Tag Archives: Christianity

Regarding “Tough Love”

In the midst of moral or cultural controversies, there is a tendency for many Christians to justify unpopular stances on issues by saying “we teach this out of love.” Even though some things they say may cause emotional pain, frustration, or guilt in their audience, they assert that ultimately, people need to experience these feelings in order to repent of sinful behavior and save their souls.

It sounds good enough, but we need to consider where this rationale could lead. Envision a hypothetical religion. Suppose that this hypothetical religion teaches that it is noble to physically beat random people. Adherents believe that by doing this, you are beating the evil out of them. Practitioners cry before doing the beatings, and they emphasize how in their flesh, they wish they did not have to do it. But they motivate themselves by picturing the victim burning in hell due to the evil residing inside of them, and they muster up the courage to beat the person in attempt to drive the evil out. When practitioners get in trouble with the law, they say that the world is morally degenerate and cares only about physical comfort. They say that the world only sees love through the lenses of mushy, romantic feelings.

Any reasonable person would see the insanity of such a religion. The rationale of “tough love” is not going to convince anyone who has sincere concern for others. The hypothetical religion I described shows what could happen if our belief systems are completely detached from normal, human sensibilities.

That said, in a healthy belief system, is there any room for “hard truths” or “tough love?” I believe there can be.

Consider the process in which you yourself came to know Christ. I think it might be safe to assume that you did not simply wake up one morning and say, “You know what, I’m really happy with my life right now. I am going to utilize my own free will to become a believer in Christ,” and then sail smoothly forever after.

If you are currently a believer in Christ, and if this faith is very important to you, then most likely this faith resulted from many complex, and often painful or frustrating circumstances. Even if people were raised as Christians, the process of building a personal connection with one’s faith is usually not a cakewalk.        

So then, suppose you write to me saying, “Please, Samuel, give me a framework so that I can live a Christian life without ever feeling worried or anxious about anything, and to be a perfect peace with myself all the time.” 

Well, I would have to say that I cannot grant that request. I suppose you could call that denial “tough love” if you wanted to. If I tried to cook up the answer you’re looking for, I would be deceiving you.

However, I would be perfectly happy to share ideas about what God might be showing us through our circumstances. I believe that in some way or another, the Holy Spirit is always present in our thoughts and emotional reactions. If we are struggling to live with certain beliefs, or straining in some pursuit, and always ending up frustrated, then maybe that frustration is the Holy Spirit’s way of leading us out of the failing endeavors.

Maybe we have an attachment to certain endeavors that makes it hard to give them up. Maybe we have erroneous tied our sense of self-worth to personal pursuits, whether religious, academic, or recreational. If I suggested that a certain endeavor may be causing more frustration than good, and that maybe it is time to find a new direction despite your current attachments, is that “tough love”?

Why not?

The New Testament Writings Represent a Transitional Era

Scriptural Quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version

 

I believe that a lot of the controversies and debates involving certain teachings from the New Testament come from looking at the writings as if they were directly speaking to us. It is quite understandable to view the Biblical writings this way when we see them as being inspired by the Holy Spirit. The divine inspiration of Scripture is not something I intend to call into question through this post. However, what I want to consider is how we can see the writings as inspired, but also realize that some elements of New Testament writing were used by God for that particular generation, as opposed to being transcendent teachings for all people of all time.

As the New Testament was being written, God’s working with humanity was going through a transition. Previously, believers lived under the spiritual environment of the Old Covenant laws, as detailed in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Ceremonies and spiritual leadership were intrinsic elements of that spiritual era. Obedience to God involved rituals such as circumcision, animal sacrifices, observance of holy days, and ceremonial cleansing rituals. There was also the concept of spiritual leadership, through the priesthood of Aaron’s descendants.

