Wednesday, October 31, 2018
I ask people to please put their cell phones away during worship, and while I am preaching. Here Lauren Daigle explains why.
Daigle recently noted during an interview that social media has led many believers to experience a spiritual identity crisis—and she's no exception. She talked about how she caught herself texting during service and drowning out God with all the digital noise of the modern era. So how did she find freedom? She explains in this video.
Two reasons for this are: 1) unbelief; and 2) an incomplete view of prayer.
Unbelief is one reason for a prayerless life. If prayer means talking with God about what we are thinking and doing together, then how could anyone pass up daily opportunities to meet, one-on-one, with the Maker of Heaven and Earth? I can assure you that, if the President of the United States (or any country's President) called and said they wanted to meet with me today, I would stop typing this post, and say "Excuse me, I have a meeting with our President." I would drop everything to do this! A chance to meet with the most powerful leader in the world! You would not be able to keep me from such a meeting. And, I would go in awe and trembling.
Multiply this unlikely earthly scenario a gazillion times and we have the matter of prayer as meeting with the all-powerful, all-knowing, omnibenevolent, necessarily existent, Creator and Sustainer of all things. If someone can't find time for this, I suggest it may it be because they don't believe.
Another reason Christians don't pray is because they have been taught an incomplete, one-sided theory of prayer. This is the idea of prayer as essentially "asking," or "petition." This is found in, e.g., the theology of Karl Barth, who so emphasized the "Wholly Otherness" of God that the "I am with you always" God got viewed as distant. This can lead to talking to God, more than conversing with Him. We come to God mostly with requests. We approach this distant God when we're in trouble.
I know there's more to Barth than this. But this was his emphasis. See how this is expressed in, e.g., the Barthianism and Calvinism of Donald Bloesch, especially his book The Struggle of Prayer. I had Don (who was a great theologian, a very good person, a passionate lover of Jesus, and graciously agreed to speak to my seminary class) come to speak in a class I was teaching on prayer at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary. The emphasis was, for me, too much on speaking to God but not enough on hearing from God.
If a Jesus-follower thought "God won't speak to me," this could discourage them from praying.
I like how Anglican theologian Kenneth Leech writes about this. Leech says:
"Many people see prayer as asking God for things, pleading with a remote Being about the needs and crises of earth. sometimes these pleas produce a response; often, they do not. So prayer is seen in essentially functional terms - is it effective or not? Does it produce results?... But in order to pray well we need to disengage ourselves from this way of thinking." (Leech, True Prayer, 7)
This is the myth of "effective prayer," with effectiveness seen as some kind of measuring stick. To focus excessively on the effectiveness of prayer is to miss the relationship with God. It is to view God as some object, from which to "get results."
How can we help people who "can't find time to pray" because they don't believe? My view is that only God can change their hearts about this. We should not try to force this on someone. We can create opportunities and contexts for others to encounter God. When I send people out to pray as an assignment in my seminary courses, some become believers (in a God who has much to say to them,) and get a praying life that lasts for a lifetime.
We can also introduce the idea that true prayer is about a conversational relationship, rather than simply a 9-1-1 call.
My two books are:
My two books are:
Tuesday, October 30, 2018
|Cemetery on the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem|
Pastors - I am setting up a conference call for Monday, Nov. 19, 9 PM EST.
The Purpose: To define "revival," share how we can prepare the soil in our churches for revival, and pray together for revival.
If you want to join me for this conference call please email me at: email@example.com.
Now... back to THE WAR.
In today's New York Times David Brooks writes:
- David Brooks, "The New Cold War"
Sunday, October 28, 2018
|Chicago Theological Seminary|
Many scholars were asked to respond to this, mostly of the secular variety.
Evolutionary theorist Jerry Coyne (University of Chicago) says his question is:
"If science does in fact confirm that we lack free will, what are the implications for our notions of blame, punishment, reward, and moral responsibility?"
Now that is a great question. And a pressing one. A much-discussed one.
For if we lack free will, and what I do is not because "I" chose it, but is either determined or indeterminate, then...
... I am not responsible...,
... I cannot take credit for what I do (I can neither be blamed nor praised)...
... and I cannot be punished for "doing" (what would that mean, if no free will?) something "wrong?" I could be institutionalized because I am a danger to society. But this would not be because I committed a crime, since "committing" myself to something implies a choice.
