Monday, September 30, 2013

I Need Thee Every Hour (1-man a capella)

True Believers Have a Prayer Life (PrayerLife)

Linda, early in the morning on Kelly's Island, Ohio
I've learned so much about prayer and praying from Henri Nouwen because he actually prayed, and was given many insights into what Proverbs 20:5 refers to as "the deep waters of the human heart."

Here Nouwen writes about the importance of solitary, just-me-and-God prayer.

"Solitude begins with a time and place for God, and God alone. If we really believe not only that God exists but also that God is actively present in our lives - healing, teaching, guiding - we need to set aside a time and space to give God our undivided attention. Jesus says, "Go to your private room and, when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place" (Matt 6:6)." (Nouwen, Seeds of Hope: A Henri Nouwen Reader, 63)


  1. If I believe God exists and is actively present in my life, I will set aside time and space to give God my undivided attention.
  2. I believe God exists and is actively present in my life.
  3. Therefore I set aside time and space to give God my undivided attention.

  1. If I believe God exists and is actively present in my life, I will set aside time and space to give God my undivided attention.
  2. I do not set aside time and space to give God my undivided attention.  
  3. Therefore I do not believe God exists and is actively present in my life.
True believers have a prayer life.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Spiritual Formation: Annotated Bibliography

For my new friends at the Urbana Spiritual Formation Seminar:

Spiritual Formation: Annotated Bibliography

Arnold, Eberhard. Inner Land: A Guide Into the Heart and Soul of the Bible (Rifton, N.Y: Plough Publishing House, 1976). A classic in Anabaptist spirituality.

Beilby, James K., and Eddy, Paul Rhodes. Understanding Spiritual Warfare: Four Views. Arguably, this is the book to read on the current state of spiritual warfare studies.

Blackaby, Henry T., and King, Claude V. Experiencing God. An excellent, clearly written text that is especially good for church study.

Boyd, Greg. Satan and the Problem of Evil: Constructing a Trinitarian Warfare Theodicy
(IVP: 2001). An excellent study on the kingdom of God, esp. on spiritual battle and the kingdom of Satan. A coherent Christian response to the philosophical problem of evil.

Boyd. Present Perfect: Finding God In the Now. (Zondervan: 2010) This is an excellent, clearly written little book that contains some deep spiritual insights that are not found in other spirituality texts. Greg’s meditation on “death” is worth the price of the book.

Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection. The Practice of the Presence of God (Garden City: Image, 1977). A spiritual classic by a 17th-century monk that is still relevant today, and is especially good at knowing God in the everyday, mundane tasks of life.

Buechner, Frederick. Godric (New York: Harper and Row, 1980). A beautiful novel, spiritually deep and uplifting. The character of Godric reminds me of Thomas Merton.

Campolo, Tony, and Darling, Mary Albert. The God of Intimnacy and Action: Reconnecting Ancient Spiritual Practices, Evangelism, and Justice. Nicely puts together the spiritual disciplines and social activism.

Collins, Kenneth J. Exploring Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Reader (Baker Book House: 2000). An excellent one-volume text.

Cone, James. The Cross and the Lynching Tree.

Costen, Melva Wilson. African American Christian Worship.

Dawn, Marva. Unfettered Hope: A Call to Faithful Living In An Affluent Society (Presbyterian Publishing Corporation: 2003). This is a deep, profound study allowing us to see our materialistic world and our spiritual place in it through God’s eyes.

Deere, Jack. Surprised By the Voice of God: How God Speaks Today Through Prophecies, Dreams, and Visions (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996). A very good, clearly written biblical and historical presentation of how one hears God speaking to them.

Dillard, Annie. Pilgrim At Tinker Creek (Harper and Row). This makes my personal top ten ever-read list. A beautiful meditation of the creation, especially its microscopic aspects.

Fee, Gordon. God’s Empowering Presence (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1994). This massive text is, arguably, the definitive statement of the apostle Paul’s spirituality. A detailed study of every Pauline reference to the Holy Spirit.

Fee. The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987). Superb, meditative, scholarly commentary on what it means to be pneumatikos (“spiritual”).

Felder, Cain Hope. Stony the Road We Trod: African American Biblical Interpretation. (Augsburg: 1991) This edited collection does an excellent job distinguishing the Eurocentric bias in biblical hermeneutics from an African American perspective which gives place to the now-experiential reality of God’s Spirit speaking to us through the written text.

Foster, Richard. A Celebration of Discipline (San Francisco: Harper and Row). The modern classic on the spiritual disciplines. If you have not yet read this it should be one of your choices.

Foster. Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home (Harper and Row: 1992). Examines several different types of prayer that are both biblically and historically Christian.

Foster. Life With God: Reading the Bible for Spiritual Transformation. (HarperOne: 2010)

Foster. Longing for God: Seven Paths of Spiritual Devotion. (Intervarsity Press: 2009)

Foster, and Griffin, Emilie. Spiritual Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups on the Twelve Spiritual Disciplines (Harper and Row: Feb. 2000). A very good collection representing the great Christian types of spirituality.

Foster. Streams of Living Water: Celebrating the Great Traditions of Christian Faith (Harper and Row: 1998). On the following traditions: contemplative, holiness, charismatic, social justice, evangelical, and incarnational.

Grenz, Stanley. Prayer: The Cry for the Kingdom. One of our great theologians positions praying within the context of the kingdom of God.

Gutierrez, Gustavo. We Drink From Our Own Wells: The Spiritual Journey of a People (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1988). Excellent, especially in its emphasis on corporate spirituality.

