Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Speaking at the Coming National Prayer Summit


I'll be speaking at the National Prayer Summit, Feb. 22-24, in Spring Arbor, Michigan. For more information go HERE
George Otis, Jr.


Steve Beaumont
John Piippo
Newtons

***
My two books are:

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God


I'm now working on #3 - How God Changes the Human Heart.

Robin Collins's Fine-Tuning Argument for God's Existence

Monroe County Community College
(For my MCCC Philosophy of Religion students)

Oral Exam Question #5 - Explain Collins's Fine-Tuning Argument for God's existence.

1. Give the "biosphere" example.

2. The universe is analogous to such a biosphere.

3. The universe is "fine-tuned" for our existence. For example, "If gravity did not exist, masses would not clump together to form stars or planets, and hence the existence of complex, intelligent life would be seriously inhibited." (The gravitational constant is an "anthropic coincidence," or "cosmological constant." Stephen Hawking et. al. acknowledge the fine-tuning.)

4. State the argument:


  • Premise 1. The existence of the fine-tuning is not improbable under theism.
  • Premise 2. The existence of the fine-tuning is very improbable under the atheistic single-universe hypothesis.
  • Conclusion: From premises (1) and (2) and the prime principle of confirmation, it follows that the fine-tuning data provides strong evidence in favor of the design hypothesis over the atheistic single-universe hypothesis.


5. The "prime principle of confirmation" is: whenever we are considering two competing hypotheses,  an observation counts as evidence in favor of the hypothesis under which the observation has the highest probability (or is the least improbable). 

Note: Collins also calls the "prime principle of confirmation" the "likelihood principle."





The Cultural Captivity of the American University

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Downtown Monroe on a rainy day, through my car window
For years I have followed and admired the work of University of Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith. He's the one that came up with "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism" as the prevailing religion of today's American adolescents. 

I just read Smith's critique of the American university in The Chronicle Review - "Higher Education Is Drowning in BS." Much of what Smith says can translate to the American Church, as it is in the same cultural captivity.

The entire article is well worth reading. Here are some highlights, some of the current BS the American university is wallowing in.


  • The university has lost its capacity to grapple with life’s Big Questions, because of our crisis of faith in truth, reality, reason, evidence, argument, civility, and our common humanity.
  • The university now expects that a good education can be provided by institutions modeled organizationally on factories, state bureaucracies, and shopping malls — that is, by enormous universities processing hordes of students as if they were livestock, numbers waiting in line, and shopping consumers.
  • Universities have been hijacked by the relentless pursuit of money and prestige, including chasing rankings that they know are deeply flawed, at the expense of genuine educational excellence (to be distinguished from the vacuous "excellence" peddled by recruitment and "advancement" offices in every run-of-the-mill university).
  • Universities embrace the fantasy that education worthy of the name can be accomplished online through "distance learning."
  • Universities have the grossly lopsided political ideology of the faculty of many disciplines, especially in the humanities and social sciences, creating a homogeneity of worldview to which those faculties are themselves oblivious, despite claiming to champion difference, diversity, and tolerance.
  • Universities live by the ascendant "culture of offense" that shuts down the open exchange of ideas and mutual accountability to reason and argument. It is university leaders’ confused and fearful capitulation to that secular neo-fundamentalist speech-policing.
  • Universities create the standard undergraduate student mentality, fostered by our entire culture, that sees college as essentially about credentials and careers (money), on the one hand, and partying oneself into stupefaction on the other.
  • University leaders in higher education fail to champion the liberal-arts ideal — that college should challenge, develop, and transform students’ minds and hearts so they can lead good, flourishing, and socially productive lives — and their stampeding into the "practical" enterprise of producing specialized workers to feed The Economy.
  • University administrators delusional thinking believes that what is important in higher education can be evaluated by quantitative "metrics," the use of which will (supposedly) enable universities to be run more like corporations, thus requiring faculty and staff to spend more time and energy providing data for metrics, which they, too, know are BS.

