Where Is God

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This is a step away from the more academic approach that you will find on this blog and a more personal talk from the heart. I want to ask a questions – Where is God? Not necessarily an exactly location but in the middle of troubles. I come from a past that is riddled with struggles. Behind me lies a path of razor sharp rocks, mountains that no natural eye can see the top of, oceans rough and riddled with ice, desserts so unbelievably dry its a miracle to have made it through.

Life itself is an endless struggle. It’s an epic journey that leaves you restless until the day you die. Everyone has their own idea and their own understanding of what a ‘bad time’ is. To some, one persons bad time is a mere walk-in-the-part while to others its a feat unreachable and impossible to over come.

“It’s dangerous business going out your front door, you step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”  -J.R.R. Tolkien

Life itself is dangerous. You cannot avoid it. As scripture says God will not put anything upon you that you cannot already handle. As impossible as a situation is there is always a way out. There is always a bright side – it’s just a matter of choosing to see it.

If you remember in Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King film while Frodo and Sam sit on the rocky fields of Mordor looking up an the black smoky sky the clouds break. Sam says, ‘there’s light up there that no darkness will ever touch.’ It gave them hope. Hope is something we all need.

Bad times are solely that – a period of time – it soon passes and we emerge a stronger person if we remain true. In those times, even in our most desperate moment, one must hold on to faith. One must put hope in God, believing God’s will is best. Even Jesus didn’t want to die. He asked that the cup be taken from him – but in the end it was God’s will and Christ was redeemed and is redeemer.

So where is God in bad times? God is where God has always been, and that’s right by my side. Holding and supporting, whispering in my ear ‘it’ll be okay – press on.’ There is no use in building a foundation on the sand when the rock it such a better place. Floods, wind, rain, can crash against it, it can destroy the surroundings, rip up the earth, knock down the trees, destroy a crop, but if you foundation is solid through the wreckage you will stand and move on.

Be Blessed & Stay Strong

The Relationship Between the Sexes: An Investigation in Proverbs

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Introduction

I will be taking a look at Proverbs and going over the thematic points of the relationship between the sexes. I will take a close look at what is said about women and their roles in Social life, as mothers, as teachers, as a wife of virtue and what authority they really did or did not have within those roles. I will also take a deep look at Lady Wisdom and what her teaching is and her connection to God; lastly I will look at Lady Wisdom’s evil twin Lady Folly and her roles. We will see how both Wisdom and Folly affect the relationship between the sexes.

 

Women

  • Social roles and Authority 

From a historian’s point of view, one cannot deny that fact that women in the patrilineal, patrilocal, and patrimonial society were to some degree second-class citizens.

If we take biblical legal record as a representative of historic reality women had limited to no legitimate authority in the public arena, but it seems they did enjoy a high status in the domestic arena where they were both power and authority.

Women in patriarchal cultures were routinely assigned to rule the private domain of the home, so why was Wisdom imaged as a woman? We would need to look at the association of women and wisdom by looking at the traditional roles of wife and mother.

Women, in biblical literature, were the managers of the private world of home. They are critical to the running of the home and extended family.

Proverbs 31 give us the best glimpse at the role of a wife, “A Capable wife is far more precious than jewels, the heart of her husband trusts in her…she seek wool and flax…she provides food for her whole household…she considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard…She opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out her hands to the needy…She opens her mouth with wisdom and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue,” v 10-26 (NRSV). It is clear the role of the woman is more than just a woman who stays inside her house all day; she is seen as a diligent worker and speaks wise words to her children.  Women, when seen in their ‘proper’ roles within their homes such as wife, mother, daughter, sister they would have been viewed as a ‘flowing water’ a symbol of life in the arid Near East. Prov. 5:15-20 is an example of this, stating, “Drink water from your own cistern, flowing from your own well…Why should you be intoxicated, my son, by another woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?” (NRSV) The mother’s instruction is to see her child live and not be intoxicated by another, her negative counterpart, who is deadly.

 

  • Mother & Teacher

The mothers role is one of teacher and instructor of both sexes; young children and young adult. This is one of the great sources of her power and therefore because of this makes her an authority inside her household.

If women were of little value in the ancient near east it would be useless to mention them. Proverbs 1-9 mentions the mother; it is unlikely she is only brought into the writing to balance out the fathers person, such as Bernard Lang claims. What Lang fails to take into account is that the teacher is fictitious in the same manner as the parents and if the mother was not one of authority mentioning her would not strengthen the content but it would undermine the teacher’s authority. Hence the mother must also be regarded as teacher in the family.

The universal role for women in Israel was motherhood. It provided women with what was essentially their primary source of authority within the community. The divine care for Israel was seen in the female fecundity, and they viewed the deity as actively present in the conception and birth of the child.

Men would have been, and still are, dependent on their wife to give them a legitimate heir to claim the father’s name and estate. Which would have been crucial for them in that day and age.

Proverbs 31 does not specifically mention the mother’s role in teaching though it is mentioned in Proverbs 1:8 and 6:20. Though no examples of “the mother Torah” survive except for the passage in Proverbs, the fact it is mentioned as parallel to the father’s commands show us that women’s authority was held high in this society.

Proverbs 1:8 and 6:20 gives us a clear picture of women’s authority and equality to men in the instruction of the father and education of the mother for their children. Both father and mother are mentioned 12 times in Proverbs, and chapters 1-9 promise that if you listen to both mother and father you will have long life (3:2).

It is clear that the mothers, by example in Proverbs 1:8; 6:20, would have to be regarded as teachers in the family. If the literary function of the mother did not have an equivalent function, her role would have been useless in the story.

If there were no social roles of father and mother as teachers, the core foundation of old age and authority of experience, these proverbs would not have passed through the ages over thousands of years.  The fact that it had is indication that the father and mother were both teaching authorities.

Proverbs is a good example of the authority of women in the instructing of their children and their equality to men. It would appear that Proverbs understanding of the male-female relationship sociologically and imaginatively shows an immense degree of equality between men and women.

  • A Virtuous Wife

Prov. 31:10-31 gives a very revealing portrait of a capable or virtuous wife. Prov. 18:22 is a blessing to the man who finds a wife, and the type of wife that should be sought is concluded in Prov. 31 as its climax. This significant poem weaves together both mother and wife and balances out the social structure of the book.

Proverbs 18:22, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favour from the Lord,” sets the tone for what is to come for a man in a wife. But what is a good wife because simply finding a wife does not mean she will be good. Proverbs 31:30 says “A woman who fears the Lord.”

Proverbs 11:16, 22; 12.4; 14.1; 19.13; 21.9, 19; 25.24 gives examples of wives who nag, are shameful, and acts foolishly and this is always a possibility and a dreadful one if true. A wife whose sexuality is properly contained brings life to her marriage and family, but a woman who is the opposite or the negative character, aka the adulteress, is what could be considered the evil twin of Woman Wisdom. She would be Woman Stranger.

However, one cannot completely blame the wife if she turns out to be one who nags or acts foolishly. We need to consider why a wife would do so. When wives and mothers are not able or allowed to give orders they typically turn to other methods to make their influence, such as gossip, shaming behavior, untruths, and so on, which is why it is important for husbands to heed their wives counsel.

Clearly in the woman’s role as mother and wife to efficiently manage her home and her legitimate “right to make decision and control her environment” she would fall into a role of a counselor, and this could in turn be an indirect power where she is able to influence her husband in decision-making authority that belongs to him.

Lady Wisdom & Lady Folly 

Now let us take a look at Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly.  We must Look at them individually to understand their roles and to help better our understanding of the roles of men and women or fathers and mothers.  Wisdom is portrayed as a woman, but why? It is widely agreed that, in reading the Old Testament, the religion of most ancient Israelites was polytheistic and pagan; being very similar to other neighbouring people’s cults.

