dead enders

Insurgent Dead-Enders

In the early stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dismissed a rash of deadly attacks on U.S. troops as the last throes of a small group of “dead-enders.”  Early tactical victories during the war led some to believe that these dead-enders, comprised of members of Saddam’s former Baath Party, Fedayeen paramilitary, and other loyalists, would be quickly rooted out, captured, or killed.  Planners assumed that once the dead-enders found their end, peace and stability would become a possibility for the region.

Eleven years later, Iraq is again devolving into turmoil.  Many Iraqi insurgents were indeed dead, but we are far from the end of Iraq’s struggle to overcome centuries of regional conflict.  The Butcher of Baghdad is gone, but the floodgates he controlled with his violence and intimidation burst open, and a new river of unimaginable evil is now rising.

Fighters in Iraq in opposition to the U.S. vision for Iraq turned out to be anything but dead enders.  They were more like “alternate-routers.”  This should not come as a surprise.  Does a fleeing criminal give up when he runs into a cul-de-sac?  No. He jumps a fence, cuts through a backyard and escapes into the night.

Worldview Dead-Enders

While it is unwise to label military opponents as dead-enders, perhaps the term more adequately describes worldviews which fail to answer life’s biggest with logical consistency, empirical adequacy, and experiential relevance.  These worldviews can take you for an exciting ride, but sooner of later you’ll end up staring at a wall, wondering where you made the wrong turn. A worldview is defined by Ronald Nash in Worldviews in Conflict: Choosing Christianity in a World of Ideas:

“A worldview, then is a conceptual scheme by which we consciously or unconsciously place or fit everything we believe and by which we interpret and judge reality.”1

Author and apologist Ravi Zacharias notes that all spiritual questions ultimately seek to answer questions in four arenas:

  • Origins
  • Meaning
  • Morality
  • Destiny

Any worldview worth keeping must answer these questions with consistency and coherence. Some worldviews will lead to a dead end, and some philosophical fences cannot be jumped.

Naturalism

Naturalism is a worldview. It seeks to explain everything about life and the universe while assuming the natural world is all there is, ever was, or ever will be. Naturalism has a popular explanation for origins hinging on Darwin’s theory of evolution.  Naturalism has a plausible (albeit depressing) theory for destiny with the extinction of man and the extinguishing of the universe.  But Naturalism has no way to explain meaning or morality in life. They must dismiss the human perception of meaning and objective morality as merely an illusion with survival value.

The logical conclusion for Naturalism: there is no meaning or purpose in life. As a worldview contender, Naturalism is a dead ender.

New Age Thought

New Age thought is a worldview. Birthed from the woo-ish womb of Russian occultist and con-artist Madame Helena P. Blavatsky and popularized by charismatic spiritual teachers in the late 19th century, the term New Age is used to describe a plethora of spiritual beliefs or practices. However, a few common principles permeate the Aquarian adventure. Highly personal, subjective, and mystical experiences are common to New Age thought as well as models based on healing and holistic health. If you have ever had trouble understanding New Age teaching, it is because as Nash states, “Clarity and consistency of thought are two qualities that do not characterize New Age advocates.”

New Age thought is dreadfully inadequate in answering any four of the important arenas of spiritual inquiry; however, it is particularly corrosive to concept of marriage. Author Brad Scott “escaped” the movement and wrote about his experiences in Embraced by the Darkness.  He predicts life in a future state of planetary evolution and consciousness:

“More and more people would never marry because they would see no spiritual advantage in it.  They would leap into and out of relationships to find their ‘soul mates’ or burn up their karma with one insignificant other after another, all in the name of their single-minded effort to liberate themselves from the clutches of maya.”2

On New Age thought, there is no answer for origins, morality is relative, and the prediction on destiny–a global awakening and transformation of consciousness–raises more questions than it answers.

The logical conclusion of New Age thought: morality is optional and the elevation of the self above all else. As a worldview contender, New Age thought is a dead ender.

Christianity

Christianity is a worldview. The Christian worldview:

  • explains our origins in the mind of a loving and benevolent God
  • affirms meaning in life by the existence of meaning in eternity
  • acknowledges God as the ultimate standard of good in which to ground objective morality
  • provides hope in an eternal destiny where ultimate justice prevails

The logical conclusion of Christianity:

  • You were designed out of an act of love and infused with a purpose.
  • Your acts and thoughts are meaningful.
  • You have moral obligations to do what is right and good.
  • There is hope for the future in the promise of eternity in his presence.

As a worldview option, Christianity is more than a contender.  But only if you are pursuing more than a pragmatic solution to the problem of the human condition. Christ is not simply an answer; he is the answer to a question Pontius Pilate rhetorically asked in the presence of the living God, and one we will all ask at some point in our lives: what is truth?

