Saturday, March 31, 2018

Help Lee Davis Get a New Roof on His House

My friend Lee Davis called and shared that he needs his roof fixed, and needs some funding to do this.

Some of you know the story of how Linda and I became friends with Lee.

Lee has created a GoFundMe page. If God leads you to donate, thank you!

Here's a photo of myself, Lee, and John Standifer.


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Jesus' Body Lies in a Tomb Owned by Joseph of Arimathea

Ancient tomb in Jerusalem


Linda and I saw "I Can Only Imagine" last night. Excellent, moving! It's still with me this morning.


57 As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. 58 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. 59 Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb. 

 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63 "Sir," they said, "we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise again.' 64 So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first."
65 "Take a guard," Pilate answered. "Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how." 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard."


As a new Jesus-follower, many years ago, I learned of factual, historical pieces of evidence that strengthened my faith. One is this: Jesus' dead body was placed in a tomb owned by Sanhedrin member, Joseph of Arimathea. This provides a piece of evidence that, along with other facts (esp. Jesus' postmortem appearances), forms an inductively strong argument for the resurrection of Jesus. 

On the Saturday following Good Friday Jesus' body lay inert in Joseph of Arimathea's family tomb.
 We can be certain, historically (which means "inductively certain"), that this was the case. How so? Here are two reasons: 

1) this story, in the four Gospels and Paul, is found in independent sources that together attest to this; and 

2) by the "criterion of embarrassment" a story of a member of the Sanhedrin helping Jesus' family is unlikely, and not plausibly invented by Christians. This argues in favor of its historicity.

1) We have sources that together attest to Jesus' burial in a tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea.

Paul Barnett writes: "Careful comparison of the texts of Mark and John indicate that neither of these Gospels is dependent on the other. Yet they have a number of incidents in common: For example, . . . the burial of Jesus in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea" (Paul Barnett, Jesus and the Logic of History, 1997, pp. 104-5). Regarding the burial stories, the differences between Mark and the other Synoptics point to other independent sources behind Matthew and Luke. 

So what's the point? It's this. If, e.g., a police officer had multiple, independent (unrelated) witnesses to a crime, and they all gave the same report (even if worded differently and with variations), this would provide stronger evidence than if only one report had been given. We have this, re. the burial stories, in the Gospels and Paul. Here is the key Pauline text.

1 Corinthians 15:3 ff.: For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

William Lane Craig writes:

"This is an old tradition, handed on by Paul to the Corinthian church, which is among the earliest traditions identifiable in the NT. It refers to Jesus' burial in the second line of the tradition. That this is the same event as the burial described in the Gospels becomes evident by comparing Paul's tradition with the Passion narratives on the one hand and the sermons in the Acts of the Apostles on the other.
 The four-line tradition handed on by Paul is a summary of the central events of Jesus' crucifixion, burial by Joseph of Arimathea, the discovery of his empty tomb, and his appearances to the disciples."

2) Most NT scholars say it is highly likely that Jesus’ body was placed in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea. 

Sometimes I hear someone say, "OK, but Christians just made these stories up." This is improbable. As a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin that was against Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea is unlikely to be a Christian invention. In this regard New Testament  New Testament scholar Raymond Brown says burial by Joseph of Arimathea is very probable. Why? Because it is almost inexplicable why Christians would make up a story about a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin who does what is right by Jesus. That would, for a Jesus-follower in the days after Easter weekend, be an embarrassment. 

Craig Keener writes: "Given early Christian experiences with and feelings toward the Sanhedrin, the invention of a Sanhedrist acting piously toward Jesus is not likely." (Keener,
 The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio- Rhetorical Commentary, 690)

Why is this important? It's important because the location of the tomb where Jesus' body was placed was known. Mary Magdalene and "the other Mary" (the mother of James and Joseph) knew where it was, as did the chief priests and the Pharisees. Tomorrow, this tomb will be empty. If Jesus' body was still in the tomb, it could and would have been seen or exhumed on the days following Easter. 

