It’s Rational To Abstain From Pre-marital Sex

(I took this picture of the Mediterranean Sea in Joppa, Israel.)

Sunday’s New York Times Magazine had a long, excellent article on a significant sexual abstinance movement at Harvard, Princeton, and MIT. Student leaders use rational arguments to lift up the idea of refraining from pre-marital sex. “College abstinence programs are growing out of this awareness that disconnected sex is not as pleasurable as the media (and sometimes college administrators) have led us to believe.”
The Anscombe Society of Princeton is named after one of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein’s student, G.E.M. Anscombe. The articles states: “Anscombe’s arguments against premarital sex are as impressive as they are difficult to summarize, and the students so admired her logic, they named their society after her. Robert George, a professor of jurisprudence at Princeton, is one of the Anscombe Society’s informal faculty advisers. Himself a Catholic thinker, George says that society members employ “philosophical-ethical arguments” to support their belief that promiscuity “deeply compromises human dignity,” and psychological and sociological rationale to justify the claim that casual sex leads to “personal unhappiness and social harm.” The students are some of Princeton’s most gifted, George says, and “even people who don’t accept their conclusions recognize that the arguments being advanced by the Anscombe students are serious and cannot be easily dismissed.””
For Princeton’s Anscombe Society go here.
MIT’s Anscombe Society is here.
Harvard’s True Love Revolution is here.

A Question About Free Will & the Omnipotence of God

(I took this picture of two Palestinian women on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem.) 

One of my Philosophy of Religion students wrote me the following question (in italics), to which I responded as follows (in bold).

Okay, so you know how there’s the argument that it is possible to have an all-loving God, an all-powerful God, and for evil to exist if you factor in freewill? Well if you do factor in freewill, isn’t that a contradiction to an all-powerful God? (NO) God gave us freewill, but he cannot use his power to interfere with what we choose to do in any given situation. (If God did this, then we would not have free will. God has chosen to give us free will. Which means, God has chosen to allow us to make choices with which he will not interfere or change. Because if he did interfere or change, then we would not have free will. For God to change what we freely choose is a non-logical possibility, like “square circle.” Therefore it is in no way a diminishment of God’s omnipotence, since an all-powerful being like God can do all that is logically possible. Put another way, God can’t make a burrito so hot that he can’t eat it. The reason is because such a thing is a nonsense idea, a nonlogical possibility.) We have the power to choose to do good or choose to do evil and there’s nothing he can do to change that, right? So wouldn’t considering that suggest that we hold some power, however small it may be, over God? He has the power to give us freewill, which he possibly has, but he doesn’t have the power to take that freewill away once it’s given. Therefore, wouldn’t he not be an all-powerful God in a sense? (God could take away our free will. He has the power to do that. But should God take away our free will then, if we have no free will, God would not interfere with what we do. The fact that God has given us free will and therefore God can’t interfere with what we freely choose in no way entails that God is less than all-powerful. Make sense? Thanks for asking!)

How Can We Tell When God Is On the Move?

(This is the Wailing Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. I took this picture a few weeks ago when some of us walked from our hotel to see it, for me, for the first time.)

First of all, if you’re someone who reads what I write on this blog – thank you. I have been out of the loop recently. One reason is my Israel trip. Then, as a pastor, sometimes it gets very busy, and that’s how it’s recently been. Add to this that our beloved dog So-Fee has been struggling health-wise. We’ve already planned to euthanize her twice, only to have her rebound. We love this dog who is, in many ways, a family member to us.

At our church (Redeemer Fellowship in Monroe) we’re beginning a 5-night teaching/study on “The Moves of God in History.” Tomorrow is our first session. I’ll be teaching on Acts chapters 1-4. What we see there is, obviously, God on the move. Are there certain things in these chapters that define any real move of God? I think so. Are there things that were needed at that time but are not essential to every actual God-move? I think so. Tomorrow night I’ll separate out the essential things from the contingent things.

If you want to join the discussion it’s at:

Redeemer Fellowship Church

5305 Evergreen

Monroe

734-242-5277

6 PM – 7:30 PM

Redeemer Ministry School Update

Here’s an update on our coming Redeemer School of Ministry

March 23, 2008

As an update, here are some things I want you to know about our Redeemer Ministry School.