-

1 Ronald Nash, Worldviews in Conflict: Choosing Christianity in a World of Ideas (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 16.
2 Brad Scott, Embraced by the Darkness (Wheaton: Crossway, 1996), 164.

Photo Credit:  Menendj / CC BY SA / http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Iraqi_insurgents_with_guns.JPG

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Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will add value to my readers or will assist them in establishing a coherent worldview. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

principle of legitimacy malcolm gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants seeks to explain several different phenomena by using a simple concept: the inverted U-curve.  Gladwell uses this tool to help us understand when conditions will either be advantageous or disadvantageous.  Understanding when a situation is operating with an inverted-U curve can help us predict future effects and avoid being surprised by unexpected results.

Gladwell uses the inverted-U curve to explain a variety of conditions, including:

  • why school classes can be too big, or too small
  • why some statutory penalties can be too harsh
  • why you can have too much money

Along the way, Gladwell describes another principle which is required if those exercising authority expect their commands to be obeyed: the principle of legitimacy.

The Principle of Legitimacy

Gladwell describes the required ingredients for the principle of legitimacy:

  1. The people expected to obey must have a voice.
  2. The law must be predictable.
  3. The authority has to be fair.1

Commanding Officers expect their troops to obey, and fathers expect their children to behave.  Both roles require the calculated application of the principle of legitimacy.

As both father and Marine, I have seen most issues occur due to a lack of proper application of step #2.  When the consequences of violating your will are unclear, you can expect your will to be violated.

Perfect Application, Imperfect Response

The greatest application of the principle of legitimacy is given to us by the greatest leader of all time: Jesus of Nazareth.  Jesus never failed at step #2.  Jesus was consistent in warning people about the consequences for violating his commandments.

If Jesus was an expert at applying the principle of legitimacy, then why do people disobey his commands?  One reason is that some people do not view Jesus as fair.

“How could a loving God send people to hell?”

The thought of a repentant murderer going to Heaven, or a seemingly good person ending up in hell is difficult to accept when the question is phrased in such a way.

But the question itself is flawed.

The Wrong Question

God does not send anybody to hell.  Hell is the place for people who refuse to be with God; he doesn’t send them–they send themselves.  Jesus tell us in John 14:15:

“If you love me, you will obey what I command.”

Anyone who truly seeks the mind of God will grow to love him, and everyone who truly loves him will find heaven.

Legitimate authorities must give their people predictable consequences for refusing to follow their commands, but perhaps the principle of legitimacy has another requirement: that the authority acts out of love for the people and not lust for power.

1 Malcolm Gladwell, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2013), 207.

Photo credit: Tyler J. Bolken / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will add value to my readers or will assist them in establishing a coherent worldview. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

science big bang

So Awesome I Could Curse!

I like science. I like it a lot. Seriously, I REALLY love science.

But it doesn’t drive me to obscenities. That’s not the case for a new generation of media socialites. A website dedicated to the celebration of science has led to people I love to share something with me that I hate: the F-bomb.

Have you ever loved something so much that you just had to curse? And then share your cursing with the world? (Or your Close Friends, Acquaintances, or whatever list/label you’ve given your Facebook friends)?

Some people really want to let you know how much they love science. They don’t just love science; they F-bomb-explicitavely love science. (Pardon the solecism.)

Taking Offense

The website that is helping them express their overflowing emotions for science is IFL Science! at www.iflscience.com. You can guess what the “F” stands for. When these stories are shared on Facebook, the acronym is always spelled out.

Here, enjoy this article on What Happens When A Man In A Mentos Suit Jumps Into A Tank Of Diet Coke, and this F-bomb on your Facebook wall. And then get back to work.

Aww, your cousin Jenny just had a baby. Isn’t she cute? BAM! F-BOMB right underneath! Read about What Happens When You Play Music Through A Squid!

Yes, I could “hide” these daily injections of profanity. But then I would miss the latest on how Herpes Infected Our Ancestors Before They Were Human.

Why It’s Awesome

What’s not to love about science? A quick Google search reminds me of what Science is:

  • Science is both a body of knowledge and a process.
  • Science is exciting.
  • Science is useful.
  • Science is ongoing.
  • Science is a global human endeavor.1

All true.

Why It’s Not Worth Cursing About

It also reminds me of things science cannot do:

  • Science cannot make moral judgments.
  • Science cannot make aesthetic judgments.
  • Science cannot tell you how to use scientific knowledge.
  • Science cannot draw conclusions about supernatural explanations.2

While science cannot do these things, scientists (and many people who REALLY love science), do these things often. Additionally, an abundance of zeal for science combined with derisive cursing reveals a lack of something else: good judgment.

