Tuesday, April 07, 2020

The Great American Search for Happiness Leads to Unhappiness


I heard someone say, referring to the pandemic, "I just want things to go back to normal." 

Not me. I am praying for a new normal. Yes, let good, godly things be retained. But let rampaging secularism come to an end. This includes the American obsession with happiness.

This relates to parenting. If we could get this as part of a new normal God wants to usher in: Parents, your goal is not to make your children happy.

My idea is this: 


  • The more secular a culture becomes, the more utilitarianism rules as an ethical framework.
  • The more utilitarianism rules, virtue ethics recedes, and "right" and "wrong" and "good" and "evil" and "ought" and "should" (as ethical and moral  terms) disappear from our ethical vocabulary.
  • These words are replaced by "pleasure," "pain," "happiness," and "unhappiness." 
  • So, the rise of "happiness" is predictable on rising secularism (by "secularism" I mean the sort of thing Charles Taylor means in his A Secular Age). 
Lori Gotlieb, in "How to Land Your Kid in Therapy," writes about the American obsession with "happiness," and the American parental goal of raising one's children to be very, very "happy."

Gotlieb says that "Nowadays, it’s not enough to be happy—if you can be even happier. The American Dream and the pursuit of happiness have morphed from a quest for general contentment to the idea that you must be happy at all times and in every way." Ironically, this way of thinking will end up making people very unhappy and in need of a lot of therapy to set them straight."

Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, says, in a fit of a silliness, "Happiness doesn't always make you happy." By this I think she means to say something like: "To make 'happiness' one's life pursuit will not end up with you being 'happy.' Or perhaps: "If you mean by 'happiness' the removal of anything that would unsettle or disappoint or trouble you, then the achievement of that will leave you miserable and in need of help." 

Gotlieb confirms: "Modern social science backs her [Rubin] up on this. “Happiness as a byproduct of living your life is a great thing,” Barry Schwartz, a professor of social theory at Swarthmore College, told me. “But happiness as a goal is a recipe for disaster.” It’s precisely this goal, though, that many modern parents focus on obsessively—only to see it backfire. Observing this phenomenon, my colleagues and I began to wonder: Could it be that by protecting our kids from unhappiness as children, we’re depriving them of happiness as adults?"

The answer is: yes. Happiness sought for its own sake will leave you miserable. The only happiness worth happening is happiness as a byproduct. Parents, therefore, must allow unhappiness and misery and even (yikes!) the dreaded "boredom" in the lives of their children. To shelter them from such things is to destine them to an adulthood of psycho- and drug therapy. "Parental overinvestment is contributing to a burgeoning generational narcissism that’s hurting our kids." (See also what M.I.T.'s Sherry Turkle says about the importance of boredom in a child's life, in Reclaiming Conversation.)

Harvard child psychologist Dan Kindlon says, “You have to be exposed to pathogens, or your body won’t know how to respond to an attack. Kids also need exposure to discomfort, failure, and struggle."

Why might parents try to protect their children from all unhappy events and work hard so as to make them eternally happy? One answer is: because it's really about the parents' own happiness, and not their children's. Read the entire Gotlieb article to see the reasoning behind this.

Infant and toddler narcissists are happy because they are the center of the universe. As they grow older this changes; indeed, it becomes a "big problem." So parents - do not "protect" your child from negative feedback.

Theistic philosopher J.P. Moreland has written about this in The Lost Virtue of Happiness. J.P. presented chapter 1 of this text at our HSRM/Green Lake conference a few years ago. You can watch a video of J.P. speaking on this here. A heads-up: J.P. is a brilliant philosopher, but appears clueless when it comes to fashion. If one does not buy into the idea that trendy clothes will make you happy, then J.P. is a free man. The bullets are:

  • American people are addicted to happiness, and they overemphasize its importance in life.
  • If, right now, you are not tremendously happy, that's OK.
  • Yet, in America, if you are not happy, or your children are not happy, it seems like the world is falling apart.
  • Given the American emphasis on happiness, are Americans happy?
  • The answer, says Moreland (drawing on Martin Seligman's research), is that the rate of depression and loss of happiness has increased, in the span of just one generation in America, tenfold. We Americans are not a bunch of happy campers! We have an epidemic of depression and an epidemic of the loss of happiness.
  • Yet the Boomer generation is twice as rich, a lot healthier, more youthful, and a lot safer than our predecessors were 50 years ago. These are the kind of things that have defined the "American Dream." We are now living in this "Dream." We have more discretionary time. We have more money. It takes longer to age. So we feel younger, longer. J.P. says: "There's just one problem with this. All of this has not only not made Americans happier, we're slowly getting worse."
  • Why is this happening? Seligman's answer is this. "The Baby Boom generation forgot how to live for something bigger than they were." Americans have been taught to get up each morning and live for their own selves and try to find meaning in their own lives, rather than live for something other than their own well-being and bigger than they are.
  • From Moses to Solomon, to Plato and Aristotle, to Jesus and Augustine and Aquinas, to the Reformers al the way up to the 1900s, everybody meant the same thing by 'happiness.' But from the 1920s/30s on a new definition of 'happiness' was introduced and lived by. This new definition of 'happiness' is: "a feeling of pleasurable satisfaction." (See here, e.g.)
  • "Happiness' has become a positive feeling. Moreland is not against positive feelings; he'd rather experience them then their opposite. But there are two problems with this definition of happiness: 1) pleasurable feelings are not a big enough thing to build your life around; and 2) the more you try to get of it the less of it you have. "The best way to be happy is largely to forget about it."
  • Now watch this. 1) If 'happiness' is the feeling you have, say, when your team wins; and 2) the goal of life is to be happy, which means to retain that kind of feeling; then 3) your goal this year is make make sure that your job, your spouse, your church, your children, etc., help you that positive feeling named 'happiness.' All the aforenamed things (job, wife) are but means to making you happy. If a man's 4-year-old wife doesn't make him "happy" he may trade her in for a 20-year-old woman that gives him that hap-hap-happy feeling.
  • The ancient definition of 'happiness,' used by Aristotle and contained in the word eudamonia, is: to live a life of wisdom, character, and virtue." Plato thought it would be terrible if all a person did was spend his life worrying about whether he was good-looking, wealthy, and healthy. Solomon tells us that the happy person is the one who lives his life wisely reverencing and fearing God. In the New Testament the happy person is the person who looks like Jesus of Nazareth and lives the way he lives.
  • How do you get that? See Matthew 16:24-26, where Jesus says: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it." Jesus is not here commanding us to do this. He is saying, if you want to get good at life, this is what you have to do.
  • If you want to get good at life, if you want to be "happy," then learn daily to give yourself away for the sake of God and others. J.P. says, "Give yourself away to other people for the Kingdom's sake."
  • If you do that, you end up finding yourself. That's the upside-down logic of Jesus. "Happiness makes a terrible goal. It is the byproduct of another goal, which is giving yourself away to others for the Kingdom's sake."

"Happiness" studies now abound. In "Happiness: Beyond the Data," U of Notre Dame philosopher Gary Gutting writes:
"Happiness studies are booming in the social sciences, and governments are moving toward quantitative measures of a nation’s overall happiness, meant to supplement traditional measures of wealth and productivity."

But, as I said above, Gutting agrees that the pursuit of happiness does not lead to happiness. When the purpose of life becomes the bucket-list pursuit of pleasure, unhappiness and disquietude results. How so? Gutting writes:

"The danger — particularly for a society as rich as ours — is making pleasure the central focus in the pursuit of a happy life. This is done explicitly in some versions of utilitarian ethics, which regard happiness as simply the maximal accumulation of pleasurable experiences. But pleasures themselves often induce a desire for their repetition and intensification, and without moderation from a reflective mind, they can marginalize the work that lies at the core of true happiness.
A pathology of pleasures is often signaled by an obsession with not “missing out” on particularly attractive pleasures and strong disappointment when a highly anticipated experience does not meet expectations. (Examples from the world of food and wine are widely available.) In my view, the best strategy to avoid “hedonic corruption” of happiness is to welcome wholeheartedly the pleasures that come our way but not to make the explicit pursuit of pleasure a dominating part of our life project. The same, of course, applies to the money that is so often the price of pleasure."

Life, real life, is not gained in the pursuit of pleasure. 