When I was in Israel I talked with David Halder, the head of the 400-child orphanage in Bangladesh. David still wants to send two of his best students to spend 10 months with us in our Ministry School.

Linda and I will be taking RMS students, plus Josh Bentley and Holly Benner, to New York City for a week – October 28 – November 11. We will work with and learn from Dr. John Hao and Pastor Greg Woo of Faith Bible Church and Faith Bible Seminary. I will teach Apologetics in the seminary from Tuesday – Friday. Then, I’ll speak at their 13th anniversary celebration on Saturday, plus speak at two of their seven worship services on Sunday. RMS students will interact with FBC’s Chinese young adults. We’ll learn a lot of things you can’t get out of a textbook!

 

I, along with our staff, are praying about various opportunities that God may send our way to make RMS a special experience. For example, I recently talked with my friend Paul Albrecht, who is a pastor and a teacher of biblical Greek. Paul is willing to come to Monroe and RMS and give our students a 2-3 day introduction to biblical Greek. If this works out we may also do a 2-hour special biblical Greek session for Redeemer people. Paul is a great scholar and really knows how to teach this stuff. He studied with the great New Testament scholar Bruce Metzger.

 

Personally, I’ll be doing a lot of RMS teaching. One of the classes I will teach is Apologetics. The word comes from 1 Peter 3:15 and means, “to defend.” To learn apologetics is to learn to defend our faith in God, in Jesus, and in the Bible as the Word of God. I have studied apologetics from the day I became a follower of Jesus. My first mentor was William Lane Craig, who was my campus minister when I was an undergraduate university student. (See Craig’s website – reasonablefaith.org)

  • RMS will have three Trimesters.
    • Weekly classes will be held T-F, 9 AM – 1 PM
    • The schedule looks like this”
      • 9-9:20 – worship
      • 9:30 – 11 – Class
      • 11-11:15 – break
      • 11:15 – 12:45 – Class
      • 12:45-1 – Prayer

I am greatly looking forward to our very first RMS students! Pray for them, and pray about whether you should be part of this class. It will be ten months of training, learning, and experiencing, that will transform your life.

 

Pastor John Piippo, Ph.D

  RMS WILL HAVE THREE TRIMESTERS 

  1. Fall Trimester

                                                              i.      T-Th classes

                                         1.      Personal Spiritual Life

2.      Worship I

                                                            ii.      W-F classes

1.      Kingdom of God I

2.      Bible Study Methods

                2. Winter Trimester

                                                              i.      T-Th classes

1.      Kingdom of God II

2.      Worship II

                                                            ii.      W-F classes

1.      Counseling

2.      Bible Study Methods II: Application

a.       Preaching/speaking

b.      Teaching

                    3. Spring Trimester

                                                              i.      T-Th classes

1.      Kingdom of God III

2.      Worship III

                                                            ii.      W-F classes

1.      Leadership

                                          2. Apologetics 

Trimester Schedule:

·         Fall 2008

o       9/7/08 – Students arrive and are introduced on Sunday morning

o       9/6/08 – Week One integration

o       9/15/08 – 12/19/08 – Classes, with Thanksgiving week off

o       10/28 – 11/2 – A week of ministry and study in New York City

·         Winter 2009

o       1/6/09 – 3/6/-9 – Classes, with one week off that coincides with MCCC’s spring break

·         Spring 2009

o       3/16/09 – 6/21/09 (with a break, to be determined)

o       Final week – 6/16/09 – 6/21/09 – Graduation!

For registration and tuition information see: redeemerministryschool.com

Solitude

http://i200.photobucket.com/albums/aa284/jpiippo/Pictures6587.jpg

(The Mediterranean Sea, taken from ancient Caesarea) 

Spend meaningful time in solitude and you will be transformed.[1] Solitude is not “loneliness.” Entering into solitude for the sake of drawing near to God is a spiritual discipline. Solitude takes us into the “deep waters of the heart” more than does fellowship. To prove this, go alone to a quiet place away from your home, work, and place of ministry for a day. Leave your cell phone and pager and datebook behind. Take only with your Bible and some paper to write on. Then watch what happens. As Merton said, there will be an encounter with the subconscious depths of your will, where ancient selfish motives move comfortably like forgotten sea monsters in waters where they are never seen. In regard to the challenges solitude brings Dallas Willard notes that the most challenging environment in a prison setting is solitary confinement.[2] Solitude is dangerous and threatening. For many it is punishing to be alone with themselves.   