Giving Offense

Maybe I should not be casting the first stone. After all, I have been sharing obscenities, too. One definition of obscene is to be “offensive to the mind.” There is nothing more offensive than telling someone else that they are broken. The Christian message:

  • Acknowledges that every one of us is broken
  • Proclaims God, not man, as the measure of all things
  • Reminds us that we cannot save ourselves from our wretchedness
  • Requires faith in things unseen
  • Promises hardship and persecution

What could possibly be more offensive to the mind than this? Yet I share this message with those I love.

Why? Because I like Jesus. I like Jesus a lot. Seriously, I REALLY love Jesus.

But I don’t need the F-bomb to make my point. The language God used to convey his message is far more powerful.

1 UC Museum of Paleontology of the University of California at Berkeley, “What is Science?” Understanding Science: How Science Really Works, accessed 3 July 2014, http://undsci.berkeley.edu/article/whatisscience_01
2 Ibid.
Photo Credit: NASA, PD, http://map.gsfc.nasa.gov/media/060915/index.html

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Fighter pilots are trained to fly their weapons systems at the edge of the operating envelope. A timid fighter pilot will yield an advantage to the adversary, and too much aggression can send them with their aircraft out of control.

Every Naval aviator learns how to recover their aircraft using the emergency procedure for out-of-control flight. This procedure must be committed to memory and is recited by a flight member during every flight brief which which involves basic fighter maneuvering.

This procedure is expected to be recited at the same pace it must be executed in flight—extremely fast! If recited too slow, or with any mistakes, the embarrassed aviator can expect responses ranging from snickers to disappointment to scorn.

And rightfully so. Naval aviation is not inherently dangerous, but it is extremely unforgiving. There is no place for mistakes based on a lack of preparation. During emergencies, pilots must take immediate action to get the aircraft under control and safely back to earth.

Immediate Action

Some things in life are so important that we should have our responses to them down cold.

But how prepared are you for all of life’s turbulence? How should you respond to adversity? Injustice? Tragedy? What is the proper procedure to execute when your life begins spinning out of control?

You may have confidence that you can lean on God’s word to get you through the tough times. But do you know exactly where to look? Do you have your emergency verses memorized?

You may have only a fleeting opportunity to make an important decision or minister to others. If you flub the message or can’t recall the procedure, your attempt to make a difference might crash and burn.

Let me recommend a few critical action verses which will help you keep control of your life when you feel like you’re holding on too tight.

Critical Action Verses

  • Emergency: Self doubt

    Critical Action Verse: Philippians 4:13
    “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

  • Emergency: Adversity

    Critical Action Verse: Romans 8:28
    “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, a who have been called according to his purpose.”

    Emergency: Depression

    Critical Action Verse: Psalm 34:17-18
    “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

    Emergency: Stress

    Critical Action Verse: Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

    Emergency: Excess Pride

    Critical Action Verse: Proverbs 11:2 “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”

    Emergency: Grief

    Critical Action Verse: Psalm 73:26 “My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart
    and my portion forever.”

    Emergency: Fear

    Critical Action Verse: psalm 56:3-4 “When I am afraid,
    I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.”

    Emergency: Pain

    Critical Action Verse: Romans 8:18 “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

    Emergency: Uncertainty

    Critical Action Verse: Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God.”

    These are but a few Critical Action Verses that are worth committing to memory. If you call upon them in times of trouble, you stand a better chance of getting your life under control.

    Which critical verses help you during times of crisis?
    -

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A father’s words are powerful.

He doesn’t have to say much. What he says, or does not say, will have a mighty impact. The course of my life has been guided at times by just a few words from my father. What he says, and what he does, is watched more carefully than he knows. Every boy loves his mother, but every boy emulates his father.

It has been this way for centuries. And it was no different for Saint Augustine in the fourth century.

Augustine was “raised in a Christian home.” His mother was a Christian and he refers to himself as a believer from an early age. But not everyone in his household shared the same worldview. In his work Confessions, Augustine writes:

“I then already believed; and my mother, and the whole household, except my father; yet did not he prevail over he power of my mother’s piety in me, that as he did not yet believe, so neither should I. For it was her earnest care that Thou my God, rather than he, shouldest be my father; and in this Thou didst aid her to prevail over her husband, whom she, the better, obeyed, therein also obeying Thee, who hast so commanded.” 1

If there is one thing to be learned in todays culture of disposable marriages, it is the importance of being united with your spouse in a worldview.

Augustine found himself in a home divided between a mother’s heart for Christ and a father’s heart yet unopened.

“As he did not yet believe, so neither should I.”

A father’s worldview is powerful.

But our Father’s ways are more powerful. In his wisdom did he aid Augustine’s mother to “prevail over her husband,” all the while remaining in a spirit of respect for her husband and obedience to God.

