Friday, August 24, 2007
This week's Time magazine features an essay on a forthcoming book called Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light. It contains her personal correspondences to her personal spiritual advisors. The letters reveal a profound sense of the absence of God in the midst of her phenomenal ministry to the poor and needy.
The book's editors see Teresa's lack of God-encounter as real and moving within her faith experience, whereas atheists like Christopher Hitchens will find Teresa's words as evidence for the non-existence of God. Hitchens writes: "She was no more exempt from the realization that religion is a human fabrication than any other person, and that her attempted cure was more and more professions of faith could only have deepened the pit that she had dug for herself." Psychologists will likely analyze Teresa's inner emptiness in relation to her upbringing and/or neurophysiology. Teresa appears, emotionally, melancholic.
The sense of the absence of God is part of the Judeo-Christian experience, so much so that Jesus, dying on the cross, quotes Psalm 22:1 - "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?
In my own spiritual journals I have written many things about my own sense of the presence of God impinging on me, as well as "Where are you now, God?" moments. "Doubt" is part of the human condition, and few if any are immune to it. Even atheists doubt (if they are honest). For example, C.S. Lewis describes feeling doubts about his atheism that came upon him and caused him to think "There must be a God." The existence of doubt can increase the more a person believes. The doubtable object of belief can be anything, to include a scientific theory, a relationship with another person, one's own decisions, and so on. If you wonder what kind of things are candidates for doubt re-read Descartes' Meditations.
The essay states: "Two very different Catholics predict that the book will be a landmark. The Rev. Matthew Lamb, chairman of the theology department at the conservative Ave Maria University in Florida, thinks Come Be My Light will eventually rank with St. Augustine's Confessions and Thomas Merton's The Seven Storey Mountain as an autobiography of spiritual ascent. [James] Martin of America, a much more liberal institution, calls the book "a new ministry for Mother Teresa, a written ministry of her interior life," and says, "It may be remembered as just as important as her ministry to the poor. It would be a ministry to people who had experienced some doubt, some absence of God in their lives. And you know who that is? Everybody. Atheists, doubters, seekers, believers, everyone.""
The publishing of these letters raises ethical issues. Mother Teresa did not want these letters to be seen by anyone. "The letters, many of them preserved against her wishes (she had requested that they be destroyed but was overruled by her church)." What can we make of this? I've functioned as a spiritual counselor for 500 pastors and Christian leaders over the past 30 years. They have sent me their spiritual journals, and I've read them and corresponded with them. These journals contain deep personal thoughts. To me it is a great privilege to read them, and a window into real, honest faith. The journals always contain questions about a variety of things. My role is to discern what I hear God saying and communicate that to the person. After I'm done with a journal I destroy the copy I have been entrusted with. It would be a violation of that person's rights and wishes to save them for later publication.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
At one point he said this: “I do not believe Jesus was a real person. I believe the Jesus of the Bible is a mish-mash of previous “Sons of God” or “Sun Gods” such as Osirus, Mithras or Dionysus, all were born of virgins, all were martyred. All were resurrected. It’s just a re-telling of the old tales into a new tale. Take Saul (Paul). When he was talking about Jesus, he didn’t even know if a physical Jesus existed. He was talking about the spiritual entity.”
Now this is false. Here’s why. [Note: In this presentation I am presenting work done by a number of scholars, but especially Greg Boyd and N.T. Wright.]
So, the legendary hypothesis does not work for a number of reasons.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
If you have made comments here and are seeking after real, open dialogue then I suggest you find someone to talk with about your concerns that you trust and feel comfortable sharing name-to-name or face-to-face with.
I wish you the very best and God's richest blessings!
Friday, August 17, 2007
In my doctoral program at Northwestern U. one of my comprehensive exams was in an area called Christology, or the doctrine of Christ. My personal Christological studies continue to thyis very day. In my church I began, in September 2005, teaching on Sunday mornings about the Real Jesus. My personal passion is to know the Real Jesus and make him known to others.
I’ll probably post my seminar notes next week.
If you’re interested in my first two August seminars contact our church office and we’ll give you a free tape. (734-242-5277)
Session 1 - “Why It Is Rational to Believe God Exists.”
