Wednesday, April 30, 2014

2014 Ohio School of Power and Love

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                 FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
April 28, 2014                                                    Barb Herzog – Vineyard Church
                                                                  barbherzog@sbcglobal.net

2014 Ohio School of Power and Love

Over 20 area churches are joining together to have the School of Power and Love in Toledo May 21st – 24th, 2014 at Abundant Life Ministries, 5025 Glendale Avenue in Toledo, Ohio.
Power & Love Ministries was birthed out of the vision to see the Church of Jesus Christ catch hold of its inheritance to win the lost, as Paul says, “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (I Cor 2:4 NAS).  Speakers Bob Hazlett, Todd White, Tom Ruotolo and Robby Dawkins will take part in the teaching and demonstrating empowering in the gifts of prophecy and healing as a lifestyle!  These gifted teachers will not only give you a wonderful new understanding of power evangelism but then you will be “activated” as you “do the stuff” of the kingdom!
Evening sessions are free and open to the public May 21st – 24th at 7pm.  The daytime sessions May 22nd – 24th will held from 9am – 4pm daily and people can register at www.powerandlove.org.  Registration fee is $80.00 for all three days, $65.00 for students.  Registration will be $100 beginning May 21st at the door.
Come and be a part of what God is doing!  Four days of intensive training.  Learn both prophetic and healing evangelism from those who are seeing results.  Prepare yourself to go outside the walls of the church with the power of God!  Not just head knowledge – “practice” what you learn after each session.  Get ready to tell your stories of God flowing through you!  For more information, contact area coordinator Barb Herzog at barbherzog@sbcglobal.net.
Sunday morning, May, 25th, the speakers will be speaking at the following churches: 
Todd White/Vineyard Perrysburg @ 10am,
Tom Ruotolo/Westside Communty Church @ 10:30am,
Bob Hazlett/Redeemer Church, Monroe, Mi @ 10:30am,
Robby Dawkins/New Hope Church, Fremont, Oh. @ 10am.


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Easter Was Not Borrowed From a Pagan Holiday

Someone asked me a question about Easter - was "Easter" originally a pagan holiday? The answer is: "No."

See "Was Easter Borrowed From a Pagan Holiday?" (The historical evidence contradicts this popular notion.)

Chuck Colson, Greg Boyd, & Shane Claiborne On Christianity and Homosexuality

Prayer Is An Environment (PrayerLife)

Monroe County
My '99 van has 170,000 miles on it, is rusting out, needs constant attention and care, has doors that no longer work, and now needs a brake job. It's unsafe to drive. Linda and I have talked about how much more money we should pour into this thing. We have talked together with God about this. We have prayed. It seems clear to us that we are to get rid of the old van and purchase a reliable car that will last us for a long time.

"Prayer" is talking with God about what we and God are doing together. Henri Nouwen says that "To pray means to think and live in the presence of God." (Nouwen, The Only Necessary Thing: Living a Prayerful Life, 32)

Prayer is an environment, a culture. Prayer is a vast space inhabited by God's presence. Prayer is a dwelling-with. 

Thinking and living in the prayer-environment brings discernment. Answers to questions like "What should we do?" are found in God's presence. There is the place where we are to think and live.

Today, think and live in the presence of God.



Tuesday, April 29, 2014

In Prayer, We Get Changed (PrayerLife)

Kites, in Munson Park across from our house
Stanley Grenz writes: "Petitioning God on our own behalf can bring about psychological change. Fear can be changed to boldness." (Grenz, Prayer: The Cry for the Kingdom, Kindle Locations 467-468)

(Note: The Best book on psychology and prayer is: The Psychology of Prayer: A Scientific Approach, by Bernard Spilka and Kevin Ladd.)

For example, when the first church was praying in the upper room in Jerusalem "the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly." (Acts 4:31) The result of their prayer is that God changed them.

In prayer, we get changed. We see this in Ps. 118:5:


When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord;

    he brought me into a spacious place.