Why would Joseph of Arimathea do such a thing? The answer is: he had become a disciple of Jesus. (Matt. 27:57) Both he and Sanhedrin member Nicodemus saw something in Jesus,  and stepped out of the box to follow Him. Joseph is a risk-taker who is willing to put aside his place of political and religious power to go after the truth and love he sees in Jesus. He doesn't realize what's going to happen on Sunday. But he wants to make sure his new Lord receives a proper Jewish burial. 


1. Joseph of Arimathea risked his reputation and career to follow Jesus. Reflect on how you are risking all for Jesus.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Jesus Screams In the Absolute Darkness

FRIDAY, March 30, 2018

From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. 
About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"—which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Priest, in Jerusalem


As Jesus hung suspended on a cross, an unnatural darkness began in the middle of the day, and continued into the natural darkness of sunset. New Testament scholar R. T. France writes: “Given the symbolic significance of the darkness as a divine communication there is little point in speculating on its natural cause: a solar eclipse could not occur at the time of the Passover full moon though a dust storm (‘sirocco’) or heavy cloud are possible.” (France, Mark, 651)

N.T. Wright writes: “It can’t have been an eclipse, because Passover happened at full moon, so that the moon would be in the wrong part of the sky.” (Wright, Mark for Everyone, 215)

Craig Keener says that the darkness "could come from heavy cloud cover. But the Gospel writers use it to convey a more profound theological point." (Keener, Matthew, 685)

However it happened, this was a God-caused darkness. Jesus is bearing the load of the sins of all humanity. Sin causes separation; in this case, from God. Sin separates us from Light. Sin is a darkness machine, a separation app. Sin and light cannot coexist.

Years ago Linda and I and our sons visited Cave of the Winds in Colorado Springs. We were guided into the depths of these tunnels to a place where we were told that, when the lights in the cave were turned off, we would experience "absolute darkness." I thought, "This is cool!"

The lights went off. We stood there, for several seconds. Our guide said, "You are now experiencing absolute darkness. Place your hand right in front of your eyes. You will not be able to see it."

He was right. It was so completely dark I could not see what was right before me. Had the lights failed us that day we would not have been able to see each other. I imagine we would have said things like, "Are you still near me?" "Are you here?" "We've got to stay close to each other!" And, "Don't abandon me while I'm in this darkness!"

On that day 2000 years ago the physical darkness that covered the land was not absolute, but the existential darkness was. The thickness of this world's sin and failure and shame and guilt weighed on the heart of One Man. Out of this ungodly darkness, Jesus screamed.

"Screamed?" I think so. The Greek wording here is: ἐβόησεν  ὁἸησοῦς φωνῇ μεγάλῃ. Those last two Greek words are transliterated: phone megaleA mega-phone! Jesus mega-screamed these words over and over and over again and again, the verb indicating continuous action. 
He doesn’t call God “Father,” but Ὁ θεόςμου ὁ θεός μου… “My God… My God…”Jesus is in relationship with Abba Father God, but it now feels like abandonment. Six hours after he was placed on the cross, three of them being hours of darkness, Jesus feels abandoned by God.

We don't know how long the feeling lasted. Assume three hours. Perhaps He screamed over and over for that long. And know that, for Jesus, it was utterly real and all-embracing. (Craig Keener comments that "the early church would hardly have invented Jesus’ cry of despair in uttering a complaint about alienation from God, quoting Ps. 22.” Keener, Matthew, 682)

As the weight of this world’s evil converged on Jesus, he was giving his life as “a ransom for many” (Mt. 20:28). The sins of the “many,” which he is bearing, have for the first and only time in his experience caused a cloud to come between him and “Abba” – Father God. 1 Peter 2:24 explains it this way:

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. Paul, in Galatians 3:13, writes: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree."

The curse of sin is that it makes a great divide between us and God. Sin breaches relationship. As Jesus bears our sin He experiences the Great Separation. Listen to how N.T. Wright expresses this.