The Israelites worshipped their national God, Yahweh, or YHWH, but they also worshipped a host of gods and goddesses such as Baal, El, and Shemesh, but there is only on goddess, Astarte who was likely to have been called the Queen of the Heaven.  In a context of polytheistic culture, it is hard to avoid that Wisdom should or could be understood as another goddess.

However, because of Jewish thought and the development of their monotheistic conviction it was not possible for Wisdom to remain as a divine figure and became solely a poetic figure.

One could conclude that Wisdom’s imagery as a Woman could be based off ancient Israelite polytheism but, nevertheless, Wisdom is portrayed as a woman. Although looking at Wisdom in Proverbs another understanding of Wisdom could be taken. Wisdom is said to exist before the creation of the world (Prov. 8:22-23), She assists the Lord in creation (8:30), and possesses a house and servants.

It clear that the author wants it to be understood that Wisdom is a divine attribute of God, and this personification is to help the readers understand this by this abstract form.

One could see this presentation of Wisdom helpful for more than just a reason for an abstract form of a Godly attribute but it could also help the understanding of the relationship between men and women, especially in regards to teaching their children. Claudia V. Camp points out that the personified Wisdom, whose feminine personification’s functions as a framework for Proverbs chapters 10-30. The Israelite women play key roles and models for the personification of Wisdom.

 

 

  • Lady Wisdom 

Lady Wisdom plays many roles in the book of Proverbs. Through her many facets we see how one attains Wisdom. Wisdom is characterised by scholars such as H. Ringgern, W. Frankenberger, and S. Harris, as a woman preacher of repentance, and even argued as a prophetess. Mckane reckons her a wisdom teacher, but not a prophetess; Whybray Identifies Wisdom as a goddess, but simply a mythological female, her divine status has been supported.

Some of the personifications of Wisdom are for example in 6:22 she is seen as a guide, 7:4 a beloved sister or bride, in 9:1-6 she is a seen as a hostess.

 

In Prov. 2:1-9 Wisdom is not only portrayed as one of the disclosures of God’s presence in the world, but she is one who sometimes hides and she is a treasure to be searched for and as rare as silver.

In Prov. 2:10-15 Wisdom is seen to have a winsome, attractive, womanly personality. She is someone who is a delight to know, someone who shares her life with us. She is pleasant and when she enters the heart and mind she protects, guards, and saves.

Wisdom is in effect the soul’s true bride, true counsellor, and true hostess. She cries in the streets and will not be silenced, but instead will be heard. She is to be cherished as by a dear friend (7:4), same as like a husband for his wife, ‘Do not forsake her…love her….price her…embrace her,’ (4:6-8; 8:17).

Let us take a look at Wisdom’s origins. According to Proverbs 8:22-26 she was there before creation, in 8:27-31 we see her place in creation, being seen beside “him” or God during the creation process. During various parts Wisdom claims to be created by God, (8:22), and born in (v 24-5).

There is some disputations over the Hebrew translation for Wisdom’s account of being created in 8:22-26; 27-31. The Hebrew word for “create” is (qanah) which can also mean ‘procreated’ and could be a connection to a root meaning ‘to be fashioned in the womb. If that is the case Wisdom is consistently expressing herself as a child of Yahweh.

We see Wisdom’s origin as being created and apart of God, and her priority in the created world. It would be appear to make sense that the mothers and fathers would teach their children, or son in the case of Proverbs, to seek wisdom and to find a wise wife, and to keep away from the “strange woman.”

 

  • Lady Folly 

The Strange Woman is referred to as one who is deeply involved in sexual relations outside the marriage bed. She is a temptress, Lady Folly, or the Strange Woman that threatens the youth with her seductive speech (5:3), while her steps lead to death (5:5).

Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly are the two powers caught in an endless battle vying for favour with students. A harlot would be a real danger for students but also serves as an image of a multitude of dangers.

The idea of Lady Wisdom inviting the students to her house and the Harlot at the same time is a common warning and can be found in found in classic Greek literature such as Hercules at the crossroads. Upon Hercules arrival to adulthood he must choose between following virtue and vice.

This is very much similar to the language in Proverbs.

Lady folly is crafty in her speech; she is the perfect negative of Lady Wisdom. “Say to wisdom, ‘You are my sister,’ and call insight your intimate friend, that they may keep you from the loose woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words….With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him,” (7:4-5; 21). Lady Wisdom and Folly embody the social roles both positive and negative, that women filled

Something Lady Folly teaches is that chaos and creativity are closely linked, because she is socially marginal, she is not a safeguard, and could not be trusted in a marriage. However, because of her looseness and freedom she has the opportunity to do and say thing that are not socially acceptable for women to do.

A good reason to why the son in Proverbs is advised to stay away from the Strange Woman is because she paints a picture that is far too attractive. She is, for them, far too independent and too tempting. And the simple fact remain that she is accused often of leading young men to their death.

 

Conclusion 

In conclusion women though they were not normally involved in the legal or political realm such as men, women did have authority within the structure of their homes, which did take them away from the estates as they would have been running the economic side of the family, as well as teaching and training her children. The roles of mother, teacher, and wife were very authoritative. As Proverbs 18:22 states, “He who finds a good wife finds a good thing,” only work as long as the husband respects his wife and does not take or demean her authority, or she could become manipulative to make her mark. We see in Proverbs, both mother and fathers are teaching their child to listen to and seek lady wisdom and to not be deceived by Lady Folly; for the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (1:7). The child’s instruction is to seek the knowledge of the Lord and to hear the father instruction and not to reject their mother’s teaching (1:8).  When looking at the instructions of the parents to the child, and looking deeper into the woman’s role in ancient near eastern society the relationship between the sexes in Proverbs in many ways show equality between men and women or husband and wife. Wisdom is to be cherished, loved, sought after and embraced. She is both found in the mind of God and to be found in a wife and brings life. Where Lady Folly is deceptive and tricks men and the end result in following her is death.

Further Reading:

Claudia V. Camp, Wisdom and the Feminine in the Book of Proverbs, (Sheffield, England, Almond Press, 1985)

Althalya Brenner, A Feminist Companion to Wisdom Literature, (Sheffield, England, Sheffield Academic Press, 1995)

Althalya Brenner & Carole Fontaine, Wisdom and the Psalms: A Feminist Companion to the Bible, (Sheffield, England, Sheffield Academic Press, 1998)

C. Hassell Bullock, An Introduction to the Old Testament Poetic Books, (Chicago, USA, Moody Press, 1988)

Bernhard Lang, Wisdom and the Book of Proverbs: An Israelite Goddess Redefined, (New York, USA, The Pilgrim Press, 1986.)

Bruce K. Waltke, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI, USA, William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company 2004) 83-84.

Waltke, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, 83.

David Atkinson, The Message of Proverbs, (Leicester, England, Inter-Varsity Press, 1996)

Derek Kidner, The Wisdom of Proverbs, Job, & Ecclesiastes: An Introduction to Wisdom Literature, (Leicester, England, Inter-Varsity Press, 1985)

John Barton & John Muddiman, The Oxford Bible Commentary, (Oxford, England, Oxford University Press, 2007)

R. Murphy & E. Huwiler, New International Biblical Commentary: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, (Peabody, Massachusetts, USA, Hendricks Publishers, 1999)

 

 

Counselling: Self-Esteem Issues

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Introduction 

Counselling is an exhilarating, exhausting, and complex activity, which to some it does not come so natural. Because counselling is viewed as a sort of operation, and a complex one at that, it is necessary to break down the operation into component parts. Counsellors encounter many issues on a daily basis and here I will be discussing the issues of self-esteem. We will go through and break down the process of its development starting with the source of the issue to the manifestation of the symptoms and look at how a counsellor can properly help guide the client into a new frame of mind with various models and strategies.

