Thursday, December 17, 2009

What I've Learned in CPE Part I

CPE has ended and I'm reflecting on what I have learned. We had to have learning goals, so I'll write about those on here in two posts and end with a big ol' overview of the entire process.

LEARNING GOAL #1: How to put theoretical knowledge into a practical theology

Why this Goal?

I did an internship at a local church and some feedback that came my way was that I sometimes spoke too complex for people to understand. In Bible studies I would leave people behind with the concepts and vocabulary that I employed. It was my fear that I would do the same on my visits. It was also a fear that I would try to be a problem solver and in this role and in doing so I would offend and miss the real problem that was bothering the patient.

This learning goal had many aspects to it. First and foremost is developing reflective listening skills which I feel I have made much progress with. The second would be to learn how to boil down complex theories, concepts, and vocabulary into accessible and clear statements, which when I did speak, would be understood with little room for misinterpretation. I really felt that I harkened back to my advertising background. I re-learned how to present myself, simply, clearly, and yet still hint that there is still more to me than what is being presented. Likewise, I learned how to locate the patient, meet them where they are, and yet still realize there is more to their story as well.

All this to say that I found that I tend to lead with my head but it is informed by my heart. This is the type of “heart religion” Jonathan Edwards spoke about. What Phillip Otterbien called “a scholarly pietism.” These pillars of my tradition state that you can think things that are cognitive, but if you don’t feel it then it’s worthless. I feel that this goal has helped me realize how I act and respond. I am able to use my seminary training to recognize religious and theological frameworks that are presented by patients and explore them. I am able to match up how the patient’s theoretical theology matches up with what they are feeling in the moment. If the theory and the feeling match, I don’t mess, but if they don’t, I am able to offer alternatives that are both cognitively and emotionally comprehended.

The growing edge with this goal and the progress made is not falling back into a purely cognitive style of working. I doubt this will happen, but I don’t want to lose what I’ve learned here and this new awareness of self. I don’t want to lose this vulnerability and risk and take a defensive stance. I always state that the best theology is one based on questions not answers, and it seems I’m finally taking my own words to heart.


Anglican Boy said...

"This is the type of “heart religion” Jonathan Edwards spoke about. What Phillip Otterbien called “a scholarly pietism.”

Isn't John Edwards the author of "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God?" That sounds like a GREAT heart religion. Puritans make me a little ill for that matter as well.

Sabio Lantz said...

"I am able to use my seminary training to recognize religious and theological frameworks that are presented by patients and explore them. I am able to match up how the patient’s theoretical theology matches up with what they are feeling in the moment. If the theory and the feeling match, I don’t mess, but if they don’t, I am able to offer alternatives that are both cognitively and emotionally comprehended."

You have said before, "I am a relational being". Is this what you mean by "relational"?

Luke said...

@AB: There is more to Edwards than just that sermon... and have you read the whole thing? most people can't handle the first part and miss the rhetorical flip at the end.. kinda like Romans, everyone LOVES to read the first chapter, but never seem to get to the flip at Chapter 2.

@Sabio: This is partly what I mean. it's how chaplains are trained to respond: utilize reflective listening skills at all times, be a presence, and if needed challenge the toxic beliefs.

Sabio Lantz said...

Yeah, I guess, in my best of moods, that is what I try to do too. "utilize reflective listening skills at all times, be a presence, and if needed challenge the toxic beliefs."
I listen for toxic theistic beliefs. As you know, they abound. I try to let the benign ones go by. Again, on good days.

Luke said...

"I try to let the benign ones go by." -Sabio

i hear ya... but the question then becomes, how do you know? what context would you challenge 'toxic' beliefs and how do you differentiate between the good and toxic theistic beliefs?

ex: dude just lost his wife of 50 years due to a car crash. he walked away fine from it, maybe has a bruise or something, she dies due to massive trauma as car struck her side. he now blames himself... family at his side start emphasizing that "it was her time to go" and not his fault. he seems comforted by this... what would you do in that situation?

Sabio Lantz said...

