Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Reflection Upon Lent

Today begins Lent. For some this is a religious ritual to be performed every year, for others it means absolutely nothing, and for many others, it is an intentional, heart-felt time of reflection upon the cross of Jesus Christ. As followers of Christ, we do not simply toss out 2000 years of church tradition as meaningless in order to embrace a hipper, more relevant type of Christianity. The history of the Christian church, for better or worse, should be instructive and should lead us more fully to the throne of grace. Our Mediator, the one who bled and died for each one of us, should be honored year round, but the Lenten season offers us a rhythm, an extended period of reflection before the celebration of the Resurrection. Yes, we flow within the rhythms and movements of the Spirit, but the Spirit uses tradition. The Spirit uses the community of the faithful throughout the history of time. When we disdain church history and tradition, we also disdain the community of the faithful not realizing that we are a member of the Church universal throughout time, not just in the present moments of life. Perhaps during this Lenten season, we might realize more deeply what it means to be the timeless, eternal Body of Christ. So that we "may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible [we] may attain the resurrection from the dead" (Phil. 3:10-11).

Saturday, December 12, 2009

From Paul Tillich's The Courage to Be

Just as relevant now as it was in the early 1950s:

"The anxiety which . . . is potentially present in every individual becomes general if the accustomed structures of meaning, power, belief, and order disintegrate. These structures, as long as they are in force, keep anxiety bound within a protective system of courage by participation. The individual who participates in the institutions and ways of life of such a system is not liberated from personal anxieties but he has means of overcoming them with well- known methods. In periods of great changes these methods no longer work. Conflicts between the old, which tries to maintain itself, often with new means, and the new, which deprives the old of its intrinsic power, produce anxiety in all directions."

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Wendell Berry on "Going Green"

"Abstraction is the enemy wherever it is found. The abstractions of sustainability can ruin the world just as surely as the abstractions of industrial economics. Local life may be as much endangered by those who would 'save the planet' as by those who would 'conquer the world.' For 'saving the planet' calls for abstract purposes and central powers that cannot know--and thus will destroy--the integrity of local nature and local community. In order to make good ecological sense for the planet, you must make ecological good sense locally. You can't act locally by thining globally" (Berry; Sex, Freedom, Economy, & Community; 23).

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My Opening Statement at Skepticon II Debate, Missouri State University on the Question: Does God Exist?

“Religion must die for mankind to live.” This quote comes from Bill Maher’s concluding soliloquy to his film Religulous. I would fully agree with Maher, but not in the way he intended. In a published series of sermons entitled The Word of God and the Word of Man, 20th century theologian Karl Barth writes, “Religious arrogance permits itself simply everything . . . experience becomes its own enjoyment, its own sufficiency, its own end” (68). He goes on to write, “We long for the righteousness of God, and yet we do not let it enter our lives and our world . . . we know what the one thing needful for us really is, but we set it aside [until] better times—in the meanwhile making ourselves sick with substitutes” (299). In Barth, Maher finds an unlikely partner in the battle against religion. Barth rails against the small-minded religious pursuits of humanity while maintaining a belief in the God who is above all religion.
What we must recognize is that the failures of religion are no more a disproof of God’s existence then the failures of government officials are a disproof of the principles upon which a country like America was founded. Can we disprove the goodness of the principle simply by looking at the failures of those who represent this principle? I would strongly argue that we cannot. The failures of those in religious power including sex scandals, ignorance, and a disgusting lack of humility; the gross justification of war and violence through the invocation of the gods of religion; the deceitfulness of those who would extort money in the name of their god of religion; the apparent contradictions in the words and actions of the religious—these do not disprove the existence of God. They simply prove that humanity is bent toward destroying itself. We only need look around us to determine this.
Is theism the cause of this? Well, there is no doubt that religion has often participated in this self-destruction. However, the thesis that theism is somehow behind all the violence of this world is false and a gross generalization. If we are intellectually honest, we will realize that all of us are religious, whether or not we are theists. Religion is after all, not necessarily associated with theism, but is rather “the beliefs, attitudes, emotions, behavior, etc., constituting a man’s relationship with the powers and principles of the universe” (Funk and Wagnalls). I think of the Cult of Reason established after the dechristianization of France during the French revolution. I think of the religion of communism and a man like Joseph Stalin who was one of the bloodiest despots in modern history terrorizing and killing millions of people. Perhaps religion, in the sense of extreme ideology and a twisted, disgusting lust for power, is the cause of most of the violence in the world; but one should never make the error of equating religion and theism.
So, if we are able to move past our critiques of religion, and move past Feuerbach’s assessment that the question of God is nothing more than a question of anthropology, we just might be able to deal with some of the tough philosophical issues that get at the heart of the matter. I will briefly address two: 1) The foundation of morality, and 2) The human transcendence of biological processes.