The deepest of the great lakes is Lake Superior. The deeper the lake the more turbulent and majestic is the surface. Lake Superior is known for its dangerous waves that have sunk many a ship. If Lake Superior were only ten feet deep it wouldn’t have huge waves. It would be far less threatening and dramatic. Its great depth makes possible the great dangers and possibilities that lie on its surface. This is also true in a human heart that has great depth. Solitude has the potential to move a person into the deep and potentially dangerous waters of the human heart. In solitude deepens a shallow life.

  1. Jesus Spent Time Praying in Solitude.        

Why choose times of solitude? Isn’t it an option that might be good for some but not needed for others? The answer to this is that Jesus spent time in solitude. Jesus began his ministry by spending 40 days alone in solitude (Mt. 4:1-11). Before choosing the 12 he spent the entire night alone in the desert hills (Lk. 6:12). When he heard of John the Baptist’s death he “withdrew from there in a boat to a lonely place apart” (Mt. 14:13). After feeding the 5000 he dismissed the crowd and “went up into the hills by himself” (Mt. 14:23). After a long night of work, “in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place” (Mk. 6:31). After healing a leper, Jesus “withdrew to the wilderness and prayed” (Lk. 5:16). Before his time on the cross he went alone to the Garden of Gethsemane (Mt. 26:36-46).  If our Lord took times of solitary prayer out of his own need to be in contact with the Father, should we do any less?         

2. Our World Does Not Value Solitude.

In our world, “doing” is more important than “being,” and speaking is more important than silence. I have met many people (mostly men) who work “7 – 12s”; that is, 7 days a week for 12 hours each day. Henri Nouwen has said that we live in an increasingly “wordy world.” My experience is that the constant barrage of words that come at us day after day not only do not serve to enrich our souls, but actually produce a kind of spiritual deadness, an insensitivity to the things of the Spirit. I believe that what the Bible calls “wisdom” is largely cultivated in solitude. I like the way Eugene Peterson expresses this: “All speech that moves men was minted when some man’s mind was poised and still.”[3] 

3. In Solitude There Is An “Unmasking of Ourselves.”

When we go to pray alone with God we leave behind the “masks”: viz., those things that are devices for covering up the self. We leave behind the people with whom we pose and posture, perform before, and trivialize with. In solitude no one is there to affirm us or challenge us or shame us. No one, of course, except for God. In solitude we leave behind all those activities we hide behind and which keep us from facing ourselves. What is left? Things such as: our temptations, our fears, our reactions and reactiveness, our own unfaithfulness and disbelief, our own lack of trust in God, and our own demons. What is left is who we truly are, what we truly have become. 

4. In Solitude We Encounter Our Own Powerlessness and Need.

Psalm 40:17 says, “Yet I am poor and needy, may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; O my God, do not delay.” Only the person who recognizes he is needy can seek the Lord with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength. Only the person who feels thirst will crave water. In solitude we see how powerless and needy we are. We see more clearly our need for transformation. This brings humility. At this point we begin to turn to God. 

5. In Solitude We See That Being Is Spiritually Prior To Doing. 

Henri Nouwen writes that, “In solitude we become aware that our worth is not the same as our usefulness.”[4]  In The Genesee Diary Nouwen says that solitude teaches us to develop a “presence” before people rather than having to give them a “performance.” In his solitude in the desert Jesus was tempted to do three things:         

        – Be relevant! (“Turn stones into loaves.”)          

        – Be spectacular! (“Throw yourself down.”)             

         -Be powerful! (“I will give you all these kingdoms.”)    In solitude we see the reality of temptations like these. We see how easily we are tempted by far less trivial things than these. We see the reality of spiritual battle. 

6. In Solitude We Develop Compassionate Solidarity.

In solitary times of prayer God will show us the reality and depth of our own hatred, envy, jealousy, cruelty, lust, and so on. We will see within our selves these “seeds of destruction” and “the violence within.”[5] In the great devotional literature there is the near-unanimous opinion that the spiritually mature person will have more compassion towards all kinds of people because God has identified the seeds of sinful behaviors within themself. We see that we are “those kind of people” too. We realize we need the help, mercy, and grace from the Lord if we are not to give in to the violence within. Solitude is the foundation of all meaningful corporate spirituality. Why? Because in solitude one gets re-related to God. To return home after a solitary time with God means that many fearful, anxious burdens have been placed upon Him. What Kierkegaard called “the crowd” and Nietzsche denigrated as “the herd” becomes an unreal, phony place to be if people have not taken the time to be stripped away by God.  Richard Nixon used to appoint someone to enter a room filled with waiting people to “prepare the room for his entrance.” The end result of people being around a Christian leader should be an experience of being, not in a great person’s presence, but in God’s presence. 

