Friday, March 31, 2017

"Facing Our Fears, Embracing the Father" - Sunday night, April 2, at Redeemer

Image result for linda piippoThis Sunday night, April 2, 6 PM.

Linda Piippo speaks on "Facing Our Fears, Embracing the Father."

We begin with worship at 6.

Everyone - men and women - are invited!


From Solitary Prayer to Community, and Back Again

Woodlawn Cemetery, Monroe

(This post is from my book, Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God. Ch. 10, "Praying and Community.")


When I teach my Spiritual Formation classes, I intentionally structure them in a back-and-forth (“ dialectical”1) movement from solitary prayer to small group sharing to large group sharing, then back again to solitary prayer to small group sharing to large group sharing, to solitary prayer… and so on, round and round.

I begin with solitary prayer, and end with sharing in community. It’s a movement from solitude to community, then back into solitude, which leads to community, and so on.

When I teach a seminary class I begin our first session like this.

1) I instruct students to find a quiet place to go alone to pray, using Psalm 23 as their meditative focus. I say, “When God speaks to you, write it down.” (Warning: do not over-direct at this point!)

2) After an hour of alone-prayer with God, return to class. We form small groups of four to five people. Each person shares what God said to them. One person takes notes of this sharing time.

3) After a half hour of doing this, return to class. Each note-taker shares with the entire group the bullet points of what God said to the individuals in their group. During this time, I begin teaching and coaching, and discerning what God is doing.

I’ve found this works well. The energy level of the students is high. The sharing is electric and inspiring. We’re experiencing true Christian community, authentic koinonia.

Koinonia is the biblical Greek word for “community,” or “fellowship.” It comes from the root word koine, which means “common.” True community is formed around commonality. What I and my seminary students have in common, in spite of our many external differences, is Christ in us, the hope of glory. The experience and the sharing revolves around this, and we are captured by it. What happens in our solitary alone-times with God gets shared in community. Good things happen at that point.

Henri Nouwen talks about this in Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit:

"Spiritual formation requires taking not only the inward journey to the heart, but also the outward journey from the heart to community and ministry. Christian spirituality is essentially communal. Spiritual formation is formation in community. One’s personal prayer life can never be understood if it is separated from community life." 2

Solitary praying transforms the heart into a heart for others. A heart for others compels one to engage in community. Without a heart for others, community relationships degenerate into individualism and competition. Spiritual formation always leads to formation to life, in community.

Journey inward, journey outward; journey alone, journey together. Solitary praying is the foundation for authentic community.

(Piippo, John. Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God (Kindle Locations 3188-3212). WestBow Press. Kindle Edition.

1. I like using words like ‘dialectical’ when I teach at seminary. I want students to feel they are getting their money’s worth. "Dialectical" - a back and forth, back and forth movement that, with each movement, goes forward.

2. Henri Nouwen, Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit, Kindle Location 300.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Why Doesn't God Heal Everybody? Some Thoughts.


Some of our Redeemer kids

(At Redeemer I am now preaching on Healing and the Atonement. We are seeing sick people healed. We'll pray again for the sick this Sunday morning. If you have a friend that desires prayer for their illness bring them - 10:30 AM.)

My grandmother was healed of cancer. She lived with us six months out of every year when we were growing up. When she was in her mid-80s Grandma was diagnosed with breast cancer. She decided not to have it medically treated. The cancerous tumors in her breasts grew. My mother used to bathe her, and visually saw and physically felt the hard tumors growing.

Grandma knew she was going to die. She had lived a long life, and was ready to leave this world for another one. She even bought the dress she wanted to be buried in.

When Grandma had spent what we assumed would be her last 6 months in our home, she went to live with my aunt and uncle in Michgian's Upper Peninsula. One day my aunt called. She told my mother that, while bathing Grandma, she noticed that the tumors did not appear to be there. My mother could not believe this, yet wanted to believe it. Mom personally traveled 400 miles to visually inspect Grandma and confirm this.

Grandma lived for twelve more years. She bought two or three more dresses to be buried in. She died at age ninety-seven. 

What happened? How can we explain this? I, and my mother, concluded two things:

- Grandma once was cancer-filled, and then one day the cancer was gone
- God healed Grandma

I’ve heard of and personally seen other things like this. (For some really good, current, encouraging stuff see Eric Metaxas's book Miracles, and Craig Keener's magisterial Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts. .) 

