Manic-Depressive Christianity

Over my years as a pastor I have worked with several people who were bi-polar. This is sometimes referred to as being Manic Depressive.

The Manic phase refers to ideas of superiority, taking over the world, on top of it all, and looking down on all the losers around you.

The Depressive state refers to, well, being depressed. The world has stomped me, there is no hope, no reason to continue, I will go enjoy my favorite reality drowning sin.

The Depressed state is replaced with the Manic state, the Manic replaced with the Depressed, and around and around it goes. Each stage is an over-reaction followed by another over-reaction in the opposite direction. It’s one thing to observe it from the outside, it’s another thing to be stuck in the cycle.

There’s another brand of Manic Depressive out there too, beyond human psychology: Manic Depressive Christianity.

When people are down, the Church shoves happy verses at them: all things work together for good, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, all things are possible with God.

The depressed person goes away chanting these out of context phrases, bucked up by the happy sentiments, they go out in the power of the Spirit to conquer the world. We are more than conquerors after all! Rah-Rah, go get em, boys!

After a couple weeks of exhausting one’s self in uber-happy Christian out of context mantra chanting that has not made any difference or taken over any world, depression sets in.

The Church hands the depressed girl the happy verses. The happy verses are repeated. The depressed girl is bucked up. Rah-rah! Go win one for the Gipper! Only to find out the Gipper died a long time ago and everything stinks.

It’s a discouraging to watch people stuck in this cycle. Facebook is the greatest venue for watching this cycle in action. People post way too much stuff, revealing way too many personal things.

If you have many Christians on your Facebook page, you probably have two or three of these people. One day everything is awesome, and them and God are doing it all! Next week everything is horrible, struggling, pain, failure. Nest week, posting pictures of sunsets with out of context biblical phrases. Next week, on top of the world with Jesus! Repeat.

I get depressed for what the Church does to people. Instead of chanting out of context phrases from verses, rest on the solid rock of God’s Word.

Teaching the Bible is not easy. The Bible is very long. There are many things “hard to be understood,” says the Apostle Peter.

Most churches skip the hard work and settle for self-improvement and bucking up people with happy thoughts torn out of context.

All things do work together for good–and the good, according to the context, includes suffering and being counted as sheep for the slaughter. The good is conformity to Christ; not worldly achievements.

We are more than conquerors, because one day we will be dead and we will have lost our lives, but we will have gained Christ.

All things are possible with God. And, based on the context of this verse, the impossible that will be made possible is rich people will give away their money to the poor, not you getting the girl, or the job, or the new car.

You can do all things through Christ, but the all things don’t mean overcoming obstacles to worldly pleasure and enjoyment. The all things, based on the context, means being content in whatever state you are in regardless of your present state of worldly pleasure and enjoyment.

But the Church doesn’t teach this any more. Too depressing. Not happy enough. Who would come and listen to that? Well, not too many people, but preaching a false message of hope to hopeless people only leads to hopelessness.

Many may not listen to the Bible’s message, but those who do will at least be helped. Changing the Bible’s message so more will hear you, only makes you accountable for destroying those souls by your false, incomplete message.

I pray for the Church. I pray for those stuck in the Manic-Depressive cycle and those stuck in the Christian version of it, too.

How Not to Talk to Kids About Sin

“And, if you play this record backwards, you can hear a voice saying ‘Satan has his own religion. Satan has his own religion.’”

“How awesome is that?” my friend whispered to me.

Our youth group was dragged to a series of lectures about the dangers of Rock Music. It was the late ‘80’s, when rock music was at its dangerestest.

We learned about subliminal messages heard while playing records backwards. I was never quite clear how backward messages were picked up by my subconscious. I don’t recall that ever being explained. However, the invention of the iPod seems to have put an end to this nefarious Satanic scheme.

We learned about album artwork and the dangerous occult symbols hidden in paintings of scantily clad women. I believe I saw more scantily clad women at this Christian conference than anywhere else at that point in my life.

We learned about highways to hell and all my friends being there to party. We learned about sex and drugs. It was quite the education.

