|Cape May, New Jersey|
Sunday, January 31, 2016
Friday, January 29, 2016
I will be teaching an 6-week class on Inner Healing during the months of March and April.
When: March 6, 13; April 3, 10, 17, 24.
Time: 6-7:30 PM
Where: Redeemer Fellowship Church
Topics will include:
- Our Need of Inner Healing
- The Biblical Promise of Inner Healing
- Overcoming Shame
- Healing of Damaged Emotions
- Healing of Memories.
- Breaking into more freedom!
I am asking God to fully free my heart from judging the hearts of others. I do not want to spend the hours of my life doing that.
What about judging behaviors? Of course we can do that, and will do that. We can make judgments about a lot of things without being judgmental.
But note this: one cannot make a reasonable judgment without first understanding. It is foolish to judge without understanding. Here's where it gets really tricky when it comes to the hearts of other people. We barely understand the complexities of our own heart. How can we think we have access to the inner workings of another person's heart and mind? Yet this is precisely what the judgmental person claims. They say, "I know what you are thinking!" Or: "I know why you did that!" Which makes us want to respond by saying, "And just who are you - God?"
Strive to understand others and be understood by them. When understanding is the goal, judgmentalism often morphs into compassion.
Time spent judging the hearts of other people is wasted time. First - our judgments can be wrong, and are probably incomplete. Second - judgmentalism has no redemptive value. The point of judging others' hearts is simply: to judge others' hearts. There is an intrinsic circularity, a sick redundancy, to judgmentalism. Third - we can't change peoples' hearts anyway, so why waste time judging them? Years ago God spoke to me and I wrote these words in my journal: "John, why are you trying so hard to change other people when you can't even change your own self?"
I have spent too much "judging time" towards other people. It is non-redemptive, non-edifying, and hateful. I am sorry to say that I have judged people falsely before (even in my own home) with the result being, not corporate household transformation into truth and love, but a deformed loveless heart inside of me.
Spend time, yourself, with God today.
Ask God to search out your own heart.
If God reveals to you some truth about another person's struggle, thank him that he has entrusted you with this knowledge, and begin praying for that person.
Wednesday, January 27, 2016
|Grand Haven, Lake Michigan|
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
|Valley Forge, PA|
One of my favorite TV shows in the 1960s was "The Outer Limits." I remember the opening scene when the show took over control of everything. A calm, detached, obviously-in-control voice said…
Monday, January 25, 2016
|“The corn hasn’t quite matured if it’s still reading Ayn Rand.”|
(The New Yorker, Feb. 1, 2016)
|My feet, at Hockeytown Restaurant in Detroit|
Here are some of my favorites, with which I concur.
Science can answer moral questions. False. Pigliucci writes: "No, science can inform moral questions, but moral reasoning is a form of philosophical reasoning. The is/ought divide may not be absolute, but it is there nonetheless."
Science has established that there is no consciousness or free will (and therefore no moral responsibility). False. He writes: "No, it hasn’t, as serious cognitive scientists freely admit. Notice that I am not talking about the possibility that science has something meaningful to say about these topics (it certainly does when it comes to consciousness, and to some extent concerning free will, if we re-conceptualize the latter as the human ability of making decisions). I am talking about the dismissal-cum-certainty attitude that so many in the CoR have so quickly arrived at, despite what can be charitably characterized as a superficial understanding of the issue."
Determinism has been established by science. False again, "not only because there are interpretations of quantum mechanics that are not deterministic, but because a good argument can be made that that is simply not the sort of thing science can establish (nor can anything else, which is why I think the most reasonable position in this case is simple agnosticism)."
Objectivism is (the most rational) philosophy "according to a significant sub-set of skeptics and atheists (not humanists, since humanism is at complete odds with Randianism). Seriously, people? Notice that I am not talking about libertarianism here, which is a position that I find philosophically problematic and ethically worrisome, but is at least debatable. Ayn Rand’s notions, on the other hand, are an incoherent jumble of contradictions and plagiarism from actual thinkers. Get over it."
