Wednesday, May 22, 2024

The War Over Beliefs, Statements, Words

 

                                       (Green Lake Christian Conference Center, Wisconsin)

We are engaged in a battle over beliefs.

Beliefs are expressed in statements.

Statements are houses built with words, whether written or non-written.

To control words, statements, and beliefs - that's Orwellian totalitarianism.

Johnathan Haidt (one of my favorite thinkers today - see this, e.g.) expresses our situation this way.

"What would it have been like to live in Babel in the days after its destruction? In the Book of Genesis, we are told that the descendants of Noah built a great city in the land of Shinar. They built a tower “with its top in the heavens” to “make a name” for themselves. God was offended by the hubris of humanity and said:

Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.

The text does not say that God destroyed the tower, but in many popular renderings of the story he does, so let’s hold that dramatic image in our minds: people wandering amid the ruins, unable to communicate, condemned to mutual incomprehension.

The story of Babel is the best metaphor I have found for what happened to America in the 2010s, and for the fractured country we now inhabit. Something went terribly wrong, very suddenly. We are disoriented, unable to speak the same language or recognize the same truth. We are cut off from one another and from the past."

- The Atlantic, May 2022

Monday, May 20, 2024

Holy Spirit Declarations - For Pentecost!

Image result for john piippo true
Warren Dunes State Park, Michigan

This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday.

Here are some Pentecostal declarations to carry with you. (With a HT to Steve B.)

***

Whatever is true,
whatever is noble,
whatever is right,
whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely,
whatever is admirable,
whatever is excellent,
whatever is worthy of praise,
think on these things.
Philippians 4:8



HOLY SPIRIT DECLARATIONS
  • God is revealing deep things about himself to me. (1 Cor. 2:10)

  • The Holy Spirit is explaining spiritual realities to me. (1 Cor. 2:13)

  • I am experiencing an outpouring of revelation knowledge. (1 Cor. 2:13)

  • The Holy Spirit has made his permanent home in our church. (1 Cor. 3:16)

  • The Holy Spirit is making my heart into his home. (Rom. 8:11)

  • I have become God’s inner sanctuary.

  • The Holy Spirit is giving life to my physical body.

  • Every day I am opening spiritual gifts the Holy Spirit is giving me to encourage and comfort those around me. (1 Cor. 12:11)

  • I am an equipped, competent, life-giving minister of God’s new covenant of love and power. (2 Cor. 3:6)

  • Every moment of my life the Holy Spirit is calling out to me that I am God’s true child, and God is my true Father. (Gal. 4:6)

  • I am moved by the Holy Spirit. I move with the Holy Spirit. (Rom. 8:14)

  • I am soaring above the domination of the law and experience the full freedom of the Spirit of grace. (Gal. 5:18)

  • The Holy Spirit whispers into my innermost being, telling me I am God’s beloved child.” (Rom. 8:16)

  • The Holy Spirit’s intense cravings are overpowering any sinful cravings I am tempted by. (Gal. 5:17)

  • The Holy Spirit is strengthening me in my weakness. (Rom. 8:26)

  • The Holy Spirit, who knows my deepest longings, is bringing my life into perfect harmony with God’s plan. (Rom. 8:26-27)

  • What the Holy Spirit is doing in me is better than anything I could have ever thought or imagined. (Rom. 8:28)

  • The Holy Spirit is unveiling within me the unlimited riches of God’s glory. Supernatural strength is flooding my innermost being with God’s divine might and power. (Eph. 3:16)



God Does Not Affirm All Behaviors

                                                                    (Redeemer Monroe)


In this post I attempt to establish one point, using 'pedophilia' as an example. 

"Pedophilia is an ongoing sexual attraction to pre-pubertal children. It is a paraphilia, a condition in which a person's sexual arousal and gratification depends on objects, activities, or even situations that are considered atypical. Pedophilia is defined as recurrent and intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children—generally age 13 years or younger—over a period of at least six months. Pedophiles are more often men and can be attracted to either or both sexes." (Psychology Today)

Does God love the pedophiliac? Yes. 

Does God affirm sexual activity with a child? No. 

The Christian belief is that pedophile activity is sin. That is, it misses the mark God places before us. (See, e.g., what in ethics is called "divine command theory.")

This troubling, yet simple, example proves the following: God does not affirm all behaviors

Neither do people affirm all behaviors. 

Whether they believe in God or not, good parents morally screen what beliefs are to be championed in their home. The good parent will not allow their child to be taught the beauty and happiness of pedophilic beliefs and behaviors. 

All institutions have moral filters. These moral filters emerge from worldviews. People may differ in their worldviews. People do not differ in having moral filters rooted in a social imaginary. (See Charles Taylor here.)

Churches are no different. As a pastor of a church, I testify that we would not allow someone to teach our children, youth, and adults, that God affirms sexual activity with children. Obviously.

Every person, every institution, embraces some things and excludes other things. (On this, see Amy Chua's Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations.) That's what doctrine does, and why doctrine is important. Understand this: Real love embraces and excludes.

The matter than becomes how, as Christians, we are still to love the pedophile, while establishing moral boundaries. To begin with, a lot will depend on how the pedophile views pedophilia. And, do they want us to embrace this belief, or exclude the belief? If the latter, do they want help?

Now, instead of 'pedophilia', plug in any sin.


Saturday, May 18, 2024

Speaking on "Freedom from Addictions" at the "Free Indeed" Conference



                                                                         (Green Lake)

Join me and Linda and several of our ministry colleagues at the HSRM "Free Indeed" Conference.

When: Sunday, June 30 through Thursday, July 4. 

