ForeverHers: Can someone choose to refuse God's direction and do whatever they want to do? Of course. That IS what lands most people here in the first place. Believers or not, MOST people are at least aware of the biblical injunction against adultery, but they choose to ignore that injunction for whatever reason they wish to use. Does that "negate" the validity of the biblical direction? I don't think so. But it does speak to the REALITY of dealing with fallen humans and the "sin-nature" within all of us.
DMN: I "refused God's direction", but that doesn't mean one will "do whatever they want to do". Humans have a common code of ethics regardless of religion. These ethics aren't handed down from On High. They are a legacy of our evolutionary heritage -- a good legacy, no doubt -- that improved our survival odds in times past.
For my part, becoming an atheist required a re-evaluation of everything I thought I believed. And I came out a better person because of it. Not because of the religion I rejected, but despite it.
That is certainly your opinion, and perhaps "okay" for you, but it does not negate the reality that God is the cause of what you refer to as a "common code of ethics." I disagree with your assumption that they are "a legacy of our evolutionary heritage�that improved our survival odds in times past."
If you want to argue for "survival" as the cause, then it would naturally argue against monogamous marriage and in favor of polygamous marriage. ONE man can impregnate a LOT of women over the course of years. "Restricting" the survival of the species to just one "mating pair" would be counterproductive to survival in most cases, if not all cases, whereas MANY offspring from many different mating pairs would favor survival as well as "gene mixing."
God did, as He said He did, give all humans a "moral code" to live by. Humans choose to act either in favor of or against that moral code because God does not "force" someone to choose to obey Him or not. But all you have to do is look around the world to see that "morals" and "ethics" ARE relative according to what any individual or group chooses to be applicable to them, when divorced from the codes given in Scripture.
That we, in the "West" have a moral and ethical code that is founded upon Judeo/Christian beliefs is not arguable. That is where they have their foundation. WHAT we choose to embrace and what we choose to reject is due to not wanting to "give up" control to anyone else. We want to retain the right to "choose for ourselves." That is a "condition" of self-preeminence that "infects" us all. I think that it's especially pronounced in the West where we are taught to be individuals and "self-reliant" and "in charge" of our own lives, to not "bow the knee" to any "sovereign."
MB in it's secularishness (lol) is, perhaps, a great way to sneak a biblical counselling program in the back door.
DNM: Dr. Harley also freely admits that MarriageBuilders is a very Pavlovian approach to building romantic love. The techniques to implement them dovetail nicely with some Biblical teachings, but are definitely at odds with others.
I've always found it odd that there are many passages in the Bible advocating stoning to death any man or woman caught in adultery, and only one passage in which Jesus escapes a logical trap by refusing to pass judgment on an adulteress. Yet the divorce rate among US Christians is at least as high as that of non-Christians. Were US law actually Bible-based, as many believe, we'd have a death penalty for adultery.
So what "techniques" are you referring to that are "definitely at odds with others"?
If you are trying to use "stoning" as an example, then I'd say that you really don't understand the Scripture, as BigKahuna mentioned.
There is NO New Testament Scripture that advocates murdering anyone. Rather, what the NT stresses over and over again is Forgiveness. It stresses that we are ALL sinners and not "better" than anyone else. It stresses that marriage IS a monogamous arrangement between a man and a woman. It stresses Servanthood. It stresses "loving your neighbor as yourself." It stresses loving God with "all your heart, soul, mind, and strength."
FH: So what it takes, and what a Nouthetic Counselor will require, is a commitment from both spouses to be willing to submit to God and let God lead the healing process according to His promises.
DNM: The pathetic success rate of religious marriage counseling is a tribute to how well that approach works in practice, I suspect.
No, it's a tribute to self-preeminence. It is a tribute to NOT submitting one's life to God in humble obedience. It is not an indictment of God or Scripture, it is an indictment of man's "human nature," that "sin nature" that is inherent in all humans.
I would agree with you that most counseling that operates under the name of "Christian" is not counseling that uses the Bible as the source of information for ALL problems and that it requires humble submission TO God in order for it to work.
That is the same problem that all "non-Christian" counseling suffers from. But they don't have anyone to "surrender to" other than "self." It acknowledges that each individual is their own "god" in that they, and they alone, sit on the throne as sovereign in their own life. THEY "get to choose" what rules apply to them and what rules don't apply to them. They may even try to "impose" their rules on others (like their spouse), but they won't "give up" their self imposed sovereignty without believing that doing so is "in their own best interest" even if they don't "feel like it."