I’ve also been part of praying for people with illnesses whose illnesses have not gone away. Which raises the question: Why? Why do we not see everyone healed when we pray for them? I’ve thought long and hard about this over the years. I not only don’t have all the answers, I don’t think I can, given my quite-limited point of view, expect to have all the answers. Nonetheless, when I am asked this question, here’s how I respond.

1. Sickness and disease are not caused by God. God hates sickness and disease.
2. Sickness and disease are in this world because we live in, as Jesus referred to it, “this present evil age.” We live in a fallen world that’s ruled by Satan, who is called “the Prince of this world.”
3. Some diseases are part of living in this fallen world. The entire world is crying out for redemption (release) from this bondage.
4. Some diseases are caused by demonic forces. For example, Jesus sometimes heals a person by casting out a demon that is the cause of a person’s illness.
5. Some diseases are caused by our own choices.


Why did God create a world like this? Why a world where such suffering was even allowed? For me the answer is this:


- God is love. That is, God, in His essence, IS love. God cannot not-love.
- Therefore, love is the highest value for God.
- God created persons (and spiritual beings) out of love.
- Genuine love is only possible if created agents have free will.
- Therefore, God gave created agents free will.
- This is risky, since free will implies that one can choose to not love God. When people choose against God this results in suffering, even illness. (This is the Free Will Defense. See, e.g., Alvin Plantinga.)


From God’s perspective, giving created agents free will is worth it, since God is love, and love is the highest value for God. Hence, much of this world’s suffering happens because of this.

As a pastor I’ve been around a lot of death and dying, to include my own family, even my baby son David. How do I continue to find hope in all of this? Here are some thoughts.

1. Understand what Jesus taught about the kingdom of God. Jesus talked about “the age to come,” where will be no sickness, no struggle, no tears. When God invaded earth in the form of a Person, the “age to come” invaded this present evil age. Jesus once said that, “If you see me cast out demons by the finger of God, you can know that the kingdom of God is in your midst.” That is why I pray for the sick to be healed today, and will continue to do so. 

2. Be part of a faith community. This makes a huge difference for me. I know people (even Christians) who would never pray for someone to be healed. In a faithless community one should not be shocked that healings are not seen. 

3. Discern. Sometimes a deeper spiritual healing is needed. Some illnesses are, at root, spiritual and emotional. I have found that, for example, a person who lives for years with bitterness towards others and refuses to forgive can be subject to physical illnesses. The account of Jesus' healing the lame man let down through the roof (Mark 2:1-12) implies that the forgiveness of the man's sins had some connection with his ability to pick up his mat and walk.


4. Don't blame the person who is sick. When Jesus prayed for sick people he never blamed them for their sickness. For example, Jesus rejects his disciples’ assumption that the blind man in John 10 was blind because either he or his parents must have sinned.


5. Persist in prayer. When some sick people are not healed through prayer, it may simply be because we haven't prayed long enough to bring the healing to completion. If you are my friend and you are sick I will never stop praying for your healing.

6. Live a Christ-abiding life. As James writes, "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (James 5:6)

7. Be a skeptical theist. This does not mean be skeptical of God. It means: be skeptical of your own cognitive abilities to understand what God is doing. It is irrational to reason as follows:
1) I see nothing happening when I prayed for someone.
2) Therefore, nothing is happening.

You can only go from 1 to 2 if you have epistemic (knowledge) access to the mind of our all-knowing God. (As an analogy: 1) I see no germs on this hypodermic needle. 2) Therefore, there are no germs on this hypodermic needle. We can all affirm the truth of 1. But none of us can see germs. Thus, we cannot go from 1 to 2. See "Skeptical Theism.")

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Redeemer Announcements

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Announcements

THIS SUNDAY AT REDEEMER: 1) I'll teach/preach again on Healing and the Atonement; 2) I'll pray for anointing and empowerment for people to pray for others; 3) we'll pray for people who are sick. If you have a friend who would like prayer for illness - physical or emotional - please bring them on Sunday morning - 10:30.
Sunday night, 6 PM. Linda Piippo speaks on “Facing Our Fears, Embracing the Father.” We begin with worship at 6. Everyone - men and women - are invited!

