All Creation Groans

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I've been wanting to write something with deeper significance for my 200th post. I've been working on this for a couple days and haven't wanted to post anything else because that would then have been the 200th post. I've been meditating on the consequences of the fall in the world, and I'm not talking about sinful and immoral actions or thoughts. I'm just thinking about negative effects in creation that Christianity attributes to the effects of the fall. A number of events in the near past have brought me to these thoughts, and I'll mention some of them as I go. When most people raise questions about God and evil, the issues I'm considering right now are among the foremost in their minds. (After all, evil actions are done by evil people, who then take the blame. The sort of badness I'm thinking of for this post is often even classified under the category of acts of God.)

I have a friend who has been told that it's almost impossible for him to have children, with two different problems making even artificial insemination such a long shot that it's not worth the money. I have no idea what anguish this has been for him, though I know it's been very hard for him and his wife. Christians have generally considered reproduction not a necessary condition for a good marriage (or even for sex in serving one of its natural purposes -- what Pope Paul VI called the unitive function). Still, it's at least one of the purposes, and most people place a high value in having children who are genetically their own offspring. Hardly anyone would argue that for people in similar situations something has gone wrong from how it's supposed to go, and the consequences are severe for the people who have to deal with them for the rest of their lives. I put this example first because it's such a clear case of something everyone would describe as nature gone wrong. Would I say something is wrong with my friend? I wouldn't say so in any pejorative way, and I certainly don't see this as reason to say an infertile man is less of a man or an infertile woman is less of a woman. Still, something has gone wrong for such a condition to develop. Something's not working the way it's supposed to work.

Two other issues related to sexuality come to mind, both which have made appearances on this blog in the recent past, and I would say similar things about both of them. I've previously posted my thoughts on why I think the existence of homosexuality is a negative effect on creation given how God intended marriage and sex. The ethical issues are somewhat independent of this, but all you'd have to grant to see this in the same category as the other conditions in this post is that it's unfortunate that anyone would have attraction for people of the same sex. Not everyone will grant this, I'm sure, but perhaps even some people who find nothing morally wrong with homosexual relationships and sexual behavior can agree that it's unfortunate that people would be attracted to those with whom one in principle can't have children biologically (which isn't the same as with infertility). Both creational and evolutionary explanations of sex take reproduction to be at least one purpose of sex.

The second is the phenomenon of intersexuality. This came up in a previous post (which had initially been about other things, but see the comments by Wink), and I had to take some time to formulate some thoughts on it, which I'm not done doing, but I have something to say about it, namely that it belongs in this list. This condition involves people who have two X chromosomes and a Y chromosome or an X chromosome and a defective Y chromosome that doesn't develop properly. In both cases the result is someone who, technically speaking, is genetically male. However, phenotypically you will get traits anywhere between developing as a normal woman (due to the Y chromosome not affecting any sex traits whatsoever) to a normal man (with the extra X chromosome having minimal effect or the defective Y being defective in a minimal way). Those extremes are people we know what to do with. We'll call the first kind females and the second kind males, even though all have a male genotype.

When it gets disturbing to most people are the cases where some phenotypically female characteristics develop but other phenotypically male characteristics develop. These are the people most properly called intersexual. (A hermaphrodite is a creature that has working sets of both male and female sex organs. Plants can be hermaphrodites. People can't. Intersexuals don't have two working sets of sex organs.) We tend to think of males and females as mutually exclusive (though that's not so for plants, but with humans it is literally true on the genotypical level). Does an XXY person who develops genotypically count as male or female? In terms of effects on the person, she's female. What about someone who has both male and female sex characteristics? If one is predominant, we might think that wins out. Is there a middle range where the person is both male and female or somehow neither? This is something about which I don't know what to say at the moment. I do think it's a tragedy that this might happen to someone. I'm not saying someone has some lower status from being an intersexual, but there's something bad about it. Christians can explain that by saying it's a negative effect of the fall. It's unfortunate and contrary to the creator's purposes in designing male and female. This isn't how it's supposed to be, and I can see people who don't even believe in a creator who had intentions for the universe would want to say something has gone wrong for someone to be this way.

In a very different area my son's social, communicative, sensory, and motor problems (related to some sort of autistic or autistic spectrum disorder) give us a fairly clear case of human neurology not working the way it usually does. Do we want to say something is wrong with my son? Political correctness has discouraged such talk. He's just different. He learns in different ways from how most kids his age learn, and he isn't learning to do some things most kids his age do (or in some cases he isn't learning to do them well). There's a neurological reason for this. Something in his brain hasn't developed as well as in most people's brains. Connections between different parts of his brain aren't as strong, for one thing. Probably some parts of his brain don't receive the inputs they're supposed to receive. This "supposed to" language reflects our sense that there's a normal way it's supposed to work, and autistic spectrum disorders involve some of that going wrong. This isn't supposed to happen.