Session 2 - “How Can God Be All-Loving and All-Powerful Yet Evil Exists?”
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
My talk went, briefly, like this.
I shared my own experience and encounter with evil. I explained that "evil," in the philosophical dialogue, usually means gratuitous suffering.
I presented J.L. Mackie's logical argument from evil, and how Mackie believed that it is simply illogical to affirm the following three statements at once: 1) God is all-loving; 2) God is all-powerful; and 3) Evil exists.
I then shared Alvin Plantinga's refutation of Mackie. Plantinga adds a 4th statement that affirms (1) and (2), and logically implies (3). That statement is: (4) God made a world in which there are free creatures who produce some moral goodness; and, all possible persons suffer from “transworld depravity.” Plantinga has shown that Mackie's logical argument against God's existence fails.
I then presented William Rowe's evidential argument from evil. Which is:
Premise 1 - There exist instances of intense suffering which an omnipotent, omniscient being could have prevented without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.
Premise 2 - An omniscient, wholly good being would prevent the occurrence of any intense suffering it could, unless it could not do so without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.
Conclusion - There does not exist an omnipotent, omniscient, wholly good being.
I then shared a response that attackcs Premise 1 (Stephen Wyckstra) and a respisnbe nthat attacks Premise 2 (Greg Boyd).
1. God’s wisdom and knowledge is considerably greater than that of humans.
2. If (1), then it is likely that the evil generated by cases of intense suffering that appear to be gratuitous are outweighed by some greater good.
3. If it is likely that the evil generated by cases of intense suffering that appear to be gratuitous are outweighed by some greater good, then it is likely that we would not have epistemic access to the reason for such suffering given our significantly limited cognitive perspective relative to God.
4. If it is likely that we would not have epistemic access to the reason for such suffering given our significantly limited cognitive perspective relative to God, then it is not likely that there exist instances of intense suffering which an omnipotent, omniscient being could have prevented without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.
5. Therefore, it is not likely that there exist instances of intense suffering which an omnipotent, omniscient being could have prevented without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.
Boyd's theodicy can be found in his book Satan and the Prblem of Evil. It argues that there is, on Christian theism, gratuitous or pointless evil, thus its existence does not threaten the theistic viewpoint.
The best philosophical discussion of this issue is found in Daniel Howard-Snyder's collection The Evidential Argument from Evil.
See also Yale philosopher Marilyn McCord Adams's Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God.
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
When I was in New York City in June I visited Ground Zero. There is an area next to where the twin towers stood that has memorials and pictures. Here is a picture of a car that was caught in the chaos of that evil day. Where was God?
If God is all-loving and all-powerful, how can there be evil and suffering in this world? I’m going to answer this question in a seminar at my church (Redeemer Fellowship Church in Monroe, MI) this Sunday evening, 7 PM.
I’ll post my outline and maybe some additional explanatory comments next week.
For more information e-mail me or call 734-242-5277.
Monday, August 06, 2007
Premise 2 - Objective moral values do exist
Conclusion - Therefore, God exists
Premise 2 - The universe began to exist. (i.Physicists tday affirm that our universe began to exist; ii. There can be no such thing as an actual infinite, therefore the universe cannot have always existed.)
Conclusion - Therefore the universe had a cause
- If there is no God, then the origins of human reason are fundamentally non-rational.
- Therefore there is no reason to trust our reason.
- Only a theistic worldview makes sense of the existence of reason.
There are things we believe are true, not on the basis of logical arguments, such as “I exist,” “1+1=2,” or “I ate breakfast this morning.”
Thursday, August 02, 2007
I will be giving a seminar, this Sunday evening, on “Why It Is Rational To Believe There Is A God.” I love talking about this subject, and began studying it 36 years ago when I converted from being a quasi-deist to a theist. My Ph.D studies at Northwestern University were in this area, and I teach Logic and Philosophy of Religion at MCCC (this is, I think, my 7th or 8th year of teaching there. I’ll teach these two courses in the coming fall semester).
Details of my seminar:
Sunday, August 5, 7-8:30 PM
Redeemer Fellowship Church, 5305 Evergreen, Monroe, Michigan
It will be a lecture/dialogue format with room for questions.