“Out of the unexplained cosmic darkness comes God’s new word of creation, as at the beginning… And it all happens because of the God-forsakenness of the son of God. The horror which overwhelmed Jesus in Gethsemane, and then seems to have retreated again for a few hours, came back in all its awfulness, a horror of drinking the cup of God’s wrath, of sharing the depth of suffering, mental and emotional as well as physical, that characterized the world in general and Israel in particular. The dark cloud of evil, Israel’s evil, the world’s evil, Evil greater than the sum of its parts, cut him off from the one he called ‘Abba’ in a way he had never known before. And welling up from his heart there came, as though by a reflex, a cry not of rebellion, but of despair and sorrow, yet still a despair that, having lost contact with God, still asks God why this should be.” (N.T. Wright, Mark for Everyone, 216-217)


1. Take time today to slow down in your heart, get alone by yourself, bow before God, and think of the passion of the Christ.

2. Resolve in your heart to never again take for granted what Jesus has done for you. Consider how and what it means that He bore your sins, and by His stripes you are healed.

3. Express in your own words thanks to God for what He has accomplished on the cross, which is: your justification; your being set right with God.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Getting Into a Relationship Won't Heal the Wounded Heart

Linda and I, in Cancun (the sun was bright!)

Every heart has its wound. 

Some have multiple wounds. What can mend a broken heart? Not: getting into a relationship. Not: getting married. And not committing emotional adultery. (See here, and here, and here, and here.)

The person with an unhealed, bleeding heart brings their bloody mess into every relationship and, if the other gets close enough, they get bled on. Probably they are wounded too, and that's why, unknowingly, they are attracted to another hurting person. Misery loves company. People that bond in their misery form dysfunctional relationships.

Who a person is pre-maritally is who they are maritally. Unless, of course, they change. But just being in a relationship doesn't bring healing. Often the opposite happens. Old, oozing scars get re-opened. We cannot restore the souls of others.

God, on the other hand, is the Soul-Restorer (Psalm 23:3). Therefore, know and be known by him. I've seen this work, in my own life and others. In relationship counseling Linda and I attempt to bring people back to this.

After countless hours of counseling couples, pre-counseling them, post-marital counseling, and wedding-doing over the past forty-five years, we have seen marriages get restored. This happens when husband and wife stop viewing each other as either "savior" or "destroyer," individually look to God, cry out "Change me, God!", and respond to God's counsel.

Can God use a partner to mediate healing? Of course. But that's God, not the partner (who gets some credit for being a vessel of God, like a mug is to be affirmed for containing a great blend of coffee). God has mediated much healing to me through Linda, and she would say the same about me. But neither of us is The Great Healer. It is bad news relationship-wise if one is viewed that way, or views the other that way. What happens is big-time disappointment.

If you are hurting and lonely, even while married, the answer to your personal hell is not "I need to find someone!" Way too many mistakes are made at this point. Someone dates as a cure for their inner tragedy. Two unhealed people "fall in love." Never date or marry as relief for tragedy. Unless you want to experience hell on earth in a failing marriage, with children.

Every person's story is different, especially in the details. Here's part of mine. I was twenty-one years old. I had just become a Jesus-follower. I tried to get back into a previously failed dating relationship with a girl who was not a Jesus-follower. Eventually, she broke up with me. I thought, "I am messed up." God told me to take a year off from opposite-sex relationships and work on my own self. I did. It was a wonderful year! I thought, should God ever bring someone into my life, and should we get married, and should we have children, I want to be healed of a lot of stuff inside me.

Every person is healable. None of us have it all together, inwardly. Getting in a relationship is not the cure. Success in acquiring a life-partner does not equal a life of emotional flourishing.

In this regard Miroslav Volf, in A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good, writes about how "success" fails to bring lasting satisfaction. 

"God delivers us from the melancholy emptiness that sometimes accompanies our very success. We’ve achieved what we wanted—we have gotten the corner office—and we still feel empty. We are like a child who wants a toy and, when she gets it, plays with it for a day or two and then craves another. Melancholy inevitably sets in when we forget that we are made to find satisfaction in the infinite God and not in any finite object." (Kindle Locations 574-578)

We achieved what we wanted. The thrill dissipates. We still feel empty. Bill and Lynn Hybels wrote about this pattern in their still-excellent book on marriage, Fit To Be Tied.

The answer that heals was never meant to be found in another person.

My book on prayer is Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God (May 2016)

My book on leadership is Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Did Jesus Really Rise From the Dead? A Few Resources

Linda and I made this simple cross and placed it in our front yard near the road.

