Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Who Did Jesus Think He Was?

Show Business, Quantification, and the American Church


Image result for johnpiippo technology
Chickadee, in my back yard
I am in the early stages of writing Technology and Spiritual Formation. I am reading, researching, and collecting.

Two important books are by Neil Postman, former professor of Culture and Communication at New York University. They are, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, and Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology

As I read, I am always thinking of the American Church, which to a significant degree operates in the embrace of show business. Postman gives us "the world," the culture; Romans 12:1-2 asks us to not conform to it. 

Show business metricizes and quantifies "success." Please note: you do not have to do this. This is a relatively recent historical development. Many cultures have not looked at "success" that way. But we do. To metricize, to quantify, is the shape of "this world's mold." Mostly, Americans (to include church folk) have fully conformed to this. Metrics - this is the air we breathe.

Aristotle, for example, refused to equate truth and knowledge with numbers. Postman writes: "Indeed, to the Greeks of Aristotle's time, and for two thousand years afterward, scientific truth was best discovered and expressed by deducing the nature of things from a set of self-evident premises." (Amusing Ourselves to Death, 23)

University logic courses still teach the way of Aristotle. I know this, having taught logic at our local community college for seventeen years. I also know that, when I teach that "truth" is not a function of numbers, and hence cannot be quantified, I am speaking to students whose eyes are glazed over, having been fully captured and chained to utilitarian concepts.

We moderns embrace the "equation of truth and quantification. In this prejudice, we come astonishingly close to the mystical beliefs of Pythagoras and his followers who attempted to submit all of life to the sovereignty of numbers. Many of our psychologists, sociologists, economists and other latter-day cabalists will have numbers to tell them the truth or they will have nothing." (Ib., 23)


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My two books are:


I'm working on #s 3 and 4 - hopefully out in 2019:

How God Changes the Human Heart (A Phenomenology of Spiritual Transformation)

Technology and Spiritual Formation

AND... I recommend two new books by two good friends:


Tuesday, November 19, 2019

How Can Jesus Be the Only Way?

If You Really Want to Know Jesus...


I'm a follower of Jesus. Since 1970.

When I got rescued by Jesus I experienced a great desire to know my Rescuer. I began to study Jesus. 

I have read and studied the Text over and over. One of my doctoral qualifying exams at Northwestern University was in ancient Christology. I have a library of books on Jesus. At Redeemer I and others preached through the four Gospels - it took seven years. Seven years of deep, focused, Jesus studying and experiencing!

I have a "Che Jesus" t-shirt. Here it is.



I wore this t-shirt a few times when teaching my philosophy classes at Monroe County Community College. One professor saw me, and told another professor, "Piippo is wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt." The other professor corrected him. "Piippo is actually wearing a Jesus t-shirt."

The Real Jesus is, among other things, a temple-cleansing, idol-smashing revolutionary.

A leader is one who has followers. Therefore, Jesus is the greatest leader in all human history.

I have been on a Real-Jesus-knowing rampage for almost fifty years. Do you want to know him, too?

Dallas Willard writes:

"If you really want to know Christ now, you have somehow to set aside the cloud of images and impressions that rule the popular as well as the academic mind, Christian and non-Christian alike. You must try to think of him as an actual human being in a peculiar human context who actually has had the real historical effects he did, up to the present. You have to take him out of the category of religious artifacts and holy holograms that dominate presentations of him in the modern world and see him as a man among men, who moved human history as none other. You must not begin with all of the religious paraphernalia that has gathered around him or with the idea that his greatness must be an illusion generated by an overlay from superstitious and ambitious people—mainly that “shyster” Paul—who wanted to achieve power for their own purposes. 

Just look at his teaching and his influence for what it has been through the ages—there is really no secret about that—and be clear-minded and fair in your estimate of what kind of person could have brought such teachings and influence upon human life." (Willard, Knowing Christ Today, p. 67)

Monday, November 18, 2019

Silence Before God Is Different Than Entertainment In the Church (The Presence-Driven Church)

Button bush, Maumee Bay State Park, Ohio




"Silence is the discipline that helps us go beyond the entertainment quality of our lives."

Henri Nouwen, The Only Necessary Thing, p. 49

Years ago I taught a course on prayer in the D. Min. program at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary. One of my students was an African American leader and pastor in Chicago, named Joe. I remember the first day of class. When the students arrived we did a few introductions. Then I sent them out to pray for an hour, using Psalm 23 as their meditative focus.


When they returned from class I asked, "How was that for you?" Joe was crying. He said, "I haven't prayed for an hour in 20 years."


Jump ahead four years. I'm teaching the same class, in the same place. When the D.Min. students arrived, there was Joe. I asked, "What are you doing here? You've already taken this class!"


Joe said, "I wanted to take it a second time. There is still so much for me to learn."


Joe is the only student who has taken my class twice. I asked how he was doing, and how his church was going. Joe shared this. 