Hernandez, Will. Henri Nouwen and Spiritual Polarities: A Life of Tension.

Holmes, Urban T. Spirituality for Ministry. Still one of the best books on this subject.

Jones, Cheslyn, et. al., eds. The Study of Spirituality (New York: Oxford, 1986). A very good one-volume source on the history of Christian spirituality.

Kelleman, Robert, and Edwards, Karole A. Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction. (Baker: 2007)

Kelly, Thomas. A Testament Of Devotion (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1941). This brilliant, provocative little text makes my top ten ever-read books on Christian spirituality. A modern classic.

Kraft, Charles. Christianity With Power: Your Worldview and Understanding of the Supernatural (Ann Arbor, Mi.: Servant, 1989). A brilliant study in paradigm theology by an anthropologist and missiologist at Fuller Theological Seminary.

Ladd, George. The Gospel of the Kingdom: Scriptural Studies in the Kingdom of God (Eerdmans: 1959). A classic, still-used examination of the kingdom of God as both present and future. Schoalrly, but it often reads devotionally.

Leech, Kenneth. Experiencing God: Theology As Spirituality (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985). An excellent historical study, from biblical times to the present, of the experience of God.

Leech. Soul Friend: The Practice of Christian Spirituality (New York: Harper and Row, 1980). The best book available on spiritual direction.

Leech. True Prayer: An Invitation to Christian Spirituality (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1980).

Lovelace, Richard. Dynamics of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1979).

Lovelace. Renewal As a Way of Life: A Guidebook for Spiritual Growth (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1985).

Manning, Brennan. The Ragamuffin Gospel. A beautiful, very thoughtful meditation on the grace of God.

Manning, Abba’s Child. This book spoke deeply to me about my need for experiential knowledge of the love of God.

Manning, The Importance of Being Foolish: How to Think Like Jesus. Very good as it gets at the real Jesus.

May, Gerald. Addiction and Grace (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1991). An excellent, clearly written book with an especially helpful section on addiction to control.

May. Care of Mind, Care of Spirit: A Psychiatrist Explores Spiritual Direction (New York: Harper and Row, 1992). A very good text on the nature of spiritual direction.

May. Will and Spirit: A Contemplative Psychology (Harper and Row: 1987). An excellent text.

Mbiti, John. African Religions and Philosophy.

Mbiti. Introduction to African Religion.

McGinn, Bernard. The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism. McGinn  is arguably our greatest scholar on the nature of Christian mysticism. This is the text to read on mysticism in the early church father, and in the West.

McKnight, Scot; Tickle, Phyllis. . Fasting: The Ancient Practices.

McManus, Erwin. The Barbarian Way: Unleash the Untamed Faith Within (Thomas Nelson: 2005)  Don’t be put off by the title. I loved this book about what it means to be a real follower of Jesus.

McLaren, Brian. The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering the Truth that Could Change Everything (Thomas Nelson: 2007). I loved this book about the kingdom of God.

Merton, Thomas. The Inner Experience: Notes On Contemplation (Harper: 2003). This is Merton’s final book. Few write about contemplation as well as he does.

Merton. New Seeds of Contemplation (New York: New Directions, 1961). Merton at his best.

Merton. No Man Is an Island (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983). Contains the classic chapter, “Being and Doing.”

Merton. Seeds (Shambala: 2002). A killer collection of Merton quotes. A tremendous introduction to the depth, wisdom, and discernment of Thomas Merton. Prophetic.

Merton. The Sign of Jonas (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981). One of Merton’s journals, containing many spiritual gems,

Miller, J. Keith. A Hunger for Healing: The Twelve Steps as a Classic Model for Christian Spiritual Growth (New York: Harper and Row, 1991).

Miller. Hope In the Fast Lane: A New Look at Faith in a Compulsive World (New York: Harper and Row, 1987). An excellent text on overcoming sin in one’s life. Especially good on identifying the deep source of stress and overcoming stress.

Miller. The Secret Life of the Soul (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 1997). About the vulnerability needed for the transformation of the soul.

Muse, J. Stephen, ed. Beside Still Waters: Resources for Shepherds in the Marketplace (Smyth and Helwys: 2000). An excellent text that uses Psalm 23 to speak to Christian leaders regarding spiritual issues. Very good on our need to care for ourselves physically.

Mulholland, Robert. Shaped By the Word: The Power of Scripture in Spiritual Formation (Nashville: Upper Room Press, 1985). An excellent book on how the Bible interprets us.

Nelson, Alan. Broken In the Right Place: How God Tames the Soul (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1994). A very good book on how spiritual brokenness effects personal transformation.

Nouwen, Henri. A Cry for Mercy: Prayers From the Genesee (Garden City, New York: Image, 1981). A beautiful book of prayers expressing our heart’s fears, struggles, and longings.

Nouwen. Behold the Beauty of the Lord: Praying with Icons (Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 1987).

Nouwen. Gracias! A Latin American Journal (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1983). One of Nouwen’s spiritual journals.

Nouwen. In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership (Harper and Row). A brilliant little book, among the best I have ever read on pastoral leadership.

Nouwen. Lifesigns: Intimacy, Fecundity, and Ecstasy in Christian Perspective (New York: Image, 1986).

Nouwen. Making All Things New: An Invitation to the Spiritual Life (New York: Harper and Row, 1981).

Nouwen. Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Spiritual Life (Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 1980).

