Thursday, September 30, 2021

"Leading the Presence-Driven Church" Zoominar Oct. 27


I'll be teaching my presence-driven leadership strategy for the Annual Gathering of American Baptist Churches of Michigan. What a privilege! (Thank you Brian.)

Wed., Oct. 27, 7 PM.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

The Fine-Tuning Argument for God's Existence

Fountain, at
Monroe County Community College

(I am re-posting this for a friend.)


The argument can be stated this way.

  1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.
  2. It is not due to physical necessity or chance.
  3. Therefore, it is due to design.
Define “fine-tuning”

Almost everything about the basic structure of the universe – for example, the fundamental laws and parameters of physics and the initial distribution of matter and energy – is balanced on a razor’s edge for life to occur.

Our fine-tuned universe is an event that demands to be explained.

Examples of fine-tuning

  1. If the initial explosion of the big bang had differed in strength by as little as one part in 10\60, the universe would have either quickly collapsed back on itself, or expanded rapidly for stars to form. In either case, life would be impossible. (An accuracy of one part in 10 to the 60th power can be compared to firing a bullet at a one-inch target on the other side of the observable universe, twenty billion light years away, and hitting the target.)
  2. Calculations indicate that if the strong nuclear force, the force that binds protons and neutrons together in an atom, had been stronger or weaker by as little as five percent, life would be impossible.
  3. If gravity had been stronger or weaker by one part in 10\40, then life-sustaining stars like the sun could not exist. This would most likely make life impossible.
  4. If the neutron were not about 1.001 times the mass of the proton, all protons would have decayed into neutrons or all neutrons would have decayed into protons, and thus life would not be possible.
  5. If the electromagnetic force were slightly stronger or weaker, life would be impossible, for a variety of different reasons.
And so on…

Premise 1 seems to exhaust the alternatives. The soundness of the argument depends on the plausibility of premise 2.

Premise 1

Can cosmic fine-tuning be plausibly attributed to physical necessity?

By “physical necessity” we mean: the constants and quantities must have the values they do. If this is true, there was really no chance of the universe’s not being life-permitting.

But this alternative seems extraordinarily implausible. Because it requires us to believe that a life-prohibiting universe is physically impossible. But surely a life-prohibiting universe seems possible. That, e.g., the universe might have expanded just a bit more slowly does not seem physically impossible.

A person who claims that the universe must be life-permitting is taking a radically position that requires strong proof. But as of now there is no such proof.

NOTE: support for the idea of “physical necessity” being false is given, inadvertently, by multiverse theorists. Such theorists use multiverse thinking to show that, while nearly all possible universes are life-prohibiting, it’s possible that one or more could be life-permitting.

Can cosmic fine-tuning be plausibly attributed to chance?
Philosopher John Leslie gives an example, as an analogy, to show the implausibility of the universe coming into existence by chance.

Suppose you line up against a wall and 50 sharpshooters take aim at you and fire. All of them miss. This event demands an explanation, for their missing me is needed for my survival.

I shouldn’t at all be surprised that I observe that all the bullets missed me, since I am alive to observe that they did all miss me. There is nothing improbable about that at all.

But I should be very, very surprised that in fact all the bullets missed me. That seems very, very improbable.

It seems reasonable to infer: design. That is: the sharpshooters missing me was planned for my continued existence.

This is a case of “inference to the best explanation.”

Analogically, the fact of the fine-tuned universe means the universe is life-allowing rather than life-prohibiting. This is very imporbable on atheism. This is not improbable on theism.

 The main atheist objection to this is multiverse theory. “If there is only one universe,” British cosmologist Bernard Carr says, “you might have to have a fine-tuner. If you don’t want God, you’d better have a multiverse.” (Discover, December 2008)

The Fine-Tuning of the Universe (The Anthropic Teleological Argument for God's Existence)

I am posting this for a friend.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Romans 8:18 - A Personal Note


                                                   (With my grandson Levi at the zoo.)

