Saturday, April 30, 2011

Contrasting Two Foundations in Sioux Falls

We've just ended day 2 at the "Fresh Awakening" event at First Baptist Church of Sioux Falls. I spoke last evening on the calling of every Jesus-follower, which is "Christ glorified in you." (2 Thess. 1:11-12)

This afternoon I spoke on God's building of a temple to inhabit with his presence, a temple made of people. I contrasted this with atheist Bertrand Russell's "temple" for atheists in his "A Free Man's Worship." The atheist foundation is, as Russell states, a "foundation of unyielding despair." Paul's foundation, which he laid in Corinth, is "Christ crucified." I'll take the latter.

Tomorrow morning Ed Owens and Clay Ford will speak. Tomorrow evening I'll speak on "The Kingdom of God is Not a Matter of Talk, but of Power." I have great God-expectations for tomorrow night!

In Sioux Falls

I'm in Sioux Falls, South Dakota this weekend speaking at a renewal event at First Baptist Church. Joining me are Clay Ford, Ed Owens, Lois Jean Kinney, Wayne & Norelle Lutke, Ross Lieuellan, and Dick Hensgen. I got to play on the worship team last night and spoke. I spoke on our calling as Jesus-followers, which is: Christ glorified in us (2 Thess 1:11-12). This calling is not context-or-situation-depth. That is good news. It was a good night!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

PARENTING SEMINAR- Building a legacy

PARENTING SEMINAR- Building a legacy

How to have a loving, lasting relationship with your children (It’s never too late!)


Friday, May 6th, 7pm to 9:30pm & Saturday, May 7th, 9am to 12:30pm

(Seminar begins Friday night and continues on Saturday)


Redeemer Fellowship Church, 5305 Evergreen Drive, Monroe, MI, 734-242-5277

Seminar will benefit:

• Parents with children and teens

• Empty nest parents

• Those who desire to be parents

• Grandparents


Contact Redeemer Fellowship Church, 5305 Evergreen Drive, Monroe, MI.



Cost for seminar- $25.00/couple or $15.00/for person without spouse attending

(Scholarships available to help with cost- contact the church office)

(Price includes registration, seminar handouts, and refreshments)

PRESENTER: Craig Miller has 30 years of experience working with children, teens, and adults. He is currently the co-owner and Christian counselor with MASTERPEACE Counseling, a nationally-acclaimed speaker, former radio talk show host, author of books and articles, and host of the TV special, Better Life Spotlight. For more information see:

You will learn:

• Making your children mind, before you lose yours

• The influence of a dad, the influence of a mom

• Building ‘self-worth’ in children, teens, and young adults

• Tips about step-parenting and tips about discipline

• Identifying and dealing with depression and ADD

• Tips how to have a “close-knit” family

• Improve relationships with children of all ages

• Loving your children when they’re not loving you

• Improving communication with family members

• Improve your attitude to improve your atmosphere

• Express feelings to improve your relationships

(There will be opportunities for questions throughout the seminar)

China's Persecution of the Followers of Jesus

It is my great privilege to teach at a Chinese theological seminary in New York City. I have learned so much about faith, honor, and love from my many Chinese Jesus-following friends. I have also had many dialogues on Christianity and the church in China. I've had a number of Jesus-followers from China's underground church in my classes.

Among many memorable moments here is one. I preached to a Chinese congregation on a Sunday morning. After my message a man was brought to me. An interpreter introduced him. He was from China and visiting family in NYC. He worked for the Chinese government. The government did not allow him to believe in God. The interpreter said the man wanted me to pray for him. "What can I pray for?" I asked. He said, "Pray that I would believe in God." I did.

Yesterday's headline at reads "Underground Christians Fear China Crackdown." The bullets are...
  • Jesus-followers are being called enemies of the state.
  • The Underground Church is where the Real Movement lies; the official state church (churches) are controlled by the government. "To be recognized, the church must register to be a state-sanctioned operation, which includes censoring of certain religious materials."
  • The Chinese government is again cracking down on Christians and The Movement, "fearing
    a revolt that mirrors the unrest across the Arab world."
  • "On Easter Sunday, police officers stood outside Water's home and that of hundreds of other Shouwang members, forbidding them from attending an outdoor service church members had spent months preparing. The senior pastor, Jin Tianming, remains under house arrest. Those who did make it to the site in northwest Beijing were rounded up in unmarked public buses and detained inside police stations. Shouwang is one of China's largest Protestant Christian groups not sanctioned by the Chinese government."
  • Jesus-followers are followed by the police, harrassed, and detained.
  • "Water" (not her real name), who started practicing Christianity because she felt the Communist Party "left [her] empty," says that she prays for her country to find "strength" on a daily basis. At the same time, she is realistic about the risks she has taken. "Personally I don't know how long I can last because the pressure is pretty intense, because they try to harass your family, your workplace and your landlord. They want to evict you," she told CNN. "They want to control you."
  • 500 Shouwang church members were put under house arrest on Easter Sunday.
  • "As for Shouwang's church members, Water is not sure how long she can keep fighting for her faith. She is keenly aware of the fate of many Chinese dissidents, religious and otherwise. "I'm really afraid of torture," Water said, with hands calmly folded. "Being tortured ... I heard many stories of that.""
  • Read the Chinese government's response here

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Paul Maier Gives His Last Lecture

The title of the book reads: Josephus: The Essential Works, by Flavius Jospehus and Paul Maier. I knew Maier was getting old, but that old?!

This week Maier gave his last lecture ending 50 years of teaching at Western Michigan University. The Detroit Free Press has a nice article and tribute here. Maier was that rare combination of brilliant scholar and excellent teacher.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Philosophy of Religion Exams Tomorrow (4/27/11)

MCCC - room A173d

Underwriting Morality and the Existence of God

First Congregational Church, Detroit
I just kindled Good God: The Theistic Foundations of Morality, by philosophers David Baggett and Jerry Walls (Oxford). I think the moral argument for God's existence is making a comeback, and this book is an example.

