Monday, November 30, 2015

A Bergmanian Take on Existential Risk

Nice - This cartoon from this week's New Yorker combines Ingmar Bergman and Nick Bostrom

Discipline Allows God to Be Lord of My Mind

Marabou storks in the Rift Valley of Kenya

If you are a disciple of Jesus then you have discipline in your life. Disciples are disciplined. Like, for example, guitar students practice.

Henri Nouwen writes: "If we want to be disciples of Jesus, we have to live a disciplined life." (Nouwen, A Spirituality of Living, p. 1) "A spiritual life without discipline is impossible." (Ib.)

As a new follower of Jesus my campus ministry leaders taught me to take daily "quiet times with God." I did. I'm having quiet time with God this morning. I read Scripture and meditate on it. I'm reading the Nouwen book I've quoted from. My spirit is marinating in God's slow-cooking, disciple-making, life-giving, perspective-gaining, hope-restoring, wound-healing crock pot. 

I have done this, daily, for over 45 years. Because "it requires real discipline to let God and not the world be the Lord of our mind." (Ib., p. 2)

I do my quiet times with God in quiet places of least distraction. (See here; and here.) I have disciplined myself to do this. What began as a stream of life in my heart over four decades ago has formed a groove that channels a deep river. The source of this river is the presence of God. 

Nouwen says that "the word 'discipline' means "the effort to create some space in which God can act."" (Ib.) There is a space created in my mind and heart where the Spirit of God has a chance of getting my attention. I treasure and tend this space and attend to the moving of God's Spirit in me.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Real Jesus Sermon #1

Worship at Redeemer
Pastors are to equip their people for the work of ministry.

As Redeemer's pastor I am committed to increasing the Jesus-literacy of my church.

Tomorrow I give the second of seven Real Jesus sermons.

Sermon #1 can be heard HERE

Prayer Is Relationship Rather Than Something We Have to Do


Praying is being-in-relationship-with God, rather than some religious duty that one has to do. 

I communicate with Linda, not because I "have to," but because I love her. To only talk and listen to her out of duty would be a sign of a strange, unsatisfying marriage.

Philip Yancey writes: "Prayer as transaction rather than relationship can decline into a practice more duty than joy, an occasional and awkward exercise with little connection to life." (Yancey, Prayer, Kindle Locations 844-845)

How I communicate with Linda when no one else is around is an indicator of how I view her and our marriage. In a similar way how I pray shows how I view God. "Who one believes God to be is most accurately revealed not in any credo but in the way one speaks to God when no one else is listening." (Nancy Mairs, quoted in Ib., Kindle Locations 820-822)

To pray is to be in relationship with God. Prayer is not something we have to do. When you are in a real, loving relationship you communicate.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Kevin Bacon's Argument That the Bible Affirms Dancing

5 Thanksgiving Choices

Some of our Redeemer kids

Today is Thanksgiving Day!

1. Take time to reflect on the blessings God has given you. I've made a gratitude list on my computer and printed it out. I've got the list in my pocket, and will pull it out and look at it several times today.

"We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures." 
- Thornton Wilder

2. Think of the people God has brought to add value to your life.
"At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us."
- Albert Schweitzer 

3. Focus on what you have gained, not what you have lost. In the worship song "Blessed Be Your Name" we sing "You give and take away, You give and take away. My heart will choose to say, blessed be your name." I remember precious people I have lost. I think of what their lives have given to me.

"He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has." 
- Epictetus

4. Say "thank you" to others, in your words, attitudes, and actions. Today, serve people. To serve is to love. Servanthood is the overflow of a thankful heart.

"The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated."

-- William James

5. Let the words "Thank you, God" be your constant praise. 

"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever."
- 1 Chronicles 16:4

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Our Masks Are Not Our Reality

Ann Arbor store

What sort of wisdom could come from a person dedicated to dwelling in God's presence, from someone not captured by the idols of technology and media? Thomas Merton, for myself and many others, serves as an example. Merton never watched television! What could he have to tell us?

