Monday, July 15, 2019

Authenticity or Inauthenticity?

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(Flowers, in my yard.)
I've met people who accuse others of being "inauthentic," seeing themselves as "authentic." When asked what they mean by "authentic" they don't know. Surely that approached the height of inauthenticity; viz., claiming to be authentic while being clueness what that means.

Here is some help for the clueless.

The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, in writing about authentic existence, distinguished between the aesthetic life and the ethical life. The former is inauthenticity, the latter is authenticity.

The aesthetic life is life lived for "the moment." An inauthentic, aesthetic person...


  • is absorbed in satisfying their "natural" desires and impulses.
  • is only concerned with their own happiness.
  • believes happiness is to be found in externals.
  • lives for enjoyment, on the surface of life.
  • is an observer, a spectator, not a serious participant (like many in the church).
  • has no real inner life; therefore, has no real self to offer to others.
  • goes up and down with the choices and moods of other people. (How many "likes" do you have?)
  • never accept responsibility or blame when things go wrong.
  • are apathetic, indifferent, and unintegrated.
  • are unable to commit themselves to any one thing. (For Kierkegaard, this is huge.)
  • is concerned solely with ideas - intellectual systems  that leave the person unchanged. (Is an imaginary "philosopher.")  [Adapted from Charles Moore;s Introduction in Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard.]
Kierkegaard believed "the ethical involves both choice and resolution. It also involves struggle, because the realization of ethical values takes effort and time. Therefore an authentic, fully realized individual is one who is unified from within, whose actions are one, and who accepts responsibility for his commitments. Unlike someone who lives at the aesthetic level, the ethical individual is not swayed by his every emotion or by the opinions of others." (Ib.; emphasis mine.)


***

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Encounters with the Holy Spirit (a book I co-edited with Janice Trigg)

I''m now giving attention to Transformation: How God Changes the Human Heart

Followed by... Technology and Spiritual Formation

Then, Linda and I will co-write our book on Relationships.

Kierkegaard on the Meaning of Christianity

(Our back yard, on the river. Photo by David Ferrell.)
I begin this day with Soren Kierkegaard.

Much of what is called "Christianity" is a disconnect from what we see in Jesus. This was Kierkegaard's critique of the church of Denmark. "Christians" bear little resemblance to Christianity.

Kierkegaard saw his life purpose as spreading "Christianity, to win people to Christianity. My task is to disabuse people of the illusion that they are Christians – yet I am serving Christianity.” Kierkegaard was working to evangelize Christians.

Charles Moore writes:

"By Christianity Kierkegaard did not mean a system of correct doctrine or a set of behaviors: “The struggle is not between orthodoxy and heterodoxy. My struggle, much more inward, is about the how of the doctrine. I say that someone can accept [intellectually] the whole doctrine, but in presenting it [living it] he destroys it.” Kierkegaard’s contention was that despite sound doctrine, or the what of faith, “the lives people live demonstrate that there is really no Christianity – or very little.” 

Genuine Christianity, according to Kierkegaard, is anything but doctrine. It is a way of being in the truth before God by following Jesus in self-denial, sacrifice, suffering, and by seeking a primitive relationship with God. Unfortunately, doctrine is what people want. And the reason for this is “because doctrine is the indolence of aping and mimicking for the learner, and doctrine is the way to power for the teacher, and doctrine collects people.”"

(Kierkegaard, Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard. Introduction by Charles Moore.)

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Is Your Church World-Conformed?

Sunset in Monroe (8/18/18)

In Romans 12:1-2 we (plural; viz., the Church) are warned to not be conformed to the values of the world. We are, as C.S. Lewis once instructed, to keep our noses sniffing for the "inner cesspool" that is the way of our world.

We can assess the Church's level of world-conformation by understanding the world's prevailing formation.

So,


  1. Understand the world's prevailing value-formation.
  2. Ask: are these values godly, ungodly, or neutral? (For example, in the Midwest American culture I'm in, many wear plain t-shirts. So do I. Wearing a plain t-shirt is neither godly nor ungodly, but value-neutral.)
  3. If prevailing cultural values are ungodly, assess if your church has taken them on. If so, detoxify. Refuse to allow the world to control you and shape you into its mold.


For example, consider sociologist Jean Twenge's The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement. Twenge writes:

Current trends "all are rooted in a single underlying shift in the American psychology: the relentless rise of narcissism in our culture. Not only are there more narcissists than ever, but non-narcissistic people are seduced by the increasing emphasis on

  • material wealth, 
  • physical appearance, 
  • celebrity worship, and 
  • attention seeking."

