Thursday, October 29, 2009

My Love-Need


(Monroe)

I was recently sitting in a restaurant reading John chapters 14-17, looking closely at the verses where Jesus tells us to love one another with the kind of love Father, Son, and Spirit have in the perichoretic union. Then a person walks in that I have not seen in many years. When I saw them a feeling of hatred towards them arose inside of me. I remember the things they did a long time ago that hurt a lot of people. I know these things because, though they did not come to my church, they were pointed my way and came for help. This particular person rejected my counsel and continued to make choices that devasted many people. They crucified a lot of people, including their own family members.

Now, coming though the restaurant door, was this person. Inside me there is this feeling. I'll call it hatred. I am sure no one would have been able to tell what was happening inside of me. But I knew. And God knew. The God-thought that came to me was: "I have a problem with love." I know. I've known about it for a long time. In my recent times with God my love-problem has been focal, especially over the last six months. Add to this the fact that we are now preaching John 14-17 on Sunday mornings and it all adds up to me being unable to get away from the centrality and supremacy of love.

Love, for Jesus-followers, is not optional. It is, simply, the "greatest" (1 Corinthians 13). Without love a person is "nothing" (1 Corinthians 13:2). Jesus said: "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command" (John 15:12-14) It does not take a rocket scientist to understand this logic.

But, I rationalize, this person is not my friend! To this Jesus says, "I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you." I hear you Jesus. So just what kind of love do You want from me? Jesus said, "Righteous Father..., I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them."

I am swimming in the thick, rich teriyaki sauce of God's deep Triune Love, and gasping for breath, wanting more of it because I have so little God-love in me and because, cognitively, I know that the love of God is the answer for this world today. In Christian theology love comes before power; indeed, before all things. Mercy wins out over judgment. Power-freaks take note: love is the greatest. Power without love is halloween-scary.

I'm asking God to remove the love-mask from my face and transform my heart into His heart. The answer as I now see it is: abide in Him, dwell in Him, trust Him. Jesus' promise in John 14-17 is that, even though my "love" falls short, He wants to give me His love. "In order that the love you (Father) have for me (Jesus) may be in them (you and me)."

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dawkins, "Facts," & "Theories"


Nicholas Wade's review of Richard Dawkins's new book (The Greatest Show on Earth) has sparked some controversy, especially in how Wade critiqued Dawkins for "getting his knickers twisted" on the distinction between a "fact" and a "theory."

For the feedback in today's nytimes go here.

I find this feedback helpful, as the terms "fact" and "theory" are, mostly, thrown around without clarification. Here, for me, is where philosophy of science studies can help. It's odd to call a "theory" a scientific "fact," since science qua science only weights, measures, quantifies, etc. It is instructive to note that one does not look under the microscope and say "Look, there's a theory!" I think it is misguided to call the theory of evolution a fact. Evolution may be a fact; the theory is not, at least in the sense that, e.g., it is a fact that Detroit is in the state of Michigan.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

"Drawing Closer" Bullet Points

Here are the bullets from this weekend's Drawing Closer Marriage Conference.

Thanks and blessings to all the couples who came!

DRAWING CLOSER

Discover how two different persons can overcome their differences and partner together to advance God’s Kingdom.

Y A wedding is a welding (Matthew 19:6)
YLeave, Cleave, Weave (Genesis 2:24_
YTo “leave” means: emotionally, financially, & spiritually
YHumility (James 4:6)
Y Mutual submission (Ephesians 5:21-33)
Y Serve one another
Y Understand one another (Proverbs 20:5)
Y Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18)
Y Confess & forgive (James 5:16)
Y To forgive means to cancel the debt
Y Speak the truth in love/care & confront (Ephesians 4:15)
Y Be angry but don’t sin (Ephesians 4:26)
Y Clarify expectations
Y Prioritize – 1) God, 2) spouse, 3) kids, 4) job, 5) other
Y God uses godly marriages to advance His Kingdom

Friday, October 23, 2009

"DRAWING CLOSER" Marriage Conference Details

The "Drawing Closer" Conference Linda and I are leading tonight and tomorrow will be at Indian Trails Lodge. Directions:

From I-75, take North Dixie Highway to Algonquin Trail (which is just north of the corner of N. Dixie and Nadeau Rd); Turn Right on Algonquin Trail; Turn Left on Chippewa Trail; Turn slight Right on Iriquois Trail; Follow Iriquois Trail to the Lake Erie shoreline; Indian Trails Lodge is the log building with the large parking lot, on the lake shore.

