What’s Caught My Eye…

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Why don’t we encourage sufferers to aim for joy? Perhaps we think of suffering and joy as a two-step process, as if what we see in Psalm 126:5-6—We go out weeping and return with shouts of joy—is the only pattern. This view sees suffering and joy as fundamentally incompatible and unable to be experienced simultaneously. But that can’t be true. Scripture indicates that life in the age of the Spirit will have the hardest suffering and the greatest joy—and both can be experienced at the same time. The Apostle Paul illustrated this as one of the many of the implications of the gospel: “in all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy” (2 Cor. 7:4).

This means that even when we are in pain, we can go in search of joy with the expectation that it will, indeed, find and surprise us. Think about the end of war and enemies defeated (1 Chron. 16:33, Ps. 27:6), water in the desert (Is. 35:6), how the Lord delights in the welfare of his servants (Ps. 35:27), how the Lord comforts his people (Is. 49:13), how the Father, Son and Spirit take joy in each other and, through Jesus, we are brought into that joy (John 15:11). Think about how forgiveness of sins has secured for us all the promises of God, which are summarized in his unceasing presence with us. This presence, and the future glory of seeing him face-to-face, is to be at the very center of our joy.

But in this search we still have a problem. The prevailing treatment and dominant metaphor today for alleviating pain is medication. We take a pill and wait for it to be effective. We give the treatment limited time to show its worth before we move on to a new prescription. Joy does not follow this pattern. It does not come quickly. In fact, if we expect quick results, we are not actually seeking joy and it will never come. Joy does counterbalance pain, but that is a side effect of joy rather than its goal.

Read the whole thing here: The Hard Pairing of Suffering and Joy.

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Putting kids together and sorting by age …

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… also created that dysfunctional creature, the “teenager.” Once, teen-agers weren’t so much a demographic as adults-in-training. They worked, did farm chores, watched children and generally functioned in the real world. They got status and recognition for doing these things well, and they got shame and disapproval for doing them badly.

But once they were segregated by age in public schools, teens looked to their peers for status and recognition instead of to society at large.

Source: NYPOST.com

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The Good Shepherd: A Model for the Faithful

When the Lord had explained what these bad shepherds seek, he also said what they neglect. The defects of the sheep are widespread. There are a very few healthy, fat sheep – that is, those that are made strong by feeding on the truth, by God’s gift making good use of the pastures – but they are not safe from the bad shepherds. Those shepherds not only do not look after the sick, the weak, the wandering and the lost, but they do as much harm as they can to the strong and sleek among the flock. Those sheep survive – by the mercy of God they survive – but the bad shepherds do what they can to kill them.

You may ask how they do this. By living badly, by setting a bad example. There was a reason why the servants of God, eminent among shepherds, were told “In everything you do make yourself an example to them of working for good,” and “Be a model for the faithful.” Often even a strong sheep, seeing its leader living a wicked life, will turn from contemplation of the laws of the Lord to the behaviour of the man and say to itself, “if my leader lives thus, who am I that I should do things differently?” In that way the shepherd is killing the strong sheep: and if the strong, then what of the rest? Even if their strength did not come from his care – even if they were strong and healthy before he saw them – still he is killing him by his evil life.

I say this to your loving kindness, I say it again: even if the sheep are living strong in the word of the Lord, even if they follow what their Lord has told them: “Do what they say; but what they do, do not do yourselves,” whoever lives wickedly in the sight of the people is a murderer in so far as he is able. Let him not flatter himself that his victim is not dead. The victim is not dead but the man is still a murderer. When a man lusts after a woman then even if she remains chaste he is still an adulterer. The Lord’s judgement is clear and true: “If a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” He has not come to her in his bedroom but in the interior bedroom of his heart he is already in the throes of passion with her.

And so it is that anyone who lives wickedly in the sight of those over whom he has authority is killing them, even the strong ones, as far as he is able. Whoever imitates him dies and whoever does not imitate him lives, but as far as he himself is concerned he is killing them all. As the Lord says, “You are killing the fattest sheep but you do not feed my flock.”