Source of Self

Before we look at self-esteem let us look at the definition of “self.” Modern philosophy can trace the concept of self to Rene Descartes (1596-1650) who gave the concept that the self is a spiritual substance. However John Locke (1632-704) disputed this idea and said the existence of the self depends on the consciousness of oneself continuing in the present as in the past.The Christian faith views “self” as the “continued identity of the self as originally created by God, fallen into sin, restored through divine forgiveness, and destined to inherit eternal life through resurrection.”

Now the definition of self-esteem “is not some sort of scale with which we asses our values, nor is it something external to ourselves…the self is the inner core of personality, the almost indefinable centre from which ones basic being radiates. From this focus one is able to say ‘I am’ (echoing the words of the creator). This ‘I am’ means that one can exist as a person independently of others affirmations and approval…the self is about being not doing.”

Hence to have self-esteem issues is to have a fear of revealing oneself to others. It is where one is afraid to tell you who they are because they are afraid of what you will think when they are open. It is a liberating experience when people help one another; humans have an immense need to be sincerely listened to and taken seriously. A vital part of one’s inner life is their personal identity and a continual aspect of the human condition is healing from emotion and memories.

For one to fully develop or heal as a person they need to feel understood by at least one individual, but that requires being open and honest with someone worthy of their secrets. Society today puts a pressure to be authentic and we spend time talking about wearing masks over our “real faces” and playing out roles that distract and disguise our true selves.

    • Shame

Issues of insecurities and self-esteem are fed by our emotions. We need to ask the questions, “Are you feeling guilty, embarrassed, discouraged?” or are these feeling imbedded in something else. Are they a result of a past shame? When counselling one who maybe suffering from self-esteem issues the cause of the issue could be a result of feeling shame; hence it is important to see the slight difference in meanings between guilt, embarrassment, discouragement, and shame. In Theory, one feels guilty for what they do, but they feel shame for what they are. One may feel embarrassed because of how they look, they feel shame because they believe they are bad. When one is dealing with embarrassment they are socially foolish, but when it is a matter of shame they feel morally unworthy. Discouragement makes one feel they are not doing what they feel they need to be. When feeling shame one feels they are not being the person they need to be.

The feelings of shame goes back to the beginning of time with the first man and woman, Adam and Eve. In Genesis 2 we read about the story of creation and we see everything put under the dominion of humanity. The only thing Elohim asked of the two humans was to not eat from one tree. But in chapter 3 we read of the serpent tempting Eve:

“But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die, for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was a delight to the eyes and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked: and they sewed fig leaves together and made loin cloths for themselves…They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden…and the man and his wife hid themselves.” Gen 3:4-8 (NRSV).  They felt ashamed and hid. Why? Because they wanted the knowledge to be like God and when they took what was thought to give them that power they were embarrassed, felt guilty and ashamed so they hid from God.

Psychologists widely presume all bad feelings one may think about one self is unhealthy. Lewis Smedes says, “I believe this is a mistake…If we feel like flawed persons, it may be because we are in fact flawed.” Where do these feeling come from and where do they start? They start in the mind or the ego.

Ego

Clinical experimentation proves that we are capable of various “egos.” There are three types, Parent (a superior and provider for one inadequate to provide for themselves), Adult (One who is adequate in themselves, and is equal with other adults), and Child (One who is inadequate and dependent on another).

We have been individually programmed by our psychological histories to respond in each of these ways. For example if a parent disowns their child, that child is sure enough to feel worthless, but disowning does not have to be a verbal statement of “I disown you” it can come in many little forms such as facial expressions, chiding tones, or pious rebukes. This can be just as loud as if it was simply said.

Low self-esteem could be planted because of that kind of past shame. Self-esteem issues could be a result of always being in the Child state, whether it is a situation where the Parent or Adult figure verbally or physically hurt the individual as a child and they never dealt with the issue. Or it could be a result of a Parent or Adult never putting responsibility on the Child, and when they reached adulthood they expected others to do their work for them or they feel inadequate to do anything themselves. Either way this type of behaviour leads to an end result of low self-esteem and shame or in this case a social shame: “pain that comes to people who live together and yet despise one another.”

When one is in a constant environment of social shame it is harder for them to grow into authentic people because they have settled with being in the “Child” ego. They send out “pity signals” via tone of voice and facial expressions, and they condition others to react softly towards them, giving off the appearance that they are as helpless as children.

Another side of it is that some people developed a messiah complex. They take on the role of needing to save people, wanting to help everyone and make them better, causing everyone they relate to to be “the helped.” Living in an specific ego regularly has an end result in one living programmed to always react in that frame of mind.

Programming

Inside of us there is a Psycho-Drama, there is a metaphysical tape-recorder “playing out the sound track” to our Psycho-Drama that is constantly being enacted. On this stage of the Psycho-Drama you could have all three egos, Parent, Adult, and Child. For an example imagine the Parent speaking to the child saying, “You’ll never amount to anything,” the adult would then have to agree or disagree with the statement of the parent to help the growth of the child or what could be lack of growth. If the Adult does not convey a positive message to the Child, the Child will live off the programming of the past that says, “You’ll never amount to anything.”

Because of our genetic codes we are programmed for shame, which can and does cause self-esteem issues. However, it is ones responsibility to know how they deal with what people have done and said to them that could have cause these issues. The way we are programmed is the way we react, and how we react brings symptoms to the surface.

Symptoms 

Acculturated Self/Deliberated Self

When the acculturated self is acting, it is the self that is the expected reaction and patterns. When the deliberated self, or mature self, is acting that is the self that acts on personal integration and convictions.

Those dealing with low self-esteem would be acting mainly in the acculturated state. Living out the same reactions and patterns to life’s situation; why some cannot get out of their low self-esteem is because they have no honest communication with others. Experiencing communication and communion with others helps one integrate and grow. 

God realised human kind was not fit to be alone, Gen. 2:18, “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.’ So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal…but for the man there was not found a helper,” so God took a rib, “from the man and he made it into a woman.”(NRSV)

God created us to enjoy a tension-free relationships, as humans, we are thirsty for relationship. Jeremiah 2:13 talks about God’s people forsaking Him, “the spring of living water,” though not stated in the passage it is implying a universal thirst in humankind.

Their relationship was forsaken and then things began to crumble. If one wants to step out of self-esteem issues they need to understand how to change. That change starts with a real look inside themselves, and be led by the guidance of the Bible. To overcome an issue such as self-esteem one must be aware of their patterns and reactions, and understand why they react the way they do.

Games

Not in the sense of something fun, but games are something we employ to avoid self-realisation and self-communication. They are a sort of mental shield we carry around in front of us. These shields are designed to protect us from harm and to help win whatever battle our ego is fighting. However, these games or manoeuvres defeat “self-knowledge and destroy all possibility of honest self-communication with others.

Games or manoeuvres can be played out in many ways. An example is those who seek out constant approval. Some cannot simply approve of themselves they depend on approval from others. They need liked and admired, they need nice things said to them.

They are low on ego, probably in the ego mindset of a “child” as discussed earlier and leech their self-esteem from others. Humanity is dependent, but dependency, when placed on another human becomes destructive.  With Christian Counselling or Pastoral Care, one can emphasise humanities dependency on God, while making it clear what one is required to learn in order to trust deeply. The goal of changing from the inside out is not about conformity to Christian standards or higher levels of happiness, but a growth in maturity: “real change produce maturity.” It is vital for the counsellor to get the client to admit and understand this action, and desire change from the inside out and grow in maturity.