The answer is: prophetic words of ontological realities. One ever-relevant Merton-theme is the stripping away of the false self, accomplished by God, in God's presence. He writes:

"If we take our vulnerable shell to be our true identity, if we think our mask is our true face, we will protect it with fabrications even at the cost of violating our own truth. This seems to be the collective endeavor of society: the more busily men dedicate themselves to it, the more certainly it becomes a collective illusion, until in the end we have the enormous, obsessive, uncontrollable dynamic of fabrications designed to protect mere fictitious identities - "selves," that is to say, regarded as objects. Selves that can stand back and see themselves having fun (an illusion which reassures them that they are real)." (Merton, Raids On the Unspeakable, 15)

Merton published Raids in 1965. That's 50 years ago. He discerned the creeping shallowness of American culture. Were he alive today he would see the same, only multiplied, magnified, and glorified. 

The American social milieu profits on sustaining hypocrisy. A "hypocrite" (Greek ὑποκρίτης) is: an "actor," a "mask-wearer." We are a world of false personas who don't merely hide behind our culturally constructed masks but who have come to believe that our masks are our reality. Halloween, our preferred holy day, has become every day.

The Non-entitled and Needy Say "Thank You"

Monroe County
I headed toward the door of our local Panera Bread with a cup of coffee in each hand. A young man saw me coming and opened the door for me. He didn't have to do that. I didn't deserve it. But he looked upon me as needing assistance and came to my rescue. He had pity on me.

I said "Thank you."

Thanks. I needed that.

To give thanks is to acknowledge need. 

11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
Luke 17:11-19

Of the ten lepers, nine were presumably Jews, and one was a Gentile, hence not a pure descendant of Abraham. The nine lepers who failed to thank Jesus suffered from global entitlement. Their pure-bred lineage meant they deserved to be healed. When you deserve something you don't say thank you.

Outcasts and self-identified sinners view things differently. They know they are needy and undeserving. 

Jesus sees the lepers standing at a distance because they are "unclean." He has pity on them. 

When the non-entitled foreigner-leper experiences healing he returns to Jesus.

He falls before him.

The words "thank you" cascade out of his heart. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Jesus Existed

(Especially for my Redeemer family)

Several years ago I received a phone call from a high school girl who came to Redeemer. She was crying as she told me about her high school biology teacher. This teacher at one point in his teaching left the subject of biology and stated, "There is no evidence that Jesus ever existed." This shocked a number of students in class. The teacher then said, "If you can show me evidence please feel free to bring it to class."

I suggested to her that she bring me into the class to present the case for the existence of Jesus. I wrote a letter to the teacher. When I learned his name I realized he was, at that time, a student in my 
MCCC Philosophy of Religion class! 

When the time came for me to speak on the existence of Jesus at Monroe High School so many students had heard about this that it was decided to hold the event in the school auditorium. 170 students came to hear me as I spoke for 90 minutes, making the historical case for Jesus' existence. There was a Q&A after my talk. Many students asked questions. They were so interested in the subject of Jesus! Now, years later, I've had people who were in the auditorium that day tell me how much it impressed and influenced them. A number of them enrolled in my college philosophy classes as a result of this.

Perhaps you have heard, or read on the Internet, the claim that Jesus never really existed, and that the figure of Jesus in the Bible is all made up. That claim is false. As small a point as it seems to be, Jesus actually existed. No reputable New Testament scholar believes otherwise (actually, maybe one does, but he is in the extreme minority). 

Here are some reasons why.

It is unsurprising that Jesus is not mentioned in any Roman sources of his time.

"It is true that Jesus is not mentioned in any Roman sources of his day. That should hardly count against his existence, however, since these same sources mention scarcely anyone from his time and place. Not even the famous Jewish historian, Josephus, or even more notably, the most powerful and important figure of his day, Pontius Pilate." (Bart Ehrman)

Even biased sources provide evidence for a person's existence.

Our best sources for the existence and life of Jesus are the four Gospels. Are they biased? Of course they are. Is bias bad? Of course not. Everyone is biased. No historian (nor you, the reader of this) is without bias. But note this. Ehrman writes: "You may not trust Rush Limbaugh's views of [Hillary Clinton], but he certainly provides evidence that she exists." (Ib.) Precisely.

Usually followers write what is most true and meaningful about their teachers.

