Monday, October 31, 2011

What If Evil Doesn't Exist?


I'm wrapping up Part 2 of my MCCC Philosophy of Religion class. It's the section on "The Problem of Evil." J.L. Mackie, in his logical argument from evil against the existence of God, writes that there would be no "problem of evil" if "evil" did not exist.

"Evil," in the philosophical discussion, is usually defined as "gratuitous suffering," aka "pointless suffering." If value is added to suffering it is not gratuitous. If the suffering is needed to allow for a greater good to happen or to prevent a greater evil from happening, then the suffering is not gratuitous, but redemptive.

On atheism-as-metaphysical naturalism it seems that "evil" does not exist. Metaphysical naturalism does not contain the word "ought." Science claims to tell us what "is," but one can't get "ought" from "is."

Atheist Richard Dawkins seems to recognize this. Dawkins writes: "In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The unvierse that we observe has precisely the properties we should expetc if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but pitiless indifference... DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music."

On Dawkins' version of atheism, "evil" and "good" do not exist. I think he correct, if atheism is true. But this entails that the "problem of evil" is only a so-called "problem," akin to "the problem of unicorns." Because, as Mackie has said, if evil does not exist then there is no "problem of evil." That is, on Mackie's reasoning (as well as Rowe's), the statement Evil exists must be true. Dawkins says it is not. Thus Mackie-type and Rowe-type arguments from evil fail. "Evil" must exist for there to be an argument from evil.

Note that Bill Craig has given an argument from evil for God's existence. It is:

1. If there is no God, then evil (objective evil) does not exist.
2. Evil exists. (Mackie's third premise)
3. Therefore, God exists.

Therefore, on atheism, "evil" does not form an objection to God's existence since it does not exist. For the atheist to think it does would be like accusing theists of being inconsistent because unicorns exist. Atheism has no foundation capable of bearing the word "ought."

Cancer Screening Is Not an Unmitigated Good

I am not a medical doctor.

That being said, I find the nytimes' Considering When It Might Be Best Not to Know About Cancer sensible.
  • "Expert groups are proposing less screening for prostate, breast and cervical cancer and have emphasized that screening comes with harms as well as benefits."
  •  "Women in their 40s do not appear to benefit from mammograms and that women ages 50 to 74 should consider having them every two years instead of every year."
  • "The widely used P.S.A. screening test for prostate cancer does not save lives and causes enormous harm."
  • "Two recent clinical trials of prostate cancer screening cast doubt on whether many lives — or any — are saved. And it said that screening often leads to what can be disabling treatments for men whose cancer otherwise would never have harmed them."       
  • "A new analysis of mammography concluded that while mammograms find cancer in 138,000 women each year, as many as 120,000 to 134,000 of those women either have cancers that are already lethal or have cancers that grow so slowly they do not need to be treated."
  • "While early detection through widespread screening can help in some cases, those cases are small in number for most cancers. At the same time, the studies are more clearly defining screening’s harms."
  • "In recent years, researchers have found that many, if not most, cancers are indolent. They grow very slowly or stop growing altogether. Some even regress and do not need to be treated — they are harmless."
  • Of course, this is being debated.
Consult your local physician regarding these things. Advocate for your own and your loved ones' health.

See also: U.S. Panel Says No to Prostate Screening for Healthy Men.
                           

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Gliding Forward Even While We Sleep


I am reading (for the third time) Brother Lawrence's classic The Practice of the Presence of God. Reading books like this, like the reading of Scripture, takes my heart to a deep place of fitness and belonging. Reading such things bring my heart to its true home.

There are many gems in Brother Lawrence. All center on dwelling, 24/7, in God's empowering presence. The constant dwelling in Christ was Brother Lawrence's goal. For him this was like learning a new language. One either continues to practice it and grow in it or neglect it and regress. He writes: "We must continuously walk in God's Spirit, since in the spirit-life not to advance is to fall back." (31)

The "24/7" part, for him, meant just that, and this includes the night, when we are sleeping. I love this beautiful truth and the way he expresses it: "Those who have the wind of the Holy Spirit in their souls glide ahead even while they sleep." (31) I think this is good biblical theology. Consider the "branch - Vine" metaphor Jesus uses in John 15. The connected branch grows 24/7. It does not disconnect from the Vine for 8 hours of sleep. So, I think this kind of "abiding" is, necessarily, 24/7. Which means the dwelling in Christ goes on even while we sleep.

Awareness of Christ's presence is nice but not necessary. In sleep we are mostly if not entirely unaware, but we are not unaffected. Spirit-morphing continues. Fruit-bearing happens.

7 Billion People

Tomorrow (approximately) the world's population hits 7 billion.

Oliphant

Crucifixion in Ancient Jerusalem


Roman soldiers were crucifying 500 Jews a day in the run-up to the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70. Alexander Jannaeus, a much-loathed Jewish king of the first century B.C., after slaughtering 50,000 of his own people, celebrated his victory “by cavorting with his concubines at a feast while watching 800 rebels being crucified around the hills.” Crucifixion was so common in the ancient world that Jews and gentiles alike had taken to wearing nails from victims as charms, anticipating what became a Christian tradition.

- From Caliphs, Crusaders, and the Bloody History of Jerusalem; a book review of Jerusalem: The Biography, by Simon Sebag Montefiore.

The nytimes review says this book is "impossible to put down."

“A fittingly vast and dazzling portrait of Jerusalem, utterly compelling from start to finish.” —The Sunday Times (U.K.)

Philosophy of Religion Exams

I just began reading
Peter van Inwagen's
The Problem of evil.

I love teaching philosophy of religion and logic at Monroe County Community College. For my philosophy of religion classes I give three 10-minute oral exams on sets of questions the students know in advance. In this class I teach on anywhere from 18-21 essays.

