Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Happy New Year!

In the words of a very wise blogger-friend, "O.kay, Diane, the Holidays are over......Come Ba-a-a-a-a-ck!" Yes, 2007 is well on its way...and it continues to forge ahead with or without me!

How has your New Year been so far? On Monday of last week, I typed a brilliant post...maybe the best I've ever written....and when I hit the save button....BLOGGER asked me to sign in. Sign in? Wasn't I already signed in to compose my post? When I typed in my username and password, the next screen popped up without my most brilliant post! It was lost....lost forever....in cyberspace or some recyling bin that I could not find. So, today, I find myself "saving" after each paragraph as I really don't mean to be antisocial....I am just computer illiterate!

In keeping with New Year's resolutions and start-ups, I have registered for another class. After graduating in May, 2005 with a degree in Psychology, I am taking another college course. "Counseling in Christian Ministry." Last night was my first week of class. I am taking this course at the Christian University I graduated from so was a bit unsettled with some of the discussion that took place in this Ministry course. It really is an introduction to Biblical Counseling, which, as I have learned after doing the five papers required for the first weeks assignments, is quite different from traditional psychological perspectives.

Without reviewing each psychological theorists, I think I knew that the basic difference in the Biblical perspective from secular theorists would include the relationship between God and man. The association between body and mind (or in Christian speak: body and the "heart" of man) differs for Christians and the world. Does the heart propel sin or, as we learn more about neuroscience, is it possible that the brain can cause the body to sin? Example? A patient with delibatating Ahlzeimer's Disease, formerly a godly man his entire life, is now speaking in degrading terms about women and displays sinful selfish demands. Is this a problem of the "heart" or is it a problem of the brain? Easy question you suppose? I did! Until I entered the discussion with 15 other students and 1 very well educated Professor. To my surprise, the majority of the class believed that the deterioration of the mind revealed the condition of this man's "heart." The conversation led into a tense discussion of the ability children have to sin.

Taking a moment to save! (and a deep breath!)

I'm back.

I was completely unaware that this group of Christian adult/students and Professor believed the age of accountability is not a theological theory. In fact, my Professor stated, "The age of accountability is not a moral philosophy, not a theological theory, cannot be proven in Scripture. It is an emotional reply to the mystery of sin." That is not an exact quote--my breathing had accelerated and my mind began to rebel--I may not have heard his EXACT quote.

This critical thinking thing......is gonna kill me!

I will continue to think about and study these concepts; however, my future papers may rile a few Professorial feathers! After thoroughly enjoying my education at a Christian University, covering secular theorists and traditional psychology, it is upsetting enough to me that there is a Biblical perspective that diminishes the benefit of the DSM-IV or questions the agenda of Scienticfic research. Well...maybe not just the questioning part....but the presumption that all scientific study is jaded. I have lived long enough to know that generalizations are dangerous.

But to discover that the Biblical Counseling perspective, or this Professors interpretation of it, purports that an Ahlzeimer patient or an immature child sins in the same way adults and able bodied people electively sin--is disturbing.

Any thoughts?

How do you resolve the age of accountability issue?

Does nueroscience ever exempt sin? The person with Tourette's who blurts out profanity: is he/she sinning? Is this a problem with the heart or misfired nuerotransmitters?

O.k....can you feel my distress? It has been said that "misery loves company!" Well, this is not my intent...to make you miserable. Please comment with any thoughts relating to any of this rambling first post of 2007. I fear Cindy may regret inspiring me to move on from the Holidays! Santa Babies are so much more fun--aren't they!

14 comments:

Katherine said...

Hi Diane--thanks for your comment on my blog. And wow--what an important question you ask here! Going beyond even the case for the age of accountability, I would question the definition and use of the word "sin." As a life-long learner, spiritual seeker, and lover of life (and believer in the goodness of God's creation), I have come to equate "sin" as that which blocks our communion with God--the fig leaves we put over ourselves instead of trusting God with our thoughts, desires, worries, actions, whathaveyou. I have just spent a wonderful six months intensely studying Jung and discovering that his quest was really a spiritual one--trying to find the ways in which the personality was divided against itself and the creative energy (lifesource/God-with-us/Emmanuel) was blocked. When the energy is blocked we create all sorts of things with it, but perhaps most damaging are the false images and judgments of others we hold up against them as real...ah, I could go on and on. My graduate work(in pastoral care and counseling) in a Quaker seminary showed me that there are many ways open for our learning and growth--I think it's wonderful that you are asking all these questions and listening to your own spirit. Any good professor will celebrate that as real learning and not just parroting the established/accepted ideas of the day. Keep pushing! Love and blessings, Katherine

Dawn said...

