Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The Cure for the Entitlement Disease: The Hard Way Principles

Bald eagle in a tree near our house

Psychologist John Townsend's The Entitlement Cure is very good. It's helping me look more closely at areas of pocket entitlement I have. It's giving me insights to help others who have pocket entitlement, and even global entitlement.

Here are some things about the entitlement disease.


"Entitlement directs us to judge God for how the world works, for the bad things that happen to us that we don’t understand, and for things that didn’t happen that we desired. Entitlement says, “My way of looking at life is beyond his,” because entitlement creates a deep sense of being special and above it all." (50)



"Entitlement goes deeper than a person thinking, It’s okay if I want to be lazy because someone else will bear my burdens, or I’m so special that the rules don’t apply to me. In fact, entitlement goes so deep that it rejects the very foundations on which God constructed the universe. At its heart, entitlement is a rejection of reality itself." (51)

"Ever since Eden, we humans want to be like God, with all his privileges and power, and — the very definition of entitlement — we feel it is our right. Entitlement infects our brains with the notion, I have a right to more and better; in fact, I am owed that." (52)


All this is unreality. Townsend says that God's principles lie at the core of reality. The more you experience and follow them, the better life becomes for you and those in your life. Townsend calls this "the hard way."


The "Hard Way" Principles are:


1. Humility and Dependence - We Are Completely Dependent on God.


"Humility is simply accepting the reality of who God is and who you are. When you see the reality of his power, his love, and his care, you more easily see yourself as who you are: a loved creature, a special creature, an important creature, but a creature nonetheless. 


Dependence means you look to him for your sustenance, for every breath you take." (54)


Entitlement, however "tells you to be your own boss and determine your own destiny. Entitlement teaches you to say, "You're not the boss of me!" It implies that you can be and do anything you want, demand of the others around you anything you want, and that it’s lame to depend on anyone." (55) 


2. Connectedness - We Are Designed to Live in Connectedness with Each Other.


"We live in a relational world and a relational culture, summarized by Jesus’ teaching: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15: 12). Love comes from him, and we are to love not only him but each other." (56)


The entitlement mentality subverts healthy relationships and community in two ways. 


First, entitlement objectifies. "When one person treats another as a need-meeting object or as a dispenser of some desired commodity, that is objectification. People objectify each other sexually. A good listener may be sought out for her ability, but who remembers to ask how she’s doing?" (56)


"The self-absorbed attitude of entitlement makes it difficult to see people as having needs, feelings, and lives of their own. Forget “walk a mile in my shoes” — entitled individuals can only envision the lives of others as an extension of their own. They can’t enter fully into the experience of the other individual." (58) 


Second, entitlement creates unhealthy self-sufficiency. This is the idea that I don't need others to sustain and support me. "Entitlement is anti-need; it will cut you off from the supplies that your life requires to carry on." (59)


"If connectedness is the fuel of life, then entitlement results in an empty tank for the entitled person. And that causes breakdowns in relationships, love, career, self-care, and spirituality." (59)


3. Ownership - We Have to Take Responsibility for Our Own Choices.


Entitlement builds a huge obstacle to healthy ownership, in two ways: low ownership and externalization.


"Low ownership: Individuals who don’t take ownership of their lives sometimes live as if their actions have no consequences. They tend not to see beyond the present; their concern is for what they need and desire right now. They’re surprised when they lose jobs or relationships. Most of us are aware of the basic principle that “If you sow X, then X is what you will reap,” but not the entitled person." (60)


"Externalization: People with an attitude of entitlement often project the responsibility of their choices on the outside, not the inside. The fault lies with other people, circumstances, or events. They blame others for every problem. Their entitlement prohibits them from taking the beam out of their eye and asking the all-important question: How did I contribute to this latest problem? Instead, they default to answers outside their skin. The result? They tend to be powerless and unhappy. They tend to see life through the eyes of a victim. And their suffering is unproductive — it doesn’t get them anywhere." (61) 


"Blame," writes Townsend, "is a first cousin to entitlement." Blame is a life-killer.