We see in the next verse that the praying psalmist experienced a new boldness that came in response to his prayer:


The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.

    What can mere mortals do to me?
The Lord is with me; he is my helper.
    I look in triumph on my enemies.


In prayer, God changes fear into boldness.

In prayer, God changes anxiety into peace. We see this in Philippians 4:6-7:


Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

As I pray God's power falls on me, and I get changed. My fearful heart gains strength; my anxious heart gets calmed.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Andreas Kostenberger's "God, Marriage, and Family"

I've appreciated New Testament scholar Andreas Kostenberger's hermeneutical and exegetical studies of Scripture (e.g., his commentary on John). I just ordered the revised version of his book God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation. Here are the reviews posted on amazon.com.



Editorial Reviews

Review

“I love this book. It is the best on the subject, and at Mars Hill we have hundreds of couples read it each year as their premarital text. The men in Acts 29 also use it in their churches. God, Marriage, and Family is amazing, comprehensive, biblical, helpful, insightful, and without peer on the matters to which it speaks. I have read this book multiple times and am astounded at how much is packed in. I have also read the footnotes multiple times, and they alone are worth twice the price of the book. I am thrilled that God, Marriage, and Family is now updated and expanded and available in a second edition and am happy to endorse this amazing work and highly commend it to you. Read it, and give it to others, and you and they will be richly blessed.”
Mark Driscoll, Founding Pastor, Mars Hill Church, Seattle Washington; Founder, Resurgence; Co-founder, Acts 29; author, Death by Love 
“In breadth of coverage, thoroughness of learning, clarity of analysis and argument and, I think, soundness of judgment, this solid, lucid, pastorally angled treatise has no peer. Evangelicals who research, debate, teach, and counsel on gender, sex, marriage, and family will find it an endlessly useful resource. The easy mastery with which the author threads his way through forty years’ special pleadings gives this compendium landmark significance, and I recommend it highly.”
J. I. Packer, Board of Governors' Professor of Theology, Regent College
“The special value of this book lies in its pervasive exposition of Scripture. We are adrift in a sea of speculation without this. I am thankful for the book. I plan to give it to my grown children.”
John Piper, Founder, desiringGod.org; Chancellor, Bethlehem College and Seminary
“Anything Andreas Köstenberger publishes is worthy of attention. His international education and experience, his teaching career, and his Christian character make him an author to be read with both care and anticipation. You may not agree with all his conclusions, but you’ll be better equipped for living and teaching about God, marriage, and Family. Sensible, balanced, and biblical, this is a sound and timely summary of the Bible’s teaching on some of the most basic and yet controversial topics in today’s world. I highly recommend it.”
Mark Dever, Senior Pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington DC; President, 9Marks
“If you are looking for just another collection of saccharine clichés about shiny happy Christian families, then you might want to leave this volume on the book-store shelf. In an era when too many Christians listen more intently to television therapists than to the Bible on the question of the family, this could be one of the most significant books you ever read.”
Russell D. Moore, President, The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; author, Tempted and Tried
“The book is wide-ranging and reflects mature judgment in interpreting Scripture and applying it to life. The author does not avoid controversial issues, but in each case he treats the issues fairly with ample explanation of alternative views. This is an excellent book that deserves to be widely used.”
Wayne Grudem, Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies, Phoenix Seminary
“This is a superb book—the work of a gifted exegete whose feet are firmly planted in this world. God, Marriage, and Family addresses the daunting issues facing today’s Christians regarding marriage, divorce, remarriage, sexuality, children, contraception, abortion, singleness, sex roles, and leadership with radical biblical fidelity and practicality. If you want the Bible on these questions, this is the book! What a gift to today’s church!”
R. Kent HughesSenior Pastor Emeritus, College Church, Wheaton, Illinois
“This volume should be not only on the shelf of every pastor in this land, but also in the syllabus of every course on marriage and the family taught in Christian colleges and seminaries. The author’s careful defense of traditional biblical values relating to family life demands a serious reading, especially by those who do not agree with him.”
