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.