Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Reformation Quiz results

The Reformation Over? quiz I posted on Nov 1 got some interesting results. Bunny gives a raspberry to Luther and upholds the canonicity of James. Pastor Aardvark would die over inerrancy while Josh S. thinks it is adiaphora. Rev. Chryst along with Pastor Aardvark seem to take their positions as ministers very seriously, with ordination issues taking strong Esse rankings. The good vicar Charles Lehmann is pretty, how you say, dogmatic about supra and infralapsarianism and is responsible for the funniest answer to Tongues Contine, "I use mine to taste stuff." Some people object to my categories entirely (see Eric Phillips' comments here).
Someone I'm not familiar with, named TKls2myhrt (I apologize, I forgot your real name) at Be Strong in the Grace weighs in as well. She's cautious about the filioque and gives an A to private confession.
The Terrible Swede rates Beer as a foundational pillar of the Church.

Apparently some folks (Maria and Timetheos among them) thought I was kidding about the Postmarital sex question. Have we forgotten the Shakers (and candlestick makers) as well as Augustine's negative appraisal of sex other than for purely procreative reasons.

As for cremation, it looks as if we are collectively less concerned about it as Dr. Schmidt who was interviewed on Issues Etc. on March 14th on this issue.

Granted that the test needs much more nuance, but who would read it? Instead of Divorce, I should have said: Remarriage after divorce without adultery as precipating cause of marital dissolution.

This exercise was enlightening for a fairly new Lutheran (I've barely scratched the surface of my Book o' Concord), particularly the Canonicity issues. After all, "I stand alone on the Word of God, the B-I-B-L-E" was my earliest creedal statement.


Some televangelists are against a proposal to price cable channels ala carte because the "unchurched" will opt out of receiving their broadcast. This puts them at odds with those that want ala carte cable so that indecent channels don't come pre-packaged with the ones you actually want. I would personally love to be able to get the History, Discovery and HGTV channels without all the other crap, but presently that is not an option. I even like a little EWTN now and again. Is it uncharitable to hope that a great many people will flee TBN? Quick poll, what percentage of TBN is poison? Oh, I forgot, the leven permeates the whole loaf.

Monday, November 28, 2005

New Ecosystem Ratings

CRAP! I slipped 4 whole genera from flappy bird to slimy mollusc on the Truth Laid Bear blog ecosystem (see link at bottom of page). That really hurts. I mean, my next step up was a mammal, now I have to fight my way through fish, amphibians and reptiles. Dang it!


Counseling psychology over and against clinical psychology focuses on the health of the client rather than pathology. I guess I have taken that framework to heart. My supervisor told me that I should be a little more willing to assume serious mental health problems in my clients. The good part comes here: my supervisor suggested that I should be less Arminian and more Calvinist when thinking about my clients' mental health. I'll forgive her for the slight and I accept her point. I'll also forgive her ignorance regarding the Lutheran view of depravity. If the effects of the fall on the reason and intellect are referred to as the Noetic effects, what are the effects of the fall on the emotions?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Lutheran Carnival XI

The new Carnival is up at Necessary Roughness, graphically one of the best blogs ever built. I can't get enough of his football officials icons. Incidentally, I was too busy to submit an entry, so he "drafted" me. Thanks, Dan.

Masculinity, Androgyny, Douglas Wilson

Douglas Wilson has a book called Reforming Marriage that I have on occasion recommended to one of my clients in order to start discussion about roles within a family. I usually say that I don't agree 100% with Wilson, but that his ideas are so different from what we are used to hearing that it will make people think. I read this book before I was married and it knocked me over. Wilson organizes his thinking around the covenant in the same way that we organize ours around vocation. He talks about the feminist movement as being driven by wimpy men who have abdicated leadership and instead promote women in the workplace (i.e., their wives) in order to have more money for themselves. He talks about de facto headship, rather than headship as a goal. Almost every edition of Credenda/Agenda has a section for called husbandry. I have collected them all and am reviewing them as possible reference material for counseling. The idea that a therapist would suggest his works would probably make Pastor Wilson physically ill.

