Monday, January 30, 2017

The Spiritual Vacuity of the Entertainment Church (The Presence-Driven Church)

Sterling State Park on Lake Erie, Monroe

I think the Seeker-Driven Church and the Entertainment Church are slowly losing their appeal with a generation that is far more enamored with and take by the accelerating digital productions secular culture offers.

For example:

"Dan Kimball, a youth minister trained at Willow Creek Community Church and Saddleback Church in Orange County, California, began to notice the different temperaments showing up in the younger generation of students attending his meetings. Students who once had been impressed by the fast-paced programming, dramas, media clips and topical messages were showing less interest. "The special effects in the video games they were used to went far beyond what we could offer," noted Kimball. "Their lives were fast paced as it was; coming to church for yet another fast-paced experience was losing its impact."" (In
John Jefferson Davis, Worship and the Reality of God: An Evangelical Theology of Real Presence, Kindle Locations 396-399)

In contrast, what tomorrow's digital venues will never be able to duplicate or compete with is the earth-shattering, awe-inspiring, numinous presence of God. Sadly, today's Seeker-Driven and entertainment churches, in their spiritual and financial investments to compete, have lost sight of our great distinctive, which requires no money, and which cannot be packaged.

Davis writes: 

"If the biblical Abraham were to visit some of the cozy and comfortable seeker-driven driven worship services of the present day, he might well say of them what he said to Abimelech, the pagan ruler of Gerar: "There is surely no fear of God in this place" (Gen 20:11)." (Davis, Kindle Locations 564-566)

Is that really important?

Without the experiential, existential reality of God's living presence, God-with-us in encounter, power, deliverance, healing, comfort, restoration, grace, mercy, direction, and love..., I would check out of the faith. As will, and as are, the youth Dan Kimball references above.

***

My book Leading the Presence-Driven Church will hopefully be out this summer.

Evicting the Wrongdoer From the House of Your Heart

Tree canopy, in my back yard


Yale theologian Miroslav Volf writes of his military service in the Yugoslavian army. Volf was a Christian in an atheist, socialist society (in Yugoslavia atheism and socialism were the same). For his faith, he was punished.

Volf was unaware that many of his fellow servicemen were ordered to spy on him. They collected conversations and papers that would indict him of sedition and insurrection. Ultimately he had to appear before the authorities and was accused of being a spy and a traitor.

While not abused physically or sexually, he was tormented psychologically. So much so that years afterward Volf could not get the fearful memories out of his mind. He writes:

"My mind was enslaved by the abuse I had suffered. It was as though Captain G. [his tormentor] had moved into the very household of my mind, ensconced himself right in the middle of its living room, and I had to live with him." (The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly In a Violent WorldKindle Locations 65-67)

Volf's punishers stayed in the living room of his mind and interrogated him again and again. What could he do to finally evict his accusers from the house of his soul?

The answer was: to not allow evil to win. He writes:

"To triumph fully, evil needs two victories, not one. The first victory happens when an evil deed is perpetrated; the second victory, when evil is returned. After the first victory, evil would die if the second victory did not infuse it with new life. In my own situation, I could do nothing about the first victory of evil, but I could prevent the second." (Kindle Locations 91-93)

Evil can be overcome with good (Romans 12:21). This is done by:
  • loving the wrongdoer
  • forgiving the wrongdoer
This is Core Christianity; viz., "to embrace the heart of the Christian faith is precisely to be pulled beyond the zone of comfort into the risky territory marked by the commitment to love one's enemies." (Kindle Locations 101-102) Without this your abusers will take up permanent residence in the house that is your heart.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Progressive Secularism's Orwellian Rewriting of History

Sharp-shinned hawk in my back yard

Anyone interested in the current battle between opposing faith-systems (progressive secularism vs. religious belief) needs to read Mary Eberstadt's It's Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies. You will see why I am reading, concurrently, 1984.

