Wednesday, January 31, 2018

God's Love Accommodates to Our Disfigurement

Image result for john piippo love
With Palmer Theological Seminary doctoral graduates
If you've not read this story, today is your day.

Linda and I read it years ago. It's from Richard Selzer's Mortal Lessons: Notes On the Art of Surgery

Selzer, a surgeon, tells of a young wife whose mouth will forever be disfigured, and her young husband's love for her.

I stand by the bed where a young woman lies, her face postoperative, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish. A tiny twig of the facial nerve, the one to the muscles of the mouth, has been severed. She will be thus from now on. The surgeon had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh; I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had to cut that little nerve. Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed, and together they seem to dwell in the evening lamplight, isolated from me. Who are they, I ask myself, he and this wry-mouth that I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so generously, greedily? The young woman speaks. “Will my mouth always be like this?” she asks. “Yes,” I say, “it will. It is because the nerve was cut.” She nods, and is silent. But the young man smiles. “I like it,” he says. “It is kind of cute.” All at once, I know who he is. I understand, and I lower my gaze. One is not bold in an encounter with a god. Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth, and I, so close I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate to hers, to show her that their kiss still works. Isn’t that what the Christian God is about? God was in Christ, reaching out to us in love, accommodating himself to our condition, to save us. (Pp. 45-46)

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.

We Become What We Worship

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New York City
One day, when I was a boy, I carried one of my Elvis album covers into the bathroom, propped it up next to the mirror, adjusted my face to look like Elvis, and did my best to comb my hair in his likeness. 

We become what we worship.

Psalm 135:15-18 reads:


The idols of the nations are silver and gold, 
made by human hands.
They have mouths, but cannot speak, 
eyes, but cannot see. 
They have ears, but cannot hear, 
nor is there breath in their mouths. 
Those who make them will be like them, 
and so will all who trust in them.

The objects of our worship captivate us. They influence us, in outward appearance and inward desires. 

N. T. Wright writes:

“One of the most basic laws of the spiritual life is that you become like what you worship; and if you are worshiping the true God, the creator of all things, the one in whose image you are made, you should be developing as a wise, many-sided human being, not letting one aspect get out of proportion as though God were only interested in the ‘spiritual’ side, meaning by that not only the non-bodily but also the non-rational. Of course, those who live in a world that has overemphasized the body, or the reasoning mind, may find that they need to redress the balance in other ways than the one Paul stresses here. When you look at the worshiping Christian, what you should see is a whole human being, with every aspect united in giving praise to God.” (NTW, 1 Corinthians [For Everyone], 191)

***
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.

How I Begin the Day

“Half an hour’s meditation each day is essential, except, when you are busy. Then a full hour is needed.” “Let us think only of spending the present day well. Then, when tomorrow shall have come, it will be called TODAY and then, we will think about it.” “Every morning, prepare your soul for a tranquil day.”#mypic

My friends Hal Ronning sent me this quote today. 

That's how I begin the day.

I continue to slowly read through the Psalms. Sometimes one or two verses is enough to capture me.

I then go to the book of Job. I am reading it in The Message.

Then, I read entries from two devotional books:

A Year with God: Living Out the Spiritual Disciplines, by Richard Foster

Hearing God Through the Year: A 365-Day Devotional, by Dallas Willard

When God speaks to me during this time, I write it down. 


***
My two books are:

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God


Image result for martin luther “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”




Sunday, January 28, 2018

The More Westernized a Person Is, the Less They Pray

Image result for john piippo mission
Western Wall, Jerusalem

This excerpt is from my book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.


***
When encouraging people to pray, as conversation-with-God, I often hear the following expressed by Westernized Jesus-followers: “I don’t have time to pray thirty-sixty minutes a day, five days a week.” However, if the Jesus-follower is from a Third World country, like ancient Israel during the time of Jesus, they do have time to pray. What’s going on?

The more Westernized a person is, the less they take time to meet and talk with God. The less Westernized a person is, the more they take time to meet and talk with God. I estimate that 80% of European and North   American pastors and Christian leaders do not have a significant prayer life. By this I mean that they do not take time to actually pray. By “taking time” I mean more than saying a blessing over dinner, or multi-tasked praying. By “significant” I mean something like Jesus did, habitually.