Daniel I. Block, Gunther H. Knoedler Professor of Old Testament, Wheaton College; author, The Gospel according to Moses: Theological and Ethical Reflections on the Book of Deuteronomy
“Driven by a passion for Scripture and fueled by a sense of urgency borne out of the cultural wars that seek to hide and even destroy the biblical patterns, Köstenberger grapples with salient issues of interest to those who see the family as God’s basic unit in his revelation of himself.”
Paige and Dorothy Kelley Patterson, President and Professor of Theology in Women's Studies, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
“The Christian looking for a brief, understandable, straightforward, intelligent, faithful presentation of what the Bible says about marriage, family, divorce, remarriage, homosexuality, abortion, birth control, infertility, adoption, and singleness need look no further.”
J. Ligon Duncan III, Chancellor and John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, Mississippi
“While many popular treatments of marriage and the family are available, very few have explored with care and precision Scripture’s own teaching on these crucial subjects. Köstenberger does not avoid the hard contemporary issues of gender and sexuality but addresses them with sensitivity combined with keen biblical insight.”
Bruce A. Ware, Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
“With the current attack on marriage and family now raging at a fevered pitch, Köstenberger’s book is a vital resource that should be in the hands of every evangelical.”
Tom Elliff, Pastor, First Southern Baptist Church, Del City, Oklahoma
“This volume is a treasure trove of biblical wisdom on matters pertaining to marriage, child-rearing, singleness, and sexuality. As Western society struggles to hold on to its social identity, this study reaffirms God’s will for self-understanding and family ties. Readers seeking the whole counsel of God on these matters will find enormous assistance here.”
Robert W. Yarbrough, Professor of New Testament, Covenant Theological Seminary
“The book is especially valuable because it is remarkably clear and comprehensible, while at the same time reflecting deep and responsible research. I consistently found the conclusions to be sound and biblically faithful.”
Thomas R. Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
“Characterized by exemplary exegetical analysis, Köstenberger’s book is a refreshing and welcome addition to the current debate on marriage and the family. This outstanding work will help academicians, pastors, counselors, and anyone who genuinely seeks to understand God’s design from a biblical perspective.”
Mary A. Kassian, Professor of Women's Studies, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; author, Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild
“There has never been a greater need for a comprehensive, well-researched, and thoroughly biblical examination of the interrelated topics of marriage, family, and sexuality. Although not all will agree with each conclusion, Köstenberger has done the church a great service by providing this readable and eminently useful volume.”
Gordon P. Hugenberger, Senior Minister, Park Street Church, Boston
“These days it is important for us to remember that God has something to say about marriage and family. With all of the competing voices insisting on new definitions and unbiblical patterns, Köstenberger has provided the Christian community with an invaluable resource. It will be perfect for the college or seminary classroom, for local church educational programs, and for families trying to conform their lives to the Word of God. I heartily recommend it.”
Randy Stinson, Senior Fellow, Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
“At a time when our society is attempting to redefine the standards and values of marriage and family, Köstenberger has brought us back to the biblical foundation. He tackles some very difficult and politically sensitive issues in this book.”
Bob Baker, Pastor of Pastoral Care, Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, California
“The unique contribution of God, Marriage, and Family is Köstenberger’s approach: he carefully traces God’s unfolding plan for marriage and family from creation through to the end. The true beauty of marriage and the family shines most brightly when one looks at these topics as they are developed throughout God’s entire story.”
Richard W. Hove, Campus Crusade for Christ, Duke University

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Prayer Is Wider Than the World (PrayerLife)


My prayer chair, in our backyard by the river

I pray. 

In praying I encounter God and experience God. 

Prayer is talking with God about what he and I are doing together.

In prayer I know God and am known. To pray is, historically, the heart of abiding in Christ. God has come to make his home in us (John 14), and we converse in the living room of my heart. When a Jesus-follower realizes this, the listening part of prayer walks onto center stage. This is actual, real prayer, and has little or no relation to reading books about prayer or saying "I believe in prayer but can't find the time for it."