Baggett and Walls write: "A picture of reality in which all life is no more than a product of blind naturalistic forces and fortuitous collocations of molecules is fundamentally less adequate to underwrite morality than a personal universe created and sustained by a perfectly loving God. Traditionally conceived moral obligations, while residing comfortably in a theistic universe, are incongruous in a purely naturalistic world."

Atheist J.L. Mackie agreed. For him, "without God it's unlikely that morality, given its odd features, is true." Mackie wrote: "Moral properties constitute so odd a cluster of properties and relations that they are most unlikely to have arisen in the course of events without an all-powerful god to create them."

I'm in the first chapter. This promises to be a good, in-depth read of the issues involved in the metaphysical foundation needed to underwrite morality.

Not Trying to Build a Church

Linda and I continue to read Eugene Peterson's The Pastor: A Memoir. Everyone who is a Jesus-follower ought to read it. Every pastor needs to read it. It will take the "mega" out of you and restore your sanity.

So... what is "church?" Peterson writes:

"Being the church meant that the Holy Spirit was conceiving the life of Jesus in us, much the same way the Holy Spirit had conceived the life of Jesus in Mary. We weren't trying to be a perfect or model or glamorous church. We were trying to get out of the way and pay attention to the way God worked in the early church and was working in us. We were getting it: worship was not so much what we did, but what we let God do in and for us. These months of worship in our catacombs sanctuary had made their mark on us: we were a people of God gathereed to worship God. The single word, "worship," defined what we were about."

  • Church is a people
  • Church is a people led by God
  • God builds real church
  • Stop trying to build a church
  • Attach yourself to Jesus
  • Listen for God's voice... pay attention
  • Churches grow organically, not in a blueprint way
  • Worship

Descending the Honor-Shame Hierarchy

For many years my very creative son Josh has made birthday cards for me. I always enjoy seeing what he will do next!

A few of my favorites have made our kitchen refrigerator. Here is my '56th' birthday card from Josh.

Not bad - Superman!

Two years (age 60) later and I am seen as...

The Terminator! To be honest, I find this very encouraging. Imagine my anticipation as every year is getting better and better!

Today this card appeared on our refrigerator.

Age: 62. We are now heading in the wrong direction. Obviously something has changed. What could this mean for next year?

Institutional "Church" as Dis-empowering; Real Church as a People Movement

As a kid my parents always took me to church on Sunday mornings. I didn't mind it, and I'm glad they did this. But I expected nothing to happen except singing some old songs accompanied by an organ and listening to our pastor talk. Beyond that I expected nothing. I didn't even think God was there. I'm not saying God was absent but that, as far as I could tell, the idea that God might interrupt the liturgy and do something about our situation was not part of the program. "Church" had no movement, no expectation, no real power, no ability to do anything. We were an "institution" (the "institutional church"), not a Movement. The two do not go together well.

"Church." The biblical Greek word, ekklesia, is a put-together of two Greek words; the prefix ek (meaning "out of," like ek-centric, ek-topic) and klesia, from the verb kaleo ("to call'). Ekklesia means "called out." Real Church is a people Movement called out to follow Jesus on his Kingdom mission. Biblical "church," therefore, is not some building that you "go to." You and I either are the Church or we are not. If a Jesus-follower says, "Church is boring," it means that they are boring. If they say 'I get nothing out of church," it means they get nothing from themselves. "I'm not going to church today" is the equivalent of saying "I'm not going to be with myself today." "Church" is people, not a building. It never was a building, and its association with something spatial dis-empowers it.

"Church" as "institution" breeds criticism. When you're not part of the Movement you are in the audience. What does an audience do? It critiques. It gives "thumbs up" or "thumbs down." When you're not in the Movement you are apart from it. You are an observer, watching from a distance, far from the place of institutional power. "Church" becomes "them," the distant "other." The majority are dis-empowered.

Institutions hierarchize; Real Church does not. Real Church is like a human body. All body parts are needed. A Movement needs feet as much as it needs a head. And when one body part hurts, the whole body hurts. The entire body is God-gifted and empowered by the Spirit. Movements are more powerful and effective than institutions.

The church in Corinth was losing its way and heading towards being institutionalized when Paul addressed it. Commenting on 1 Corinthians 4, Ben Witherington writes, “The Corinthians… had imbibed the Roman imperial ideology, which used father-figure imagery to support social stratification and to legitimate a steeply inclined hierarchy of power.” (Conflict and Community in Corinth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians) The Corinthian Jesus-followers are leaving the foundation of "Christ crucified" and following after rock-star human orators with their human sophia. Church was becoming an entertainment center. Sides were being taken. A few are way more powerful than the many. Great Greek orators and rhetoricians and smooth-talkers performed to Kierkegaardian crowds.

Enter Paul.

The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk, but of power (1 Cor. 4:20). This is the re-empowering of the Church as it abandons the prevailing culture's honor-shame hierarchy that confers status on the few and marginalizes the many. The marginalized, the "least of these," the expendables, all gain the status of Christ by the good news of the cross of Christ. And "power" is viewed differently. Paul writes:

“My message did not come with wise or persuasive words [because wise and persuasive words by themselves don’t change anything], but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.” 1 Cor 2:4-5

I Thes. 1:5 - "Our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction."

Rom. 15:18-19 - I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done— by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.

Paul tells the Corinthian Jesus-followers that he is going to return to them to see what power they really have, or if they are simply "empty, religious windbags" (D.A. Carson). For Paul, the hierarchizing, marginalizing "church" is dis-empowered by empty religious wind-baggyness.
Witherington writes: – “Until we learn the meaning of the words “when I was weak, then I was strong,” until we learn what it means to be empty of self and full of Christ, we will continue to misread Paul’s theology of leadership, status, power, and wisdom. Until then, the ekklesia will continue to play the game of power politics with the ministry, an all too human and too Corinthian game indeed.” (op. cit., 150)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Reputation Increases, Ability Decreases

Photo taken of me, a few days ago, in my dreams.
I'm having fun on Facebook today since it is my birthday. Thanks to those who sent Facebook greetings!

My friend Keith, a former student when I was at Michigan State University as a campus pastor, told me he was thinking of my "basketball exploits" when he was there as a student. Yes, I did love to play basketball! And yes, Keith tried to block all my shots but only succeeded 80% of the time (he's 6/5" and can also jump).

