Today's Discipleship Crisis | A Discussion with Corey Fifield

Podcast Seminary Podcast HeaderTodays Discipleship Crisis, Corey Fifield, phokos Facebook


Christian discipleship, including evangelism and the sharing of the gospel, is in trouble in many of today’s churches. This is something that can be addressed, but not without the resolve and sustained attention of churches and their leaders.
In this important dialogue on the subject by Podcast Seminary Dean, Dr. Freddy Cardoza, and Christian non-profit 501(c) ministry Global Phokos Founder, Corey Fifield, these issues are explored with candor and urgency.

Corey Fifield


Corey Fifield, Global Phokos Founder (facebook.com/globalphokos)
Corey Fifield

Freddy Cardoza


Freddy Cardoza, Podcast Seminary Dean
Freddy Cardoza


Tune in to hear two Christian leaders who care deeply about the gospel and Christian discipleship talk shop, in search of solutions.


Listen to the Discussion

Why Your Pills Aren't Solving Your Problems [BLOG]

Blog Header New 2017 July large logoWhy Those Pills Aren't Solving Your Problems - Podcast Seminary


25% of Americans saw a Mental Health Professional sometime in the last year.

Let that sink in.
As a part of the How to Have a Clear Conscience series, I wanted to address several enormous issues facing people in today’s world and particularly in the United States. In many ways, this post is about Behavioral Medication or Psychotropic Drugs, Depression, Maladies, Mental Health– and the fields serving people with these types of challenges: Counselors, Therapists, Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Pastors, Sociologists, Physicians, Pharmacists, and others.
The fact is, lots of people in our world are hurting and we wanted to stand up and take notice. This is especially important because we want to help people grow in their faith and relationship with God, and sometimes depression and related issues negatively affect a person’s discipleship.
Regarding the ministry of Podcast Seminary, my primary concern is very simple: I want people to be Happy, Healthy, Whole, and Holy.
I want people to find themselves.
I want people to come to terms with themselves.
I want people to be at peace.

But we live in a culture where people are manifesting tremendous problems related to the Modern World and all the challenges of living in it.
I believe that when we take the external challenges people are facing, and add them to what is going on INSIDE of us, that sometimes creates a toxic mix that crushes people– leading to some of the enormous problems we see today. And these things are keeping people from being all God made them to be. That’s what led me to spend a little time talking about that in a recent Facebook LIVE session


Join the Hundreds of Others Who Watched My Video Teaching On This Topic (40 minute discussion)


The August 2017 issue of Time Magazine speaks about the problem of Depression.


Time Magazine


That’s at least part of what I’m addressing here, but not all I’d like to address. I want to use the problem of depression as my starting point, however, so we can use it as a spring board into a larger discussion.
According to Time’s lead article, 16 Million Americans are afflicted by Depression. But– wait for it– One-third of them don’t respond to treatment!!
In Feb 2015, the Center for Disease Control, a US Government service, reported that about 25% of All American Adults (18-65) had seen a therapist in the last 12 months. Let that sink in.
1/4 of Americans are under some regular or irregular PROFESSIONAL mental health care. That’s a significant percentage of people.


CDC Depression


The report, available on the CDC website, reports that the OLDER PEOPLE GET, the more likely they are to need to see a Mental Health Professional– to the tune of 1/3 of median and older adults, according to Mandy Oaklander in the Hope from a Strange Source article being mentioned (Time, August 2017)/
WOW.
Because of the trouble of understanding the complexity of human behavior and the brain, the first antidepressants were introduced only 60 years ago. Clinical Depression– something that should be understood as a serious and significant degree of depression, and not just “feeling bad” occasionally– again, an actual mental health condition, affects a full 6.7% of Americans, nearly 7% of Americans. That’s some 16 million people–not including other people internationally! And that DOES NOT include children and teens.
And believe it or not, depression is the leading cause of disability in the world today.
Depression is like a spider web, and many physical and mental illnesses are related to it.
People may not realize that ANXIETY, PTSD, MIGRAINE HEADACHES, SLEEP DISORDERS, and other issues are sometimes related to depression. Ironically, there hasn’t been a major depression drug breakthrough in the last 30 years, though lots of research has been continuing.
The sad thing is that depression gets the best of some people. In the U.S., suicide is at its highest number in 30 years. And because the situation is so acute, experts agree that patients must get help and they need it more quickly.
As for drugs, it takes up to 4-8 weeks for antidepressants to kick in. And, what’s worse is that 30% of people struggling with depression don’t respond to current treatment options.
As a result, psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, sociologists, physicians, ministers, and others– all of them are frantically trying to figure out what to do as people continue to suffer so profoundly.