This is especially or those who listened to my Facebook Live One-Hour Seminary, on "Why I Believe Jesus Was Raised From the Dead."

Here are a few resources to go further.

Gary Habermas, "The Resurrection Argument That Changed a Generation of Scholars"

Habermas and Michael Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus

Habermas's website

N. T. Wright, "Did Jesus Really Rise From the Dead?

Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God - Just $2.99 for your Kindle!

William Lane Craig, "The Evidence for Jesus's Resurrection"

Craig, The Son Rises: Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus

ONE-HOUR SEMINARY TONIGHT - Why I Believe Jesus Was Raised From the Dead - 9 PM EST

Why do I believe the resurrection of Christ happened, in history?

Tonight on One-Hour Seminary I will answer this.

Facebook Live.

9 - 10 PM EST.

Thirty minutes of live teaching, followed by thirty minutes of live Q&A.

My two books are:

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God(May 2016)

Leading the Presence-Driven Church (January 2018).

I am currently writing:

How God Changes the Human Heart

Technology and Spiritual Formation

Monday, March 26, 2018

The Presence-Driven Church Is Not Something You Shop For

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Glass of water, at Olive Garden

When Jesus said, "I will build my church," this did not mean a church that existed for the sake of meeting people's needs. Rather, the church would be a temple that God inhabits. Jesus's followers would gather to meet with God. This distinction is important, since Consumer Churches have formed which have the people in mind more than they have God in heart.

The basic question of the Church is not, "What do the people want?" In the early, Upper Room Church, newcomers were not asked if they enjoyed the service. In Real Church people meet the One they need. As this happens, deep wounds are healed, and deep needs are met. The distinction is between consumer needs and existential needs. The difference is between shopping and worshiping, purchasing and being-bought.

When Christ found and rescued me forty-eight years ago, I found what I needed, but not in some consumer sense. I was not shopping for a religion. I had been met by God! The longing and emptiness in my heart discovered its fulfillment. This longing was like the "great sadness" in The Shack. Roger Olson writes:

"I believe there are such amazing truths in The Shack that God might use it to take away our Great Sadness. That's its purpose. The author surely wrote it with the hope that through it God would heal wounds of distrust and bring some readers back to himself." (Olson. Finding God in the Shack: Seeking Truth in a Story of Evil and Redemption, Kindle Locations 101-102)

This forms what is referred to as "the existential argument for believing in God. In its simplest form, it says that we are justified in believing in God solely because doing so satisfies certain emotional and spiritual needs." (Clifford Williams. Existential Reasons for Belief in God: A Defense of Desires and Emotions for Faith, Kindle Locations 87-88)

I am a follower of Jesus because: 

1) I believe it makes sense, or is true, and 

2) it meets existential needs. 

The second says, Christ has occupied the Pascal-type abyss in my soul. This is not something you shop for. It is Someone who has captured your entire being.

My two books are:

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God(May 2016)

Leading the Presence-Driven Church (January 2018).

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Paul Vitz & the Psychology of Atheism

Here I've put together five things I've written on the psychology of atheism, taken from NYU Prof. of Psychology Paul Vitz. In addition to the article cited below, see Vitz, Faith of the Fatherless; The Psychology of Atheism

Can there be a "psychology of atheism?" Of course there can. Atheists are human, and are not psychologically neutral. And, BTW, atheists are not really "freethinkers," if this means thought unencumbered by genetics and personal history. And further, "freethinking atheist" is likely a contradiction, since on atheism-as-naturalism "free thinking" does not exist. 

