Saturday, August 31, 2013

Register for Redeemer Ministry School Fall Classes (RMS Is a Tuition-Free School)

A Tuition-free Ministry School - REGISTER FOR FALL CLASSES!


Redeemer Ministry School will be tuition-free in 2013-2014.

Students will be responsible to purchase their texts. (Note: We may have scholarships available for students who cannot purchase the required texts.)

Students from outside of the Monroe area will need to secure their own housing. We can help you make contacts.

Want to study with us in the fall? Let me know -

3 ways to sign up for classes: 1) call the church office to sign up - 734-242-5277; 2) send John Piippo ( or Holly Benner ( an e-mail; or sign up in Redeemer's lobby.

The Fall 2013 semester will begin September 10.

There will be no classes Thanksgiving week.

Last day of Fall classes is: Friday, Nov. 22 (No classes on Thanksgiving Week and in December.)

 Listed below are the classes for all three trimesters.  If you are interested in enrolling, please see the application page

Fall Trimester

Spiritual Formation

In order to be used by God as an agent of renewal and transformation one must themselves be in a continual place of personal renewal and transformation. This course will combine times of personal prayer, spiritual journaling, and teaching from biblical and historical resources on what it means to dwell in the presence of God and be renewed and transformed.
Time: Tuesdays, 9:30am – 1:00pm
Instructor: Dr. John Piippo

No required texts.

Kingdom of God I

The main teaching of Jesus was about the “kingdom of God” or “kingdom of heaven.” This course will present the major interpretations of the meaning of the kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed. Students will learn to understand the real Jesus from the perspective of God’s kingdom message.
Time: Tuesdays, 5pm - 8pm
Instructor: Jim Collins
Required texts: The Gospel of the Kingdom (George Ladd); The Secret Message of Jesus (Brian McLaren)

Bible Study Methods I

This course will provide students with systematic methods of studying scripture.  Through those methods students will also learn how to practically apply their understanding as they study different books of the Bible.
Time: Wednesdays, 5:30pm - 8:30pm
Instructors: Dee Carveth and Debbie Church
Required text: Grasping God's Word

Intimacy & Identity in Worship

True worship and adoration comes from intimacy with God.  It is founded on the understanding of God's great love for you. Intimacy & Identity in Worship will focus on building and furthering that love relationship with Him while defining what a lifestyle of worship looks like.  This class will include an in-depth look at Song of Solomon and Old & New Testament character studies.
Time: Friday, 9:30am – 1:00pm
Instructor: Holly Benner
No required texts.

From a Summer of Prayer to a Life of Prayer

Prayer Summer has ended. Thanks to the 400+ 
who joined me for this!

The purpose of PS has been to introduce you 
to a deeper life of prayer, 
and/or to strengthen your already-existing prayer life.

The point has been: 
To help you gain a Life of Prayer. 
A PrayerLife.

Now, PrayerLife has begun.

For the rest of your life.

For all the days of your life.

If you have been part of PS 
then I'm going to keep sending you emails 
of the posts I'm writing on prayer, praying, 
and a life of prayer. 
If you'd like to be removed from this list 
then let me know. 

If you are new and would like to join me in PrayerLife then send me an e-mail and I'll add you to my PL list.

"If my people....."   Right?


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Welcome to PrayerLife!

I'm so grateful to all of you who have joined me in Prayer Summer.

My prayer for you is that this experience will have strengthened your prayer life.

As for me, I am going to keep this life of prayer, this intimate conversational relationship, that God has offered me. It's been happening for many years between God and I, and I am not going to back off now. It's too rich, deep, engaging, and real.

Unless God instructs me otherwise I'm going to continue writing and posting things on prayer, praying, and spiritual formation.

If you are on my Prayer Summer email list I would like to continue to send you these. If you would like to opt out then please send me an email.

If you would like to join me in PrayerLife, please email me and I'll add you to my mailing list.



Oswald Chambers on the Purpose of Prayer (Prayer Summer)

Lake Erie

(Thank you Jim Hunter for sending this to me.)

 “. . . one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray . . . .’” - Luke 11:1     
Prayer is not a normal part of the life of the natural man. We hear it said that a person’s life will suffer if he doesn’t pray, but I question that. What will suffer is the life of the Son of God in him, which is nourished not by food, but by prayer.
When a person is born again from above, the life of the Son of God is born in him, and he can either starve or nourish that life. Prayer is the way that the life of God in us is nourished. Our common ideas regarding prayer are not found in the New Testament. We look upon prayer simply as a means of getting things for ourselves, but the biblical purpose of prayer is that we may get to know God Himself.    “Ask, and you will receive . . .” (John 16:24).
We complain before God, and sometimes we are apologetic or indifferent to Him, but we actually ask Him for very few things. Yet a child exhibits a magnificent boldness to ask! Our Lord said, “. . . unless you . . . become as little children . . .” (Matthew 18:3). Ask and God will do. Give Jesus Christ the opportunity and the room to work.
The problem is that no one will ever do this until he is at his wits’ end. When a person is at his wits’ end, it no longer seems to be a cowardly thing to pray; in fact, it is the only way he can get in touch with the truth and the reality of God Himself. Be yourself before God and present Him with your problems—the very things that have brought you to your wits’ end. But as long as you think you are self-sufficient, you do not need to ask God for anything.     
To say that “prayer changes things” is not as close to the truth as saying, “Prayer changes me and then I change things.” God has established things so that prayer, on the basis of redemption, changes the way a person looks at things. Prayer is not a matter of changing things externally, but one of working miracles in a person’s inner nature.
- Oswald Chambers