Nouwen. Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life (Garden City, New York: Image, 1976).
An excellent text; a modern classic. On solitude, hospitality, and prayer.

Nouwen. Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith.

Nouwen. Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit.

Nouwen. The Genesee Diary: Report From A Trappist Monastery (Garden City, New York: Image, 1976). This book makes my top ten ever-read list in terms of spiritual impact. An excellent example of journaling that is of spiritual value.

Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love (Image Books: 1999). I find it hard to express how much God used a slow, meditative reading of this book to effect changes in my life.

Nouwen. The Living Reminder: Service and Prayer in Memory of Jesus Christ (New York: Harper and Row). A tremendous book for pastors and Christian leaders.

Nouwen. The Only Necessary Thing: Living a Prayerful Life.

Nouwen. The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming (New York: Image, 1992). Simply put, one of Nouwen’s best and one of my very favorites.

Nouwen, and Dear, John. The Road to Peace: Writings on Peace and Justice. This is a spectacular book to read devotionally, with Nouwen's deep insights clarifying real Jesus-following and the blessedness of peacemaking.

Nouwen. The Way of the Heart (New York: Ballantine, 1981). A beautiful, meditative little book on solitude, silence, and prayer.

Paris, Peter. The Spirituality of African Peoples.

Payne, Leanne. Listening Prayer: Learning to Hear God’s Voice and Keep a Prayer Journal (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1991). A very good, well-written text on what it means to hear God’s voice.

Peterson, Eugene. The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction (Dallas: Word, 1989). I have read this book two or three times. It always reminds me of my priorities in pastoral ministry.

Peterson. Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology. The first of five books in Peterson’s summary of his spiritual theology.

Quinn, Robert. Deep Change (Jossey-Bass: 1996). A very good book, written from a leadership-business perspective, on the inner transformation required to lead effectively.

Renovare, et. al. The Life with God Bible NRSV. The spiritual exercises are woven into this study Bible.

Senn, Frank, ed. Protestant Spiritual Traditions (New York: Paulist, 1986). Various authors writing from the following perspectives: Lutheran, Reformed, Anabaptist, Puritan, Pietist, and Methodist.

Sittser, Jerry. A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss. Perhaps the best book on a spirituality of grieving ever written, by a deep thinker and excellent writer.

Sittser. A Grace revealed: How God Redeems the Story of Your Life. The follow-up to A Grace Disguised.

Smedes, Lewis. Shame and Grace. (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1994). For me, a beautiful book on overcoming self-condemnation by a deeper understanding and experience of the grace of God.

St. Teresa of Avila. Interior Castle. (Image Books: 1972) A spiritual classic.

Thomas, Gary. Sacred Pathways (Zondervan: 2000). Very good on showing different spiritual styles and various ways persons experience God (the naturalist, sensate, traditionalist, ascetic, activist, caregiver, enthusiast, contemplative, and intellectual).

Thurman, Howard. For the Inward Journey: The Writings of Howard Thurman (Harcourt Brace: 1984). An excellent anthology of Thurman’s spiritual writings.

Thurman. Jesus and the Disinherited (Beacon: 1996). If you’re going to read one book by Thurman this is the one to read. He is brilliant, insightful, and extremely relevant for even today. There s a timelessness about Thurman’s writings.

Thurman. Howard Thurman: Essential Writings. (Orbis: 2006) Edited by Luther Smith. Smith is one of our great, if not our greatest, Thurman scholars. His introduction to Thurman’s writing is very helpful.

Thurman. Meditations of the Heart. (Beacon: 1999)

Thurman. With Head and Heart: The Autobiography of Howard Thurman.

Walters, Kerry (ed.). Rufus Jones: The Essential Writings. Howard Thurman was deeply indebted to the mentoring of the Quaker mystic Rufus Jones.

Weems, Renita. Listening for God: A Minister’s Journey Through Silence and Doubt (Simon and Schuster: 1999). An excellent reflection of the silence of God and intimacy with God.

West, Cornel, and Glaube Jr., Eddie S. African American Religious Thought: An Anthology. (Westminster John Knox: 2003)

Willard, Dallas. The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God (Harper Collins: 1998). What a deep, beautiful book on the kingdom of God.

Willard. Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God (IVP: 1999)

Willard. Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ (Navpress:2002). This excellent book is all about spiritual transformation and is especially helpful in defining biblical terms like “soul,” “heart,” “spirit,” and “body.”

Willard. The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives (Harper and Row: 1988). A great book, profound, clearly written. Richard Foster called it “the book of the decade.”

Wilmore, Gayraud. Black Religion and Black Radicalism: An Interpretation of the Religious History of African Americans.

Wimber, John. Power Healing (Harper and Row). An excellent, encouraging text filled with realism and hope.

Prayer: From an Absurd Life to an Obedient Life (PrayerLife)

Olentangy Indian Caverns, near Columbus, Ohio

The English word "absurd" comes form the Latin surdus, which means "deaf." Henri Nouwen writes that many Jesus-followers live such cluttered lives that they have become deaf to the voice of God, "unable to hear when God calls us and unable to understand in which direction God calls us. Thus our lives have become absurd." (Nouwen, The Only Necessary Thing: Living a Prayerful Life, 82)

When we learn to listen to God our lives become "obedient" lives. Nouwen explains:

"The word "obedient" comes from the Latin word audere, which means "listening." A spiritual discipline is necessary in order to move slowly from an absurd to an obedient life, from a life filled with noisy worries to a life in which there is some free inner space where we can listen to our God and follow God's guidance. Jesus' life was a life of obedience. He was always listening to the Father, always attentive to his voice, always alert for his directions. Jesus was "all ear." That is true prayer: being all ear for God. The core of all prayer is indeed listening, obediently standing in the presence of God." (Ib.)