4. Accepting the Negative - Your Flaws Can't Be Forgiven and Healed Until You Admit Them.


"God made a way through Christ so that we could live with the negative as it truly is, without denying it or minimizing it. In a relationship with Christ, we feel permission to be who we truly are, warts and all. We don’t have to hide, pretend, or put our best face forward. We are known and loved just as we are by the one who matters most. This enables us to love others the same way. 


The result of acknowledging and accepting the negative is that the negative then can be transformed. When you are okay knowing your failings, you can face them, bring them to God and to the people with whom you feel safe being vulnerable, and heal whatever is driving those feelings. This is the key to great growth. It’s a paradox, but the ones who run from the negative will suffer from it, while the ones who accept the negative will find the power to change it." (63)


Entitlement drives you away from admitting your flaws. The entitled attitude has three directions that destroy the "It Is Well With My Soul" life. They are:



  • Denial. "The person in denial simply turns her back on reality. She refuses to admit her flaws to herself or anyone else, which eliminates any possibility of deep and satisfying relationships."
  • Perfectionism. "The person caught in perfectionism beats himself up for failures, minor or major. His standard for performance is perfection, and he offers himself little grace when he stumbles. He constantly scrutinizes and condemns himself, and never makes it to a point of self-acceptance."
  • Narcissism. "The narcissistic person adopts a grandiose view of himself that hides his flaws, which usually lie buried under deep shame and envy. He is so afraid to see himself as he really is that he reacts in the opposite direction, toward the “I’m special” stance, in which he becomes arrogant and selfish and has difficulty feeling empathy for others."
5. Finding Our Role - To Live Long and Contentedly Find Your Purpose in Life and Fulfill It. 



"Finding your role means that you are giving back to the world over time in a sustained and steady way, and this attitude actually contributes to your living longer. Research indicates that the number one factor in longevity is not social relationships or happiness, but conscientiousness, described as persistence, dependability, and organization." (66)

Entitlement block this in two ways.

  • Entitlement limits the person's goals. "One of the most limiting ideas of entitlement thinking is that the end goal of life is happiness: “I just want to be happy, that’s all.” Entitlement says that the highest good is to be a happy person — but in fact, that is one of the worst endgame goals we can have. People who have happiness as their goal get locked into the pain/ pleasure motivation cycle. They never do what causes them pain, but always do what brings them pleasure. This puts us on the same thinking level as a child..." (66)
  • Entitlement limits the individual's growth. Entitlement freezes development. "It keeps us from growing, learning, challenging ourselves, or trying new things. It whispers to us, “That sounds really hard and it doesn’t look like it’s worth it.” When we listen to this voice, something inside us goes to sleep. We might become couch potatoes, video addicts, chronic partiers, or simply get in a rut and routine that becomes boring and deadening." 
***
My two books are:


Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

Leading the Presence-Driven Church.

I'm working on:

How God Changes the Human Heart

Technology and Spiritual Formation

Submit to God In the Present Moment

(Bangkok Train Station)
Greg Boyd, in his brilliant little book Present Perfect, writes:

"One of the reasons why many contemporary Western Christians place so much stress on hearing sermons, engaging in Bible studies, reading books, and attending seminars and conferences [is because] we believe that acquiring information is the key to helping us grow spiritually and solve our personal and social problems." (98)

While sometimes information does help people grow, and sometimes helps us solve problems, knowledge "does not on its own empower us to become more Christlike. When it comes to living in the Kingdom, moment-by-moment, our typical Western confidence in information is misplaced." (98-99)

In the West we are massively informed."We have more data, more information, than Christians at any time in the past. But it is not evident that we are more spiritually mature than Christians in the past. Many have written about how the lifestyle and core values of Western Christians are no different from pagan, worldly non-Christians. And this, in spite of all our Christian bookstores and books and websites and seminars and conferences and Bible studies. We have a problem. It isn't due to a lack of information."

Greg asks, "Why do so many Christians today spend more time listening to sermons or reading books than they do feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, welcoming outcasts, visiting prisoners, or engaging on other activities Jesus said should characterize Kingdom people?" (98) The answer lies in the great gap being knowing about the Kingdom and knowing Jesus and living out the Kingdom.