***
My two books are:

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God


I'm now working on #3 - How God Changes the Human Heart.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Abortion Rights - The Right to Kill Unborn Children

Image result for john piippo winter
Monroe
There's an article in today's New York Times entitled "The Gathering Threat to Abortion Rights." 

"Abortion rights" are the legal permission to kill unborn children. Abortion rights give people the right to kill their babies. 

The right to kill a person.

That is the issue, and why it is so controversial. If the unborn child is not a "person" (like Peter Singer claims), then killing the inborn life form is not killing a person. Who would then care, except irrational mothers who believe the entity within them was their child?

But if the inborn life form is a person, at every stage of its existence, then abortion is murder. 

This is why I, and many others, are scandalized by abortion. This seems to be why Eminem confesses, and cries for forgiveness.

This is why the women (and occasional men, like Eminem) Linda and I meet, who have had abortions, grieve over their choice to terminate the life of their child. This is why they think, years later, of how old their child would be now? 

The threat to every person's right to life. That makes us emotional. 

And rational.

For the reasoning, see "Abortion: A Logical Argument."

***
My two books are:

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God


I'm now working on #3 - How God Changes the Human Heart.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Our Greatest Need Is the Presence of God

The River Raisin

When praying, I request. I ask, of God.

I have asked God for many things over the years. I have seen and experienced the response of God to my requests. This is appropriate. Just as a child in need comes to their loving parent, I bring my neediness to God.


But prayer is more than this. Prayer is relationship with God. Just as a child needs the presence of their father and mother, I need the felt, experiential presence of my God. Ultimately, I need relationship more than I need answers to prayer. 


As much as God responds to my requests, there is something God wants more than this. Imagine a child who only approached their father with requests, but didn't want to be with him and know him. God wants me to love him, and he wants to love me, in relationship.

I like what Philip Yancey writes about this:


"Prayer that focuses on God, meditative prayer, can serve as a kind of self-forgetfulness. Some have called it a “useless” act because we do it not for the sake of getting something out of it, but spontaneously, as uselessly as a child at play. After an extended time with God, my urgent requests, which had seemed so significant, took on a new light. I began to ask them for God’s sake, not my own. Though my needs may drive me to prayer, there I come face-to-face with my greatest need: an encounter with God’s own self." (Yancey, Prayer, Kindle Locations 1023-1026)


As I pray God brings me face to face with my greatest need, which is... God.. 


***
My two books are...

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

The Presence-Driven Church Rejects "Success"


Image result for john piippo success
Holland State Park (Michigan)

(My new book is Leading the Presence-Driven Church. See especially my chapter on how secular marketing language has colonized the American Church, and what we must do to de-colonize ourselves.)

The Presence-Driven Church removes the word “success” from its vocabulary. This results in the slow death of the quantitative measurement tools of the Church Growth Movement.

The Church Growth Movement arose in the late twentieth century. Gary Black describes it this way.

“To track the quality of church membership, [Donald} McGavran suggested modern quantitative accounting methods to evaluate and measure specific determiners of church “success.” Therefore, the CGM methodology gradually emphasized the accumulation, public reporting, and management of key metrics and measurements of congregational accomplishment.”[1]

The Church Growth Movement focused on numbers – of new converts, of membership growth, of church service attendance, and of financial giving. Black writes that “Seeker Sensitive” or “Seeker Driven” churches are the logical and historical culmination of the Church Growth Movement. “If “crowds, cash, and converts” are growing, then successful contextualization of the gospel into the culture is believed to have occurred.”[2]

The Seeker Church eventually morphed into the Entertainment Church, for that is its logical outcome. The Entertainment Church applies “the latest, modern consumer marketing techniques and technologies is essential for displaying cultural acumen, creating an entertaining atmosphere, and maintaining brand loyalty in a competitive religious marketplace. The technology and marketing efforts focus directly on the Sunday morning “worship service.””[3]

Seeker-driven worship, at its quantitative worst, becomes the creation of a performance event, a spectacle, meant to entertain, for the sake of being successful. Essentially, the Entertainment Church exists for its own sake.

