Benediction 

A benediction is a human or divine pronouncement of favor upon oneself, or another, or both. It may ring pedestrian, such as “Have a nice day,” or profound, “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” Benedictions summon the desire of one person that another person receive goodness, whether it be health, employment, spiritual growth, or any other desirable state. Consider several of the multitudes of benedictions from the Bible, written by the Apostle Paul:


To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 1:7).

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had (Romans 15:5).


Benedictions are found throughout the Scripture and outside of it as well. The toast at a wedding is a type of benediction. This gesture, which includes some libation to be drunk after the toast, is given to or for someone: “May you live happily ever after.”

The historic liturgy of the Christian church ends each service with a benediction given by the priest or pastor. This text is often used:


May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all (2 Corinthians 13:14).


If we have some idea of what a benediction is, let us consider the matter a bit more philosophically with respect to the kinds of linguistic work various sentences can perform.

The benediction is more than a wish and less than an imperative. If you say, “I wish you did not have shingles,” you are expressing good will to someone; but it is not a benediction. If I say to a student, “Never cheat on a test again,” this is an imperative, but not a benediction. I am enjoining or commanding someone to be honest. Despite this, commands may be hidden or partially expressed in benedictions. Paul shows this:


May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).


By saying, “May the God of hope…,” Paul expressed his earnest desire that God bless those to whom he was writing. He includes “as you trust in him,” which is a subtle command or exhortation to trust the God who does these things for his people. The sense of command or exhortation is even stronger in this benediction from the Anglican tradition.


Go forth into the world in peace;
be of good courage;
hold fast that which is good;
render to no one evil for evil;
strengthen the fainthearted;
support the weak;
help the afflicted;
honour everyone;
love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit;
and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, be amongst you and remain with you always. Amen.


The benedictory element is almost muted by the strength of the exhortation. This benediction lacks the customary, “May you…,” and instead inserts a command, “Go forth.” However, there is a sense of desire for the blessing of others is tacit. Thus, it could be worded, “May you go forth…”

To put it formally what we have argued:

A benediction is a pronouncement made on behalf of another that contains a desire that the other person or group experience some kind of beneficial state of affairs. That state of affairs may be received passively or achieved actively or it may be a combination of both, as in Romans 15:13, discussed above.

Benedictions may also perform something linguistically. Philosopher J. L. Austin wrote of a kind of speech called a performative utterance. Sentences of this stripe achieve what they affirm simply by saying it. It does not merely describe or question. When a pastor says, “I now pronounce you husband and wife,” he brings about the nuptial state by so pronouncing it. At graduations, some official will announce that the degree has been conferred to those who have met the qualifications. In 1979, I sat with a few friends at my college graduation ceremony. Becoming impatient, I said to a friend, “When is the moment of metaphysical import?” That is, when will the degree be conferred?” A performative utterance does not describe a set of facts as in “You have just received your degree.” Rather, the statement enacts the state of affairs that is addressed. For example this was spoken at the 2007 commencement at the University of Texas at Dallas by the President, Dr. David Daniel.


Now by virtue of the authority vested by law in the Board of Regents of The University of Texas System, I confer upon each of you the respective academic degree for which you have been recommended, with all the rights, privileges, responsibilities, and obligations appertaining thereunto.


All such ceremonies feature a similar speech event, which comes as the culmination of the meeting. This benediction is absent of religious concerns. But many are not.

Philosophically, then, benedictions have properties not possessed by other kinds of speech. The act of pronouncing a benediction invokes a future in which goodness dwells. Beyond wishing, it commends goodness to the one receiving it. In some cases, the act of benediction confers some quality of existence to the one so addressed. God has the metaphysical and moral status to give benedictions that achieve the ends he desires, since his judgments are true and his power is unlimited.

The world is fallen. God is good. Christians are spokespeople for these two truths. Therefore, even in suffering, Christ-followers may receive God’s benediction:


But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you (1 Peter 4:13-14).


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A Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo (2014)

Marie Kondo  The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Ten Speed Press, 2014.

Animism for Cluttered Materialists would have been a better title for this small and unlikely New York Times #1 best-seller. That, however, would be too obvious. The young and unbearably cute author is an expert in helping her clients throw things out. There is an art to it, you know. The author knows, and she will tell you as she puts into the writing the philosophy she developed in Japan as a professional clean-up consultant with a three-month waiting list.

