Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Still at Green Lake

Linda and I are still at Green Lake. We really enjoyed being with Randy Clark again. And it is so good hearing Rachel Hickson for the very first time. She is excellent! She's such a nice person (that's important), a good communicatror with clear, excellent content, and very Spirit-led and inspiring.

Linda's father Del will be released from St Vincent's in Toledo this afternoon. Her sister Lora came to care for him. So we are very grateful for that!

On the side I brought with me Peter Paris's Religion and Poverty: Pan-African Perspectives. It's excellent! And clarifying and sobering. It's causing me to look at poverty in new ways.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Off to Green Lake

We're traveling to Green Lake, wisconsin today for our HSRM conference. Linda's sister Lora is coming to care-give for their father Del, who is still in St Vincent's Hospital in Toledo.

Del's heart, currently, is stable. Thanks so much to all who have prayed and sent notes.

Why Should Science Rule Out the Miraculous?

Why should "science" rule out the miraculous? Here's how Calvin College philosopher James K. A. Smith responds to this question. (In Science and the Spirit: A Pentecostal Engagement With the Sciences, James K. A. Smith & Amos Yong, eds.)

Hume told us that miracles do not exist since a "miracle"would constitute a violation of the "laws of nature." For Hume "the universe was taken to be a closed system, immune to any interventions or interruptions by any meddling deity." (K 18%)

Pentecostal Jesus-followers, on the other hand, believe miracles occur. Smith claims that the real tension and apparent conflict is not really between pentecostal supernaturalism and science per se, but between pentecostalism and "naturalism." "Naturalism" is a worldview; "science" is not. "Rather, science is a set of practices for empirically investigating and explaining natural phenomena. As such, it is not itself a worldview, but most often it is allied with the worldview of naturalism.

Smith argues that "the practice of the natural sciences does not require the adoption of naturalism; in other words, there is nothing about the nature of scientific practice which requires the metaphysical assumption that nature is "all there is."" Note: anyone who claims that nature is "all there is" has made a non-scientific claim. Smith goes on to define "science" and "naturalism." I'm going to look, for the present, at science.

SMITH ON "SCIENCE"

First, "science is a cultural institution. "Science" is not a naturally occurring entity like igneous rocks or sea horses; that is, science is not something that either emerges from the swamp or falls from the sky apart from human making." (K 19%) Instead, "science is a network of material practices, constructed environments (including laboratories, instrumentation, ets.), traditions of apprenticeship, learned rituals, and so forth." Science is not itself "natural" or part of "nature" to be investigated. I can go in my backyard and scientifically investigate the composition of the soil; I cannot go anywhere and scientifically investigate some entity or event called "science." Science, says Smith, "is a product of culture."

Consider physics. As a discipline of scientific study, physics has a history. But the stuff of physics has a "nature." "In fact, 'even concepts such as electron and aromatic compound are the sort of thing that has a history.' So the sciences are cultural products.

Smith points out that he is not trying to dismiss or debunk science because it is a cultural product. "Rather, the point is to situate science as a cultural institution in order to clarify and understand what could be at stake" in the Humean claim that "miracles" violate "science." For me, Smith is giving us some pretty basic philosophy of science stuff.

So science is a cultural institution. Therefore it, secondly, "is a set of practices (and related instruments) nurtured by traditions of enquiry in order to foster the empirical  and study of nature through observation and experimentation. It is concerned with understanding, explaining, and predicting the operations of nature... often (but not always) with a view to improving the human situation vis-a-vis nature." (K 19%)

So...
  • Science is a cultural institution.
  • Science, as a cultural institution, is "constituted by practices of empirical observation that are attentive to the regularities of nature."
  • In this way scientists seek to understand, explain, and predict the operations of "nature." Examples of "nature" are the macro-operations of climate, or the microscopic operations of a cell.
So why would anyone think, as Hume does, that miracles cannot exist? Smith cites two common reasons.

1. The "regularity thesis." Viz., that pentecostal claims to miracles constitute exceptions to the "regularity" that we see in the so-called "laws of nature." For Hume, there can be no exceptions to the rules.

2. The "naturalist thesis." Viz., "insofar as science necessarily assumes naturalism as its basis, pentecostal supernaturalism is ruled out of court." (K 20%) Science assumes and shows us that the natural world is "all there is." Of course if that were true then, ipso facto, there are no supernatural realities or events. That view is called "metaphysical naturalism."

At this point Smith looks at naturalism. And with that we leave science. "The metaphysical claim that nature is "all there is" is not required by science, nor does it issue from scientific findings." (K 21%)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Google Geniuses

I like today's "Doonesbury." "Internet-Google geniuses" now abound. But meet with them when they can't google for answers and there won't be much they have to offer. Google has become their mind. Without it they are lobotomized.

E.g., I loved the "Google guitar" that was online a few weeks ago. Anyone can play it. But to play the real thing and play it well requires hours and hours and years and years of instruction and practice. This has not changed. Nor has it changed that actual learning and understanding of almost anything requires teaching and time. And, BTW, I google a lot myself. For the researcher it (and its like) are incredible tools.

The Psychology of Atheism: Part V

NYU psychologist Paul Vitz, in his presentation "The Psychology of Atheism," looks at deeper psychological reasons for atheism. (In Willard, A Place for Truth)

See my four previous posts on this here, here, here, and here.

Freud said:

"Psychoanalysis, which has taught us the intimate connection between the father complex and belief in God, has shown us that the personal God is logically nothing but an exalted father and daily demonstrates to us how youthful persons lose their religious belief as soon as the authority of their father has broken down." (144)

Vitz calls this "the theory of the defective father." The claim here is that "once a child is disappointed in
and loses his or her respect for the earthly father, then belief in a heavenly father becomes impossible." Fathers can and do lose their authority and disappoint their children. This is what happened to Freud himself.

Freud's father, Jacob, was a great disappointment, even worse. His father was weak, unable to support his own family, and a wimp in his non-response to anti-Semitism. One time an anti-Semite called Jacob a "dirty Jew" and knocked his hat off. Jacob refused to respond, and young Sigmund was disgusted when he heard about this. Vitz catalogues other reasons for Freud's antipathy towards his father.

Vitz cites other famous atheists who had "defective fathers, to include Ludwig Feuerbach, Karl Marx, and Madeleine Murray O'Hare. O'Hare's own son has written, e.g., about the hatred her mother had for his grandmother. Once she tried to kill her dad with a ten-inch butcher knife!

Vitz writes quite a bit about the atheist psychologist Albert Ellis, who may have been in denial of his hatred towards his father. And then there's orphaned child Baron d'Holbach, Bertrand Russell, Nietzsche (whose "life fits the theory about as well as any"), Jean Paul Satre, and Albert Camus. And Gene Roddenberry ("Star Trek") and Russell Baker and...  on and on...

