Monday, July 31, 2006

The Facts On Israel's War

[I don't usually comment on international relations, but Krauthammer sets the record straight on Israel's war with Lebanon.] -- Section: Viewpoints, Outlook
July 27, 2006, 9:35PM
Stop demonizing of Israel for merely defending itself


What other country, when attacked in an unprovoked aggression across a recognized international frontier, is then put on a countdown clock by the world, given a limited time window in which to fight back, regardless of whether it has restored its own security?

What other country sustains 1,500 indiscriminate rocket attacks into its cities — every one designed to kill, maim and terrorize civilians — and is then vilified by the world when it tries to destroy the enemy's infrastructure and strongholds with precision-guided munitions that sometimes have the unintended but unavoidable consequence of collateral civilian death and suffering?

Hearing the world pass judgment on the Israel-Hezbollah war as it unfolds is to live in an Orwellian moral universe. With a few significant exceptions (the leadership of the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada and a very few others), the world — governments, the media, U.N. bureaucrats — has completely lost its moral bearings.

The word that obviates all thinking and magically inverts victim into aggressor is "disproportionate," as in the universally decried "disproportionate Israeli response."

When the United States was attacked at Pearl Harbor, it did not respond with a parallel "proportionate" attack on a Japanese naval base. It launched a four-year campaign that killed millions of Japanese, reduced Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki to a cinder, and turned the Japanese home islands to rubble and ruin.
Disproportionate? No. When one is wantonly attacked by an aggressor, one has every right — legal and moral — to carry the fight until the aggressor is disarmed and so disabled that it cannot threaten one's security again. That's what it took with Japan.

Britain was never invaded by Germany in World War II. Did it respond to the blitz and V-1 and V-2 rockets with "proportionate" aerial bombardment of Germany? Of course not. Churchill orchestrated the greatest land invasion in history that flattened and utterly destroyed Germany, killing untold innocent German women and children in the process.

The perversity of today's international outcry lies in the fact that there is indeed a disproportion in this war, a radical moral asymmetry between Hezbollah and Israel: Hezbollah is deliberately trying to create civilian casualties on both sides while Israel is deliberately trying to minimize civilian casualties, also on both sides.

In perhaps the most blatant terror campaign from the air since the London blitz, Hezbollah is raining rockets on Israeli cities and villages. These rockets are packed with ball bearings that can penetrate automobiles and shred human flesh. They are meant to kill and maim. And they do.

But it is a dual campaign. Israeli innocents must die in order for Israel to be terrorized. But Lebanese innocents must also die in order for Israel to be demonized, which is why Hezbollah hides its fighters, its rockets, its launchers, its entire infrastructure among civilians. Creating human shields is a war crime. It is also a Hezbollah specialty.

On Wednesday, CNN cameras showed destruction in Tyre. What does Israel have against Tyre and its inhabitants? Nothing. But the long-range Hezbollah rockets that have been raining terror on Haifa are based in Tyre. What is Israel to do? Leave untouched the launch sites that are deliberately placed in built-up areas?
Had Israel wanted to destroy Lebanese civilian infrastructure, it would have turned out the lights in Beirut in the first hour of the war, destroying the billion-dollar power grid and setting back Lebanon 20 years. It did not do that. Instead, it attacked dual-use infrastructure — bridges, roads, airport runways — and blockaded Lebanon's ports to prevent the reinforcement and resupply of Hezbollah. Ten-thousand Katyusha rockets are enough. Israel was not going to allow Hezbollah 10,000 more.

Israel's response to Hezbollah has been to use the most precise weaponry and targeting it can. It has no interest, no desire to kill Lebanese civilians. Does anyone imagine that it could not have leveled south Lebanon, to say nothing of Beirut? Instead, in the bitter fight against Hezbollah in south Lebanon, it has repeatedly dropped leaflets, issued warnings, sent messages by radio and even phone text to Lebanese villagers to evacuate so that they would not be harmed.

Israel knows that these leaflets and warnings give the Hezbollah fighters time to escape and regroup. The advance notification as to where the next attack is coming has allowed Hezbollah to set up elaborate ambushes. The result? Unexpectedly high Israeli infantry casualties. Moral scrupulousness paid in blood. Israeli soldiers die so that Lebanese civilians will not, and who does the international community condemn for disregarding civilian life?

Krauthammer is a Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist based in Washington, D.C. (

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Teenage Wasteland

The Relevant Revolution™

by Douglas Groothuis

It’s a Crisis: The church in America is losing its youth. If current trends prevail, the average age in America’s churches will be well over forty within a decade or so. To counter this insidious trend, we must join TheRelevantRevolution.™ The alternative is unthinkable.

TheRelevantRevolution™ has vision and passion for today’s youth. RelevantRevolutionaries™ are tired of old, worn out strategies and beliefs. We must innovate and see what new shapes, forms, and sounds emerge. We cannot expect to reach today’s youth with yesterday’s sermons, hymns, organizations, and activities. So where do we start?

RelevantRevolutionaries ™ are ready to reinvent everything: themselves, the church, and God. That’s right, God. The Almighty, too, must be brought up to date and made relevant! “The Ancient of Days” will not play or sell to today’s youth culture. The audience is sovereign, as all Americans know in their heart of hearts and prove by their pocketbooks. God must be re-imaged as “the God of what’s happening now.” (Other dynamic divine names and titles are being researched as you read this.) Focus groups will be formed. Sociological, psychological, and (above all) business consultants will assess the situation to give us a strategic vision for our desired outcomes. After this cutting-edge process is complete, an implemental step-by-step method will be made available on line for RelevantRevolutionaries.™ Those who subscribe to the vision (all major credit cards accepted on line) will be part of a postmodern pack of visionary practitioners.

To begin, TheRelevantRevolution™ will introduce several exciting strategic tools, which image our core values and goals:

1. HighTechHoliness™ To reach youth today, everything must be transformed into high-tech venues. Who can expect this generation to sit still in an unmediated environment? No one! It cuts against their culture, their way of being, their very identity. So, we must technologize all of church, all of Christianity. We must become TheWiredChurch.™

2. PodcastPandemic™ Practically, becoming TheWiredChurch™ means that inspirational, up-to-date messages will be offered on podcasts no longer than ten minutes. Each pod cast will be spiced up with infomercials and exciting, relevant music (indie bands, hip hop, Japanese techno-metal, etc.), along with dramatic interludes featuring cameos by Hollywood stars. Listeners can choose the PodcastPandemic™ style of their choice, such as “A New Kind of Jesus,” “Hip- Hop Thoughts from the Hip-Holy Book,” “Prophets That are Way Cool,” “Reinvent Yourself the Bible Way,” and so much more.

3. ScriptureZine ™ Instead of expecting hyperactive, image-oriented youth to lug around big, old-fashioned Bibles, TheRelevantRevolution™ will feature ScriptureZines,™ specially designed for a host of subgroups. Each ScriptureZine™ will take a few verses from a biblical book (Job, Ecclesiastes, and several others excluded) and place it amidst lavish, full color images that entice the eyes of teens. Exclusive quotes from youth-oriented celebrities will draw in those who would not normally come near a traditional Bible. ScriptureZine™ is sweet!

4. MegaMediaFests™ 1.0, 1.2; 2.0, 2.1 Teens today love and crave large media events. While they will not attend the average, outmoded church service, they will flock to multi-mediated events based on the production values of the most popular movies, video games, and musical concerts today. In light of these undeniable realities, RelevantRevolutionaries™ will promote and sponsor MegaMediaFests™ around the country, held in large, modern venues. Young, attractive, and humorous speakers (sporting the latest fashions and tattoos) will present totally cool messages augmented by multi-jumbotron-driven videos, live music, and plenty of special effects (laser lights, flash pods, fog effects, and many more cutting-edge technologies).

5. SpiritCellDrama™ Today’s teens are always on their cell phones—and they should be! Cell phones are intrinsic to postmodern culture. Why bother to censure their use or direct this coming generation elsewhere? Given this inescapable reality, TheRelevantRevolution™ will create biblically-suggestive mini-dramas to be broadcast on video cell phones. Major secular corporations are just beginning to explore this potential, but we are way ahead of the curve! Youth today are too fast-paced and ADD for even the traditional half hour TV program. They need their entertainment to be mobile and instantly consumable. SpiritCellDrama™ meets this crying need through innovative animation, comedy, and celebrity cameos. Our logo for SpiritCellDrama™ (not yet released) will feature an image of Jesus chuckling as he gazes into a cell phone. How cool is that?

And there is so very much more! Video games, T-Shirts, customized digital tattoos, and many other products are in production.

Why be left behind as the tidal wave of youth reality sweeps over us? Don’t abandon our teens. Join TheRelevantRevolution™ today!

[The above is parody, not advocacy. All the ™ marks above are invented by the author; they do not represent trademarked products.]