This next set of oral exams is on the following questions:



1. Explain J.L. Mackie's Logical Argument from Evil Against God's Existence.
2. Mackie says that one adequate solution to the problem of evil would be if the third statement of "Mackie's Triad" is false, which is: Evil exists. If evil is an illusion, as a version of Buddhism teaches, then we have no "problem of evil." Explain Buddhism's idea that evil is an illusion.
3. Explain Alvin Plantinga's Free Will Defense as a refutation of Mackie's argument from evil.
4. Explain William Rowe's Evidential Argument against God's Existence.
5. Explain Stephen Wyckstra's Critique of William Rowe's Argument from Evil (Rowe commits a "no-seeum fallacy").
6. Explain John Hick's Soul-Making Theodicy as a response to the argument from evil.
Extra credit (if needed): Explain the Modal Argument for the Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Free Will.

The exam review session will be this Tuesday, Nov. 1.

Oral exams will be held on Thurs., Nov. 3, and Tues., Nov. 8. Room A173.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Richard Swinburne On the Falsehood of Physicalism

Here is a nice 4-minute video clip of Oxford philosopher Richard Swinburne on the falsegood of physicalism.

"Physicalism": "the belief that the only things in the world are physical things."

New Beginnings Mercy House Fund-Raiser Today - 9-4

New Beginnings Mercy House Fund-Raiser

Today, October 29   -  9 AM - 4 PM

Fun for all, crafters, vendors, silent auction, raffle, flea market, food, fun activities for the kids.....Come on out and have a great fall afternoon to support a much needed ministry in our community!!!

Come and bring a friend!

AND, I've donated some of my photos in matte form, 8X10s and 5X7s.

Redeemer Fellowship Church 5305 Evergreen Drive

New Beginnings Mercy House is a crisis pregnancy agency. The agency exists because of the vision and dedication of the Founder and President, Brenda Pawlicki. Totally run by donations and the assistance of loyal volunteers,so far this year, Mercy House has provided much needed goods and services to over 2000 young women who are either pregnant and/or raising children, and grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. Fundraising is just one method that Mercy House uses to generate monies so that they may continue to support the Christian-based ministy.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Taxonomy of Logical Fallacies

With the political season heating up as we are one year away from the presidential election it's time to enjoy the veritable feast of informal logical fallacies that is being spread before us. And there's some real logic mixed in.

In philosophy, a main understanding of what it means to be "rational" is: to be logical. And "logic" has a specific content. Conversely, "irrationality" means: "illogical," again with a very specific content.

One way reasoning goes astray is in using informal logical fallacies. These are sneaky, obscure little beasts that sound logical but are not. Informal logical fallacies add nothing to reasoning, are deceivers, and are, of course, false. In my MCCC Logic classes we just finished an introduction to symbolic logic. Now we're going to spend time teaching these irrational things.

The website Fallacy Files is a good place to enter into the sad world of informal logical fallacies.

Here, for example, is Michele Bachman using the "slippery slope fallacy."

Question: This is for all candidates. What's your position on replacing the federal income tax with a federal sales tax?
Anderson Cooper: I'll direct that to Congresswoman Bachmann. You've been very critical of Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan, which calls for a 9 percent sales tax, a 9 percent income tax, and 9 percent corporate tax. In fact, you've said it would destroy the economy. Why?
Michele Bachmann: Well, I am a former federal tax litigation attorney. And also, my husband and I are job-creators. One thing I know about Congress, being a member of Congress for five years, is that any time you give the Congress a brand-new tax, it doesn't go away. When we got the income tax in 1913, the top rate was 7 percent. By 1980, the top rate was 70 percent. If we give Congress a 9 percent sales tax, how long will it take a liberal president and a liberal Congress to run that up to maybe 90 percent? Who knows?
"As a reason to oppose Cain's proposal, Bachmann invokes a slippery slope from a 9% national sales tax to a 90% one. But just how slippery is that slope? To support the slipperiness of the slope, Bachmann gives the example of the income tax going from 7% to 70%. Let's examine that example more closely.
Let's assume that Bachmann's numbers are correct―after all, this is a logic check, not a fact check. Why did she choose to compare the top income tax rate when the tax was adopted to that in 1980, that is, 31 years ago? Why didn't she compare the original top rate to the current one? I don't know, but the current highest marginal rate is 35%, according to Wolfram Alpha. This undercuts Bachmann's argument since, in the past three decades, the top rate has slid backwards to half of what it was.
So, what's to stop Cain's 9% national sales tax from ballooning to a 90% one? Presumably, the same thing that has prevented the income tax from doing so. Moreover, what's to stop Congress from adopting a national sales tax now? What has stopped it before now? Presumably, the usual mechanisms of democratic politics." (From here.)

I especially like the following, which diagrams informal logical fallacies - a "Taxonomy of Logical Fallacies." On the website, click on each one to get a description. Very nice!


Thursday, October 27, 2011

What a Pastor Does Not Need to Be


This coming Sunday at Redeemer I'm preaching out of 2 Corinthians 4:7-12:

7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

It's easy to think that if God wants to do something great, he needs great people. But humanly great people are not needed to accomplish great things for God. Paul flips this whole status-hierarchy thing around (just as Jesus did). God uses weak vessels to display his surpassing glory. This is why Paul is not freaking out about his own obvious personal weaknesses. He knew his shortcomings. He's not physically impressive. He's not a great speaker.

I like how New Testament scholar David Garland writes about this. Garland says: "Paul has become the suffering apostle of the suffering Messiah. We can learn from his example that ministers [pastors] do not have to be wonderful, just faithful. Many labor under the enormous burden of trying to be wonderful in the eyes of others rather than simply trying to minister to them. Many a minister suffers burnout from trying to run a sparkling program, keeping up attendance while keeping down conflict, and preaching catchy sermons instead of preaching Christ." (David Garland, 2 Corinthians, 230)

What our people need is not another performance, but God's empowering, majestic presence. Pastors, and all Jesus-followers, are but jars of clay who bear within themselves the light of the gospel.