Wow. I know that Alzheimer's does cause people to end up doing very unsettling things. I know of a wonderful pastor, his whole life given to God, who has rational moments, but in his irrational moments he is saying things he would have never said before. I do not believe he has backslidden and is sinning in those moments. That is IRRATIONAL! I'm afraid I would have a hard time in this discussion in your class. Go, girl, shake up that professor!

Anonymous said...

I don't even know how to answer that question....don't even know where to start. Good luck with your class....sounds like it'll be a challenge!

sema said...

That is a tough one! I wonder what my bible study's input would be on those questions/theories. We have such a wide variety of "scholars" and all of them usually have interesting thoughts.
Kudos to pertaking more education!

Morning Glory said...

Regarding the posts that disappear. I've had that happen to me, too, and I've found that if I click on the "back" arrow, it takes me to the previous screen and there's what I was writing, although it isn't posted. When I actually make that work for me, I highlight and copy and save it to a word document or try another new post and paste it in. At least it isn't lost.

Gretchen Lavender said...

Diane,

Does anyone know what the scripture says (about the frail of mind)? This is interesting.

I agree with your classmates. I think that Alzheimers makes them less inhibited.

Goodness, everyone has a bad thought sometimes, but we just have the presence of mind to remove it altogether or to choose kind words over mean ones until we can deal with our thoughts.

I hope I'm not judged for what I say when I have Alzheimers. One day my grandmother told me she'd roll the nurse's heads down the hall if they didn't treat her right:-) My sweet grandmother never said a mean word to anyone. She just fed everybody. But, evidently she has considered rolling heads down the hall before:-)

Glad to see another post of yours:-)

Gretchen

MugwumpMom said...

Wow, what a question...how do you view the age of accountability? I think I'll bail out and say I'm truly glad that "man looks at the outward parts but God looks at the heart". If that sounds like a cop out, then I'll add that I can't help but think that God is far too just to hold accountable those who lack the informed and cognitive capacity to choose.

Anonymous said...

Great post Diane!!! Thanks for getting my brain going - it is getting late and I was falling into a haze! :)

I have had these discussions too with professors etc. I recognize that there is no theology of the age of accountability, one professor i chatted with about even believed that unborn babies didn't go to heaven. But what about Jesus saying that he calls the little children to him? The Bible says that we need to become like children to enter the kingdom of God. There are also passages referring to being aware of our sin (can't think of the actual ref right now and too tired to go get them) and that would lead me to believe that the Bible is referring to us sinning on purpose. Children and people with altered mental states of don't have the same ability to reason about their sin or understand the consequence. God is ultimately a God of justice. God would not be unfair.

My Nana was SUCH a godly woman. But Alzheimer's stripped her of everything she knew. She had no idea who God was or Jesus and would cry in fear. My mom would tell her that she was going to Jesus and tell her who he was.

Also, as a person with depression and anxiety, I have experienced first hand the effects of medication on my ability "to not sin" and be a kinder, more godly person. When I am depressed and anxious I am irritable and not the best wife. ;)

In all, I believe we can bring these questions and leave them at God's feet. A child doesn't understand the intricacies of running a household, a budget, or planning a future. We can not and are not supposed to understand all the intricacies of our God. But he is fair. He understands brain chemistry. He knows what we are up against. That is why he sent Christ. Otherwise we are lost forever.

And in the end, I still believe in a non-theological idea of the age of accountability. Yes it is an emotional conclusion based on reason not theology, but it is also a conclusion based on God's mercy and justice.

Anonymous said...

PS - i linked to Kristen's series today. thanks for the link :)

Anonymous said...