Ministry to Victims of Sex Trafficking and Exploitation: Some of our church's women are involved in a ministry that goes into strip clubs and reaches out to the women involved in this. If you are interested, please contact the office, 734-242-5277

Help us Bake Brownies for the Ann Arbor Hash Bash!  You can drop them off at the church during office hours this Friday, the 31st, or come that evening between 7-8 p.m. Please wrap the brownies individually so they can be handed out. We have nine people from Redeemer going to minister that day! Please be in prayer for us. For any questions, call Andy Griffith (734-777-3820).

Bajkiewicz Mission: Check out our activities on bajmissionblog.blogspot.com, Facebook/chris lori bajmission and www.bajmission.com. Want to knit or crochet hats for kids in Mexico for the Bajkiewicz mission? Yarn and simple patterns are available in the office. Call for more info 242-5277.

In May we are planning to host eight of our leaders from India who have assisted Pastor Joe Atkinson in our Full Life in Christ mission there. Please pray for this. They are in the process of securing Visa’s, which is not an easy task. During the next few weeks, please pray for God’s favor with the embassy officials so they all can get Visas and are able to come!

How Do We Respond to Immigrants and Refugees? What would Jesus have us do? Pastor John will lead a book study on this issue, using the book Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis. If you are interested in being part of this please let John know. Then purchase the book and read it. John will be looking at a date when we can meet to discuss, pray, and listen to what God is saying to us.

Pastor John's study on his book Praying will meet on Saturday, April 1st, at 10 a.m. We will discuss: How solitary praying helps in the creation of authentic community; How praying is bigger than what we can think or see; How praying shapes us into overcomers; and How praying releases us from a spirit of control. All are invited!

We will have Baptisms on Palm Sunday (April 9). If God calls you to be baptized please contact Pastor John (johnpiippo@msn.com) or Tim Curry (tntcurry@gmail.com)

Help the Royal Rangers Raise the Final $500 to Build an Extension on the Garage Visit their bake sale Sunday, April 9 right after service in the lobby.  We are hoping to get some Easter desserts and Jerry and Peggy will make their famous apple dumplings

Young adults meet weekly on Wednesday at 7pm in the family room (old RMS room). Our goal is to grow into adults whose laser-focused lives are Christ. We are using the Psalms to teach us to pray. Adults who have graduated high school (or are in the 13th year of middle college) and older are welcome. Questions? Contact Tim Curry (tntcurry@gmail.com)

Men's Breakfast, Sat. April 29th  8-9:15am. Fellowship Hall. Coffee will be ready and doors open at 7:30 a.m. Several leaders feel God is calling us to share this meal together. So, we will do breakfast and trust God to do more than breakfast. If you are interested in joining us, please sign up in the lobby or contact Mark Cowan (419) 344-1973. Your sons and neighbors are welcome too. Voluntary donations for the event accepted the morning of.

Green Lake! It's not too early to consider coming to our annual summer conference in Green Lake, Wisconsin. Our guest speakers are Steve and Wendy Backlund of Bethel Church in Redding, Philip Lee of His Way Out Ministries, and David Wagner. More information can be found at hsrm.org.

Women's Cardio Drumming Exercise Class meets every Tuesday, 7-8 pm in the gym. Invite your friends! It's a blast no matter what your fitness level! You will need a 65 cm exercise ball, 18 gallon round tub (a round laundry basket will do) and a pair of drumsticks. Feel free to call Erica with questions  (440-665-9960).




What Does Jesus Think About Money?

Image result for john piippo money
Jerusalem

One of the things God told me to do at Redeemer was develop a Jesus-literate community. So, I preached through the four Gospels, chronologically. We went verse-by-verse, and dug deeply into the context so as to understand the meaning of the text. Because, as Ben Witherington says, a text without a context is just a pretext for what you want the text to say.

Studying and meditating through the four Gospels is beautiful and powerful and troubling. In them we meet the Real Jesus. We begin to see why he is simply the greatest leader that has ever walked this planet. We see why, as C.S. Lewis wrote, Jesus is far more than a great moral teacher. We see Jesus proclaiming the rule and reign of God (the "kingdom"), and demonstrating this with miracles, signs, and wonders.

One of the troubling things about Jesus is what he says about money. At this point I have met Christians who do not have ears to hear. A few go looking for a TV preacher or another church to validate their own love of money. At this point they leave Jesus.

What does Jesus think about money and possessions? If you are a follower of Jesus, then what he says about this is important to you.


You can read the four Gospels for yourself. There you will see that...