Presence-Driven Churches are vastly different from this. Numbers are not completely irrelevant. If you are a pastor of one hundred Jesus-followers, and this Sunday not one of them is in the house, surely God is trying to tell you something. But “presence” massively overwhelms “numbers.” Keeping this clear, as expressed in how we talk about Real Church, slowly heals the incessant guilt and shame that accompany leaders in consumer-driven churches.

What if your church had but two, maybe three, followers of Jesus? The Entertainment Church would consider that a massive disaster. Jesus, however, would not view things that way. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.[4]

Really?

In the Presence-Driven Church, better are three gathered in his name than a thousand colonized elsewhere.

***

My first book is Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God. 
You can contact me at: johnpiippo@msn.com.



[1] Gary Black, The Theology of Dallas Willard: Discovering Proto-Evangelical Faith, p. 34
[2] Ib., p. 35
[3] Ib.
[4] Matthew 18:20

Friday, January 26, 2018

Letter to a Grieving Divorcee

Monroe County
I wrote a friend of ours whose divorce was finalized. Linda and I meet so many people in this situation that I thought I'd post it here, with appropriate changes.

BTW - "amicable divorce" is an oxymoron, like "Microsoft Works."



***

Hi _____, I'm glad you called. Some of my thoughts are... (if they don't fit please forgive me)...


  • The finalization of a divorce, no matter how bad the marriage was, is like lowering a dead body in a grave and burying it. Divorce is the death of hopes and dreams a husband and wife had when they stood before God and pledged their love and fidelity, "until death do us part." The idea was never "until the marriage dies."
  • The God-given, emotional response to death (the final loss of something precious) is grief. You are now experiencing grief, a word that covers a range of emotions. In the aftermath of death, grief remains.
  • Grieving can do its work if one has a community that absorbs the grief. Linda and I (and others) are part of that community, for you. 
  • Jesus knows grief. He is "a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief." "He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" - Isaiah 53:3.
  • Continue to dwell in Him. Before Jesus went to the cross, he instructed His disciples: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you... If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him." (John 14:18, 23) The Jesus said, "Abide in Me, and I in you." (John 15:4)
  • We are promised that, as we live the abiding life in him, our lives shall bear much fruit. Even for the grieving person who abides in Christ, God continues to bear lasting fruit in and through them. This remains true for you.
  • Finally, any real or perceived condemnation you feel coming from others who wonder about your divorce is not from God. All of us are in the same boat here. We've all sinned and fallen short of God's glory. All our sin and failure has been crucified with Christ. Now, sin and death no longer rule, but Grace Rules. Where Grace Rules (and Law no longer does), no condemnation can come against us. Therefore, I bless you today with the freedom we share, because Christ reigns in our lives.
Love,

John (and Linda)

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Eminem, Ed Sheeran, and the Pain of Abortion



The new song "River," by Eminem and Ed Sheeran, is about the pain of abortion.

The song is a confession of an affair, an abortion, and the emotional aftermath of regret. (For the most part, the secular, abortionist media is avoiding this song.)

"Whether fictional or based on reality, “River” is a powerful cry for forgiveness for the wrong he’s done to the aborted baby (the “little one” mentioned in the refrain) and the mother." (From here.)

I made
You terminate my baby
This love triangle
Left us in a wreck tangled
What else can I say? It was fun for a while
Bet I really would’ve loved your smile
Didn’t really wanna abort
But... what’s one more lie to tell an unborn child?


I’ve been a liar, been a thief
Been a lover, been a cheat
All my sins need holy water, feel it washin’ over me
Oh, little one (I’m sorry), I don’t want to admit to something
(I f*****d up) If all it’s gonna cause is pain
The truth in my lies now are falling like the rain
So let the river run.


Note: "my baby."