Regarding the "bias objection" Craig Keener notes that:

"Most people write only about what they care about. The only substantive early works about Socrates derive from his followers. The Dead Sea Scrolls extol their community's founder, but no other reports of him survive. The Jewish historian Josephus claims to be a Pharisee, yet never mentions Hillel, who is famous in Pharisees' traditions. Israeli scholar David Flusser correctly observes that it is usually followers who preserve what is most meaningful about their teachers, whether the leaders were Buddha, Muhammad, Mormon leader Joseph Smith or African prophet Simon Kimbangu." (Keener, "Jesus Existed") 

There are no parallels between Jesus and pagan "savior-gods."

The alleged parallels between Jesus and pagan "savior-gods" (like the silly "Zeitgeist" movie) are only fit for Facebook (viz., ultra-biased atheists who: 1) are ignorant of ancient pagan mythology; and 2) who hyper-spin non-facts to justify their atheism). Ehrman writes: "We do not have accounts of others who were born to virgin mothers and who died as an atonement for sin and then were raised from the dead (despite what the sensationalists claim ad nauseum in their propagandized versions)."

Anyone wanting to make up a story about a new Savior would not have given us a crucified Messiah. 

"The earliest followers of Jesus declared that he was a crucified messiah. But prior to Christianity, there were no Jews at all, of any kind whatsoever, who thought that there would be a future crucified messiah. The messiah was to be a figure of grandeur and power who overthrew the enemy. Anyone who wanted to make up a messiah would make him like that." (Ehrman) Ehrman says the early Christians "knew full well that he was crucified. The Christians did not invent Jesus." (Ib.)

Early extrabiblical writers believed Jesus existed.

Keener writes that the first-century Jewish historian mentions Jesus and John the Baptist as major prophetic figures. 

Syrian philosopher Mara bar Sarapion, writing earlier than Josphuus, claimed that Jesus was "a wise Jewish king." (Keener)

Writing just 31-34 years after Jesus' death Tacitus reported that Jesus was executed under Pontius Pilate. (Keener)

The apostle Paul wrote about Jesus as an historical person just 15-30 years after Jesus' ministry. "Rightly or wrongly, Paul staked the rest of his life on this experience." (Keener)

Mark's Gospel was circulating some 30-40 years after Jesus' ministry. Keener writes: "Luke reports that "many" had already written accounts by the time Luke writes. Luke shares with Matthew some common material that most scholars think is even earlier than Mark. Only a small minority of figures in antiquity had surviving works written about them so soon after their deaths." 

Keener adds: "What can the first-century Gospels tell us? Certainly at the least they indicate that Jesus was a historical figure."

It is illogical to think that Jesus' followers would make us a Jesus to live and die for.

Keener concludes:

"Yet, valuable as examining such historical evidence is, we must return to where we started. Logically, why would Jesus' followers make up a Jesus to live and die for? Why not glorify real founders (as movements normally did)? Why make up a leader and have him executed on a Roman cross? To follow one executed for treason was itself treason. To follow a crucified leader was to court persecution. Some people do give their lives for their beliefs, but for beliefs, not normally for what they know to be fabricated. Jesus' first movement would not have made up his execution or his existence. How much they actually remembered about him is a subject for a future post."


Greg Boyd and Paul Eddy, The Jesus Legend: A case for the Historical Reliabilty of the Synoptic Tradition

James Beilby and Paul Eddy, The Historical Jesus: Five Views

Friday, November 20, 2015

Hearing God: Deus Interruptus

Painting a room in our house.

Henri Nouwen once said he was bothered by life's many interruptions until he realized that the interruptions were his life. I have discovered that must pay attention to interruptions and discern whether or not they are from God. I need to have an interruptible heart.

An interruptible heart is one that hears and follows. Without the following God's interruptions will diminish. Why would God continue to say "John, I know you have plans for today, but I want you to do this instead" if I would not "do this instead?" 

Dallas Willard writes:

"Perhaps we do not hear the voice because we do not expect to hear it. Then again, perhaps we do not expect it because we know that we fully intend to run our lives on our own and have never seriously considered anything else. The voice of God would therefore be an unwelcome intrusion into our plans. By contrast, we expect great spiritual leaders to hear that voice just because we see their lives wholly given up to doing what God wants."  (Willard, Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God, p. 93)

Some do not hear God's voice because they would never follow him if he called them to do something outside their control zone. This would mean a change of their plans. 