The first verse I remember memorizing as a new Christian was Romans 8:18. 18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 

I was 21 years old. I had recently flunked out of college, and was trying to make a new beginning in community college, and in life. I had hurt some relationships with my drug and alcohol use, which also caused damage to my spirit. I was lacking direction in life, except that I now was fully committed to following Jesus. My internal suffering was about self-inflicted scars from my previous careless lifestyle. Yet now, my sinful stains were wiped clean. 

I now think of these sufferings as minimal compared to what others go through. And yet, to me, two things were happening. I lamented over a wasted three years of life (post-high school). I had found new life in Jesus and was excited about this.

And I read this verse. It stood out to me. It has never left me, and comes to mind often. It gives me a perspective that I lacked before coming to Jesus. I have a future that is infused with the glory of God and overwhelms my sufferings!

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Deconstructing Progressive Christianity (My Book)


My book Deconstructing Progressive Christianity is completed.

My hope is to have it published in early 2022 if not before.


1. Introduction: What Is Progressive Christianity?

2. The Roots of Progressive Christianity: Political Progressivism

3. The Roots of Progressive Christianity: Postmodernism

4. Are Beliefs Less Important than Behaviors?

5. At the Same Table, but Not on the Same Page

6. Can We Know Who God Is?

7. Can We Know Who Jesus Is?

8. Is the Atonement “Cosmic Child Abuse?”

9. Was Jesus Really Raised from the Dead?

10. What About the Supernatural?

11. The Battle for the Authority of the Bible

12. Marriage is Between and a Man and a Woman

13. The Myth of Progress

14. Love and Wrath

15. For Such a Time as This

Saturday, September 25, 2021

The Problem of Those Who Have Never Heard of Christ

How Can Jesus Be the Only Way?

This Monday evening (8-9:30 PM EST), in my Renewal School of Ministry Apologetics class, I will be answering two questions.

1) With all the world's religions, how can Jesus be the only way to God?

2) What if someone has never heard of Jesus? How can they be saved?

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Pride: A Checklist

Linda and me, with Payne Theological Seminary friends

God is opposed to the proud,
but gives grace to the humble.

James 4:6

Those are strong words! In areas of pride, God is against us. Pride in us hinders others from experiencing God's love, mercy, and grace.

C.S. Lewis once wrote that the true Christian's nostrils must be constantly attuned to the inner cesspool. That cesspool includes pride. 

Do I, do you, have ungodly pride in your heart? In my praying time yesterday I was bringing, before the Lord, some areas of pride that are within my heart, and asking God to remove them.

Michael Brown, in Revolution in the Church: Challenging the Religious System with a Call for Radical Change, provides a checklist of potential evidences of pride. If you have a pointy finger, aim it at yourself as you read these. If the shoe fits, confess and turn from the prideful attitude.

  • You are accountable to no one. 
  • You think you are “the one”—that your church, your ministry, your anointing or your teaching is the necessary ingredient for true revival or evangelism or growth. 
  • Your opinion is always more important than the opinion of others. 
  • You are able to find sin in the lives of others but not in your own. 
  • You are quarrelsome. 
  • You find it difficult to be a team player. 
  • You are always right about everything. 
  • You are slow to repent. 
  • You find it difficult to say, “I’m sorry,” without defending yourself or blaming others. 
  • You refuse to take help. 
  • You are unteachable. 
  • You are unable to recognize others’ accomplishments or rejoice in their successes. 
  • You are unable to say, “I’m hurting; I’m in trouble.” 
  • You never reverse your path when wrong, but make only minor adjustments. 
  • You always think, “This message is for someone else, not me.” 
  • You fail to realize when God is trying to get your attention, when He is correcting you, when He is judging you.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

The Historically Christian View of Marriage: Part 1 (Preston Sprinkle)

Part 2 is HERE. ("Arguments Against the Historic Christian View")


(Leading the Presence-Driven Church students, Faith Bible Seminary, NYC)

Linda and I are always talking with people about forgiveness. Here are  links to things I have written about forgiveness.

We all need it, and need to learn it, and practice it. 

For Jesus-followers, this is the heart and soul of the Gospel. 

What to Do When You Are Upset With Someone In the Church


What is a person to do if they don't like something, or someone, in their church family? Here are my thoughts.