How can we listen to God? How can we hear God speak to us? Here's how I see this:

  1. Spend much time in God's presence.
  2. Saturate yourself in the Scriptures.
  3. Hang around people who do 1 and 2.
In our noisy world we are not trained to attend, to listen. Listening to God, and to anyone for that matter, requires a re-training of the heart. This happens as we customarily retreat to lonely places to talk with God. In the relationship we learn to listen, and move from lives of absurdity to lives of obedience.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Robby Dawkins at Redeemer Tonight - 7 PM

Explaining Big Bang Cosmology

(For my MCCC Philosophy of Religion students.)

I've presented the Kalam Cosmological Argument for God's existence. Premise 2 is: The universe began to exist. Big Bang cosmology supports this. Here is an article that does a nice job explaining what metaphorically has been called the "big bang" (it wasn't really a bang!).

"It's important to know that the big bang wasn't an explosion of matter into empty space—it was the rapid expansion of space itself. This means that every single point in the universe appears to be at the center. Think of the universe as an empty balloon with dots on it. Those dots represent clusters of galaxies. As the balloon inflates, every dot moves farther away from every other dot. The space between clusters of galaxies expands, like the rest of the universe, at an accelerating rate. (Gravity keeps the clusters themselves the same size.)

Edwin Hubble first observed this phenomenon in 1929, when he noticed that the light from distant galaxies shifted to the red end of the spectrum, as though it had been stretched as it traveled through space. By measuring the wavelengths of the light, Hubble observed that galaxies were expanding away from each other at a rate proportional to their distance from one another.

In the beginning, the universe was a single point. Where was that? It was, and still is, everywhere. Scientists even have proof: Light from the big bang, in the form of cosmic radiation, fills the sky in every direction."

Develop a Conversational Relationship with God (PrayerLife)

"It is faith in Him that we must rediscover" - Martin Luther King Jr. (In Lewis Baldwin, Never to Leave Us Alone: The Prayer Life of Martin Luther King Jr., 53))

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., had a deep prayer life. King described prayer as "conversation with God."

King scholar Lewis Baldwin says that "King was thoroughly convinced that it took fervent and persistent prayer to pastor a church, and his own life bore the stamp of that conviction... [King] sought to deepen his own conversation and walk with God through prayerful reflections on life." (Ib., 54)

I was attending a Protestant theological seminary at a time when courses on spirituality and prayer were not only not required but were nonexistent. I have long since come to see the primordiality of praying. I agree with King who "understood that his seminary trainng and intellectual gifts, though necessary and significant, could not guarantee what was called in black circles "power from on high." This view helps explain why King, in both his private and public lives mastered prayer asthe art of pastoral conversation with God." (Ib.)

Where prayer focuses, power falls. Have a conversation with God today.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Robby Dawkins at Redeemer - Tomorrow Night, Saturday Night, Sunday Morning and Sunday Evening - + Youth Event Sat. Morning

Robby Dawkins at Redeemer in Monroe, Michigan.

September 27-28-29

Fri night - 7 PM

Sat morning, 10 AM - Noon - special meeting with youth. Any youth from 6th-12th grade are invited to come and spend two hours in a special session with Robby.

Sat night - 7 PM

Sun morning - 10:30 AM

Sun evening - 7 PM

A love offering will be taken each evening.

Responding to Multiverse Theory as an Objection to the Fine-tuning Argument for God's Existence

Bolles Harbor, Monroe

In my MCCC Philosophy of Religion I'm now presenting the last argument in section 1 of our class, which is: the fine-tuning argument for the existence of God. In section 2 we'll look at what is, arguably, the main atheistic argument against God's existence; viz., the argument from evil. Note: there aren't a lot of philosophical arguments against God's existence.

I'm using Robin Collins's version of the argument, which is:

1. The existence of the fine-tuned universe is not improbable under theism.
2. The existence of the fine-tuned universe is very improbable under the atheistic single-universe hypothesis.
3. Therefore, given 1 and 2 and the prime principle of confirmation (aka inference to the best explanation), theism is more probable than atheism.

When atheists were confronted with the reality that our universe is fine-tuned for life, some of them, in order to evade the obvious conclusion of theism, posited a "multiverse." "If all of these other universes really exist, then by chance alone life-permitting worlds will appear somewhere in the world ensemble." (William Lane Craig, On Guard, 117)

How do we respond to the many worlds hypothesis? Following Craig, we have at least three responses. Note that Craig's first two responses do not object to the existence of a multiverse.

Response #1 to the many worlds hypothesis

The multiverse itself also involves fine-tuning. "For in order to be scientifically credible, some plausible mechanism must be suggested for generating the many worlds. But if the many worlds hypothesis is to be successful in attributing fine-tuning to chance alone, then the mechanism that generates the many worlds had better not be fine-tuned itself. For if it is, the the problem arises all over again: How do you explain the fine-tuning of the multiverse?" (Ib., 117-118)

Response #2 to the many worlds hypothesis

The Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorum "requires that even a multiverse of bubble universes must have a beginning. In that case the mechanism that generates the bubble universes has been chugging away for only a finite amount of time. So by now, there may well be only a finite number of bubbles in the world ensemble, which may not be enough to guarantee the appearance of a finely tuned universe by chance alone. There's no evidence that the sort of world ensemble required by the many worlds hypothesis actually exists." (Ib., 118-119)

Response #3 to the many worlds hypothesis

"If our world is just a random member of a world ensemble, then it's vastly more probable that we should be observing a much smaller region of order. It turns out that a parallel problem faces the many worlds hypothesis as an explanation of fine-tuning. [Oxford physicist] Roger Penrose has pressed this objection forcefully." (Ib., 119) Penrose's objection may, writes Craig, be "devastating" to multiverse theory.