"After that class four years ago I went back to my people and preached on a Sunday morning on Psalm 46:10 - 'Be still, and know that I am God.'"


"What happened?" I asked.


"I simply read the verse, then sat down. There was silence for 40 minutes. Finally, one person stood up and spoke a word from God. Then another did the same. We just stayed there, silently, in the thick presence of God. Gradually, one by one, people began to leave."


"How was it, Joe?"


"It was... electric!"


Wow! Joe has a hopping, dynamic church. What a radical idea God gave him. This story confirmed a number of things I believe about pastoral ministry, and the nature of the church.



  1. This kingdom of God is about God's presence, in which God rules and reigns.
  2. Therefore, desire God's presence.
  3. Dismiss the idea that we need to entertain our people, that what they need is more entertainment so they'll stay with us.
  4. What our people most need is God.
  5. Cultivate a Presence-Driven environment that moves with and responds to God's presence.
  6. Usher people into God's presence. Here is where the "audience" dissolves, and engagement with God begins.

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My first two books are...

Praying: Reflection on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God (May 2016)

Leading the Presence-Driven Church (January 2018)

I am now writing...

Technology and Spiritual Formation

How God Changes the Human Heart: A Phenomenology of Spiritual Transformation

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Francis Chan's Two Lists for Church Leaders


Francis Chan's Letters to the Church is challenging, in an A.W. Tozer kind of way. In a Eugene Peterson way (See, e.g., The Jesus Way: A Conversation on the Ways That Jesus Is the Way.) 

Feels like Kierkegaard. Smells like Luther. Sounds like Os Guinness. Memories of Francis Schaeffer. Michael Brown fits here. And Dallas Willard. All Jesus-inspired, Spirit-led, church-loving Reformers and Revolutionaries.

Provocative, in a Jesus way (if you have read the four Gospels).

When Chan has an opportunity to meet with church leaders he walks them through a simple exercise. (Pp. 46 ff.)

"First, I have them list all the things that people expect from their church... Then I have them list the commands God gave the Church in Scripture."

Usually, the list looks something like this.




"I then ask them what would upset their people more—if the church didn’t provide the things from the first list or if the church didn’t obey the commands in the second list."

What do you think?

Chan writes:

"Jesus is returning soon, and He expects to find His Church taking His commands seriously. Yet far too often we are more concerned with how well the sermon was communicated, whether the youth group is relevant enough, or how to make the music better. Honestly, what is it that gets people in your church stirred up for change? Is it disobedience toward commands from God? Or is it falling short of expectations that we have made up? The answer to these questions might just show us whether our church exists to please God or please people—whether God is leading our church or we are." (47; emphasis mine)

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Congratulations to Connie Goncin on Her First Book!

Journey to Eden: From the Pit to the Palace by [Goncin, Connie]

Connie Goncin, who is part of our Redeemer family, has published her first book. Congratulations Connie!

It's called Journey to Eden: From the Pit to the Palace. It's Connie's testimony of how God rescued her out of darkness and brought her into God's beautiful kingdom.

I've heard Connie give her testimony before. It's compelling and moving. I'm thankful she has now captured her story in her book.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Should We Worry About the Sexual Behavior of Others?

(Holland State Park - Michigan)

Someone reacted to my blog post on homosexuality, shellfish, and wearing garments with two types of fabrics. They wrote: "Are we not yet at a point where we can just worry about our own sex lives, and let others worry about theirs?"

I wrote back and told them this comment was irrelevant to my blog post. It's a red herring.

But, I've heard this before, so now I'll address it.

This is a bad idea. We should hope we never get to that point, lest we enter the world of the handmaid's tale, which is very, very worried about the sexual behavior of others.

Let's call "worry," as used here, moral concern. And, if you are religious, call it also spiritual concern.

If we just let others worry about their own sex lives, and just worry about our own sex lives, and presumably not interfere in the sexual choices of other people, and not call some behaviors morally wrong, then we close our eyes to people who like to traffic women for sex and money, to people who like to rape children, to people who like engaging in incestual sexual relations, to people who like have multiple marital partners, to sexual harassment, to marriage-breaking adulterous affairs, and more. Even the atheist Richard Dawkins worries about this. (See here.)

Take polygamy. It's illegal in all fifty states. Apparently, we've not left polygamists to worry about fulfilling their desire to have multiple marital partners.

Take rape. Some people like to rape. Why not leave rapists alone to worry about their own sexual lives, and just worry about our own sexual lives?

Why not let Roman Catholic priests rape innocent children? Apparently they like doing this, after all. Why worry about their sexual behavior?

Why not forget about the Harvey Weinsteins and Jeffrey Epsteins of the world? They enjoyed their sexual behaviors. Who are we to stop their fun? Perhaps we should just mind our own business and leave them alone.

A civil state should care deeply about the sexual behavior of people. You should worry if your child's teacher is a sexual predator. You should get involved. 