As a life-long order-challenged and clutter-producing slob, I bought this book hoping against hope that it might help. I got some help, but not much. She is right that we should not surround ourselves with things that weigh us down and do not good. Our environment should give us a sense of joy. That gave me the courage to give away many clothes and to exchange my boring socks with happy socks. My deeper response was that of spiritual concern, since the book tacitly advocates an animistic worldview, which strangely mixed with materialism.

At no point does Miss Kondo warn of the moral dangers of acquisitiveness. Greed and waste are left alone as if they were strangers to the problem. Peter Singer is not quoted. Nor is, more significantly, Jesus, who preached:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21).

For Kondo, treasure is having enough rightly-organized possessions to be happy. She repeatedly tells stories of her clients who threw out large amounts of clothes and other items. Having taken bags and bags of assorted things to Goodwill in recent months, I wondered why she never mentioned the practice of giving things away to those who need them more. But that is not the point. The point that matters is your feeling about your dwelling.

In portions nearly unbearable to read, Kondo advises that we weed out our books also, even after we have read them, putting books in the same category as old clothes, dishes, pillows, and more. This is not a literary person. The idea of rereading a book or having a library of books does cross her hyper-tidy mind. C.S. Lewis is a tonic for this toxin:

No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.

The author’s carefree and unconscious materialism is bad enough; but what is worse is her animism. She is not a philosophical materialist—one who claims that the material universe is all there is. Her materialism is cultural, related to the acquisition and arrangement of objects of desire. But these things are really alive. Near the beginning of the book, we learn that socks want to “breath.” So, we should not ball them up, but lay them flat. This was no rhetorical trope. She meant it literally. We should speak our possessions, because they are giving themselves to us. We should be grateful and let them know.

Kondo is influenced by Shintoism, a largely regional religion of Japan. Shintoism is marked by respect for holy sites and their spirits (or kami). (Amazon, however, lists it at #1 seller in “Zen Spirituality.”) It is unlikely that a Shinto priest would endorse this book—and even if so, it would not increase book sales—but she is a savvy evangelist for this religion, since her advocacy is tacit rather than explicit. It is a book about cleaning up, not about greeting spirits. C.S. Lewis noted this strategy in his classic essay, “Christian Apologetics” (1945) from God in the Dock. I doubt Kondo has read this essay, but she is applying the strategy that Lewis advocates for Christian apologetics:

I believe that any Christian who is qualified to write a good popular book on any science may do much more by that than by an directly apologetic work. The difficulty we are up against is this. We can make people (often) attend to the Christian point of view for half an hour or so but the moment they have gone away from our lecture or laid down our article, they are plunged back into a world where the opposite position is taken for granted. As long as that situation exists, widespread success is simply impossible. We must attack the enemy’s lines of communication. What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects—with their Christianity latent… You can see this most easily if you look at it the other way round. Our faith is not very likely to be shaken by any book on Hinduism. But if wherever we read an elementary book on Geology, botany, Politics, or Astronomy, we found that its implications were Hindu, that would shake us. It is not the books written in direct defense of materialism that make the modern man a materialist; it is the materialistic assumptions in all the other books.

It is sad that a Christian did not write a clever, short, and best-selling book on the organization of possessions in which the Christian worldview was assumed, but not defended. Such a book—which, of course, I could not write—would reflect on the meaning of possessions, our loving use of them, our obligations to those in need, the value of possessions in relation to life’s ultimate meaning, how to become less mastered by possessions, the joys of hospitality, and much more. These ideas would form the foundation for any practical advice on sorting, storing, and enjoying possessions.

Kondo’s little treatise promises us not just a tidy home, but a better life. When we make friends with the spirits of our belongings, we can enjoy them, feel free, and be troubled about small matters such as greed, waste, and the one true God who towers over all false gods, Shinto or otherwise.


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A Time for Truth and Courage

Tony Campolo now supports “the full inclusion” of homosexuals and lesbians in the church. This articleDSC_8674 2 speaks of a new wind of the Spirit causing Christians to look afresh at Scripture on this issue.

Campolo has never been a compelling thinker. I once heard him say that politically he was “to the left of Mao.” I did not laugh at that in 1979 nor will I ever. Mao killed 90 million of his own people over fifty years of his reign, during peacetime. Campolo once wrote that Jesus was divine because he was fully human. I see. Any of our students at Denver Seminary would be strongly corrected for that incoherent and illogical Christology. Those won over by Campolo’s famous oratory should consider his arguments, which are poor.