Prayer is talking with the Maker of Heaven and Earth in our spiritual heart-house. This is a world of moral and spiritual vastness. I like how James Houston expresses this:

"Prayer is wider than the world, deeper than the heart, and older than the origin of humanity, because prayer originates from the very character of God. its possibilities are infinite and so our explorations in prayer can be vast." (Houston, The Transforming Power of Prayer: Deepening Your Friendship with God, 75) 

When I was studying Old Testament theology in seminary one of the OT scholars we had to become familiar with was Walter Eichrodt. Houston gives this beautiful quote from Eichrodt, illustrating the scope and sensitivity of a praying life.

"The man who knows God hears his step in the tramp of daily events, discerns him near at hand to help, and hears his answer to the appeal of prayer in a hundred happenings outwardly small and insigificant, where another man can talk only of remarkable coincidence, amazing accident, or peculiar turns of events. That is why periods when the life of faith is strong, and men have enthusiastically surrendered themselves to God, have also been times rich in miracles." (In Ib.)

Engage in vast prayer-exploring today.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Stevie Wonder - Happy Birthday





Thanks for sending this to me Rob M!



And, the guitarist is playing the same guitar I have - the teal green Strat American Series Deluxe.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

How I'm Leading Church (Tonight's Spiritual Formation Tele-Class)


Tonight I'm meeting by phone with the 12 pastors who have joined me for my Spiritual Formation Tele-Class. I've assigned everyone to pray 30-60 minutes/day, for these past three months. Tonight we'll share what God has been saying to us and doing within us throughout these times.

Plus, I'll lead a discussion on Ruth Haley Barton's excellent Pursuing God's Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups.

Here are some notes I'll share from.


HOW I’M LEADING OUR CHURCH (May I add, "imperfectly.")

1.   I have a personal prayer life and Christ-abiding life
2.   Our staff – prayer & abiding in Christ
a.   We individually pray
b.   We come together and share what God is saying and doing
c.   Barton – “When we began this venture, we were all leaders in a variety of ministry settings where we were achieving some level of effectiveness and success. But we were missing something. We were missing a place where we could be with other leaders—not just to work together, socialize and network, or even to be inspired to be better leaders—but to attend to our ongoing process of spiritual transformation in relative anonymity.” (94)
3.   We teach this to our people
a.   In our Ministry School
b.   Youth and children learn how to do this
c.   Special events focusing on spiritual formation
d.   Home Groups
4.   Mission Emerges From This Kind of Togetherness
a.   “The idea that we could gather first of all to be together around the presence of Christ in life-transforming ways was a truly winsome thought. We sensed that eventually a mission would emerge from our togetherness.” (95)
b.   Our “doing” comes from our corporate “being.”
5.   Spiritual transformation leads to discernment.
a.   “As we studied and reflected on the dynamics of spiritual transformation, we also discovered that spiritual transformation is not an end in itself—it leads to the ability to discern and do the will of God.” (p. 96)
b.   “What we do flows out of who we are in Christ.” (96)
6.   Hear from God first; then move.
a.   “A defining characteristic of any truly spiritual community [is] the shared commitment to move forward as we are led by the Spirit, not by our own thinking and planning. We are not opposed to planning; in fact, it is an important second step. But we are committed to discernment—listening deeply for God’s direction—as the precursor to any plans we make.” (99)
7.   Experience, not theory, breeds conviction.
a.   “Early on we agreed that we would not teach theories or concepts we merely wished were true. In fact, we actually wanted to experience transformation in community even more than we wanted to teach it! When it came time for us to teach, we agreed to follow Jesus’ example in his conversation with Nicodemus: “We speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen” (Jn 3:5).” (100)
8.   We share how God is breaking us.