All religious education is child abuse, period. False, Richard Dawkins! Pigliucci writes: "This is a really bizarre notion, I think. Not only does it turn 90% of the planet into child abusers, but people “thinking” (I use the term loosely) along these lines don’t seem to have considered exactly what religious education might mean (there is a huge variety of it), or — for that matter — why a secular education wouldn’t be open to the same charge, if done as indoctrination (and if it isn’t, are you really positive that there are no religious families out there who teach doubt? You’d be surprised!)."
Insulting people, including our close allies, is an acceptable and widespread form of communication with others. Wrong. "Notice that I am not talking about the occasional insult hurled at your opponent, since there everyone is likely a culprit from time to time (including yours truly). I am talking about engaging in apologia on behalf of a culture of insults."
What do all of these falsehoods have in common? Pigliucci says they are guilty of:
A. Anti-intellectualism. For example, "when noted biologists or physicists in the movement dismiss an entire field of intellectual pursuit (philosophy) out of hand they are behaving in an anti-intellectual manner." "Scientism" is one predominant form of anti-intellectualism; viz., "the pernicious tendency to believe that science is the only paragon of knowledge and the ultimate arbiter of what counts as knowledge. And the best way to determine if you are perniciously inclined toward scientism is to see whether you vigorously deny its existence in the community."
B. The “I’m-smarter-than-thou” syndrome. MP writes: "Let’s admit it, skepticism does have a way to make us feel intellectually superior to others. They are the ones believing in absurd notions like UFOs, ghosts, and the like! We are on the side of science and reason. Except when we aren’t, which ought to at least give us pause and enroll in the nearest hubris-reducing ten-step program."
C. Failure of leadership. "Welcome to the days of bloggers and twitterers spouting venom or nonsense just because they can."
- From Massimo Pigliucci, "The Community of Reason, a self-assessment and a manifesto"
MP adds some nice advice for conducting civil discourse about important issues.
Massimo Pigliucci has a Doctorate in Genetics from the University of Ferrara (Italy), a PhD in Evolutionary Biology from the University of Connecticut, and a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Tennessee. He has done post-doctoral research in evolutionary ecology at Brown University and is currently Chair of the Philosophy Department at Lehman College and Professor of Philosophy at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. His research interests include the philosophy of biology, in particular the structure and foundations of evolutionary theory, the relationship between science and philosophy, the relationship between science and religion, and the nature of pseudoscience.
Sunday, January 24, 2016
I listened to a radio interview physicist Leonard Susskind, founder of string theory. Susskind said that he thought a multiverse was possible, and if it was real it would be a series of universes one after the other rather than parallel universes. OK, except that this could never be scientifically verified, right? It's a non-verifiable theory.
Multiverse theory is popular now, but not among all physicists. It's fascinating and it's a lot of fun thinking about a near-infinity of other "me's" that exist simultaneously with the me who is typing these words. Really? Yes, says physicist Max Tegmark, who believes that in the multiverse "all possible states exist at every instant." Which means there are a host of "Max Tegmarks" in coexisting parallel universes. Tegmark says, ‘I feel a strong kinship with parallel Maxes, even though I never get to meet them. They share my values, my feelings, my memories – they’re closer to me than brothers.’
But, sadly, such thoughts are non-scientific. On this see Philip Ball's critical essay "Too Many Worlds." The Many Worlds Interpretation (MWI) has lots of glamour and publicity. "It tells us that we have multiple selves, living other lives in other universes, quite possibly doing all the things that we dream of but will never achieve (or never dare). Who could resist such an idea?"
Well, we should resist it, argues Ball. He writes:
"We should resist not just because MWI is unlikely to be true, or even because, since no one knows how to test it, the idea is perhaps not truly scientific at all. Those are valid criticisms, but the main reason we should hold out is that it is incoherent, both philosophically and logically. There could be no better contender for Wolfgang Pauli’s famous put-down: it is not even wrong."
Ball's essay gives reasons to question the non-scientific implications of MWI. He concludes:
"If the MWI were supported by some sound science, we would have to deal with it – and to do so with more seriousness than the merry invention of Doppelgängers to measure both quantum states of a photon. But it is not. It is grounded in a half-baked philosophical argument about a preference to simplify the axioms. Until Many Worlders can take seriously the philosophical implications of their vision, it’s not clear why their colleagues, or the rest of us, should demur from the judgment of the philosopher of science Robert Crease that the MWI is ‘one of the most implausible and unrealistic ideas in the history of science’."