HERE'S OUR CONFERENCE SCHEDULE:

DRAWING CLOSER: A Marriage Conference led by John & Linda Piippo

Discover how two different persons can overcome their differences and partner together to advance God’s Kingdom.

Friday night, October 23 (7-9:30)

"Our story – How God brought two very different people together"
- Linda and John

"Marriage Is About Opposites Who Have Been Welded Together"

"Ground Rules for Understanding One Another"

"Mutual Submission"


Saturday Morning, October 24 (10-1)

"Our story – How God brought two very different people together"
- Josh & Beth Bentley

"Sustaining Intimacy In Marriage"

"Transparency & Hiddenness in Marriage"

"How to Work Through Conflict in Marriage"

Saturday Afternoon (1-4)

"FOCCUSING on Your Relationship"

Saturday Evening (4-7)

"Sharing a Purpose That Is Greater Than Your Marriage"
- John & Linda
- Josh & Beth

"Humility: The Foundation of a Fruitful Marriage"

Dinner

Worship & Prayers of Blessing

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Religion & the Fallacy of Affirming the Consequent


(Masada)

I'm preaching this Sunday on John 14:15-17:

Jesus said: "If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you."

This week I'm marinating in the teriyaki sauce of these Jesus-words. Here's one thought...

"If you love me, you will obey what I command," is a conditional statement. Like, e.g., "If it rains, the ground gets wet." Both these statements are true. But note this: this statement is not necessarily true - "If the ground gets wet, then it's raining." In logic this is called the fallacy of affirming the consequent. So also this statement is not necessarily true: "If I obey what Jesus commands, then I love him." Maybe. But not necessarily. One could obey, e.g., like the Pharisees obeyed; viz., in some religious sense. The Jesus-idea here is that when one dwells in Jesus (lives within the perichoretic triune-Godhead), then it inexorably follows that one will "obey" what Jesus commands. This is huge, it being all the difference between relationship with God and religious law-abiding duty.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bruce Cockburn Sings In the Shack



I recently finished William Young's book "The Shack." I think I may be the last person on the planet to read it. I much enjoyed it, and mostly agree with Young's portrayal of the perichoretic trinitarian Godhead.

A side note: Young is a Bruce Cockburn fan, as am I. So I got a kick when Young has God the Father say, about Cockburn, "I love that child's songs! I am especially fond of Bruce, you know." (118)

Is Bruce Cockburn the greatest, most creative lyricist ever? Perhaps. I drank deeply of his music in the 80s and 90s. "What About the Bond?" is the greatest wedding song ever written. "Festival of Friends" makes one think of heaven. "All the Diamonds" is THE song about coming into a relationship with Jesus. And there's also "One Day I Walk," "Nicaragua," "Lovers In a Dangerous Time," "If I Had a Rocket Launcher," "Rumours of Glory," "The Trouble With Normal," and on and on goes Cockburn, king of the mixed metaphor. And, he is beloved by God, as the Father dwells in the shack listening to "Lord of the Starfields."

Objective Truth & the "W-Word"


In my MCCC Logic classes I tell the students that, in philosophy, "logic" is about:

  1. 1. evaluating arguments
  2. 2. arguments are composed of statements (or propositions)
  3. 3. a "statement" is a sentence that is either true or false
  4. 4. an argument has only one conclusion
  5. an argument has one or more premises
  6. 5. for an argument to establish (either deductively or inductively) the truth of the conclusion, there must be a "claim of inference" from the premise(s) to the conclusion. That's the "logic" part of logic.
    6. then, if the premises are true, the conclusion follows either deductively (necessarily) or inductively (probably)
When I get to (3) some interesting things happen. I use, as an example of a statement, The lights in this room are now on. That sentence is a statement; viz., a sentence that is either true or false. Now imagine that this statement is true. What that means is that, objectively, the lights in the room are on. Put another way, this means that the statement The lights in this room are now on is true. Now if this statement is true, it is true independently of our human subjectivity. That is, the truth of this statement is not a function of how we think or feel about the lights being on in the room. Even if everyone in the room thought the statement to be false, that would not make the statement false, and we would all be wrong.

