It All Comes Down to Love

Persuasion, conformity, obedience, discrimination, and other positive and negative social behaviors are all important topics to consider in regards to the Christian faith as we attempt to live like Christ in order to reach others with His truth. Each of these has a unique role in Christ-like behavior.

In order to bring people to Christ, there is a natural inclination to persuade people to believe. The movie God’s Not Dead shows this truth in a rather captivating way. A college student enters a class where the professor is forcing everyone to admit that “God is dead”. The student refuses and is then requested to provide a defense for God in the upcoming classes. The approach taken by the student revolves around scientific facts, like a presentation in a court case. However, there is a twist that occurs at the end of the discussion. All of his points become irrelevant to the ultimate decision everyone must make, which is actually just a decision. There will always be debate over whether God exists or not, so the only thing an individual can really do is decide which side to have faith in. This revelation destroys the initial need to persuade people to Christ. It all comes down to living a life that portrays Christ to others so they can have a desire for God, hopefully making that decision to believe.

Other interesting issues involving social behavior also penetrate the church. Conformity has an interesting role in churches. For many church-goers, their faith is based off of family or friend’s beliefs. They do not have a personal commitment to their faith and miss out on the most important parts of following God.

Like the negative impact conformity can have, discrimination is a huge problem for Christians. Christians are both discriminated against and are guilty of the act of discrimination. In some ways, that discrimination is partly backed by biblical principles, specifically an avoidance of homosexual acts and behaviors (1 Cor. 6:9-11). But at the same time, an overt and hurtful discrimination of homosexuals pushes away potential followers of Christ. There is a fine line between standing up for what you believe in and bringing everyone to God. Discriminating against different races and religions can be difficult for some Christians, but there always needs to be an extension of God’s love through us to all people (1 John 4:7, Mat. 22:39).

Obedience is something God requires of us. The psychologist’s definition of obedience is a simple one—a change in behavior in response to the commands of others. Stanley Milgram’s experiment testing obedience to authority demonstrates an interesting variable in this quality. In the experiment, the participants’ actions showed a certain willingness to follow authority to extreme measures, especially when it is known that any repercussions will not affect them. There is a certain trust in that relationship between the participant and experimenter. Similarly, the trust between us and God, knowing that we can live for Him in confidence, can influence our obedience to Him. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).  That creates a special bond between “those who are in Christ Jesus” and Christ Jesus himself. At the same time, we know that this trust cannot be replicated to anyone here on Earth. God is our ultimate authority and we have full trust in Him.

The love that God has for us is amazing. I trust God with my life because I made a decision to believe that He sent His Son to die a horrible death for me, only to be raised to life again three days later. By doing so, he saved me from my sins and conquered death. Romans 8, Ephesians 1:1-14, Ephesians 2, and Ephesians 3:1-13 all illustrate this through amazing words. Paul knew that God’s love for us is like nothing that can be produced here on this Earth, so our love for Him and our trust in Him should be like nothing else we have or could have.

The many negative and positive social behaviors we constantly exhibit are all important to consider while walking with God on our way to God. There is amazing power in what we do and how we do it. Making sure we live like Christ is important in everything that we do. At the very least, God deserves that. He deserves our life long dedication to glorifying and worshiping Him because He loves us so very much. Louie Giglio, the pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta said it best: “In the end, our worship is more about what we do than what we say.”

PSYCH: Psychological Disorders and Mental Illness

Mental illness is a difficult issue to deal with when people suffer from co many disorders every day. The impact psychological disorders have on daily functioning is depressing in itself. Personally, just last week my grandmother’s mental state declined rapidly to a minimal point. She doesn’t understand what year it is, doesn’t recognize her grandchildren, and cannot carry on a conversation in any decent fashion. My grandmother went from being a loving, mostly happy individual to one who can barely function at all. After a test to determine whether hydrocephalus may be the problem, no change occurred, leaving us still in the dark as to what exactly has happened.

The power that the brain has on us and our usual functioning, and the power that psychological disorders have to disrupt that, is an astounding thought. From somatoform disorders to anxiety and mood disorders, the range of predicaments one can enter into involving psychological disorders is discouraging and makes studying the causes and developing treatments for them is extremely challenging. There are many perspectives that one can view a problem from, and each one has benefits and disadvantages.

Overall, I believe that there are truths to each perspective on abnormality which, if combined in a proper way, can produce the best perspective for all individuals to take, including the church. The medical perspective has evidence to support its perspective, and many times the source of psychological disorders are medically identifiable. Hydrocephalus, for example, involves a build-up of fluid in the cavities deep within the brain, creating a multitude of possible symptoms, including memory loss. This can be treated with the drainage of that fluid, creating an almost instantaneous improvement in brain functioning. This perspective helps identify and treat many types of psychological disorders, however, there are some which are not medical in nature. This requires a different perspective to be introduced.

