26 October, 2009

Guilt and Psychiatry

JG Vos, in the 1940s, asked the question, "What mistaken idea about guilt is common today? I believe that his answer is just as relevant 50 years later:

"Today it is very common to confuse the feeling of guilt with the fact of guilt. Popular notions of psychiatry have led many people to suppose that there is nothing to guilt beyond the feeling of guilt, and that if they can manage somehow to get rid of that troublesome feeling of guilt, that they will have nothing to fear.

The legitimate practice of psychiatry deals with neurotic or mentally abnormal individuals only. Such persons may have an abnormal feeling or complex of guilt which destroys their happiness and usefulness, and which is entirely different from their real guilt before God. It may be possible to relieve such an abnormal feeling of guilt by psychiatric methods. But real guilt before God cannot be affected one whit by psychiatry. Guilt remains guilt, regardless of whether we are obsessed by it or unconscious of it.

Real guilt is not a mere subjective feeling, but an objective fact concerning a person's relation to God. A person may be so hardened in sin that he is entirely unconscious of his guilt, and vainly imagines himself to be a righteous person on the road to heaven. By the special work of the Holy Spirit a sinner is brought under conviction of sin and then realizes himself to be guilty before God and deserving of eternal punishment in hell. Imaginary guilt or the mere feeling of guilt may be removed by psychiatry, but real guilt can only be removed by the blood of Jesus Christ, the sinner's substitute."

So feeling guilty? If you are then Jesus is the real answer. He taught us to pray, "forgive us our debts". So many in our culture attempt to medicate away what only the blood of Christ can heal.

21 October, 2009

Why Found a Seminary in the 1800s?

The Reformed Presbyterian Church (in America) was relatively small in the 1800s. (It was less than 1/3 of the size that it is today). There were only four established seminaries in the United States at the time RPTS's Constitution was written (in 1807). The country was young and the Church was getting accustomed to life in the United States- there was a lot going on!

So why would a small Presbyterian denomination see a need for training her pastors in a way other than one-on-one in a pastor-student mentorship? Why take on the financial, ecclesiastical, and time related responsibilities? Besides the obvious reasons of allowing those who excel in languages, biblical studies, systematics, and ethics each train in their area of expertise- there was also another reason. The RPCNA view of the end-times would come into play. Their eschatology required more men for the ministry:

"There was a belief that, because of the power of truth and reason, the denomination could have a genuine impact on society. Most important, perhaps, was the prevailing eschatology of Covenanters, which was Postmillennial- that is they believed that the 'thousand years' of peace and righteousness which precede the return of Jesus Christ was to be ushered in by the efforts of Christians. They also believed that the millennium was near... In this context, it is easy to understand why the church felt not only that a theological seminary could be supported, but also that it was bound to grow and have an influence far beyond the tiny denomination which gave it birth." (R.M. Copeland, Spare No Extertions)