Thursday, September 29, 2011

GroupThink

Thomas Ross is somewhat over his hand and wrist problems, so will be contributing here at What Is Truth more in the future. Friday is his day, unless he informs me otherwise. You will be able to read his delightful, informative pieces on the weekends, until I come back with my coarse, illogical concoctions usually Monday and Wednesday. So when he posts here tomorrow, he will not be stomping on my post. I'm writing here as a companion to my two other pieces this week, before at some point soon, I go back to other series I have started. Alright. On to the above titled thoughts.
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When I was a child, my parents abused me by allowing me to watch Fred Flintstone. I'm tongue-in-cheek on the abuse, although I mean it a little because it's interesting what people are willing to call abuse today. And what they want to call a cult as well. Cult and abuse really do diminish in their meaning when people use them as weapons for their own rhetorical battles. They want to shock to the actual worst degree, and they are limited in their vocabularies, so they borrow the easy words that will cause the most pain for their targets. Who cares on what their usage does to the meaning of a real cult or genuine abuse.

Of course, it isn't abuse to allow our children to vegetate in front of a television, only if parents make the children work really hard and punish them when they don't. The former might qualify you as a vegetable, not abuse, but the latter will make you a hard working, successful, and productive person, so abuse. You are angry about the latter. You really wanted to be vegetative. You may have even made it difficult on your parents, so you succeeded and now have plenty of time to cause havoc on the internet.

On one episode of Fred Flintstone, Fred made a personal recording of himself singing a popular song. The stone tablet record with beak of actual living bird as needle for the player landed in the hands of a radio station and Fred became an instant hit, that is, until Wilma, out of a desire to get back her old Fred, started a rumor that Fred was "square." Once everyone knew he was "square," well, Fred's singing career was dead. A gigantic group of cro magnons, who once thought Fred was the greatest thing since sliced brontosaurus, now instantly recognized he was mere piltdown. Instantly swung into an opposite position. I swear his new critics were very smart and independent thinkers. Why? They say so.

You have a church where the pastor may not follow a biblical model of church government. Authority leans a little too heavily in the pastor's direction, not out of some desire to dictate to everyone his thinking, but because the heavy top-down model seems to him to succeed better at creating his visage of a Christian group. He sees his product looks better than yours every time in the short term, so it must be right too. Some of what is biblical as to how this gets done has already been chucked, so his few and powerful bureaucrats are given too much latitude for implementation. Without proper accountability, momentum shifts and opposition increases to a tipping point. Mutiny occurs.

The mutineers, independent thinkers that they are, form their own new group. No criticism is allowed. Everyone walks in lockstep. If you are not with them 100%, you are against them. They really are getting their own way. If you offer a different idea, you are humiliated, cajoled, badgered, and put down. Everyone must think independently. This is required.

It does remind me of the 1960s when young people rebelled against the government and their parents and other institutions. They would not conform. They would not dress like they were told. They were going to be different!! And so they all looked and talked the same. They shifted to a different brand of GroupThink with all new leaders.

Gangs operate in the same fashion. They aren't going to conform, but everybody still conforms. Of course, they would protest this, but all the evidence reveals it to be true. And they circle the wagons just like the ones they attack. They are running away from humiliation. So they humiliate. It's not a biblical group. It isn't a God loving group. It's just a different group with a different way of thinking as the first group.

Let's say you had a question for the first group, because you thought you might want to join it. So you ask your question. Nope. You don't get to ask questions of the group. The group alone asks questions. And you answer. The group doesn't answer. They don't have to answer. They won't answer. You just say, "You're right." They are all independent thinkers. Maybe the second group seems to be inconsistent with their founding principles. Maybe you think their methods seem wrong. Sorry. No questioning, even between themselves. Everybody must be on the same page. That's the way it goes with such independence and individualism.

Without offering unqualified support to the second group, you are at risk of abusive treatment. You'll be said to be a number of things. These are lies, but they are permissible lies, ones for which no one requires an apology. The second group can't apologize and especially in public. They expect apologies. They expect groveling. Really groveling may not be enough. But they do not apologize. They can't be wrong. But they are not like what they criticize of the first group.

If I had a choice between the two, I would choose the first group. At least it looks better, looks closer to what is right. And it is far more productive than the latter group, that exists for the mere purpose of protest. The former group has certain standards of decency that I would like better. The latter, of course, calls the first a cult. There's no way the second group could be a cult. The latter group isn't a cult, because it is a group of independent thinkers who will savage and humiliate you if you offer your opinion. The second group is not like the first group at all, of course. The second one will only allow you to be supportive and follow their way or you will be subject to intellectual and emotional abuse with a subtle threat of violence.