Greg writes: "all the information in the world is worthless if it distracts from the simplest thing in the world, which is practicing the presence of God in the present moment." (100)

Submit to God now, in the present moment. As we do this God's "life flows in and through us," and "transforms us in a way no amount of knowledge can." (101)

(See also the writings of James K. A. Smith, who debunks the Western Enlightenment idea that we are, primarily, what we think.)

***
My two books are:
Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God
Leading the Presence-Driven Church.
I'm working on:
How God Changes the Human Heart
Technology and Spiritual Formation
Linda and I then plan to write our book on Relationships

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

How to Communicate in Conflict



COMMUNICATION AS SPEAKING THE TRUTH IN LOVE (CARING + CONFRONTING; from David Augsburger, Caring Enough to Confront)

Ephesians 4:15 says: “therefore speak the truth in love; so shall we fully grow up into Christ.” Here we are told, in communication, to be both loving and truthful, caring and confronting.

Work at communicating both caring and confronting in the middle of marital or relational conflict.


Here are the attitudes to have and hold to.


Spiritual Maturity - It Takes a Lifetime


Image result for john piippo pear
(Pear, on my neighbor's tree)
Our neighbor has two old pear trees adjacent to our property line. I am allowed to pick them. In late summer any unharvested, mature pears fall onto the ground. 

It takes a whole season of connectedness for the pear to mature from what began as a flower. The pear-as-flower-bud is immature. It is far from fully formed.

In the spiritual life things are the same. The new Jesus-follower is young and, ipso facto, immature. This is not a criticism, just a reality. Just as Mc-Pears don't exist, neither does Mc-Spirituality. Yes, they can know Christ and be known by Christ. No, they are not and cannot be, e.g., a "mature worshiper." 

As a pear-flower matures into an edible pear, a baby Christian can mature into Christlikeness. This is a process. It takes time. Praise God for Jesus-followers who are young adults. If they live lives that abide in Christ, like branches attached to Jesus the Vine, they will grow towards maturity. But they cannot, at their age, be "mature," because this takes time.

"Maturing" is not some "quality time" thing, as if a pear would decide to spend a few quality hours attached to the tree. Spiritual maturity requires constant attachment, being broken and re-broken by God, over time, so as to be more greatly formed in Christ. This is how spiritual oak trees are made.

The flower-blossom-pear is in it for the long haul. So am I. And, probably, you, if you are reading this. To mature spiritually requires a lifetime. 

Continue dwelling in Christ.

Be patient. Long-suffer.

Stay attached. 

***
My two books are:
Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God
Leading the Presence-Driven Church.


I'm working on:
How God Changes the Human Heart
Technology and Spiritual Formation


Linda and I then plan to write our book on Relationships

Monday, March 18, 2019

Manifestations of the Spirit (Spiritual Gifts) Are for Everyone

Somewhere in California


In churches I've been in I have handed out "Spiritual Gift Inventories," so people could find out what their spiritual gift was. Now, I think that's a misunderstanding. Obviously, the early church in Acts did not use inventories. The situation was more fluid and organic than that. 

In 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 Paul writes:


Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.


Note that what was given were manifestations of the Spirit. Here is God, giving himself to us, in his infinitely variegated personality.

James McDonald writes: “God’s provision for all that we need is His manifest presence with us. God doesn’t dispense strength, wisdom, or comfort like a druggist fills a prescription; He promises us Himself— His manifest presence with us, as all that we will ever need— as enough! We must be terrified at the thought of a single step without it, without the Lord.” (McDonald, Vertical Church) 

Gordon Fee, in his brilliant commentary on First Corinthians, writes:


""Each one," standing in the emphatic first position as it does, is [Paul's] way of stressing diversity; indeed, this is how that diversity will be emphasized throughout the rest of the paragraph. He does not intend to stress that every last person in the community has his or her own gift...  That is not Paul's concern. This pronoun is the distributive (stressing the individualized instances) of the immediately preceding collective ("in all people"), which emphasizes the many who make up the community as a whole." (589)


Fee writes that what "each one" was "given" was not a "gift,' but a "manifestation of the Spirit." "Thus each "gift" is a "manifestation," a disclosure of the Spirit's activity in their midst... [Paul's] urgency, as vv. 8-10 make clear, is not that each person is "gifted," but that the Spirit is manifested in a great variety of ways. His way of saying this is that, "to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit."" (Ib.)