The Psychology of Atheism: Part I

In "The Psychology of Atheism," by Paul Vitz, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at New York University. (In Dallas Willard, ed.; A Place for Truth) Vitz talks about the psychological reasons for unbelief. "Most psychologists view with some alarm an attempt to propose a psychology of atheism. At the very least, such a project puts many psychologists on the defensive and gives them at least a small taste of their own medicine. Psychologists are always observing and interpreting others, and it is time that some of them learn from their own experience what it is like to be put under the microscope of psychology theory and evidence." (136)

Vitz begins by giving two points that bear on his basic assumptions. First, Vitz assumes "that the major barriers to God are not rational but in a general sense can be called psychological... I am quite convinced that for every person strongly swayed by rational argument, there are countless others more affected by nonrational, psychological factors. The human heart: no one can truly fathom it or know all of its deceits, but at least it is the proper task of the psychologist to try." (Ib.) Psychological barriers to belief in God are both many and "of great importance." (Ib.) Further, "people vary greatly in the extent to which these factors have been present in their lives." (137)

Secondly, "in spite of serious psychological barriers to belief, all of us have a free choice to accept or reject God." (Ib.)

Vitz believes there is "a widespread assumption throughout much of the intellectual community that belief in God is based on all kids of irrational, immature needs and wishes, but that somehow or other skepticism or atheism is derived from a rational, non-nonsense appraisal of the way things really are." (137-138) 

Vitz then gives his own story of how he became an atheist as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan in the 1950s. One of the major factors for this was "general socialization," though Vitz was unaware of it at the time. He was embarrassed about his upbringing in Cincinnati and "wanted to take part and be comfortable in the new, exciting, glamorous, secular world into which I was moving at that time at the University of Michigan as an undergraduate." (139) Such "socialization pressure" has pushed many people away from God-belief "and all that this belief is associated with for them." (Ib.)

Another kind of socialization matter for Vitz's atheistic turn was that he desired to "be accepted by powerful and influential psychologists in my field. In particular, I wanted to be accepted by the powerful and influential psychologists in my field." (139)

A final, superficial-but-very-strong-irrational-pressure to become an atheist, was "personal convenience." (139) Simply put, it is inconvenient "to be a serious believer in today's powerful neo-pagan world." Which meant, for Vitz, the world of academia. "It's not hard to imagine the pleasuresthat would have to be rejected if I became a serious believer." (140) And the time it would require.

For Vitz, his "decision" to become an atheist was more a matter of his will than his intellect. Because of his "personal needs for a convenient lifestyle," and his "professional needs to be accepted as part of academic psychology," "atheism was simply the best policy." (141) But there are deeper psychological reasons for atheism, to which Vitz then turns.

Vitz has sympathy with atheists who have deeper psychological reasons for being an atheist. They are often the most passionate of atheists, and not just unstudied Facebook atheists. Vitz begins by talking about Sigmund Freud's psychology of religious belief, because Vitz is going to use Freud in forming a psychology of atheism.

The Psychology of Atheism: Part II

Our front porch - a great place
for theological thinking.
Paul Vitz, in his presentation "The Psychology of Atheism," looks at deeper psychological reasons for atheism. (In Willard, A Place for Truth) And why not? Lots of psychological work has been done on religious belief and behavior, and lots of internet ad hominem "analysis" goes on by the village atheists among us. So why not a psychology of atheism, subjecting it to analysis? Atheists are no more immune or psychological "neutral" than are theists. Indeed, for most of the confessing atheists I have met I have concluded that their nonbelief is far more related to, e.g., emotional and psychological issues than being a result of "objective, rational thought." This is not a criticism of atheism as such. Theists suffer this, too. It is, however, a criticism of the myth of epistemic neutrality and objectivity. And this also cuts both ways, affecting theists who claim a neutral, fully objective and "rational" view of things.

Perhaps the most famous, and infamous, psychology of religion is Freud's The Future of an Illusion. It is to Freud that Vitz now turns.

"Freud was the first prominent psychologist to propose that people's belief in God could not be trusted because of its origins. In other words, what Freud did was take the ad hominem argument and make it a very popular and influential one." (141) Uh-oh. Ad hominem arguments, in logic, are a no-no, an epistemic non-event.

Freud argued that we can't trust the source of religious beliefs. Religion is neither true nor false, but "is a psychological illusion that arose from our primitive needs for protection. Our basic, infantile, unconscious needs for a father who would look after us, and therefore an illusion." (142) Because of this we cannot accept the truth value of theism.