The Evolving Understanding of Depression and Related Maladies

Interestingly, doctors have always understood that depression wasn’t just sadness or feeling the blues. Very early on with the ancient physician Hippocrates, 500 B.C., he thought depression had something to do with a bodily fluid imbalance, called Black Bile– from the spleen. Though he was wrong about that, he at least understood that depression was a condition of some sort.
Later, in the Middle Ages, depression was believed to be exclusively a spiritual disease, and possibly even demonic depression. (Though there were some crazy things done to people back then, it’s important to keep in mind that depression SOMETIMES DOES, perhaps OFTEN DOES, have something to do with the spiritual dimension of our lives.)
Later, in the years leading up to the Enlightenment, in the 1600s, the idea came that depression is actually rooted in the BRAIN. But many not-so-great things were done in the name of science early on that were very troubling to us today– things that included electro-convulsive therapy (can you say SHOCK TREATMENTS?), and other types of fixes.
Now, fast forward to the last 30 years. Finally, in 1987 Eli Lilly released a drug based on brain research, and that gave us Prozac and other knock off drugs like it.
The fact is that, despite all this research and thought, psychiatrists have actually said they “have no idea” why, after decades of studying psychotropic drugs and treating people, some people get better, and why such a large percentage do not.

Encouragement for The Large Number of People Not Helped by Medication

Let me give encouragement for The 30% of people Not helped by medication. If your medication is messing you up… or if your drugs aren’t getting the job done– then in consultation with your doctor or therapist, I suggest trying something else… or at least adding to what you’re doing.
Here’s a fact: NOT ALL MENTAL PROBLEMS ARE TREATABLE BY DRUGS.
Sometimes the problem isn’t MENTAL but is more accurately, “Psychological,” if I can make that distinction. Keep reading.
In other words, sometimes depression isn’t rooted in your BRAIN (MENTAL) but in your PSYCHE (MIND). Meaning, sometimes depression is psychological (Meaning in your SOUL).
Don’t miss this: If your depression is not due to your BRAIN– then MEDICAL TREATMENTS TO THE BODY WON’T FIX YOUR PROBLEM– SINCE YOU CAN’T TREAT SPIRITUAL PROBLEMS WITH PHYSICAL REMEDIES. DOES THAT MAKE SENSE?
Let me say it again– you can’t treat spiritual problems with physical remedies. That’s why SOME– up to 30% we think, of people don’t respond to their medications. And that is why I think that sometimes Your Pills aren’t Solving Your Problems.

Non-Drug-Related Solutions to Depression

Now, let’s go to some non-drug solutions suggested by researchers as reported by Time’s Mandy Oaklander, then I’ll go deeper into the spiritual issue.
What are some possible non-drug-related solutions science gives us– for those who aren’t being helped by powerful psychotropic drugs?

1. Exercise— it’s one of the most studied approaches to treating depression, and it helps a lot of people. And it’s free.
2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy— meaning, thinking and behaving differently, where you talk to a counselor or therapist– often 10 to 20 sessions, where you learn techniques of changing negative thought patterns. My opinion on this is that these work for many people– and yet sometimes, they don’t. We want more than “coping” skills, so if Cognitive Behavioral Therapy doesn’t work, keep trying other things.
3) Behavioral Activation Therapy– Another non-drug related treatment is Behavioral Activation therapy- where you take up new behaviors and activities to replace behavior with negative thinking.
4) Mindfulness Training– A fourth major treatment is what’s called “Mindfulness training.” This involves things like daily meditation and yoga.
Let me add to that something that’s more important than mere meditation, and that’s PRAYER.
Meditation is THINKING, while PRAYER is TALKING to God and asking for His Help. So don’t miss that and don’t neglect it. Meditation can help if the problem can be solved by you, but if you can’t solve it within yourself, then you need God’s help.

Understanding Human Nature: A Key To Understanding Some Depression

Now let me take you deep, deep, DEEPER into a critical area of understanding in the topic of depression.
I personally believe that the reason that SOME (note that I am saying SOME, not all, but SOME) treatment for depression, and other maladies that may be related to depression– again, insomnia-sleeplessness, PTSD, anxiety, panic attacks, and so on, the reason I think those may not respond to medication is because they aren’t all “medical” issues.
Some problems we face aren’t physical but spiritual.
If you try to solve spiritual issues in the soul with medical solutions in the body, they won’t be effective, and they can cause more harm than good. Just like if you try to solve medical problems in the body with spiritual solutions alone.
Sometimes you need to take an aspirin IN ADDITION TO PRAYING that God would relieve your headache.
But what I mean here is that, some of us may be looking for medical solutions to spiritual problems. Let me teach you a little about human nature– and this is where Christian educators sometimes differ from other fields of study.
Here’s where you need your thinking cap.