(Twenge, pp. 1-2)

The more a church's leaders emphasize,  by word or by lifestyle, these four values, the greater the distance between their church and the Real Church Jesus came to establish.

Twenge writes:

"The United States is currently suffering from an epidemic of narcissism. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines an epidemic as an affliction “affecting…a disproportionately large number of individuals within a population,” and narcissism more than fits the bill."" (P. 2)

World-conformed churches and their leaders are infected carriers of narcissism and entitlement. 

Saturday, July 13, 2019

How Linda and I Grow Spiritually


In the early 1970s I taught guitar at Nielsen's Music Studio in Rockford, Illinois. The store was owned by Ralph Nielsen. His son was Rick Nielsen, who eventually gained fame in the band Cheap Trick. 

Nielsen's was an amped-up environment. A lot of really good musicians taught there. It was an inspirational  guitarist gathering place. Rick was the best of all.

I began finger-picking at age five, on the steel guitar, with my teacher, the legendary Kay Koster. I taught finger style technique - three and four-finger picking patterns, plus acoustic strumming technique. 

I had students who were committed to practicing and learning. This made my time as a teacher enjoyable.

I taught the way I learned to flat pick and finger pick. If they chose not to follow my instruction, then I am not their teacher. 

There are similarities between guitar mentoring and spiritual coaching and counseling. When someone comes to me for spiritual growth, I show them how I have done this. Then, I expect them to do the same.


When I became a follower of Jesus forty-nine years ago I was an undergraduate at Northern Illinois University. I began to attend a campus ministry. I was asked if I wanted to be in a Small Group for Bible study and prayer. I was told this experience would be one of the keys to my spiritual vitality and growth.

That proved true. I've been in a Small Group all forty-nine years of my Christian life. Linda and I have been in a Small Group Community all forty-six years of our marriage.

The early Jesus-followers met in small groups; in homes, in upper rooms, wherever they could find a gathering place. Small Group Community was essential to the explosive spiritual and numerical growth of the early church. It's also essential to our spiritual life and growth.
Linda anad I were taught that we needed to meet with the larger community. We learned Hebrews 10:25, which reads (Passion Translation):
This is not the time to pull away 
and neglect meeting together, 
as some have formed the habit of doing, 
because we need each other! 
In fact, 
we should come together even more frequently, 
eager to encourage and urge each other onward 
as we anticipate that day dawning.



Linda and I have taken this verse to heart. It is our practice, essential to our spiritual well-being. We have never missed gathering with the Jesus-community on Sunday mornings. We never participated in secular, Sunday activities for our kids. We need the body and the body needs us. This is about a Movement, not another activity.
And, we have learned the importance of meeting alone with God, to pray. I have written about this in my book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.
The rhythm of our spiritual lives looks like this:
We meet alone with God. 
We spend time with God in "the secret place." 
This is the Very Small Group (VSG) - God and I.

We meet weekly in a Home Group 
to study scripture and pray together. 
This is the Small Group (SG) - 6-12 people.

We meet Sunday mornings to worship and listen to the preached Word on Sunday mornings and other times.
This is the Large Group (LG)

Linda and I grow spiritually by doing these. We counsel others to do the same. If someone comes to us for spiritual help but does not do the same, then we cannot help them.
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(The never-ending wheel of spiritual growth.)




Friday, July 12, 2019

This Sunday @ Redeemer (7/14/19)


IN THE MORNING...

(I have never given a message like this before...)


IN THE EVENING...

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(Many of our Redeemer marital couples are reading this book together
and investing in their marriages!)

Kierkegaard and Disabusing Battalions of Unbelieving Christians

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(Church, in Columbus, Ohio)

This morning I am reading from Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard. The explanatory Introduction by Charles Moore is worth the price of the book. At Northwestern I was a T.A. for my theological/philosophical mentor James Will's course on Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard, as Moore acknowledges, is hard to read!

In a recent post I asked if Francis Chan is the new Kierkegaard. Of course Chan (and hardly anyone, self included), is not as brilliant as Kierkegaard. But read Provocations, and then compare it with what Chan is saying in his Letter to the Church.

Here is a sample, from the Introduction by Moore.

"Kierkegaard was single mindedly driven. He writes in his Journal: “The category for my undertaking is: to make people aware of what is essentially Christian.”...

In Practice of Christianity, Kierkegaard writes: “If anything is to be done, one must try to introduce Christianity into Christendom.”"

