Saturday, November 27, 2010

Life in Two Dimensions

I'm not a Rush Limbaugh fan. In fact, I generally find him cartoonish and a snapshot of everything that's wrong with American politics. He's become a parody of himself. That said, there's one statement he used to make in the past to describe his political enemies (whether it was true or not) - "They value symbolism over substance" - that I've found to be applicable to the fringe fundamentalist elements of Christianity.

I've found it both disgusting and amusing at the same time that much, maybe most, of the VF royalty don't celebrate Christmas in a traditional manner (too commercial), yet, they have their own version of a Black Friday sale. It seems that this would encourage behaviors that they don't approve of enough to actually practice themselves, making sure their own boat is on the lake while the fish are biting, hoping the bait will allow them to reel in another dollar. Kinda like declaring oneself a pacifist and then making a living as an arms dealer. Very sociopathic.

Quite a "ministry" the folk down there have.

If their personal conviction manifests it's teeth in this flimsy of a manner, maybe many of their "convictions" are actually just meant for public consumption by like-minded, easily persuaded consumers, with their personal "convictions" based primarily on the direction of the financial wind.

It's symbolism over substance. Height and width with no depth. A two-dimensional way to operate, which makes sense, being that they're peddling a two-dimensional product and bastardized version of the Gospel.

Then, there's the outside-in approach. Also two-dimensional. I recently commented on the following statement in an article by Kelly Crawford...

The Jesus I follow is gracious and merciful to those who LOVE Him, who demonstrate that love by obedience.

I believe her. I think this is exactly the Jesus she follows...and that's the problem. It's a legalistic, works-based mentality, where the grace and mercy Christ extends is determined by our earning it through love and obedience - works. It's a bastardized version of the Gospel, and one I want nothing whatsoever to do with. It confuses FRUIT with works. It's akin to trying to forcibly make a banana rather than allowing one to grow from the seed that's been planted.

Outside-in. "If I can just demonstrate my love by being obedient, Jesus will be merciful and gracious to me." Conformed rather than transformed. I can see where the mentality arises that causes many in the P/QF movement to view most marital and family problems as the failure of the wife or children to be submissive. "If I'll just be more submissive and obedient, he'll be a better husband/daddy."

Her statement brings this to mind...

Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Note the outside-in, two-dimensional view of the Pharisee, and the inside-out view of the publican. The Pharisee's emphasis was on his outward man, his "righteous" way of life. The Greek word translated as "exalt" is "hypsoo", and it has MANY connotations even within this verse. It's also the word used to describe Christ being "lifted up", sacrificially, on the cross. In other words, the Pharisee was trying to show himself worthy by pointing to his obedient and dutiful behaviors, considering those things his redemption rather than the "hypsoo" of Christ. The publican simply threw himself at the mercy of God, knowing nothing he could ever do would make him worthy. And...he found mercy.

Recently, a quote from Jay Adams was used on the Steadfast Daughters Facebook page. It was an ignorant quote, a quote which completely misrepresented the views of qualified psychologists and belittled victims of abuse. One thing it did, however, is provide a glimpse at the solution to abusive situations which Steadfast Daughters is and will be presenting: Nouthetic counseling. (check out Rachel's great article)

Nouthetic counseling is "a Christian leader instructing a person from scripture about how their life needs to change to be more like Christ." Conformity. Not fruit. Not transformation. It's forcibly changing your lifestyle, habits, what have you, to meet a scriptural formula. It leaves NO room at all for the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in a heart and mind. It's "do this, this, and this". It promotes a changing on the outside to generate change on the inside. I don't think it could be any more backward. It can't help but to produce abuse of it's own, setting perfectionistic standards that have little to do with the heart and everything to do with behavior. It appears to view humanity as spiritual robots, worried only about the flawless, mechanical performance of those robots.

This is two-dimensional thinking, living, and counseling. Symbolism with no substance. Height and width with no depth. By and large, it suggests that Steadfast Daughters will rely on legalism to fix legalism, sending victims of abuse back to what is often the original source of the abuse, the legalistic teaching of their church, to rely on completely untrained and unqualified counselors.

My advice to anyone who has suffered from any kind of spiritual or emotional abuse - anyone or anything that suggests you can make your situation better by behavioral or attitude adjustment is a source for more potential abuse. Deal ONLY with professionals, and don't rely on the local church for anything more than prayer and support. I'm saddened to say that the local church generally has no clue, and any responsible church leader will refer you to a qualified, professional counselor. Run from nouthetic counseling as if your spiritual life depended on it, because truth be told, it might.