Afterword (tongue out of cheek), by Rebecca Merrill Groothuis

Yes, the American church is in trouble and not just because youth are uninterested. Yes, something needs to change, but not just a change from one organizational/marketing strategy to another. What is desperately needed here—for both youth and adults—is something nearly unheard of today: humility, repentance, prayer, fasting, and seeking God. Stuff found on virtually every page of God’s Word. We don’t need yet another peppy mission statement. Our mission is one thing: to know Christ. All the rest follows from this.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Philosophical Inventory: What I Believe

It may be helpful, or at least stir some debate, for me to lay out my positions on some basic philosophical, theological, and cultural matters. This essay states my views, but does not defend them. That would take a series of articles (if not books). I have defended many if not all of these claims in my writing or teaching or preaching and hope to defend more in future intellectual adventures.

1. Meta-philosophy (or philosophy of philosophy): I believe in the analytic method of philosophizing, but with the realization that some continental philosophers come up with significant insights. However, the clear articulation of their ideas requires a more analytical approach.

2. Metaphysics: I am a Trinitarian and Incarnational theist, a mind-body substance dualist, a compatibilist on human agency, and an egalitarian on gender (since women and men are equally human, there should be no status differences that uniquely favor men over women on the basis of gender).

3. Epistemology: I am a critical realist (the world and God can be partially known in various ways), a foundationalist (there are basic and knowable truths on which we base other beliefs), and an internalist (we should generally have reasons to ground our beliefs as knowledge).

4. Ethics: I hold to the divine command theory. The good is based on God’s eternal character and is in harmony with the nature of the creation God brought worth. God’s commands, therefore, fit both the divine character and the character of creation. Ethics should balance deontological, virtue, and consequential considerations and should honor human beings (at every stage of development or decay) as bearers of incomparable and irreducible value, given their status made in God's own image.

5. Theology: I am broadly evangelical and Reformed, but not convinced of infant baptism. Besides the last proviso, I accept most all of The Westminster Confession of Faith. This means I hold to the inerrancy of the Bible (an epistemological standard of consequence for all other theological beliefs), that salvation comes through Jesus Christ alone, is by grace alone, through faith alone, and known through Scripture alone. Hermeneutically, I hold that Scripture must be interpreted rationally with the aim of discovering what the author intended to say in his cultural setting. This is should be done according to sound grammatical and rhetorical principles that uncover a text’s objective meaning. When this work is done, the truths derived from biblical texts should be integrated into a systematic theology, since God is not double-minded or ad hoc.

6. Theology of culture: I hold to the Christ the transformer of culture model, to invoke H. Richard Neibuhr’s somewhat imperfect categories, but with a strong emphasis on the church as a counterculture or sign of contradiction against worldliness.

7. Apologetic method: I hold to the cumulative case method (a host of metaphysical, moral, and historical arguments converge on Christianity as the best explanation of the things that matter most), but with a strong emphasis on analytically sophisticated natural theology. I believe that there are compelling versions of all the species of natural theology: ontological arguments, cosmological arguments, design arguments, moral arguments, and the religious experience arguments.

8. Aesthetics: I am a critical realist. There are objective aesthetic properties, some of which can be known through various means. I reject aesthetic relativism as sub-Christian and philosophically indefensible.

9. Philosophy of science:

A. I believe that science and theology should interact with respect to truth claims (J.P. Moreland). God is the author of the book of Scripture and the book of nature (Jonathan Edwards). Since God is the author of both books, in the final analysis, these books will not conflict with one another. Both science and theology make truth claims about objective reality; they may come in conflict with one another or support one another. (“Science” does not automatically win, given its present institutional commitment to philosophical naturalism.) In some cases, however, science will speak to an area about which theology is silent (atoms) or vice versa (angels).

B. I am an Intelligent Design proponent. Natural selection does not adequately explain instances of specified complexity in nature. Design is a legitimate and testable explanatory model for scientific investigations.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Liberia: Land of Lament and Hope

The New York Times ran a story today on the present state of Liberia. Yesterday it celebrated its independence day. After a fifteen-year civil war that devestated the country, it is struggling to reenter civilization. The story features the restoration of some light, by way of electricity, which was a campaign promise of the new president, Ellen (aka, The Iron Lady). Yet without the Light of Christ restored in the hearts and minds of Liberia, there is no hope.

My good friend, Tony Weedor, is a native of Liberia. Along with his wife and their young daugher, he fled Liberia and ended up in a refugee camp in Ivory Coast. There they stayed in horrible conditions for two years. (While there, Tony read The Collected Works of Francis Schaeffer five times!) But God has mercy on them and provided a way to come to the United States and for Tony to study at Denver Seminary. After graduating in 1997, Tony and his family (now four children) served in Ethiopia for four and a half years. Tony returned a few years ago and working to set up a study center outside of the capital, Monrovia, called Center Point.

Please considering seeking God as to whether the Spirit might lead you to help support Tony and his team. He is especially in need of monthly personal support for his large family. Their vision is to help rebuild Liberia (which means land of liberation) on the Rock of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Cybersex: Eroticism Without Bodies (A Christian Critique)

[I just discovered that Cornerstone Magazine has put my article on line. It was originally published there in 1997; it is an excerpt from The Soul in Cyberspace (Baker, 1997; republished by Wipf and Stock). From what I recently read in The Denver Post extravaganza on pornography (mentioned in a previous post), things have gotten even kinkier than what I warned of in 1997. May God have mercy on us.]

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Blog Discipline: Curmudgeon Cracks Down

Dear Participants in The Constructive Curmudgeon:

After receiving some astute observations on the vices of the blogosphere from a trusted friend and careful observer of this blog, I have decided to exercise more discipline on The Constructive Curmudgeon. In order to curb comments that take us off the posted topic, meanspiritedness, and superficiality, I am going to attempt several things:

(1) I will respond to fewer superficial, ad hominem, and angry posts.
(2) I will delete more posts that fit into the category of (1).
(3) I encourage all of you to write measured and thoughtful responses.
(4) I encourage some of you to spend less time on blogs (which are very limited with respect to genuine relationships and can easily become addictive) and more time conversing with other people in the flesh, reading books and other non-cyberspace printed material, and other wholesome activities.
(5)I will post less often, but with more substance (I hope). That means less diary-type essays, which I originally did not intend to write.

There are distinct benefits to blogs. Some of your posts are extremely insightful and I appreciate them. I especially appreciate GimmePascal's (who is a missionary) insights about African culture. But we must tighten the reigns a bit.

Doug Groothuis

New James Sire Book

Please see this review of James Sire's excellent new book, Why Good Arguments Often Fail (IVP, 2006).

Monday, July 24, 2006

A Few Propositions on Preaching

The root problem with much preaching today is a deficient of truth and sobriety. There is not enough truth radiating from the pulpit; it is not a truth zone. There is not enough zeal, not enough desperation for the reception and impartation of "truths that transform" (as D. James Kennedy puts it). The very resources of heaven reside in the sacred texts, but we fail to seize upon them.

Instead, preaching is too often sufficed with the banal, the light, the airy, and the frivolous. Let's take a religious idea and make it acceptable to a mass audience. God forbid! The audience is not sovereign, church growth pundits to the contrary. God is. Preaching should propound what you will not hear (nearly) anywhere else. As Peter said, "If anyone speaks, let it be "as a oracle of God" (1 Peter 4:11; KJV). Let people attend and listen for the right reasons: You are speaking as an oracle of God through the Holy Spirit.

We should preach Christ, not ourselves, as Paul affirmed. Yet in our postmodern culture, the self is endlessly flattered in every way and from every angle: "Have it your way." "You deserve the best." And on it goes. (On this phenomenon, see the book, Mediated by Thomas Zengotita.) People promote themselves shamelessly, pose shamelessly (see an earlier post on that) when Scripture says to never pose (the way of the hypocrite) and to let others speak well of you (and rebuke you). But the preacher should neither flatter himself nor his audience. As A. W. Tozer said, we should not console people in their sins, but disquiet them, disturb them, disorient them (and ourselves). We should not entertain, but edify. We should gain and hold people's attention through the truth of the message and the integrity of our character, principally our humility and love for God's truth.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Questions (and only questions) on Preaching Today

Why don't more preachers simply preach? Why is so much time wasted in the pulpit on banter, pointless humor, and personal asides that have nothing to do with expounding Holy Scripture? Why is there no silence before and after sermons and so much noise and claptrap throughout?

Why are the Scriptures so infrequently read and exposited verse-by-verse from the sacred text? Why do so many think that they must never preach longer than a situation comedy runs on television? Why are so many services timed down to the minute such that any new inspiration from the Holy Spirit that might take longer than the prescribed and scheduled time is ruled out a priori?

Why must preachers show video clips when "faith comes by hearing, and hearing the word of God"? Why do the preachers illustrate their points by referring to the hollowness and shabbiness of popular culture instead of the greatest theological and philosophical minds of the centuries?

Why do a multitude of preachers require their images to be projected on huge screens behind them when "We walk by faith and not by sight"? Why the jumbotrons when the power is in the Spirit-led word and not in the well-coifed external appearance? Are they leaning on the (technologically amplified) flesh and not relying on the Spirit?