Painfully ordinary. But with the power of God inside.

Peter Hitchens on William Lane Craig at Oxford

See here.

Peter is, for those who don't know, an atheist-turned theist, and the brother of famed atheist Christopher Hitchens.

See Peter's The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith.

Western Culture Is Becoming More and More Like First-Century Greco-Roman Culture


Ben Witherington, in a blog post yesterday, writes: "I do think that because of the increasingly secular direction of our culture, our cultural situation is becoming more like that of the earliest Christians."

In North America and Europe we live in a post-Christian culture.

The locus of Christianity has shifted, as Philip Jenkins has told us, from Europe and America to Africa, and then Asia.

Even though many in America say they believe in God, the air they breathe is godless.

From a Jesus POV this is not necessarily bad. Because a whole lot of what has been called "Christianity" in America was never really that; e.g., the many narrow fundamentalisms like King James onlyism; like reading and preaching from the Bible without contextualizing it; and so on. Out of the ashes of folk-Christianity and post-Christianity, authentic Jesus-following can arise. We may see the beginnings of this now happening in Europe. (Marcello Pera, e.g.)

And, BTW, post-Christianity does not mean and will never mean post-spirituality. The Big Questions have not been and will never be extricated from the human heart.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Jedi Master of Religious Debate

I think Paul Vallely's article is helpful on Richard Dawkin's refusal to debate William Lane Craig.

See, in The Independent, "Paul Vallely: God knows why Dawkins won't show - Our leading atheists prefer abuse to argument when faced with a tough-talking Christian opponent."

Vallely refers to Bill as "the Jedi Master of religious debate."

Vallely writes: "When A C Grayling was invited to debate Craig's assertion that, without religion, there are no objective moral values, only social conventions, he scornfully replied: "I would be happy to debate him on the question of the existence of fairies and water-nymphs." So much for the assertion by the British Humanist Association, of which Grayling is a luminary, that one of its core values is "engaging in debate rationally, intelligently and with attention to evidence"."

Yes, that is interesting, isn't it?

Vallely: "So who's afraid of William Lane Craig? Not everyone. The philosopher Stephen Law, from Heythrop College, gave Craig a good run for his money on Monday by turning many of Craig's arguments inside out and postulating the idea that God does exist but is evil, not good."

That, too, is interesting. Far more interesting than Dawkins's and Grayling's refusal to debate Bill. I've already commented on Law's point. I think it would be hard to establish an isomorphic relationship between a "all-good God" and an "all-evil God." Similar problems arise when one tries to convert the Ontological Argument into an argument for a perfectly evil being. But this discussion, I am certain, will continue. And bravo to Stephen Law for giving it a go!

Steven Jobs on God

"Sometimes I believe in God, sometimes I don't. I think it's 50-50 maybe. But ever since I've had cancer, I've been thinking about it more. And I find myself believing a bit more. I kind of -- maybe it's 'cause I want to believe in an afterlife. That when you die, it doesn't just all disappear. The wisdom you've accumulated. Somehow it lives on."

- From "Biographer: Mortality motivated Steve Jobs"

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Atheist Daniel Came Weighs In on Dawkins's Refusal to Debate Bill Craig

The Guardian has just published a piece by Oxford philosophy professor Daniel Came. Came is also an atheist. It's entitled: "Richard Dawkins's refusal to debate is cynical and anti-intellectualist - Using William Lane Craig's remarks as an excuse not to engage in reasoned debate is typical of New Atheist polemic."

This is a nice, articulate, reasoned little essay. Highlights include:
  • "There isn't much in the way of serious argumentation in the New Atheists' dialectical arsenal."
  • "Dawkins maintains that we're not justified in inferring a designer as the best explanation of the appearance of design in the universe because then a new problem surfaces: who designed the designer? This argument is as old as the hills and as any reasonably competent first-year undergraduate could point out is patently invalid."
  • "The New Atheism is certainly a far cry from the model of civilised interlocution between "old atheist" Bertrand Russell and Father Copleston that took place and was broadcast on BBC Radio in 1948." (I was required to read the transcript of this as an undergraduate philosophy major.)
  • Dawkins calls Bill Craig "an apologist for genocide." Came writes: "But whatever you make of Craig's view on this issue, it is irrelevant to the question of whether or not God exists." Correct. As (hopefully) any first year logic student would know.
  • "There is something cynical, ominously patronising, and anti-intellectualist in their modus operandi, with its implicit assumption that hurling insults is an effective way to influence people's beliefs about religion. The presumption is that their largely non-academic readership doesn't care about, or is incapable of, thinking things through; that passion prevails over reason. On the contrary, people's attitudes towards religious belief can and should be shaped by reason, not bile and invective. By ignoring this, the New Atheists seek to replace one form of irrationality with another."
  • Came refers to Bill as "an intellectually rigorous theist." He writes: "It should perhaps come as no surprise that Dawkins and [A.C.] Grayling aren't exactly queuing up to enter a public forum with an intellectually rigorous theist like Craig to have their views dissected and the inadequacy of their arguments exposed." (And remember that Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens, and a number of quite intellectual atheistic philosophers have debated Bill.)
But some intellectually rigorous Oxford professors are debating Bill. Oxford philosophy professor Stephen Law's exchange is very interesting. See Law's comments here. I posted a comment re. Law's argument against God's existence on the basis of isomorphic theodicies - supporting a good God, and an evil God - that are the "flip-flop" of each other. I wrote:

How about this as a rebuttal?

1. Love is only “love” if freely chosen.

2. Evil is “evil,” whether freely chosen or not.

3. The relationship between the two theodicies is not isomorphic.

4. Therefore two theodicies cannot be “flipped around.”

Law's argument is... interesting. It is worthy of being engaged. It fits within the wheelhouse of philosophy of religion studies. I think it's going to provoke Bill to respond, precisely because it is worthy of being responded to.

