to rescue us only from the sins of others against us, but to save us from the consequences of our own sin – righteous judgment and death… and that Jesus Christ is the only sure path of salvation.

I suspect that within a few years, this theological stance will also be seen as “radical” or “extreme” because of its exclusory nature.

Sorry, this has already gone longer than I intended.

I personally believe that what is common about Christianity is our confession and faith in the work of Jesus Christ… aka, the gospel. I do believe that typically, any removal of this as the central tenet of Christianity ceases to be Christianity as its founder, Jesus Christ, intended.

I could never and would never make a judgment on the personal relationship that any other individual has with Jesus Christ. I think it is clearly not my job to separate wheat and tares (Matt 13). I am comfortable saying that I believe that many of his actions and stated beliefs are at odds with Christian belief as I understand it.

As a pure opinion, I suspect that, as many in the Social Justice movement seem to, he most accurately would be obama-12-4-08-2described as a postmodern humanist who, to the degree he worships anything, worships hope and change as concepts… and maybe even as the gospel itself. However, even that is based on a view of him so greatly filtered through media that I am honestly hesitant.

What I do know is that I pray for him regularly, as all Christians, I believe, would be right to do. (I Timothy 2:1) May God guide and lead him. May God bless our country and our country learn to bless God.

Let me teach for one second on the word “merely.”

As I have understood it, the word “mere” was originally an alcohol term. (My friend, fellow warrior and student minister Paul McKenzie would appreciate this.) It referenced a completely unmixed drink. No water. No ice. No olives. Nothing but the alcohol called for. Merely vodka. Merely scotch, bartender.

“Merely” is a reference to the concept: “this and nothing more”. I will be using this term regularly in this article and I wanted to make sure we understood one another.

Now, on to the article.

Is mental illness a spiritual problem?

There are a lot of ways that this phrase can be slightly changed to make it true or untrue… and as a word person, I am finding what I feel like is sloppiness about these words and it worries me.

ILLUSTRATION: Depressed childI think much of this is a reaction.

Often, this is the case, isn’t it?

In an effort to fix and error, or react to a problem, we often create new ones.

Here is the phrase from the past thinking that we (rightly) need to react to:

“Mental issues are merely spiritual problems.”

Rightly so, we are beginning to see that this is an erroneous oversimplification of mental illness issues… even in the church.

If someone is experiencing the symptoms of a mental illness, they do not merely need to be a better Christian. They do not merely need to pray more, confess sin, get better at spiritual warfare, or read a few Bible verses and call me next week.

Mental illness is not just another word for sin, or a fashionable explanation for sin.

mental-illness-is-just-the-fashionable-explanation-for-sin

 

In a sermon on the 142nd Psalm, I made clear the nature of being human – and especially Christian is making the claim that we are broken.  Mental illness should hold NO stigma in the world of Jesus followers!  I make my case for that here.

However, there are still many in the church that think mental illness is simply a spiritual problem that can be fixed or solved with some more spiritual discipline.

See This Red Sign?  It is WRONG. All                                                                                                                                  simple or just simpleton responses to                                                                                                                                  mental illness are Naive.

This simply is not the case the majority of the time.   People with depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, ADD, addictions, anxiety disorders, etc… also need professional medical and therapeutic help. They also need long-term relationships with supporting people in order to experience freedom. Neither of these treatments exclude the other ones.

Spiritual support does not cancel out counseling. Psychiatric help does not cancel out the supporting community.

However, this, I think, reveals the error that is now being made.

Peer support groups are trying to claim that professionals are not needed.

Medical professionals are trying to make the case that churches, support systems and even counselors are not necessary.

Now, we have statements like:

“Mental illness is not a Spiritual issue.”

“Mental weakness is not spiritual weakness.”

“There are no spiritual solutions to mental illness.”

See the over reaction?

This now, divides out the person into component parts as if their different parts are not inter-related.

This has always been an error.

Why do patients in hospital rooms that overlook green growing spaces get better more quickly – all other things being equal? (http://www.apa.org/monitor/apr01/greengood.aspx, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/nature-that-nurtures/ )? …because we are more than just a combination of our component systems.

So, it was an error to think that people just needed white, clean walls and the best-trained “physiologists.”   People need more.

However, do you see what happens if you react too strongly to that error? Should we take that kind of statistic as a “solution” to our mis-step in the past?

What would happen if hospitals fired all of the doctors and nurses and merely hired gardeners? A lot of people would die, but in pretty places.

Yet, what if we just put people in giant bubbles and intravenously fed them drugs to make them “better” with robots – no smiling and capable nurses… no brilliant and gentle doctors… no chaplains, nuns, friends, family visiting… and no green?

Is all we need more medications?drugs

It is the same with this issue.

Of course there are spiritual, physical, mental, emotional… etc. aspects to almost any issue that we face.

Of course mental illness is a spiritual issue. It just isn’t MERELY a spiritual issue. Of course there is a Spiritual component… we are still talking about a human being, right?

However, there is also almost always going to be a physical issue as well, and practical somatic adaptations that are needed… which often includes medication…

And why not? Don’t we believe that humans are “frail creatures of dust?” Why would Christians act so strangely about the idea that our bodies do not work perfectly?

Don’t we accept as doctrine that our bodies are fragile and “perishable”? (I Peter 1:23)

Don’t we teach as dogma that we, all like sheep, have gone astray? That we are, from a character perspective, “prone to wander”? That we have a broken aspect to us called “the flesh” that leads us to do things we don’t want to do? (Rom 7:15-17)

Of course there is a character aspect to mental illness. The discipline to avoid the triggers for addiction, or the discipline to eat properly as to avoid the food triggers, or even the decision to be faithful to attend counseling and take medication… those have a character component…

Are they merely character flaws to be fixed with discipline and hard work?

No.

Does that mean they are merely medical conditions to be cured with medication?

No.

Does that mean they are merely Spiritual problems to be cured with therapy and more prayer?

Well, No!

449926-brain-1349935920-935-640x480We, as humans, are incredibly complex beings – and studying us is subject to CHAOS theory for sure! You essentially cannot know and predict us all that well… we change, we have hidden depths… and we are integrated physical and non-physical… material and immaterial. We are Body, Soul, Will, Spirit, Mind, Brain… bio-chemicals and personalities.

Clearly, then, anything that goes wrong with us will include all of these aspects, at least to some degree… and so would any hope at successful treatment.

In an effort to avoid one foolish error of over-simplification, let us not make another one.

If you think mental illness is “merely” anything with a simple “solution” (if that is even an applicable word) then, well…

you oughta have your head examined.

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