It was firmly ground into our little heads that listening to rock music will make us a drugged up minion of Satan that impregnates scantily clad women.

Mostly what these lectures did was fill us with an intense desire to listen to rock music. My radio was soon moved next to my bed so I could quietly listen to AC/DC and Metallica without anyone knowing.

As I familiarized myself with rock music, I did no drugs, I worshipped no Satans, and much to my junior highish hormonal regret, impregnated no scantily clad women. Rock music was a giant letdown.

Kids don’t always know what they are doing or why. Adults appear to be authorities, people who have been around and know more. There is a responsibility inherent in adulthood: look out for those youngsters and help them out.

Unfortunately, adults lack sense ourselves. Although we know sin is dangerous, we can go overboard in explaining its danger. We revert to the worst case scenario. Tiny sins always lead to slippery slopes to doom, no exceptions, so BE AFRAID!

Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, has been around the block a few times. In his treatise on the vanity of life, the Book of Ecclesiastes, he talks about sin and appears to be much less alarmed.

“Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself? Be not overly wicked, neither be a fool. Why should you die before your time?” Ecclesiastes 7:16-18

“It is the same for all, since the same event happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As the good one is, so is the sinner, and he who swears is as he who shuns an oath.” Ecclesiastes 9:2

Here, perhaps, is the clincher of all clinchers, Ecclesiastes 11:9a, “Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes.”

Did you catch that one?! Solomon tells young men to follow their heart and go after everything they see! Really? That’s what the God-inspired Scriptures say to young idiot men raging in hormonal lust? “Go for it?” That’s the message?

Wow, I‘m glad Solomon was only a king and not a youth pastor.

But hold up a second. Solomon has a lot of other things to say about sin, too.

“Let not your mouth lead you into sin” Ecclesiastes 5:6a

“But it will not be well with the wicked, neither will he prolong his days like a shadow, because he does not fear before God.” Ecclesiastes 8:13

“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” Ecclesiastes 12:13,14

OK, now that’s better. Now we’re on safe ground with Brother Solomon.

But this is the same guy and the same book saying these things. How can Solomon, in the same breath, say that sin doesn’t seem to end up all that bad and yet also say we should pursue righteousness and avoid evil?

Solomon has two arenas in view. When it comes to temporal benefit, doing right and avoiding sin is mostly a waste. You will see the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer. Avoiding sin and doing good doesn’t pay well on this earth.

But Solomon also speaks about sin in light of the eternal arena. When it comes to judgment day, your sin will cost you and your righteous deeds will win praise.

I quoted Ecclesiastes 11:9a earlier about letting young men sin. Look at the entire verse (include the “b” part) and see how it conveys this point:

“Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.”

Yeah, OK young men, go for it. Live it up. Go get what you see and follow your ridiculous heart. Live it up. But remember, you’ll stand before God with that someday.

When it comes to talking about sin with young people, I think we should follow Solomon’s lead. Solomon has no problem telling young men that sin is kind of fun and more than likely you’ll get away with it.

Now, wow. Even I can’t quite see myself saying that. But let’s be honest. I remember the scare tactics used to get kids in youth groups to take purity vows and to abstain from pre-marital sex. We were constantly told what evils would befall us if we got a girl pregnant. Well, wouldn’t you know it; two young people in that group went out and had a baby outside of marriage.

They didn’t die. They didn’t lose their baby. They didn’t become Satan worshippers. They aren’t on drugs. In fact, 30 years later, these young people turned out quite normal. They are married, attend church, and have a well-functioning family.

As we are told, many young people leave the church once they get the freedom to do so. One of the many reasons why is because they have discovered that awful things generally do not happen when you sin. Oh sure, we can share the story about what happened to that one kid who is now on drugs and life is totally destroyed. It happens, but for the large extent, sin is something that happens and then life goes on. All those dire youth group warnings didn’t come true. What other lies did youth group tell me?

Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, knew sinners often get away with sin and do fine. “In my vain life I have seen everything. There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evildoing.”

We must be careful to not overplay the dangers of sin. Stealing cookies from mom won’t necessarily lead to a life of robbing banks. I stole many cookies: I have yet to rob a bank.

