Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Few Books I'm Reading (if anyone cares)

1. Thomas Sowell, Intellectuals and Society. Economist and social critic Sowell skewers one liberal cliche after another in this insightful work.

2. Clay Shirley, Cognitive Surplus. Explores the constructive uses of social media. More optimistic than I am about the possibilities, but still fascinating. This is a follow-up to Here Comes Everybody.

3. Douglas Copland, Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing of My Work. A short, somewhat impressionistic biography of the man who invented media studies and predicted something like the Internet before it existed.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Letter to NPR

Dear NPR:

Your program ["Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me"] today featured a repeat of an an interview with a Ms. Sedaris, whose humor relied on her admission of entertaining drug dealers and smoking pot in a bong. Pot smoking is both illegal and immoral. Advocating such has no place on a publicly-sponsored radio program, supported by my tax dollars. The program can be legitimately funny without sinking to this gutter level.

Sincerely, Douglas Groothuis

Friday, December 24, 2010

My Story and the Gospel

My Conversion and Christian Life

During my first year in college I studied many different philosophies and religions only to find myself very confused and hopeless. Then I began to give Christianity a chance after speaking with some very alive and compassionate Christians in a college dorm in Boulder, Colorado. (I had gone to Sunday school for a few years and had a vague belief in God, but I had never taken the issues raised by Jesus Christ very seriously.) Before leaving Colorado I began to read books by Christians and to think seriously about the whole issue of the existence of God and my relationship to him.

When I returned to Anchorage, Alaska, in the summer of 1976 I spoke with many of my old high-school friends who had become Christians while I was away at school in Colorado. Many of them had gotten off of drugs and had a new sense of purpose and meaning in life. As I sensed my own need for answers in life, I began to read the Bible and seek God as best as I knew how. After a few weeks of searching and struggling, I put my faith and trust in Jesus Christ at a public meeting. I realized that I was lost without God in my life and that I needed him. I didn’t know very much about the Bible at the time, but I prayed that Christ would come into my life to forgive my sins and to be my Lord and Savior.

My life did not change immediately, but over a few months I saw the difference that Christ was making in my life. I was no longer interested in drugs or alcohol (I wasn’t addicted to either, but I had abused both), I had a desire to understand the Bible, and God gradually began to give me a sense of peace and joy I had never before experienced.

Having known Christ for over thirty-four years, I’ve seen how he has led me and protected me, despite real struggles with discouragement and loss. I have been involved in teaching, preaching, and writing about the truth of Christianity ever since I graduated from college in 1979. God has led me to write ten books which defend the truth of Christianity against the challenges of non-Christian viewpoints. I haven’t shied away from the intellectual challenges brought to bear against the claims of Jesus Christ. As a philosophy professor and as a public speaker I must deal with them. In fact, I enjoy doing so.

I remain convinced that Jesus of Nazareth was and is God in the flesh, that he lived a perfect live, that he died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin, that he rose from the dead in space-time history three days later (Easter) and that he always lives to love and forgive and make new those who come to him in simple faith and trust. It makes sense to conform our lives to his will, to let him work within us for his good purposes, and to deny ourselves and follow him. He is also the One before whom all of us will one day appear, either to be welcomed into his eternal kingdom or to be cast out forever (Philippians 2:10-11; Matthew 25:31-46).

The Gospel Message

The beauty and wonder of the message of Jesus is that God cared so much about his creation that he sent his Son into the world to rescue us from the penalty of our wrongdoing. God knows that we fall short of his perfect standard of goodness. God knows that we have violated our own consciences and that we cannot undo the wrong we have thought and done. He knows we can’t deliver ourselves from our own true moral guilt before him. That is precisely why Jesus came into the world. Without a vital relationship with Jesus Christ, we have no hope for forgiveness and heaven. And we remain lost in this world as well.

One of my favorite stories from the Gospels is that of the criminals who were crucified next to Jesus. One criminal mocked Jesus and challenged him to free himself from the cross if he were God’s Son. He was rebuked by the other criminal who said that Jesus had done nothing wrong but they, as thieves, were getting what they deserved. The repentant criminal then turned to Jesus who was bleeding and suffering on the cross and said “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus’ response was amazing. He said, “I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:26-43).

The repentant criminal recognized that he was a sinner in the presence of a sinless man. He realized he was guilty before God and man. But he called out to Jesus in faith. Jesus saw the thief’s sincere faith and assured him of paradise with him that very day. All that Jesus required of the man was the recognition of his own sin and his genuine faith in Jesus himself. It wasn’t too late for this pathetic man. He had lived and died as a criminal, but he would spend eternity as a saint with God! Why? It is because he reached out to Jesus. This is God’s grace in action, his mercy manifested in the real world.

