Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wayne Teasdale, Mysticism and its Misconceptions

Mysticism is the attempt to directly encounter or experience God through various techniques – visualizations, repetitions, imaginations, meditations, and even drugs. Many Eastern traditions understand God as a passive, impersonal force or consciousness. However, mystic Wayne Teasdale insists that God must be more. He must provide the rationale for relationships, love, and the wonders of creation. In this regard, the Eastern god is inadequate:

  • In the Eastern tradition’s various doctrines of the ultimate state of reality, there does not seem to be a reasonable accounting for the human dimension and for Creation… These [Eastern] doctrines do not make sense of human life, for the relational characteristic is totally lacking…. And yet in this life, in this consciousness, every flower, every tree and bird, and every individual person eloquently proclaims, just by being, the personal nature of the Absolute, and Being itself [as opposed to an impersonal, non-creative cosmic consciousness]. And that somehow has got to be part of Ultimate Reality itself, as we see in the Christian doctrine/intuition of the Trinity. This is why I regard Eastern traditions, and others, as at a greater distance from the Center. (Bede Griffiths, An Introduction to His Interpersonal Thought, 189 – 90) 

Why is the Eastern conception of God beneath the dignity of God? By simply observing life, Teasdale is able to surmise that God must be greater than just a passive force or consciousness. In fact, the entire mystical enterprise is predicated on the fact that the mystic embraces a force or a reality greater than himself. If He is not greater, then why bother!

According to the Eastern understanding, we do not achieve a relationship with God but rather a consciousness that “we” are merely part of an impersonal consciousness. However, if this force or consciousness is non-willful (non-purposeful), non-creative, and non-relational, then the mystic is taking a giant step backwards into a diminished “reality.” In such a world, there can be no love, no purpose, and no relationship. The “we” or the “I” simply become the One bland, insipid consciousness.

However, I think that Teasdale also leaves much out of his understanding of God. We are also moral beings, who experience righteous anger, indignation, a drive for justice, moral satisfaction, guilt, and shame. To embrace an amoral god is to meld with something less than ourselves. It is also to diminish God and to wrongly represent Him.

How does the mystic do this? By teaching that achieving oneness with God is a matter of practicing amoral techniques like the meditations on our inner states or visualizations! This is to misrepresent God as less than what He is, and even what we are.

In contrast, the Bible not only presents God as omnipotent and omniscient, it also presents Him as a God who is intensely concerned about truth and righteousness. In order to embrace this God, we must not embrace impersonal, amoral techniques, things that God doesn’t care a whit about, but the things that He does care about – confession of sins, repentance, obedience, and a willingness to embrace His truths.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

How should a Christian Love a Gay Friend?

Love doesn’t require indulgence or agreement. Likewise, loving a gay friend shouldn’t require us to agree with them. In fact, love often requires disagreement, especially when we see that our friend is embarking on a self-destructive course of action.

A student just sent me this from a pro-gay (PG) source:

  • Gay marriages in the Bible include the marriage partnership of Jonathan and David, which was recognized as a sexual partnership by King Saul himself, 1 Samuel 18:21, 20:30, and the marriage partnership of the centurion and his beloved servant, Matthew 8:5-10 and Luke 7:1-10.
  • Nongay Christians dispute that any of these Bible celebrities were gay. However, it seems unlikely that in a book like the Bible, which covers four thousand years of human history, that there would be absolutely no gay people. Even the most vocal anti-gay Christians cannot prove that assertion.
Would love require us to agree with these assertions or to determine first whether they are true? Let’s first look at the PG evidence for David’s “gay marriage” to Jonathan:

  • Now Saul’s daughter Michal was in love with David, and when they told Saul about it, he was pleased.  “I will give her to him,” he thought, “so that she may be a snare to him and so that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” So Saul said to David, “Now you have a second opportunity to become my son-in-law.” (1 Samuel 18:20-21)
How is this evidence that David and Jonathan were married? I guess that this PG source is claiming that the offer of Michal in marriage had followed David’s “marriage” to Jonathan and therefore Michal would represent the “second” time that David would become Saul’s son-in-law.