But with the death and resurrection of Christ, a new spiritual era commenced, with radical contrasts from the previous era. In the new era, salvation is by faith, apart from works, as the Apostle Paul writes “to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness” (Rom. 4:5). There is no longer the concept of some believers having special spiritual authority over others, as Paul writes that “there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

All of this can be summarized through the principle of the new creation, as described in 2nd Corinthians 5:17: “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”

Whereas the Old Testament laws were about deliverance through reform, this new truth is about deliverance by becoming a new person with a reoriented nature.

Having said all of that, we need to pose a practical question. In the first generation of Christianity, how could all of this radical new truth be unveiled to people who had spent their whole lives up to that point either following the Old Testament laws, or following religions foreign to the Biblical writers? How do you get the truth revealed in an orderly fashion, so that people from different backgrounds do not get wacky ideas? Transitioning from one spiritual framework to another is not something that happens all at once.

Thus, the first generation of Christianity was a transitional era, and a close examination of New Testament teaching reveals a progression in revelation. Much of the doctrinal confusion today arises from trying to streamline the phases of this progression into a uniform message.

For example, consider the subject of water baptism. In the early Gospel preaching, water baptism was presented as a requirement for salvation. For example, in the very first proclamation of the Gospel, the Apostle Peter preached, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

I have seen commentaries that try to twist this around to avoid making water baptism a requirement to be saved, but to me the meaning is rather clear.

Keep in mind that Peter was preaching to Jews, who, prior to that day, had always seen ceremonial observance as an intrinsic element of obedience to God. If people have spent their whole lives thinking this way, you cannot all of the sudden try to impose the concept of free grace, as it is likely to get misappropriated.

Thus, to help prospective converts transition into the new creation truth, I believe the Holy Spirit inspired the commandment of water baptism to serve as an exercise in faith; obeying the command was part of believing the Gospel.

However, later on, in the Apostle Paul’s ministry, water baptism was presented differently. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:17, “Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power.

There are a couple key points to note here. The first is that Paul draws a distinction between the Gospel and baptism. This is a noteworthy contrast to Peter’s first sermon in Acts, where baptism and the Gospel were intrinsically linked. Also note that Paul depicts the Gospel as pertaining to “the cross of Christ.” In contrast, Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 did not make a connection between Christ’s death and individuals’ salvation. Peter only cited Jesus’ resurrection as proof that He was the Messiah.

However, Paul’s writing reveals that the real baptism that saves us is our spiritual identification with Christ’s death and resurrection, which occurs through our faith in the Gospel (Rom. 6:3-4,  Gal 3:22-28, Eph. 4:4-5). Water is never depicted as part of this process. Although Paul still baptized people (1 Cor. 1:12-16, Acts 16:33), the ritual appears to be symbolic in nature.

There is another aspect of this transitional era that has been the subject of major controversy. It is the concept of some believers have special spiritual authority or leadership over others. Although much of the debate involves passages about men and women in the church, and husbands and wives, these passages are connected to a theme that encompasses much more than gender.

During this transitional era, people had to accept truth on the basis of the authority of the believer delivering it. How else could a person receive the new Truth that was coming to the world?

In the era of the Old Testament laws, there were priests who acted as intercessors between God and humanity. The book of Hebrews describes that in the time of the old covenant, “the priests go continually into the first tent to carry out their ritual duties; but only the high priest goes into the second, and he but once a year, and not without taking the blood that he offers for himself and for the sins committed unintentionally by the people” (Hebrews 9:6-7).

The priests, who were all male, had the role of mediating relations between humanity and God. The prophets of the Old Testament were also male. Thus, during the transitional era in the New Testament, the use of men to deliver new truth was part of the sign of authenticity when doctrine was presented.

For example, the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, “Women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home.”

In that era, there was potential for new truth to be revealed in church. That is not the case today however. With the completed Scriptures comes the complete revelation of the new creation. Nobody today has the type of authority over others that Paul describes in the passage above. Preachers and pastors do not even have it.

The role of pastors today is not to reveal new truth, but rather, to share their own experience, applications, and perspectives on living a Christian life. In this role, there is no distinction between men and women. Both genders have equally valuable insights to share from the work that God has done in their lives.

