Sunday, July 16, 2006

Lutheran Carnival XXVIII

Vicar Lehmann hosts the XXVIII edition of the Lutheran Carnival: aqui esta.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

What else do you do?

My friend Devona issues a great post on her encounter with a professor from her college days who, upon seeing her with a toddler and pregnant with her second child, asked worriedly if she is okay.

Having gone through four years of graduate training in the most liberal field there is I must confess that I must have imbibed some of the professor's thought process as well. One of the first times I spoke with Devona after church, I asked her what she did "besides" raising her daughter. A foolish question, for which I am sorry. Granted that this was an attempt to get to know her better and to establish some common ground, but it was stupid. It presupposed that anyone of our age is probably doing work outside of the home and that parenting isn't a full-time position, which is patently untrue. It was also before I realized that she was the blogger that I had been reading for quite some time, in which case my question would have been moot.

In our culture we use occupation as shorthand for "who are you." Psychologically speaking, you can learn a great deal about a person if you know what occupation they have chosen, especially if you know that they like the work they do. Referencing back to my earlier post about personality, there are many things that people use as "identity claims" about myself in conversation. Some of them have to do with vocations - I am a student of Counseling Psychology. I am a confessional Lutheran (albeit recent and learning). I am an amateur guitarist and I like to sing. This last one was particularly salient to me in college - I had friends that would refer to me as Blind Dog, my blues band persona. I am a father. I am a husband. I am an intern for the time being. I am a scientist (though there are those who would disagree with this claim).

All of these and more are ways that I think about myself and some of them are properly vocations. Then of course there are some things about me that I don't care to share with others too readily. I can be ungrounded and driven by every wind of doctrine. I don't lead my family spiritually as I ought. Many, many, excruciatingly more. Most people don't lead with this list, however. "Hi, I'm Kletos and I am rather doctrinally spineless."

We all have different "identities" that we use to categorize and think about ourselves (even if your identity happens to be "nonconformist"). Devona's post is about solidifying the identity of motherhood into something that is salient and important to her and being ready to defend that identity in the world that doesn't value motherhood.

I wish I could have heard the identity claim, "I am a mother" without expecting something else.

Doctrinal Statement - Would you sign?

I'd like your thoughts on a doctrinal statement that I may have to face in the future. I will, of course, be addressing this with my faithful Pastor.
  1. One God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  2. The deity of Jesus Christ, in whose person are united the divine and human natures so that He is truly both God and man; His virgin birth, sinless life, miracles, vicarious and atoning death; His bodily resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father, and His personal return in power and glory.
  3. The present ministry of the Holy Spirit convincing sinners of sin and regenerating, sanctifying, guiding, and empowering believers.
  4. The plenary inspiration of the Scriptures, their essential unity, and their inviolable authority.
  5. The fall of man through the sin of our first parents; the death and hopelessness of man apart from the work of redemption wrought by Jesus Christ.
  6. Reconciliation with God through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ by repentance for sin and receiving of forgiveness and new life by faith in Jesus Christ as Savior.
  7. Sanctification of the reconciled believer through the operation of the Holy Spirit by the complete dedication of believers to God and the receiving by faith of cleansing from enmity against God; by walking in daily obedience as true and fervent disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ and growing more like Him in maturity of character; and by following the guidance of the Holy Spirit and receiving His empowerment for continuous victory over sin and for service unto God.
  8. Our obligation to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, making disciples of all men everywhere.
  9. The spiritual unity of all believers in our Lord Jesus Christ.
  10. The immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the body, the final judgment of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, resulting in the eternal fellowship of the righteous with God, and the eternal separation of the wicked from God.

I’m cool with 1 through 5, though I may have missed something.

Theology seems to live in the prepositions. I would change number 6 from “reconciliation with God through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ by repentance for sin...” to “reconciliation with God by the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ by means of repentance of sin...” I’m also not sure about the “and” clause does it connect parallel thoughts? Do I divide the first part of the thought after the word “through” or after the word “by” (“Through this and this” or “by this and this.”)

Number 7 suffers from prepositional confusion too. “ the complete dedication of believers to God...” This one is worse however, in that it keeps adding “by” phrases. The operation of the Holy Spirit is first, but then we have “by...dedication of believers to God” “by walking in daily obedience.” etc.

“By” has lots of definitions, such as “through the action of” as in “My web page is designed by me” or “with the use or help of” as in “we came by the back road” or “through the agency or action of” as in “he was killed by a bullet.” To say that sanctification is through the agency of the complete dedication of believers to God is right out.

The phrase, “growing more like Him in maturity of character” bothers me a bit. If it means that I will fear and love God more and more, then I agree. If it means that I will sin less and less and eventually be morally like Christ, I disagree.

Number 8 is okay. I don’t think that it is every Christian’s vocation to publicly preach, but I do think it is every Christian’s calling to be ready in and out of season to give the reasons for his or her hope.

Number 9 is a bit vague for my tastes. What does the “spiritual unity of all believers” mean? Is this an ecumenical gesture or does it refer to the Church Triumphant and the fact that we are one body under one head, Jesus Christ? If it means that I accept all who claim to be “Christians” as true heirs with Christ, then no.

Number 10 is good. I would probably change the word “soul” to “person” but clearly they aren’t espousing the immortality of disembodied souls, as the next phrase proclaims the resurrection of the body.