Vitz adds, "for those whose atheism has been conditioned by a father who rejected, denied, hated, manipulated or physically or sexually abused them, there must be understanding." (151)

One more personal point. Whenever I see a father who is a religious "Christian fundamentalist" I am concerned for their children. I met, in my 11 years at Michigan State University, many kids of fundamentalist dads who had rejected "Christianity." They did not know that the so-called "Christianity" of their fathers was not the actual thing, and that the meaning of "fundamentalism" is: 1) no "fun," 2) too much "damn," and 3) not enough "mental." No wonder they rejected this!

(For Vitz's full work on the psychology of atheism see his book Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism.)

The Fool: A Personal Example

My family's insurance agent was Don. I was in my teens, and Don was in his mid-30s. He liked me, I liked him, and we occasionally played golf together. I remember returning from a round of golf with Don when he said, "We just got a new pet cat."

I like cats. I loved our family cat. I began to tell Don about him. "Don, I found our cat on the street and showed him to my mom - she is a radical cat-lover and could not resist. What was cool was this cat turned out to be a Maine Coon Cat. It's huge - over 20 pounds! And we gave it the coolest name - 'El Gato' - which is Spanish for 'The Cat.'" I thought that was the sweetest name. I knew Don would be impressed. I told Don, "I'm glad we didn't name him something stupid like 'Mittens.'" Then I asked him a question: "What did you name your cat, Don?" Don said, "Mittens."

Don never called me to play golf again.

Proverbs 15:2 - "The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly."

Proverbs 15:14 - "The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly."

Proverbs 17:28 - "Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues."

Proverbs 14:3 says, "A fool’s mouth lashes out with pride, but the lips of the wise protect them."

Proverbs 26:7 - "Like the useless legs of one who is lame is a proverb in the mouth of a fool."

Proverbs 30:32 -  “If you play the fool and exalt yourself, or if you plan evil, clap your hand over your mouth!"





 



 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

When Your Plans Change

Ivan (Del's brother) & Del
Linda and I had planned to be in Green Lake, Wisconsin tonight as our annual HSRM conference begins tomorrow morning. We were all packed, ready and excited to go. But now it seems we will not go. Because Linda's father Del's defibrillator went off twice yesterday. Now Del is in ICU at St Vincent's Hospital in Toledo. Our plans have changed. Del's plans have changed, too. But God has plans. And we are to align with what God is doing.

Yesterday we went through a range of emotions. It is a horrible thing to hear someone scream when their debrillator goes off. It is a more horrible thing for that person. Decisions must be made - to go to the ER or not? It's not always clear. For the caregiver the unclarity is hard. We don't always know if we are making the right decisions. And sometimes there's no time to sit back and weigh alternatives.

For Linda and I today the voice of God is clear: we are to stay with Del. He feels he has interrupted our plans. But of course that's not true. As Linda told him last night, "Dad, you would do the same thing for us."

"Life" is not about "us" and "our plans" or "my plans." It's normal to feel disappointed when you're all packed, ready to go, and the interruption comes. I think it's at points like this that we really see what kind of spiritual life we have. Life, you see, is a series of interruptions. And within this life the Holy Spirit often interrupts, in His typical non-programmatic and unpredictable way. How we respond at those times is crucial, both to what God is doing and to the formation of Christ in us. Those are the two really important things, right? 1) what God is doing; and 2) the formation of Christ in us. (Galatians 4:19)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Dialectical Movement from Solitude to Community

Saline, Michigan
In the life of Jesus we see a dialectical movement from solitude to community, a return to solitude, then back to community, and so on. Jesus spent much time alone with the Father, much time with the Twelve, and much time with crowds of people, then withdrew to lonely places again. All these movements are needed for a rich spiritual life. If one is missing, life becomes incomplete and distorted.

My solitary times with God work to make me a better Jesus-follower, and a better husband to Linda. She knows this is true and, BTW, you can ask her about the difference this makes in me and in us. "Us" is better when we practice withdrawing from one another to get alone with God.

But alas and ten thousand woes, our Western world does not know this thing called "solitude." It does know spiritual isolation and loneliness, which are the bitter fruit of the loss of true solitude. Thomas Merton writes, "The world of men has forgotten the joys of silence, the peace of solitude which is necessary, to some extent, for the fullness of human living." (Merton, The Silent Life) How does this work? Here's one example.

God will show us the illusion of our indispensibility and break us of it. This is important because the "indispensible person" consciously or unconsciously becomes "the center of attention" in community. "Community" then becomes inauthentic. But in solitude (with God, away from people) we come to see that our worth is not the same as our usefulness. Now imagine having your heart transformed in that way. The person who is so transformed returns to community not being so needy or needed by others.
Merton again: "If man is constantly exiled from his own home, locked out of his own spiritual solitude, he ceases to be a true person... He is not even a healthy animal. Man becomes a kind of automaton, living without joy, because he has lost all spontaneity. He is no longer moved from within, but only from outside himself. He no longer makes decisions for himself, but lets them be made for him." (Ib.)

The non-solitary person is the passive person, the "acted-upon" person; the reactive person, rather than one who is used by God to transform culture. In solitude we are broken of our demonic need to preserve our persona before others, either bowing or shrinking from their approval or disapproval. Finding the approval of God to finally be enough, God then can work through us to influence others towards him and his kingdom.

The person who shuns solitude "no longer acts upon the outside world, but lets it act upon him. He is propelled through life by a series of collisions with outside forces. His is no longer the life of a human being, but the existence of a sentient billiard ball, a being without a purpose and without any deeply valid response to reality." (Ib.)

With that last quote we see that Merton prophetically decribed our current world of tweeting and texting personas.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My Concert with John Michael Talbot

John Michael Talbot today
A long time ago, when Linda and I were living in Joliet, Illinois, I fronted John Michael Talbot in concert in Chicago. John and his brother Terry had become famous for forming country-rock band "Mason Proffit." John had become a Jesus-follower and, at the time of our concert, had done a couple of albums. I really liked John's first album, and used to cover "He Is Risen."

In today's christianitytoday.com there's an interview with John. He just released his 53rd album! I listened to some of the tunes today. It's not my style. But John is an excellent, melodic songwriter. He's also written some books. His new one is The Universal Monk: The Way of the New Monastics.  

Shortly after I played with John he converted to Roman Catholicism. Keith Green got upset with John about that. John began to write songs in that tradition. He is a great guitar player, and was an excellent banjo player. I think John can play the blues almost as well as Stevie Ray Vaughn. I heard him do some stuff when we were warming up that was very cool. But now, for me, he uses too many flutes and recorders.

The night I played with John I did a 45-minute set to warm him up. We were in some brand new auditorium in Chicago. Several hundred people were there, including Linda, my guitar-genius friend Jeff Jaskowiak, Dug Pinnick (prior to his "King's X" fame - Dug was part of our church), and a bunch of my Joliet groupies. John was very nice, very polite, and graciously allowed me 45 minutes. He did not seem to have some big ego-thing! I had the long hair and beard thing going, and some people thought I was John Michael Talbot. They gave me a curtain call. Backstage, John told me - "Go give them another one." So I did.