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Deep Prayer Life of Martin Luther King

Today, as we remember Dr. Martin Luther King's great speech that changed our nation, I am reflecting on my understanding of him. When I first read Martin Luther King's "Letter From Birmingham Jail" I was deeply moved. How beautiful and eloquent, how persuasive and biblical it is. I remember thinking how I rarely heard the media talk about King's deep faith in Jesus while they applauded his civil rights actions. But only a spiritually deep person could write the kind of letter King wrote.

Dr. King had a deep prayer life that formed the foundation for his social activism. It would be a great mistake to speak of Dr. King's activism without looking at his indebtedness to the God he encountered in prayer.

Lewis Baldwin of Vanderbilt University has written about this in Never to Leave Us Alone: The Prayer Life of Martin Luther King Jr. (See Baldwin interviewed here at The impetus for his book lies in the following story.

When King accepted a request to lead African-Americans during a bus-boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, he began to receive death threats. One night, after yet another such threat, King began to doubt his decision. The CNN article reads:

"As the threats poured in, his fears increased for his wife, Coretta, and their infant daughter, Yolanda. He now wondered how he could relinquish his role as the boycott leader without appearing a coward. Then something happened that King would talk about for years afterward. He bowed over his untouched cup of coffee, and prayed aloud in desperation. King said he heard an “inner voice” that addressed him by name, and encouraged him to stand up for justice."

It was this prayer that inspired Baldwin to write his book. Yes, King was a brilliant orator. But he also had a deep prayer life. Baldwin says: "So much has been written about King's preaching and pulpit style… but strangely enough, scholars who have treated these subjects ignore King's prayer life. The experience reminded King that he could not depend on the resources of his talents and intellectual training to make it in the struggle. He came to see more clearly that religion had to be real to him in a special way as he confronted the pressures of the movement."

"After the kitchen experience, King felt a special divine companionship, or what he called cosmic companionship, and this sustained him. Fear left him and he was assured that if he continued to stand up for justice and righteousness, God would be with him."

Baldwin is certain that much deep prayer and meditation preceded King's writing of "Letter from Birmingham Jail." The kind of writing in that letter only comes out of a deep soul, one that had spent much time in the presence of God and in dialogue with God. God spoke to King, and King was in a place to hear.

Today's "too busy to pray pastors" who want to do great things for God without dwelling daily in God's intimate presence should not wonder why they are not part of the Revolution.

The Preface to All Our Idolatries: Approaching Scripture as a Mirror Rather than as Revelation

I'm out of touch with "Christian TV." I don't watch it. I am thankful for some of the programs, which give shut-ins help and hope and truth. On those rare occasions when I stumble on a TV preacher and stay there a few minutes I find myself thinking, "What the heck does this have to do with the actual good news of Jesus and his kingdom?" Sometimes there is such a cognitive disconnect that I conclude "Whatever this is, it is not actual Christianity."

For example, watch this for something that has nothing to do with Christianity. This video is not making fun of Christianity since what you see here is not actually "Christianity." Call it, as Soren Kierkegaard would have, "Christendom."

James K.A. Smith, in his Foreward to David Crump's Encountering Jesus, Encountering Scripture: Reading the Bible Critically in Faith, writes:

"In some places, the Bible actually functions as a bookend to uphold the status quo of American civil religion or whatever sort of domesticated spirituality passes for "Christianity." In a sense, that grotesque dinner table prayer in Will Ferrell's NASCAR parody, Talladega Nights, ends up functioning as a back-handed Kierkegaardian critique. While we all purport to be praying to Jesus the Christ,  risen and ascended and seated at the right hand of the Father, instead we end up praying to whatever domesticated version of Jesus suits our tastes and preferences. So everyone around the table starts to share: "I like to picture Jesus as..." This is the preface to all our idolatries. And it functions as a debilitating filter when we read the Bible. The Scriptures are no longer revelation; they are simply a mirror. Instead of encountering Jesus there, we simply see ourselves. This is what Kierkegaard liked to call "Christendom." And in his delicious Danish irony, Kierkegaard warns us: it's hard to read the Bible in Christendom." (vi-vii)

Philosophy Season Begins! (Slow Thinking About Big Questions)

Monroe County Community College

This week I'll begin my 13th year of teaching philosophy at Monroe County Community College. I'll teach three classes - two sections of Introduction to Logic, and one section of Philosophy of Religion. At this stage of my life I am able to walk into these classes, without notes or preparation, and teach, with enthusiasm. Yet, because I love philosophy, I never stop studying it. Here are a few thoughts I have today about my classes.