Why do so many preachers--professional public speakers, they are--speak so carelessly and artlessly, their speech littered with sloppy sentences, overused adjectives, annoying "ahs," and other oratorical peccadilloes ad nauseum?

Why are so many preachers more like entertainers than prophets? Why are so many starved for the applause of earth instead of seeking the commendation of heaven?

Why do so few sermons revel in the glory of Jesus Christ's matchless achievements and the eternal blessedness of knowing him? Why are so few sermons even focused primarily on God?

Why don't preachers preach?

More Public Behavior: Stupidity Roams the World

[This is from a regular poster on this blog, Fletcher. Note the justification for this addled women's reckless behavior: she was imidating a video game. Crossing traffic with one's offspring now becomes a game, and a game that the drivers are supposed to understand as well. Pray this women finds some sanity before it's too late for her or her children.]

My wife and I were driving down Belleview near our house to go to the grocery store, when this pregnant lady pushing a stroller with a two year old girl comes blazing across the street into four lanes of busy traffic. She was literally bobbing and weaving in and out of cars traveling about 40 mph to get to the middle stripe… where I thought she would stop. Then, she began darting out into our two lanes and ran full speed right in front of us.. Or so I thought that's where she was headed. So I slammed on my breaks as to not kill her family, and she YELLED (loud) at me "Keep driving!! You are going to get me run over!!!" I think because I slowed down abruptly I foiled her plans somehow because she had it all timed out (there was another car barreling down on her in the lane to our left, so the ideas to narrowly dart in between both cars).

So I went and parked right there, got out, and I said "I am sorry about that, but I thought you were going in front of me". She said "NO! I wasn't going to run out in front of you, I was doing a 'Frogger sort of thing'" (Yes, she actually said that!). Frogger is an 80's video game where you control a video frog that jumps from floating log to floating log trying to avoid falling in the river, and also the occasional snapping crocodile jaws. Of course, if you miss a log - you die in the game. Which was also a part of her little traffic game.

So I said "I would suggest that you wait until no cars or coming before you cross the street with your children", to which she replied angrily "OH YEAH RIGHT YOU SMARTASS!"

Unbelievable. It would have been even more unbelievable had you seen it in person. Several near misses… and for what?

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Carl Jung: Beware

[This was published some years ago in Christian Counseling Today. The message is still pertinent, given the lack of discernment of so many Christians regarding psychology and the occult.]


Several years ago after giving a message on New Age spirituality at a church in Berkeley, California, I was approached by a distraught middle-aged women. She asked if I was familiar with Jungian therapy. After I said that I was, she spoke briefly of her mental problems, which were being treated by a Jungian analyst. Looking at me intensely, she asked, “As a Christian, should I be treated by someone like this?” I answered that although Jung provided a few helpful psychological insights, his overall world view was Gnostic and anti-Christian. Therefore, a Jungian analyst would not be able to help her work through her difficulties in accord with her own Christian beliefs. In fact, such a view could do much harm to her soul.

Although I am not a trained counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist, I did not offer this advice lightly. I warned of the dangers of Jungian analysis not because I reject all psychotherapy as unnecessary or dangerous, as do certain incautious and unsophisticated Christian critics. I accept the legitimacy and importance of integrating a thoroughly Christian world view with psychological insights. However, as a student of new religious movements, I have repeatedly found Carl Jung to be a fountainhead of all manner of spiritual aberrations, whether in non-Christian movements or in Christianity itself.

Christian counselors and other Christians, however, may be drawn to the fascinating figure of Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) for a number of reasons. Before summarizing some of the hazards of Jung’s thinking, we need to understand something of his strange magnetism.

Over thirty-five years after his death, Jung’s influence is on the rise. While Freud’s star is waning, Jung’s is waxing. Much of the recent interest in “the new spirituality” (a term that has largely replaced “the New Age”) draws deeply from the Jungian well. For instance, the immensely popular television series and book The Power of Myth featured the ruminations of Joseph Campbell (d. 1987), a professor of literature and a follower of Jungian thought, who edited The Portable Jung. Campbell’s treatment of mythology, religion, and Christianity reflects Jungian themes, as when Campbell praises the Gnostics and criticizes Christians for being too literal in their dogmas. More recently, Thomas Moore has produced several best-selling books, including Care of the Soul and Soul Mates, which resonate deeply with Jungian themes on the deity of the self, the hazards of orthodox Christianity, and an interest in occult practices such as alchemy and astrology. Jung’s influence has reached far and wide, even popping up in beer commercials and episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” which invoke the Jungian notion of “the collective unconscious.”

As many men and women seek out their own gendered and individualized forms of non-Christian spirituality, Jungian ideas propel them along the way. The secular men’s movement looks for the masculine warrior archetype within, while many pagan feminists search for the goddess or the wild woman buried somewhere in their psyches, as discussed in Clarissa Pinloola Estes’s best-selling book Women Who Run with Wolves.

Jung was a key player in the origin of the psychoanalytic movement in Europe in the earlier part of this century. The young Swiss psychiatrist was mentored by Sigmund Freud and accompanied him on his short but influential visit to America in 1909. Their intense friendship--initiated by a thirteen-hour discussion--ended in a bitter break in 1914 and a life-long estrangement. Jung could not accept Freud’s views on the psychological centrality of sexuality or his rejection of religious impulses as neurotic. Jung, always the spiritual explorer, sought to fathom the spiritual needs of the soul while presenting his brand of psychoanalysis (analytical psychology) as a burgeoning science.

Despite Jung’s ambitions, Freud’s theories proved far more influential in the coming decades and became a kind of orthodoxy in their own right. Richard Noll’s fine scholarly study of Jung’s intellectual history and influence, The Jung Cult, notes that “Jung and his theories have remained well outside the established worlds of science and medicine, as they have been regarded, with justification, as inconsistent with the greater scientific paradigms of the twentieth century.”[i] Nevertheless, “in sheer numbers alone, it is Jung, who has won the cultural war and whose works are more widely read and discussed in the popular culture of our age.”[ii]

Many Christians are attracted to Jung because of his recognition of the spiritual nature of the human condition. While atheists such as Freud, B.F. Skinner, and Albert Ellis offer no solace for a soul they do not believe exists, Jung delves deeply and sympathetically into a variety of spiritual topics. When asked in a BBC interview if he believed in God, Jung replied, “I don’t believe--I know.” Many Christians hope that Jung may provide a fruitful model for the elusive integration of psychology and spirituality. A raft of books written by Morton Kelsey, John Sanford, and others attempt to effect such an integration. Despite these efforts, I such a project is ill-fated, for the Jungian world view is because of deeply non-Christian and even anti-Christian.

In order to show that a particular psychological theory cannot be integrated with a biblical world view and a Christian theory of counseling, it is not sufficient to show the non-Christian character of a particular thinker. Unbelievers may have legitimate psychological insights that do not violate Christian truth and which bear good fruit in the counseling situation. Just as God gives rain to the righteous and righteous (Matthew 5:45) through his common (non-saving) grace, so God allows non-Christian thinkers insights into human psychology. However, when a theorist’s views are incorrigibly enmeshed in a world view that radically opposed Christianity, these views are incompatible with Christian thought--whether in psychology, psychiatry, or any other discipline.

In The Jung Cult (1994), clinical psychologist Richard Noll amply documents Jung’s immersion in the paganism and occultism of German culture near the turn of the last century. Although raised in a Christian environment, Jung’s passion focused on the rediscovery of ancient mystery religions that emphasized occultic initiations and sun worship. He immersed himself in the study of mythology and archeology in the hope of finding a primordial wisdom that had been obscured and rejected by the Christian conquest of paganism. Jung resolutely rejected the Christian view that God transcends the creation. Instead, he embraced pantheism, with its god within. Moreover, Jung deemed himself a kind of liberator who would lead his followers out of the dead ends of Christianity and atheism into a richer spirituality. He viewed his version of psychoanalysis as something of new religion. This is why Noll entitled his study, The Jung Cult. Jung was a highly intelligent and mesmerizing personality who was believed by his followers to have a charismatic authority and rare insights.

Mystical paganism was not mere history or theory to Jung. Noll reports Jung’s claim that in 1913 he himself became a god through an extended visualization exercise based on the elements of the initiation rituals of the ancient mystery religions, especially Mithraism. Noll comments that it “is clear that Jung believed he had undergone a direct initiation into the ancient Hellenistic mysteries and had even experienced deification in doing so.”[iii] This was not an isolated event in Jung’s life.

