Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Jesus Healing Blind Man

In today's lectionary reading, Jesus heals the blind man who then reports that he sees people like trees walking. Mk 8:24. I have absolutely no doubt that Jesus healed the blind. However, this particular healing has always posed a problem for me. Having never seen a tree, would someone with recently restored sight know what a tree looked like? I don't know.

Anyway, I looked up the Greek word for blind and although mostly translated as a blind person, the word can also mean "smokey". If in this one case, I opt for "smokey", then I have no problem. The suggestion is that perhaps he had not always been blind.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Maybe Pentecost Never Happened (at least as thought)

MAYBE PENTECOST NEVER HAPPENED, at least not the way everyone believes.

At the turn of this century, when the gift of tongues returned to the Christian church, one result was a new excitement about missions. I have read that, as the people heard themselves speaking in unknown languages, they assumed that they must be speaking the language of some tribe of people somewhere on the planet. Some of these excited people actually took off to the mission people looking for their tribe.

Apparently, none of them found their target people, but many still stayed on in the mission field, which was a good thing. On the negative side however, was the deep disappointment of others, when the different languages were not found. Later in the movement, though, people with the gift of tongues, settled on the idea that they were speaking an unintelligible language of the Holy Spirit and of angels as Paul taught. (1 Cor 14) The fact that these languages followed no recognizable, rational, linguistic structure became less important, as people learned of the powerful spiritual fruit which followed the gift.

Down thru the centuries, the church has believed that an unusual event happened at Pentecost. They believed the disciples came forth from the upper room speaking different languages of the many people present. Some have believed that God was undoing the curse placed on the earth at Babel when He confounded our language.

There has always been disappointment that the phenomena of Pentecost never was repeated, at least not in the same form. I have read, that because the phenomena never occurred again, the church moved away from trying to reduplicate it, and the gift of tongues disappeared early on Then it reemerged in our own time.

But, suppose what people believed about Pentecost never happened?

Obviously, I was not there, so it will be with great timidity, that I am proposing a different possibility of what happened at Pentecost. I propose this alternative idea from the point of view of a psychologist.

Keep in mind that nowhere in the Scriptures does it say that the disciples at Pentecost “spoke” in different languages. What it does say is that everyone “heard” them worshiping God, each in his own language. Acts 2:6 “the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.”

Please stay with me for a brief psychology lesson and then I will come back to my point.

Early in the study of the human mind, psychologists realized that the mind absolutely will not tolerate undecipherable stimuli. The mind attacks everything with the complete confidence that by hook or crook, it will make sense out of it.

A hundred years ago, a psychologist was riding on a train. He was pondering why, as the train sped along, the telephone poles zipped by in the other direction. The houses out a little ways, moved in the same manner as the poles, only slower. And the mountain in the distance kept up with the train.

In one of those ah hah experiences scientists have, the psychologist realized that obviously all those objects out there could not be doing what he was seeing. Therefore, the movement must be something the mind was doing to those objects.

The story goes that he hurried off the train, went back to his laboratory and a whole new field of psychology began. He found that when things are contradictory to the mind, the mind finds a way to make them make sense, even if objectively they do not.

Another illustration of the point I am making, was also happening around the same time. Most everyone has seen those ink blots we psychologists love to show people.

Presenting a person with a blot of ink, we inquire, “what might this be?” Of course if the person is not interested, he will just say “it is an inkblot.” But if his mind assumes it is supposed to see something, you would be impressed at what the mind will do to that ink blot. Some people see so many things you have to stop them.

The mind cannot stand for it to be just an ink blot, so it creates all sorts of things.

One more startling revelation is that you have a hole in your vision. That’s right. Objects reflect on the receptor nerves in the back of the eye. However, at the point where the nerves exit to the brain, there are no receptors. Therefore, the hole in your vision. Do you see holes in everything? No. Why? The mind refuses to let that happen. It solves the problem by painting in the image where there should be a hole.