Counsellor’s role and strategy 

Helper Model 

The skilled helper model has three main parts. 1) Current Scenario, 2) Preferred Scenario, 3)  Strategy: Getting there. With step 1 the main principle is to help the clients “identify, explore, and clarify” their current issue and unused opportunities. Next, step 2 helps the client find out what they want their overall “preferred” scenario to be that is what they want their outcome to be. Last, step 3, is to help the client develop strategies for accomplishing their goals.

Inside each of those stages are smaller stages that help progress to the next level.

Within Step 1, the current scenario, the counsellor starts with A) The Story. The counselee needs to be able to tell their story as clear as they can. The counsellor will not be able to help if the counselee does not acquire the understanding of the difficulties and possibilities in their life. The next phase in step 1 is B) Blind Spots. This phase helps the counselee deal with things that might be hindering them from seeing the issue and the opportunities for moving ahead. The last phase in step 1 is C) Leverage. Give the counsellor a place to start, a way of pining a topic or issues and starting with it. Then the counselee must identify and work on the problem(s) and work on opportunities that will start to make positive changes in their lives.

After moving on from step 1 the counsellor and counselee proceed into step 2, the “preferred Scenario.” The first phase, A) Possibilities, The counsellor helps the counselee create a “range of possibilities” to better their future. Next phase we have B) Agenda, where the counselee chooses possibilities within a realistic reach and turns them into viable goals. “Goals chosen by the clients need to be viable; they must be capable of being translated into action.”  C) Commitment, the last phase in step 2. If the client does not commit to the goals chosen, their overcoming of their issue is futile, commitment is essential.

Step 3, “strategy: getting there” starts with A) Strategies. This phase the counsellor helps the counselee brainstorm a verity of strategies that are possible for accomplishing their goal(s). The next phase, B) Best fit, helps the counselee figure out which strategy will be the best one for working with their issue(s) with taking into context their resources and environment. Last phase C) Plan. The counsellor and counselee formulate a plan that is a step-by-step procedure for acquiring the goals of the preferred scenario.

Pastoral Care

Counselling does not only fall on the counsellor. An essential aspect of Pastoral Care is being able to counsel people. Three brilliant definitions of pastoral care that can help understand its role and how it pertains to counselling are:

“Pastoral care is surprisingly simple. It has one fundamental aim: to help people know love, both as something to be received and something to be given,” based off two Old Testament passages, Lev. 19:18; Duet. 6:5.

Another definition, “The ministry of the cure of souls, or pastoral care, consists of helping acts, done by representing Christian persons, directed towards the healing, sustaining, guiding, and reconciling of troubled persons, whose troubles arouse in the context of ultimate meaning and concerns.”

Last, “Pastoral care is that activity, undertaken especially by representative Christian persons, directed towards the elimination and relief of sin and sorrow and the presentation of all people perfect in Christ to God.

Pastoral care givers and Christian counsellors are witnesses, Isaiah 43:10 says, “You are my witnesses, says the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he,” (NRSV).Pastoral care is not solely limited to the ordained, however it is a necessity for those in Pastoral care to use this gift properly.

Counselling someone with self-esteem issues is part of the “ministry of the cure of souls.”  Dealing with someone who is co-dependent, for example, is another form of low self-esteem.  How do you handle this? Co-dependency is easy to prevent then to cure. Once one has begun to relate in an unhealthy way in a friendship, or other relationship, it more often takes a “radical surgery to bring about health.”

When falling under Pastoral Care a model to help someone gain their ‘self’ back, or be confident in their selves so that neither party has that unhealthy attachment of what could be two Child egos leeching onto one another, could be the Helper Model as mentioned in the previous section. While leading someone through the steps it is important in Pastoral Care to emphasise the spiritual aspects of self worth, understanding, God cares for and longs for his creation to be healthy, mentally, emotionally, and physically.

In Pastoral Care tying in Biblical narrative is a vital part. It is important to show the counselee their importance to God as part of His creation. If someone’s self-esteem issue is derived from a relationship problem, the pastor could emphasise the covenant relationship, where men and women are not just part of creations, but they are regarded as Children of God designed to enter into a communal relationship with God.

Communication and Communion 

Pastoral Care givers are to help assist in the relationship of the counselee as a servant of God. They are not merely amateur psychologist, or sociologist attempting to explain the human condition or meaning of humanities existence, they are to bear witness to God and relief from their pain being found in the Hope of God.

It is important for the counsellor to be attentive to the client and listen to what they are saying.  In any counselling situation the client needs to feel heard and understood. A counsellor needs to have good “reflective skills” where they can shift through what the client is saying and get to the core message they are trying to convey.

Reflective skills have three main points: 1. Restating what you think are key words or phrases. 2. Paraphrasing, or rewording what the client has just told you and conveying it back the client. 3. Summarising which gives the clients a précis of all the information they have just given you.

A counsellor also needs to have good probing skills. Which the core essence of probing is not necessarily what the client is saying, but what you want to know. The two cores of Probing skills are 1. Questioning, which depending on the type can facilitate or inhibit exploration, 2. Making Statements, which is a softer form of probing. Example: you could say, “What did they do to upset you,” or to be softer you could say, “I’m not sure what they did to upset you.”

Within the communication the end result of the session is to bring about inner healing. And in all the methods it is important for those in Pastoral Care and Christian Counselling to focus on the fact that inner healing comes with spiritual growth and whole heartedly following the teachings of Jesus.

Conclusion 

To effectively help one with self-esteem issues will be a complex and time consuming experience. The source of the issue can be the result of an ongoing fear planted deep in someones past. To get to the root of the issue exploration through past and present events is necessary. looking at childhood and clients past and present relationships. It’s important to understand what ego mindset they are predominately in. Shame is a deep running issue with self-esteem and can hinder one’s growth into a healthy adult. It is important for the counsellor to probe and developed a comfortable relationship with the counselee and help them become aware that they are in a safe environment. It is up to the counsellor what type of model to use on a client, but from the very beginning there needs to be an attended end, the whole goal of coming to a counsellor is to fix the issue and not have to return.

Resources:

Sue Culley, Integrative Counseling Skills In Action, (London, England, Sage Publicaitons, 1993) 1.

Editors David J Atkinson, David H. Field, New Dictionary of Christian Ethics and Pastoral Theology, (Leicester, England, Inver-Varsity Press, 1995) 771.

Editors Atkinson & Field, New Dictionary of Christian Ethics and Pastoral Theology, 771.

Editors David J Atkinson, David H. Field, New Dictionary of Christian Ethics and Pastoral Theology, 773.

John Powell, Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I am?  (Illinois, USA, Argus Communications, 1969) 5.

Steve Scott & Brooks Alexander, “Inner Healer” The Christian Counsellor’s Journal, Vol. 2.

Lewis B. Smedes, Shame and Grace: Dealing With the Shame We Don’t Deserve, (New York, USA, HarperCollins Publishers, 1993)

Gerard Egan, The Skilled Helper: A Problem Management Approach to Helping, (Pacific Grove, California, USA, Brooks/Cole Publishing Company, 1994)

David Lyall, Integrity of Pastoral Care, (London, England, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2001)

Nigel J. Robb “Pastoral Care As Witness” Contact: The Interdisciplinary Journal Of Pastoral Studies 111, (1993)

Jan Silvious, Please Don’t Say You Need Me: Biblical Answers for Codependency, (Grand Rapids, MI, USA, Zondervan Publishing House, 1989)

Ruth Carter Stapleton, “Inner Healing,” The Christian Counsellor’s Journal, Vol 1. (1979)

Plato and Theology

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Luke B Kuhns Paper

Introduction 

Plato was a philosopher whose thoughts and ideas still impact us today. In this assessment of him we will briefly look at his writings in the Republic and essentially his allegory of the Cave. In Plato’s writings he focused on the central conceptions of philosophy which is, ‘To know the good is to do it.’[s:c] We will take a look at Plato’s thoughts on knowledge, reality, and the Good and compare them to Christian thought while we will also look at Plato’s impact on Christian Theology. In Plato’s day the most common form of debating was in dialectics causing Plato’s works to be problematic because not all his dialogues are based on actual events or conversations with Socrates as the main speaker.