1. There is always something, or someone, not to like in any family, including a church family. Depending on the situation, God might lead you to show grace towards them. I probably would lose count if I knew how many people have chosen to show me grace and love when I have not pleased them.

But some situations need to be confronted.

2. There is always everyone to love in a church family. So, if you don't like something someone does, then your job description is to love them. This means...

3. Speak the truth, in love, to them. Here is how you do that.

4. Scripture tells us to go to the person with whom you have an offense. (Matthew 18:15) This is so crucial that you are not even supposed to worship until you go to a brother or sister who has something against you! (Matthew 5:23-24)

This is revolutionary! This means you do not talk to other people about the person. You go to the person.

I remember teaching these verses in a church class. A woman from Malawi, Africa, was there. I remember her saying, "If we really practiced this in my church, all of us would leave the building, find people we are in conflict with, and lovingly share our concerns with them!"

5. If that does not work, then approach church leadership. Share with them that you want help in dealing lovingly and truthfully with someone who has upset you.

Now, let's say you are ready to go to the person. Note: If this person is going to abuse you, then bring a church leader with you.

Pray. For yourself, and the person, that truth will be spoken in love. You are going to the person because you love them, and you want to make the situation right.

Speak for your own self, and not for others. Do not say things like, "Many others are upset with you too." If you know of someone else who is upset, direct them to the person, just as you are doing. If they refuse to do this, they have taken what John Bevere called "the bait of Satan." Have no part in this evil.

When you speak to the person, begin with love.  Begin your sentences with "I," rather than "you." Instead of saying "You upset me," own your feeling with words like "I feel upset _____________." Fill in the blank with a behavior; e.g., "I felt angry when you did not call me when you said you would." Or, "I felt angry when you called me irresponsible." "You"-language puts the other person on the defensive; "I"-language acknowledges your responsibility in the relationship. For how to do this, read this

Do not use negative descriptive adjectives when confronting the person in love (like these). Behind every adjective there is a judgment. You are not the judge of the other person, and do not want to come off that way to them. Instead, refer to behaviors. 

Listen to the person, for the sake of understanding. Your goal is understanding, more than it is agreement. Remember that you cannot begin to agree or disagree until you understand.

Be prepared to confess and forgive. You both may need to do this. For how to do this, read this, and this. And, see "The First Two Steps in Relationship Restoration." 

Follow this template, concerning speaking the truth in love. 

Have these attitudes, not only in your words, but in your countenance and behavior. 

Listen, understand, assert, love.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Trusting in Our Critical Thinking Apparatus In the Absence of Evidence

Here's a nice article on the need for critical thinking by Michael Lynch.

I have one observation. Lynch seems to be over-favoring a W.K. Clifford-type of "evidentialism." Which is: if you cannot provide evidence for a belief, then that belief is not worthy to be embraced.

In response to this, consider the philosophical idea that there are "properly basic beliefs." See Alvin Plantinga, William P. Alston, et. al.

Things such as the laws of logic, the veridicality of sense perception, and objective moral values seem to be properly basic. We are rational in believing them even though we cannot evidentially argue for them (since to do that one would need to assume the very thing one is trying to prove). This forms a response to Lynch's statements: "After all, if all reasons are grounded on something arbitrary, then no one’s principles rest on any firmer foundation than anyone else’s. It seems to give us the freedom to go with any epistemic principle we choose."

Properly basic beliefs are not "arbitrary." Yet they cannot be evidentially proven. (This is the philosophical objection to the "evidentialism" of, e.g., a W.K. Clifford.) To prove that the laws of logic are epistemically trustworthy one would have to assume the laws of logic in arguing for this. To argue for the veridicality of our sense experience one would require using our senses to empirically verify that our senses are trustworthy.

There are things critical thinking cannot prove, either deductively or inductively. One of those things is the trustworthiness of our critical thinking apparatus. What can we do? Assume it is rational to continue trusting in it in the absence of reasonable doubt.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

How Could a Good God Send People to Hell (and other questions...)

