Still Not Listening: A Response to Chelsen Vicari

Deliberate ignorance = dogmatic bliss.

Some of you may have seen this article in Charisma Magazine entitled “How the New Christian Left is Twisting the Gospel.” The writer, Chelsen Vicari, is a 26-year-old evangelical and self-proclaimed reformed leftist who recently penned her own book about how the gospel is being distorted by secular values and young Christians who don’t want to upset anyone by being vocal against sin. David Schell, a pretty fantastic post-evangelical blogger, wrote a great response to Vicari’s article, which you can read here. However, I felt that David’s critique left out a few things, so…here we are.

In reality, Vicari doesn’t say anything in her article that I haven’t already heard 200 times. I could probably turn on The 700 Club or flip open any James Dobson book and get the same spiel, almost verbatim. Vicari’s article is a classic example of the Christian Right’s general pontificating. And I say “general,” because, as is common with these kinds of spiels, the language is really vague and the content contains all the wondrous depth of a damp napkin. For an article that purportedly addresses how the gospel is being twisted, it only contains two – count ’em, two – scripture references. In fact, as I read, I often wondered if Vicari even had a sense of what the gospel is, because not once in 1,900 words does she ever actually articulate it. Case in point: Continue reading

The Biblical Counseling Movement: Origins and Philosophy

Jay E. Adams, father of nouthetic counseling

The series continues. For part one, click here.

Before I delve too deeply into the organization and theology of the Biblical Counseling Movement, a little history is called for.

Jay E. Adams is considered the father of the BCM – also known as Nouthetic Counseling. However, the movement’s origins begin with psychologist O. Hobart Mowrer (1907-1982). This surprises me, considering just how illustrious Mowrer’s contributions were to the field of modern psychology. He became a foremost expert on learning theory, performed groundbreaking research on fear and anxiety, and was one of the leading founders of GROW therapy groups in the U.S. At one time, he was president of the American Psychological Association. And unlike many of his peers, Mowrer believed that mental illness could have a biological or genetic basis.

However, Mowrer spent his career afflicted by depression. The treatment du jour was Freudian psychoanalysis, which Mowrer underwent several times. When that failed to permanently banish his depression, he became disillusioned with Freud’s theories and methods. He began to think that maybe mental illness was the result of hidden secrets and genuine guilt in a person’s life. Reading the works of Congregationalist Lloyd C. Douglas solidified Mowrer’s belief in unconfessed sin as a root cause of mental illness. But he found no satisfaction in the way churches addressed sin in theology and practice – namely through the doctrine of justification by faith (one of the cornerstones of Christianity, BTW).

Instead, Mowrer structured his therapy groups around the concepts of confrontation, confession and integrity, and he began teaching his theories on sin and mental health to others, including seminary students. One of those students was Reformed Presbyterian pastor Jay E. Adams. Continue reading

‘Biblical Worldview’: A Case Study in Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

Sorry I’ve been a bit out of the loop recently, dear readers. Aside from the usual insanity that is my life, I’ve been researching an exposé  that will feature as a series of posts on this blog. It will be shocking and informative and, hopefully, well worth the wait.

Today’s post will sort of set the tone for what is to come.

During my research, I came across the phrase “biblical worldview.” Specifically, I came across it in a complaint that the majority of modern, “born again” evangelical Christians do not hold one. Of course, my first question was, “What is a biblical worldview, anyway?” The Internet was happy to oblige an answer:

“Christian worldview (also called Biblical worldview) refers to the framework of ideas and beliefs through which a Christian individual, group or culture interprets the world and interacts with it.”

Then I jumped over to the Focus on the Family website to see what they had to say about it:

“Someone with a biblical worldview believes his primary reason for existence is to love and serve God.”

Really? The majority of American Christians don’t see this as their purpose? That seemed pretty hard to believe. So I dug deeper. Continue reading

Your ‘Deeply Held Religious Belief’ Isn’t Biblical

From seattlegayscene.com

Most of us know the story. Last year, a Colorado baker was taken to court because he refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, citing that such an act would violate his “religious beliefs” against gay marriage.

You’d think that nearly a year after the ruling (in which the baker was found guilty of discrimination), that most people would have forgotten about it. But no. I still see articles and hear comments pop up on ‘deeply held religious beliefs’ and how it’s such a shame that our government doesn’t seem to care about protecting them these days. (Protecting them meaning that they can be exercised whenever, however, and with whatever consequences that result.) The phrase took center stage in the Hobby Lobby birth control case, and again when a photographer in New Mexico refused to photograph a gay wedding.

However, the more I hear the words ‘deeply held religious belief’ bandied about, the more uneasy I feel. I wasn’t sure why at first, until I had read through the umpteenth article on the subject. And that’s when I realized that the so-called “beliefs” being defended weren’t actually rooted in scripture.

I believe that if someone is going to make a case for a ‘deeply held religious belief,’ then said belief should be backed up with a clear biblical mandate. And those saying it is against their religion to sell wedding favors to gay couples don’t have a scriptural basis for that position.

I can prove it. Continue reading

The Day I Encountered Ethnic Jesus

An image of Jesus about as realistic as any other in American culture, IMO.

I was steeped in Christian culture from the womb, so I grew up surrounded by pictures of Jesus. One hung on a little plaque in my grandmother’s apartment, a Jesus looking mournfully skyward with blue eyes and flowing, light-brown locks. Then, at my church, there was the black velvet painting of Jesus praying in agony at the garden of Gethsemane. This one had red hair and green eyes.

Of course, I can’t forget all of the other Jesus pictorials I grew up with: those cut from Sunday school books for the flannel-graph or the ones illustrating the stories in my children’s Bible. All of them looked like me: white.

At first, I thought nothing of it. At the time, everyone I saw at church, or at school, or at the grocery store was white. Why wouldn’t Jesus and his disciples be white, too?

But as I studied these depictions of Jesus, something about them struck me as false. Contrived. Superficial. It wasn’t just the perfectly trimmed beards, Colgate smiles or the soft, womanly eyes. Something told me that the real Jesus probably looked very different than what these pictures showed.

Then I started encountering other people in my community. People who didn’t look like me. I began learning about people in other countries and what they looked like. And, soon, the white Jesus began to trouble me. Deeply. The depictions struck me as caricatures, poor imitations of the Jesus I read about in the gospels. It seemed that members of my white Christian community had created a Christ in their own image.

Then, one day, I unexpectedly encountered ethnic Jesus. And it changed my life.  Continue reading