I used to love to shoot free throws. For years, as a form of relaxation, I'd shoot multiple sets of 50 free throws, occasionally getting 50 in a row. My record was 80. But today when Keith asked me what my record was, I responded "450." So, I slightly exaggerated. After all, it is my birthday, and eyewitnesses to my "basketball exploits" are dying off. Perhaps I will outlive all who once saw me play basketball, and I will seize the opportunity to inflate my statistics even more? Outliving all eyewitnesses is crucial to leaving an inflated legacy.

Dag Hammarskjold, in his brilliant journal Markings, wrote: "Reputation increases, ability decreases."

(I played high school basketball through my junior year. I did not play in my senior year. If I had made the team I would have spent much time riding the bench. Now I am 62. I cannot jump, cannot run [what I do when I 'run' is not called 'running' by anyone], cannot defend, but can still shoot if left unguarded and given time to set up.)

Philosophy of Religion Exam 3 Room Change

Oral exams for my Philosophy of Religion students will be in room A173d (instead of A173a).

Philosophy of Religion Oral Exams (4/25 & 4/27)

For my MCCC Philosophy of Religion students.

Your final oral exams will be given today and Wednesday.

Exam questions are:

1. Explain Russell's logic of atheism in his "A Free Man's Worship."

2. Explain Nietzsche's logic of atheism as presented in his "parable of the madman."

3. Explain Plantinga's logic of God-belief as a properly basic belief (non-evidentialist belief in God is rational).

Extra credit: Explain the modal argument for the compatibility of divine foreknowledge and human freedom.

All exams are in room A173.

Friday, April 22, 2011

An Excellent (and Free!) On-line Book on Understanding the Power of God

On Sunday morning (4/24/11) I'm preaching on one verse - 1 Corinthians 4:20: For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk, but of power. I am so excited and expectant about this! My expectation is that God will demonstrate his power for us. This means that Easter Sunday will not be "all talk" and no power.

My research this week landed on an excellent, scholarly book that is free on-line. It is: The Power of the Cross: The Biblical Place of Healing and Gift-Based Ministry in Proclaiming the Gospel (Edited by Gary S. Greig, Ph.D. and Kevin N. Springer, M.A.). Some very good scholars write exhaustive essays. They are:

Old Testament Foundations: Prophetic Ministry, Signs, Wonders and the Substitutionary Atonement of Isaiah 53, by Jeffrey Niehaus (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary)
Should Christians Expect Miracles Today? Objections and Answers from the Bible, Wayne Grudem (Trinity Evangelical Divinity)

The Purpose of Signs and Wonders in the New Testament: What Terms for Miraculous Power Denote and Their Relationship to the Gospel, Gary S. Greig (Gospel Light Publications and Fuller Theological Seminary)

Following Christ's Example: A Biblical View of Discipleship, Don Williams (Vineyard Christian Fellowship, La Jolla)

The Empowered Christian Life, J. I. Packer (Regent College)


Pastoral Reflections On The Importance Of Praying For The Sick And Overcoming The Evil One In The Power Of The Spirit, Roger Barrier (Casas Adobes Baptist Church, Tuscon)

A Pastor's Account Of Seeing The Power of the Gospel at Work Through Prayer for Healing and Deliverance, Lloyd Fretz (Missionary Church, Canada East)

Coming Out of the Hangar: Confessions of an Evangelical Deist, Kirk Bottomly (Emmanuel Presbyterian Church, Thousand Oaks)


The Proclamation Of The Gospel With Accompanying Charismata in Post-Biblical Early Church History, Stanley M. Burgess (Southwest Missouri State Univeristy)

A Psychiatrist’s View of the Power of the Holy Spirit and the Behavioral Phenomena Associated with Revival, Healing, and Gift-Based Ministry, John White (Cloverdale, British Columbia)

A Social Anthropologist's Analysis of Contemporary Healing, David C. Lewis (The University of Cambridge)

The Power of God for Christians Who Ride Two Horses: Communicating and Ministering the Power of the Gospel Crossculturally, Charles H. and Marguerite G. Kraft (Fuller Theological Seminary and Biola University)

Appendix 2: John 14:12--The Commission to All Believers to Do the Miraculous Works of Jesus

Appendix 3: Mat. 28:18-20--The Great Commission and Jesus' Commands to Preach and Heal

Appendix 4: Spiritual Gifts--A Wonder-Working God versus a Wonder-Working Church?

Appendix 5: Spiritual Warfare--A Biblical View of Demons and God-Directed Weapons

Appendix 6: Models of Prayer for Healing and Related Phenomena

Appendix 7: The Sufficiency of Scripture and Distortion of What Scripture Teaches about Itself

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Alvin Plantinga on Non-evidential Knowledge of God as Rational

(For my Philosophy of Religion students.)

Theistic philosopher Alvin Plantinga reasons that belief in God without having arrived at such belief evidentially is still rational. In doing this he counters the evidentialism of philosophers such as W. K. Clifford. Clifford stated that it is always wrong to believe something without having evidence for that belief. Plantinga thinks this is wrong.

1. Many, even most, of the things we believe and claim to know are non-evidentially arrived at. For example, consider the statement I had breakfast this morning. This statement, where “I” means “John Piippo,” is true. I know it is true, and I know this non-evidentially; i.e., I have not formulated an evidential argument using premises that infer the conclusion (Therefore) I had breakfast this morning. A more profound example of a properly basic belief is our basic trust in our rational capacities (logic). Should we trust in them? We just do, and an evidential argument cannot be formed to conclude we can trust them, since such an argument itself will use logic and require that we trust in it. One would have to trust in and use logic and logically argue that we can trust in logic. That, of course, is question-begging (circular). So one’s trust in one’s rational capacities is bedrock and foundational. It is properly basic.

2. Plantinga then reasons this way: If Christian theism is true, then we have grounds to believe in God, such God-belief being properly basic. If the noetic framework of Christian theism is true, then such statements are true: God made you in his image; God loves you; God wants you to know him; When you look at the creation you are looking at the handiwork of God; I experience God forgiving me of my sins; I experience God answering my prayers; and so on. On Christian theism we have warrant for trusting in our rational capacities. And belief in God is itself properly basic. (Like Calvin’s sensus divinitatis.)