Here's but one of many examples: Downton Abbey. (See "God banished from Downton Abbey, says show's historical advisor.")

Alister Bruce was in charge of ensuring that Downton Abbey was historically accurate. But this was tricky to do, since an early twentieth-century English family would have been religious.

So, to avoid being accurate, meals on the set were always shown already under way. This avoided seeing the family pray before they ate.

"The word abbey in the show’s title came in for scrutiny, over fear that it could conjure a religious subtext. The dining room table was not even allowed to show napkins folded in the pattern traditional to the time—because it suggests a bishop’s miter, apparently another possible triggering affront." (Eberstadt, pp. 32-33)

Bruce "said that executives in charge of the series had ordered producers to “leave religion out of it”, for fear of alienating an increasingly atheistic public." ("God banished from Downton Abbey," op. cit.)

So much for truth. So much for historical accuracy.

In 1984 Winston, the main character, works for the Ministry of Truth. His job is to dispose of historical facts by tossing them into a "memory hole." And then, he is to rewrite history, to make Big Brother look good.

"This process of continuous alteration was applied not only to newspapers, but to books, periodicals, pamphlets, posters, leaflets, films, sound-tracks, cartoons, photographs—to every kind of literature or documentation which might conceivably hold any political or ideological significance. Day by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up to date." (George Orwell, 1984, Kindle Locations 627-630)


‘Reality control’, they called it: in Newspeak, ‘doublethink’.

1984

Friday, January 27, 2017

THE CALL (two sermons)

Pine tree out my window


My two sermons on THE CALL are online.

#1 is HERE.

#2 is HERE. (This one emphasizes dreams and visions.)

The Religion of Today's Secular-Progressive Alliance

Monroe County

I am re-reading Orwell's 1984. I'm doing this to gain insight into the Thought Police of today.

The new custodians of the Ministry of Love are filled with hatred. Orwell helps me see this, providing a lens through which to view the New Intolerance.

I am among the religious, and we are being excoriated, in a country where supposedly we have freedom of speech and freedom of religion (and, BTW, secular-progressivism has all the marks of a new, alternative religion, with its many mindless acolytes [viz., the media and the mediatees]).

Side-by-side with Orwell I am reading Mary Eberstadt's It's Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies. Eberstadt writes:

"Belligerent secularism, not religious traditionalism, is the true heir to Puritanism today.
It is standard-bearers within the progressive-secular alliance, not religious traditionalists, who now enforce dogma on the wider society, who police cultural precincts for heretics, and who shun and shame dissenters. They are the guardians of what has become a secularist substitute faith, concerning the sexual revolution and its perceived moral imperatives. And like the Puritanism of yesteryear, today’s secular version does not tolerate nonconformism. Practicing Christians who refuse to cave are on the front lines of the new intolerance today." (p. 17)

Only the Thought Police mattered.

George Orwell, 1984

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Psalms and Proverbs for Breakfast

My home office

For several months I have been starting the day by slowly reading and meditating on the biblical books of Psalms and Proverbs.

Both books are refreshing antidotes to the prevailing political bleakness. They point me to True North. Psalms leads me into praying and worshiping God. Proverbs directs me to the matters of character and integrity. Proverbs is the ancient text to ponder for wisdom on what and what not to do with my mouth. It is stunning how relevant Proverbs is to the Western amoral atmosphere.

I have an office on the second floor of our house. It is very, very quiet. The window overlooks the two old Norway spruces in my front yard. Blue jays especially like these trees. I see a lot of birds, and an occasional bald eagle flying in front of my window (about one eagle a week).

My computer screen is off to the side. I pull up my Kindle, and my copy of the best study Bible I have ever seen - the NIV Cultural Background Study Bible, edited by Craig Keener and John Walton. (Today this is on sale for Kindle at only $3.99 - incredible!) 

