Posts tagged “scripture

Is Choice Theory in the Bible?

Choice Theory and Scripture

The ideas of choice theory have appealed to me a lot. Initially, I the appeal had to do with my belief that choice theory ideas would improve the school at which I was a principal. As I learned more about the ideas, though, I came to see that they were deeper than mere school improvement, as important as that goal is, and that similar to a C.S. Lewis phrase out of Narnia, choice theory involved “deeper magic.” In other words, unintentionally, Glasser had stumbled onto spiritual principles as his therapeutic strategies took form.

I have thought about choice theory and its comparison to spiritual principles a great deal and thus far it has appeared to me that they consistently strengthen and support one another. Choice theory is not a gospel in itself. Choice theory describes and explains human behavior, but it doesn’t empower. It can explain, as our last blog did, how a person can repeatedly choose an unhealthy way to meet a need, yet this insight does not necessarily bring about change. Scripture is full of choice theory, yet religionists have missed it. So many of us church-attenders have not come into a knowledge and appreciation for our own role in making good choices, in believing, in having a saving faith. Many are waiting for God to change them from the outside-in, like a giant puppeteer, but alas, they’re still waiting. So, anyway, I think the two – the principles of choice theory and the principles of Scripture – can help each other.

Over the years I have been collecting Biblical texts that speak to or support choice theory components. What follows are texts that speak to each of the basic needs. Glasser settled on five basic needs – survival, love and belonging, power, freedom, and fun – although in Control Theory (1984) he allowed for flexibility in this list. My list of basic needs looks slightly different and includes – Purpose and Meaning, Love and Belonging, Power and Achievement, Freedom and Autonomy, Joy and Fun, and Security and Safety. I invite you to add to this list. What Scriptures have you found that support the basic needs?

Purpose and Meaning

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”   Jer. 29:11

“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.”   John 10:10

Love and Belonging

But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees with his reply, they met together to question him again. One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”    Matthew 22:34-40

Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.   1 John 4:11, 12

Power and Achievement

Trust in the Lord and do good.
Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you your heart’s desire.   Ps. 37:3, 4

“I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him.”   Ephesians 1:19

Freedom and Autonomy

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, because the Lord has appointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to announce that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.”   Isaiah 61:1

Now, the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, he gives freedom.  2 Cor. 3:17

Joy and Fun

Taste and see that the Lord is good.
Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!   Psalms 34:8

“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey me, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father and remain in his love. I have told you this so that you will be filled with joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!”  John 15:9-11

Security and Safety

“Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but to trust the Lord means safety.”   Proverbs 29:25

“I am leaving you with a gift — peace of mind and heart.  And the peace I give isn’t like the peace the world gives.  So don’t be troubled or afraid.”   John 14:27

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I am comfortable with the concept of the basic needs. I cannot prove their existence, and if we agree on their existence we cannot prove exactly what a person’s basic need strengths are. Yet theory of the basic needs provides a very good starting point when considering personality and motivation. To know ourselves seems to be a life-long process. Sometimes when I pray I ask the Spirit to show me me. Over time I have come to see myself a little differently. I used to think that I have a very high power need; now it seems to me that my power need is somewhat average, while my love and belonging need is very high. Regardless, the premise of the basic needs is supported in Scripture. And it is so cool that God cares about our needs so much. As Paul wrote – “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.”   Philippians 4:19

God and Choice Theory: Some Thoughts

A few days ago I posted a question on why the God of the Old Testament seems to behave so differently than He does in the New Testament. Was the God of the Old Testament a choice theorist? Several of you commented on this topic – thank you, Paul, Bob, and Tom for helping us with this conversation. I, too, will attempt a comment. What follows is my two cents worth –

Comparing the behavior of God in the Old Testament to His behavior in the New Testament has challenged the thinking of theologians for centuries. There seems to be such marked differences between the two, yet we know that the same God was centrally involved both before (during) and after the Cross. Why the difference?

I don’t claim to have the answer to this vital question. Since coming into an appreciation for choice theory I must admit that I have thought about the question with greater interest. In the process, I have come to recognize the importance of the power of choice and the freedom with which God created us. And since we are created in His image I have to believe that these are qualities He values a great deal. With that in mind, I offer the following ideas to the discussion –

1) The Old Testament Had Its Flaws

Heresy, you may say, but hold on. I actually got this idea from Jesus. A significant section of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:21-48) is devoted to Jesus pointing out that “You have heard that the law says . . .” whereupon He comments on things like anger, murder, adultery, divorce, vows, vengeance, and relationships. After stating what the Old Testament law supposedly demanded, He surprises us by continuing with ” . . . but I say unto you . . .” whereupon He shares a much different response, a decidedly different way of being. Don’t return violence for violence, he encourages, but instead give your cheek to be slapped if that will help. Don’t only want to be in relationship with friends, he offers, but instead behave in a way that will even show love to people you consider to be your enemy.

Jesus, who is the God of the Old Testament, must have had a huge challenge communicating with the human race. I think we really don’t understand the gulf that sin created between us and heaven. Only God coming to our little outpost called earth, and showing us who He really is and what He is really like, would begin to shed light on the events of the Old Testament.

2) We Struggled with LSL (Love as a Second-Language)

As a result of sin, the gulf between earth and heaven was wide, and our ability to commune with God directly was broken. Not severed, but seriously damaged. God’s primary language, which is love, became foreign to us. Communication was an issue. Some of the Bible writers seemed to get this language of love; others not so much. A passage in Genesis is relevant here.

“And the LORD told Moses, “When you arrive back in Egypt, go to Pharaoh and perform all the miracles I have empowered you to do. But I will harden his heart so he will refuse to let the people go.” Ex 4:21

I don’t think that God reached down and forced pharaoh to be obstinate. Most of us agree that God simply knew in advance how pharaoh was going to react to Moses’ demands. This seems to be an example of the kinds of misleading passages sometimes found in the Old Testament. Bible writers said it the best way they knew how, and maybe said it in the way they thought their hearers or readers would understand, but something was lost in the translation.

Many Bible writers did “get” God’s love language, though, and the Old Testament is full of such examples. Take, for instance, a passage from the Psalms.

Listen to me, O my people, while I give you stern warnings.
O Israel, if you would only listen to me!
You must never have a foreign god; you must not bow down before a false god.
For it was I, the LORD your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it with good things.
But no, my people wouldn’t listen. Israel did not want me around.
So I let them follow their own stubborn desires, living according to their own ideas.
Oh, that my people would listen to me.  Psalms 81:8-13

This description reveals a God anxious to fill people with good things, and hurt and frustrated that His people didn’t even want Him around. Instead of fire and brimstone and threats and punishment, it simply says then He let us follow our own stubborn desires and live according to our own ideas. To me, this writer is capturing a more accurate picture of God; a picture that emphasizes His love for us, and at the same time reminds us of our ability to either embrace Him and what He stands for or to tell Him to take a hike. And even in the midst of our telling Him to take a hike, He continues to love and support us; to seek us out; to save us.

Language is important. And the words we choose are important, especially so when they depict the character of God. An obvious theme throughout scripture is the theme of choice. God created us with the ability to choose and He has sought to maintain that freedom from the beginning. Let’s keep this theme in mind as we read the messages of scripture.

C.S. Lewis commented on this topic when he wrote in his classic book, The Great Divorce, “In the end there will be but two classes of people—those who say to God, Thy will be done, and those to whom God says, thy will be done.”

Of all our choices, this really is the ultimate choice.

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