Friday, October 31, 2014

Praying to Be Released From the Punishing Prison-House of Self-Hatred (PrayerLife)

Self, in Bangkok

The whole problem of our time is the problem of love.

This Sunday at Redeemer I'm preaching on crossing over from hatred to love; moving from hating others to loving them. In the process I'll probably say something about the punishing prison-house darkness of self-hatred. 

I have personal experience in hating the self. And I have hated others. Thomas Merton says that my hatred of others grows from the soil of self-hating. Merton writes: 

"How are we going to recover the ability to love ourselves and to love one another? The reason why we hate one another and fear one another is that we secretly, or openly, hate and fear our own selves. And we hate ourselves because the depths of our being are a chaos of frustration and spiritual misery. Lonely and helpless, we cannot be at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves, and we cannot be at peace with ourselves because we are not at peace with God." (Merton, The Living Bread, 66)

There is a solution to self-hatred. It is: Be at peace with God, and you will be at peace with self. Be at peace with self, and you will be at peace with others. Accept, as 1 John tells us, that you are a deeply loved child of God. His seed is now in you, and the DNA of his seed is love: for self, for others, for God.

Love God, and you will grow in self-acceptance. This will lead to a transforming experience where, instead of beating your self for faults and failures, you will rejoice in the greater purposes of God manifested in them. God knows how to draw glory even from your faults. Not to be self-hating after committing a fault is one of the marks of true sanctity that is rooted in God's parental love for you.

A life of radical freedom issues forth from a deep life of dwelling in the presence of God. We come to accept our true identity and live out of it. We see how it is possible to love, not hate, others because God loves us.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Praying to Be Found “In Christ” (PrayerLife)

Maumee Bay State Park (Ohio)

One Friday night Linda and I ate a local restaurant that is under new management. We had not been there in over ten years. I dropped her off at the door and parked the car. I walked up the steps towards the restaurant doors… and missed. I walked full face and full force into a pane of glass to the right of the doors. The glass was, to me, perfectly clear. I didn’t see it. This was a ego-stunning experience for me! I thought I’d broken my nose. I was hoping people didn’t see me do this. The clear glass wall was there all the time. I just didn’t see it.

In the book of Ephesians Paul alerts the young church of Ephesus to something that is there all the time, but has not been clearly seen. This unseen reality is: people who have believed in Jesus are now “in Christ,” and “new creations.” It is important to see this because it is the central Christian fact, from which everything follows. To not recognize this will cause me to put confidence in my meager human abilities, in what Paul calls “the flesh.”
It is impossible to overstate the importance of this.

In our Ministry School class on healing I teach out of John Wimber’s excellent book Power Healing. We were entering the part of the book that moves us into praying for others. Wimber quotes 2 Corinthians 5:17 - “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” Then Wimber writes… IN ITALICS… these words:

“The key to our spiritual healing -  and the one point that must be understood and experienced for the rest of what I write in this book to make any sense – is becoming new creations in Christ and living our lives as fully forgiven and reconstructed people.”[1]

At this great reality Paul drops to his knees and prays:

16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 1so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 1may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.[2]

If the Ephesian Jesus-followers trust this, if they know this cognitively unknowable love of Christ by faith and by experience, their lives will bear much fruit. 

“Church,” as Paul understands it, is essentially “a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”[3] That is REAL CHURCH. Why complicate this? By the Spirit’s work Christ takes up residence in me, and in us. Paul’s prayer is that Christ will permeate his whole being. “It is the equivalent of the command in 5:18 to be continually filled with the Spirit.”[4]

When the first church in Acts 2 was in the upper room in Jerusalem they weren’t holding meetings to figure out, on their own without God, what they were to do. They were, as Jesus instructed them in John 14-16, abiding in Him. And waiting. For what? For the coming, for the filling, of the Spirit Who will lead and guide them.
The early Church exploded throughout the Roman Empire without having “programs” to entertain people. God had it figured out, and they were following Him. The thrilling, empowering reality was Christ, the hope of glory, in them. Paul counsels the Ephesian church to acknowledge and trust this. 

Ben Witherington writes that “Paul is praying for the continuing presence of Christ within the Christians through faith. The verb katoikeo signifies literally to make a home or to settle down and so has in view a more permanent presence.”[5] Our hearts have become a Temple that hosts the Spirit’s earth-shattering presence. Knowing this, why would anyone trust their own finite, all-too-human efforts rather than Christ?

