Tuesday, October 03, 2023

The Constant Blamer Is the Perpetual Victim


Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan

(Linda and I strongly recommend John Townsend's book The Entitlement Cure: Finding Success in Doing Hard Things the Right Way.)

One of the bitter fruits of entitlement is externalization. Townsend writes: "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." (p. 61)

The worship songs of externalization are...

"It's Them, It's Them, It's Them O Lord, Standin' in the Need of Prayer," and...

"Change Their Hearts, O God." 

Externalization-people fail to look at their part in their problems. "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." (Ib.)

The classic victim mentality is:

"Yes, I did what was wrong. But you forced me to do it." This is a testimony to human character weakness. The characterless "victim" persists in recruiting other characterless people for the self-justification of evil. They engage in perpetual destruction of others, not to mention their own soul.

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

The constant blamer is the perpetual victim. The antidote to this bondage is to reject forces outside yourself and take responsibility for your own choices and attitudes. Be open to seeing yourself as the problem. Reject a global victimization that views yourself as someone who is always being "done to," and own your own part in your problems. 

Forgive those who have trespassed on your heart. Take responsibility for your own trespassing.

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

31 Letters to the Church on Praying (Coming December 2022)

Monday, October 02, 2023

Handling Grief and Loss

(Wellspring Home, in Monroe, MI)

One of the best books on handing grief and loss is A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss, by Jerry Sittser (thanks again D.F.). "This book is about catastrophic loss and the transformation that can occur in our lives because of it." (17)

Sittser was hit head-on by a drunk driver going 85 mph. His wife, one child, and mother were killed. He survived. He lay at the scene with his other children for two hours, watching his loved ones die, caring for his surviving children. 

He's in the darkest valley, the valley of nothingness, with God.

Live long enough and you will experience catastropic loss. "As surely as we are born into this world we suffer loss before we leave it." (Ib.) We will all walk through the valley of the shadow of death, multiple times.

Sittser writes:

"It is not, therefore, the experience of loss that becomes the defining moment of our lives, for that is as inevitable as death, which is the last loss awaiting us all. It is how we respond to loss that matters. That response will largely determine the quality, the direction, and the impact of our lives." (Ib.) 

We must walk through the dark valley, rather than around it. You can't do that anyway. You cannot avoid it. "I knew that running from the darkness would only lead to greater darkness later on. I also knew that my soul had the capacity to grow - to absorb evil and good, to die and live again, to suffer abandonment and find God. In choosing the face the night, I took my first steps toward the sunrise." (52)

We never "get over" catastrophic loss. Forget trying to help people do that. But we can "live in and be enlarged by loss, even as we continue to experience it." (18) 

Linda and I have never gotten over our baby son David's death. We never will. And, by the way, we don't want to. Our great loss did not condemn us forever to bitterness and lifelessness, because God has helped us find our way through the dark valley. For us it became essential to learn to trust Jesus, to abide in Him, and to do so now, not later.

"If we face loss squarely and respond to it wisely, we will actually become healthier people, even as we draw closer to physical death. We will find our souls healed, as they can only be healed through suffering." (18)

An excellent book for parents who have lost a child is I'll Hold You in Heaven; Healing and Hope for the Parent Who Has Lost a Child Through Miscarriage, Stillbirth, Abortion or Early Infant Death, by Jack Hayford.

Saturday, September 30, 2023

"Humility" Defined

(Monroe County)

John Dickson defines "humility":

"Humility is the noble choice to forgo your status, deploy your resources or use your influence for the good of others before yourself. More simply, you could say the humble person is marked by a willingness to hold power in service of others." (Dickson, Humilitas: A Lost Key to Life, Love, and Leadership, Kindle Locations 167-169)

This definition has the following three ideas.