Chris Overstreet at Redeemer Tonight

We had a great night of worship last night. And Chris Overstreet and his wife Stephanie + some Bethel students are with us.

Chris opened with a number of words of knowledge for individual people, and prophetic words for Redeemer. Linda and I especially found some of his words for people accurate and encouraging.

I am looking forward to being with Chris again tonight.

He's also with us at tomorrow morning's worship service, plus Sunday evening at 7.

Chris asked us to pray about bringing others tonight, especially if you have a friend who does not know God.


Redeemer Fellowship Church
5305 Evergreen
Monroe, MI
734-242-5277

In Eldoret, Kenya


One year ago Al Willingham and I were in Eldoret, Kenya. I was teaching my spiritual formation class to these pastors from Kenya and Uganda. My time with them in Africa was life-changing and paradigm-shifting.

Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion: My Posts


For those of us who teach philosophy of religion the arrival of Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion was a God-send. It stirred up the God-discussion, at least from a professor's point of view. Things were getting a bit boring. But then in road "The Four Horsemen!" (Dawkins has referred to four members of the New Atheist movement - himself, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens - as "The Four Horsemen", alluding to the biblical "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.)

It's hard to say what other real impact The God Delusion has made. Even though some people buy books like this, it's hard to say how many actually read them. (This was discovered with the book The Closing of the American Mind, which was called the book everybody bought but nobody actually read.) When I ask my philosophy of religion students the question "Have you heard of Richard Dawkins?" only 5% say "Yes."

Here are the posts I made on my reading of Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion.

God Delusion #1

God Delusion #2 - Einstein was a atheist

God Delusion #3 - Emerson

God Delusion #4 - Anachronistic Displacement

God Delusion #5 - The Fallacy of Suppressed Evidence

God Delusion # 6 - A False Dichotomy

God Delusion # 7 - The Mind Reader

God Delusion # 8 - Causality in Esse

God Delusion #9 - The NYT Book Review

God Delusion #10 - Dawkins' Straw Men Exposed

God Delusion #11 - Terry Eagleton rips Dawkins

God Delusion #12 - Wired

God Delusion #13 - The Ontological Argument

God Delusion #14: More Anachronistic "Logic"

God Delusion #15: Religious experience and the Human Brain

God Delusion #16: Dawkins vs. Collins

God Delusion #17: Theism Causes Wars?

Anti "God Delusion" #1: Francis Collins on the Moral Law as Key to the Meaning of the Universe

God Delusion #18: All Psychologists Doubt Religious Experience?

God Delusion #19: H. Allen Orr Finds Dawkins's GD Horrific

God Delusion #20: Scot McKnight on Dawkins

God Delusion #21: P.Z. Myers' Tries to Save Dawkins By Telling a Fable

God Delusion #22: Dawkins as Bible Scholar: Part 1

God Delusion #23: Dawkins as Bible Scholar: Part 2

God Delusion #24: Dawkins vs. David Sloan Wilson

God Delusion #25: Alvin Plantinga Weighs In

The God Delusion #26: W. L. Craig Responds

The God Delusion #27: David Sloan Wilson's Critique of Dawkins

The God Delusion #28: The Attempt to Rescue Richard Dawkins

The God Delusion #29: The McGraths' Critique of Dawkins #1

The God Delusion #30: McGrath #2 - "Delusion"

The God Delusion #31: The McGraths & Martin Luther

The God Delusion #32: The McGrath's on "But Who Made God?"

The God Delusion #33: Dawkins Now Selling T-shirts

The God Delusion #34: Dawkins and the "God of the Gaps?

The God Delusion #35: Science Has Disproved God?

The God Delusion #36: The Naive "Science Explains Everything" Outlook

The God Delusion #37: Freud and the Future of an Illusion

The God Delusion #38: NOMAs & POMAs

The Dawkins Delusion #39: Should a Real Scientist Be an Atheist?

The God Delusion #40: How Richard Dawkins Helps Us

The God Delusion #41: Dawkins as an Embarrassment to Other Atheists

The God Delusion #42: Dawkins's "Pseudointellectual Drivel"

The God Delusion #43: Dawkins's Feuerbachian Roots

The God Delusion #44: Another Atheist Notes the "Thinness" of Neo-Atheism

The God Delusion #45: Dawkins's Mouth Puts Publisher in Danger

The God Delusion #46: Craig's Criticisms of Dawkins

Richard Dawkins: Either a Fool or a Coward?

Tim Stanley says "Dawkins has run away from a debate
he probably couldn't win."
This week Richard Dawkins published an article on why he won't debate Bill. Dawkins begins his "Why I Refuse to Debate with William Lane Craig" by writing that "Craig parades himself as a philosopher." When I read this I knew I was reading something written by Dawkins, since he is the king of ad hominem attacks. To correct this: Bill Craig is a philosopher, and a brilliant one. He is a major figure in the area of philosophy of religion. And, e.g., atheist philosopher Quentin Smith has called Bill one of our major scholars regarding the philosophy of time.

But mostly it is a waste of time defending against ad hominem abusives, and that's what one wants to do when reading Richard Dawkins on philosophy and religion.
Oxford University professor Tim Stanley has responded to Dawkins's refusal to debate Bill with an article in The Telegraph: "Richard Dawkins is either a fool or a coward for refusing to debate William Lane Craig."

Bill is now in Oxford presenting his views on God's existence, and refuting Dawkins's arguments in his The God Delusion.

Contra Neuromania and Darwinitis

Raymond Tallis

I confess to having some neuromania ("some neuromania" may be a contradiction). "Neuromania" is an obsession with neural studies and their implications for all things human. I am certainly fascinated by this, and find it important. But some scholars complain that neural studies do not explain as much as some are claiming.