With regards to families, Paul wrote, “Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior. Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands (Eph. 5:22-24).

That was certainly not meant to be an excuse for husbands to forcefully impose their own ideas. I believe the underlying message was for husbands to seek and follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance on decisions involving the family.

But I believe that this model of following the Holy Spirit was part of that era’s spiritual transition, and that a full comprehension of the new creation yields a more expansive way of living in the Spirit. If we truly are new creations, then instead of having to constantly focus on “submitting” ourselves to God, we can believe that God is working through every aspect of ourselves, and be at peace with our core natures. I wrote about this in a series of posts from last year.

When this relationship with God is realized, the concept of wives having to “submit” to husbands on the basis of spiritual authority becomes irrelevant to respect for God.

So, the next question would be, when was the transition complete? My view is that the transition was complete by 70 A.D., the year that the Jerusalem temple was destroyed by the Romans. In the spiritual realm, I believe the temple’s fall symbolized the end of the Old Covenant system in all dimensions. Even though, ultimately, that system ended through Christ’s death, some aspects continued on in the practical, day-to-day realm of life (and the temple continued to stand), until the transitional era was complete.

Although some books of the New Testament were possibly written after 70 (the four Gospels, John’s Epistles, and Revelation), I do not find any fundamentally new truth regarding the new creation in these writings, when compared to the writings with a pre-70 consensus among historians.

Some may be concerned that viewing any Biblical writings as transitional undermines the authority of those writings, and opens the door to subjectivity or selfish excuses for non-compliance. But consider the alternative, in which we have to view everything as if it is directly applicable to us. Scholars holding that view have written enormous commentaries trying to explain the “context” of difficult passages. Do we really think that such commentaries are free of personal subjectivity? Do we really think that they are never bending some passages, in the name of context, to avoid inconvenient interpretations?

I believe that viewing the New Testament as a transitional collection of writings can address much of the confusion Christians are dealing with, while respecting the inspired nature of these writings. Let me know of thoughts or comments you have on any of this, and any other areas of Scripture that you would like to compare or contrast to the ones discussed here.

My Thoughts on the “I” Cycle – Part 5

The New Creation “I” Phase

(I have put all of my posts on this cycle together. See the link to the right).

According to Clyde Pilkington’s model called the “I” Cycle, this new “I” phase is the point where the new creation is fully realized. I believe that this phase is easier to understand when looked at in contrast to the phases preceding it. For example, consider the preceding phase, the “God” phase, where the focus is on God’s sovereignty and predestination. Though that phase often brings a sense of relief and assurance to those who enter it, it can also have some drawbacks if one gets “stuck” in that phase.

For example, Clyde Pilkington says, “A lot of people who begin to see the sovereignty of God seem to lose their personal identity . . . [God] didn’t create all of us so that we would just all be Him; he created us to be ourselves (23:10 – 24:00).”

I believe that the full realization of the new creation resolves some issues that existed as previous phases of the cycle. In particular, I want to look at this concept of “being yourself.” At the beginning of the cycle, in the “old-creation” phase, people are living to be themselves, and they see this as their right and their purpose in this world. But when they start to develop a spiritual aspect of life, their paradigm changes.

If people move on to the “I and God” phase, they are mostly being themselves but they keep God in the picture through means such as prayer, rituals, or worship. Later, if they progress to the “God and I” phase, Christians make a conscious effort to surrender their own identity and conform to the will and nature of God.  Then, if they cross the bridge to the “God” phase, they see God as sovereignly operating in them apart from a unique identity. Thus, the first and second phases involve engagement with one’s identity, and the third and fourth phases involve distancing from one’s identity.

But at the destination of the cycle, when the new creation is fully realized, one’s identity becomes the focus again, but it is a reoriented identity. You are being yourself, but you are aware that as a new creation, God’s spirit is working through your interests, passions, and personality.