The statistics flip for pastors and leaders who are from Third World contexts. Eighty percent of them have a significant prayer life. When they attend my prayer and spiritual formation classes they already have a quantitative praying life. They pray… a lot. European and North American clergy, on the other hand, find themselves “too busy to pray.” They find it a struggle to fit in times of actual praying. Why is this so?

The reasons Westernized Christians don’t significantly pray and Third World Christians do are:

1. SENSE OF NEED:   More access to human helping agencies lowers the desperation level. When I was, e.g., teaching and speaking in India, the lack of access to medical care, education, jobs, etc., was massive. One could only turn to God, in prayer. So in India I found pastors who were praying people. The less felt need there is, the less one prays; the more felt need there is, the more one prays.

2. NEED TO CONTROL: Westernized Christians live under the general cultural illusion that they are in control of life; Third World, non-westernized Christians live in a cultural milieu where human control is minimal at best; hence, they appeal to God (or gods, or spirits) for help. The more one feels in control of life, the less one prays; the less one feels in control of life, the more one prays.

3. TIME: The more stuff a person has, the less they pray. This is because much of their life is dictated by their possessions, which demand time organizing, protecting, arranging, storing, repairing, cleaning, cultivating, displaying, flaunting, wearing, etcing. Stuff demands time. On the other hand, the fewer possessions a person has, the more actual time they have to pray. The more stuff one has, the less one has time to pray; the less stuff one has, the more one has time to pray.

The typical European and North American Jesus-follower may have little felt need. They may have submitted to the illusion that they control things, and are likely afflicted with the burnout-busyness that follows. As these three elements converge, the God-relationship is virtually gone.

The good news here is that forty percent of my students acquire a lifelong prayer habit as a result of my classes. So, twenty percent increases to forty percent.

Piippo, John. Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God (Kindle Locations 4142-4167). WestBow Press. Kindle Edition.

My new book is Leading the Presence-Driven Church.

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)

Never Work Out Conflict By Texting

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Weed, in my back yard
When working through conflict the best way is face-to-face.

Next best is by phone.

Worst is by texting. It may be worse than doing nothing at all.

NYU psychologist Adam Alter writes: 

"Many teens refuse to communicate on the phone or face-to-face, and they conduct their fights by text. “It’s too awkward in person,” one girl told Steiner-Adair. “I was just in a fight with someone and I was texting them, and I asked, ‘Can I call you, or can we video-chat?’ and they were like, ‘No.’” Another girl said, “You can think it through more and plan out what you want to say, and you don’t have to deal with their face or see their reaction.” That’s obviously a terrible way to learn to communicate, because it discourages directness. As Steiner-Adair said, “Texting is the worst possible training ground for anyone aspiring to a mature, loving, sensitive relationship.”" (Alter, Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, p. 41. Emphasis mine.)

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

Time

Linda and I. Linda seems unaffected by time. I, on the other hand...


I am sixty-eight years old. Where has the time gone!? And what, anyway, is "time?" 

Here are some thoughts. As a result of a question one of my philosophy students asked in class tonight, and because I am also slowly reading and re-reading Now: The Physics of Time, by Berkeley physicist Richard Muller. 

Last year I kindled Scientific American's collected time-essays - A Question of Time: The Ultimate Paradox. One of my favorite physicists, Paul Davies, has an essay called "That Mysterious Flow." Here are some of his thoughts on time.



"Nothing in known physics corresponds to the passage of time. Indeed, physicists insist that time doesn’t flow at all; it merely is."


Our commonsense view is that time is "slipping away." It feels like there is a "flow" to time. However, Einstein said, “The past, present and future are only illusions, even if stubborn ones.”


Davies writes: "Physicists prefer to think of time as laid out in its entirety— a timescape, analogous to a landscape— with all past and future events located there together. It is a notion sometimes referred to as block time. Completely absent from this description of nature is anything that singles out a privileged, special moment as the present or any process that would systematically turn future events into present, then past, events. In short, the time of the physicist does not pass or flow."