@ Luke

Yeah, good question. It is the function of a belief that I concentrate on. Since you did not give me enough info, I could fill out two scenarios to illustrate.

(a) Let's say accident was not his fault. Let's say the wreck was noone's fault. Self-blame is inappropriate, destructive. Let's say all his friends are Baptist, and "time to go" is comforting enough to stop self-blame, OK, sure. At his age you aren't going to reprogram his world. Let it go.

(b) He is an alcoholic. He has continually hurt people, now he killed his wife with his drunk driving. Let it drive home and hurt and maybe, just maybe, he will change and stop hurting others.

In how I would analyze both of them, is in terms of how they effect people. For certainly there are no gods, spirits, angels , demons, unicorns, fairies or whatever that manipulate cars, weather, destiny and such. So I just decide about what thought patterns help all the folks involved and how. It is a very complicated calculus. Of course that is always with the humble realization that my little impact will likely change nothing.

I sort of imagine you agreeing with my analysis except for one or two insignificant tweeks.

Anglican Boy said...

@Luke: I guess I will have to go back and read it. Any other of Edwards work you'd recommend?

@Sabio: I believe in the providence of God. I would find great comfort to place the death of my wife in the hands of God if it were not my fault. What if it were though? But more 'gray' than being intoxicated, more like "another driver had a turn signal on and the husband pulled out into traffic only to get hit by the other driver." Where is the line then?

I think all of our days are numbered. Working in the medical field, I see patients that drink and smoke and live to 90+ where other patients who are constantly sick for no really reason only to die early. I'm on palliative care, so I have seen all sorts. I can only claim the mysterious providence of God because logic nor science can solve these problems.

Sabio Lantz said...

@ Anglican Boy

Do you really want your God to be the "Spackle God" - filling in the holes in your wall of understanding? That Spackle God has been shrinking decade by decade.

Anglican Boy said...


You're talking about the "God of the Gaps" argument which is a fallacy. This refers to a view of God as existing in the "gaps" or aspects of reality that are currently unexplained by scientific knowledge. This view is predicated on the assumption that any event which can be explained by science automatically excludes God and that is hogwash as many modern scholars (such as John Polkinghorne) hold that it is part of a deity's nature to be consistent and that it would be inconsistent for a deity to go against its own laws unless there were an overwhelming reason to do so.

This is also not the watch-maker God of the deists. God is active in the normal-appearing natural events of everyday life, not just in occasional miracles, and that evidence for the operation of natural process in formative history is not evidence against God's activity in this history. In short, there are no gaps to fill, since God is everywhere. This constitutes a panentheist view of the world. As Soren Kirkegaard stated-- according to Luke anyway, as he is where I heard this from--"The problem with life is that you can only understand it backward, but have to live it forward." Same with God. Through my prayer-life and frequent church attendence, I am getting to be able to see God in the present, but I am still learning. My religion also helps me be nonanxious that I do not have all the answers, I am able to be comfortable with mystery in my life. Life is not rational.

Also you sidestepped my question on what would you do about the gray area. Also, where is the toxic belief in a sovereign and providential God?

Sabio Lantz said...

@ Anglican Boy

You said, "My religion also helps me be nonanxious..."

I am glad it works for you and would not want to hinder that.

I agree that those who make their god a "God of the Gaps" make a terrible mistake.

You said, "God is active in the normal-appearing natural events of everyday life, not just in occasional miracles."

You don't have any evidence to back that , do you.

Because, if natural law works, then the world would look just like this without an intervening God in the backglow.

Let me get you right. You believe in an intervening God that you can pray to for help for happiness, illness and such, no? I don't want to assume anything.

Concerning the grey areas:
If the guy was a sloppy driver and killed his wife who he dearly loved, we may wish to comfort him at the moment with the lie. For certainly no God calls people up at their time. But hopefully he learns so he does not kill anyone else.
To get my opinion on this, you might want to read my short post called:
Roadkill Theology

Luke said...

wow, quite a conversation! i'll weigh in on this...

"You don't have any evidence to back that , do you."

i noticed how this is a statement, not a question.

there is evidence, just look around you. we're here. we exist. what more do you need?

