Saturday, June 25, 2022

How to Have a Civil Discussion on Gay Marriage


(Railroad bridge, Monroe, MI)

(I periodically re-post this, to keep it in play. Over the years I have written several blog posts affirming marriage as between a man and a woman.)

The core issue is one of authority. What is your authoritative text. Whose voice or voices do you bow before? 

Pause here. Everyone has their authoritative text, whether it is written or not. So do you. Most do not reflect on this.)


For a Jesus-follower the question is: Does the Bible affirm sex-same unions? 

If you are not a follower of Jesus, or if you are an atheist, then - of course - this question has no relevance for you. But, again, you still have a worldview. The philosophical question is: Is your worldview correct?  

Is it possible to get beyond a shouting match and have a civil discussion?

I believe so. Here are the steps to take, as I see things. 

Below is my flow chart for having a civil discussion on gay marriage. (BTW - our culture has already decided on this one, sans understanding. But, in matters of Christian understanding, the moral pronouncements of the prevailing culture are irrelevant. It's like using the sport of throwing horseshoes to critique the game of tennis. Within the worldview of Christian theism, this remains a discussable issue.)

This process is a slow-cooker. In my case it has spanned almost five decades of thinking, studying, researching, dialoguing, and praying. You probably do not have the time to do this. But note this: If you are unfamiliar with the relevant literature, then do not hastily judge me. (Like, "How hateful John is!") 

Here's the template. 


On a scale of 0-10, how authoritative is the Bible for you (with '0' being no authority, and '10' being fully authoritative). This is the first matter that must be discussed, without which there will be no meaningful outcome.


If the Bible has no authority, or very little authority, then the Christian discussion is over. Because, of course, we will disagree on same-sex marriage. There will be a kind of "clash of civilizations" (following Samuel Huntington - see below*).

However, I am interested in the person who gives the Bible little or no authority. I want to ask them: "What text (narrative) is authoritative for you? Have you thought about this?"

Again, if someone goes to Step 1a, then the intra-Christian discussion is over. But, since everyone has a worldview, a narrative they live by, what is theirs? And, should one respond "I have no guiding narrative," that itself is a guiding narrative, to which I will ask for some justification.

After years of teaching philosophy, I have concluded that few people understand and evaluate their worldview. And note again: the rejection of all worldviews is itself a worldview. Like, e.g., the rejection of all metanarratives is itself a metanarrative (contra Foucault, et. al.).


To say that the Scriptures have great authority is to say they guide and influence our faith and life. They are not just occasionally read, but studied and looked to and lived by.


We must handle the Word of God correctly, or rightly.

To do this requires study. Two good books on how to interpret the Bible are:

That is, to enter more fully into this discussion at this point, one should have some understanding of principles of biblical interpretation. Everyone cannot invest decades of study into this. But it helps avoiding horrendous mistakes in reading the Scriptures. For example, context is important in the interpretation of anything, to include interpreting the Bible. Because a text without a context is simply a pretext to say what you want the text to say.


This is the question for followers of Jesus who give the Scriptures great authority.

As Craig Keener writes"My primary vocation is as a Bible scholar, and I need to explain the text faithfully."

Correct. The issue here is: what does the biblical text say, as opposed to what we might wish the text would say.

This is why, e.g., what the prevailing cultural wisdom says is irrelevant to the interpreting of the Bible, and any text, for that matter.


The person who ends up here must justify their interpretation of Scripture, and conclude that God affirms same-sex unions. They might find themselves agreeing with people like Dan Via (presents view #2) and Matthew Vines, et. al., for example.


The person who ends up here must justify their interpretation of Scripture. 

At this point I have long laid out my cards on the table. I'm with Keener (and N.T. WrightBen WitheringtonTim KellerRobert GagnonWesley Hill, Francis Chan, et. al) when Keener writes: "I believe that the biblical passages about homosexual behavior are fairly clear... most exegetes, whether they agree personally with Paul or not, still regard Romans 1 as disagreeing with homosexual practice... I would be happy to be persuaded otherwise, but so far it continues to appear to me that this is where the exegesis strongly points."

Here's where I land on this. This has been our church's position since its inception. Marriage is a covenant relationship between a man and a woman, established by God as the foundation of family and human society reflecting the nature of Christ’s sacrificial love and devotion for His bride, the Church.

Does this mean I hate people who disagree with me? Of course not. (See here.)

Does loving someone mean I affirm all of their beliefs? Of course not. (See here.)

* "It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.

Samuel P. Huntington. The Clash of Civilizations? The Debate: 20th Anniversary Edition (p. 3). Foreign Affairs. Kindle Edition.

Friday, June 24, 2022

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 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.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022


The Pauline Thinking Cure and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Harrison, Michigan (Photo by Josh Piippo)

I am interested in connections between Pauline thinking and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. 