  • Most students today lack critical thinking skills.
  • The ability to think logically helps in any field. In law, e.g., to be able to intuit the claim of inference from premises to a conclusion is necessary. 
  • Logic is about evaluating arguments and formulating arguments. In logic, an "argument" is: one or more premises that, if true, make a claim of inference to a conclusion. Premises and conclusions are "statements." A "statement" is a sentence that describes a state of affairs that obtains. Or, a statement is a sentence that is either true or false.
  • I'm going to do my best to make this intrinsically boring class interesting for my students. One way I do this is to present arguments that are relevant and, I think, fun. For example, tomorrow in my first class I'll argue for the conclusion Dogs are smarter than cats. In another class I will argue for the conclusion We are alone in the universe (using Ward and Brownlee's Rare Earth theory). Later in the semester I may present philosopher Francis Beckwith's logical argument against abortion. This is a particularly good argument to give in a logic class, since in logic emotive arguing adds nothing to an argument. I really enjoy presenting these arguments as exemplary of logical thinking.
  • Because most students are postmodernists without knowing it they will have a hard time grasping the idea that: If a statement is true it is true for everyone, and if a statement is false is it false for everyone. The DNA of today's adolescent is relativistic. In logic, subjective and collective relativism is irrational (illogical).
  • I am personal interested in Daniel Kahneman's thesis that there are, basically, two kinds of "thinking"; viz., "thinking fast" and "thinking slow." Most thinking is of the first kind; critical thinking (logic) is of the second kind. I'll be teaching my student to "slow-think."
Philosophy of Religion
  • I love teaching this class! Over the years most students seem captivated by the material.
  • We'll never escape metaphysical, "Big Questions" thinking. Most students (nearly all, in my experience) want someone to dialogue with about these questions. 
  • I'm going to do my best to release students from the mental bondage of Facebook-reasoning. None of the arguments Facebook atheists and theists use are used by scholars to defend their worldviews, whether atheistic or theistic. OK, I'll back off that statement a bit. But not much. The real discussion is found in the academic literature. Here, e.g., is the standard philosophy of religion textbook I use in my class - Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings
  • This course is not only about introducing students to philosophy of religion issues, but is also an extended exercise in critical thinking and logic.
In both classes we'll talk about "worldviews." Everyone has a worldview. I'll let the class know that I am a Christian theist. Then I'll share the various worldviews and let them know that, no matter who they had as a professor, that professor would also have a worldview. Just as they, the student does. A "worldview" is comprised of a set of beliefs. A "belief" is a "statement." A "statement" is a sentence that is either true or false. Beliefs make truth claims which, if true, are true for everyone. Therefore all beliefs marginalize. This must be understood to make any progress in philosophical thinking. (Of course students are not evaluated on whether or not they agree with my worldview. A few of the atheists in my class have earned 'As' and I have a failed a few Christian students who are from my own church.)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Bible - Grow Deeper!

How Deep Do You Want to Go in the Bible? 

Grow deeper tonight, Wed., and Thurs.

Greek 102 (taught by former professor of biblical Greek Paul Albrecht) 

6:45 - 9 each night. 

No cost. Love offerings will be taken. 

At Redeemer Fellowship Church

5305 Evergreen, Monroe, MI. 


Monday, August 26, 2013

Prayer as Involvement in His-Story (Prayer Summer)

Redeemer sanctuary

Following Dallas Willard I'm defining prayer as: talking with God about what we (God and I) are doing together. In prayer, we converse with the King of heaven and earth.

Every Jesus-follower is on The Mission of Redemption with God. Mixing headship metaphors, God is our Shepherd, God is our King. The New Testament's Big Idea is that our King died, was raised, and now lives to build his kingdom people on earth, as it is in heaven. In prayer with God we learn how to build lasting things.

This is a privilege, as Wayne Grudem writes:

God wants us to pray because it allows us to be a part of a story that is greater than our own. It allows us to be involved in activities that have eternal significance. When we pray, God’s kingdom is advanced as his will is done “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6: 10). (Grudem, Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know, Kindle Locations 600-602)

Prayer is involvement in His-Story. That's what's happening as you pray today.

There Is a Prize Worth Leaving Everything For

First of all, a plug for the best non-bookstore in the area: Ollie's. Bookophiles - get in your car and go to Ollie's right now! What a wild, crazy, eclectic, ever-shifting collection of "inspirational" books they have! At Ollie's you'll find everything from Bibles to devotional books to Christian fiction to Jesus-books to hyper-academic theological treasures - mostly for $3.99. Ollie's is better than your basic Christian bookstore, and more fun. See Ollie's Bargain Outlet - "Good stuff Cheap!" (This is a chain - in Monroe it's on North Telegraph next to Lowe's.)

I picked up (for only $3.99) Tony Campolo and Shane Claiborne's Red Letter Revolution: What If Jesus Really Meant What He Said?. This is a great read, even if I think it still needs more red-lettering since I'm guessing I'll give it a grade of "Incomplete" because (I suspect, as a result of reading Shane's Jesus for President) it is very light on healing and deliverance, which Jesus did tons of. You don't think that when Jesus tells his disciples that if they abide in him they will do the things he has been doing that he intends to leave out the healing and deliverance he has been doing (which form much of the gospel account)?

Nevertheless, the book is very good, and I have always liked Tony Campolo. Shane's voice is very important, since he not only has Jesus' views on money and things correct, he and his community are living this out. And let's not forget - love is the greatest.