"Because, if natural law works, then the world would look just like this without an intervening God in the backglow."

wouldn't know. if natural law didn't work, we wouldn't be here having this discussion and thus there would be no God. but since there is, we have reality.

now you'll say that's crazy and not accurate and name some logical fallacy. i don't care. reason for faith isn't faith. if you go the other route, as you are want to do, and state that doesn't sound very Christian, then i would also disagree. ya see, Jesus didn't run around giving logical proofs or systematic and peer reviewed data reports. he told stories.

if i am to represent him, i shouldn't miss represent his methods. for me, even if the guy was guilty, grace covers it. he is already in hell, why add to his burden? i would sit and listen and only jump if he states that what he did can't ever be forgiven.

but that's me.

Sabio Lantz said...

Yeah, accidentally left the question mark off.

Luke, the question of "Could amazing things exist based on simple mindless interactions?" has been shown time and again to be true. The kind of folks that elevate their awe to Godhood are simply saying, "I am so smart, that if I can't understand something, it has to be God." That seems ironically arrogant to me.

This is debate can be found on all the evolution sites. Christians who try to debate this typically have no understanding of science and math and thus the conversation is difficult, if not pointless. I'd love to sit down for a few hours and show you cellular automatons and illustrate second order equations to you, showing you how awesome beauty can come form simplicity just cranking away. No creator or designer needed.

You said, "I don't care." Wow, you argue logically until it seems it might get tough and then you say, "I don't care"?

Jesus didn't give logical proofs because he was not a scientist (though if he was God, he could have told us all kinds of amazing facts -- odd, he acted just like you'd expect someone from that time to act.)

Jesus told stories just like many other rabbis -- that is what they do for a living. That is what you are going to do. You won't do science either.

My goal with the drunk would be to be sure other innocent people were not hurt before I worried about his well-being.

Luke said...

"Could amazing things exist based on simple mindless interactions?" has been shown time and again to be true." I'm not saying that this isn't true. in fact, read this sermon about God in the ordinary. not every thing is transcendent.

however, i came back to Christianity through Buddhism and my biology undergrad. looking at the simple order of the world really made me stand in awe. i was grateful. what a wonderful world! even if you don't believe in a God, it's pretty spectacular. I started off just being thankful for existence but as i started re-discovering my tradition and reading Neihbur and Aquinas and Polkinghorne (an Anglican priest who also wrote theories on quarks and quasars) i started thanking God.

logic and reason will only get you so far. there's a creative leap that is required. radio lab talked about how beings of pure logic would never get past the comparason stage but it takes some irrationality start an action. Soren K. called this a leap of faith.

now i'm a theist, and that won't change. it is part of who i am and what tradition i claim as well as in my daily experience. you're not. yet you are letting this divide us. i'm not asking you to change, only to consider that something useful and some-what logical comes from my way of thinking. i feel like i have affirmed your way of thinking and i see it. i don't feel it's lacking anything as it's a holistic stance, not like that bitch-spot dude or other atheists i've met. it makes me wonder at your ecumenical claim, Sabio. do you mean it? are you truly inclusive?

i think we're all God's children and that's where my faith is uniting. i'm a universalist, so everyone is saved but not everyone acts on it. i also see how not everyone will grow up and take responsibility for their own actions.

i see you at your best being way more Christ-like than I could hope to be as you show great concern for your fellow being. it doesn't bother me that you don't believe in God save when you try to evangelize to me.

Luke said...

BTW, the scenario actually happened and Anglican Boy gave away the answer. dude just gambled and lost since he thought the other truck was taking the ramp to the highway. crashed into the passenger side. when police arrived on the scene the blinker was still going, signaling the turn that was never made.

we could blame the other driver, we could blame the husband for not being more careful. we could pass judgment... i however, won't do that as i'm just as guilty as both drivers. this accident was most unfortunate, but i see the man's faith and belief in an afterlife really pulling him through the toxicity of self-blame and guilt. hope for a reunion with his beloved of 50+ years.

that works for me and i share that hope. we'll all find out sooner or later which side of the theistic/atheistic debate is right.