John had brought his own, sweet Bose PA. We miked our guitars. We sat on a metal folding chair when we performed. What we did not know was that, on the ceiling of this brand new auditorium, globs of black tar were occasionally dripping on the floor of the stage. Before I sat down, I had not seen that a black tar-glob had globbed on the chair. I sat down to play, wearing blue jeans. After I was done Linda noticed the significant black spot on the botton of my jeans exactly where no one would want a black spot.

I looked past the stage curtain. John was already sitting down on that chair. He was wearing a beautiful white top and pants his wife had made for him. I thought, "This is the very last time he will wear those pants," as the black tar kneaded its way into them...

Here's a photo of John wearing the white outfit. This was, I believe, his first album.

The African Idea of the Nature of True Poverty

Kibera, in Nairobi
I just received a used copy of Peter Paris's (Princeton) Religion and Poverty: Pan-African Perspectives. I love Paris's The Spirituality of African Peoples.

I cannot get Africa out of my heart. So I keep reading. I am no scholar on Africa. I am studying it, especially from a religious standpoint which is, by the way, the viewpoint to understand Africa.

Western and African understandings of "poverty" differ. Africans don't define poverty only as a lack of material resources. Paris writes:

"In fact, many Africans who possess very little money or property do not consider themselves poor. Rather, they view alienation from families, friends, and communities as the state of true poverty, the intensity of which is increased by the lack of religious faith. Consequently, those who live in a family that is related to a larger community often do not think of themselves as being poor in spite of their lack of material resources." (14)

By that understanding America is truly among the poorest nations in the world sicne there is so much divorce,  familial fragmentation, and fatherless children.

Paris says, "thus, it is amazing to see countless numbers of people working zealously and even joyfully in the midst of the densely populated squatter camps that are commonplace in so many African cities." (14)

In Africa, people gain strength and "riches" from their familial and communal life. "Despondency and depression are overcome by the community spirit of belonging, which fosters the virtues of compassion, sharing, and mutual respect for one another." (14)

In America, on the other hand, the lack of tribalism and resultant individuation gives us more medications.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Holy Spirit Renewal Conference 2011 Schedule (with Randy Clark & Rachel Hickson)

Holy Spirit Renewal Conference 2011 Schedule


June 25 - July 1, 2011

Green Lake Conference Center

Registration: Kraft Welcome Center: Sat. 2-9 p.m. Sun. 8-10 a.m., 6-10 p.m., Mon. 8-11 a.m.

Main Hall: Mon 5-7:30 p.m. Tues 8:30 a.m.-10:30

Cafeteria Meal Times: Breakfast 7-8 a.m., Lunch 12-1 p.m. and Dinner 5-6 p.m.

National Service/Exec. Committee prayer/share times: 7:15 a.m. Monday - Thursday mornings



Sunday June 26

7 a.m. PRAYER ROOM OPENS - Bauer Lodge. See info sheet

9:00 - 10:00 Conference Grounds Worship Service/All Groups Speaker:

10 - 12 Youth meet in Lakeview Meeting Room

10:30 HOLY SPIRIT CONFERENCE OPENING SESSION Speaker: RANDY CLARK

1:15 Orientation for Prayer Ministry – in LaDue-Bodie

2:00 Training for Share & Prayer Groups - Beaty

3:30 Parent Meeting - Lakeview

6:30 Evening Session Speaker: RANDY CLARK



Monday June 27

8:40 -10:15 Main Session Speaker: RANDY CLARK

9:30 - 12 Youth – Lakeview

10:30 - 11:30 Workshops

11:40 - 12:15 Share & Prayer Groups

12:30 Lunch

1:30 – 5:00 Live soaking music in prayer room

6:30 Main Session Speaker: RANDY CLARK

Tuesday June 28

8:40 -10:15 Main Session Speaker: RACHEL HICKSON

9:30 - 12 Youth – Lakeview

10:30 -11:30 Workshops

11:40 - 12:15 Share & Prayer Groups

12:30 National Service Committee lunch meeting, Mitchell Dining room

1:30 – 5:00 Live soaking music in prayer room

6:30 Main Session Speaker: RACHEL HICKSON


Wednesday June 29

8:40 - 10:15 Main Session Speaker: WALT WHITE

9:30 - 12 Youth – Lakeview

10:30 -11:30 Workshops: Rachel and others

11:40 - 12:15 Share & Prayer Groups

12:30 Professional Church Workers & Spouses Luncheon - Tower Dining Room

1:30 – 5:00 Live soaking music in prayer room

6:30 Annual Business Meeting

6:45 Main Session Speaker: RACHEL HICKSON


Thursday June 30

8:40 -10:15 Main Session Speaker: RACHEL HICKSON

9:30 - 12 Youth – Lakeview

10:30 -11:30 Workshops

11:40 - 12:15 Share & Prayer Groups

12:30 National Service Committee lunch meeting, Mitchell Dining room

1:30 – 5:00 Live soaking music in prayer room

6:30 Main Session Speakers JOHN PIIPPO & CLAY FORD

Churchland's Neuro-Morality

Patricia Churchland is a neurophilosopher at UC-San Diego, who has written much over the years on the interface of philosophy and neuroscience. Her newest book is Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us about Morality. Christopher Shea reviews it in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Churchland's thesis is that morality is more like a feeling that emerges from an underlying biological basis than like a rational process having to do with moral system-building.

Churchland "offers the following description of a typical "moral" scenario. A farmer sees a deer breaching his neighbor's fence and eating his apples while the neighbor is away. The farmer will not consult a Kantian rule book before deciding whether to help, she writes, but instead will weigh an array of factors: Would I want my neighbor to help me? Does my culture find such assistance praiseworthy or condescending? Am I faced with any pressing emergencies on my own farm? Churchland describes this process of moral decision-making as being driven by "constraint satisfaction.""

What is "constraint satisfaction?" Churchland says we don't yet understand this neurobiologically. "But roughly speaking it involves various factors with various weights and probabilities interacting so as to produce a suitable solution to a question." Churchland attempts to give an explanation for moral behavior but gives little or nothing, according to Shea, about the content of moral decisions - why one path might be better than another.

This is, admits Churchland's philosopher friend Owen Flanagan, a "highly pragmatic view of morality." "It's like deciding whether or not to build a bridge across a river. Moral decisions are like this. Then Flanagan adds, The reason we both think it makes sense is that the other stories"—that morality comes from God, or from philosophical intuition—"are just so implausible.""