The Republic and the Allegory of the Cave

  • Knowledge

Plato’s theory of knowledge is intimately linked with his metaphysics; believing that in order to attain authentic knowledge we have to go beyond the changing world and “grasp the timeless unchanging universals of which ordinary objects are imperfect instances.”

Towards the end of the allegory of the cave it concludes that when the person in the cave is freed and stumbles out of the cave into the blinding light of “wisdom” and “knowledge”

‘He will be required to grow accustom to the sight of the upper world. First he will see the shadows best. . .then he will gaze upon the light of the moon and the stars and the spangled heaven and he will see the sky and the stars by night better than the sun or light of the sun by day. Last of all he will be able to see the sun and not mere reflections of him, but he will see his own proper place, and not in another; and he will contemplate himself as he is.’

Plato is saying that once you have reached enlightenment and leave the physical world you essentially end up in the metaphysical world where things are no longer shadows but the true reality.

  • Reality

Plato was never clear about distinguishing what exists and what is true except in Timaeus with only a small hint. Plato’s theory of forms was an account of a realm that is an abstract reality apprehended by the intellect. This abstract realm is, “above and beyond the ordinary world of particular objects” that we can only perceived by the senses. Plato believed that everything in nature that is tangible flows, so there are no substances that do not dissolve, and all that belongs to the material world is “made of a material that time can erode. Nevertheless everything is made after a timeless mould or form that is eternal and immutable.” Essentially everything physical will erode but the original idea is eternal and will always be.

In the allegory of the Cave he states, ‘Within the cave most of us are like chained prisoners watching shadows thrown by a fire. We adopt our opinions second hand, manipulated and controlled by others.’

The people chained to the wall are forced to look in one direction while a fire illuminates shadow puppets on the wall which illustrates Plato’s idea of our physical world. Suggesting that the physical was looking at shadows of the real, and the real is in the metaphysical.

  • The Good

In Plato’s The Republic he compares what he thinks to be the noblest Form which is the Form of the Good to the sun.

The meaning behind the sun as the “good” can be broken into three parts.

  1. Just as the sun makes physical things on earth visible, the Form of the Good illuminates and makes meaningful lower levels of knowledge and opinion. 
  2. That the sun sustains and nourishes plants and other living things
  3. There is an affinity between our eyes and the sun. 

Plato goes on to say,

‘Of the heavenly bodies do you regard as responsible for this? Whose light would you say it is that makes our eyes see and objects be seen most perfectly? Then is sight related to its divine source as follows…the sight is not identical with sight, nor with what we call the eye in which sight resides…Yet of all sense-organs the eye is most sunlike…Then, moreover, though the sun is not itself sight, it is the cause of sight and is seen by the sight it causes? Well, that is what I called the child of the good, the good begotten it in its likeness, and it bears the same relation to sight and visible objects in the visible realm that the good bears to intelligence and intelligible objects in the intelligible realm.

Some of his ideas of the sun being “the child of the good…begat in his own likeness sound similar to Judeo-Christian teaching. The teaching found in The Republic suggests that Plato accepts the idea of a Divine creator god, but not a Creator that creates from nothing as the God of “classical Christian theism” but a creator god who is more like a craftsman.

Plato’s Influence on Christian Theology

“Plato offers some kind of philosophical underpinning for Christian faith.” Plato’s idea of “cosmos—the notion of the universe as being not a chaotic hodgepodge but a thoroughly ordered system in which every element is harmoniously related to every other;” was taken and worked out by the Pythagoreans which agreed that the universe was well ordered and relates to each other mathematically. This idea, taken up by Plato, was passed on to Christian theology and is one of “greatest heritages of the modern mind.” However, there are major differences between Plato’s teaching and the Judeo-Christian teaching of the biblical writings. The closest they come is in the use of narrative, dialogue and story to communicate moral and religious truth.

Conclusion 

Plato, in the Republic, attempts to reach the ultimate truth in “the good” and viewing heavenly bodies as deities. In the Cave, the upper world, which could be looked at as enlightenment or life after death, is not illuminated by the sun, but by intellect, the supreme Form that everything is controlled by.Though Plato did believe in a creator, the creator was only a craftsman, one could argue who was the one that created the craftsmen? With contradictions in the Republic where Plato writes of a “maker of senses and maker of the heavens,” then goes on to speak of the god making the Form of a Bed would infer that the Divine Creator also produced the Form. One could argue, what if the Divine Creator created everything that sustains us and gives us knowledge, much like the God of the Bible. Plato’s ideas of the good and the physical world being shadow’s of the real leaves us asking the question if the ideas are eternal who’s eternal mind do they reside and come from? That could be argued to come from the God of Christian belief. Hence we are left concluded with that, though Plato was insightful he was incorrect in this thinking of the physical and metaphysical elements described in The Republic.

Resources:

Norman L. Geinsler and Paul D. Feinburg, Introduction to Philosophy: A Christian Perspective (Grand Rapids, MI. Baker Book House, 1980).

Pierre Hadot, What is Ancient Philosophy? (Cambridge, Massachusetts The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2004).

John Cottingham, Western Philosophy: An Anthology, second edition (Oxford, Blackwell Publishing, 2008.).

R.M. Hare. Past Masters: Plato (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1982.).

Jostein Gaarder, Sophie’s World: An Adventure in Philosophy (London, Phoenix House, 1995)

W.T. Jones, A History in Western Philosophy (New York, Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1957)

Plato, The Republic, Translated by Desmond Lee, second edition. (London, Penguin Books, 1987)

Love Wins by Rob Bell: Reviewed

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A  Luke B Kuhns Review

Love Wins Book Review Part 1

Through the night you feel how it is to kneel asking God for all the world”- the Elms 

Love Wins is the newest book by author/pastor Rob Bell which has caused a sensation of controversy. All over the news/blogs/social networks. For all the “hating” that has been going on my only reply could be, “wait until you read the book, and even in that, don’t shun Bell if he’s off track, in love correct him.”

Well here we are…book in hand. I live in the UK so for us the book is called, “Love Wins: At the Heart of Life’s Big Questions”

I have been excited to read this book since all the talk started. I think discussing issues of Heaven and Hell and eternal life are important to people of all faiths. Now I am a Christian, I believe in the One God who sent Jesus to be a redeeming sacrifice bringing salvation for all humanity and Jesus being God in flesh is the only way to the Father. I study Theology full time at the University of Manchester, and if there is something that I have learnt is not to pounce when you think something different from others, hear people out and formulate an ‘argument’ for you position. Don’t mindlessly scream at people and Bible bash, because that isn’t what is taught in the Bible and that’s not what Jesus did or what happened in the Old Testament.

So. Let us being this review which I will do in two parts. Chapters 1-4 will be part one and Chapters 5-8 will be part 2.