The Bible teaches that while we may not be thieves, we have all sinned against God and have fallen short of his perfect standards. We are all guilty before him. You can’t find a single culture on the face of the earth that doesn’t attempt to deal with guilt and shame in one way or another. We can try to cover it up, we can pretend it isn’t there, or we can try to do enough good things to make up for the bad ones. But none of this works. Neither do religious rituals. Our guilt remains and God knows it. Only faith in what Christ has done on the Cross can give us forgiveness and the assurance of heaven.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son (John 3:16-18).

Jesus said: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-8).

These and so many other verses show that God is concerned about our eternal condition. This is not a fairy tale. My research has convinced me that the Bible is a historically reliable and philosophically credible book. More than that, the Jesus of the Bible, the living Christ, has transformed the lives of countless millions around the world. He changed my life and continues to challenge me to live for God and the furtherance of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33).

We don’t need the Bible to tell us that we are mortal, that these bodies of ours are decaying and that we all must die. But there is something else ahead. To those who come to the loving Christ by faith there awaits an eternity of joy and peace in the presence of God himself. He has promised it.

But the Bible also speaks of those who are lost because they refuse to admit their failures, to turn away from wrongdoing, and to turn to Jesus as Lord and Savior. We can either come to know Jesus as our Lord and Savior in this life or we will know him as Judge in the next (which means hell). No one can merit heaven by their own deeds. We all come up far short. Without Christ as our Savior we are lost and condemned. There is no other way.

The Work of the Holy Spirit and Renewal

Once one becomes a Christian by trusting in the finished work of Christ, the Christian life must be lived in the power of the Holy Spirit, not in the flesh (Acts 1:8; Galatians 5:16-26). The Spirit not only calls and leads us to repentant faith (justification), but continues to enable us to grow in good deeds and Christ-likeness (sanctification). Christians should, therefore, strive to keep in step with the Spirit in order to bear fruit that will last. The work of the Holy Spirit today involves all the fruits, gifts, and ministries described in the Bible. There is no good reason to think that the supernatural gifts (such as prophecy, healing, tongues, dreams, visions, words of wisdom and knowledge) have ceased. While all Christians are not equally gifted in the supernatural ministry of the Spirit, the church as a whole should desire the manifestation of these gifts for building up the Body of Christ and for Kingdom outreach (see Acts 2; 1 Corinthians 12-14).

As a Christian who believes in these gifts, I seek their application to my personal life, to the life of the church, and in my teaching. For example, I am sometimes led to stop my teaching at Denver Seminary and pray for particular items. I once spent an entire class leading the students in prayer, because I felt so prompted by the Holy Spirit. I pray before class, asking God to direct the teaching and learning as He sees fit. While I always prepare lessons (sometimes quite detailed), I try to remain sensitive to the leading of the Spirit in all that happens in class. This may include strong exhortation from Scripture along with the instruction that flows from the reading and outlines that I provide.

I believe that the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements of the Twentieth Century are key renewal movements for the expansion of the Kingdom of God. As a Christian philosopher, I find no dichotomy between the work of the Spirit and intellectual excellence. They should go together as hand-in-glove. Jesus called us to love God with all of our being, including our mind (Matthew 22:37-39). Since the Holy Spirit is “the Spirit of Truth,” He is the ultimate teacher of knowledge and wisdom.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Being in the World

Our being in the world is determined by presence and absence, by fellowship and loneliness. We are never truly alone because our life is conditioned by others. This is so obvious, but one notices it when either a loved one loses much of their previous personality through illness or one simply loses a loved one to death. After this, one is not the same. You are alone; you are lonely. The other is not available in the same way (because of illness), or not available at all (except in memory) through death.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


As I read cards and Facebook posts and emails of condolence, I wonder over the art of writing a condolence message. What, exactly, makes it apt? A few elements come to mind.

Of course, one should express genuine sorrow, which may or may not be captured by a prefabricated card. But if one used a set text from such a card, one needs to add a few of one's own words in one's own handwriting. The sorrow should not be despairing (which is the sin of giving up on God), but respectful and tender.

Another aspect of condolence is remembering and appreciating the life now over: a few words about the deceased smile or laugh or kindness. This sparks bright memories that dispel a bit of the harsh darkness of death.

The better condolences also offer hope for the bereft, the bereaved, the grieving; they offer some non-cliched reason to believe your sorrow will lighten, your life will move into brighter places, that this death will one day be swallowed up in victory (if that can be honestly said of the newly dead).

Other condolences are less wise; their vices include overused phrases robbed of meaning through overuse: "earth's loss is heaven's gain," and so on. Better to use your own faltering words than to steal such stock phrases. Yes, "its the thought that counts"--but why not try to match the right words with such sentiments?