So, e.g., consider this. Shane writes (he once lived and worked with Mother Teresa in Calcutta):

"We opt for survival, security, and comfort rather than the cross and suffering love of Jesus. We choose the American dream instead of the gospel dream. But the freest people I know are the folks who have learned to live like the lilies and the sparrows. Once a reporter said to Mother Teresa that he couldn't do what she did if he was paid a million dollars. She answered, "Yes, for a million dollars I wouldn't do it either." I think Jesus is showing us that there is a pearl, a prize, worth leaving everything for. So it's not about what you've left, but what you've found." (Red Letter Revolution, 16)

And, presumably, Mother Teresa couldn't do what she did if she was a bazillionaire, since the management of her wealth would weigh her down.

Higher Education is Not the Enemy of Religiosity

Clay pots by Gary Wilson

76 percent of kids who don’t go to college end up attending church less often, a higher percentage than those who do go to college. “Higher education,” as they put it, “is not the enemy of religiosity.”

Another study published in The Review of Religious Research in 2011 found that kids who went to college were slightly more likely to pray and read the Bible more often.
- From "Religion, Intelligence, and Socialization"

Jordan Monge writes:

"Things are changing. The Social Science Research Council stated in 2007, "the academy is no longer the bastion of secularism it was once assumed to be." Those who attend college are actually more likely to stay religious now than those who forgo higher education... 
If these trends continue, I can imagine a world in which the prevailing narrative is not "go to college and lose your faith" but "come to college to save your faith." For just as the university taught me to think rationally, to question well, to delight in knowledge, it was the best place I could come to learn how to worship God with all my heart, soul, strength, and mind."
Well... that's where God found me, while I was a student at a university.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

PrayerLife - Viva la Relación (Prayer Summer)

Speaking at Green Lake Conference Center, Wisconsin

My estimate is that 80-90% of North American pastors do not have a significant prayer life.

I get this statistic from teaching 2000+ pastors and Christian leaders in seminary classes and conferences/seminars over the past 36 years.

By "significant prayer life" I mean something approaching the prayer life of Jesus who, early in the morning as was his custom, went to a lonely place where he prayed.

By "prayer" I mean: talking with God, in conversation, about what you and God are doing together.

Do these statistics get any better if, say, a pastor takes a class like my week-long spiritual formation course? Yes. I estimate that, after a week of praying, sharing with colleagues in ministry, and biblical and theological reflection on prayer and spiritual formation, 30-40% now have a significant prayer life. (Again, this relates to North American pastors and, I think, European pastors as well. For Third World pastors the statistics invert.)

This is why I have been offering Prayer Summer. My prayer is that, out of the 400+ who have been engaging in 30-60 minutes of praying, 5 days a week, many will have a significant prayer life. My prayer is that a significant prayer life will stick, for the rest of a person's life.

I believe that not having a significant prayer life is a main reason for the North American Church's relative inauthenticity and irrelevance.

This Prayer Summer experiment is nearly over. But hopefully for many who began with me in June, a new, vibrant PrayerLife has taken root.

¡Viva la Relación!

Moral Relativism: No Real Way to Condemn Nazis

American atheist president David Silverman is here unable to make sense of atheism's logical inference to moral relativism. I don't think he understands the philosophical issues.

Francis Beckwith on Abortion and Human Beings as Moral Subjects

Here's Baylor University professor of philosophy and jurisprudence Francis Beckwith on abortion and human beings as moral agents.

If you've taken my logic class or any logic class, note Beckwith's use of logical terminology and reasoning.

Signing the Michigan Right to Life Petition and the Logical Argument Against Abortion

This Sunday morning at Redeemer I'll ask our people to sign a petition disallowing Michigan tax dollars to pay for abortions as a part of health care. If you believe, as I do, that abortion is killing an innocent person, then you will be as outraged as I am at the idea of my tax dollars supporting murder.

Is abortion murder? Indeed it is. Occasionally, in my Logic classes, I present philosopher and jurisprudential scholar Francis Beckwith's argument against abortion. Beckwith's argument does not depend on any particular religious beliefs. I think it's a good argument to use in a logic class because logical arguments are to be non-emotive arguments.

The abortion argument can get very emotional. It's a good exercise to see if we can keep this thing purely logical. I find Beckwith's analysis relevant to my logic class since we are now studying informal logical fallacies like "appeal to pity" and "begging the question," both of which are, according to Beckwith, often found in pro-abortionist arguments.

Here are the notes I hand out to my students.

John Piippo, Ph.D

(Beckwith is currently Professor of Philosophy and Professor of Jurisprudence at Baylor University.)

This is the argument:

1. The unborn entity, from the moment of conception, is a full-fledged member of the human community.
2. It is prima facie[2] morally wrong to kill any member of that community.
3. Every successful abortion kills an unborn entity, a full-fledged member of the human community.
4. Therefore, every successful abortion is prima facie morally wrong.

Note that this is not a religious argument, but a logical argument. No appeal to religion needs to be made.

