The Aloha Lecture Series

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Kailua, Hawaii, United States
The Aloha Lecture Series is a monthly lecture event given by different people in our community to create a platform to share our ideas and generate discussion about what it means to thrive as human beings.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Spring 2013 Debate: The Role of the Virgin Mary in Worship and the Intercession of the Saints

 Tom Cook and Robert Arakaki defend the the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox view of prayer to the saints, while Mark Brians, Ben Moore, and Samuel Dickison articulate the Protestant/Anglican view.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Lent: A Desert Pilgrimage Through the Cross to the Resurrection


Presented by Ben Moore at the Aloha Lecture Series on February 27, 2012

 “Being weak, we need external reminders, symbols, and signs. Of course there is always the danger that these external symbols may become ends in themselves and instead of being mere reminder become in popular opinion the very content of Lent…Properly understood, however, these customs constitute that “belt” which connects the spiritual effort to the totality of life…The spiritual tragedy of secularism is that it forces us into a real religious “schizophrenia” –dividing our life into two parts: the religious and the secular, which are less and less interdependent. Thus a spiritual effort is needed in order to transpose the traditional customs and reminders, the very means of our Lenten effort.” – Schmemann, Great Lent

I.               What is Lent?
a.     40 days beginning on Ash Wednesday that climaxes during Holy Week (April 2-7). It originated in the 4th century, and has been a significantly spiritual time for billions of Christians throughout history. Lent comes from an Old English word meaning “to lengthen”, referring to the lengthening of days during the Spring season.
b.     The Church Calendar: shaped around the life of Christ. Lent is sandwiched between Christmas and Easter.
c.     Ash Wednesday
                                                     i.     Its name comes from the ancient practice of placing ashes on worshippers’ heads or foreheads as a sign of humility before God, a symbol of mourning and sorrow at the death that sin brings into the world. It is a day to reflect on our mortality, our brokenness, and our need for God.
d.     Holy Week
                                                     i.     Palm Sunday (entry into Jerusalem), Maundy Thursday (The Last Supper), Good Friday (Crucifixion), Holy Saturday (Waiting), Easter (Resurrection).

II.             Understanding Lent as a Desert Experience
Deuteronomy 8:2-10: “And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”

a.     Desert as a place of transformation
                                                     i.     The desert has rich symbolism in the Bible as a place of transformation.

Noah is told to start building a boat in the desert.
Noah floats for 40 days on the “desert” of the sea.
The earth is purged of wickedness and evil.
Abram is comfortable in Ur.
Abram is called by God to leave Ur and journey into the desert.
God makes his covenant with Abraham.
Israel is in captivity in Egypt.
Moses leads Israel through the wilderness for 40 years.
Israel settles in the Promised Land.
Christ is baptized by John the Baptist.
Christ is led by the Spirit into the desert for 40 days to be tempted by the Devil.
Christ begins his ministry.

b.     Desert as place of preparation.
                                                     i.     Jesus went into the desert to prepare himself for his ministry.
                                                      ii.     The Orthodox describe Lent as, “The Spring Time of Renewal…an opening flower of life.” All Christians in some form or fashion celebrate Easter, and Lent prepares us to celebrate Easter with more unction and vibrancy. Just as the bitterness of the cruxifixion made the resurrection all that more sweet, the discomfort of Lent makes Easter all that more grand and significant.
c.     Desert as a journey into the depth of our humanity.
                                                     i.     In the desert we begin to recognize our need, and how far we are from God. The absence of distractions calls attention to the fact that there’s something not quite right within us. The desert strips one bare of all pretenses to righteousness.
                                                      ii.     In the same way Lent gives opportunity for us to confess our total inadequacy before God, and thus come before Him in dust and ashes. It is a way to empty ourselves of our false pride, of our rationalizations that prevent us from seeing ourselves as needy creatures.
d.     Desert as purification through repentance.
                                                     i.     Flowing out of coming to terms with our deep need for God, the call to repentance also comes out of the desert place. “It is written in Isaiah the prophet: "I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way"— "a voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord.”
                                                      ii.     Repentance is about detaching ourselves from those things that are blocking the light of God into our lives. Repentance, or metanoia, is an “abrupt turn around” so that we reorient ourselves facing God again and not our own god substitutes.
e.     Desert as a place of stillness.
                                                     i.     “I will lure you and call you into the desert, and there I will speak tenderly to your heart.” Hosea 2:14.
                                                      ii.     “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46
                                                        iii.     In the stillness of the desert, Christ draws us back to himself. We always have the choice of what to fill our emptiness: either God or other things. The intentional emptiness created by fasting is not an end in itself, but is to be filled with God by us saying YES to God.