I bring this up because I just went to a training session about the psychology of men. The presenter (a renowned psychologist and president of the APA) discussed normative male alexithymia (the inability to put words to feelings and therefore a reduced capacity for feelings). His thesis is that little boys are encultured to define masculinity in unhealthy ways (aggression, restrictive emotionality, over self-reliance, channeling caring emotions into sex) and that one of his therapy goals is to challenge these beliefs about masculinity to get men to look at their definitions of manhood. This is indeed probably taken for granted in most men's lives and is part of their assumptive world. He presented studies that indicate that males are more emotionally responsive at birth and transition from ages 2 to 6 to less emotionally expressive. He talked about the process of replacing feelings of fear with aggression on the playground and being mocked and sometimes physically abused for expressions of emotion such as sadness. All of this very interesting.

At my place of employment - a Christian counseling center - we have a special consideration because our clientele are often basing their behavior on what they have been taught about masculinity from the Church as well as from society in general. Therefore, what do I think about masculinity?

Wilson has been about the only person that I have read on the subject that say anything that breaks the mold ofandrogynyy. Dr. James Hurley therapist/theologian of Reformed Theological Seminary has a book called Men and Women in Biblical Perspective that I want to get my hands on, but it is out of print. Avoiding Wild at Heart nonsense completely, I can find precious little out there that is thoughtful and confessional.

Dissertation update

I've updated the dissertation-o-meter at right to reflect the fact that I have submitted a draft of the first two chapters to my adviser and am now awaiting her comments. I think I successfully made the connection that I was trying to make, but I can only wait to see it from her perspective. Having immersed myself in the project in order to meet my self-imposed deadline, I got the neurons firing. Now I just have to keep them going so that I won't have as much start-up time for the next go 'round.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Terrible Book, Fabulous Review

John Miller reviews Barbara Boxer (D-CA)'s work of political fiction. The excerpts are hysterical. The review made my afternoon.
HT: Bunnie

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Supralapsarian and Infralapsarian

So, some of y'all who took my challenge of rating those ideas in Christendom according to their level of importance to you were a bit stumped by the Supra and Infralapsarian distinctions. That was actually my attempt to goad my reformed college buddies into participation. I'm most familiar with IL and SL from the book The Plan of Salvation by B. B. Warfield. My hardbound copy (the shame...) has a neat table comparing the different conceptions of salvation. The Naturalistic (Remonstrant and Pelagian) are neatly disposed of. Then comes the Supernaturalistic - Sacerdotal (Orthodox, Roman, Anglican). Then we find the Supernaturalistic-Evangelical-Universalistic (Pure Universalistic, Wesleyan, Lutheran). Then the Supernaturalistic-Evangelical-Particularistic (Amyraldian, Infralapsarian and Supralapsarian). Now the process in Lutheranism is as follows:
  1. Permission of Fall-guilt, corruption and total inability.
  2. Gift of Christ to render satisfaction for the sins of the world
  3. Gift of means of grace to communicate saving grace.
  4. Predestination to life of those who do not resist the means of grace
  5. Sanctification through the means of grace.
Compare that to Supralapsarianism (for infralapsarianism, just invert the first two):
  1. Election of some to eternal life with God.
  2. Permission of Fall - guilt, corruption and total inability.
  3. Gift of Christ to redeem the elect and ground offer to all.
  4. Gift of the Holy Spirit to same the redeemed.
  5. Sanctification of all the redeemed and regenerated.

Best line in the book, regarding the Lutheran conception of salvation: "But they suppose that, though dead in sin, man can resist, and successfully resist, almighty grace. Resistance is, however, itself an activity: and the successful resistance of an almighty recreative power, is a pretty considerable activity - for a dead man.

So then, I ask you gentle reader, is Warfield correct in his assessment of Lutheran doctrine?

A couple more quotes to clarify:

It is in a truly religious interest, therefore, that the Reformed, as over against the Lutherans, insist with energy that, important as are the means of grace, and honored as they must be by us because honored by God and the Holy Spirit as the instruments by and through which he works grace in the hearts of men, yet after all the grace which he works by and through them he works himself not out of them but immediately out of himself, extrinsecus accedens (outside of the accidents). (p. 63)