By "full-fledged member of the human community" is meant that the conceptus[3] is as much a bearer of rights as any human being whose rights-bearing status is uncontroversial, like you or me. As Beckwith says, "the unborn entity is entitled to all the rights to which free and equal persons are entitled by virtue of being free and equal persons." "Full-fledged member of the human community" cannot mean something like "viability," since then we have two problems:

1) the arbitrariness of deciding who's a full-fledged member and who's not; and

2) the odd philosophical idea that there is suddenly a "moment" (call it time 't') when the conceptus/fetus/inborn child becomes a person, which means at time 't-minus-1 second' it was not. “Abortion advocates argue that the unborn entity is not a person and hence not a subject of moral rights until some decisive moment in fetal or postnatal development.” (Beckwith, 130) Such a position is incoherent and fraught with philosophical problems.

“Virtually no one disputes – including leading defenders of abortion-choice – that every mature human being was once an adolescent, a child, an infant, a baby, a newborn, a fetus, and an embryo.” (131) But the abortion advocate argues that it is morally permissible to end a human being’s life at the embryo stage of human life. How is this possible? Beckwith says they argue that not all human beings are equally intrinsically valuable (IV) because some do not have the present capacity to exhibit certain properties or functions that would make them IV. (130) Thus, the fetal self is not “intrinsically valuable.”

Beckwith holds to a “substance view of persons.” This means that a human being “is intrinsically valuable because of the sort of thing it is and the human being remains that sort of thing as long as it exists”. That is, an individual “maintains absolute identity through time while it grows, develops, and undergoes numerous changes”.

Various functions and capacities, whether fully realized or utilized do not constitute a person. Thus a human being is never a potential person, but is always a person at different stages of development, whether potential properties and capacities are actualized or not.

To explain: a human being may never realize the ability to reason logically. It would then lack this ability. In contrast, a frog is not said to lack something if it can’t study logic, because by nature it is not the sort of being that can have the ability to do logic. But a human being who lacks the ability to think logically is still a human being because of her nature. A human being’s “lack” makes sense if and only if she is an actual human person. (E.g., a rock does not “lack” the ability to see.)

Most pro-abortionists argue that personhood is not inherent or intrinsic, but based on certain capacities and functions, be it consciousness, sentience, self-awareness, the ability to reason, and so on.


Beckwith says that many commit the informal logical fallacies of “appeal to pity” and “begging the question.”

“An argument from pity is an attempt to show the plausibility of one’s point of view by trying to move others emotionally, although the reasonableness of the position stands or falls on the basis of other important factors.” Here are some arguments from pity:

Argument from the dangers of illegal abortions

1. If abortion is made illegal then women will perform illegal abortions.
2. If women perform illegal abortions then women will be
3. Therefore if abortion is made illegal then women will be harmed.

This argument “begs the question.” Only by assuming that the unborn are not fully human does the argument work. “But if the unborn are fully human, this abortion-choice argument is tantamount to saying that because people die or are harmed while killing other people (i.e., unborn people), the state should make it safe for them to do so.” (94) Therefore, the argument begs the question.

Argument from financial burden

We can’t minimize the fact that there are tragic circumstances, like a poor woman with four small children who becomes pregnant by her alcoholic husband.

“But once again we must ask whether the unborn entity is fully human, for hardship does not justify homicide.” (98)

For example, if I knew that killing you would relieve me of future hardship, that’s not sufficient justification for me to kill you.

Argument from the unwanted child

This argument, again, begs the question. Because only if we assume that the unborn re not fully human does this argument work.

It is extremely difficult to argue that the value of a human being depends on whether someone wants or cares for that human being.

Argument from the deformed and handicapped child

First, if this argument succeeds in showing that abortion is justified if a woman is pregnant with a deformed or handicapped fetus, it only establishes the right to abort in those kind of situations.

But this argument again begs the question. “For if the unborn are fully human, then to promote the aborting of the handicapped unborn is tantamount to promoting the execution of handicapped people who are already born.”[4]

Of course having a handicapped child can be a terrible burden. “But it is important to realize that if the unborn entity is fully human, homicide cannot be justified simply because it relieves one of a terrible burden.” (102)

Argument from interference in career

Again… this begs the question. “For what would we think of a parent who kills his two-year-old because the child interfered with the parent’s ability to advance in his occupation?” (104)

Argument from rape and incest

This is a horrible thing, of course.

Note: this argument is not relevant to the case for abortion on demand.

Note also this: “the unborn entity is not an aggressor when its presence does not endanger it’s mother’s life (as in the case of a tubal pregnancy). It is the rapist who is the aggressor. The unborn entity is just as much an innocent victim as its mother.” (105-106)

Again… this argument begs the questions by assuming that the unborn is not fully human.

Argument from Imposing Morality.

This argument says: It’s wrong for anyone to “force” his view of morality on someone else. Pro-lifers, by attempting to stop women from having abortions, are trying to force their morality on others.

But this argument cannot be right. Because it’s not always wrong for the community to institute laws that require people to behave in certain moral ways. E.g., it’s not wrong to institute a law against child molestation. If the unborn entity is fully human, forbidding abortions would be perfectly just. Any law prohibiting abortion would unjustly impose one’s morality on others only if the act of abortion is good, morally benign, or does not unjustly limit the free agency of another. The real issue is: what counts as a “person,” a full-fledged member of the human community.