Perhaps the most grievous failure in words of condolence is silence--no words at all. Those close to you and your beloved deceased write nothing. Why is this? Perhaps these souls are overwhelmed by the prospect of writing such weighty words. Instead of failing (after all, how many of them are professional writers or pastors or counselors--people who are supposed to know how to do such things?), they succeed by doing nothing, claiming an inability that renders them mute, thus making the bereaved even more lonely in their losses.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Sowell on Posers

Read Thomas Sowell's essay on the narcissism and lack of class that typifies so many today. This is contained in his collection of essays, The Dismantling of America, which is also available in audio form.
In light of the previous post, my mother died early in the morning on December 6.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

In Praise of my Mother, Lillian C. Groothuis

As my mother's earthly life draws to a slow and sad close at age 80, I want to give her tribute. She was always motherly in the best sense: supportive, encouraging, appreciative of my gifts and ministry, even when she did not completely understand them.

She was as thoughtful as anyone could ever be to her family and friends: never forgetting an important event to commemorate with a card, gift, or call. She was frugal in her own finances--living simply--but was always generous toward others. She put me through college on a working class salary and as a single mother. (being a dunderhead, it took me years to realize what an achievement this was.) This allowed me ample time to study and to enter deeply into the world of ideas, which turned out to be my divine calling in this short life. See Psalm 90 on this.

Mom was a cheerful person, interested in others (even servers at restaurants), and a passionate lover of children. Although she wanted six children, she had only one surviving son. She compensated by being motherly and grandmotherly to many others.

Mom was a superb cook, particularly of Italian food and Christmas cookies, the latter of which she shared with many to their great delight. I will miss them so much this (and every following) year.

Even after the death of her first husband, my father (Harold Fred Groothuis) in 1968, Mom never lost her faith in God or questioned his wisdom. She regularly prayed specific prayers and the Lord's Prayer. During the last few months (and especially during the week I was with Mom in Anchorage), I have assurance that she knows Jesus Christ as Lord. She said so. Thus, I need not grieve as does the world; but hope in our reunion one great Day

Some Woes Concerning the Writing of Papers

  1. Woe to those who use improper footnote form. One benighted (and unnamed) student of mine recently tied the all-time record (at least in my experience) of seven errors in one footnote in the most recent assignment, thus joining "the hall of shame." This is similar to a batter striking out five times in one game.
  2. Woe to those who put periods outside of quotation marks: Then he said, "God is universal energy". The Brits do this; we do not. We should not.
  3. Woe to those who misspell my last (or first) name: Douglas Groothuis.
  4. A double woe on all who forget to put page numbers on their papers. You will necessarily put me in a very rotten mood if you do this, even before I read one word of your paper. This is because I must supply what your computer should do.
  5. Woe to those whose first page of a paper is page two. The title page is not page one. The first page of writing is page one.
  6. Woe to those who commonly omit needed commas or who put them where they do not belong. The comma should not be treated so rudely.
  7. Woe to those who do not experience the exquisite delectation of using semicolons properly. They are not commas; they are not colons; they are not dashes. They are what they are. Find out what they are if you do not know--and enjoy.

From The Wall Street Journal

Remembering Katyn

Jazz pianist—and World War II veteran—Dave Brubeck's history lesson.

Other than WikiLeaks, two notable events occurred over the weekend: Russia's parliament issued a resolution taking responsibility for Stalin's murder of 22,000 Polish officers in Katyn forest in 1940, and Dave Brubeck celebrated his 90th birthday in a set at the Blue Note jazz club in New York City. Permit us to connect the dots of history.

The Katyn resolution passed over the objections of the Communist Party, whose members continue to deny a Soviet role in the massacre. Also, the Polish government wants the Russians to go further, accepting legal responsibility and agreeing to compensation for the victims' families. The Polish director Andrzej Wajda put the event before world audiences with his haunting 2007 film remembrance, "Katyn."

Associated Press

Mr. Brubeck wrote 'Dziekuje' as a thank you to the people of Poland for resisting Communism.


Still, the resolution is progress. One senior Russian parliamentarian said, "Our task today is to get this lie out of our way." The parliament called for declassifying Russia's Katyn archives "to restore the honorable names of all who died." The Russian human rights group Memorial has also called for opening archives and identifying the perpetrators.

Toward the end of a long and very fine set Saturday evening at the Blue Note with his quartet, Mr. Brubeck, who turns 90 next week, took hold of the microphone aside his piano and began to talk about a remembrance of Poland. He said that President Eisenhower had sent the Dave Brubeck Quartet to Poland in 1958 to perform as representatives of the American people. Earlier in his career, Mr. Brubeck had represented the American people as a member of Patton's Third Army in Europe.