Time is just as real as space, but "the flow of time" is unreal. 


Time is unidirectional. For example, an egg dropped on the floor will break into pieces. But the reverse process - a broken egg spontaneously assembling itself into an intact egg - is never witnessed. "Nature abounds with irreversible processes." But there is no "arrow of time." Yes, time is unidirectional, but...


..."this does not imply, however, that the arrow is moving toward the future, any more than a compass needle pointing north indicates that the compass is traveling north. Both arrows symbolize an asymmetry, not a movement. The arrow of time denotes an asymmetry of the world in time, not an asymmetry or flux of time. The labels “past” and “future” may legitimately be applied to temporal directions, just as “up” and “down” may be applied to spatial directions, but talk of the past or the future is as meaningless as referring to the up or the down."


Remember - this is physics. We may feel some flow of time, but in reality time is not something that moves or flows. 


Note this: We do not really observe the passage of time. "What we actually observe is that later states of the world differ from earlier states that we still remember. The fact that we remember the past, rather than the future, is an observation not of the passage of time but of the asymmetry of time." Think of individual movie frames. As we watch a movie we experience individual states of affairs that are different from previously experienced states of affairs. That's all.


Think again of the "broken egg" example. Imagine a movie of the egg being dropped on the floor and breaking. Then imagine the film sequence being run backwards. We would see that the backwards sequence was unreal, even though there would seem to be a "flow" to the backwards series. This shows the illusion of the "flow of time." Yes, time is asymmetrical, but "time’s asymmetry is actually a property of states of the world, not a property of time as such."


When I remember the past and the many birthdays I have already celebrated, but do not remember the future birthdays that (hopefully) are forthcoming, this is "an observation not of the passage of time but of the asymmetry of time." Note: only conscious observers register the "flow of time." "Therefore, it appears that the flow of time is subjective, not objective."


I think the biblical distinction between chronos and kairos may help us here. Chronos is "clock time," and the experience of a flow of time. But kairos is more like a discrete, individual frame in a movie isolated from all other events. Kairos is the "right time," or the "appointed time." 


All of this is very good news for me. Time has really not "passed me by." Time is not "slippin', slippin', slippin'... into the future."  


Davies writes: 


"What if science were able to explain away the flow of time? Perhaps we would no longer fret about the future or grieve for the past. Worries about death might become as irrelevant as worries about birth. Expectation and nostalgia might cease to be part of human vocabulary. Above all, the sense of urgency that attaches to so much of human activity might evaporate."



*** 

Here's a review of some philosophical ideas about time. (Special thanks to Manuel Velazquez's excellent Philosophy: A Text With Readings, 11th edition)

PLATO (Ancient Greek philosopher, 429-347 BCE)

