Wednesday, May 05, 2021

You Need to Change if Things Are Going to Get Better

(Kibera, in Nairobi, Kenya)

This principle applies to all relationships:

You need to change if things are going to get better.

Repeat after me.


need to change....

if things....

are going to get better.

J. Doe (not their real name) contacted me. J said they wanted help. Their marriage was failing.

But J did not really want help. To be helped, J would have to change. In J's eyes, their spouse, K. Doe, was the problem. K needed to change, not J. J wanted me to affirm their ways of doing marriage, and join them in blame-heaping their significant other.

I told J, "If you want your marriage to be rescued and upgraded, you will need to change some things. You will need to do things differently." 

I gave J this assignment: Make a list of things you have done wrong in your marriage. A list of things you have done to hurt K. Then, confess them one by one, asking for forgiveness for each one. 

I told K to do the same thing.

The underlying idea here is: If J and K keep doing marriage the way they have been, the results will be the same. J and K both need to learn new skills if their marriage is to come together. Nothing gets better without change.

J refused to follow my counsel. 

J contacted me and asked to meet again. I explained that J had not followed through on our first session. I am not J's counselor if J refuses to follow my counsel. We would not meet again.

J was a hammer, K was a nail. This was their marriage. 

Both needed to change. 

Change is hard. 

Life without ongoing change in the right direction is harder.

For further reading see - 

The First Two Steps In Relationship Restoration

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

God Is Presently With Me, In Experience

(Glen Lake, Michigan)

9 AM. May 4, 2021

Pandemic. The economy. Cultural upheaval.

God's presence. 

I'm in God's presence, this morning. I am experiencing the presence of God.

God's presence is not a function of life's circumstances. God is not limited by whether we sail on smooth waters or stormy seas. God is in the chaos as well as the calm. 

God's presence is experiential. I have stacks of spiritual journals recording my encounters with God, ranging from possible (could have been God), to probable (probably was God), to certain (beyond a reasonable doubt, that was God).

It is possible to experience God. There is nothing logically impossible about experiencing God. "Experiencing God" is not logically incoherent, like "square circle" is.

It is probable that I will experience God. Because I find the Christian story to be true, I expect to experience God. Experiencing God's presence is integral to the social imaginary of Christian theism. Today, I have expectation.

I know I have experienced God. I have had events and situations where it would be unreasonable for me to disbelieve. In such instances, reductionism to a purely physical explanation without remainder would require a leap of faith too vast for me to make.

These experiences keep me going, spiritually. They encourage me. They change me. They guide me. They provide ongoing confirmation to my belief that God comes to me as Emmanuel, God-with-me.

Thomas Merton writes:

"There exists some point at which I can meet God in a real and experimental contact with His infinite actuality. This is the “place” of God, His sanctuary— it is the point where my contingent being depends upon His love. Within myself is a metaphorical apex of existence at which I am held in being by my Creator. God utters me like a word containing a partial thought of Himself. A word will never be able to comprehend the voice that utters it."

Merton, Thomas, New Seeds of Contemplation, p. 37)

My two books are...

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

Monday, May 03, 2021

Letter to My Church Family - May 3, 20211


                                                                       (Levi and me.)

Good Morning Redeemer Family!

Here are some things I want to share with you.

GIVING. You can give online to our church's General Fund - HERE. Thank you!

MOTHER'S DAY! We have special gift bags for our moms this coming Sunday. Once again I am including a 5X7 photo of picture I took a few months ago. If you are a mom who is not able to come Sunday, and would like a gift bag, please send me your home address. Trevor Robinson will bring it to you on Sunday afternoon (thank you Trevor!).

SUNDAY MORNING MAY 16. Tim and I will stand on the platform together and co-preach on PREPARING FOR PENTECOST. We are excited about what God is going to do!

HOW TO COMMUNICATE WHEN IN CONFLICT. I will share how to do this - Sunday evening, May 16, 7 PM. Feel free to invite friends who might benefit from this. The zoom link is -

PENTECOST SUNDAY, MAY 23. Robby Dawkins will preach. We are looking to have this service outdoors. More information TBA. Invite a friend for this Holy Spirit event!

ON A PERSONAL NOTE...  Today I begin what may be a summer-long study of the Book of Romans. In addition to the biblical text, I am using several commentaries on Romans that I have collected over the years. If you are interested in joining me on this study, let me know, and I'll share with you resources and thoughts.

Blessings and Love to you all, on this great day that the Lord has made!


Sunday, May 02, 2021

The Spiral of Silence


                                                                  (Monroe County)

Imagine there is a theory, called X. Five years ago "liking" X was unpopular. But today, X is popular. So, a lot of people now are liking X. If X was not popular today, these same people would not publicly like X, just as they were voiceless concerning X five, maybe ten years ago.

The "spiral of silence" explains this behavior. "The spiral of silence counts among the most cited and replicated theories in social sciences." (Here.)

