8.22.2007

Christian Self Help

From my friend Nate Day...

i have extracurricular study to suggest: christian "self-help".

it's a combination of using philosophy and psychology to solve the problems we face like a death in the family or a mid-life crisis, specifically from a christian standpoint, rather than the drugs or paid professionals that people are much more readily willing to utilize in this day and age. you could even call it "self-counseling". i just ran into this book called "Plato, not Prozac" that gives a wonderful argument for using philosophy on a practical level like self-help and avoidance of creating your own problems, but it glosses too quickly over any specific philosophy. "very stimulating," as Dr Campbell might say.
Christian "self help" is a marvelous concept, but when Christians want to talk about self help these days it always seems to be getting away from Scripture. I assert and believe that the Bible is sufficient for living a life that is pleasing unto God. That I can relate 100% to the Christ and other characters in Scripture. However, I believe that psychology is a 'useful adjunct' - to quote Jay Adams. It is a question of how does Christianity and Psychology relate or integrate. (very minimally). there are over 200 thearapeutic systems out there offering support and help to anyone who would hear their message. Scripture can tell me more about humanity than Carl Jung, BF Skinner, Darwin, Freud or anyone. 2 years ago I did a paper on Freud's view of anthropology and human sexuality, talk about twisted. What he and other psychologists proclaim is proven historically and biblically. Rich Ganz proves this well in his book, psychobabble. (this gentleman taught counseling for years, and before his conversion was a psychologist.)

As a useful adjunct, however, psychology assists in determining outward consequences of sin on the mind, life and family. If a person is arrogant and proud that will reveal itself in one's life. Lust can tear apart one's family and relationships.

Philosophy is rather useless in comforting people who are grieving. When philosophy (proper) comes into the discussion of theology and what the bible says, the gospel goes through the shredder. That is because over all philosophy starts with the wrong questions. Descartes noted, "I think therefore I am." Rouseau commented, "I feel therefore I am." It is clear that the major philosophies of today all start with.... me (very narcisttic).

On the issue of grief - scripture speaks profoundly to that reality. Most likely Jesus lost his father, how did He handle it? David lost his son, and after his death how did he handle it? Same with Jacob over Joseph, Abraham over Isaac - though Isaac was not killed (almost). How does God relate to these men? What message did the prophets have for them? David rejoiced that his son was with God. Jer. 19:11 and Romans 8:28 are huge in developing a theology for the hurting and grieving. God is sovereign and we are sinnners. As we sin, we bring havoc to this world, yet all the while God works out His plans for the good of His people - His kingdom. That is the answer to the question of evil.

Ultimately the quesiton is, "How does God relate to you?" This must be examined by finding out how Scripture can relate to me, you, and everyone who is on planet earth. How did God relate to the sailors, Assyrians and Jonah in that OT book? Or in the NT, How did Christ act toward the 12 disciples?

4 comments:

Less Become The :x said...

aw...you just don't like building your own philosophical arguments and would rather use what other people have done for you. ;)

i definately agree that a lot of what you've discussed about the general realm of philosophy and psychology writing available, does exhibit those characteristics, but only in the general sense. the existing practice of self-help is horribly missused by the majority of its practitioners. but just because people misuse it is no reason to ignore its legitimacy (anyone willing to argue with me about the legitimacy of capitalism?).

first off, if i were to be in a grieving state, listening to someone orient my reality to compensate for my loss would drive me to insanity. that's not self-help and far from its intent. self-help would rather have us understand why our universe allows for such a loss, that the universe is not really out to get us, and it's really just naturally cruel to everyone. from a christian perspective, Scripture enlightens us to a few of the laws that God has bound our universe. and understanding that God allows us loss for our benefit, for our wellbeing, as part of a master plan to glorify His Person, minimizes the weight of the grief we feel and shows us the peace available to us. that is self-help (from a christian perspective.) it is a more practical understanding of how the christian faith physically affects our lives. the hope from a christian perspective is not to turn one away from seeing God in creation, but to see Him on a much more here and now level than what we're generally taught in sunday school. (God in metaphysics!)

and philosophical self-help is not merely limited to grief, nor simply the blatant ills of the human mind and society. it helps with every decision we can think of, from career choice to what food to buy at the grocery store today. it helps us build a universe perspective of our reality such that we avoid creating inconsistent understandings and interactions that contradict each other. to avoid decisions that might lead to unnecessary strife in the family, and to understanding where the strife is coming from in a manner that allows us to deal with it and avoid it in the future.

i find it especially useful in dealing with depressive feelings from time to time: why would i ever need to go through all the problems and cost of anti-depressants or counseling if i have an understanding that God expects me to act regardless of seeing any profit to myself in an activity since all profit is essentially meaningless excepting the profit that glorifies Him?

or what about dealing with lazyness? Scripture is very clear on that. and there's really no need (excepting drastic needs) for someone like me to rely on ADD medication when a framework for coping and utilizing the way i process reality can be built in detail with Scripture as a basis down to what kind of wardrobe i should have at this stage in life to avoid dissapointing myself. that is philosophical self-help (at least defined by that book "Plato, not Prozac".)

but you're right, the entire foundation of a christian philosophical self-help stems and relies on Scripture. and i'm guessing you didn't find much out there that actually did rely on Scripture. which is sad, because there should be.