But the Churchland-Flanagan explanation lacks plausibility in that it supports a moral relativism that disallows us from adjudicating between right and wrong. According to Churchland moral "rules and institutions, crucially, will vary from place to place, and over time. "Some cultures accept infanticide for the disabled or unwanted," she writes, without judgment. "Others consider it morally abhorrent; some consider a mouthful of the killed enemy's flesh a requirement for a courageous warrior, others consider it barbaric.""

While we all might agree that building a bridge across a river is a good idea, moral issues often do not achieve such consensus.  ""If we knew that abortion was wrong, we could find ways of reducing abortion—we could try to determine what the best policy might be to discourage people from trying to engage in it," says Guy Kahane, deputy director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics and the Oxford Centre for Neuroethics, at the University of Oxford."

Shea notes that "the element of cultural relativism also remains somewhat mysterious in Churchland's writings on morality." Shea: "I reminded Churchland, who has served on panels with [Sam] Harris, that he likes to put academics on the spot by asking if they think such practices as the early 19th-century Hindu tradition of burning widows on their husbands' funeral pyres was objectively wrong. So did she think so? First, she got irritated: "I don't know why you're asking that." But, yes, she finally said, she does think that practice objectively wrong. "But frankly I don't know enough about their values, and why they have that tradition, and I'm betting that Sam doesn't either.""

Rest assured that system-building philosopher-ethicists (Rawls, e.g.) will find Churchland's views fundamentally non-illuminating as regards moral decision-making.

A final thought, to illustrate my confusion. Churchland is interviewed in American Scientist, and asked what books she is currently reading? She responds, "I am reading Mao's Great Famine: The History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-1962, by Frank Dik├Âtter (Walker, 2010). I am fascinated by history, and I was stunned to learn how callous and brutal Mao was. Tens of millions of people starved to death during Mao's attempt to restructure Chinese life according to his ill-informed fantasies."

How, I must inquire, can any act be "ill-formed" if a neurobiological explanation is sufficient? Like someone who saw it "good" and "right" to build a bridge across a river, Mao saw it good to do what he neurophysically had to do. Isn't it precisely here that we need the "villainous" system-builders Churchland so despises? (See Shea) Biology can describe; it cannot prescribe.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Is the "Chemical Imbalance Theory" of Mental Illness a Myth?

Psychotropic drug abuse performed
on Jack Nicholson, in
"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"

POSSIBLE WORLD #1: Imagine a world where smoking cigarettes was considered good for you. So you smoked them. Only to wake up one day to discover that, not only are cigarettes not good for you, they cause physical damage.

POSSIBLE WORLD #2: Now imagine a world where you are diagnosed with an "anxiety disorder." Your psychiatrist prescribes psychoative drugs for you, drugs that are said to affect your mental state. You feel helped. Only to wake up one day to find out you are not being helped. And that your psychiatrist does not have a clue about what is really wrong with you. And, the psychoactive drugs are changing your normal brain into an abnormal one that may never recover.

Some think POSSIBLE WORLD #2 is the real world. For research supporting this see "The Epidemic of Mental Illness: Why?" in the recent New York Review of Books. (Here, and here.)

CAUTION: I am not a psychiatrist. But I counsel many people who have varieties of "anxiety disorders." Mental problems. And I definitely know many who seem to not be helped by their psychotropic drug-prescribing doctors.

"Epidemic" reviews three new books supporting the reality of POSSIBLE WORLD #2. They are: The Emperor’s New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth, by Irving Kirsch ; Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America, by Robert Whitaker; and Unhinged: The Trouble With Psychiatry—A Doctor’s Revelations About a Profession in Crisis, by Daniel Carlat.  


Here are some highlights:
  • The extent to which the companies that sell psychoactive drugs is disturbing.
  • None of the three authors subscribes to the popular theory that mental illness is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.
  • Instead of developing drugs to treat abnormalities, abnormalities were postulated to fit a drug. With this kind of logic one could argue that fevers are caused by too little aspirin.
  • "Neurotransmitter function seems to be normal in people with mental illness before treatment... However, once a person is put on a psychiatric medication, which, in one manner or another, throws a wrench into the usual mechanics of a neuronal pathway, his or her brain begins to function…abnormally."
  • The "chemical imbalance theory" is a "myth." (Psychiatrist Daniel Carlat) Kirsch says:  “It now seems beyond question that the traditional account of depression as a chemical imbalance in the brain is simply wrong.”  (Dr. Irving Kirsch, Harvard Medical School)
  • In clinical studies antidepressants fare basically no better than placebos. The difference between the two is "clinically meaningless."
  • Psychoactive drugs are not only ineffective but harmful. (Whitaker)
  • Long-term use of psychoactive drugs results in “substantial and long-lasting alterations in neural function.” (Steve Hyman, a former director of the NIMH and until recently provost of Harvard University)

Biblical Greek Resources

Matt Collins
My friend Dr. Matt Collins is the reference librarian of Pitts Theology Library at Emory University. Matt has put together a guide for the library on biblical Greek resources that is freely available to anyone. It contain some bibliography, tools, and a few online verb charts he created.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Nonhuman Animals Cannot Reason Like Humans

 
I made a recent post on the nytimes article on Hugo Mercier's (et. al.) evolutionary, argumentative theory of reasoning. I think that essay was a bit sensationalist. Mercier corrects it here. He writes: "We do not claim that reasoning has nothing to do with the truth. We claim that reasoning did not evolve to allow the lone reasoner to find the truth. We think it evolved to argue." 
 
Mercier's entire academic article is here. (Click on "One-click Download" - it's free!) I did, and since its Father's Day, and I get to do what a father wants to do, I am  now reading it. A lot of interesting things are popping up. Here's one.
 
Mercier defines "reasoning." This is very good; viz., define key terms. "Reasoning, as commonly understood, refers to a very special form of inference at the conceptual level, where not only is a new mental representation (or conclusion) consciously produced, but the previously held representations (or premises) that warrant it are also consciously entertained. The premises are seen as providing reasons to accept the conclusion. Most work in the psychology of reasoning is about reasoning so understood."
 
This is in agreement with what we teach in Logic courses.
 
Mercier says "Such reasoning is typically human. There is no evidence that it occurs in nonhuman animals or in preverbal children."  So, as we suspected, nonhuman animals cannot "reason" as humans do; nonhuman animals would not do well in my Logic class since they cannot reason this way. Do animals "reason?" Not like this.
 
And all those brilliant Gary Larsen cartoons are false...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Psychology of Atheism: Part IV

NYU psychologist Paul Vitz, in his presentation "The Psychology of Atheism," looks at deeper psychological reasons for atheism. (In Willard, A Place for Truth)

See my three previous posts on this here, here, and here.

Atheists have a psyche. Let's look into it! (At least theists can affirm that atheists have psyches. On atheism-as-philosophical naturalism nobody has a "psyche." Hence there can be no "psychology" of anything. Neurobiological explanations may be used, which have their own philosophical problems.)