Bottom line: The mind just will not let a meaningless stimulus alone. It has to turn it into something that makes sense.

Is this what really happened at Pentecost? People saw the disciples worshiping God. The listener’s mind said to itself, “this has to mean something” so, the mind imposed the meanings and “each heard in his or her own language.” That is not to say that the Holy Spirit did not also break through with some comprehensible words off and on. God can do anything of course.

This is not preposterous, for when the church finally settled into their routine, Paul described what they were doing as follows. 1Co 14:2 "For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries."

Why am I writing this? Because this gift of tongues that has reemerged in our time has such powerful positive effects in Christian’s lives, it is a shame for people to miss it. After all, all the writers of the New Testament were tongue talkers.

If people are being held back from this gift, because they are waiting for themselves to be able to speak an intelligible language, that is tragic. It would be especially so, if speaking in languages with known structures, is not all that happened at Pentecost.

There is a second and more serious problem which I have written about in a recent post speaking in tongues (See Jan. 27 post--Speaking in Tongues, two Hemispheres of the Brain and Oral Roberts). Briefly, the mind’s meaning-making activity dominates everything else going on in our mental system. For example, try to meditate or pray quietly, and see how quickly your inquisitive mind wants to start explaining to itself what you are doing and why. Then it continues making comments about anything else it can think of. Your ability to meditate (or to pray quietly) is drowned out by the chatter.

Worse still, it is not long before the mind realizes that while you are speaking in tongues, it can’t do its job. As St. Paul brilliantly described the mind’s problem when he wrote 1Co 14:14 “For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful”

For a person whose mind must dominate the mental system, and whose mind becomes alarmed when it cannot make sense out of everything, an unfruitful mind is intolerable.

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Conniving Moralists

Today’s Lectionary reading is from St. Paul to the Galatians, Chapt. 4. Paul is upset because the legalists have gotten to the Galatians. To head off the legalists in their seduction of the Galatians, he reveals the secret motivations of the distractors. He writes in verse 17: “They make much of you, but for no good purpose; they want to exclude you, so that you may make much of them.”

In other words, the legalist’s real purpose is dishonorable. By making the naive Galatians believe there is some standard to be met, their real motivation is to make the Galations feel inferior to them. So he warns the Galatians not to step into the snare.

Are there moralists in your church who lord it over you because of their moralism? If so, Paul has a message for you today about those people’s real purpose.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Lieberman Nails it on Senate Resolution

On Fox News Sunday Lieberman nailed it: "I fear that while this resolution is nonbinding and, therefore, will not affect the implementation of the plan, it will do two things that can be harmful, which is that it will discourage our troops, who we're asking to carry out this new plan, and it will encourage the enemy, because as General Petraeus said to our committee, war is a test of wills, and you don't want your enemy to be given any hope."

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Happy at AMIA

Click on image

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Aid and Comfort to the enemy

Today, watching the antiwar protesters, I have to live with the guilt that I was one of those who marched on Washington during the Vietnam War. Older and much wiser now, it is clear to me from what the North Vietnamese tell us, we protesters did give aid and comfort to the enemy.

As I look at the protesters gathering in my own town, they are all the usual suspects. I wish the North Vietnamese had realized that we were mostly just a bunch of kooks. Today, I wish the people of Iraq realized the same.

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Speaking in tongues, two hemispheres of brain and Oral Roberts

I was trying to think how I could communicate the problem people have regarding what is called “speaking in tongues” or sometimes, “praying in the Spirit.”

At the same time I was chewing over explanations, I was also watching the Discovery Channel on TV. At that moment, they pictured a huge crocodile exploding out of the swamp, snapping its jaws closed on a watering antelope. He thrashed about as he chewed and digested his prey. I received my inspiration for this article.

Keep in mind, I am a theologian and a psychologist trying to apply my training in both fields to the understanding of spiritual phenomena. My life has been devoted to spiritual experience and the understanding of the human mind.