Preface 

Bell begins the book with saying that he has written this book for all the people who have heard some fashion of the Jesus story that caused them to get upset because of its absurdities. Mainly focusing on the teaching that only a select few will spend forever in Heaven while others will spend forever in Hell. He acknowledges that the ideas in this book are not original to him, but have been around for centuries. But it is time we start asking questions again about a God so loving that sends people to hell.

Chapter 1:What About the Flat Tire

It begins with him talking about an art show held at his church where someone used a phrase from Gandhi and someone attached a note saying, “he’s in hell.” But is this a fact, does anyone actually know this for sure. That is what Bell wants to know.

The entire chapter is question after question regarding who will make it to heaven, and  is it acceptable that God would allow a numberless amount of people to burn in hell. Is this hopeful or does Jesus offer hope.

Bell then goes on to say that Salvation is found in one’s response to Jesus, but he asks, “which Jesus?” (p 7)

He makes comparisons to issues in Church history where, in the name of God, people have been killed, shunned, or hurt people in that name. Bell says that some people when they “reject” Jesus are rejecting what they see of Jesus in his followers.

This is true. How one acts as a Christian is crucial to the very mission of God. If we are not living holy lives if we are not being “in the world but not of the world,” if we are causing confusion and hurting people then we are not being the Church that Jesus wanted.

Bell then travels through the Bible talking about various ways people are “saved” and how people respond and receive salvation. By the end we are left with a list of responses and with the question of do we have to do all these to be saved, or is God a unique God in his salvation.

Basically the title of the Chapter, if the missionary is on his/her way to preach and their car breaks down, is God not big enough to reach the tribe or village or is it that because the car broke down this village’s salvation went to hell.

Chapter 2: Here is the New There 

Heaven.

Where is Heaven. Is it a geological location somewhere in time and space away/apart/outside of our realm or is it somewhere else, somewhere closer.

Bell talks about the idea that heaven is a place we are long to get to as an escape from this world. This is an idea that has been taught for ages by numerous pastors/Theologians. But is that True. The other idea taught is that Heaven will be an endless church service to which Bell and I agree will be boring. This is the notion that we won’t think about our “non-Christian” friends and family because we’ll be so wrapped up in the awesomeness of God.

Bell says there are other ways to think about heaven than those.

He uses the example of the Rich man in Matthew 19 who asks, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” and Jesus replies, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandment.”

It’s about entering life here and now and not about working for the life to come.

Bell goes on to discuss that the age to come will be where peace and justice are leaders. Where war and famine are no more, where tears are gone, where the the poor are fed and clothed and loved. In the age to come, in the next life, when Jesus returns these principles will reign. But It’s not solely about the next life. These principles that Jesus taught regarding social justice, freedom for the oppressed, healing for the sick all of this can and does happen now. It’s our choice to bring heaven or hell to earth.

He picks up on various prophets who say what this renewed earth will be like, and how the pictures used are mostly about the earth, new wine, a new garden, a new city, and someone has to crush the grapes, till the garden, build the city. He talks about the restoration of heaven and earth a renewing of what life was meant to be in the garden of eden before sin separated us from God. So in this new heaven, there is the very strong possibility that we will do what we are created and commanded to do. Inhabit the earth in a relationship with God.

He talks about how certain things will not be able to be in the new heaven. Judgements will be made. God will one day say enough and all injustice will be ended and people who have rejected Jesus and caused hell on earth will be punished.

So for Bell he says, “How we think of heaven, then, directly affects how we understand what we do with our days and energies now, in this age.” (p 44)

“Taking heaven seriously, then, means taking suffering seriously, now.” (p 45)

He stresses the need to not talk about the future but let heaven invade earth now through our actions just as Jesus said, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Bell continues on to say that for heaven to invade it will inevitably confront issues within us. Issues and things that will not fit into the new heaven and that things must change. Attitudes must change. Jesus “calls and teaches disciples in order to teach us how to be and what to be; his intention is for us to be growing…in generosity, forgiveness, honesty, truth telling, and responsibility, so that as these things take over our lives we are taking part more and more in the life in the age to come, now.” (p 51).

He picks up issues of surprise. Using Luke 18 of the two men going to the temple to pray. Where one man who is making a public display, the “righteous man”,  is the the one who is judged by God as pious while the other man, the tax collector, was quiet and seen as a public sinner goes home justified.

However, Bell fails to mention issues of Holiness. It would have been wise to pick up this topic here, because Christ calls people to live a holy life and what it means to live a holy life is crucial to understanding salvation/redemption/eternity.

With that, Bell insists that heaven is invading here and now. It doesn’t start when we die, it starts when we believe in Jesus and live for him. Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of heaven is here and as Christians we are children of the Kingdom. It is their role to let heaven invade earth.

Chapter 3: Hell 

This chapter is where things heat up. No pun intended. Hell, as widely seen is where God is absent. Where people who do not believe in and do not follow Christ go. So if you do not accept Jesus and live a life devoted to him when you die you can only go to hell.

Bell takes us on a tour again through the Bible regarding the passages that talk about “hell.” Discussing that the idea that hell was always vague. It was for the Old Testament understanding: Sheol/void/darkness/underworldly. For the New Testament the actual world Hell is used, which comes from the greek “Gehenna” “ge” which is valley and “henna” which means Hinnom so “Valley of Hinnom” which was an actual place in Jesus time. It was the city dumb.

But really this word was more or less a metaphor for Jesus to get people to understand what life apart from God is like. Bell’s point though is that there are vary few mentions of Hell or Hades in the New Testament. He stresses that the modern idea of hell is still primitive and its brute understanding is used to “control” people for different reasons.

Bell doesn’t challenge Hell’s existence but rather what he think about hell.

Similar to the last chapter where heaven can invade earth, so can hell. Where there is violence, greed, oppression, selfishness, murder, rape, abandonment and the list goes on. These are real life hells that people experience every day.

And it is all about choice. We have the choice to bring heaven or hell to earth.

He acknowledges that Hell is here and there is a hell after “death” using the example of the Rich man and the beggar Lazarus from Luke 16. And Jesus wants us to take both seriously.

He then talks about the prophets and how they predict that God “crushes, refines, tests,  corrects, chastens, and rebukes.” (p85-6) But there is always a purpose for it. From there he picks up on passages that discuss God’s love. Where he will not rebuke any more (Zeph 3) where God’s anger will be turned away from them (Hosa 14) so in the age to come there will be renewing and “no more anger…punishment…rebuke…at some point healing and reconciling and return” will come. (p 86)

Around page 88 is where things get interesting if they weren’t before.

Bell beings talking about judgement.

Picking up on the idea that when Israel chose to turn from God, God let them go and they always returned. They always realised their wrong and repented. He picks up on Paul in 1 Tim 1:20 where Paul tells Timothy to hand people over to Satan to be “taught not to blaspheme.” As well in 1 Cor 5 Paul hands someone over to Satan and maybe on the day of the Lord his soul will be saved.

Bell suggest this means that people, who turn, will eventually realise their path and will come back. That this handing over to satan is what will take for them to see their wrong.

He picks up on the word “aion” which has several meanings. For us it is the same as when we say “forever” like when sitting in a boring class and we feel like it is going on forever. However, other meanings for “aion” means “a point so far ahead we cannot see it.” It depends on the translations and the context of what is being said to depict what it refers to.

Judgement/aion for Bell might not mean eternal judgement in that it goes on forever and ever. He believes when Paul “handed” people over to satan that they would come back. So when people are punished after death Bell suggests the idea (not as fact but as an idea) that possibly the eternity of punishment is not going to last forever but is rather an “aion” or “a period of pruning” or a “time of trimming” or an “intense experience of correction.” (p 91).

This idea definitely opens a lot of questions, like Bell is most often good at doing. But for Bell one thing is certain, he does believe in Hell, and he does believe in a judgment.