Sabio Lantz said...

@ Luke

You wrote: "i'm not asking you to change, only to consider that something useful and some-what logical comes from my way of thinking"

Absolutely. I wrote on SVS's blog a reply to you guys which gets at my issue. I direct you there. If we can agree on the point there, I can make my last point and see what you think. But we need to agree there. And being the universalist you are (and we are both universalists), I think you may agree.

Yeah, concerning the driver. It is way too late at that point to debate what to do with false or useful beliefs. I really don't care at that point. It is all cemented already. I face that shit daily on my job. I just let it go and let people have their beliefs of course. I did the same when I worked in Japanese hospitals with their various Buddhisms, Shintoism and Secularism. Likewise, when I worked in Chinese Hospitals, I did not engage those level of conversations at that point.

We won't see which side is right after death except of you are right. In which case, I'll buy the first round. But if I am right, you are going to have to buy me a beer now to avoid being a cheapskate!

Anglican Boy said...

@Sabio: I think Luke said it all, way better and more inclusive than I could. Try as I might, I am not inclusive to atheists in the least. I see the way that we view the world to be completely opposite. I used to be one for many years but after my wife drug me kicking and screaming back to church, I find that I'm living my life much differently.

I will end the conversation there out of respect for you as a person and out of respect for Luke and his forum.

Sabio Lantz said...

@ Anglican Boy
Yes, lots of variety of Christians out there. Ones like Luke who think Atheist can be just fine. And ones like you that would go out of your way to convince your children not to date Atheists, yet alone Hindus or Muslims. There is such variety, that the word "Christian" becomes meaningless for practical purposes. (part of my point)
Again, I am glad your faith serves you well.

Anglican Boy said...

Sabio said: "And ones like you that would go out of your way to convince your children not to date Atheists, yet alone Hindus or Muslims."

We would allow our kids to date children of other faiths because there is a God there, or some sort of ethic. Many atheists I speak with are just lazy and rest on whatever answer they interpret science to give them and it is usually wrong. Or they think that humans are basically good. We don't. If our kids did date an atheist, we would have a long discussion on what type of ethics they hold. As for salvation, I depart from Luke's universalist stance and hold tightly to my tradition. It is my hope that everyone will be fine, but I'm not reading that in the scriptures. Jesus had a lot to say about hell and judgment.

Luke said...

"Jesus had a lot to say about hell and judgment." -AB

i'm universalist, yes, but you seem to miss me here. this belief doesn't mean that there is no hell. This should explain it in full, but in short: hell is the refusal to believe that you are fully loved on this side or the next.

Big ups to your honesty, i think even Sabio would want to know who his kids are dating. I know i would, but not because they're atheists or not... but because THEY ARE DATING MY DAUGHTER! no one is getting off easy on that one ;-)

@Sabio: I look forward to the day we sit down over a beer!

Sabio Lantz said...

"Jesus had a lot to say about hell and judgment.
Anglican Boy"

Well, certainly made puppet-Jesus say something about Hell & Judgement. Or maybe the Beatitude-Jesus was the puppet Jesus. Well, we will probably never know. But over time, the Jesuses of the NT are a compilation of several folks trying to get a voice. I am curious what his real voice was. I wager it was, as Luke suspects, caring for poor, reaching out and hoping for the son of man to come and rescue everyone as they ignored making careers and families.

Anonymous said...

So Luke, what would your criteria be for someone being assessed as OK to date your daughter?
PS I am interested in religion and belief coming into your answer if possible.
This topic is very relevant to me at the moment.

Luke said...

"So Luke, what would your criteria be for someone being assessed as OK to date your daughter?" -Julia

hey there! nice to see ya! you put me on the spot here... i'll try to make something coherent:

-My daughter is 8 months old, anyone wanting to "date" her is automatically suspect at this point. ;-)

when she grows up, i will love for:

-honest interest in her as a whole person, not just another pair of lips to smootch.