Talk of “grace” and “tolerance” and “love” all you want. The Bible does not endorse any intimate sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage. Love covers a multitude of sins but it justifies no sin.

Paul warns us not to be flown by every wind of doctrine. Endorsing the LGBTQ philosophy is a toxic wind of false doctrine. In this, beware of fallacious thinking.

  1. You either accept LGBTQ people or hate them. No you show love. That does not mean endorsing sinful activity.
  2. The church needs to catch up with the times. No, it needs to fear the Ancient of Days, whose truth does not change.
  3. But many Christians are LGBTQ. Perhaps, but this does not justifying sinning in their sexuality by breaking God’s creation order and his commands.
  4. Jesus did not speak about LGBTQ people; therefore, he did not oppose it. This is an argument from silence and is, thus, fallacious. Not talking directly about X does not mean you are not against X. Jesus did not directly speak against bestiality either. Jesus did endorse the moral law of the Hebrew Bible, which forbids deviant sexuality (Leviticus 18); and Jesus authorized the teaching of the Apostle Paul, who taught that sexual deviancy came from the fall (Romans 1:18-32).

American culture is collapsing all around us. Christians are celebrating in the ruins, cheering the denial of biblical truth.

Will you have the courage to stand for truth? Will you do the work to back up your views logically and theologically? Will you be a pawn or a prophet? Will you speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) or cower in a corner?


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Christian and Eastern Silence

“The LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.” exhorts the prophet Hosea (2:20). Our world is famished for silence, but does not know it. Our needs often hide from our wants. We want more noise—music piped in everywhere, talking screens in multiple rooms of our homes and work and public spaces, words assailing us by displays in stores. Magic phones speak to us even as we attempt to speak to others. Our ears should be ringing, but only our phones do.

But some are waking up from the roar of words and noise. Several books warn us about the noise that is disquieting our souls. Some are secular, but give good advice. Other books, articles, and teachings are spiritual, but in an unbiblical sense. They seek to still the din within by emptying the mind through yoga and other forms of Hindu or Buddhist meditation. Buddhism is seductive, since it promises inner peace, required no worship, and is usually adopted by Americans in a piecemeal and uninformed way. Mindfulness is pursued, but the temple is ignored.

Humans, as fallen mortals, have a limited ability to sort things out. We often hurry through instead of think about. Then, not surprisingly, we act ignorantly—if quickly. But God gives wisdom.

Christian silence carved an opening to quiet the buzzing mind and twitching body in order to hear from The Word (John 1:1). This God is a God who speaks truth and reveals us our condition before “the audit of eternity” (Kierkegaard). But we are often deaf to God himself because of the noise that assails us on every side. Scripture commands us to listen to God, to harken to his speech.


Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).


Listening is done best without distractions. Silence creates that space. As Kierkegaard wrote in the middle of the nineteenth century:


The present state of the world and all of life is diseased. If I were a doctor and were asked for my advice, I should reply: Create silence! Bring men to silence. The Word of God cannot be heard in the noisy world of today.


The great melancholy Dane wrote this before the advent of telephones, radio, television, or the Internet. Needless noise has emanated ever since the Fall. There is no need to keep silence at all times. There is a time to speak and a time to be enmeshed in noise for the sake of the Kingdom. However, we need to be replenished and rewarded with solitude and silence. Although it is not explained, and is difficult to interpret, the following passage may spark some needful reflection:


When he [Christ] opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them (Revelation 8:1-2).


Even in heaven, silence had its place. It should have its place with us now as well.

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Christianity, Cosmos, and Human Meaning

Recently, Bill Nye, The Science Guy, remarked in a YouTube video that Christians were fools for thinking that human beings had significance in a cosmos that dwarfs them. He is merely echoing a chorus of like-minded critics who employ to reason against Christianity. The smallness means insignificance argument is usually coupled with the old canard about Copernicus dislodging the earth from the center of the universe and, thus, dethroning man and destroying Christianity. Bertrand Russell was one of the biggest offenders, throwing this idea around in his popular, A History of Western Philosophy.