On Monday night, Sept. 20, 8-9:30 PM EST, I will answer the question "How Could a Good God Send People to Hell."  

Take my Apologetics class in Renewal School of Ministry and I'll show you how to answer this, and other questions.

Register here.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit

(Our grandson Levi)

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:3

Being "poor in spirit" is about an attitude. It is a heart-thing. It's related to humility.

I was praying this verse last night, and God told me: "Diminish." Become less, so that God can become more.

Craig Evans writes: "The opposite of the poor in spirit are "violent men" who try to take the kingdom of heaven by force (Matthew 11:12), men who will not humble themselves and become like children (Matthew 18:3; 19:14)." (Craig Evans, Matthew, 104)

I am to get small, so God can loom large.

Craig Keener says "["poor in spirit"] refers not merely to the materially poor and oppressed, but to those who have "taken that condition to their very heart, by not allowing themselves to be deceived by the attraction of wealth" (quoting Sean Freyne, Galilee, Jesus and the Gospels: Literary Approaches and Historical Investigations, p. 72). Although Matthew does not stress renunciation of possessions to the same degree as Luke, for him as well the kingdom belongs to the powerless of the world, to the oppressed who embrace the poverty of their condition by trusting in God rather than favors from the powerful for their deliverance." (Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 169)

I am to get less, get simple, so God can show his beauty.

Michael Wilkins writes:

"The kingdom of God belongs to those who know they have no resources, material or spiritual, to help themselves before God. These are the "poor" to whom Jesus has come to announce "good news" (Matt. 11:5) and to whom the kingdom belongs." (Michael J. Wilkins, The NV Application Commentary: Matthew, 206)

In my spiritual poverty I am blessed, for God rules and reigns over me.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The Importance of Remembering in Maintaining Hope

(Coffee with friends at our home.)

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, 
for he who promised is faithful.

Hebrews 10:23

In this difficult time of the virus and political chaos what is needed is hope.

Hope: the mood of expectation that comes from a promise that something good is going to happen.

When I hope, I expect. "Expectation" is the mood that characterizes hope. Hope is expectation, based on a promise that has been given. 

It seems that every day Linda and I meet someone who has lost hope. Loss of hope produces stagnancy and passivity. And depression. The loss of hope threatens life.

How important is hope? Lewis Smedes writes:

“There is nothing more important in this whole world than keeping hope alive in the human spirit. I am convinced that hope is so close to the core of all that makes us human that when we lose hope we lose something of our very selves. And in the process we lose all reason for striving for the better life we were meant to live, the better world that was meant to be. Let me put it as baldly as I can: there is nothing, repeat nothing, more critical for any one of us, young or old or anywhere in between, than the vitality of our hope.”  (Smedes, KeepingHope Alive: For a Tomorrow We Cannot Control, p. 6)

Real hope leads to activity, because it is attached to a promise that fuels the sense of expectation. The hope-filled, expectant person prepares now for the promised, coming event.

A husband and wife are said to be "expecting" when she is pregnant with their inborn child. The reality of this hope is seen in their active preparation for the promised one to arrive. They create a space in their home for the newborn to dwell. They buy clothes and toys. They think and dream and pray. Hope, grounded in a promise of something good, is joy-filled.

Hope is different than "wishing." "Wishing" is not attached to a promise, and hence is devoid of the sense of expectation. The wishing person is inactive. The person who wishes to win the gazillion-dollar lottery does not quit his job and sell his house. When no real promise is given, passivity reigns.

How can we overcome hopelessness and begin to hope again? One way I utilize is: I remember.

"Remembering " plays a role in "hoping." My spiritual journal, which is a record of God's activity in my life, helps me to remember. My journal includes God's promises to me, and promises realized. I have many stories where things looked hopeless, and then life returned. When I re-read and re-meditate on my journals I am filled with hope. I remember the deeds of the Lord in my life. I come to know God, in whom I have placed my trust, and makes good on his promises. I am then in a very good spiritual place. It affects how I look at the unseen future. I see that "he who promised is faithful."

I am intentional about remembering. This includes carrying lists of God's blessings to me, and looking at them often. I have found that a hoping person...

