Friday, June 22, 2012

Are all things for the best?

As some of you know, my wife and I had a match for our adoption last month that fell through. It was a short match, and we didn't even see the baby, but it was still very challenging.

In the midst of dealing with it many people, including Laci and me, would say something along the lines of, "Well, it must be for the best. God has other plans." When I said, "It has to be for the best," a friend of mine challenged me on that, asking if it really was for the best.

Through virtually all the disappointments in my life, I can say that in hindsight, they usually have been for the best, with something more positive resulting from the closed door. Plus, I always remember Romans 8:28: "We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose" (CEB).

I realized I was living by an assumption that everything occurred according to God's will. Calvinists, like John Piper, would argue that every little thing is determined by God. I reject his level of determinism. The Bible (and a lot of life) actually discuss many situations where people do not live in accordance with God's will. If we did, there would not be any need for salvation, which is obviously central to the biblical story.

When I thought about Romans 8:28 again, it has not promise that all things are according to God's will. It is simply that despite what happens, God will work good for those who love God. Life is full of problems, and those problems are not necessarily ordained by God nor for the best. Yet God can work beauty through them.

I don't know right now if the status of this match was in accordance with God's will or the best. I will probably never know more details about that baby, but I pray the best for that whole family with no ill will. In some ways, it is actually validating to know that not everything is necessarily for the best. If it is for the best, it can feel bad to grieve, yet grief is important.

I don't know why my aunt died of breast cancer at a young age several years ago. I can't imagine saying it was for the best. But I can say God worked a lot of good through her struggle in my life (I would have rather not had to deal with that pain).

So what do you think? Are all things for the best?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Basic Theology of Eric Liddell @christianaudio

Many people know Eric Liddell from the Oscar-winning Chariots of Fire. What many people don't know is  he also gave up the life of an athlete to be an overseas missionary.

In the short, The Disciplines of the Christian Life, Liddell presents a fundamental (not to be confused with fundamentalist) theology and encouragements for basic spiritual disciplines. I was impressed with his knowledge of biblical scholarship and historical-critical methodologies. At the same time, I found myself tuning out a lot while listening to the book. That may have been because there was a lot on my mind or because I can't really say there was much in the book I hadn't heard elsewhere.

I don't have any complaints about it, and it's probably a good introductory resource to theology and how God relates to the world. I enjoyed some of the preface history of Liddell. Simon Vance's (the narrator) Scottish accent was also a nice change from many audiobooks. It was an understandable accent (some Scottish accents are incomprehensible to non-Scots) and brought a bit of authenticity to the work, as Liddell was Scottish.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Destructive Power of Shame @TBBMediaGroup @ccef @newgrowthpress

Shame is something that is discussed in a therapeutic context frequently because of its constant presence in the lives of those who seek therapy. I've written about shame before, differentiating it from guilt as the latter saying, "I did bad" while shame says, "I am bad." Shame pervades people's identities, creating a sense of worthlessness and rejection.

In Shame Interrupted, Ed Welch, a psychologist, addresses the topic of shame head-on. The first few chapters paint a very real and in-depth picture of the potency of shame and its effects in daily life. Welch then proceeds to illustrate the history of shame throughout the Bible.

I was very impressed with Welch's psychological and theological treatment of such a sensitive, hidden, and pervasive topic. He brings to life the impact of shame and the power of Christ over shame. However, he doesn't argue for a simple, "Have faith, and you'll be healed approach." Rather, he actually stated, "The most promising response is that Jesus loves you, which is certainly true. But, believe it or not, that usually doesn't work either" (p. 61). Earlier on, he explains why recognizing Christ's love doesn't instantly heal shame: "When you receive such reproach from the community, you can easily believe that God himself joins these many voices, though he certainly does not" (p. 21).

Many Christians minimize the impact they have on people's perceptions of God, good and bad. However, our interactions with others can become the foundations of people's experiences of God. We literally need to be the hands and feet of Jesus, incarnating God's love to those around us.

While there were times when Welch said it was appropriate to feel shame (I'm not sure I agree--I think it's normal, but not really accurate), he also made it clear that these messages are not from God. God does not shame. Many Christians need to hear this message and remember that shame is not a motivator and does not lead people to God. Rather, it leads them to hiding (remember Adam and Eve?). Ironically, one of the most shame-enhancing pastors in the US, Mark Driscoll, endorsed this book.

Shame Interrupted reminded me of Bruce Narramore's No Condemnation, which addresses a similar concept, arguing that God never condemns people, but seeks restoration from human-made condemnation. However, Narramore's tome was more of an academic text. Welch's book stands up to strong academic scrutiny, but is more of a popular press book, making it far more accessible to the general population, which is really needed.

If you're interested in the topic of shame, this is a good introduction to understanding its power and pervasiveness. It doesn't provide strong solutions, but there are a variety of psychological texts that address the treatment of shame. I think one of the most powerful and important parts of this book is not minimizing the potency of shame and recognizing that its resolution is not simple.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Got a question, struggle, or doubt you'd like to see addressed here? Contact me, and I'll try to discuss it (and may even help you get an answer).