Clinical neuroscientist Raymond Tallis, in his new book Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity, "argues that neuroscientific approaches to things like love, wisdom, and beauty are flawed because you can't reduce the mind to brain activity alone. And, like a school bully, Tallis taunts philosophers whose views he opposes, like Patricia S. Churchland (he calls her the "Queen of Neuromania"), John Gray (author of "misanthropic ravings"), and Daniel C. Dennett ("neuroscience groupie")." ("Raymond Tallis Takes Out the "Neurotrash"") 

Tallis's book is contra Biologism, which is the belief that human beings are essentially animals and can be understood in biological terms. This view is gaining increasing acceptance in contemporary thought. I'll be following this discussion as long as my brain holds out.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dr. Seuss and Martin Heidegger


I just read the newest Dr. Seuss book - The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories. I love everything about Seuss - the artwork, the colors, the characters, and the story. These stories are typical Seuss' morality plays. Here's a synopsis.


“The Bippolo Seed”
This is the tale of a duck that lives a simple lifestyle but gets very, very greedy.  The moral: Greed is not good.

“The Rabbit, the Bear, and the Zinniga-Zanniga.”
A giant bear with huge teeth and claws is about to clamp down on a tiny rabbit. The rabbit begins to out-think the bear. Rabbit points out that the bear has 10 eyelashes over one eye and only nine over the other eye. This is serious, since the weight of the extra eye lash causes the bear to be lop-sided. The rabbit begins to seriously get inside the head of the bear. It all goes downhill for the bear as he begins to experience serious psychosomatic symptoms. The rabbit then turns into a medical quack who convinces the ignorant and gullible bear that he needs to climb a Zinniga-Zanniga tree, pick one of its flowers, and hold it to its eye for “a couple of hours.” The bear does. The rabbit runs, laughing all the way. The moral: Brains overpower brawn.


“Gustav, the Goldfish”
A boy doesn’t follow instructions and over-feeds his goldfish.  The little fish grows to the size of a whale, in just a few minutes. The morale:  never disobey.

“Tadd and Todd”
Tadd and Todd are twins who look exactly alike, but Todd is happy and Tadd is filled with angst. Tadd does not want to be an identical twin. So, in a truly proleptic move, Tadd dies his hair red! Todd follows suit. This irritates Tadd, since he wants to be different.  Tadd makes a false tail “which he hitched on behind,” puts a rose on his toe, and catches a “queer bird.”  Plus he acquires a whole lot of other things.  Has Tadd been reading Heidegger's Identitat und Differenz? The moral: accept who you are.


“Steak for Supper”
A boy strolls down Mulberry Street, heading home, when he realizes it is Saturday night, and his family always has steak on Saturday nights. He’s so excited that he shouts out this piece of information. He then remembers that his father has told to “button his lip” in public, “for you can never tell who might hear what you say.” Too late! An Ikka heard, and begins to follow him home for steak. The Ikka opens his mouth and spills the steak to a Gritch, who joins the parade.  Then, a Grickle.  Then a Nupper, and a pair of Wild Wheef. “All because I’d said, “Steak, every Saturday night!” If you’re a character in a Dr. Seuss book and you disobey the rules, dire, catatrophic, slippery-slope consequences follow! The moral: think before you speak.

“The Strange Shirt Spot”
I looked forward to meeting this, since the title sounds like something I can strongly relate to. Right away we begin with a warning: Mother has said, “Stay out of the dirt. But there I was with a spot on my shirt!” This, to the boy, is as serious as being discovered that one is an ax-murderer.  He rubs the spot with a towel, and it comes off the shirt. But then it’s on the towel. He washes the towel in the tub, and the spot remains on the tub.  This is the spot from hell! “What kind of spot was this spot I had found?”  Things get worse from here on. The moral: Listen to your parents.


“The Great Henry McBride”
A boy sitting under a tree, pondering what he might be when he grows up. His first thought – I’ll be a famer and raise giant rabbits. But that limits his possibilities. He could do this plus be a doctor, too. Here the boy loses all touch with reality, since real doctors have no time to do anything else in life. “But why only two things…? Say! I could do three!” This is the madness of multi-tasking before its time. The boy could farm and raise giant rabbits, be a physician, and a radio broadcaster all at the same time. But guess what? Why not do four?  And more? The moral: it's OK to daydream when you're a kid.


Chris Overstreet & Desiring the Gift of Prophecy

Rockford, Illinois

My friend Chris Overstreet from Bethel Church in Redding, California, will be with us at Redeemer for the weekend, beginning tomorrow evening. God worked through Chris to cause me to desire the gift of prophecy.

It was three years ago that Chris first came to us. I'd only known him through the movie "Finger of God," which we were both in. The first evening with Chris was great. It began like this.

A man who had little experience with Jesus came that evening. He was in a deep whole financially. He is a homebuilder, and the homebuilding trade was going under. He asked God to have Chris point him out first in the group meeting. There were probably 300-400 people there. God spoke to Chris. Chris pointed to this man and said, "Please come forward. God has something for you."

The man came forward. Chris said, "God is saying to tell you that you are a builder."

At those words Linda and I nearly fell off our chairs. How accurate that was! Now, God really had our attention. The string of events that began to happen in this man's life, following that prophetic word, was amazing.

And I was captured by this ancient biblical gift. We are told to desire it (1 Cor. 14), and I was. If this was what prophecy was, then who wouldn't want it? In my desire I sought God re. this gift that God uses to strengthen, comfort, and encourage others (1 Cor. 14:3).

I've been walking in this since Chris came. It's been a faith-risking ecperience for me that's taken me out of my "comfort zone" into God's comfort zone; viz., into the arena where God's Spirit is working.

It will be great to be with Chris tomorrow. If you want to join me, here are the details.


Chris Overstreet at Redeemer Fellowship Church
5305 Evergreen
Monroe, MI  48162
734-242-5277

Fri., Oct. 21, 7 PM
Sat., Oct. 22, 7 PM
Sun. morning, Oct. 23, 10:30 AM
Sun., Oct. 23, 7 PM

We'll also be selling Night Light jewelry, which helps pull women out of a life of prostitution in Bangkok, Thailand.