The Real Jesus Life is a series of interruptions. We are at God's servants, ready to do his will, at his "beck and call." 

Deus Interruptus.

God, I want to be wielded by you. Intrude into my life.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Dr. John Piippo - "How God Transforms the Human Heart" 04/17/15

How to Communicate With an Entitlement-Diseased Person

Warren Dunes State Park, Michigan
After you have addressed your own entitlement issues you may be ready to have that difficult talk with your friend or family member who has the entitlement disease. John Townsend recommends beginning with a vulnerable conversation. (The Entitlement Cure, 80) "Being vulnerable means getting past your frustration and anger so that you can express your feelings of care for the person, as well as your exposure to pain because of their behavior." (Ib.)

Clearly state how you have experienced the entitled behavior of the other person. "Let them know how you see their behavior. They may have no idea that they are like this, or that others perceive them as being this way." (82)

People with the entitlement disease need to understand that they have the disease. "Someone has to say something. Otherwise, how can they change?" (Ib.)

Then, move to a "consequence-based conversation." Townsend says this has seven elements.

  1. You are “for” him: “Brandon, I care about you and I want you to succeed.”
  2. You are concerned about some negative attitudes and behaviors: "It's not OK that you are still living at home with no job or no school."
  3. You yourself have been part of the problem: "I haven't been clear and firm with my expectations, and I've waited too long to press the issue. I'm sorry about that."
  4. You are establishing definite criteria for change: "You have sixty days..."
  5. There will be consequences if no change occurs: "If this doesn't happen, then on day sixty-one I will have your things packed."
  6. You want to hear them out.
  7. Once again, you are "for" him: "I'm sorry this has been a difficult talk, but I care about you and I hope you will make the right choice." 
 After this, expect all hell to break loose. Townsend writes: 

"Be ready for anger, escalation, resentment, and tirades. Remember who you’re dealing with. Entitlement does not recede quickly! But just as God is engaged in “de-entitling” his people, so you are part of that process too."

Don't take this personally. The entitled person is angry at reality, "angry that he can't be a little god." It's not really about you.


Most Entitled People are Dependent People

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Three Signs of Real Church (and How Much It Costs to Do This)

Near Clare, Michigan
Real Church is a People Movement led by God's Spirit.

Three signs of Real Church are:

  • The people are growing in biblical literacy (BibleLife - understanding the biblical narrative)
  • The people are growing in Jesus literacy (JesusLife - Knowing Christ)
  • The people actually engage in praying (PrayerLife - talking with God about what God and I are thinking and doing together)
Cost to do this: $0.

The budget line item in the Presence-Driven Church for these "programs" is: $0. God's earth-shattering presence costs nothing and far surpasses anything money can buy.

(Note: This Sunday morning [11/22] I will preach the first of 7 messages on Knowing the Real Jesus. My vision for Redeemer is that we are a Jesus-literate family. This is our great distinctive; viz., we have Jesus, and Jesus has us. Jesus - God the Son, come to us, still alive, and the greatest leader and most monumental figure in all of human history.]

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

John Maxwell - 10 Guidelines for Dealing with Sexual Temptation

Park on the river in Monroe

One of the greatest sermons i have ever heard was at the first Promise Keepers event I went to, in Indianapolis. The speaker was John Maxwell. He was preaching on "10 Guidelines for Dealing with Sexual Temptation." After Maxwell gave #1 the place was electric. By the end we were all broken and ready to change. I felt, in that moment, that 20,000 men were about to walk in total sexual purity.

John Maxwell’s 10 Guidelines (For Men) For Dealing With Sexual Temptation

1. RUN!
“Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22)
"Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body." (1 Corinthians 6:18)

"This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live." (Deuteronomy 30:19)
Every time we choose righteousness, we not only become closer to God, but stronger in our ability to resist temptation.

3. BE ACCOUNTABLE - John Maxwell's list of accountability questions:
Are you spending time alone with God?
Are you in studying the Bible?
Are you praying?
Is your thought life pure?
Have you seen something you shouldn't see (movies, magazines, Internet)?
Are you misusing your power on the job? At home?
Are you walking in total obedience to God? (Remember, partial obedience is disobedience.)
Have you lied about any of the previous questions?