-this can be evidenced in the willingness of this person to make time for her, engage her wider-family, attend social events as opposed to isolated ones, walk along side without making absurd demands on changing her behavior or looks.

-an openess to inquiry and discussion.

i take after my wife's parents example. the first time i saw them they really let me have it with the 20 questions. i was interested in their daughter and wanted to know more about these people that raised such a wonderful person, so i asked questions of them as well. this tradition continues. there was a lot of transparency and interest at the beginning of the relationship and it continues to this day.

so i guess that is my answer.. hope it is clear and some what helpful. what are you experiencing at the moment?

Anonymous said...

My daughter began dating in May this year. It is all very new to me.
We love this boy very much. I love the way he treats her, and he seems very family orientated. He has a great relationship with his own parents from what I can see.
I give 20 questions to everyone I meet !! So I guess that's no problem.
But as much as I discuss faith/belief on the internet, I have trouble talking about deeper issues with those I meet.
His Mum is very involved with a local charity whose tag line is "Faith, Hope and Charity for All", so I got my hopes up!!
But as I have gotten to know them, I have discovered that they don't 'go to church', and I don't think they 'think' about God. So I don't think they necessarily 'believe in God'.
I grew up in a Christian Anglican home and God has always been central to my life, in my thoughts and definitely part of my motivations. Personally I would not have dated a 'non-Christian'. I feel guilty that I am allowing my daughter to date a 'non-Christian'. It feels like I am sinning myself.
It was interesting when Anglican Boy wrote something along the lines that he would prefer his daughter date a Hindu or a Muslim than an Athiest. I was the opposite. I saw my Christian God as a jealous God. My son's first girlfriend's Dad was a Hindu. She was the most kind, beautiful girl but I cried and fought with my son about it because I just wasn't coping. They broke up (no wonder).
So learning from that experience I took a different approach this time. I didn't want to wreck another relationship. So I didn't even bring up the faith issue this time. But it is on my mind A LOT. I thought I would cope better with someone with 'no faith' as opposed to worshipping a different God.
He is such a kind, warm hearted, loving person. Takes interest in our whole family, makes conversation...
But on my mind, much of the time, is GUILT. About my daughter dating someone with no faith in God that I can see.
And I worry about any potential grandchildren with regards to their nurture in relation to the things of God.
And I worry about things like what his beliefs would be regarding obeying the law of the land to the letter, no grey areas allowed in my eyes!!
eg. I know some people skimp on their taxes where they can. But I think "God is watching" and I pay tax to the cent!!
Just one example.
But I worry what he might do when he doesn't believe "God is watching". And when that involves my daughter...
So, that is basically where I am at presently. They are my crazy thoughts!
And all the while my own belief is so shaky at the moment I feel like a hypocrite that someone else's belief/lack of belief would be an issue for me!!
And I haven't even MENTIONED how the indoctrination of the traditional concept of hell comes into play with all of this. But we've talked about that before. I just hate the idea of being in any way responsible for "sharing the good news" (bad news) with others that there is ONE way to be saved. And it comes so close to home when your daughter is dating someone with no faith, and your daughter only 'goes to church' to please you/obey you, not out of any desire of her own to 'know God' and you may have grandchildren grow up with no faith, and your own faith is way way way smaller than a mustard seed and diminishing rapidly.
Thanks for listening.

Anonymous said...

PS His sister's LEAST favourite subject at school is religion. And when they were planning a long plane trip recently and discussing how they would fill in the time, a joke was made about his Dad taking the bible to read. I found this really hard, but said nothing.

Luke said...


wow, i'm sensing a lot of shame in your belief system. "God is always watching and will make you pay for every bad thing you do or think" doesn't sound very graceful. could be myself reading into your comments, but i wanna talk about it and please correct me if i'm wrong or taking too much liberty speaking to your very honest and open comment.

the image of God as parent (specifically Father) is all over the Bible. what type of parent though? i would think God would be the best kind, taking joy in our successes, laughing at our frustrations, and holding us in pain and grief. I like to think of the parable of the prodical son. The father wasn't afraid of giving the prodigal son a kiss instead of a lecture, a party instead of probation; and he proved that by bringing in the elder brother at the end of the story and having him raise pretty much the same objections you do. but this life is about forgiveness and connection, not shame and guilt. i MUCH prefer those who are doing the work of Jesus than those who are proclaiming Jesus. "preach the gospel at all times, if nessicary, use words." some atheists are a better testament and witness to Jesus than many Christians are.