Note for church leaders and pastors: Many of your people are happiness-seekers rather than Jesus-followers. Do not make it your objective to keep your people happy. It won't work. 
The Great American Search for Happiness leads to unhappiness. That's what philosopher Eric Hoffer wrote years ago. Hoffer said: “The search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness.” 

"This obsessive, driven, relentless pursuit is a characteristically American struggle — the exhausting daily application of the Declaration of Independence. But at the same time this elusive MacGuffin is creating a nation of nervous wrecks. Despite being the richest nation on earth, the United States is, according to the World Health Organization, by a wide margin, also the most anxious, with nearly a third of Americans likely to suffer from an anxiety problem in their lifetime. America’s precocious levels of anxiety are not just happening in spite of the great national happiness rat race, but also perhaps, because of it."
- Ruth Whippman, "America the Anxious" (nytimes, September 22, 2012)

Whippman continues:

"The American approach to happiness can spur a debilitating anxiety. The initial sense of promise and hope is seductive, but it soon gives way to a nagging slow-burn feeling of inadequacy. Am I happy? Happy enough? As happy as everyone else? Could I be doing more about it? Even basic contentment feels like failure when pitched against capital-H Happiness. The goal is so elusive and hard to define, it’s impossible to pinpoint when it’s even been achieved — a recipe for neurosis."

This makes sense to me. Our age, writes Elaine Showalter in The Chronicle of Higher Education, is an age of anxiety

In  How Everyone Became Depressed: The Rise and Fall of the Nervous Breakdown, medical historian Edward Shorter says that "It has not escaped many observers that today we are drenched in anxiety." Psychiatrist Jeffrey Kahn states that "commonplace anxiety and depressive disorders" affect at least 20% of Americans. That's 60 million people. In our pursuit of happiness we have become depressingly unhappy. (See Kahn, Angst: Origins of Anxiety and Depression) Woo-hoo, right?

Academics are particularly unhappy and depressed, argues University of Texas professor Ann Cvetkovich, in Depression: A Public Feeling. She writes:

Academe "breeds particular forms of panic and anxiety leading to what gets called depression—the fear that you have nothing to say, or that you can't say what you want to say, or that you have something to say but it's not important enough or smart enough."

Instead of happiness, opt for blessedness. The Jesus-idea of "happiness" is the promise of "blessedness." 

  • Blessedness is independent of material or social conditions. 
  • Blessedness is not to be pursued for its own sake, since to do so would cause it to suffer the same infelicitous fate as meets all whose life goal is "happiness." 
  • Blessedness is an indirect byproduct of the pursuit of God and the love of others, for their own sake and not for what you can get. One gives one's life away for God and others and thereby gains life. 
This is, precisely, anti-American in its non-consumerism. The result is a blessed life.

(On the American marketing of happiness see William Davies, The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold Us Well-Being.)

Monday, April 06, 2020

God Bless America - a tribute to our healthcare workers





This arrangement is by the brilliant musician Paul Langford. Linda's niece (by marriage) is Paul's sister-in-law.

The Cup by Jasko, Filisko, & Ortega





This amazing, haunting piece is written and produced by my friends Jeff Jaskowiak and Joe Filisko.



Jeff writes:



"This song is to honor the Lord for His sacrificial death and establishing a new covenant and reconciling us to the Creator to be children of God, forgiven and loved.
Thank you, thank you, thank you Mel Gibson for capturing the vivid ferocity of this human history changing moment!
This video is not for children.
This piece was written by Jeff Jaskowiak, currently the director of the Digital Audio Recording arts program at the University of St. Francis in Joliet, IL
A special thanks given to my colleague, Alby Odum, who keeps me sane.
Jeff Jaskowiak, played the acoustic guitar and fretless bass
Joe Filisko played the harmonica & Larry Ortega played the drums The Cup will be on an upcoming Jasko, Filisko, & Ortega album release.
For more information about the Digital Audio Recording Arts program at the University of St. Francis, visit our website at www.darausf.com."

The Antidote to Boredom is the Acquisition of Meaning




A week ago I did a phone conference with our church's youth. I asked how they were doing. The restrictions brought about by the pandemic have left them mostly sequestered in their homes.