The controlling falsehoods in this argument are both historical and logical. As C.S. Lewis notes, the ancients regarded the earth as tiny in relation to the rest of the cosmos, even if their knowledge of its vastness was not that of our own. No theology of human significance was ever tied to the relative size of humans with respect to the universe as a whole. No, human worth depends on the God who made man in his own image and likeness (Genesis 1:26). The height, width, and weight of these image-bearers are irrelevant to their value. What counts is their nature. Humans represent God in the world through relationships, reason, emotion, and will. The Oxford Don drives this home in Miracles.

There is no doubt that we all feel the incongruity of supposing, say, that the planet Earth might be more important than the Great Nebula in Andromeda. On the other hand, we are all equally certain that only a lunatic would think a man six-feet high necessarily more important than a man five-feet high, or a horse necessarily more important than a man, or a man’s legs than his brain. In other words this supposed ratio of size to importance feels plausible only when one of the sizes involved is very great. And that betrays the true basis of this type of thought. When a relation is perceived by Reason, it is perceived to hold good universally. If our Reason told us that size was proportional to importance, the small differences in size would be accompanied by small differences in importance just as surely as great differences in size were accompanied by great differences in importance. Your six-foot man would have to be slightly more valuable than the man of five feet, and your leg slightly more important than your brain—which everyone knows to be nonsense. The conclusion is inevitable: the importance we attach to great differences of size is an affair not of reason but of emotion—of that peculiar emotion which superiorities in size begin to produce in us only after a certain point of absolute size has been reached (Miracles, chapter seven).

Here the critic may shift ground a bit and claim that Christianity is too anthropocentric, since it claims that God created all things for humans. The same critics, in fact, may do both at once, which is a contradiction. How dare we single ourselves out for such a compliment, we tiny mortals?

This barb bears at least two blunders. First, the Bible does not maintain that the universe has one purpose—to serve humanity. Rather, the cosmos is the handiwork of an infinite and personal Creator. The Maker crafted he world to manifest his goodness and to give him satisfaction, whether or not mortals are the beneficiaries. The Psalter features nature psalms or hymns that testify to God’s care and delight in the astronomic realm. Consider God’s call to nature in Psalm 148:

Praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord from the heavens;
           praise him in the heights above.
       Praise him, all his angels;
           praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
     Praise him, sun and moon;
         praise him, all you shining stars.
     Praise him, you highest heavens
         and you waters above the skies.

Let them praise the name of the Lord,        

   for at his command they were created,
  and he established them for ever and ever—
   he issued a decree that will never pass away

(Psalm 148:1-6; see also Psalm 104).

The heights above, the waters below, the angels, the sun, moon, and stars, are all praising God—with no human in sight. The purpose of creation is to bring God glory, not to set man at the center. Genesis chapter one reports that God was pleased with his creation—the heavens and earth, the plants and animals—before he created human beings. These were wrought by and for God before having any significance for human beings.

However, man alone bears the divine image. The ruin wrought by the Fall could not extinguish this image. As a man, God came into the world through Jesus Christ to save sinners by his death and resurrection (John 1:14; 1 Timothy 2:15). God, in his love, gave us a hospitable planet, which is perfectly placed to sustain life as we know it. The Privileged Planet by Guillermo Gonzales and Jay Richards argues this well. Still, this does not imply that the universe is anthropocentric. To the contrary, the universe is theocentric.

There is a second charge to unmask as errant. It is this: Christians are morally wrong to consider themselves as the objects of God’s special concern. Following from the accusation that Christians believe the world was made merely for humanity, atheists accuse believers of pride. After all, denying a special relation to God would be humble. Of course, the background assumption is that there is no God.)

But the skeptic cannot read the mind of a God he claims does not exist. The question is not, a priori, what seems the most humble way to view ourselves in the universe. Rather, the questions should be: Did God create us in his image and has he made a provision for us? The Gospel, moreover, indicts human beings as fallen and incapable of self-salvation. That is no compliment. And the greater something is, the farther it may fall. This is the human condition after the Fall.

Once again, I appeal to the master apologist, C.S. Lewis, this time for the last word.

Christianity does not involve the belief that all things were made for man. It does involve the belief that God loves man and for his sake became man and died. I have not yet succeeded in seeing how what we know (and have known since the days of Ptolemy) about the size of the universe affects the credibility of this doctrine one way or the other. . . . If it is maintained that anything so small as the Earth must, in any event, be too unimportant to merit the love of the Creator, we reply that no Christian ever supposed we did merit it. Christ did not die for men because they were intrinsically worth dying for, but because He is intrinsically love, and therefore loves infinitely (Miracles, chapter 7).