Shall we assume our universe is the only world there is?
Saturday, January 23, 2016
|The Whore of Babylon, by Albrecht Durer|
Tomorrow morning at Redeemer I will preach out of Revelation 19:11-21. I'll talk about the final eradication of evil, and emphasize:
- What "evil" is (I will define "evil")
- Why evil, given a correct understanding of, must be eliminated
- What John sees when "heaven is opened"
- What an "open heaven" means, and why we might expect it (even tomorrow morning)
Friday, January 22, 2016
|My back yard on the river|
If G, then C.
If C, then L.
If L, then P.
Therefore, If G, then P.
- President of the United States
- University president
- CEO of a hospital
Thursday, January 21, 2016
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
|St Mary's Bridge in Monroe|
- Matthew 4:24
Over the years I’ve seen people healed after praying for them. One of them was my grandmother.
Grandma lived with us 6 months out of every year when I was growing up. When she was in her mid-80s she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She decided not to have it medically treated. The cancerous tumors in her breasts grew. My mother used to bathe her, and visually saw and physically touched the hard, growing tumors.
Grandma knew she was going to die. She had lived a long life, and was ready to leave this world for another one. She even bought the dress she wanted to be buried in.
Grandma spent what we assumed would be her last 6 months in our home. Still alive, she went to live with my aunt and uncle who cared for her during the other 6 months. One day my aunt called. She told my mother that, while bathing Grandma, she noticed the tumors did not appear to be there. My mother could not believe this, yet wanted to believe . Mom traveled 400 miles from Rockford, Illinois to Michigan's Upper Peninsula to visually inspect Grandma and confirm this.
Grandma lived for 12 more years. She bought three more dresses to be buried in. She died at age 97. What happened? How can we explain this? I, my mother, my aunt, and grandma concluded two things:
- Grandma once was cancer-filled.
- Then one day the cancer was gone.
- We all believed (I still conclude) that God healed Grandma (using inference to the best explanation).
When the Word became flesh and dwelt among us the age to come entered this present darkness. Light came into the world. Jesus's healings were demonstrations of that truth, which was: the kingdom of God is now in our midst.
Have I prayed for people who, as far as I can tell, were not healed? Yes. Have I seen people healed as a result of praying? Yes. Therefore I pray.
Jesus came to heal. Jesus still heals. Bring your woundedness and infirmity to him today.
John Wimber's book Power Healing is still one of the best texts on this subject available. It was the forward by Richard Foster that convinced me to read it.
The work of University of Indiana scholar Candy Brown is important here. See Candy'sTesting Prayer: Science and Healing; and Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Healing.
See Candy's Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Proximal Intercessory Prayer (STEPP) on Auditory and Visual Impairments in Rural Mozambique. Candy traveled with Heidi Baker in Mozambique, bringing audiometric testing devices and visual acuity devices, testing persons before and after receiving "proximal intercessory prayer" for visual and hearing disorders.
Here are some posts I've written on healing.
|Pottery by Gary Wilson|
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Many love their bondage. It is their place of familiarity, the zone of comfort. They return to it like dogs return to their vomit.
Thomas Merton wrote:
"If these seeds would take root in my liberty, and if His will would grow from my freedom, I would become the love that He is, and my harvest would be His glory and my own joy." (Ib., 17)
Monday, January 18, 2016
One of my more precocious philosophy students approached me and said, "Did you know that we are more than 90% air?" Yes.
"Trees," wrote physicist Richard Feynman, "are made of air primarily." Physicist Max Tegmark writes:
"Physicists have known for a century that solid steel is mostly empty space, because the atomic nuclei that make up 99.95% of the mass are tiny balls that fill up merely 0.0000000000001% of the volume, and that this near-vacuum only feels solid because the electrical forces that hold these nuclei in place are very strong." (Max Tegmark, Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality, 4)
Harvard Philosopher Stanley Cavell, following Wittgenstein (that great deconstructor of linguistic appearances), is interested in probing "the uncanniness of the ordinary." Which means, what? Things like: that we exist; that a world exists; whether we have a place in the order of things; how we respond to suffering and death; how do we live this life; what does it mean to live well; and so on.