They had many activities of school that filled their time. Now, no more school, for the rest of this school year. This has left a void. Some of them told me, "I don't know how to fill my time." And, "I'm bored." "I have nothing to do."

I have great sympathy for them! What can they do? What is the root cause of boredom?

The answer is found in the word's definition (as I define it). 

"Boredom" is not having little or nothing to do.  
"Boredom" is: finding no meaning in what you are doing. You could have a lot to do and still be bored. You could do one thing and find great meaning in it.

The meaning of "meaning" is: fitness within a coherent context. For followers of Jesus, the coherent context is called the Kingdom of God, This is the great reality within which our lives make sense. We are like puzzle pieces that only find their meaning within the great portrait of God's Kingdom.

The antidote to boredom is the acquisition of meaning. 

How do we do this? 

First of all, we live a life connected with the Lord. Second, in this connection He directs our paths. We follow. We obey. Third, this brings meaningful, lasting activity, and a great sense of fulfillment.



***
My three books are:


Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Encounters with the Holy Spirit (Co-edited with Janice Trigg)

I've begun working on three new books:

Transformation: How God Changes the Human Heart

Technology and Spiritual Formation

Relationships (co-writing with Linda)

Sunday, April 05, 2020

How to Prepare for My Resurrection of Jesus Presentation

If you want to prepare yourself for my Facebook Live talk Monday night on the resurrection of Jesus, you can get Lee Strobel's little book The Case for Easter and read it before I teach. (Just $1.99, when i pull it up on Amazon.)

There will also be Q&A.

I am looking forward to this - I think this can be a great beginning to Easter week!


Saturday, April 04, 2020

The Return of the Experiential, Power-Saturated Church

Image result for john piippo photos
(With Joe LaRoy in Bangkok)
Why was the crowd going crazy when Jesus rode into Jerusalem, on a donkey, during Passover? Because...

The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb, raising him from the dead, was there giving eyewitness accounts. It was because they had spread the word of this latest God-sign that the crowd swelled to a welcoming parade. (John 12) 

 As soon as Jesus got to the bottom of the Mount of Olives, the crowds of his followers shouted with a loud outburst of ecstatic joy over all the mighty wonders of power they had witnessed. (Luke 19:37)

The crowd wasn't freaking out because Jesus offered coffee and donuts. It wasn't because he was ridiculously welcoming, affirming, and friendly. It was because they had just seen Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead! And more!

These eyewitnesses had experienced the power of God, coursing through Jesus. They could not keep these experiences of divine power to themselves. The presence of God was returning to Jerusalem!

This is the whole point of the biblical text; viz., to usher us into the presence of God, in experience (not theory). This is what the Bible means by "knowing God." Coffee and donuts cannot effect this.

This helps us understand Scripture. Craig Keener, in Spirit Hermeneutics: Reading Scripture in Light of Pentecostreasons that those who know God by experience (meaning the kind of experiences found in the Bible) will more accurately understand and interpret the Scriptures. This is "reading Scripture in light of Pentecost."

"Scripture itself models an experiential appropriation of its message." (1)

"All of us as Christians should read [Scripture] from the vantage of Pentecost and the experience of the Spirit." (3)

"All Christians should read Scripture as people living in the biblical experience - not in terms of ancient culture, but as people living by the same Spirit who guided God's people in Scripture."

"While careful study of Scripture helps encounter the unbridled subjectivism of popular charismatic excesses, study that does not lead to living out biblical experience in the era of the Spirit misses the point of the biblical texts." (5)

"Many churches that in principle allow that the gifts are for today are, with respect to public worship, practical cessationists on any biblical gifts that do not fit their traditional order of service. This is true of many Pentecostal and charismatic churches..." (9)

"Life is full of subjective experiences, and those who genuinely heed Scripture cannot neglect spiritual experience. The Bible itself is full of dynamic experiences with God, and the broader church regularly needs to be reminded of these." (11) 

"Ideally, the entire church must be experiential if it wishes to be biblical." (11)

"An approach sterilized from any direct faith in the supernatural differs significantly from how the biblical writers intended their works to be read." (11)

Martin Luther said that "experience is necessary for the understanding of the Word," which must "be believed and felt."

On that first Palm Sunday, there was a whole lot of experiencing going on. 