Sin is bad. In no way is Solomon telling us to tell kids to go ahead and sin with impunity. What Solomon says is that sin is often overcome. Doing what is right doesn’t pay well on earth. But this earth isn’t all there is. Eternity is a long time and you will stand before God with all you’ve done. Sin and righteousness matter—this life may not prove it, but Judgment Day will. Layoff the heavy-handed “your life will be destroyed” doom about sin. Instead, point kids’ minds to eternity and their stand before God.

Arguing and The Cold War

The US at one time was the only nation on the earth that had an atomic bomb. But in 1949 Stalin and Russia got one.

President Truman had a decision to make. What should the US do now? Bomb Russia? Ban the bomb? Truman decided to call a bunch of scientists together to see if there was any possibility of building a larger bomb.

Their answer: Yeah, we could, but should we?

Truman’s doctrine here was called Escalation Dominance.

The concept holds that the United States can best contain conflicts and avoid escalation if it is dominant at each successive rung up the “ladder of escalation,” all the way to the top rung of nuclear weapons.

Whoever has the biggest weapon can use it as a threat to force other nations to back off. But to effectively use this threat, you have to keep going up the ladder to more powerful weapons.

This term, Escalation Dominance, reminds me of arguing theology, or anything else for that matter.

Both sides state their claims. Both disagree on the Bible passages. Both disagree on the proper interpretation or definitions. Stalemate.

“You need to talk to my pastor. He knows this subject better than I do.”

“Your pastor? What does he know? You need to read Doctor So-And-So, he has studied this for 20 years and has written four books on the subject.”

“Yeah, well, you need to read Doctor This-And-That, he has studied this subject for 34 years and has written seven books.”

“Pssh, you should listen to St. DeadGuy who wrote 1,650 years ago and shaped all theologians.”

“What? That’s nothing. Early Church Father WhatsHisName knew a guy who knew Paul and practically wrote the first ever commentary on Romans.”

“An English speaking ignoramus would trust him. If you knew Arabic and the writings of WeirdNamedGuy of WeirdNamedPlace, who used to change the Apostle Paul’s diapers, then you would truly understand.”

On and on it goes. It’s the argument from Authority. In essence, “My dad is bigger than your dad.”

This probably isn’t true all the time, but for the most part, if you begin quoting people in your arguments, you’ve probably entered Escalation Dominance territory.

Your desire is to bring out the Big Guns and silence the moron. It’s too bad people have more respect for degrees, prestige, and honors than they do simple humble dependence on the Spirit.

So, what happened with Truman’s Escalation Dominance theory? For many years both the US and Russia built bigger and more bombs than the other guy. I suppose it worked, since we’re all still here. At the same time, there is still tension between the US and Russia, and now also with a few other nations who escalated their weapons too.

Escalation Dominance doesn’t ever really solve a conflict. When it comes to the Bible, either you know what you’re talking about or you don’t. Resist the urge to one-up each others authorities into infinity. The argument is already over. You’ve reached stalemate.

Let it go.

Miracles and Science

The Big Bang and Evolution try to explain how we got here by a random process of mutation. There is no design and there is no purpose. Just nature randomly mutating.

If our world got here by random chance mutation, one would expect randomness to occur all the time. If randomness is the norm, how do scientific laws fit in?

According to the scientific method, a scientific law is reproducible and can be tested and verified in the lab. Whenever A is added to B you get C. Every time. No matter what. Which is not random.

Science tells us to only trust fixed behavior, like evolution, which is entirely random.

One of the main criticisms evolutionary atheists have about the Bible are the miracles. You can’t turn water into wine. You can’t walk on water. Dead guys don’t come alive. Miracles are too random, not normative, thus are not possible. Only a moron would think random acts such as miracles could occur.

Here’s the thing though: dead guys don’t come alive again, water does not turn into wine. and walking on water is not normal, that’s what makes it a miracle.

But the evolutionist believes our living bodies and water got here by completely random, out of the ordinary acts.

I remain baffled and confused by the logic at work. What is more of a miracle: that a guy walked on water, or that a guy and water got here by random mutation?