1) Can we be good without God? Let me be clear here. This is not the same as asking if those who do not believe in God can live good moral lives—often those who do not believe put the lives of those who do to shame. But this is not a question of belief. This is a question of God’s existence. William Lane Craig writes, “If God exists, then the objectivity of moral values, moral duties, and moral accountability is secured . . . in the absence of God, that is, if God, does not exist, then morality is just a human convention, that is to say, morality is wholly subjective and non-binding. We might act in precisely the same ways that we do in fact act, but in the absence of god, such actions would no longer count as good (or evil), since if God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist. Thus, we cannot truly be good without God.” We make judgments based upon right and wrong everyday. And we do this independently of whether anybody believes it to be so. This is to say that the Crusades were morally wrong, even though the Christians who carried them out thought they were doing God’s work. This is also to say that the Holocaust was morally reprehensible even though the Nazis who carried it out thought it was good. How can you say that incest or child molestation is objectively wrong? The naturalist argument does not compute. If we are just a biological organism, then morality is culturally relative and one has no more right to say a particular action is wrong than they do to say that 2+2 does not equal 5. Kai Nielsen, an atheist ethicist and extensive writer on the topic of morality, writes, “We have not been able to show that reason requires the moral point of view, or that all really rational persons should not be individual egoists or classical amoralists. Reason doesn’t decide here. The picture I have painted for you is not a pleasant one. Reflection on it depresses me . . . Pure practical reason, even with good knowledge of the facts, will not take you to morality.”

2) In the beginning of Civilization and Its Discontents Freud recounts how his friend wrote to him stating that his previous book, The Future of an Illusion, had not appreciated the true source of religions sentiments. “This, he [said], consists in a peculiar feeling, which he himself is never without, which he finds confirmed by many others, and which he may suppose is present to millions of people. It is a feeling which he would like to call a sensation of ‘eternity,’ a feeling as of something limitless, unbounded—as it were, ‘oceanic’” (10-11). Freud, however, never reckons with this friend’s feeling. Freud simply responds that science cannot easily deal with such a feeling. And he is correct.
But this statement and this refusal to engage seems to ignore the history that tells us of how many people experienced this same feeling and longing. Our eternal, transcendent nature seems to be apparent in so many things. The artist who says that she must make art. It is simply in her. Not because she is trying to survive, not because she is trying to make a living, but simply because she can do nothing but make art. It is her eternal, transcendent nature expressing itself. Why did men and women make cave paintings that date back to almost 32,000 years ago? What is this compulsion? What about those who have chosen to die for the love of another? How is this inline with the idea that we are nothing more than a biological organism? I would argue that our makeup is inherently transcendent and eternal because we were made by and in the image of a Creator.

In conclusion, I would like to offer some reflections on faith. Maher states in his film, “the only appropriate attitude for man to have about the big questions is . . . doubt.” I would fully agree. But I would take that conclusion further by proposing that faith is the logical conclusion of doubt. And everyone has faith in something, whether it is in themselves or in a higher power. Paul Tillich defines faith as the act of being “ultimately concerned,” which means that doubt is a necessary element in it. “It is a consequence of the risk of faith” (Dynamics of Faith, 21). “A scientist who states that a scientific theory is beyond doubt would at that moment cease to be scientific” (Ibid). Tillich goes on to write, “Serious doubt is confirmation of faith. It indicates the seriousness of the concern [and] its unconditional character.” Perhaps many theists in the world could learn a thing or two about humble doubt, the realization that we will never prove the existence of God with any absolute certainty. However, I have chosen faith in God in the face of doubt because it is the only reasonable and coherent way for me to view the world.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hiding behind a Thin Veneer of Intellectualism or Why the Mask is Easier?