Hey Diane,
interesting stuff! I too have felt a call toward christian counseling...

here's my thoughts: of course even if a child has not ever committed a personal sin, they are guilty before God because Adam, as the federal head of humanity, has sinned. We are all born into this world in sin - destined to die physically and spiritually dead.

However, it is for this reason that Christ Died. Christ, the second Adam, died for our sins both inherited and personal...and Christ's death is sufficient. John 2:2 says Christ's death is sufficient for not only our sins, but the entire world.

In regards to the age of accountability, I read 2 Sam 12:21-23 where David was mourning for his son. When the child was alive, he wept and cried, and after the child died he got up and ate... David was comforted with the idea that David could go to the boy, but the boy could not come back to him.

All this to say.... truly there is no biblical doctrine of the age of accountability. But children and babies are in God's hands and in Genesis 18:25 Abraham says "Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?"

Good luck with your class! I envy you being challenged in your faith that way! You will grow girl!

C. H. Green said...

Diane,
I'm working 14, 16, and 18 hours days lately. But I just had to stop by a minute. I'll try to make it short and get back to work.
RE: Accountability. Hm. Tough one. I started when my son was young teaching him right from wrong. And to accept responsibility for it. When we pray at night, our last line is "And forgive us the bad things we do." (Somewhat along the lines of Forgive us our trespasses.)Now I have heard preachers preach that there are heathen in foreign countries dying and going to hell because no one ever shared the gospel with them. They had never heard the name of Jesus. This always causes me to stop and think. Because sin is by definition estrangement from God or violating His law. Does this mean that the savage who has never heard of Christ, because he is removed from Christ, has no hope if he dies never hearing? Or in order to be REmoved, did he have to be moved to God first, and then fall away? In order to violate a law, did he have to have knowledge of the law and breaking it? A part of me senses in my spirit that God loves His creation so much, that even if there were no other human being to tell you about Himself, He would come down and make himself known to you in some way. He did Adam and Eve. So how do we know that He doesn't reveal Himself to EVERYONE at some point in their lives, and the choice is theirs to accept or reject, to discard or to dig to know more,to stay ignorant or seek Truth? As humans, do we ALL not question at some point in our lives -- probably even the savages -- how we got here, who was the Creator, and how could we find Him? Was this quest for answers not the foundation for every conceivable religion there is? Even the pagan ones? There is something within us that searches, that wants to know, that seeks to fill the empty void. And I believe that if we are truly seeking Truth, God will at least afford us an opportunity to find it before casting us into a fiery hell. But I am not God. He says no sin shall enter into the kingdom. The Bible says no man cometh to the Father, except through Jesus. And yet, God time and again through scripture has been known to show mercy, to give second chances, to even change his mind. So who can fathom the mind of God? He is the ultimate judge. He can do what He pleases.
As for the Alzheimer's question, my father did not have Alzheimer's but a similar disease. I believe that He was still able to communicate with God, even when he couldn't with us. He would raise his hands and pray, though we couldn't understand a word. By the same token, words from his past, curse words would come out as well. They were trapped in the memories of his mind. In the hard drive. I'm not sure they had anything to do with his heart. A computer does not have a heart. It has a brain. We have a brain. But it does not have a heart. Our minds function like computers. Garbage in, garbage eventually out. When he could no longer control his brain function, I have to believe my dad's heart would win out. God sees the heart. The heart is what distinguishes us from animals and other living things. We were given a heart to worship and commune with God. Yes, I believe your words are indicative of your heart. From the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. This is true when you have the ability to think and ponder things in your heart AND CONTROL your speech and formation of words to reflect that. But what about when you don't have that ability any longer, due to brain damage or deterioration? What if, inside this person is worshipping Christ, and due to his debilitating disease cannot form the words anymore, no matter how hard he tries? What if the "virus" he has is eating up his hard drive and replacing the data with garbage? Or simply deleting it? What will come out? A jumbled, disconnected, disoriented conglomeration of what is left after the damage is done. Good and bad. The hard drive is kaput. But unlike the laptop, the human still has a soul. And therein lies his hope. Oh praise God, that He can see our hearts and know our true intents!
Enough of the novel. I've lost an hour of work. But it was very worth it. Hope I haven't caused your blog to overheat.

