Friday, May 16, 2014

Porn Addiction and Social Upheaval

The extent of porn addiction is surprising, and its implications are staggering. Marvin Olasky writes:

  • One survey of 16- to 20- year-olds found nearly one out of four young men and one out of ten young women admitting they tried to kick the habit but could not.

This raises the question, “How many more are hooked but haven’t confessed to it!” Also, “How many users are we talking about?”

  •  Witherspoon Institute conference research (proceedings published as The Social Costs of Pornography) showed that two-thirds of 18- to 34-year-old men visit porn sites regularly… Many men find it harder to relate to real women. Most divorces involve one partner compulsively using pornography. (World, May 17, 2014, 72)

I’ve seen the pervasive interest in porn highlighted in another way. On the average of 100 people visit my blog posts. However, I posted one essay by Robert Peters, then president of Morality in Media, entitled Prostitution & Pornography: The Links between the Two. Amazingly, 2,438 visited this post!

What are the implications of this national addiction? Besides the breakup of marriages, there is also the breakdown of society. Porn has often made the sexual partner – a marriage-mate or otherwise – irrelevant. After all, who needs the expense and the inherent problems of relationships when one can find what he wants in front of his own computer. Besides, the addict can find a new “partner” or multiple partners at will, who will do anything he so desires.

What are the psychological implications? What will be the effects of the early sexualization of youth? And what will happen to society when the majority view others as sex objects? It is no wonder that porn is strongly associated with violent crime and sex-trafficking. In addition to this, there have been numerous reports that porn addiction is like other forms of addiction. They all rewire the brain.

How will porn addiction impact the conscience? Clearly, we know it is wrong. I still haven’t heard about any porn parties where the group masturbates in front of the screen. Perhaps there are such parties, but their rarity would suggest that most are ashamed of this addiction and want to keep it private.

What then happens when we violate our conscience? In order to live with ourselves, we have to rationalize our behavior and tell ourselves that it is normal, natural and totally acceptable. Along with this, we then find ourselves resenting those who claim that there is something the matter with porn. We drop out of church, concluding that the church is filled with judgmental hypocrites, whose opinions should be silenced.

We are heading for difficult times!

An Evolving Unitive Pluralism

Violence can result from different religions making different competing claims. Religious pluralists are therefore seeking a new way – a common unifying language or Esperanto - drawing from the common truths of the other religions. They insist that we can no longer thrive with an “us vs. them” mentality. Instead, we must find common ground upon which to build unity and sharing.

For the pluralist, there can be no exclusive truth. The fact of the existence of a multitude of world-class religions means that all are merely grasping after the truth. In No Other Name: A Critical Study of Christian Attitudes toward the World Religions, Paul F. Knitter wrote:

  • The new perception of religious pluralism is pushing our cultural consciousness toward the simple but profound insight that there is no one and only way.

Why not? Disagreement, even if widespread, does not mean that there isn’t a single truth. Knitter has made an insupportable claim. Certainly, he wouldn’t tell scientists or historians that “there is no one and only way,” simply because they might entertain a number of different theories and solutions.

The same is true regarding the resurrection, for example. Either it happened or it didn’t. Simply because historians disagree, we shouldn’t conclude that “there is no one and only way” or truth!

Interestingly, even Knitter doesn’t proceed as if “there is no one and only way.” Instead, he suggests that there is a way – a “unitive pluralism”:

  • And yet our new awareness of pluralism also makes us recognize that even though there can be no one way, even though there will always be many, nevertheless the "many" cannot simply exist as many. We feel that the many cannot exist in splendid isolation, yawning at each other in a kind of lazy, indifferent tolerance. Nor can they exist in angry opposition, confronting each other down the barrels of their guns or from behind the launch pads of their missiles. Somehow, they must meet each other and relate to each other, not in order to obliterate or absorb each other but to learn from and help each other.

Although Knitter sets forth the noble goal of the different faiths working together, he too violates his own principle: “there is no one and only way.” Evidently, he believes that he is right and every other religion is wrong for insisting that their way is the correct way. However, Knitter doesn’t seem to realize that he is doing the same thing by adding a new religion to the mix. However, his is an evolutionary religion:

  • The world and everything in it is evolutionary or in process. The catch phrase is that we are not in a state of being but in a state, or better a process, of becoming. Nothing in the world is simply given, or prefabricated, merely to be assembled according to a predetermined plan.

Even though Knitter’s solution is vague and uncertain, it is still another solution squeezing its way into an already crowded market.

However, it seems that he has introduced an additional problem. If everything is in process, and therefore the dawning of the truth has not yet arrived, how then should we live? Should we love? Who knows! The truth has not yet arrived to inform us of what to do.

And why even place any hope in this “truth” if it is not the product of a higher “predetermined plan” – if its origin is simply mindless evolution and not the product a greater wisdom and plan? However, such a “hope” is highly acceptable in educated circles.

Ironically, it is because I believe that there is one way – the way of Christ – that I endeavor to love others and to put their needs above my own, even as I falter terribly in this. However, it is my confidence in Christ that keeps me focused.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Theology might be a Dirty Word, but it is Essential

Many Christians blindly claim,

  • I don’t need theology. I just believe what the Bible says!”