3. Regarding this, atheist philosopher Michael Martin objected that, if on the noetic framework of Christian theism God-belief is properly basic and rational, then it seems any person’s beliefs are rational, within their noetic framework. Martin put forth the notorious “Great Pumpkin” objection to make his point. If someone thinks this noetic framework is true, then it is rational for them to believe in the Great Pumpkin. But that seems absurd.

4. Plantinga’s response was that, on some noetic frameworks, we do not have grounds or warrant to trust in the veridicality of our rational capacities. For example, if Voodooism is true, then surely we cannot trust our rational faculties. This is because someone may be sticking a doll with a pin, or casting a spell, and this manipulating my thoughts to say things like “David Hasselhoff is a brilliant musician.” Plantinga also reasons that, if atheism is true, then we do not have warrant to trust our rational faculties, since the probability of the veridicality of our rational faculties on naturalistic evolution is low. Unguided, non-theistic evolution is blind, its raison d’etre being solely for adaptation and survival.

Nietzsche's "Parable of the Madman"

(For my Philosophy of Religion Students)

1. Spell ‘Nietzsche’. (I ask my students to, in their 1-on-1 oral exams with me, to spell 'Nietzsche'. The ability to spell 'Nietzsche' gives them a sense of empowerment, since few can do it. This ability can, e.g., help them in dating relationships. If one is in a relationship that one wants to break off without hurting the other, here is a suggestion. Go out to dinner. As you are eating, look at the other person with wild eyes and say "I can spell 'Nietzsche'." Then spell it. They will begin looking for ways to break off the relationship with you, and you won't need to do it yourself.)

2. Explain Nietzsche’s phrase “in the horizon of the infinite.” Nietzsche is speaking metaphorically. The “land,” for him, is that firm ground of Judaeo-Christian theism, which provided a metaphysical foundation for morality, gave meaning and purpose, and so on. The turn to atheism meant, for Nietzsche, leaving this land forever, burning the bridge behind, and sailing in a little boat alone on a sea with an infinite horizon. There is no land in sight. Our condition is worse than that of Tom Hanks, who at least had a volleyball named “Wilson.”

3. Nietzsche presents his famous “parable of the madman” to illustrate the ontological status of the atheist. A madman (who is Nietzsche, the true atheist) enters a village inhabited by “village atheists”; viz., atheists who intellectually deny God’s existence but remain attached to Judaeo-Christianity’s vestigial moral and telic organs. These atheists still inhabit the Judaeo-Christian village – how can they?! Don’t they realize that they have killed God, and God is dead? (Viz., belief in God is dead) The result is our planet has been ripped away from orbiting the sun, and now moves away from all suns. We have no reference point any longer. We’re in a perfect dark void, where direction is meaningless (no up or down, no back or forth). Nietzsche calls this the most historic moment in all of history. The historicity of this is not that some people now call themselves “atheists.” Rather, the historicity involves the absolute abandonment of the entire noetic framework of Judaeo-Christian theism.

4. The madman looks at the village atheists; they look at him. He throws down his little lantern, and says “I guess I came too early. These atheists are not ready for this.”

Tonight at Redeemer


Worship on the Cross of Christ, led by Holly

The Lord's Table, led by Josh

7 PM

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Euthyphro Dilemma

Flowers in my kitchen.
"The Euthyphro Dilemma is bogus," argues U of Wisconsin philosopher Keith Yandell. This is because the E.D. exemplifies a false dilemma.  False dilemma, in logic, is an either-or statement that does not exhaust the alternatives. For example: America: either love it or leave it. Oh really? Are there no other alternatives? But of course there are!

Here's Plato's Euthyphro Dilemma.

  1. Either (i) God approves of something because it is good, or (ii) something is good because God approves of it.
  2. If (i), then the ground or basis of something's being good lies outside, and is independent of, God.
  3. If (ii), then something is good because God arbitrarily chooses it - what is good depends on mere divine voluntarism, sheer choice not constrained by reasons.
  4. Therefore, either the ground ort basis of something's being good lies outside, or is independent of, God, or something is good because God arbitrarily chooses it - what is good depends on mere divine voluntarism, sheer choice not constrained by reasons.
One who accepts the E.D. takes statement 4 to mean: Either morality is indepedent of (monotheistic) religion, or morality simply amounts to what God arbitrarily chooses.

But this settles nothing. Yandell writes: "There are alternatives in addition to the two that the Euthyphro argument consiers. The argument would succeed only if there were not." ("Theology, Philosophy, and Evil," in For Faith and Clarity, ed. James Beilby) Here are some other possibilities.

  • (iii) a necessarily existing God exists and is perfectly good by nature; this what God wills, God wills in accord with God's nature, not arbitrarily.
  • (iv) God exists with logical necessity, and God necessarily has thoughts the propositional content of which is the true principles of morality.
  • (v) God exists, though not with logical necessity, and God is good by choice; God wills in accord with God's character and not arbitrarily, and this character is what it is due to God's free choices.
The E.D., therefore, "should begin with a premise at least as complex as this:

(1*) Either (i), (ii), (iii), (iv), or (v).

"But then the rest of the argument will not follow. The conclusion would then be much more complex:

(4**) Either morality is independent of (monotheistic) religion, or morality simply amounts to what God arbitrarily chooses; or a necessarily existing God exists and is perfectly good by nature; thus what God wills, God wills in accord with God's nature, not arbitraril; or God exists with logical necessity, and God necessarily thinks thoughts the propositional content of which is true moral principles; or God exists , though not with logical necessity, and God is good by choice; God wills in accord with God's character and not arbitrarily, and this character is what it is due to God's free choices.

Yandell then goes on to show that choices (iii) - (v) are genuine. Perhaps there are even some other alternatives? Yandell concludes, "It is sufficient to note that the Euthyphro argument fails to establish the intended dilemma for theists."