Seldom travel alone.
When you have to travel, call your wife every night.
Talk positively about your wife to others.
Choose friends wisely. "Bad company corrupts good character." ( Corinthians 15:33)

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:2)
"Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (James 4:7)

"Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!" (1 Corinthians 6:15)

"But a man who commits adultery lacks judgment; whoever does so destroys himself." (Proverbs 6:32)
"For the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread, and the adulteress preys upon your very life." (Proverbs 6:26)


Maxwell's definition: Success is having those who are the closest to me love and respect me the most.

Most Entitled People are Dependent People

Bamboo, near Brasilia, Brazil
I flunked out of Northern Illinois University in my sophomore year. My last semester there I rarely attended classes. Eventually, I returned to NIU and got an undergraduate degree. 

I was at my parents' house when the letter from NIU came. It arrived by certified mail. I signed for it. It said: "You have been academically dismissed."

Amazingly, I was angry at the university for kicking me out. How could they do this to me?

The truly amazing thing is my response. I felt entitled to stay in their university. I needed to understand a very basic truth of life, which is:

Actions have consequences. 

In The Entitlement Cure John Townsend writes:

"Most entitled people are also dependent people. They get away with their attitude because someone is protecting them from its consequences. They would crash and burn a lot sooner if that someone refused to make excuses for them, to give them an infinite number of last chances, and to pay for their mistakes. Your entitled person isn’t likely to change until he experiences his own dependency and what happens when you no longer act as his safety net."

Do not shelter people from deserved consequences. This only strengthens the entitlement disease in them.


Entitled People Need the "Aha!" Moment

Miracles: Fiction or Fact?

My friend Elijah Stephens has made a movie answering the questions:

Have you ever wondered if miracles are real? Where's the evidence? Can testimonies stand up to the hard questions?
Elijah interviews some very good scholars in the movie, including Craig Keener and University of Indiana's Candy Brown.
Check it out HERE - you can support Elijah's project.

Monday, November 16, 2015

We're Investing In Our Children at Redeemer

 Our new 5500 sq. foot building addition for our Children's Ministries is in its last stages of development. We're investing in our kids = investing in God's future for our church family!

This is the Big Room - it will have a lot of chairs, an A.V. projection system, an area of a worship team - when our kids leave the sanctuary on Sunday mornings they will first assemble here, then go to individual classrooms.

Very large storage room.

One of the five large classrooms!

Kitchenette + computer work station w. bathroom in rear - New refrigerator in.

West parking lot finished!

Entitled People Need the "Aha!" Moment

Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya
In The Entitlement Cure psychologist and Jesus-follower John Townsend writes: "Your entitled person isn’t likely to change until he experiences his own dependency and what happens when you no longer act as his safety net." (p. 80)

When you stop enabling and feeding the other person's entitled attitude the odds increase that they will have a wake-up moment, an "Aha!" experience. You cannot give them such an experience, but you can help to starve their entitlement needs. 

You know someone is waking up to their entitlement disease when they begin to express thoughts like:

• I wish I could say or do whatever I like, but that doesn’t work anymore. 
• I can’t have anything I want. 
• I now have to do things that I don’t want or like to do. 
• I have to deal with losses of relationship, money, opportunity, and time in my life. 
• I have hurt people I love. 
• I have hurt myself and not been the person I could have been. 
• I must face my regrets because of my choices. (p. 77)

This may be the beginning of good things to come. Townsend writes:

"Researchers who study personal change now take a neurological view of this process. Someone must have the “aha moment” — when the lights come on, the neurons fire, and the insight comes, as with Paul’s Damascus Road experience (see Acts 9: 1 – 6). That “aha moment” is necessary, because external change starts best with internal change."

I remember a day in the spring on 1970 when I was playing guitar in a band. I was on a stage playing and the thought came to me:

I am screwed up. 

This was my life-changing "Aha!" moment. I came to see it was from God. Finally, I had ears to hear the truth about myself.  

I began to let go of entitlement statements like:

• I'm not wrong.
• I deserve special treatment.
• I don't impact people negatively.

I began to feel emotions of sadness, guilt, remorse, and regret for my actions.