After a visit to Chopin's home and being surrounded by "all these pianos," Mr. Brubeck composed a Chopinesque jazz piece with the Polish name "Dziekuje." Mr. Brubeck asked if anyone in the Blue Note audience knew what "dzieuke" means. "It means 'thank you,'" a lady called out.

"That's right," said Mr. Brubeck. "It means thank you. And I want to play this piece as thanks to the people of Poland for resisting Soviet Communism."

It wasn't possible to ask Mr. Brubeck as he left the stage whether he had seen the Katyn story in the news earlier that day. We guessed he had. At the time of that 1958 trip he said of the jazz scene in Poland: "No dictatorship can tolerate jazz. It is the first sign of a return to freedom."

It is possible to minimize the Russian parliament's resolution of responsibility for Katyn. It is also possible that it is a small but significant step toward greater liberalization in the least-free nation of the former Eastern bloc.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Jesus, Death, Life

The only one who has met death and conquered is Jesus of Nazareth. The only way to find hope in the face of death and eternal life and resurrection after death is through trusting in the matchless, death-defeating Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. By this truth, I shall live, and die, and live again.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The White Rose

Let's get really obscure and bohemian. Does anyone know how to find the short film (1967) called "The White Rose," which is about Jay De Feo's huge painting?

Mysticism Lecture

My lecture, "Mysticism," is now posted at the Cherry Hills Community Church page as part of their "Isms" series. I posted my outline on this blog a few weeks ago.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Jazz Grace

A few days ago, I left my dear mother's hospice room where I tried to show her love and appreciation, although she could not respond very well with words. She did grasp my hand tightly and manage a slight smile as I left after her husband and his friend came to visit. Mom didn't want to let go of my hand, but I told her that her husband was here, and she did

The emotion was welling up like a geyser within me: gratefulness and loss; warmth and pain--all mixed into one radiating lump at the center of my being. Our friend said that I might want to go to a used book store in town. I did, and there found two very rare and precious recordings as part of a minute used jazz section: Allan Holdsworth's "Secrets," which I had never seen except on line and a recording of Duke Ellington live at the Whitney Museum that I was not even aware of. Both were modestly priced. I snatched them both up and savored the find (or rather the gift). And these gems they were mixed in with more than one Kenny G contaminent!

This was a small gift from God, an Omniscience who knows my musical loves and hates, and knows the joys I receive from music, which is, ultimately, his gift to us all. This does nothing to change the aweful facts of death, decay, and loss (see Ecclesiastes 12). Yet some light peaked through and shined down on me.

My mother had seen the Duke (as well as Count Basie) live in New York in the 1940s and 1950s. May you dance to their music again, my beloved mother, in The New Heavens and New Earth. We will swing and never sag on that divine dance floor.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


I found far too many five-star reviews of Carl Sagan's 1980 book, Cosmos, on Amazon. (It was also made into a PBS television series seen by millions.) Thus, I wrote a small review of it, giving it two stars:

Sagan infamously begins this paean to the cosmos with, "The universe is all that was, is, or ever will be." This is not a statement derived from any of the sciences, not from Sagan's astronomy, not from physics, not biology, not from any science. This is a statement of metaphysics, the worldview of naturalism: there are no supernatural beings, the cosmos has no purpose, and there is no afterlife. From this unargued premise, Sagan extols the wonders of a godless world, with science (wrongly understood) as his church. And the historic church is, of course, the villain.

Sagan gives no indication that the theistic worldview (nature created by an infinite-personal being as good, intelligible, and worthy of harnessing for human betterment) of the leaders of the scientific revolution was vital to the development of modern science. Naturalism, however, has no reason to support the axiology or epistemology of scientific endeavor. Why think that unguided merely natural processes and entities would produce minds capable of knowing and improving the world? The naturalist, Eugene Wigner, even wrote famously of "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics," given that there is no reason for the theoretical and intellectual realities of math to fit the world if there is no given order or meaning to existence.

So why would I give Sagan's work two stars? It is because he was a gifted writer, using the very gifts of God against God. Further, some might see through Sagan's naturalism and see into the Mind of God, as manifested in the cosmos.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lamenting the Loss of Sacred Space

As I left my dear mother's hospice room (called a "comfort room"), tears fresh and hot in my eyes, my heart warm with both pain and love, I looked at, then walked toward, the Catholic chapel room. I pondered entering and praying there. But, no.

The jukebox in the reception room was playing loudly in the area right next to the chapel. Even if I entered the supposedly sacred space to weep and pray, the sound of "White Room" by Cream would have drowned out too much of what was needed in that poignant moment (no matter how aesthetically excellent that piece of music is in its own right in its own place).