How skillfully does God work through the women in our lives, allowing them to guide and teach us, to shape our thinking without insult, to strengthen our character without offense, and to exercise patience without contempt.

But in the beginning, Augustine followed his earthly father:

“Thou light of my heart, Thou bread of my inmost soul, Thou Power who givest vigour to my mind, who quickenest my thoughts, I love Thee not. I committed fornication against Thee, and all around me thus fornicating there echoed ‘Well done! well done!’ for the friendship of this world is fornication against Thee. . .” 2

Augustine spends the early pages of his work lamenting the burden of his studies. He was being trained to be a great orator. But as a young boy, he preferred mischief and play, and he frequently questioned why God allowed him to stray so far for so long.

“Is not all this smoke and wind? and was there nothing else whereon to exercise my wit and tongue? Thy praises, Lord, Thy praises might have stayed the yet tender shoot of my heart by the prop of Thy Scriptures; so had it not trailed away amid these empty trifles, a defiled prey for the fowls of the air. For in more ways than one do men sacrifice to the rebellious angels.” 3

His parents would not be united in a Christian worldview until his father’s conversion shortly before his death.

Author and apologist Dr. Ravi Zacharias shares a personal story about a father’s change of heart. His brother-in-law’s father was a devout Hindu all his life until the very end, where he shocked his family with this revelation:

“‘All my life I have just wanted one thing, and that is the truth. And now as I’m dying, I’m discovering it now; I wish I’d discovered it earlier. I want to tell all of you I have found the truth. Do you know what it is?” he said. Friends from all around the Temple were standing around the bed, in this Toronto bed, and he looked at them and he said, “I have found the truth today, it is in Jesus Christ, my Savior, and I hope that today you, too, will find him and that truth in Him.’ His children, grandchildren, and all of his friends stunned with it.” 4

(Watch the video HERE, scrub to 1:02)

How many tender shoots are growing under your roof? Are their hearts being propped up by the substance of faith? Or are they trailing away towards empty trifles?

The fowls in the air are many, screeching “Well done! well done!” as they circle overhead in rebellion.

A father’s faith is powerful.

In whom are you putting yours?

1 Augustine, The Confessions of Saint Augustine, Tr. by Edward Bouverie Pusey, Kindle Ed., 13.
2 Ibid., 14.
3 Ibid., 18.
4 Ravi Zacharias, “A Night With Dr. Ravi Zacharias at Highlands Church,” http://vimeo.com/30771866

Photo Credit: Philippe Champaigne (1602-1674), PD

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Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will add value to my readers or will assist them in establishing a coherent worldview. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Do you know what’s waiting for you at the top?

From a young age, we are taught to advance within the ranks as quickly as possible. The profession is inconsequential; it’s all the same. Your goal is to make it to the top, and don’t stop laboring until you are there.

Of course, we should always put forth our best effort. Colossians 3:23-24 reminds us:

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

But the relentless pursuit of “success” will not guarantee you a happy ending.

Have you counted the cost?

Are you on the “Golden Track” of your profession? Are you following it in obedience to the will of God, or the will of men?

In the podcast titled “Mind Games in a World of Images, Part 3,” Dr. Ravi Zacharias highlights a question asked of a successful author:

“Now that you have reached the pinnacle of success, if there was one thing you know now that you wish you’d known when you were a little boy, what would it be? Without even pausing for a moment, he said, ‘I wish I’d have known then what I know now: that when you reach the top, there’s nothing there.’”

The parable of the rich fool in Luke Chapter 12 concludes with:

“Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God” (NIV).

We were designed for relationship, with God and our neighbors. Too often we are busy racing our neighbors to the top that we forget to love them as we love ourselves.

Is it any wonder, each one of us familiar with the shape of a pyramid, that the one balancing on the apex finds such difficulty remaining there? They are surrounded by steep drops in every direction, every face covered with up-and-comers striving to knock the king off his hill. The world waits for one wrong step, for the only thing we love more than our heroes is the secret pleasure of watching them fall.

Do you have your priorities in order? How do you best provide for your family, with money or time? There must be a balance.

The top might have the title.

The top might have the fortune.

The top might have the prestige.

The top might provide only a better view of the family you neglected to get there.

Are you worried about your life? How you will eat? How you will clothe your family? So were the people to whom Matthew wrote in his Gospel. He provides them with wisdom we should heed as well:

“But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (NKJV).

Perhaps more important than what’s waiting for you at the top are the people waiting for you to come back down.