Today I am in Psalm 34, and Proverbs 19. I alternate between them. I read some or all of Psalm 34. God speaks to me. I take notes. I pause. I meditate on what God is showing me, which means, I repeat. Then I do the same with Proverbs 19. Proverbs is so thick with wisdom that I rarely get through an entire chapter in one session.

All this takes, usually, between thirty and sixty minutes.

With my soul enriched, my mind instructed, and my heart renovated, I move into whatever God has for me this day.

***
My current book is Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

Dealing with Anger in Relationships

Istanbul


In every good relationship there are feelings of anger between persons. I once had a friend tell me, “I never get angry.” My thought was this: here is a person out of touch with what’s going on inside of him. Even God feels anger. Even Jesus felt anger.


I have angry moments. When I feel angry, what can I do?

I can evaluate my anger. Here's how to do this. 

1. Recognize my anger. “Anger” is the emotion a person feels when one of their expectations has not been met. For example, if I drive across town expecting every light to turn green when I approach, I am going to be an angry person. Because this expectation will not be met. Therefore...

2. Identify my unmet expectation. Fill in the blank: "I am angry because my expectation ________  was not met."

3. Evaluate my unmet expectation. Is it either: a) godly, reasonable, good, fair; or 2) ungodly, unreasonable, bad, unfair. In my "driving" example above, my expectation was irrational.

4. Reject any ungodly or irrational expectations. If, for example, you expect people to clearly understand every word that comes out of your mouth, you are now free to reject this as an irrational expectation. Or, if you have the expectation that other people should never make mistakes when it comes to you, I now free you from that ungodly, irrational expectation.

5. If the unmet expectation is godly/fair, then ask: Have I communicated this to the person I am angry with? If not, then communicate it. For example, my expectation that persons should take off their shoes before entering our living room may be both rational and of God. But if I have not communicated this to others, my anger at the unfulfilled expectation is still real. But my expectation that people should know such a thing without being told is unfair.

6. If you have communicated it clearly to the person you are angry with, then communicate your anger this way: Say “I feel angry because my unmet expectation is __________________.


Communicate this by using “I” words rather than “You” words. Begin your sentence with “I feel angry…” rather than “You make me feel angry…” Doing it this way asserts without being aggressive. For the other person this feels less like an attack that causes them to rise up in defense.

Get rid of irrational or ungodly expectations. As I get free of these things I find myself less angry.

Remember that from, the Christian POV, “anger” is not sin. Ephesians 4:26 says, “In your anger do not sin.” We are not told never to feel anger. There is a righteous anger, and that is not only appropriate but necessary. But when we feel the emotion of anger we are never to sin. In all relationships we are never to be harsh, demeaning, vindictive, or abusive. But in every close relationship there is anger. The anger-free relationship is a myth, and probably is a sign of unhealth when claimed.

Finally, the second part of Ephesians 4:26 says, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” Which means: deal with anger quickly, and in a loving and truthful way. The goal is always restoration of relationship and reconciliation. 

I am thankful that only two, maybe three times in our 43+ years of marriage, have Linda and I fallen asleep angry with each other. The reason for this is not that we’re some special, exceptionally compatible couple. We were taught to do this by godly people who spoke into our lives. We were warned about the cancerous bitterness that arises when anger is swept under the carpet.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

It Is Dangerous to Believe

Image result for john piippo war
The Via Dolorosa, in Jerusalem


In America, and around the Western world, there is a growing hatred and vilification of Jesus-followers. For details, plus the origin of current anti-religious hatred in the sexual revolution, I'm now reading through Mary Eberstadt's It's Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies.

Here are some examples Eberstadt cites.

