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.