Wednesday, January 20, 2010

How Do You Study the Bible After Someone Has Bludgeoned You With It? Cognitive Dissonance and Bible Study Following Spiritual Abuse Part I

I had not planned to write this post, but the subject has come up in conversations and correspondence with others many times since I started this blog, and I realized that I never actually blogged about it before. This previous post touched on Bible study after spiritual abuse, and I found that I had quite a bit more to say about the subject from a personal perspective.
I’ve been reluctant to share my personal experience, as I have concern that many readers will interpret what I did as a standard of sorts. For the Christian, the path to wholeness comes through knowing Jesus, and the primary way we know Him comes through reading His Word. Jesus is the Living Word. I want the reader to read, hear, and know well that I would have done anything to be able to read and study like I had before the crushing blow of realization of spiritual abuse knocked me flat. I had to develop an entirely new relationship with the Word and Bible Study (based upon purer motives), and this did not come easily or quickly for me.

Why the Bible Meant What It Did To Me
Personally, as a very troubled little girl with intense school phobia and other painful issues early in childhood, church became my refuge. I learned at a young age that if I wanted to improve my state, the best thing that I could do was study and memorize the Bible so as to best know Jesus and be “rooted and grounded” in Him. So it was easy to study because I loved Jesus so much! I could not get enough, and I started staying upstairs with the adults for the sermon when I was about eight or nine years old (instead of going to “children’s church). I love the Word because I love Jesus, and it is a joy to study. I had no idea how powerfully the realization of the spiritual abuse I’d endured would later challenge my love of Bible study.

When I started to speak in tongues (at home, in my parents’ bed after praying desperately for something to help me with my crushed heart), I became very concerned about the experiential element of the Pentecostal experience. How does one know what is God and what is coming from your own mind? I asked a million questions about how one discerns what is from God and what comes from man or perhaps from something evil or demonic. I was told that all things had to be held up in comparison to the Bible, our objective standard. That Word would never change and never pass away, so it was the standard that had to be studied in all things for all things. I am forever grateful for the age directed and age appropriate training that I had in the Assemblies of God (AoG) and in the four years that I attended Christian School, as well as the relationships that I had there with people who taught me how vital the Word is to the believer. (My father didn’t become a believer until I was a teenager, and my mother became a believer when I was only 4 or 5 years old.)
Okay, there’s my plug for Sunday school and Missionettes, so I guess that the aberrant FIC folk will now say that I was “trained by Socialists?” (Voddie Baucham claims that Sunday school is Social Darwinism and therefore a great moral evil.) Here, I suppose, is the proof that I’m a Communist, feminist, lesbian and in a same-sex marriage with my husband because they consider me like a man because of my behavior! (Doug Phillips, Russell Moore and others in the hard complementarian camp call their female critics lesbians and variants thereof, both to insult and to terrorize their followers from reading “lesbian material” that will corrupt and infect them.)

In the same way that the patriarchy movement uses legalistic social standards as a means to gain a higher standing in the church and with God, the Word of Faith Movement (WoF) teaches that followers should seek higher “anointings” through several means so that the believer can manifest more signs and wonders which will ultimately make evangelism more effective. Also, they teach that speaking in tongues (the outward manifestation of baptism in the Holy Spirit) gives you more power in the spirit realm (Acts 1:8, 1 Cor 4:20, Matt 10:1, Mark 16:17-18, etc.). You must listen to anointed teachers, you must follow after holiness, you should speak in tongues daily and many times a day, and you must “get into the Word,” a Ken Copeland phrase. (Note that step #1 of five for physical healing cites mediation on key Scriptures.) Listening to subliminal tapes of the Bible at night while I slept (speech played @4X normal speed), meditating on the Word, and memorizing it did not do enough for me. (For those interested, please note that the AoG rejects many of these extremes of WoF.)
I was in search of a theophany, and I wasn’t getting one through normal channels. I had this idea that if I learned the original languages of the Bible, I would find what I’d been missing. (What I did find was that rather than narrow down possible interpretations, the original language only opens up more of them, unless one becomes a studied expert in Greek. I didn’t have the money or years of time for this after only a year of Greek classes.) Part of this, I now believe, was also my reaction to the anti-intellectualism that I didn’t want to acknowledge was true of my corner of the church. In this quest to lay hands on the sick and to see them recover, my motives for studying became skewed. The good motive – to know Jesus – remained whole and intact, but I had other motives for study as well. I would have to come to painful terms with this pseudo-selfish motive of healing the sick and healing myself, using the Bible as a catalyst to propel myself into a “higher life.”
Please take note that Bill Gothard loves the Higher Life Movement (Keswick), according to Don Veinot who co-authored “A Matter of Basic Principles.” I’ve also discussed this with Don in private correspondence also. “Gnostic” comes from the Greek word for “knowledge” which is somewhat hidden or mystical. Part of the appeal of the "higher life" comes from the fact that it is something that is not readily available and exclusive, reserved for those who are special. In very general terms, by learning more or by pursuing other works, one can improve one’s spiritual state and prowess. Patriarchy uses performance standards just like Word of Faith uses “getting into the Word” and spiritual practices to enhance the ongoing process of salvation, and the Word of God (along with their twists on what the Bible says) becomes a means to an end in many cases. It is a subtle distortion of motive, yet motive is something very important (Matt 5:27-28, 1 John 3:15).

Link HERE to Part II