Not too long ago I wrote about freedom in Christ. I wrote about living a Romans 7 life versus living a Romans 8 life. I claimed that I knew without a doubt that Romans 7 was and is not descriptive of the Christian life. I continue to maintain this, but I would like to define “freedom.”
Paul tells us in Romans 8:1,“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” This may be my favorite passage in the Bible. I think it always has been. This is because I feel such a massive sense of relief when I read this verse. Do you feel a sense of relief when you read it? If you don’t, I guess I would wonder why.
In a letter to his friend Phillip Melanchthon, Martin Luther advised to “sin boldly.” He wrote, “If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.” Perhaps this is the point at which Luther has been most derided and criticized for a pessimistic view of the Christian life. I disagree with this derision. I propose that what both Paul and Luther were saying is that true freedom comes not in a sinless life, which is impossible, but in taking off the mask. When we “sin boldly” we refuse to hide behind the veneers we have created for ourselves. We become at peace with the fact that we can hold none of this together. And we die . . . we die to the life we have tried to create for ourselves.
I propose that freedom is being so sure that “there is therefore now no condemnation in Christ Jesus” that you are willing to let people know your full humanity, sins and successes, joys and failures. It is being so confident of who Christ is that you are willing to step out in honesty toward the call Jesus has for your life.

But I am not there yet and in so many ways, the mask is easier . . .

Since I have been in Springfield, MO I have become pretty comfortable with my mask. I have even flouted it around the seminary I attend. I take some solace in the fact that I can hold a theological conversation or that I can write a good paper. The problem is, I have forgot what freedom looks like. And instead, I once again put on the chains of doctrinal quibbles and religious mandates.
In some sense, these chains are easier. They are comforting. Many days since I have been here I have held tight to these chains. I have accepted them and even thought of them as freedom. Maybe I thought freedom was being recognized for the things I wanted to be recognized for. Maybe I thought freedom looked like the person I thought I should be like. Maybe I thought freedom looked like the person who always seemed to have the right thing to say at the right time, the right joke to use, the right advice, the profound correction for the church or for the people around them. And then once again, I forgot the words of Paul: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 11:9). Or better yet, Paul’s definition of freedom in Galatians 5: “For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness” (5:5).
What if freedom doesn’t look like the guy who has it all together? What if freedom looks more like the woman pouring the jar of alabaster and crying all over Jesus’ feet? What if freedom looks more like the guy at the cross ripping his clothes crying out, “Save me, a sinner?”
As ministers of the new covenant, we have been told through the words of Paul to the Corinthian church to take our masks off, to stop hiding behind our veils. “But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:16-18). Paul then goes on to tell us that we have this ministry only by “the mercy of God” (v 1).
The old covenant of Sinai is done away with. It has been completely removed. We no longer live in the bondage of condemnation. We are freed to participate in the “ministry of righteousness” (v 9). And yet, even today, we make people dress themselves up in a bunch of chains before they can enter the church.
I’ve seen people remove the veil before and it doesn’t involve correct exegesis or correct doctrine. There seems to be only two requirements: a humble acknowledgement of the self and an awe before the majesty of God. When one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. When the veil is removed, no one sees how great we are. No one should ever see what we have done. If someone believes this is what an unveiled face looks like, they are gravely misinformed. When we remove the veil, the people around us should see one thing and one thing alone, the glory of God!
So why do some people keep wearing the mask? Or why do some people think they have taken the mask off when they have really just traded their old mask in for a new one? I think it is because the world has convinced us that the mask is easier. And to be honest, I think in a lot of ways, even though people may claim otherwise, the culture around us is more comfortable with everyone simply wearing their masks and not hindering the mask-wearing joys of someone else. I have become all too comfortable with this in Springfield, MO.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Ken Wilber's World

So over the course of the past two weeks, I have been trying to get into Ken Wilber's world, see things from his perspective.  It has been a daunting task to say the least, but I am changed by it.  I am more aware of my own presuppositions and my own subjectivity than I have ever been before.  And I am better for it.  Perhaps this study will be the first step in a newfound passion for me: striving to swim with the new currents of American spirituality.  Maybe in the process I can get others to join me in venturing out into new territory. 

Why Study Ken Wilber? 

It is a difficult task to summarize the thought of Ken Wilber. His first book, The Spectrum of Consciousness, was published in 1977. In between now and the present, he has written numerous books including A Brief History of Everything (1996), which was perhaps his most well-received book, and his most recent book, The Integral Vision (2007).