a.   “Growing self-knowledge is a crucial aspect of engaging fruitfully in a discernment process because it reduces the risk of the community falling apart due to people not being willing or able to own their negative patterns and sins.” (101)

1.   “Discernment” Is a Fruit of a Presence-Driven Church

Barton writes that some pastors have the "vague sense that our approach to decision making should be different from secular models—particularly when we are leading a church or an organization with a spiritual purpose. The problem is that we’re not quite sure what that difference is. In the absence of a clear consensus, that difference often gets reduced to an obligatory devotional (often viewed as irrelevant to the business portion of the meeting) or the perfunctory prayers that bookend the meeting. Sometimes even these well-meaning attempts at a spiritual focus get lost in the shuffle!" (Barton, Pursuing God's Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups, Kindle Locations 180-185)

This difference is: God. God's presence. God, doing the leading. God, doing the building. Because unless God builds the house, we are laboring in vain.


What's needed is: discernment. 


"Discernment," writes Barton, "in a most general sense, is the capacity to recognize and respond to the presence and the activity of God—both in the ordinary moments and in the larger decisions of our lives. The apostle Paul says that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we can discern what the will of God is, that which is good, acceptable and perfect (Rom 12:2). This includes not only the mind of each individual but also the corporate mind." (Ib., Kindle Locations 186-189)


What's fundamentally needed is mind-renewing transformation. Pastors and church leaders must therefore themselves be living in the rivers of constant spiritual formation and transformation, in order to discern what the will of God is. This is what the whole "church" thing is about. Barton writes:


"It is hard to imagine that spiritual leadership could be about anything but seeking to know and do the will of God, and yet many leadership groups do not have this as their clear mandate and reason for existence. This raises a serious question: If we are not pursuing the will of God together in fairly intentional ways, what are we doing? Our own will? What seems best according to our own thinking and planning? That which is merely strategic or expedient or good for the ego?" (Ib., Kindle Locations 201-205)


Ch. 5 – Community

Be converted to community.
          Be committed to being a “transforming community.” (90)

“The more genuine and the deeper our community becomes, the more will everything else between us recede, the more clearly and purely will Jesus Christ and his work become the one and only thing that is vital between us. We have one another only through Christ, but through Christ we do have one another, wholly, and for all eternity.”
-      - Dietrich Bonhoeffer (86)

Is the way we are doing life together in ministry transforming or deforming?

Gordon Cosby writes about his experience founding Church of the Savior in Washington, D.C.

"Our written commitment has grown out of our life together. The life occurred first and then it was put down in a written commitment. To make a formal commitment without having drunk deeply of the life of the group is simply to take a husk that can mock us. Only in commitment can there be real belonging.” (91)

This happens FROM THE INSIDE OUT.
Individuals are encouraged to become very clear about what values they need to know are in place in order for them to lean into the group as a trustworthy community. (91)


1.   The Language of the Presence-Driven Church

Language Shapes Reality

“Our commitment to being a community has been and continues to be the most essential thing about us. We knew that if we called ourselves a leadership team, a management team, a board or a cabinet, that might be all we would get—a method of governing that is basically secular in its orientation, with a few spiritual elements thrown in. At the very least we would have to work hard not to let that terminology define us according to whatever expectations normally go along with it. Language really does shape reality.” (97)

a.   “Connectedness” and “obedience” (rather than “success” – or: “success” is defined in terms of connectedness to God and obedience; “faith” rather than “success” – without faith it is impossible to please God)
                                         i.    Qualitative rather than quantitative
b.   “Disciple” rather than “decider”
c.   “Influence” rather than “numbers” (attendance; budget)
d.   “Discernment” rather than “decision-making”
e.   “Listening” comes before “speaking”
f.     “Relationship” (with God and one another) replaces “rules of order”
g.   To change a way of speaking is to change the culture. (Wittgensteinian language-games; the Whorffian hypothesis; see Kenyan scholar Ngugi wa Thiong’o)
h.     When a way of speaking has changed a culture has changed. A church’s culture will change from Program-Driven to Presence-Driven as Presence-Driven Leaders (PDLs): 1) live the Christ-abiding life themselves, foundationally and continuously; 2) lead their people into God’s empowering presence; and 3) nurture and champion the God-produced fruit-bearing. As this happens, over time, the “language-game” of the church will change. When the language has changed the reality has happened.