Jung also claims to have contacted various spirit entities through his process of “active imagination,” or directed visualization. By 1916, an entity called Philemon had become Jung’s spiritual guru, and functioned much like the “ascended masters” of the Theosophical movement in Jung’s day. These entities were not occasional visitors with little influence on Jung’s work. According to Noll, these encounters helped shape the whole pattern of Jung’s theoretical work.[iv] According to Jung, they had “their own life. Philemon represented a force which was not myself.”[v] Jung’s autobiography, Memories, Dreams, and Reflections, records a haunting of the Jung house, which, he claims, involved paranormal phenomena.[vi]

Through the profound influence of this haunting, Jung wrote a short essay called the Septem Sermones ad Mortuous (the Seven Sermons to the Dead) , under the pseudonym Basilides (a second Century Gnostic writer). In his autobiography, Jung says that “I was compelled from within, as it were, to formulate and express what might have been said by Philemon. This was how the Septem Sermones ad Mortuous with its peculiar [Gnostic] language came into being.”[vii] The sermons are directed at deceased Christian souls who arrive at the Jung household because they have failed to find liberation through the church. The first six sermons present a Gnostic world view, and prepare the dead for the final sermon. Here, Jung tells them to stop seeking salvation outside of themselves, but to look inward toward the “innermost infinity,” which is also referred to as the inner “Star” or the “one guiding god.” Having received this revelation, the restless dead disappear and rise into the night sky, apparently to find their own inner stars. Jung’s sun worship and Gnostic predilections appear in full force in this essay.[viii]

Much more could be documented to establish Jung’s deeply anti-Christian world view. Surely, the burden of proof lies on anyone who would attempt to draw healing waters from such a polluted well. Out of Jung’s occult experiences came the substance of all of his work. In his autobiography, he wrote: “I can say that I have never lost touch with my initial experiences. All of my works, all my creative activity, has come from those initial fantasies and dreams which began in 1912.”[ix] He also clamed that “these conversations with the dead formed a kind of prelude to what I had to communicate to the world about the unconscious.”[x] Jung never dismissed these occult, mystical experiences as psychotic or delusional, although some of his defenders have done so.

Given Jung’s background, it is not surprising that his major theoretical claims have little if anything to contribute to a Christian model for psychology and counseling. At the root of the problem is Jung’s highly subjective orientation. He rejects the Christian view that God is outside of us and has the authority both to redeem us and command us. Stanton Jones and Richard Butman highlight this fact: “The experiential nature of analytic psychology resists an external, authoritative understanding of truth, emphasizing, in contrast, the personal myth and story of the individual.”[xi] This influence is abundantly evident in the work of Jungian thinker Thomas Moore, who, in Care of the Soul, rejects the idea of objective spiritual truth as damaging to the soul.[xii] Because of this inner focus, Jones and Butman warn that “the Christian reader of Jung and Jungian psychology must be extremely cautious when encountering phrases and concepts borrowed from Christian theology.”[xiii]

Jung’s subjective approach, with its exploration of the unconscious, lacks clear ethical guidelines or a reliable spiritual orientation. This is evident in the Jungian notion of the shadow, or the dark and submerged side of our personalities, which we typically deny or explain away in favor of cultivating our public face (or persona). According to Jung, the shadow lacks the moral dimension; it is an unintegrated and immature aspect of the self that must be brought to consciousness and integrated with the whole personality. Because Jung rejects the authority of a personal God outside of the individual, he can only look within for redemption. Therefore, the shadow cannot be rejected on the basis of a higher standard above the person. It must be accepted.

Jung also claimed that the Christian doctrine of God was psychologically inadequate because “the dogmatic aspect of the evil principle is absent from the Trinity.”[xiv] In equating the unconscious with the divine, he advocated instead a quaternity as “the formula of the unconscious mind,” which ought to include the devil.[xv] The notion of fusing good and evil appears in the works of many Jungians, including Joseph Campbell, who counseled that “one of the great challenges of life is to say ‘yea’ to that person or act or that condition which in your mind is the most abominable.”[xvi] Thomas Moore blasphemously claims that Christ’s death on a cross between two criminals sanctifies evil as holy.[xvii] Jungian therapist and author John Sanford believes that evil is necessary for the development of personality and that the apostle Paul was psychologically imbalanced because he counseled Christians to put away the flesh when he should have told them to integrate their shadow side.[xviii] These remarks all flow from the Jungian perspective.

The incorporation of evil into the Godhead and the refusal to take seriously the reality of evil is both theologically absurd and practically dangerous for counseling. Responsible Christian therapy sensitively challenges the conscience of the client according to scriptural realities. Christ challenges us to get to the root of our sin and uproot it if we are to be his disciples (Matthew 5:29-30). Jesus also offers pardon for those who confess their sins and trust in his loving forgiveness (1 John 1:8-10). Those flirting with Jungian themes should remember the warning of the prophet Isaiah, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness” (Isaiah 5:29).

In addition to the individual unconscious, Jung advanced the idea of a hidden storehouse of racial memories that manifest themselves in dreams and fantasies. Jung’s celebrated notion of the collective unconscious and its archetypes adds a mystical dimension to psychotherapy not admitted by Freud. The collective unconscious is a “psychic system of a collective, universal, and impersonal nature which is identical in all individuals” and is inherited, not acquired.[xix] Jung believed that similarities in the world’s religions and myths could be accounted for by this construct, and it assumes a privileged place in the Jungian understanding of the soul and the practice of analytic psychology. In the collective unconscious, Jungianism offers its initiates access to an esoteric resource largely hidden from the masses.

Richard Noll has documented that, despite its romantic allure, this notion is pantheistic in nature and rooted in occult doctrines that were rife during Jung’s day. Furthermore, it lacks scientific corroboration. Pivotal cases cited by Jung to prove that patients were calling up archetypal images can be explained simply in terms of previous personal knowledge.[xx] Jungians often take the collective unconscious as an item of faith instead of arguing cogently for its existence. Christians need not look to a collective unconscious as a source of revelation and redemption. Finite and sinful beings need a revelation from a personal God in order to find the truth that will set us free (John 8:31-32).

Jung advocated “active imagination” as means of connecting with the personal and collective unconscious in order to find greater personal wholeness. Much of modern visualization methods are rooted in Jung’s approach, which is itself based on spiritistic and occult methods for gaining access to the world of the spirits (see Isaiah 8:19-20).[xxi] Jung’s deification experience was occasioned by a visionary exercise. Jungian visualization requires the suspension of rational judgment to facilitate the formation of inner images. Such occult and irrational elements in Jungian therapy should give pause to any Christian counselor who believes that Jungian visualization practices can be healing to the soul.

Of course, not everything Jung advocated was occult or dangerous; some ideas were probably relatively harmless, such as his theories of introversion and extroversion. Nevertheless, a careful consideration of the sources and nature of Jungian thought reveals a world view utterly and inexorably alien to biblical faith. Having rejected the Christian God, Jung admitted that he could find no “Archimedean point” (transcendent standpoint) from which to judge the soul.[xxii] In Paul’s words, since Jung neither glorified God, nor gave him thanks, his thinking became futile and his heart was darkened. Claiming to be wise he became a fool, and exchanged the glory of God for the poverty of the fallen self without Christ (Romans 1:21-22).

Douglas Groothuis, Professor of Philosophy, Denver Seminary and author of Jesus in an Age of Controversy.
[i]. Richard Noll, The Jung Cult: Origins of a Charismatic Movement (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994), 8.
[ii]. Ibid., 6.
[iii]. Ibid., 213.
[iv]. Ibid., 210; see also Carl G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, and Reflections (New York: Vintage Books, 1965), 182-85
[v]. Jung, 183.
[vi]. Ibid., 190-191.
[vii]. Ibid., 190.
[viii]. See Ibid., 378-390, and Noll, 242-246.
[ix]. Jung, 192. Jung viewed “dreams” and “fantasies” as being as real as every day life.
[x]. Ibid., 192.
[xi]. Stanton L. Jones and Richard E Butman, Modern Psychotherapies: A Comprehensive Christian Approach (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1991), 122
[xii]. Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life (New York: HarperPerennial, 1992), 246-247.
[xiii]. Jones and Butman, 122.
[xiv]. C. G. Jung, Psychology and Religion (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1938) 73.
[xv]. Ibid., 73-74.
[xvi]. Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers, The Power of Myth (New York: Doubleday, 1988), 66.
[xvii]. Moore, 133.
[xviii]. John A. Sanford, Evil: The Shadow Side of Reality (New York: Crossroad, 1981), 10, 67-84.
[xix]. Carl G. Jung, “The Concept of the Collective Unconscious,” in The Portable Jung, ed. Joseph Campbell (New York: Viking, 1971), 60.
[xx]. Noll, 181-84.
[xxi]. Ibid., 202-204, 215.
[xxii]. Jung, Psychology and Religion, 12, 62.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Who Cares About "Who's Who"?

I received a letter saying I was accepted into Who's Who in America. I have been getting these forms, filling them out, and getting into these kinds of collections for some years now, but not Who's Who in America until now. (Drum roll...Cymbal crash...Laugh track.) But I have always puzzled over the significance of these collections, if they have any. Yes, they always want you to buy the favored volume (featuring you!), and they offer expensive plaques, etc. I never bite. Does anyone have any wisdom to offer on this? Should I even put it on my curriculum vitae?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

A Defense of the Sabbath

Originally published in Denver Journal.

Bruce A. Ray. Celebrating the Sabbath: Finding Rest in a Restless World. P&R Publishing, 2000. 125 pages. $8.99 paperback.