I have some sense of some of those issues on a smaller scale. On some of the autistic spectrum tests I test closer to the autistic spectrum than to the average person, though still technically within the normal range. I have some difficulty putting things into words when it describes my deepest feelings, values, and responses to the world and to daily life. It's a lot easier to write than to say. Sometimes it's easier if I've spent a lot of time thinking about it, but I don't normally think about my inner states. I experience them, but I don't reflect on them very much. A friend of mine who may well be the best spiritual mentor I've ever encountered once described me in a way something to the effect of not being very proficient in the nuances of emotional vocabulary. That's probably pretty accurate. Sometimes I don't recognize how frustrated or excited I am until someone points it out to me by seeing the effects. I'm not thinking about my excitement or frustration. I'm just being excited or frustrated. I definitely don't use nuanced words to describe how I feel. I rarely would describe myself as depressed, elated, anxious, resentful, discouraged, proud (in either the good sense or the bad sense), disturbed, joyous. I do sometimes think of myself as upset, disappointed, excited, happy, frustrated, satisfied, or occasionally overwhelmed, but I don't generally use words to say such things about myself. (I had to use a list of emotional vocabulary just to come up with these words.)

Now someone who may well know me as well as anyone else on this earth and who is willing to be objective about this insists that he doesn't think I fit the Asperger's criteria. The tests I took did confirm this, but they put me remarkably close compared to what the average person scores. I do think I'm more toward that end of the spectrum between Williams syndrome and low-functioning autism than I am to the average person in the middle (see my Manly Man post for more on that spectrum). Here is how the spectrum would go, ignoring relative differences:

autism
high-functioning autism and Asperger's
the ideal Vulcan or the Stoic sage (who deliberately suppress certain emotions but are probably better able to understand those of others than the autistic spectrum would allow)
me
the average philosopher, mathematician, or physicist
the average male
the average human
the average female
the average artist or poet
Jon Anderson
Williams syndrome

Given my position on the scale, it's helpful to look at what experts say about Asperger's. Maxine Aston, who wrote Aspergers in Love, says that people with Asperger's syndrome have two problems. First, they have trouble understanding other people's emotions. They don't know how to identify with other people's experiences, and they have a lot of trouble even identifying someone's emotional state from looking at facial features. Second, Aston at least thinks people with Asperger's have some sort of deadened emotions. She thinks they have emotions (whereas some people have thought otherwise) but don't have the extremes of emotions that other people have. This is one reason I put Vulcans and the Stoic sage on the list above. Vulcans try to suppress what the Stoics called the passions, the extremes of emotions that lead to negative consequences in life. Star Trek writers misleading say that Vulcans have no emotions (which is demonstrably false -- Spock finds many things fascinating) or that they suppress their emotions (which is only partially true -- they suppress certain emotions -- the ones the Stoics called the passions).

Now I don't know how I could possibly approach the issue of whether I have emotions but don't have them to the same degree as others do. I would say that I don't seem to react the same way as some others do, but often I tend to think of that as a sign of maturity rather than having a deficiency. Given that I do tend to get flustered, insulted, angry, or confused at times, and that people all the way out to the autistic extreme also do, I would say that Aston doesn't know what she's talking about when she says this. The problem probably isn't in the depth of emotion. It's in what brings it out, how easily certain emotions are brought out (and how more difficult others are to bring out), and especially how easy it is to read others' emotions and know the right response. I'm much better at the last thing than the people Aston describes in her book. I do have more difficulty with each of these things than some people do.

I've been dwelling recently on what the spiritual significance of all this is. Can someone who is severely autistic appreciate the gospel? Many higher-functioning autistic people (at least the ones without additional cognitive problems such as mental retardation) seem to understand most of what others say (except metaphorical language with some difficulty with indexical terms like pronouns) but not be expressive themselves. On this issue it's as if they're extreme introverts. That doesn't seem to me to be enough of a deficiency to fail to understand the gospel, but it does seem to lead to problems in adopting its message for oneself, at least in terms of the appropriate emotional response. I posted a while back about the difficulties of intellectuals in appropriately responding to God's mercies. It turns out to be a discipline much like the discipline of prayer or scripture reading. It takes work. Once the proper items are brought to mind, the reminder of how we should feel about it is present. That's often enough for me, particularly if someone takes me through a scriptural passage reinforcing those emotions by expressing them. It's less likely that I'll get the same result just by reading the passage myself without doing some of the things that I mentioned in my post on this, and even that it has to be after having developed the disciplined use of such meditations on what God has done for enough of the recent past that I'm ripe for this passage now to bring out such an effect. For someone who's further along on the spectrum enough to count as autistic, I don't know what it must be like.