Even a Catholic chapel could not save me from wrongful noise. I left and wept on my the silence of the truck--and before the face of my God.

How Not to Deal With Doubt

This is from a recent Christianity Today article explaining why so many young adults leave the church. I have been hearing this for three decades: many Christians have no apologetic arguments when faced with doubts about cardinal Christian doctrines. Thus, the doubters just give up, having their intellectual desires ridiculed or ignored. This is wrong; this must change.


Another unsettling pattern emerged during my interviews. Almost to a person, the leavers with whom I spoke recalled that, before leaving the faith, they were regularly shut down when they expressed doubts. Some were ridiculed in front of peers for asking "insolent questions." Others reported receiving trite answers to vexing questions and being scolded for not accepting them. One was slapped across the face, literally.

At the 2008 American Sociological Association meeting, scholars from the University of Connecticut and Oregon State University reported that "the most frequently mentioned role of Christians in de-conversion was in amplifying existing doubt." De-converts reported "sharing their burgeoning doubts with a Christian friend or family member only to receive trite, unhelpful answers."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Alarming, Isn't It?

Here is something I observing more and more in light of an astute comment by T. David Gordon (author of Why Johnny Can't Preach): our society is increasingly alarming, and literally so. Alarms, once rare (in clocks for example), are now ubiquitous. Cell phone go off everywhere, with a plethora of "ring tones" (most of which I loathe). Hand-held devices go off; car alarms explode, often mysteriously--and we fear that. This, no doubt, contributes to our being on-edge and jittery since we are constantly alarmed. (I was relieved when no alarm went off when I went through airport security recently.)

Being alarmed is the opposite of being serene and composed. We are, rather, de-composed by these randomly, but (unavoidably) striking alarms: beeps, songs, honks, squeaks, buzzes, and more. These alarms sometimes detonate outside the reach of their designated alarm-targets. Ten years ago, a cell phone went off for a seemingly eternity during a McCoy Tyner jazz concerts in Greeley, Colorado. This ought not be! the man played piano with John Coltrane, and an unattended cell phone had the nerve of interupting him.

We all need unalarming times, times to settle into sane patterns of living. The uninterrupted and the unalarming is often where we discern reality aright (or more so that in our alarm zones). It even has something to do with "waiting on God."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Thomas Sowell

I am listening to Thomas Sowell's collection of essays, Dismantling America, on CD, and am struck by his profundity and clarity of thought on economics and politics. Reading Intellectuals and Society impresses this upon me as well. He fears that with the Obama regime, America is turning its back on its heritage of freedom and may be heading to a point of no return (the centralized--and thus unproductive--economy, socialism, benighted rule by bureaucrats). I heartily recommend this book, as well as Vision of the Anointed, A Conflict of Visions, The Politics of Economics and Race, and Civil Rights and Wrongs. The man is utterly brilliant. And he is an ex-Marxist!

Outline for upcoming Lecture at Cherry Hills Community Church

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy, Denver Seminary

Assessing Mysticism

I. Isaiah’s Encounter with God (Isaiah 6:1-8)

A. Historical

B. Personal, relational

C. Rational, cognitive

D. Moral, emotional

E. Redemptive, salvific

II. What is Mysticism?

A. The direct experience of the ultimate sacred reality (however understood)

B. Types of mysticism

1. Nature (Wordsworth)

2. Monistic or nondual (Advaita Vedanta Hinduism, Zen Buddhism)

3. No-self (Theravada Buddhism)

4. Theistic: Jewish, Christian, Islamic (personal encounter)

a. Unitarian monotheistic: Jewish, Islamic

b. Christian: within and outside of the Bible

III. Assessing Mysticism (Col. 2:8-9; 1 John 4:1-6)

A. Nature: no Creator/creation distinction (Genesis 1:1; John 1:1-3; Romans 1:18-21)

B. Hindu (one kind): Monistic, nondual: no encounter; loss of Atman (individual self) in Brahman (Universal Self). Ken Wilber example, John Horgan, Rational Mysticism (Houghton Mifflin, 2003)

C. Buddhist: No-self: no one is home; no encounter; loss of self in Nirvana

D. Monotheism

1. Jewish: Hebrew Bible and subsequent experiences

2. Islamic (Sufis in particular)

3. Christocentric, biblical (Colossians 1-2)

a. Paul on road to Damascus (Acts 9)

b. Apostle John on Patmos (Revelation 1:12-19)

c. Elements of biblical mysticism

1. Christ as only Lord, Savior, and Mediator (Matthew 11:27; John 14:1-6; Acts 4:12; 1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 1)

2. Same elements as Isaiah 6:108

IV. Christian Discernment Regarding Mysticism

A. The dangers of syncretism (Exodus 20:1-3; Matthew 12:30; 1 Corinthians 8:4-6)

B. Yoga: Hindu mystical practice: elimination of the self, discovery of the Divine Self; should be avoided by Christians.