This is about the Spirit manifesting himself within the Jesus-community. It is not a statement about spiritual gifts being given to people once and for all. Paul's emphasis is on the variety and diversity of the Spirit's manifestations. Fee writes:


"Contrary to so much of the popular literature, Paul does not intend by this to stress that every last person in the community has his or her own gift. That may or may not be true, depending on how broadly or narrowly one defines the word charisma. But that is simply not Paul's concern. This pronoun is in the distributive (stressing the individual instances) or the immediately preceding collective ("in all people"), which emphasizes the many who make up the community as a whole...

[Paul's] urgency, as vv. 8-10 show [1 Cor. 12], is not that each person is "gifted," but that the Spirit is manifested in a variety of ways. Paul's way of saying that is, "to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit." (Fee, God's Empowering Presence, 163-164)

The Church is to desire the manifestations of the Spirit. (1 Cor. 14:1) This is Paul's way of saying that a variety of manifestations can be expected in the community. Craig Keener writes:


"Many churches and ministries today use “spiritual gift inventories,” which often tend to be interest or personality tests similar to those used in Christian counseling. While interest and personality tests are often useful and God sometimes gifts us in ways that correspond to our interests interests and personalities, we should not limit God’s gifts to those discovered in such inventories. This is especially true when we are speaking not about gifts we are born with but those we seek from God in prayer to build up Christ’s body (1 Cor. 12:31; 14:1)...

Paul also calls us to consider what gifts are most necessary for the church in our time. Having considered them, we should ask God to give those gifts to his body and be open to him using us if he chooses." (Keener, Gift and Giver: The Holy Spirit for Today, pp. 113; 136)

John Wimber held to a similar interpretation as Fee. Contextually, this makes sense to me. Wimber writes:


"Another theological barrier is what I call an incorrect interpretation of 1 Cor­inthians 12, verses 8-10 and verses 20-31, in which the gifts are frequently understood as given individually, and unilaterally to each member of the body. My perception is that we've wrongfully interpreted that text, that if we go back to 1 Corinthians 11, verses 17-18, where Paul says, "When you gather together there are divisions among you," the em­phasis in the entire section (from chapters 11 through 14) is that he is speaking to the church corporately, the congregation at Corinth. Therefore the emphasis on the gifts is that they are not primarily given to the individual but to the whole body.
Another way to understand this is to see them as situational—they are given in the situation, for the use of the individual and for the blessing of others. First Corinthians 12, verse 7, deals with the whole issue of the purpose of the use of spiritual gifts and teaches that the gifts are given "for the common good." In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul emphasizes the multiplicity of gifting that's available to the individual: "If you speak in tongues, pray that you might interpret." Whereas in chapter 12, he says, "One interprets, and one speaks in tongues." In chapter 14 he tells us all to prophesy, whereas he tells us in chapter 12, verse 29, that some are prophets and some are not.


The emphasis returns strongly in the 14th chapter on each individual having a multiplicity—or a potential for multiplicity—of expression of gifts, rather than for just singular expression. This means any individual Christian might prophesy, speak in tongues, interpret tongues and so on, but he should do it in the body, in good order and for the common good." (Wimber, "Spiritual Gifts Ignite Diverse Gospel Expressions")

***
My two books are:
Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God
Leading the Presence-Driven Church.
I'm working on:
How God Changes the Human Heart
Technology and Spiritual Formation
Linda and I then plan to write our book on Relationships

A Letter to Women

Image result for john piippo abide
(Warren Dunes State Park, Michigan)
This post is for the women who attended our conference this past weekend. 

You just had a beautiful, powerful time together. I have heard from many of you, about great things God was doing in you. Praise God! 