III.           What are we to do during Lent? The triad of Lent: Fasting, prayer, and acts of compassion.
a.     Fasting
                                                     i.     Fasting helps us experience hunger like the wandering Israelites and see God provide manna for us. It helps us seek the One who alone satisfies our needs. Fasting “is not to force on us a few formal obligations, but to ‘soften’ our heart so that it may open itself to the realities of the spirit, to experience the hidden ‘thirst and hunger’ for communion with God.” –Schmemann Great Lent
                                                      ii.     Fasting helps us value that which we fast from of their true worth. After fasting, it is felt a real blessing when we receive the simple blessings back again.
                                                        iii.     “How many people have accepted the idea that Lent is the time when something which may be good in itself is forbidden, as if God were taking pleasure in torturing us. For the authors of Lenten hymns, however, Lent is exactly the opposite; it is a return to the “normal” life, to that “fasting” which Adam and Eve broke, thus introducing suffering and death into the world. Lent is greeted, therefore, as a spiritual spring, as a time of joy and light:
The Lenten spring as come, the light of repentance…Let us receive the announcement of Lent with joy! For if our forefather Adam had kept the fast, we would not have been deprived of paradise…the time of Lent is a time of gladness! With radiant purity and pure love, filled with resplendent prayer and all good deeds, let us sing with joy…
                                                        iv.     “Fasting is the refusal to accept the desires and urges of our fallen nature as normal, the effort to free ourselves from the dictatorship of the flesh and matter over the spirit.”
                                                      v.     Just as we repent with our spirit, fasting is a way for us to repent with our bodies. Schmemann writes, “Salvation and repentance then are not contempt for the body or neglect of it, but restoration of the body to its real function as the expression and the life of spirit, as the temple of the priceless human soul. Christian asceticism is a fight, not against but for the body. For this reason, the whole man—soul and body—repents. The body participates in the prayer of the soul just as the soul prays through and in the body. Prostrations [or kneeling] are a “psycho-somatic” sign of repentance and humility, of adoration and obedience, and are thus the Lenten rite par excellence."
                                                        vi.     Collective fasting is also a beautiful opportunity to express our solidarity and communion with Christians all over the world. During Lent men, women and children, rich and poor, together fast in unity in preparation and anticipation of the Coming of Christ.
·      Since the early Middle Ages, meat, eggs and dairy products were given up universally throughout the Christendom. Butchers would close up their shops and the cow’s milk would go to the dogs for those 6 weeks. Abstaining from eating meat, eggs, and dairy products are still observed throughout the world in the Orthodox and Catholic worlds. Many churches will fast during the week and break their fast each Sunday, since every Sunday is traditionally considered a feast day.
a.     The Western Reasons. Thomas Aquinas argued that "they [meat and dairy] afford greater pleasure as food [than fish], and greater nourishment to the human body, so that from their consumption there results a greater surplus available for seminal matter, which when abundant becomes a great incentive to lust."
b.     The Eastern Reasons: “From the creation of our Parents in Paradise to the time after the great flood, people ate only fruits, grains and vegetables. This is the food of paradise! The practice of abstinence reminds us of our high calling to manage all creation in the Name of the Lord. Our hunger for meat and other rich food serves as a reminder of the enmity that exists in creation as a result of sin. Especially during this holy season when the liturgy reminds us of the role that the stars, the angels, the earth itself, the beasts of the field, the ox and the ass all played in receiving the Savior of the world, abstinence calls us to set aside our enmity even with the animals in order to restore peace on earth.”[1]
                                                         vii.     Fasting also teaches what it truly means to feast. In a society where we can have anything anytime we want, the experience of waiting or being patient is something we aren’t very good at. Abstaining for certain foods for a week at a time—to feel hunger for something and learning discipline teaches us delayed gratification. After a week of not eating meat or dairy, makes Sunday feel like a true feast day. Our bodies actually itch for Sundays. Giving up of things in order to value them of their true worth makes us aware of their real blessing when we receive them back again.
b.     Prayer:
                                                     i.     Fasting should go with prayer. Fasting without prayer just makes us irritable: the devils fast. In Lent we are to give more time in prayer and attention to prayer as we turn in a more conscious way to God.
                                                      ii.     Taking time for repentance.
·      The prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian
·      The Litany of Penance
·      The Jesus Prayer. “Jesus Son of God have mercy on me a sinner.”
c.     Almsgiving   
                                                     i.     Giving of finances and giving practical compassion to others around us. Giving time. Giving what we are. Visit the lonely. Catching up on letters of encouragement. “Give bread and receive paradise” - St. John Chrysostom.
                                                      ii.     Less distractions from diversions creates space in which we are better able to give to others more deeply.

·      Lent is not mandatory for the Christian. Yet why not? Only good can come of it if it is done well. It has been a deeply meaningful and woven into the fabric of our Christian heritage.
·      Observing Lent gives us an opportunity to grow closer as a community as we all seek to grow closer to Christ. Collective fasting can be a great encouragement as we walk together through the desert experience.
·      Being weak, we need external reminders, symbols, and signs. Lent invites us to enter into a kind of desert experience of transformation, repentance, purification, and preparation. Lenten fasts are intended to ‘soften’ us to be more perceptive of God’s work in our lives. Participating in a collective fast, brings us closer together, and teaches us a deeper love for feasting. Fasting, coupled with both prayer and acts of compassion, encourages us to follow in the footsteps of our Savoir in tangible actions. 
·      Given the many layers of meaning in Lent, we won’t grasp all of them in a single year. But imagine if we were to observe Lent every year for the rest of our life—imagine how much we would grow and learn.

·      "O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk. But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to thy service. Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions and not to judge my brother. For blessed art thou unto ages of ages. Amen." –A prayer for Lent of St. Ephraim the Syrian

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012



By Tommy Cook

Why do I say Magisteria?
William James called psychology a bastard science, and ‘that nasty little subject’
When you read it, you soon find there is a distinct pattern not of individual discoveries being made as there are in the strict sciences, but collections of views with supporting evidence, but the pieces of evidence are not strictly separate from the views.
“The human soul is the only thing that one cannot properly study, because it is at once both the study and the student. We can analyze a beetle by looking through a microscope, but we cannot analyze a beetle by looking through a beetle.” -G. K. Chesterton
Since strict objectivity is impossible, psychology lives on the borderland of philosophy. A view of man is necessary as a starting point.
Man is a freakish thing. C. S. Lewis called man “that amphibian creature”. Both spirit and body combined.