One fact makes this sound very bad spiritually for autistic people, and another one lessens that conclusion a great deal. First, the Christian gospel is quite clear that intellectual assent to a bunch of propositions is not sufficient for the kind of trust in Christ required for being in Christ. Can someone who is autistic have the kind of additional emotional response necessary? It's hard for me to have sometimes in ordinary life. How much harder is it for someone with more extreme neurological disabilities in this area than I have? However, we must remember that the trust or faith presented in the Christian scriptures as necessary for salvation is a God-initiated gift. That's what grace is. It doesn't minimize the role of the human being in believing, in trusting, in having faith. Yet God gives that gift, and I have no doubt that he can initiate that work in the life of someone who is severely hampered in proper emotional responses.

I've digressed a little here to reflect on my life and the potential difficulties of my son in how he will related to God, but it makes clearer how bad this neurological problem really can be. There are plenty of other effects of autistic traits, mostly in social and relational areas. However, this is the one that most worries me, since I've seen less severe effects of similar problems in myself. That's incredibly unfortunate. It's something that I wish were not true of anyone, especially the more severe effects in people who are autistic. That's not the way it's supposed to be, just as the other effects of autism are not in line with the way people are supposed to develop.

Romans 8 is the best remedy I can think of for whatever negative thoughts come about through reflecting on any of what I've been talking about (and these are just four ways my own thoughts have gone of late -- there are plenty of other issues that would do just as well). Creation eagerly awaits the glory of the transformation God will bring, just as we who belief in Christ are already being transformed from one degree of a kind of glory to a greater degree of being Christlike. When I pray for being transformed into the image of Christ, I have a few additional things to pray for that someone on the other end of the spectrum doesn't have, and this is essential for my prayers simply because the things I have a harder time doing are things that I ought to do. I'm sure people on the other end have different things that are similar enough to say the same thing about. Not all of the conditions I described here are like that. Infertility can be the subject of one's prayers but not as clearly for moral progress in one's life. I'm not sure what to say about intersexuality and what an intersexual Christian should pray for. Still, all things will be made as they should be. The creation will be set free from its bondage to decay and corruption, and all creation is groaning, longing for that day.

Paul goes on to say that we don't know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes with groanings too deep for words, which most Romans commentators connect with the creation's groaning, as if the Spirit expresses the same content as the creation's groaning in the form of prayers, in ways language perhaps can't express. This reassures me when I don't know what to pray about these matters.

I Corinthians 15 talks about the same restored reality God will bring but from the perspective of death, which is an even clearer effect of the fall, since it's the one effect God even pronounced before they ate the cucumber (or whatever fruit it was -- why assume it was even close to an apple?). This leads me to reflect on the death of my brother Joel a little over six years ago. Two reasons probably contribute to why I was affected in less obvious ways than most people would be. One is the stuff I discussed above. I was able to go through the grieving process much more quickly, partly because of that. The other element, though, is that I was fully convinced of the truth of what Paul says in I Cor 15 and Rom 8. Death is dead. It's been killed, as Paul says, alluding to Isaiah 25 of old. We still see people die, but those in Christ will be raised on the last day.

The passage about death most relevant for this post, however, is John 11. Jesus, at the prospect of Lazarus' death, weeps. It's the shortest verse in the Bible but demonstrates so much about what Jesus is all about. He knew full well what he intended to do. His weeping wasn't over Lazarus' loss, since he would have him back shortly. It was over the presence of death in the world, the most problematic element of the effects of the fall and the reason the gospel message is so incredible. Jesus was more in touch with those effects of sin in the universe than anyone else, and he responded in the only morally appropriate way -- with tears. He sometimes healed other effects of sin, though at times he didn't. His mission was primarily to heal the problem itself and not its effects, and for that we can rejoice, looking forward to the future reconfiguring of all reality to remove the corruption and decay that I've been talking about. Come, Lord Jesus.

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19 Comments

Just letting you know I really liked this. Very thoughtful.... and meaningful to me since Romans 8 and 1 Corinthians 15 are favorite passages of mine. I've been thinking about them lately in relation to the Easter and the resurrection, which, of course, was the start of the restoration of all of these things.

We're struggling with the issue of salvation/asperger's syndrome in our family at this time. Our daughter is in love with a young man who has mild asperger's. She's a christian and he, although experiencing christ at a young age, doubts that God exists. They would like to marry but as parents it's difficult to give approval when the young man says he doesn't even know if he believes. They've been dating for 3 years, are extremely compatable and need each other. The young man has said they might as well break up since my husband and I don't know how much approval we can give to the marriage. We want to be responsible as Christian parents but are trying to be understsanding of the role of asperger's in causing difficulties in this young man coming to faith. Can he have a normal relationship with God? He does attend church and enjoys the messages. He does devotional readings with our daughter and enjoys them, too. When asked if he believes in God he says he doesn't know. It's a heart-wrenching situation and we hope it's made clear what these two young people should do. Any suggestions?