Evolutionists have more of a belief in miracles than even the Bible calls for!

A. W. Tozer: The Freedom of the Will

IT IS INHERENT IN THE NATURE OF MAN that his will must be free. Made in the image of God who is completely free, man must enjoy a measure of freedom. This enables him to select his companions for this world and the next; it enables him to yield his soul to whom he will, to give allegiance to God or the devil, to remain a sinner or become a saint.

And God respects this freedom. God once saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good. To find fault with the smallest thing God has made is to find fault with its Maker. It is a false humility that would lament that God wrought but imperfectly when He made man in His own image. Sin excepted, there is nothing in human nature to apologize for. This was confirmed forever when the Eternal Son became permanently incarnated in human flesh.

So highly does God regard His handiwork that He will not for any reason violate it. For God to override man’s freedom and force him to act contrary to his own will would be to make a mockery of the image of God in man. This God will never do. Our Lord Jesus looked after the rich young ruler as he walked away, but He did not follow him or attempt to coerce him. The dignity of the young man’s humanityforbade that his choices should be made for him by another. To remain a man he must make his own moral choices; and Christ knew this and permitted him to go his own chosen way. If his human choice took him at last to hell, at least he went there a man; and it is better for the moral universe that he should do so than that he should be jockeyed to a heaven he did not choose, a soulless, willess automaton.

God will take nine steps toward us, but He will not take the tenth. He will incline us to repent, but He cannot do our repenting for us. It is of the essence of repentance that it can only be done by the one who committed the act to be repented of. God can wait on the sinning man; He can withhold judgment; He can exercise long-suffering to the point where He appears “lax” in His judicial administration; but He cannot force a man to repent. To do this would be to violate the man’s freedom and void the gift God originally bestowed upon him.

Where there is no freedom of choice there can be neither sin nor righteousness, because it is of the nature of both that they be voluntary. However good an act may be, it is not good if it is imposed from without. The act of imposition destroys the moral content of the act and renders it null and void. For an act to be sinful the quality of voluntariness must also be present. Sin is the voluntary commission of an act known to be contrary to the will of God. Where there is no moral knowledge or where there is no voluntary choice, the act is not sinful; it cannot be, for sin is the transgression of the law and transgression must be voluntary.

Lucifer became Satan when he made his fateful choice: “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” Clearly here was a choice made against light. Both knowledge and will were present in the act. Conversely, Christ revealed His holiness when He cried in His agony, “Not my will, but thine, be done.” Here was a deliberate choice made with the full knowledge of the consequences. Here two wills were in temporary conflict, the lower will of the Man who was God and the higher will of the God who was Man, and the higher will prevailed.

Here also was seen in glaring contrast the enormous difference between Christ and Satan; and that difference divides saint from sinner and heaven from hell. But someone may ask, “When we pray ‘Not my will, but Thine be done,’ are we not voiding our will and refusing to exercise the very power of choice which is part of the image of God in us?” The answer to that question is a flat No, but the whole thing deserves further explanation.

No act that is done voluntarily is an abrogation of the freedom of will. If a man chooses the will of God he is not denying but exercising his right of choice. What he is doing is admitting that he is not good enough to desire the highest choice nor is he wise enough to make it, and he is for that reason asking Another who is both wise and good to make his choice for him. And for fallen man this is the ultimate use he should make of his freedom of will.

Tennyson saw this and wrote of Christ,

Thou seemest human and divine,
The highest, holiest manhood, Thou;
Our wills are ours, we know not how;
Our wills are ours, to make them Thine.

There is a lot of sound doctrine in these words—”Our wills are ours, to make them Thine.” The secret of saintliness is not the destruction of the will but the submergence of it in the will of God. The true saint is one who acknowledges that he possesses from God the gift of freedom. He knows that he will never be cudgled into obedience nor wheedled like a petulant child into doing the will of God; he knows that these methods are unworthy both of God and of his own soul. He knows he is free to make any choice he will, and with that knowledge he chooses forever the blessed will of God.

–A. W. Tozer
The Freedom of the Will
Chapter 7 of That Incredible Christian