Can you bear to look at yourself? Socrates’s ‘know thyself’ is easier said than done. Pascal remarked in his Pensees, can you bear to be alone with yourself in a room, totally unstimulated, doing nothing, for even an hour? If not, who are you, that you cannot spend even an hour with yourself? Are you that much of a scoundrel, that you wouldn’t want to spend even an hour with yourself? Then why do you assume that others will want to? We are all crazy.
Psychology has its Magisteria, and they are at war. The history of psychology is a history of schism, excommunications, factions, even faintings. Freud publically fainted several times, once when Jung first started bringing up the occult and paranormal events into his lectures. Soon, despite being Freud’s main disciple, was ejected from Freud’s Viennese circle. Similarly, in London in the 1940’s after Freud’s death, there was a heated controversy between two psychoanalytical schools, the classical Freudian, who believed that man’s basic instincts and drives are pleasure seeking, gratification seeking, whereas the object relations school, headed by Melanie Klein, thought that our instincts were primarily person seeking.
Similarly, the radical behaviorism of the 1950’s, which excludes the mind in favor of behavior, was a reaction to the excessively theoretical and mind-focused Freudian psychoanalytic culture of the 40’s. Again, in the 1960’s and 70’s, Piaget reacted against radical behaviorism with his own cognitive theory.


Psyche is only Greek for soul. But not even a vegetative soul was enough for Skinner.
For Skinner ‘Mind’ is an irrelevant epiphenomenon.
Even before Skinner, you could see some of this reductionism in views on artificial intelligence.
For instance, Alan Turing was a WWII English computer scientist and is the father of the artificial intelligence movement. He said that if you had three booths with curtains with teleprompters on the front, two with live persons behind and one with a computer answering all the questions, if a user could have a normal conversation and not tell the difference, then there was no ‘functional’ or ‘operational’ difference between human intelligence and artificial intelligence. For ‘practical purposes’ he didn’t have to believe in a mind. Man was a complex system of reflexes and habits all programmed by experience.
Thus Skinner not only rejected the Mind as irrelevant, and an epiphenomenon, but man was also totally determined by past learning. And has no free will.
A proof like St. Thomas’s (“man has free will. otherwise, ___ ___ ___ are all absurd.”) such a reductio ad absurdum proof would have no effect on him because he was willing to accept the fact that all those things were indeed absurd. Skinner’s motto was “No Praise! No blame!”
The basic vocabulary of behaviorism is stimulus, response. Poke a creature, and see what it does. The assumption is that since man is determined by his environment, he is in essence a passive responder to it, not an active shaper. If he shapes his environment, it is only because he was programmed to do so. And of course this goes back all the way to John Locke, and Rousseau’s disagreement.
e.g. exposure therapy for phobias, variable schedule positive reinforcement for addict recovery programs, and extinction for for crying babies.
You’d have to be Gnostic to deny the role of reflex and habit in man. For Aristotle, virtue was habitual, and a good habit was even better than a good action.


Freud’s thought was complex: He was a genius. There are two currents of thought in Freud. His metaphors to describe the psyche are either literary, e.g. censorship, meaning, interpretation. Or military and hydraulic: drives, stored energy, repressed energy, cathexis, etc.... like Descartes and Skinner he had ultimately a mechanical, hydraulic view of man. But he was willing to study the mind in its own right.
For Freud behavior has meaning.
e.g. a mislaying:

a boy, the week before his birthday, accidentally loses his watch.
slip of the tongue:

“one half of me is yours, the other half yours,

Mine own, I would say, but if mine, then yours,

And so all yours.” (woman in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice)
another slip:

“it must be nice when one gets back to one’s ‘hause’. [panty-hose] (Viennese women hiking in mountains with Freud, discussing sweaty clothes.)
Leia’s slips:
Leia in the morning “Daddy, I throw TC in toilet.” “Last night you threw TC in the toilet.” “Yes daddy, when I asleep.”
Leaving friend’s house with mom, Leia proffers “Leave TC here Mommy.”
Later TC starts saying “Mama”. Leia says he’s really saying “Haha” which “means Hanalei, mommy.”
On the one hand Freud taught that behavior had meaning, but on the other hand, that to understand it, one often had to retrace a path of arbitrary associations, memories, and traumas, that in themselves had no meaning and were based in experience.
motivated forgetting:

Freud couldn’t think of the small country between France and Italy, and finally realized that since he had been in a feud with a colleague in Munich, had failed to remember Monaco because of the resemblance. The association between the words, and the emotions attached to one, caused the repression of the other.
David Hume:
“It is evident that there is a principle of connexion between the different thoughts or ideas of the mind, and that, in their appearance to the memory or imagination, they introduce each other with a certain degree of method and regularity. In our more serious thinking or discourse this is so observable that any particular thought, which breaks in upon the regular tract or chain of ideas, is immediately remarked and rejected. And even in our wildest and most wandering reveries, nay in our very dreams, we shall find, if we reflect, that the imaginations ran not altogether at adventures, but that there was still a connexion upheld among the different ideas, which succeeded each other. Were the loosest and freest conversation to be transcribed, there would immediately be observed something which connected it in all its transitions.” -David Hume
I think we as Christians can agree that, since memories may be stored in the physical brain, it is natural that certain associations form. That many of them are irrational is no surprise. But we believe that God made the world, and that the world is unreasonable at times, yet intelligible. That we might dream up a small bird with the beak of a crocodile might be crazy, but that God would make a toucan, is real. So, our irrational associations between things can be thought of as derived form the imago dei in us.
Here’s an example of a dream interpretation by Freud:
e.g. dream

“I wanted to give a supper-party, but I had nothing in the house but a little smoked salmon. I thought I would go out and buy something, but I remembered then that it was Sunday afternoon and all the shops would be shut. Next I tried ringing up some caterers, but the telephone was out of order. So I had to abandon my wish to have a supper party.”

