In Defense of “Feel Good” Theology

I need this mug

I want to first state that this is not going to be a bashing of traditional, orthodox Christian theology. Orthodoxy certainly has its place, and has earned it over thousands of years. Lately it’s come under quite a bit of fire in spots, especially regarding such things as its view of homosexuality, penal substitutionary atonement, the doctrine of hell and so on. This is not about the merits or problems with conservative theology against progressive theology. Neither is this about defending “health-and-wealth” theology, which is an entirely different subject altogether I think. What I do want to do is give a (qualified) defense of what many call “feel good” theology, “me-ology” or “watered down” theology, which for the sake of discussion is teaching or theology that tends to favor the emotional over the intellectual, and minimize talk of God’s judgment (sin, hell and so on) in favor of God’s love (grace, forgiveness). It’s one of the most derided forms of faith, and often for good reason. However I am going to say that in some circumstances it’s not a bad thing. Continue reading

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Is CPE broken? Reconsidering the “CPE horror story”

anyone having flashbacks to their CPE supervisor’s office?

If you Google “CPE” chances are pretty good that it will start autofilling “horror stories” in the search box. It seems like there are much more stories about bad experiences in CPE than good. Perhaps this is just bias toward the negative, but it certainly does seem to be that CPE is not a good experience for many.

If you follow that search you’ll see why. I read stories about supervisors that destroyed boundaries and exercises designed to tear people down in front of their peers. One person even wrote that “Clinical Pastoral Education is nothing more than a systematic ‘weeding out’ of orthodox seminarians through a process of enforced radical leftist indoctrination.” It’s criticized as being unnecessary, unhelpful, “navel-gazing”, pseudo-psychoanalysis. So why is it still required for those entering ministry? Is there something wrong with the program? Are supervisors adequately trained and supervised themselves? Or are seminarians missing the point of CPE entirely? Continue reading

Gerald May: The Chaplain as Physician

I’ve been reading the excellent book Simply Sane by Dr. Gerald May, primarily for my personal benefit but secondarily for professional benefit. It wasn’t recommended to me by anyone, and I honestly can’t remember how I stumbled upon it, but I’m glad I did.

Dr. Gerald May

It’s an excellent book for those doing pastoral care as well as teachers and educators. I recently read a passage that struck me as to how well it spoke to the position that many Chaplains find themselves in: wondering what to do.

I had an older woman come on service a few days ago who appeared to be greatly depressed. When I introduced myself and gave the usual opening “how are you today?”, her response was “I want to die. Can you give me a shot?” Continue reading

Problems in Caregiving Relationships: Neglect of God

We’ve seen how neglect can happen in caregiving relationships between the Chaplain and the person being cared for. For example the caregiver can neglect the other in the relationship by taking away their power and authority regarding healing, and the caregiver may neglect their own needs as well. These problems often show themselves in co-dependency, overcompensating and undercompensating, burnout and meaninglessness.

Now to the third member of the therapeutic relationship, God. It’s interesting to note that we tend to relate to God similarly to how we relate to others, yet God does not relate to us in the way others do. Perhaps this is why our relationship to God can be so puzzling and frustrating at times! Continue reading

The Caregiver’s Dilemma

A week or so ago I sat down to plan some things out. I find that I don’t tend to be a planner unless I feel the need to have something concretely in front of me to refer back to. This was less of a planning than a brainstorming session, really. Brainstorming to develop the plan. The plan was how to fix myself. The brainstorming was to figure out how.

Caregivers rarely take the time to consider their own needs. They are constantly putting others’ needs before their own, in some cases to their own detriment. Sometimes it’s saintly, and sometimes it’s sick. After talking with a few people I found that I was teetering toward the sick end of the spectrum myself. Continue reading

Romans 1:18-20; What about the unreached and unreachable?

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading and thinking about the idea of salvation, namely who is saved, who isn’t, and why. Having been raised Calvinist I’m now questioning some points of it more directly than I have in the past, the state of the “unreached heathen” or “reprobate” being one of them. Traditionally Calvinism and many other branches of orthodox Christianity would say that those that never hear are lost based on the passage here in Romans. The teaching is that all of humanity knows something of God which can be inferred from the world around them. However this truth has been suppressed by the idolatry of others, leading all mankind to be in a state of sin. The implication is that all of humanity has been given knowledge of God but that humanity has rejected God from the beginning. Therefore, the species is under righteous judgment. Continue reading

(Reblog): “Ragamuffin” reviewed on Seminary Dropout

I wanted to post this review of the new movie Ragamuffin by Shane Blackshear on Seminary Dropout. It’s not a movie you’re going to hear much about, but it sounds like it’s well worth your time, even though it’s not perfect. Seminary Dropout is a great site with interesting articles and the podcast has some of the best interviews I’ve heard. Shane’s introduced me to a lot of interesting stuff and people. Read on after the jump.

Continue reading

Ideology and prejudice: when does free speech become hate speech?

I’ve noted, as you probably have as well, that civil discourse in this country especially around political issues is almost impossible to find on the Internet. Here’s a sample from some comments on a recent article on Salon.com:

“Rot in hell authoritarian scum.”

“Authoritarian progressives are the worst sort of humanity”

“You right-wingers are the most despicable cowards on the planet.”

“you gun freaks need to sit down and STFU you are a dumb ass”

This is only a fraction of the over 500 comments on the article. Sure not all were this blatantly abusive, but spread this vitriol over the entire internet and you can see how bad things are. Continue reading

1 Corinthians 13:1-7, for a funeral

 

1 Cor 13:1-7 If I speak in the tonguesof men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

These words are often heard at weddings, not at funerals. But they are just as appropriate. In marriage we see the romantic side of love, the love of one for another. But in reflecting back over an entire life we can see how that love flowed out to others, to see the hard work that it did in tough times, and to see that love is not merely something that is felt but something that one does.

When Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, he was writing to a church divided. There were rival groups fighting for attention and power while more serious issues were being ignored. They were boasting about their wisdom and knowledge, but Paul was pointing out that their wisdom was futile. The church was “majoring in the minors” to borrow a phrase. Paul responds to a number of their questions about the order of the service and so on, points out where he sees them in error. And then it’s at this point that he points them to the “why” behind the “what to do”. Continue reading

No-handed trust

It’s been just over two weeks without a job, and the fear is starting to kick in. I’ve had three serious interviews, but one was only for a per diem position and the other didn’t pan out. The third, with CCO, is still in process. However the fact that things aren’t sure yet bothers me. it’s unrealistic to expect a job so soon I know, but my unemployment is still not settled (I apparently haven’t worked anywhere) and my final paycheck hasn’t yet arrived. I had hoped those would have been resolved by now, so doubt is stealing the peace I had.

However I think that this is all still part of my own learning to trust God wholeheartedly. As a teen I would occasionally go on ropes courses with my youth group. The phrase you heard all the time was “let go of the rope!”, meaning the rope that connected you to the safety line overhead. Holding on to the rope made you feel more secure and was a purely instinctual reaction: “if I hold on to the rope I won’t fall”. However holding on to the rope also immobilized you as you couldn’t use your hands to move around or balance yourself. You had to trust that you weren’t going to fall even if you weren’t holding the rope – you had to let the rope hold you.

This is a hard task for anyone, especially those of us who are still struggling with confidence and trust in God, ourselves, or even those closest to us. Trusting God isn’t holding on to Him with both hands, hoping you won’t let to, it is trusting enough that he has you that I can let go with both hands.