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Cosmology

Cosmology is the study of the nature and origin of the cosmos. The rare word, cosmogony, is sometimes refers to the origin of the cosmos. The study of cosmology requires that there be a cosmos that is physical. Idealists cannot, strictly speaking, be cosmologists since they claim there is nothing but ideas and minds. As such, cosmology ends up being a grand psychology. Pantheism falls into this category, since it claims that all is universal Mind and that there is no creation of anything apart from this Mind.

The cosmos exists for only one of three reasons. (1) It has always existed in some form, extending into an infinitely long past (2) It came into existence out of nothing and without a case a finite time ago (3) It came into existence a finite time ago because it was created by a First Cause. Consider each possibility:

  1. The eternal cosmos idea may be with atheistic or theistic. Materialists, such as Bertrand Russell, believe that the universe if “just there,” as he claimed in his debate with F. Coppleston in 1948. Some theists have taught—or allowed as possible—that the cosmos and God are coeternal, but that for all this time, the cosmos was contingent on God’s sustaining power. Thomas Aquinas claimed that natural theology can only prove this much. It takes special revelation for us to know that God created the world out of nothing a finite time ago.
  1. Pressured by the cogency of the big bang cosmological theory, some atheists affirm that the cosmos is not eternal. It originated at the big bang. However, they do not attribute a cause to this first event. The late Christian philosopher, Dallas Willard, called this “big bang mysticism.” This mysticism without God must grant that there are a-causal events or something can come from nothing without a cause. Principles such as this contravene all normal thinking about science and everyday life. There are no analogues to the big godless bang. As such, it is not rational to hold this view.
  1. If the cosmos began to exist a finite time ago, the best explanation for its origin is an immaterial being that is before and outside the cosmos. This Being possesses tremendous power (to create ex nihilo) and has the requisite knowledge to front load the big bang with all that is needed for life on earth. Thus, from modern physics, these divine attributes: creator, immateriality, unmatched power, transcendence, and knowledge (personality). As the Apostle Paul wrote: “ For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

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Creation

A creation is a particular kind of artefact brought about by an agent. Agency requires awareness, volition, and the ability to act. A painting by Van Gogh is a creation as is a tenor saxophone solo by John Coltrane. A creation is more than a rote production, however, since it possesses novelty. The human creator innovates upon given materials in nature and according his or her own nature.

Humans are creators because they are made in God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:26). They represent God in this capacity in a finite modality. God creates out of nothing and without any limitation in power, goodness, or knowledge. Mortals create by working on what has been given by God—their being and the material available in God’s world (see Psalm 8). Unique objective value is brought into the world by creators, some of whom are rightly called artists.

Creations under the sun can go wrong, and bring imperfection or even evil into God’s creation. Speaking of those who abandon the reality of God for creation-worship, the Apostle Paul declares:

They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil (Romans 1:29-30).

For example, pornography follows closely behind many forms of media, especially those of the Internet. Before cyberspace, sinners had patronized a pornography place, a store, wearing a disguise and leaving with the sexual contraband in a brown paper bag. Now, fallen creators have put it all online, and it is a click and a credit card away.

But God is not mocked. The works of darkness and death will be dragged into the light of God’s searching judgments (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). The creations blessed by God will endure, to the praise of the Creator and to the delight of his thankful creatures. His creatures who have become “new creations” through Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) will live deathless in an ever-living world. As the seer of The Apocalypse writes:

The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life (Revelation 21:23-27).

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Christianity and Science: Reasons that Christianity Encourages Scientific Pursuits

Adapted from Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics (InterVarsity Press, 2011, chapter five)

  1. The physical universe is an objective reality, which is ontologically distinct from the Creator (Genesis 1:1; Psalm 90:2; John 1:1).

2. The laws of nature exhibit order, pattern, and regularity, since they are established by an orderly God (Psalm 19:1-4; Romans 1:18-21).

3. The laws of nature are uniform throughout the physical universe, since God created and providentially sustains them. Miracles are not violations of natural laws, but supernatural interventions at specific times and for specific reasons.

4. The physical universe is intelligible because God created us to know him, ourselves, and the rest of creation. (Genesis 1-2; Psalm 36:9; Proverbs 8).

