The article, “Wife of Christian pastor imprisoned in Iran takes plea to UN”, by Lisa Daftari states
“The wife of an American pastor imprisoned in Iran for his Christian beliefs delivered an impassioned plea to foreign diplomats gathered in Geneva, begging them to press the Islamic republic to free her husband.”
American Institute Health Care Professionals‘s insight:
A modern day apostle, taking Christ to those who do not have him. His sufferings are part of Christ’s Church and we all share in it. The persecution and modern martyrs continue in our modern era. They continue in Syria, Africa and North Korea. The banner of Christ will always wave as long as brave apostles are willing to take the Gospel to those who need it most.
Take time to pray for this pastor and his family as they endure this time of trial.
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Christian Counseling Education: The Divine Element of the Incarnation
In the previous blog, we reviewed for Christian Counselors and other members of the faithful the central importance of the Logos becoming fully human. In this segment, I would like to delve deeper into Christ’s divine nature. This is the second piece of the puzzle to the central dogma of the Incarnation. If Christ is only a man and not divine, then our religion is just a social philosophy on life without any true redeeming value. Christian Counseling must emphasizeboth the divine and the human elements of Christ.
The Logos Became Man But Retained His Divine Nature
The phrase above is key. The apostles and early Church emphasized that Christ was also God. The Apostles and Nicene Creeds all emphatically exclaimed this doctrine. Unlike the modernists and followers of Bultmann, there is no mythical language in these creeds but concrete statements of faith.
The Incarnation loses all spiritual value if Christ is merely a man born with the spirit of God. Instead as Scripture and later the Church councils definitively proclaim, Christ retained his divine nature while adding upon a human nature. Or as St. John so poetically writes, “The Logos became Flesh and Dwelt Among Us”.
Hence Christmas is not just the birth of a holy man or prophet who displayed the spirit of God but actually is the Logos Who has fused his nature with Jesus Christ to become both God and man. Doubters and those without faith can deny the truth, but Christians are blessed with the gift of faith to see beyond the mere eyes of Jesus. The believer understands that beyond those eyes is the King and Creator of the universe.
Heresies Against the Divinity of Christ
There are many heresies against the divinity of Christ. From mere atheism and agnosticism to formal religions such as Islam and Judaism which formally reduce Christ to a mere man. However, the most alarming heresy against the divinity of Christ and the miracle of the Incarnation stems from within. Since the late Nineteenth Century, a Modernist movement has swept within the Church. Amazingly, priests as Alfred Louisy and George Tyrell were among the first Catholics to deny the divinity of Christ. These early modernists were condemned by St. Pope Pius X in his encyclical, “Pascendi“. His holiness openly called these priests, wolves in sheep clothing and boldly stated, it is time to show the world who these men truly are, men who are badly disguised.
The modernist movement was far from just a Catholic event, it spilled into every venue of Christianity. Rudolph Bultmann arrogantly defiled Scripture as he attempted to demytholize it. Obviously, Christ’s divinity was among the first to go in his ungodly enterprise. Following in this great heretics wake, were supposed scholars who attempted to define what was ‘true’ and what was ‘false’ in the Bible. This group became known as the Jesus Seminar. There quest was for the historical Jesus and not the Jesus of faith. As Christians we all know there is no such division for the Jesus of history is the Jesus of faith–Emmaneul–God is with us!
The current field of Christian theology continues to degrade as Process Theology, Liberation Theology, and various teachings of Paul Tillich continue to corrupt students on college campuses but Christians understand the true nature of the Incarnation and during Christmas, they give adoration to the Godman.
In the meantime, let us all offer up reparations to Christ’s Sacred Heart for these blasphemies, especially as enemies of faith bombard us with sacrilegious billboards that cry to Heaven for justice. Let us ignore these pagans and focus as the shepherds did on the soon to be born King, who is our God forever and ever.