[female friend is thin, but husband likes women a little bigger like herself. her husband had recently remarked on her friend’s beauty. had recently invited this friend to dinner.]
e.g. dream:

“He met his sister in the company of two women friends who were themselves sisters. He shook hands with both of them but not with his sister.”

[came across his sister changing as a boy: the contradiction: he touched his sister’s breasts, but did not touch them]
neurotic symptoms may also be analyzed like dreams. Kant said that the madman is a waking dreamer. Freud likewise said “The way normal people dream is the way crazy people think.”
Take obsessive compulsive disorder for instance.
e.g. A woman kissed a man at a cocktail party, and she was very attracted to him. he happened to have HIV and this was publically known. despite being a doctor, knowing you can’t get HIV by kissing, she was then tested repeatedly. [her unconscious wish associated the kiss with sex.]
e.g. a compulsion.

A Victorian woman had an irresistible compulsion to run into her drawing room, ring a bell for a maid, and then brusquely send the maid off on some pointless errand.

[Freud found that the drawing room table at which she stood had a conspicuous stain which anyone could hardly fail to notice, and that this woman was recently married, and that on her wedding night, her husband had been surprisingly impotent, and had repeatedly run into the bedroom to try to elicit an erection. After giving up he exclaimed “I should be ashamed if the housemaids see clean sheets.” and poured ink on the bed to cause a red stain. Furthermore, she had been living separately from her husband at the time of the dream, so the dream also justified her in not leaving her husband for that reason.]
What do you think of his method?
Shakespeare’s ‘Me thinks the lady doth protest too much.’ His hermeneutic of suspicion. Sneaky or fair? No means yes, yes means no.
Freud also thought that not only do we make logical errors, switch things around, contradict ourselves, etc., but we also confuse ourselves and others.
In your own dreams, don’t you sometimes think of yourself, but see yourself as another person? Or see yourself as another person?
Now, we all have separate souls, but there is great wisdom in this concept. We all start out symbiotically fused to our mothers as babies. Sinfully, at least, we all make excuses for our sins “They’re doing it, so I may.”
e.g. After a schizophrenic’s tyrannical father had died, the schizophrenic believed he was his father. This defended against not knowing where the threatening father is, and it also implied that if he was his father, then he had died instead of his father, which assuaged his guilt over having survived his father.


Man’s experience is cognitively driven. A Swiss man who einstein even said “this man is a genius.” His work took the 1960’s by storm.
In response to behaviorism, empiricism he satirically remarked, did the empiricists think that “there is no number so great that another cannot be added” was arrived at by experiment?

so for Piaget there are ways our mind just works, without the result of sense impressions building up habits, etc. There are precise points in development when kids can suddenly do a new cognitive task.

-e.g. perspective taking. show a child a scene of a room, where a boy walks in, puts a ball in a drawer. mother comes in, moves the ball to under the bed. ask the observing child, where will the boy look? if they are 4, they will say, under the bed, not realizing the boy did not see the mom enter the room. if they are 5, they will say, the drawer.

-e.g. conservation of fluid volume.
cognitive therapy for depression and anxiety today. ‘CBT’
“man is more troubled by his opinions of the things that happen, than he is by the things.” - Epictetus, Stoic philosopher. Again, a mind over matter orientation towards man.
the trouble in depression in anxiety is often that negative, self-condemning thoughts abound, but have become habitual, and the patient doesn’t realize the quantity of these thoughts is excessive, and how influential they are over their everyday interactions and experiences. The task in therapy is often to teach a depressed person how to first recognize these so-called automatic thoughts, and the profound emotional harm that follows each one of them, and then to capture them and alter them. To bring what is habitual, up to the level of free-will and conscious control, and so alter the emotions, which always follow thoughts, according to the cognitive theory. (Rather than the empirical theories, which hold that thoughts follow and justify pre-existing emotions.)
e.g. in a lot of automatic thinking, thought loses its linearity and becomes circular: a patient with social anxiety doesn’t go to a party because they think nobody wants them there anyways, and then, after not going, tells himself that they are right in not wanting him, because he’s such a wuss for not going!
e.g. other automatic thoughts commit common fallacies of inductive reasoning, like over-generalizing, “this elevator is 10% likely to drop.”, or mind reading, sound of laughter ---> “they’re laughing at me down the hall.”


For Frankl, who survived Auschwitz, a man can endure suffering if he has meaning. If he does not have meaning, even the slightest bit of suffering becomes intolerable to him.
e.g. I cannot tell you how many people in the ER I have seen, utterly suicidal and hopeless, because they have so much as lost a job, lost a girlfriend, etc.
Frankl noticed that as cultures become wealthier, suicide rates don’t go down. They go up. In America the suicide rate has more than tripled since the 1950’s.
For Frankl, suffering in the human psyche or soul is like gas in a closed container. With a lot of gas, the container is filled. But with only a little bit of gas, the container is still filled. The area taken up by the gas is no less with less gas, because in both cases, they fill the container. This sort of thing is reminiscent of Plato’s point about leaky vessels; pleasure, in us, always escapes us, doesn’t satisfy: we are leaky vessels. well, with regards to pain, we are closed vessels. there is not much qualitative difference between a little suffering and a lot.
Freud thought that you are basically a bag of instincts with an ego as an artificial moderator, sitting on top, camping out on top of a volcano. conflicts and tensions must be minimized to be happy. A dream, or a neurotic symptom, is a compromise. Take the case of a dreaming person, who when asked by an awake person whether they are asleep, says “no”. When further asked “Can I borrow twenty bucks?” They say “I’m asleep.” The dreamer does not like to recognize that he is asleep because then his dreams will not seem real, will not be real hallucinatory satisfactions. But when it is advantageous to avoid some inconvenient reality, the dreamer will compromise. That is how the Id works. Willing to contradict itself for selfish gain. Whereas for Frankl, the tension and conflict are not simply opposing forces without any telos to organize them together; for Frankl we need conflict and tension to have a reason to suffer in life. But he means the tension of unrealized goals and purposes.
which brings us into our final discussion: which theory wins?