Chapter 4: Does God Get What God Wants? 

This chapter beings with a look at various Church declaration on their websites. And All affirm that those who do not believe in Jesus will suffer punishment in hell forever while at the same time promoting a God who is loving, gracious, sovereign, unchanging and all-knowing.

Bell asks, does God get what God wants? Well, what does God want? 1 Tim 2 says “God wants all to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

So put simply if God wants all to be saved does God not get that because its something he cannot do. Can God not save everyone? Is God only so great, but not enough to save everyone?

Hebrews 6 “God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear.” What is God’s purpose? To restore and bring all into the salvation knowledge of Jesus and live in a loving relationship with his creation.

Psalms 65 “all people will come” to God

Isaiah 52, “All the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God

Philippians 2, “Every knee should bow…and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord.”

For Bell he sees that initiative of God’s salvific plan to reach all peoples and sees this threaded through scripture. “Surely the arm of the Lord is not to short to save, nor his ear to dull to hear?” Isa 46; 59.

God is “good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.” Psalm 145.

Bell Stresses that God has a plan, a goal, and never stops pursuing it. So he asks, “Will all the ends of the earth come, as God has decided, or only some?”

He also says that God does not get what God wants because some chose to not repent and believe. But this has to be understood in the nature or Love. He sees God as all loving and love does not force or push things to get ones own aims achieved. People bring hell to earth all the time when we make the choice to reject our God-given humanity. But he asks, “Could a person reach the point of no longer bearing the image of God?” (p 105) The answer is no.

He picks up on various church fathers like Martian Luther, Gregory of Nyssa, Jerome, Basil and Augustine who all believed God will ultimately restore everything and everyone. As Paul says in 1 Colossians 1 that through Christ “God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven.”

Where there is restoration, there is glorification of God, where there is suffering and torment there is no glorification of God.

As Bell picked up on the word “Aion” to mean a period of time, he suggests that perhaps though people die as unbelievers their “eternal” torment and separation is not to last forever, because God is restoring all things back to himself, “Hell is not forever, and love, in the end, wins and all will be reconciled to God.” (p 109)

He believes that people will be punished. That those who reject Christ will be separated from heaven. They will be in hell. But Bell looks at Revelation where the new heavens and new earth are established and the gates of the city “never shut”.

He looks at these gates and sees that if they are never shut, then people are free to come and go. He asks, is God able to bring about proper justice, and banishing evil and the evil doers while at the same time still have hope for reconciliation with said evil doers? “Will everyone eventually be reconciled to God or will there be those who cling to their version of their story, insisting on their right to be their own little god ruling their own little miserable kingdom?” (p 115)

All this is, is one big question. One Bell says we do not have the answer to, but it is worth asking to help us expand out understanding of God, and our understanding of God’s love and desire for salvation. For Bell how the new world will look like and be is unknown to some extent. We do not know how God will ultimately design everything and after this new kingdom is established what we will do next.

So he changes the questions. from Does God get What God wants to Do we get what we want? (p 116) And he says Yes, because God is that loving. That is, if we want isolation from God i.e. eternity in Hell we get that. If we want to love God and serve God for eternity we get that, but we can only get that if we reject our own selfish desires, follow Jesus, and live by the commands he taught.

—————-

Further Thoughts:

A very interesting concept. This isn’t traditional universalism that all roads lead to God, this is an understanding that the Bible teaches that all will acknowledge Jesus is Lord and that God’s purpose is that of reconciliation and salvation and desires all to be saved. Will there be a chance for people to gain salvation in the new heavens and new earth, that is an unknown question. Is it something impossible for God, no.

My concern is this. If we teach the idea that you might possible get a second chance, will this turn people away from the Church, from God, from Jesus. Because if they get a second chance whose is to stop anyone from living their own life their way and if they end up in hell its okay because they can apologise afterwards and get out. Like hitting the easy button. God’s love is enough, and I believe that when people show real acts of genuine love for people love will win, and heaven will break in and invade where we are. We don’t have the right to say who is and who isn’t in hell, but we can love people, we can share with people the Light of the World. Hell is real, hell is punishment for those who reject. I think in this first half of the book there are some interesting ideas, but its a teaching that must be taught with careful and clear understanding of God, Salvation, and Judgment.

What Bell does lack here is historical references. In fact there are no footnotes or bibliography in this book. This fact limits the reader who would like to go further in a study on what Bell is talking about. There is a “further reading section, but its not enough to satisfy me, or believe it was what was all that was used in creating this book.

Love Wins Book Review Part 2

Love Wins By Rob Bell: Book Review Part 2.

Chapter 5: Dying to Live.

Where the first part of the book tends to speed alone things slow down for chapter 5. Bell discusses Old Testament sacrificial practices which inevitably turn towards Jesus being the final sacrifice.

In Jesus’ sacrifice we no longer have to perform ritual sacrifices because we have been atoned through Jesus’ death.

Though this is true, Bell seems to stress that all sacrifice is over, but even though ritual sacrifice is not needed there is a sacrificing of self that one must do to follow what Jesus did. We have to die to our sins, sacrifice our selfish desires, put others first, in other words Love. Its a shame that Bell did not pick up on this element as it would have been a far better topic to address rather than talk about Eminem’s come back concert. (See page 121)

He Spends the next few pages discussing the Divinity of Jesus and the importance of the Cross and resurrection. That where there is death there is life. He makes connections with nature i.e. the changing of the seasons but I think here also Bell missed another opportunity regarding the Christology of Jesus’ death and resurrection. He makes his point and affirms Christ divinity, but he in same way cheapens it by suggesting the idea of death to life is typical. Where in nature things lay dormant during the winter and awake in the spring, but beings don’t. There is importance in Jesus’ physical resurrection that a nature metaphor will not completely grasp.

There wasn’t much in Chapter 5 really worth noting. He doesn’t raise many questions and doesn’t suggest anything that is not already known or understood. In other words nothing new is brought to the table. That isn’t a bad thing, but for a book so heavily controversial chapter 5 is an anticlimax when it could have been more full of life than the  chapters on heaven and hell.

Chapter 6: There are Rocks Everywhere:

Here Bell picks up on the story in Exodus where God tells Moses to strike the rock. In doing so water gushes forth so that people can drink. Later on Paul says that this rock is Jesus. Bell picks up on the idea that Jesus is timeless, like in John 1:1 Jesus is the eternal world. And that God will intervene in our lives when we don’t expect it and not always in typical ways.

This is a theology I do agree with. Theology isn’t putting God in a box theology is opening your mind to the vast expanse of the universe that is beyond our understanding but littered with hints at how to understand.

Where things start to get interesting again is page 154.

He picks up on John 14 “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me”

What Bell says is, “What he (Jesus) doesn’t say is how, or when, or in what manner the mechanism functions that gets people to God through him.” (p 154)

He says that there is an “exclusivity” and “inclusivity” to Jesus.  That is the idea that 1) Jesus is the only way and if you don’t accept them in the western way you are going to hell. 2)There is the way that all roads lead to heaven.

This is why Bell calls Jesus’ salvation inclusive and exclusive. Because there will be people in heaven we did not expect. So to speak.

Christians get shaky when the door is open to all religions and claims that when the door is open to all it limits Jesus and the cross. Bell says that is not true. “What Jesus does is declare he, and he alone, is saving everybody.” (p 155).

Basically here is where we come to the question of universalism: all roads leading to the same place. Bell does not out right say that all roads lead to heaven, but rather seems to insinuate that salvation cannot be limited to a strict Westernized frame work of understanding. That Jesus can reach people beyond our means because Salvation is for all.