The crocodile reminded me of the human mind, especially my own. Like the crocodile, my mind snaps on to any problem that comes in its range.. That is its job. Set a problem before it from the simplest, “what to have for lunch, to the complicated “how do we get to Mars”, and crunch, down its jaws shut. Then it chews. And it chews and it chews until it is satisfied.

Every Christian who tries to make direct contact with God, soon encounters the thrashing crocodile, or as the Eastern meditators prefer,chattering monkeys. For Christians, God has given us a tool to get around the thrashing–the gift of tongues.

Paul wrote in Rom 8:26 “...the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities, for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with sighing which cannot be uttered.”

One of the modern masters of this gift of tongues, is the Rev. Oral Roberts (Everyone calls him Oral For convenience, I will also.)

Once when I was interviewing for a job at Oral Roberts University, Oral’s closest associate told me that Oral spent hours praying in his tower. That was not unsual, but what was, was a clever analogy Oral had hit upon. I was fascinated because he was pulling from my field of psychology. (In fairness to Oral, I doubt he would ever want people to think his analogy was his complete explanation.)

I am sure that like a lot of us, Oral had discovered that praying in the Spirit, blocks the thrashing crocodile, or if you prefer, the monkey mind. I would guess that God knows that too and that was one of the reasons He gave us praying in tongues as a method of prayer.

Oral was following Paul’s advice. Paul had written in 1Co 14:13 “Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue, pray that he may interpret.” If you read the conext, Paul had first informed people that he prayed in tongues more than anyone. Then he said that the content of the sounds were not comprehensible to others. He suggested if they were going to pray around strangers, they should translate into comprehensible language, what God had revealed. Pray in tongues but share what you learn.

Oral apparently has lived his life out of Paul’s advice. He prays in tongues more than most people, then he translates material not only for others, leading to their physical and psychological healing, but he also translates for himself. He has built a great university and a great ministry with what God teaches him.

The fun part for me as a psychologist was his suggestive speculations from my field of psychology. Oral had read of the discoveries of the different functions of the two sides, the two hemispheres, of the brain. He had learned that the right hemisphere, processes information non-verbally, that is, in images, and emotions and even non-verbal mathematics.

On the other side of the brain, the left hemisphere processes information discursively--that is, with language that follows rules of reason.

Hearing what Oral was doing, I began to think of how much communications from God come in the form of right brain-like activity--images, dreams, visions, designs, and emotional intuitions. I thought also, of how few times God ever spoke in the discursive, i.e. rational linguistic way of the left brain. Jesus preferred painting mental pictures, i.e. “fields white unto harvest”, “seeds fell on rocky soil” etc. When he talked discursively to people, they often said “Master, we don’t understand.”

Besides dreams, visions, intuitions, etc., Oral has added one more non linguistic input--tongues. Those who study linguistics say tongues are like gibberish and have no linguistic structure.

The following is another interesting activity from St. Paul and from Oral Roberts. They translate the non-verbal into verbal. The two hemispheres of the brain are connected by a bundle of nerves known as the Corpus Collosum. Thus, Oral believes God is communicating in non discursive, non verbal ways as He always did. Oral then lets the communication cross over the Corpus Coluseum into the left hemisphere, which does its best to decipher into rational form, what was received.

Because I have always made it a practice upon awaking each morning and trying to pass my right brain images (my dreams) over to the left side for rational understanding, I am intrigued with Oral’s thinking.

Now back to my corocodile that snaps up everything and people who won’t let themselves speak in other tongues (even though all of the writers of the New Testament did). Some people’s crocodiles are just too powerful to let go. Their crocodiles insist on eating everything. So, even if they ever spoke in unknown tongues, their left brains would be demanding that they find out what language they were speaking and where it was spoken.

Did you know that at the turn of the century, when God restored the gift of tongues to the churches, some people took off to different parts of the world to try to find out what language had been given to them. They thought the gift was for missionary work. Of course, they never found the tribes who sounded like them, but fortunately some stayed on anyway and did great work.