...remembers the deeds of God in their life; 
...remembers God-promises given, and God-promises fulfilled; 
...makes God their trust today, and each day; 
...dwells on the promises of God in Scripture;
...listens for God's voice, and his promises; expectant; active, since real hope always leads to present vitality.

I encourage a hopeless person to list, and thereby remember, the deeds of the Lord in their life. Write down ways God has been faithful to them. I have seen this result in a refocusing and re-membering of the person, as the pieces of their heart are put together again.

(Note: another antidote for hopelessness is connectedness to the Jesus-community. Hopelessness isolates people; unattended-to isolation breeds hopelessness. Be intentional about being part of a small group. Be intentional about gathering with others on Sunday mornings. Many times I have come on a Sunday morning, holding on to some fear in my heart, only to find it lifted and removed as we meet with the Lord together.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Why Does God Care if We Worship? (By Holly Collins)


(Our Worship Director, Holly Collins, sent this out to our church family today. I have her permission to post it here.)

I want to share with you something I felt God said this past Sunday morning during our worship. I know this was a word for my family and I and I hope it will be an encouragement to you, too! 

Psalm 24:7  "Lift up your heads, O gates! ... that the King of glory may come in." 

As we were singing, "Reign Above it All," I saw a picture of our world, but it was flat, almost like the bottom layer of a cake. It was dark and swirling, chaotic. Billions of people in different shapes and angles crammed together. At times I could see individual expressions of pain, anger, disappointment, fear, division, etc. The layer had movement to it but no one came out of it.  At first I was in the thick of that layer and the influence felt overwhelming. Michael and I, and our girls, are currently in the middle of some circumstances that leave me very often feeling frustrated, fearful and not knowing what to do. I forget too often to look for God's help and perspective first, above my own worries or solutions.  In the middle of standing in this layer, I heard God shout, "LIFT UP YOUR HEAD, SO THE KING OF GLORY CAN COME IN," over and over again. 

As I obeyed and lifted up my head, my neck started to stretch so that my head slowly rose out and above that earthly layer, which all of a sudden felt like a prison. The higher above it my head got, the greater the freedom and the bigger the space above that earthly layer became...the amount of space and light was incomprehensible, unable to be contained in words. The earthly layer became smaller and smaller. My feet remained in the earthly layer, but as if I'd eaten of the mushroom from Alice in Wonderland, my body had grown exponentially above it. And then, the throne. I locked eyes with the King of Glory. He stood up and started coming. The frustration and fear of our current circumstances immediately dissipated. They weren't forgotten, but my perspective had changed completely. The panic was gone.  The fear over not knowing how they would turn out was gone. Hope returned that wisdom & discernment was coming. Peace was in its place and the resolve to trust and praise Him took over.

I am often asked, as a worship leader, why does God care if we worship? Why do we have to sing or raise our hands? Is God some ego-maniac that He must hear us tell Him how wonderful He is all the time? The answer, I think, to these questions is this. Worship is the physical practice of putting our flesh/spirit/soul in alignment with God's thinking and the knowledge of Him. I would venture to say that most of spiritual warfare happens between the ears of humanity. Our stinking thinking is the enemy's footstool. If he can keep us seeing and living from this small, claustrophobic earthly layer, his destruction is pretty effortless.  But, when we lift up our heads and look at the One who reigns above it all, our lives change, our thinking changes, our power changes, etc. Worship allows us to lift up our heads, to look above it all and see God. When we declare who He is, we see who He is. God doesn't need us to worship for His sake. He desires us to worship for our sake. Worship is other-mindedness on our part in exchange to gain His mind, which is truth! 

So, God has lovingly reminded me that He's got this! The King of Glory has my home. The King of Glory has my children and He's coming in with help, solutions, and peace...His reign and rule. I need only to lift up my head to see Him...for He is more true than my circumstances. 
                       Praise will be my breakthrough
                       My song becomes my triumph
                       Worship is my warfare
                       My victory is You, my victory is in You


Holly Collins
Redeemer Fellowship Church
Worship Director