(This is especially for my MCCC Philosophy of Religion students. Here is Robin Collins's [PhD in physics] response, quoted in full, to the multiverse theory objection. For Collins's paper, go here; scroll down to "God, Design, and Fine-tuning." Note that Collins does not object to the idea of a multiverse.)

One major theistic response to the many-universes generator scenario, whether of the inflationary variety or some other type, is that a “many-universes generator” would seem to need to be “well-designed” in order to produce life-sustaining universes.   After all, even a mundane item like a bread machine, which only produces loaves of bread instead of universes, must be well designed to produce decent loaves of bread.  If this is right, then invoking some sort of many-universes generator as an explanation of the fine-tuning only kicks the issue of design up one level, to the question of who designed the many-universes generator.
             The inflationary scenario discussed above is a good test case of this line of reasoning.  The inflationary/superstring many-universes generator can only produce life-sustaining universes because it has the following “components” or “mechanisms:”

i) A mechanism to supply the energy needed for the bubble universes:  This mechanism is the hypothesized inflaton field. By imparting a constant energy density to empty space, as space expands the inflaton field can act “as a reservoir of unlimited energy” for the bubbles (Peacock, 1999, p. 26).

ii) A mechanism to form the bubbles:  This mechanism is Einstein’s equation of general relativity.  Because of its peculiar form, Einstein’s equation dictates that space expand at an enormous rate in the presence of a field, such as the inflaton field,  that imparts a constant (and homogenous) energy density to empty space.  This causes both the bubble universes to form and the rapid expansion of the pre-space (the “ocean”) which keeps the bubbles from colliding.

iii) A mechanism to convert the energy of the inflaton field  to the normal mass-energy we find in our universe. This mechanism is Einstein’s relation of the equivalence of mass and energy (i.e., E = mc2 ) combined with an hypothesized coupling between the inflaton field and normal mass-energy fields we find in our universe.

iv)  A mechanism  that allows enough variation in the constants of physics among universes:   The most physically viable candidate for this mechanism is superstring theory.  As explained above, superstring theory might allow enough variation in the variations in the constants of physics among bubble universes to make it reasonably likely that a fine-tuned universe would be produced. The other leading alternatives to string theory being explored by physicists,  such as the currently proposed models for Grand Unified Field Theories (GUTS), do not appear to allow for enough variation. [1]

            Without all these “components,” the many-universes generator would almost certainly fail to produce a single life-sustaining universe. For example,  Einstein’s equation and the inflaton field  harmoniously work together to enormously inflate small regions of space while at the same time both imparting to them the positive energy density necessary for a universe with significant mass-energy and causing the pre-space to expand rapidly enough to keep the bubble universes from colliding.   Without either factor, there would neither be regions of space that inflate nor would those regions have the mass-energy necessary for a universe to exist.  If, for example, the universe obeyed Newton’s theory of gravity instead of Einstein’s, the vacuum energy of the inflaton field would at best simply create a gravitational attraction causing space to contract, not to expand.  Thus no universes would be formed.
            In addition to the four factors listed above, the inflationary/superstring many-universes generator can only produce life-sustaining universes because the right background laws are in place. For example, as mentioned earlier, without the principle of quantization, all electrons would be sucked into the atomic nuclei and hence atoms would be impossible; without the Pauli-exclusion principle, electrons would occupy the lowest atomic orbit and hence complex and varied atoms would be impossible; without a universally attractive force  between all masses, such as gravity, matter would not be able to form sufficiently large material bodies (such as planets) for life to develop or for long-lived stable energy sources such as stars to exist. [2]
            In sum, even if an inflationary/superstring many-universes generator exists, it along with the background laws and principles could be said to be an irreducibly complex system, to borrow a phrase from biochemist Michael Behe (1996), with just the right combination of laws and fields for the production of life-permitting universes: if one of the components were missing or different, such as Einstein’s equation or the Pauli-exclusion principle, it is unlikely that any life-permitting universes could be produced.  In the absence of alternative explanations, the existence of such an a system suggests design since it seems very unlikely that such a system would have just the right components by chance. It does not seem, therefore, that one can escape the conclusion of design merely by hypothesizing some sort of many-universes generator.
            Further,  the many-universes generator hypothesis cannot explain other features of the universe that seem to exhibit apparent design, whereas theism can.   For example, many physicists, such as Albert Einstein, have observed that the basic laws of physics exhibit an extraordinary degree of beauty, elegance, harmony, and ingenuity.   Nobel Prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg, for instance, devotes a whole chapter of his book Dreams of a Final Theory  (Chapter 6, "Beautiful Theories") explaining how the criteria of beauty and elegance are commonly used to guide physicists in formulating the right laws.  Indeed, one of most prominent theoretical physicists of this century,  Paul Dirac, went so far as to claim that "it is more important to have beauty in one's equations than to have them fit experiment." (1963, p. 47).  
            Now such beauty, elegance, and ingenuity make sense if the universe was designed by God.  Under the atheistic many-universes hypothesis, however, there is no reason to expect the fundamental laws to be elegant or beautiful.  As theoretical physicist Paul Davies writes,  "If nature is so 'clever' as to exploit mechanisms that amaze us with their ingenuity, is that not persuasive evidence for the existence of intelligent design behind the universe?  If the world's finest minds can unravel only with difficulty the deeper workings of nature, how could it be supposed that those workings are merely a mindless accident, a product of blind chance?"(1984, pp. 235-36.)[3]
            Finally, I have argued elsewhere (Collins, “A Theistic Perspective on the Multiverse Hypothesis,” forthcoming) that even if we obtained compelling scientific evidence for such a universe generator, this would pose no threat to theism.  Given that God is infinite, and infinitely creative, it makes sense that God would create not only a universe that is vast in both space and time, but perhaps many such universes. Thus, one could argue, theists should welcome such an hypothesis as further illustrating the infinite nature of God.