which one works to fix human beings? something tells me it doesn’t just take knowledge about ourselves; that’s half of the issue; it also takes a lot of suffering and effort.


knowledge of self and the will to change. Spock and Captain Kirk.
depression and anxiety are one thing, but deep rooted personality problems are another.
‘horse’s ass ---> analyzed horses ass’

Ours is an age in which the role of reason in solving big moral problems is discounted, while we are total rationalists over minor matters like categorizing libraries and telling one galaxy from another galaxy. In like manner many people are incredibly interested to ‘learn about themselves’ they way they learn about galaxies. They are less apt to consider the role their own hyper-observing approach has on their very self.

Self-knowledge does not necessarily lead to change. St. Paul’s quote in Romans 7 says as much. Plato fell into this fallacy by saying that all vice comes from ignorance, and that if the soul understood its own structure, and understood a priori moral objective truths, virtue would follow accordingly. Whereas Jews were more more skeptical. “The heart is deceitful, who can cure it?” Jeremiah tells us. So too, were those Reformers who believed in total depravity, the noetic effects of sin upon the mind.
While we might call the Greeks intellectualists, we might call the Jews voluntarists, since they are skeptical of pure reason and Rabbis tend to respond to questions with questions, as was Freud’s method. But they still believed in the freedom of the will and personal moral effort.
Whereas many Reformers like Luther were highly skeptical of reason, excluding it from faith, and saying “Reason is the devil’s whore.” But unlike the Jews, some Reformers questioned also the freedom of the will. There is an interesting parallel between Freud’s pessimism about human nature and certain Reformer’s. E.g. to lust after a woman and to think “it’s not me but my body doing it and I can’t help it” is characteristically Freudian. It turns lust into an accidental Slip.
The Orthodox and Catholic understanding of overcoming sin, would be that grace builds on nature, including natural reason, and while faith is a gift of grace, and our desiring holy things is a gift of grace, sanctification is nevertheless a cooperative effort between ourselves and God, and likewise, of the will with the intellect.

e.g. -Take the example of overcoming habitual lust. My intellect can inform a sinful will, by telling me, through psychotherapy, that when I fight with my wife, and am tempted most to turn to lust, it is because I want to crawl back to the breasts of an archaic, edited image of my mother. Whereas the will can substitute other ‘goods’ to desire and contemplate, such as our Blessed Mother, rather than the archaic air-brushed image and memory of my mother.
It is ironic that clinical psychology depends on the intellect, and has puffed itself up in its bold theorizing, while at the same time depreciating the value of reason in those very theories. I would say that their praxis does not match their doxis. Some psychologists are incredibly optimistic about the changes that can be made if psychoanalysis is carried out properly, whereas, there are old, bitter, angry analysts who don’t seem to have made strides.
Many analysts like Freud don’t believe in a telos for human nature. Unlike Plato in The Republic, they don’t believe that man’s tripartite soul can possibly exist in perfect harmony.
A sense of demoralization and powerlessness before your own instincts is common in psychologists. “I’m sensing some hostility in you right now.” Such statements are expected to be taken without retaliation. Revering the instincts as the wellsprings of the soul, halts progress. There was a sort of pinnacle of this in the 1970’s with nude psychotherapy groups. The idea of ‘total honesty’ is, I think, an absurdity. And typical of the kind of rationalism in psychological communities.
So to repeat, change is an act of will together with the intellect, by no means automatic even after a good analysis.