Although it has been out for several years, I recently discovered this small gem and read it in connection with my teaching on the Ten Commandments at Denver Seminary. For about twenty-five years, I have attempted to make Sunday a day different from other days with regard to rest and worship, as I believe Scripture teaches. That is, I try to keep Sunday as a Sabbath. Evangelicals, of course, are quite divided on this issue. Most probably do not view Sunday as a distinct day of rest. They may view Sunday as God’s chosen day for corporate worship; although many churches now offer their regular services on days besides Sunday and would likely take the Sunday as Sabbath view to be legalistic. Others, usually from a more Reformed or Calvinist perspective (those who find strong covenantal connections between the Testaments), view Sunday as “the Christian Sabbath” and endeavor to honor it as such. But these folks often disagree as to what exactly this means in practice. Some evangelicals, such as Seventh Day Baptists, do honor one day in seven as a day of rest, but take that day to be Saturday. However, I have yet to see a book called something like The Sabbath: Three Christian Views. This may be because many evangelicals do not give the issue that much thought. The book would hardly be a best-seller.

Theological disputes aside (for a moment), our culture as a whole knows little of any sacred pattern or rhythm of work and rest. Most stores are open seven days a week and on-line businesses never close (unless the web page breaks down). The common patterns of work and rest seem to be these: (1) Burn out and recovery. (2) Compulsive work that becomes an idol. (3) Laziness as a way of life. (4) Some kind of balance of work and rest, but not one based on the six-and-one principle of the Sabbath. Nothing in our culture cultivates a fixed temporal ordering of labor and rest. The general attitude is that time, work, rest, and money are ours to order as we desire, given our assets and opportunities. The claim that a higher authority might have structured human life according to a given model is deemed authoritarian or even outrageous. After all, we are told that we can “have it our way” and design our own “lifestyle.” And if our life fails to satisfy, we can “reinvent ourselves” and try something else.

Pastor Bruce Ray sees things very differently. Jesus proclaimed that “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). As such, the Sabbath is a divine creation for human good; but it also indicates God’s sovereignty over time, a sovereignty that many postmoderns resent and reject. Ray clearly and winsomely argues for Sunday as a day of rest unto the Lord. Although he charts a biblical argument for Sunday as the Christian Sabbath, he refrains from bickering over too many specifics as to what constitutes work and what is rest. He rather defends and presents deep biblical principles applicable to American Christians whose lives typically lack the wise temporal arrangement that he counsels. Those who want a systematic and in-depth defense of the essentially Reformed view that Ray gives, need to consult other sources, such as D. A. Carson’s From Sabbath to Lord’s Day. For the most thorough exposition of a Reformed doctrine of the Sabbath, see The Westminster Larger Catechism.

While Ray’s focus is more popular than intensely scholarly, he does argue for his position from Scripture and cites numerous biblical authorities along the way, usually of the Reformed persuasion. Ray reckons the Sabbath to be a gift, despite modern views: “Many people see the Sabbath, or Lord’s Day, as an infringement of their personal liberty—a day that God has taken from them instead of a gift that he has given to them for rest, worship, and celebration” (4). He is helpful in giving a view of the Sabbath that incorporates major themes from the entire Bible. For example, he says: “As a sign of creation, the Sabbath testifies that the world depends on God, not man, for its continued existence. As a sign of grace, the Sabbath declares that salvation depends upon the power of God and not on human works” (36). The book helps the reader process the material by providing helpful review and response questions, making the book ideal for small group discussion.

Ray explores the meaning of the Sabbath in the Fourth Commandment, its Old Testament roots and New Testament fruits, and engages various disputes over the Sabbath during Jesus’ day. He concludes with two chapters on the practice of the Sabbath: “Keeping the Sabbath Holily and Happily” and “Keeping the Sabbath Honestly and Humbly.” I found this short work to be a deeply biblical and edifying reflection on the meaning and application of the Sabbath today. Consider taking a Sunday afternoon to read and ponder it.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

President Bush's First Veto: Right on Target

[From The New York Times]

Published: July 19, 2006

Following is President Bush's veto message to the House of Representatives:I am returning herewith without my approval H.R. 810, the "Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005."

Like all Americans, I believe our Nation must vigorously pursue the tremendous possibilities that science offers to cure disease and improve the lives of millions. Yet, as science brings us ever closer to unlocking the secrets of human biology, it also offers temptations to manipulate human life and violate human dignity. Our conscience and history as a Nation demand that we resist this temptation. With the right scientific techniques and the right policies, we can achieve scientific progress while living up to our ethical responsibilities.

In 2001, I set forth a new policy on stem cell research that struck a balance between the needs of science and the demands of conscience. When I took office, there was no Federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research. Under the policy I announced 5 years ago, my Administration became the first to make Federal funds available for this research, but only on embryonic stem cell lines derived from embryos that had already been destroyed. My Administration has made available more than $90 million for research of these lines. This policy has allowed important research to go forward and has allowed America to continue to lead the world in embryonic stem cell research without encouraging the further destruction of living human embryos.

H.R. 810 would overturn my Administration's balanced policy on embryonic stem cell research. If this bill were to become law, American taxpayers for the first time in our history would be compelled to fund the deliberate destruction of human embryos. Crossing this line would be a grave mistake and would needlessly encourage a conflict between science and ethics that can only do damage to both and harm our Nation as a whole.

Advances in research show that stem cell science can progress in an ethical way. Since I announced my policy in 2001, my Administration has expanded funding of research into stem cells that can be drawn from children, adults, and the blood in umbilical cords with no harm to the donor, and these stem cells are currently being used in medical treatments. Science also offers the hope that we may one day enjoy the potential benefits of embryonic stem cells without destroying human life. Researchers are investigating new techniques that might allow doctors and scientists to produce stem cells just as versatile as those derived from human embryos without harming life. We must continue to explore these hopeful alternatives, so we can advance the cause of scientific research while staying true to the ideals of a decent and humane society.

I hold to the principle that we can harness the promise of technology without becoming slaves to technology and ensure that science serves the cause of humanity. If we are to find the right ways to advance ethical medical research, we must also be willing when necessary to reject the wrong ways. For that reason, I must veto this bill.

July 19, 2006.

For more on a sane, biblical view of bioethics, read Gilbert Meilaender, Bioethics, 2nd edition (Eerdmans).

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

A. W. Tozer on Our Idol: Entertainment [1955]

The Great God Entertainment
by A.W.Tozer

A German philosopher many years ago said something to the effect that the more a man has in his own heart, the less he will require from the outside; excessive need for support from without is proof of the bankruptcy of the inner man.

If this is true (and I believe it is) then the present inordinate attachment to every form of entertainment is evidence that the inner life of modern man is in serious decline. The average man has no central core of moral assurance, no spring within his own breast, no inner strength to place him above the need for repeated psychological shots to give him the courage to go on living. He has become a parasite on the world, drawing his life from his environment, unable to live a day apart from the stimulation which society affords him.

Schleiermacher held that the feeling of dependence lies at the root of all religious worship, and that however high the spiritual life might rise, it must always begin with a deep sense of a great need which only God could satisfy.

If this sense of need and a feeling of dependence are at the root of natural religion, it is not hard to see why the great god Entertainment is so ardently worshiped by so many. For there are millions who cannot live without amusement; life without some form of entertainment for them is simply intolerable; they look forward to the blessed relief afforded by professional entertainers and other forms of psychological narcotics as a dope addict looks to his daily shot of heroin. Without them they could not summon courage to face existence.

No one with common human feeling will object to the simple pleasures of life, nor to such harmless forms of entertainment as may help to relax the nerves and refresh the mind exhausted by toil. Such things, if used with discretion, may be a blessing along the way. That is one thing, however, the all-out devotion to entertainment as a major activity for which and by which men live is definitely something else again.

The abuse of a harmless thing is the essence of sin. The growth of the amusement phase of human life to such fantastic proportions is a portent, a threat to the souls of modern men. It has been built into a multimillion dollar racket with greater power over human minds and human character than any other educational influence on earth.

And the ominous thing is that its power is almost exclusively evil, rotting the inner life, crowding out the long eternal thoughts which would fill the souls of men, if they were but worthy to entertain them. The whole thing has grown into a veritable religion which holds its devotees with a strange fascination; and a religion, incidentally, against which it is now dangerous to speak. For centuries the Church stood solidly against every form of worldly entertainment, recognizing it for what it was—a device for wasting time, a refuge from the disturbing voice of conscience, a scheme to divert attention from moral accountability.

For this she got herself abused roundly by the sons of this world. But of late she has become tired of the abuse and has given over the struggle. She appears to have decided that if she cannot conquer the great god Entertainment she may as well join forces with him and make what use she can of his powers.So, today we have the astonishing spectacle of millions of dollars being poured into the unholy job of providing earthly entertainment for the so-called sons of heaven. Religious entertainment is in many places rapidly crowding out the serious things of God.
Many churches these days have become little more than poor theaters where fifth-rate "producers" peddle their shoddy wares with the full approval of evangelical leaders who can even quote a holy text in defense of their delinquency. And hardly a man dares raise his voice against it.