Here's where the trouble begins. My use of the 'w' word ("wrong") strikes a chord of offensiveness. For some of my students it is wrong to say that anyone else is wrong. W-language comes from another planet. The w-word marginalizes people into two groups, and that's wrong to do. On the planet where some of my students live it is wrong to say anyone is wrong because they might not be wrong and how could someone ever know for sure that another person is wrong and maybe I am wrong about the other person being wrong and besides telling someone "You are wrong" is so very, very wrong. My experience, on the other hand and from the POV of the planet I live on, is that when I say (3) above, and use the words "So if you were to think that the statement The lights in this room are now on is false when, objectively, they are on, then you would be... wrong."

Every semester I have students who cannot bear to hear that. They think I am arrogant to call someone else wrong. They think I am wrong to do such things, and some of them walk me to the parking lot letting me know how very wrong I am to talk like that. When I try to tell them that they are using the w-word against me, it is as if they are placed in a position above me and thus can use the w-word in a non-offensive way to let me know how offended they are. Logically, I get ad-hominized.

This kind of response happens within the minds of some, not all, students. Yet it seems to be a moment of stunning revelation to a number of them to hear a professor utter words like "true" and "false."

Welcome to the world of philosophical logic, which caters not at all to human felings and desires. It is only after truth. Truth is a function of statements. Statements are sentences that are either true or false. You have just finished reading this. Arguably, that is true.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Drawing Close to God This Week


(*Dim Sum, in New York City. Nov. 2008)

Here's what I'm doing this week to enter into greater intimacy with the Triune God.

- Setting aside time for just me and God
- Praying “Draw Me Closer, Lord”
- Reading & meditating on John chapters 14-17
- Listening – when God speaks to me I’ll write it in my journal
- Obeying (“If you love me obey my commands”)
- Welcoming the Holy Spirit into my spiritual house (i.e., my heart)

* literally, "touch the heart"

Witherington's Withering Critique of Pagan Christianity


This past year I read Viola and Barna's Pagan Christianity. I know I read this book a lot later than most who were taken or not taken by it. Now, truly ex post facto, I read Ben Witherington's thorough and scholarly critique of PC, found here. Here's a few juicy quotes to get the juices flowing.

Ben writes: "Frank Viola is a sharp person, but neither he nor George Barna really interact in this book with the scholarly literature that would call into question their strident claims and theses. They are arguing a particular case, and so they largely cite sources that support their case, for example Robert Banks’ work on Pauline house churches comes in for heavy usage. Their claim to present us with bare historical fact and to stand always on the Biblical high ground needs to be seen for what it is from the outset--- good and powerful rhetoric meant to warm the cockles of the hearts of all who affirm Sola Scriptura, but when one actually examines some of the major claims closely, they will not stand close and critical scrutiny."

For Witherington V & B are just flat-out wrong when it comes to their understanding of the early church and its "paganization." "It is not possible to say either that Jewish Christianity waned after 70 A.D. nor is it possible to say that the dominate practice of the church was pagan, and became increasingly pagan in the first, second, third centuries--- wrong, and wrong."

And: "One thing about these folks--- Barna and Viola are very sure of themselves. They warn the reader early on (p. 7) that you will be confronted by unshakeable historical fact which will rock your world. If however it’s like the ‘facts’ on pp. 6-7 about the rise of pagan Christianity, we are not dealing with ‘facts’, unfortunately. We are dealing with a misreading of early Christian history."