Where: Beautiful Green Lake, Wisconsin. 

Detail and information: https://hsrm.org/events 

It's my joy to open the conference on Sunday evening. I'll speak on "Freedom from Addictions." Expect!

Friday, May 17, 2024

Our Strategy for Evangelism

 

                                                   (Northern lights, from our front yard)

Here is our strategy for evangelism.

  1. Make disciples.
  2. The disciples share Jesus with others.

The Moral Argument for God's Existence - John Piippo


Here's a presentation I made on The Moral Argument for God's Existence.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Truth Excludes (as does every community)

 


Downtown Monroe
Humans are tribal. We need to belong to groups. We crave bonds and attachments, which is why we love clubs, teams, fraternities, family. Almost no one is a hermit. Even monks and friars belong to orders. But the tribal instinct is not just an instinct to belong. It is also an instinct to exclude.

Yale Law professor Amy Chua
From her book Political Tribes

Former USC philosopher Dallas Willard writes:

"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, Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge, pp. 170-171

Truth marginalizes. Truth excludes.

You have a worldview, a set of beliefs through which you interpret reality and experience. Your worldview excludes masses of people. 

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:

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. I am logically excluded from such knowledge.

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

It is not rude or impolite to talk like this. It is not disrespectful. 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)

What if you embrace the belief-system of postmodernism? And you claim, We can't know truth. I have two thoughts about that. 1) You just excluded me and all like me who believe we can know truth; and 2) You just made a truth claim which, on your postmodern thinking, is self-contradictory.

In embracing the truths of your worldview, you have excluded many. That's just the way truth works. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Pride and Receiving Criticism

 

                                                                       (Our lilac bush)

I'm now using Tim Keller's 365-day devotional book on Proverbs. I love Proverbs! It's straight-shooting, in-your-face, no-nonsense wisdom about how to live a godly life (and how to avoid destruction).

Yesterday's entry Is on Proverbs 16:5; 18.

The LORD detests all the proud of heart. 

Be sure of this: 

They will not go unpunished. . . . 

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. 

Keller writes:

"The Bible does not say that pride might lead to destruction—it says it will. Why? The practical reason is that pride makes it difficult to receive advice or criticism. You can’t learn from your mistakes or admit your own weaknesses. Everything has to be blamed on other people. You have to maintain the image of yourself as a competent person, as someone who is better than other people. Pride distorts your view of reality, and therefore you’re going to make terrible decisions."  (Keller, God's Wisdom for Navigating Life: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Book of Proverbs, p. 134). 

Keller asks us this. "What negative practical results of pride have you seen recently worked out in your own life or the lives of others you know?" 

Pride is the root of so many things that are wrong with us. This is why C. S. Lewis called pride "the great sin."

Every Community Embraces and Excludes

 

                                                                           (NYC)

All communities both embrace (if you buy into the narrative) and exclude (if you don't).

Amy Chua (Yale) presents this in her book Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations

Chua writes:

"Humans are tribal. We need to belong to groups. We crave bonds and attachments, which is why we love clubs, teams, fraternities, family. Almost no one is a hermit. Even monks and friars belong to orders. But the tribal instinct is not just an instinct to belong. It is also an instinct to exclude.

Some groups are voluntary; some are not. Some tribes are sources of joy and salvation; some are the hideous product of hate mongering by opportunistic power seekers. But once people belong to a group, their identities can become oddly bound with it. They will seek to benefit their group mates even when they personally gain nothing. They will penalize outsiders, seemingly gratuitously. They will sacrifice, and even kill and die, for their groups."

For a deep dive, see Miroslav Volf, 

Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation 

Monday, May 13, 2024

Heaven, the Soul, and the Afterlife (Coming Fall 2024)

 


HEAVEN, THE SOUL, AND THE AFTERLIFE

RENEWAL SCHOOL OF MINISTRY

 


You may have heard it said that some people are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.  But turn this on its head and we see that some people are so earthly minded that they are no heavenly good. In this class we will focus on a Christian understanding of heavenly-mindedness, and hope in, life after death.

We will respond to questions like these.

What happens to us when we die?

What will the afterlife be like?

How does the Bible describe the afterlife?

Why is it important to understand that you have a soul?

How can we know that persons have souls?

Will we be with our loved ones in eternity?

What will we do for all eternity?

How does belief in everlasting life inform how we now live on earth?

This is a four-week class. Monday nights. 8-9:30 PM EST. Begins Monday, Sept. 16, 2024. (9/16, 9/23, 9/30, 10/7)

Class sessions will be both in person at Redeemer Church in Monroe, Michigan, and live-zoomed.

Registration begins in August. $10 for the four class sessions.

INSTRUCTOR: Rev. John Piippo, PhD

John Piippo has taught spiritual formation, prayer, and presence-driven leadership in seminaries, conferences and retreats, around the United States and the world. John has written six books: Leading the Presence-Driven ChurchPraying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God, Deconstructing Progressive Christianity, 31 Letters to the Church on Discipleship, 31 Letters to the Church on Praying, and Encounters with God.

John currently is a Visiting Professor at Faith Bible Seminary (Chinese) in Flushing, NYC, and an Adjunct Professor at Payne Theological Seminary (A.M.E.) in Wilberforce, Ohio.

John was Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at Monroe County Community College for eighteen years (Logic, Philosophy of Religion, Western Philosophy)

John and Linda have been pastors at Redeemer Fellowship Church in Monroe, Michigan, since 1992. 

John has a PhD in Philosophical Theology from Northwestern University, and an M.Div. from Northern Seminary. 

John regularly blogs at johnpiippo.com.