Monday, March 15, 2010

True Spirituality - Substantial Healing of the Total Person

True Spirituality - Substantial Healing of the Total Person

Comments on Francis Schaeffer's Book True Spirituality
A Book Study By Dan Guinn

Chapter 11 - As we move forward through the areas of our conscience, thought life and psychology we begin to look at the impact on the total person.  As brought out in our last study, Dr. Schaeffer hopes for us to understand that we are a unified being. We have both physical and spiritual qualities. When one any area of our existence is compromised the whole of our being is affected. However, Schaeffer points out that by saying "substantial healing" he wants us to understand that we will not be completely whole until Christ comes. We cannot be perfect in all areas of our being. We are still in a fallen world. Nevertheless, substantial healing can be significant in the life of a believer in this life.

False Expectations
Likewise, Dr. Schaeffer warns very plainly of pitfalls in our human expectations that can ensnare us and produce all kinds of damage.

  • Self Centeredness - This of course is a violation of the Law of Love.

"...even the Christian may want to be God; that is, he may consciously or unconsciously set a standard of superiority, based on the unusual value he puts on himself." Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 135

Knowing what is right may produce pride in us and allow various forms of legalism. We need to constantly be guarded against assuming superiority.

  • Behaviorism (Not dealing with the deeper problem)

On the flip side, following the advice of modernist psychology to treat spiritual problems with current behaviorist methods is an accident waiting to happen.

Dr. Schaeffer uses the story of Pavlov's Bell (often called "Pavlov's Dog" today) to address behaviorism. Ivan Pavlov was a Russian/Soviet psychologist, physiologist, and physician who was an early "behaviorist." He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1904 for research on the human digestive system. However, he is most remembered for his experiments regarding "conditioning." Pavlov proved that you could train a dog to salivate when a bell was rung. It was not long before "conditioning" would later be applied to humans as well. The concept would later evolve into the concept of behavior modification.

"This is perfectly correct concerning dogs, for that is what dogs are and what God made them to be. But woe to the man who begins to act as though this is all there is to man, because we have not been made in this circle of creation." Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 136

Remember the chart from the last lesson?

Pavlov's experiments, as well as many others of the time were heavily influenced by Darwinistic doctrine. Pavlov and his team would go on to perform more sinister experiments such as trans-marginal inhibition (TMI). Such experiments tested the limits of the human body and its shut down when exposed to electric shock. His research in this area would later be picked up by Carl Jung. While this might seem like something of barbarism of the early 19th century, the practice that resulted out of this line of experimentation is still in underway. Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) or electro-shoch therapy, is currently used to treat severe major depression, mania, bi-polar disorder and catatonia. While the modern psychiatric treatment generally induces electrical convulsion under sedation. As mentioned in our last study it is estimated that over a million people receive ECT treatments each year. At some point we must admit that a line has been crossed.

It is important that in this point in time the church realizes the need to embrace those struggling in these areas rather than attack them as sinful. We must maintain a balance of truth and love. True Spirituality provides real answer for most if not all of the problems of depression. While their are exceptions in areas of brain injury, the Bible still teaches compassion and ministry to these areas. We as a church, must live this healing out in our lives. We must be the light to the darkness of the this epidemic.

Trying to Be What We Are Not
We've talked about the circles of existence. At the root, the problems man experiences in the circle of his existence is trying to be what he is not. He carries too much and he becomes less than he was intended to be.

"The basic psychological problem is trying to be what we are not, and trying to carry what we cannot carry. Most of all the basic problem is not being willing to be the creatures we are before the Creator." Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 137

"Man is trying to be the center of the universe and refuses to be the creature he is." Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 137

"Christian doctrine speaks first in relational answers, and then in practice, to the psychological results of man's revolt since the fall. In other words it is not necessary to search for psychological healing outside the total structure of Christian doctrine. The gospel is the answer not only theoretical but also in practice within the unity of the Biblical teaching" Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 137, 138

Results of Man's Rebellion

There are psychological results of man's refusal to be who he has been created to be that affect the total person. Schaeffer advises that there are other types of fear but many that man deals with fall under these headings.

Fear of the Impersonal
"...the more they become aware of humanity the more they realize its facelessness. Out of this springs a real fear of the impersonal, and they are right to be afraid." Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 138

Dr. Schaeffer is pinpointing something that we might not grasp if we don't dwell on it for a moment. When we live life beneath what we are created to be, when we live as an animal or a machine, the natural implication is that we become less than human. Becoming less than human means that we become just another face. We are unimportant, lost in the sea of many others.