     [1] The simplest and most studied GUT, SU(5),  allows for three differing sets of values for the fundamental constants of physics when the other non-SU(5) Higgs fields are neglected (Linde, PP&IC, p. 33).  Including all the other Higgs fields, the number of variations increases to perhaps several dozen (Linde, IQC, p. 6).  Merely to account for the fine-tuning of the cosmological constant, however, which is estimated to be fine-tuned to one part in 1053 , would require on the order of 1053 variations of the physical constants among universes. 
     [2] Although some of the laws of physics can vary from universe to universe in string theory, these background laws and principles are a result of the structure of string theory and therefore cannot be explained by the inflationary/superstring many-universes hypothesis since they must occur in all universes.  Further, since the variation among universes would consist of variation of the masses and types of particles, and the form of the forces between them, complex structures would almost certainly be atom-like and stable energy sources would almost certainly require aggregates of matter.  Thus, the above background laws seem necessary for there to be life in any of the many-universes generated in this scenario, not merely a universe with our specific types of particles and forces.
     [3] For more on the case for design from the simplicity and beauty of the laws of nature, see part II of my “The Argument from Design and the Many-Worlds Hypothesis” (2002).

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Prayer and Death (PrayerLife)

Ann Arbor

Often when praying I think about life and death. This past week I wrote in my journal that I want to finish well and make a difference with my life. For me this is about leaving a legacy of God and Jesus, not about leaving some personal legacy where people remember me.

This past Saturday, at the conference in Urbana, Illinois that I spoke at, one of the participants told me that God spoke to him and said: "______, death is not a big deal for me." That really struck me. Death is not a big deal for God. Correct. Why not?

Because God is everlasting; that is, God never began to exist and God will never cease to exist. God is a necessarily existent being who cannot not-exist. So, God cannot die.

Because God, in Christ, has conquered death on earth. So all who are found in Christ shall live forever in the coming kingdom and age to come.

Death is no big deal for God, since: 1) God cannot die; and 2) death on earth has been defeated.

This has big-time implications for we "mortals." We who are in Christ have died with him and shall be raised in him. That being true, what's the fear of death about?

“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
- 1 Corinthians 15:54-58

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Prayer and Small Things (PrayerLife)

Olentangy Indian Caverns, Ohio

Someone told me: "I know God has big things ahead for me to do."

My thought for them was: "God's got a lot of small things ahead for you." 

Does God distinguish between "big things" and "small things," a "big calling" and a "small calling?"

Every act of obedience is significant. In God's economy there's neither bigness nor smallness. It's important not to view the activity of God in these ways. Because from a GPOV (God-point-of-view) what appears to us as not a big deal could be a game-breaker. Seemingly small events from our POV can start a Reformation.

Look at things this way. "Prayer" is talking with God about what God and I are doing together. In prayer-listening God will give us marching orders. "Go here," "Do this," "Follow me this way." As we obey, we're sheep following our Shepherd. At this point the words "big" or "small" matter nothing. It's all about discipleship, and disciples trust and obey and follow.

God's got some things ahead for you. They will be good and it will go well with you. Pray for discernment and direction. Listen. Follow.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Relevancy of Christianity If True

Green Lake, Wisconsin

Several years ago I was invited to speak at Wayne State University on the existence of God. I called my friend William Lane Craig and asked him what would be a good way to address this. Bill suggested talking about "The Absurdity of Life Without God." So I did.

Bill writes:

"I think that if Christianity is true, then it is hugely relevant to our lives. I’ve tried to deal with this question in my talks and writing on “The Absurdity of Life without God.”1 Let me, therefore, simply list six ways in which Christianity is relevant if true.     

1. If Christianity is true, there is meaning to your life.    

2. If Christianity is true, there are objective moral values and duties in life.     

3. If Christianity is true, there is a purpose to your life.     

4. If Christianity is true, there is hope for deliverance from the shortcomings of our finite existence, such as suffering, aging, and death.     

5. If Christianity is true, there is forgiveness for all the wrong things you have done.     

6. If Christianity is true, you have the opportunity of a personal relationship with God and eternal happiness.".

- Craig, William Lane; Joseph E., Gorra, A Reasonable Response: Answers to Tough Questions on God, Christianity, and the Bible, pp. 56-57

Reflected and Radiated Glory in the Book of Hebrews

Clouds - somewhere in the air between Detroit and Chicago

Yesterday I began preaching through the biblical book of Hebrews. I preached out of Hebrews 1:1-4. These are dense, beautiful, killer-Christological sentences!