The Christian Counselor as a Pastoral Guide and a Moral Theologian: Helping One Defeat Oneself
There has been much written in this blog and among other theologians and writers regarding the external nature of temptation, occasion of sin and the ploys of Satan in regards to our soul. I would like to focus more on the internal struggle of temptation between man, the action and God. Within our fallen nature, we have more to worry about than a diabolical being, corrupted individuals and the whiles of the flesh. Instead, it is sometimes within our very own will that we experience our most intense battles against concupscience, selfishness and our own desires. This is where the Christian Counselor must combine the pastoral sensitivity of his vocation with the legalistic understanding of moral theology.
The Mind is Willing but the Flesh is Weak
Christ said it best, “the mind is willing but the flesh is weak”. This is due to our fallen nature that while made in the image and likeness of God and desiring of good, is still nevertheless inclined to false goods that are detrimental to the soul’s salvation. The internal struggle to do what is right and to submit one’s will to God is the ultimate battle one will face.
A list of terms will be necessary in understanding the inner struggle of the soul against temptation. First, when one speaks of man, we see two parts, body and soul. Within the soul exists to faculties, the intellect and the will. The intellect is the understanding part of our soul while the will is the decision part of our soul. The intellect presents information to the will and the will then decides what to act upon or not act upon. The will, however, is tied up with a multitude of physical sensations that go beyond the mental realm. The will must deal with various physical appetites that may contradict the understanding of the intellect. These various appetites are documented in St. Thomas Aquinas’ moral theology and can play havoc within the core of the soul. If the intellect is guided with a sound and moral conscience, then the battle is more intense with the passions, but if the intellect is guided with an unsound or ignorant conscience, then in many cases the will is subjugated without a ‘shot fired’ to the demands of the passions. No evil action is detected and the action is carried on without remorse. Obviously in today’s age of science, other factors of mental illness must also be tied to immoral decision making but we will remain focused on mentally sound decision making agents.
While one is compelled to rectify an erroneous or unsound conscience, many fall to various illicit moral actions without a sense of remorse or fear. However, the true battle that rages involves the certain and sound conscience that trumpets what is right and wrong despite the desires of the flesh. While hedonists and other secular materialists would consider this a psychological pathology of a divided man, Christianity would applaud such a stance of a soundly formed conscience. Only until the next life shall the intellect, will and physical appetites work in harmony. Until then, the certain and sound conscience voices the demands of Christ despite the body’s other carnal or dishonest desires.
Can we overcome these desires and listen to what is right? Unfortunately, due to the severity of damage to our nature after Adam’s fall, one cannot by himself choose good without the grace of the Holy Spirit. While our free will does play a role in accepting God’s grace, one cannot dare accomplish salvation or good actions without the grace of God.
How Does Grace Work?
Grace is a gift from God given to his creation. Like a medicine to the soul, it has a variety of functions. Some grace restores union with God (sanctifying), while other graces are applied to certain needs of the soul (sacramental). Everyday grace (actual), however, is applied to everyday situations that divide the will between a morally right or morally wrong option. No good choice is possible without actual grace.
This was once debated between Pelagius and St. Augustine. Pelagius daringly denied the existence of original sin and concluded that men can make good choices without the grace of God. Pelagius contended that man is capable of choosing God without grace. St. Augustine countered that since Adam fell, man’s nature was damaged and needed God’s grace to choose good.
Within the inner workings of the soul, God feeds grace to the intellect and will to overcome temptation. It there where the battle begins. Do we accept the gentle whispers of our God to do what is right, or to fulfill a vocation, or do we choose our own will and our own desires? Counseling can help, but one needs to make one’s own stand.
This dialogue with God can bear fruit if we allow the grace to purify our soul. Virtue and consistent practice will replace vice, and God’s will shall shine over our own. Spiritual fruits will grow as our will becomes open to God’s will and we will become surprised to see that submission to God’s will is actually freedom from our fallen nature. Christian Counseling Education is a great way to learn how to counsel those who need spiritual guidance in their own internal wars against sin. If you are interested, please review the program.