To engage in the discussion is important. It's deep, involving religious, philosophical, and legal issues. It has to do with worldviews that are deep structures within every human being, while being almost entirely unexamined. Perhaps, contrary to Socrates, the unexamined life is worth living when it comes to sex? 

Responding to Same-Sex Marriage: A Very Brief Bibliography

University of Michigan

I am against the legalization of same-sex marriage for two reasons, one religious, the other non-religious (sociological and legal).

As regards the religious reason, I do not expect non-religious people to agree with me. Of course not. Just as I don't turn to their irreligious worldview to make sense of anything, neither do I expect them to partner with me. That's the way worldviews work. Everyone has one. They do not, at significant points, overlap.

If the non-religious person objects to my religious views, they question my worldview, not my reasoning. The irreligious person is a non-player in the intra-religious and intra-Christian dialogue.

Regarding non-religious reasons, here is where the irreligious and religious can join in principled (we would hope) dialogue, rather than ad hominem stereotyping (sadly, some on both sides do this.). We can dialogue without name-calling, right?

These are a few of the resources I have read.

The Intra-Worldview Discussion

Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views, by Dan O. Via and Robert Gagnon

The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics, by Robert Gagnon. This is probably the book to read, within this worldview and from this perspective.. 

Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality, by Wesley Hill.

God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships, by Matthew Vines.

Can You Be Gay and Christian? Responding with Love and Truth to Questions About Homosexuality, by Michael Brown.

See my friend Phillip Lee's website His Way Out Ministries

Legal and Philosophical Reasoning on Same-Sex Marriage

Why Marriage Matters, Third Edition: Thirty Conclusions from the Social Sciences, by Bradford Wilcox. 

Debating Same-Sex Marriage, by John Corvino and Maggie Gallagher.

The Meaning of Marriage: Family, State, Market, and Morals, eds. Robert P. George and Jean Bethke Elshtain.  

What is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense, by Sherif Gergis, Robert P. George, and Ran T. Anderson (forthcoming Oct. 16, 2012) 

I contacted Robert George re. this issue and he graciously sent me the following links. He's also gracciously offered to field questions I have,

From Prof. George:

For a fuller account of my own views, here is the link to a more recent paper I wrote with two of my former students. (It is a free one-click download.)
“What is Marriage?” by Sherif Girgis, Robert P. George, and Ryan T. Anderson, in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy:   http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1722155

Kenji Yoshino of NYU published a critique on Slate, to which there is a link in our reply, available here:  http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2010/12/2217

Andrew Koppelman of Northwestern published a critique on Balkinization, to which there is a link in our reply, available here:  http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2010/12/2263

Barry Deutsch published a critique on the Family Scholars Blog, to which there is a link in our reply, available here: http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2010/12/2277

Kenji Yoshino published a response to our reply, to which there is a link in our reply to that response, available here: http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2011/01/2295

Andrew Koppelman published a response to our reply, to which there is a link in our reply to that response, available here: http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2011/01/2350

Also, here is an essay in two parts (written with Patrick Lee and Gerard V. Bradley) on the link between procreation and marriage – a link we believe is badly misunderstood by many on both sides of the debate. Here are the links:

http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2011/03/2638 “Marriage and Procreation: The Intrinsic Link”

http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2011/03/2637 “Marriage and Procreation: Avoiding Bad
Arguments”

Prof. George also sent me:

The Good of Marriage and the Morality of Sexual Relations: some Philosophical and Historical Observations, by John Finnis.

Marriage: A Basic and Exigent Good, John Finnis.

I'm working on second post.

My Views of Marriage Remain Unaffected by Ad Populum Reasoning

(Flowers, in our green room)
(I'm keeping this ball in play, refusing to bow before the thought police and their irrelevant ad populum fallacies.)

I still believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. Many people in the world still believe as I do. I am not ashamed or embarrassed by this. (See here, e.g.)

I have encountered no reason to believe otherwise. (Ad populum reasoning [opinion polls] are irrelevant in the establishment of true beliefs. Also, I'm not a utilitarian in ethics, which holds that right and wrong do not exist. I find Americans to be unexmined quasi-utilitarians, until they run into an objective moral value, in which case they switch to Kantian ethics, and sometimes even irreligious divine command theory.)

In this, I sometimes feel like the man in this quote from G. K. Chesterton.


A man with a definite belief always appears bizarre, 
because he does not change with the world; 
he has climbed into a fixed star 
and the earth whizzes below him like a zoetrope. 
Millions of mild black coated men call themselves 
sane and sensible merely because 
they always catch the fashionable insanity, 
because they are hurried into madness after madness 
by the maelstrom of the world.


If you disagree with me, does this mean I hate you? Of course not. (See here.)

If I love you, does this mean I affirm all your beliefs? Of course not. (See here.)

Is civil discourse on the meaning of marriage possible? Of course. (See here.)

To enter the discussion here are some resources I am familiar with. (Note how cordial Maggie Gallagher and John Corvino are towards each other.)

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