(Full lyrics here.)


One Way Parents Damage Their Children

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Photographing trees in my backyard
(My new book is Leading the Presence-Driven Church.)

Must reading for anyone wanting information on technology and addiction should read Adam Alter's Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked. (Alter is Professor of Marketing and Technology at New York University.)

Just as people get addicted to heroin, more and more are becoming addicted to technology. If you agree that addiction is bad, then you agree that addiction to a cell phone is bad. If you are an addicted parent, you are ruining your kids.

Alter writes:

"At thirteen, Angela wished her parents understood “that technology isn’t the whole world . . . it’s annoying because it’s like you also have a family! How about we just spend some time together, and they’re like, ‘Wait, I just want to check something on my phone. I need to call work and see what’s going on.’ Parents with younger kids do even more damage when they constantly check their phones and tablets. Using head-mounted cameras, researchers have shown that infants instinctively follow their parents’ eyes. Distracted parents cultivate distracted children, because parents who can’t focus teach their children the same attentional patterns. According to the paper’s lead researcher, “The ability of children to sustain attention is known as a strong indicator for later success in areas such as language acquisition, problem-solving, and other key cognitive development milestones. Caregivers who appear distracted or whose eyes wander a lot while their children play appear to negatively impact infants’ burgeoning attention spans during a key stage of development.”" (Alter, pp. 39-40)

Etty Hillesum's "Prayer from Auschwitz"


This morning I read this prayer, in the devotional book I am using. 

You have made me so rich, oh God, please let me share out Your beauty with open hands. My life has become an uninterrupted dialogue with You, oh God, one great dialogue. Sometimes when I stand in some corner of the camp, 
my feet planted on Your earth, my eyes raised toward Your Heaven, tears sometimes run down my face, 
tears of deep emotion and gratitude. 
At night, too, when I lie in bed and rest in You, 
oh God, tears of gratitude run down my face, 
and that is my prayer.


(Kindle Locations 983-987).  

This prayer was written by a woman named Etty Hillesum. This is her "Prayer from Auschwitz."  

On September 7, 1943, Etty and her family were deported to Auschwitz. She died there on November 30, 1943. She was twenty-nine years old. 



Image result for etty hillesum prayer

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

View People as Persons, Not as Problems

Image result for john piippo people
With Al Willingham in Eldoret, Kenya
Pastors have their own problems. I know I do. I am so grateful for people in my church family who show me grace and love in spite of my own self.

Some of my inner struggles have been healed. Gone! As regards those infirmities, I am free. 

Some of my shortcomings have gotten better, but I'm not all the way there yet.

I am unaware, oblivious, to other, perhaps many, of my faults. God, in his mercy, has not shown them all to me at once, since I would fall apart and be undone.

Before I went to India I talked with a friend who had been there several times. I told him the name of the airline I would be taking on the flight from Mumbai to Hyderabad. He said, "They hold those planes together with baling wire."

What holds me together is the love, mercy, and grace of God. God loves me, his mercies are new every morning, and his grace is abundant and overflowing. I am God's child. God views me, not as a problem, but as a person made in his image.

I've written this down on a 3X5 card and carried it with me: View people as persons, not as problems

Sympathize with, not criticize,their weaknesses. 

Under-stand them. Stand below, not above, them.

Love them, show mercy to them, be gracious unto them.

Help them, as you have been helped.

Forgive them, as you have been forgiven.

See the "weight of glory" upon them. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Ours is the Only Universe There Is (Contra Multiverse Theory)

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Jet, flying over my house
Most of my posts are for my own reference. My blog is a retention pond for ideas important to me.

I have long been interested in cosmology, origin-of-the-universe matters. Within this field I read about "multiverse theory." 

I don't believe in a vast ensemble of universes. 