Theology is now a dirty word, along with “doctrine” and “dogma,” but it’s also indispensable. How else can we know what the Bible teaches? We cannot simply believe one verse in isolation from the others. They all go together and require some diligent theological work in order to rightly relate them together.

Let’s take the example of Jesus healing on the Sabbath. His enemies claimed that He was sinning because He violated the command against working on the Sabbath (Deut. 5:12-15). However, Jesus responded:

  • “Now if a boy can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing a man’s whole body on the Sabbath?  Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.” (John 7:23-24)

Consequently, we cannot judge simply from the appearance of a single verse. Instead, we have to understand how it fits into the immediate context and also the context of all God’s teachings. This is theology, and we do theology all the time, but some aren’t aware of this.

Let’s take an example that goes to the heart of the Gospel. In Psalm 7, David called upon God to judge him according to his righteousness:

  • The Lord shall judge the people: judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me.” (Ps. 7:8; KJV)

This sounds arrogant. How can any of us stand before God in our own righteousness! If we ask God for justice – for what we deserve - He will condemn the lot of us:

  • Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin… For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. (Rom. 3:19-20, 23)

There are many verses that deny that we can deserve anything good from God by virtue of our own righteousness or integrity, apparently contrary to David’s hope. Paul insisted that one sin will kill us and only the free gift of God provides any basis for hope (Rom. 6:23). James, also claimed that one sin will damn us (James 2:10).

If anyone rejects theology, he must suffer with this paradox – that our hope is in our own righteousness, but we can’t place any hope in this righteousness. Believing both of these truths, on face value, is a sure prescription for confusion and uncertainty. Therefore, the paradox must be resolved through some serious study.

Interestingly, David also acknowledged that we are sinners who require the mercy of God:

  • Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile… I acknowledge my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. (Ps. 32:1-5)

Well, if David understood that his blessedness derived from God’s forgiveness and not his own merit, how then could he be so brash as to direct God to judge him according to his own righteousness?

A little systematic theology can reconcile these two truths. In Psalm 7, David had been standing upon his righteousness in terms of his innocence regarding specific wrongdoing:

  • Lest he [my enemy] tear my soul like a lion, rending it in pieces, while there is none to deliver. O Lord my God, If I have done this; if there be iniquity in my hands; If I have rewarded evil unto him that was at peace with me; (yea, I have delivered him that without cause is mine enemy) (Ps 7:2-4)

David wasn’t pleading that he was righteous before God, but rather in his conflict with his enemy. He was the innocent party, while his enemy was guilty. Therefore, David was asking for justice in this criminal matter and not before God! He therefore pleaded:

  • Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end; but establish the just: for the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins. (Ps 7:9)

There are two different aspects of justice. Before God, we are all guilty. However, before man, there are important distinctions between the innocent and the guilty. David knew he wasn’t righteous before God. However, in regards to his enemies, he regarded himself an innocent man.

Unless theology – a comprehensive study of Scripture – is used, we cannot rightly interpret the Word of truth:

  • Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Tim. 2:15)

Rejection and Positive Affirmations

Rejection is hard to take. We are social creatures, and define ourselves socially, by the acclaim or dis-acclaim of others. Consequently, when others like, accept, respect and value us, we feel valued. When we don’t receive these tokens, we generally hurt, some more than others. One blog, Psychology in Everyday Life, defines feelings of rejection in terms of pathology:

  • Sensitivity to rejection isn’t just a passing fancy of the self-help movement. It’s a serious symptom of the mood and personality disorders that results in an inability to regulate emotions, exert self-control, and the tendency to give too much personal meaning to life happenings that it undermines the ability to cope with frustrating experiences.

Instead, the pervasiveness of our “sensitivity to rejection” seems to suggest that it is a human phenomenon that requires general how-to-live-life answers. This blog suggests:

  • You will be able to handle rejection, when you start to describe it in ways that don’t destroy your self-esteem. Turn a statement like, “I am destroyed and can’t go on living” into “I’m hurting, but not broken or down”. Your whole demeanor changes just by the meaning you give to the experience.

  • The next time you are denied, chant the beauty of your good… even if you have to fake it at the start.

Instead of allowing society/others to define and determine who we are and level of our worth, we need to find a never-ending fountain from which we can drink an unchanging positive self-concept. However, this blog and secular psychology assert that we can provide this balm for ourselves.

Can we? My experience tells me that I cannot! I had had five highly recommended psychologists/psychiatrists who affirmed that I should “chant the beauty of [my] good.” However, their chant failed to penetrate. My pervasive feelings of un-worth cried far louder than any of their collective chants about my positive worth.

While it is true that we can’t base our self-concept on the passing whims of others or even on our own passing accomplishments, we also cannot base our psychological well-being on self-affirmations – a form of masturbation. Instead, we were made for relationship – one that would provide for us the necessary psychological foundation to weather life’s challenges and changes.

Scripture informs us that we have this relationship through a Divine Savior:

  • Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me. (Psalm 27:10)

People will reject us. None of us have immunity from this reality. Even our closest relationships will fail us, if not be rejection, then by death. I continue to experience threatening feelings due to rejection and the threat of such. However, I know that the Lord will never reject me, and that what He thinks about me is what counts.

Others might disapprove of me, and sometimes, this deeply hurts. Sometimes, their disapproval is justified. I do have many failings. However, I can now bear the rejection (and be transparent about it), knowing that my Lord esteems me everlastingly.