I must admit that I have some difficulty grasping this at times. Though I can understand it conceptually, I am still learning how this works in the practical aspects of day to day life. From my own experience, there isn’t a precise methodology behind this.

Regarding the new creation, another commentator on the I-Cycle, Martin Zender, says,

We don’t lose our identity . . . we gain it. [The Apostle Paul’s] basic personality didn’t change. The “I” didn’t change. The basic self became transformed by the Cross. Now, he could be himself, he had discovered himself, and that personality of his, that ‘go get ’em guy’, was now transformed and he became a servant of God. You don’t lose yourself, in that sense. You gain it. You have an identity, it’s your identity, and you have a name. Paul . . . didn’t give up who he was. He actually found his true self in Christ (4:40 – 5:48)”

Some passages of Scripture relevant to this topic include:

Galatians 2:19-21 – “I have been crucified with Christ;  and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God

Phil. 2:13 – “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Sometimes, Christians feel a need to qualify passages such as these because they do not want to give them impression that God is “controlling” people apart from their own initiative. But what if, instead of looking at these passages as excuses for gravitating toward inaction, we viewed the Scriptures as liberating us to act, by giving us freedom to act in accord with our nature, trusting that our nature is being oriented by the work of the Holy Spirit?

There is a progression in the way people view themselves as they go around the cycle. In the starting phase, the “old-creation” phase, people often do not see anything inherently wrong with themselves. Though they may recognize certain weaknesses, they also believe that they have the power to overcome those problems, if only they can find it.

But then, if they progress to the “I and God” phase, they realize that they do have inherent problems that would keep them from succeeding in life without God being with them to help them through. Then, if they move on to the “God and I” phase, they realize that their inward problems are so far reaching that the only way to overcome them is to fully submit themselves to God and seek His will in all matters of life.

And then, if Christians move on to the “God” phase, they still think that something is inherently wrong with them, to the extent that they often wait for God to whoosh in and cause dramatic, inward changes to make them follow His will.

But, if a deeper realization of the new creation is attained, all of the sudden, we do not have to see anything inherently wrong with ourselves. A lot of Christians talk about a dichotomy between the old creation and the new creation, and that they must seek after the spiritual ways of the new creation rather than the selfish ways of the old creation. I understand why Christians see themselves this way. After all, even as believers, people are quite capable of acting awry. Why is that?

I believe it is not because any aspect of ourselves is inherently wrong. After all, we are new creations, and Paul says that as new creations, old things have passed away, and all things have become new (2 Cor. 5:17).

However, the new creation needs to be oriented. Its nature is inherently pure, but it needs to be channeled in a beneficial way. It needs to find appropriate ways to express itself. I believe that this is the goal for us as believers. A helpful analogy might be a piano that is in perfect hardware condition, but needs to be tuned to sound good. The Bible’s instructions for how to live serve as tuning guides. Likewise, seeking God’s will is not about trying to suppress any part of ourselves. Rather, it is about tuning our natures.

That concludes my thoughts on the “I”-Cycle for now. I hope that these commentaries have provided insights into your own experiences and inspired some new ideas to ponder. As I said earlier, I myself am still in the process of figuring out how all of these concepts apply on a practical level, so feel free to reply with your own interpretations and experiences.

Works Cited:

Clyde Pilkington: The “I” Cycle (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0w53DgB9Fks)

Martin Zender: The “I” Cycle, Part 4 (http://martinzender.com/new_zender_sheridan/Zender_Special/zender93.htm

 

 

My Thoughts on the I-Cycle (Part 3)

The “God and I” Phase

This is a continuation of my series of post on Clyde Pilkington’s theory of the I-Cycle. Here are the links to Clyde’s video and my summary of the cycle:

Clyde Pilkington’s Video

My Summary

This post examines the “God and I” phase of the cycle. This is the phase where people decide to fully submit their lives to God. They decide to seek his guidance on all matters of life, and they commit to following His will instead of their own.

