Tuesday, August 18, 2015

John Van Dixhorn, PHD, Presents Personal Memoir, Prisoner of Belief... Author Discussion Next...

John Van Dixhorn started his professional life as Basketball Coach and Athletic Director at Trinity College in Deerfield, IL. He did his theological training at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and was ordained with the Evangelical Free Church of America. He became a pastor to churches in New City, NY, Naperville, IL, and Orange, CA.
He went on to get a master's degree in Marriage and Family Therapy and a doctorate in Clinical Psychology. He did post-doctorate work in psychoanalysis and became a Certified Psychoanalyst in California.
He was an award winning faculty member and Training and Supervising Analyst for the Newport Psychoanalytic Institute in Tustin, CA and for five years served as the director.
He lives with his wife, Jana, in Palm Springs, CA where he has a private practice.
From the Back Cover...

Prisoner of Belief by John Van Dixhorn is the tale of a man who fights for his soul against the crushing power of religious orthodoxy and evangelical zealotry to become a modern man in the modern world. Raised by rigid Calvinists, Van Dixhorn became an evangelical minister, a successful pastor with prosperous churches. But intellectual honesty and emotional longing led him to challenge his faith, his church, his family, his friends and his vocation...and to eventually leave the ministry and become a secular psychologist.
To live this life and write this book takes courage. Prisoner of Belief, then, is a memoir of a courageous man. Through the numerous sharp and painful (and sometimes very funny) anecdotes we begin to realize what it means to confront all the significant figures and forces in one's life, from self to mom, to brother, church, faith, ideology, Jesus, and finally to God...and the world-view that holds all this together in one neat theological package.
Van Dixhorn provides enough historical background so that otherwise obscure theology may be understood. As a psychologist, Van Dixhorn takes us deeper to see how doctrine affects emotional life, how belief affects our psyche, our sexuality, and our sense of self. As Van Dixhorn leads us through his life, we learn so much from this honest and courageous story. --Geoffrey Sarkissian Graduate of Fuller Seminary

Prisoner of Belief
One Man's Odyssey to Reclaim His Soul--
From Evangelical Minister to Searching Psychologist

From John Van Dixhorn, PHD


Christianity from the beginning was a religion that feared the passions and showed a hatred for--being human.  It was a utopian religion, in that humans could become more like God. My mother tried to make that utopian myth a reality. She took seriously what the church fathers called "Christian marriage" (marriage without sex) and compromised herself only enough to have children.
My mother knew well that sex outside of procreation was shameful. When sinless Adam and Eve sinned, the first thing they experienced was sexual shame and had to cover their nakedness. Nothing shows our sinfulness more than sex.
What she didn't know that that a culture obsessed with sexual purity has a great potential for violence. Classical civilization and Judaism had long taught that sexual pleasure was harmless as long as it was free of cruelty and force. But the greatest periods of violence by the early church were always accompanied by demands for sexual purity and severe punishment of the violators. The Victorian and Puritanical age exemplify this concept. Fortunately my mother's piety avoided cruelties. How much her inner life suffered with an unavoidable shame I only know by reading her teenage diary, which I found buried in one of her drawers when my curiosity about what was in my parents's bedroom got the best of me. It was a diary of her unworthiness before God, even more severe than mine.

"Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who
fears the Lord, she shall be praised." (Proverbs 31:30)

I was twelve years old when I was taken to the bedside of my Grandpa Kranendonk. I was told he wouldn't make it through another night. This was my first real encounter with death. It was scary and I could see he was dying. I wanted to get away, but my mother said, "Pa, it's your grandson, John. He wants to say goodbye to you."
She put my hand on his and he grasped it saying nothing. In my emotiional state I blurted out, "Grandpa, I know I'll see you again in heaven."
In that tender moment his weak voice, in broken English and in a strong Dutch accent, rebuked me and said I should be careful saying that. Only God determined that and if he ended up in hell he would glorify God from hell. I was flooded with shame and felt foolish. He was a stoic Calvinist to the end...

Sometimes I wonder why this type of book reaches me, don't you? Over 1000 of you came to read the review and discussion with Lee Harmon, author of The River of Life... Many other fiction books regarding issues that concern me also brings readers to Book Readers Heaven. We are curious humans, if nothing else...

As a child in the late 1930s and 40s, little did I know
that I was sharing a common experience, not only
with my American Christian peers, but also with
most of the children of devout Jewish parents in
Europe and the children of devout Muslims in Asia.
We were taught that the existence of God was
obvious--beyond demonstration--though we were
shown demonstrations everywhere. We had our
Holy Books, the direct revelations from the one
true God. It was beyond belief; it was fact.
Unquestionably true.
Those who denied these "truths" were not just
mistaken or misguided. Oh no, it was much worse
and more disastrous, and unbelievably so. Our
forefathers killed and were killed for it. For
Christians and Muslims, at least, there would be a
literal Hell to pay if we did not submit. At best,
we'd be permanently separated from our loved
ones and from God. We could not imagine it
being any other way. We were Fundamentalists.
We were Orthodox. The details of our religions
were somewhat different, but we shared the same
psychological makeup. We were of the same
spirit, the same essence in spite of outward
appearances and linguistic and cultural
But many of us specifically seek answers about our spiritual lives... As has author, John Van Dixhorn... He wrote the book at the age of 76, to confirm his thoughts and actions throughout his life and to ensure when he was gone, his truth would be available...