Sue, there are a few separate issues you're dealing with. One is Asperger's and faith. Since I'm halfway between Asperger's and normal male on at least two tests, I struggle with these issues myself. I think many intellectuals are in a similar position. Here is one reflection on that with some practical things I have to do to on a regular basis if I'm going to be moved by the affective elements of faith. You have to keep in mind that Asperger's is not an absence of emotion but a difficulty in being aware of one's emotions at more than a very broad level, along with a lower ability to see things from someone else's perspective. Emotional vocabulary is generally diminished, and it's difficult to express oneself on a personal level without great time to think through how to say things, which is why writing is so much easier than conversation when it comes to anything related to emotion.

Now whether you will consider it possible to be this way and have a normal relationship with God depends on your assumptions about what such a normal relationship must look like. If your own relationship with God is focused on the affective elements rather than more purely cognitive ones, then I think the answer will be no, but you have to look to what faith is to see whether that's ok.

I think it is ok, though it involves some difficulties that others might not have. Faith is a gift of God, a kind of understanding of God that comes from God and is developed through seeking God, through talking to God, through listening to what God has to say most obviously in his word. Faith is a kind of trust, but a large part of it is an acknowlegement of certain truths. It's really an attitude toward those truths and toward God who brings us toward having that attitude.

I don't see why someone with Asperger's can't have all that in the same way that someone who has cognitive deficiencies but can understand the basic points of the gospel can accept the truths of the gospel necessary for genuine faith. Deficiencies in either ability will cause difficulties in some elements, but it's not a complete disability the way it would be if someone had no emotions and no ability to understand emotions.

Another thing that comes to mind is the issue of doubt. Someone with Asperger's is likely to want proof, and one thing that may be confusing him is his inability to prove to himself that God exists.
one thing that I'm not sure of is if he sometimes has doubts but finds himself believing some of the time or if he's in a constant state of unbelief. The former is consistent with having genuine faith, which will lead to an overall life outlook of trusting God, even if he has moments of doubt. He may be looking for some kind of proof, in which case he's not likely to find any that absolutely convinces him.

In my own experience, I've seen one thing distinguishing me from some who don't know whether they believe (in addition to a general attitude of belief most of the time, which many people who don't know if they believe don't have at all). At my most serious times of wondering if I really believe, I remember that my whole life outlook is so seriously influence by what Jesus valued, even if I'm often poor at living it out, that it's difficult for me to believe that I haven't received God's grace, because my priorities and values are so transformed. I find myself reading scripture and believing that its general outlook fits what I experience, not just about what it declares truly valuable but about what I come to value myself. That's why I'm sure God is at work in me even when I'm not living out that grace in my life in some way or even wondering if I believe at all at some moments when I consider massive skeptical hypotheses.

Now I don't know how your daughter's friend is. He may not be like that. Perhaps he never has any moments of belief anymore. If that's the case, I wouldn't assume he is a genuine believer. In that case, I would be extremely cautious about the idea of marriage. I've written about this before and won't try to say better and shorter here what I think I said well enough already. I will say that her commitment to him as a person without being willing to marry him might be genuinely for his good, if she can really show that commitment. I would encourage that and not encourage marriage if I were in your position. If they do choose to get married, I think you should support them and not turn them aside simply because you disagree with them, but acknowledging that you disagree with the action and cautioning them not to marry might be a good idea as long as they can see that it's not a rejection of them or of her desire to help him seek God. Does that help?

Jeremy,
Your comments were phenomenal!! I'm very encouraged and enlightened, you might say. This has given me many things to mull over and pray about as we deal with this issue. I'd like to comment further on some of the issues you brought up.

First of all, you should know that my daughter's boyfriend, Jim, is highly intellectual and was determined to have a very superior I.Q. following a psychologist's work-up to diagnose him with asperger's. We're not dealing with an average Joe here. This young man is brilliant and it's his intellect that often gets in his way of accepting all the truths of scripture. He's extremely literal and found reading the books of Ayn Rand and her philosophy, "Objectivism" to agree with the way he sees life. I don't know if you're familiar with her writings but she's an atheist who expounds the philosophy that what you see is what is. Her belief is that there is no God because you can't see him or touch him and that what really counts in life and what you can put your faith in are the things that are "real" and concrete. It's a factual and provable philosophy that would appeal to many who need to hold onto something completely proveable. Often when Jim engages in conversation about philosophical topics you will hear bits and pieces of Rand's philosophical ideas surface. He often uses her arguments when he's engaged in a battle to disprove certain aspects of Christianity. He was involved in a Christian group last year whose purpose was to take a more intellectual approach to proving the existance of God. The group was begun because Jim and another Christian felt it could be beneficial to Jim. In attendance were all Christian young people and this was a wonderfully engaging meeting time for them. They even had an outside speaker from a local college who debates the issue of God and science come to speak to them. However, when all was said and done Jim still didn't feel like he was any closer to finding out if God exists even though he enjoyed the "mental exercise" of researching and debating while in the group. Unfortunately, the group disbanded because the leader couldn't continue with the degree of time committment and preparation involved for such a group. Jim says he would like to start another group sometime to continue his pursuit of "truth."