James K.A. Smith & The Society of Vineyard Scholars

Anyone interested in following after Jesus and loving God with your mind should watch this video of Calvin College pentecostal scholar James K. A. Smith. And then read his Thinking in Tongues.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Epistemology of Personifying Evidence and God's Existence

I'm halfway through theistic philosopher Paul Moser's The Evidence For God: Religious Knowledge Reexamined. U of Arkansas's Thomas Senor reviews it here, calling Moser's book "daring and provocative."

Moser's book begins with a parable about which the entire text revolves. It goes like this.

Imagine that you are hiking in a vast and remote wilderness area that is accessible only to hikers. To your great dismay, you discover that you are hopelessly lost: you have no method of determining either your exact location or a promising route back to civilization. The woods are filled with dangers (e.g., poisonous snakes, hungry carnivores, and potentially freezing temperatures) and you have no means of communication with the outside world. Worse still, you have only a meager supply of food and water. You've had one bit of good fortune: you've come across an old, dilapidated shack that contains a barely functional ham radio. The battery in the radio still has a bit of juice, although you doubt it will last long once the radio is turned on. In short, your situation is dire but not hopeless. What is your best bet for survival?

What is needed is a trustworthy guide. "Merely finding maps won't get you out of your predicament since you don't know how to place yourself on them -- you don't know where you are. To increase the chances of success, the guide should be capable of interacting with you as you are making your way out of the wilderness since you will likely make a wrong turn somewhere and you'll need to be put straight."

As Moser see it, given this predicament we have four options:

  1. Despairing - just give up. This is practical atheism.
  2. Passively waiting - you don't believe you'll be saved, but you don't disbelieve either. You become a "practical agnostic" about there being a rescuer.
  3. Leaping - this Kierkegaardian metaphor makes one a "practical fideist."
  4. Discerning evidence. Ration your food supply. Take a good, hard look at your situation. Here there are two approaches: a) purpose-neutral discerning of evidence; and b) telic discerning of evidence.
Moser's idea is this: humanity is lost in a figurative wilderness: here's how Moser puts it:

"We all face the prospect of ultimate physical death and social breakdown. From the perspective of our species overall, our food and water supplies are threateningly low, with little hope of being adequately replenished. On many fronts, our relationships with one another are unraveling, and have resulted in selfish factions and fights. The factions and fights often involve race, religion, nationality, or economic class but they sometimes cut across familiar lines. Selfishness transcends common categories, always, of course, for the sake of selfishness. We have become willing even to sacrifice the minimal well-being of others for our own selfish ends. As a result, economic injustices abound among us, wherever a sizeable group resides. Accordingly, genuine community has broken down on various fronts, and, in the absence of a rescuer, we shall all soon perish, whether rich or poor. (12-13)"

Senor writes: "The possibility of a rescuer for humanity depends on the possibility of a being both capable and willing to save us. The primary matter of the book is to "use the wilderness parable to examine, without needless abstraction, the main approaches to knowledge of God's existence" (15)."

I am intrigued by Moser's approach. Along the way he finds the following approaches wanting: metaphysical naturalism, Plantinga's Reformed epistemology, and natural theology.

Here is Moser's argument for God.

1. Necessarily, if a human person is offered and receives the transformative gift, then this is the result of the authoritative power of a divine X of thoroughgoing forgiveness, fellowship in perfect love, worthiness of worship, and triumphant hope (namely, God).

2. I have been offered, and have willingly received, the transformative gift.

3. Therefore God exists.

See the review to understand "transformative gift."

And what Moser means by "the epistemology of personifying evidence" in relation to God's existence.

Monday, April 18, 2011

This Sunday at Redeemer

Lake Erie (Sterling State Park)
This coming Sunday, Easter Sunday (!), I'll preach on one verse: "For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk, but of power." (1 Corinthians 4:20)

I invite all Redeemer people to carry this verse with you all week. Pray it!

Thursday at Redeemer - 7 PM - worship + the Lord's Table.

For the Followers of One Thing

My front yard (4/18/11)
Monday, April 18. It is snowing in Monroe. We may get an inch.

A robin in my backyard sits, freezing, snow-coated, confused. The buds on my lilac bush decided to withdraw. "We emerged too early," they said. My wife Linda does not like this snow.

As for me and my soul, the snow looks beautiful. This may be our last snowfall. I won't see this for a while. There's no wind. The flakes are big and corn-flaky.

On that first Easter week things were not looking good to Jesus' followers. Spiritually, the sun was not shining; darkness was enveloping the hearts of men. Don't go to the cross, Jesus! "But I must." The cross, in that upside-down Kingdom way of God, is the glory-pinnacle of history. "If I be lifted up..." The moment darkness trembled at His voice and tried to hide.

The Cross. This is Paul's "One Thing." "I resolved to know one thing: Jesus Christ and him crucified." Attention all Followers of One Thing: this is your week.

It is good that it is snowing today. It needs to be cold. The sun must be out of sight. "Why have you forsaken me?"

Monroe forecast for Friday, April 22: mostly cloudy, chance of rain, highs 46-50. Excellent. It needs to be cloudy on Good Friday. The entire day should be night. A day when, from all appearances, darkness gets its way. It was confusing for the original Jesus-followers. It was a day when they all, except for a couple of women, decided to check out of The Movement. What we thought was the light of the world just got crossed out. We can cross Jesus off our to-do list. We don't want to hang with him any more. It will be good if this Friday, with rain, comes thunder minus the lightning.

Jerusalem forecast for Sunday, April 24: sunny, high 79. Monroe forecast for Sunday, April 24: sunny, highs 54-58.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Friday, April 15, 2011

Craig vs. Harris Debate at U of Notre Dame

William Lane Craig & Sam Harris
Here's an article on the recent debate between William Lane Craig and Sam Harris. It was held at the University of Notre Dame. The focus was on Harris's recent book The Moral Landscape.

(Thanks Bill L. for the link!)