Paul writes:

"Finally, brothers and sisters, 

whatever is true, 

whatever is noble, 

whatever is right, 

whatever is pure, 

whatever is lovely, 

whatever is admirable 

-- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy 

-- think about such things 

and the God of peace will be with you."

Philippians 4:8


Examples of Pauline thinking include the "declarations" given by Steve Backlund of Bethel Redding Church, and the identity statements of Neil Anderson. Both are about thinking on identity truths, using verbal repetition. 

 For example, I am God's child and deeply loved by him. As followers of Jesus, that's true, right? So, why not meditate on that truth so that, as Henri Nouwen says, it might descend from our mind into our heart.

 See The Coddling of the American Mind, by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt. They advocate Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) as a cure for maladies such as anxiety disorder, depression, OCD, anger, marital conflict, and stress-related disorders. CBT is uncannily similar to Paul's instructions in Philippians 4:8.

 CBT treats cognitive distortions, such as "I'm no good," "My world is bleak," and "My future is hopeless." (Lukianoff and Haidt, 36) CBT breaks disempowering feedback cycles between negative beliefs and negative emotions.

 They write:

 "With repetition, over a period of weeks or months, people can change their schemas and create different, more helpful habitual beliefs (such as "I can handle most challenges" or "I have friends I can trust.")" (Ib., 37) This is remarkably like Backlund's identity declarations. (See also James K. A. Smith's excellent You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit.)

 Cognitive distortions empower negative emotions. Put in a Pauline way, repetitive thinking on "whatever is false" distorts our emotions. Lukionoff and Haidt are concerned over our universities and the cognitive distortions they produce in our students. While to my knowledge neither Lukionoff nor Haidt are Christians, they refer to CBT as the "thinking cure." (See here.) I see the Pauline "thinking cure" of Philippians 4:8 as combating these distortions in ways that are similar to CBT. 

 They list nine such distortions. Here they are, direct from the book, with my comments on logical fallacies added. (38). 




Letting your feelings guide your interpretation of reality. 

"I feel depressed; therefore, my marriage is not working out."

(In logic this is an example of the fallacy of false cause.)



Focusing on the worst possible outcome 

and seeing it as most likely. 

"It would be terrible if I failed."

(This is similar to the slippery slope fallacy in logic.)


Perceiving a global pattern of negatives 

on the basis of a single incident. 

"This generally happens to me. 

I seem to fail at a lot of things." 

(In logic this is called the fallacy of hasty generalization.)



Also known as "black and white thinking," 

"all or nothing thinking," and "binary thinking."

Viewing events or people in all-or-nothing terms.

"I get rejected by everyone," or

"It was a complete waste of time."

(In logic this is called the fallacy of false dichotomy.)



Assuming that you know what people think without having sufficient evidence of their thoughts.

"He thinks I'm a loser."



Assigning global negative traits to yourself or others (often in the service of dichotomous thinking).

"I'm undesirable."

"he's a rotten person."



You focus almost exclusively on the negatives and seldom notice the positives.

"Look at all of the people who don't like me."



Claiming that the positive things you or others do are trivial, so that you can maintain a negative judgment.

"That's what wives are supposed to do - so it doesn't count when she's nice to me."

"Those successes were easy, so they don't matter."



Focusing on the other person as the source 

of your negative feelings; 

you refuse to take responsibility 

for changing yourself.

"She's to blame for the way I feel now."

"My parents caused all my problems."


Tuesday, June 21, 2022

How to Acquire Wisdom


(Tree, in my back yard)

My child, will you treasure my wisdom?
Then, and only then, will you acquire it.
And only if you accept my advice
and hide it within will you succeed.
So train your heart to listen when I speak
and open your spirit wide to expand your discernment—
then pass it on to your sons and daughters.[a]
Yes, cry out for comprehension and intercede for insight.
For if you keep seeking it like a man would seek for sterling silver,
searching in hidden places for cherished treasure,
then you will discover the fear of the Lord
and find the true knowledge of God.

Proverbs 2:1-5
I have spent a lifetime seeking wisdom. Where have I found it?

Not in the media. I look to the media for information, not wisdom. There is not one news reader (CNN, Fox News, etc.) who functions as my moral and spiritual guide.  

I turn off the TV when a journalist goes outside the bounds of raw reporting and puts their spin, their interpretation, on events. Or, when a journalist pontificates ex cathedra on the meaning of it all, or spouts ethics. It's impossible to find untainted, uninterpreted information. It is in principle impossible, since all "facts" are theory-laden. What I am writing is tainted. What you are thinking is tainted. Wisdom is needed to separate the pure from the polluted.