My prayer is, "God, show up in power, in our churches!"

***

See my chapter "The Case for Experience" in Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Friday, April 03, 2020

Confess and Forgive

Store, in Ann Arbor

When Linda and I are asked "What makes for a good marriage?" we respond: confession and forgiveness. C&F.

C&F is more important than clear communication. When X says to Y, "You are stupid" and Y responds with "I hate you" (with a four-letter word added), they are communicating clearly. But this kind of clear communication does not make for a good marriage. 


Here's how I confess to Linda (and she to me). I say the words, "I was wrong to (do or say this specific thing)."


Then I request, "Would you forgive me for doing/saying this?"


She responds with, "I forgive you."


C&F is more powerful than apologizing. Apologizing can be a one-way street; C&F moves two ways. Every confessor needs a forgiver. A certain kind of loving response is needed.


To confess requires humility. In confessing I take responsibility for my hurtful actions, and do not blame the other for "pushing my buttons." After all, those buttons are mine, and if I didn't have them I wouldn't have reacted the way I did. 


It's also destructive to look for hot buttons on others, and use words or actions to set them off. 

A confessor admits their own culpability in wrongdoing. This requires humility, accompanied by regret ("I am sorry I did that to you. Would you forgive me? I never want to treat someone I love that way.") Don't let pride keep you from doing this.

To forgive means: to cancel a debt. When Linda and I forgive one another (which we have done many times over 45 1/2 years), we release the other from any indebtedness. Forgiveness cancels indebtedness. If the Federal Government forgave your student loan you would not have to make any more payments. When X forgives Y, X will not in the future "make Y pay" for whatever Y did. Again, don't let pride keep you from doing this.


To forgive is not to forget. But our experience is that, when this is practiced as needed (and it is needed in every marriage and friendship), a lot of forgetting happens. This is because C&F cuts loose the heavy anchor that had us stuck in that bad place, and now we're moving free from it. We no longer spend our hearts and minds brooding over the details of the struggle, because the matter has been settled and healed.


Why practice C&F? Linda and I do this because we are like the sinful woman who kissed and poured perfume on  Jesus' feet. She had been forgiven much. Therefore she loved much.


(Note: If you repeatedly keep hurting your loved ones, then get help for yourself. If a loved one keeps hurting you with their words or actions then: 1) forgive them; and 2) assist them in getting help for their repetitive harmful behavior. If you live in our Southeast Michigan area make an appointment to get help here.)


For scholarly, empirical data on C&F see University of Wisconsin scholar Robert Enright's The Forgiving Life: A Pathway to Overcoming Resentment and Creating a Legacy of Love; and check out Enright's International Forgiveness Institute.


The best practical guide to C&F is David Augsburger's Caring Enough to Forgive



***

My two books are:




Linda and I are planning to write our book on Relationships.

Confession & Forgiveness: The Foundation of All Authentic Relationship


Prior to my conversion at age 21 I had admitted I was wrong once in my life. I was in the ninth grade. It happened in band class. My teacher was Mr. Rudy Saarinen. Mr. Saarinen was a man I greatly admired. Plus, he was Finnish, like myself. Plus plus, my mother's Finnish maiden name was Saari. I felt connected to Mr. Saarinen. He was an excellent teacher, very kind, and grace-filled.

I played clarinet. I was second-chair clarinet, sometimes third chair. But never first chair. Bill Tarpley was first chair. And deservedly so. He was a far better clarinet player than I was.

If a player wanted to occupy first chair they could offer a challenge. The challenge went like this. The two players went into the instrument room and closed the door, so students in the band room could not see them. Then, both players individually played a piece the challenger had picked out. The students would vote for who they thought did the best job.

On the day I challenged Bill Tarpley I remember that, when it was Bill's turn to play, I thought of something funny and started to laugh. I tried to suppress it, but failed. Bill saw me laughing and began to smile, with the clarinet in his mouth. Then he laughed into the clarinet mouthpiece and it squawked. The students heard Bill make the awkward sound. They voted. I won the challenge.