And it's really no different from saying that because so many reject Christ, that what He did on behalf of humanity and what belief in Christ means, it therefore makes Christianity and God's plan of redemption for sinners a dismal failure. It doesn't change, despite the opinions of people, the truth. It merely accentuates the "problem" of sin that we all suffer from.
FH: Science was once fully the pursuit of His laws.
DMN: Assuming God is the lawgiver, science still is. Science is only the study of the facts of the universe. As a for-instance, global warming at the present time is a fact as we document (among many indicators) rising ocean levels, expanding temperate zones, de-glaciation of major land masses, and the opening of the Northwest Passage for the first time in living memory. That fact has causes, which are many, varied, and complicated, but ultimately obey the laws of physics. A cold winter here and there don't negate the fact; they are simply data points outside the bell curve of an overall trend.
Assuming that God gave all natural laws, science today is still the study of fact. Unfortunately, the facts and reality have always been subject to interpretation and manipulation. As Mark Twain once said, "Politicians use statistics the way a drunk uses a lamp-post: more for support than for illumination." We are in a breathtaking era of scientific innovation right now, pushing the boundaries of the black unknown further and further as more of the universe becomes known.
I guess I said all that to say this: there was never a golden age of science in which it was purely devoted to discovering God's laws. If you're a believer, that's what science is still doing TODAY.
I don't think I'll engage in a discussion of the Global Warming hoax right now.
But I do agree with you that physical laws are established by God and maintained by God.
And understanding this creation IS what Science is about, because it is a direct response to God's command to "subdue the earth" and to "have dominion" over the earth and all that is in it.
One cannot have dominion over things without understanding how things work. Once cannot subdue the earth without understanding how things work.
But the interpretation of things IS also where people can choose to reject God as the Creator who created with purpose and intent in what He did.
And that is where the belief in evolution is just that, a choice to reject God as Creator or to "limit" God in what He created and then just leave everything else up to "dumb chance" to arrive at what He might have actually intended when He "created".
FH: We get to "feeling good about ourselves" when we begin to do right toward God and toward our fellow man. It's sort of like the feelings of being in love. They come AFTER we DO the "work" of a loving person and the person we love begins to respond in a reciprocal manner.
DNM: There's a line of therapy today called "reality therapy" that -- sans the God stuff -- addresses many mental illnesses along the same lines. At the heart of it, many mental illnesses (not all, but many) are brought about by people realizing their actions are inconsistent with their personal world-view. If they re-align their actions to affirm their view of themselves, they can often overcome mental illness.
There are, of course, serious chemical imbalances, brain injury, and brain defects or disease that cannot be addressed in that way. But even the case of a schizophrenic can be markedly improved if, in combination with appropriate anti-psychotic drugs, the patient is taught behavioral therapy to bring their behavior in-line with what they expect of themselves.
(Note: My wife is studying to be a mental health therapist. I get way more exposure to this stuff than I ever planned on. And I've read several of her textbooks for recreational reading and discussion points in order to have more to talk about.)
Mental illnesses do exist. They are a product of a "fallen world" and are not surprising. But these things (therapy, psychology, etc.) can also lead to things like supporting NAMBLA. Again, it is based solely in the "individual" and what is perceived as "right" for the individual.
Can therapy without God have some beneficial outcomes? Of course, but that assumes that the behavior being changed was "wrong" by some set of standards that define "normal" behavior. Again, those standards are derived from God or else we make the assumption that what is "right" in one society is equally "okay" to call "wrong" in another society wherein the individual claims the sovereign right to determine "right and wrong" for themselves.
I would cite "honor killings" as just one example of that dichotomy of "right and wrong" determined by differing societies. It's the principle of relativism.
FH: I have seen successes and failures for people utilizing solely the MB approach too. No program is a panacea for infidelity, in large part because infidelity IS that serious to a marriage.
DNM: Agreed. MarriageBuilders is a program to use AFTER the infidelity has ceased. You can get some practice while your spouse is cheating, but learning the process only improves yourself. The unfaithful spouse must decide on their own to end the affair; only after that is done will the MarriageBuilders approach taken by the betrayed spouse have any effect.
Okay, allow me the latitude to disagree with the exclusive application of the MB program as you stated it.
It IS "found" and utilized in most cases as a result of people looking for help AFTER infidelity has stricken their marriage. But the principles, properly applied, could also help prevent infidelity in a marriage from occurring.
The "basic" problem is that there are very few "pre-marital" programs that emphasize marriage and the roles of husbands and wives as God intended marriage to be. There's not even many programs that teach "MB-like" principles for how to function within a marriage to promote love and caring over the "long haul" of a marriage and very few Christian churches that include those sorts of things in pre-marital counseling.