St. Theresa of Avila and the Interior Castle: Christian Meditation
Christian Counseling without meditation is like a well without water-it has no purpose. This is why counselors should frequently seek meditation, prayer and retreats to refresh their souls and strengthen their resolve to help those in pain and mental anguish. St. Theresa of Avila presents an excellent guide in spirituality and meditation in her classic, the Interior Castle.
The text is written in a delightful fashion by St. Theresa in a simple language. A language that makes one feel as if she is purposely writing each word for one’s own sake. This personal style of writing is very pleasing to read and her sanctity is felt through the words.
The primary premise of the text is the various levels of intimate union the soul can experience with God while on earth. St. Theresa refers to these levels as mansions within the castle of the soul. The first mansions are the entry levels into mystical union but are surrounded by the noises of the world. As one progresses deeper into the silence of the soul, the tricks of the enemy or Satan become less influential on it. However, the soul as it becomes more in union with God, releazes a bitter sweet reality; that complete union with something so wonderful is never completed on earth. Eventually, the presence of God becomes more constant in the soul after it passes many spiritual tests. Although the final union and 7th mansion is incomplete, the soul accepts the reality of this eartlhy union, and willfully fulfils the will of God on earth until it can meet God face to face in the Beatific Vision.
A few concepts that struck me greatly included these issues. The first issue regarded how easily the soul falls from the outer mansions to outside the castle, then back in again. In these phases the soul struggles with the illusions of the material world and the reality of God. I think as counselors, we come across people who are “troubled by many things” and cannot retain focus on the Lord. The devil steals the peace of the soul and throws forth the materialisms of the world. These distractions pull the soul back and forth between God and the world. These souls are far from evil, but bound by their fallen nature. Are these not our own battles? and…are these not the majority of people we counsel? Pay special attention to these outer mansions and utilize the knowledge of St. Theresa in helping those who need to progress deeper into their own castle.
The second concept St. Theresa emphasizes is love of neighbor. So many contemplatives sometimes seek solitude to find Christ. They wish not to be distracted but to solely focus on him. St. Theresa reminds the reader that true union seeks to share Christ’s love and to find Christ in everyone. One cannot be completely absorbed in Christ without being part of the life of the church itself. Christian Counselors should take this to heartas well. In counseling, we attempt to share divine wisdom and to help one’s neighbor.
Finally, from a purely Catholic perspective, but nonetheless an applicable hypothesis for non-Catholics as well, one needs to have frequent reception of the Eucharist. Although Protestant brothers in Christ, do not believe in the true presence, they still also share in a symbolic or grace filled belief in the unitative nature of the Eucharist. There is clearly from a minimal perspective a spiritual union. For Catholics, this union is even more indepth and dare I say, a free ticket to the 7th mansion which can be shared for those 15 minutes with Christ. Counselors of any Christian denomination should take use of the spiritual nature of the Eucharist and allow the grace that accompanies it to help one spiritually re-energize and take Christ to the market place.
If you are interested in Christian Counseling Education, please review the program and please also, in the very least, give yourself the spiritual treasure of reading the Interior Castle.
If you would like to learn more about our Christian Counseling Education Program, then please review.
Mark Moran, MA, GC-C, SCC-C
St Valentinus and Christian Charity Applied in Christian Counseling
St. Valentinus was an early Christian martyr who offered his whole heart and love to God above all else till even death. His death shows Christians and those who give Christian counseling that one must be willing to sacrifice everything for God.
This is the nature of the theological virtue of charity as illustrated by St. Valentinus and all Christian martyrs. Valentine’s day focuses on romantic love but Christian charitiyfocuses on a deeper love that is infused into the soul at Baptism. This love puts God first above everything else and is the essence of one’s salvation. This love is definitely reciprocal because God so loved us that he did not only create us but sent the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity to earth to die on the cross for us.
If you are interested in Christian Counseling Educationand other ideals on Christian Charity, you should review the program and see if it fits your academic or professional needs. Mark Moran, MA, GC-C, SCC-C