  • A high school football coach suspended in Washington State in 2015 for kneeling to say a prayer at the end of a game.
  • The American military chaplains who claim to have been reassigned on account of their faithfulness to traditional Christianity.
  • The small business owners working in the wedding industry at a time when vindictiveness in the name of the sexual revolution is apparently boundless.
  • The Christian staffer at a day-care center who would not address a six-year-old boy as a girl, and was fired on account if it.
  • The teacher fired in New Jersey for giving a curious student a Bible.
  • In 2014, Brendan Eich, the CEO of Mozilla and creator of the JavaScript programming language, loses his job after it is revealed that he donated one thousand dollars on behalf of Proposition 8, a ballot initiative in California limiting marriage to a man and a woman (inter alia, the ballot passed in 2008 by 52 percent of the vote). A cyber-shaming war ensues, and Eich resigns.
  • • A thirty-three-year Catholic theology teacher in New Jersey, Patricia Jannuzzi, is fired for posting statements on her Facebook page expressing Catholic teaching about same-sex marriage.
  • An adjunct professor at the University of Illinois, Kenneth Howell, hired to teach a class in modern Catholic social thought, is suspended from the classroom for teaching modern Catholic thought about natural law. The head of the religion department explains that his explication of Church doctrine concerning homosexuality caused accusations of “hate speech.”
  • A Christian pastor in Atlanta renowned for his work against human trafficking, Louie Giglio, withdraws from giving the benediction at President Barack Obama’s second swearing-in ceremony—the day after a progressive “watchdog” group posts a sermon from the mid-1990s in which he tells Christians to “lovingly but firmly” resist nontraditional marriage, and a social media campaign against him leads White House spokesmen to distance themselves.
  • A visitor to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., is ordered to remove a pro-life pin on her lapel before entering, because it is a “religious symbol.”
  • In Massachusetts, an inner-city school district votes to sever ties with a Protestant college whose students tutor failing public school students. A committee member explains, “You have to draw the line somewhere. If the Ku Klux Klan, for example, made the best school lunch in the world, we’re not going to hire them to make the school lunch.”
  • The city of Houston issues subpoenas ordering specific pastors to turn over any sermons mentioning homosexuality, gender identity—and/or the mayor.
  • Catholic and other Christian adoption agencies across America are kept under legal siege that drains resources from the poor and destitute people they try to serve—for the sole reason that political adversaries oppose longstanding Judeo-Christian teaching about sex.
  • • At the University of Texas at Austin, the police department issues a disorderly conduct citation to a street preacher after students complain that his words about STDs and sex offend them. The officer explains that it is illegal to offend the students.
  • An evangelical Christian fire chief in Atlanta is suspended for writing and self-publishing a book professing his Christian beliefs, among them that homosexual behavior is wrong.
  •  A U.S. Marine in North Carolina is court-martialed, given a bad-conduct discharge, and denied military benefits because she pasted a motivational passage from Isaiah 54:17 near her office computer (“No weapons formed against me shall prosper”). According to a military judge, the quotation “could be interpreted as combative . . . [and] could easily be seen as contrary to good order and discipline.”
  • A teacher in Great Britain is fired for praying for a sick child—which her managers define as “bullying.”
  • A Christian health worker in Great Britain is disciplined for “bullying and harassment” after asking a coworker if she’d like a prayer (the coworker said yes), and giving the coworker a book about conversion to Christianity.
  • A couple in Great Britain is denied status as foster parents because they will not recant unwanted passages in the Bible. (Richard Scott, “The Foster Parents,” chapter 5 in Christians in the Firing Line (London: Wilberforce, 2013), pp. 65–81.)
  • A delivery driver in Great Britain loses his job for leaving a crucifix on the dashboard. (Scott, “The Van Driver,” chapter 2 in ibid., pp. 35–41.
  • A preschool teacher in Great Britain is fired for refusing to read a book about same-sex parents aloud to three-year-olds.
  • In Great Britain, in 2015 a preacher was sent to jail for speaking “threatening” words from the Book of Leviticus. In 2008, in Canada, the Alberta Human Rights Commission charged a former Alberta pastor with a “hate crime” for a letter he sent to a local newspaper in 2002, criticizing teaching about sexuality in the province’s education system; after seven years in the legal system, the ruling was overturned in 2009.
There is more...