The great god Entertainment amuses his devotees mainly by telling them stories. The love of stories, which is a characteristic of childhood, has taken fast hold of the minds of the retarded saints of our day, so much so that not a few persons manage to make a comfortable living by spinning yarns and serving them up in various disguises to church people.

What is natural and beautiful in a child may be shocking when it persists into adulthood, and more so when it appears in the sanctuary and seeks to pass for true religion. Is it not a strange thing and a wonder that, with the shadow of atomic destruction hanging over the world and with the coming of Christ drawing near, the professed followers of the Lord should be giving themselves up to religious amusements? That in an hour when mature saints are so desperately needed vast numbers of believers should revert to spiritual childhood and clamor for religious toys?

"Remember, 0 Lord, what is come upon us: consider, and behold our reproach. The crown is fallen from our head: woe unto us, that we have sinned ! For this our heart is faint; for these things our eyes are dim." AMEN. AMEN.

Taken from Root of the Righteous, Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1955, p. 32-33.

It's Never a Bad Time to Recommend a Few Books

Recommended Reading for Developing a Christian Mind: Beginning to Intermediate Level of Difficulty

I. On the importance of the Christian mind:

1. J.P. Moreland, Love God With All Your Mind (NavPress, 1997).
2. James Sire, Habits of the Mind (InterVarsity Press, 2000).
3. Douglas Groothuis, Truth Decay (InterVarsity Press, 2000) .

II. On the truth and rationality of the Christian world view:

1. Winfried Corduan, No Doubt About It (Broadman, Holman, 1997).
2. James Sire, The Universe Next Door, 4rd ed. (InterVarsity Press, 2004).

III. On the identity of Jesus:

1. Douglas Groothuis, On Jesus (Wadsworth, 2003).
2. Murray J. Harris, Three Crucial Questions About Jesus (Baker Books, 1994).
3. Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ (Zondervan, 1998).

IV. The New Age Movement

1. Douglas Groothuis, Unmasking the New Age (InterVarsity Press, 1986).
2. Douglas Groothuis, Jesus in an Age of Controversy (Wipf and Stock, 2001).

V. Jesus and other religions

1. Douglas Groothuis, Are All Religions One? Booklet (InterVarsity Press,
2. Ronald Nash, Is Jesus the Only Savior? (Zondervan, 1994).

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Letters about Pornography Articles

The Denver Post did print my letter on their articles about pornography, along with two other critical letters. Notice, though, that the other two letters are in the "You offended me" category, while mine attempts to make a brief argument against the putrid pandemic of perversity. It is good that the other two letters expressed moral outrage, but we need more arguments in letters to the editor. Today's Post has more on pornography, but I have not read it yet.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Truth Telling Today

George Orwell: "We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men."

Letter about Pornography

[Apparently, The Denver Post is not going to print this letter to the editor. So, here it is. The reporter who wrote the stories emailed me that there would be another article on July 16 that would feature comments by religious leaders. Nevertheless, my point stands with respect to the first set of articles. Moreover, I don't remember reading anything in the July 9 articles about more articles to follow.]

Dear Editor:

All three articles on the emergence of Pornopolis (7-9-06) omitted something. None quoted anyone arguing that pornography is deeply immoral and unhealthy. One article mentioned those in 12-step programs trying to overcome pornography addiction and another quoted one social critic saying something mildly critical. Yet no philosopher, theologian, or religious leader was consulted. Why not? Despite the fact that what was once rightly condemned as lewd, crude, and demeaning is now big business and immensely popular, there are still many among us who won’t strip to the beat of that deranged drummer. Pornography is a tragic perversion of an originally good gift of the Creator. Like ancient Rome and other civilizations in decline, America is exchanging moral and religious standards for illicit sexual gratifications without restraint. Yet restraint is the price of civilization—in every area, not just the sexual. And repentance with self-discipline is the only way out of the despair and into the light.

Douglas Groothuis

Friday, July 14, 2006

More Public Behavior

With great fear and trepidation I made by way to the Arapahoe County Department of Motor Vehicles today to negotiate a tricky procedure. My wife was the mastermind, of course; I am the messenger (and a very inept one). But why write of this? Again, I was able to observe public behavior during unavoidable down time. This DMV--all DMVs are "run by Satan," according to one of my students--has several rows of pews for people to wait in. I am serious: genuine, wooden pews. However, I found no crosses or altars. In fact, the room also miraculously lacked a television.

I came and took number 76. The first number called was in the 40s. This would not be quick. So, noticing the pews were pretty much filled, and not finding a pulpit to fill, I took a spot on the floor and began to read a Bill Craig paper on the kalam cosmological argument, which I would teach from later that day in Apologetics--and what fun that was! But back to the DMV. Horrible music was playing (but not too loud) in the background. I had to try to tune out cell phone chatter and the intermittent recitations of numbers by the workers. (For some reason, every time I go there, many numbers are called in vain. What happened to these people? A deep mystery, it is...: "Forty-seven, FORTY-SEVEN?! Forty-eight..." Perhaps the missing numbers experienced extreme TV withdrawl and had to scurry home to turn on a set.

While there, I noticed that only one or two of twenty to thirty people there were reading anything or even talking to each other. They were just sitting there, slouched over, with vacant and bored expressions on their faces, looking around the room or looking at nothing at all. If it were Africa, they would be talking to each other or bartering for a better number or dancing a bit. When in doubt, Africans dance. When in doubt, Americans zone out, it seems.

What does this say about us? Henry David Thoreau: "You cannot kill time without wounding eternity." The Apostle Paul: "Redeem the time, for the days are evil."

Thursday, July 13, 2006

"New Age Spiritualities" published in Dictionary of Contemporary Religion in the Western World (InterVarsity, 2002)

[I have written hundreds of pages on the New Age worldview and alternative spiritual movements and practices over the past twenty years. While this is not now my main ministry or academic concern, it strikes me that many are still unaware of the nature and power of New Age ideas among us. Thus, I hope this entry will encourage people to carefully assess what often passes as "spirituality" today.]


The term “New Age,” as in New Age spiritualities or the New Age movement, has a variety of meanings. Christians have sometimes spoken of the new age inaugurated through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. In the past few decades, however, “New Age” has been used to describe a social movement (or network), as well as a family of spiritual approaches to life involving both doctrine and religious activities that are taken by most analysts to lie outside the bounds of orthodox Christianity. The popularity of the term “New Age” reached its height in the 1980s. Many now opt for “new spirituality” or merely “spirituality.” However, “New Age” is still used, and not merely pejoratively.

New Age ideas and practices came to the fore through the countercultural revolt in Western nations in the 1960s, but their roots go further back to the nineteenth century movements of Transcendentalism, the Mind Science churches, and the Theosophical Society. Those associated with the New Age often controversially claim to continue an ancient esoteric tradition frequently suppressed by traditional religiosity and secular philosophy.

As a social movement, the New Age has no one leader, organization, or official creed, although celebrity enthusiasts abound. In the 1980s, actress Shirley MacLaine chronicled her conversion to New Age thought in several best-selling autobiographies and multiple media appearances, which helped bring the New Age perspective into the limelight. Some New Age oriented writers, such as Marilyn Fergusan, refer to the New Age as a network of like-minded organizations and individuals who share a concern for human and planetary transformation through spiritual experiences focused on the potential of the untrammeled self. The New Age will dawn when people turn away from both atheism and the restrictive dogmas of traditional Western religions, and instead embrace ideas and practices that free the self to realize its divine possibilities. This is sometimes correlated with the astrological claim that we are moving into the Age of Aquarius. In this sense, New Age spirituality can be loosely described as millenarian and messianic, with different people expressing different eschatologies. Although the New Age as a movement is composed of many different groups, New Age partisans may congregate at psychic and metaphysical fairs, for special spiritual events (such as the much-hyped Harmonic Convergence of 1987), or at sacred natural sites such as Sedona, Arizona (thought to be a center of mystical energy vortexes), or Stonehenge in England.


Although New Age spiritualities are eclectic, syncretistic, and somewhat flexible with respect to beliefs, some common themes consistently emerge. Paul Heelas rightly claims that “the most pervasive and significant aspect of the lingua franca of the New Age is the that person is, in essence, spiritual.” Although a Christian would agree with this, Heelas goes on to specify what the New Age view takes the spiritual self to be. “To experience the ‘Self’ itself is to experience ‘God,” the “Goddess’, the ‘Source’, ‘Christ Consciousness’, the ‘inner child’, the ‘way of the heart’ or most simply and, I think, most frequently, ‘inner spirituality’.” In other words, the self is the spiritual center of the universe. Ted Peters captures this notion in the title of his critique of the New Age: The Cosmic Self. This view of self challenges the claim of monotheism that a transcendent, personal, and moral Creator stands above and beyond the created self, which should submit the Creator’s authority.