Again, the integration of the intellect with the emotions is difficult.
e.g. another example: a narcissist would have to stand up under intense anxiety when, for instance, others in a group are laughing at someone’s else’s joke and attention is drawn completely away from them. (Dr. Carlton)
Disbelieving in a telos or possibility of perfection in mankind, many psychologists turn to medicines and give up. The emotions will always be at war; there is no way the lion of anger and the lamb of affection could lie together in perfect peace and harmony.
There’s also the role for music. Franz Joseph Haydn regarded it the highest function of music to integrate the intellect with the emotions.
Factors such as hope, endurance, a reason to suffer, come into play. Viktor Frankl and other existential psychologists are the few to make this clinical.
“The goal of psychoanalysis is to convert neurotic misery into ordinary unhappiness.” -Freud
“Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.” - Jung
Other illnesses strike irregardless of virtue. but vice makes mental illness worse, and probably causes it sometimes.
Why not just focus on virtue rather than go to therapy? A clouded and irrational intellect is involved in many conditions, and it’s necessary to understand yourself to fight moral battles, however, virtue is still half the picture!
A lot of mental illness is derived from conflicts of our conscience with our instincts. This is inevitable for Freud since conscience is derived from fear of father’s retaliation for having mother as sex object, both the renunciation for being a rival for mother. For Freud, a boy internalizes father’s his prohibitions, and his conscience is a compromise, and like in Marx, a sociological invention meant to minimize conflict between rivaling men.
Re. Freud’s Oedipal Theory, it explains the origin of man’s conscience in a reductive fashion, but minus that, it explains homosexuality and many perversions.
Can get into this later if you want...
Freud was a man of high morals; but for the wrong reasons.
Viewing the conscience as a Christian, we have an option of obeying or rebelling from God. The neurotic person is a person who chooses neither. Like Nietzsche’s ‘pale felons’ and like Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment, he tries to have it both ways, justifying his rebellion; but suffers sickness as a result.
Why not just be virtuous? It’s good advice.
Take pride for example. Here’s Gordon Allport, a personality theorist, on pride:
“Any neurotic is living a life which in some respects is extreme in its self-centeredness. Even though many of his individual sentiments may be altruistic, the region of his misery represents a complete preoccupation with himself. The very nature of the neurotic disorder is tied to pride. If the sufferer is hypersensitive, resentful, captious, he may be indicating a fear that he will not appear to advantage in competitive situations where he wants to show his worth. If he is chronically indecisive, he is showing fear that he may do the wrong thing and be discredited. If he is over-scrupulous and self-critical, he may be endeavoring to show how really praiseworthy he is.” -Gordon Allport
In Plato’s The Republic, the soul is compared to society, and, like in Freud, has three parts. There are the guardians (intellect, ego), the producers (will, Id), and the police.(conscience, superego). The conscience unites the intellect with the will, teaching the will what is good, and what to desire, and what not to desire. Each department has its vice: for the producers, lust and gluttony, for the police, anger, and for the guardians, pride. Each has its own virtue, the producers must be temperate, the guardians wise, and the police courageous. Justice, the fourth pagan virtue, must govern the harmony between them all. Such a possibility of perfection and justice in the human soul presumes a purpose or telos for the human soul. (Thrasymachus had argued in the opening pages of The Republic that justice belonged to the powerful, and some could be happy and get away with evil deeds. The argument of the Republic hinges on the fact that the human souls is like a civilization, with many parts working in harmony, and if an unjust life upsets that harmony, unhappiness and disharmony in the soul would result. Either a person’s soul will become like a timocratic police state, and anger will be the dominant emotion, or the demands of the producers will cause a tyranny of gluttony and lust.


So there is a War of Psychological Magisteria because Man is a freak; he is everything at once. An embodied spirit, an angel and animal all at once.
Perhaps there is such a War because psychologists prefer theories to disturbing realities.
It goes back to the Pascal remark about being alone with yourself.

St. Augustine addressing God, said: “If I abide in You, I abide in myself. If I do not abide in You, I cannot abide in myself.”

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Listen to: Christian Poetry

Click HERE to listen to the "Christian Poetry" lecture.

Christian Poetry by Ben Moore


"Death be not proud, though some have called thee" by John Donne (b. 1572)

DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee   
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,     
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,     
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.    
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,           
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,     
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,   
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.       
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,  
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,   
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then;  
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,       
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

“The Temper” by George Herbert (b.1593)

HOW should I praise thee, Lord !  how should my rymes
    Gladly engrave thy love in steel,
    If what my soul doth feel sometimes,
            My soul might ever feel !

Although there were some fourtie heav’ns, or more,
    Sometimes I peere above them all ;
    Sometimes I hardly reach a score,
            Sometimes to hell I fall.

O rack me not to such a vast extent ;
    Those distances belong to thee :
    The world’s too little for thy tent,
            A grave too big for me.

Wilt thou meet arms with man, that thou dost stretch
    A crumme of dust from heav’n to hell ?
    Will great God measure with a wretch ?
            Shall he thy stature spell ?

O let me, when thy roof my soul hath hid,
    O let me roost and nestle there :
    Then of a sinner thou art rid,
            And I of hope and fear.

Yet take thy way ;  for sure thy way is best :
    Stretch or contract me thy poore debter :
    This is but tuning of my breast,
            To make the musick better.

Whether I flie with angels, fall with dust,
    Thy hands made both, and I am there.
    Thy power and love, my love and trust,

            Make one place ev’ry where.

“God’s Grandeur” by Gerard Manley Hopkins (b. 1844)

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.        
  It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;     
  It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil  
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?        
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;           
  And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;    
  And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.  

And for all this, nature is never spent;   
  There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;          
And though the last lights off the black West went     
  Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—      
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent  
  World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

“Making Capital” by Paul Mariani (b. 1940)

I cannot in conscience spend time on poetry, neither have I the inducements and inspirations that make others compose. Feeling, love in particular, is the great moving power and spring of verse and the only person that I am in love with seldom, especially now, stirs my heart sensibly and when he does I cannot always ‘make capital’ of it, it would be sacrilege to do so. Then again I have of myself made verse so laborious.
--- Hopkins to Bridges, February 15, 1879

For six weeks I’ve tried lassoing the wind
and come up with nada, zip & zero. Oh, I know
what moved me then, what sweet whisperings to the mind,
but could not make those protean shapes sit still, though

God knows I’ve tried. Sunday mass. The eight.
My wife there next to me, thinking her own deep
thoughts. Congealed light on the pews, cold as Fate,
candles guttering, half the parishioners half asleep.