  1. Humility presupposes your dignity. "The one being humble acts from a height, so to speak, as the “lowering” etymology makes clear. True humility assumes the dignity or strength of the one possessing the virtue, which is why it should not be confused with having low self-esteem or being a doormat for others." (Kindle Locations 170-172) It i impossible to be humble without a healthy sense of self-worth. 
  2. Humility is willing. "It is a choice. Otherwise it is humiliation. (K 172)
  3. Humility is social. "It is not a private act of self-deprecation—banishing proud thoughts, refusing to talk about your achievements and so on. I would call this simple “modesty". But humility is about redirecting of your powers, whether physical, intellectual, financial or structural, for the sake of others." (Kindle Locations 179-181)

Friday, September 29, 2023

Hearing God: The Precondition of Humility

(Bicyclists on North Custer in Monroe)

For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, 
and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Jesus, Matthew 23:12

Prayer is talking with God about what we (God and I) are doing together. Praying involves both speaking and listening. Over the years the balance of my prayer life has shifted to listening. 

The precondition for listening is humility.

A humble heart is a necessary condition for hearing God. Dallas Willard writes: "Humility is a quality that opens the way for God to work because God resists the proud (1 Pet 5:5)." (Willard, Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God, p. 52) 

Psalm 29:5 says, of God: He guides the humble in what is right  and teaches them his way. From this it follows that God does not guide the proud.

A proud heart is unguidable.

Willard writes:

"God will gladly give humility to us if, trusting and waiting on him to act, we refrain from pretending we are what we know we are not, from presuming a favorable position for ourselves and from pushing or trying to override the will of others. (This is a fail-safe recipe for humility. Try it for one month. Money-back guarantee if it doesn’t work.)" (Ib., pp. 52-53)

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Change Yourself, Change Your Marriage


                              (The sycamore tree in our backyard that was uprooted by 90 mph winds)

Linda and I, over our fifty years of marriage, have met with many premarital; and marital couples. A percentage of these meetings concern couples who are talking about ending the marriage.

One resource we draw on is Gary Chapman's book One More Try: What to Do When Your Marriage Is Falling Apart

Here's some wisdom from the book, which Linda and I share (as do many marital counselors).

"It has been said that unhappy marriages consist of unhappy people. You may not be able to change your spouse, but you can change yourself.

Marriages fail for three primary reasons: lack of an intimate relationship with God, lack of an intimate relationship with your mate, or lack of an intimate understanding and acceptance of yourself. It is the last of those that we shall explore in this chapter. One might think we would begin with our relationship to God, but the fact is, one’s relationship with God is greatly affected by one’s self-understanding. This time should be used as an opportunity to rediscover your own assets and liabilities as a person and to take positive steps in personal growth. Even if you are not separated but are struggling with a marriage in crisis, it is possible—indeed, necessary—to look deeply at yourself and begin to make some changes." (P. 41)

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The Bible - Read Slowly, Go Deep


                                                        (Levi and family in our backyard.)

I am a reader.

A slow reader. 

I read meditatively, even the newspaper.

I slow-read the Bible. In brief pieces.

I have always done it this way, over my fifty-three years as a follower of Jesus.

I have never been able to "read the Bible in one year." I would never keep up! I am the tortoise, not the hare. Which means I get there, slowly, and for me deeply, over time.

I have found that this slow, meditative reading of the Word builds something solid in my soul, over time. God-knowledge accrues. 

Dallas Willard writes, "If you read the Bible, desiring that God’s revealed will should be true for you, do not try to read a great deal at once." (Willard, Dallas. Hearing God Through the Year: A 365-Day Devotional, p. 242)

How to Communicate When In Conflict

Image result for john piippo truth
Art on a building in Columbus, Ohio

(I am reposting this to keep it in play.)

One of the blessings Linda and I have had is to know and be taught by David Augsburger. We were in a couples group with David and Nancy for two years. We dog-sat for them (they had Irish Setters). David was one of my seminary professors.  After hanging around him in these contexts, I felt I could be helped by meeting with him. David was kind enough to meet privately and counsel me. At the time I did not understand his counseling approach. Only years later did some of this activate in me.

David is one of Christianity's great scholars on understanding anger and conflict, and ways to work through these things. Linda and I still use his book Caring Enough to Confront. David takes Ephesians 4:15 and develops a template we use to this day: Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.

How should we communicate with others when we are in conflict? Ephesians provides two actions we are to take:

1. Speak truthfully

2. Speak lovingly

Both are needed. 