Now, it's Monday morning. The conference is over. But the Holy Spirit is not over. What do you do today? Here are my thoughts - blessings!

1. Continue to abide in Christ. Live an abiding life. Connect, today and tomorrow, with Jesus. For how to do this, read John chapters 14-15-16, slowly. 

For my counsel on this, read "How to Experience God's Presence," which is chapter six of my book Leading the Presence-Driven Church

2. Take alone-time with God. Read from the four Gospels. Open your Bible to the book of Proverbs, and slow-cook in the wisdom deposited there.  

Check out Dallas Willard's excellent devotional guide Hearing God Through the Year. Anyone who wants to learn and grow in hearing God should get this book!

3. Reflect on the things God told you and accomplished in you on the weekend. For me, the days after an intense God-conference are for deepening the truths I heard and received. Some of these are reminders, course-correcting truths. There are also some new insights given to me. Write them down in your journal. Carry them with you during the week. Meditate on them.

4. Share with others what God is doing in you and saying to you. Listen to others as they share with you. This is always so encouraging!

Abide in Jesus. Pray. Listen. Reflect. Ponder. Obey. Move forward. Expect.  

Something new, something good, something powerful, is happening in you. 

You are not the same as you were last week. 

That's called transformation.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Some Meditations on LOVE






(Lake Erie)



I will meditate today on "love."


  1. God is love. Love forms the very being of God. "Love" is an essential attribute of God. This means that God cannot not-love. Christian Trinitarian Theism best expresses this. God is a three-personed being. God is, essentially, a being-in-relationship. God as Father-Son-Spirit makes conceptual sense of the idea that God is love. Because "love" is relational. Love requires an other, an object to-be-loved.
  2. God cannot not-love you. This does not form some restriction on God. God does not love you because there is some command external to his being he must follow. God is love, therefore all God's thoughts and actions are loving. God's love for you is genuine. When God thinks of you he has a good feeling. God likes you. You are God's child, his son or daughter. God made you, and what he has made God calls "very good." You are deeply loved by God. Nothing can change this.
  3. God expressed his love by coming to us, rather than making us find him. God came, in the Son, to "sozo" us; i.e., to "save" us. Love came down to rescue us. "For God so loved the world..." Michael Brown et. al. write that the New Testament usage of sozo means "to rescue, save, deliver, preserve from danger, etc." (212) "James 5:15 in particular provides an excellent example of the holistic usage of sozo." (213) The sick person will be "raised up," forgiven, and "made well" (sozo). Sozo includes being healed, made whole, and delivered, and is applied not simply to individuals but to people groups and cultures. "Love" is  verb. Love is intentional action.
  4. From God's POV love is "the greatest." The highest, in terms of value. Love is greater than power. In the being of God, love is the raison d'etre of power. Power exists for the sake of love. Jesus, in his humanity, accessed the power of the Father. Jesus' displays of power came out of his compassion, which is to say, out of his love. Paul  expands on this theologically in 1 Corinthians 13. Without love, you are nothing.
  5. Love is not impatient. Love waits. Love waits for others. Love doesn't get ahead of others. Patience is consideration. Love considers.
  6. Love is not unkind. Love never speaks un-loving words, for that would be the antithesis of love. Love speaks kindly. Love is soft and true.
  7. Love does not envy or boast. Love is free from human hierarchies of comparison. Love does not measure itself against others. In this way love is free.
  8. Love does not dishonor others. Love looks to honor others before one's own self. Love does not go after self-honor. Love loves to see others get honor. Love is free from the need to be in the spotlight. Love does not upstage others. Love moves behind the scenes.
  9. Love is not self-seeking. Love looks toward God and the well-being of others. Love puts God first, and others second. Love is satisfied with third place, or not placing at all.
  10. Love is not easily angered. Love doesn't get irritated or ticked off. Love isn't irascible, petulant, or inconvenienced. Love is easily interruptible.  
  11. Love lets go of past offenses. Love keeps no record of wrongs. Because of this, love sleeps peacefully at night. There's no bitterness or resentment in love. To forgive others is one of love's greatest accomplishments.
  12. Love does not delight in evil. There's nothing evil does that makes love happy. Love never enables evil. Nor does love partner with evil.
  13. Love does not rejoice with falsehood. Love rejoices with the truth. Love doesn't throw a party when "1+1=3." Love loves light, not darkness. Love has no shades of gray.
  14. Love always protects. Love is responsible for the other. Love shelters. Love takes a bullet meant for the beloved. Love is a shield.
  15. Love always trusts. This is because love trusts in God. Love is not naive or gullible because of this. Love doesn't trust an ax-murderer with an ax, but trusts that God is greater than he who is in the world.
  16. Love always hopes. Love expects, therefore love prepares.
  17. Love always perseveres. Love never gives up.
  18. Love never fails. Love scores 100%, every time. Love wins.
  19. Love is the thing that will last. Love ever-lasts. Love remains when others depart. 
  20. Faith and hope are great things, but love is greater. Faith and hope are manifestations of love. Love is the genus, faith and hope are species.
  21. We are to love one another. The mark of a Jesus-follower is: "See how they love one another." When love is instantiated the revolution has begun. 
  22. We are even to love those who are against us. We are to love our enemies. Love doesn't get more radical than this. This is the "Mt. Everest" of love; love's summum bonum. When love displays itself this way the earth trembles, the heavens open, jaws drop, eyes open, and skeptics reconsider.
  23. If you love Jesus, then you will keep his commands. And one of his commands is: Love your enemies. Here logic kicks in. Modus ponens1. If A, then B. 2. A. 3. Therefore, B. Such as: 1. If it rains, then the ground gets wet. 2. It is raining. 3. Therefore, the ground gets wet. Such as: 1. If you love Jesus, then you will keep his commands. 2. You love Jesus. 3. Therefore, you keep his commands. Including the commands to love God, love one another, and love one's enemies. Just as surely as the rain causes the ground to get wet.