Our Youth at Norjo Cafe

Some of our youth went to eat at the Norjo Cafe last week. Here they are outside the cafe.

Photo: Thank you Norjo Cafe

The owner of Norjo Cafe then wrote this on their sign:



Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Pray To Be At Home With God (PrayerLife)

Sunrise on Lake Erie
Sterling State Park in Monroe

C.S. Lewis believed that all human beings have within them an "inconsolable longing" for "we know not what." Lewis used a German word, Sehnsucht, to express this longing which is, ultimately, for God.

Lewis also spoke of "drippings of grace" which he experienced at times such as listening to music, or entering a sacred space like a cathedral.

The French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal famously wrote, in his Pensees: “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person, and it can never be filled by any created thing. It can only be filled by God, made known through Jesus Christ.” No created thing can fill this empty place. Only God can. This is the place where God makes his home.

In Ecclesiastes 3:11 we read that God  "has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end."

In John 6 we see the nascent, forming church diminish in numbers. Jesus tells his followers that he is the "bread that came down from heaven" and that they are, figuratively, to "eat his flesh and drink his blood." Understandably, this was a hard teaching for some of them. We then read, in John 6:66: "From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him." Jesus then asks the Twelve if they are going to leave him too? Peter replies: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

James Houston describes Peter's response like this: "The radical nature of encountering  can shatter any other alternative resource for living." (Houston, The Transforming Power of Prayer: Deepening Your Friendship with God, 63) Christ is "the Holy One of God." In Christ, God fathoms us. He is the fulfillment of the deep, existential longing of the human heart for "something more." As God makes his home in us, we find our reason for being in Him.

I love how James Houston ties this in with a life of prayer. He writes: "Homesickness for God is a mark of the life of prayer. Once we recognize that we are in love with God, then we will want to experience his presence as a daily reality." (Ib.)

Jesus said that “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them." (John 14:23)

In prayer, cry out for more experiential knowledge of His presence. Pray to be at home with God.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Pray for Faithfulness in Small Things (PrayerLife)

Kids praying at Redeemer
Today, like most days for me, will be a day of small things. My prayer is to be faithful in those things. I am a small person interacting with small people.

God can turn a small thing into a big thing, should He want to. It's up to Him. But the focus is not to be on faithfulness in "big things." The person who is not faithful in small things cannot be trusted with big things. And, God is not evaluating things by "small" and "big." Be faithful to God's calling. That's it.

Faithfulness is qualitative, not quantitative. The person who fails to love those within their own environment cannot be trusted to love others. Be not interested in "swimming with the big fish"; rather, consider yourself a little fish called to swim with whomever God brings into your life.


Jesus tells us, “He who is faithful in a little” is the one who will be rewarded much.
C.S. Lewis put it this way. “This then is the great secret. Good and evil both grow at compound interest. That is why the SMALL things you do each day are of such infinite importance. It is the small things that will turn you into either a heavenly or hellish creature.” (Mere Christianity)

Who dares despise the day of small things...

Zechariah 4:10

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Free Will - Another Intractable Problem for Atheism

Flowers for Linda

It would take more faith than I have to be an atheist because of how I see the logic of atheism; viz., given atheism, what follows logically?

The only variety of atheism I think worthy of the name is philosophical naturalism (PN), or physicalism. What is naturalism? 

Philosopher Louise Anthony, a confessing atheist-naturalist, says naturalism "can be taken to be the view that all entities, processes, and events are governed by natural law ; there are no supernatural forces." (Louise Anthony, "The Failure of Moral Arguments," in Debating Christian Theism, p. 105) Anthony says many atheists are naturalists, though not all. How odd, I think, to be an atheist and think there are forces in the universe that are not natural (nature).