This morning I read a just-published article by theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder - "Scientific Theory and the Multiverse Madness." Hossenfelder doesn't believe in a multiverse, either. She writes:


  • "Before you pack your bags and search for a universe more to your liking, let me add there's no way to cross over into another universe or even interact with one. This only works in science fiction. Indeed, to my taste, the multiverse itself is already too close to fiction."
  • "For a theory to be scientific its predictions must also have a reasonable chance to accurately describe reality. Construing up one of an infinite number of multiverse variants has no reasonable chance. Theoreticians justify their multiverse research by claiming that it continues the noble quest for simplicity. But as we have seen, this argument is wrong because it neglects the need to introduce a probability distribution on the multiverse. The multiverse replaces a simple explanation with a more complicated one. Such a move is only justified if the added complication explains additional data, but for the multiverse that isn't so." 
  • "To our best knowledge, assuming the existence of any universe besides our own is unnecessary to explain anything we have ever observed. In the best case, then, the multiverse is an interpretation. You can believe that the seeming arbitrariness of the constants of nature is due to an infinite number of other universes. You can believe that, but you don't have to. Science cannot confirm that the other universes exist, but it also cannot rule them out. Just like science cannot rule out the gods and angels."
See the entire article for explanation.

Here Princeton physicist Paul Steinhardt writes:

"A pervasive idea in fundamental physics and cosmology that should be retired: the notion that we live in a multiverse in which the laws of physics and the properties of the cosmos vary randomly from one patch of space to another. According to this view, the laws and properties within our observable universe cannot be explained or predicted because they are set by chance. Different regions of space too distant to ever be observed have different laws and properties, according to this picture. Over the entire multiverse, there are infinitely many distinct patches. Among these patches, in the words of Alan Guth, "anything that can happen will happen—and it will happen infinitely many times." Hence, I refer to this concept as a Theory of Anything." (Steinhardt is one of the originators of inflationary theory and multiverse theory.)

The problem with a Theory of Anything is that "any observation or combination of observations is consistent with a Theory of Anything. No observation or combination of observations can disprove it." (Ib.) This creates a problem for multiverse theory. Steinhardt writes:

"The worth of a scientific theory is gauged by the number of do-or-die experimental tests it passes. A Theory of Anything is useless because it does not rule out any possibility and worthless because it submits to no do-or-die tests. (Many papers discuss potential observable consequences, but these are only possibilities, not certainties, so the Theory is never really put at risk.)"

As far as we know, and in principle we can never know otherwise (see Hossenfelder), ours is the only universe there is.

One very good book to read on this is Worlds Without End: The Many Lives of the Multiverse, by Mary-Jane Ruberstein.

 

Humility is Needed to Hear God's Voice

University of Illinois Chinese Christian Fellowship Retreat

Humility is the foundational attitude of spiritual transformation, and for hearing God. Pride is the enemy of change, and blocks listening. James 4:6 states: "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble." We read that Moses, the great leader, "was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth" (Numbers 12:3).

Our English word “humility” comes from the Latin humus, which means “earth” or “soil.” Our hearts must be like good soil to receive the things God wants to plant in us. Pride, on the other hand, is hardness. Hardness of the heart is the great barrier to spiritual change. 

C.S. Lewis refers to pride as “the complete anti-god state of mind.” Francis Frangipane calls pride “the armor of darkness.”

Are you a humble person, or a proud person? One indicator is how you handle criticism. A humble person welcomes words that convey truth. A proud person doesn’t need counsel. And pride’s evil twin, shame, fears criticism. (I view pride and shame as two sides of the same coin. Both are forms of self-obsession. The proud person thinks too much of their self; the shame-filled person thinks too little of themselves.)

Like the hidden pride of Isaiah, we need personal encounters with the Living God to see how undone and needy we are. 

Thomas Kelly has written: "But what trinkets we have sought after in life, the pursuit of what petty trifles has wasted our years as we have ministered to the enhancement of our little selves. And what needless anguishes we have suffered because our little selves were defeated, were not flattered, were not cozened and petted.” (Kelly's A Testament of Devotion remains on my list of Top Ten Books Ever Read, in terms of influence.)