But this is not convincing. Freud thought that all the contributions of civilization, including science and literature and even psychoanalysis, could be understood as due to infantile, unconscious needs. "So," Vitz says, "if the origins of a belief make us no longer accept its truth value, then according to Fried, we shouldn't accept the truth value of all the other accomplishments of civilization that he said arose from the same kind of motivation." (142)

Further, Freud claimed that among the oldest psychological needs of the human race is the need for a loving, all-powerful father. But that is unconvincing, because if it were true than most or all religions would project the idea of "God" as a loving, protecting, all-powerful "father." But this is not the case. "Many religions don't have that understanding of God at all, particularly many of the pre-Christian or pre-Jewish religions in the Mediterranean area. Some major religions either have no God or their understanding of God is quite different."

Vitz thinks Freud's assumption of a universal, human need of this type is unconvincing. Because were it true, then we'd find "the same kind of religion everywhere we looked." (142)

Next: Vitz looks at the Feuerbachian roots of Freud's atheism.

The Psychology of Atheism: Part III

NYU psychologist Paul Vitz, in his presentation "The Psychology of Atheism," looks at deeper psychological reasons for atheism. (In Willard, A Place for Truth)

See my two previous posts on this here and here.

Vitz looks at the atheism of the psychologist Freud. Freud's atheism comes from what has been called the "projection theory" of German philosopher-theologian Ludwig Feuerbach. Vitz writes: "When Freud was writing his Future of an Illusion in the 1920s, he was updating Feuerbach." (142)

Freud's atheism is not itself part of his psychoanalysis. Vitz writes: "The thing to keep in mind is this: Freud had very little experience, maybe none at all, with the psychological study of people who believed in God. (143) Freud published no case histories of people who believed in God at the time of their psychoanalysis. "So Freud was really not an expert on the unconscious psychology of people who believed in God." (Ib.) Freud, therefore, did not give us a good theory of religious belief since his idas are not psychoanalytically rooted and are not at all based on much personal experience with God-believers. Freud merely warmed up Feuerbach's projection theory. This is not good scholarship.

Feuerbach's theory is found in his The Essence of Christianity. Feuerbach wrote:

  • What man misses - whether this be an articulate and therefore conscious, or an unconscious, need - that is his God. 
  • Man projects his nature into the world outside himself before he finds it in himself.
  • To live in projected dream-images is the essence of religion. Religion sacrifices reality to the projected dream. . .
Elsewhere Vitz explains: "What Freud did with this argument was to revive it in a more eloquent form, and publish it at a later time when the audience desiring to hear such a theory was much larger. And, of course, somehow the findings and theory of psychoanalysis were implied as giving the theory strong support."

"Strangely enough, however, Freud has inadvertently given us a basic theory for understanding why people would not believe in God, why people would be atheists!" (In Willard, op. cit., 143) The projection theory cuts both ways. To understand this Vitz looks at the one idea Freud is famous for, and which is central to his theory: the "Oedipus Complex."

Next Psychology of Atheism post: Freud's Oedipus Complex & atheism as an example of Oedipal wish fulfillment.

The Psychology of Atheism: Part IV

NYU psychologist Paul Vitz, in his presentation "The Psychology of Atheism," looks at deeper psychological reasons for atheism. (In Willard, A Place for Truth)

Atheists have a psyche. Let's look into it! (At least theists can affirm that atheists have psyches. On atheism-as-philosophical naturalism nobody has a "psyche." Hence there can be no "psychology" of anything. Neurobiological explanations may be used, which have their own philosophical problems.)

The "Oedipus complex" was central to Freud's psychoanalytic theory, even as he applied it to religious belief. Vitz writes: "The interesting thing about the Oedipus complx is that Freud said it's universal. There's no reason to believe this, but Freud argued that it is universal, that it is unconscious, and in the case of the male child, the unconscious desire is to reject or remove and kill his father and to have some kind of erotic possession of the mother." (143)

Say "whew"... and thank God that this is not common (says Vitz, who doesn't find this kind of thing in his own counseling work)!