Christ’s indwelling means I am not my own. I must discover the reality that the Lord of heaven and earth, the One through whom all things were made, the One who holds all things together, has made his home in my heart. The intent of Paul’s prayer is clear: He wants me strengthened by God’s Spirit so that I may intimately know Christ’s presence and love.

Rather than some cute little “Personal Homeboy Jesus” hidden away in a closet to be pulled out when I need a miracle, Paul has met the Lion of Judah who gives shape and strength at the core of his being, and who takes up residence in me and redefines me. If this happens, everything else will fall in place. Including what I am to do.[6]

This is what I am praying for the most. I write my prayers in my journal, often adding a heart with an arrow drawn through it as a symbol of my request. I am constantly praying, “God, give me a heart of your love, that love that transcends all human understanding."

Knowing and understanding the love of Christ requires being rooted in that love, experiencing it, being grounded in it. My praying is for an experiential knowledge, a “knowing”  that goes beyond mental or intellectual abilities. Witherington writes: “One can grasp it only through experience, and even when one experiences it one is left groping for words to describe it. The ultimate goal of being rooted in love and grasping its meaning is to “be filled in all the fullness of God.””[7]

Why is this important? Because “grasping and experiencing God’s love is the key to receiving the full presence of God into one’s life.”[8]

As a believer in Jesus and follower of Him I am a new creation. I am “in Christ.” "In Christ" - this is the great Pauline theme. God wants me to grow and mature in my faith, like a healthy fruit-bearing plant. The growth will come, as Paul writes in Ephesians 3, as I am – by faith – rooted and established in the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge. 

I’m praying that I would “grasp” this. The grasping will come by experience, since it is beyond grasping by human knowledge. The result will be that I will then be filled with the fullness of God. I didn't see the clear pane of glass that was there, but I did encounter and experience it. I must know, by experience, that the Spirit is there, already working in power within me.[9]

[1] John Wimber, Power Healing
[2] Ephesians 3:14
[3] Ephesians 2:20-22
[4] Klyne Snodgrass, The NIV Application Commentary: Ephesians
[5] Ben Witherington, The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Captivity Epistles, 274
[6] See Thomas Merton’s famous chapter on “Being and Doing” in New Seeds of Contemplation.
[7] Ib., 275
[8] Ib.
[9] Ephesians 3:20

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Praying for Love to Fill the Hidden Harbors of My Heart (PrayerLife)

Conditional love

Recently I read John Ortberg's  tribute to Dallas Willard - "Dallas Willard - A Man From Another Time Zone." Willard struggled with love, as I do. Ortberg writes: "I remember hearing him talk once about his struggle with harboring contempt for people. If he did, it was in a very deep harbor. But God alone knows the human heart." 

Dallas was praying for Jesus-love to overwhelm his contempt. I am, too. How important is this?

Richard Stearns writes: “God’s deepest desire is not that we would help the poor; God’s deepest desire is that we would love the poor; for if we love them, we will surely help them.”

- Stearns, Unfinished, p. 76

Jesus loved people, in the first place. Out of his love, he acted. "Everything Jesus did was an expression of his love for the Father and his love for people. He embodied love as no one else ever has." (Ib.)

True love does. If we love, we will act.

Pray for this kind of love to fill the hidden harbors of your heart.

Monday, October 27, 2014

I Watched "Frozen"

In our quest to be relevant Linda and I watched "Frozen" a few weeks ago.

"We can't all go as Elsa from "Frozen." 
(From The New Yorker)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Redeemer Kids In My Office

Redeemer kids in my class, in my office, this morning (plus John and Daniel, my co-workers).

Coming Events at Redeemer

*    JOSH LEWIS IS PREACHING THIS MORNING, OCTOBER 26. Josh has been part of our Redeemer family since he was young, and served as a missionary in Ireland for a year.
*OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD PACKING PARTY immediately following service on Sunday Nov. 9th
* ANNUAL CHILI COOK-OFF AND LUNCHEON - After the worship service on Sunday, Dec. 7.
*    REDEEMER BASKETBALL LEAGUE COMING THIS WINTER: We plan on having registration on Dec 13th. The league will start on Saturday, January 10th. We plan on playing 10 weeks with an 11th being playoffs, and taking a week off for Pinewood Derby at the beginning of March. The league will be open to children from 5th through 12th grades.  Contact persons: Chris Verhille, Karen Reaume, and Daniel Reaume.
*    TORAH – THE FIRST FIVE BOOKS OF THE BIBLE. This RMS class is open to anyone who wants to be part of an in-depth study of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Meets Sunday nights beginning January 4. 6-8 PM at the church. Teacher: Pastor John Piippo.
*    BAPTISMS – SUNDAY MORNING, November 30. If you wish to be baptized please let me know.
* COFFEE & APOLOGETICS - Begins January 2015. Wednesdays, 9:30-11, at Panera Bread.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Pascal's "Wager" (Intro to Western Philosophy)


Explain Pascal’s “Wager.” (Kenny, 238 ff.)