This is the phase which many Evangelicals hold as their paradigm. Often times, Christians enter this phase because they believe that, when following their own desires, they are getting into all sorts of trouble. Maybe they know what is right but cannot get themselves to follow through. Or maybe plans in life that sounded good at one time are going awry, causing continual frustration. Perhaps these Christians were involved in some truly noble endeavors, but lacked success in those pursuits and are growing weary, finding themselves in a quandary of guilt or self-questioning.

Thus, these people come to believe that the only way out of these predicaments is to follow God’s leading in all matters of life. Many Christians in this phase have a strong spiritual focus. For example, they may spend a lot of time in prayer and meditation. They place a lot of emphasis on following the Holy Spirit instead of their flesh or their minds. They believe that in order to live for God, they have to set aside their mental feelings and urges (which they consider to be corrupt and selfish) and instead follow their spiritual intuition, which they view as a deeper part of themselves that has the life of God.

Many Christians in this phase feel a sense of peace that they lacked before. Instead of simultaneously living for themselves but also trying to follow a set of religious rules, they feel free and empowered now that they can follow the Holy Spirit’s leading instead of trying to conform to fixed rules or ordinances that they never quite succeeded at. Furthermore, they perceive that their selfish tendencies are now being subdued since they are no longer tantalizing those tendencies with their own desires and ambitions of life.

I consider this to be the first phase of the “I”-Cycle that has a Biblical basis for fully living in it. For example, the Apostle James writes,

Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.’ Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.’” (James 4:13-15).

Also consider the following passage from the Apostle Paul,

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect(Romans 12:1-2).

In this “God and I” phase of the I-Cycle, Christians often seem to be “on fire” for God. This is where being “separate from the world” really becomes a prominent part of one’s mentality. As opposed to the previous phase, where one’s faith is more of a private aspect of life, many Christians in the “God and I” phase take their faith public and engage in faith-related discussions with those around them.

Christians who have reached this phase often serve as “spiritual role models” for those who are in the earlier phases. Some Christians who reach this phase are comfortable living in it for the rest of their lives. However, there are others who develop tensions while living in this phase, which lead to further developments in their spiritual journey.

I want to describe some common characteristics in the journey to, through, and beyond this phase, based on many testimonies I have read.

Often times, Christians enter the “God and I” phase out of a sincere desire to know God’s will and have a deeper relationship with Him. They often have a healthy sense of humility and inward peace as they keep their focus on God rather than themselves. Their relationship with God is like a new world for them, and the spiritual distance between themselves and the rest of the world isn’t bearing upon their minds. However, there comes a point where they notice the distance.

When the distance grabs their attention, they observe that they are making a lot of sacrifices to keep God first in their lives, whereas other people are carelessly going about their own ways. At this point, they start becoming a bit self-righteous about their choice to follow God. They sense that they are striving to maintain their spiritual purity amid a world that’s going down the drain. They may eventually become overwhelmed and burned out.

At that point, some of these Christians step back into a mentality that resembles the previous phase of the I-Cycle, “I and God.” However, other Christians move forward into the next phase of the cycle, the “God” phase, which we will look at in the next post.

My Thoughts on the “I” Cycle – Part 2

The “I and God” Phase

I am continuing my interpretation of the “I Cycle,” a theory about spiritual development created by Clyde Pilkington from the ministry StudyShelf. Here is a link to Mr. Pilkington’s video (Clyde Pilkington – The I-Cycle). The “I and God” Phase is discussed during 2:10 – 4:00 in the video.

Here is my own post where I summarized the whole cycle (I-Cycle Summary).

In the last post, I looked at the starting point of the cycle, the old-creation “I” phase. That phase is where people feel that the world revolves around themselves and that they are entitled to have their desires met.

Some people live their entire lives in that phase. But others move beyond, and come to a point where they realize that they themselves do not have the power to overcome all of life’s challenges. They realize that they are going to need God’s help to get through certain circumstances. Thus, they enter the “I and God” phase. I will share my thoughts on this phase based on testimonies I have read and people I have personally known.