... Material things and possessions and wealth do not impress Jesus. Jesus viewed the rich and famous as spiritually bankrupt. It's near-impossible for the rich to come under the rule of God, taught Jesus. (Mark 10:23)


... Jesus has not come to make people rich. Jesus never said anything like, "Follow me, and I will make you wealthy."

... To Jesus, riches are an obstacle to entering the kingdom of heaven.


... Jesus himself had no money. Even a fox had its hole, even a bird had its nest, but Jesus didn't even have a roof over his head. (
Matthew 8:20)

...  Jesus did not come to raise money for his ministry. Jesus didn't carry cash. He didn't even carry plastic. Jesus didn't say "Send me a hundred dollars and I'll see that you get a thousand in return." Jesus was always giving away to others. Ironically, Judas carried what little money the entourage of Jesus had. Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. (
John 13:29)

... Jesus did not come for the express purpose of multiplying your finances. To the contrary, Jesus said: Sell  your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. (
Luke 12:32-34)

...Jesus came to tell us what true riches are.


... Jesus did not operate according to cultural honor-shame hierarchies. Jesus climbed down the ladder, took on the form of an "expendable," and descended into greatness. This is the upside-down kingdom of God. It permeates the Gospels. For example, in Mary's song of amazement: He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. (Luke 1:46-56)

...
Jesus was not self-seeking. Jesus came, not
to be served, but to serve others. (Matthew 20:28)

... Jesus told us that Money is an alternative god that many  people worship. It was Jesus who told us in Matthew 6:24 –  “You can’t serve both God and Mammon.” (‘Mammon’ is the Aramaic word for riches or wealth.)


Riches, said Jesus, put a chokehold on the kingdom of God. (
Luke 8:13-15) Riches even prevent the releasing of God's reign.

The apostle Paul followed in Jesus's footsteps when he advised Timothy:


For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
1 Timothy 6:10


***
If you really want to know about what Jesus thinks about money, then first read:

- Matthew, Mark, Luke, John.

Then read:

- Jesus and Money, by Ben Witherington

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

David Chalmers's Zombie Argument Against Physicalism



Tonight in my Logic class I'll present David Chalmers's "zombie argument" against physicalism as an example of logical argumentation. It's a hard one to understand. And hard to teach. We'll see how it goes!



The “Zombie Argument” Against Physicalism


THE ARGUMENT:

1. If *physicalism is true, then it is logically impossible for p-zombies to exist. (I.e., physicalism entails the logical [or metaphysical] impossibility of zombies. See here Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "Zombies," part 2 - "Zombies and Physicalism.")

2. It is logically possible for p-zombies to exist.

3. Therefore, physicalism is false.

*Physicalism - physical facts determine all other facts. This means that, on physicalism, there are no non-physical facts.

*P-zombie - i.e., "philosophical zombie" - a hypothetical being that is indistinguishable from a normal human being except that it lacks conscious experiencequaliasentience, or sapience.

If physicalism is true, then there cannot be a world that is a physical duplicate of ours (that is, where everything is physically like in our world), which is not a duplicate
simpliciter of our world (that is, which does not contain anything more or less
than what our world contains). 

But zombies are conceivable: creatures that are physically exactly like us, but which creatures lack conscious experiences.


Therefore, physicalism is false. 

If it is logically possible for zombies to exist, then consciousness cannot be explained reductively, and non-physical reality exists.

Or... try this.


  1. If physicalism is true than physical facts determine all facts.
  2. If physicalism is true than anything that is physically identical to me will be in all ways identical to me.
  3. I can conceive of a zombie; viz., a being that is physically identical to me.
  4. But a zombie is not in all ways identical to me – it lacks first-person subjective consciousness.
  5. Therefore physicalism must be false.



1. A philosophical zombie or p-zombie is a hypothetical being that is indistinguishable from a normal human being except that it lacks conscious experience, qualia, sentience, or sapience. When a zombie is poked with a sharp object, for example, it does not feel any pain. It behaves exactly as if it does feel pain (it may say "ouch" and recoil from the stimulus), but it does not actually have the experience of pain as a person normally does. (See “Philosophical Zombie,” in wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophical_zombie)


2. According to physicalism, physical facts determine all other facts. This means, on physicalism, that there are no non-physical facts. Therefore, since all the facts about a p-zombie are fixed by the physical facts, and these facts are the same for the p-zombie and for the normal conscious human from which it cannot be physically distinguished, physicalism must hold that p-zombies are not possible. Therefore, zombie arguments support lines of reasoning that aim to show that zombies are possible. Another way to put this, from SEP: "If a zombie world is possible, consciousness does not in that sense logically supervene on the physical facts, and physicalism is false. If that view is correct, therefore, to prove that a zombie world is possible would be to disprove physicalism."