Moore continues:

"The backdrop to his entire authorship was a Danish Lutheranism that had degenerated into a nominal state-religion. Three things, in particular, marred the church of his day: 

(1) Intellectualism – the “direct mental assent to a sum of doctrines”; 

(2) Formalism – “battalions upon battalions” of unbelieving believers; and 

(3) Pharisaism – a herd of hypocritical clergy that ignore the Christianity they were hired to preach.

It was in this climate that Kierkegaard felt compelled to reintroduce Christianity. He sought to provide a kind of map that would, for the sake of Christian truth, steer people away from Christendom. “An apostle’s task is to spread Christianity, to win people to Christianity. My task is to disabuse people of the illusion that they are Christians – yet I am serving Christianity.”"  (K41)

JESUS-FOLLOWING & POLITICS

Sermon-prepping, in Starbucks

















Politically, America is deeply divided. As a follower of Jesus, how do I evaluate this? What do I do about this? How shall I think about this?

Here's my approach, 

1) I identify certain guiding principles; and 
2) I keep studying and learning. This means disengaging from social media arguments, and finding the best scholarship available that can help me, in the first place, understand the issues. I am uninterested in people who want to argue political issues without first putting a lot of work into understanding those issues. This may not be you, but it is me.


A FEW GUIDING PRINCIPLES FOR ME

  • Change hearts first. When hearts are changed, systems transform.
  • Focus on issues, not political alignment.
  • I must understand before I evaluate. This takes time. I hesitate to jump on someone's political bandwagon. Because, I don't yet understand the issues. 
  • Attack arguments, not people (no ad hominem abusiveness please). Evaluate arguments; formulate arguments. Love people.
  • Lift up Jesus, the one who changes hearts and minds, and from whom we Christians acquire our ethics.
  • Deepen your abiding life in Christ, as the first thing to do. All relevant, Spirit-led action comes from this ongoing attachment to Christ.
  • When the Holy Spirit identifies a socio-cultural need and burdens you with it, labor in the Spirit to achieve transformation. For example, my church family helped begin a soup kitchen that provides a meal every day of the year, serving 75-150 a night. For example, my church family has been involved in serving and raising support for ministries that rescue women out of sex trafficking. For example, Linda and I have, over the decades, provided free counseling for needy marriages and families (this is ongoing, to the very moment I am typing these words).
  • Study and grow in learning about the relationship between following Jesus and political involvement. This will assist you in transcending shallow, uninformed, hate-filled debating. Here are some resources that have taken me deeper.



SOME RESOURCES THAT HAVE HELPED ME (These are resources I have read and studied, and have helped me better understand the relationship between religion and politics. Surely there are more. What books have helped you?)



And, of course, keep saturating yourself in Scripture.

Study the ethics of Jesus. Read the Gospels. Check this out - The Moral Vision of the New Testament: A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics. 

Do I agree with everything written in these books? 

Of course not. I don't even agree with everything you say. 

And, I have said things that, upon reflection, have caused me to disagree with myself.

***

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Encounters with the Holy Spirit (a book I co-edited with Janice Trigg)

I''m now giving attention to Transformation: How God Changes the Human Heart

Followed by... Technology and Spiritual Formation

Then, Linda and I will co-write our book on Relationships.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Living for a Fullness That Is Beyond Ourselves

Bangkok
Miroslav Volf's A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good is a beautiful read! Chapter 1 is worth the price of the entire book - on the nature of "prophetic religion," with the double-movement of "ascent" and "descent," both of which are needed, and needed in a certain way. 

In Ch. 2 Volf writes of the meaning of labor, of work. Volf ties work in with the existential matters of life's meaning and purpose. 


"There are many possible ways of construing the meaning of work. One purpose that immediately comes to mind is to put bread on the table—and a car into the garage or an art object into the living room, some may add. Put more abstractly, the purpose of work is to take care of the needs of the person who does it... But when we consider taking care of ourselves as the main purpose of work, we unwittingly get stuck on the spinning wheel of dissatisfaction. What we possess always lags behind what we desire, and so we become victims of Lewis Carroll’s curse, “Here, you see, it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place.” In our quiet moments, we know that we want our lives to have weight and substance and to grow toward some kind of fullness that lies beyond ourselves. Our own selves, and especially the pleasures of our own selves, are insufficient to give meaning to our lives. When the meaning of work is reduced to the well-being of the working self, the result is a feeling of melancholy and unfulfillment, even in the midst of apparent success." (Kindle Location 639)


The antidote to the "rat race" and boredom of work is to live for "some kind of fullness that lies beyond ourselves."