On PN "matter" is all that exists, in various accidental collocations. Therefore "free will," whatever it is, is only material on atheism ("free will" is fully reducible to material conditions). This leads to the counterintuitive atheistic over-reach called "compatibilism"; viz., the compatibility of free will and PN-determinism. This is where I lack enough faith to be an atheist. The ramblings of a Daniel Dennett about how free will is something very different from what we've always thought not only don't help me at all, they make me suspicious that the PN-Emperor has no clothes.

PN, writes Paul Copan, cannot account for the very features on which the naturalistic moral realist hangs her hopes. These include self-awareness/consciousness, and reason. Free will is an illusion to some PN-ers (to their logical credit, no matter how hard it is to swallow a PN-er's "decision" to write books and articles on the illusion of decision-making). 

On PN, free will simply does not exist. Note these supportive quotes from atheistic PN-ers.

William Provine: “Free will as traditionally conceived— the freedom to make uncoerced and unpredictable choices among alternative courses of action— simply does not exist. There is no way the evolutionary process as currently conceived can produce a being that is truly free to make choices.” 

Francis Crick: Our sense of identity and free will is “nothing more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.” 

Thomas Nagel: “There is no room for agency in a world of neural impulses, chemical reactions, and bone and muscle movements.” Given naturalism, it’s hard not to conclude that we’re “helpless” and “ not responsible” for our actions.  (Note: Nagel is a different kind of atheist - he's not a PN-er. He does acknowledge that, given physicalism, free will is an illusion.See here, e.g.)

John Searle: We believe “we could have done something else” and that human freedom is “just a fact of experience .” However, “the scientific” approach to reality undermines the notion of a self that could potentially interfere with “the causal order of nature.” 

John Bishop: Our scientific understanding of human behavior seems to be in tension with a presupposition of the ethical stance we adopt toward it.” 

- All quotes in Ib.

If I am not free to make choices what sense does it make choose PN as "true?" I don't even have a mustard seed in me for that one.

The Tomb Was Empty



- Glenn McCoy

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Science Does Not Disprove God

Tree in my backyard

Sadly, the atheism of Richard Dawkins has convinced a few people that atheism is a position arrived at rationally and scientifically. (I say "a few people" because my philosophy classrooms are filled mostly with students who have never heard of Dawkins). Dawkins's relative influence is sad since he is so uneducated in the science of physics and, like a person whose only tool is a hammer, he sees every problem (including every religious problem) as a nail.

I'm reading Amir Aczel's Why Science Does Not Disprove God. Aczel did his PhD in statistics at Berkeley. In 2004 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, and was a visiting scholar in the history of science at Harvard and is currently a research fellow in the history of science at Boston University. Take the title of Aczel's new book literally. That's mainly what Aczel wants to prove. So he is against the Dawkins-idea that science provides proof against God's existence. Not at all, argues Aczel.

I remember reading Dawkins's claim that natural selection works not only on biotic life but on physical matter. I thought, "Just what does evolutionary theory have to do with cosmology? Aczel's book just confirmed the validity of my question. Aczel writes:

"Since Dawkins does not have advanced training in physics and mathematics, his arguments about the universe as a whole are easily disproved; in fact, no serious physicist would argue that "a mechanism similar to biological evolution" somehow operates in the purely physical universe." (14)

Thank you.

But no thanks to Dawkins who pushed some people (including Christopher Hitchens) into the abyss of irrationality and non sequitur

Easter Week Day 6 - Jesus' Body Lies in a Tomb Owned by Joseph of Arimathea

Linda, before her mother's grave in DeKalb, Illinois
SATURDAY, APRIL 19

SCRIPTURE - MATTHEW 27:57-66

57 As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. 58 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. 59 Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.

62 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63 "Sir," they said, "we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise again.' 64 So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first."