A passage like this reveals the difficulty a Lutheran who wishes to abide by his
official confession has in giving effect to his evangelical profession. He may declare that all the power exerted in saving the soul is from God, but this is crossed by his sacerdotal consciousness that grace is conveyed by the means of grace, otherwise not. The grace of regeneration, for example, is conveyed ordinarily (some say only) by baptism. And this grace of regeneration is the monergistic operation of God. Even so, however, it cannot be said that the effect is all of God. For, in the first place, whether it takes effect at all, is dependent on the attitude of the recipient. He cannot cooperate with God in producing it; but he can fatally resist. And therefore Baier (70) carefully defines: "God produces in the man who is baptized and who does not resist the divine grace, the work of regeneration or renovation through the Sacrament, in
the very act itself (hoc actu ipso)." And then, in the second place, whether this gift of regeneration proves a blessing or a curse to the recipient depends on how he takes it and deals with it. "An absolutely new power is created in him by God," says Haller, (71) "the action of which, whether for blessing or cursing, is dependent on the subject's subsequent, or even already presently operative decision." This carries with it, naturally, what is here covered up, that this self-determination of the recipient is his natural self-determination. For if it were itself given in the new power communicated in regeneration, then it were inconceivable that it could act otherwise than for blessing. Whether man is saved or not, depends therefore in no sense on the monergistic regeneration wrought by God in his baptism. It depends on how man receives this "new power communicated to him and how he uses it. And thus we are back on the plane of pure naturalism. (p. 77-78)


I fear that I will need a bit-o'-the-ol' self-flagellation if Reverend Aardvark keeps honoring my work. Seriously though, I have a draft of the early parts of my dissertation due this Friday, so I could use all of the self-efficacy that I can get. (Not self-esteem, mind you , but self-efficacy or sense that successful performance can be repeated in the future.) Thank you again Pastor Aardvark!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Pat Robertson is a Genius

Go to Reverend Cwirla's blog and read this. He satirically makes the case that Pat Robertson is "sarcastically challenged". Great Stuff. I spent some time with my fellow intern the other day talking about what diagnosis we would give to Robertson. She thinks that he just has no impulse control and whatever he thinks comes out, without thinking about consequences. She went to Regent ("his" school) and she thinks that every time Robertson gets in trouble, people look at her funny.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Lutheran Carnival Chi

The Lutheran Carnival: Chi Edition is up at the Carnival site. Click the title above to go there. Great stuff as always.

Friday, November 04, 2005

An Aardie!!!

It's one thing to self-promote on the Lutheran Carnival (great fun too), but to be recognized by one of the "greats" is quite another. I am pleased to announce that I am a recipient of the Golden Aardvark award for one of my pieces this week. I consider myself to be somewhat of a bloghack, so it is a very great honor to be placed alongside the Internet Monk and the Deaconess. Thank you Pastor Orycteropus Afer.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Whether a psychopath, too, can be saved.

The following I just wrote for an intern training exercise. PLEASE correct my naievte on any of my points below.

Discuss theological implications of psychological theory that psychopaths do not have a conscience.

First, it is difficult to see how no conscience whatsoever can exist in a psychopathic person. Evidence for this exists in the form of the psychopathic “burnout” in a person’s middle age. If someone can "grow" a conscience when they are faced with the reality that they are not omnipotent, was a form of conscience always there? Additionally, the common sense phrase “honor among thieves” comes to mind. C.S. Lewis uses this argument when he talks about the universal understanding of morality. If psychopathic people are able to feel rage at being slighted, are they not able at some level to understand morality? While the conscience can be so hardened as to allow for incredibly heinous actions, I’m unconvinced from a theoretical and biological standpoint that no conscience whatsoever exists in psychopathic people.

Having said that, let's assume that some people have absolutely no conscience: is conscience (an empathic 'feeling with') necessary for repentance and faith?

Arminian view – A person must have a conscience in order to respond to God’s offer of the gospel. He must know experientially (as a feeling) that he is a sinner and choose to come to Jesus for salvation. It would probably be argued that God must provide a conscience to every person in order for them to have a chance to respond to the Gospel. An argument similar to that of universal salvation for infants (age of accountability) might be generated – all psychopaths go to heaven because there is no way for them to respond in repentance to the free offer of salvation.

Calvinistic view – Theoretically a person need not have a conscience in order to be among the elect, however, the absence of a conscience could itself be construed as evidence of the unregenerate state. The effects of the fall are not fair and we each have proclivities that incline us toward sin (i.e., the genetic influence on homosexuality). Further, since God works in covenant families, and there is some evidence that psychopathy is in some ways inherited, this can be a case of the sins of the father being visited to the third and forth generation of those that hate God. In Calvinistic theology, there is no need for the declarations of God to be “fair” according to human understanding. God has authority to have mercy on some and to damn others to hell.