People’s Worldview Impacts Their View of Human Nature and of Treatment for Depression

Many in the Behavioral Fields (secular-behavioral-and some Humanistic psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, therapysts, physicians, etc.) hold a view of human nature that is at odds with scripture, and this is why I think some of their treatments miss the point.

A Secular View of Human Nature- And Its Short-Sightedness

There is an entire field out there that rejects the idea that human nature (how humans are composed) has any type of soul. Some believe we are nothing more than physical bodies… or matter. They are materialists or Physicalists, as the case may be. If you believe as a therapyst or psychiatrist that the only thing that exists is the physical body, then you will treat depression and other maladies as if the only solution is PHYSICAL.
Accordingly, if you believe the human person is nothing more than MATTER and that matter is human flesh made of (a) chemicals and (b) electrical impulses– how will you try to treat such problems? With other chemicals and sometimes electrical impulses. That is what has led to the behavioral community’s production of chemical medications as the primary, and in some cases, only treatment for behavioral issues, depression, and the like.
Does that make sense?
In other words, if the brain is chemicals– then you treat it with chemicals to fix the chemical imbalance in the brain. And in large part– “with regard to the brain and truly brain-related issues,” I agree. But if some medical and counseling professionals assume that “there is no soul” and there are no “inner states” (viz., no conscience, no soul, no real “mind”), then their only treatment option becomes brain-and-not-mind-related treatments– which are largely medications (chemical).
But that’s where SOME– SOME– NOT ALL– in the field of psychiatry and psychology go off the rails.

The Biblical View of Human Nature

Christian educators take their view of human nature from scripture, because we believe God made the body… but that God also made the entire human person.
Podcast Seminary thinks this is important for you to understand. So, let’s go into a little theology.
The Bible teaches that human nature, people, are body, soul and spirit. (1 Thess 5:23). That means the Bible teaches that God made people with BOTH a BODY (chemicals, matter, electrical impulses) AND a SOUL. We are PHYSICAL and SPIRITUAL. So human nature is body, soul, and spirit.
The body is FLESH. The body includes the PHYSICAL BRAIN.
But the soul is not physical. It is not corporeal. It is not material. The soul is, if you please, for lack of a more precise word, “spirit.”
The soul is immaterial. It is not physical. It is not chemical. The human psyche (your mind, emotions, and deliberative choices or “will”) is not matter. Therefore [don’t miss this], the Soul, the Bible teaches, includes the mind, and your emotions, and your will. And these influence and largely regulate our ability to choose, and how our conscience interacts with us. And that’s what we’re studying the human conscience in Podcast Seminary in a very special series at the time of publishing this post.

The Brain and Mind Aren’t the Same Thing

YOUR MIND is a part of your soul. Your BRAIN is a part of your body. Your BRAIN and your MIND are not the same thing.
Your Brain is physical. Your Mind is not.
If the problems you have are caused by problems in your BRAIN, then they are PHYSICAL and can be treated by CHEMICALS or some other cognitive and behavioral techniques.
If your problems are ROOTED IN, caused by, or related to your SOUL– then they are not happening in your BRAIN, but in your MIND. And since the MIND is soul or spirit– you can’t treat SPIRIT with CHEMICALS. The Spirit has to deal with God.
The spirit or soul has to be fixed by spiritual means because it has spiritual causes. So if you have a troubled mind, start with spiritual solutions and work outward toward other behavioral and chemical solutions. If you’ve already tried medications and they haven’t worked… My guess is that the problem is likely something in your soul. That means your issues and problems might be caused by something wrong in your relationship with God.

Relationships Can Also Be Affected By a Wrong Understanding of Human Nature

In addition, in the event that you have “relational” problems– interpersonal problems with others, it’s important to understand that, to the extent the other person approaches the problem the right or wrong way, that too will affect you. So when we (or others) in relationships approach their personal problems or other issues the wrong way, that can affect our relationships. That’s just another reason to get this right.

An Appeal to Take the Bible Seriously About Human Nature and Human Problems

Medication can’t fix the soul– if that’s what’s wrong with us. Medication can’t fix the mind– if that’s what’s wrong with us. Medication can’t ease the conscience– if that’s what’s wrong with us. And medicine can’t solve spiritual problems. In those cases, medication can only mask the real problem and its root causes, and simply dope you up. Ironically, that places you farther than ever from a real solution to your problems.