3. NOTE: The zombie argument against physicalism is, therefore, a version of a general modal argument against physicalism, such as that of Saul Kripke's in "Naming and Necessity" (1972).The notion of a p-zombie, as used to argue against physicalism, was notably advanced in the 1970s by Thomas Nagel (1970; 1974) and Robert Kirk (1974).


4. See the “zombie argument against physicalism” developed in detail by David Chalmers in The Conscious Mind (1996). According to Chalmers, one can coherently conceive of an entire zombie world: a world physically indiscernible from our world, but entirely lacking conscious experience. In such a world, the counterpart of every being that is conscious in our world would be a p-zombie.


The claim of Chalmers and others is a strictly logical claim. Which means: Since such a world is logically conceivable, Chalmers claims, it is possible; and if such a world is possible, then physicalism is false. (Note: “square circle,” or “married bachelor,” are examples of concepts that are logically inconceivable.)Chalmers is arguing only for logical possibility, and he maintains that this is all that his argument requires. He states: "Zombies are probably not naturally possible: they probably cannot exist in our world, with its laws of nature."It’s easy to imagine a “zombie.” A “zombie” is a creature physically identical to a human, functioning in all the right ways, having conversations, playing chess, but simply lacking all conscious experience.


So if a person can be physically identical to us yet without consciousness, then it would seem that consciousness is not a physical thing.“There is an explanatory gap here that is really something of an abyss,” says Chalmers.

The More Westernized a Person Is, the Less They Pray

Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting and indoor
Worship at Redeemer, 3/26/17

This excerpt is from my book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

Anyone interested in dialoguing with me about prayer is invited to join me this Saturday morning, April 1, 10 AM, at Redeemer - I'm teaching on Chapters 13-14-15.


***
When encouraging people to pray, as conversation-with-God, I often hear the following expressed by Westernized Jesus-followers: “I don’t have time to pray thirty-sixty minutes a day, five days a week.” However, if the Jesus-follower is from a Third World country, like ancient Israel during the time of Jesus, they do have time to pray. What’s going on?

The more Westernized a person is, the less they take time to meet and talk with God. The less Westernized a person is, the more they take time to meet and talk with God. I estimate that 80% of European and North   American pastors and Christian leaders do not have a significant prayer life. 515 By this I mean that they do not take time to actually pray. By “taking time” I mean more than saying a blessing over dinner, or multi-tasked praying. By “significant” I mean something like Jesus did, habitually.

The statistics flip for pastors and leaders who are from Third World contexts. Eighty percent of them have a significant prayer life. When they attend my prayer and spiritual formation classes they already have a quantitative praying life. They pray… a lot. European and North American clergy, on the other hand, find themselves “too busy to pray.” They find it a struggle to fit in times of actual praying. Why is this so?

The reasons Westernized Christians don’t significantly pray and Third World Christians do are:

1. SENSE OF NEED:   More access to human helping agencies lowers the desperation level. When I was, e.g., teaching and speaking in India, the lack of access to medical care, education, jobs, etc., was massive. One could only turn to God, in prayer. So in India I found pastors who were praying people. The less felt need there is, the less one prays; the more felt need there is, the more one prays.

2. NEED TO CONTROL: Westernized Christians live under the general cultural illusion that they are in control of life; Third World, non-westernized Christians live in a cultural milieu where human control is minimal at best; hence, they appeal to God (or gods, or spirits) for help. The more one feels in control of life, the less one prays; the less one feels in control of life, the more one prays.

3. TIME: The more stuff a person has, the less they pray. This is because much of their life is dictated by their possessions, which demand time organizing, protecting, arranging, storing, repairing, cleaning, cultivating, displaying, flaunting, wearing, etcing. Stuff demands time. On the other hand, the fewer possessions a person has, the more actual time they have to pray. The more stuff one has, the less one has time to pray; the less stuff one has, the more one has time to pray.