If you're part of our Redeemer family I encourage you to begin using Hebrews for your alone times with God. We'll be in it for many weeks. Slow-read through the whole book over and over, getting it into your heart and mind.

In a moment of understatement Ben Witherington writes that Hebrews 1:3 is very important for Christology. It reads: 

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

Of the first half of this verse Gregory of Nyssa wrote:

"As the light from the lamp is of the nature of that which sheds the brightness, and is united with it (for as soon as the lamp appears the light that comes from it shines out simultaneously), so in this place the [author of Hebrews] would have us consider both that the Son is of the Father, and that the Father is never without the Son; for it is impossible that glory should be without radiance, as it is impossible that the lamp should be without brightness." (In Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers)

Consider this analogy: the moon reflects light; the sun is light and radiates light. The difference between Christ the Son and prophets and even angels is that while the latter may reflect the glory of God, the Son is God and thus radiates glory. Consider what this could mean for Jesus-followers whose new status is "Christ in you, the hope of glory."

"The word translated “radiance”, used only here in the New Testament, carries the sense of “splendor” or “intense brightness.””
"He [the Son] is the radiance of God’s glory, rather than simply the reflection."
- Peter O'Brien, The Letter to the Hebrews

Prayer and Doubt (PrayerLife)

Thomas touches Jesus' side

I think that "doubt" is more like an emotion than it is like a choice. Emotions are not chosen. Emotions are feelings, and feelings cannot be chosen. Anger, for example, is the emotion we feel when one of our expectations has not been met. The unmet expectation gives rise to our emotion of anger. I think doubt is like this; viz., an emotion.

Descartes, in his Meditations, famously provides us with his method of "systematic doubt." Cartesian doubt is methodical doubt; "doubt" as a method. Descartes chose to doubt everything he could, even those things he felt most certain of. He writes: "how could I deny that I possess these hands and this body." If he did, people would consider him insane. Descartes did not really doubt that he had hands and a body. But simply claimed such things could be doubted. And if they could be doubted then we do not have, regarding them, absolute certainty. This is intellectual, philosophical "doubt." It is "logical doubt." Could I doubt that I am now sitting in this chair, using my hands to type out these words on my laptop? Is it at all possible that I am not doing these things which seem so certain to me? Yes, it is possible that I am not doing these things, with these hands. But one can engage in Cartesian, intellectual doubt while having no existential doubt at all.

Existential doubt is not chosen. It comes on a person like a mood. Like an emotion. Because it is not chosen we are not morally responsible for it.

This is important to understand. Recently someone talked with me about guilt they were feeling because they doubted something in relationship to God. This happened while they were praying. "Is God angry with me because I doubted?" they asked. My immediate answer was: "Not at all." You didn't choose to doubt. Something happened to you, and it provoked the emotion of doubt in you."

God knows about your doubt, and he can handle it. A reading of the Psalms would show a number of instances where the psalmist openly shares a doubt with God. For example, there is doubt fueling the series of questions at the beginning of Ps. 13 - 1 How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?

We see the same in Psalm 22 - My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? Here is doubt that God is near, or that God even cares. These feelings are real, and many have experienced them. They are not the result of a moral choice for which one is half responsible.

In John 20 the disciples say to Thomas, "We have seen the Lord!" Thomas's response is, "I doubt it." He says: “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” A week later, when Jesus comes to him, he lets Thomas touch and feel his side and gain the empirical proof Thomas needed. Jesus did not freak out because Thomas doubted.

God doesn't enter a panic room when you or I doubt. I think "doubt" is part of our human condition. The more one cares and knows about a certain subject, the more susceptible they are to doubts. For example, I don't find myself doubting if the Dallas Cowboys will win their next game because I'm not a Cowboys fan and know nothing about them. But I do have doubts about some of my favorite sports teams because I have care for them and some knowledge about them. Care and knowledge always give rise to doubt.

Doubt is universal and finds a home in every worldview. Every person has a worldview. Every person who understands their own worldview and is passionate about it will, at times, have doubts about it. Questions arise, not matter what the worldview. In this sense doubt is normal and part of our human condition.

There are groups where one is not allowed to doubt. These include cults. And certain families. I have seen Christian parents scold their child for doubting something about God, even God's existence. This will only serve to drive a child away from God.

One must discern which doubts to entertain and which to not sweat over. Some doubts are reasonable, many others are not. But intitially they come as emotions, even if provoked by intellectual things (which sometimes happens). So it is that Jesus-followers can have and will have doubts. "Doubt" does not mean "unbelief." In doubt there can be a sense of wonder. The emotion of doubt can empower study and creativity.

As you engage with God in prayer you may - you likely will - experience the emotion of doubt. God is not angry with you about this. Like Thomas, it might even turn into an occasion to touch his side.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Prayer and Humility

Prayer is dialoguing with God - speaking and listening. The foundational heart-attitude needed for a successful conversational relationship with God is: humility.

Spiritual Formation - A Description

For: My new friends I met in Urbana, Illinois these past two days.Thank you so much for inviting me to be with you last night. If you have comments or questions please email me at: 

My Method
A description of spiritual formation. 
 I am going to describe the process of spiritual formation and transformation as I have seen it, as a result of teaching and coaching 2500 pastors and Christian leaders over the past 36 years. This is a report from the front.

What is spiritual formation?