Our Advice: Start with Your Soul

If you have legitimate problems with depression or other issues that are rooted in the Body and Brain, seek medical help. Then you should even seek psychiatric help if and when needed. But my advice is to START with your SOUL. The brain is a delicate instrument and mind-and-mood-altering drugs are very powerful. They often have profound side-effects. It’s best to look INSIDE your soul before INSIDE your body. More often than not, our bodies are functioning as God intended. The soul is *much more* susceptible to malfunction because we live from our hearts (as writer and brilliant spiritual formation author Dallas Willard said).
If you have depression or other issues rooted in the SOUL and SPIRIT, you might seek nouthetic (biblical) counseling or a solid, biblical Christian counselor. You may want to, if needed, consider other therapeutic help where a solid Christian counselor integrates scriptural truth with helpful integrative counseling and other techniques, and even ultimately medication. But don’t medicate first. And never over medicate.
Most importantly, SEEK SPIRITUAL HELP. SEEK GOD. Seek God’s help.
And that’s my challenge to you IF YOUR PILLS AREN’T SOLVING YOUR PROBLEMS… If you feel like you’ve tried everything else– try God. Try God first, not last. If you’ve tried medication for the body and that didn’t work, try medication for the soul.
God can help.


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[AUDIO PODCAST] Why Your Pills Aren't Solving Your Problems

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Podcast, Why Those Pills Aren't Solving All Your Problems, Facebook


[Podcast Episode]

25% of Americans saw a Mental Health Professional sometime in the last year.

Let that sink in.
As a part of the How to Have a Clear Conscience series, I wanted to address several enormous issues facing people in today’s world and particularly in the United States. In many ways, this episode is about Behavioral Medication or Psychotropic Drugs, Depression, Maladies, Mental Health– and the fields serving people with these types of challenges: Counselors, Therapists, Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Pastors, Sociologists, Physicians, Pharmacists, and others.
Listen to see how a biblical view of human nature changes how we view people and their problems. Especially see why a different approach to depression, medication, addictions, and drug use may be necessary.


Listen Here


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Tom's Story

Blog Header New 2017 July large logoTom's Story, Facebook


WHAT’S YOUR STORY?
By the time I was 17 I had moved nineteen times. This pattern of inconsistency and uncertainty, coupled with mental illness, and without God had me living a life filled with everything the world said would complete me.
Four years in the U.S. Air Force followed by four years in a fraternity at San Diego State University led me down a road of self-destruction that should have killed me.
I accepted the Lord in 1989 and expected things to turn around. It didn’t. I can’t tell you why. It just wasn’t my time. God had other things in mind.
A brief stay in a mental hospital, followed by years of struggling to be normal was my life. It wasn’t until five years ago when I moved back to Irvine to take care of my Mom and Step-dad, that the light shined through and my understanding of life cleared.


WHAT BECAME THE TURNING POINT IN YOUR LIFE AS A DISCIPLE?
The most prolific event that happened was joining Saddleback church. I’ve been involved in some great churches but Pastor Rick Warren has built such a strong, solid church that ministers to a copious amount of ministries all across the world.
It was soon after joining I volunteered to be a leader at a junior-high camp. And the rest is history.
I’ve been four years with the same group of young men and my past has been something I share with these boys to put fear into them, but also to share that God has something much better for them, if obedient.
During these past five years, I’ve also written three books, which has been cathartic and exciting.


HOW MIGHT GOD USE PODCAST SEMINARY IN PEOPLE’S LIVES?
Three years ago, I met Freddy Cardoza at a Saddleback Church Men’s Retreat. We immediately hit it off and have become good friends.
His creation of Podcast Seminary has been nothing short of a miracle. Getting more of a behind the scenes view of this amazing site, I can say without a doubt that God is all over it. The amount of time he has given to creating something people would truly accept and use is humbling.
My hope is that people that are looking for an anchor in these trying times will use Podcast Seminary to help find their way.


Our thanks to Tom Bruner from Irvine, California for telling his story. Is God working in your life? Has Podcast Seminary challenged you to grow in your faith and relationship with God? If so, we encourage you to share your story with us as well! Simply email us!


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Visit BrunersBreak

– The Online Home of Tom Bruner
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How to Make Good Choices [Podcast]

Pod, How to Make Good Choices, Facebook Podcast


 
Little is more important in life than making good choices.
And daily we find ourselves making dozens and dozens of choices.  In fact, a recent study by Cornell University reported that the average person in the United States makes 227 choices daily– just involving issues related to food!  Some estimates are that we make, through big and small choices, up to 35000 choices daily.
Wow!
Whatever the number, we make a lot of choices.  And our choices should be good ones.
In this important episode, Podcast Seminary Dean, Dr. Freddy Cardoza, helps you build a decision-making model based on scripture.  He names and explores three categories informed by God’s Word, then explains what each is, followed by examples of each, and exactly what believers should do in making decisions in each category.
Prepare to learn about:
1) Matters of Conviction
2) Matters of Conscience
3) Matters of Choice


Listen Now!