If we only speak truthfully, we can blow people away. I could tell you the truth in unloving ways. Speaking truth without love can injure people.

If we only speak lovingly, we may never address the truth. This can leave issues undealt with. It feels warm and fuzzy for a while, but the bleeding has not been stopped.

Instead, says Paul, we are to speak the truth in love. The formula is: Truth + Love. That sounds like Jesus, right? Jesus asserted the truth, always in love.

Practically, says Augsburger, it looks like this.

• I care about our relationship & I feel deeply about the issue at stake

• I want to hear your view & I want to clearly express mine

• I want to respect your insights & I want respect for mine

• I trust you to be able to handle my honest feelings & I want you to trust me with yours

• I promise to stay with the discussion until we reach an understanding & I want you to stay with me until we've reached an understanding

• I will not trick, pressure, manipulate, or distort the differences & I want your unpressured, clear, honest views of our differences

• I give you my loving, honest respect & I want your caring-confronting response

These are attitudes Linda and I learned and practice. These teachings have been so important to us! As a young married couple we saw, lived-out before our eyes and ears, how to be loving and truthful even when you don’t like each other at the moment. Even when you are angry.

Speak the truth in love to one another.

That is the way out of what sometime seem like irreconcilable differences.

Two of my books are:

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

Leading the Presence-Driven Church (January 2018).

Monday, September 25, 2023

The Genetic Fallacy

(I'm re-posting this for my Apologetics class.)

A common student response to the God-discussions in my philosophy of religion classes is to reason that how beliefs are acquired is relevant to the truth of those beliefs. If one can establish that, e.g., John was taught to believe in God by his parents, then somehow this casts doubt on the existence of God. In logic this kind of false reasoning is known as committing the genetic fallacy.

The genetic fallacy is an informal logical fallacy in which the origin of a belief, claim, or theory is confused with its justification. This fallacy is more often used to discredit a belief, though it may also be used to support one.

For example: "You only believe in God because your parents taught you to. So your belief must be false."

This kind of thinking is fallacious because the origin of the claim has no logical relation to its truth or falsity. The origin of a belief (how we acquired the belief) is irrelevant to the truth or falsity of that belief.

Another example is: "You only believe Christianity because you were indoctrinated by your parents and culture. If you came from a Hindu family and culture you would be a Hindu," with the spoken or unspoken impression "Thus, Christianity need not be preferred over Hinduism."

These are sociological, statistical claims.  Nothing can be inferred about the truth of Christianity from reasons as to where Christian belief originated.

Logic, and philosophy of religion studies, care nothing for sociological, socio-cultural, anthropological, and psychological explanations of the formation and transmission of beliefs. This is because such studies are irrelevant to the truth of beliefs.

Further note that, were genetic fallacy reasoning valid, then we ought to question everything we have learned from our parents, to include "1+1=2," "The earth is not flat," and "Milk comes from cows."

Logic is concerned with whether or not statements of belief are TRUE. or FALSE

· Christianity – An omni-God exists
· Atheism – no omni-God exists
· Hinduism – there are 330 million “gods”
· Buddhism – everything that is, is metaphysically One.
· Pantheism – everything is God
· Agnosticism – we can’t know whether or not an omni-God exists
· Skepticism – there are so many alternatives we can’t possibly know which one is true.

The origins of these beliefs have nothing to do with logical truth-claims.

Philosophers look at these statements individually and ask: Is this statement true or is it false? For example, is the statement God does not exist true? How one came to believe that God does or does not exist is irrelevant to the issue of truth.

One more example.

1. I behave this way because I was born this way.
2. Therefore, this way is good/right/to be affirmed?


Inference To the Best Explanation

(I'm re-posting this for my Apologetics class.)

The text I use to instruct my MCCC Logic students is The Power of Critical Thinking: Effective Reasoning About Ordinary and Extraordinary Claims, by Lewis Vaughn (Oxford). It is excellent, creative, colorful, contains many excellent and relevant explanations, and is clearly written. And, it contains a chapter on "Inference To the Best Explanation." This is the first logic text I have seen that explains this. 