As far as the emotional perspective issue is concerned, Jim does have difficulty understanding others' perspective. He is a sensitive young man, easily brought to tears in a situation where he feels rejected or overwhelmed. He also has the capability to show affection, being a very warm and compassionate person at moments he wants to be that way. He is outgoing and cheerful, fun and entertaining, expressive and dramatic. His personality gets a 10 plus for being a very charasmatic one!! He's the life of the party and everyone enjoys him. He just gets into trouble by saying the wrong things at the wrong time, being harsh and unfeeling at times. He also doesn't always perceive situations and people's motives properly. His perceptions of a situation are often distorted. My daughter will walk away from a meeting or discussion with a totally different perception of what happened. This lack of perception or "reading" other people's thoughts and intentions gets in his way of assessing a situation properly. This has created problems for him like getting himself fired from many jobs and not interviewing well or feeling hurt by what someone said. I liked what you had to say about this whole topic.

Now my question is: can a faith for such an intellectual man be purely cognitive in nature as you mentioned? I have told him it needs to strike his heart and Christianity is a relationship with the heart being involved. I've told him he can't find God through his head only but it's got to touch his heart. It is intereseting that you said that people with Asperger's want proof and that they can become frustrated if they are unable to prove that God exists. I figured he needed proof primarily because of his highly intellectual nature and that's probably part of it. I guess it's extra difficult when you're dealing with asperger's on top of that. It's twice as difficult. Can God be proven in the way that an intellectual/asperger person needs it proven to them or will he be on an endless search for the rest of his life. By the way, it's important for him to find the truth. He says he is open to finding the truth and feels there are some very good reasons to believe that Christianity is a valid faith to put his trust in.

Going along with that you mentioned that you've seen God working in your life in different ways and sometimes that's what you have to hold onto. I feel very strongly that God has his hand on Jim's life and that he has been working in his life for a very long time. Let me delve into that a little bit. He was raised in a Christian home and accepted the Lord when he was a youngster and was baptized after giving a profession of faith in elementary school. He taught Sunday school at the high school level, went on a missions trip, and led others to Christ. His first serious girlfriend of two years was a Christian and her family was devoted to helping him during his time of "searching" for the truth, having bible studies with him and many intense discussions with him. That relationship was broken off because the girlfriend wanted to date a true "Christian" and wasn't sure of where he stood in his faith.

Then came the second part of his life - with our family. My daughter and this young man started dating 3 years ago even though he wasn't actively professing a belief in God. The intention was to help him find God by giving him the security of a relationship which he so badly wanted and needed. We know the family and the abuse and troubles he endured while living within the home. He was a lost soul at the time, unable to hold down a job, lacking direction in his life and feeling very vulnerable and needy. He was also undiagnosed at the time and he couldn't figure out what was wrong with him.

He enters our family and receives all the love and acceptance he needs. He's treated like a son, lives in our home until he's up and running with a job (the 4th one while living with us), and eventually is able to get an apartment with MUCH support. Our daughter is compassionate and understanding, accepting and loving, devoted and faithful to him. Needless to say, he blossoms. He begins exhibiting changes within himself - increased sensitivity to others, thinking about others instead of just thinking of himself, listening & caring, trusting others, etc. He has been happy and content with life. He has faithfully attended church with our daughter maybe missing only a handful of services. He loves the music and listens attentively to the sermons finding application to himself. He even bought our daughter devotional books they could read together to explore the disciples' lives and a few others. He has many, many Christian friends - funny how they're all Christians - and he gets together with them to discuss spiritual things or just have fun. He meets with the Pastor of their church regularly and is open to discussing spiritual things, too.

So, for his whole life, he has been involved in strong Christian churches and has been surrounded by Christians. He has gravitated towards all Christian friends and has sought out Christians in all aspects of his life. Why would a person be drawn to Christians and church if they weren't a believer? Is it possible JIm's a child of God and doesn't know it!!!