It is dangerous to believe.

I just located my copy of 1984.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

God's Love Is Enough


Green Lake Conference Center, Wisconsin

Henri Nouwen was open about his struggle with self-hatred. He found the antidote to this heart-disease in a life of prayerful dwelling in God's presence.

Few have written so well about this spiritual battle. I thank God often for Nouwen, and how God has used him to minister to me and lead me out of my own self-obsession.

Nouwen believed, as tdid he apostle Paul, that our pre-Jesus condition finds ourselves with this situation: I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. When we become Jesus-followers this situation is defeated within us, and we discover that God's love now reigns in our hearts. In spite of this, the powers of darkness come to accuse us, even "day and night." This should not surprise us.

Nouwen writes:


"As you see more clearly that your vocation is to be a witness to God's love in this world, and as you become more determined to live out that vocation, the attacks of the enemy will increase. You will hear voices saying, "You are worthless, you have nothing to offer, you are unattractive, undesirable, unlovable." The more you sense God's call, the more you will discover in your own soul the cosmic battle between God and Satan. Do not be afraid. Keep deepening your conviction that God's love for you is enough, that you are in safe hands, and that you are being guided every step of the way. Don't be surprised by demonic attacks. They will increase, but as you face them without fear, you will discover that they are powerless." (Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love)


The way to hear what Nouwen described as "the inner voice of love" is to spend much intentional time dwelling in God's presence. When I assign my seminary students to do this, and read their spiritual journals, it is common to see this sentence written: "Today God told me that he loved me." 


Do not expect to follow after Jesus and escape the voices of hatred. Because of this "the more you are called to speak for God's love, the more you will need to deepen the knowledge of this love in your own heart. The farther the outward journey takes you, the deeper the inward journey must be." Only when your roots are deep can your fruits be abundant." (Ib.)


***
My current book is Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Love Is What God Is

Image may contain: tree, sky, plant, outdoor and nature
Linda, walking at Sterling State Park in Monroe



God is love. Love forms the very being of God.

"Love" is an essential attribute of God. Just as a triangle cannot not be three-sided, God cannot not-love.

Christian Trinitarian Theism best expresses this idea that God is love. In  this way.


  1. God is a three-personed being. God is, essentially, a being-in-relationship.
  2. God as Father-Son-Spirit makes conceptual sense of the idea that God is love. This is because "love" is relational. "Love" requires an "other," an object to-be-loved.
  3. So, in the very being of God there is a unity of otherness. Which allows for love.
God's essence is love. Just as an apple has appleness, God cannot not-love you. 

God does not love you because there is some command external to his being he must follow. God is love, therefore all God's thoughts and actions are loving.

God's love for you is genuine, 100% pure-squeezed love.

This means that when God thinks of you, he has a good feeling. God likes you. You are God's child, his son, or his daughter.

God made you, and what he has made God calls "very good."

You are deeply loved by God. Nothing can change this because God is love.

***
My current book is Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

Pastors Pray for Their People

Image may contain: tree, sky, outdoor and nature
One of my praying places is Sterling State Park, on Lake Erie

Tomorrow is another Tuesday. For the past forty years I have taken Tuesday afternoons to go to a quiet place and pray. Tomorrow will be no exception.

One of the things I do during these extended praying times is pray for the people in my church family. On occasion, I send them a note like this one, which I sent a few minutes ago.


Dear Redeemer Family:

Most of you know that, for forty years, I have taken Tuesday afternoons to pray.

I'll be going to a quiet place tomorrow afternoon to pray.

If you have a prayer request that you would like me to pray about (and Linda as well), please send it to me and I'll carry it with me to my prayer time. (Your request will not be shared with others unless you ask me to send it out to my Redeemer prayer list).