The "Oedipus complex" was central to Freud's psychoanalytic theory, even as he applied it to religious belief. Vitz writes: "The interesting thing about the Oedipus complx is that Freud said it's universal. There's no reason to believe this, but Freud argued that it is universal, that it is unconscious, and in the case of the male child, the unconscious desire is to reject or remove and kill his father and to have some kind of erotic possession of the mother." (143)

Say "whew"... and thank God that this is not common (says Vitz, who doesn't find this kind of thing in his own counseling work)!

But what does this have to do with God? Freud took his Oedipus theory and said people link their own fathers with God. God, said Freud, is a "father figure and our attitude toward God and our father are very similar." (144)

Freud thought this explained God-belief. Vitz says it is not universal, as Freud thought. But, ironically, if Freud's eccentric Oedipus theory explains anything, it explains atheism. Vitz says:

"Since Freud proposed that God is a father figure, this suggests that we should all have an unconscious desire to kill God, to be independent of God, to have the world the way we want it. In a sense, what he's saying is that an atheist has an unresolved Oedipus complex because normally the father is too big to kill and the child can't get away with it. And so, instead of killing his father, the child identifies with the aggressor, his father, and represses these aggressive and sexual desires, which then remain unconscious." (144)

Freud thinks all of us have a desire to kill God. Vitz thinks Freud is on to something here. Vitz: "I would propose that atheism is an example of Oedipal wish fulfillment. That is, it's an unresolved Oedipus complex in the person." OK. But Vitz does not think "Oedipal wish fulfillment" is anywhere near "universal." So Vitz thinks we need to go deeper. This brings us to the "theory of the defective father."

I'll explain this in my next post. For now I cannot begin to tell you how many atheists I have met who seem to me to especially be reacting to their fathers.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Vacuous Tautologies of Ayn Rand & "Atlas Shrugged"



Several years ago I walked into our local Panera Bread and saw two men sipping coffee, one of whom was wearing a t-shirt that proclaimed "Ayn Rand Was Right."

Are you kidding me? A few Randians may think she was a wise philosopher, but in all my years of philosophical studies her name was never mentioned. Now, because the movie "Atlas Shrugged" is soon coming out, we'll be hearing her name more. Not among professional thinkers, of course, who find her writings inane.

Here is David Bentley Hart, in First Things. Rand's "philosophy" is called "Objectivism." After seeing the man in the Rand t-shirt I checked her out. Then left her thinking, so I thought, forever. It took only a few sentences to dismiss her. I now warn you: If you are ever talking with a university philosophy professor never utter the name "Ayn Rand."

Hart writes:

"And, really, what can one say about Objectivism? It isn't so much a philosophy as what someone who has never actually encountered philosophy imagines a philosophy might look like: good hard axiomatic absolutes, a bluff attitude of intellectual superiority, lots of simply atomic premises supposedly immune to doubt, immense and inflexible conclusions, and plenty of assertions about what is "rational" or "objective" or "real." Oh, and of course an imposing brnad name ending with an "-ism." Rand was so eerily ignorant of all the interesting problems of ontology, epistemology, or logic that she believed she could construct an irrefutable system around a collection of simple maxims like "existence is identity" and "consciousness is identification," all gathered from the damp fenlands between vacuous tautology and catastrophic philosophical error. She was simply unaware that there were any genuine philosophical problems that could not be summarily solved by flatly proclaiming that this is objectivity, this is rational, this is scientific, in the peremptory tones of an Obersturmfuhrer drilling his commandoes."

"Vacuous tautology." Remember the "Sphinx" in "Mystery Men?" The Sphinx taught us the following:
- "To learn my teachings, I must first teach you how to learn."
- "He who questions training only trains himself at asking questions."
- "You must lash out with every limb, like the octopus who plays the drums."

Rapture Nonsense (Larry Hurtado on...)

Detroit, where so many people are missing
that there's always talk of the "rapture."
Now that the "rapture" has come and gone, New Testament scholar Larry Hurtado has a nice post on the false May 21 prediction.

He makes three points.

1) "It is profoundly troubling that people who claim to read and seek to follow biblical teaching allow themselves to be taken in by such predictions." Especially since Scripture dissuades us from doing so. (Mark 13:32-33; Luke 17:20-21) 

2) "It’s also troubling that the news media report readily on this sort of nonsense."

3)  "Perhaps the most troubling thing is that such phenomena trivialize, distort, and indeed miss entirely the serious religious and theological concerns that are involved in traditional Christian expressions of hope in God’s judgement and mercy.  The biblical texts expressive of such hopes reflect concerns about the injustice, cruelty, and oppression that characterize much of human history, and specifically whether God cares and will in some way and some good time make things right."

I love this last point.

Preaching on the Gifts of the Spirit

At Redeemer on Sunday mornings we're preaching through the letters of Paul focusing on Pauline Christology. We're now in 1 Corinthians.

This Sunday morning I will preach out of 1 Cor. 12:1-11. This begins a section on the spiritual gifts, which Josh Bentley and I will preach, lasting until July 31.

At the heart of Paul's letter to the Corinthians is the issue of what it means to be "spiritual" (Greek pneumatikos). I think this is especially relevant today.

I think we've formed a good contextual understanding of the Corinthian letter. The spiritual gifts preaching should make sense and give us all new insights because of our shared contextual knowledge.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Argumentative Theory of Reasoning as Supporting Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism

I smell a connection. Here it is, to be examined further: Plantinga's evo-argument against naturalism (the metaphysical [non-scientific] belief that "nature" is all there is) and "the argumentative theory of reasoning.

Alvin Plantinga's evolutionary argument against naturalism is this: P R/N&E is either low or inscrutable. That is, the probability (P) of trusting in our reason or rational capacities (R) on naturalistic evolution (N & E) is either low or inscrutable. If this is so, then we have a defeater for trust in our rational capacities. "If (naturalistic) evolution is true, then our cognitive faculties will have resulted from blind mechanisms like natural selection, working on sources of genetic variation such as random genetic mutation. And the ultimate purpose or function (Churchland's 'chore') of our cognitive faculties, if indeed they have a purpose or function, will be survival - of individual, species, gene, or genotype. But then it is unlikely that they have the production of true beliefs as a function. So the probability or our faculties' being reliable, given naturalistic evolution, would be fairly low."

Now see the recent article at nytimes.com, "Reason Seen More as Weapon Than Path to Truth." On evolutionary naturalism, "reason" did not evolve to discover "truth," but to win arguments.

"Rationality, by this yardstick (and irrationality too, but we’ll get to that) is nothing more or less than a servant of the hard-wired compulsion to triumph in the debating arena. According to this view, bias, lack of logic and other supposed flaws that pollute the stream of reason are instead social adaptations that enable one group to persuade (and defeat) another. Certitude works, however sharply it may depart from the truth." Reason evolved to win arguments, not to seek truth. "Truth and accuracy [are] beside the point."