What about the big V & B trumpet call for the church to meet in homes? Witherington writes: "We are given the usual litany about Christians meeting in homes, and how they did not have church buildings. This is of course partially true, so far as we can tell, but frankly they didn’t just meet in homes, nor were there any mandates for them to do so saying “in order to be truly Christian thou shalt meet in cramped quarters.” They also met in Solomon’s Portico, which is to say in the Temple precincts as the early chapters of Acts informs us, and furthermore they went to synagogue services in purpose built buildings, and furthermore they occasionally rented halls, like the Hall of Tyrannus in Ephesus, and later in the first century, as the archaeological evidence makes clear, they met in caves, namely the catacombs in Rome, as well. I don’t see much of a movement in the church today to go back to cave dwelling... there is absolutely nothing in the NT which either suggests or requires that Christians should only meet in homes. And furthermore, the major problem with these sorts of arguments are that they ignore the differences in social setting, then and now."
Ben writes a lot more about this. He's one person I find myself listening to over and over again. If I'm concerned at all about him, it's that he's an uber-blogger who seemingly does not have a life apart from his computer. Some of his posts are book-length, even rivalling the notorious 20-60 page mini-font footnotes by Karl Barth in Barth's Church Dogmatics. (Stop and bow before Barth here, who had no computer...) I hope he's spending time with his wife and kids...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Preaching This Sunday On...



John 14:12-14 -

12I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

Needed to understand these words: a grasp of the perichoretic trinitarian mutual-indwelling Godhead.

Kenneth Miller on Why Evolutionary Theory Does Not Explain All of Reality


Recently someone told me, in a discussion we were having about evolutionary theory, that "the theory of evolution explains all of reality." I disagreed with this. Here are some thoughts.

First, some do claim this. Those who do are, usually, evolutionary naturalists. That is, they espouse a form of philosophical naturalism, or physicalism, that states that matter is all there is; there are no non-material realities.

Second, theistic evolutionary theorists such as, e.g., Brown University biologist Kenneth Miller, affirm evolutionary theory but not as explanatory of all reality. Here, e.g., is Miller, in his debate with atheist Christopher Hitchens. After Hitchens sets up a caricature of "faith" and demolishes his straw man, Miller responds:

"In the end you have no answer to why science works, why the physical logic of natural law makes life possible, or why the human mind is able to explore and understand nature. And I agree that there is no scientific answer to such questions. That is precisely the point of faith–to order and rationalize our encounters with the world around us. Faith is human, and therefore imperfect. But faith expresses, however poorly, a reality that includes the scientific experience in every sense, and therefore has become more relevant than ever in our scientific age." (Emphasis mine.)

Here Miller expresses a point that is often made and hugely discussed by philosophers and scientists who ask the meta-questions like "Why does science work at all?" Miller understands that science, qua science, cannot answer this kind of question. Miller the theist admits of realities that evolutionary theory, as wonderful as it is in explaining aspects of physical reality, cannot explain because these realities are not of the kind to be scientically explained.

Here is Miller in his NOVA interview:

Q: Does science have limits to what it can tell us?
Miller: If science is competent at anything, it's in investigating the natural and material world around us. What science isn't very good at is answering questions that also matter to us in a big way, such as the meaning, value, and purpose of things. Science is silent on those issues. There are a whole host of philosophical and moral questions that are important to us as human beings for which we have to make up our minds using a method outside of science. (Emphasis mine.)

So Miller the theist evolutionary theorist agrees there are limits to what science can tell us. I think he is correct. So evolutionary theory does not explain "all of reality."
If one here objects and claims there are no other realities that cannot be explained by evolutionary theory or science in general, then one is a philosophical naturalist, and with this come a number of problems that, for people such as Miller and myself, seem intractable.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Being Like a Child Does Not Mean Perpetual Intellectual Toddlerhood


(Manhattan, Nov. 2008)

In Matthew 18:3 Jesus says, "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Part of this is one of those upside-down-kingdom things, since children approached to lower levels of human expendability. To understand Jesus one must give up all self-pretension and all self-aggrandization. It's instructive to note that this does not mean that one remains, mentally, as a toddler.