5. The world is good, valuable, and worthy of careful study, because it was created for a purpose by a perfectly good God (Genesis 1). Humans, as the unique image bearers of God, were created to discern, discover, and develop the goodness of creation for the glory of God and human betterment through work. The creation mandate (Genesis 1:26-28) includes scientific activity.[1]

6. Because the world is not divine and is therefore not a proper object of worship, it can be an object of rational study and empirical observation.

7. Human beings possess the ability to discover the universe’s intelligibility, since we are made in God’s image and have been placed on earth to develop its intrinsic possibilities. The world and humans were designed for discovery.

8. Because God did not reveal everything about nature, empirical investigation is necessary to discern the patterns God laid down in creation.

9. The intellectual virtues essential to carrying out the scientific enterprise (studiousness, honesty, integrity, humility, and courage) are commanded as part of God’s moral law (Exodus 20:1-17) and are the available through the power of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:13-25).[2]

[1] On the significance and depth of the creation mandate, see Francis Nigel Lee, The Central Significance of Culture (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1976), chapter one.

[2] On the presuppositions of science, see also J.P. Moreland, Scaling the Secular City (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1987), 198-201.

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Let Books be Books

Many books today seem afraid to rely on pure text. They are books that seem to be embarrassed to be what they are: books, that is, orderly collections of words formed into sentences and paragraphs.

Too many books are filled with one-sentence paragraphs (usually a sign of poor style and impatience), call-outs that repeat what is in smaller print elsewhere on the page (annoying), stand-alone call-outs with little connection to the flow of the text. I find disorienting. When do I read these rude interruptions? That is their context? We also find lists, bullet points (the bane of orderly discourse, but the balm of PowerPoint), and font variations. They are more like the children’s books of old.

This is enough to send me screaming to acres and acres of pure, small, hard text: Augustine’s The City of God or any book by Kierkegaard or Dostoevsky or even Being and Nothingness by Sartre! (But Heidegger’s Being and Time…don’t go there, although I own it.) These books require concentration, fixation, and focus. One cannot breeze through them. These works have heft; they must be mastered; they cannot be skimmed. I say: Let books be books!

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Principles For Taking Every Thought Captive: Part III

Here are some principles and recommendations in how to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). If you missed the last list posted, catch up here and here.

  1. Carefully and prayerfully consider your use of all electronic communications media. These often sap our knowledge and divert us from godly habits of the heart. Consider engaging in a protracted media abstention in which you eliminate a commonly-used electronic system for a week to ten days. It will profoundly change your view of technology. See my book, The Soul in Cyberspace. For my more recent thoughts see my interview with Tim Challies at: http://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/challies/the-soul-in-cyberspace-an-interview-with-douglas-groothuis-11603254.html Consider also the thoughtful, secular book, Hamlet’s Blackberry. For a broader historical and culture critique read Neil Postman’s magisterial work, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. The best book on television is Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death. See also my article in The Christian Research Journal, “Understanding Social Media” at: http://www.equip.org/PDF/JAF2333.pdf. For a more scholarly paper, see Douglas Groothuis, “Christian Scholarship and the Philosophical Analysis of Cyberspace Technologies,” (Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 4 14 (December 1998): 631-640. This is on line at: http://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/41/41-4/41-4-pp631-640-JETS.pdf.
  1. Listen to thoughtful radio programs and podcasts. Many gifted Christian teachers and preachers can be heard in this manner. Redeem the time by listening to them in your car or while exercising or when you cannot do anything else, such as when you are ill. Of the talk radio, hosts, Dennis Prager, a conservative Jew, is probably the most civil and intelligent. He is refreshing in that he addresses more than just politics. Another excellent source of cultural criticism from a Christian or Christian-friendly viewpoint is Mars Hill audio, hosted by Ken Myers, author of All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes: Christians and Popular Culture. Some audio books of thoughtful books are available for purchase or from a library.
  1. Take periodic times of silence, for either short or long periods of time. Our culture is too noisy and over-stimulated. We need quiet to compose our bodies and souls before God in cognitive meditation, prayer, and rest. As Ecclesiastes says, there is

a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak  (3:7; see also Habakkuk 2:20).

  1. Consider Denver Seminary for further education. I head the MA in Apologetics and Ethics. We also offer a Certificate in Apologetics and Ethics (10 semester hours). See: denverseminary.edu

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