The typical European and North American Jesus-follower may have little felt need. They may have submitted to the illusion that they control things, and are likely afflicted with the burnout-busyness that follows. As these three elements converge, the God-relationship is virtually gone.

The good news here is that forty percent of my students acquire a lifelong prayer habit as a result of my classes. So, twenty percent increases to forty percent.

Piippo, John. Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God (Kindle Locations 4142-4167). WestBow Press. Kindle Edition.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Closing of the American University's Mind

Trinidad - view of Maracas Bay (Linda and I were there in 2015)

One idea of the "university" is that it is a place for the exploration of ideas, where contrary viewpoints are encouraged, welcomed, and discussed, civilly. I had some professors who did this, and for that, I am thankful. They could handle disagreement with grace. I learned a lot from them.

But many professors do not. In fact, the American university has become tyrannical. 

I experienced that, too, when the head of the philosophy department at Northwestern University brought me into his office, and told me that, while he liked my work, he would not support me. The reason, he said, was that I was associated with Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, which functioned as Northwestern's divinity school. Garrett is United Methodist. The position of the United Methodist Church at the time was disaffirming of same-sex relationships. My philosophy professor was gay. He punished me for the sins of the UMC. 

I ended up finding two Northwestern departments that supported me in my doctoral work - Linguistics, and History and Literature of Religions. But the philosophy department, in their totalitarian righteousness, excommunicated me.  So much for philo - Sophia (the love of wisdom). (In retrospect, I probably could have sued the university for this.)

Such exorcistic behavior is normal, in the university. So says the current Chronicle of Higher Education article by Robert Boyers, "The Academy's Assault on Intellectual Diversity." 

Boyers writes of "the depth or virulence of the opposition to robust discussion within the American professoriate, where many self-described liberals continue to believe that they remain committed to "difference" and debate, even as they countenance a full-scale assault on diversity of outlook and opinion." Which means: If you don't agree with us, then you are to be loathed and despised.

Yes, loathed. The American academy is "a church held together by the hunt for heresies." Boyers writes:


"We do routinely observe that "active and inquiring intellects" are cast out of the community of the righteous by their colleagues and formally "investigated" by witch-hunting faculty committees and threatened with the loss of their jobs. One need only mention the widely debated eruptions at Oberlin College, or Northwestern University, or others, to note that this is by no means a phenomenon limited to a handful of institutions."
"Things have gotten out of hand. The desire to cleanse the campus of dissident voices has become something of a mission. Shaming, scapegoating, and periodic ritual exorcisms are a prime feature of campus life."
If a professor or student has a belief that challenges the cult, it is best if they keep their mouths shut. 
I thought university professors were open-minded people, seeking wisdom and knowledge, from wherever it comes? I thought the idea was that we were to listen to dissenting voices, perhaps learning from them, maybe even changing our beliefs on account of them?
Not really. That's a fantasy, found only in logic textbooks. Academics engage in Orwellian Groupthink as much as the common person does. Boyers writes:
"Though it must seem odd to those who spend little or no time in the academy to hear that academic intellectuals are notoriously susceptible to groupthink, there are several compelling ways to account for this. For one, as Jonathan Haidt has pointed out in The Righteous Mind (Pantheon, 2012), academics are much like other people in "trying harder to look right than to be right" when they conduct an argument. Within the confines of a community that prides itself on its disciplined commitment to a consensually agreed upon set of "enlightened" views, deviations once regarded as signs of a robustly diverse intellectual culture come more and more to seem intolerable."
Haidt has argued that professors are no more likely to think independently than a lemming. 
"High IQ people like academics "are no better than others at finding reasons on the other side." This is especially troubling — or ought to be especially troubling — in the culture of the university, where diversity of outlook and ideas, and resistance to accredited formulas, is at least theoretically central to the institutional mission.
But academics today are increasingly behaving like members of an interest group..."
And they conduct witch hunts. They abhor the deviants who dare inject contrary ideas. They shame people. 
It's scary.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

When Is a Church No Longer a Church?

Image result for lime green rambler car
My Nash Rambler looked like this (not my photo)

When I was an undergraduate at Northern Illinois University I was part of a social fraternity. One morning I left the fraternity house to go to a class on campus. I got in my lime green Nash Rambler, turned the key, and heard a strange sound come from under the hood. The sound was followed by the smell of burning rubber. I got out of the car, lifted the hood, and saw smoke coming from melted wires. My Rambler was finished.