However, this “second opportunity” represented a second offer of a daughter (Merab) of Saul’s to David, as indicated in the two prior verses!

The next verse the PG offered has nothing to do with a gay marriage:

  • Saul’s anger flared up at Jonathan and he said to him, “You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! Don’t I know that you have sided with the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of the mother who bore you? (1 Samuel 20:30)
If anything, this verse argues against SSM! If David had married Jonathan, Saul could not blame Jonathan for his loyalty to his “spouse.” Besides, if David became king in place of Saul, Jonathan would then be his co-regent. No problem there for Jonathan!

The case in favor of a SSM is entirely unwarranted, and therefore doesn’t deserve any refutation. However, a student just informed me that he had heard an interesting “interpretation” of the Bible:

  • Since we Christians are supposed to love one another, how then can we criticize love between two gays?
Isn’t the gay claim that their SS love is biblical just a matter of interpretation? Is any conclusion about the teachings of the Bible simply a matter of honest interpretative differences? Could an interpretation which concludes that Jesus was the devil be honest or faithful to the Scriptures? Of course not! Such a conclusion could only be regarded as an abuse of Scripture and not its use!

Of course, “love” is used to refer to very different behaviors. We call both sexual intercourse and God’s love for the world, “love.” However, these are very different things. The Bible teaches us to love others. However, it does not teach us to have sex with all others. This would be an abuse of Scripture.

The PG also claims that the Roman Centurion was married to his male servant. What evidence does he offer? Matthew 8:5-10! However, there is not the slightest suggestion of a SSM here! Is this an honest interpretative difference or a dishonest attempt to manipulate the gullible? It should be obvious!

What does love require? Should we enable delusional thinking? Is this love or is it people-pleasing, a desire to be liked even if, in the long-run, it damages?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Masochism, Western Elites, Sweden, and Rape

A recent video places Sweden as the rape capital of the world. 

A 2013 Front Page article had placed Sweden as number two:

  • Sweden now has the second highest number of rapes in the world, after South Africa, which at 53.2 per 100,000 is six times higher than the United States. Statistics now suggest that 1 out of every 4 Swedish women will be raped.
  • With Muslims represented in as many as 77 percent of the rape cases and a major increase in rape cases paralleling a major increase in Muslim immigration, the wages of Muslim immigration are proving to be a sexual assault epidemic by a misogynistic ideology.
When someone is seriously ill, he goes for testing to identify the source of the problem. Without accurate diagnosis, there can be no meaningful intervention. However, this isn’t happening in Western Europe. (See both the UK and Norway where Muslim rape of non-Muslims has also reached epidemic levels.) Instead, the diagnosis is strenuously avoided and even censured. It is as if the Western nations have a death wish or at least a virulent case of runaway masochism.

Benedict XVI wrote about this perplexing masochistic phenomenon. He notes how Western culture, en masse, has turned against itself and its Christian heritage:

  • This case illustrates a peculiar western self-hatred that is nothing short of pathological. It is commendable that the West is trying to be more open, to be more understanding of the values of outsiders, but it has lost all capacity for self-love. All that it sees in its own history is the despicable and the destructive; it is no longer able to perceive what is great and pure…Multiculturalism, which is so constantly and passionately promoted, can sometimes amount to an abandonment and denial, a flight from one’s own heritage. (Quoted by Jean Bethke Elshtain, First Things, March, 2009, 36)
Why has the West “lost all capacity” to appreciate its own heritage? Why does it punish itself? Author Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali Muslim turned atheist, shares this insight:

  • Liberals in Western politics have the strange habit of blaming themselves for the ills of the world, while seeing the rest of the world as victims. To them, victims are to be pitied, and they lump together all pitiable and suppressed people, such as Muslims, and consider them good people who should be cherished and supported so that they can overcome their disadvantages. The adherents to the gospel of multiculturalism refuse to criticize people whom they see as victims. Some Western critics disapprove of United States policies and attitudes but do not criticize the Islamic world, just as, in the first part of the twentieth century, Western socialist apologists did not dare criticize the Soviet labor camps. Along the same lines, some Western intellectuals criticize Israel, but they will not criticize Palestine because Israel belongs to the West, which they consider fair game, but they feel sorry for the Palestinians, and for the Islamic world in general, which is not as powerful as the West. They are critical of the native white majority in Western countries but not of Islamic minorities. Criticism of the Islamic world, of Palestinians, and of Islamic minorities is regarded as Islamophobia and xenophobia.
Okay, victims are to be pitied, but why at the expense of the well-being of our own nations? What perverse psychological mechanism is preventing our elites from valuating and protecting their own people? Do they feel guilty for the benefits that the West has enjoyed?

Guilt and shame are life-controlling forces. In Healing the Shame that Binds, psychologist John Bradshaw perceptively wrote:

  • When shame has been completely internalized, nothing about you is okay. You feel flawed and inferior; you have the sense of being a failure. There is no way you can share your inner self because you are an object of contempt to yourself…To feel shame is to feel seen in an exposed and diminished way. When you’re an object to yourself, you turn your eyes inward, watching and scrutinizing every minute detail of behavior…This paralyzing internal monitoring causes withdrawal, passivity and inaction. (13)
Bradshaw’s understanding of shame might explain why the West has been bending its neck before the sword of Islam. Perhaps the West feels ashamed of its privilege and must atone for it.

Shame had also been a life-controlling and life-diminishing factor for me. My feelings of unworthiness were so powerful that I couldn’t enjoy anything. I couldn’t take a shower for more than two minutes. I just didn’t feel worthy of it. Nor could I spend any money on myself. However, when I did go without, I felt more worthy. When I didn’t, I felt psychologically threatened, as if I had done the unpardonable. I was trying to redeem myself. However, when I came to know my Redeemer Jesus, this bondage began to loosen. Since He paid the price for my sins, I no longer had to redeem myself.

It seems that we are built with a moral law that tells us that we are unworthy unless a price is paid for our unworthiness. Some indulge in self-flagellation; others in self-mutilation; while others pay the price through compulsive do-gooding and people-pleasing. In any case, we are controlled by the slave-master “shame.”

I think that this problem has gone viral, as has rape in many of the Western nations. Why? We have rejected our only protection against internal accusations of shame and unworthiness – Jesus the Savior – and are paying the just price for this rejection.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Are we really Truth-Seekers as we Claim

Are we really truth-haters, as the Bible claims? God has made known His truth in every marketplace (Proverbs 1:20-32) and in everything visible (Romans 1:18-32; Psalm 19) and invisible (Rom. 2:14-15). But we have loved the darkness, which conceals the truth:

·       This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. (John 3:19-20)

Are we really such rebels, such enemies of the truth (Romans 8:5-8; 5:10; Psalm 14, 53)? Do some have substantial reasons to reject the Gospel? Isn’t there room for legitimate disagreements with the biblical revelation? According to the late New Age proponent, Margo Adler, there are many. She writes:

·       “Polytheism is…characterized by plurality [of choice]…and is eternally in unresolvable conflict with social monotheism [Christianity, for example, which maintains, that there is only one truth] which in its worst form is fascism and in its less destructive forms is imperialism, capitalism, feudalism and monarchy.” (Drawing Down the Moon)

·       “Christianity in absolute contrast to ancient paganism… not only established a dualism of man and nature but also insisted that it is God’s will that man exploit nature for his proper ends… In antiquity every tree, every spring, every stream, every hill had its own… guardian spirit… By destroying pagan animism, Christianity made it possible to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feeling of natural objects.” (Quoting Lynn White)

For Adler, spirituality is not a matter of truth but of experience, choice, and what works for you. Truth is coercive and imperialistic, while paganism allows freedom of choice. Adler affirmatively quotes a “priestess” in support:

  • “It seems like a contradiction to say that I have a certain subjective truth; I have experienced the Goddess, and this is my total reality. And yet I do not believe that I have the one, true, right, and only way. Many people cannot understand how I find Her a part of my reality and accept the fact that your reality might be something else. But for me, this is in no way a contradiction, because I am aware that my reality and my conclusions are a result of my unique genetic structure, my life experience and my subjective feelings…This recognition that everyone has different experiences is a fundamental keystone to Paganism; it’s the fundamental premise that whatever is going on out there is infinitely more complex than I can ever understand. And that makes me feel very good.”
Why does incomprehensibility make the priestess “feel very good?” Truth is restrictive. If you cannot know it, you cannot be constrained by its claims. For Adler and the priestess, “my [subjective and personal] reality” trumps any other consideration. A common reality is simply not a consideration. Why not? It’s incomprehensible – “infinitely more complex than I can ever understand.”

If this is true, we are free to choose any religion or lifestyle we desire. But is reality really incomprehensible, and does this let them off the hook? How does this look in real life? A jury finds you guilty and they justify their verdict by saying:

  • Well, we found the evidence incomprehensible, but we just didn’t have a good feeling about you, and we had a better feeling about your accuser.

Would you or Adler accept such a verdict? Of course not! If the justice system operated this way, it would be more expedient to merely allow the police to arrest and punish according to their own will and feelings. However, no society can progress, find stability, and broad-based acceptance based upon feelings and will. Instead, society can only be regarded as legitimate if all are held to the same knowable moral standards.

And the jealous husband who always thinks his wife is having an affair? Should his feelings be the chief arbiter of truth? Of course not!

And revenge? It can feel so sweet! Why not take revenge if moral reality is just incomprehensible? In fact, any form of acting out is permissible if there are no knowable objective moral/spiritual truths.

Increasingly, this is becoming the “wisdom” of this age. We are advised to shut down our minds and just experience. Experiences are simply more satisfying than truth. Truth feels coercive. It places demands and moral requirements on us. Are we guilty for closing our minds to the demands of truth? Yes!

Anthropologist Karen McCarthy Brown decided that if she was going to understand voodoo, she would just have to jump in and experience it, leaving beyond her mind, her critical tools. She did just this and came to some bizarre conclusions:   

  • “Although the Iwa [spirits] who possess Alourdes [the voodoo priestess] are often called sen-yo (saints), they are not saintly types in the traditional Christian sense. For example, in stories about the soldier spirit Ogou/Saint James, he not only liberates his people but also betrays them. Ezili Danto/Mater Salvatoris, the mother, cradles and cares for her children but also sometimes lashes out at them in rage. The Voodoo spirits are not models of the well-lived life; rather, they mirror the full range of possibilities inherent in the particular slice of life over which they preside. Failure to understand this has led observers to portray the Voodoo spirits as demonic or even to conclude that Voodoo is a religion without morality—a serious misconception.” (Mama Lola; A Voodo0 Priestess in Brooklyn, 6)
Why shouldn’t spirts that “betray” and “lash out… in rage” at children be considered evil? She gives no explanation for her unreasonable conclusion. Is Brown culpable for her favorable assessment of the voodoo spirits? Were the statesmen who had fawned approvingly over Hitler guilty for giving him a clean bill-of-health? Of course!

We are responsible for what we know and also what we refuse to know. God holds us responsible for both:

  • The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
From this perspective, the priestesses are responsible, even for the truths that they had rejected. The plant manager is responsible for the deadly toxins in the workplace. The cigarette manufacturer is responsible for the effects of his cigarettes. We are also responsible for the moral truths that God has written on our hearts.

I too am “without excuse.” I thought I had been seeking God, but I wasn’t. He had to conform to my specifications. I didn’t even begin to ask about Him – who He is. Truth wasn’t even a consideration. I wanted God my way, and nothing else mattered to me.

If I had been willing to think, I might have realized that any relationship depends upon loving the other for who they truly are and not what we want them to be! However, when we reject truth, our world narrows to our own thoughts and feelings. When truth is rejected, so too is real love and relationship.