  • "Time" exists independently of events that occur in time.
  • "Time is like an empty container into which things and events may be placed; but it is a container that exists independently of what (if anything) is placed in it." (SEP
ARISTOTLE (Ancient greek philosopher, 384-322 BCE)
  • Time does not exist independently, contra Plato, of the events that occur in time.
  • This view is called "Reductionism with Respect to Time."
  • This means that "all talk that appears to be about time can somehow be reduced to talk about temporal relations among things and events." (SEP)
  • The idea of a period of time without change is seen as incoherent.
  • Thus "time" cannot exist independently of what is placed in it. Apart from events, no time exists.
AUGUSTINE (Augustine of Hippo, 354-430)
  • Time, in a sense, does not exist.
  • The past no longer exists.
  • The future does not yet exist.
  • Only the present moment is real.
  • But the present moment has, in itself, neither a past nor a future.
  • The present moment is timeless.
  • "Time," from God's perspective, is different from our perspective.
  • God is outside of time.
  • Time is like a line of events stretched out before God.
  • Every moment - past, present, and future - lies on this line. Everything on the "line of time" is fixed. This is God's perspective. (Cmp. C.S. Lewis who, in Mere Christianity, employed Augustine's view of time.)
McTAGGERT (British philosopher M.E. McTaggert, 1886-1925)
  • Compare McTaggert to Davies, who cites McTaggert in his essay.
  • The flow of time as we experience it is unreal.
  • "Time" is a fixed series of moments, each moment either "before" or "after" the other moments. This is "objective time."
  • We can also think of "time" as a sequence of flowing moments. Each moment changes or flows from "future" to "present" to "past." This is "subjective time."
  • "Past," "present," and "future" are incompatible with each other. Therefore it is impossible for the same thing (viz., the same "moment") to be simultaneously future, present, and past.
  • But if time did "flow," then every moment would have to be future, and then present, and then past.
  • So the idea of subjective time as a sequence of flowing moments is unreal.
  • Subjective time is unreal. Our experience of time as "passing" is an illusion.
  • Following this McTaggert said, "I believe that nothing that exists can be temporal, and that therefore time [subjective] is unreal." (The Nature of Existence)
  • "Time" is an unchanging, fixed series of events frozen onto the "line of time" that makes up the series. But this is not really time, because there is no flow or change here. And, since subjective time is unreal, time cannot be real.
KANT (German philosopher Immanuel Kant, 1724-1804)
  • Time - whether subjective or objective - is simply a construct of the human mind.
  • "Time" and "space" are categories of the mind that the mind uses to organize the flow of changing sensations.
  • Kant said, "Time is therefore given a priori." "Time" as a mental category is "prior to experience" and organizes or categorizes experience.
  • Time is not real but is a mental construct.
HUSSERL (German phenomenological philosopher, 1859-1938)
  • See Husserl's The Phenomenology of Internal Time Consciousness.
  • Husserl is in the Kantian stream of thinking. He is not interested in the metaphysical status of time, but time as transcendental, as lying at the base of consciousness, and giving shape to our experience. 
  • Husserl "considers the present, past, and future as modes of appearing or modes by which we experience things and events as now, no longer (past) or not yet (future)." (IEP)
BERGSON (French philosopher Henri Bergson, 1859-1941)
  • "Objective time," the "time" of the scientist, is just a conceptual abstraction, a construct of the mind.
  • The image of time as a line is simply an image; the concept of objective time is only a concept. Neither images nor concepts can get at the reality.
  • Only what we directly experience is real; viz., what we "intuit."
  • We directly experience or intuit the flow of time. Bergson says we have the "intuition of duration."
  • Real time is subjective time. This is the "flow of time" that I experience moving from future, through present, and into the past.
  • Objective time is an intellectual reconstruction and thus is an illusion."Time" does not actually exist "out there" in the world (it's not a reality transcendent to human subjectivity).
WILLIAM LANE CRAIG (Christian theist, 1947 - present)
  • Apart from events time does not exist.
  • Prior to creation time did not exist.
  • A personal God need not experience a temporal succession of mental events. "God could know the content of all knowledge - past, present, and future - in a simultaneous and eternal intuition." (See Craig, "God, Time, and Eternity")
  • "The proper understanding of God, time, and eternity would be that God exists changelessly and timelessly prior to creation and in time after creation."
  • There are no "events" prior to creation. Therefore, since God exists prior to creation and is an "eventless" being, "time" does not exist prior to creation. At the creation of the universe time begins. On a relational view of time God now relates to the universe, "and God subjects himself to time by being related to changing things."
STEPHEN HAWKING (Physicist, author of A Brief History of Time, 1942-present)
  • Time is understood in relation to events. Hawking writes: 

  • "Since events before the Big Bang have no observational consequences, one may as well cut them out of the theory, and say that time began at the Big Bang. Events before the Big Bang are simply not defined, because there's no way one could measure what happened at them... [T]he universe, and time itself, had a beginning in the Big Bang, about 15 billion years ago. The beginning of real time would have been a singularity at which the laws of physics would have broken down." (See here


(For diagram + explanation, see here.)

FOR MORE READING: God and Time: Four Views

And: W.L. Craig, "God, Time, and Eternity"


***
In my book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God I write about hearing and discerning the voice of God and not much about time. But subjectively praying brings us into kairos moments, felt timeless experiences that are nondirectional because one's heart has arrived in the presence of God.