1.    Pascal is a skeptic concerning the powers of human reason.

Pascal had a low view of the powers of human nature (reasoning).
“Pascal was skeptical of the value of philosophy, especially in relation to the knowledge of God. ‘We do not think that the whole of philosophy is worth an hour’s labor’, he once wrote.” (238)
At best philosophical reasoning can prove the existence of the “god of the philosophers,” but not “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

2.    Pascal said there is a “reasoning from the heart.”
Pascal is contrasting intuitive knowledge with deductive knowledge. “It is the heart, he tells us, which teaches us the foundations of geometry.” (239)
“The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.”
As Pascal sees it, it is reasonable to acknowledge limits to reason. “Reason's last step is the recognition that there are an infinite number of things which are beyond it”
Pascal had a transforming mystical experience in 1654.
"The year of grace 1654, Monday, 23 November, day of St. Clement, Pope and Martyr. From about half-past ten in the evening until about half-past twelve, FIRE. God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers nor of the Wise. Assurance, joy, assurance, feeling, joy, peace...Just Father, the world has not known thee but I have known thee. Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy." (Found sewn into the lining of Pascal’s coat.)
Pascal argued that belief in God cannot be defended by means of the usual apologetic arguments. The very nature of what is believed in - namely, an “infinitely incomprehensible” being – leaves these arguments necessarily inadequate.

3.    Pascal’s Wager.

Pascal was one of the founders of “game theory” (theory of probability).
Pascal uses probability theory to show this (game theory).
 “Either God exists or not. Which side shall we take? Reason can determine nothing here. An infinite abyss separates us;  and across this infinite abyss a game is played, which will turn out heads or tails. What will you bet?” (Quoting Pascal, 239)
Pascal thought that reason is neutral with respect to the question of whether or not God exists.
Pascal thought agnosticism was not a rational possibility.
Because not choosing to believe is equivalent to choosing not to believe. If you do not choose for God, you in effect choose against God.
On what basis, then, should one decide?
The solution, Pascal argues, is to weigh the potential rewards of believing in God against the potential rewards of failing to believe in God—i.e., to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the relative merits of “wagering” for or against God's existence. The options, as Pascal construes them, can be outlined in the form of a table:

God exists
God does not exist.
Infinite Gain
No (or Finite) Loss/Finite Gain
Infinite Loss
Finite Gain

Of course, in the case of God, it is hard to determine what the chances of a successful outcome might be: we cannot justifiably assume, for example, that the likelihood of God existing is equal to the likelihood of God not existing.
But that is okay, Pascal argues, because the payoff if God exists is an infinite payoff.

Thus, the potential for infinite gain makes it rational to bet that God exists, however slim the actual chances of this might be: as long as one is willing to grant that there is “one chance of winning against a finite number of chances of losing,” it is a better deal to bet on God.  

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Act of Praying Announces "Game On" (PrayerLife)

Ludington, Michigan light house
I address God for the sake of me. I need constant help. I need perpetual change. I have not yet made it my own, but I press on to do so.
“Pressing on mode” begins with praying. The act of praying announces “game on.”

  • Transform me into greater Christlikeness.
  • Assist me in the doing of your will.
  • Change my heart, O God.
  • Reduce the “me” in me.
  • Have your way in me.
  • Be gracious unto me.
  • Do not forsake me.
  • Be glorified, in me.
  • Orchestrate me.
  • Increase in me.
  • Decrease me.
  • Empower me.
  • Create in me.
  • Sanctify me.
  • Move in me.
  • Restore me.
  • Sustain me.
  • Deliver me.
  • Renew me.
  • Clean me.
  • Guide me.
  • Direct me.
  • Fill me.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Praying to Be Released From the Prison House of Perpetual Ingratitude (PrayerLife)

River Raisin walking bridge

It's hard to be thankful when you feel you are mostly in want. In American culture we are constantly alerted to how little we have. Marketing serves to create need, and need indicates barrenness, since what you don't need you don't lack. This is why Linda and I mute commercials when we are watching TV. For the most part there is nothing in them that we need.