The deeper one goes into "ordinary things and events" the more extraordinary they appear to be. The Pre-Socratics plus Plato and Aristotle were on to this idea; viz., what you see (what appears to be) is not necessarily what you get (what really is). This is the paradox of analysis; viz., the more you know the less you know.
Many of my students are interested in these kind of questions and want to discuss them. Their educational background has to this point largely hindered them from going after the Big Questions. Baylor University philosopher Thomas Hibbs, in his article "Stanley Cavell's Philosophical Improvisations" (The Chronicle of Higher Education), cites Cavell and others who are critical of today's higher educational institutions for failing to address these questions. Hibbs quotes Alasdair MacIntyre, who argues that "neither the university nor philosophy is any longer seen as engaging the questions" of "plain persons."" These are questions that thinkers like MacIntyre, Charles Taylor, and Cavell have dedicated their lives to addressing.
Universities systematically fail to situate students within a "big picture." MacIntyre says: "In contemporary American universities, each academic discipline is treated as autonomous and self-defining, so that its practitioners, or at least the most prestigious and influential among them, prescribe to those entering the discipline what its scope and limits are. And in order to excel in any one particular discipline, one need in general know little or nothing about any of the others."
Hibbs writes: "Returning philosophy to the concern of ordinary human persons and showing how it might speak across disciplinary lines of inquiry are not easy tasks. But the life and career of Cavell testify not just to the possibility of such achievements but also to just how rich the results can be."
I wish you could see the eyes of many of my students as I introduce them to the philosophical issues surrounding the problem of suffering and evil. All of us face such things. What sense can we make of them? The discussion seems, to them and to me, enormously relevant and significant. When I present, in my logic classes, things like Peter Singer's argument for infanticide and Richard Dawkins's argument for aborting Down Syndrome babies, there is a lot of lively discussion!
In 1986 Cavell delivered the Tanner Lectures at Stanford University and entitled his presentation "The Uncanniness of the Ordinary." Cavell, whose mentor was ordinary-language philosopher J.L. Austin, turns his attention to everyday things (the "everyday"). The "everyday" is both eminently relevant and philosophically dense and interesting.
Commenting on Wittgenstein's thoughts on everydayness Marjorie Perloff writes:
"What is the use of studying philosophy if it doesn't improve your thinking about the important questions of everyday life? It is the pressing question Wittgenstein asked himself throughout his career as a philosopher. As early as 1913 in the Notes on Logic, he wrote, "In philosophy there are no deductions: it is purely descriptive. Philosophy gives no pictures of reality." (3) And a few years later, he made the following riddling entry in the manuscript that was to become the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus: "We feel that even if all possible scientific questions be answered, the problems of life have still not been touched at all. But of course there is then no question left, and just this is the answer." (T #6.52)"
Philosophy and religion are the two main contributors to issues regarding the "problems of life." These involve our own selves and the world that is right before our eyes. The ordinary and everyday turn out to be not so mundane after all. We are taken deeper and discover "the fantastic in what human beings will accustom themselves to... the surrealism of the habitual." (Stanford address, 4)
Sunday, January 17, 2016
At the end of one of my Philosophy of Religion classes a student asked me why I am a Christian. Why, among the world religions, would I choose Christianity? My answer went like this (I'm expanding on it here).
My Christian faith is based on the following.
1. My Conversion Experience
2. My Subsequent Studies
I came to believe because of a powerful experience that changed my life and worldview. The result of this experience included subsequent study and increasing experience. Credo (I believed); Intelligam (I grew in understanding).
Credo: My Conversion Experience
From age 18-21 I was heavily into alcohol and drugs. I flunked out of college. A lot of things were getting ruined in my life as a result of my addictions. I was in a deep hole dug by myself. I was afflicted, and didn’t know where to turn. Actually, I didn't think I needed help.
One day I hot a low. I thought, "I am screwed up." I prayed and said, “God if you are real and if Jesus is real, then help me. If you help me I’ll follow you.” That was the last day I did drugs.