I walked into classes that day. When I returned to the fraternity house the Rambler was gone. Some of my fraternity brothers had the car towed to the center of campus, and were charging students a dollar to hit it with a sledge hammer. When I saw my beloved car it was no longer recognizable.

When is a car no longer a car? When it loses its radio? No, even without a radio a car is still a car. When it gets repainted? When a headlight goes out? When the bumper falls off? Even with all these losses, it is still a car.

When Henry Ford made his first car, it had some essentials that cars still have, one hundred years later. Shapes, sizes, weight, materials, are different today. But the first Ford had wheels, a steering wheel, seats, and an engine. These are the essentials. The original Ford had them. So do cars today. Don't let anyone try to sell you a car if it doesn't have the essentials of the original.

There was an Original Church. Jesus is building it in the Gospels. We see it birthed in the book of Acts. The Original Church was in many ways different than churches today. The Original Church didn't have permanent buildings to meet in. Today, we do. The original church didn't have Bibles. We do. They wore different clothing than we wear. Today, many things are different than they were in the original church. But some things are not supposed to change.

When Jesus made the first church it had some essentials. Spiritual gifts like speaking in tongues and prophecy happened. People prayed for the sick with great expectancy. They experienced signs and wonders. The original church perceived itself to be in a spiritual battle against Satan and demons. Indeed, this was seen as the reason for our struggles; viz., that we battle against spiritual principalities and powers, rather than flesh and blood.

All this was empowered by the Holy Spirit. In the book of Acts we see constant demonstrations of power (dunamis) and authority (exousia). Surely there was far more of this going on than what has been written down.

But now, sadly, these essentials are missing in many American churches. They are not taught, they are not experienced, they are even spoken against, and they are, to some, an embarrassment. A.W. Tozer saw this, and wrote:

"If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the Holy Spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, 95 percent of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference." (Tozer, in Michael Brown, Authentic Fire, pp. 54-55)

If Peter and Paul and the first-century Jesus-followers saw the American Church today, they would find it unrecognizable. A "church" without miracles, signs, wonders, spiritual gifts, healings, expectation, power, and the Holy Spirit? Don't let anyone try to sell you a church if it doesn't have the essentials of the Original.

***
My first book is Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.
I'm currently writing book #2 - Leading the Presence-Driven Church (Summer 2017)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Truth Is Not Dead




In 1966 Time magazine published one of its most famous covers ever. 

Image result for time is god dead magazine cover
April 8, 1966
The answer to that question was, and is: No.

I went to the mailbox today to get the recent edition of Time, and here is the cover.
Image result for time is truth dead magazine cover

If the answer is "No," then truth is not dead.

If the answer is "Yes," then truth is not dead.

Because if the answer is "Yes," then the following statement is true: Truth is dead. But that statement cannot be true, because if it is true, then it is false. In other words, the statement Truth is dead is logically incoherent. 

Therefore, Truth is not dead

Further, "truth" is not some living thing that can die. Truth cannot die. That statement is true.

So, what about the feature article? It's written by an atheist, Michael Shermer. I've read some of Shermer's stuff. My truth antennae go up. The article is entitled, "Can Trump Handle the Truth?"

OK. Time is playing mind games. The 1966 "God Is Dead" issue was actually about whether or not there is a God. Of course, the statement God is dead is misleading, because if there is a God (I believe there is) then God could not be dead, since God necessarily exists, and a being that necessarily exists never came into being and could never go out of being. And if there is no God, then the statement is sheer nonsense, since only existing living things can die. You have to be alive, and contingently so, to die. (When Nietzsche uttered "God is dead," he was speaking figuratively to mean "I [Nietzsche] have ceased believing in the existence of God.")

Shermer's question is: Can Trump Handle the Truth? This question affirms that truth is not dead, and that there is such a thing as objective truth (true for everyone) that, presumably, Trump cannot handle. If there is no objective truth, then Shermer's question makes as much sense as Can Shermer ride a unicorn?

Truth and falsehood, admits Shermer, are binary opposites. This is exactly what I teach in my logic classes. Shermer accuses Trump of blurring the binary distinctions between truth and falsehood. Shermer states that Trump utters many untruths. The core and bulk of his article intends to substantiate the truth of this statement.

The cover of the new Time aroused the philosopher in me. I took the bait. The fact remains: Truth, like God, is Not Dead.

