Archive for category Beliefs
Yesterday my precocious 4-year-old said he wanted to be baptized. I don’t think he’s ready yet; our church doesn’t baptize kids until they are at least seven.
But, how would I know if he was ready?
What is the minimum someone needs to truly understand in order to authentically embark on a lifelong journey of discipleship? In short, how should you explain the gospel to preschoolers?
At Catalyst One Day, Pastor Andy Stanley explained how North Point Community Church‘s Sunday School curriculum focused on hammering home a small set of basic truths at each stage of life. Surprisingly, perhaps due to the decentralized nature of North Point’s ministries, I couldn’t find them written down in one place. Here’s what I’ve been able to compile.
We have decided that our primary goal in Waumba Land is to introduce our kids to their heavenly Father. That’s why everything that we teach can be boiled down to the following Three Basic Truths:
- God made me – CREATOR
- God loves me – FATHER
- Jesus wants to be my friend forever – FRIEND
We want our kids to know:
1. I need to make the wise choice. [Wisdom]
2. I can trust God no matter what. [Faith]
3. I should treat others the way I want to be treated. [Friendship]
1) Authentic Faith
You have to believe and trust in Jesus Christ as your personal savior if you want to go to heaven. But faith in Christ also allows you to live on earth in a daily relationship with a heavenly Father who loves you unconditionally. As an all-knowing and all-powerful father, you can trust him to lead you the right way.
2) Spiritual Priorities
God designed you to have a relationship with him. Your intimacy with him will provide the foundation you need to face whatever life can possibly throw at you. His friendship with you provides ultimate fulfillment and security.
3) Moral Boundaries
Purity paves the way to intimacy. The most important thing you can do is to establish specific guidelines in your dating life. You need to learn how to protect your body and emotions by honoring God’s plan for sex and morality.
4) Meaningful Friendships
Your friends determine the direction and quality of your life. If you walk with the wise, you grow wise. Spending time with the right kind of friends definitely helps you grow in a positive and healthy direction. Scripture also teaches that the companion of fools will suffer harm. Learn to build healthy friendships and avoid unhealthy friends.
5) Wise Choices
In light of your past experiences, present circumstances, and future hopes and dreams, you need to ask yourself, “”What is the wise thing to do?”" Good decision-making is more than simply choosing between right and wrong. It is the skill of applying scriptural principles so you can make smart choices that will protect your future.
6) Others First
Scripture teaches that God has created you to do good works and that he has given you unique gifts and talents. Discovering those gifts and using them to make investments in others is the key to lifelong fulfillment.
7) God-Given Authority
To have authority, you must be under authority. The parents, teachers, and leaders that God has placed in your life are there to guide you and guard your potential. The greatest lesson you can learn is to respect and honor those who are in authority.
This is an expanded excerpt from the emergence discussion from the Partially Examined Life Citizen Commons. We studied the classic More is Different: Broken Symmetry and the Hierarchical Nature of Science by P.W. Anderson. Their discussion software butchered my reply, so I figured I should clean it up by reposting it here.
It is difficult to have productive disagreements around “emergence” and “reductionism” because of the vague, confusing,and downright inconsistent way these terms are used. To help clear things up, I propose we talk in terms of the following levels.
- The Original Physical System. The actual thing “in and of itself” [what Kant said we couldn't actually know] (e.g., water).
- The Theory of that System. A highly accurate model of that system, along with its “obvious” consequences (e.g., the atomic formula H2O).
- Emergent Properties. Phenomena that appear very different than the original characterization of the system, but can nevertheless be derived from it (e.g., snowflakes).
- Fundamentally Different Systems. New systems that appear to rest entirely on the original system, but whose relationship to it can not be formally derived from the theory (2) due to scale, complexity, or added context (e.g., the global water cycle).
- Designed Systems. A system built using components of the original system, yet whose structure reflects the influence of an external system (e.g., a ski slope).
From this perspective, “reductionism” is only of practical value between (2) and (3), and only of conceptual value in talking about (4). Reductionists who try to identify (1) and (4) in the same way as (2) and (3) are overreaching.
On the other extreme, we have creationists who equate (4) with (5) — and too often get away with it because their reductionist opponents who equate (4) with (3) are making equally-faith-based arguments!
The poster child for this sloppy use of terminology is the idea that “non-deterministic consciousness emerges from the interaction of deterministic atoms.” While most modern philosophers disagree with that claim, they disagree in very different ways:
- Compatibilism argues that consciousness is also deterministic, but unpredictable, so it feels non-deterministic.
- Panpsychism argues that atoms are non-deterministic, and that their non-determinism “emerges” in consciousness.
My sympathies are with the panpsychists, because compatibilists seem to be confusing the deterministic Bohr model (2) with the underlying non-deterministic quantum system (1). On the other hand, given our current understanding of the brain the panpsychic explanation doesn’t qualify as “emergent” as defined in (3), since we can’t demonstrate how quantum entanglement can exist at the scales necessary to influence neural activity.
Perhaps the best resolution at this point in time is to acknowledge that consciousness is a — at the moment — a “Fundamentally Different System”, and be humble about the fact that better theories (2) or derivations (3) may or may not show it to be emergent in the future.