And the priest up at the pulpit, embellishing a story taken
from one of those Chicken Soup series for the soul.
I kept glancing left, then down, then right. Forsaken
the place, as if the Good News had dropped down some black hole,

paralyzed by what the papers had been screaming now
of scandal, indifferent to whatever the poor priest had to say.
Then, suddenly, up there at the altar, I caught a shadow
stirring, as if struggling up the hill under the heaving sway

of thornwood. Young Isaac, carrying kindling for a fire,
branches his shaken father had ordered him to fetch.
The figure trembled in the ether, then gave way to yet another,
whose wrists they’d roped to a wooden crossbeam (poor wretch),

as he too stumbled toward the distant rise. But what
had this to do with where I found myself? Everything,
I guess. Or nothing, Depending on the view. True, the rot
of the beholder went deep, deep, but deeper went the blessing:

the thought that God had spared the first from death, but not
the other, who among the trees had begged his father not to drink
the cup. All that history in a blink, as the one went on to populate
a nation, while the other –nailed to that wood—rose from the stink

of death, promising to lift us with him. I looked around
the church, knowing what I know of death: the death of mother,
father, friends, the death of promise, of vision run aground,
the death of self, of all we might have been, the death of that ideal other,

the bitter end of all. Nada, zip. Except for that loop in time, when
something gave: a blip of light across the mind’s dark eye, if you
can call it that. But what, if not a good man going under? Then
struggling to riase himself again, bent on doing what he had to do.

 “How We Fall” by Claire Bateman

"Nobody does a swan dive
into Jesus.
Instead, we fall
bleeding or weeping;
we fall clawing the air
as if to climb it
all the way back;
we fall shrieking, unraveling,
all angles & knobby joints,
all stutter & putter,
our teeth rattling,
our hair fanning out like flames;
we fall foaming at the mouth
with hypothesis & self-argument;
we fall mutely,
hoarding our breath
as if breath withheld
could possibly
make a difference.
And it's as if the falling
has a mind of its own,
episodic, all fits & starts,
overlapping time zones & air pockets
so that sometimes a faller seems to arrive
just prior to departure,
& other times a faller seems to be merely
hovering in mid-air
like Bugs Bunny,
unaware that he's left
the edge of the cliff behind.
Some of us even fall
from the inside out
or the outside in,
the soul preceding the body
or the body the soul,
the trajectories describing
all kinds of arcs & parabolas,
disregarding every rule of descent,
demolishing every point of etiquette"

Some Thoughts on Discipleship by Jon Rawlings

Jon Rawlings
What is a disciple?
A. Greek word mathetes means someone who is a pupil, an
apprentice. In the days of Jesus, a disciple was anyone who attached himself
to a great master. The master, typically a philosopher or religious leader,
initiated a process with his disciples in which he modeled a pattern of life
which his disciples emulated and taught a philosophy to explain that pattern
which his disciples learned and believed. When they were ready, they in
turn would become masters and would adopt disciples of their own. The aim
of this process was to shape disciples into the kind of people whose lives
would be an extension of their master's life.

B. In New Testament terms, a disciple is someone who's an
apprentice of Jesus and the goal of Christian apprenticeship is to learn to
live like the master, to learn to live like Jesus.

Why do we need to be disciples and disciple makers?
Because Jesus commands it!
Matthew 28:18-20 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority
in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples
of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and
of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded
you. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age."

A. The Father has given me the authority to command these things.

B. Make new apprentices for me from among every people group.

C. Initiate them into their new way of life through baptism.

D. Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you both
through my words and through my life (implied). Disciple them the way that
I have discipled you. It's important to remember that not even Jesus could
guide his followers into his pattern of life through words alone. He had
many followers, but he chose only 12 to live with him. Those who embodied
his life most fully were those who had lived most closely with him.

How do we define discipleship? What does a disciple look like?
A. The central importance of Matthew 5-7 (Sermon on the Mount)

and Matthew 25 (Sheep and Goats) to Jesus' definition of what a disciple
should be. Neither passage gives an exhaustive portrait of a disciple but is
suggestive. Certainly the Sermon on the Mount as it presently stands is not
everything Jesus said at that moment. Neither passage gives an exhaustive
portrait of a disciple but is suggestive. If you understand what is included, if
you understand his brief sketch of what a disciple should be, you'll figure
out what Jesus wants you to be in every other area of life that he doesn't
specifically mention in these two passages.

B. The gospel isn't just the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. All
of Matthew, all of Mark, all of Luke, and all of John are "gospels" and not
just the last few chapters. Why do we give so little attention to Jesus'
disciple making as part of the gospel? Why do the Apostles' Creed and the
Nicene Creed go directly from Jesus being born of a virgin to his death
under Pontius Pilate? Is there anything in between about his teaching and
actions that might be important for us to affirm?

How should we make disciples?
A. First, some assumptions I'm making

1. Discipleship is a process. The notion of process implies a
fundamental instability that allows for growth and success as well as
diminishment and failure. Jesus sets forth aims that may or not be reached.
Related to this is the idea that the process of discipleship is uneven. At any
given point along the process, some aspects of our lives will be more and
some less in line with the life of Jesus.

2. Discipleship is a collaborative effort. It includes the work of many
people. For instance, it includes other disciples in my church, disciples from
other churches, disciples I knew 20 years ago and disciples I won't meet for
another 20 years, and disciples I will never meet but whose writings instruct
and inspire me. Collaboration is important for many reasons. One of the
most important is our inability to adequately assess our own lives and where
we are at in the discipleship process. When Paul gives Timothy and Titus
instructions for identifying and appointing spiritual leaders in the church (I
Tim. 3 and Titus 1), he tells them to look for people who have an intense
desire to become spiritual leaders and who possess a mix of essential skills
and character qualities (again, the list is suggestive rather than exhaustive).
These are the marks of a mature disciple and Paul wants mature disciples
leading the church. What's not stated in the text but is implied is that mature

disciples like Timothy and Titus are to determine to what degree people in
their congregations meet these criteria, whether or not they also are mature
disciples. So they wouldn't take just the candidate's word on whether or not
he was an angry person, whether or not he could teach, whether or not he
managed his household well, because the candidate could not adequately
assess such things by himself. He would need the help of mature disciples.

