Philosopher-atheist J.L. Mackie constructs an argument from evil intended to show the incoherence of theism. One cannot, thinks Mackie, simultaneously affirm the following three propositions (known as “Mackie’s Triad”):
1) It is possible that God has given persons libertarian free will.
By “transworld depravity” Plantinga means: in all possible worlds human agents will commit at least one evil act.
Every time I preach at Redeemer, or other places, I feel nervous. I feel nervous before every class I teach at our community college. I rarely perform musically anymore, but every time I did I felt nervous before stepping onto the stage. I see this as a gift, not a hindrance.
My nervousness tells me I am not taking the opportunity to speak, before others, for granted. I do not think I am God’s gift to people. I need to get out of the way so God’s Spirit can bring his gifts. I am confident but not overconfident.
My nervousness tells me I don’t know what is going to happen. I do not repeat sermons at Redeemer, at funerals, at weddings, or, for by far the most part, anywhere. Every message for me is new, like preparing a meal I’ve never cooked before. I don’t know how it’s going to turn out.
My nervousness tells me I am expecting God to show up. I want more than anything to discern correctly, to get the God-moments right. I want to listen correctly. From my tiny POV I cannot predict what things will look like when God makes his moves.
My nervousness tells me that I have faith in God. Every time I preach I feel like I’m jumping off a high cliff and trusting that God will catch me.
My nervousness tells me I have an awareness of what is at stake. The issues for me are nothing less than life and death. At every wedding. At every funeral. On every Sunday morning.
Thank you, God, for the gift of nervousness.
|The River Raisin, from our backyard|
George Barna wrote this in 2001. Leaders for Jesus take note. Barna believes the church should “ignite people’s passion for God and get out of their way.” Yes. There is an over-administration happening in much of the American Church. Build structure where there is life. When God calls you to build, then build with excellence. That’s where the spiritual gift of administration kicks in. But don’t fire up this gift when there’s no calling from God. It’s precisely when people’s passion for God is ignited that some pastors become afraid and, out of their fear, controlling. That is not good. Barna continues: “If the congregation is passionate about God, then the issues of entertaining the masses in church, making every time frame convenient for them to attend and constantly being concerned about the financial state of the church would go away. There would be a tremendous renewal movement in the church.” Yes, zeal without knowledge can lead to a train wreck. But, given the choice, I’ll take zeal over knowledge anytime. Wild horses can be broken and worked with. Knowledgeable people who have no inner fire for Jesus gravitate towards administration. Fireless administration quenches passion for Jesus.
Barna asks, what is the problem with the American Church? He writes: “Not one of the adults we interviewed said that their goal in life was to be a committed follower of Jesus Christ or to make disciples.” George Barna, Growing True Disciples, p. 3.
Our inner, spiritual freedom is a function of our anchorage. The more we are attached (addicted; French attache) to the affirmation and rejection of other people, the less free we are. I know this too well from personal experience. I have been too attached, too connected, to what other people think of me. This attachment has prevented me from thinking of other people, without conditions. Which is how Jesus thought and thinks about us.
The way out of this inner bondage is to discover your true self, who you are and what you are intended to be. Which is: a child of God, forgiven, loved, and restored to community with God. You are the beloved of God. The more this truth has descended from my mind into my heart and has become my very being, my core identity, the more I experience the freedom Christ has called us to. Included in this freedom is: freedom to love others as God loves them. One sign of this true experiential freedom is: compassion towards others.
I love the way Henri Nouwen expresses this. He writes: “The identity that makes you free is anchored beyond all human praise and blame. (Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love, 70)
The love of God transcends all earthly loves.
|River view, from our back yard|
Reading books about prayer and the spiritual life is neither necessary nor a substitute for an actual life of dwelling in the presence of God, just as reading books on swimming is not the same as actually jumping in the water and swimming. Yes, God can meet you while you’re reading a book. But because this is about a real relationship with a Person, it demands that the book be put down and the head be lifted up and the eyes of the beloved look into the eyes of the Great Lover of our Souls.
If you have time to read a book about prayer then you have time to actually pray. The two are different. The Person is greater than the book about the Person.
Writers like Henri Nouwen and Thomas Merton both examined this inner thing that wants to read about the spiritual life rather than engage in it. Here’s Merton as he writes:
“What is the use of complaining about not being a contemplative, if I do not take the opportunities I get for contemplation? I suppose I take them, but in the wrong way. I spend the time looking for something to read about contemplation – something to satisfy my raffish spiritual appetites – instead of shutting up and emptying my mind and leaving the inner door open for the Holy Spirit to enter from the inside, all the doors being barred and all my blinds down.” (Merton, The Sign of Jonas)
Prayer is talking with God about what you and God are doing together.
Contemplation is the term used to describe the activity and experience of beholding God as one dwells in God’s presence. “Contemplation” is the mystical-unitive term par excellence.
Put the book and the laptop and the iPhone down and have some deep conversations with God.