I want to be a Whole Christian.
I want to love the Lord my God with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, and all my strength, and be part of a worshipping community with others who do.
I want to love my brothers and sisters the way Christ loves me,
my neighbor as myself,
and my enemies.
Especially my enemies. For I have discovered that I only see the log in my own eye after I find grace for the speck in someone else’s.
Christianity has been practically defined by our divisions and labels since at least Acts 6, if not Mark 9. I myself have enjoyed many such labels over the years. Protestant. Fundamentalist. Conservative. Evangelical. Reformed. Orthodox. Charismatic. Postmodern. Missional.
I continue to honor and cherish those traditions, even as I critique them. But I no longer want to be defined by them. Especially since they are largely defined by what (and who) they are not.
I want to embrace all of Christianity. Not just the Catholics, liberals, and traditionalists who disagree with me on doctrine and practice. But everybody and everything that has been part of Christian tradition — the good, the bad, and the ugly. The heretics and the persecutors. Torquemada and televangelists. Crusaders and Conquistadors. Pedophile priests and southern slaveholders.
I don’t agree with them. I have serious doubts about whether I’ll see some of them in heaven. But I am content to let Jesus sort the wheat from the tares at the end of the age.
Because all of them are my people. Their sins are my sins. Their failures are my failures.
For only by embracing their failure can I hope to transcend it; instead of repeat it.
Dear Partially Examined Life podcasters,
Like Skepoet, I was very impressed by your recent episode on Plato’s “Euthyphro.” And yes, Seth, I deeply appreciated your perspective on Judaism. In particular, it helped me realize that modern Christianity in practice actually functions the way you describe Judaism (with decisions made by a small group of authorities revered for their understanding of the text), even if in theory it we claim our theology is a matter of rigorous logical deductions available to all.
That said, my overall reaction was much like the one Socrates had:
But I see plainly that you are not disposed to instruct me-dearly not: elsewhy, when we reached the point, did you turn, aside? Had you only answered me I should have truly learned of you by this time the-nature of piety.
I freely admit I am a philosophical dilettante and undoubtedly biased my religious upbringing. That is why (like Socrates to Euthyphro :-) I come to you who seem so certain to in hopes of illuminating my ignorance. Yet just when you seem on the verge of actually addressing the problem I care about, you veer away. Perhaps you can help me understand why…
Dear Mark, Seth, and Wes,
Thanks for the shout out on the The Partially Examined Life blog. First of all, I want to apologize for my snarky and apparently misleading comments on your Facebook page; let me know when I’ve expended $10 worth of annoyance and I’ll make another donation. :-)
Now that I’ve got your attention, though, let me try to articulate my concerns more coherently, to hopefully inspire a more substantive critique. It is pretty verbose, though, so I’ve posted a reply on my own blog, below. You can reply either there or on your own post, whichever is more convenient.
One of the most common complaints about religion is that it is “anti-scientific”, or conversely that science has removed the need for religion. To be sure, there is a grain of truth in this critique — especially given the anti-intellectual tendencies of American Fundamentalism, which is what the new wave of militant atheists appear to be reacting against.What amuses (and saddens) me is how few of these critics — despite their vocal praise and defense of science — seem to have a deep understanding of the scientific process, much less a willingness to apply these lauded techniques to create a systematic and comprehensive picture of religion.To that end, I offer the following summary as a starting point for a scientific analysis of religion. It is only a rough first draft; still, one of the goals to the scientific method is supplanting crude theories with more sophisticated ones, that ultimately do a better job of explaining existing data and predicting future results. Hopefully some of my correspondents will rise to the challenge. Read the rest of this entry »
In this “TAST” series of blog posts, I want to go beyond critiquing traditional systematic theology and start laying a groundwork for an alternative approach, which I’m labeling “systemic theology.”
As we’ve finished up Doctrine 101, I’ve been thinking even more about what a Devotional Theology could/should look like. At the risk of stretching the alliteration, here’s another round of “C”s. Anything major I’m still missing?
Four Uncompromisable Absolutes
- The Lordship of Jesus
- The Worship of the Trinity
- The Proclamation of the Gospel
- The Authority of Scripture
For the backstory…
[See also: Devotional Theology, Further On]
Two weeks ago we were privileged to have dinner with Barney Coombs, our pastor’s pastor through Salt and Light. He made the beautiful observation that “Theology should always result in Doxology” — that is, worship and praise to God. I suspect that (the lack of) this is the root of my frustration with our current studies (and systematic theology in general): it forces us think “about God” instead of inspiring us to think “of God.”
My dream is to “remix” the many powerful (and valid!) insights of traditional systematic theology into something that is explicitly designed to draw us into worship, and submission to God’s glory. As a side effect, it should also draw us together in mutual humility, rather than being a source of division and judgement — though it still needs to be strong enough for healthy discipline.
That’s a tall order, and I don’t even pretend to have all the answers. But, here’s my starting point. These passages (including their context) represent the essential facets of Christianity I would love to meditate on and wrestle with in the fellowship of my peers in our joint quest to understand (and serve!) God better. The topics are:
More details below. Hopefully this strikes a better balance between “true” and “right” than my previous list. As before (hi Bob! :-), comments and improvements welcome; bonus points if they start with the letter “C”!