Blessings and love,

PJ


Pastors - we are shepherds of the beautiful people entrusted to our care. Let them know you are praying for them, and then do so. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Understanding Comes First (Love Is Greater than Judgment)

Monroe County

To answer before listening— that is folly and shame.
Proverbs 18:13

I wrote a letter to a young person whose marriage was struggling. There's a lot of fighting and yelling in this marriage. One of them keeps repeating past failures to the other,. The  other called me and asked "Why do they have to keep reminding me of mistakes I've made in the past!"

Here's the note I sent to them. 

Dear _________:

Understand ______. 

Understanding always comes before evaluation. 

Linda and I spend little time evaluating each other,
and tons of time understanding one another.

To understand is to love; to be understood is to be loved and to feel loved.

Understand why ______ feels a need to repeat things to you. It's probably because they feel you are not really listening, or because they cannot trust you. 

You do not need to defend yourself about such things.
Work to understand why they feel the need to repeat things to you, 
and they will begin to feel understood, 
which is to feel loved.

Communicate with me as needed, and we'll talk on the phone again.

Blessings,

PJ

Making judgments without understanding is the cause of many relationship breakdowns. To judge without understanding is foolish. Here's the order of relational priority:

1. Understand.
2. Evaluate.

In knowledge and relationships understanding comes first. Which is a way of saying that love is greater than judgment.

(After sending that note I went looking for a book in my library - To Understand Each Other, by Paul Tournier. This is one of the books that shaped Linda and I in how we approach relationships and marriage. We used to give newly married couples a copy of it. For those who value depth and wisdom, Tournier's works are must reading.)

***
My recent book is Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

A March of Euphemisms in Our Orwellian World (On Abortion)

Image may contain: 6 people
Storefront of mindless followers in Savannah, Georgia

I'm watching actress Scarlett Johansson speaking at today's women's march in Washington, D.C..

She just used two euphemisms: "safe abortion," and "reproductive rights."

A euphemism is a spin word. It puts a positive spin on a negative event (such as "collateral damage," instead of "killing innocent people").

"Safe abortion" is a euphemism for "killing inborn children." Obviously, an abortion is not safe for the inborn child.

"Reproductive rights" is another euphemism for "killing inborn children." Obviously, in such a catastrophe, the inborn child has no rights.

The culture war is a war of words. If you can get people to accept your euphemisms, or your dysphemisms, then you are winning people to your side. Few will look deeper. They will begin to take, as literal and factual, what began as rhetoric. See their blank stares of approval and anger.

This is Orwellian. It's the Thought Police. 

Plantinga's Modal Version of the Ontological Argument for God's Existence

In my MCCC Philosophy of Religion class I am teaching Anselm's Ontological Argument for God's Existence. In our last class I mentioned the modal version of the Ontological Argument. Here is Alvin Plantinga's modal version of the Ontological Argument for God's existence. It is a real head-twister! 

Using modal logic the following is true: If a necessary being is possible then a necessary being exists. (Think about it, modally.)

Or:

1. There is a possible world in which a necessarily existing being exists.
2. Therefore, a necessarily existing being exists.

Note: This argument avoids the Kantian criticism that 'exists' is not a predicate.


PLANTINGA’S MODAL VERSION OF THE ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT FOR GOD’S EXISTENCE


The argument goes:


1.    It is possible that there is a being (B) that has maximal greatness.

2.    So, there is a possible being that in some world W has maximal greatness.

3.    A being has maximal greatness in a given world only if it has maximal excellence in every world.

4.    A being has maximal excellence in a given world only if it has omniscience, omnipotence, and moral perfection in that world.

5.    Therefore, “there actually exists a being (B) that is omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect; this being, furthermore, exists and has these qualities in every other world as well.”