3. Discipleship is intense. Although discipleship is a collaborative
effort involving many people, the intensity of a mentoring relationship is
necessary for more radical transformation to take place in our lives.

4. Discipleship leads to spiritual growth for both the mentor and the

5. Discipleship faces many challenges, all of which a disciple must
learn to negotiate well. Learning to negotiate these well is one of the most
important sources of spiritual growth as a disciple. As I like to say, if we're
going to become mature disciples of Jesus, we must learn to do so under less
than ideal circumstances. First, we have to deal with ourselves ("the flesh"):
our strengths and weaknesses, our ignorance, our prejudices, our physical
challenges, our addictions, and our successes and failures. Second, we have
to deal with other people. Third, we have to deal with culture, "the world"
system as John would put it. Fourth, we have to deal with the devil and other
powerful spiritual forces arrayed against us. Fifth, we have to deal with
the "curse" that God has placed on the world. Sixth, we have to deal with
God's chastening and his testing.

B. The process of discipleship

1. Embodiment

a. Incarnating the life of Jesus. Through the process of discipleship,
you become the kind of person who can put into practice the Sermon on the
Mount. You are only ready to become a mentor when you embody as fully
as possible the life and teachings of Jesus.

b. Hypocrisy is the antithesis of embodiment. The word
translated "hypocrite" refers to an actor, a man who pretends to be someone
other than himself while on stage. Jesus warns his disciples not to be like a
stage actor, playing a part on one stage and playing quite a different part on

another stage. For example, someone might play the part of the empathetic
man, the compassionate man, while at church, but play the part of the shark
while at work, looking for something weak and helpless to bite. It's also
hypocrisy to merely mimic the words and actions of Jesus in some
literalistic way. Paul put his finger on it in 1 Cor. 13 when he set forth love
as the inward disposition, the "heart," that makes all of these attitudes and
actions an extension of the life of Jesus and keeps them from being

Resonance is what happens between two people that brings them together in
a discipling relationship. It's something that reverberates from one person to
another that creates a mutual attraction. When a mature disciple embodies
the life of Jesus, it becomes attractive to other less mature disciples. Call
it authenticity, genuineness, beauty, or love; it makes some people want to
be with you, even to be like you. On the mentor's part, resonance creates
a desire to help the apprentice, to do everything within their power to help
them grow in their spiritual character. Without resonance, people will not be
responsive to mentoring, will not engage it adequately and will not persevere
in it. This is the flaw in most formal discipleship programs that attempt
to pair up everyone in the church all at once. Mentors may be assigned
certain people to disciple without adequate thought about whether either
one resonates with the other in any way. The resonance, the attraction, is
absolutely essential for disciples to care about entering into this process with
enthusiasm and for mentors to do everything necessary to help their disciples
to grow.

The one who embodies more fully the life of Jesus should in turn help others
learn how to embody the life of Jesus. This includes serving as a model for
others to follow ("follow my example as I follow the example of Christ,"
1 Cor. 11:1), and as an inspiration. For modeling to do its deep work, a
close relationship with the other person must be developed. Inspiration
helps a person care enough to engage in the process and to maintain their
momentum through numerous challenges.

The one who wants to embody the life of Jesus more fully must be in
relationship with someone else who is a more mature disciple, one who more
fully embodies the life of Jesus. Students learn to emulate the life of their
mentors and through them the life of Jesus. Again, the goal is not to learn
to mimic the exact words and actions of Jesus but to become like him in our
hearts which will then express itself through our actions.

Three examples of mentoring

A. Parents and children

B. Mentoring one person at a time.

1. Meeting once a week to do some activity (tennis, movies, etc.) and
talking afterward, reflecting on the apprentice's week and using scripture to
gain perspective, direction, and inspiration.
2. Meeting once a week to discuss the apprentice's "reports from the
field." Encourage apprentices to serve people around them in ways that are
truly helpful to them. Reflecting on how that has gone and using scripture to
gain perspective, direction, and inspiration.

C. Intentional community

Setting up a community where a mature couple lives with younger
adults who they mentor every day, usually in a more informal way but often
in more formal ways as that is needed.

V. Discipleship and Sin
A. Discipleship should lead to transformation, not just sin
1. Trying to teach people not to sin is like teaching a ballplayer how
to hit by teaching him how not to strike out. What are we really teaching
people when we try to teach them how not to do something?
2. I've seen people's lives transformed more from teaching them how
to do the works of Jesus rather than teaching them how not to do things.
3. Perfection (Matthew 5:48 "Be perfect… as your heavenly Father is
perfect."). Perfection is being everything you were designed to be.

B. Understanding the role of failure in the process of discipleship.

C. Understanding the role of church discipline in the process of

1. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship. London: SCM Press,
1959. (A profound meditation on discipleship in the church that
uses the Sermon on the Mount as inspiration.)

2. Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol. (A story about the heart we
should have toward other people and how that will express itself in
good works. Better than any movie version.)

3. Christine D. Pohl, Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a
Christian Tradition. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999. (Book
that inspired us to begin an intentional community in our home.)

4. Michael Wilkins, Following the Master. Grand Rapids, MI:
Zondervan, 1992. (Best overview of discipleship in the early

5. Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden
Life in God. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1997. (Insightful
discussion of the Sermon on the Mount, especially as the model for