Why Akathleptos?

Why Akathleptos? Because it means Uncontainable. God is infinite. Hence, the whole universe cannot contain Him. The term also refers to the incomprehensibility of God. No man can know everything about God. We can know Him personally but not exhaustively, not even in Heaven.

Why Patmos? Because the church is increasingly marginalized and exiled from the culture.

Why Pen-Names? So the focus is on the words and not who wrote them. We prefer to let what we say stand on its own merit. There is precedent in church history for this - i.e., the elusive identity of Ambrosiaster who wrote in the 4th century A.D.

“Truth is so obscured nowadays, and lies so well established, that unless we love the truth we shall never recognize it." Blaise Pascal

Saturday, June 25, 2016

There's Always A Market For Snake Oil

Snake oil is an expression that originally referred to fraudulent health products or unproven medicine but has come to refer to any product with questionable or unverifiable quality or benefit. By extension, a snake oil salesman is someone who knowingly sells fraudulent goods or who is themselves a fraud, quack, or charlatan.

Dozens of people were burned this week at the "hot coals" walk that huckster Tony Robbins is known for (see here.) Robbins markets himself as the nation's "#1 Life & Business Strategist". He has garnered for himself an impressive client list that spans the political, sports as well as the glamour world. With no formal education, he became well known from his television infomercials and self-help books: "Unlimited Power", "Unleash the Power Within" and "Awaken the Giant Within." In 2007, he was named in Forbes magazine's "Celebrity 100" list. Forbes estimated that Robbins earned approximately US$30 million in that year.

No stranger to controversy, Robbins:
  • was charged by the Federal Trade Commission on misrepresentation of potential earnings to franchise investors.
  • was sued for copyright infringement and plagiarism.
  • One chapter of "Unlimited Power", called "Energy: The Fuel of Excellence", is dedicated to a discussion of health and energy. The National Council Against Health Fraud wrote a highly critical review of the chapter.
  • In July 2012, the San Jose Mercury News published a story reporting that multiple people had been burned and hospitalized during one of Robbins' firewalking events on July 19, 2012
  • Robbins divorced his first wife after 14 years of marriage and was accused of adultery before marrying another woman.
He uses "firewalking" (the act of walking barefoot over a bed of hot embers or stones) in his seminars to "push people through their fears." Firewalking has been practiced by many people and cultures in all parts of the world, with the earliest known reference dating back to Iron Age India – c. 1200 BC. Modern physics has explained the phenomenon, concluding that the amount of time the foot is in contact with the ground is not enough to induce a burn, combined with the fact that embers are not good conductors of heat.

Firewalking is frequently held to imply that the feat requires the aid of a supernatural force, strong faith, or on an individual's ability to focus on "mind over matter". Since the 20th century, this practice is often used in corporate and team-building seminars and self-help workshops as a "confidence-building exercise." It is foolishly dangerous with inherent risk:
  • People have burned their feet when they remained in the fire for too long, enabling the thermal conductivity of the embers to catch up
  • One is more likely to be burned when running through the embers since running pushes one's feet deeper into the embers, resulting in the top of the feet being burnt
  • Foreign objects in the embers may result in burns. Metal is especially dangerous since it has a high thermal conductivity
  • Embers which have not burned long enough can burn feet more quickly. Embers contain water, which increases their heat capacity as well as their thermal conductivity. The water must be evaporated already when the firewalk starts
  • Wet feet can cause embers to cling to them, increasing the exposure time
The Christian Research Institute has extensive analysis of Robbins here in an article entitled "Personal Power or Harmful Hedonism?"

What is the substance behind the teachings that draw throngs of adoring crowds to Anthony Robbins’s events? Are his ideas compatible with biblical theology? Are they logical and coherent? The remainder of this article will address two key foundations of his ideas (pain/pleasure and neurolinguistic techniques), as well as his views of truth, theism, and his firewalking practices.

... Given the lack of emphasis on truth and the variety of citations from contradictory religious sources, Robbins appears to be a religious pluralist. This means that he is not concerned with the truth or falsity of any particular religion, but instead seems to view all religions as valid so long as they “empower” and “strengthen” the adherent.

Robbins’s primary emphasis, however, comes across as sympathetic to Eastern religious ideas. Specific phrases and ideas are also reminiscent of “New Age” spirituality such as when he writes, “Your reality is the reality you create.”23 One of his Twitter posts quotes Taoist philosopher Lao-tzu: “There are many paths to enlightenment. Be sure to take one with a heart.”

Ron Rhodes has written of Robbins: “In his books he approvingly cites Eastern and New Age types like Marianne Williamson, Bernie Siegel, Deepak Chopra, Andrew Weil, Confucius, Mahatma Gandhi, Emmet Fox, and A Course in Miracles. Other New Age indicators involve his use of Native American chants, and his idea that mystical secrets locked in the right side of the brain can be unleashed using his techniques.”

Robbins’s religious eclecticism is also, as Rhodes observes, “in keeping with his New Age leanings. On a number of occasions, he acknowledges many ‘great teachers’—including Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, Confucius, and Lao-Tzu.”

... For the Christian, firewalking for religious or motivational reasons is unnecessary. Our source of motivational ability is not within our own fallen nature, but in Christ.

... Tony Robbins comes across as an amiable, caring, and sincere individual. His Twitter posts, for instance, often convey joy, encouragement, and a delight in life. In addition, he is not a hoarder of his wealth, having established a variety of venues to offer philanthropic assistance in various forms. Neverthe less, good intentions, no matter how sincere, are not enough to outweigh serious logical and theological deficiencies. The foundational principles underlying his philosophy are on shaky ground, to say the least. 

... The real giant within is not unbounded human potential, but our capacity to sin. What is the solution to our serious problem? It is not in us, but in Christ. As Paul wrote, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God— through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:24–25).

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