Praying for your Prodigal said...

Brilliant Cindy! I couldn't agree with you more. I have printed your thoughts out and may just quote you during my next class (Tuesday evening.)

No overheating done here.....just passionate diaglogue! I love it!

Diane

Anonymous said...

I truly have to think about this before I can come up with an intelligent answer but it's pretty much been taken care of by these amazing comments.

On the blogger issue, saving as you go is the best idea because the smallest little blip can make your post go away. Before I publish, I save it as a draft. That way if publishing fails, it's still there. And as Morning Glory has already said, using the back arrow to go to the previous screen when it won't publish should bring the post back.

I've also discovered that if I just keep trying to publish the post, it will eventually work.

As a last resort, try clicking on the "recover post" option in the compose area. That works sometimes too if you think you've completely lost the post.

Lisa said...

Hi Diane-

This is wayyyy over my head, but I'll tell ya what I go back, to whenever I'm confused theologically, morally or any other "ly" ;) And that is simply:

GOD IS GOOD! AND FORGIVING! AND MERCIFUL!

Granted, God can also be an angry God, but the above must hold true.

Would God be angry and unforgiving to the sins of man when he has no control? Go to above and then answer.

I don't need a class or a degree to figure that out. There will always be professors, theologians etc that delve into the more serious parts of religion & God, (including me, at times), but bottom line, do we have a personal relationship with the one Triune God? Have we asked him into our hearts and asked for forgiveness (at any point in our lives?)

How's that for getting out of your question ;)

Not good enough? Okay. I sincerely believe that even though we may not like hearing that sin is sin, (whatever that means to everyone), God is a forgiving and a just God. He isn't going to punish someone eternally for acts committed under diress any more than he'll punish any of us(eternally), if we've asked for forgiveness.

God has a plan for all of us, do we always follow His "best" plan for us? I don't believe we do, but God makes allowances for these things and blesses us when we come back to the light. Predestination? Sure he knows what's going to happen so he can see how it all works out ahead of time--cool, huh? That doesn't mean that we don't have free-will.

That's all fine, but what if we can't come back to the light? That is the question. Only God can decide & judge. There will always be gray areas that only He knows the answers to. We need to focus on sharing His light to the world, just as you are, Diane.

People get mad at me when I say that people don't always follow God's best plan when it comes to having babies (crack babies, babies born out of wedlock, (is that used any more?) etc. Are they blessings from God? Were they planned? Or are they born out of sin? I believe that in these situations they are born out of sin, but that God then turns all babies into blessings. Were they intentional blessings, planned? I don't think so...God's perfect plan is not for us to do these things. God allowed for them to be born, tis true but if we follow God's word, sin is not planned, but allowed (by free will.) Mothers out there are shaking their fists at me already...I can feel it. I had a child out of wedlock so I understand the dilemma. Was my child a sin? Hard to swallow? Yeah but it's true. Is she a blessing? YES! Does God have a plan for her? Yes. Do I feel that I followed his best plan for my life at that time. NO. Did he bless my life after I came back to the light-YES! That's the best news of all--that even when we sway, we are accepted back into his loving arms! We must acknowledge sin as sin, though. Sometimes we like to sugarcoat it too much.

It is one in the same. God plans, but we muck it up, whether it is from disease, mental issues, etc. He still loves us. He is still there for us. Is one sin greater than the other? No. Then what does it matter in the long run? God is just, if we follow him and ask for forgiveness from Jesus. That's it, folks. Some will follow, some won't--that is also His will.

Don't like the above, don't even try getting into the works of Calvin and Luther. I was depressed for a long time after reading some of Luther's compiled works. Talk about nitty gritty-whew...it made my head hurt. Heck even those men were depressed at times in their lives...so I don't feel so bad.

Okay, I'm done now. I think I'll go read my post on Rocky to get back to things that I understand ;)

As stated before, thanks for your commitment to helping others and by taking this class, you're showing your dedication to this very task.

Good for you! If I've said too much, Diane & others, forgive me. Blame the meds...home sick today ;)