This happened. My worldview was rocked. I attribute this to Jesus.
I see similarities between my conversion to Christianity and C.S. Lewis's conversion from atheism to Christianity. Lewis wrote:
"As the dry bones shook and came together in that dreadful valley of Ezekiel's, so now a philosophical theorem, cerebrally entertained, began to stir and heave and throw off its grave cloths, and stood upright and became a living presence. I was to be allowed to play at philosophy no longer. It might, as I say, still be true that my "Spirit" differed in some way from "the God of popular religion." My Adversary waived the point. It sank into utter unimportance. He would not argue about it. He only said, "I am the Lord"; "I am that I am"; "I am." People who are naturally religious find difficulty in understanding the horror of such a revelation. Amiable agnostics will talk cheerfully about "man's search for God." To me, as I then was, they might as well have talked about the mouse's search for the cat." (From Surprised By Joy)
The cat found the mouse. God found me. I was receptive. God exists. God loves me.
Intelligam: Understanding What Happened to Me
This didn't happen in a vacuum. The soil of my heart had been softening for some time. I was looking for Help. Help came. My life forever changed. What shall I make of this?
- If this event had not happened I would not have become a Jesus-follower. I needed something experiential that could change me. It happened.
- I agree with William James who, in his Varieties of Religious Experience, writes: "A mystical experience is authoritative for the one who experiences it. But a mystical experience that happens to one person need not be authoritative for other people." I'm good with that. (With the exception that the mystical-religious experiences of certain other persons have carried authority with me because of, to me, their credibility.)
- My initial religious experience ripped me out of non-reflective deism into full-blown Christian theism. I now believed in God, and in Jesus. This experiential belief had an evidential quality for me, and propelled me to go after an understanding of what had happened. 45 years later, this has not stopped. Today I am a deeper believer in God and Jesus than ever.
- True religion (not the jeans - they are too expensive) includes experience. Theory without experience is empty. Hebrew-Christianity is essentially about a relationship with God; a mutual indwelling experiential reality. This includes prayer-as-dialogue with God, the sense of God's presence, being-led by God, and so on. And worship. Worship is experiential and logical in the sense that: If God is love, and God is real, and love is about relationship (love has an "other"), then it follows that one will know and be known by God. ("Know," in Hebrew, means experiential intimacy, and not Cartesian subject-object distance. For more see, e.g., the current writings of James K.A. Smith. See also Notre Dame philosopher Alvin Plantinga's chapter of faith as knowledge, in Knowledge and Christian Belief.)
- I realize certain atheists claim to have no religious experience at all. John Allen Paulos, for example, in his Irreligion, claims not to have a religious bone in his body. I don't doubt this. This fact does not rationally deter me, just as I am certain C.S. Lewis's religious experiences don't budge Paulos from his atheism. (I'm now thinking of Antony Flew's recent conversion from atheism to deism. Flew was moved by the logic of the fine-tuning argument for God's existence. And the case of the famous and brilliant British atheist A.J. Ayer who had a vision and began to be interested in God.)
- I keep returning to my initial God-encounter. It functions, for me, as a raison d-etre. Philosophically, it's one of a number of "properly basic" experiences I've had, still have, and will have. (See, e.g., philosophers like William P. Alston.)
My studies confirmed my initial act of faith. Here are some things I believe to be academically sound.
- Good reasons can be given to believe in God. I believe it is more rational to believe in God than to disbelieve.
- The New Testament documents are reliable in their witness to the historical person Jesus. (The recent minority Facebook claim that Jesus never existed is sheer unstudied goofiness.) (See, e.g., something like Richard Bauckham's Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, or Craig Keener's The Historical Jesus of the Gospels.)
- A strong inductive argument can be made for the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead. (I shared briefly about this in my response to the student's question.)
- Christianity is qualitatively distinct from the other major world religions. Only Christianity tells us that God loves us not for what we do or where we live but for who we are. The Christian word for this is “grace” and, to me, this is huge. The other major world religions are rule-based; Christianity is grace-based. And, in distinction from other religious alternatives, Christianity's claim is that God has come to us. These kind of things make Christianity more plausible than the other alternatives.
For these reasons I became a follower of Jesus and remain one.