The Strange Absence of Post-Mortem Existence in the Gospel Resurrection Stories

Me & Robbie Dawkins,
at Furious Love
I'm re-reading sections of N.T. Wright's The Resurrection of the Son of God, and am on p. 602 and the section called "The Strange Absence of Personal Hope in the Stories." There is something that the resurrection narratives lack which should cause us to be surprised. Wright writes: "It is extremely strange, and extremely interesting, that at no stage do they mention the future hope of the Christian." (602)

That feels counter-intuitive to we Western Jesus-followers who have attended many Easter services where the emphasis is on life after death. "The significant thing to notice here is this: neither 'going to heaven when you die', 'life after death', 'eternal life', nor even 'the resurrection of all Christ's people', is so uch as mentioned in the four canonical resurrection stories. If Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wanted to tell stories whose import was 'Jesus is risen, therefore you will be too', they have done a remarkably bad job of it." (603)

What, then, is the emphasis? It is: "Jesus is risen, therefore you have work ahead of you." The followers of Jesus are given an "open-ended comission within the present world... This mission coheres cloxely with the missionary imperative displayed in Paul and Acts." (603) But we are not given, in the Gospel resurrection narratives, words about being "with Jesus" in a post-mortem existence.

Paul, on the other hand, always connects the resurrection with the followers of Jesus. As does Peter; e.g., 1 Peter 1:3 ff. - Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

If we only had the Gospel accounts of Jesus' death and resurrection we would not know that the resurrection narratives gave us any basis for life after death. The core of the Gospel accounts, according to Wright, have the following elements:

  • The vindication of Jesus
  • The validation of his messianic claim
  • and the commissioning of his followers to act as his announcers, telling the world about its rightful Lord
Of course we do have Paul's further interpretation of Jesus' resurrection as grounds for hope after this life. But, in context, it seems that the core elements of the Gospel accounts get slighted, even go unmentioned, as Easter preachers preach out of these accounts without really addressing what those accounts clearly do and do not state.

For those unfamiliar with what Wright is doing:
  • Focus on what the texts say more than on what they do not say.
  • What they say is important.
  • In the case of the Gospel resurrection accounts, on their own, they do not rush forward to declare our personal post mortem existence with God. I do believe in this, as does Wright. But I value the kind of NT studies Wright and others do by getting into the actual texts rather than impatiently reading into them.

Tonight at Redeemer

From Josh Bentley - Tonight at 7pm everyone is invited for a time of worship & sharing together about the fresh things God is doing in our body. Hope to see you!

(Some More) Furious Love

Furious Love DVDs

Heidi Baker at Furious Love
Darren Wilson, from his Furious Love Facebook page, writes:

"For everyone who is asking, yes we will have the entire Furious Love Event on a massive 11 DVD set (along with some stuff from behind the scenes with all the speakers) due out hopefully by late May/early June. We're trying to make this the gold standard for teaching/training/conference videos, so bear with us while we make it as awesome as possible. And if you're wondering, the Event itself was ridiculously amazing!"

The Man Who Believed in Hell

We subscribe to Time magazine. So we'll be getting the "Hell" issue in the mail today. The cover story is on Rob Bell's book Love Wins (which I read some weeks ago). The main essay is: "Is Hell Dead?"

The cover asks, "What if There's No Hell?" That is an unfortunate and sensationalist title chosen, I presume, to sell more magazines. Because Bell clearly believes in a hell and has said so many times. In fact, Bell has publicly confessed his belief in hell more than any fundamentalist I know of, so many times that he will ironically make his mark in history as "The Man Who Believed in Hell."

I think the Time article is way more sensationalist than substantive, putting a big media-driven spin on Bell's book. Very little of the essay actually deals with hell; most of it is on Rob Bell's life, upbringing, and so on.

Does Bell believe in hell? Here is, in summary, Bell's answer to the question of the reality of hell:

"There is also the reality of heaven and hell in the future. Our ultimate future hope is a restored creation under Christ where God will dwell with us forever on a restored heaven and earth [Rev 21-22]. There are many who accept the invitation of the life of heaven and many who reject the invitation. Those who reject the invitation experience a purifying “fire” of judgment in hell, yet there is hope. We live in the hope that the redemptive work of Christ is beyond what we can ask or imagine. Love Wins helps us bring a biblical imagination that leaves room for the hope of the redemption of all while recognizing humanity's free will to continue to reject God."

Note the following:
  • Eternity as a "restored heaven and earth" is N.T. Wright's position, and mine as well. A lot of ideas of "heaven" are influenced by Greek philosophy (Plato) and are not truly biblical.
  • Perons can accept Jesus' invitation or reject it.
  • Those who reject the invitation experience judgment in hell.
  • Bell puts much weight on the grace and love of God who does want all to be saved. He ascribes to a "generous orthodoxy," while allowing for the reality that some will use their free will to reject God.
  • So - persons who cry that Rob does not himself believe in hell need to repent of their false accusations.
Is Bell's book a great book? I don't think so. A significant portion has Bell asking more questions after questions after questions than German theologian Hans Kung. Vagueness permeates the book, as I see it. In affirming "mystery" one does not have to write mysteriously. If you're going to write about mystery, write about it clearly. But perhaps Rob did not anticipate the response this not-so-clearly-written book would generate?

The main point of disagreement I have with Rob is his non-textually speculative idea that, in post-mortem life, non-Jesus-followers may be given much more time to choose to accept God and Jesus. At that point I think Rob leaves the biblical text he so wants to stay in touch with, his reasoning being a logical extension of his generous orthodoxy. This speculation logically makes one wonder about the relevance of believing in Jesus in this life, at least as such belief informs one's status in the afterlife. In terms of one's ultimate, eternal status before God being a Jesus-follower in this life is not a necessary condition. It may be sufficient, but clearly on Bell's reasoning it is not necessary.
(For all who want to educate themselves on hell see: Four Views on Hell.)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

This Sunday at Redeemer

Worship at Furious Love
This Sunday at Redeemer I'll be preaching out of 1 Corinthians 3:10-17. After 5 years of preaching chronologically throught the Gospels we're now preaching chronologically through Paul's letters, emphasizing the Christology of Paul.

I'll be tying some Furious Love stuff into this text.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Taking Nietzsche Seriously

Nietzsche is brilliant, enigmatic, and subject to multiple interpretions. Since that gets me off the hook, I'll try one.