Inference to the best explanation (IBE), also called abductive reasoning, is important for Christian theologians to understand. For example, Alister McGrath's new work on the fine-tuning argument for God's existence in his A Fine-Tuned Universe: The Quest for God in Science and Theology depends on it. An understanding of inference as to the best explanation is helpful in adjudicating between competing metanarratives. (On abductive reasoning as IBE, see Atocha Aliseda, Abductive reasoning: logical investigations into discovery and explanation, pp. 134 ff.)

What, exactly, is IBE? Vaughn writes: "In inference to the best explanation, we reason from premises about a state of affairs to an explanation of that state of affairs. The premises are statements about observations or other evidence to be explained. The explanation is a claim about why the state of affairs is the way it is. The key question that this type of inference tries to answer is, What is the best explanation for the existence or nature of this state of affairs? The best explanation is the one most likely to be true, even though there is no guarantee of its truth as there is in deductive inference." (344)

Inference as to the best explanation has this pattern:

1. Phenomenon Q.
2. E provides the best explanation for Q.
3. Therefore, it is probable that E is true.

As an example of IBE in action I teach, in my Philosophy of Religion courses, Robin Collins's fine-tuning argument for the existence of God. Collins calls IBE "the prime principle of confirmation." This is: whenever we are considering two competing hypotheses, an observation counts as evidence in favor of the hypothesis under which the observation has the highest probability (or is the least improbable). For example, suppose I walk out in the hall after class and a hundred pennies are on the ground, spelling “John, call home now.”
The prime principle of confirmation (IBE) tells me that this did not happen by chance. Some causal agent probably did this. Therefore it is probable that this happened by design. The fine-tuning evidences are like this, only much more so. (For more see here.)

Vaughn writes: "Notice that an inference to the best explanation always goes "beyond the evidence" - it tries to explain facts but does so by positing a theory that is not derived entirely from those facts. It tries to understand the known by putting forth - through inference and imagination - a theoretical pattern that encompasses both the known and the unknown. It proposes a plausible pattern that expands our understanding. The fact that there are best explanations, of course, implies that not all explanations for a state of affairs are created equal." (344-345)


McGrath on Inference to the Best Explanation

Our backyard

For any Christian theist who is interested in the relationship (if any) between science and religion Alister McGrath's Science and Religion: A New Introduction is essential reading.

McGrath, who has a Ph.D in biochemistry and another Ph.D in theology, is big on "inference to the best explanation." (See also McGrath, A Fine-Tuned Universe: The Quest for God in Science and Theology.) In my MCCC logic text Lewis Vaughn has an entire chapter (uniquely so) dedicated to inference to the best explanation (IBE).

Here's McGrath on the increasing relevance of IBE as related to the fading approach to scientific verificationism as exemplied by, e.g., Richard Dawkins. McGrath writes:

"Recent years have seen a growing interest within the philosophy of science in the idea of“inference to the best explanation. ” This represents a decisive move away from older positivist understandings of the scientific method, still occasionally encountered in popular accounts of the relation of science and religion, which holds that science is able to – and therefore ought to  – offer evidentially and inferentially infallible evidence for its theories. This approach, found at many points in the writings of Richard Dawkins, is now realized to be deeply problematic. It is particularly important to note that scientific data are capable of being interpreted in many ways, each of which has evidential support. In contrast, positivism tended to argue that there was a single unambiguous interpretation of the evidence, which any right -minded observer would discover." (Science and Religion, 52)

Nice. And helpful.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Resources to Help Understand Our Secular Age


                                                                (Somewhere in Ohio)

In 2007 I purchased Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor's massive, definitive A Secular Age. Since then, I have returned to Taylor-studies. His work is simply that important to understand our culture.

Tonight, late Sunday, I listened to this podcast, "How Charles Taylor Helps Us Understand Our Secular Age." It's excellent!

For more Taylor Reading, see...

Sources of the Self: The Making of Modern Identity

The Ethics of Authenticity (After reading this you can forget most of what you think 'authenticity' means.)

The Language Animal: The Full Shape of the Human Linguistic Capacity (Esp. interesting to me since my doctoral dissertation was on metaphor theory.)

How Not to Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor, by James K. A. Smith

Our Secular Age: Ten Years of Reading and Applying Charles Taylor, by Collin Hansen


Just as I Am?