Healing and the Atonement - at Redeemer

Detroit River, in Wyandotte

Two weeks ago at Redeemer I preached on 1 Peter 2:24. This message was part of preaching through the letter of 1 Peter. I assumed I would just continue into chapter 3, but God had different ideas.

Stay on 1 Peter 2:24. This was very clear to me. So here we are, and here I am. At Redeemer we are now focused on Healing and the Atonement. And, our praying for the sick has ramped up. In the past two weeks we have seen some people healed of physical and emotional illness. We'll do it again tomorrow morning, and the next week, and on Palm Sunday, and on Easter Sunday, and...? Until God directs otherwise.

I confess to liking this very much. It seems that most of our people do, too.

Because one of my love languages is Study, I am engaging in Atonement studies. Periodically, usually as we near Easter week, I revisit the atoning work of Christ on the cross. My background studies include doing one of my doctoral qualifying exams on ancient Christology, especially the Christological controversies about the nature of Christ, and the eventual formation of the Creeds.

I love studying Jesus more than eating a Cadbury egg (this is saying a lot - on occasion I have studied while eating one, thereby experiencing the best of both worlds). I love knowing and experiencing his now-activity, his "with us" presence. Hopefully, this is happening in your church. That is the point of the whole thing, right?

If you want to engage in Atonement studies the best place to begin is this book - The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views, by Thomas Schreiner and James Beilby. It includes Greg Boyd's cool presentation of the famous "Christus Victor" position, and theologian Bruce Reichenbach's "Healing View" of the Atonement.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Impossibility of Worship Without Presence (The Presence-Driven Church)


Lake Michigan shoreline

Worship without a sense of God’s presence is not true worship. God’s presence and worship fit together like a hand and a glove. God’s palpable presence evokes worship; worship provokes God’s people into his felt presence. God’s presence is evocative; true worship is provocative.

At times I have a sense of God’s presence, and this evokes worship in me. I may praise God, or sing of God’s greatness. At other times I may feel spiritually barren, and then a song we are singing prods me, and barrenness is replaced with fecundity.

I doubt that a person could be in God’s presence and not somehow worship him. The experience of God, with us, never gets ordinary or old. The very thought of God manifesting himself in all his omni-attributes is cognitively and emotionally overpowering. Where God is, there people will bow before him in awe and adoration.

In true worship God becomes not only the object of our adoration, but our worship leader. This is why, in true worship, we cannot program or predict how the Holy Spirit will lead. The Holy Spirit cannot be click-tracked, or timed. True worship shifts time zones, from clock time (chronos) to now-time (atemporality; kairos; God’s “time”). We become lost in the moment, in what some have called the “eternal now.”

On Sunday mornings, for example, we have some things in place: an opening worship song, we pray for our children, announcements (if any), praise & worship, preaching, then a time of ministry. But all this can change.

Recently, during the opening song, I was drawn to a person in our sanctuary. I did not know them, but sensed God's presence doing a good thing in them. I felt led to share this with them. At that point the worship meeting was changing before my eyes.

We begin with a simple, basic structure. That's OK and, I think, good. God has led us to prepare the way for his manifesting presence. But within this structure there is room for the Spirit to do his thing. And He does. Always, in our context.

In that sense we do not have an "order of service," or a "program" to be followed. The reason is, while God can and does pre-order what happens in our corporate gatherings, it is God, not me or a committee, doing the pre-ordering. We can't order or program God.

When God manifests his presence it is never to put on a show to entertain a room of consumers.  A. W. Tozer looked at “worship” in the Entertainment-Driven Church in dismay. 


He wrote:

"Thanks to our splendid Bible societies and to other effective agencies for the dissemination of the Word, there are today many millions of people who hold ‘right opinions,’ probably more than ever before in the history of the Church. Yet I wonder if there was ever a time when true spiritual worship was at a lower ebb. To great sections of the Church the art of worship has been lost entirely, and in its place has come that strange and foreign thing called the ‘program.’ This word has been borrowed from the stage and applied with sad wisdom to the type of public service which now passes for worship among us."[1]

Tozer wrote that in 1948. What might he say today?


(This is why at Redeemer we want our worship team musicians and vocalists to, primarily, have deep, abiding spiritual lives with Christ. A musician who lacks that is doxologically worthless, an impediment to true worship.) 



[1] A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, Kindle Locations 46-51