Plus, Holly Benner will lead worship.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Richard Dawkins Snubbed By a Detroit Area Country Club

These signs are appearing on buses
at Oxford University.

Atheist Richard Dawkins has been in Detroit in an effort to avoid debating William Lane Craig back at Oxford. Dawkins was scheduled to speak at Wyndgate Country Club in Rochester Hills. Apparently a country club official watched Dawkins on "The O-Reilly Factor" and saw he was an atheist. The country club cancelled Dawkins's speaking engagement. Dawkins said: "This is sheer bigotry. If the country club had said, 'I'm not having Dawkins speak because he's a Jew, or because he's black, or because he's gay,' they would never get away with it."

No Richard, this is Detroit.

Dawkins did speak at the Birmingham Temple, a congregation for Jewish humanists and atheists. The Temple advertises itself as "the hub for the worldwide movement of Humanistic Judaism."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Knowledge and Logical Exclusiveness


"There is a certain logical exclusiveness built into knowledge as such, and it must be respected... This is due to the fact that knowledge (not mere belief, commitment, sentiment, or tradition) involves truth. Truth by its very nature is exclusive in the following sense. If any belief is true, that by itself excludes the truth of any belief contrary or contradictory to it. And this “exclusion” is not a matter of what anyone wants or hopes to be true or false. For example, if “Sue’s dress is red” is true, then “Sue’s dress is white” and “Sue’s dress is not red” are false. It does not matter what anyone may think or want. It is simply a matter of the objective logical relations between the beliefs (or statements or “propositions”) involved."
- Dallas Willard, Dallas, Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge, pp. 170-171

Truth necessarily marginalizes. Truth excludes.

Everyone who has a worldview excludes all who do not share it. Everyone has a worldview. A worldview consists of a group of statements that are believed to be true, and which are embraced so as to allow a person to make sense of his or her experience.

Here is an example. When I was speaking in India the hotel I stayed in had an altar in the lobby. Every morning a young Hindu priest, dressed in a white skirt, lit incense sticks on the altar and offered prayers to the god of the hotel. This scene can be captured in the following statements or propositions:
1. There is a god who watches over the hotel.
2. Appeasing this god with the burning of incense and other sacrifices helps ensure that the hotel will succeed financially.
3. Uttering prayers of worship to this god increases the probability that the god will show favor towards the hotel.
4. To not perform #s 1 and 2 may cause the god of the hotel to be angry and bring harm or disaster to it.

Take statement 1. If it is true, then I who think it is false am wrong. Such is the nature of truth. The Hindu priest knows something I do not and, as such, I am logically excluded from such knowledge.

I think statement 1 is false. If I am right, then statements 2-4 are necessarily false, since there exists no "god of the hotel" to be appeased.

It is not rude or impolite to talk like this. Marginalization is epistemically unavoidable. Willard writes: "It is not arrogant and unloving merely to believe that you are right about something and that others are wrong... There have, after all, been many people who were strongly convinced of the rightness of their beliefs, in religious and other matters, without being arrogant and unloving." (Ib., 170) "Tolerance" implies disagreement. And every person, in affirming their worldview (no matter what it is), is calling many people "wrong."

Monday, October 17, 2011

Habib Koite

Wow - I just discovered Malian guitarist-singer-songwriter Habib Koite. Very sweet acoustic guitar playing, very melodic, groovy percussions, a cool voice, great production... 

Koite tunes his guitar to a pentatonic scale and plays on open strings.

Bonnie Raitt compared Habib to Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn.

I'm listening to his cd "Afriki."

Advice to Christian Philosophers: Two Resources

Rembrandt - "Philosopher In Meditation"

If you are a Jesus-follower who is interested in philosophy then here are two sources you need to check out.

First, read Alvin Plantinga's short and famous essay "Advice to Christian Philosophers." It's been published in The Analytic Theist: An Alvin Plantinga Reader. You can read it for free here. If these don't work for you send me a check for $100 and I'll mail it to you.

Second, Garrett DeWeese's Doing Philosophy as a Christian looks to be good and important. Here are some reviews from a few theistic philosophy-giants.

"In this unique and uniquely important book, Professor DeWeese carefully and winsomely develops a clear, deep and cogent approach to the practice of philosophizing as a Christian. In so doing, he demonstrates a rich knowledge of Scripture, analytic philosophy and the history of philosophy--a rare combination of intellectual virtue. Both students and professors of philosophy will benefit greatly from this astute and timely work, for which I have the highest admiration." (Douglas Groothuis, professor of philosophy, Denver Seminary, and author of Christian Apologetics )

"Sooner or later, reflective Christians will face the question of what to do with the academic discipline of philosophy. Garrett DeWeese rightly contends that Jesus as Lord has an important bearing on this question. This book aims to spell out this bearing of Jesus. In doing so, it merits careful attention from all reflective Christians." (Paul K. Moser, Loyola University Chicago )

"Garrett DeWeese's book fills a serious gap. Students in philosophy as well as professional philosophers will find much insight into the important question of how Christian faith shapes the practice of philosophy. Not all Christian philosophers will agree with all the positions taken, but all can benefit from this fine example of what it means to be integrally Christian while seeking to do philosophy in a rigorous manner." (C. Stephen Evans, professor of philosophy and humanities, Baylor University )

"While many both in the church and in the world think that a Christian philosopher is an oxymoron, Christians in the university know better. Over the last fifty years there has been a dramatic resurgence of faithful Christians in academic philosophy. Many of the best young Christian minds continue to flock to this discipline. Finally there is a tool to help them think deeply and critically about the benefits of bringing their commitments to the authority of Scripture and the person of Jesus into their study of philosophy. Doing Philosophy as a Christian will set the beginner on the right path, and it will challenge the more advanced philosopher to continue to become a more faithful follower of Christ. Not only will those who study this book be better philosophers, they will be better able to lead others into a deeper encounter with Christ." (Gregory E. Ganssle, Yale University )