Thankfulness concerns something you have, not something you lack and therefore need. The sense of deprivation mutes gratitude. Columbia University professor of religion and culture Mark Taylor writes: "We have been conned...  by an economic system that creates endless desire where there is no need." That is the prison house of perpetual ingratitude.

The vast, rolling  verdant pasture of gratefulness is the land of "I shall not be in want." (Ps. 23:1) I cultivate this by intentional abiding in Christ, and harvest the many fruits of a thankful heart. Out of my heart, as another facet of praying, I say "Thank you again, God!"

Redeemer Basketball League Winter 2015

We plan on having registration on Dec 13th. 
The league will start on Saturday, January 10th. 
We plan on playing 10 weeks with an 11th being playoffs, and taking a week off for Pinewood Derby at the beginning of March. 
The league will be open to children from 5th through 12th grades. 
For information please call the church office at: 734-242-5277

Coming Events at Redeemer

*    JOSH LEWIS IS PREACHING THIS COMING SUNDAY MORNING, OCTOBER 26. Josh has been part of our Redeemer family since he was young, and served as a missionary in Ireland for a year.
*    REDEEMER BASKETBALL LEAGUE COMING THIS WINTER: We plan on having registration on Dec 13th. The league will start on Saturday, January 10th. We plan on playing 10 weeks with an 11th being playoffs, and taking a week off for Pinewood Derby at the beginning of March. The league will be open to children from 5th through 12th grades.  Contact persons: Chris Verhille, Karen Reaume, and Daniel Reaume.
*    TORAH – THE FIRST FIVE BOOKS OF THE BIBLE. This RMS class is open to anyone who wants to be part of an in-depth study of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Meets Sunday nights beginning January 4. 6-8 PM at the church. Teacher: Pastor John Piippo.

*    BAPTISMS – SUNDAY MORNING, November 30. If you wish to be baptized please let me know.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Praying From My Nothingness (PrayerLife)

Linda and I in Cancun
Jesus said, "If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)

This morning I am praying. I have a number of requests in mind. With some of these requests, from others and for myself, I do not have a solution. I do not know what to do. On my own I can think of nothing and do nothing. I have no answer, except stay connected to God and pray.

I am connected today. I am dwelling in the house of God, whose temple is my heart. I'm reading John 15:7, where Jesus says "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you."

I hear God telling me "Why not try this, John?" I am now abiding in him. His words are in me. It is appropriate to ask God for help. So I do. "God, show me what to do to help these people I am praying for. Lead me and empower me. Give me your words of wisdom for others. Help me lead and minister to my church family in these days. Amen." 

I am checking this out. 

  1. If I abide in Christ and his words abide in me, then I will know what to ask of God. 
  2. I'm abiding in Christ.
  3. Therefore my requests that arise in God's presence will be done.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Speed Worship, and the Endless Desire Where There Is No Need

Foggy morning on the River Raisin
So many books, so little time to read them. 

I just added Columbia University religion professor Mark Taylor's new book to my amazon wish list - Speed Limits: Where Time Went and Why We Have So Little Left. I was pointed to this book by Taylor's essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education - "Speed Kills: Fast Is Never Fast Enough." Taylor's essay is a nice complement to another book I'm currently reading - Slow Church: Cultivating Community In the Patient Way of Jesus

I like slow. Slow living increases productivity. Speed living kills the soul. I'm doing some "slow" today and experiencing life. All that's missing is some succulent Slow's BBQ, whose owners understand there are certain things in life that should not be microwaved. 

Our culture is obsessed with speed. The idea that speedy technology would give us more leisure time was an illusion. Many are trapped within the prisons of their quick-gadgets. Taylor writes: "Contrary to expectation, the technologies that were supposed to liberate us now enslave us, networks that were supposed to unite us now divide us, and technologies that were supposed to save time leave us no time for ourselves."

Social status used to be measured by how little a person works; now it is measured by how much a person works. "If you are not constantly connected, you are unimportant; if you willingly unplug to recuperate, play, or even do nothing, you become an expendable slacker."