If God Made the Universe, Who Made God?


I have been asked, "If God made the universe, then who made God?"

My response is: this is a nonsense question. It's like asking, "How much does blue weigh?" Because the Christian God, the theistic Being, necessarily exists. That is, God cannot not-exist. Now if god cannot not-exist, then God has eternally existed. God never began to exist. And if something never began to exist and has always existed, then it has no cause. 

This is similar to the question, "If God is all-powerful, then can God make a stone so heavy he cannot lift?" This is another nonsense question. Here's why, in some detail. I'm drawing upon former University of Michigan philosopher George Mavrodes's "Some Puzzles Concerning Omnipotence" (in Peterson, Hasker, Reichenbach, and Basinger, Philosophy of Religion). I heard Mavrodes speak years ago at a philosophy conference at Wheaton College (I took two independent studies with Wheaton philosopher Arthur Holmes). And once, while strolling the halls of U-M's superb philosophy department, I walked into Mavrodes's office as his door was open. He was very gracious, and we talked a bit.

If God is "omnipotent," does this mean God can do anything? Can God create a stone too heavy for him to lift?

It's generally understood that the doctrine of omnipotence refers to the ability to do anything that is logically possible. So, e.g., God cannot make a "square circle," simply because such a thing is logically incoherent. But while "square circle" "seems plainly to involve a contradiction..., [the statement that] "x is able to make a thing too heavy for x to lift" does not." (141-142) I could, e.g., make a boat too heavy for me to lift. Why, then, could not God make a stone too heavy for him to lift? At least, it's not obvious that such a thing is logically incoherent in the sense of being self-contradictory or even meaningless. With this in mind, Mavrodes argues that the stone-idea is self-contradictory in the same was as is "square circle." Here's how this works.