C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, writes:

"Because Christ said we could only get into His world by being like children, many Christians have the idea that, provided you are 'good', it does not matter being a fool... Christ never meant that we were to remain children in intelligence: on the contrary. He told us to be not only 'as harmless as doves', but also 'as wise as serpents'. He wants a child's heart, but a grown-up's head."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Flaw in Richard Dawkins's "Greatest Show on Earth"


Nicholas Wade, in a nytimes book review, looks at Richard Dawkins's new book The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution. Wade, while admiring much of the book, points out that Dawkins seems not to understand the difference between a "fact" and a "theory" or, worse yet, knows the difference but dogmatically refuses to acknowledge it.

Wade points out that some creationists say evolution is a fact, not a theory. But Dawkins “keeps insisting that evolution is an undeniable fact.” Wade calls us to note that we don’t speak of “the fact” of evolution, but of the "theory" of evoltuion. So – is evolution a fact or a theory? Wade says that “on this question Dawkins, to use an English expression, gets his knickers in a twist.” For example, the theory of evolution “is still in full flux, as befits any scientific theory at the forefront of research.” This being so, how can evolution be said to be a “fact?”

Wade says that Dawkins “seems to have little appreciation for the cognitive structure of science. Philosophers of science, who are the arbiters of such issues, say science consists largely of facts, laws and theories. The facts are the facts, the laws summarize the regularities in the facts, and the theories explain the laws. Evolution can fall into only one of these categories, and it’s a theory.”

Science is always changing to accommodate new knowledge. The change takes place, not in the facts, but in the theories. Theories “are sacrificed when fundamental change is needed. Ptolemaic theory yielded when astronomers found that Copernicus’s better explained the observations; Newton’s theory of gravitation turned out to be a special case of Einstein’s.” So, argues Wade, “if a theory by nature is liable to change, it cannot be considered absolutely true. A theory, however strongly you believe in it, inherently holds a small question mark. The minute you erase the question mark, you’ve got yourself a dogma.”

Dawkins, however, states that evolution “is a fact in the same sense as it is a fact that Paris is in the Northern Hemisphere.” At this point, says Wade, Dawkins has some seriously twisted knickers. He doesn’t seem to know what a theory is.

Wade argues that one can agree that evolution, which means “change,” is a historical fact. Things change, no doubt. But, in science, evolution “is the theory without which nothing in biology makes sense.” Wade writes, “The condition of this high status is that it cannot be the final and absolute truth that Dawkins imagines it to be; it is liable to future modification and change like any other scientific theory.” This, argues Wade, is the flaw in Dawkins’s reasoning. “He has let himself slip into being as dogmatic as his opponents. He has become the Savonarola of science, condemning the doubters of evolution as “history-­deniers” who are “worse than ignorant” and “deluded to the point of perversity.” This is not the language of science, or civility. Creationists insist evolution is only a theory, Dawkins that it’s only a fact. Neither claim is correct.”

"Air-Guitar" Religion


I started playing guitar at age 5. Now I'm 60. I'm a good guitarist, even though down in Nashville there are 10,000 guitar players better than I am (seriously). I know how to play guitar. Even though I have a 2-year degree in music theory guitar-playing, for me, is theory morphed into experience.
Some people play air guitar. Others play guitar hero. Neither air guitar nor Guitar Hero are anything like actual guitar-playing. Someone who knows how to play guitar, and can do it well, is in a different world than guitar wanna-be's.
There's a difference between theoretical knowing and experiential knowing. The beginning of theoretical knowing came, arguably, with Descartes in the 17th century. Descartes's philosophy posited a metaphysical distance between the knowing subject and the "object" to be known. With him the quest for "object-ive" knowing begins. Prior to Descartes knowing was participatory; post-Cartesian epistemology struggle with epistemic distance. One now wants a kind of mathematical certainty when it comes to knowing anything. This expectation creates problems for anyone who wants to "know." "Knowing" becomes a theoretical knowing-about rather than a participative knowing-how.
Hebrew "knowing" is a knowing-how more than it is a knowing-about. Old Testament scholar David Hubbard writes: “In the OT knowledge is living in a close relationship with something or somebody, in such a relationship as to cause what may be called communion.” (341) This is important to understand if one wants to understand Jesus-culture. The question "Do you know God?" is, in this Hebrew context, equivalent to "Are you intimate with God?" This is different from the question "Do you know about God?"
In the Gospel of John the word "know" is used 80 times, and always means experiential knowledge, or knowledge-by-aquaintance. As when, for example, in John 3:11 Jesus says to Nicodemus, "I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen…" Without the "seeing" the "knowing" would not be there. In John 4:22 Jesus speaks to the Samaritan woman at the well and says, "You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews." Jesus is informing the woman that she does worship something but it’s not experientially real. By analogy, she might as well be playing "air guitar."
Someone who believes in Jesus but does not know Jesus is only playing "air-religion." The real thing is experiential, relational, a knowing-by-acquaintance, and non-theoretical (in the sense that one has a theory about Jesus without the communion with Jesus). How important is this? Just this: it's experience, not theory, that breeds conviction. For example, just last week someone shared with me that they had an encounter with God after which things have never been the same in terms of their being released from a life-long feeling of shame and inadequacy. I happened to be in the room when that deliverance happened. I have seen the results. I just look at this person now and think, they are free from the weight that formerly oppressed them. Last week they told me, "Now I know I could never doubt God any more. If that is the only thing God does for me in my life I will remain forever grateful."
In John 17:3 Jesus says, "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." This is not about some future knowing; it’s knowing now. It’s hands-on, intimate, personal knowledge. (See here philosopher of science Michael Polanyi's Personal Knowledge.) Experientially it feel irrefutable precisely because it is not some abstract-theoretical knowing-from-a-distance.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Preaching Tomorrow on...