7. Our time in meaningful solitude affects others.

A friend of Henri Nouwen’s was leaving for a three month retreat in solitude. Nouwen writes: “I asked God that Sarah’s time in solitude would bear fruit not only in her own heart but in the hearts of many people. Sarah looked gratefully at me and said, “Yes, my time away is a time for others.” Then she drove off.”[7] (Nouwen, Sabbatical Journey, p. 20)  Our ministry to others becomes more relevant as our time away with God increases both temporally and spiritually.     As Nouwen writes that “the great illusion of leadership is to think that man can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there.”[8]  


[1] Most of what I know about solitude comes from my own experience and the writings of Henri Nouwen.

[2] Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines

[3] Citing R.E.C. Browne, in The Contemplative Pastor (1999: Christianity Today, Inc.), p. 30.

[4] See Nouwen, Out of Solitude

[5] See Thomas Merton, Seeds of Destruction; and Paul Tournier, The Violence Within

[6] One of Merton’s most powerful spiritually transforming experiences occurred in Louisville as he

[7] Nouwen, Sabbatical Journey, p. 20

[8] Nouwen, The Wounded Healer,

You Can’t Multi-task the God-Relationship

(I took this picture of a woman praying in the Church of the Holy Seplulchre in Jerusalem.) 

“I pray when I shop. I pray when I’m at work. I pray when I’m doing a lot of other things.” I hear people say this. Is it possible to do this? I think: yes. Is this the kind of prayer we see in the Christian scriptures? No.

My father could watch TV, read the newspaper, and sleep – all at the same time. If we tried to change the channel he would wake up and say, “Hey, I was watching that!” And I would think, no, that’s not possible.

I like Dallas Willard’s definition of prayer: prayer is talking with God about what we are doing together. It’s all about a relationship. And, it’s a relationship of love. For example, when I was dating Linda I could have spent time with her while accomplishing a whole lot of other things as well. I could have, say, mowed the lawn while on a date with her. She could have walked next to me and we could have talked, right? What’s wrong with this picture? What’s wrong is that when personal love-relationships are multi-tasked, the tasks win but love loses. The lawn gets mowed, but the relationship gets neglected.

Jesus didn’t multi-task his relationship with the Father. He spent a lot of time going off to pray, heart to heart with the Father, alone. If Jesus needed to do this, who do we think we are not to do this?

I think that the multi-task approach to prayer is typical of our anemic Western culture’s “spirituality.” Intimate prayer-oneness with God has been largely lost and its replacement turns prayer into one of many balls being juggled. So, I hear people say “I pray everywhere I go,” as if that’s some badge of honor. But that kind of prayer is NOT the heart of what is meant by “prayer” in the Christian scriptures. Real, authentic prayer is never “too busy to go alone to pray,” because the pray-er is in a love relationship with their God.

Israel – Tel Aviv and Ancient Joppa

On Feb. 20 we flew to Newark, then a 9 1/2 hour flight to Tel Aviv, Israel. I love to fly, but that’s too long for me, and the space is really cramped.

When finally we approached Tel Aviv it was the morning of the 21st, and I was very excited. There, below me, was Israel! I think any follower of Jesus would feel like I did – I’m about to walk where Jesus and Abraham and Joshua and David and Paul walked!

We got in our tour bus and drove into Tel Aviv. Here’s a picture taken from the ancient city of Joppa (just south of Tel Aviv), and the Mediterranean Ocean. 

Back Home from Israel

Linda, I, and Josh and Beth Bentley returned to Mornoe after our 12-day trip to Israel. What a marvelous experience for us!

I’m going to begin making some posts on my experiences and observations there, plus post some pictures.

How many pictures did I take? 2200.

(Above – a Bar Mitzvah taking place as we approach the Western Wall (wailing wall) in the Old City of Jerusalem.)