Like Christianity, the New Age world view repudiates materialistic secularism, deeming it reductionistic and unfit to accommodate our spiritual natures and possibilities. Unlike Christianity, it deems monotheism as overly authoritarian because it shackles the self to the concepts of finitude and sin and fails to see Christ as uniquely God incarnate. The world view of recent influential New Age thinkers (although they may not like the designation), such as best-selling author and medical doctor Deepak Chopra and mystic-scholar Ken Wilber, is generally pantheistic and monistic. This is representative of much, but not all, of New Age spirituality. In pantheistic monism, the Deep Self or True Self or Higher Self is one with the divine essence, however infrequently experienced. Chopra, much influenced by the nondualistic Hinduism of Transcendental Meditation, holds that this awareness of divine oneness is the source of spiritual and physical health. Wilber, influenced by Zen Buddhism, works on a more theoretical level, claiming that he has synthesized both Eastern and Western traditions across a broad range of disciplines. The emphasis on monism leads many New Age teachers to erase any ultimate ontological separation between God and creation or between good and evil. New Age teachers also affirm belief in reincarnation and an openness to paranormal experiences such as past-life regression, ESP, telepathy, telekinesis, spirit contact (or channeling), UFO encounters, and so on.

However, New Age spiritualities are not uniformly pantheistic and monistic, and even these perspectives come in different varieties. Some New Age adherents may adopt panentheism, a world view that affirms that while God is in everything and everything is in God, God in some sense transcends the cosmos. This is the view of New Age celebrity Matthew Fox, a former Catholic priest who became an Episcopalian to escape the censure of the church. Furthermore, while pantheism classically affirms an impersonal and amoral deity, many New Agers influenced by the monotheism of Judaism and Christianity inconsistently attribute personal qualities (such as love and purpose) to the impersonal/amoral divine force, principle, or consciousness. This tendency is found, for example, in the writings of Marianne Williamson, a popular New Age writer and speaker in the US. Others involved in New Age spirituality may be almost polytheistic in their insistence that we “create our own reality,” yet invoke the notion of universal deity and cosmic oneness in other contexts. Some traces of dualism can be found in New Age thought as well, especially those schools of thought influenced by Gnosticism, which rejects matter as illusory, evil, or less real than spirit.

The experience of New Age spirituality is often deemed more important than mere beliefs. This experientialism is found in the use of such consciousness-expanding therapies, as yoga, visualization, chanting, meditation, and the group experiences offered through seminars such as Werner Erhard’s est (later called the Forum). These “psychotechnologies” (Marilyn Ferguson) claim to empower people to cut through their sense of limitation and finitude in order to reach the “God within.”

Heelas has noted that New Age practitioners of many stripes employ religious traditions in a “detraditionalized” way. That is, they select elements from various Eastern mystical and Western occult and pagan traditions that suit their individual, interior needs. The ultimate authority on spiritual matters is the self, not some external source, whether church, society, or holy writ. Christopher Partridge refers to this orientation as “epistemological individualism,” which is often (paradoxically, some might say) wedded to a metaphysical monism.


In its cobbled-together eclecticism, New Age spirituality is akin to postmodernism--an approach that rejects fixed boundaries, foundations, and established definitions in favor of alternative, fungible, and rather ad hoc social and personal arrangements. However, the religious traditions to which the New Age typically appeal are premodern, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and ancient paganism. To further complicate matters, New Age adherents may be considered modernists in at least three senses: (1) Despite monistic claims, they retain a focus on the individual and autonomous self’s sense of meaning and purpose, thus opposing the postmodernist notion of the decentered self wherein the self dissolves into contingent social structures. (2) New Age spiritualities maintain a commitment to the idea of cosmic progress by claiming that we are moving into a superior New Age, which is often understood as the result of “spiritual evolution.” The idea of social progress is anathema to postmodernist sensibilities, since it smacks of a positive modernist metanarrative or totalizing ideology. (3) Some New Age theorists, such as physicist Fritjof Capra in The Tao of Physics and subsequent writings, claim that the discoveries of modern physics substantiate the metaphysical claims made by ancient eastern mystics. Whether successfully or not, this strategy seeks rational support for mystical views from modern scientific knowledge, which it takes to be reliable and objective. Therefore, it seeks legitimization from a source of knowledge taken to be authoritative by modernist thinking.


Many of the first critiques of New Age spirituality came from conservative Protestant writers who saw the perspective as unbiblical and even demonic in some of its aspects. These polemical approaches ranged from the sensational and apocalyptic accounts that tied the movement into end-times prophecy, to the more apologetic and theological treatments that assessed the New Age world view logically and biblically. Similar treatments by conservative Roman Catholics followed, sans apocalypticism. More liberal writers of both traditions often hailed the New Age as reinvigorating spirituality, albeit in heterodox ways. Skeptical, modernist critics condemned the New Age as superstitious and retrograde, since they took it as dismissing critical rationality and the advances of secular, modernist society. Since the early 1990s, a growing number of nonreligious, scholarly books and journal articles have appeared which describe the phenomenon historically, sociologically, and psychologically.


1. Robert Basil, ed., Not Necessarily the New Age: Critical Essays. New York: Prometheus Press, 1988.

2. Marilyn Ferguson, The Aquarian Conspiracy. Los Angeles: J.P. Tarcher, 1980.

3. Douglas Groothuis, Unmasking the New Age: Is There a New Religious Movement Trying to Transform Society? Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1986.

4. Paul Heelas, The New Age Movement. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers, 1996.

5. Christopher H. Partridge, “Truth, Authority and Epistemological Individualism in New Age Thought,” Journal of Contemporary Religion, Vol. 14, No. 1, 1999:77-95.

6. Ted Peters, The Cosmic Self: A Penetrating Look at Today’s New Age Movements. New York: HarperCollins, 1991.

7. Ken Wilber, A Brief History of Everything. Boulder, Colorado: Shambhala Press, 1996.

Chesterton: Christianity is About Everything

The Theologian

"You cannot evade the issue of God, whether you talk about pigs or the binomial theory, you are still talking about Him. Now if Christianity be. . . a fragment of metaphysical nonsense invented by a few people, then, of course, defending it will simply mean talking that metaphysical nonsense over and over. But if Christianity should happen to be true - then defending it may mean talking about anything or everything. Things can be irrelevant to the proposition that Christianity is false, but nothing can be irrelevant to the proposition that Christianity is true."

G.K. Chesterton
Daily News , December 12, 1903

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

C.S. Lewis on Reading Old Books

A web site seems to have reproduced Lewis's noteworthy introduction to Athanasius's, The Incarnation of the Word, in which he waxes eloquent on the virtues of reading old books and the dangers reading only the new. (I am very surprised to see this much verbatim Lewis on line since the C.S. Lewis proprietors keep a very strict reign on his words.)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

From a Letter of C.S. Lewis (courtesy of Robert Velarde, Lewis Scholar)

"What is the point of keeping in touch with the contemporary scene? Why should one read authors one doesn't like because they happen to be alive at the same time as oneself?" (6 Jan 1951)

Colson on Being a Curmudgeon

A Curmudgeon I Shall Be
Musical Mush, Part II

July 11, 2006. Breakpoint by Charles Colson.

Confession is good for the soul, so they say. Recently, one "BreakPoint" listener accused me of being a curmudgeon. He had heard a February commentary, in which I detailed my teeth-grinding agitation at what I called musical mush: that is, church music devoid of theological content. In my response to him, I confessed that there may be a bit of a curmudgeonly streak running through me. As I get older I feel an increasing urgency to get my message to the Church, because I know I have less time left to do it. I think everybody experiences this as they grow older. Even the Apostle Paul's writings intensified in urgency in his later epistles.

While I'm certainly no Paul, I understand what it's like to love the Church and care passionately for her well being. That's why I dared to take on what I knew would be controversial: the tendency to use music more for entertainment than for worship. Too often, we see ourselves as the audience to be pandered to and entertained, rather than a congregation of participants with Christ as our liturgist, or music leader, and God as the audience of our worship. So if that makes me a curmudgeon, well, then, a curmudgeon I shall be.

While the entertain-me mindset of consumerism that I see in so many churches disturbs me, I'm thrilled to see that some congregations are beginning to use old hymns set to new music. I saw it recently in the forty minutes of contemporary worship music in Ted Haggard's church in Colorado Springs. The musicians led the congregation to worship by taking some of the great classics of the faith and putting the lyrics to a contemporary beat. I absolutely loved it, as I did similar music that I heard at a Baptist church in St. Louis.

Many Christian artists have caught this vision. One group that has done it beautifully is Indelible Grace. They noticed something as they worked with college students in the campus ministry of Reformed University Fellowship. According to Indelible Grace's website, young people were "being touched by the Gospel, gripped by the rich theology and great poetry of the hymns of the Church. As these students began to taste more of the depth of the Gospel and the richness of the hymn tradition, many began to join the music of their culture with the words of our forefathers (and [fore]mothers!), and a movement was born."

In writing about old books, C. S. Lewis noted: "Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books."

Well, I think the same could be said about old hymns. We need them to correct the blindspots of our own cultural context. And we need skilled writers and composers to "sing a new song" to the Lord, taking rich theology and crafting music to honor our King in this new day and age. And perhaps, even curmudgeons like me will like it and join in.