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An Addendum

All unbiblical belief and behavior will turn out bad, whatever group believes it and practices it.

Here are two examples of the second group: first and second.

15 comments:

Stan said...

I wouldn't want to have to choose between the two. Because the first has functioned un-Biblically could they be partly responsible for producing the second?

Wrong doctrine and practice results in a mess.

Peter warned against not taking the oversight of the flock and against being lords over God's heritage, without stating which would be worse.

Paul warned against libertinism and legalism. No mention of which he thought was more problematic. Both are horrible.

I think it would be best to not choose which is worse or better.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Stan, give my regards to Laurel.

I read your comment on another blogpost, and you had some interesting observations.

I agree with your assessment here in this comment. I don't want either group, but it would be understandable why some might at least like the first group better if there was no choice. Of course there is one.

SV said...

If you are raised by a group that doesn't allow independent thinking...the ones who break out of that are also going to be trained, possibly subconsciously, to also not allow independent thinking, as a knee jerk reaction the opposite way.

When you have an original group that allows some independent thinking within the bounds of Scripture, and gives everyone a chance within the bounds of "everything be done decently and in order" you will not have a mutiny because there is nothing to rebel against...except God, but generally those types don't gang up...they go off on their own to find what they want to find.

The reason there is no choice is that they are from the same root. But the original root could very possibly be the original problem.

Jesus had different methods to reach different people, and different ways to see people grow. Nobody fit in the same box with Christ. We should remember that in our churches today, and be careful to give the Holy Spirit room to work in people's hearts rather than forcing everyone to accept the same personal standards at the same time. Christianity comes from the inside...real Christianity can not be real if it originates from the external.

Don Johnson said...

Kent, I have a very big theological difference with you on this post. And I think I am right and you are wrong.

It's FlinTstone (Flintstone)! NOT Flinstone. You did it twice! Here's proof: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Flintstone

Man, I don't know if that's a separation issue though. I agree with everything else you said in the post.

Charmaine said...

Pastor,
Thank you for sharing your blog posts. In regards to the other blog, how would you suggest this situation be handled? Years ago, I did not have the liberty (or feel that I had the liberty) to ask questions. I suppose that I am past that now. I was able to sincerely answer the questions you presented to me-I hope that it came across that way. Thanks!

Kent Brandenburg said...

First Don,

Duh! FlinTstone. Ouch! I changed it. Thanks. Your vast knowledge also continues to astound!

SV,

I agree.

Charmaine,

Well, I wasn't referring to you, but thanks. If you noticed, just because I did ask you questions, I got savaged by some of the group. Not you. They just wouldn't allow questioning though, even if I did mean it in love. You are fine, I believe, and truly you probably could not have done anything about your situation at the time. Sometimes that truly is the case. We have saved women in our church with unsaved husbands, and they have to suffer for God. I'm sorry about that.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Charmaine,

One more thing. If I were to judge anything you said, it was when you amen Joyce for her putting it to me. I enjoyed what she had to say, but she really shouldn't have been saying it as she was if she was going to follow 1 Timothy 2:9-15 and 1 Corinthians 14:29-35. You really don't want to encourage that from women, just for your edification. God gave us those passages. Thanks.

Jon Gleason said...

"It is not good for the man to be alone."

Part of this is simply because God made us to be part of a group (family, tribe, nation, church, etc). It's in our makeup.

Combine that good thing that God made with a sin nature and pride of intellect running out of control (I'm right, so everyone ought to think exactly like me, and I'll sort them out if they don't), and you get the mess you described.

We even see it in the comments here -- some Canadian asserting that he's right and you are wrong, and going to great lengths to sort you out. He wants you to spell exactly the same way he does, when everyone ought to honour the fact that spelling is a mere social convention that varies across cultures. Since I don't have a TV, and disapprove of washed-up prehistoric rock stars, I'll probably have to separate from both of you.

d4v34x said...

Bro. B.,

Aren't those two passages specific to the local church? Does Joyce go to your church, or do the passages also encompass blog comment sessions on the internet?

Kent Brandenburg said...

d4,

Excellent question. We practice both those passages everywhere for several reasons.

Let's consider 1 Cor 14 to start. Paul had earlier buttressed his authority-submission position on a universal principle, proving that it is such by sandwiching the subordination of woman to man between that of man to Christ and Christ to God. The greater principle of 1 Cor 11:3 is from which comes the specific application of 11:4-16. We can read 1 Cor 14 with that in mind.