"What is revolutionary about argumentative theory is that it presumes that since reason has a different purpose — to win over an opposing group — flawed reasoning is an adaptation in itself, useful for bolstering debating skills." Could evolutionary theorists be arguing for their theory simply to win an argument?

This is called "the argumentative theory of reasoning" and the recent Journal of Behaviorial and Brain Sciences dedicates the entire issue to its discussion. Plantinga's P R/N&E as low or inscrutable is supported by it. It will be interesting to follow the discussion.

The Psychology of Atheism: Part III

NYU psychologist Paul Vitz, in his presentation "The Psychology of Atheism," looks at deeper psychological reasons for atheism. (In Willard, A Place for Truth)

See my two previous posts on this here and here.

Vitz looks at the atheism of the psychologist Freud. Freud's atheism comes from what has been called the "projection theory" of German philosopher-theologian Ludwig Feuerbach. Vitz writes: "When Freud was writing his Future of an Illusion in the 1920s, he was updating Feuerbach." (142)

Freud's atheism is not itself part of his psychoanalysis. Vitz writes: "The thing to keep in mind is this: Freud had very little experience, maybe none at all, with the psychological study of people who believed in God. (143) Freud published no case histories of people who believed in God at the time of their psychoanalysis. "So Freud was really not an expert on the unconscious psychology of people who believed in God." (Ib.) Freud, therefore, did not give us a good theory of religious belief since his idas are not psychoanalytically rooted and are not at all based on much personal experience with God-believers. Freud merely warmed up Feuerbach's projection theory. This is not good scholarship.

Feuerbach's theory is found in his The Essence of Christianity. Feuerbach wrote:
  • What man misses - whether this be an articulate and therefore conscious, or an unconscious, need - that is his God. 
  • Man projects his nature into the world outside himself before he finds it in himself.
  • To live in projected dream-images is the essence of religion. Religion sacrifices reality to the projected dream. . .
Elsewhere Vitz explains: "What Freud did with this argument was to revive it in a more eloquent form, and publish it at a later time when the audience desiring to hear such a theory was much larger. And, of course, somehow the findings and theory of psychoanalysis were implied as giving the theory strong support."

"Strangely enough, however, Freud has inadvertently given us a basic theory for understanding why people would not believe in God, why people would be atheists!" (In Willard, op. cit., 143) The projection theory cuts both ways. To understand this Vitz looks at the one idea Freud is famous for, and which is central to his theory: the "Oedipus Complex."

Next Psychology of Atheism post: Freud's Oedipus Complex & atheism as an example of Oedipal wish fulfillment.

Philip Mantofa Coming to Redeemer, and...

COMING TO REDEEMER:


Sunday September 25 - Philip Mantofa from Indonesia
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Friday - Sunday October 21-23 - Chris Overstreet from Bethel Church
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Thursday -Saturday November 10-12 - Angela Greenig from Set Free Ministries

Monday, June 13, 2011

Baptisms This Sunday at Redeemer

Dear Redeemer Family:

We are having baptisms this Sunday, June 19, Father's Day. I love baptism Sundays at Redeemer!

If you want to be baptized please let either myself or Pastor Josh know.

If you want some else to baptize you, if they love Jesus then we would love that to happen.

Blessings!

PJ

Teach Religious Studies in High School

I have observed, in my MCCC philosophy of religion courses, a great student interest in learning about religion, other religions, worldviews, and God-issues (existence of God; problem of evil; ontological status of moral values). I've also had the opportunity to speak four times to students at Monroe High School about worldviews and religion. The high school students wanted to talk about these things, stayed around to ask questions, and displayed much energy for the subject. So why aren't religious studies a basic part of a general high school education?

I regularly read CNN's "Belief Blog." This June marks the one-year anniversary of BB. To celebrate this BB posted "10 Things the Belief Blog Learned In Its First Year." Two of them are:

"1. Every big news story has a faith angle. Even the ordeal of 33 Chilean miners trapped underground for more than two months. Even the attempted assassination of Arizona congresswoman Gabby Giffords. Even March Madness."

"5. It's impossible to understand much of the news without knowing something about religion. Why did the Egyptian revolution happen on a Friday? Why was Osama bin Laden's body buried so quickly after he was killed? Why did Afghan rioters kill seven United Nations workers in April? You simply can't answer those questions without bringing in religion."

Before, during, and after my trip to Kenya last fall, I knew I needed to familiarize myself with African religions. If I want to understand Africa I must understand their religious worldview. See, e.g., "Between Pulpit and Pew: Religious Influence on Political Belief and Behavior in Kenya," by Steve Lichty.
I've been to India. You can forget understanding India - it's politics, geography, culture, people - if you do not understand its religious worldview. The same is true in regard to so-called "secular" Europe and Canada.

The same goes for my teaching Chinese students, my trip to Thailand, and teaching African-American seminarty students. Re. the latter, for example, see Peter Paris's The Spirituality of African Peoples, and African American Religious Thought: An Anthology, eds. Cornel West and Eddie Glaude.

"It's impossible to understand much of the news without knowing something about religion." A general education that ignores religious and worldview studies is a greatly impoverished education. The Big Questions underly everything. They should be taught in high school.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

How to Read Genesis

In discovering the writing of James K.A. Smith (Thinking in Tongues) I have found Amos Yong. I've just begun reading Smith and Yong's Science and the Spirit: A Pentecostal Engagement with the Sciences. "Yong," Roger Olsen writes in Christianity Today, "is proving to be a cutting-edge Pentecostal scholar, whose non-Western perspective is offering fresh ways of looking at old theological problems."

In their first chapter Smith and Yong write of new works on the biblical book of Genesis. Here are some points about reading Genesis that I agree with.
  • Genesis should not be read in terms of modern science, but in terms of the literary conventions of ancient Near East literature. See, e.g., the best book on Genesis I've ever read: John Walton's The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate. To read Genesis from the POV of 21st-century science is to commit the sin of anachronism.
  • There then is no need to find agreement between what Genesis says and what modern science says.
  • The "plain sense" of the Genesis text in its original context does not equate with a literalist modern reading.
  • This alleviates the need to find a one-to-one correlation between the biblical witness and modern scientific data.
  • "At this point conceptual space emerges both for creative theological reflection that is informed by the sciences and for rigorous scientific work that does not ignore theological perspectives and contributions." (K 5%)

The Fastest Growing Religious Movement In the World

Praying for people in Sioux Falls
In Studying Global Pentecostalism: Theories + Methods (eds. Allan Anderson, Michael Burgunder, Andre Droogers, and Cornelis van der Laan), we read:

"Pentecostalism can be viewed today as the most rapidly expanding religious movement in the world. Within the past thirty years there has been an estimated 700 percent increase in the number of Pentecostal believers, who represent about a quarter of the world's Christian population and two-thirds of all Protestants. The rapid expansion of Pentecostalism has pushed so-called mainstream Protestantism into a minority position. It is not uncommon to see Pentecostalism presented as a modality on its own, at the same level as and Protestantism. The growth of Pentecostalism has raised a challenge to ecumenical cooperation." (2)

I remain thankful to God that I've been brought into the Pentecostal Jesus-movement.