But what does this have to do with God? Freud took his Oedipus theory and said people link their own fathers with God. God, said Freud, is a "father figure and our attitude toward God and our father are very similar." (144)

Freud thought this explained God-belief. Vitz says it is not universal, as Freud thought. But, ironically, if Freud's eccentric Oedipus theory explains anything, it explains atheism. Vitz says:

"Since Freud proposed that God is a father figure, this suggests that we should all have an unconscious desire to kill God, to be independent of God, to have the world the way we want it. In a sense, what he's saying is that an atheist has an unresolved Oedipus complex because normally the father is too big to kill and the child can't get away with it. And so, instead of killing his father, the child identifies with the aggressor, his father, and represses these aggressive and sexual desires, which then remain unconscious." (144)

Freud thinks all of us have a desire to kill God. Vitz thinks Freud is on to something here. Vitz: "I would propose that atheism is an example of Oedipal wish fulfillment. That is, it's an unresolved Oedipus complex in the person." OK. But Vitz does not think "Oedipal wish fulfillment" is anywhere near "universal." So Vitz thinks we need to go deeper. This brings us to the "theory of the defective father."

I'll explain this in my next post. For now I cannot begin to tell you how many atheists I have met who seem to me to especially be reacting to their fathers.

The Psychology of Atheism: Part V

NYU psychologist Paul Vitz, in his presentation "The Psychology of Atheism," looks at deeper psychological reasons for atheism. (In Willard, A Place for Truth)

See my four previous posts on this hereherehere, and here.

Freud said:

"Psychoanalysis, which has taught us the intimate connection between the father complex and belief in God, has shown us that the personal God is logically nothing but an exalted father and daily demonstrates to us how youthful persons lose their religious belief as soon as the authority of their father has broken down." (144)

Vitz calls this "the theory of the defective father." The claim here is that "once a child is disappointed in
and loses his or her respect for the earthly father, then belief in a heavenly father becomes impossible." Fathers can and do lose their authority and disappoint their children. This is what happened to Freud himself.

Freud's father, Jacob, was a great disappointment, even worse. His father was weak, unable to support his own family, and a wimp in his non-response to anti-Semitism. One time an anti-Semite called Jacob a "dirty Jew" and knocked his hat off. Jacob refused to respond, and young Sigmund was disgusted when he heard about this. Vitz catalogues other reasons for Freud's antipathy towards his father.

Vitz cites other famous atheists who had "defective fathers, to include Ludwig Feuerbach, Karl Marx, and Madeleine Murray O'Hare. O'Hare's own son has written, e.g., about the hatred her mother had for his grandmother. Once she tried to kill her dad with a ten-inch butcher knife!

Vitz writes quite a bit about the atheist psychologist Albert Ellis, who may have been in denial of his hatred towards his father. And then there's orphaned child Baron d'Holbach, Bertrand Russell, Nietzsche (whose "life fits the theory about as well as any"), Jean Paul Sartre, and Albert Camus. And Gene Roddenberry ("Star Trek") and Russell Baker and...  on and on...

Vitz adds, "for those whose atheism has been conditioned by a father who rejected, denied, hated, manipulated or physically or sexually abused them, there must be understanding." (151)

One more personal point. Whenever I see a father who is a religious "Christian fundamentalist" I am concerned for their children. I met, in my 11 years at Michigan State University, many kids of fundamentalist dads who had rejected "Christianity." They did not know that the so-called "Christianity" of their fathers was not the actual thing, and that the meaning of "fundamentalism" is: 1) no "fun," 2) too much "damn," and 3) not enough "mental." No wonder they rejected this!

(For Vitz's full work on the psychology of atheism see his book Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism.)

My two books are:

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God(May 2016)

Leading the Presence-Driven Church (January 2018).

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Money Can't Buy You Life Satisfaction

Image result for john piippo happy
Store, in Ann Arbor
Berkeley sociologist Amitai Etzioni's Happiness Is the Wrong Metric: A Liberal Communitarian Response to Populism, is available FREE for Kindle.

I'm reading it this afternoon. 

Early in the book Etzioni cites massive sociological date supoorting the idea that increased income adds nothing to life satisfaction, beyond a point.

Here are some quotes.

There is a "rising disconnect between income and happiness."

"The preponderance of the social scientific literature suggests that once income reaches a certain threshold, additional income creates little additional satisfaction." 