Townsend writes:

"This is only the beginning, however. In the next phase, our neural pathways need to get trained to do things a different and better way. This is where habits come in — habits of regularly thinking about others, of taking ownership and initiative, of doing the right things even if they are the hard things." (p. 78)


3 Bad Reasons to Help Someone Who Has the Entitlement Disease

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Bruce Borquist Speaks at Redeemer Sunday Morning

Ann & Bruce profile photo 2015

American Baptist global missionary Bruce Borquist preaches tomorrow morning at Redeemer on "The Heart of a Missionary."

A year ago Bruce and his wife Ann invited Linda and I to Brazil where they ministered to many pastors and leaders. I was so impressed and thankful for the deep, lasting influence Bruce and Ann have.

We are greatly privileged to have Bruce with us tomorrow.

Ann and Bruce serve as regional missionaries with partner Baptist conventions in Southeast Asia, including Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, New Zealand and the Philippines. They work alongside national leaders to build capacity in servant leadership, church-based community and economic development (including social entrepreneurship) and cross-cultural missionary training.

Ann and Bruce have served since 1987 in the Philippines, the U.S. and Brazil. Most recently, they have worked with the National Baptist Convention of Brazil as co-coordinators of the Integral Mission Network and the office of Leadership and Ministry Development. They also have helped equip Brazilian missionaries to share the good news of Jesus Christ in Brazil and around the world.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Real "Church" Is Not a Personal Need-Meeting Machine

I'm reading Making Peace, a book on resolving church conflict, by Jim Van Yperen. (Thank you Don Follis for this recommendation.) There's a lot of good, sound, biblical wisdom in this text. Here's something that just captured me.

Some churches focus on meeting the individual needs of people as their raison d-etre, as their way of life. Everything gets oriented towards this. This, says Van Yperen, is a mistake, and will make solving conflict more difficult. He writes:

"In many churches, the remedy for conflict often makes it worse, deepening the problem by failing to address the fundamental issue: We are trusting our ways more than God’s. All individualism leads to consumerism. When self is center, the world exists to meet one’s personal needs. “Hey, I’m entitled to this!” A culture of consumerism will always value individual needs above community life. “You’re important to me so long as you serve my needs.” When a church focuses on meeting the needs of individuals, Jesus and the Bible become a personal, need-meeting machine. The church becomes a collection of individuals who are fundamentally at competition with one another—competing to have their needs met. Here, the Gospel becomes a commodity distributed by supply and demand. Since no church can meet all the needs, ultimately one set of needs must be placed against the other. When this happens, staff and members will compete to make a case for how and why their needs are greater than others.... [T]he church becomes divided into interest groups or coalitions formed by age and individual preference." (30)

Real "church" is not some objectively existing institution that is "out there" and "apart from you" that is for the purpose of "meeting your needs." In the real thing you are the church, and real "church" is a people movement that exists for the purpose of proclaiming the Gospel in its intersection with the world. Real church is essentially outward-and-other-centered. As that happens the real, deep needs of our hearts are satisfied.

The solution to church conflict is not to begin more special interest groups in the attempt to "meet everybody's needs." If the conflict ionvolves "worship wars" the answer is not to start different worship servies with different styles of worship. These "solutions" come out of a root misunderstanding of "church"; they are grounded in a false worldview. 

Van Yperen writes: "The church becomes a shopping center where we pick and choose what is good for us. We are not a community being formed by God’s Word and Spirit. We are individuals shaping ourselves. This strips the Gospel of its power—leaving people in their selfish individualism rather than inviting them into a transforming community of faith." (31)


I'm meeting today with a student who has asked me the question: "How do we know that persons have souls?"

I'll do my best to explain reasons #s 1 & 2 below.

All this is taken directly from: J. P. Moreland, The Soul: How We Know It's Real and Why It Matters

At least five arguments have been offered in the recent literature for some form of substance dualism (i.e., the view that the body and the soul are two different substances).