Robbie said...

Nate,
Why do you persist in calling it "philosophical self help?' What makes you argue for use of philosophy in pastoral care and Christian love to others? Postmodernity is the consistent world view of unregenerate unbelievers - think of the possibilities when you say there are no absolutes? Pragmatism is a plague where beliefs all come together. I know existentialism appeals to you, but then and there it is all about the existence of that moment.

You yourself convey an understanding of the value and relevance of the Bible in dealing with grief, laziness, and others. I argue the same. ADD and the typical disorders that plague 60% of youths today are not disorders at all they are sin... period.

In my mind the best stuff on answering the issues you raise are found at ccef.org and the books they publish entitled "resources for changing lives."

shallom

Less Become The :x said...

thanks. thanks. but you confuse too much the study of everything (philosophy) with specific philosophies. and, i'm going to actually deviate from philosophy to say that my advocacy of it stems from growing up in a very scientific family (science being a branch of philosophy, just like theology is a branch of philosophy). over time, i've grown to mistrust the scientific method, because of the need to make leaps of faith in order to live life to the fullest. and even science must make some assumptions. so all theology is to me, is a set of assumptions one makes about God. all Scripture is are a set of assumptions about God that have yet to be proven incorrect (and therefore extremely trustworthy based upon historical record.) philosophy is merely a trust that the universe operates under a set of rules that we have so far discovered through the use of logic. it is not a trust in our ability to logic, but in logic itself, that logic is not dependent on the perceiver. so, to say that post-modern philosophy relies on the lack of absolutes is to say that post-modern philosophy abandons the discipline itself. i merely praise post-modernity for allow us to go back and question the validity of what we've so far discovered and to make known what it is we do and don't actually know, that we operate on verying degrees of doubt.

and my beef with most theology available today, is that the inerrancy of Scripture is upheld without acknowledging that we hold it inerrant merely because it has not been disproved. and that is shakey ground when comparing christianity to other world religions and anti-christian philosophies. the world hear's the church exclaim "i believe in God because i believe in a book because i say so!" and that's what the Gospel gets reduced to, say-so. but if we can demonstrate that belief affects reality, that because i trust in the Sovereignty of God that creation will change accordingly, then and only then do we have evidence towards the advantage of Scripture. and that would be a powerful tool when approaching non-believers at the moment their eyes are opened. it forces a person to deny truth itself if they are to deny God, and a person who denies truth cannot participate in society in a fulfilling manner, which sets another motivation on them for pursuing redemption since God is the only entity that can provide lasting salvation from one's demons.

but you're right, it all does start from my perspective. it's all i have. more so than even my own identity. i can always return to my perspective. it is not an ownership. i don't own it. it is there. it is my existence. remove my perspective and i cease to exist. i would become what someone else views as a vegetable, or a machine. but my first encounter with God is from my perspective. the goal in my christian walk is not to give up my perspective, but to align it with God's, to see reality as God sees it. so to start from my perspective in logic is not only a necessity, but not contradictory to understanding God's perspective at all. God didn't bring us all up to heaven, He came down to us. it's a bottom-up development instead of a top-down, neither of which would be possible wihtout God enabling the whole process.

so i hope that answers your question. about my steadfast devotion to building a non-contradictory "christian" philosophy through logic (but not necessarily the scientific method.)

and just a tip: i think you've committed the very sin you blame philosophy for encouraging. you just recommended i go read a set of books instead of building a relationship to answer some of the issues i may have (or at least recommend another person that i should build a relationship with.) although i do look forward to ruffing some of our ruff edges off of each other.

MarkPele said...

All proofs are circular or based on presuppositions. Even saying 1+1=2 is an assumption. In the same way we get knowledge - we see that things fall, we assume that it is a universal constant and we move on. So, in that way, everything is philosophical.

Now when you start talking about the Bible, it's the same situation. It's a book that claims to be the truth, and we believe that it is the truth because it speaks truth that we see worked out through our lives. This is just your point restated.

Thus far, we've only talked materialistically. The gotcha is that life isn't only materialistic. That book of truth also says that there is another reality, one that we cannot perceive with our instruments and senses. But again, we see some of the effects, and more importantly, we perceive God working through His Holy Spirit in a way that the Bible describes.

So, when we see self-help grounded in materialism (philosophy and its children), we see that they can only go so far in correcting the real problem. The real problem is the effect of sin, and that's what the Bible tells us we need to deal with. The Bible also gives us many ways to deal with sin in a positive way. The most obvious thing is that we need to see it as sin and repent of it, but we also need to seek God's help and the help of those around us in preventing us from falling back into the pattern of sin. From what I've seen, and in my experience, self help rarely works.