St Augustine, On Pastors

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Freud, Economics and Salvation

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud, 1856-1939

One of the great contributions of Freud and later psychoanalytic theorists is that they taught us to look sideways at ourselves. Sometimes what seems clear and straightforward is, on closer analysis, muddy and frustratingly complex.

This is one of the reasons why in recent years, I’ve found myself more and more interested in economic issues. Like psychoanalytic theory, economics brings a healthy dose of skepticism to any conversation about human action. Unlike Freud and his disciples, however, economic analysis is scientific in the sense that it offers for consideration hypotheses and theories that are empirically and logically falsifiable. Put another way, when Freud is right about our dark, unacknowledged motives, he is as right as any of the Church fathers are about the pervasive and corrupting consequences of sin.

And when Freud is wrong? Well this is where I think intellectual honest requires me to part company with him. Not so much because he and his followers are wrong but because how they respond to the shortcomings of their own work. There is a tendency in their theorizing not simply to resist but actively and even aggressively reject criticism and so correction. This is done by the use of a clever rhetoric device that allows them to take disagreement as evidence not of their own error but of their critics’ bad faith and resistance to the illuminating insight of psychoanalysis.  In a word, psychoanalysis lends itself to bullying.

So why my interest in economic issues? Continue reading

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Conference Announcement: Towards a Christian Positive Psychology

Biannual Conference of the Society for Christian Psychology

Regent University, Virginia Beach, VA

October 18-20, 2012

For Christians the emergence of positive psychology is one of the most important developments in contemporary psychology. Openness to research on topics like the virtues and transcendence would have been unimaginable 25 years ago. Christians in psychology welcome this development because their own intellectual tradition has devoted a great deal of its energy over the centuries to the understanding and promotion of virtue and developing a relationship with the transcendent God. Twelve years after the official founding of positive psychology we are bringing together Christians from a variety of disciplines familiar with the relevant resources of the Christian tradition to help us develop a distinctly Christian positive psychology. The following speakers will be joining us. Continue reading

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IQ Explained?

From John Goodman’s Health Policy Blog:

A recent paper in Molecular Psychiatry … confirms that genes account for about half of the difference in IQ between any two people in a modern society, but that the relevant genes are very numerous and the effect of each is very small. The genes for intelligence are there, but there are thousands of them and each has only a tiny impact. So the old terror, which so alarmed many psychologists and educationalists, that one day people — or governments — would use genes to decide whom to kill, sterilize or prevent being born because of their intelligence, suddenly looks a lot less scary. There are just too many genes.

Entire Wall Street Journal article on IQ here.

While I’m not a geneticist, I would imagine that as with IQ so too with any number of complex human traits and behavior. The matter is simply too complex to identify a single gene–or even a small collection of genes–as the cause of this or that behavior or trait.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

Addendum: John Cleese talking about genetics….

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Knowing God, Knowing Myself

St John of the Cross his Dark Night (1973, p. 344-345) makes the interesting argument that we can only see light if there are objects to be illumined. “We observe that the more a ray of sunlight shining through a window is void of dust particles, the less clearly it is seen, and that it is perceived more clearly when there are more particles of dust in the air.” He goes on to explain that “The reason is that the light itself is invisible and is rather the means by which the objects it strikes are seen; but it is also seen when it reflects them.” Most importantly for our concerns here “Were the light does not to strike these objects, it would not be seen and neither would they” (II.8.3).

John draws a parallel between the physical properties of natural light and the spiritual properties of the Divine Light as it illumines the soul. Just as light is revealed by illumining the physical world, God reveals Himself to the soul by revealing the soul to itself. Divine revelation and self-knowledge are not separated but rather are two aspects of the same experience. Theology and psychology are likewise linked though with an important qualification.  That knowledge of God and self-knowledge, and so theology and psychology, travel together does not mean that they are interchangeable. Self-knowledge, and so psychology, is the means by which God reveals Himself reveals Himself but it is not the revelation itself.

So what does this mean for our spiritual lives? Continue reading

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