“I and God” believers are still, for the most part, making their own decisions for their lives, and going about their business as they would without their faith. However, they also keep God in their minds and see Him as being there for them when they need help. They may pray regularly, attend church, and read books about spirituality to see how God can help them. However, their faith is likely to be somewhat of a private aspect of their lives, and they probably do not talk about their faith to everyone they encounter.

These people do not like to be intruded upon. Their minds tend to filter out the words of preachers who would try to make them feel guilty, or tell them that they have to change their lives in some radical way. They are easily turned off by pushy religious folks. “I and God” believers often think that their religious life needs to be properly balanced with other aspects of life. When they read the Bible, they probably see it through the lenses of their own moral judgments, and more or less feel vindicated by the Bible’s admonitions, though they may be open to adjustment on some matters of character or attitude.

The “I and God” Christians are a widely varied group in terms of their spiritual walk. Some of them may be mature spiritually. However, others have a tendency to be viewed as “lukewarm,” “carnal,” or “baby Christians.” They could be seen as trying to get the benefits of being a believer without totally committing their lives to Christ.

Among “I and God” believers, lifestyles vary widely. Some of them are still very much living however they want to. However, my personal feeling is that their attitudes have changed from the previous phase. Instead of entitlement and being the center of the universe, their attitudes shift to rationalization. On one hand, they perceive that there are acceptable and unacceptable ways to live. However, whether consciously or subconsciously, they rationalize to say that the way they want to live is morally acceptable. Thus, they see themselves as obedient to God while basically living however they want.

But there are other Christians in this group who are making efforts to live as they honestly perceive the Bible to teach. However, they may be troubled by a lack of self-control. They feel bad when they do something wrong, but the effort they make to follow through with repentances may seem somewhat lacking in fervor.

However, I also think there is a third group of believers within the “I and God” phase. These people are very self-disciplined, and are very much staying away from moral vices. They feel that they are good Christians by virtue of their self-controlled and motivated natures, and thus, even though they are still following their own ambitions, they perceive God’s approval to be upon their lifestyles.

There are some believers who remain in the “I and God” phase for the rest of their lives, and I am not trying to say that there is anything inherently “wrong” with that, for I believe it is God who determines what phase a person will reach in this life.

However, if people move beyond the “I and God” phase, it is often prompted by adversity or temptation which they feel they cannot overcome unless they completely surrender their lives to God. When they come to that point, they enter the “God and I” phase of the “I-Cycle.” We will look at that phase next time.

 

My Thoughts on the “I” Cycle – Part 1

The Old-Creation “I” Phase

I am doing a series on posts on the “I” Cycle, a theory about spiritual perception that was developed by Clyde Pilkington, who founded the ministry StudyShelf. I have recently come to believe that the “I” Cycle is an extremely powerful model for understanding the spiritual experiences of ourselves and those around us. I also believe it sheds new light on Scripture and reveals why the Biblical authors said some of the things they did.

In this post, I want to look at the starting point of the cycle, the old-creation “I” phase. Mr. Pilkington says,

Man starts his journey with the center of his world being himself. And as we move along, we begin to think that not only does the world revolve around us, but seemingly we sit on the throne of our own life . . . God is scarcely in our thoughts at all. If He is there, there is an attempt to keep Him at bay as we get older, because He’s confusing to us – He interferes with what we want to do. His thoughts bother us and trouble us (1:10 – 2:00).

It is sometimes perplexing how people, who seem to be nice, decent individuals, can suddenly act hateful or engage in very immoral behaviors. But I think what’s going on with these people is that they feel entitled to have their desires met.

Many of these people do not want to be hateful all the time; their priority is not to hurt others. They basically want to be nice people. But at the same time, they have urges and raging emotions, and they feel that it is their right to act upon these impulses. Seeing themselves as the center of the universe (whether consciously or subconsciously), their physical and emotional sensations are bigger than anything else in the world. Thus, when they are feeling something really intense inside, reasoning goes out the window.