The worship of fastness has created its own value system. "Good" is understood by words like individualism, utility, efficiency, productivity, competition, consumption, and speed. The Speed Regime has repressed values like sustainability, community, cooperation, generosity, patience, subtlety, deliberation, reflection, and slowness. Taylor argues that we must recover these repressed values to avoid a psychological, social, economic, and ecological meltdown.

"Speed," writes Taylor, "has limits. As acceleration accelerates, individuals, societies, economies, and even the environment approach meltdown. We have been conned into worshiping speed by an economic system that creates endless desire where there is no need."

There's a lot of helpful analysis in Taylor's essay. All who are concerned that the American Church has been seduced into the Babylonian Captivity of Speed should take note. By the rivers of this Babylon we've laid our instruments down, not because we have no songs to sing, but because we have no time to sing them.


To the Rwandan Pastor Who Contacted Me

To the pastor in Rwanda affiliated with the AME who called me yesterday: my email address is -

Abortion Is Not an "Act of Love"

Time magazine has a book review of Katha Pollitt's Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights. It's by Kate Manning - "The Choice. Pro makes a controversial case that abortion can be an act of love." 

Manning asks: "Who is the abortion debate really about? The answer here is that it should be about women, not embryos." With this one sentence Manning and presumably Pollitt spin the argument in their favor. If the inborn human is defined as "embryo" and not "person" then who could have a problem with abortion? If "embryo" means "non-person" I see no big deal about abortion since yesterday I ate a steak harvested from a mere animal, plus I killed a fly bothering us in the house.

Manning has the core question wrong. The big question prior to her idea of "what the abortion debate is really about" is: what is the status of the inborn human? Embryo or person? If the answer is "person," then it's morally wrong to take the life of another person even if it hinders me from "pursuing my dream." Note how Manning's statement shifts in meaning when we substitute 'person' for 'embryo': "Who is the abortion debate really about? The answer here is that it should be about women, not [other] persons." That makes me squeamish. Manning's argument is a red herring. 

What about an ectopic pregnancy that threatens the life of the mother? This is a tragic and difficult situation. But there's no logical claim of inference from the existence of an ectopic pregnancy to abortion rights. Not if the inborn child is a person, albeit not fully developed.

Manning's last sentence troubles me deeply. She writes: "the only thing making me squeamish these days is contemplating the dangerous measures women will resort to as abortion rights are lost and how women and children suffer as a consequence of government intrusion on the most sacred and private decision a woman can make: whether or not to bear a child." (But this is a slippery slope fallacy, correct?)

But it's not a private decision if it involves killing another person, at least in the sense that their right to life ought to be considered, even if they are cognitively unable to choose life for themselves. Please don't call that an act of love.

Our Identity in Christ, and a Beautiful Video

This is the video I showed yesterday at Redeemer. Our focus the last few weeks has been on our identity as followers of Jesus. Which includes (from 1 John 3):

1. I am agape-loved by God.

2. I am a child of God, adopted into the family of God.

Thomas Aquinas (for my MCCC Western Philosophy class)


1.    Explain Aquinas’ distinction between faith and reason.
a.    What is a contemporary example of this.
2.    Explain Aquinas’ argument for God’s existence from causation.

1.    Aquinas makes a famous distinction between faith and reason. (Kenny, 153)
Note: In philosophy, in the medieval period, all the major philosophers are either Jews (e.g. Maimonides), Christians, or Muslims (e.g. Averroes, Avicenna).
 “It is essentially to Aquinas that we owe the distinction, familiar to philosophers of modern times, between natural and revealed theology.” (153)
            Or: between faith and reason.
Suppose a philosopher makes an argument for a theological conclusion.
We can ask: are any of the premises taken from sacred scripture? Or have they been revealed in a private vision?
Or: are any of the premises facts of observation, or straightforward truths of reason?
If they are from sacred scripture or private visions, we are dealing with revealed theology.
If they are facts of observation or truths of reason, we are dealing with natural theology.
“Natural theology is a part of philosophy while revealed theology is not, even though theologians may use philosophical skills in seeking to deepen their understanding of sacred texts.” (153)
Analogy: a three-story house.
On the bottom floor reason and natural experience do their work without the need of any supernatural aid.
On the second floor we find things that are both revealed to us by God and demonstrated to us by reason. E.g. – the existence of God; the immortality of the soul.
On the third floor are truths that are beyond the capacity of natural intellect to discover. E.g., the internal nature of God as a 3-Personed being (Trinity) – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; the historical fact of God’s becoming incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth.
“Aquinas believed that there are some theological truths which can be reached by the unaided use of reason: for instance, the existence of God.” (153)
But some truths can only be known by revelation/faith; e.g., that our universe had a beginning.
Contemporary example – Gould’s NOMA. You can’t derive ‘ought’ from ‘is’.
            Religion and science.