1 Ravi Zacharias, “Mind Games in a World of Images, Part 3 of 4,” Just Thinking broadcast, June 11, 2014, http://www.rzim.org/just-thinking-broadcasts/mind-games-in-a-world-of-images-part-3-of-4/

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Augustine Causation
This guest post is by Brian Hershey, a veteran youth worker specializing in military teen ministry. To learn more about Brian’s ministry, check out his bio at the end of this post, and watch his story here. Brian also writes at http://rightlanereflections.wordpress.com

Walking across the street to greet my new neighbors, I was unprepared for the conversation I was about to have.

As I shook the hand of the family’s seventeen year-old, I invited him to tell me about himself.

“Oh,” he said, “I’m into Old Testament studies right now.”

“Old Testament what?!” I thought to myself.

The statement rocked me back on my heels. I’ve worked with teens over ten years, but I’d never met anyone express that level of interest in the Old Testament.

What followed was a conversation about Biblical prophecy, end-times issues, and the ever-thorny topic of predestination and freewill.

It was that last issue which consumed most of our time together.

Which got me thinking:

Why does this particular subject attract so much attention?

Perhaps it’s one you’ve mulled over. And maybe you’ve discovered satisfactory answers to be as elusive as my happen-chance meeting with Aeron.

The Problem

On the one hand, Christians have historically affirmed that God knows ahead of time every human choice. Yet they have also affirmed that mankind is morally responsible for his choices.

It raises the mind-bending question: How do you square God’s comprehensive knowledge of future events with human freedom?

Moreover, how do you resolve the tension in way that makes clear sense?

I’ve found great insight in Augustine’s work entitled “On Free Choice of the Will.”

Permit me to summarize the issue in a word: Causation.

Ask any researcher or lawyer and they will tell you causation is difficult to prove especially when it comes to human behavior.

I’ve found in my discussions with teens and adults a common underlying assumption: God’s foreknowledge is the cause of human choices and behavior.

In other words, “How can I be held morally responsible for something I didn’t cause?”

The problem is that the argument hinges on a wrong assumption.

The truth is that just because God knows how someone will act does not necessarily mean that God caused the particular action.

The Solution

The solution to the predestination/freewill problem, therefore, is to unmoor the cause from the effect.

Maybe this is a product of our Westernized, linear thinking. We prefer order and structure. We naturally seek the cause for observable effects—the why behind the what.

Consequently, in the predestination/freewill debate, we uncritically maintain the cause/effect relationship between God’s knowledge and human choices.

And to further complicate matters, the guilty human conscience is always looking for that divine loophole that will absolve us of immoral choices.

Yet no such loophole exists. The awful reality is that mankind freely chooses lesser goods through his own inordinate desires.

There is no other greater force acting upon his choices.

The buck cannot be passed.

While mankind is free to act in whatever way he chooses, he is not free of the consequences that follow from his choices. In fact, he is bound by his choices for good or ill.

Which leads to a second inconvenient truth: God never unjustly punishes.

If God is the cause for evil human choices, then how can he punish that which he ultimately brought about?

Answer: he cannot, for to punish someone in such a predicament would be unjust. Yet, by necessity God is just. Therefore, it is correct for God to be the cause of those who suffer evil as a rightful consequence of choices freely made. But in no way can mankind accuse God of being the agent of evil.

Augustine is right to make a distinction between the agents and recipients of evil. God is, indeed, the cause of the later but not the former.

In summary, Augustine’s explanation holds in perfect tension the paradox between God’s omniscience and human free will.

The debate may not be thoroughly resolved, but I have personally found Augustine’s reflections in “Free Choice of the Will” immensely helpful.

The Application

So the next time you find yourself in a predestination/freewill conversation, remember this solitary word: Causation!

I know it brought new clarity to my neighbor—maybe even to you as well.

Augustine Causation Brian HersheyBrian Hershey is a veteran youth worker specializing in military teen ministry. From 2002 to 2009 he and his wife, Bonnie, served military families and chaplains in Germany and Italy through Youth For Christ/Military Youth Ministry (YFC/MYM). He is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary (ThM 2014) where he focused his studies in Spiritual Formation and Leadership Studies and is excited to return to Kaiserslautern, Germany this summer where he plans “to leverage every available resource in order to produce twenty-five year old followers of Jesus Christ.” Brian and Bonnie have been married since December 2002. They have three wonderful children together and currently live near Dallas, TX. If you would like to learn more about their ministry, please click here to watch a short introductory video.

Sources

Augustine. “On Free Choice of the Will.” In Classics of Western Philosophy, ed. Steven M. Cahn, 7th ed. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2006.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally or believe will help readers in developing their worldview. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Parenting by the book
Postmodern Psychological Parenting is the reason parents today are exhausted, confused, and failing their children. Parenting by the book is the key to raising happy and healthy children. The question is, which book?

There are plenty to choose from. They are filled with theories and suggestions. All of them sound reasonable, and none of them work.