[Update: kudos to my friend Patrick for taking the idea and running with it!]As we get close to finishing up our Doctrine 101 course, I find myself curiously ambivalent. On the hand, I deeply enjoy wrestling with these timeless theological truths. On the other hand, I can’t shake the feeling that R.C. Sproul et al are still fighting the last war. That is, some of the issues that were life-and-death millennia ago are now gnats, and while we strain them out camels are overrunning our camp.So I asked myself: what is the minimal set of essential truths central to my understanding of who God is; things so foundational to my thinking that I literally can’t imagine life without them. Or, more bluntly, what are the issues I (in my presumption) think we ought to be spending our time studying.Here’s my list. What’s yours? The catch is that you can only pick seven, so if you add one you have to drop another.
Today’s title refers both the classic problem that recurs computer science, statistics, epistemology, and philosophy — as well as to our difficulty in ending this DiaBlogue! Specifically, Alan and I exchanged several comments after my “last” post that imply there are still some loose threads we ought to tie up. While I don’t want to continue beating a dead horse, I do feel he raised a few questions that merit a response, and I’d rather do so here than in a comment.
Read the rest of this entry »
Though our DiaBlogue is all but over, Alan was kind enough to point me to this Q&A by Alonzo Fyfe, which addresses some of the concerns I had raised earlier. Since I never followed through on my promise (threat? :-) to critique Desire Utilitarianism (DU), I figured I ought to at least summarize my concerns here.
Importantly, this is not an attempt to “prove” that DU is “false.” Far from it; I actually think DU contains many powerful and valid insights. However, I believe the current formulation promulgated by Alonzo Fyfe is incomplete, and in need of substantial improvement. I’ve provided one possible route of improvement myself, but it would be interesting to see if there are others.
[Note: I have written this in the second person as an "open letter" for stylistic reasons; I'm not particularly interested in starting an actual debate with Mr. Fyfe at this time, though I'm not opposed in principle to having such a discussion later.]
This post is the apparent end of my long-running DiaBlogue with Alan. It is a follow-up to my own initial reaction to our decision to call things off, as well as Alan’s own reaction and closing thoughts, and may well be our final word on this topic.
In yesterday’s Chatalogue, Alan and I pretty much decided to call it quits. However, we first agreed to each write one last post on our concluding thoughts, including our reflections on how things went and lessons learned.
Today’s chat (one day early) was a bit more fractured than our first, but at least not as lopsided as the second. It does represent a kind of progress, in that we at least attempted to tackle the second goalpost. Though, the end result may have been more despair than enlightenment, as Alan expressed a desire call it quits. Which may be a wise decision, if sad. Not just because of all the unanswered questions, but the loss of the fairly intense personal connection we developed.
At any rate, we agreed to each write up our Closing Thoughts before calling it quits. Stay tuned for the final (?) chapter.
Full transcript below, as usual. Edited for typos, interruptions, and links.
Today’s chat started with my response to Alan’s civilized inference, where I claimed:
- Successful moral systems must embody some number of valid truths about human nature.
- The ontological claims of those moral systems may or may not be counterfactual.
- Medieval Western Christianity (MWC) — while far from perfect — has proven to be the most fertile ground for succesful moral innovation of any system yet attempted.
- Many of the ontological and ethical presuppositions of MWC (though far from all) are still a vital part of Contemporary Western Civilization (CWC).
- Any system that presumes to improve on MWC needs to adequately account for those axioms that are in use by CWC, and ideally provide better explanatory and predictive power.
Alan had some quibbles with my terminology, but seemed willing to agree (given suitable caveats). I then gave an example of (4) in terms of the Global Network of Desires I defined earlier.
- That G/NOD is a singular, well-defined entity covering all of humanity.
- That the moral rules governing G/NOD are *discovered* more than they are *invented*.
- That those rules are in principle discoverable by human beings in the right circumstances
- That there is such a thing as virtuous character, which is always better than vicious character.
- That it is always rational to do that which is virtuous.
I then claimed that the “moral consensus” around these five assumptions were largely responsible for the success of Western Christendom, and that they followed naturally from my Deistic Hypothesis — but had to be assumed ad hoc by Alonzo Fyfe’s Desire Utilitarianism in order to achieve comparable explanatory power.
We didn’t make much progress beyond that, but hopefully we can pick up from there next week. Full transcript below…
Great chat yesterday; I look forward to continuing our conversation next Thursday. In preparation, I wanted to provide a more precise definition of my understanding of Desire Utilitarianism. Hopefully this formulation will either provide a common starting point, or at least help you identify any significant differences in our understanding.
Alan and I had our first Chatlogue today (the successor to our troubled DiaBlogue). The key theme, IMHO, was trying to define the nature of “the good”, especially as it relates to “truth,” in the context of Alonzo Fyfe’s Desire Utilitarianism. While we didn’t resolve much, we did make progress, and look forward to continuing the conversation next week.