65 "Take a guard," Pilate answered. "Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how." 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard."

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THESE VERSES?

As a new Jesus-follower many years ago there were factual, historical pieces of evidence that strengthened my new-found faith. One fact is this: Jesus' dead body was placed in a tomb owned by Sanhedrin member Joseph of Arimathea. This provides a piece of evidence that, along with other facts (esp. Jesus' postmortem appearances), forms an inductively strong argument for the resurrection of Jesus. 

On that Saturday following Good Friday, Jesus' body lay inert in Joseph of Arimathea's family tomb. We can be certain, historically (which means "inductively certain"), that this was the case. How so? Here are two reasons: 

1) this story, in the 4 Gospels and Paul, is found in independent sources that together, or multiply, attest to this; and 

2) by the "criterion of embarrassment" a story of a member of the Sanhedrin helping Jesus' family is unlikely, and not plausibly invented by Christians. This argues in favor of its historicity.

1) We have sources that multiply attest to Jesus' burial in a tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea.

Paul Barnett writes: "Careful comparison of the texts of Mark and John indicate that neither of these Gospels is dependent on the other. Yet they have a number of incidents in common: For example, . . . the burial of Jesus in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea" (Paul Barnett, Jesus and the Logic of History, 1997, pp. 104-5). Regarding the burial stories, the differences between Mark and the other Synoptics point to other independent sources behind Matthew and Luke.

So what's the point? It's this. If, e.g., a police officer had multiple, independent (unrelated) witnesses to a crime, and they all gave the same report (even if worded differently and with variations), this would provide stronger evidence than if only one report had been given. We have this, re. the burial stories, in the Gospels and Paul. Here is the key Pauline text.

1 Corinthians 15:3 ff.: For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

About this William Lane Craig writes:

"This is an old tradition, handed on by Paul to the Corinthian church, which is among the earliest traditions identifiable in the NT. It refers to Jesus' burial in the second line of the tradition. That this is the same event as the burial described in the Gospels becomes evident by comparing Paul's tradition with the Passion narratives on the one hand and the sermons in the Acts of the Apostles on the other. The four-line tradition handed on by Paul is a summary of the central events of Jesus' crucifixion, burial by Joseph of Arimathea, the discovery of his empty tomb, and his appearances to the disciples."

2) Most NT scholars say it is highly likely that Jesus’ body was placed in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea.

Sometimes I hear someone say, "OK, but Christians just made these stories up." This is improbable. As a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin that was against Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea is unlikely to be a Christian invention. In this regard New Testament  
New Testament scholar Raymond Brown says burial by Joseph of Arimathea is very probable. Why? Because: It is almost inexplicable why Christians would make up a story about a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin who does what is right by Jesus. This would, for a Jesus-follower in the days after Easter weekend, be an embarrassment. 


Craig Keener writes: "Given early Christian experiences with and feelings toward the Sanhedrin, the invention of a Sanhedrist acting piously toward Jesus is not likely." (Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio- Rhetorical Commentary, 690)

Why is this important? It's important because the location of the tomb where Jesus' body was placed was known. Mary Magdalene and "the other Mary" (the mother of James and Joseph) knew where it was, as did the chief priests and the Pharisees. Tomorrow, this tomb will be empty. If Jesus' body was still in the tomb, it could and would have been seen or exhumed on the days following Easter.

Why would Joseph of Arimathea do such a thing? The answer is: he had become a disciple of Jesus. (Matt. 27:57) Both he and Sanhedrin member Nicodemus saw something in Jesus and stepped out of the box to follow Him. In this sense Joseph is a risk-taker who is willing to put aside his place of political and religious power to go after the truth and love he sees in Jesus. He doesn't realize what's going to happen on Sunday. But he wants to make sure his new Lord receives a proper Jewish burial.


REFLECTION

1. Joseph of Arimathea risked his reputation and career to follow Jesus. Reflect on if and how you are risking all for Jesus.





Ancient tomb in Jerusalem