The theory of the spiral of silence can be broken down into the following core hypotheses (Ib.):

  • Most people are afraid of social isolation.
  • Therefore people constantly observe other people’s behavior in order to find out which opinions and behaviors are met with approval or rejection in the public sphere.
  • People exert “isolation pressure” on other people, for instance, by frowning or turning away when somebody says or does something that is rejected by public opinion.
  • People tend to hide their opinion away when they think that they would expose themselves to “isolation pressure” with their opinion.
  • People who feel public support, in contrast, tend to express their opinion loud and clear.
  • Loud opinion expressions on the one side and silence on the other side sets the spiral of silence into motion.
  • The process is typically ignited by emotionally and morally laden issues.
  • In case of consensus on an issue in a given society, it is unlikely that a spiral of silence will be set into motion. The spiral is usually elicited by controversial issues.
  • The actual number of partisans of an opinion is not necessarily decisive for their weight in the spiral of silence. The opinion of a minority may actually be perceived as majority in the public sphere if their partisans act assertively enough and publicly defend their opinion with emphasis.
  • Mass media may have a decisive influence on the formation of public opinion. If the media repeatedly (in a “cumulative” way) and concordantly (in a “consonant” way) support one side in a public controversy, this side will stand a significantly higher chance of finishing the spiral-of-silence process as winner. 
  • Fear of and threat with social isolation operate subconsciously: Most people do not consciously think about how their behavior is oriented by public opinion.
  • Public opinion is limited in time and space. Wherever people live together in societies, public opinion will function as a mechanism of social control. However, what specifically public opinion approves or rejects will change with time and differ from place to place.
  • Public opinion stabilizes and integrates society because conflicts will be resolved through spirals of silence in favor of one opinion. This is what is referred to as the integration function of public opinion.

Saturday, May 01, 2021

The University of Affirmation

                                                 (My back yard, a week and a half ago.)

A year ago one of my former philosophy students asked to meet with me. They had become a "progressive Christian," a term I could never embrace. (See, e.g., here, here, and here.)

At one point in our discussion the former student shared a belief about a certain philosopher's theory. I responded with, "You are wrong about that." I proceeded to tell them why they were wrong, but the look on their face told me I had upset them.

"How can you say I am wrong! You have offended me!"

I responded, "Because you are wrong. And, I'm not saying that to offend you."

My response didn't help them. I had wounded them. I had hurt them. (See 1 below.)

Here was, in this former student, manifested much that is wacked out in American culture. Here was Philip Rieff's "triumph of the therapeutic," Tom Nichols's "death of expertise," Jonathan Haidt's "coddling of the American mind," and Bradley Campbell's "rise of victimhood culture." Here was Neil Postman's "public discourse in the age of show business," and David Wells's "no place for truth." 

Here was the open abyss of the "spiral of silence." 

Here was the irrational face of "cancel culture." Before me was sitting a graduate of the University of Affirmation. Which, BTW and "Yay!", universities and scholars are rising up against, in the name of education, in the name of truth and academic freedom and free speech, to include entertaining dissenting voices.. (See here.)


1) In the postmodern metanarrative, authorial intention means nothing. To tell this former student that I had no intention of wounding them carried no weight, due to their unconscious and nonreflective embrace of the postmodern metanarrative. 

Friday, April 30, 2021

My Summer Book Reading


My summer reading includes... 

Why We Are Restless: On the Modern Quest for Contentment, by Benjamin Storey and Jenna Silber Storey

A Prayer Journal, by Flannery O'Connor

A Burning in My Bones: The Authorized Biography of Eugene H. Peterson, Translator of The Message, by Winn Collier

Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown

This summer I am studying (again!)... 

In addition to looking at commentaries, I am reading Paul and the Faithfulness of God, by N. T. Wright.

If you haven't read these yet, I recommend...


I'm re-posting this, to keep it out there.

Why I Am Still A Christian

(Glen Arbor, Michigan)

(I re-post this periodically, with slight edits. If you are not a follower of Jesus, I invite you to join me on this beautiful journey that will make sense of your life, give your life meaning, and provide you with a life purpose. If you want to email me about this, please do!

At the end of one of my Philosophy of Religion classes a student asked me, "Why are you a Christian. Why, among the world religions, would I choose Christianity? Why be religious at all?" My answer went like this (I'm expanding on it here). 

My Christian faith is based on the following.

1. My Conversion Experience

2. My Subsequent Studies.
3. My Ongoing Experience

I came to believe because of a powerful experience that changed my life and worldview. The result of this experience included subsequent study and increasing experience. Credo (I believed); Intelligam (I grew in understanding).

Credo: My Conversion Experience

From ages 18-21 I was heavily into alcohol and drugs. I flunked out of college. Things were falling apart as a result of my substance abuse. I was in a deep hole, dug by myself. I was afflicted, and didn’t know where to turn. And, amazingly, I didn't think I needed help.

One day I hit a low. I thought, "I am screwed up." I prayed and said, “God if you are real, and if Jesus is real, then help me. If you help me, I’ll follow you.” 

Onj that day, almost exactly fifty years ago, something unexpected happened: that was the last day I did drugs.

My worldview was rocked! My life has never been the same. This was my turning point. I attribute this to Jesus.