"With graduate degrees in theology and philosophy, and years of deep reflection, Garry DeWeese is uniquely qualified to write on how to approach philosophy from a Christian perspective. And Doing Philosophy as a Christian does just that. In page after page, DeWeese offers fresh insight and deep reflection about how to honor Jesus as Lord in the task of doing philosophy. This is a must-read for all interested in worldview development and the integration of Scripture with the field of philosophy." (J. P. Moreland, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Talbot School of Theology )

Inner Peace Is Not Circumstantial (Solitude Is a Deepening of the Present)

Anderson Gardens
Rockford, Illinois

"Solitude is not found so much by looking outside the boundaries of your dwelling as by staying within them. Solitude is not something you must hope for in the future. Rather, it is a deepening of the present; and unless you look for it in the present, you will never find it."
- Thomas Merton, The Sign of Jonas, 262

Many years ago a friend of mine whose inner being was tormented and in turmoil decided to go alone to a cabin in the north woods and spend time with God. He went to a very isolated area in Canada. The setting was pristine and beautiful. He lasted a couple of days before he came home. He had brought all his inner agitation plus his physical brain with him and couldn't handle it.

A change of geographical location will not heal the troubled heart. The idea that "If I could only be elsewhere, then I'd be better" is a delusion. This is good news. If our inner well-being was a condition of our outer physical space then we would remain forever in bondage unless we travel.

One's inner well-being is not a function of one's physical environment or one's life circumstances. In solitude, where you are right now, God can "deepen the present." Jean-Pierre de Caussade, in his classic book The Sacrament of the Present Moment, writes: "Divine action cleanses the universe, pervading and flowing over all creatures. Wherever they are it pursues them. It precedes them, accompanies them, follows them. We have only to allow ourselves to be borne along on its tide." (3)

The apostle Paul wrote: "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." (Phil. 4:11-12) Inner peace is not circumstantial. (The marketing strategies of our world tell us otherwise.)

The reason is: God is now with you. If you are a Jesus-follower, Christ, the hope of glory, is within you. And Christ-in-you is not now in a panic room. He is not agitated. He is not freaking out. His peace is not circumstantial.

In John 14:27 Jesus instructs his disciples: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." How do we access the peace of Christ? Jesus says: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."

As we abide in Christ we gain his peace. This world's quasi-pseudo "peace" is conditional on external circumstances. The peace that calms the agitated seas of our hearts is conditional on connectedness to Christ. That is fully available now. In the present moment. "It's just You and me here now; only You and me here now." 

Presently.

In His presence.

You won't need to look for it anywhere else.

Chris Overstreet from Bethel Redding at Redeemer - This Coming Fri- Sat - Sun

Chris Overstreet from Bethel Redding in California will be at Redeemer Oct. 21-22-23.

Friday, Oct. 21, 7 PM - Worship + Chris

Saturday night, Oct. 22, 7 PM - Worship + Chris

Sunday morning, Oct. 23, 10:30 AM - Chris preaches at our morning worship service

Sunday evening, Oct. 23, 7 PM - Worship + Chris

Chris has become a good friend. I love what he brings to the table in his teaching and preaching, and his closeness to God.

See Chris's new book here.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Sense In Which Every Jesus-Follower Is a "Deacon"

Anderson Gardens,
Rockford, Illinois

διακονία,n \{dee-ak-on-ee'-ah}
1) service, ministering, esp. of those who carry out the commands of others… 

In Ephesians 4:11-12 Paul writes: So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for the work of ministry (works of service), so that the body of Christ may be built up. The term "the work of ministry" is, in biblical Greek, diakonias. In this sense every Jesus-follower is a "deacon," or a "minister."

It was a sad day in the history of the church when pastors started getting referred to as "the ministers." This unbiblical idea helped promote the church-as-audience, who came to hear "the minister" preach. A dichotomy formed between "ministers" and "lay people" (from the Greek word laos, which means "people").

In 2 Corinthians 4:1 Paul writes: "Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart." Here again the Greek word we translate as "ministry" is diakonian. Note that "we" have this "ministry," and not just Paul. And this ministry is the glorious reality of the gospel and the new covenant.

The common use of diakonos is "of ministry in a general sense without any clear implication of church office." (Piper and Grudem, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 505, fn. 13) In 1 Timothy 3 the word "deacon" seems to function as an appointed office of the church. We read: In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. 9 They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.

"Let them serve as deacons" is redundant, since precisely what "deacons" do is "serve." If they exhibit Christlike character then they may be appointed to "deacon" in a specified area of ministry.

Every Jesus-follower is called to be a servant.

Every Jesus-follower is entrusted with "the ministry" (diakonias).

The next time someone asks you "Who is the 'minister' in your church?" you may answer: "We all are."

Saturday, October 15, 2011

What "Church" Is

For me "church" is boiling down to two things. By "church" I mean: a people movement following after Jesus Christ and his redemptive Kingdom-mission.

Jesus-following people are to do 2 things:
  1. 1. Dwell in Christ. (See esp. John 14-15-16)
  2. 2. Get equipped for works of ministry. (Esp. Ephesians 4:11-12)
When "church" meets the purposes are: corporate dwelling in Christ, and gaining more "equipment" to effectively minister the gospel in the world.

Corporate gatherings help Jesus-followers "gain heart" if they've lost any. (2 Cor. 4:1) Here, especially, the gifts of the Spirit come into play, all for the sake of building up the church and bringing strength, comfort, encouragement, and healing.