Roman Catholic (Sacramentalist) view – Salvation is possible for those who have no conscience if they are willing to confess their sins and receive absolution, receive the Eucharist and remain in that state of grace at the point of death. Certainly there would not be much internal motivation for those who are without conscience to confess their wrong-doing, save self-preservation if they were taught a strong message of the Law.

Lutheran view – We are all dead in sin until the quickening power of the Holy Spirit makes us alive through the Word. In this way the very moral person and the psychopath are exactly on equal ground. As the law is faithfully preached, the objective nature of sin would be revealed to both. The Holy Spirit uses the law to restrain evil in the world, to convict souls of their sinfulness and to point people to Christ as their hope. He alone can move the soul to acknowledge guilt and fly to Christ as the redeemer. Repentance is not necessarily a sense that I have "hurt God’s feelings" or empathically taking the victim’s perspective ("against you only have I sinned"), but rather a continual recognition of our sinfulness and a turning away from it. God uses objective means of grace to confer his salvation to his people; these are the Word, and the sacraments. Since no work can save, the psychopath would be a good example of the fact that God has done all the work for our salvation through the blood of Jesus. Since salvation was accomplished for all on the cross and applied to believers objectively through Word and sacrament, it is possible for psychopaths to be among the saints.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Is it a Vocation if a machine can do it?

That was my reaction to this article from the BBC claiming that a new computerized intervention was as effective as face-to-face counseling in alleviating depression. Except that the journal article that they are talking about doesn't actually say that. The abstact is here. It actually says that the computerized self-help with online self-help group was more effective than an online self-help group alone, and that changes were similar to previous face-to-face therapy findings (probably based on a calculated effect size). Well good. A lot of the psychoeducational stuff that I do is available from books (though I keep a closer eye to real science than do some popular authors), and that isn't shutting down the mental health field. The drop-out rate of 37% in this study is troubling to me. Part of the reason that counseling works is that you come in and have to tell me that you haven't done your homework.

Really though, what if part of my job could be done by a computer. Good! I've been reading a lot of Solution Focused counseling stuff recently and one of the points that the authors make is that we aren't in the "psychotherapy" business, but rather in the "change" business. I want to be a change agent in people's lives, and I'm not wedded to one way of doing that. Is part of our vocation to help define our occupations?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Reformation Over? - The Quiz

Put an E next to those issues (whatever your position) for which you would Die.
Put a BE next to those items for which you would Divide.
Put an A next to those items that are okay to disagree about.
Add other issues to the list as necessary. Post on your blog and let me know.

Divinity of Jesus
Literal Resurrection
Full Humanity of Jesus
Nature of the Lords Supper
Common Cup
Disposable Cups at Communion
Nature of Baptism
Age of Baptism
Mode of Baptism (sprinkling or dunking)
Necessity of Holy Spirit Baptism
Ordination of Women
Ordination of Homosexual people
Sacramental Marriage
Virgin birth
Perpetual virginity of Mary
Authority of Scripture
Authority of Tradition
Inerrancy of Scripture
Use of Images in worship
Contemporary music in worship
Specific translation of Scripture
Baptismal Regeneration
Decisional Regeneration
Supralapsarianism/Infralapsariansim (order of decrees)
Human nature after the Fall
Nature of the Atonement
One Person, two Natures
The Filioque
Church Membership for Practicing Homosexual people
Primacy of the Word
Playing Cards
Premarital Sex
Postmarital Sex
Healing continues
Tongues continue
Literal Hell
Literal Devil
The Rapture
Apocrypha (inclusion in Canon)
James (inclusion in Canon)
Revelation (inclusion in Canon)
Private Confession
Burial versus Cremation
Entire Sanctification

Listening to the new White Horse Inn for Reformation Sunday, I had an idea that what Dr. Noll and Mike Horton were disagreeing about was in essence, where to draw the line of Essence. Dr. Noll was saying that the Catholic Church now says things that sound very much like our Reformation heroes while popular American Christianity has gone Pelagian, therefore the Reformation is over. Horton was saying that Rome has yet to concede the Solas and therefore the Reformation continues. I think this has to do with where one draws the line between the Esse, Bene Esse and Adiaphora of the Church. Let's use this definition: Esse are the sine qua non of the Church, the difference between Christianity and Cult. The Bene Esse are crucial elements of the Church life - elements that we would divide over, and that lead souls astray - however within such Churches (properly so called) believers may be found - because of the power of the gospel. Adiaphora are things about which it is okay, and even healthy to disagree about.