[1] All quotes from Francis Beckwith, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice
[2] Prima facie is a Latin expression meaning "on its first appearance", or "by first instance". It is used in modern legal English to signify that on first examination, a matter appears to be self-evident from the facts. In common law jurisdictions, prima facie denotes evidence that (unless rebutted) would be sufficient to prove a particular proposition or fact.
[3] The fertilized egg
[4] See Peter Singer, who admits that “pro-life groups are right about one thing: the location of the baby inside or outside the womb cannot make such a crucial moral difference… The solution, however, is not to accept the pro-life view that the fetus is a human being with the same moral status as yours or mine. The solution is the very opposite: to abandon the idea that all human life is of equal worth.” (In Beckwith, 101)

The Bible - How Deep Do You Want to Go? (Greek 102 at Redeemer - Aug. 27-28-29)

This coming T-W-Th, 6:45 PM, we're having three nights of learning basics of biblical Greek. This is an opportunity to go deep into the biblical text and gain insights into the meaning of the New Testament. Among other things this will help you realize that a lot of the current criticisms of the Bible come from critics who do not understand the biblical text, in its context. Our teacher, Paul Albrecht, will take you into places of understanding that will make the Scriptures come alive and be more relevant than ever.

Here are the details.


INSTRUCTOR: Paul Albrecht from Indianapolis. Paul is former professor of Biblical Greek at Palmer Theological Seminary.

WHEN: August 27-28-29,

WHERE: Redeemer Fellowship Church

COST: Free (we will take love offerings to bless Paul and his ministry)

SIGN UP: We want to know how many will attend so we can have enough handouts ready.

Sign up by calling the Redeemer office (734-242-5277) or sending me an email (

Greek 102 – Schedule

Tuesday, August 27

6:45 – 7:45 – Overview of Alphabet and Pronunciation of Words

7:45 – 8:00 – BREAK

8:00 – 9:00 – Overview of Alphabet and Pronunciation of Words

Wednesday, August 28

6:45 – 7:45 – The Greek Noun System

                   Exegetical Questions #1 and #2

7:45 – 8:00 – BREAK

8:00 – 9:00 – The Greek Verb System

                   Exegetical Questions #3

Thursday, August 29

6:45 – 7:45 – Exegetical questions #4 and #5

7:45 – 8:00 – BREAK

8:00 – 9:00 – Exegetical Questions #6

                   Greek 102 Overtime

Why Pray? #2 (Prayer Summer)

Trees reflected on the River Raisin in our backyard

One reason God invites us to conference with him in prayer is to increase our dependence on him. A second reason is that, in prayer, the love relationship with God strengthens. This is a whole-being, deep thing.

I like how Wayne Grudem expresses this. He writes:

"God does not just desire that our trust in him will grow through prayer; he also desires that our love for him and our relationship with him will deepen and grow. When we truly pray, we pray with the wholeness of our character, relating to the wholeness of his character. Therefore, what we think and feel about God will come through in our prayers. This will, in turn, deepen our love and understanding of God and, in the end, deepen our relationship with him. This is something that God delights in. It is also something that brings him glory."

(Grudem, Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know, Kindle Locations 596-599)

Authentic heart-conversation always strengthens relationship. It works this way with God, too.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Prayer and Heart Stillness (Prayer Summer)

Door, Church of the Nativity, Jerusalem

One of our Prayer Summer partners, Paula Holtz, sent me this email and gave permission to post it. Barb writes:

"Prayer Summer is wonderful!  After many years of battling against the "weapons of mass distraction" the Lord made it very clear that I was to start the day with Him, no ifs, ands, or buts.  It isn't a finger-pointing, scowling directive, but a loving call to come to His arms before I even glance at my computer.  I have all the essentials now right next to my bed and have set up an area for prayer right there.  In the past I have interrupted prayer time with a myriad of "must do's"  and had a terrible time concentrating.  Even my devotional music was a distraction, so I've opted for silence.  

My husband and I just watched a 2006 video called "Be Still" on contemplative prayer, which confirmed everything the Lord (and this blog) has been trying to tell us.  On that video, great saints and servants such as Dallas Willard (who recently went home to Jesus), Richard Foster, Calvin Miller, Beth Moore, give a VERY convincing case for silence and listening

The sad thing is, my husband and I are pastors!  It's not that we haven't known about this.  (In his defense, he is less distracted than I, so this is my confession, not necessarily his.) I just want to thank you for lovingly chiding us into this Relation Ship journey.  We are being blessed!"

(Note: I've shown the "Be Still" dvd at Redeemer - it's excellent!)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Nagel Summarizes "Mind and Cosmos"

Tree, in Wilberforce, Ohio

Everyone interested in the mind-body problem has read Thomas Nagel's recent Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False. In the nytimes Nagel writes a brief response summarizing his position. (See "The Core of Mind and Cosmos.") What makes Nagel's views so interesting is that he is an atheist, yet rejects philosophical naturalism/philosophical materialism. Nagel's summary speaks for itself, so I'm not going to bullet it here. But suffice it to say the following:

  • The physical sciences, as wonderful as they are, cannot - even in principle - "provide the basis for an explanation of the mental aspects of reality as well — that physics can aspire finally to be a theory of everything."
To understand this one can begin by reading this little, clear summary, and then go to Nagel's book.