 

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How to Make Good Choices [Blog]

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How to Make Good Choices

Our world is a complex place. Life’s choices have become increasingly challenging to make.  Discernment is harder than it used to be.  Rather than life presenting us with clearly black and white issues, it seems that society lives more in the marginal grays– where what is right and wrong, or best for us, isn’t always obvious.
That led me to begin searching to find out how many choices we actually make in the course of a day or week.  What I found surprised me.
Every day we make an enormous number of decisions.  So many, in fact, that the matter has caught the attention of social scientists.
It may surprise you that, according to researchers at respected Cornell University, a whopping 226.7 decisions are made each day by the average American… on food alone!  (Would you like fries with that?) What’s more, when taking into consideration all of the choices we make– whether conscious, subconscious,impulsive, logical, and complex decisions– up to a staggering 35,000 choices overall are reportedly made every 24 clock hours of the day for the average person! 

We Make “How Many” Decisions Everyday?

Possibly 35,000.  And if you think about it, it makes at least some sense.

After all, we decide things like when we will get up and whether we will snooze the alarm or not.  choice of toothpaste, if and when to brush our teeth, whether to use mouth wash, when to use mouth wash, and what brand of mouthwash to use– and how much.  Then there’s what we’ll wear.  Considering the fact that the average person wears at least 8 articles of clothing, that racks up another 6-8 decisions, depending on how you count it.  And that’s just before breakfast!
So if this 35,000 choices per day statistic is even remotely true, that calculates to past 2 Million in the average lifetime!  And even if it were much less, you’re still talking in the hundreds and hundreds of thousands per person!

Making Good Decisions is Critical. But How?

With this many choices on the line, we had better learn more about how to make good ones.  This is especially true for the Christian, as we are told in scripture to be discerning about everything (Phil 1:9-10) and to pay close attention to our thinking (2 Cor. 10:5). With these truths in mind, let’s look at some helpful perspectives on how to make decisions as a disciple of Jesus.

1. Identify Whether the Issue is a Matter of Choice, Conscience, or Conviction

2. Then determine the correct course of action, based on the following decision-making grid.


Though I have heard a number of approaches to decision-making, I felt more work needed to be done to help us in areas where believers often disagree and where important life choices must be made.  Decisions, overall, and issues of ethics and morality in particular, are becoming tougher and tougher to discern.
There seemed to be times when the choice models to which I’d been exposed simply didn’t get the job done.  Either the situations required so many exceptions and entailments that the issues overwhelmed the model– or the categories provided for decision-making weren’t a good fit.  Here’s an alternate decision-making model I hope will help.
Everything begins by figuring out what type of decision is being presented to you.  That is what dictates how you will approach the situation.  And if this seems complicated– it really isn’t.  This simply involves working to classify everything into one of three simple biblical categories.  Let’s look more closely at the grid I created that builds off of earlier models I have seen.  What follows isn’t inerrant, but it’s a start and the best insight I have at this point in my thinking.
Here we go.


Three Classifications of Choices

I separate choices into three categories: Matters of Conviction, Conscience, and Choice.  I think these closely mirror what we see in scripture.

  1. Matters of Conviction are issues that the Bible addresses clearly and/or explicitly, and where prohibitions or principles are obvious to Christians who take the Bible seriously.  In these cases, there is no discernment needed as to God’s Will or what to choose… just the decision to be obedient.
  2. Matters of Conscience are issues that may or may not be addressed explicitly in scripture, or that are left purposefully without specific prohibitions or commands, and are especially instances when ‘principles’ need to be clarified and weighed out.  Often these are issues that depend on a myriad of circumstances or mitigating factors that, when those variables are taken into consideration, make a decision a good one or bad one.  But because discernment is needed, and since believers are all at different levels of maturity and Bible knowledge, these are issues where devoted believers can differ (especially when certain groups’ teachings on these issues seem to conflict with scripture) and when, despite the issue being clear to our understanding, a significant group of Christians can knowingly differ on the issue.
  3. Matters of Choice are issues where scripture is silent or provides no directives. It is when the Bible’s teaching is not obligatory and when believers seem to be given permission to do as they choose.

These are quick sketches of each of the three categories explored below.  Their brevity is helpful in some ways, but the simplicity itself raises more questions.  So let’s do a deep dive in each category to see how this approach might help our decision-making, so we can make better choices!