Now, I was in first chair. Bill Tarpley occupied second chair. I knew this was not right, and felt weird sitting there. I did not deserve first chair. After class I went to Mr. Saarinen and told him what had happened. He thanked me for telling him, and told me I would be moved back into second chair. The way Mr. Saarinen handled this left an impression on me. I felt relieved after confessing to him!

Unfortunately, the next time I was to confess a personal failure was eight years later. Of course, during those eight years I experienced many failures,  and caused a lot of people pain and harm. But I never owned up to my behavior, never admitting I was wrong, never asking for forgiveness from people I had hurt. 

I had became a Jesus-follower, and was also falling in love with Linda. One night Linda and I were in an argument over something, I remember not what. It was our first argument. She did not agree with me about something. How was that possible? I remember strongly arguing my point. I was a philosophy major who had also taken a class in argumentation and debate. I was even asked by my debating professor to join the university debate team. I was a powerful arguer!

Then, in the midst of my argument with Linda, I realized, regarding the point of the whole thing, that I was wrong. The thought came to me, "You are wrong; she is right. Admit it."

But I refused to admit it, and proceeded to keep arguing. I have the ability to argue a point even when I know I am wrong. I have the gift of making a person who is right begin to question themselves and feel they are the one who is wrong. I was now doing that to Linda. But I could not escape the truth that I was in the wrong. What should I do?

I had little experience in confessing. My father never said he was wrong, and in my case the apple did not fall far from the tree. I thought if I admitted I was wrong this would be weakness.

Then I stopped the argument, and said these words: "Linda, you are right, and I am wrong. Would you forgive me for arguing with you even when I knew I was wrong?"

Having never really done this before, except in a way with Mr. Saarinen, I braced myself for the worst. After all, why would Linda want to date someone who admitted they were wrong? Or, worse yet, why would she want to date someone who knew they were wrong about something but continued arguing anyway? Yuck!

Linda said, "I forgive you."

I can't remember all the details of what happened after that, except I will never forget that I began laughing, and so did she. It felt like a release for me. Linda forgave me! Even though I acted like a total jerk!

That felt freeing. So freeing, in fact, that I've done it with her, and she with me, ever since. We are two flawed, imperfect people, who found in the Real Jesus one who, while hanging on a cross, asked his Father to forgive his persecuters. Only a free person can do that. 

People who are free, in their spirits, can admit failure and wrongness, and confess and forgive one another. Confession and forgiveness are an engine of renewal and bitterness-removal that constantly hum in the background, day after day after day, giving life, renewal, and relationship to all who walk in it.

The foundation of all authentic relationship and spiritual renewal is confession and forgiveness. We have practiced this many, many times in our forty-three of marriage. Here's how you do it.

1. You recognize you have done something wrong to another person. That person may be God. It might be another person.
2. You then go to God, or to that person, and speak these words: "I was wrong for___________. Would you forgive me?" When you do this, never add the word "but..." Do not defend yourself.
3. If the other person is a Jesus-follower, they are to forgive you. To "forgive" means: to cancel the debt. In other words, the forgiving person, in saying "I forgive you," is also saying, "I will not make you pay for what you did to me. your indebtedness to me regarding this issue is cancelled."
4. The confessing person says: "Thank you."

If this is heartfelt, the results are amazing, to include the restoration of relationship, and an open door to renewal. This is so important, so dramatic, that it forms an "either-or." Either confess, forgive, and be reconciled and restored, or fail to do so, and remain apart. The latter situation is the land of bitterness and unforgiveness. It's important to understand this "either-or," to avoid the illusion that these hurting situations will just go away with time.

Eight years after my ninth-grade band experience I again asked for forgiveness. This launched me into a life of confessing, as needed, receiving forgiveness thankfully, and forgiving others more than I ever had before.

***
***
My two books are:


Marriage Counseling Material

My wildflower garden

A friend asked this question: "Do you have any marriage counseling material that you can share with me?"

Here are some things we recommend. 



ONLINE RESOURCES


I use the FOCCUS materials for marital and premarital counseling. 


startmarriageright.com - This is Gary Chapman's excellent website.




BOOKS


Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Got Married, by Gary Chapman

Linda and I read this after almost 40 years of marriage and still enjoyed it.

One More Try: What to Do When Your Marriage is Falling Apart, by Gary Chapman. For anyone who has given up on their marriage.