"Faith, Hope and Charity for All" is AWESOME and a very Biblical name and if the title is half as good as the work being done, then i think there's no need to worry. beliefs do turn into actions yet you can tell a good tree by it's fruits. some beliefs can't be articulated, only acted upon. some people don't like talking about their faith and follow the model of "pray in secret" to the loudmouths like me who constantly post about it. anywho.. that's my 2 cents, hope it helps. thank you for your honesty and sharing your concerns. i am not at that stage yet, but i'm sure i'll have similar concerns when i get there.

Yael said...

Actually, Luke, I would be very surprised if you had similar concerns when your daughter reaches dating age. I don't see you as that kind of father or person. You will have raised your daughter to be a good, confident, talented young woman who will chose to be around other good, confident, talented young people. You will ever be watchful, but from the background. That's what I see when I look in my crystal ball....

My sons are both at the dating stage of life and I don't spend any time fretting over who they date or might date, although I do spend time fretting over my sons' becoming the kind of men women will want to marry and stay married to.

I taught them when they were young to pick their friends wisely; I pointed out good characteristics in their friends, pointed out those that might be cause for concern; I pointed out their good characteristics and those that might be cause for concern and I pointed out my own. When they became teenagers it wasn't hard at all to turn this conversation just a bit to include girls and what to look for in who they date.

My boys stay busy with shul, school and community activities; the girls they meet are girls who are also busy with these things. I have always liked the girls my sons have shown interest in, even though I am that Jewish mom!

It's pretty much been the case that all the girls they hang around with are Jewish, but my older son also likes a girl who comes from a family tradition of Buddhism. So, I have thought about this, what would I do if my son decided she is the one for him? I quickly came to the realization that I would be fine with this. She is by far the nicest, most caring young woman I have met; beautiful inside and out. I like how she interacts with my son and I like how she interacts with me. I came to realize that although life might be easiest if my sons married Jewish women and my grandchildren were Jewish like me, in the end, I'm more concerned about the character of the women my sons hook up with, and not so much their religion. And as I said, my role in all of this isn't to pick out mates for my kids, but is instead to do my best to help prepare them to one day be good husbands and fathers.

And I would take the opposite view of AB. I want my sons to only date girls who see themselves as good and other people as good. If they do not, man, I don't want them around us at all! I would also not want them to hang around any of the hellfire and brimstone types, but I don't think that is likely to happen since such types shouldn't be dating 'non-believers'.

Exciting state of life that is for sure. Will be interesting to see how it all turns out. The one scenario that I think would hurt me the most would be if my kids married Orthodox Jews and went over to the dark side. That would be a tough one to take, that is for sure. God forbid, God forbid.

BTW, Julia, You said that the young man who your daughter is seeing does many wonderful things and treats your daughter so well; you also said you don't think he believes in God. Yet later on you say you worry about how he will act when he doesn't think God is watching him. If he doesn't believe in God he's already showing you how he would act, because that is how he acts right now! Abraham Joshua Heschel would call this praying with his feet.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for your input Luke and Yael.
As I read your comments and then go back and read mine the difference in the tone is amazing.
The peace you both have is really evident and very attractive.
My intention is to go with the flow wherever the relationship leads, but to do so with peace instead of fretting would be much more enjoyable.

Zac said...

Although this is quite late (according to the date of these posts) I have to say, it was quite well as pleasing to see mature conversations taking place on a spectrum often left to the gladiators of a vocabulary slug fest!!! Cheers to all of you!'

Luke Lindon said...

Thanks for commenting Zac! It was a nice trip down memory lane. I haven't moved from my criteria for dating my daughter. She's now in 2nd grade. Still haven't had to test it, thank God.