He said,

If you want a religion that brings comfort to your fears and peace to your soul, become a true believer and don't question it.

Yes, I wanted that, but... then he said,

If you want a religion that is true, become a questioner and let unfold what must...

And that's when he hooked me, as early as in the Introduction...

As you can see, I've spotlighted his education and experience background to highlight Dr. Van Dixhorn's expertise in writing the book he's sharing with you, the readers. This is always important to me. In this book, written in memoir form, there is both the story of the author's life, as well as documentation and discussion as to why and how the changes were made in his life, to present role of, psychologist...

Using the format of memoir allowed the author to speak openly and honestly about how his life evolved. It is an excellent story that, I believe, will capture the hearts and minds of anybody who reads it... For some, like me, it might mean much more than just reading another memoir or about a man's religious philosophy...

Much of what is Prisoner of Belief may hit you directly where you've been struggling...

John Van Dixhorn was born into a religious family structure that was mandated by the faith of their fathers' religion... Much like, my guess is, you and I. For many years he lived within the role established for family members. But John had a mind that started to think for himself... and he questioned the specifics about those in his religion, learned through his first religion. 

...What a freedom to be the master of your own spiritual life and have your own personal highway to God...

But Martin, why did you kill all those Anabaptists who took their religious freedom beyond your domain?

And John, when you became the ruler supreme, why did you have people punished, even put to death, when they didn't keep the religious laws of Geneva? You had Servetus burnt for not believing in the Trinity. You brought liberation from the Catholic stranglehold on people, only to bring your own style of oppression, so much for religious freedom.
Neighter did John Calvin bring freedom to me, personally...

Asking Jesus into my heart was moving
for me. I meant it. I knew I was a sinner
and felt bad about it. Knowing I could
be forgiven and go to heaven even though
was a sinner was beyond my imagina-
tion. My brother told me I had become
"born again" and now I was saved.
Now I had a testimony to give. I could
get up in testimony meetings and tell
people how I got saved and what it
meant for me...
He went on to later "be saved" into knowing Christ as his savior...and received many blessings during that time, except that, he began to question what the Holy Bible said...

"Flee also youthful lusts...call on the Lord with a pure heart." (11 Timothy 2:22)

As John moved toward his teens, thoughts of sex started... One of the important issues covered is the erotic struggles of a teenager... I have long felt that the church, any religion, has failed miserably in providing guidance and reality assistance to individuals about their sexuality. There is no other explanation for a Christian, in my opinion, to see the present state of the world regarding sex and all it has become! Of course, the Bible does nothing in this regard--there is only one way to remain your entire life, or as some are taught, to become a suicide bomber and receive virgins as your reward in Heaven... Or through some other "story" to explain why to be celibate...

The author's revelations were not surprising in this area--his first sight of the sex act was between animals, he was told that masturbating was sinful and was even told that others would know it because the whites of his eyes would yellow... But what is really the issue regarding sex for Christians, and others...?

Moving into the age of his career choice was the most revelatory... especially, "What about this Bible?"

Sometimes, if our need to believe is great, our best intelligence
is used to defend ignorance. My need to believe was too great
to let these academic realities get in the way.
One would think that seminary would be a place
in which a young man would become more
convinced than ever of his faith. I went to
seminary to learn how to convinced the world of
true Christianity. I though the problem was that
people weren't aware of that truth, and once
they heard it, they'd have to face it. I never
dreamt I would have to do this with inferior
ammunition. There is a danger in studying
things in greater depth...

Why would a universal God, whose message was a matter of life or death for all eternity, use such a non-universal means to communicate such an essential message? Jesus was the person who wanted to show us most clearly who God was. If writing is God's way, why didn't Jesus write at least something? He didn't even pay much attention to the scriptures that existed in his time.

The trouble for John really began when he had gone through seminary, was preaching, and found that there were few parts of the Bible about which he could fully create and teach on The Word...

When a man who has chosen to minister as his career no longer finds it is possible, he looks within himself to realize that he still wants to help people. John Van Dixhorn did not quickly make the decision to further his education in Psychology. You will find his deep commitment to searching for the way to be a real and faithful evangelic minister was not an easy road to take. I applaud him for sharing the deep and gut-wrenching thoughts and actions he took to become who he is today. 

I want to quickly say that this book, is in no way, an attempt to bring readers around to his way of thinking...it is his story and his alone to tell. It rings true, I believe, and has not been censored to try to garner great masses of reader attention. Yet, in my opinion, it is his openness and attention to detail of what he went through, that will cause readers to be willing to listen to his story...

You just might find something that I did..a balance against which you can consider or reconsider your own beliefs...  For me, it has to be considered a must-read... If I had the money and the guts, I would place this book into the hands of every person in the world who believes that their holy writings are truly God's words, for each and every one of us to follow...



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