I think this question, which is so very important for our future, is in principle unanswerable. For what sense would it make for a scientist to choose to confirm that we cannot make choices out of our free will?
I suggest we are rational in assuming what feels intuitive to us; viz., that there is an "I" who is able to make choices that are not fully reducible to antecedent causal conditions; hence, assuming free will exists. (Our belief in free will is what philosophers call a "properly basic belief.")
Many people, especially in America, define themselves in terms of their material possessions, their personal appearance, and their accomplishments. These evaluations are all comparative. They function on the punishing honor/shame hierarchy. This hierarchy is brutal because it requires a constant striving to maintain or upgrade one's false identity.
For such persons, this is all they are. They are nothing more or less than what they own, how they look to others, and what they have done. They create themselves in the image they think others will adore. They are a function of what people think, puppets controlled by ever-changing public opinion.
Thomas Merton knew this and wrote:
Thomas Merton knew this and wrote:
"There are many respectable and even conventionally moral people for whom there is no other reality in life than their body and its relationship with “things.” They have reduced themselves to a life lived within the limits of their five senses. Their self is consequently an illusion based on sense experience and nothing else. For these the body becomes a source of falsity and deception: but that is not the body’s fault. It is the fault of the person himself, who consents to the illusion, who finds security in self-deception and will not answer the secret voice of God calling him to take a risk and venture by faith outside the reassuring and protective limits of his five senses."
Merton, Thomas. New Seeds of Contemplation (pp. 27-28)
Saturday, October 27, 2018
|Me, climbing the big dune at Warren Dunes State Park (Michigan)|
I am beginning my day by opening up the Bible to Proverbs. And then, I am currently reading Luke. I slow-cook in these biblical books. They situate my heart on the right track.
Proverbs contains much wisdom. I don't think it wise to claim to be wise. Yet, as a philosopher, I have read a lot of the world's wisdom literature. This is what philosophers do. The word "philosophy" means "the love of wisdom" (philo-sophia). So, I have read Plato and Aristotle, Augustine and Kant, Descartes and Hume, Anselm and Aquinas, the Buddha and Confucius, the Upanishads and the Koran, Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, Camus and Sartre, Russell and Wittgenstein, Foucault and Derrida, Merton and Nouwen, and others. I read philosophy when driving the car. It is my bathroom reading. I study it. Scholars have taught me. I love wisdom. I treasure it. It has supreme value to me.
The love of wisdom is not a claim to be wise. But you won't be wise without having a foundational desire for wisdom. And study is one thing that helps me.
Have you seen those cartoons where someone seeking wisdom struggles to the top of a mountain to ask a white-bearded man with long grey hair a question? The book of Proverbs lies open on the pinnacle. God meets me, on the mountain, every morning.
"Above all else," I am told, "get wisdom."
Above everything else? Above money? Above fame? Above beauty? Above possessions? Yes. To understand this is to be wise. To think otherwise is to be an ordinary fool.
This morning I'm after some more wisdom. I collect it like diamonds, and mount them in my journal. I polish them by reading, and re-reading.
I am reading Proverbs in Eugene Peterson's The Message. Peterson writes a beautiful introduction to Proverbs on its core theme.
Wisdom is different from knowledge. Wisdom may contain knowledge; knowledge may have no wisdom. Peterson writes:
"“Wisdom” is the biblical term for this on-earth-as-it-is-in-heaven everyday living. Wisdom is the art of living skillfully in whatever actual conditions we find ourselves. It has virtually nothing to do with information as such, with knowledge as such." (Peterson, The Message Remix 2.0: The Bible In Contemporary Language, p. 870)
A college degree does not guarantee wisdom.
- Wisdom has to do with becoming skillful in honoring our parents and raising our children,
- handling our money
- and conducting our sexual lives,
- going to work
- and exercising leadership,
- using words well
- and treating friends kindly,
- eating and drinking healthily,
- cultivating emotions within ourselves and attitudes toward others that make for peace.
- Threaded through all these items is the insistence that the way we think of and respond to God is the most practical thing we do. In matters of everyday practicality, nothing, absolutely nothing, takes precedence over God. (Ib.)
"These are the wise sayings of Solomon, David's son, Israel's king -
written down so we'll know how to live well and right,
to understand what life means and where it's going."
- Proverbs 1:1