Making Good Choices in “Matters of Conviction”

Matters of Conviction are clearly important.  These are issues where we have genuine and deeply-held beliefs.
Matters of Conviction involve decision-making on issues of moral or theological importance.  Non-moral or theological choices aren’t relevant here because, since they aren’t moral or theological– they do not rise to the level of a biblical conviction.  That is why these matters are so important.
Two Components of a Matter of Conviction
Matters of Conviction are issues that the Bible addresses clearly (say it with me) “when proper Bible interpretation occurs.”  So there are two issues that dictate what I consider to be a Matter of Conviction: (1) Any serious Christian would consider the issue to be one clearly addressed in scripture.  The Bible addresses the matter and teaches on it, usually explicitly– or in such an implicit way that the biblical teaching can’t be missed. That’s the first issue: That the issue is clearly addressed in scripture, be it by implicit principle or explicitly.
The second issue (2) related to a Matter of Conviction is that, when proper biblical interpretation occurs by persons who have a high regard for the authority of scripture, the issue is considered clear to all.  Note that, because of the continual, even incessant assault on the authority of scripture in society and, indeed, in our pulpits and even some seminaries, matters that should be considered clear issues of “conviction” are harder to identify than they should be.  Even so, the position taken in this blog post is that scripture is authoritative and binding, specifically inspired, infallible, and yes– inerrant.  This model of making choices begins to break down when scripture is questioned, simply because the standard is then relativized and the goal posts are moved.  So let’s assume, at least for the purposes of this discussion, that scripture is “true” (an assumption, by the way, that I always make).
Matters of Conviction include a great number of decisions in life.  These “should be” easy for Christians, and are for committed Christians.  These “Matters of Conviction,” being both clearly taught in scripture AND when understood by a person who holds to the authority of scripture, are nothing more than areas of obedience or disobedience to scripture. There is no real question as to whether the action or issue is moral or immoral, right or wrong, good or bad.  There is no question whether the teaching or doctrine should or shouldn’t be honored, because it is explicitly taught from the authoritative source of Christian revelation: scripture.
Possible Examples of Matters of Conviction
Any list such as this is bound to cause some people trouble.  That’s the nature of such things.  But leaving the issue to guessing is even worse.
One can only speak from his or her own perspective, so following is my personal perspective on what would constitute a Matter of Conviction and, as the Apostle Paul says, let each be “convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14:5).

  • Matters of Conviction includes areas where certain behaviors are scripturally forbidden, such as in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20). It doesn’t get much clearer than “Thou shalt not…”   And of course, there are others.  The Ten Commandments are not the only behaviors or issues specifically forbidden or prescribed in the Bible.  A great number of other behaviors are also identified throughout scripture, things such as human sacrifice, practicing divination, being a medium (all in Deuteronomy 18). In these cases, both the explicit thing forbidden and things that flow from them, are clearly considered Matters of Conviction.  So, in this instance, it would be clear (a) in explicit and implicit scriptural teaching and also (b) to anyone committed to the authority of scripture, that everything directly forbidden (cold-blooded murder, theft, adultery, and others) in addition to those things explicitly implied in scripture (fraticide, cheating, consulting a spiritual medium, and the like) are legitimate Matters of Conviction.  But there are others.

 
Ten CommandmentsSource: ucg.org


 

  • Matters of Conviction aren’t only issues that are “illegal” and “immoral.”  Sometimes the Bible considers certain things wrong that are civilly legal.  The fact that these exist show how far culture has “slouched toward Gomorrah” in the words of former Supreme Justice nominee, Judge Robert Bork.   In this case, some laws (or absence of laws) in our society allow certain behaviors that, for Christians, are Matters of Conviction and clearly beyond the pale.  These, though sometimes debated by some, would include issues legal in some places, but nevertheless in clear or implicit violation of scriptural authority, like: marijuana use and the abuse of drugs and medication, drunkenness, abortion on demand, suicide or doctor-assisted suicide, unfair business dealings, sexual activity with deceased persons (on the rise in some places and not always outlawed) or the like.

Interestingly, agreement by Christians on what constitutes a Matter of Conviction isn’t necessary– though most Christians happen to agree.  This is seen in Galatians 2, and can be extrapolated in other instances, where scripture was clear but believers’ behavior and convictions differed.  In that passage, Paul challenged Peter who was “clearly in the wrong” and whose actions were hypocritical, in that Peter’s actions threatened Christian fellowship and even Christian doctrine.  Scripture was clear– and the issue was one of obedience, not a crisis of conscience.
Sadly, it’s not uncommon for believers to differ on issues like these which should be “slam dunks” scripturally, but disagreements still happen. Even so, when the Bible is clear about certain issues, choices, or decisions, no discernment is needed.  Christians should be obedient to scripture and to the Lord, and stand one’s ground, in spite of whether others disagree.  The Holy Spirit will settle the rest.  No one made that more clear than the Apostle Paul in Philippians 3:15 who said, “All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.”


