I was a bit shocked to discover that the two Christian writers mentioned in my last post were roundly condemned by an American website I stumbled upon whilst looking for some information on Gordon MacDonald.
Hybels is lambasted for his use of certain modern psychology in his work as a pastor and church leader and MacDonald is roundly condemned for encouraging people to engage in journalling, a technique that “has become a highly dangerous New Age methodology”. This was clearly seen as much more heinous than the fact that MacDonald engaged in a secret adulterous long-term-relationship. This I already knew, and had always been impressed by the fact that having been caught he sorted himself out, and after a suitable period out of the limelight was re-instated as leader of the aptly named Grace Chapel.
I was slightly amused by the use by the author of the website, who, having criticised Hybels use of psychologists went on to quote a psychologist to back up his assertions about journalling.
Overall, I was saddened by a website that out of a sense of needing to keep the Gospel pure and undefiled spent so much time trawling for all the negatives it could find…Paul’s exhortation to think on the lovely and positive things of life had clearly fallen on deaf ears. There are better ways to spend ones (Christian) life.
Deaf ears and a sort of spiritual short-sightedness.
The comments on the web site seemed to demonstrate three of the tell-tale signs of spiritual myopia (and as always, I am trying to write this with an awareness of my own failings and tendency to focus on the wrong things).
1) The attitude towards these antique Christian disciplines demonstrate a complete ignorance of Christian history and tradition. Journalling has, for example, been the preserve of many Christians through the ages who have sought to record their encounters redemption with God to allow discernment and obedience to change their lives, and indeed the lives of countless others who have subsequently read what they had to say. There is a safety implicit in submitting our inner thoughts to scripture, Christian tradition and the counsel of wise friends. Of course, the proponents of this critical approach towards what’s gone before would probably claim that they are trying to stick to the pure words of scripture, unsullied by ‘secular thought’. Do they really think that the scriptures are not documents steeped in the culture of those who wrote, despite being inspired as they were by God’s Spirit?
2) This kind of criticism also often exhibits a clear attitude that those who lived in the past had encounters with God and Christian lives that were somehow of less consequence than their own…a sort of “if-only-they-had-the-revelation-of-God-that-we-have” approach. And of course, if you doubt that it’s possible, for example, to be Catholic and Christian, this is hardly a surprising standpoint.
3) It’s a bit corny, but worth repeating, that just because you thing that something is being misused (journalling by the ‘New Age’), the correct response is not disuse, but demonstrating right use…another opportunity for costly-won redemption to come into play.
And lest we imagine that this kind of attitude is only to be found in the USA, a number of years ago I was doing some teaching at a large and popular evangelistic/charismatic church in Manchester where I was one of the ministers.
Part of the teaching had mentioned the motivations and methods of some of the early Celtic Christian monks, like Columba and Aidan, who were so influential in bringing Jesus Good News to Britain.
Afterwards, someone commented, “Were the Celtic monks even Christians?” (sigh).
Spiritual myopia is treatable…by a healthy reading of scripture and church history, by a good dose of discernment and by a lavish supply of grace.