Almost.

Do you feel like you are having more trouble raising your children today than your parents seemed to have raising you? Are you exhausted? Frustrated? Overwhelmed?

Just one generation ago, things seemed to be different. Children respected their parents, they behaved, and they feared the consequences of their misbehavior.

Today children fight against their parents, continually test their limits, and repeat their unruly antics only to end up diagnosed, medicated, and labeled for life.

What happened?

Author and psychologist John Rosemond explains how the train was derailed in his book Parenting by the Book: Biblical Wisdom for Raising Your Child. Rosemond concludes that the problem is Postmodern Psychological Parenting.

Postmodern Psychological Parenting

Rosemond explains the precursor to the Postmodern Psychological Parenting movement by describing how since the late 1960s:

“. . . the American Psychological Association was hijacked by secular progressives who were focused more on advancing humanist ideology than advancing the human condition.” 1

Rosemond emphasizes that:

Postmodern Psychological Parenting “has never worked, is not working, and will never work, no matter how diligently anyone works at it.”2

By now you would probably like to know if you have been beguiled by Postmodern Psychological Parenting. First, let me show you some signs in the Jeff Foxworthian style of “if you. . . you might”:

Signs of Postmodern Psychological Parenting

  • If you see a misbehaving child as a victim instead of a perpetrator. . . you might be using Postmodern Psychological Parenting
  • If you think punishment is psychologically damaging. . . you might be using Postmodern Psychological Parenting
  • If you think children are fundamentally good. . . you might be using Postmodern Psychological Parenting
  • If you believe in focusing on your child’s self-esteem. . . you might be using Postmodern Psychological Parenting
  • If you are trying to interpret bad behavior instead of correct it. . . you might be using Postmodern Psychological Parenting
  • If you continue to use “time out” despite its failure to produce results. . . you might be using Postmodern Psychological Parenting

Don’t be surprised if you connect with these ideas. After all, they are contrary to everything you’ve been conditioned to believe. You’ve been taught for five decades to trust in their effectiveness. But these beliefs are the reason many parents today are failing. In his book, Rosemond explains why:

  • Self-esteem is bad (but self-respect is good)
  • Behavior modification doesn’t work (but discipline does)
  • Interpreting misbehavior is ineffectual (but correcting it is effective)
  • Over-concern over feelings is detrimental (but hurt feelings and guilt are necessary)

What is Postmodern Psychological Parenting?

Rosemond describes Postmodern Psychological Parenting as:

“. . . an anamolous hybrid of three historically antagonistic schools of psychological thought: Freudian, humanist, and behavioral.”3

Rosemond rejects:

  • Freudian psychological determinism (the notion that human behavior is shaped by early childhood experiences)
  • Humanist ideas that children are fundamentally good and the desirability of self esteem
  • Behavior school of thought which posits that behavior modification works equally well on humans as it does on animals4

What is the road ahead?

The Road Ahead

The bad news is that the road ahead leads to more heartache, anguish, and frustration. Progressivism fails when we fail to realize that new ideas are frequently worse than old ones.

Without a steer away from the Postmodern Psychological Parenting, we will continue to fail our children. We will continue to raise spoiled brats who reject authority, demand entitlements, and ultimately drain, rather than contribute to society.

The good news is that there is a better way.

The Road Behind

Bad things happen when we lose what is good and true. During the time of the divided kingdom in Israel, the people of Judah alternately suffered at the hand of leaders who were either devoted to the ways of the Lord, or did evil in the eyes of the Lord.

King Jehoshaphat’s heart was devoted to the ways of The Lord, and he walked in the ways David and his father Asa had followed. During his reign, he sent his officials and priests throughout the towns to teach, taking with them the Book of the Law of The Lord.

The following successors, Jehoram, Ahaziah, and Athalia, did evil in the eyes of The Lord, as did many others that followed.

But the tide turned once more, and Josiah walked again in the ways of The Lord.

And then a curious thing happens in 2 Chronicles 34:14:

  • The Book of the Law is Found

“While they were bringing out the money that had been taken into the temple of the Lord, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the Lord that had been given through Moses” (NIV).

The implication is that the book was lost, presumably for a long while. When the Kings of Judah lived without the word of God, chaos ensued. The book was eventually found in a place which must not have been frequented: the Temple of The Lord.

We don’t need therapists. We need Biblical truth.

If we walk in the ways of The Lord and teach our children to do the same, you will see the folly in Postmodern Psychological Parenting, and you will be free to:

  • Stop stressing about self-esteem, and start building self-respect
  • Stop wasting time interpreting behavior and start correcting it
  • Ditch the behavior modification and get cracking on the discipline
  • Administer healthy doses of guilt (to instill appropriate feelings of shame)

Let’s stop failing our children with a failed Freudian experiment.