Depth is a beautiful thing. Until we can reach and live past two dimensions, there's no substantive hope of anything beyond it. 

A couple of years ago I heard a scientist discussing biblical issues, and he made a comment about Christ's mysterious, post-resurrection appearance in the room where the disciples were staying. He said that to be able to move through solid objects, such as walls, as Christ was seemingly doing in the biblical account, one would be operating, at a minimum, in the 6th dimension. In the 6th dimension, you can eat an orange from the inside out.

Seems to me we'd want to let Christ do His work in our lives from that dimension.


  1. Let it be so from your last line

  2. ''By change we mean that counseling is done because there is something in another Christian's life that fails to meet the biblical requirements and that, therefore, keeps him from honoring God.''

    I read this in an article about Nouthetic Counseling. I scratched my head, and had to giggle. Humans will always fail to be perfect, and to honor God as he should be. I wonder if they take the log out of their own eye before considering the speck in the brother's? THAT is a biblical requirement according to them I'm sure. Yet being human? How do we move forward if we are never perfect?

    If you throw away all the fluff they use to present how this form of counseling is awesome and biblical? Technically, it can't be done - and should be seen as irrational.

  3. Great post, Lewis. Thank you for that. After a painful conversation with a family member last week, which ironically included a Jay Adams quote, this was really timely, and helped me realize how I can articulate to her why we have such a block in our communication.

  4. If it weren't for the fact that I refuse to buy anything from Vision Cha-Ching Forum, I'd buy that tea set for my son and the machine gun for my daughter. *snerk*

  5. I like what a preacher said one time.
    He said that an apple tree just grows and produces fruit. It doesn't sweat or strain at it. Nor does it walk around anouncing to everyone, "I'm an apple tree!"

    It is, as you said, a working from the inside out process.
    Patriarchy and Phariseeism is a molding from the outside in, like a plastic mold a person is being pressed into.
    Though growing can produce the occasional growing pains, being pressed into a mold that doesn't fit and doesn't allow room for all of a person, is far more painful and requires cutting away parts of a person that God never intended to be cut away.

    (Indulge me a bit with this little prayer)
    Dear God, please help these people who keep insisting on patriarchy to see the pain and soul-destroying effects of it on their little lambs. I truly believe most of them don't mean to hurt their children. They are only trying to please You and are misguided in this. Please open their eyes so they can see how Neo-patriarchy is really only a form of Neo-Phariseeism so that they can get free from the bondage they are in and are forcing on their little ones.

    Pardon my little pray. I feel very sad for the ones who truly believe they are pleasing God by sacrificing their children on the altar of patriacrhy.

  6. Great sermon. Thank you.
    The simplicity of the gospel of Christ is too simple for many to completely accept. "That can't be all to it!!" they exclaim and proceed to add on...

  7. Lewis,
    We are very concerned about you. We don't like how judgmental you are of Biblical Patriarchy or Quiverfull. You see a community with an average of sixteen children per family and scream, "QUIVERFULL!" You see a very wise woman say that you must obey God for Him to love you and scream, "LEGALISM!" It's clear that you're overreacting here, and we think that it's best if you come see our pastor for counseling.

  8. Quivers of Men... OH my, I am laughing so hard right now. :)

    Lewis, fantastic article. This exact thing ("how their life needs to change to be more like Christ") is exactly the teaching that held me back from any real change. When your spiritual growth is being conformed from the outside it stunts any real growth that is trying to emerge from the inside - from the transformation that Christ is doing in you.

    And the "...therefore, keeps him from honoring God..." thing just drives me crazy. I've heard that my whole life. "We must honor God with our lives." "We can't misrepresent God!" As if that is something we can ever achieve! As if we will ever know the "whole counsel of God" and then, if we knew it, be able to perfectly enact it so that we can "honor God with our lives"

    Thanks for the link, BTW. :)

  9. Back on November 19th a friend of mine had almost the same scriptures occur to her:

    Great post, both of you. n_n

  10. or reel in another victim. gr8 post!!!

  11. Excellent. Of course, in Galatians the "Fruit of the Spirit" is specifically contrasted with "the works of the flesh." Meaning if you can produce it yourself, it isn't the Spirit's fruit.