Sunday, March 8, 2009

Why It's Hard to Talk to an Evnagelical - Part III - Emotional Dishonesty


In my humble opinion Evangelicals have a view of sanctification that is faulty. They believe that at the moment of conversion a radical change in their being quickly ensues. If the new believer grows for a while then you can eventually become almost sin-free.

This is where I think Platonic dualism enters a root to the problem. If you have the metaphysical view that you, the person, is immaterial (speaking in philosophical terms) or, in other words purely spiritual, then change can come quickly. It is like directing the wind. However, if you are a monist, believing that God created this physical world very real, with real consequences, then we are more complex than just vapors. The brain is very important in our personalities and demeanor. Having at least some part of our personalities, urges and desires, being based in the material (our brain in other words) then it does not change that easily.

Then Evangelicals have the tendency to misunderstand passages such as Gal 5: 19-20. They believe that if you are really “controlled by the Spirit” then you are full of love, joy (interpret as smiling all the time, being really nice and always seeing the glass half full), peace (never, ever worrying about anything), patience, kindness (more smiling) etc.

But imagine that 1) we do not change that easily, 2) Gal 5:19-20 dose not mean what they think it means, then there is a contradiction between what they perceive and the reality of the world. What happens next is that they have no choice but to construct a fa├žade over their own reality to make it consistent with what they believe to be true.

This leads Evangelicals to become very emotionally dishonest. For example, an Evangelical can have the exact same emotional feelings as their non-believer counterpart, but, while the non-believer’s face turns red and they say, “I’m really pissed off about that!” the Christian would hide their feelings and say (if they say anything), “Hmm. Oh, I hadn’t noticed. Maybe I’m a little disappointed.”

Take a more extreme situation, clinical depression. It is estimated that as many as 10% of women and 5% of men are clinically depressed at anyone time. I have had two experiences with clinical depression and it was hell. But, almost like I had leprosy, I had to hide my clinical depression from most Christians simply because they would not understand and see it as my disobedience or failure.

I use to look at depression the same way (before I experienced it myself). I was going to visit a church once to speak as a missionary. I found out that the pastor had just had a “mental breakdown” and was suffering from depression. I honestly thought in my heart of hearts that there was no way a man could be “walking with Jesus” and be depressed.

In closing this posting I’m going to paste the surrounding verses of Gal 5:19-20. Notice a couple of things. First Paul is warning them about legalisms, outward works of obedience that makes them think they are more holy than they really are. Now look carefully at the passage. Paul is really pissed off at those guys who are telling these new believers that they must be circumcised to be holy. This made Paul so angry that he says, he really does, that he wishes that these guys would go ahead, slip and cut their balls off too. This was pure anger and it happens right before the passage where Christians think that Paul is saying that good Christians never should get angry. That is rough language and certainly doesn’t depict a smiling, quiet Paul who would never say anything offensive. I will share in my next posting a real-life example of such a conversation.

This is from the Message Gal 5:

11-12As for the rumor that I continue to preach the ways of circumcision (as I did in those pre-Damascus Road days), that is absurd. Why would I still be persecuted, then? If I were preaching that old message, no one would be offended if I mentioned the Cross now and then—it would be so watered-down it wouldn't matter one way or the other. Why don't these agitators, obsessive as they are about circumcision, go all the way and castrate themselves!

13-15It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don't use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that's how freedom grows. For everything we know about God's Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That's an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?

16-18My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God's Spirit. Then you won't feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don't you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?

19-21It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.

This isn't the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God's kingdom.

22-23But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

23-24Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.

25-26Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.

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