Consider the following argument:
(1)  If I am a physical object (e.g., a brain or a body), then I do not have free will.
(2)  But I do have free will.
(3)  Therefore, I am not a physical object.
(4)  I am either a physical object or a soul.
(5)   Therefore, I am a soul.
When I use the term free will, I mean what is called libertarian freedom. I can literally choose to act or refrain from acting. No circumstances exist that are sufficient to determine my choice. My choice is up to me. I act as an agent who is the ultimate originator of my own actions.
“If physicalism is true, then human free will does not exist. Instead, determinism is true. If I am just a physical system, there is nothing in me that has the capacity to freely choose to do something.” (Moreland, 129)
When it comes to morality, it is hard to make sense of moral obligation and responsibility if determinism is true. They seem to presuppose freedom of the will. If I “ought” to do something, it seems to be necessary to suppose that I can do it, that I could have done otherwise, and that I am in control of my actions.
It is safe to say that physicalism requires a radical revision of our commonsense notions of freedom, moral obligation, responsibility, and punishment. On the other hand, if these commonsense notions are true, physicalism is false.

Consider the following argument:
(1) If something is a physical object composed of parts, it does not survive over time as the same object if it comes to have different parts.
(2) My body and brain are physical objects composed of parts.
(3) Therefore, my body and brain do not survive over time as the same objects if they come to have different parts.
(4) My body and brain are constantly coming to have different parts.
(5) Therefore, my body and brain do not survive over time as the same objects.
(6) I do survive over time as the same object.
(7) Therefore, I am not my body or my brain.
(8) I am either a soul or a body or a brain.
(9) Therefore, I am a soul.

Stewart Goetz has advanced the following type of argument for the nonphysical nature of the self, which I have modified:
(1) I am essentially an indivisible, simple spiritual substance.
(2) Any physical body is essentially a divisible or complex entity (any physical body has spatial extension or separable parts).
(3) The law of identity pertains (if x is identical to y, then whatever is true of x is true of y, and vice versa).
(4) Therefore, I am not identical with my (or any) physical body.
(5) If I am not identical with a physical body, then I am a soul.
(6) Therefore, I am a soul.
Premise 1 seems obvious.
Premise 5 is common sense.
Premise 1 is true by introspection. We are just aware of ourselves as simple, complex things.
Premise 3 – I am not identical to my body or my conscious states. Rather, I am the immaterial self that has a body and a conscious mental life.

Consider the following argument:
(1) If I were a physical object (e.g., a brain or body), then a third-person physical description would capture all the facts that are true of me.
(2) But a third-person physical description does not capture all the facts that are true of me.
(3) Therefore, I am not a physical object.
(4) I am either a physical object or a soul.
(5) Therefore, I am a soul.
A complete physical description of the world would be one in which everything would be exhaustively described from a third-person point of view in terms of objects, properties, processes, and their spatiotemporal locations.
“No amount of third-person descriptions captures my own subjective, first-person acquaintance of my own self in acts of self-awareness. In fact, for any third-person description of me, it would always be an open question as to whether the person described in third-person terms was the same person as I am. I do not know myself because I know some third-person description of a set of mental and physical properties that apply to me (“So, the body is five-feet-eight-inches, 160 pounds, and is thinking about lunch? I think that’s me.”). Instead I know myself as a self immediately through being acquainted with my own self in an act of self-awareness. I can express that self-awareness by using the term I. I refers to my own substantial soul.” Moreland, pp. 122-123)

The core of the modal argument for the soul is fairly simple:
I am possibly disembodied (I could survive without my brain or body).

My brain or body are not possibly disembodied (they could not survive without being physical).
So I am not my brain or body.
I am either a soul or a brain or a body.
So I am a soul.

Here is an expanded version of this argument.
1.   The law of identity: If x is identical to y, then whatever is true of x is true of y and vice versa.
2.   I can strongly conceive of myself as existing disembodied. (For example, I have no difficulty believing that out-of-body near-death experiences are possible; that is, they could be true.)
3.   If I can strongly conceive of some state of affairs S (e.g., my disembodied existence) that S possibly obtains, then I have good grounds for believing that S is possible.
4.   Therefore, I have good grounds for believing of myself that it is possible for me to exist and be disembodied.
5.   If some entity x (for example, my self) is such that it is possible for x to exist without y (for example, my brain or body), then (i) x (my self) is not identical to y (my brain or body) and (ii) y (my brain or body) is not essential to x (me).
6.   My body (or brain) is not such that it is possible to exist disembodied, i.e., my body (or brain) is essentially physical.
7.   Therefore, I have good grounds for believing of myself that I am not identical to my body (or brain) and that my physical body is not essential to me.