You said if the "general outlook fits what I experience" it is true that God is at work in your life. Jim's life fits what Christianity looks like. He has remained pure and faithful in this dating relationship. He's honest and trustworthy. He's loving and kind (most of the time). He's extremely moral and strives to live by the highest values. (This could be in part due to his upbringing, God working in his life and the Objectivism philosophy which supports a moral life) He's an outstanding individual, I guess you've gathered at this point. Unfortunately, he doesn't give God any credid for this and I guess at this point we can't expect him to. We have seen him changing and we have seen God at work in his life. Is it possible he is a believer and doesn't know it. Is it posssible for God to work in a person's life, changing and transforming them but they are not able to recognize it and give credit to where credit is due? I have many questions and as you can tell this is weighing heavy on my mind. We don't want to displease God by giving approval to a marriage to our daughter and yet they are so in love and complement one another so wonderfully - a PERFECT MATCH - it seems such a shame to see them break it off if there's no reason to do so. At least at this point since I wrote last night they have decided not to break it off at this point. They will put the marriage idea on hold for now but Jim is still wanting our approval for him at this point so he knows whether he can move on in his mind to a deeper relationship with her.

These are issues every parent who truly cares about issues of faith will have to deal with when they're dealing with a reunion between a young person with asperger's/non-asperger's. By the way, my son has full-blown asperger's and isn't it ironic God brought this young man, Jim, into our lives - who better could understand him than us!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Now if that isn't the hand of God at work, what is????????????????????

I'm familiar with Ayn Rand. Most philosophers consider her to be a fairly shoddy thinker who doesn't support her views with very strong arguments. I haven't read anything by her myself, but I think the genuine contributions she offers that are really new with her are fairly indefensible.

When I was talking about my general outlook fitting with Christianity, I wasn't talking about behavior. I was talking about core values. Ayn Rand is about as far from Christianity in core values as you get. I was talking about how when it really comes down to it, in hard situations, I realize that I really do believe things aren't all about me, as if it's my own best interest that I should care about. Ayn Rand says the reverse. I really do believe that I should love my enemies, that my main responsibility in my family is to love my wife and kids, no matter what that means about my own interests (not that they're not in my best interest but that there are things in my best interest that I have to sacrifice if I'm to be a good father and husband). I meant that the things Jesus cares about in the gospels are things I do at root care about, even if I often fail to carry it out very well.

Ayn Rand has the reverse attitude. She says leeches shouldn't deserve your time. She ends up saying lots of correct things about how people live on the surface, but the justification for why they should seems to me to miss the point of morality altogether. She says the reason you should have good behavior is merely because it benefits you. Now whether Jim realizes that about her, I'm not sure. Maybe it's the atheism and the self-sufficiency that draws him, but the root explanation of her moral philosophy seems to me to be opposite of the kind of moral philosophy Jesus illustrates and teaches throughout the gospels. Behavior is a good thing, but it's the motivation that's important for what I was saying. My evidence that I really have been transformed by God's grace is that my whole motivational structure is contrary to that of the world, which Ayn Rand illustrates quite well.

Now I'm not sure what this means for Jim. It may well be that God is working some pretty amazing things through this, and it may well be that Jim is in a period of doubt but has genuinely trusted in God and needs to work through these intellectual issues. I wouldn't assume that just because he lives a good life on the outside.

I'd like to get your input on my own son and his path to salvation. He's 8 years old, and he has Asperger's Syndrome. He and I attend church, and we're very active. We have great ministers there, and I'm seeking their guidance as well, but I came across your article on your own son, and I thought your input might help me. My son recently saw one of his friends baptized in our church, and that day after the service, he told me he thought he might be the next one baptized. I began to ask the traditional questions, and he seems to really believe; but he's not quite sure why he feels this way. Is it a response to the fact that I'm so devout, or is it because the Bible tells us that we need to be accept Jesus as our savior? He is pretty high-functioning, although he is behaviorally somewhat different from other kids - pretends a lot, has different interests, has no real developed sense of controlling these different behaviors; but he certainly does notice that he behaves and is perceived differently, which I think is remarkable for an 8 year old with Asperger's. It really bothers him to be perceived as different. He wants to be like other boys, but he just doesn't yet know how to do it. Anyway, given all of this about him, I tend to feel that he ought to be able to tell me definitively that the knowledge and security of salvation has to come from God. Based on what I've said, would you agree or disagree? I appreciate this article about your son. It's been most helpful to me.

I don't think you can have a real sense of whether someone has come to salvation at that age, Asperger's or no. I don't think it's all that clear until they have a chance to move out, perhaps go to college, face people who provide them with alternative perspectives, and so on. Sometimes there are earlier signs that others might ignore, and sometimes they outright reject it early on, but many kids will wait until college to start questioning what they've all along called their faith, and it turns out it's not faith after all but some acceptance of some statements as true with some emotional attachment to the idea of God and Christian teaching. That's not what faith is. It's genuine trust in the person, the kind of trust that leads to a life of walking in the Spirit.