I see similarities between my conversion from godlessness to Christianity, and C.S. Lewis's conversion from atheism to Christianity. Lewis wrote:

"As the dry bones shook and came together in that dreadful valley of Ezekiel's, so now a philosophical theorem, cerebrally entertained, began to stir and heave and throw off its grave cloths, and stood upright and became a living presence. I was to be allowed to play at philosophy no longer. It might, as I say, still be true that my "Spirit" differed in some way from "the God of popular religion." My Adversary waived the point. It sank into utter unimportance. He would not argue about it. He only said, "I am the Lord"; "I am that I am"; "I am." People who are naturally religious find difficulty in understanding the horror of such a revelation. Amiable agnostics will talk cheerfully about "man's search for God." To me, as I then was, they might as well have talked about the mouse's search for the cat." (From Surprised By Joy)

The cat found the mouse. God found me. I was receptive. God exists. God loves me. (My conversion story is written in more detail in chapter 1 of my book Leading the Presence-Driven Church. You should be able to read chapter 1 for free at Google books here.)

Intelligam: Understanding What Happened to Me 

This didn't happen in a vacuum. The soil of my heart had been softening for some time. I was looking for help. Help came. My life forever changed. What shall I make of this?

I conclude...
  • If this event had not happened, I don't know that I would have become a Jesus-follower. I needed something experiential that could waken me. It happened. 
  • I agree with William James who, in his Varieties of Religious Experience, writes: "A mystical experience is authoritative for the one who experiences it. But a mystical experience that happens to one person need not be authoritative for other people." I'm good with that. (With the exception that the mystical-religious experiences of certain other persons have carried authority with me because of their credibility.)
  • My initial religious experience ripped me out of non-reflective deism into full-blown Christian theism. I now believed in God, and in Jesus. This experience-based belief had an evidential quality, propelling me to go after an understanding of what had happened. Now, fifty years later, this has not stopped. Today I am a deeper believer in God and Jesus than ever.
  • True religion (not the jeans - they are too expensive) includes experience. Theory without experience is empty. Hebrew-Christianity is essentially about a relationship with God; a mutual indwelling experiential reality. This includes prayer-as-dialogue with God, the sense of God's presence, being-led by God, and so on. (I write a book on my experiences of God - Praying.) And worship. Worship is experiential and logical in the sense that: If God is love, and God is real, and love is about relationship (love has an "other"), then it follows that one will know and be known by God. ("Know," in Hebrew, means experiential intimacy, and not Cartesian subject-object distance. For more see, e.g., the writings of James K.A. Smith. See also Notre Dame philosopher Alvin Plantinga's chapter of faith as knowledge, in Knowledge and Christian Belief. See Craig Keener's Miracles, and his Spirit Hermeneutics.)
  • I realize certain atheists claim to have no religious experience at all. John Allen Paulos, for example, in his Irreligion, claims not to have a religious bone in his body. I don't doubt this. This fact does not deter me, just as I am certain C.S. Lewis's religious experiences don't budge Paulos from his atheism. (I'm now thinking of Antony Flew's conversion from atheism to deism. Flew was moved by the logic of the fine-tuning argument for God's existence. And, the case of the famous and brilliant British atheist A.J. Ayer who had a vision and began to be interested in God.)
  • I keep returning to my initial God-encounter. It functions, for me, as a raison d-etre. Philosophically, it's one of a number of "properly basic" experiences I've had, still have, and expect to have. (See, e.g., philosophers like William P. Alston.)
I began to study about Christianity. Is there any epistemic warrant for my God-encounter experience? To accelerate this , I changed my major in college from music theory to philosophy (from one money-maker to another. And, I left majoring in engineering and math for this!)

My studies confirmed my initial act of faith. Here are some things I now believe to be cogent.

  • Good reasons can be given to believe in God. I believe it is more rational to believe in God than to disbelieve. (As a philosophy professor I have examined nearly every argument for and against the existence of God. And, I have something to say about "rationality," having taught logic in our community college for seventeen years.)
  • The New Testament documents are reliable in their witness to the historical person Jesus. (The recent minority Facebook claim that Jesus never existed is sheer unstudied goofiness.) (See, e.g., something like Richard Bauckham's Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, or Craig Keener's The Historical Jesus of the Gospels. And, see Craig's book, Christobiography: Memory, History, and the Reliability of the Gospels.)
  • A strong inductive argument can be made for the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead. (I shared briefly about this in my response to the student's question.)
  • Christianity is qualitatively distinct from the other major world religions. Only Christianity tells us that God loves us, not for what we do or where we live, but for who we are. The Christian word for this is “grace” and, to me, this is huge. The other major world religions are rule-based; Christianity is grace-based. And, in distinction from other religious alternatives, Christianity's claim is that God has come to us. These kind of things make Christianity more plausible than the other alternatives.
My initial life-changing encounter with God led to a lifetime of Jesus-following, God-knowing, and God-seeking. God did, and continues to, reveal himself to me. My faith is experiential, relational, and rational/reasonable. And life-giving, exhilarating! (Note: it's not without questions. Anyone who studies their own worldview will have intra-worldview puzzles. This includes me.)

For these reasons, and more I am sure, I became a follower of Jesus and remain one.

Once again - want to join me on this adventure?