1 John Rosemond, Parenting By the Book: Biblical Wisdom for Raising Your Child (New York: Howard Books, 2007), 2.
2 Ibid., 25.
3 Ibid., 31.
4 Ibid., 31-32.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will add value to my readers or will assist them in establishing a coherent worldview. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

buddha spiritual
On a recent trip which brought me through Dallas International Airport, I was inconvenienced by a spiritual attack. I never saw it coming, and I didn’t expect it to happen at Starbucks (though I probably should have).

I paid for a cup of coffee and received religious propaganda.

The attack was subtle, stealthy–maybe a bit subliminal. The untrained eye would have missed it for certain. After all, it was disguised as a coffee cup sleeve.

But the sleeve was dressed in more than the standard Starbucks design. I was about to drink up a cup of Eastern spirituality.

Fortunately, I was hyper-aware of this attack because I had just witnessed a television segment where a well-known actress was educating a CNN correspondent on the benefits of promoting “mindfulness” in our schools.

Mindfulness, mind you, originates from Buddhist philosophy and is an essential tenet of their faith. It is a religious practice. But since most people are unaware, and mindfulness has been associated with positive benefits, it remains outside any discussion of religion in our schools.

Of course, mindfulness is not new; it has another name: “sitting quietly and keeping your hands to yourself.” But that doesn’t sounds as trendy, it doesn’t sell as many books, and won’t keep you paying for those Hindu stretching indoctrination–I mean yoga sessions.

Back to my overpriced caffeine delivery system (CDS). The sleeve was adorned by a quote by Oprah Winfrey:

“Know what sparks the light in you, then use that light to illuminate the world.”

Sounds nice enough. It conjures up pleasant imagery and the aftertaste of Chinese takeout. No egregious proselytization here. Next to the quote was an image for a brand called Teavana, accompanied by more advice to stop and think about how much money you’re blowing on coffee:

“Steep your soul. Teavana and Oprah invite you to take a few moments to pause and reflect each day. Your own personal ‘steep time.’”

The icon was of a person in the traditional Lotus position with legs crossed and hands joined to hold, presumably, a cup of tea.

Rules of Engagement (ROE) stated that I would need more than the reference to a spark of light, the call to practice mindfullness, and the rounded Teavana figure doing Yoga to declare positive identification (or PID) solved for this spiritual intercept.

I needed more to confirm my cup of Joe was conditioning me to make positive associations with Buddhist philosophy and Hindu tradition. So I followed the link on my CDS heatshied to SteepYourSoul.com

Teavana is indeed a tea company, and a quick glance at some of the flavors confirmed my suspicions:

  • Maharaja Chai Oolong
  • White Ayurvedic Chai
  • Samurai Chai

I know an Eastern affinity for tea will naturally bring Eastern spirituality alongside, but I continued looking for blends that included other religions–maybe a Mecca Mint, a taste of Torah Tea-Leave, something in a Sagan’s Sage, or a dollop of Dawkins Delight (Earl Grey doesn’t count).

But these teas only came in two flavors: secular, and Eastern spirituality.

Though I continued to drink the coffee, I tasted something very different. It was the bitter recognition that the New Spirituality is still expanding its reach.

Where will I run into the next subtle call to follow the eight-fold path and forget myself? I don’t know. I think the problem will solve itself when Starbucks executives realize the ultimate aim of Buddhism:

To eliminate all desire

When we reach Nirvanah, our desire to pay for overpriced coffee and remain enslaved to caffeine addictions will be no more.

Then again, what matter is that to executives without the desire for profits?

Oh, wait. I just found the “Capital of Heaven Keemun Black Tea” blend. I take it all back. (Well, some of it.)

Photo credit: Frank Lindecke / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

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It seems like an odd phrase, to be surprised by joy. Without much reflection, we can reasonably assume we know what it means to have joy.

But do we?

In Surprised by Joy, C. S. Lewis merges an extraordinary life experience with a growing awareness of God. The pursuit of joy is the canvas for a picture of his early life and his journey from a boy of nominal faith, to atheist adolescent, to homeward-bound prodigal.

From Joy to Christianity

You will quickly glean from his work that to know joy, we must know desire, a feeling with which we are all well acquainted. It drives our behavior and demands our attention. It is unending, for some to the point of madness. Entire religions have been dedicated to seeing its end.

There is no escape from desire; its mechanism remains fixed within the workings of our mind and soul, and for good reason. Desire itself is not as easily dismissed as the wife and child abandoned by the young Buddha in search of the worldview, which, in the end, would call for its rejection outright.