Who knows? Wonder of wonders, we might even arrive at a truce in the worship wars. I'll have more to say about this tomorrow.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Chesterton on the Philosopher

The Philosopher

“Philosophy is not the concern of those who pass though Divinity and Greats, but of those who pass through birth and death. Nearly all the more awful and abstruse statements can be put in words of one syllable, from ‘A child is born’ to ‘A soul is damned.’ If the ordinary man may not discuss existence, why should he be asked to conduct it?”

G.K. Chesterton
“The Philosopher” George Bernard Shaw (1910)

From The American Chesterton Society

Friday, July 07, 2006

Neil Postman On-Line!

There is a solid web page dedicated to the thought of Neil Postman (d. 2003), educational philosopher and social critic. You can find links to on-line articles, a bibliography, and a few other items. Readers of The Constructive Curmudgeon will note that I often mention his work as deeply insightful in most ways. He was also a superb writer. I commend his work to you. Few authors have more wisely commented on the nature of technology. And, no, Postman never used a computer!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

TV and Logic

This comes from Chapter 3, "Informal Fallacies," of Hurley's A Concise Introduction to Logic, 9th ed. Jeremy Green sent this to me.

Probably the single most important requirement for detecting fallacies in ordinary language is alertness. The reader or listener must pay close attention to what the arguer is saying. What is the conclusion? What are the reasons given in support of the conclusion? Are the reasons relevant to the conclusion? Do the reasons support the conclusion? If the reader or listener is half asleep, or lounging in that passive, drugged-out state that attends much television viewing, then none of these questions will receive answers. Under those circumstances the reader or listener will never be able to detect informal fallacies, and he or she will accept the worst reasoning without the slightest hesitation.

"Can Humanists Talk to Postmodernists?"

This article, while posted on an obscure web page, is cogent and timely. It was listed on the Arts and Literature Daily site a few weeks ago. The article underscores the necessity of logic in discourse and exposes the gibberish of so many postmodernist writers, particularly Derrida, Foucault, and Barthes. No information about the author is given in the article, strangely, but his impressive resume can be found on his web page.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Why Love America?

[I wrote this for Moody Magazine not long after September 11, 2001. It continues the theme set forth in the review just posted of What's So Great About America.]

The horrifying and stunning events of September 11 have triggered a wave of patriotism across America. American flags fill the air. Many sing patriotic songs with renewed zeal. This is a healthy response for a nation attacked by evil zealots who aim to destroy it. But how should citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20) respond to this outbreak of patriotism?

A recent discussion helped me answer this. Sergei wants to return to Russia and he asked me what kind of message he should bring to Russia, besides the gospel. I found myself speaking to him of American ideals. We have never perfectly lived up to them, but they distinguish us as a nation “under God”—under both his blessing and his audit. Abraham Lincoln said that America is “an almost chosen nation.” While America is not a nation specially chosen by God, it is unique and exceptional. It is a land of many blessings, opportunities—and great responsibilities (see Luke 12:48).

In the wake of the terrorist infernos of September 11, the American church and the entire nation must search out its status before an infinitely holy God. We need to repent at whatever points our lives and our national character have fallen out of alignment with God’s revelation in Scripture (Matthew 4:17; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).

As Sergei spoke of the governmental corruption and powerful organized crime that plagues much of Russia, I considered that America—like every nation—is also a nation of sinners in need of reform (Romans 3). Our democratic institutions were framed with this in mind. The separation of powers in the federal government insures that no one group dominates political power. Our constitutional system of checks and balances between the judicial, congressional, and executive branches of government may be a messy system at times, but it is far better than anarchy, aristocracy, monarchy, or authoritarianism. Our system has allowed for greater freedoms for more people than anywhere else on the planet.

“Culture Watch” has offered constructive criticism of many areas of American life today, including that of our civil government (its pro-abortion laws) and the excesses of our culture. Yet I love this country because we can constructively criticize it without fearing censorship or reprisal. Our First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech. Citizens require a marketplace of ideas to advance their convictions and judge those of others.

The First Amendment further stipulates that the government shall not establish religion, nor prohibit its free exercise. We may evangelize freely and be evangelized by those with whom we disagree. This blessing is rare around the world. But have American Christians taken advantage of this liberty by spreading and defending the Gospel with all of our might (Matthew 28:18-20)?

The Constitution insures that America cannot be a theocracy, yet neither may it restrict religious citizens from attempting to shape its culture and its government. As Stephen Carter writes in God’s Name in Vain, the First Amendment was framed more out of concern to protect the church from the state than vice versa. Therefore, Christians have always had a decisive influence on our nation. Although this does not make America a “Christian nation,” a strong Christian presence has contributed to our national goodness. This birthright also heightens the responsibility for our failures and sharpens the charge to seek afresh God’s blessings on America.

America has also inherited a strong work ethic from its Christian influences, particularly the Puritans. Work is dignified before God and flows out of the creation mandate to develop the earth for God’s glory (Genesis 1:26; Psalm 8; 1 Corinthians 10:31). America is not the only nation that values hard work, but this heritage is not universal. We often overwork, overspend, and fail to give enough, but a strong sense of individual initiative and hope for betterment through individual industry is part of our legacy.

These factors have drawn a throng of internationals to the United States, including my grandparents. Our freedoms, our opportunities, and our blessings must not be taken lightly. Diligence in our citizenship and prayer for our leaders is crucial (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Timothy 2:1-3). If American ideals are to continue to be exemplary for other nations such as Russia, we must work to implement and perfect them. We must defend them against their avowed enemies—but only as we call out to Almighty God for mercy, character, and courage to meet the challenges ahead.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

What's So Great About America?

[I reviewed this for The Denver Post a few years ago. I thought it might be fitting to post on Independence Day, although a bit late in the day.]

Dinesh D’Souza, What’s So Great About America. Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2002. 218 pages. $27.95, hardback.

The terrifying infernos of September 11 did not merely breach our national security and jolt America into a war unlike any other. The savage attacks also raised urgent questions of good and evil, life and death—even heaven and hell. In the dreadful wake of undreamed-of horror, Americans began to take stock of themselves, their loved ones, their faith, and their nation. Many asked, “Why do they hate us?” thereby raising further questions about the nature, value, and destiny of what Abraham Lincoln called “The American experiment.” Our new motto is “United we stand.” But, as Americans, exactly what do we stand for, and whom do we stand against?

Dinesh D’Souza, of the Hoover Institution and a native of India, has written an insightful and controversial reflection on these questions. He doesn’t doubt America’s greatness, but neither does he rely on slogans or knee-jerk patriotism in his assessment of his adopted country. Whether the reader agrees with him or not, D’Souza supplies well-informed, substantial and thought-provoking arguments for his positions.

D’Souza begins by pondering Periciles’ funeral oration, which was given in 430 BC shortly after the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War. America, like ancient Athens, needs to fathom the measure of its freedoms and be willing to make the needed sacrifices to defend these freedoms against a ruthless and militaristic regime whose fighters would gladly die in order to kill their enemies. Like the Athenians, we need to know our enemies and know ourselves.

Who are these new enemies? D’Souza recognizes that “the vast majority of Muslims are not terrorists, but it is equally a fact that the vast majority of terrorists are Muslims.” Moreover, they are associated with a host of terrorist organizations around the globe engaged in what they consider jihad against the American “infidels” who have exported their culture of secularity and indecency, among other charges.

The rest of D’Souza’s book is a careful defense of American ideals—and in some cases those of the West in general—against the charges of radical Islamists and of those who think America has been, on balance, more of a force for evil than for good in the world. Against the prevailing winds of cultural relativism, D’Souza claims that all cultures are not equal. Western (especially American) culture has excelled in matters of political liberty and economic prosperity. This explains why immigrants from around the world continue to flood into the U.S., where they are afforded religious freedom and economic opportunity. D’Souza effectively argues against several commonly held criticisms against America and the West, including the charge that the original Constitution supports slavery and that colonialism had no beneficial consequences.

While D’Souza acknowledges that racism still exists in America, he (along with Thomas Sowell) argues that differential achievement between races is not due primarily to racism primarily or to any innate differences, but rather to matters of culture—the values and behaviors that shape people. Thus the most promising way forward for racial minorities is through constructive cultural changes within their own communities.

For D’Souza, America has offered the world “a new way of being human”—a way fraught with both promise and danger. D’Souza is well aware of both. As America’s enemies remind us, our freedoms allow for well-funded narcissism and ostentatious vice (consider much of popular culture). He addresses this worry in the chapter, “When Virtue Loses All Its Loveliness.” But America, despite all its foibles, also affords unparalleled opportunities to pursue the good, the true, and the beautiful. No one is forced to be religious or irreligious. We decide for ourselves. Yet terrorists around the world today would give their very lives to see this all obliterated.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D., heads the Philosophy of Religion MA at Denver Seminary and is the author of ten books, including, most recently, On Jesus and On Pascal, both published by Wadsworth.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Christianity in One Sentence, But Not for Dummies

The universe (originally good, now fallen, and awaiting its divine judgment and restoration) is created and sustained by the Triune God, who has revealed himself in nature, humanity, conscience, Scripture, and supremely through the Incarnation.