 

Making Good Choices in “Matters of Conscience”

The second category in making good choices, it seems to me, are Matters of Conscience.
Matters of Conscience are as follows: (1) decision-making issues that may or may not be directly mentioned in scripture, and that (2) Christians may feel very strongly about, but that (3) reasonable Christians can conclude are either not explicit nor clear in scripture, requiring patience and humility toward others on such matters.
It’s important to keep in mind that Matters of Conscience are very much “important.”  The fact that devoted believers may disagree on some of these issues does not lessen their importance most of the time. These are issues where right and wrong are (or apparently are) in play. These are deeply personal issues of one’s conscience and stir our hearts profoundly in some cases.
When a Matter of Conscience exists– even if a person might agree that “good Christians can disagree” on the matter, that does not require the believer to weaken their own conviction…. but it does require us to “live and let live.”  In other words, these are issues that require both personal conviction on one’s values and interpersonal grace and humility at the same time.
Matters of Conscience are issues that trigger the conscience and that good biblical Christians can differ upon. These are areas where important issues are involved, including issues that may have some moral connotations, but that lack sufficient biblical clarity, or where nuances of language, cultural considerations, or challenges of interpretation might exist or are perceived to exist.
The danger here is that, because of people’s increasing lack of conviction about the authority of scripture in some areas of Christendom (among believers, churches, and theological institutions), there are those who would like to push nearly every issue into this category or lower.  Some Christians have even relegated things like “Jesus being the only way to God” (John 14:6) to an unnecessary and unbinding issue.  Even so, lest we drift into moral subterfuge and amorality, this category should be clearly defined and carefully understood.
On Matters of Conscience, the individual believer isn’t or shouldn’t be confused.  Because they are matters of “conscience,” the issues are mostly straight-forward, at least in our mind.  They evoke and stimulate our consciences, so we feel strongly about these issues.  That is not the issue.  The issue is that “our conviction is not shared by most/all.”  And, if pressed, a mature believer would admit that there may be room in these issues where scripture “could have been more clear” and, because it isn’t, there was an intentional decision to leave them as they are.
Possible Examples of Matters of Conscience

  • In the New Testament, though scripture seemed to be clear to many, still other believers with a different background had different opinions.  Some believers, primarily Jewish, sought circumcision (Galatians 5:1-4) while others did not.  Another instance was where some believers felt free to eat meat sacrificed to idols (Galatians 2:11-16) and others didn’t.  In other words, their consciences were each triggered differently about the same issue.  Though scripture was, over time, understood and increasingly clear, there was a time when devoted Jesus followers did not share the same view.  Both loved Christ and were committed to scripture.  Both thought they were right about the issue, but they generally gave other believers freedom of conscience.  And that’s why these are called Matters of Conscience.

Other issues about which Christians disagree, though scriptural teaching in some form or another exist, are:

  • Choices about social drinking
  • Tithing
  • Dancing
  • Immigration issues
  • Some (perhaps not all) political planks in different political parties’ platforms (minimum wage-fair wage disputes, social justice causes, etc.)
  • Recycling
  • Psychiatric Care issues
  • Stances on ‘Climate Change’ as an ideology
  • About a million more.

Personally, I have strong convictions, one side or the other, on these issues.  And I believe that scripture touches these matters.  But I also understand these issues, at least “some of them,” can be understood differently by other well-meaning and devoted believers.  And while they may strongly believe I am wrong on some of these choices, and me-them, I still extend to them courtesy, mercy, and grace– even though these can remain areas of disagreement and even debate.
What should we do in these instances?
Believers should:
• Know their positions on these issues
• Uphold-live their beliefs and honor their consciences
• Be prepared to discuss their positions
• Patiently give love and honor to those who differ (1 Cor 8; 1 Cor 10:29)


 

Making Good Choices in “Matters of Choice”

The final category in my thinking about “making good choices” is called “Matters of Choice.”
In Matters of Choice, we are faced with issues where no clear scriptural issue is at play. These are general issues of importance to some people, including strong importance, but that are not addressed in scripture or that scripture gives freedom of expression. Some people feel strongly enough about these issues that they seek to elevate their status to higher levels, but in truth, they aren’t.
Note here that– being a Matter of Choice doesn’t mean that these aren’t important, or that they’re not worth sweating, or that I am undervaluing them. Indeed, almost every (not all, but many) decisions– even Matters of Choice– are important, at least to the person making the choice…. but here, I’m not saying “Matters of Insignificance,” but rather, Choice.  And as such, this simply means that there are no explicit or implicit scriptural prohibitions or commands that require our obedience.
Think of it this way.  God leads us in choices.  Sometimes God even gives us freedom in what to choose, without much or any direction.  But these can still be important decisions.  Where OR IF you go to college, for example, is an important decision. But it’s not a scriptural one.  What you wear is important– but it is a matter of choice.  Only if issues of modesty enter in does it move to another category, such as a Matter of Conscience or Matter of Conviction.  Normally, things like these, though important, are matters of choice.  You are free to do what you want.  And as the Apostle Paul said, these things shouldn’t all be taken lightly (though some choices can and should be taken lightly).
Paul’s admonition was to say:

“I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is beneficial (1 Cor. 10:23).