He has apparently become somewhat of a 21st century guru to the American public. Looking at those who have written about his thought and writings on Amazon ( and on his own website (, it is evident that people are responding to his thinking like someone responds to the thinking of a great spiritual leader. For example, someone wrote on Amazon: "Ken's creation of the 4 Quandrants brings enlightenment to the very concept of enlightenment, making way for a clear mind to identify the all-inclusive reality of transcending the ego and returning back into the oneness of Spirit WHILE living healthily, honestly, and with understanding in this world of form. ALL who have seen the light of their true being, even if only a glimpse, MUST read this book."  This review demonstrates the type of respect and admiration with which people are viewing Wilber.

What initially got me thinking about Ken Wilber was my reconnection with an old high school friend. He had contacted me sometime late in 2007, but we had once again lost touch. A few weeks ago, through the wonders of Facebook, he contacted me. We ended up speaking by phone and having some written dialogue over Facebook.  I soon found out that much of his thought and perspectives had been influenced by the thought of Ken Wilber.  Quickly I was realizing that Wilber was someone with whom I needed to familiarize myself.

Holons and God

Ken Wilber’s thought begins with his basic definition of a “holon.” For Wilber, everything exists as a “holon.” Essentially this means that everything is both a whole and a part. Wilber uses the scientific example of atoms, molecules, cells, organisms, and so on. Each one is both a whole and a part of a whole. Wilber states, “A molecule transcends and includes atoms.” By “transcends,” Wilber means that a whole is more than the sum of its parts. So, a molecule is more than the atoms of which it is composed.

Wilber goes on to attribute this concept of holons to culture and the functions of the world. This is similar to Richard Dawkin’s development of the concept of “memes,” or cultural units. Essentially, Dawkins, using the concept of evolution, argued that “memes” evolve very much like living organisms evolve. “Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes, fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain.” According to Dawkins, these units of culture morph, become stronger, better, and more adapted to the world.

Dawkins applies this idea to the concept of God. In The Selfish Gene, he writes that the idea of a divine being arose a long time ago in the meme pool, probably originating “many times by independent ‘mutation.’” Attributing the evolutionary concept of “survival of the fittest,” Dawkins argues that the concept of God has had such “survival value” because of its “great psychological appeal.” One can see the foreshadowing of Dawkin’s most recent book, The God Delusion, in the following statement: “God exists, if only in the form of a meme with high survival value, or infective power, in the environment provided by human culture.”

Wilber disagrees with Dawkin’s atheistic conclusions about God. However, the connection between Wilber and Dawkins does demonstrate how Wilber has taken the concept of holons within science (cells, molecules, organisms) and applied it to ideas. In the evolution of ideas, Wilber sees the greater idea holons, or memes, as having greater depth and less span. Holons on a lower level have greater span, or are more numerous (i.e. there are more cells than molecules in the universe). Holons on a higher level have greater depth, or more levels, meaning they include more holons within themselves (i.e. an organism has greater depth than a molecule). So, when Wilber applies this conclusion to ideas, he is saying that ideas on a higher level include more levels, but are less numerous. If, for example, Wilber were applying this concept to the idea of God, Wilber would always stress that the higher holon, or the one with the greatest depth, is the one that includes all other ideas about God.

According to Wilber, in terms of God, the best holon we have at this point is “integral methodological pluralism,” which “finds room for premodern truths, modern truths, and postmodern truths, all in an integral framework not of conclusions, but of perspectives and methodologies . . . the only thing it alters is their claim to absoluteness, and any scaffolding (and metaphysics) meant to justify that unjustifiable claim.” So, for Wilber, his own integral model provides the holon with the most depth when it comes to God. This is because Wilber believes his perspective to transcend and include all other perspectives on God.

All Quadrants, All Levels

Ken Wilber’s thought centers upon the idea that there are four quadrants in existence: 1) interior-individual (upper left quadrant), 2) exterior-individual (upper right quadrant), 3) interior-collective (lower left quadrant), and 4) exterior-collective (lower right quadrant). The interior-individual quadrant represents the self and the consciousness of the individual. The exterior-individual quadrant represents the brain and organism of the individual. The interior-collective quadrant represents the culture in which the individual exists. The exterior-collective represents the social system and exterior environment in which the individual exists. So, for example, emotion exists in the upper left quadrant. Molecules exist in the upper right quadrant. Myths exist in the lower left quadrant. And tribes exist in the lower right quadrant.