Am I being too nit-picky? Are there not turns of phrase in the Book of Concord that could be overanalyzed? I wonder if this organization would accept a copy of the Lutheran Symbols with my signature on the back page? Please help me refine my thinking on this document.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

True Story from Graduate School

The scene is a graduate classroom in which we are discussing factors that people find desirable in a mate. As various students give answers, "emotional stability", "wealth", etc. I raise my hand and answer, "fidelity"

"Bark!" responds the professor. Not the word, but the sound of a barking dog.

Then class moves on. I don't know exactly what to think. Much later, months later, I process this event with a colleague. (Much like Christians "share" with each other, psychology graduate students "process" things with each other.) She confirms that I did not misperceive something else as a bark. I was actually barked at in a graduate classroom of a public university. Only then, processing it with a friend, did I get a bit angry. For two reasons:

  1. Had a barked at any of my Psych 101 students for any reason whatsoever, I would be out of the program. Guaranteed. This would be considered the height of inappropriate behavior. We have an institutional statement on creating a Civil Learning Environment and this certainly would qualify as incivility coming from me.
  2. As far as I know, and I believe research would support this contention, fidelity is valued not only by heterosexual, religious men, but also by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered individuals, by feminists and by liberals. I was expressing a wide-open opinion: that people want their mates to be theirs and not other peoples. Of course you could take issue with my opinion, but I could take issue with someone else's assertion that wealth is valued in mate selection. Taking issue is different from barking.

In processing the incident with a colleague, we figured out what happened. This was my first and only class with this particular professor, who is well known for work with women's issues. My reputation preceded me – the professor knew that I was a religious person and it was quite obvious that I am male. The professor might also have heard me refer to my wife as "my wife" rather than "my spouse" which is normative in my program. The professor must have expected me to espouse patriarchical values, to be controlling over my spouse (which a brief conversation with my wife would readily disconfirm) and to be intolerant. When I said something innocuous, the professor heard it through that lens of expectation. This is exactly the intolerance that we are so thoroughly drilled to resist in my program.

No, this incident didn't hurt my self-esteem or wound me intrapsychically. If anything it gave me a great story about my graduate training. I'm sure to get some mileage out of it. It illustrated for me the one-sidedness of tolerance that is preached in our public universities. I was a "victim" of religious intolerance (albeit so slight as to be trivial), and I know for a fact that had I done the same action in reference to someone of a minority sexual orientation or ethnicity, I would be searching for a new profession.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Hoc Est Corpus Meum

I forgot whom, but somewhere along the line, I head a preacher or teacher discussing the words of institution. Somehow I remember him saying that in the original, there was no equivalent of of the word "is", no "est" like in the Latin: Hoc est corpus meum. The teacher was saying that "I am the door" was a similar construction, and clearly none of us believe in Christ's literal door-ness.

Today I finally looked it up, and there staring back at me on page 102 of my Greek New Testament are the words, touto estin to soma mou. Now, it's been 6 or 7 years since I studied Greek in college, but I remember that estin is an eimi verb. So, I went Googling for what in the world I was recalling. Turns out that some have argued that since Aramaic has no connecting verbs, and since Jesus must have been speaking Aramaic in the upper room, he didn't intend what the gospel author's imply with their Greek constructions.

The psychological principle here is called source monitoring error. The danger of misinformation is enhanced when the information is encoded, but the source is not. Behavior can be changed, in this case, some residual doubts about the Real Presence, based on hearing information from dubious sources. You remember that "somewhere" you heard thus and such, but you can't quite remember where it was that you heard it. In the laboratory, researchers have shown that information from even very non-credible sources (think Pravda), can change attitudes and behavior.

Could this teaching that I was exposed to have come from a Christian who held high regard for the Scriptures, but was overcome by a tempting fact (lack of "being" verbs in the Aramaic) that supported his theology so well? Given that the Church of the East is in communion with Rome (if I can trust the "collective ignorance" of Wikipedia) then I don't think that they use this argument about the words of institution, despite their use of the Peshitta. (Some Aramaic primacists in the CotE claim that Aramaic is the language of the monographs of the N.T.).

Saturday, July 01, 2006

This blogger's personality.

Only six people, so far, have responded to my request to rate my personality based on my blog. Turns out that this was enough for a demonstration anyway. There were ten questions, five displaying the positive direction of the personality trait and five the negative direction.

Neuroticism - is the level of emotional reactivity of a person, primarily negative emotions.

Extraversion - is the level of sociability and positive emotionality a person has. People high on extraversion also have a lot of energy.

Openness to Experience - this factor has to do with willingness to experience the world. creativity and imagination Intelligence are part of this. Some tests use political liberalness as a proxy for this factor, which is why people like me get widely variant results on different tests of the big 5. (Some tests of the five factors divide them up onto facets - I'm high on all of the facets except liberalness.)

Agreeableness - this factor is about being friendly, cooperative, and warm. Low scorers tend to be agressive and cynical. Being too high on Agreeableness has its drawbacks too, because these people tend to allow others to take advantage of them.

Conscientiousness - this facet has to do with being reliable, diligent, careful and rule oriented.
The first graph is a depiction of your average ratings of me and my own self-ratings (done before I asked y'all.) You can see that a similar pattern is evident, but there is some disagreement.

I standardized the scores (z score) which makes both scales more comperable. It uses the average rating as a baseline, so that you can see how each score falls relative to that average. This allows my self-ratings and your ratings of me to be compared.

When standardized, you can really see that we agreed about my level of Extraversion and Openness to Experience, but we were most off on Conscientious.

You're perception of my Agreeableness is lower both in absolute terms and when standardized.

Having given you some basic feedback, next time I will answer Solarbloggers comments about testing in the practice of psychology.