Possible Examples of Matters of Choice

  • Whether women wear pants or skirts/dresses or makeup or jewelry (some take issue with this based on certain scriptural passages that are misunderstood as prohibitions)
  • Whether you buy expensive items or not (meaning, cost of something isn’t necessarily a sign of materialism in and of itself)
  • Choosing to be vegan-vegetarian (or Paleo or any other version of food intake) (Mark 7:15-19; simple video explanation on why it is a choice and not a doctrinal issue of conviction or conscience)
  • The choice of using “paper or plastic or a reusable shopping bag” at a grocery store (as some have made all environmental issues issues bearing more importance than given in scripture)
  • Celebrating Christmas and one’s position on Santa Claus (important to many, but not scriptural issue per se)
  • One’s approach about handling the Easter Bunny issue with their children or church (important to many, but not scriptural issue per se)
  • Dressing up or not dressing up for Halloween (important to many, but not scriptural issue per se)
  • Where you go to college and if you go to college (not a true moral issue, but an important decision or matter of choice)
  • Whether you go to one Bible-believing church or denomination or a different Bible-believing church or denomination
  • Whether you use one type of Bible translation or another (any situation where a ‘translation’ is seen as the accurate one that “cannot ever be changed” like was discussed with the ESV recently and that is held by some KJV-only groups)
  • And all other issues of choice

What to Do: Believers should:
• Ensure the issue is indeed only a matter of choice (Rom 14:5)
• Live in freedom (Gal 5:1)
• Don’t allow your freedom in Christ to be taken by others who self-righteously judge your legitimate freedom in Christ Col. 2:16-17
• Personally decide if and when to temporarily and situationally suspend your freedom for weaker Christians (1 Cor 8:9)
• Be patient with immature believers and don’t argue over the issues (Rom 14:1)
• Don’t accept or tolerate the self-righteous judgment of others in these areas where no accusations should exist (Rom 14:10)
• Central in all these issues is that Christians love one another (John 13:34-35) and not judge one another (Col 2:16-17)


Summary

These are principles of how to make good choices.  By using this one or by creating your own that corresponds with scripture, you can quickly assess how to approach different decisions, especially when you have the opportunity to think about choices that need to be made.
By simply asking yourself, “Is this a Matter of Conviction (a truly non-negotiable biblical truth issue), a Matter of Conscience (an important issue that the Bible addresses, but that we must carefully weigh using our conscience and discernment of broader biblical principles), or a Matter of Choice (either a trivial issue or a more important issue, but one that the Bible provides no compelling prohibition or command for, providing you the opportunity to decide for yourself, without the need for others’ condemnation),  you can then go into each category and use the suggested principles to help you in decision making– so you can make good choices!
If you found this helpful, please share it!
 


Sources
Food and Other Choices Made Daily: (Wansink and Sobal, 2007)
Total number of choices daily: (https://go.roberts.edu/leadingedge/the-great-choices-of-strategic-leaders)
 


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Charlottesville [Special Podcast on Racism]

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Racism is a scourge of our time.
Whether it is racism, hatred, or any form of person-centered evil, it should be condemned.
In this special episode of Podcast Seminary, Dean Freddy Cardoza discusses the happenings at Charlottesville on August 12, 2017 as they were unfolding, including personal experiences involving racism, and an appeal for the embrace of a biblical view of race and humanity.


Listen Now


 
 

Hear Ron's Story (Part 2) and the Story of His Involvement in Launching Podcast Seminary [PODCAST]

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Listen to “Ron’s Story

We often say that “everybody has a story.” That’s certainly true with Ron. This is part two of a first-ever live Podcast Seminary interview in Studio C Los Angeles (see the studio).


In Part 2 of this audio interview, Ron talks Discipleship. We discuss some of the needs Christians and churches have in discipleship today, along with needed solutions. You’ll also hear about Ron’s involvement in the formulation of Podcast Seminary– from a single discussion had after a discipleship event in 2016.


Listen Now


Your Turn

Do you have a story? We want to hear about it. People want to read it! We are even willing to consider featuring your story on PodcastSeminary.com/blog in a future post like this one.
Your StoryConnect with me through leaving a comment below or by going to the Contact page, and we’ll get started!