Likewise, machines and animals lack the human level of personality. They often seem cold or uncaring because they exist by a different set of rules. The animal lives by laws of nature. Nature is both cruel and non-cruel. The sun can shine on you one day and burn you the next. The machine functions in many respects to natural laws and logic. A mathematical equation lacks the ability to improvise to the infinite answers needed by man. Even the most complex computers can be thrown off by the needs of a child. While some of the most recent developments in AI (Artificial Intelligence) are impressive, systems which can learn and re-program itself based on new contingencies, the most basic concepts of human love and spirituality will always be out of their reach. They will ever be synthetic.

Fear of Non-Being
Dr. Schaeffer also highlights the fear of "non-being." While this is related to the fear of death, he is talking about fear of the lack of origin, existence and meaning. We must understand that the non-Christian is really completely in the dark on this.

"...modern man does not have any idea where he came from, and not having and answer to Being, is eventually locked up in the sequence of pure chance." Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 139

If mankind would be honest about this they would admit to some deep feelings about not knowing who they are, where they are, and what their purpose for being here is. While one can claim to be content with this state, in reality the psychological subconscience level of fear of being literally "lost" has many hidden implications.

Fear of Death
We need to remember the impact that death has on the non-Christian. Without Christ there is no eternal destiny. The natural end of this line of thinking for man is  a naturalist nihilism, whereby he just vanishes into nothingness.

All of these fears are the characteristics of the Negative Existentialist doctrine of Nihilism who assert that life is without objective meaning or purpose and does not contain any moral value. While the Negative Existentialist is skeptical and pessimistic about life, the Optimistic Existentialist takes a leap of faith in the dark. He realizes that without hope man is lost, but having nothing to base his hope on he improvises and creates his own insufficient hope through experience. His own experiences are finite lacking the infinite answers he truly needs.

Knowing that we are competing with varying degrees of these notions as well as blatant contradictions in ourself and our relationships is an eye opening experience. From here we must begin to know undertake what is needed.

"what is needed in a time of psychological disturbance, whether temporary or prolonged, is that we should help each other to act upon the total unified Christian teaching. This is entirely different from trying to work by jumping into the dark without a rational framework." Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 140

Finding Validity
Dr. Schaeffer spends time on the subject of validity first in the area of superiority and inferiority. Let's examine Dr. Schaeffer's explanation for our source of validity.

"For the Christian, status, and validity do not rest upon relative relationships to other men. As a Christian I do not have to find my validity in my status, or by thinking myself above other men. My validity and my status are found in being before the God who is there. My basic validity and my basic status do not depend upon what men think of me." Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 141

All of this requires realization that man is not the measure of all things, because "all things" is infinite. Schaeffer's concept of Christian Validity here is really a point of contact between ourselves and God, who is our infinite personal reference. The word validity is affirming what is valid, what is ultimate truth for our lives. We are conforming to the truth of the one who is "the way, the truth, and the life" (Jn 14:6).

Avoiding False Integration
Schaeffer moves on to a concept he calls "Integration." For Schaeffer, integration is the "final point of rest." Simply put, these are things which we put at the center of our hearts. While we may find a point of rest in many things, when we make this point of rest absolute we cause damage to the total person.

"They are made to be the point of rest, and as such they can be beautiful, but as our final point of rest they are destructive." Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 144

Take time to discuss the obvious damage of falsely integrating the following items as our final point of peace.

  • Superiority/Inferiority
  • Pyschological Hygene
  • Personality
  • Excess
  • False Peace
  • Material Things
  • Music/Art - Beauty
  • Sex
  • Eating
  • Intellectual Pursuits

The Garbage Can
Dr. Schaeffer uses a humorous illustration to describe the futility of false integration points.

"I picture false integration as being like a garbage can into which we try to push a man. But it is not big enough. and so we jam him down, but his head sticks out. So we lift him out and and then jam him down in a different way, but this time his legs stick out. So we lift him out and jam him down again, but now his arm sticks out. We never get the whole man in. It is simply not big enough." Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 145

The weakness of false integration points is really that they can never be applied to the total man. They are never sufficient for the whole of life.

Healing At Last
The Bible has had the answers all along and moreover they have been commonly taught.

"Find me the faithful pastor in the old village, and I will find you a man dealing with psychological problems on the basis of the teaching of the Word of God." Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 145

Such victory through the Word of God comes through surrender of the misplaced burden.

"casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you." 1 Peter  5:7

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matt 11:28

"As I bow in my will in practive in this present life, it ends with communion with God as Abba, Father. Communion with God requires bowing in the area of Knowledge. But communion with God also requires bowing in my will...bowing in both the intellect and the will. Without bowing in the intellect, in thinking after God; without acting upon the finished work of Christ in my present life; and without bowing in the will in practice, as the waves of the present life break over me, there is no sufficient communion with God." Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 147

"The Creator, as Abba, Father, will even now dry my tears and there will be joy. this is the meaning of true spirituality in my relationship with myself." Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 147


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

True Spirituality - Substantial Healing of Psychological Problems

True Spirituality - Substantial Healing of Psychological Problems

Comments on Francis Schaeffer's Book True Spirituality
A Book Study By Dan Guinn

Chapter 10 - Psychology is study of the mental processes and behavior. Building off of what we have discovered of the conscience and the thought world, we must begin to see how these define our psychological existence. Since we cannot exist without creating into the world which God created we must seek healing in our mental processes and behavior. As we will see this can only be achieved through Truth based on content defined by our creator.