"One’s socioeconomic status has a meager effect on one’s “sense of well-being” and no significant effect on one’s life satisfaction."

"Jonathan Freedman discovered that levels of reported happiness do not vary greatly among the members of different economic classes, with the exception of the very poor, who tend to be less happy than others."

"A 2010 study by Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton identified the point after which there is less correlation between additional income and additional happiness: $75,000 (Kahneman and Deaton 2010). The study found that while a positive relationship existed between income and life evaluation,3 higher income did not improve emotional well-being4 (See Kahneman and Deaton 2010). Hence, whereas life evaluation rises steadily with increases in income, emotional well-being does not progress once an annual income of $75,000 is reached."

The preponderance of the evidence suggests that income above a certain level does not buy much additional happiness."

Individual happiness seems to be determined by one’s income relative to others, rather than one’s absolute income. One interpretation of this claim is the familiar concept of “keeping up with the Joneses”—an expression that captures the use of goods in a status competition among members of the community. Goods are used as visible markers of one’s standing in this never-ending race. This explains why an increase in a nation’s nation’s collective wealth often fails to increase reported happiness. If practically everyone has three televisions and two cars, owning three televisions and two cars may buy little pride relative to others. Moreover, even very wealthy people can always find someone who earns more than they do. The same factor also seems to explain why people in small towns are happier than those in big cities."

Friday, March 23, 2018



Our Pursuit Conference coming up for Thursday March 29th through Saturday March 31st for any 6th-12th grader. 

For our conference we will have a few people coming to share with our students. This includes and is not limited to:

Debbie Church will be sharing with us on Friday Night March 30th 
on how God leaves no one behind. He goes after His lost kids. When He looks at the world He sees the wounds and longings. Do we see what He sees? Where is our heart matching His heart both for those of the church and those of the world?
Debbie will also be doing a workshop on Saturday afternoon which she is calling "10 Hebrew words everyone should know." We cannot wait to have Debbie with us!

Patrick Taylor will be closing out our conference on Saturday Night March 31st. 
Patrick is the Young Life Leader for Monroe High School. His heart and passion to see students engaged in a life with Christ is contagious. He will be sharing with us how we are called to treat others and represent Jesus in everything we do and say. We are excited to have Patrick with us this year!

If you would like more information and even to register your student for our conference please check Redeemer's website!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Real Historians Consider a Supernatural Hypothesis

Shelby Mustang at our Ford dealership (just looking!)

This afternoon, in personal preparation for Easter week, plus my One-Hour Seminary presentation on Jesus' resurrection (3/27/18, 9 PM EST, Facebook Live), I am reading two books by N. T. Wright. 

They are Wright's massive The Resurrection of the Son of God, and The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus's Crucifixion

Today, in Revolution, I read what may be the best presentation of "crucifixion" available.

And in Resurrection, Wright's chapters on ancient views of death and the afterlife are excellent.

In reading Resurrection I laughed, just five minutes ago. (I don't laugh a lot, in spite of being one of the happiest persons alive.) 

As Wright presents a historical case for the bodily resurrection of Jesus, we know some scholars are incapable of reasoning historically since they - by fiat, and by worldview - automatically rule out non-scientific, supernatural explanations. 

My funny moment came when Wright cites New Testament scholar Michael Goulder. (I read this book, edited by Goulder, in 1979.) If you are a professional theologian, as I am, get ready to be happy.

"Goulder is a good example of this tendency [to auto-reject the supernatural]. ‘We should’, he writes, ‘always prefer the natural hypothesis [as opposed to the supernatural one], or we shall fall into superstition.’ The natural/supernatural distinction itself, and the near-equation of ‘supernatural’ with ‘superstition’, are scarecrows that Enlightenment thought has erected in its fields to frighten away anyone following the historical argument where it leads. It is high time the birds learned to take no notice." (Wright, N. T.. Resurrection Son of God, Kindle Locations 32434-32437)

I'll explain more this coming Tuesday.


My first two books are...

Praying: Reflection on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God (May 2016)

Leading the Presence-Driven Church (January 2018)

I am now writing...

Technology and Spiritual Formation

How God Changes the Human Heart: A Phenomenology of Spiritual Transformation