Needed to understand this argument:

Logical possibilities and impossibilities do not vary from world to world. If a given proposition or state of affairs is impossible in at least one possible world, then it is impossible in every possible world. For example, "square circles" are logical impossibilities in our world. Therefore they are logical impossibilities in every possible world. There is no possible world, no creatively invented world, that could contain a square circle.
  • There are no propositions that are in fact impossible but could have been possible. For example, square circles could not exist in any conceivable/possible world.
  • And, there are no propositions that in fact are possible but could have been impossible. For example, if there is a possible world in which SpongeBob exists, then there is no possible world in which SpongeBob could not exist.
  • Therefore, B's nonexistence is impossible in every possible world. And because B is a maximally great Being, B exists in every possible world.
  • Therefore B’s nonexistence is impossible in this world (since this world is a possible world).
  • Therefore B exists and exists necessarily.

Love Requires a Predicate


Trees in Love
Lake Erie sunrise, Sterling State Park

"S loves p." As in: John loves Linda." A 'subject' loves a 'predicate'; in this example, a subject loves a person.


Love is other-centered. The lover desires the beloved

At its best and purest a lover loves the beloved in such a way that the beloved experiences being-loved. Real love is for the sake of the other, not for one's own self. Love serves the beloved. Where there is love, the beloved's well-being is paramount.

Love gives. Love describes a relationship in which the predicate benefits at the expense of the subject. The subject spends itself on the predicate. When it's the other way around, when the subject "loves" for the sake of benefiting at the expense of the predicate, the predicate loses their personhood and becomes an object. "loves p" gets reduced to, simply, "S." The identity of the beloved is wallowed up in the narcissism of the lover. 

This is the loopy logic of self-love, of "love" for the sake of one's self. The predicate is the subject. A strange self-reflexive reaction forms. This is "love" that is never satisfied. This is "love" that leads to adulterous affairs, serial monogamy, and other forms of non-investment.

Thomas Merton writes: "The one love that always grows weary of its object and is never satisfied with anything and is always looking for something different and new is the love of ourselves. It is the source of all boredom and all restlessness and all unqiet and all misery and all unhappiness - ultimately, it is hell." (The Waters of Siloe) Object-predicates fail to satisfy the greedy "subject" because the subject has become an all-absorbing thing, consuming love-objects like dogs devour chunks of meat.

"S loves p" could be construed not as a subject-predicate statement ,but as a subject-object statement. What, precisely, in "S is in love with p," is predicated of S? Isn't p to be understood as the "object" of S's love, and not a predicate ascribing something to the subject? No and yes. 

No: p is not best understood as an object of S's love. Subject-object language implies relational distance. Love has nothing to do with that. Love is a connected-relational thing. Love speaks of oneness and unity, not two-ness and distance. Two lovers "become one flesh." "One flesh" language resists the Cartesian dichotomy between a knowing subject and an object which is to be known. Love is a unitive thing.

Yes: because if love were an ontological union between the lover and the beloved both would disappear. Or, perhaps, the beloved would be absorbed into the lover. In this case "S loves _____" would become, simply, S. There is always a distance between lover and beloved, but not a Cartesian metaphysical distance whereby one eventually wonders if the beloved exists. 

Subject-predicate language better explains the love-relationship than does subject-object language. In the statement "The chalk is white," "whiteness" is predicated as an attribute of "chalk," telling us something about a certain piece of chalk. Analogously, to say "S loves p" (or "S loves ____") tells us something about the being of S, instead of simply objectifying p.

The noetic framework that best accounts for the nature of real love as predicate-centered is Christian Trinitarian theism. The Christian idea of God as a "trinity" of Persons conceptually explains the idea that God is love. God, in his being, is love. Because we have a God who is a three-personed being sharing one essence, the love of God is not self-love. In the idea of God-as-Trinity, Father, Son, and Spirit love one another throughout eternity. God's love is "predicative" and relational, rather than objectifying in the sense of Descartes and the influential Cartesian tradition.