In The Joyful Wisdom Nietzsche gives his "parable of the madman." The madman (who represents Nietzsche) comes to confront the "village atheists." They confess that God is dead but still live as if God exists. To the madman this is unbelieveable. The death of God (unbelief in God) is not merely theoretical. The village atheists still hold to Judaeo-Christian "slave morality." Call this the Christian "upside-down kingdom" of Mary in Luke 1 as she is astonished that God brings down the proud and powerful and exalts the hungry and poor and needy.

The madman prophetically cries out that, on real atheism, we've left the metaphysical foundation of slave morality (the moral ideas of Christian theism) and are now out on our own without a moral compass. Nietzsche writes that on atheism we've left the "land" behind" and now sail directionless on a sea that has an "infinite horizon." The madman cries: "Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the whole horizon? what did we do when we loosened this earth from its sun? Whither does it now move? Whither do we move? Away from all suns! Do we not dash on unceasingly? Backwards, sideways, forwards, in all directions? Is there still an above and below? do we not stray, as through infinite nothingness?"

In other words, sans God, we're on our own, left to create our own values, left to invent the "sun" we shall orbit around. The real atheist must not live any longer as if the Jesus love-ethic had any meaning.

The madman says, regarding the onset of atheism, "there was never a greater event." But why is the fact of some people like Nietzsche becoming atheists the greatest of all events? The historic nature of this is not simply that a few people stop believing in God. Here's where Nietzsche was and yet remains radical. The historical nature has to do with the abandoning of an entire worldview and the ramifications of such abandonment. Nietzsche is convinced that, since the God of Judaeo-Christian theism does not exist (is "dead"), the only alternative to this is to abandon the morality of that worldview and set off in search of a "higher" morality; viz., a "master morality."

The village atheists look at the madman as if he is... mad. I remain taken by Nietzsche. As a theist myself he is one of the few atheists I take seriously.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Furious Love Is Over - What Do We Do Now?

Worshiping at Furious Love
 Our "Furious Love Event" is over. I am physically tired, and began to get a sore throat yesterday. I slept ten hours last night! But spiritually I am doing very well.

So what am I going to do this week? What should we do? If you were at FL and don't know what to do now you weren't listening. Here's how I see it.

  • Be Jesus-dependent, not conference-dependent. What you need is Jesus, not another conference. Of course God can come into a conference and reveal himself to us, like he did at Furious Love. But God can do the same, even more, with just you. It's just You and me here now, only You and me here now... (Did you notice how a few of the FL speakers spoke about "conferences," especially Heidi Baker?)
  • Abide in Christ, now, like a branch connected to the True Vine. The sustenance of Jesus is yours, now. Remember how Phillip Mantofa visually demonstrated this for us on Saturday evening. To take many "quiet times" with the Lord, daily, for all the rest of the days of your life. That is, for me, the deep well out of which I drink from. DO THIS! Do not try to "make something happen." No striving, please.
  • Saturate yourself in the Scriptures. We all know this. Few Christians do it. So, God sent Phillip Mantofa to bring us back to this. I already know of some Redeemer people who are in Genesis today, reading through the entire Bible. I invite others to swim around with me in 1 Corinthians, which Josh and I will be preaching out of for the next 25 weeks.
  • Listen to God. Out of the abiding, Scripture-saturated heart comes direction and vision. Expect God to talk to you and be with you as you Abide + Saturate.
  • Be obedient to God. Don't go off to a bunch of meetings and try to invent some "programs" that will keep the fire burning. You don't need another program. You need a relationship. With Christ. He is in you, the hope of glory. Remember all the many stories we heard at Furious Love? Stories of unknown people who sought after God and heard from God and were led to do great things from very small, even bleak, beginnings. This can be you. Why not? Remember - you're not to do anything to try to be "great" or be "somebody." Remember that God's idea of "great" is not the dark kingdom's idea of "great."
  • Get in a small group. Tomorrow night Linda and I go to our Home Group get-together at Val & John Fowler's home. We'll do some FL-afterglow! We'll read and talk about the 1 Corinthians verses I'll preach on this coming Sunday. The fire inside me will burn...
  • Don't try to get others to share your inner fire. Just tend the fire within you by ABIDING + SATURATING.
When Darren Wilson heard from God that he was to make a movie and call it "Finger of God"  a couple of things happened (as I remember it). Darren shared this with us. He had no money! Yet he was certain God called him to do this. We at Redeemer felt so too. So we took an offering one Sunday morning and a couple thousand dollars came in. Not exactly big-budget movie stuff! But Darren went forward. To all our amazement, look what God has done!

To summarize, now that this great God-event is over...

  1. Be Jesus-dependent
  2. Abide in Christ
  3. Read the Word lots
  4. Listen for the voice of God
  5. Obey
  6. Get in a Home Group
  7. Tend the fire within you

Monday, April 11, 2011

After Furious Love

Our Furious Love Event is over. The God-event continues. Many of us are finding it difficult to talk about it, especially after Saturday evening. Here are some photos, with some commentary.

Greg Boyd
Greg Boyd spoke two times, contrasting a "Blueprint View" if the world with a "Warfare Worldview." I find his teaching and preaching brilliant and compelling. Many were stunned at the clarity and insights God brought to us through Greg. When Greg was with us at Redeemer a few years ago we had dinner at our home and watched "Napolean Dynamite" together. What if Napolean Dynamite got saved and was brilliant and Spirit-filled? That's Greg. You can find his writings on the Warfare Worldview here and here.

Greg played drums on our worship team Thursday evening. He is an excellent drummer! I played electric guitar. It was an empowering worship experience. 650 people were maxing out our sanctuary. Heidi Baker spoke that evening. She was coming to us directly from Mozambique. One of her flights was cancelled. I picked up her husband Rolland from the hotel and he was texting her trying to work out the flight details. We began our worship time later so that Heidi could be there to be part of it. I often play guitar with my eyes closed. I opened them at one point and Heidi was on her knees passionately worshiping. For me this was very moving. Holly Benner, our phenomenal worship leader, was God-led, taking us deep into His holy presence.