It helps to read the fine print some time. Nowhere in the Book of Acts does it say the disciples “spoke” in understandable languages. As a matter of fact Paul said the languages were not understandable. What it does say is that the people “heard” in their own languages. But I will save that thought for another article.

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Psychologist studies speaking in tongues

Regarding “speaking in tongues,” I like Phillip’s translation: “speaking in ecstatic language.” A more phenomonological description however, would be “the ecstatic experience resulting from an inner speaking.” The first “speaking in ecstatic language,” is the behavior observed from without. The second, “the ecstatic experience” is viewed from within.

In other words, it is not tongues that is the ecstatic experience, it is ecstatic states produced by the speech.

In studying humans, psychologists took two approaches: describe behavior from outside the person or describe from within. The first, the easy one, was called Behaviorism. The second proved more difficult and was called Phenomonology, i.e., “the study of the phenomena.” (Phenomonolgy proved difficult because it is hard to describe an experience you are having without turning yourself into an external observer of your self.)

Shifting then from outside the person to inside, what then is it like to have an ecstatic state produced by a strange source from within?

As a trained phenomnologist, I will turn my awareness inward. Using my awareness like a flashlight, I come upon sounds that seem like speech. Not wanting to destroy the experience, I will try not to become an outside observer of myself. Instead, I must enter and abandon myself to the experience.

Later, I can leave the phenomonological approach and return to the external Behavioral approach. Studying myself externally, I discover that I have been led into all the other experiences described by the New Testament disciples.

After the ecstatic experience, I become more in love with the Word of God, both written and in Jesus of Nazareth. I discover myself growing in the ability to perform miracles.

Thus, by approaching myself phenomonologically, I live the ecstatic experience. Then, studying myself behaviorally, I get to evaluate the benefits and compare them with those of the original Biblical writers.

Ah!. It is great to be a psychologist! Spirit Filled Life: THE ZAPPED PSYCHOLOGIST

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Who is real Anglican

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Virginia Bishop Gets Weird

(Click on heading above)
The bishop of Virginia inhibits 21 priests. When priests get treated like that for taking a stand on the authority of Scripture, wouldn't you think other priests would be outraged?

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Monday, January 22, 2007

I Love God the Way My Pets Love Me

The other day I was watching a TV commercial in which puppies were jumping all over a little boy. They were licking him, nibbling gently on him, and showing affection in every way possible. The little boy was giggling joyfully. It was a beautiful sight.

I remembered how wonderful it was to come home to my dog Hans, who jumped with excitement the minute he saw me, then expressed his devotion with his entire being.

Lately, I have had a series of dreams of all types of animals approaching me with affection.

Because, I believe that God communicates with us in the night when we are still, I asked Him the meaning of my dreams. My answer was that in our pets, God has given us a model of how to worship Him. Equally important, He has allowed us to experience what it is like to be worshiped.

If God experiences one tenth of what I experience from the love His creatures pour out to me, He must have a wonderful time when we worship Him. I can certainly understand why He created us to love Him.

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Saturday, January 6, 2007

The Good Samaritan and the Episcopal Church

When I was a child, my grandmother use to scold me with “what you do, speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you are saying.” When I grew up and became a psychologist, her saying turned out to be very helpful. I learned if I really wanted to comprehend what a person was saying, watch what he or she did. What they said, was often too ambiguous to decode, but actions spoke louder than words, as my grandmother taught me.

Following that thought about actions, did you ever wonder why the Jews never took the action of stoning Jesus for His story of the good Samaritan? I grew up being taught that the Good Samaritan story illustrated that the Jews were to love everyone, even the hated Samaritans.

Take a look at what happened to Paul though, when he got into that subject. When a Jewish lynch mob had Paul on trial, Paul declared to them that the Spirit ordered him to: “Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.” At the word “Gentile,” the listeners went nuclear: “Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live!” They screamed.