...John 14:8-11

“Jesus manifests God’s presence and work through his signs and in his words.” (Marianne Meye, The God of the Gospel of John, 233)

“The story of God’s “indwelling” in ancient Israel is taken up and extended in the Gospel of John. The Gospel does not merely use the language of indwelling, but of mutual indwelling or mutual immanence, and does so in an extensive way.” (Jurgen Moltmann, “God in the World – the World in God: Perichoresis in
Trinity and Eschatology,” in Richard Bauckham and Carl Mosser, The Gospel of John and Christian Theology, 372)

“What is at stake here is nothing less than Jesus’ ability to provide firsthand revelation of God (cf. 1:18).” (Andreas Kostenberger, John, 431)

(Andrew "Rublev’s icon gives us a glimpse of the house of perfect love” -Henri Nouwen)

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Espresso Royale and Salvation Is Free



I'm in Espresso Royale in Ann Arbor sipping coffee and working on this Sunday's sermon. I brought my new Taylor to Herb David Guitar Studio for its free 6-month tune-up. (I love this guitar!)

Along with that I am deeply immersed in trinitarian studies. Currently reading: Paul Copan, "Is the Trinity a Logical Blunder? God as Three and One," in Contending with Christianity's Critics: Answering New Atheists and Other Objectors.

Then the song "Salvation" by The Cranberries starts playing. I google for the lyrics. They are...

To all those people doin' lines,
Don't do it, don't do it.
Inject your soul with liberty,
It's free, it's free.
To all the kids with heroin eyes,
Don't do it, don't do it.
Because it's not not what it seems,
No no it's not not what it seems.
Salvation, salvation, salvation is free.
Salvation, salvation, salvation is free.
To all the parents with sleepless nights,
Sleepless nights.
Tie your kids home to their beds,
Clean their heads.
To all the kids with heroin eyes,
Don't do it, don't do it.
Because it's not not what it seems,
No no it's not not what it seems.
Salvation, salvation, salvation is free.
Salvation, salvation, salvation is free.
Salvation, salvation, salvation is free.
Salvation, salvation, salvation is free.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

John 14-17 - on DVD



I'm preaching out of John chapters 14-17 - high Christological material!