Second, the arguments are based on creation order. The application in the church moves from the greater principle. If the argument comes from created order, then it applies to all creation. A woman is not to usurp authority over a man, ever. 1 Cor 14:29-35 and 1 Tim 2:9-15 make a point of how the woman does this.

Even in the case of Deborah, etc., cited by AA over at Bob's blog, she recruited Barak to lead the men.

What I'm saying here is historic teaching. This is how Christians have taken it, which is why until 1920 there was no woman's suffrage, even in the United States.

If you oppose this principle in the man-woman relationship, you would have to oppose it in the Christ-God relationship, which attacks the gospel.

Dave Barnhart said...

I don't think your answer to d4 is very clear. You said you practice this everywhere, but does this mean that no woman can answer a man authoritatively in a blog post or even a discussion if the man insists he is correct?

Does this also mean that no woman in your church is allowed to have any job that might have any authority over any man at any time? Or maybe you don't have any women working outside the home at all?

What about voting in U.S. elections? Are your women permitted to exercise their voting rights? Are men not permitted to vote for any women candidates?

Also, what about sons? At what point (or age) do you consider a son to be grown enough for his mother to have no authority over him (I'm not talking about the lifetime of respect from "Honor thy mother and father")?

If you practice this "everywhere" it would seem to have a large number of repercussions depending on how you define "usurp authority" or "keep silence."

Finally, your answer about Deborah doesn't really deal with all the ramifications. Yes, she recruited (also a term that usually specifies some authority) Barak to lead the men into battle, but that doesn't deny that she was the judge of all Israel and as such had the authority. Obama doesn't personally lead men into battle, but he is still the Commander-in-chief.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Dave,

I think what I said was clear. I just didn't get into every possible application you may have wanted. I haven't written that book yet, although I've preached about it. And I did notice you didn't get into any verses either, just brought up hypotheticals that would do more to have an emotional effect on the audience, especially women, of course, using questions, which is ironic in this case. It does show how powerful a question can be. It is the strongest form of affirmation and negation, which is why Jesus uses them all the time.

I guess I'm the man insisting I'm correct. And women should be able to come in and correct me when I'm not. I wouldn't characterize what I do here as "insisting I'm correct." That rather poisons the well right at the beginning, wouldn't you say, Dave?

You don't even answer my exegesis. Where am I wrong in my exegesis? We should make applications from the actual passage, which is where we get wisdom from above. Man's wisdom is earthly, sensual, and devilish, and is actually what is responsible for contention and strife and all those kind of things. See James 3 on that.

And then we move into the gotcha questions, that is, if there is one inconsistency that you can find in our church---not saying that there is---then everyone in the world get's to follow the inconsistency. That's not how we interpret and apply the Bible. That is authority by experience. Do you know any religions that model themselves after that pattern? Are they good?

Yes, I used the election example, but I did so as a simple historic reference, mainly about historic practice, to show that what I was saying wasn't off-the-wall.

Your only shot at exegesis is your Deborah statement, mainly targeting my word "recruit"---another gotcha game. It isn't an honest way of discussion. And you don't provide anything, anything, that yields any more than what I wrote, after you reproved me for not "really dealing" with that. I don't believe there are huge "ramifications" we should take from Deborah. We have clear NT statements for this dispensation. Deborah is more of an anomaly, in a very bad time in Israel, and we're very limited in text to know what her leadership exactly was. We should interpret the less plain, the narratives, in light of the plain propositional statements.

The asking of questions in 1 cor 14 is a challenge of male authority. The authority-submission pattern of God, created by our loving, perfect Designer, is what we see in 11:2-16 and 14:29-35. Just because the woman is not to ask questions in church doesn't mean that the actual principle isn't to be followed everywhere. That is the kind of thing that you should have dealt with, including the created order argument, which I got crickets from you on.

If you are reading unhappiness, you are correct. It is mild unhappiness though. And I believe deserved.

Dave Barnhart said...

I'm sorry if you thought I was attempting to poison the well. I must have misplaced a few of my modifiers. When I mentioned "insisting he is correct," I was referring to any woman in any argument with any man, not you specifically by what you posted. Again, I'm sorry if that was misunderstood.

I didn't get into any verses, you are correct on that. First, if I refer to something in the Bible, like Deborah, I assume you can find where she is mentioned. Further, I've noticed that when men get into duels with you over interpretation of scripture, less is actually learned by the reader (or at least me) than when you are asked to hone in on what you believe, because then you explain it more. I freely admit I'm no theologian or Greek scholar, but like any Christian should desire, I want to search the scriptures and have them explained when what they teach is not so clear or is difficult (as was done in Ezra). Questions go a long way toward increasing understanding.