C. Buddhism: elimination of the self through meditation and action; should be avoided by Christians.

D. Dangers of “centering prayer”—emptying of mind, focusing on breath and mystical techniques to find God within, not through Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

E. Fundamentals of Christian spirituality (need not be mystical in a dramatic sense)

1. Based on a true, rational, and pertinent worldview (Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 12:1-2; 1 Peter 3:15). See N. Pearcey, Total Truth (Crossway, 2004)

2. Justification by faith alone (Romans 5:1-2; Eph. 2:1-10; Titus 3:5-6)

3. Sanctification: growth in Christ-likeness and fruit-bearing by faith and grace (Ephesians 1:15-23; 3:14-21; Philippians 2:11-12; 2 Peter 1:5-11)

4. Glorification: the personal and cosmic culmination of salvation through God’s grace (Romans 8; Revelation 21-22)

5. Christ-centered and cross-centered (Luke 9:23-26; Colossians 1:15-19)

6. Spiritual warfare (Acts 13:1-12; Ephesians 6:10-19; 1 Peter 5:8-9)


  1. Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality (1972; Tyndale, 2001). A biblical view of spirituality.
  2. James Sire, The Universe Next Door, 5th ed. (InterVarsity, 2009). See the chapters on “Eastern Pantheistic Monism” (7) and “The New Age” (8).
  3. Doug Groothuis, Unmasking the New Age (InterVarsity, 1986); Confronting the New Age (InterVarsity, 1988); Jesus in an Age of Controversy (Wifp and Stock reprint).

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Mysticism Lecture (time corrected)

I will be speaking on "Mysticism" at Cherry Hills Community Church, Wednesday, November 17, 2020, at 6:30 PM. They are located at:

3900 Grace Boulevard
Highlands Ranch, Colorado 80126

The recording should be up at the church's web page some time after the lecture.
3900 Grace Boulevard
Highlands Ranch, Colorado 80126 Call us at 303.791.4100 | Send us an email | Map & Directions

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Painting by Michelle McCorkle

Painting by Michelle McCorkle.

Oklahoma Voters Overwhelmingly
Say “NO” to Sharia Law

The “Power of the Gavel” changes in Washington

A Post-Election Analysis by Guy Rodgers,
Executive Director, ACT! for America

Dear Douglas,

Largely unnoticed amid last night’s story of the Republicans winning back the U.S. House and making significant gains in the Senate was the Oklahoma vote on State Question 755.

SQ 755 was a state constitutional amendment that will prohibit Oklahoma courts from using sharia law in deciding cases. It passed overwhelmingly last night with 70% support!

But this outcome was by no means a foregone conclusion. On October 7th, a poll was released with these results on SQ 755: 45% in favor, 25% opposed, 30% undecided.

Two major newspapers editorialized against it. The CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) affiliate in Oklahoma spoke out repeatedly against it in the media with its shop-worn “Islamophobia” propaganda.

We here at ACT! for America surmised that the high undecided percentage reflected voter misunderstanding of the issue AND confusion as to which way to vote on the initiative. And when voters are confused on a ballot initiative like this, they tend to either not vote on it or vote against it.

On October 18th ACT! for America launched a two-week statewide radio ad in support of SQ 755. Then, on October 21st, 26th, and November 1st we dropped a total of 600,000 automated calls to Oklahoma voters with a message urging support of SQ 755 from James Woolsey, former director of the CIA.

Additionally, we placed an editorial in one of the state’s major newspapers, sent multiple emails to our members, and conducted several radio and print media interviews.

The 70% support demonstrates that our efforts to educate the voters and clear up any confusion were immensely successful.

This 70% victory was significant because this was the first time voters had a chance to vote in a statewide election on the issue of sharia law. The overwhelming margin sends an unequivocal message to Islamic organizations and Muslims, such as Ground Zero Mosque Imam Rauf, who advocate sharia law for America—sharia law is not welcome here!

As for the other election results, from the ACT! for America perspective the most important consequence is that “the power of the gavel” will switch in the U.S. House of Representatives.

By this I mean key committees, such as the Homeland Security Committee, will likely be chaired by Members of Congress who truly understand the threat radical Islam poses to our national security and who will have a different list of priorities regarding what bills to consider and hearings to hold.

The legislative calendar, controlled by the Speaker of the House, will also reflect different priorities regarding what bills to bring to a vote before the full House.