Today I watched the dvd The Gospel of John. It's very good, especially after reading and re-reading these amazing chapters. It's a bargain here at amazon.com for only $9.49!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Scientism's Self-refuting Nature

I enjoy making the point to my philosophy students that science qua science cannot undermine God-belief. Claims that one "should" only believe in physical or visible evidence are not, in and of themselves, empirical claims. I meet students who stubbornly insist that physical reality (materialism) is "all there is" while remaining happily unaware of the fact that such a statement could not arise from strictly empirical observation. Here we come face-to-face with science-as-religion.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Moreland's Consciousness and the Existence of God


I'm reading through J.P. Moreland's Consciousness and the Existence of God. Moreland is defending the truth of the conditional statement: If irreducible consciousness exists (or is regularly correlated with physical states), then this provides evidence (to a degree Moreland specifies in ch. 2) for God's existence. (xi)
Moreland is one of the best teachers I have ever encountered. His writing is crisp-clear. He's a brilliant thinker. This book goes into goes into great depth that shows familiarity with the relevant issues. Ultimately it works as an example of abductive reasoning: 1) irreducible consciousness exists; 2) the best explanation for irreducible consciousness is either theism or naturalism; 3) it's not naturalism; 4) therefore, theism is the most probable explanation for the existence of irreducible consciousness.
Moreland, therefore, must establish the antecedent clause of the above conditional, which he believes he does by going into painstaking detail re. the possibilities.
I see Moreland as going at what is, on philosophical naturalism, the "really hard problem" of first-person subjective consciousness, and claiming that, on theism, the "hardness" of the problem is seen as what we should expect to see if theism is true.
Moreland concludes: "I have argued that if property/event dualism is true, it provides evidence for the existence of God." (175) To understand how he arrives at this the entire book must be read and, along the way, one gets an incredible introduction to the hard problem of consciousness.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Another Week With John Chapters 14-17




(Ann Arbor)

I'll be spending another week, in my individual God-times, with John chapters 14-17. I'll read these chapters through, probably, two or three times. Slowly. In a listening way. When I read Scripture like this it often happens that a particular thing Jesus says stands out to me. When that happens I write in in my journal. Then, I meditate on that verse, assuming that God wants to say something to me through it. It has happened to me many times that I will write the verse on a 3X5 card, carry it with me, and pull it out to read it again. When God speaks to me about the verse, I write it in my journal.

This will be another week of the living voice of God in my life, and in your lives too, because I know God has much to say to you this week. Listen for His voice to you! I will be especially focusing on John 14:8-11, since I'll preach on these amazing Jesus-words next Sunday morning. What will God do? It will be wonderful and Kingdom-rich. Be very blessed this week as you embrace and know Jesus who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Even Superman Has Problems


(From the New Yorker)

Deepak Chopra Misconstrues Infinity


(The geometry of the universe is flat, like a sheet of paper.)

"If the universe is infinite, then wherever you are you are at the center of the universe." I just heard Deepak Chopra say that on ABC News, in response to a question the ABC interviewer asked him as they were walking down a NYC street. Chopra had just said "infinity is all around you." The interviewer asked him what could that mean?

What can we say to this? First, the universe is not "infinite." It's very, very big. But not infinite. The universe is expanding, and will expand forever. But "forever-expansion" is only a potential, not actual, infinite.

Because the universe is not infinite we are not at the center of the universe. And, of course, everything is not at the universe's center, which it seemingly would be were the universe actually infinite spatially.

So these ideas of Chopra are, physically, nonsensical. Perhaps they come out of his Hinduism, which holds that the universe has temporally existed forever?

Philosophy of Religion Oral Exam #1

For my MCCC Philosophy of Religion Students:

Your oral exam will be given in room A-153.

The Questions are:

1. Anselm's Ontological Argument for God's existence

2. Gaunilo's criticism of Anselm, followed by a criticism of Gaunilo

3. Kant's criticism of the Ontological Argument; Norman Malcolm's counter-response

4. Craig & Moreland's Kalam Cosmological Argument for God's existence

5. Paley's Teleological Argument for God's existence

6. Hume's criticisms of the Teleological Argument

7. Robin Collins's Fine-Tuning Argument for God's existence

(I evaluate my students' understanding of the material by giving three 10-minute face-to-face, individual, oral examinations. I have found that this allows me to effectively evaluate what the students know. They have the questions in advance. My class lectures give the answers to these questions, so students know exactly what they will be evaluated on.)

Friday, October 02, 2009

Grief



(Door, in Jerusalem)

Twenty-four years ago I became a "man of sorrows, acquainted with grief." A son was born, and survived, for which I will always be grateful. His twin brother, whom Linda and I named David, died. David was fully formed, yet stillborn. I held the weight of his dead body in my arms. I never will forget that moment, nor do I want to. I have rarely, if ever, felt such inner pain. "Grief" is a word we use to describe the indescribable. I was "grieving."