I know parents want to know how their kids are doing, but I just don't think it's really clear at that age, even with kids who are typical when it comes to neurology and behavior. (Asperger's makes the emotional attachment more buried, and the affective elements of faith are harder to provoke, but faith itself seems to me to be something else altogehter.) I say this not as someone with grown kids. My kids are very young. I say it as someone who spends a lot of time with college students of many varieties.

Our responsibility in this is to make the gospel clear so they know what God has said and what God requires of them, trying not to let anything interfere with that by clouding the issue or making our own priorities disguise the fundamental issue. There's a sense of assurance that can be part of that message is he's responded to that, but I think it's true not just of kids but of any Christian that we need to remember that true faith perseveres. Some people need to be reminded of their own inability to lose God's grace, but others need to be reminded that part of how God works in us is by our working out our own salvation. I've written about this more general issue here, and I don't see why it should be any different with a an eight-year-old kid with Asperger's.

Jeremy,
Your comments were most helpful and I agree with your take on Ayn Rand's philosophy 100%. It's a tough call to determine exactly what's going on here with Jim. One thing we can be sure of is that Jim presented with a more classic "objectivism" mindset a few years ago but now seems truly interested in doing good for others out of a true concern for them rather than to benefit himself. When he came to live with us his stand was very much living a good moral life and having good attributes in order to further himself & have people like and accept him. It's neat to see him do things for other people, now, and reach out to others for the pure motive of caring and expressing appreciation. It appears as though he's been brought up in the Christian faith, has had an unhealthy brain-washing by Ayn Rand and his mind has been coated with the frosting of asperger's syndrome mixed with intellectualism. What a combo! We'll sort through all of this with the help of the Holy Spirit. God is the only one who truly knows what's going on here so we're going to have to trust him and continue to discern what comes our way. I was wondering how to go about reading one of your postings that you made reference to when you said that "intellectuals have difficulty appropriately responding to God's mercies." I tried clicking on the word "posted" but was unable to view that particular posting. That sounds like something that could be helpful to read as we're trying to sort through all of these issues. Thanks

Some of my links in really old posts like this one are no longer working due to a change in the way the host structured the directories. That one is the same one I linked to in one of the comments, and I've now fixed that link, but here it is again:

http://parablemania.ektopos.com/archives/2004/02/intellectuals_a.html

I wish I had the time to go through all these old posts and fix the dead links, but I have another problem with my archives that only goes back to about a year ago, and some of the posts I'm linking to in this one aren't even showing up in my archives because they're earlier than that. I would be an incredibly time-consuming process to find them with Google, but I think that's what it would require.

Jeremy,
You've written a rich and thoughtful post. Thank you for speaking so frankly about yourself, your son, and your thinking. The effects of the fall are always heartbreaking. Creation does indeed groan for that day when we will be raised and given new bodies.

When I've thought about these sorts of tragedies, I've wondered about the work of the Holy Spirit in our receptivity to God, our understanding of the nature and calling of God. There is much about faith that gets communicated directly from God's heart to ours, from his Spirit to ours. I've struggled with depression all of my life, and at those times when it becomes overwhelming, my mind fails to be any help. Scripture fails to communicate. Pray seems a waste of time. But my heart at such times is often more tender towards God and more ready to draw close to him than at any other time. That he lifts me up when my mind is unable to summon the strength is all due to his mercy and grace and sovereignty.

For all of us, whether of sound mind and body, or not, He is our peace. He is our hope. John 11 is one of my favorite stories, because Jesus weeps at the power of death over the world, but then he speaks and overcomes death with just a word. I hang my hope on Jesus.

I just want to comment on a few post that I read. I like to know the answers to things, and I am not satisfied until I know what God's good and perfect will is.

First off, God does not create broken people. He creates whole people. Satan, is the one who tries to destroy the person through deformity, disease, brokenness, vices and the like. Asperger's in my opinion is Satan's attack on an individual. I can say this with 100% certainty.When you allow the Holy Spirit to work in you and you have faith, you can be made whole the way God intended. I believe that people with Asperger's can come to faith in Jesus Christ. But they also can get deliverance from Asperger's and move on to be whole and live out their God-given purposes in full.

Asperger's is something that tries to steal from a person..it tries to steal. It puts up walls around the person. I don't feel that the person has less emotion than another person. In fact, I believe that the person can have more emotion. The person just may have trouble expressing the emotion properly. Also, people with Asperger's try to escape into fantasy, and thus Satan uses this to keep them away from doing all they could do in Christ. Satan uses distraction, despair, and anything he can to get a person off the course of living their unique purpose driven life.