This is a MAJOR step forward in our legislative efforts on Capitol Hill. Bills we supported this year that didn’t even get a committee hearing will receive the serious and thoughtful consideration they deserve. Prospects for House passage during the next two years of some of our legislative priorities have improved dramatically as a result of last night’s election results.

Without question, most voters were making their decisions based on concerns about the economy, jobs, federal spending and ballooning deficits, and what became known as “ObamaCare.”

But as exits polls I saw revealed, voter concerns about national security were lurking just beneath the surface. Americans are aware of the increase in homegrown jihadism and there is a growing consciousness about the threat of sharia law.

These election results not only bode well for progress in the Congress on our legislative agenda, they also bode well for increased pressure on the Obama administration to adjust the way it is defining and addressing the threat of radical Islam.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

John Wilson reviews The Lost Art of Reading

David Ulin, book critic at the Los Angeles Times, was the editor of the paper's review section during the period in which it ceased to exist in its traditional form. This same period—we're still in it—has seen the emergence of a new subgenre: reports on the reading life and how it has changed under the impact of digital technology. In The Lost Art of Reading, Ulin makes his own report.

This is a short book, pleasing to hold, memoirish but not a memoir, jumping here and there. It begins with Ulin's 15-year-old son, Noah, telling him that "reading is over. None of my friends like it. Nobody wants to do it anymore." After his son leaves the room, Ulin tells us, he was "struck by a disturbing realization …. And indeed, I saw … with the force of revelation, I could not say that he was wrong."

A break in the text follows this declaration, and the next section begins with what has become a salient motif in this new subgenre: "Sometime in the last few years—I don't remember exactly when—I noticed I was having trouble sitting down to read." How that happened (it began after he got a high-speed internet connection for the first time), how his personal experience reflects larger social shifts, and why he isn't ready, after all, to concede that his son's judgment is unanswerable: this takes up the rest of the book.

Whether or not you have shared Ulin's experience, and whether or not you are persuaded by his forays into cultural history (Joan Didion, he tells us, "is smart enough to know that narrative has long since shattered, that the dissolution has its roots in the fallout from the atomic bomb"), if you care about books and reading, you'll find Ulin worth your time.

John Wilson is the editor of Books & Culture.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Why I am Pro-life: A Short, Nonsectarian Argument

Abortion is the intentional killing of a human fetus by chemical and/or surgical means. It should not be confused with miscarriage (which involves no human intention) or contraception (which uses various technologies to prohibit sperm and egg from producing a fertilized ovum after sexual intercourse). Miscarriages are natural (if sad) occurrences, which raise no deep moral issues regarding human conduct—unless the woman was careless in her pregnancy. Contraception is officially opposed by Roman Catholics and some other Christians, but I take it to be in a moral category entirely separate from abortion (since it does not involve the killing of a fetus); therefore, it will not be addressed here.[1]

Rather than taking up the legal reasoning and history of abortion in America (especially concerning Roe vs. Wade), this essay makes a simple, straightforward moral argument against abortion. Sadly, real arguments (reasoned defenses of a thesis or claim) are too rarely made on this issue. Instead, propaganda is exchanged. Given that the Obama administration is the most pro-abortion administration in the history of the United States, some clear moral reasoning is called for at this time.

The first premise of the argument is that human beings have unique and incomparable value in the world. Christians and Jews believe this is the case because we are made in God’s image and likeness. But anyone who holds that humans are special and worthy of unique moral consideration can grant this thesis (even if their worldview does not ultimately support it). Of course, those like Peter Singer who do not grant humans any special status will not be moved by this.[2] We cannot help that. Many true and justified beliefs (concerning human beings and other matters) are denied by otherwise intelligent people.

Second, the burden of proof should always be on the one taking a human life and the benefit of doubt should always be given to the human life. This is not to say that human life should never be taken. In an often cruel and unfair world, sometimes life-taking is necessary, as many people will grant. Cases include self-defense, the prosecution of a just war, and capital punishment. Yet all unnecessary and intentional life-taking is murder, a deeply evil and repugnant offense against human beings. (This would also be acknowledged by those, such as absolute pacifists, who believe that it is never justifiable to take a human life.)

Third, abortion nearly always takes a human life intentionally and gratuitously and is, therefore, morally unjustified, deeply evil, and repugnant—given what we have said about human beings. The fetus is, without question, a human being. Biologically, an entity joins its parents’ species at conception. Like produces like: apes procreate apes, rabbits procreate rabbits, and humans procreate humans. If the fetus is not human, what else could it possibly be? Could it be an ape or a rabbit? Of course not.