For example, live for this cause.

You Are a Reconciler, Not an Enabler or a Divider

Green Lake Conference Center, Wisconsin

















In 2 Corinthians 5 we learn the following.

  • When a person gets saved they become a new creation.
  • As a new creation, they no longer live narcissistic lives for themselves, but they live for Jesus.
  • As a new creation they no longer view people "according to the flesh (kata sarka), but according to the Spirit (kata pneuma).
  • We see people, all of them, as either reconciled to God, or not reconciled to God.
  • New creations are burdened by this. They "implore" ("beg) people to be reconciled to God.
  • God gives new creations a "ministry of reconciliation." In this, we are "ambassadors for Christ."


If you are a Jesus-follower, you have a ministry of reconciliation. You bring people to God, and bring people to one another. You are a reconciler, not a divider. Any fool can divide; blessed and few are the peacemakers. 

The apostle Paul wrote: 


17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

God reconciled you, through Christ, to himself. God did not count your sins against you. God did not look at you and the mess you made of life and say, "Nothing good can ever come from this person." You have the message that God did not treat us this way. You are to share this with others. This is Good News.


Because of this basic, core message of Real Christianity, Linda and I labor to reconcile husbands and wives in failing marriages. We have a ministry of reconciliation, just like you. Un-ity, not di-vorce, is the God-thing. 


Tap into God's creative, restorative, reconciling abilities to unite people. God can work, through you, to dissolve disparity between people. 


Abide in Him, and receive His empowering for a peace unlike this world dishes out. 


Do not assist division. Reconcilers refuse to enable dysfunction and sin. Have nothing to do with tearing marriages and families and friends asunder. 


Refuse to entertain words like "This marriage will never make it," or "We could never be friends again," or "Nothing good can ever come out of these people." (Warning: as you refuse to enable sin, the enablee may be outraged because, from their egocentric viewpoint, you are not "helping" them. They may accuse you of not following Jesus, as if Jesus assists people on the road to destruction. The enablee may dishonor you and, in their blindness, view you as trying to control them. How absurd! Yet Linda and I have experienced this.)


Your core belief is: God is able to reconcile. 


You know this is true, for He reconciled you, to Him, and to others. 

The idea is: If two people follow Jesus, and are "in him," they will come together since, in Christ, divisive relationships are nonexistent. 

View things this way. Think community, not individuality.

If you are a Jesus-follower, you are a gatherer, not a scatterer.


You assist people on the road to life, rather then enable people on the path of relational dis-ease. 

You are someone who brings people to God, and brings people together.

This is dynamic, far more so than those dark, mediocre voices of relational failure that enumerate sins against people and give up on them. 

***

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Encounters with the Holy Spirit (a book I co-edited with Janice Trigg)

I''m now giving attention to Transformation: How God Changes the Human Heart

Followed by... Technology and Spiritual Formation

Then, Linda and I will co-write our book on Relationships.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Greg Boyd Commits a Modal Fallacy?

Image result for napoleon dynamite

(This is a special birthday present for DJP!)

Greg Boyd, in "5 Ways the Bible Supports Open Theism," writes:

"Open Theism refers to the belief that God created a world in which possibilities are real. It contrasts with Classical Theism which holds that all the facts of world history are eternally settled, either by God willing them so (as in Calvinism) or simply in God’s knowledge (as in Arminianism). Open Theists believe God created humans and angels with free will and that these agents are empowered to have “say so” in what comes to pass. In Open Theism, therefore, what people decide to do genuinely affects God and affects what comes to pass. In particular, by God’s own sovereign design, things really hang on whether or not God’s people pray."

I love Greg Boyd, as a person, and as a great scholar. We've had Greg at Redeemer twice -what a privilege! Linda and I had Greg over for dinner. After eating, we watched "Napoleon Dynamite" together. What a trip!

All the love and massive props aside, I'm not clear about the above quote. 

God's eternally knowing all the facts of world history does not entail humans and angels having no "say so" in what comes to pass. 

I'm wondering if Greg commits a modal fallacy, of the kind I have written about here. The following is false, committing a fallacy in modal logic: If God knows that John will eat an orange tonight, then John cannot not eat an orange tonight. This ascribes logical necessity to the consequent, which cannot be. Such contingent statements cannot be logically necessary. Even if God eternally knows what John will do, it does not follow that John does not have a choice, and that John's choice does not affect God.

(The following is true: It is not possible that: God knows John will eat an orange tonight, and John not eat an orange. But from this it does not follow that John lacks free will.)