If you want to study Pentecostalism I recommend:

No One Is Uncontaminated

In Sioux Falls,
about to lead some worship
No one has a full deck "upstairs." We're all screwed up. Theologically, we are all "subhuman." That is why we need a Savior. The person who believes they "have it all together" will not see the need for rescue.

When a person is rescued (redeemed) by Christ, do they become fully human as Christ? Of course not. Redemption marks the beginning of Christoformation (Galatians 4:19). Christomorphology. Christ, formed in you, formed in me. This is a process that finds its effectiveness in abiding in Christ.

I love the way Thomas Merton writes about this: "We are all under judgment. None of us is free from contamination... Mere commitment to a decent program of action does not lift the curse. Our real choice is between being like Job, who knew he was stricken, and Job's friends who did not know that they were stricken too - though less obviously than he. (So they had answers!)" (Seeds, 108)

Here ignorance is not bliss, it is illness. No one is free from contamination. This is pure Gospel stuff, explaining our need for the Cross.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Danger Signs for the Not Yet Married: Expanded Version - Part II

WARNING: DO NOT GET MARRIED...

11. If your partner is constantly complaining about unreal aches or pains, and going from doctor to doctor. Of course we have compassion on those suffering from hypochondria. The word "constantly" is key. Your marriage will be miserable as it battles the nonexistent and jousts at windmills. This is just a reality check. Note: if your doctors and caregivers consistently find nothing clinically wrong with you, be open to the idea that there is nothing physically wrong from you. That leaves the emotional, the psychological, and the spiritual. Seek help in these areas.

12. If your partner constantly makes excuses for not finding a job. You don't want to marry someone who is going to live off you. I have seen this happen, in the extreme! This intensifies when the couple has its first child. The working spouse is then raising, not one, but two children. You do not want a life of doing this.

13. If your partner is in debt financially. But who isn't in debt? Answer: not everyone; some are debt-free. The greater the financial indebtedness (let's call this "financial bondage"), the more pressure on the marital relationship. Do not underestimate this! Every marriage book ever written has a chapter of financds and money management. Debt-freedom equals less marital tension and conflict.

14. If your partner talks like they are a victim. Warning: one day (if not already) you will be their victimizer, the cause of all their problems. You will be blamed. You will be "the problem" in your marriage. This will not be a fun marriage to be in.

15. If your partner is overly suspicious, jealous, questions your work all the time, and feels that everyone is against him or her. If your partner does not trust you, LEAVE THE RELATIONSHIP IMMEDIATELY! If you are not a person to be trusted, if you flirt with unfaithfulness, then please, please, please release your friend from the relationship, and get help for yourself.

16. If your partner is a perfectionist and is constantly critical. Perfectionists are very angry people. They are angry because of their perfectionist expectations. Everything must be perfect, in relation to their own self-centered selves. But of course everything will not be perfect in relation to their selves. Therefore their expectations will constantly be unmet. The result is: constant anger (where "anger" is defined as the emotion we feel when our expectations and demands are unmet). Note: I never critique Linda, and she never critiques me. Unless permission is given to do so. Do not try to change your spouse-to be. You can't, and you won't. ACCEPT THAT!

17. If your partner puts you down, and uses a lot of sarcasm. Linda and I never put each other down in public, nor do we make fun of them in public. Sometimes, when I preach or speak, I use a story about Linda with her permission. Usually, my stories are about me, my failures, my own faux pas-ness. If the main way you comunicate with one another is via sarcasm you have a problem. It may seem funny now. It will not be funny later. Marry someone who consistently builds you up, makes you feel better about yourself, is your cheerleader in life. You want to be able to say: "I am a better person because I am married to _______."

18. If your parents and other significant people are strongly against your marriage. Listen to them. Maybe they are right! Of course some parents are so screwed up that their counsel is worthless, myopic, wrong, and ignorant. But if you have parents who love you, and some good friends who love you, and they express concern about the person you are dating, you need to take this into consideration. If your significant other does not take this seriously and blows it off, or is angry about it and will not constructively address it, then that will be proof that your parents and friends are right.

19. If you don’t like what you see in your partner’s parents’ marriage. Because "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree." In general, and for the most part, this is true. That's why the best pre-marital screening devices always include "family of origin" issues. Like FOCCUS, which I have used in pre-marital counseling for many years. How do their parents deal with conflict? Probably, that's how they will deal with it. If you don't like what you see there, or in some other area, then don't marry into it.

20. If there is a lack of spiritual togetherness. Warning: NEVER marry someone you are trying to spiritually rescue. This is called "missionary dating." NEVER MISSIONARY DATE! And: DO NOT BE MISSIONARY DATED! Do not use your significant other to spiritually rescue you.

NEXT - 8 more to come.

GET THIS BOOK AND READ IT NOW!


• Gary Chapman, Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married.

See: startmarriageright.com

Gary & Linda Wilson on Ravi Kandal - at Redeemer Tonight

Damselfly
Gary & Linda Wilson just sent me this note about Ravi Kandal, who will be with us tonight and tomorrow at Redeemer. (7 PM tonight; tomorrow - 10:30 AM; 7 PM) Gary & Linda are Darrren Wilson's parents.

*****
Hi John,
Just a quick word to encourage everyone to come hear Ravi tonight and tomorrow. Darren, who knows him well, says: "He's one of the most amazing people I've ever met in all my adventures around the world. And that's saying a lot!"

We are in for a MAJOR treat having him here. God has released him to be in "Father of Lights" which thrills Darren. This is a quiet and humble man of God who hears the audible voice of God almost daily. Jesus has appeared "in the flesh" to him many times. He has had experiences that are beyond belief (but are real) and God has given him some deep insights into the kingdom.

Do not miss this incredible opportunity. The only other place he has spoken on this trip was Darren's church in Chicago. We are blessed and privileged to have him!!

See you there,
Gary and Linda Wilson

Friday, June 10, 2011

Ben Witherington on Bart Ehrman's Sensationalist "Forged"

Bart Ehrman continues his lifelong quest to discredit the faith he once claimed to believe in and justify his unbelief in Jesus. See his newest installment Forged: Writing in the Name of God--Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are. Cnn.com has an article on Ehrman's forgery-thesis here.

Ben Witherington critiques Bart here. For Witherington Ehrman's use of the word "forged" is sensationalist and false. Witherington, as usual, is ridiculously meticulous in his Ehrman review. Witherington doesn't write mere "posts," he writes more "books" and calls them posts.