                                                                (Monroe County)

Does Jesus invite me to come to him "just as I am?" Thank God, yes!

When I follow Jesus will I stay "just as I am?" Thank God, no!

The book of Galatians explains both statements.

The first statement is about justification. Justification means being made right with God.

There was a teaching floating around in the early church that what Christ accomplished on the cross was not enough to justify us. More was needed, taught the Judaizers. In addition to Christ's atoning sacrificial death, one must also become a Jew, and, if male, be circumcised, and follow the Mosaic law and the dietary laws and keep the Jewish holy days. 

To this, Paul gives a resounding "NO!" That is a "different gospel - really, no gospel at all." (Gal. 1:6-7). Such teachings "pervert" the gospel of Christ.

But once we come to Jesus, just as we are, and are justified, are we then to stay just as we are? To that idea, Paul gives a resounding "No!" To explain this, Paul contrasts the works of the "flesh" (sinful inclinations) with the works of the Spirit. Works of the flesh include,

sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 

20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, 

fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 

21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. 

I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

The works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit are contrary to each other, are in conflict with each other. Paul's beautiful prayer for these new Christians was that they be "formed into Christlikeness," by the power of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 4:19).

Now, in Christ, we are new creations. God has put his Spirit in us. We are to walk in the Spirit, keep in step with the Spirit, say "Yes" to the leadings of the Spirit. As we do this, the Holy Spirit grows "fruit of the Spirit" in us, which includes...

love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 2

gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 

24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh 

with its passions and desires. 

25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 

All who have come to Christ, to include myself, were a hot mess. Yet we could come "Just as I am." That's justification. Thank God for it!

Then, all who abide in Christ and worship Him become different creations. That's sanctification. Thank God for it!

Here's the idea, again, from the apostle Paul.

Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral 

nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 

10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers 

nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 

11 And that is what some of you were

But you were washed, you were sanctified, 

you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ 

and by the Spirit of our God.


Want to dig deeper into the book of Galatians? I recommend...  

Craig Keener - Galatians: A Commentary

Ben Witherington - Grace in Galatia: A Commentary on Paul's Letter to the Galatians

Scot McKnight - Galatians: The NIV Application Commentary

N. T. Wright - Galatians

Tim Keller - Galatians for You

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

A Wedding Is a Welding

(I re-post this periodically.) 

Marriage is different, in essence, from co-habiting. Marriage requires more than just living together.

What is marriage?

In Matthew 19:1-9 we see large crowds of people coming to Jesus, and Jesus healing them. After this happens “some Pharisees came to test him. They asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?’”

This was one of the most controversial questions of that time. It refers to Deuteronomy 24:1-4, where we read that a husband can divorce his wife if he finds “something indecent about her.” The debate was – what does “something indecent” mean?

There were two schools of thought about that. The school of the rabbi Shammai said, “something indecent” means "adultery." The school of the rabbi Hillel taught that “something indecent” means anything, even something so trivial as burning your husband’s bagel. “So, what do you think about this,” the Pharisees asked Jesus? Jesus’ response is brilliant. Instead of dealing with Deuteronomy 24 he takes them back to Genesis 1 & 2.

"Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." A very cool response by Jesus. Why?

Because Deuteronomy 24:1-4 is about troubleshooting. Genesis 1 & 2 is the heart of the owner’s manual. Yes, there is a time for troubleshooting. But Jesus asks, don’t you remember what "marriage" really is? It’s male and female, united in marriage, becoming one flesh, whom God has “joined together.”

It’s this “joined together” thing that’s especially important. The word means, literally, “welded together.” New Testament scholar R.T. France says, “It would be hard to imagine a more powerful metaphor of permanent attachment.” A wedding is a welding, done by God the Master Welder.

I asked a friend who welds to give me a definition of welding. Welding, he said, is a fabrication process that joins materials, usually metals or thermoplastics, by causing coalescence. “Coalescence” is the process by which two or more droplets of metal form a single droplet and become one continuous solid. No wonder they call it “wedlock!”