And yes, theists like myself are interested in and even applauding Nagel, since we find atheism-as-philosophical-materialism problematic. After summing up he writes: "I would add that even some theists might find this acceptable; since they could maintain that God is ultimately responsible for such an expanded natural order, as they believe he is for the laws of physics."

For some of my thoughts + links to the broader discussion see:

Thomas Nagel - A Horse In the Zebra Pen

And from the nytimes: An Author Attracts Unlikely Allies.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Prayer and the Relation Ship (Prayer Summer)

With Palmer Theological Seminary Doctor of Ministry Graduates

This summer I've been calling Jesus-followers to pray 30-60 minutes a day, five days a week. I am doing this because I feel God has called me to it. So, I am obeying. I love calling people into a prayer life. And, I receive little persecution for this, since to come against a call to prayer is clear heresy. But there is resistance.

Is it too much to ask for 30-60 minutes of time with God, 5 days a week? No, it is not. The truth is, it is asking too little. If I, as Linda's husband, only talked with her 30-60 minutes a day, 5 days a week (thus going two entire days not communicating with her at all), then we've got a weak marriage. Use this as an analogy for the Bride of Christ and the implication is the same; viz., there are churches that are weak because they are made of up of prayerless people and prayerless leaders. I'm not wanting to judge here. This is a report from the front, as I have had many pastors and people confess this to me.

Asking 30-60 minutes, 5 days a week, is an attempt to kick-start a relation ship with God. Yes - a relation ship. A ship of relations. A community of people in close, abiding connectedness to Christ, and therefore to one another.

This is a little match trying to light a lasting, unquenchable fire. Is this possible? I know it is. I have seen it happen in the lives of people.

I can see it now, happening in you. You, in a love-relationship with your Redeemer, no longer struggling to "find time" with your Maker because He has become your great love.

I see you, in community, sailing forward on the Relation Ship.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Penn Jillette's Hermeneutically Unthinking Atheism

Lake Erie sunset, from Kelleys Island, Ohio

Illusionist Penn Jillette says he has read the Bible through several times. Jillette is an atheist. In today's nytimes he's asked about his favorite books. The interviewer asks him:

You’re in charge of setting a college student’s freshman-year curriculum. Your list of required reading on religion?
Jillette responds: "The Bible — cover to cover, without someone alibiing it. Just read it. Nothing will turn you into an atheist faster."
There must be something wrong with me, because the opposite has happened. Reading the Bible through and over and over and every day has worked to strengthen me as a theist. How could Jillette and I have such different responses to the Bible? Why do Jillette's threatening scare tactics have no effect on me?
It all lies in Jillette's unthinking, irrational idea of reading the Bible (or anything for that matter) "without someone alibiing it. Just read it." Sorry, but no one "just reads" a text.  (I want to call this "Jillette's razor," blunt though it be.) All texts (even the world-as-text) are "read" through an already-existing, prethematic framework. "Sense" and "meaning" find their sense in a worldview. Jillette's worldview is philosophical naturalism, hence he finds the Bible ridiculous. But of course. 
Jillette's hermeneutically thoughtless atheism is seen in his suggestion that the one book President Obama should read is Christopher Hitchens's God Is Not Great. I also suggest it be read (I have read it), but as a philosophically naive and uneducated book. The idea that "religion poisons everything" is absurd and even rejected by a number of more philosophically sophisticated atheists. Jillette is apparently still hitching his wagon to the thankfully dismissed "Four Horsemen."
I am not a philosophical naturalist, nor could I ever be one upon reflection. Therefore I read the Bible differently. (While Jilette was working on card tricks I was doing textual and hermeneutical studies.) If Jillette thinks he "just reads" the Bible or any text, then he's prereflectively bought into the big lie that such miracles as the miracle of "just reading" are even possible. They are not. 

Islamist Persecution of Christians in Egypt

Photo: The altar of St. George Coptic orthodox church in Assuit after it has been attacked by Muslim Brotherhood
The altar of St. George Coptic orthodox church in Assuit after it has been attacked by Muslim Brotherhood

From The Huffington Post - "Egypt: Islamists Hit Coptic Christian Churches, Torch Franciscan School." 

  • After torching a Franciscan school, Islamists paraded three nuns on the streets like "prisoners of war" before a Muslim woman offered them refuge. 
  • Two other women working at the school were sexually harassed and abused as they fought their way through a mob.
  • Islamists have attacked dozens of Coptic churches along with homes and businesses owned by the Christian minority.
  • Christians have long suffered from discrimination and violence in Muslim majority Egypt.
  • Nearly 40 churches have been looted and torched, while 23 others have been attacked and heavily damaged since Wednesday.
  • While the Christians of Egypt have endured attacks by extremists, they have drawn closer to moderate Muslims in some places, in a rare show of solidarity.
  • Police have melted away from seven of the region's nine districts, leaving the extremists to act with near impunity.
  • Two Christians have been killed since Wednesday, including a taxi driver who strayed into a protest by Morsi supporters in Alexandria and another man who was shot to death by Islamists in the southern province of Sohag.
  • In Fayoum, an oasis province southwest of Cairo, Islamists looted and torched five churches, according to Bishop Ibram, the local head of the Coptic Orthodox church, by far the largest of Egypt's Christian denominations. He said he had instructed Christians and clerics alike not to try to resist the mobs of Islamists, fearing any loss of life.
I have a friend who is a Coptic leader in Egypt. He has posted the following on his Facebook page.