Ravi Kandal at Redeemer Tomorrow Night & Sunday

Ravi Kandal from Bangalore, India, will be at Redeemer THIS WEEKEND - June 11-12.

Sat. night - 7 pm

Sun. morning - 10:30 am

Sun. evening - 7 pm

Ravi is going to be in Darren Wilson's coming film "Father of Lights." Will Hart has also traveled and ministered with Ravi.

Ravi's focus includes:

1. Evangelism that focuses on religious belief’s, worldly influences, and critical thinkers.

2. Addressing and embracing the outcasts and unwanted in the society we live.

3. Spiritual disciplines that focus the mind and heart on the “Kingdom Perspective.”

4. Training that comes alongside to the two individuals from an Orphan and widows perspective, to a victorious life in Jesus to it’s fullest

5. Revealing the unfolded revelation of the Kingdom message

Corey Taylor, Slipknot, and Sin

Corey Taylor, frontman for the band "Slipknot," recently spoke at Oxford University. Slipknot's band members are known for wearing masks in concert. Like Taylor here:



Today's nytimes has an article on Taylor's Oxford appearance. "After a childhood in which anything counted as a plausible mind-altering substance, including the Robitussin he and his friends used to guzzle in a practice they called robofrying, Mr. Taylor has not done drugs for many years, he said. Nor does he drink anymore, after numerous riotous alcohol-fueled experiences that did not always end well."

Taylor's Oxford message was: "Forget about following your dreams, he said. Identify what you are good at and pursue that instead. “Too many people chase dreams that they don’t understand,” he said. “Too many people try to go for things that they’d like to do, but they’re not realistic enough to know they don’t have the talent.”"

I agree with that. I've told a few of my guitar students over the years who wanted to be rock stars that "It won't happen. You're not good enough." And, it's OK. Once a university student told me their dream was to be a surgeon. I told them they weren't smart enough. I now confess that, at age 62, 5'10", and having ridden the bench in high school basketball, I still want to be an NBA player.

So Taylor is correct. But it doesn't strike me as an especially powerful message.

Why does Taylor wear a mask while performing with Slipknot? “When you put that mask on, you go places you would never imagine,” Mr. Taylor said. “It comes from a spot that’s uncomfortable and really dark.” He added: “The mask was a way to visualize everything I was feeling in my heart and my gut — all that pain I was holding on to. I didn’t have the worst childhood, but I didn’t have the best, and when you grow up like that, you have certain limitations invariably stuck inside you. Slipknot was a way to work it out.”


Taylor has a book coming out in July entitled: The Seven Deadly Sins: Settling the Argument Between Born Bad and Damaged Good. The amazon.com blurb describes it like this:

"For the first time, Slipknot and Stone Sour frontman Corey Taylor speaks directly to his fans and shares his worldview about life as a sinner. And Taylor knows how to sin. As a small-town hero in the early '90s, he threw himself into a fierce-drinking, drug-abusing, hard-loving, live-for-the moment life. Soon Taylor's music exploded, and he found himself rich, wanted, and on the road. His new and ever-more extreme lifestyle had an unexpected effect, however; for the first time, he began to actively think about what it meant to sin and whether sinning could--or should--be recast in a different light. Seven Deadly Sins is Taylor's personal story, but it's also a larger discussion of what it means to be seen as either a "good" person or a "bad" one. Yes, Corey Taylor has broken the law and hurt people, but, if sin is what makes us human, how wrong can it be?"

Oh no....  So if I choose to rape and kill Taylor's little daughter (should he have one) "how wrong can it be" if that's just who I am, if sin is what makes me human?

Taylor is an atheist, so I'd say for him there's no discussion here because there's no real "right" or "wrong." (Here's a rather poor atheistic article by Taylor. If you detest rampant misspellings and syntactic abominations you should not read it.)

From my Jesus POV sin does not make us human but is evidence of our subhumanity.

I wonder if Taylor's book defines "sin." Etymologically, it means "to miss the mark," as when an archer's arrow misses its target. But if atheism is true there's no target; hence no "sin."






 

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Summer Reading: Some Books by Deep People

Munson Park, across from my house.
When I teach my Spiritual Formation classes to seminary students I tell them that I'm not interested in hearting from a preacher if they do not have a deep prayer life. Imagine this scenario. Pastor X stands before his congregation on Sunday morning and states "Like many of you, I can't find time to pray. But I've got something to tell you this morning." That is exactly the kind of preacher who has nothing to tell me. I don't need or want to hear more words from some out-of-touch "great preacher."

This is why I read the words of people like Thomas Merton. Do I agree with everything Merton says? Of course not. I don't even agree with everything I say. But Merton runs very, very deep. Merton spent much time actually praying (as opposed to writing about prayer, or telling people they need to pray).

Get a deep prayer life. It will cost you something. What we need, and always have needed, are not people who have more information, but deep people. People who slow-cook in God's presence. People who have and make time for God and cultivate the God-relationship. People who don't just occasionally tweet or text God, but people who dwell in God's Grand Narrative. Immersed people. Spirit-baptized people. Aflame people. People who see things sub specie aeternitatis. Meditative people. Contemplative people - people who behold God. Unitive, abiding, dwelling people. People who talk within God and listen to God. People who pray, and understand prayer as: talking with God about what he and I are doing together.

Here are some books by spiritually deep people who spend much time with God and hear from God. They are to be read slowly. These are some of the God-mediated voices I attend to.

Seeds, by Thomas Merton. This is the book to read to get into Merton. It's an edited selection of thematic readings. I've read it more than once.

A Celebration of Discipline, by Richard Foster. I read this book in 1983. God used this book to transform my spiritual life.

A Testament of Devotion, by Thomas Kelly. I underlined so much in this book that a friend once looked at it and asked, "Why didn't you just spray-paint every page?"

Abba's Child, by Brennan Manning. This book spoke deeply to me about my need for experiential knowledge of the love of God.

A Hunger for Healing: The Twelve Steps as a Classic Model for Christian Spiritual Growth, by J. Keith Miller. Deep, blbical thoughts on repentance, healing, and renewal.

In the Name of Jesus, by Henri Nouwen. The best single book of Christian leadership.

The Inner Voice of Love, by Henri Nouwen. Entries from Nouwen's spiritual journal as he was bringing his struggle with low self-worth to God. This was a book I had to read very slowly sicne it seemed every sentence was speaking to me.

The Contemplative Pastor, by Eugene Peterson. I have read this book two or three times. It always reminds me of my priorities in pastoral ministry.

Shame and Grace: Healing the Shame We Don't Deserve, by Lewis Smedes. For me, a beautiful book on overcoming self-condemnation by a deeper understanding and experience of the grace of God.


Jesus and the Disinherited, by Howard Thurman. If you’re going to read one book by Thurman this is the one to read. He is brilliant, insightful, and extremely relevant for even today. There s a timelessness about Thurman’s writings. On what it means to have a heart that loves one's enemies.