Key ideas
  • Cosmological
    • From “cosmos,” which is Greek for “world.”
    • The cosmological argument moves from certain facts about the world, or the fact that there is a world, and reasons that God is the best explanation for these facts.

An Analogy:
You’re in your car, stopped at a red light, and are hit from behind. You want to know what caused this. You see that the car behind you was stopped but was itself hit from behind. So the car behind you cannot be the cause of your being hit. You look behind that car and notice that it also was hit from behind. And so on. Finally, you see the “first” cause – the car that caused all the other cars to have an accident.
Suppose, however, that it were an infinitely long pileup. Then no one would have started the chain reaction of accidents. But if no one started it, it would not have happened. Since it did happen, we can conclude that someone did start it. He is the first efficient uncaused cause.

This is Aristotelian thinking.

Aristotle’s “Unmoved Mover”(89)

1. At least one thing, call it X, is in motion.
2. If X is in motion, then its motion must be caused.
3. If X's motion is caused, then the cause of that motion must be either a) a series of movers which are themselves moving or b) a series of movers that contains at least one unmoved mover.
4. A series of moved movers, even if it is an infinite series, cannot explain the motion of X.
5. Therefore, the motion of X must be explained in terms of the existence of an unmoved mover.

Since no thing (or series of things) can move (change) itself, there must be a first, Unmoved Mover, source of all motion.

Aquinas takes this reasoning and applies it to cause and effect.

Causation is a fact about the world.
    • Everything that happens has a cause.
    • That cause itself is the effect of some prior cause.
    • And that cause itself is also the effect of some prior cause.
    • And so on…   until we ultimately reach an uncaused cause, which is God.

Quoting Aquinas:

“In the observable world causes are found ordered in series: we never observe, nor ever could, something causing itself, for this would mean it preceded itself, and this is not possible. But a series of causes can’t go on forever, for in any such series an earlier member causes an intermediate and the intermediate a last (whether the intermediate be one or many). Now eliminating a cause eliminates its effects, and unless there’s a first cause there won’t be a last or an intermediate. But if a series of causes goes on fore ever it will have no first cause, and so no intermediate causes and no last effect, which is clearly false. So we are forced to postulate some first agent cause, to which everyone gives the name God.” (ST, 1a.3)

Efficient cause – a trigger that sets a process going. E.g., the spark that produces the explosion. E.g., the tap of a key that produces a letter on the computer screen.

This is causality in esse.

Aquinas is not thinking about causality in time.

    • This would make the cosmological argument say that what happens at the present moment is dependent on what happened in the moment prior to it.
    • Rather, Aquinas is saying that at any point in time there is a series of relationships of dependence that lead to God as the source of all change and all causation.
    • In other words, at this present moment God is the source of all change in an ultimate sense and the cause of there being something rather than nothing.

Kenny – “the series of efficient causes in the world must lead to an uncaused cause.” (152)

For more explanation:

These efficient causes are ordered in a series.
We never find that something is the efficient cause of itself. The spark may cause the explosion; but the spark cannot be the cause of the spark.

To be its own cause it would have to preexist itself, and that is absurd. It cannot exist before it exists!

The spark itself requires another efficient cause, perhaps a hammer striking a rock.

If you take away the cause, you take away the effect. No hammer, no spark; no spark, no explosion; no explosion, no….

What we find in our world is that one cause depends on another for its existence.

This order does not have to be a temporal order, or an order in time.

E.g., my cheek depresses simultaneously with my finger pushing on it.

The cause of my cheek depressing is my finger pushing it. But here the cause is not prior in time.

    • This is called causality in esse. It is not a temporal causality.

Now note: Something causes my finger to push my cheek in. Simultaneously. And something simultaneously causes that.

Could this series of causes (causal dependency) go on forever (be infinite)? Aquinas says no. Because if the causal series was infinite, there would be no cause that is “first.” A first cause is needed, because if there was not a first cause the sequence of effects would never happen.

A “first” cause would be one on which the whole causal order depended, while it depended on nothing outside itself.

If there was no first cause, then there would be no intermediate causes, and no ultimate effects.

But there are causes and effects. Therefore there must be a first cause. And that is what everyone calls God.”