That is, imho, a failing that we as a society should seek to address for the betterment of marriage, and subsequently to society in general.
FH: ...because much of MB and the ideas are "taken" from Scripture and reworded to "appeal to the masses."
DNM: See, here's where I disagree. Scripture advocates executing adulterers. MarriageBuilders does not. Scripture advocates turning the other cheek indefinitely. MarriageBuilders advocates a time limit. Scripture advocates sacrifice and suffering as a path toward righteousness. MarriageBuilders specifically advocates against such backward and unproductive notions.
In short, there are some facets of MB that may be rationalized using the Bible. But there are a HUGE number of approaches advocated in the Bible that MB contradicts, and rightly so. The Bible is flawed, written by flawed humans, often transcribed by those who were never witness to the events they wrote about.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: if you value ANYTHING above the feelings of your spouse, that thing is going to cause problems in your marriage. This includes one's religious devotion. Value God, if you wish, above your marriage. But don't value Man's teachings about God -- including every word of the Bible -- above your spouse.
You are completely wrong with respect to the "New Covenant" that is in Christ. Just as the crowd wanted to "apply" their understanding of the Jewish tradition of stoning, Jesus made it crystal clear to them that they were WRONG. His instruction to the woman was to "go and sin no more." His was a ministry of forgiveness and reconciliation, not of judgment. Judgment will come, but that is reserved for a later date.
By the same token, there are other cultures that have marriages where many things are valued above the spouse, particularly the female spouse, and they function quite "well." Of course that depends upon on one's perspective of what "functioning well" means, but it also means that you might be applying a "Western" view of marriage to other cultures, and the "argument" would be "by what right do you judge" some other system?
FH: God believes all marriages should be honored because HE instituted the ordinance of marriage.
DNM: I believe all non-abusive, monogamous marriages should be honored. Abusive or polygamous marriages are an anathema for many reasons that I don't know if I want to go into here, aside from saying "male-dominated, religiously-heirarchical polygamy is a mathematical evil."
Why? To be consistent with what you stated previously, it would seem that the issue would depend solely upon WHO has the sovereign authority
to determine what is right and wrong? Without that sovereign authority, no one else has the "right" to impose their concept of "right and wrong" on anyone other than themselves. To attempt to do so would seem to argue for a set of "standards" that apply to everyone regardless of their personal opinions and beliefs.
FH: You even see that sort of thing in the Scripture where it talks about a believer who is married to an unbeliever and how they should fulfill their role in the marriage as a witness for Christ by how they conduct themselves.
DNM: It's a very odd thing to me that, as a non-believer, I carefully police my own actions and attitudes to support the goals I've laid out for myself regarding my marriage, and have always been faithful. Yet my wife, the believer, had the affair because she trusted God to keep her out of trouble.
Go figure. I don't see how a belief in a supernatural entity is necessary, or even really that helpful, in recovering marriage from infidelity.
You are correct. A "belief" in a "supernatural entity" won't keep anyone from sinning. As James put it, "faith without works is dead." That doesn't mean that faith in Christ will not save someone, it will. What it means is that a result of a true faith, true recognition of God as Sovereign Lord should result in a desire and willingness to surrender one's life to
God in humble obedience to His commands no matter what we might be "feeling" at the time. That's the same point that got Adam and Eve into trouble, trying to put "human reason" and "human wants and desires" above simple obedience.
Now why do you carefully police your own actions attitudes? Probably because you choose to. Possibly also because you see doing so to be "in your own best interest" in whatever way you choose to accept or reject anything that you consider to be or not be conducive to what you want and desire. But if you are like me, like most of us, we never do "everything" perfectly. There are things we do that others might consider "wrong" or even that we might consider wrong, but that we choose to do anyway because "we want to" at that given time. We might not do the same thing at another time or given a different circumstance. That speaks to something called Situational Ethics.
An example might be something like some people think that all killing is wrong all the time. They may even use the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" to support their belief and contention. But a proper translation of the original word and its intent would be "Thou shalt not murder."
It does not ban killing in all circumstances, but it does ban willful, premeditated, murder.
A soldier who kills in a war is not committing murder. Neither is someone who kills in self-defense.
There are people who believe killing any living creature is "murder" and should not be done. Others will find that killing is "okay" for a variety of reasons when the subject of the killing is not a human being.
In the end, it always comes back to "who is Sovereign." That determines who and what is to be "submitted to" regardless of our personal feelings, simply because the rightful Sovereign has, by nature, the right to "set the rules and standards."