God is either omnipotent or he is not. If he is not omnipotent, then the phrase "stone too heavy for God to lift" may not be self-contradictory. It follows that if God can make such a stone, then he is not omnipotent. But if we assume that God is omnipotent, then the phrase "stone too heavy for God to lift" becomes self-contradictory. "For it becomes 'a stone which cannot be lifted by Him whose power is sufficient for lifting anything'. But the "thing" described by a self-contradictory phrase is absolutely impossible and hence has nothing to do with the doctrine of omnipotence."  (142) "The very omnipotence of God... makes the existence of such a stone absolutely impossible, while it is the fact that I am finite in power... makes it possible for me to make a boat too heavy for me to lift." (142)

But what if someone objects and claims that "stone too heavy for God to lift" is not self-contradictory, and therefore describes an absolutely possible object?" (142) If that is correct, than our answer will be, "Yes, God can create such a stone." The existence of such a stone will then be compatible with the omnipotence of God. "Therefore, from the possibility of God's creating such a stone it cannot be concluded that God is not omnipotent... The conclusion which [the objector] wishes to draw from such an affirmative answer to the original question is itself the required proof that the descriptive phrase which appears there is self-contradictory." (142) 

To the question "Can God make a stone too heavy for Himself to lift?" the objector wants us to answer, "Yes." But if we answer "Yes," the objector will think our answer to be absurd since the idea of a stone too heavy for God to lift is logically absurd. This is because, once we grant omnipotence to God plus non-self-contradictoriness to the "stone too heavy for God to lift," we are involved in a logical absurdity which denies what we have granted to God. Mavrodes says: "It is more appropriate to say that such things cannot be done, than that God cannot do them." (Ib.)

***
For some lighter reading...

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

My book on leadership is Leading the Presence-Driven Church.

I'm now working on...

Transformation: How God Changes the Human Heart

Technology and Spiritual Formation

I'm editing a book I'm now calling Encounters with the Holy Spirit.

After the dust clears, Linda and I plan to write our book on Relationships.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

The Trouble with People Who are Not Like Me


(My back yard)


In the days of my greater immaturity I sang in a college choir. I am a baritone, and I can hold a tune. I can stay on pitch. But X, who sang in the baritone section next to me, could not.
I grew to despise him for this. 

Not only was X tone deaf, he could sing louder than anyone in the choir. X's tone deafness overwhelmed the rest of us. He was an eighth of a tone flat, all the time. Just slightly off pitch. To be slightly off pitch in a choir, and loudly so, is a great sin, for it works to drag everyone else down to its atonal level.

To make matters worse, X always had a smile on his face. I can see his broad smile now, fifty years later. X was upbeat, chipper, as he miserably bellowed. This angered me even more. 
X did not see how this was affecting me. My only relief was to share my grief with others, to spread my pain far and wide. I was everyone, and everyone talked about X. "X is ruining our choir." "X can't sing." "Just what does X think he is doing?" "X makes my life miserable."

"My life would be better if X were not in my life."

But that last statement, of course, is false. And immature. My trouble with X brought out my trouble with me. I, not X (or Y or Z or...), am my greatest problem. Unless I come to see the truth of that, I will be forever miserable.

C.S. Lewis, in a beautiful little piece called "The Trouble with X," wrote:

"Even if you became a millionaire, your husband would still be a bully, or your wife would still nag, or your son would still drink, or you'd still have to have your mother-in-law live with you.

It is a great step forward to realize that this is so; to face up to the fact that even if all external things went right, real happiness would still depend on the character of the people you have to live with--and that you can't alter their characters. And now comes the point. When you have seen this you have, for the first time, had a glimpse of what it must be like for God. For of course, this is (in one way) just what God Himself is up against. He has provided a rich, beautiful world for people to live in. He has given them intelligence to show them how it ought to be used. He has contrived that the things they need for their biological life (food, drink, rest, sleep, exercise) should be positively delightful to them. And, having done all this, He then sees all His plans spoiled--just as our little plans are spoiled--by the crookedness of the people themselves. All the things He has given them to be happy with they turn into occasions for quarreling and jealousy, and excess and hoarding, and tomfoolery..." (C.S. Lewis, "The Trouble with X")

But God's view is different from my view, or from your view. "He sees one more person of the same kind--the one you never do see. I mean, of course, yourself. That is the next great step in wisdom--to realize that you also are just that sort of person. You also have a fatal flaw in your character. All the hopes and plans of others have again and again shipwrecked on your character just as your hopes and plans have shipwrecked on theirs."