I read selections from four books every morning. One of them contains selections from the writings of C.S. Lewis (A Year With C.S. Lewis). Thirty-nine years ago, when I became a Jesus-follower, Lewis was there to greet me. I went to my parents' home and found my Lutheran confirmation Bible, then went to a bookstore looking for Christian books and purchased Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Ethics and C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity. I, the new Jesus-follower and philosophy major, had some powerful guns in my hands. As I read Bonhoeffer I did not understand him. Later in life I was finally ready to read The Cost of Discipleship, parts of which have never left me. Bonhoeffer's book renders most "discipleship" books written after him unnecessary.

It was Lewis that initially captivated me. Here was a brilliant scholar, a very good thinker, a convert from atheism to Christian theism, who also wrote for children. Lewis combined a sharp intellect with childlike wonder. He was introspective, perhaps too much so. Lewis lets us into his inner life, and I was drawn in to the working out of his salvation.

I read Mere Christianity, then the space trilogy (especially Perelandra), then the brilliant Till We Have Faces (I've read this at least three times), the Narnia books, and his books on miracles and pain and joy and so on.

Then I read A Grief Observed. It's about what's happening to Lewis's insides after his wife Joy died of cancer. Initially he published the book under a pseudonym, N.W. Clerk. (Sometimes I kick myself for not buying the N.W. Clerk edition for $20 I saw in a used bookstore in the early 1970s.) Lewis exposes all of himself in this grief journal; his pain, his doubts, his anguish, his awkwardness, his loneliness, his fears, in what is an unforgettable architectonic of grief. When I first read it I thought Lewis, at times, was abandoning his Jesus-faith. Then I realized he's still fully a Jesus-follower who sounds like a 20th-century lament-psalmist and who, in this journal, bears his entire heart and soul before the God he follows and the God he wonders about.

A Grief Observed was hard for me to read. I could not help but think of Linda, my young and beautiful wife, and what it would do to me should she die before I do. Or, conversely, the thought of her being alone without me was and remains hard to entertain.

This morning, again, in the daily Lewis readings, the selection is from Lewis's grief book. It's hard to read. But it's real. Lewis writes:

"Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel his claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him in gratitude and praise, you will be - or so it feels - welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence... There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited... Why is He so preent a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?... Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe sich dreadful things about Him."

If you've never before heard such words come out of a God-believer you've never read the Psalms. You've never internalized the cry of Jesus from the cross, "My God, why have you forsaken me." You've never understood Paul, who writes in Romans 8:18, "I consider these present sufferings not worthy of being compared to the glory that will be revealed in heaven. After reading Lewis on grief I admired him more than ever. Following Jesus is not about being "happy" all the time; it is about advancing his Kingdom against the kingdom of evil and darkness and sin. As I now write this there is a lot of grief out there. In Jesus, the promised Messiah of Isaiah 53, we have "a man of sorrows who is acquainted with grief."

If you are grieving today and are a lover of Jesus, you do not need to be ashamed of your grief and inner struggle. In Jesus you have a Redeemer who is well-acquainted with the depths of anguish and the turbulent seas of your soul. And while following Jesus has brought me the greatest joys in life, I have found him sympathetic to my every weakness, and that I can bring every part of me to him.

(Lewis published A Grief Observed in 1961. After that he wrote things like Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, and published Christian Reflections.)

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Logicomix page-preview

This is so much fun! Click pic to enlarge.

Logicomix



I just ordered Logicomix, written by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou. It's a "comic book" on: the quest for logical certainty in mathematics, Bertrand Russell's quest for mathematical certainty, an attempt to prove that 1+1=2, a visit to Hilbert's Hotel (William Lane Craig fans rejoice!), Russell's "paradox of the set of all sets that don’t contain themselves as members," Cantor's fits of insanity, with visits from Frege, Whitehead, Adolf Hitler, and a powerful enemy called "Dark Antinomy."

See the review here.