Jesus is saying to the Pharisees, “Don’t you remember what God said about a husband and wife? God has weld-locked them together. Don’t let any person try to separate them!"

Instead of saying he’s for or against divorce, Jesus lifts up marriage. The Pharisees seem to have thought that the very legislation about divorce, within the law of Moses, meant that Moses was quite happy for it to take place. Since there's a law to tell you how to do it, that must mean it's OK to do. That would be like seeing a sign that says “In case there’s a fire, take this emergency exit,” and then concluding “It must be OK to start a fire in this building.”

Jesus shows the flaw in their thinking by pointing back to God's original intention. Marriage was meant to be a partnership of one man and one woman... for life. Marriage was not meant to be something that could be split up and reassembled whenever one person wanted to end it.

This summer it was 50 years ago that Linda and I got welded, wed-locked, together. The result is that a lot of her has gotten into me and a lot of me has gotten into her. I am deeply influenced by her, and her by me. God fused us together into “one flesh.” What a great idea! You can’t get that by cohabiting.

I remember the bond.

I remember when God welded us together.

My books are:

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

31 Letters to the Church on Discipleship

Deconstructing Progressive Christianity

31 Letters to the Church on Praying

Encounters with the Holy Spirit (Co-edited with Janice Trigg)

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Character Comes Before Ability in Relationships


(On the west side of Michigan, Lake Michigan shoreline)

My physician possesses high character, and great ability. He has both qualities. But if I was forced to choose between a physician of great character, and one of great ability, I'd lean towards ability. Better is a doctor who knows what he is doing. 

But when it comes to relationships, I think differently. Character is more important than ability, when it comes to relationships. In a friendship, or in a marriage, if I have to choose, I'll take someone with high character and low ability before someone with high ability and low character. The latter person will cheat on you, or betray you, or throw you under the bus.

Through the years abilities decrease, but character can keep increasing. As Paul wrote, Though my abilities are wasting away, my character is being transformed day by day. (2 Cor. 4:16, Piippo translation)

In After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters., N. T. Wright says, "The central thing that is supposed to happen "after you believe" is the transformation of character." This is the Galatians 4:19 thing - that Christ be formed in you. Or, as Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 1:12 - "We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ." 

This formation, the development of Christ-character in you, is your calling. It happens as you indwell Christ.

The goal of our own character formation into Jesus-likeness is love. Love is "the greatest of the" core virtues. We may disagree with others, but we must never cease loving them. Jesus loved those he disagreed with so much that he died for them. We are to even love our enemies, in spite of our opposing views. Anything less than this and you have left Jesus. (This does not, of course, mean that we affirm everything the other believes. To do that is not love, either.)

What will character formation look like? Because it comes from attachment to Christ, it will look like Christ. Christ forms you, meta-morphs you into one who loves and lives as Christ is.

Wright's example is Sully Sullenberger, the US Airways pilot who landed a disabled passenger jet in the Hudson River and saved 155 lives. The character of a pilot had been formed in him. He no longer needed to wear a wristband that asked, "What Would a Pilot Do?" (WWPD) Rather, "the skills and ability ran right through him, top to toe." 

Wright says "The key to it all is that the Christian vision of character that has become second nature is precisely all about discovering what it means to be human - human in a way that most of us never imagine."

Regarding Sullenberger, "virtue is what happens when wise and courageous choices have become "second nature." Not "first nature," as though they happened naturally. Like an acquired taste, such choices and actions, which started off being practiced with difficulty, ended up being "second nature." (James K. A. Smith and Dallas Willard say the same.)

For Wright, our "first nature" is our subhumanity. The "second nature" Christ wants to form in us is his nature, which is true humanity. God wants to rescue us out of our subhumanity and transform us into true humanity. Some, when they fail, say "I'm only human." They should say, "I'm subhuman." 

Wright's book shows how God metamorphs us from subhumanity into true humanity, how God forms our character into Christlikeness.

What can I do about this? I look at my own self, and focus on my own change. I pray to be transformed into someone who is more like Jesus, and loves their enemies so much they would even die for them. I learn to live an abiding life, which is the place where the character of Jesus flows into me, like a vine resources its branches.

I pray for the character of Christ to be formed in me.