A number of things follow from this, to include:
  • "Church" is not an entertainment center, with a few people doing ministry.
  • "Church" is not about some "audience." As N.T. Wright says, when someone becomes a Jesus-follower and, therefore, becomes "church," they step onto the stage as "actors" in Act V of the 5-Act Play that is the biblical Grand Narrative.
  • "Church" is not about "striving" or "trying harder." It is about abiding in Christ. The promise for all who enter into this close relationship "in Christ" is a life that bears much fruit.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Bill Craig's UK Speaking Tour

My friend Bill Craig departs this weekend for his UK speaking tour. Pray for Bill and his wife Jan. Here is there spiritually and intellectually rigorous schedule.

Programme for the

Reasonable Faith Tour 2011

Schedule of Events

The schedule below will be updated with the latest information as it becomes available at www.bethinking.org
Monday 17th October 2011
7.30pm "Does God Exist?"
Public Debate with Stephen Law, lecturer in Philosophy at Heythrop College,London, and Editor of the magazine of the Royal Institute of Philosophy THINK. Arranged by Premier Radio.
Westminster Central Hall, Storeys Gate, London, SW1H 9NH

Tuesday 18th October 2011
12.45pm Student Lecture "The Evidence for God"
Pippard Lecture Theatre (Sherfield Building), Imperial College London (South Kensington Campus), Exhibition Road, London SW7 2AZ
Refreshments from 12.15. Start promptly at 12.45.
This event will be webstreamed to the world - full details will be announced on bethinking.org when available.
6.00pm Lecture "A Moral Argument for the Existence of God: can we be good without God?" The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), Room G2, Thornhaugh St, off Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG This lecture is open to all.

Wednesday 19th October 2011
7.30pm Public lecture "The Origins of the Universe - has Hawking eliminated God?" on Stephen Hawking’s The Grand Designfollowed by a panel response
William Lane Craig will also discuss the issues arising from his presentation with Revd Dr Rodney Holder, physicist with the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, Cambridge.
St. Andrew the Great, Cambridge

Thursday 20th October 2011
7.30pm Debate at the Cambridge Union: "This House Believes that God is not a Delusion"
Proposing the motion: William Lane Craig and Peter S. Williams
Opposing the motion: Arif Ahmed and Andrew Copson
The Cambridge Union, Cambridge
Friday 21st October 2011
7.30pm "Does God Exist?"
Debate with Professor Peter Millican, Gilbert Ryle Fellow and Professor of Philosophy at Hertford College, Oxford University
The Great Hall, Birmingham University, Edgbaston, B15 2TT

Saturday 22nd October 2011
9.30am - 5.30pm Bethinking National Apologetics Day Conference
Westminster Chapel, London
Opening and closing lectures from William Lane Craig
Further lectures from Gary Habermas, John Lennox and Peter J. Williams

Sunday 23rd October 2011

Monday 24th October 2011
7.30pm Lecture“The Historicity of Jesus' Resurrection”
Southampton Guildhall, Southampton SO14 7LP

Tuesday 25th October 2011
7.30pm Lecture "Is God a Delusion?" A Critique of Dawkins' The God Delusion
[or a debate with Richard Dawkins if he should accept the invitation]
Sheldonian Theatre, Broad Street, Oxford, OX1 3AZ

Wednesday 26th October 2011
7.30pm Does God Exist?
Debate with Dr Peter Atkins, former Professor of Chemistry at Oxford University
University Place Lecture Theatre, Manchester University, Oxford Road,Manchester, M13 9PL

Scot McKnight On the Influence of George Ladd

New Testament scholar Scot McKnight shares the influence George Ladd has had on him. I, too, am among the influenced. My NT seminary professor, Manfred Brauch, assigned Ladd's A Theology of the New Testament to us. My hard cover copy is falling apart from reading and re-reading it. A few years ago I shared lunch with Manfred. I asked him if he would still use Ladd's text today. Yes, indeed, he would.

McKnight writes: "I was at Eerdmans the day they unloaded the freshly printed copies of his A Theology of the New Testament. I gobbled one up and by the time I graduated from college I had read and read and read that thing. Ladd’s argument was that salvation-history, the dynamic of now but not yet, was at the core of Jesus’ kingdom vision and the theology of the entire New Testament."

In Redeemer Ministry School we use Ladd's The Gospel of the Kingdom. This is the best single text on the Kingdom of God there is. How important is this? Remember that understanding "the kingdom of God/heaven" is the hermeneutical key to understanding the Real Jesus.

McKnight writes: "George Eldon Ladd was a Titan, his work irreplaceable, and his impact incalculable."

McKnight strongly recommends John D'Elia's biography of Ladd: A Place at the Table: George Eldon Ladd and the Rehabilitation of Evangelical Scholarship in America.  

Protective Love Can Cause Withdrawal Pains


Every loving parent knows there are times they need to disciple their children, and it causes their children to feel pain. They cry They are sad. They suffer. And, they are angry with you. They are oblivious to the truth that they are actually being protected.

When little Johnny cries because he can't sit on top of the oven and play with the dials his grief is real. But he is being loved. Only an unloving parent would allow Johnny to do this.

The pain of being-discipled has a telos, a purpose. I have not personally experienced a crack addict's withdrawal pains. I have had many crack addicts describe them to me. And, I have personally seen this. One time a crack addict came to our Sunday morning worship service while in the throes of withdrawal. His pain was very real. It was also necessary for his potential freedom from crack. Going through this pain would allow him hte opportunity to gain freedom.

Being-discipled by Christ causes withdrawal pains. We leave our nets to to follow after Jesus. I do not think this was easy for Peter the lifelong fisherman. When we follow after Christ we are called to leave behind many things. These include certain attitudes, behaviors, possessions, lifestyle, relationhips, and even our homes.

I am thankful for the times when I have been lovingly discipled. It was not pleasant at the time. Sometimes I resisted it. I felt anger and defensiveness. The truth was that I needed to look at my own self. In retrospect I see that such times protected me from sitting atop the oven and playing with the dials.