Dr. Schaeffer hopes for us to understand how the world of thought produces psychological problems and the healing that is available in the life of the believer.

A Unified Being
Firstly we need to see man as a unified being. Although we can recognize the spiritual and physical differences and we know there are different roles in thought, actions, and emotions, man is affected as a whole being by corruption in any part of his being.

"Anything that hurts that unity is destructive of the very basic thing that man is and what man needs to be." Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 123

Infinite-Personal Reference
Yet the answers man seeks must be from and infinite and personal reference that makes sense of time and space. Truths with relative content that can only come from God.

"There is no answer without and infinite reference point of a personal nature." Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality page 124

The Cocoon
Dr. Schaeffer uses the analogy of the cocoon. Sinful man lives in a circle of existence that is closed, and moreover closed off to a section of himself. He was created to be a rational, relational, physical and spiritual being. Yet he lives below his existence.

"... when as a Christian I bow before this God who is there, then I can move out of the only logical position which the non-Christian can hold, and that is he must dwell consciously but silently in the cocoon of his being, without knowing anything outside of himself." Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality page 124

Answers For The Unified Being
The Christian life provides an every moment building of faith. God provides real answers that are unified with his creation by His own design.

"God has spoken, and what he so teaches is a unity with what He has made." Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality page 125

"... these answers do not end simply with an abstract, bare scholastic understanding of Being... They end in communion with the infinite-personal reference point who is there, God himself. And that is tremendous. Then you can worship." Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality page 125

The Misuse of Finite Answers For Infinite
When man misuses his own finite reasoning "beginning with himself," he fails to find absolutes and universal answers. Man cannot be God.

"... beginning with himself he [man] cannot bring forth absolute standards and cannot even keep the poor relative ones he has set up." Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality page 127

"I cannot be God in action and practice. So again I fall to the earth, crushed with natural tensions in myself, and I lie there like a butterfly that someone has touched, with all the lovely things gone from the wings." Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality page 127

Circles of Rebellion

Schaeffer utilizes the symbol of the circle to illustrate worlds of existence and thought. Consider the damage done to man by his attempts to formulate the basis of a world view by misusing concepts of the created order.

"Thus, in rebellion, not staying within the circle of what man is but trying to move into the circle of existence of God, man falls crushed within himself at every turn. At that point he has two possibilities, and just two, if he is going to stay in the circle of rationality. He can return to his place before the personal Creator, a personal creature before a personal Creator. Or else he can go lower than his place." Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality page 128

"So sinful man takes his place amoung the lower circles of existence; he moves down from being man into the lower existence of the animals and machines. Man is thus divided against and from himself in every part of his nature." Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality page 128

All Unhealthy
"Since the fall there is no truly healthy person in his body, and there is no completely balanced person psychologically. The result of the fall spoils us as a unit and in all of our parts." Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality page 129

With this knowledge we can see that we are all in an unhealthy state, yet we are being sanctified and our psychological existence is being transformed by the Spirit of God.

Psychological Integration
Attempts to heal the problem by naturalistic means can only provide a band-aid. It does not address the whole of the problem.

"As a result, the integration will be an attempt to relate what is broken in the person to the animals and the machines of it will ask for a romantic leap. Now this does not mean that there are no details which we can learn from these psychologist; there is much to lear from the insights, because they are brilliant men and good observers, but the whole does not meet the need, for it treats man as that which he is not." Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality page 129

Real Guilt & The Real Answer
"When a man is broken in these areas, he is confused, because he has the feelings of real guilt within himself, and yet he is told by modern thinkers that these are only guilt feelings" Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality page 131

On a counseling level we need to always be mindful of the indirect problem, which is sin. That sin produces real guilt and not just conditioned feelings. We also need to call those who profess such things on these misguided notions. At no point is a murder for example to be told that the guilt he/she feels is just a meaningless emotion he/she has been conditioned to feel. Nor is that person's malice or lack of guilt to be chalked up to mere events in one's life. Doing so is only to convey half truths.

"With all rationality in place, and consciously in place (on the basis of the existence of God and the finished, substitutionary work of Jesus Christ) my real guilt now is not overlooked, but is accepted as my responsibility because of my own deliberately doing what I know to be wrong. Then it is reasonably, truly and objectively dealt with in Christ's infinite substitutionary work. Now I can say to my conscience, be still!" Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality page 131