"I want to tell those people who are mourning for their losses to remember what God said: " Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. (Rom 6:4).. So we are going to meet them in heaven someday, and we too might walk in newness of life."

"For sure we as Christian have to pray and raise our hands to the Lord to have Mercy our beloved Egypt. But also as long as we live in this world we must understand what is around us. I'm so sorry for the ugly truth which is very obvious for even the ignorant , that some people and some of the countries are just thinking about their benefits of the instability of  our blessed country Egypt. To know more about which side those countries are supporting strongly look at this video, when the Muslim brotherhood killed many of the officers in Kerdassa, May the Lord have mercy upon Egypt from those Terrorists either inside or outside Egypt."

- بكل تأكيد كمسيحيين لا بد ان نصلي من اجل ما يحدث في مصر ، ونرفع ايادينا الي السماء لكي ما يرحم الرب مصرنا العزيزة. ولكن بما اننا نحيا في هذا العالم ، لا بد ان نفهم ما يدور حولنا . وانني ااسف جدا للحقيقة المرة التي تظهر للكل ، ان هناك بعض الناس وبعض الدول تفكر في استفادتها من عدم استقرار دولة قد باركها الرب مثل مصر . و تستطيع ان تعرف في اي جهة تقف هذه الدول من هذا الفيديو الذي قتل فيه ضباط شرطة وتم التمثيل بجثثهم، هل تصدقهم عندما يقولون انهم يساندون حقوق الانسان ؟؟؟ . ليرحم الله مصر من هؤلاء الاشرار القتلة ومن هذه الدول المنافقة الكاذبة . .

"We pray from deep in our hearts for the families where someone has died in the last few days, either from our brothers Muslims or Christians. and we ask for all the condolences and comfort from heaven."

- نحن نصلي بحرارة من اجل العائلات التي فقدت لها احدا خلال الايام القليلة الماضية ، سواء من اخوتنا المسلمين او من المسيحيين . ونسأل التعزية من السماء للجميع

"40 churches have been burnt and damaged by Muslim Brotherhood supporters all over ‪#‎Egypt‬ in 24 hours !!"

"My only consolation is in my spirit, the assurance that their glorification and the victory of their testimony is great and will abide unto the ages of ages, 'who loved not their lives unto death', for whom the 'better resurrection' has been reserved. 
'The Lord reigns.' 
'Destroy this temple . . and I will raise it up in three days.'"

Pray for Egypt today.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Prayer and the Moment of Rescue (Prayer Summer)

Recently I heard from a friend who is doing Prayer Summer with me. While taking their hour of prayer God confronted them with some unrighteous behavior they were engaging in. This broke their heart.

As I heard this I found myself thinking, "This is good. Thank you, God, for doing this for my friends!"

Then I remembered an old television commercial for "Mennen Skin Bracer" after shave. It showed a man in a bathroom, looking into the mirror. He'd just finished shaving, took a bottle of Aqua Velva, poured some on both palms, and splashed it onto his face. As he did this a hand came out of the mirror and slapped his freshly anointed cheeks. The man said, "Thanks, I needed that!" That's how bracing and refreshing Aqua Velva was supposed to be. It gave the man a wake-up call.

Many times, while praying, I have had a "Thanks God, I needed that!" experience. God has pointed out something about me, something inside of me, that is spiritually diseased. When this happens I write it down in my journal in words like... "God, You have just searched out my heart and shown me something that needs to be removed." This could be pride, a bad attitude, hatred, lust, envy, covetousness, jealousy, a controlling spirit, lack of compassion, or resistance to God. A revelation of my inner garbage has often been accompanied by a sense of brokenness and grief.

In 43 years of following after Jesus God has uncovered all of these things and even more, within me. This is good. When this happens (and it will if you continue to meet one-on-one with Him) it is another "Thank You God" moment.

I've met many who fear meeting with God because of this. They are like the person who fears going to the doctor or dentist because an illness or cavity will be discovered. We need to remember that living under the illusion of health (also called "denial") is to be on a road to spiritual disaster.

While on one level we may not like being told "You are sick" because we desire to be healthy, on another level we should be very glad for the revelation of inner sickness when it is there. The revelation of inner sin-disease is always the beginning of its removal, by God. God never just shows us our failure and leaves us in that miserable place. That would be like a doctor who only diagnoses but does not cure. Whenever God shows us our failure it is always for our rescue. The revelation of personal failure is the moment of rescue.

I have found that when God shows me something inside that is not of Him it is not accompanied by condemnation. People do that; God does not. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1) God comes only and ultimately to rescue us, to save us from ourselves. We may not have even thought we needed a rescue. Then, as we meet with Him for another praying hour, God-as-Great Physician identifies a spiritual cancer, operates, and bathes us with radiating, healing love. This breaks our hearts. We see that it is very good. We cry out, "Thank You God, for rescuing me!"

Don Toeppe Preaching at Redeemer Tomorrow (8/18/13)

Worship at Redeemer

Don Toeppe will preach at Redeemer tomorrow morning (Sunday, August 18, 10:30).

Don will preach out of Titus 3:3-8.

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.