However, Bell is not clear. I feel page 155 is the dividing point of the book. Where things were thoughtful now they get tricky. Bell is promoting a kind of universalism. But at the same time he balances on Jesus being the only way. Its just a matter of what way Jesus is taking.

This idea can appear frightening to some Christians, but what seems to be Bell’s over all point is that we cannot limit the power of God and Jesus sacrifice.

Like earlier when Bell mentions Martin Luther (See review part 1) Luther’s point is similar, that God’s power is enough, but in the end Luther does not say all will be saved for sure like Bell insinuate with his judgment/aion understanding. (See review part 1).

So for Bell it seems he in some way supports a form of universalism that revolves around Jesus’ interaction in peoples lives through means beyond our own. But there is no declaration that all lifestyles, all religions lead to heave. Hell exists for those unwilling to accept Jesus when and however Jesus is revealed.

In some ways I can agree with Bell. In others I see his thought causing confusion because of his lack of clarity.  But everything connects for Bell in the “rock” in Exodus. As that rock was giving living water Paul understood the Rock to be Christ, as Christ gives living water. He see it as Jesus working and saving in a way that we would not expect. And to that, I can see his point.

Chapter 7: The Good News is Better Than That.  

Here Bells entire chapter revolves around the parable given by Jesus in Luke 15 of the prodigal son. He points out three sets of eyes in the story. The prodigal son, the Father, and the Brother.

Bell’s view of heaven and hell encompass this story. He sees the prodigal son as the lost, the one who turned away until he lost everything and was forced to come back, feeling unworthy of even being his Fathers son. Being happy to be a worker than be lost and empty.

The Father willing accepts and rejoices in the sons return and throws a party.

And the Brother is jealous. Feeling ripped off and that his father is unfair. As he worked so long for his Father and received nothing but when his brother returns all is poured on him. To which the father tells the brother “You are always with me. And everything I have is yours.”

Bell’s point is that there is no fairness in grace. That the Brother wanted what was fair, but God does not work on merit. People don’t get what they deserve because Jesus has come lived/served/died/resurrected/atoned/redeemed/reconciled all things to him.

He sees the brother as bringing hell to earth in that he is at his brothers party but refuses to join. Bell sees the son, who thought he was unworthy of returning as many people see themselves. Unworthy. Bell stresses that both brothers idea of God was wrong. There is nothing that makes us so unworthy of God’s love nor like the other brother that there is no amount of Good that makes us any better than anyone else.

Our failures and flaws that keep us away from God are just as bad as our greed, ego, and pride that keep us away from God.

He stresses that God is not the sitting waiting and hoping to judge people for their sins. Rather it is a matter of choice to be in a relationship or not. We can choose God, choose Jesus and live for him and enjoy eternal life, a renewed world. Or we can choose hate, greed, immorality, selfishness, vengefulness, lack of love all these things that are separated from God which is inevitably…Hell.

He talks about understanding that if God was a flesh and blood father right in front of you that would at the drop of the hat throw you into hell one second or love you unconditionally the next he’d be put in jail for abuse…this kind of Father could never be trusted.

C.S. Lewis gave a perfect illustration of God in his character Aslan the Lion. Aslan is said to be “not a tame” lion but he is “Good.” That is he holds the power of life and death, and chooses to love and give life to those who trust in him. But at the same time his power is so great that he has the ability to do whatever he pleases, however, the point of love is choice. Love over wrath.

Bell at times seems to back track because one minuet sin will send you to hell, but then the next God can save you from hell even possibly in the next life. The point Bell seems to be making is that there shouldn’t be such a ridged view of heaven and hell salvation and grace.

Next Bell talks about how we some see Jesus as saving us from God and how that understanding of God the judge needs to change. Jesus doesn’t save us from God, but rather is Gods saving us through Jesus from sin that separates us from God. God is a rescuer.

I can agree with Bell’s point on this. Through the Old Testament and New Testament God’s plan is always restoration, it’s always a returning, a salvation, a rescue from oppression.

Bell position is that “Jesus meets and redeems us in all the ways we have it together and in all the ways we don’t.” (p 190)

Chapter 8 The End is Here:

The shortest chapter in the book Bell talks about his accepting of faith in Jesus and his understanding that beyond anything else in all the world Jesus loves.

Bell says, “Jesus reminds us in a number of ways that it is vitally important we take our choices here and now as seriously as we possibly can because they matter more than we can being to imagine.” (p 197)  He stresses that the love and gift of salvation is open for all who will accept it. A teaching that can be backed up Biblically. And that he wishes that you will experience the unbelievable love that Jesus has for you and now that “deep in your bones, that love wins.” (p 198)

These points I can agree with. To be honest Chapter 8 in some ways seems like a last minuet rambling. It flows but isn’t anything that couldn’t be summed up in on page (as I just did) and thrown on the back of chapter 7.

—————————-

Further thoughts and Criticisms

Bell gives an a unique picture of what Hell means in his book Love Wins. Its something that could last forever or something that could last for a period of time until God completely restores “all things”.

There are universalist ideas, but the main issues is Bell’s lacks clarity (as can be seen in some of his t.v. interviews). Christians do get shaky when someone opens the spectrum to encompass all religions, all peoples, no matter what, but Bell doesn’t promote that kind of universalism. Salvation is still the choice to choose Jesus over sin, light over darkness, life over death. Hell is our choice to live outside of God’s mercies, and love and grace. And each and every person has the ability to bring heaven or hell to earth here and now as it invades our daily lives.

Bell’s understanding on the restoration of all things engulfs all people. He leaves the possibility open for people to be saved after this world is renewed. As I said earlier the issues with this teaching is you run the risk of people not caring what happens in this life if they get a second chance later on. As Bell acknowledges Jesus’ stressing for your choices and lifestyle here and now.

I think it is far better to live like there is no tomorrow. Which means being the best, bringing heaven, not hell. Loving God and doing what he calls you to do and call people to that. I don’t think a message of fire and brimstone is always good. God, Jesus, the Bible, its a book of hope and love, but it gives us warning of what happens when we reject our God given nature to not love and be selfish i.e. Hell.

I also think its better to show God as love not as judge. Judgement is made, the sacrifice is paid, Jesus’ blood has saved the world, it’s your choice to accept it or not, its your choice to enter into a personal relationship. Because a life lived in relationship with God is much more satisfying than a life lived apart from God.

I do think Bells’ writing style has run its course. Four books all done the same way makes it a little dull. In some ways After chapter 4 the book slows down incredibly and is less exciting. The Climax of the book is chapter 4. 5 through 8 are just extras.

From an academic point of view the book can seem a little juvenile. As well Bell’s use of historical sources could be vastly improved. Where he runs the risk of taking things out of context because of his one-liners. His exegetical method needs improved greatly. There are no reference points and no complete bibliography just a “Further reading” section that is not satisfying. The book isn’t a heretical piece of literature that needs to be burnt. Bell should not be treated as the devils toy, he’s clearly reacting to an understanding that traditional views can be expanded, but they need to be expanded properly. Not everything goes. On issues that are “shaky” I recommend people not bashing Bell, but forming a clear argument for what you believe and why. There’s not point in judging Bell when we should, if we have questions, simply bring them up in love.

Finally, for what you spend on the book its not worth what you get. If your understanding of heaven, hell, salvation, and grace are not developed please do no start with this book. There are lots of good solid academic piece of work that are much better and much more clear in discussing some of these issues Bell brings up. But also if your understanding of heaven, hell, salvation are developed I suggest leaving this book on the shelf. Lastly don’t fear the word “Academic”. If the modern Church taught from a more academic point of view there would be far less insecurities and a greater understanding of the Love of God.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.