I don't look to science for wisdom. Science studies empirical reality. Wisdom is non-empirical. Which is to say, wisdom cannot be weighed, measured, and quantified. To think it can be is to commit the naturalistic fallacy

For wisdom I look to five sources, two secondary, the other three primary.

One of my secondary sources is philosophy. Philosophy is philo - sophia, the "love of wisdom." I have immersed my being in philosophical literature since 1970, when I changed my university major to philosophy. I have gotten a lot of wisdom from philosophers, even from atheists who, though disagreeing with their core convictions, display intra-worldview intuition.

My second secondary source for wisdom is people who know God, who spend much time with God, and reflect on their experiences with God. In 1970 I became a believer in God and follower of Jesus.  Two books were placed in my hands, Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, and The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Since then I have not  stopped reading Christian theistic wisdom literature, having up to ten books going at a time.

I know many Jesus-followers who have never written a book, yet possess wisdom. These are people who love God and know God and spend much time with God. God speaks wisdom through them, to me.

My first primary source for wisdom is the Christian Scriptures; viz., The Book. Since 1970, I have been swimming in a sea of wisdom from above, mediated through the words of the Bible. Currently, I am re-soaking in Proverbs and the Gospel of Matthew. Here is deposited wisdom of the ages, illuminated by God the Holy Spirit.

Primary wisdom source #2 is the Holy Spirit. Scripture points me to the living relationship with God's Spirit, who enlightens and guides me. 

Primary wisdom source #3 is the Discerning Community. (The best book on developing a discerning community is by Ruth Haley Barton, Pursuing God's Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups.) 

Linda and I are connected with our church community. We have gained so much wisdom over the years from our people!

The Discerning Community expands to certain friends and several pastoral colleagues. It includes Spirit-led authors. They have become, to me, human wisdom mentors. Eugene Peterson, for example, is one of them. Peterson, now deceased, carries much wisdom. Here he points me in the right direction.  

"If we forget that the newspapers are footnotes to Scripture and not the other way around, we will finally be afraid to get out of bed in the morning. Too many of us spend far too much time with the editorial page and not nearly enough with the prophetic vision. We get our interpretation of politics and economics and morals from journalists when we should be getting only information; the meaning of the world is most accurately given to us by God’s Word." (Peterson, Run with the Horses: The Quest for Life at Its Best, Kindle Locations 661-668)

Want to gain wisdom and understanding? Begin with the book of Proverbs. In it you'll find nuggets like this.

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.
    Though it cost all you have, get understanding.

Proverbs 4:7

My books are... 

Encounters with the Holy Spirit (co-edited with Jasnice Trigg)

Monday, June 20, 2022

My Favorite Conference - Join Me! June 26-30


Join me and Linda at our favorite conference - June 26-30.

In beautiful Green Lake, Wisconsin.

For details go HERE - 

Our guest speakers:


Bruce Van Natta

The author of “Saved By Angels” and “A Miraculous Life” and founder of “Sweet Bread Ministries”– 

In 2006 Bruce was crushed underneath a logging truck and was on the verge of life and death when he had an "out of body" experience.  God sent two angels to keep Bruce alive.  Bruce's body was almost cut in two.  Main arteries were completely severed in 5 places!  The doctors said there was no medical record of anyone surviving longer than a few minutes with injuries like his.  Bruce should have died before the ambulance arrived.  Yet God kept him alive for over 2 ½ hours, until doctors could operate.  Many of his internal organs were smashed.  In fact, Bruce's intestines were so badly damaged that the doctor's couldn't even save enough intestines to sustain his life. Even after the miracle of surviving this horrible accident, Bruce, (father of four children) was slowly starving to death.  

God spoke to a man on the other side of the country, (Bruce Carlson) to buy a plane ticket, fly to Bruce, and pray for a creative miracle in his intestines.

His true life story stirs the faith of any believer and brings unbelievers to a place where they can accept Christ.  

Many people report being healed of sicknesses, diseases, addictions, as well as emotional problems like fear and depression after getting prayer at one of Bruce's meetings and these testimonies are just as exciting and meaningful as what happened to Bruce.

Elijah Stephens

We must meld the intellectual, the supernatural, integrity, and love to prepare for the next Great Awakening.”— Elijah Stephens

Elijah's background is very diverse. He holds degrees in philosophy and psychology. He served in the Army, owns multiple businesses, served seven years as an executive pastor at the Vineyard Chattanooga, is an author, and film maker.  

His passion is to train leaders to follow the Spirit, and show them how to teach others to do the same. Also, it is to help churches work more effectively, and develop their next generation of leadership. Also, he loves training church members to walk in their identity, and to see power. He values teaching exegetically correct, theologically solid, intellectually honest, Spirit-led sermons that are healthy and free from hype and pretense.