Humanist Hope

Humanism for the greater part of last century was fused with hopeful anticipation of creating a world in which self-serving, hedonistic lifestyles could be pursued with impunity.

Blocking man’s freedom to indulge at will his base passions, for sex, self-gratification, self-will, independence, irresponsibility and the like, were impositions that came from God, family, society and nature.

God, as the Bible reveals Him, is a perfect moral being who created man and thus to whom man is morally accountable. Every act, thought and word of man is therefore brought under moral constraint, frustrating selfish desire and irresponsible and immoral pursuit of self-will.

Family, as child and sibling in our parental home and then as spouse and parent in our own home, causes us to be imposed upon by the expectations, demands, personality and responses of our family members. Selfish actions cause us to come into conflict with those closest to us and to receive disapproval from and cause hurt to those we are most closely bonded to emotionally. We also suffer the indignity of being judged, accused and otherwise imposed upon by parent, sibling, spouse and child.

Society at large also has its order, which in the western world has been built upon Christian principles of morality. Society demands that we act responsibly and it acts as an extension of God’s authority over our lives, penalising us for certain actions that are deemed criminal.

Nature also provides cruel punishments for various indulgences, such as addiction to the drugs men use and sexually transmitted diseases which blight free sexual activity. Sexuality is also blighted by unwanted pregnancies. Overeating results in obesity. Over-indulgence in alcohol results in drunkenness and addiction. Indulging laziness results in loss of income. And so it goes.

Science to the Rescue

By midway through the twentieth century science had emerged as the hopeful saviour of humanism’s frustrated desire. Science offered both philosophical and practical solutions to humanism’s obstacles.

From the 1880’s publication and propagation of Darwin’s version of the Theory of Evolution promised a scientific explanation for the origins of man, and therefore allowed the god-rejecting conscience to reject fear of God’s moral judgment for man’s immoral selfishness.

Advances in hygiene and medicine progressively promised cures for mankind’s ills, and gave rise to the hope that those dreaded consequences of sexual exploits would also be conquered by medical science.

Education had proved itself able to elevate primitive and seemingly backward people into modern living standards and to embrace modern educated values. Thus education and enlightenment promised to be the source of continued elevation of mankind into an even more idealised state.

Psychological ideas promised power to alter man’s thinking and alleviate such things as guilt, shame, conscience and so on.

Marxist ideas of revolutionary overthrow of what exists to make way for what is better were widely disseminated.

Social and religious ideas, including the concept of marriage, were progressively accused of being mere products of primitive thinking in an evolutionary setting. The educated classes began to see that god, family, society and nature could be tamed and thus man liberated to indulge previously sinful and criminal behaviour.

It is interesting, then, to see that the Sexual Revolution of the 1960’s was the humanist ‘love-child’, expressing the revolutionary spirit of Marx, disregard for God, family and societal standards, and unbridled indulgence of desire, especially for sex, drugs and irresponsible living.

However the humanist hope was soon to crumble.

Crumbled Hope

Darwinian ideas of evolution continued to prove unsubstantiated and eventually unscientific, and were abandoned in pursuit of better hopeful explanations for man’s arrival without a Creator God.

Medical science has not continued to deliver great leaps in human health, and old, once-conquered diseases still hover on the edges of society, with newer, terrifying pandemic possibilities popping up from time to time.

Education has staggered to a halt. All of the pursuit of knowledge has done nothing to alleviate human suffering, social pain, depression, hopelessness, suicide and the many other social ills that enlightenment should have done away with. The educated are no happier nor more free and liberated than the ignorant.

Psychology failed to provide the keys to unlocking human happiness or removing human pain. Instead a plethora of unproven psychological ideas has swamped western society and myriad gurus of the mind have competed for their share of the market. Meanwhile a greater percentage of the population resorts to medication than ever before.

As for revolution it has proven powerless. Those who dived into liberation gained nothing but temporary indulgence, which they have to live with for the rest of their lives. The moral, emotional, relational and personal entanglements, pains, frustrations, regrets and bitterness are the same as ever, and those who were part of the revolution carry the greater pain and suffering in consequence.

What a Waste of Time

God was not dethroned by man’s defiance. Nature was not disempowered by man’s confidence. Morality was not remoulded by man’s insistence. Nothing has changed.