For Wilber, all four quadrants exist within what he calls “Spirit in action.” He writes, “Since Spirit-in-action manifests as all four quadrants, then an adequate interpretation of a spiritual experience ought to take all four quadrants into account. It’s not just that we have different levels—matter, body, mind, soul, and spirit—but that each of these manifests in four facets—intentional [upper left], behavioral [upper right], cultural [lower left], and social [lower right].” For Wilber, each quadrant has its own conception of truth. The point, for Wilber, as will be discussed below, is to tap into the truth of each of the four quadrants.

Furthermore, Wilber argues that when one is evaluating experience, they must take into account all levels, or stages, of human growth and development—“at the further stages of consciousness evolution.” For Wilber, there are nine stages in the evolution of consciousness (all of these take place in the upper left quadrant): 1) sensoriphysical, 2) phantasmic-emotional, 3) representational mind, 4) rule/role mind, 5) formal reflexive, 6) vision-logic, 7) psychic, 8) subtle, and 9) casual.

And finally there is a tenth stage in which the individual can become one with Spirit, the Ground of All Being. In The Integral Vision Wilber calls this stage “overmind structure,” which is ultimately the tenth state of consciousness. It is the place in which the individual can become the sage, the enlightened one, one with the “Godhead beyond any God and Goddess, an Intelligence-Abyss from which all things issue in this moment.” For Wilber, this is the place in which you enter completely into non-duality where the physical and the spiritual become one and you are able to see the universe as a whole.

Again, the quadrants are important for Wilber here. The upper left quadrant says, “mind is reality” (idealism). The upper right quadrant says, “matter is reality” (scientism). The lower left quadrant says, “culturally constructed meaning is reality” (extreme postmodernism). The lower right quadrant says, “The web of life is reality” (systems theory, i.e. spiral dynamics). The “overmind structure” is the state of consciousness where the person tastes, touches, feels, and breathes the “infinite Reality existing behind, beyond, above, within, and as the entire manifest universe.” The “overmind structure” is not however, exclusive of the other nine states of consciousness. Rather, it transcends and includes all of these states. It is the holon with the greatest depth. It is the place where someone can exist seeing “all quadrants and all levels.”

For Wilber, when someone has reached the point where they can see “all quadrants and all levels,” they have reached “at-onement” with the Kosmos, or in other words they have become one with the known universe. For Wilber, this means seeing truth in all four quadrants and in all of the levels of consciousness. Furthermore, it means the removal of the separation between the “I,” subjectivity, the “We,” inter-subjectivity, and the “It,” “what is outside of us.” For Wilber, they are all Spirit, the very Kosmos itself. Wilber states, “When you are ultimately truthful with yourself, you will eventually realize and confess that ‘I am Buddha,’ I am Spirit. Anything short of that is a lie, the lie of the ego, the lie of the separate-self sense . . . The deepest recesses of your consciousness directly intersect Spirit itself, in the supreme identity. ‘Not I, but Christ liveth in me’—which is to say, the ultimate I is Christ.” In summary, Wilber’s integral map of the way to spiritual salvation points to the individual becoming one with the Kosmos, one with Spirit, one with God.

Is Wilber a Transpersonal Psychologist?

George Adams, who wrote a theistic critique of Wilber in The Journal of Contemporary Religion, acquiesces that Wilber does not place himself under the “transpersonal label.” Perhaps Wilber likes to think of himself as someone who is beyond labels. However, his thought seems to clearly fit within this field. Take Bryan Wittine’s five postulates of transpersonal psychology for example: 1) It is an approach to healing/growth that addresses all levels of the spectrum of identity—egoic, existential, and transpersonal. 2) It recognizes the therapist’s unfolding awareness of the Self and his or her spiritual world-view as central in shaping the nature, process, and outcome of therapy. 3) It is a process of awakening from a lesser to a greater identity. 4) It facilitates the process of awakening by enhancing inner awareness and intuition. 5) The therapeutic relationship is a vehicle for the process of awakening in both client and therapist.  See Bryan Wittine, “Basic Postulates for a Transpersonal Psychotherapy” in Existential-Phenomenological Perspectives in Psychology, ed. Ronald Valle and Steen Halling (New York: Plenum Press, 1989), 269-287 for more information.  Wilber's thought seems to fit nicely within this transpersonal framework.  However, Wilber wants to disavow any labels as he sees himself more as a "theorist of everything."