I also want to answer the question regarding God's creation. He made them male and female. If you are made female, you are female, if you are made male you are male. There is no such thing as half and half. Now, I believe that someone who has defective organs or exhibits traits of both sexes is deformed. The person has to be either male or female, not both. Satan once again is responsible for this deformity. God did not make a mistake with anyone. In the Bible it talks about how you are fearfully and wonderfully made and how he knew your frame before you were born. It wasn't hidden from Him. The devil can cause problems; however, you don't have to let him-who is bigger? God is bigger than the devil. All evil can be cursed by the blood of Jesus Christ before the baby is born(generational curses that Satan uses because someone along the line in a family has given him a foot hold, evil assignments, etc and the like).
One minister told me that through the Holy Spirit, miracles can happen and if someone was born deformed, the Lord can make that person undeformed. There was a baby born with mermaid syndrome for example. This was not God's will for that child. Through the Holy Spirit, the baby could be restored and the mermaid legs, through a miracle, could go back to normal legs.

Also someone who is born male or female(not talking about deformity here) should not try to change God's design because he or she feel that a mistake has been made. Again, God does not make mistakes with people. He does not like brokeness. For instance, the mind, body and soul are in agreement with one another. They are not separated from each other. They are one in the same. When you accept Christ into your heart, He will heal you of brokeness and make you whole.

Healing from all forms of brokeness is only possible if you accept Christ into your heart, let the Holy Spirt work in you, live by faith and obedience in him. In the bible, if you obey Him and have faith, He will heal you. Diseases are not God's will for the person as well. Satan is the author of disease, but sometimes people can give the devil a foothold and let him bring something on them through their sin. Sometimes, people get attacked for no particular reason. But in both cases, turn to the Lord in faith, believe that He will deliver and He will.

If God loves you infinitely more than the most loving natural father in the world, don't you think that He wants what is best. He doesn't want anyone to suffer with anything that will hold him or her back from living for Him to the fullest and having joy.

So what would you say about Paul's thorn in the flesh? He just didn't have enough faith? That seems to contradict what Paul says. I'm not assuming that God can't heal severe problems like autism or Down's Syndrome, but your view makes it sound as if there's some magical connection between having enough faith that God can do it and God being forced to do it. The question isn't whether God can but whether God will. We know from Paul's own example and from lots of experience that God simply isn't to be manipulated in this way. God can intend his own purposes in something that is a true deformity that's a result of a fallen world, as Paul's own case illustrates (not to mention how God used evil in the lives of Joseph, Job, and many others in scripture, most of all at the cross).

I never said anything about not having emotion. I've said the opposite more than once. One book I read on Asperger's acts as if it makes people not feel emotions as intensely, and I'm not sure if that's completely true. It may just be that awareness of the emotions is less fine-grained. Or maybe there's something of both.

You need to say something about the particular cases of intermediate sexual characteristics that I discussed. You didn't. Just claiming that God makes everyone male or female doesn't show how that's so with the cases where the genetics don't seem to bear that out. I want you to tell me how the genetics fit with your view. It would be much neater if you turn out right, but I don't want to assume that. All we know is that God created humanity male and female. If due to the fall some people turn out to be deformed in exactly the way that they are not exactly male or female, then there's no theological problem beyond any other problem of evil issue. But it is a problem if you assume that God creates every individual person male or female if there's no way that can fit with what we now know about genetics.

Your last line reveals the main problem with your argument. You're assuming that someone can't have the fullest joy in suffering. What I see in II Corinthians, Philippians, I Peter, and lots of other places is a plain denial of that assumption.

Jeremy,

I want to take some time and try to answer these questions according to the word. I don't think we are supposed to know all the answers, but I believe that it is God's will to provide us with many answers(especially these issues). I say this because I think there are many people in the world who have a distorted image of God. Can you give me atleast 1-2 days to come up with a response? I don't want to be pompous or claim that I know all the answers because I don't. So, I will get back to you. I wasn't going to come back to this site after I wrote the email, but I guess I need to back up what I wrote according to the word.

Jeremy,

I might need a little longer to get things together. Also I wanted to say that there is suffering in life. We are not exempt from that. But I want to address the disease, deformity,unwhole issues that we can be free from.

Jeremy,

This may take longer than I thought. I am trying to get things together from the Old and New testament. Please bare with me.

Jane

And how long does that take? (a little hurrying please...)

Jeremy,

I posted some answers to your questions, but it doesn't look like it is showing up now.

Jane

You left your comment on another post, and I answered them there.

An interesting article.

I happen to have Asperger's Syndrome, and I agree that Asperger's is largely a question of emotional comprehension and difficulty relating to people.

The question of getting Scripture to an autistic is a thorny one: many are more prone to logical solutions rather than emotional ones, but that's a personality thing. I personally believe that autism isn't a disease, nor is it a curse; it's simply a difference, and won't be an issue on the New Earth after the Revelation.

But as Creation groans, so do we all.

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