Loving Your Spouse When You Feel Like Walking Away; Real Help for Desperate Hearts in Difficult Marriages, by Gary Chapman.

Real Relationships: From Bad to Better and Good to Great, by Les and Leslie Parrott

Marital and premarital couples will benefit from this excellent book.

Hope-Focused Marriage Counseling: A Guide to Brief Therapy, by Everett Worthington   

Linda and are reading this book together. It's more academic, and for marital counselors. Very good!

Torn Asunder: Recovering From an Extramarital Affair, by Dave Carder

This is the book Linda and I recommend for people who have experienced this.

Caring enough to Confront: How to Understand and Express Your Deepest Feelings Toward Others, by David Augsburger

Linda and I have used this book so much in marital and relationship counseling that we should be getting royalties from it. On how to communicate in the midst of conflict.

The Forgiving Life: A Pathway to Overcoming Resentment and Creating a Legacy of Love, by Robert Enright

For Linda and I the key to a healthy marriage is: confession and forgiveness. In this book University of Wisconsin psychologist Enright shows us the relational power of forgiveness, in stories and empirical research.

The Mystery of Marriage, by Mike Mason

The most beautiful exaltation of marriage ever written?

I Married You, and I Loved a Girl, by Walter Trobisch
These two beautiful books were recommended to Linda and I before we got married.



LINKS TO THINGS I'VE WRITTEN


Your Marriage Can Be Saved (Especially for Husbands)


A Wedding Is a Welding


How to Save Your Failing Marriage


28 Danger Signs for the Not Yet Married


Dealing With Anger In Relationships


Using Logic to Manage Anger in Relationships


Your Marriage Represents Christ and the Church


Want to Be Married? Prepare for Conflict!







If There Is No God, Then There Are No Moral Facts

Image result for john piippo science
(The River Raisin, Monroe)

When the pandemic is over, I am not not wanting a return to secular, utilitarian amoralism. I desire America to break free from the European curse of subjective, emotivist ethics. First, the Church needs to break free. 

Pray for a revival that includes a return to objective moral values.

Secularists embrace science. Without God, it is all they have left. But theists like me thank God for science, and scientists. My prayers this day are for those brilliant scientists who are laboring to find answers for the coronavirus. 

Now note this. Scientists are objectivists, not subjectivists. Science fully rejects postmodernism. This is odd when large portions of the Church have been seduced by postmodern thinking. (On postmodernism, see, e.g., this [which is embraced by anti-postmodernist Jordan Peterson]: Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault.) 

Science is awesome objectivism. But when it comes to moral judgments, science gives us nothing. This is not a criticism of science. Science cannot tell us what is good, evil, right, or wrong, in principle.

Science as science reveals no value-information. I can measure something, weigh it, analyze it into physical structures and components, but the moment I ascribe a value to it, say, "elegant," I have left science.

Nietzsche understood this. His "madman" knows that, without God, values do not exist, since the metaphysical underpinning for such values is taken away. When a secularist moralizes, they overreach.  Secular overreach is massive today!


Secular philosopher Thomas Metzinger states it this way on edge.org. Note the first sentence. Metzinger does not believe in God. Thus, if no God, then of course there are no moral facts.


"There are no moral facts. Moral sentences have no truth-values. The world itself is silent, it just doesn’t speak to us in normative affairs — nothing in the physical universe tells us what makes an action a good action or a specific brain-state a desirable one. Sure, we all would like to know what a good neurophenomenological configuration really is, and how we should optimize our conscious minds in the future. But it looks like, in a more rigorous and serious sense, there is just no ethical knowledge to be had. We are alone. And if that is true, all we have to go by are the contingent moral intuitions evolution has hard-wired into our emotional self-model. If we choose to simply go by what feels good, then our future is easy to predict: It will be primitive hedonism and organized religion."


If there is no God, then Metzinger's logic follows. And all moral judgments, to include the atheist's, are mere expressions of emotions. (Like "Yayyy!" or "Booo!" This is called "emotivist ethics.")

But there is a God. Hence, there are moral facts. Godless people tacitly appeal to this all the time, like when they morally criticize others.

For some excellent material on this, see U. of Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith, Atheist Overreach: What Atheism Can't Deliver