Humility, says Kelly, rests upon a holy blindedness, like the blindedness of him who looks steadily into the sun. “The God-blinded soul sees naught of self, naught of personal degradation or of personal eminence...”

Alan Nelson writes, “Growth in humility is a measure of our growth in the habit of the Godward-directed mind. And he only is near to God who is exceedingly humble." (Nelson's Broken In the Right Place is the best book on spiritual brokenness I've ever read.)

Thomas Merton writes: "A humble man is not disturbed by praise since he is no longer concerned with himself. A man who is not humble cannot accept praise gracefully. One who has not yet learned humility becomes upset and disturbed by praise. He may even lose his patience when people praise him; he is irritated by the sense of his own unworthiness. And if he does not make a fuss about it, at least the things that have been said about him haunt him and obsess his mind. They torment him wherever he goes. At the other extreme is the man who has no humility at all and who devours praise, if he gets any, the way a dog gobbles a chunk of meat... The humble man receives praise the way a clean window takes the light of the sun. The truer and more intense the light is, the less you see of the glass. Humility is the surest sign of strength." (Merton's New Seeds of Contemplation is on my list of Top Ten Books Ever Written in terms of personal influence.)

James 4:6 states that God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble. This is one of those great biblical either-or ideas which states that it’s not simply a bad thing to have a proud heart, it is an anti-God thing. If you are proud God is against you. My understanding of this is, where there is some area of the heart that is hard towards God, God stands in opposition to that area. 

No one is totally free from pride. The human heart has areas that have been conquered by God and are humble, and areas of hardness that are not open to God. I can’t imagine a follower of Jesus claiming to be wholly, perfectly humble.

A.W. Tozer's prayer expresses the appropriate attitude: "O Christ, make me strong to overcome the desire to be wise and to be reputed wise by others as ignorant as myself. I turn from my wisdom as well as from my folly and flee to You, the wisdom of God and the power of God. Amen." 

Humility is the necessary precondition for spiritual transformation, and hearing God. When pride dies the soft heart prevails, allowing God to shape our spirits into greater Christlikeness. (See Galatians 4:19)


***
My two books are:

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

Monday, January 22, 2018

Technology and the Loss of Presence

Jax, our son Josh's cat


(My new book is Leading the Presence-Driven Church.)

I've taught spiritual formation in seminaries and conferences since 1977. I'm now working on my book, How God Changes the Human Heart. I am also putting together notes and thoughts for another possible book, which I'm now calling Technology and Spiritual Formation.

How does God change the human heart? One thing needed is single-mindedness, on the Lord. Blessed are the pure in heart, said Jesus. Blessed are the mono-taskers, says me.

Transformation, I have argued, happens in the presence of God. To be in God's presence is a still-hearted condition. It is whole-hearted, not dispsuchos (double-mindedness). 

Here is where technology comes in. With all its truly wonderful benefits, there comes a curse. The curse is the loss of what is needed to grow spiritually. It is the loss of the focused, consuming, love-hearted, experiential presence of God. As a culture, we have lost the ability to be focused.

One of the books to read about this great loss is NYU professor Adam Alter's Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked. Massive amounts of humanity are now hooked. Tons of money is made on our captivity. As a people, we are incapable of being with anyone or anything long enough to experience presence, to go deep, to reside, to experience deep change. 

Those of us longing for people to be "transformed by the renewal of our minds" (Romans 12:2) now face tough sledding. Because our minds cannot turn from the bright, shiny lights of our cell phones that call for our devotion. We have become incapable of attending to the Lord. (In, hopefully, How God Changes the Human Heart, I will share how to attend.)