Man is inherently selfish and inclined to rebel against his Creator. That is as it has always been. God has placed us in a moral universe and that has not changed. Man’s mind is puny and vain, and that has not changed. Humility before God is wonderful, liberating and empowering, and that has not changed.

The humanist hope has crumbled.
But man’s hope in God is as strong and wonderful as ever.
Hope in God. That is the end of the matter.

Training Boys

It seems that schools and parents find it difficult to train boys these days and plenty of thought is going into finding effective means to achieve the needed outcomes. I have to smile, or maybe despair, when I hear these discussions, because methinks the real issue is too easily overlooked. But I’ll keep my thoughts on the real issue to later.

For now, let me examine what the experts are saying and what I think lies behind the current predicament confronting those engaged in training boys. Note, too, that much of what is relevant to training boys is also important in training girls as well, so all parents can gain value from reviewing the following notes.

Teaching Boys To Control Themselves

The issue that takes focus for tempering bad boy behaviour is put under the heading of “regulating or controlling one’s emotions”. When a child yells, screams or throws a tantrum they are seen as having a problem regulating or controlling their emotions.

I know that many parents who have seen their children yell, scream and throw a tantrum would not identify the ‘emotions’ as the central issue, but the will. Many children resort to those behaviours in order to get their way, frustrate their parents’ wishes and assert their control over situations. However the psychologists, school administrators and others who confront these behaviours are likely to label the problem as a lack of skills in regulating and controlling emotions.

Professionals not only attribute this lack of emotional control to poor training, but to slow development of the “prefrontal cortex”, so the child “can’t sufficiently moderate the emotional signals of the brain’s limbic system”.

Note that the professional solution to this biological problem is still a matter of learning how to control behaviour. Skilled clinicians are being trained to teach children “how to access rational problem-solving skills”.

Dr Adam Cox

Australia was recently visited by Dr Adam Cox, a USA psychologist who teaches boys how to use what he terms “Executive Thinking”. This type of thinking helps boys in particular, enabling them to better cope with life’s challenges.

Dr Cox’s work comes with high commendation and it is always good to see something that assists in problem areas. And he is very positive about the role of parents in providing discipline to their children. He sees that some parents may give in too much to rowdy behaviour of their children. He also recognises that single-parent homes are handicapped in providing the input needed. Some parents don’t seem to know how and when to discipline.

The Ideal Outcome

The desired result of teaching children “Executive Thinking” is that they gain a level of self-control which regulates their behaviour. Dr Cox points out that children who are without such self-control are in an unhappy situation.

“When children learn these skills, they are noticeably more confident, and generally feel safer. It is a terrible burden to go through life fearing that your emotions may dictate your behavior at any moment.”

Personal confidence and security are the outcomes which Dr Cox recognises in children who do not have behaviour problems. What he is identifying is what every good parent expects and sees in their own children. Well trained and well disciplined children are happy, secure, confident and well-adjusted. Children who must yell, scream and throw tantrums are poorly-adjusted, unhappy, insecure and a misery to deal with.

Good Parenting

I have mentioned that Dr Cox is positive about parenting. The following quote affirms his positive approach to quality parenting.

“I am always inclined to give parents the benefit of the doubt. If parents know how to intervene effectively – they generally will. I just wish that, as a society, we didn’t assume that parenting comes naturally. For most people, it requires lots of patience and practice. Great parenting has much more to do with endurance than engineering!”

My book, “Parenting Horizons – Empowering Parents to Build Generations”, is designed as a clear overview of the challenges with practical guidelines for parents. It is based on clear Biblical principles in an up-to-date language and with analogies and descriptions which clarify the key issues.

Parenting Horizons is available from Family Horizons, at www.familyhorizons.net.

The Real Issue for Boys

Boys are created to become men and to take on leadership in their marriage, home and the broader community. They are created to answer to God for themselves and those they are responsible for. So, boys are specially suited to proper discipline based on just and moral processes, applied by those who have authority over them.

When boys are not subject to clear guidelines, strong discipline and loving authority which calls them to account they become frustrated. At a deep personal level they do not enjoy being morally irrelevant. They want to rise to their created purpose, even if other parts of them wish to indulge rebellion, selfishness or evil.

The real issue for boys is their need for clear and strong discipline. This is consistent with who God made them to be and it prepares them for the responsibilities and authority which they are destined to carry.