Dallas Willard - “Spiritual formation can be understood as the process by which true Christlikeness is established in the very depths of our being.” (Willard)
§  “Spiritual formation” is “a term for those processes through which people are inwardly transformed in such a way that the personality and deeds of Jesus Christ naturally flow out from them when and wherever they are.” (Willard)
§  "When we talk about spiritual formation we are talking about framing a progression of life in which people come to actually do all things that Jesus taught. So we are obviously going for the heart. We are aiming for change of the inner person, where what we do originates." (Willard)
·         Jeffrey Greenman - "Spiritual formation is our continuing response to the reality of God's grace shaping us into the likeness of Jesus Christ, through the work of the Holy Spirit, in the community of faith, for the sake of the world."
- Jeffrey Greenman, 
Life in the Spirit: Spiritual Formation in Theological Perspective, 24 
·         Henri Nouwen - "Spiritual formation, I have come to believe, is not about steps or stages on the way to perfection. It’s about the movements from the mind to the heart through prayer in its many forms that reunite us with God, each other, and our truest selves." (Nouwen, Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit, Kindle Locations 152-154) 
o   "Spiritual formation requires taking not only the inward journey to the heart, but also the outward journey from the heart to community and ministry. Christian spirituality is essentially communal. Spiritual formation is formation in community. One’s personal prayer life can never be understood if it is separated from community life. Prayer in the spiritual life leads to community, and community to prayer. In community we learn what it means to confess our weakness and to forgive each other. In community we discover our own woundedness, but also a place of healing. In community we learn true humility. Without community, we become individualistic and egocentric. Therefore, spiritual formation always includes formation to life in community." (Ib., Kindle Locations 309-315)
5 stages – a phenomenology of spiritual formation.
      1. The Need – recognition of how needy we are of personal, inner change.

2. The Gap – realization as a revelation of the holiness of Christ, and of the great gap between ourselves and Christ.

3. I can't change myself - Recognition of the magnitude of the needed transformation. God wants to metamorph the human heart into Christlikeness. (Gal. 4:19; Rom. 12:1-2)

4. Only God can do this – realization that we cannot self-transform by our own striving and will power into Christlikeness.

5 . Therefore, consistently get into the presence of God. Abide in Christ. You cannot consistently dwell in Christ and remain unchanged.

What is “spirit?”
o   “Spirit” Defined"
o   Biblically and systematically, it is appropriate to identify the heart and the spirit of the human being and the will as roughly the same thing. (From Dallas Willard)
o   The spirit is that part of the human being that has the capacity of moving without being moved. (=”free will”]  
o   It is the depth of the human being where freedom really exists. It is that part of us that is self-determined. That's the heart.
o   That's why evil and good come out of the heart, it's because that's the part of us that is really us.
o   It's really ours. And spirit is of that intensely personal nature.
God is spirit. Therefore God is wholly self-determined.
o   We are self-determined only in a very small way. 
o   This part of the human being--the spirit, the will, the heart--is the place where the work of spiritual formation has to be done.
o   Remember the words of Samuel: "Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart."
o   Functionally the will is the executive center of the self.  [= choice-making; decision-making]
o   When it comes to life in God through the new birth, its task is then the re-formation of the whole self in co-operation with God.
o   Will is not exactly character, but is formed into character as it becomes habitual and automatic.

o   The human will exists in three conditions or dimensions.

Three aspects of the human will (From Dallas Willard)
o   The vital or impulsive will
§  .    “This is a willing that is outwardly directed and moved by and toward things that are simply attractive. You see this in a baby. A little baby very quickly begins to be attracted to things, to reach for them, and move in relationship to them. And that's all there really is to will in the baby.”
§  b.  This is: “I want to,” and “It pleases me.” E.g., “I want to eat ice cream, therefore I will eat ice cream.” (Especially Graeter's Ice Cream in Columbus!)
§  c.    You simply choose what you desire.

o   The reflective will
§  The reflective will is oriented toward what is good for the person as a whole, not merely to what is desired. And so we have the conflict that we all know too well, as human beings, between the good and the bad, and the good and the not so good, and the good and the better. This conflict goes on constantly in our lives…”
§  b.    Reflective will is the will oriented toward what is good for the person as a whole, not toward the merely desired.
§  c.    Instead of just doing what you want or desire, you choose for what is good. For Jesus-followers, you choose what God wants.
§  d.    This is the “WWJD” stage.

o   The embodied will
§  Embodied will – this is who you really are.
§  Now watch closely: ”Spiritual formation in Christ transforms your embodied will. It transforms your embodied will so that what comes out of you automatically are the words and deeds of Christ.” (Willard)
§  This is the point where we can stop thinking about our responses.
§  This is the point where we have the mind of Christ.
o   Willard says: “Christian spiritual formation is the process through which the embodied/reflective will takes on the character of Christ's will. It is the process through which (and you know Gal. 4:19) Christ is formed in you and me. Think of Paul's magnificent statement: "The life which I live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me." Not faith in, but the faith of. I have taken his faith into me. I am now being inwardly the person that Christ has called me to be, and this inward faith has now spread throughout my socially embodied self.”
o   Willard: “Spiritual formation in Christ would, then, ideally result in a person whose reflective will for good, fully informed and possessed by Christ, has settled into their body in its social context to such an extent that their natural responses were always to think and feel and do as Christ himself would. Their epidermal as well as their deliberate responses are then those of Christ.” [Cmp. Nouwen – that the truths of the mind would descend into one’s heart.] 
§  This reverses Romans 7:19. There, Paul writes:  "The things that I would not that I do, and the things that I would, that I do not."