Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Honesty Dualism Connection Part II

Be sure to read the previous posting first.

The fundamental premise with Gnostic Dualism, is the sharp separation between the material and the immaterial or spiritual. If you take this to the personal, then man (in the bi-gender sense) is also split between the soul and body. This is the same division that Plato promoted, the schism between the soma (body) and psyche (soul) which mirrored his split between the material world (cosmos) and the heavenly (ether as Plato called it).

The modern view by Evangelicals is that our persona is made up entirely of the spiritual . . . or soul in other words. Now if you ask the typical Christian “on the street” they may consider their intellect as coming from the brain, but not the soul or persona.

If you look at Christian behavior then it must also be limited to the spiritual realm. The spiritual soul is, in most ways, fluid or flexible. The material brain is not. Neurons grow and change very, very slowly. You may know some one who has had a TBI (traumatic brain injury). If you do, you may know how long it took for them to recover, sometimes never recovering.

In this commonly held Christian model of the persona, then, at the moment of conversion the fluid soul can immediately respond to God in repentance and actually start living quite perfectly the next day, at least in theory. We of course call this process of changing into “godly” people as sanctification.

Now imagine that this model did not reflect reality. That, in a non-dualist view, the material brain also has a lot to do with our persona . . . meaning personality, emotions, thinking pattern as well as intellect. In this, nondualistic model, these material things change very, very slowly. So, the process of sanctification is much more arduous, convoluted and protracted than most Christians have been led to believe. What happens is that a gap quickly develops between what Evangelicals believe about sanctification and reality. This is where the façade . . . or worse, the farce begins, to fill that void.

Now I will try to this more practical through a real-life illustration.

I knew a gal, named Caroline. She became a Christian in college and quickly got involved with a Navigator discipleship program. She seemed to be growing promptly and surely.

But Caroline, unfortunately, like many of us, had a very difficult childhood. Besides some painful abuse, her father committed suicide violently when she was about 15 and she was one of the first to find his body (after a self-inflicted shotgun blast to his face). Despite that experience, we expected her to “supernaturally” become a well-balanced woman of god . . . virtually overnight. We considered that the only factor that determined becoming well-balanced godly woman was her obedience.

But in reality, she struggled with some very, very deep psychological scars. These scars were not simply in her fluid, flexible spirit . . .but in her material brain. It has been shown through research that the brain does go through structural changes during stress. So, to fit in with her new Christian friends, she had to learn quickly the mores of that sub-culture. She learned to stop swearing, stop smoking dope, stop having sex . . . or at least stop letting people know she was having sex. She also learned to smile all the time, speak of Jesus doing this or that in her life and to reinterpret every event in her day as a supernatural work of God. But this did not quench the deep pain or bring internal peace to the deep parts of her soul.

Six years later, the entire group was shocked when Caroline abruptly left Christianity and ran off with a non-Christian guy (who could give her some affection that she was longing for).

So my point is that we are all Carolines. We are all damaged, some more than others. The damage is in the very real material brain. Did you realize that more of the physical space of the brain is taken up with personality, memory, emotions, judgment and sensory perception than what you might call intellectual function? We all have damage from living in this fallen world. Some of this damage never goes away. Some if it can be healed with new thinking and the work of the spirit of God in our lives but that takes a very long time.

So much of the façade and dishonesty of the Evangelical world comes about because we have falsely been led to believe that change come instantly. So to prove that we are being obedient, we must give the surface impression that we have it all together.

My fall in the late 80s, after being a missionary with the Navigators in the Middle East, came about when I came face to face with my boss’s mental illness . . . and my own. It didn’t make sense because both of us had been considered “godly” for a couple of decades. But our wounds were very real and deep and hidden behind the godliness façade.

This also explains how men like Ted Haggard can lead huge Evangelical churches, even be the president of a huge Evangelical organization . . . all assuming that he was very godly . . . when he had some deep wounds and issues.

This is how it fits.

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