Biblical Wisdom

The Bible teaches that boys need clear and attentive direction from their parents. Consider the following verses from the wisdom of Solomon and look for the importance of instruction, discipline and authority in the life of children, and especially boys.

“The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself brings his mother to shame.” Proverbs 29:15

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” Proverbs 22:15

A Critique on the Psychological Approach

Children need discipline provided by their parents. When this fails and the child does no behave correctly this is a major problem for the child’s future, as well as those who must struggle to control and assist the child through life.

While physiological issues such as the “prefrontal cortex” and “the brain’s limbic system” may have a part to play the only real solution is not biological, but involves further efforts to train the child.

The real issue for children, and boys in particular, is Training. Biblical training involves physical punishment as more than a motivator, but also as a therapy which removes foolishness from the child.

When parents employ Biblical training, involving the “rod of correction” they will raise happy, secure, confident and well-adjusted children who will not be a problem to those around them.

Your Soul is in the Way

In a day when psychoanalysis is trendy and just about anyone who is anyone has their own psychologist we can lose sight of the Biblical realities about our inner life. The truth is that your soul gets in the way of your freedom and happiness.

What is the Soul?

Freud dissected the inner workings of the human mind with his Id, Ego and Super-ego. Many others have thrown their own two-pence worth into the ring, hoping to make much more than two-pence out of it. So the water is pretty muddy for anyone trying to understand the mind and man’s inner self.

When I studied first year Psych at Sydney University in the early 1970’s much of the course consisted of learning about competing schools of psychological thought. Each one seemed to make sense in its own right, but none could co-exist in harmony with the other. Psychology was a free-for-all game of eclectic self-determined theories and therapies. Things are even worse with the passage of a generation.

The Bible presents a very workable dissection of the human condition, given by the Apostle Paul in a letter he wrote to one of the churches he established, in Thessaloniki. In his first letter to the Thessalonians he prays that God will preserve their spirit, soul and body.

“… I pray to God that your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” Paul, 1Thessalonians 5:23b

Spirit, Soul and Body

The Spirit of a man is that internal part which enables the man to relate to God. This part is somewhat unfamiliar to us, since westerners do not give particular attention to their spirit. It may be best understood by saying that it is the internal part of us that is not our soul. Man’s conscience is part of his spirit.

The Soul of a man is that internal part which enables the man to relate to the world around him. This includes the mind, emotions and will, or thoughts, feelings and choices.

The Body is the physical and visible person.

Spirit in Control

Man was originally designed to be in intimate fellowship with God, so man was created to live out of his Spirit. The Spirit is meant to be in control of each person’s life. Note that Paul listed man’s components by itemising the spirit first. Mankind is ‘spirit, soul and body’, not ‘body, soul and spirit’. The spirit is supposed to be pre-eminent.

However, when Adam and Eve ate of forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, they chose to make their spirit secondary to the soul. They exalted their mind, emotions and will over their conscience.

Soul in Control

What we have now is mankind living out of the soul. Our mind, emotions and will demand to be gratified. We demand to understand things. We react to anything that upsets our feelings. We refuse to yield our will.

The soul is in control in humanity. That’s why the soul is in the way. The soul blocks our ability to live out of our spirit, because it won’t give up its place of executive control over our lives.

For example, consider a person who feels touched by God and who wants to drop their career and dedicate their life to Christian ministry. What are the things that their friends say to them? People will tell them it doesn’t make sense (that’s the Mind issue). People will say they don’t feel right about them throwing away their studies and career (that’ the Emotions). Others will challenge the decision and pressure the person to re-think their decision (that’s related to the Will).

The person will have their own battles with their mind, emotions and will when they sense God leading them to a radical decision.

God Separates Soul and Spirit

The Bible speaks much about our soul and spirit. Just one verse will be sufficient to show that God wants us to separate our mind, emotions and will away from our spirit.

“For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

We are not going to fulfil the perfect will of God by having our soul in command. We will live by faith and please God more, by being led by the Spirit of God.

The book of Hebrews exalts the Bible as being God’s tool for piercing into people’s lives and separating the soul and spirit.

Your highly trained mind will not make you a better Christian. Your strength of emotion or will is not an asset when it comes to living for God. You are much better off learning how to put your soul (mind, emotions and will) in their place, under the Lordship of Christ and out of the way, so they don’t interfere with your life in the Spirit.