Is that too strong? Read Alter's book (plus Sherry Turkle, Nicholas Carr, et. al.) - please. For example, Alter writes:

"In 2000, Microsoft Canada reported that the average human had an attention span of twelve seconds; by 2013 that number had fallen to eight seconds. (According to Microsoft, a goldfish, by comparison, has an average attention span of nine seconds.) “Human attention is dwindling,” the report declared. Seventy-seven percent of eighteen- to twenty-four-year-olds claimed that they reached for their phones before doing anything else when nothing is happening. Eighty-seven percent said they often zoned out, watching TV episodes back-to-back. More worrying, still, Microsoft asked two thousand young adults to focus their attention on a string of numbers and letters that appeared on a computer screen. Those who spent less time on social media were far better at the task." (Alter, pp. 28-29)

In today's New Yorker magazine, 1/22/18

Video Preaching Churches as Forms of Gnosticism

My praying chair, on the river in my back yard

(My new book is Leading the Presence-Driven Church.)

Some of us have concern over the deep impact technology is having on the idea of church as community, and on spiritual formation into Christlikeness.

This concern is not a form of Luddite-ism; i.e., it is not anti-technology. Rather, it grows out of the need to not be naive, unaware, and ignorant of what technology is doing to humanity, and that technology is transforming humanity, not all for the good.

I teach spiritual formation. My view, after decades of study and immersion in transformational processes, is that technology adds little or nothing to the process, while hugely hindering spiritual growth.

So, I am protesting, and warning. As are many others, whether Christian or not, whether theistic or atheistic. 

Here's a warning from theologian Roger Olsen. "Baptist Theologian Warns of Gnosticism in Churches that Feature Video Preaching Only." 


NoteOlson is not using "Gnostic" in some special way. Gnosticism is indebted to Platonic and Neo-Platonic metaphysics. At the very heart of such metaphysics is precisely the denial of the physical. It is only on that metaphysical foundation that one would infer a Platonic/Neo-Platonic, and following that, Gnostic epistemology. Metaphysics comes before, and is foundational to, epistemology. Hence, the Gnostic idea of esoteric, non-empirical "wisdom." From such radical philosophical Idealism comes an epistemology that intends to be coherent with that Idealism. Metaphysical non-physicalism is actually the most concerning part of Gnosticism, without which Gnostic epistemology makes no sense. So Olson, who understands this, raises his concern, appropriately.


Sunday, January 21, 2018

When a Pastor Succumbs to Vocational Idolatry (The Presence-Driven Church)

Clare, Michigan

(My new book is Leading the Presence-Driven Church.)

The typical American pastor feels pressure to keep people coming to church. If people don't come, there won't be enough money to maintain the building, and to pay their salary. This pressure can cause a pastor to wilt, spiritually. To succumb.

I have felt this, especially when I was in campus ministry. For eleven years we survived from hand to mouth. We depended on the support of other churches. I traveled every weekend to visit churches, to share what God was doing with our college students, and praying these churches would give us some financial support. Even though we never had more than enough, for the most part we always had enough.

One danger for the pastor is that they will adopt secular techniques of appealing to people to make church more palatable. As this happens the secular slowly displaces the spiritual, the coffee bar transcends the cross, the stage replaces the altar, the clock rules over the Spirit, and performance substitutes for The Presence.

Eugene Peterson writes:

"The volume of business in religion far outruns the spiritual capital of its leaders. The initial consequence is that leaders substitute image for substance, satisfying the customer temporarily but only temporarily, on good days denying that there is any problem (easy to do, since business is so very good), on bad days hoping that someone will show up with an infusion of capital. No one is going to show up. The final consequence is bankruptcy. The bankruptcies are dismayingly frequent." (Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness, p. 3)

When this happens "church" becomes market-driven, and the people are viewed as "consumers." Peterson calls this "vocational idolatry."

"Pastoral vocation is interpreted from the congregational side as the work of meeting people’s religious needs on demand at the best possible price and from the clerical side as satisfying those same needs quickly and efficiently. These conditions quickly reduce the pastoral vocation to religious economics, pull it into relentless competitiveness, and deliver it into the hands of public relations and marketing experts." (Ib., pp. 3-4)