They heard Paul loud and clear. Did they not hear Jesus? After all, they both were taking the Jewish religion, which for centuries had been exclusive, and making it into an inclusive religion. Or were they? Maybe the reason they did not react to Jesus’ story of the Samaritan was because He did not say what we think He said.

Jesus had just told them to love their neighbor, when someone asked “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus’ reply is confusing. Who was the person who needed neighborly loving? Obviously, the Jew in the ditch. One might say the Samaritan was being neighborly, but certainly not the one who needed a loving neighbor. The neighbor was in the ditch; no overturning thousands of years of tradition here. So no rock throwing on that day.

Unfortunately, today’s modernist church leaders, use this one problematical Scripture to develop an entirely new religion–the hated Samaritan became a brother, ergo, all men are brothers–ergo, the universal love of all humankind.

Universality though, is not in that story, otherwise Jesus might not have made it to the end of that day.

What other evidence do we have that Jesus never taught the brotherhood of man? After three years of sitting under His teaching, if Jesus had taught all men are brothers, why did the disciples take so long even to decide to allow non-Jewish converts into their fellowship? After all they could observe that these converts were having the same experience that they had at Pentecost?

If they had heard a message of the brotherhood of all humankind, why did they model the church after the other secret societies with strict initiatory rites? Why not a wide open church like modern churches?

Why am I writing all this? Because the church in which I was ordained, the Episcopal Church, has been torn apart by leaders who use the Good Samaritan to support their doctrine of inclusivity. Sometimes it seems to be the only Scripture they know. They have made inclusiveness a value to pre-empt all values. In doing so, they have convinced themselves they have the high moral ground.

Yet, inclusiveness was never Biblical, not from Genesis to Jesus to Revelation.

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Thursday, January 4, 2007

The Rev. Rick Warren, the main thing

The Rev. Rick Warren and the main thing

The Rev. Rick Warren, author of a “Purpose Driven Life,” with thirty million copies sold, was all over the networks during the Christmas Holidays. We were informed by CNN, NBC, and Fox commentators, this incredible man was poised to change the face of Evangelicalism and perhaps of Christendom itself. As I understand it, he will mobilize the religious impulses of people, Christians (hot, lukewarm, and cold), as well as Imans and Rabbis, all over the world, to attack the problems of poverty and disease.

What could be more wonderful? But his timing is lousy.

Questioning Rev. Warren, I feel like David up against Goliath, but with the uncomfortable difference that David was certain God was behind him. I don’t possess that certainty.

I am going to be reckless though and pick up my sling shot and hope I can hit my target.

When I was a boy, I use to sit in a doughnut shop and ponder a poster on the wall which read: “When you travel through life brother, whatever be your goal, keep your eye upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole.” Over time, that became a guiding principle in my life, joined later with that affirmation: “The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing.”

Jesus taught His disciples that the causes of poverty and disease originate from an unseen realm. After modeling their weapons, He sent out His disciples to repeat His behavior. Mat 10:7-8 “And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils.”

From church history, we learn that for the next 300 years, His disciples did exactly what they were taught to do. Then somewhere around the time of the Church Father Tertullian, the main thing ceased to be the main thing.

Wonder of wonders, in our century, the main thing became the main thing again. We understood that the Church is the only institution authorized to attack human misery at its source. No other organization has demonstrated that ability.

Some of us should get a little nervous when the secular world, having found Rev. Warren, is acting like what he is teaching is the best thing since sliced bread. Both Jesus and Paul informed us that the world could not understand what we are about.

By the way, I did what the Rev Warren is suggesting when I was in the Peace Corps. I only recently began to see Jesus’ way of doing things. If we all go rushing off after the Reverend, who will be left to mind the store?

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Monday, January 1, 2007

Last shall be first

I hope you will read my first post first, which is the one entitled Beginning: The Holy Spirit came in power
See the link on the right.

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