I'm a little amazed that you see such questions as an attack. Contrary to what you may think, by asking them, I'm not trying to find an inconsistency so that "everyone in the world get's [sic] to follow the inconsistency." I would agree with you that that would be poor application. My questions were designed to get to specifics of your application of what you are claiming the passage teaches in order to understand your position, and thereby understand what you really believe the passage to be teaching.

One thing that is done a lot in preaching (and I'm not saying you do this) is to say something like "we practice both those passages everywhere" and essentially use equivocation to mean something different for the speaker than for the listener, so that the listener will take the widest possible application even though the speaker can't actually go that far and be honest with the text. In the case being discussed here, I wanted to know what "everywhere" really means when you use it like that. If you really mean everywhere, then the answers to the questions I asked would demonstrate that.

Of course, you have no obligation to answer any of my questions, and in fact, you can simply refuse to publish what I post. However, I assume you publish on this blog to get to the truth, and it would then follow (if the assumption is true) that you are interested (at least most of the time) in answering honest questions in service of the goal of getting to the truth.

With regard to those passages specifically, I've heard them exegeted and interpreted in other ways than yours. I've generally heard preached and understood them to be referring to the church context, as D4 also mentioned. You gave your reasons why they should go further than that, and I wanted to see how you apply it to see where you really intend the application to go, and how much you think your reading of those passages supports. Yes, asking questions *can* be a challenge to authority, but they must not always be, or else women asking questions of their husbands at home (which they are commanded to do) would also be a challenge to their authority.

Regarding Deborah, I didn't say there were "huge" ramifications, but it is clear from scripture that her authority extended to more than just getting someone else to lead. Yes, it was a bad time in Israel's history, a time when "every man did that which was right in his own eyes." I would argue that we live in such a time. What is post-modernism if not every man doing what is right in his own eyes? Can a woman like Deborah make a good leader when there are not enough men to take the leadership? Obviously you would answer that question different than I.

I apologize for making you in any way "unhappy" because of what I wrote. I did intend to provoke, but only to provoke more thinking on this subject.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Dave: You said you practice this everywhere, but does this mean that no woman can answer a man authoritatively in a blog post or even a discussion if the man insists he is correct?

Answer: To obey Scripture, she shouldn't be challenging men with her questions. More information or clarification, yes, challenge, no.

Dave: Does this also mean that no woman in your church is allowed to have any job that might have any authority over any man at any time?

Answer: I would rather not discuss this.

Dave: Or maybe you don't have any women working outside the home at all?

Answer: Ditto above answer.

Dave: What about voting in U.S. elections? Are your women permitted to exercise their voting rights? Are men not permitted to vote for any women candidates?

Answer: Ditto above questions. I don't mind discussing an application of Scripture, but not to be grilled about what people in our church do.

Dave: Also, what about sons? At what point (or age) do you consider a son to be grown enough for his mother to have no authority over him (I'm not talking about the lifetime of respect from "Honor thy mother and father")?

Answer: When a boy becomes a man, he is a man, and he is a man when his dad says he is (Gal 4:1-2).

I don't believe we are living in a day when every man is doing that which is right in his own eyes. I know too many men who are not. Women leading men is not God's moral will. It was God's sovereign will for Deborah to do what she did, like it was His sovereign will for Babylon to take Judah captive. But that does not mean that God wants women in authority over men.

Bill Hardecker said...

First, Pastor Brandenburg brings a very important point: the time of the Judges is for a previous dispensation. God certainly has a way prescribed in the Bible for how our churches are to operate, with gender designated roles.
Second, We should note that during the time of the Judges Israel did better than in the time of the Kings, by comparison.
Third, Barak, being placed in the "Hall of Faith" (Heb. 11:32) ought to tell us that he wasn't some weak or cowardly man. He wasn't a judge, nor a prophet. He had to wait to hear from God re:when to attack. He did just that. And so in Judges 4:14, it wasn't like Barak was snoozing, and that Deborah had to say "get up and go now;" rather, she was saying that this is the day that God is going to deliver the enemies to Israel, because she was prophetess and had that connection with God. Deborah had "authority" as a judge and a prophetess - but worked beside Barak to accomplish God's Will. God's Will was done. In the end, God was glorified (read Judges 5).

We shouldn't read into the story anything about women's authority for our days or anything like that, because there aren't any prophets today (much less prophetesses), nor are there any Judges today, nor are we Israel.