In a way, the psychoanalytic perspective has some truth in focusing on the conflicts of childhood, but I do not believe the focus solely and primarily on sex and aggression. Because of this, I tend to disregard this perspective and move onto behavioral perspectives. This can also be a helpful perspective in identifying and treating disorders in addition to the medical perspective. After adding the cognitive perspective as well, you get a full view of how the human body works in regards to the brain. I would assume that most disorders can be identified and treated using these perspectives. The medical perspective covers the more physical nature of the human body, while the behavioral perspective covers the actions that result from the cognitive perspective’s view on the thoughts and feelings occurring inside the person. However, there could be more pieces to the puzzle, which is why considering two more perspectives is also a wise action to take. The humanistic perspective takes into account the responsibility people have over their actions and how that can affect a person’s psychological state. The environment around the person also has an impact on the psychological state of a person, which is where the sociocultural perspective comes into play.

With the combination of these five perspectives, and a slight influence of the psychoanalytic perspective, every possible psychological situation is explored. Not one of these perspectives can identify the source of and treat every psychological disorder by itself. The combination of all of them, though, gets the job done and gets it done correctly.

The church needs to have this combined perspective in all of its dealings with people, not just psychologically impaired individuals. Approaching individuals with a single perspective can cause problems when witnessing or just loving a person. Just like when diagnosing psychological disorders, making sure you have a fuller picture of the situation before stepping in to try and produce a result can be a disaster. Taking a step back for a moment and absorbing the factors of a situation is a wise habit to develop.

This truth can be applied to many different situations in life, including mental illness. The power that these illnesses have over us can be terrifying, especially when a loved one is affected by them. I pray that the doctors who are working with my grandmother can take this combined perspective and use it to identify the true problem behind her rapid decline in mental state. But, I also pray that God will use whatever happens for his glory. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)

CAUTION! Intelligence at Work! CAUTION!

Intelligence, thinking, and reasoning are all difficult and complex concepts that impact our lives every day. As humans, we are constantly gauging our abilities. Intelligence is the most measured ability of all in our Western culture. Intelligence, as defined by psychologists, is the capacity to understand the world, think rationally, and use resources effectively when faced with challenges. With different theories of intelligence available, each giving a specific definition of what intelligence can be, there is clearly a lot of ambiguity in this area of study.

Divergent thinking versus convergent thinking, practical intelligence and emotional intelligence, and fluid and crystallized intelligence are all examples of the many theories and types of intelligences. How do we sort through these many different types of intelligences? Personally, I prefer Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences which includes eight different forms of intelligence, each holding a distinct area of expertise. The eight categories which Gardner defined show the assortment of talents and intelligences that God has given us as individuals. Though I may not be an intelligent linguist, musically I hold much talent from God. This intelligence theory appeals to me because of the great ease with which it sorts out all kinds of intelligence.

Other theories limit the definition of intelligence and restrict what can or cannot be intelligent. The information-processing approach of intelligence degrades so many aspects of intelligence which can be exhibited by people, which results in the degrading of those people. Our education system currently is set up in a fashion which models this diminishing attitude toward multiple kinds of intelligence. Standardized tests are the means by which we assess a student’s intelligence. These tests often undermine the greatest abilities of the student. Creativity is discouraged through our education evaluation. Creativity, which can be associated with divergent thinking, is a vital part in our intelligence, yet it is not considered on any standardized intelligence test or encouraged and developed in our schooling. Our very nature craves success, which is reinforced by test scores, compliments, and accomplishments in our skills and talents. A degrading test score deflates the self-esteem of an individual. The importance of supporting all sorts of intelligence is certainly commanding.

Having established that importance, the evaluation of intelligence tests is noteworthy. These tests, which are designed to quantify a person’s level of intelligence, need to take into consideration what intelligence is and how it then can compare with other types of intelligence. Is the test reliable and valid? Approaching the results of current intelligence tests should be approached with caution because of the possible reactions one can have. Intellectual disabilities or giftedness, as well as diversity in culture and ethnicity, may be reason for test scores to be interpreted in such a way as to diminish the individual who was scored. The many different kinds of intelligence that can be exhibited may not be tested or emphasized, making a person or race look unintelligent. Employers, educators, policy makers, politicians, and other authoritative figures may create discriminatory attitudes towards these people. This result needs to be avoided at all cost.

In America, race is a large issue, which gives rise to the concern for evaluating intelligence between these different races and cultures. Environment, and thus culture, is more of a factor when it comes to intelligence than genetics, however, race is still a stumbling block when assessing intelligence. In my life, I am surrounded by mostly white folks, but I have lots of experience with African American people as well. I have a number of friends who are African American, and I serve at His Place, an urban outreach project of the Pittsburgh area Christian Churches and Churches of Christ. As I work with the children in His Place, who are mostly African American, and as I associate with my friends, I need to be conscious of my views of intelligence. Being wary of the different types of intelligence one can exhibit is vital to my encouragement of these people and love of them. Jesus talks of this in Luke 10:25-37 with the parable of the Good Samaritan. We should not be like the priest or Levite, but the Samaritan who had mercy on the broken man. The second greatest commandment is love your neighbor as yourself. Approaching intelligence with caution, mercy, and an open mind is key in loving others and promoting Christ.

The complexity and diversity intelligence carries with it makes it a difficult load to carry, but with the support of all kinds of intelligence so as to encourage and love others, we can make the load a lot easier.