God sees me. To God, I am X. And surely, I am X to some people. "It is important to realize that there is some really fatal flaw in you: something which gives others the same feeling of despair which their flaws give you. And it is almost certainly something you don't know about."

There is a second way God is different from me. I don't love X, but God does. God "loves the people in spite of their faults. He goes on loving. He does not let go. Don't say, "It's all very well for Him. He hasn't got to live with them." He has. He is inside them as well as outside them. He is with them far more intimately and closely and incessantly that we can ever be. Every vile thought within their minds (and ours), every moment of spite, envy, arrogance, greed, and self-conceit comes right up against His patient and longing love, and grieves His Spirit more than it grieves ours."

Today, when I think of my attitude towards X, I am saddened. Surely X knew I couldn't stand him. The thought of X knowing that, and still smiling as he sang with all his off-tuned heart, sickens me. Who am I, before God, to treat anyone that way? And who are you to do the same? Lewis writes:

"Be sure that there is something inside you which, unless it is altered, will put it out of God's power to prevent your being eternally miserable. While that something remains, there can be no Heaven for you, just as there can be no sweet smells for a man with a cold in the nose, and no music for a man who is deaf. It's not a question of God "sending" us to Hell. In each of us there is something growing up which will of itself be Hell unless it is nipped in the bud. The matter is serious: let us put ourselves in His hands at once--this very day, this hour."

***
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

I'm now working on...

Transformation: How God Changes the Human Heart

Technology and Spiritual Formation

I'm editing a book I'm now calling Encounters with the Holy Spirit.

After the dust clears, Linda and I plan to write our book on Relationships.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Judgmentalism and Making Judgments

(Oval Beach, Douglas, Michigan)

A belief is a judgment that something is true, that a certain state of affairs obtains. Beliefs are expressed in statements. A statement is a sentence that is either true or false. A statement makes a claim that a certain state of affairs obtains, or does not obtain.

If a statement is true, it is true for everyone. In logic there is no such thing as subjective truth. To think that something is "true for you" but "false for me" is to fall into the rabbit hole of irrationality. 


Consider, e.g., the statement The lights in this room are now on. That is a belief, expressed in a statement. The statement is either true or false. If it is true (= the expressed state of affairs, viz., the lights being on, obtains) then it is true for everyone.


Of course there are things that are relative to persons. For example, John thinks sushi is good, but Jim thinks sushi is bad. But note this. When these two states of affairs are expressed in statements, the statements themselves, if true, are true for everyone.


Because everyone has beliefs, everyone makes judgments. This is unavoidable. Because every judgment is either T or F, every judgment (statement) marginalizes. If the statement The lights in this room are now on is true, then if I think the statement is false I am wrong. All statements make truth claims. All statements either embrace or exclude. 


Some people (many, I think) mistake the making of judgments with an attitude of judgmentalism. Let's say, for example, that X thinks There is nothing wrong with doing heroin. But I think It is wrong to do heroin. These two statements express beliefs X and I have. Both cannot be right. One of us is wrong. In fact, I think X is wrong about their belief. To say this is not to be "judgmental" or some kind of "judging person." It is only to make a judgment. Judgment-making is unavoidable and necessary and helpful in navigating through life.


Let's say X does heroin and asks me, "What do you think about doing heroin?"


I respond (here comes a statement): It is wrong to do heroin.


X feels angry and tells me, "Stop judging me! You are so judgmental!" 


No, that can't be right. I only expressed a belief, only made a judgment. X has committed the mistake of confusing the making of a judgment with a judgmental attitude. This now becomes a problem with X, not me. In fact, when X says, You are so judgmental, they have made a judgment about me which, in this case, is false.


Judgment-making is unavoidable and necessary to live this life. But judgment-making is not equivalent to being judgmental. The first is a matter of logic, the second is a matter of attitude.



***

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

I'm now working on...

Transformation: How God Changes the Human Heart

Technology and Spiritual Formation

I'm editing a book I'm now calling Encounters with the Holy Spirit.

After the dust clears, Linda and I plan to write our book onRelationships.