Thursday, April 24, 2008

More Thoughts on Paul Tripp

When I brought a friend of mine who is a Pastor in on the conversation, he made some very helpful comments and clarifying questions (quoted with his permission, though he wishes to remain anonymous):

There is a complexity to the wounding dynamic because our woundings and sinfulness coexist in the same heart. In other words, if I am sinned against and thereby wounded in the depths of my heart, this wounding will no doubt intermingle with my sinfulness (it may feed into my natural sins or it may prompt sinful responses). How do we sensitively address both elements, and the intermingling of the two, in a balanced way without diminishing either part?

Referring to a different, yet related, lecture by Dr. Tripp my friend comments:

One of things Dr. Tripp said was that our self-justifying responses to our own sin aim to make us feel good about things (i.e., sins) that God doesn't want us to feel good about. I agree with him. But I have a question - what about self-condemning responses to our non-sins? That is, what do we do in cases where we feel bad about things (i.e., non-sins) that God doesn't want us to feel bad about? How do we deal with guilt feelings that are not grounded in reality? I am not referring to guilt feelings for sins that have been forgiven, but to guilt feelings for things that are not even sins?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Paul Tripp: A Quest For More

Noted biblical counselor Dr. Paul Tripp spoke at our church a few weeks ago. It was a very thought provoking lecture summarizing the message of his newest book, "A Quest for More." Though it was probably longer than it needed to be (1.5 hrs) and some of his mannerisms I found distracting (he paced back and forth on the stage constantly) it is with the content that I wish to reflect on here.

Tripp's basic ideas were:
  • We were made for glory.
  • There are two kinds of glory in this world:
    • Ultimate glory that is found only in God.
    • "Sign" glory, which means that all created things have a form of glory that points to ultimate glory.
  • Every one of us is searching for glory, for treasure. Our problem is that we substitute sign glory for ultimate glory which alone satisfies.
In one sense this is just another way to frame the common theme that I've seen in Biblical counseling: our only real problem is sin, and specifically idolatry. This surely has a great deal of truth to it, and we would do well to pay attention. However, as usual, it wasn't what was said that is a problem for me, but what was not said.

The implication of this teaching as it was presented by Dr. Tripp is that as Christians we are all on some form of common ground in our sanctification. We are all equally able to simply turn from idols and toward God. The only thing that seems to hinder us is our own preference for idols, our attachment to lesser things.

This is certainly helpful in reminding us of the battle that rages in our hearts, and the divine resources that are available to us in Christ. Each day presents us with a series of decisions that will either take us toward God or away from Him, and God's Spirit provides dramatic power to make godly choices.

Our hearts are, as Calvin suggested, idol factories. But I don't think this is the only thing that is going on in our choices. Our "Quest for More" is not a simple black and white matter of choice in which we are all equally capable of choosing God over idols. In reality, our choices for or against God and his glory are laden with a greater complexity than this vision can contain. When "signs of glory" have deeply wounded us (like parents or siblings for example) then our battle to choose ultimate glory over sign glory can become much more difficult. Trusting that God's ultimate glory is a good thing can be much more difficult when engraved within our wounded hearts is the imprint of sign glory gone wrong.

My common complaint against Biblical counseling is that while what it proclaims is indeed true, it is truth that is incomplete. It presents a narrow view of how God works, what the gospel is, and our complex design as God's image bearers. It can cause people to try and force reality in categories that are too small. If there is suffering that doesn't fit in one of these categories (if, for example, an abuse survivor has a great deal of difficulty turning from sign glory to ultimate glory - perhaps more difficulty than someone who never faced such abuse) then people can be made to feel edited out of God's story as they try to make sense of their experience and follow God in the midst of it.