You can try to tell people that some minor thing which ticked them off is not worth exploding over. You can try to point to devastating circumstances facing others in the world to put things in perspective. But suppose a person has a vision problem that makes everything in front of him look really big. You can try to tell him that the fly buzzing in front of him is small compared to Mount Everest, but he’s not focused on the size of Mount Everest at all. What he’s focused on is that fly in front of him which looks as big as a truck!

Some people in this phase are religious. But they are probably not focused on relationship with God. Rather, they probably associate religion with decent people and social order, and they want to be basically nice people after all. They may go to church because, that’s what they think good people do. Some of these folks may even become preachers, given that they see value in Christianity and want to promote it as a career, feeling that it would have benefit not only to others but to themselves as well.

However, they still see themselves as the center of the universe (although it’s probably somewhat subconscious at this phase). Why is it that we often hear about famous preachers who get caught in various scandals? Well, my view is that, it’s because many of those preachers still felt like it was their right to act upon their impulses; thus, they probably felt justified in living a double life. They preached against those behaviors because they thought that is what good preachers do, and they wanted to be good preachers. They probably perceived value in preaching against those sins, even though, in their personal lives, it was their right to act upon their impulses, which seem bigger and more important than anything else.

In the next post of this series, we will look at the phase “I and God,” where people come to realize that they truly need God’s help.

 

Here is the link to Clyde Pilkington’s video on the “I” Cycle:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0w53DgB9Fks

The “I” Cycle (Summary)

In my last post, I shared a link to the video where the writer Clyde Pilkington describes his theory called the “I” Cycle. I first heard about the “I” Cycle in 2013. I thought it was interesting, but it was not until here lately that I suddenly realized how powerful this model could be. I believe that this model for spiritual growth could profoundly address many of the debates facing believers today, in particular, the faith-works controversy.

Before I give my own thoughts on the “I” Cycle, I want to summarize Mr. Pilkington’s theory in case you didn’t have time to watch the whole video.

Phase 1: The old-creation “I”

This is where people begin life. Infants are only aware of their own needs. As they grow into early childhood, they gain awareness of the broader world but see the world as revolving around themselves, and feel entitled to have their desires met. Some people continue this self-centered mentality into adulthood.

Phase 2: “I and God”

At this phase, people decide to make God a part of their lives. They realize that there are situations in life in which they need His help. Although they may engage in church and prayer, they are primarily following their own pursuits and ambitions, even though they see God as being available when they need Him.

Phase 3: “God and I”

This is where people decide to put God first in their lives. They often realize that, left to themselves, they are creating a lot of trouble. So, they decide to surrender their lives to God and follow Him step by step.

Phase 4: “God”

At this phase, people put more emphasis on God’s sovereignty. They come to believe that God is not relying on their own obedience for His will to be fulfilled, even though He may choose to use them. People in this phase often reject the concept of free will.

Phase 5: The new-creation “I”

Here, at the completion of the cycle, people come to fully see themselves as new creations in Christ. In contrast to the “God and I” phase, people are no longer focused on “submitting” themselves to Christ. Instead, they see the life of Christ as inherently expressed through their lives. At the same time, in contrast to the “God” phase, people do not let their comprehension of God’s sovereignty inhibit them from getting into action or acknowledging their own accomplishments. They no longer think that God has to swoop in and do something with them in order for His plans to be fulfilled. Instead, seeing themselves as new creations, they are free to act without having to worry about some part of them interfering with God’s plans. Life is no longer about overcoming one’s natural state to conform to a “correct” state. Instead, as new creations, people are free to be who they are.

Here is the link to Mr. Pilkington’s video where he discusses the “I” Cycle:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0w53DgB9Fks

In my next post, I will share my own thoughts on each of these phases and how I see them reflected in the Bible, and the lives of believers. I also want to show ways in which this model could address debates in the church today.