Some philosophers, such as Mary Anne Warren, have tried to drive a wedge between personhood and humanity. That is, there may be persons who are not human (such as God, angels, ETs—if they exist), and there may be humans that are not persons (fetuses or those who lose certain functions after having possessed them). While it is true that there may be persons who are not humans, it does not logically follow that there are humans who are not persons. The fetus is best regarded as a person with potential, not a potential person or nonperson.[3]

When we separate personhood from humanity, we make personhood an achievement based on the possession of certain qualities. But what are these person-constituting qualities? Some say a basic level of consciousness; others assert viability outside the womb; still others say a sense of self-interest (which probably does not obtain until after birth). All of these criteria would take away humanity from those in comas or other physically compromised situations.[4] Humans can lose levels of consciousness through injuries, and even infants are not viable without intense and sustained human support. Moreover, who are we to say just what qualities make for membership in the moral community of persons?[5] The stakes are very high in this question. If we are wrong in our identification of what qualities are sufficient for personhood and we allow a person to be killed, we have allowed the wrongful killing of nothing less than a person. Therefore, I argue that personhood should be viewed as a substance or essence that is given at conception. The fetus is not a lifeless mechanism that only becomes what it is after several parts are put together—as is the case with a watch or an automobile. Rather, the fetus is a living human organism, whose future unfolds from within itself according to internal principles. For example, the fertilized ovum contains a complete genetic code that is distinct from that of the mother or father. But this is not a mere inert blueprint (which is separable from the building it describes); this is a living blueprint that becomes what its human nature demands.

Yet even if one is not sure when personhood becomes a reality, one should err on the side of being conservative simply because so much is at stake. That is, if one aborts a fetus who is already a person, one commits a deep moral wrong by wrongfully killing an innocent human life. Just as we do not shoot target practice when we are told there may be children playing behind the targets, we should not abortion fetuses if they may be persons with the right not to be killed. As I have argued, it cannot be disputed that abortion kills a living, human being.

Many argue that outside considerations experienced by the mother should overrule the moral value of the human embryo. If a woman does not want a pregnancy, she may abort. But these quality of life considerations always involve issues of lesser moral weight than that of the conservation and protection of a unique human life (which considers the sanctity or innate and intrinsic value of a human life).[6] An unwanted pregnancy is difficult, but the answer is not to kill a human being in order to end that pregnancy. Moreover, a baby can be put up for adoption and bring joy to others. There are many others who do want the child and would give him or her great love and support. Furthermore, it is not uncommon for women to experience deep regrets after aborting their offspring.

The only exemption to giving priority to the life of the fetus would be if there were a real threat to the life of the mother were the pregnancy to continue. In this case, the fetus functions as a kind of intruder that threatens the woman’s life. To abort the pregnancy would be tragic but allowable in this imperfect world. Some mothers will nonetheless choose to continue the pregnancy to their own risk, but this is not morally required. It should be noted that these life-threatening situations are extremely rare.

This pro-life argument does not rely on any uniquely religious assumptions, although some religious people will find it compelling. I take it to be an item of natural law (what can be known about morality by virtue of being human) that human life has unique value. A case can be made against abortion by using the Bible (only the Hebrew Bible or both the Hebrew Bible and New Testament combined) as the main moral source, but I have not given that argument here.[7] Rather, this essay has given an argument on the basis of generally agreed upon moral principles. If the argument is to be refuted, one or more of those principles or the reasoning employed needs to be refuted.

Although at the beginning of this essay I claimed I would not take up the legal reasoning related to abortion, one simple point follows from my argument. In nearly every case, abortion should be illegal simply because the Constitution requires that innocent human life be protected from killing.[8] Anti-abortion laws are not an intrusion of the state into the family any more than laws against murdering one’s parents are an intrusion into the family.

[1] See Scott Rae, Moral Choices, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 288-291.

[2] For an exposition and critique of Singer’s thought, see Gordon R. Preece, ed., Rethinking Peter Singer (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002).

[3] See Clifford Bajema, Abortion and the Meaning of Personhood (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1974). This book is on line at:

[4] On the dangerous implications of his perspective, see Francis A. Schaeffer and C. Everett Koop, Whatever Happened to the Human Race?, revised ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1983).

[5] For a developed philosophical and legal case for including the unborn in the moral community of human beings, see Francis Beckwith, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice (Cambridge University Press, 2007); and Robert P. George and Christopher Tollefsen, Embryo: A Defense of Human Life (New York: Doubleday, 2008).

[6] On the distinction between a quality of life ethic and a sanctity of life ethic, see Ronald Reagan, “Abortion and the Conscience of a Nation,” available at: This was originally an article in the Spring, 1983 issue of The Human Life Review.

[7] See Rae, 129-133.

[8] See Beckwith, chapter two.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


It is the right of reason
and the highest habit of the heart
to feel the weight woe
while waiting for
the gravity of glory
and the
levity of grace
to arrive
finally, finally.