Heidi came forward. She got on her knees on the platform and continued worshiping, leading us in what became a beautifully haunting a capella singing. The sound crew later played this exprience back to me. We were trying to decide if we heard a violin section appearing out of nowhere accompanying the praise.

Then Heidi preached.

I don't know how to write about this right now...

Darren Wilson (producer of "Finger of God" and "Furious Love," as well as his new book Filming God) led a panel discussion which was transparent, real, vulnerable, and endeared us to all the speakers.

Left to right - Darren Wilson, Robbie Dawkins, Phillip Mantofa, Will Hart,
Shampa Rice, Mattheus van der Steen, Rolland Baker,
Greg Boyd, Angela Greenig, Rebecca van der Steen

Angela Greenig taught on deliverance and led a session that no one will ever forget.

Greg Boyd, Angela Greenig, Rebecca van der Steen

Shampa Rice opened Furious Love up on Wednesday evening with an incredible message on the love of God. Linda and I wish Shampa and her husband Jonathan were closer to Monroe! As a little girl growing up in Calcutta Shampa lived across from Mother Teresa. She would go and hug Mother Teresa's legs. Shampa did a second session and shared about her being abused as a child. It was yet another session no one will ever forget.

Josh Bentley, Mattheus van der Steen, Phillip Mantofa,
and Shampa Rice

Mattheus van der Steen trained under Brother Andrew (of God's Smuggler). Mattheus is from the Netherlands. He spoke on Thursday evening and gave yet another unforgettable message accompanied by God's power. And, he gave what may be the funniest sermon illustration (out of his personal life) that I have ever heard.

Mattheus van der Steen

We had people from around the U.S. and world with us. One newly married couple chose to celebrate their honeymoon at Furious Love. Here is Will Hart (from Randy Clark's ministry) blessing them.

Will Hart

I am so thankful Robbie Dawkins (Vineyard pastor in Chicago) was with us. I got to spend some time with him and his wonderful wife Angie. Robbie spoke twice, and gave the perfect, God-anointed message at Redeemer on Sunday morning.

Robbie Dawkins and me

I am so proud of the 100+ Redeemer servants who served like crazy worker bees throughout the entire event. Thanks to Josh Bentley who did a phenomenal job coordinating this. I heard many compliments about the hospitality that was lovingly served up to all. Here are a few of them.

Saturday evening. Phillip Mantofa from Indonesia spoke on "Read the Bible." Linda said this evening was one of the three or four most significant evenings in all her life. Most of us cannot talk about it now. Words will not do it justice. God came. I'm feeling emotional as I write this. Something happened. Many of us think it was important in a way that goes beyond us. All of the speakers felt the same. It was different. It felt different. We shall see.

Phillip Mantofa

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Furious Love - First Night

What a great night we had at our Furious Love Event!
  • 600 people were there.
  • This included many from around the world and all over the U.S.
  • We had a great time leading worship before God and a tremendous worshiping bunch of people.
  • Darren said introductory words and welcomed everyone there.
  • I felt led to call Darren & Jenell and Gary and Linda up on the platform. I asked Gary to give a prayer of blessing over his son. It was touching and beautiful.
  • Shampa Rice gave a message that every Jesus-follower needs to hear - on the love of God. She's a great speaker ina compelling ministry in India.
  • In the afternoon I asked Shampa's husband Jonathan of he wanted to come watch me teach my Philosophy of Religion class. To my delight he joined me. I taught on Bertrand Russell's "A Free Man's Worship" and the logic of atheism. Russell's essay is what real atheism looks like. I'll teach some Niezsche next, my favorite atheist.
Tomorrow is a full day. I'll introduce Greg Boyd in the morning. Tomorrow night Greg will play drums on our worship team and I get to play with him! Then, Heidi Baker will preach. It should be a good night.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Furious Love Begins Today!

Our Furious Love Event begins today. At 7 PM worship happens. Then Shampa Rice preaches. I hope to be giving reports of the event throughout. The schedule is rigorous and fun Thursday - Saturday.

Yesterday Darren Wilson and his crew came to set up. The church building looks fabulous!

Thanks to Josh Bentley, Holly Benner, Joe Laroy, and over one hundred Redeemer family members who have prayed and worked so hard, believing God is all over this event!

Monday, April 04, 2011

How Japanese Religions Deal With Death has an article on how Japanese religions deal with tragedy.
  • Japan is a largely secular society. People don't turn to Buddhism unless there is a funeral. "When there is a funeral, though, Japanese religious engagement tends to be pretty intense."

  • “A very large number of Japanese people believe that what they do for their ancestors after death matters, which might not be what we expect from a secular society,” says [Brian] Bocking. “There’s widespread belief in the presence of ancestors’ spirits.”
  • Buddhist beliefs are blended with ancient Shinto tradition.
  • John Nelson of the University of San Francisco says that the Japanese "move back and forth between two or more religious traditions, seeing them as tools that are appropriate for certain situations. For things connected to life-affirming events, they’ll turn to Shinto-style rituals or understandings. But in connection to tragedy or suffering, it’s Buddhism.”
  • Buddhist explanation of why bad things happen are many, "from collective karma to seeing calamities as signs of apocalypse.”
  • Bocking says “It’s very important in Japanese life to react in a positive way, to be persistent and to clean up in the face of adversity, and their religions would emphasize that. They’ll say we have to develop a powerful, even joyful attitude in the face of adversity.”
  • Most of the dead will be cremated with their ashes being interred in a family plot.
  • "After burial, Japanese typically continue to practice rituals around caring for the spirits of the deceased. Most Japanese keep Buddhist altars in their homes, Nelson says, using them to pay tribute to dead ancestors. "In the days ahead, you’ll see people praying, with hands folded, for the spirits of those killed,” he says. “It goes back to a really early understanding of human spirits and rituals designed to control those spirits, which can take 49 days or, depending on the type of Buddhism, could go on for up to seven years.”"
  • Pure Land Buddhism (Amida Buddhism) believes that living ancestors can help the deceased live in a paradise for spirits of the dead.
  • Many young Japanese don't believe in these rituals, and accuse Buddhist priests from profiting form death. There is a huge Buddhist funeral industry. "Young people just aren't buying it any more."