A Theistic Critique of Wilber

Adams argues that Wilber “fails to demonstrate why the non-dualist religious experience should be considered superior to the religious experience of theists, an experience which asserts and values the otherness of God.” It appears that Wilber has misunderstood the great theistic traditions, especially Christianity, which asserts that God is separate from, and totally other than the known universe, or in Wilber’s terms, the Kosmos.

In fact, all three of the monotheistic religions make distinct claims against any availability for the human being to become God. One need only look at the very first pillar of the faith in Islam, “none has the right to be worshipped but Allah, and Muhammad is Allah’s apostle,” to fully understand that Islam by no means would accept that human beings can or ever could become one with a divine Spirit. 

Christianity has dealt with the notion of human divinity in the form of Gnosticism. For Gnostics, a special knowledge existed that “involved awareness of the true heavenly origin of the spirit within, its essential divine nature as an offshoot of God’s own being.” This sounds very much like the thought of Wilber, but this idea has been deemed heretical by the entirety of Christianity throughout the course of history. Furthermore, the first of the Ten Commandments, “you shall have no other gods before me,” clearly proclaims that to worship anything as a god, or to call anything a god, that is not God is to commit idolatry. The Ten Commandments are authoritative for both Christianity and Judaism.

In all three of the major theistic traditions, God is other and separate from the created universe . . .

How Should We Respond?

So, how should Christians respond to Wilber?  It appears that Wilber has not taken the time to fully understand the Christian faith.  However, this does not mean that Christians should not act in love carefully understanding his thought and his perspectives.  

As I have read Wilber, I have grown.  I found much that is useful in his thought, especially the concept of the four quadrants.  Perhaps my next post will be framing the gospel of Jesus Christ in these terms.

But if nothing else, I have become a better listener to the emerging spiritualities of those around me.  Every Christian is a missionary and we are all called to listen to what is going on around us and respond appropriately with the gospel . . . unfortunately, many have forgotten to listen.

May we all listen well . . .

Monday, August 11, 2008

Here is some more insight on Matthew 7:1-6 . . .

In Zondervan's backgrounds commentary, Michael Wilkins related Matthew 7:1 to an apocryphal text: "Before judgement comes, examine yourself, and at the time of scrutiny you will find forgiveness" (Sirach 18:20). So, we are supposed to judge our brothers and sisters, but only after we have examined and judged ourselves. In 7:5, Jesus clearly tells his followers that if they have taken the time and consideration to remove the log from their own eyes, then they "will see clearly to take the speck out of" their brother's eye.

Being that only God and the individual truly knows the depth of the individual's depravity, it seems to follow that when a person is dealing with their own sin, they are dealing with a log . . . when they are dealing with the sins of a brother or sister in Christ, they are dealing with a speck . . . and Jesus was using hyperbole steeped in his own context of being a carpenter to show the extreme of passing judgment on another while refusing to acknowledge one’s own depravity (Wilkins was again helpful here).

Darrin Patrick, senior elder (or pastor) at The Journey in St. Louis, MO, believes that verse 6 was meant to clarify any attempt to remove the speck from a brother or sister's eye. This verse has long been one that troubles people because it appears that Jesus is calling people "dogs" and "pigs." However, Jesus, as he did in the previous three verses, is using hyperbole. In Jewish culture, dogs and pigs were considered ritually unclean and even dangerous animals. "Dog" was often used as an insult for those separate from Israel or enemies of Israel (see Wilkins for further information--my interpretation diverges from his at this point).

I believe Jesus to be telling people that righteous judgment of a brother or sister in Christ can only happen within the context of deep relationship. In other words, in order to judge a brother or sister in Christ, you must actually know them like a brother or sister . . . and you must be known by them, sins and all. I believe Jesus is telling people that the judging of another is meant to be a holy act of Christian brotherhood/sisterhood. It is a pearl that only exists within the context of true, deep relationship within the body of Christ. Why would you waste this on someone to whom you have no real knowledge and no real relationship?

Does that make sense?