The object of our desire is consequential, and C. S Lewis’s book describes his early life and struggle to understand the source behind his glimpses of joy as he read the great authors and philosophers.

Defining Joy

But for Lewis, joy could no sooner be captured than after reaching a proper understanding of the thing itself. The thing, he found was not found in the massiveness of Norse mythology, or the esoteric pleasures promised by the Occult (though he lapsed for periods into both). Of the Occult, he describes his temporary and troublesome passion:

“It is a spiritual lust; and like the lust of the body it has the fatal power of making everything else in the world seem uninteresting while it lasts.” 1

Lewis understood the connection between Joy and desire, rightly explaining the true nature of our pursuit and illustrating a common quality present during his own experiences:

“. . .it is that of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy, which is here a technical term and must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one charactersitc, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again.”2

Preparing to Fall Away

This pursuit of Joy shaped his early attitudes about spirituality. Lewis describes his feeling toward Christianity as a young boy:

“I naturally accepted what I was told but I cannot remember feeling much interest in it.”3

Lewis’s childhood understanding of God was indistinguishable from that of many believers today:

“I had approached God, or my idea of God, without love, without awe, even without fear. He was, in my mental picture of this miracle, to appear neither as Savior nor as Judge, but merely as a magician; and when He had done what was required of Him I supposed He would simply–well, go away.”4

Over the course of Lewis’s education, God did not so much go away, as allow Lewis to be away, at least, for a time. His mind was a melting pot of philosophies, ideologies, and possibilities. Rationalism, Idealism, Materialism and other -isms of the day competed for his attention and worked on the superficial faith of his youth, until:

“. . .the general impression I got was that religion in general, though utterly false, was a natural growth, a kind of endemic nonsense into which humanity tended to blunder. In the midst of a thousand and first, labeled True. But on what grounds could I believe in this exception?”5

The Wonderfully Depressing Alternative

Content at that point to reject this kind of theistic religiosity, he offers a candid description of the only real alternative, Materialism, and its attractiveness in light of his particular disdain for “interference”:

“. . .the materialist’s universe had the enormous attraction that it offered you limited liabilities. No strictly infinite disaster could overtake you in it. Death ended all. And if ever finite disasters proved greater than one wished to bear suicide would always be possible. The horror of the Christian universe was that it had no door marked Exit. . . .What mattered most of all was my deep-seated hatred of authority, my monstrous individualism, my lawlessness. No word in my vocabulary expressed deeper hatred than the word Interference. But Christianity placed at the center what then seemed to me a transcendental Interferer.”6

Fortunately, Lewis’s search for the source of this Joy did not end there. Many things came together to make “the most reluctant convert in all of England.”

  • The early death of his mother
  • A privileged upbringing
  • Excellent tutors
  • Flirtations with apostasy
  • An insatiable appetite for dialectics
  • A staunch atheists concession to the historicity of the Gospel accounts
  • The works of Chesterton
  • The friendship of J.R.R Tolkien
  • A revelation when injured during WWI
  • The distinction between appearances and the Absolute
  • A lifetime spent in pursuit of truth

Toward the end, Lewis offers some insight gained from his pursuit of joy:

  • Joy can only be experienced when it is not being contemplated.
  • Joy is not a state of mind; it is a byproduct
  • Its existence presupposes something other and outer.7

From Christianity to Joy

You must read the work in its entirety to fully appreciate how Lewis’s pursuit of Joy brought him to the feet of God. After embracing theism, his investigation of world religions left him with only two contenders :

  1. Hinduism, which he rejected as an “oil-an-water co-existence of philosophy side-by-side with Paganism unpurged; the Brahmin meditating in the forest, and, in the village a few miles away, temple prostitution, sati, cruelty, monstrosity,”8 and
  2. Christianity, about which he claimed himself “too experienced in literary criticism to regard the Gospels as myth.”9

It is no coincidence that in Lewis’s pursuit of joy he encountered the object of ultimate worth, thus defining the character of our ultimate desires. In the end, Lewis’s surprise was not that he found Joy, it was the realization that Joy was not the true object of his pursuit.

Lewis’s search of a familiar state of mind led him back to the Mind with which we are all familiar. How often do we, like Lewis, begin searching in the wrong place (the inner and familiar), when the answer must lie somewhere else (the outer and the other)?

Lewis’s story is a win. He survived his philosophical forays into a world of myth and danger. I should hardly think our outcome will be similar when we are surprised by pleasure.

1C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy (New York: First Mariner Books, 2012), Kindle ed., 60.
2Ibid., 17.
3Ibid., 7.
4Ibid., 21.
5Ibid., 63.
6Ibid., 171.
7Ibid., 168.
8Ibid., 235.
9Ibid.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will add value to my readers or will assist them in establishing a coherent worldview. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”