In John 14-17 Jesus extends an invitation to enter Trinitarian love. The love that ultimately satisfies, the love that provides the foundation of all earthly loves, the very source of love itself as other-centered, becomes ours, in reality and by experience. Love requires a predicate because the God who is love is, in his essence, a lover of others. God is the author of the subject-predicate love that defines his very being.


***
My recent book is Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Genetic Fallacy




A common student response to the God-discussions in my philosophy of religion classes is to reason that how beliefs are acquired is relevant to the truth of those beliefs. If one can establish that, e.g., John was taught to believe in God by his parents, then somehow this casts doubt on the existence of God. In logic this kind of false reasoning is known as committing the genetic fallacy.


The genetic fallacy is an informal logical fallacy in which the origin of a belief, claim, or theory is confused with its justification. This fallacy is more often used to discredit a belief, though it may also be used to support one.


For example: "You only believe in God because your parents taught you to. So your belief must be false."


This kind of thinking is fallacious because the origin of the claim has no logical relation to its truth or falsity. The origin of a belief (how we acquired the belief) is irrelevant to the truth or falsity of that belief.


Another example is: "You only believe Christianity because you were indoctrinated by your parents and culture. If you came from a Hindu family and culture you would be a Hindu," with the spoken or unspoken impression "Thus, Christianity need not be preferred over Hinduism."

These are sociological, statistical claims.  Nothing can be inferred about the truth of Christianity from reasons as to where Christian belief originated.

Logic, and philosophy of religion studies, care nothing for sociological, socio-cultural, anthropological, and psychological explanations of the formation and transmission of beliefs. This is because such studies are irrelevant to the truth of beliefs.


Further note that, were genetic fallacy reasoning valid, then we ought to question everything we have learned from our parents, to include "1+1=2," "The earth is not flat," and "Milk comes from cows."


Logic is concerned with whether or not statements of belief are TRUE. or FALSE


CONSIDER:
· Christianity – An omni-God exists
· Atheism – no omni-God exists
· Hinduism – there are 330 million “gods”
· Buddhism – everything that is, is metaphysically One.
· Pantheism – everything is God
· Agnosticism – we can’t know whether or not an omni-God exists
· Skepticism – there are so many alternatives we can’t possibly know which one is true.


The origins of these beliefs have nothing to do with logical truth-claims.

Philosophers look at these statements individually and ask: Is this statement true or is it false? For example, is the statement God does not exist true? How one came to believe that God does or does not exist is irrelevant to the issue of truth.

Love Is the Imperishable Seed

Image result for john piippo heart
Heart-shaped snowflake

I'm up early and praying. I'm praying for people today. For friends and enemies who are sick, struggling, failing, addicted, facing hard choices, and experiencing circumstantial hopelessness (nihilism).

I feel compassion towards them. I have visited all these places. I know what they are like, to a degree. I am a man of joys and a man of sorrows, acquainted with bliss and sadness. 

I am praying for friends and enemies to be healed, to conquer, to win in life, to go free, to get clear direction, and to be filled with hope. I am also praying for myself. I am praying to be a better, freer lover of people. 

Part of this morning's reading is from Thomas Merton's journals. He writes:

"Now I see more and more that there is only one realistic answer: Love. I have got to dare to love, and to bear the anxiety of self-questioning that love arouses in me, until “perfect love casts out fear.”" (Merton, Learning To Love: Exploring Solitude and Freedom (The Journals of Thomas Merton), p. 44.)

Love is the answer. By "love," I mean the love Jesus exemplified.

Dare to love, because love is risky. Love makes me vulnerable. People get crucified when they love. Because of this, I am often afraid to love.

Love causes me to question my self. What is this thing in me that wants to hate? Where does this judgmentalism come from? How could I even begin to entertain hatred? To hate or to love, those are the options.  

The love of God, the love that is of the essence of God and manifested when the Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us, is the only logical, realistic answer. Love is the imperishable seed planted by God in my soul.

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My recent book is Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.