Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 Blog Highlights

This will be embarrassing!

Apology Series
Q&A for Today
Space Quotes

It wasn't a good year for my blog. I stopped blogging. People stopped reading. Life was busy. Facebook took over. Will this blog survive 2011? Did it survive 2010?

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

4 Views of 4 Views Books

Recently I've been reading a number of books which present 4 views of a given subject and allow for some interaction between the different presenters. These books serve as good introductions to broad subjects, but the format also carries with it some negatives. This post will present 4 different views of the '4 views' books.

View #1 "They're GREAT!"
The '4 Views' books are awesome. They help us to understand those whom we disagree with and even to better understand our own positions. Plus, they go as 'in depth' as most people will need on the subject at hand.

View #2 "They're GOOD!"
The '4 Views' books are a good start, but by their very nature, they don't go into enough detail. Each view gets a very abbreviated description.

View #3 "They're OK!"
The '4 Views' books are ok, but sometimes there's only 3 legitimate views and sometimes there are 5. My unique (and right!) view always seems to get left out.

View #4 "They're TERRIBLE"
The '4 Views' books give equal time to deception! Only 1 view is correct and the others should not be given the chance to stand side by side with the true view.

The '4 Views' books have strengths and weaknesses.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Psalm Sort of Prayer

For many members of these United States, Thanksgiving is about the four F’s: Faith, Family, Food, and Football. Interestingly, each component of Thanksgiving lends itself to prayer. Our faith leads us to share a prayer of gratitude to God for our families and for the abundance of food. In many homes each member around the table will express the ways in which they’ve been blessed prior to partaking in the feast. And this prayerfulness does not end when the television is turned on to watch the football game. A touchdown is often accompanied by a finger pointing to the heavens as a thanks for, apparently, God-given success on the field. After the game, when a star player is interviewed, the first words out of his mouth are often an expression of gratitude toward God.

This year, for me, Thanksgiving felt like a five-day festival. Wednesday night I led a small congregation in a Thanksgiving Eve service. We sang to God and shared with Him and each other many of the ways in which God had blessed us over the past year. It was easy to find some Psalms to help us consider some of our blessings (we used Psalms 92 and 107). Thursday afternoon my wife (Katie) and I were able to host her side of the family for our Thanksgiving Day meal in our new home! Friday morning we (along with our 4-month old daughter Kenzie) made our way safely eight hours to Pennsylvania to visit family. We were able to spend Saturday and Sunday with loved ones as we ate meal after meal of delicious leftovers and watched plenty of football. Throughout the week, many prayers of thanks were offered to God. Even now, as I reflect on the above, I am overwhelmed with thankfulness.

Soon after our arrival back in New York Monday evening, I turned the radio on to find them still talking about faith and football, but with a strange and apparently uncomfortable twist. It seemed that a wide receiver for my favorite team (the Buffalo Bills) had blamed God for his poor performance on Sunday. He had dropped what would have been a game winning catch in overtime and, shortly thereafter, left the following message on his online Twitter account: “I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!! AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!! YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS??? HOW???!!! ILL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!!! THX THO...”

Local radio was abuzz Monday evening with reaction. One sports sociologist, in a radio interview, said of the wide receiver, “He's blaming God. And the fact he's blaming God is beyond the scope. That is frightening. Granted, he may have been saying that out of immediate anger and sadness, but he needs help," When quotes from the interview were posted on the radio stations’ website, a lay comment read, “If you have a relationship with anyone, including God, you have your ups and downs. This was a down day for Steve [the wide receiver] but it proves to me he has a healthy relationship with the Lord.” As I turned off the radio, I found myself wondering who was right. Was the sports sociologist right in insisting that this was a serious sign of psychological problems and that the wide receiver needed help? Or was the lay person correct in saying that the Twitter message was a sign of a healthy relationship with God? Could they both be right to some degree?

Certainly there are issues of greater importance than the result of a football game. The above controversy got me thinking about my Thanksgiving weekend. I had so much to be thankful for (a great family, material blessings, safe travels, etc) and I had expressed this gratefulness to God. But what hadn’t I said to God? Throughout the weekend I had been receiving updates from my mother regarding my one-year-old nephew Lijah. He was in the hospital fighting pneumonia and was in very rough shape. I had prayed a number of times for improved health, but I had resisted expressing any anger of frustration with God for allowing such a small child to go through such an ordeal. It didn’t seem fair, but it also didn’t feel right to vent such feelings to God.

I'm currently teaching on the Psalms, and if they have anything to say on the subject (and I think they do...), then they teach us to pray no matter what our moods and feelings. The Psalms are filled with complaints/laments. I really enjoyed some writing from John Goldingay on this subject, he said,

“The presence of these prayers in the Psalter indicates at least that God gives permission for them to be prayed. What he then does with them is his business; though we may grant that ours, in our better moments, is to recognize that these are not the profoundest moments in the Psalter (except in the sense that, in their own paradoxical way, they point towards the cross to which such human realities pushed God), and that, while they may be uttered, they may then need to be repented of.”

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Monopoly is by far the greatest board game ever, except for the fact that very rarely will someone actually play it with me. But recently we were lent Wii Monopoly! It took me a little while to figure out how the computer played the game, but I'm on fire now. Here are my results:

4th, 3rd, 3rd, 2nd, 1st, 2nd, 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st

Not a super post, I know, but (just like in monopoly), it'll take me a while to get back into the swing of things :)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Blame Game

Who is most to blame for my lack of recent blogging?

A. Blogger Matthew
B. Intern David
C. Baby Kenzie
D. Other (type-in)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Prayer Meeting?

In the past, almost all holiness churches had a mid-week prayer meeting. Many churches have since stopped. Our church didn't, but the attendance got to be something like 8-15 people on most nights. I discovered that those 8-15 were very sad that so few attended this meeting which was open to a congregation of 200.

Would I like to see 200 people in prayer meeting? Of course! But I realize our culture. My concern was to help these 8-15 feel better about their Wednesday night experience. How could I help them not to be sad about the fact that they were such a small group?

I found something that seems to have worked. I simply started calling them a small-group. This subtle change has changed the atmosphere of our Wednesday night get-together. We think of ourselves now as a small-devoted to specifically to prayer. I make mention of the fact that there are multiple other small groups happening in congregational homes. This helps the prayer small-group to realize that just b/c tons of people aren't at the church building on Wednesday night, it doesn't mean a lot of people are engaged in prayer and the Christian life.

Furthermore, changing Wednesday night prayer meeting into a 'prayer small-group' has given our group renewed focus. No longer is it just another bible study and prayer time. Now it is very centered on prayer. When we look at Scripture, we are looking for insights into prayer. When we pray, we are more passionate. It's been a good thing.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Pastor Appreciation

How to make your pastor feel UNappreciated

Coming Soon- How to make your pastor feel appreciated, Part Two

Space Quotes

I've always been interested in space. Yes, I'm a Sci-Fi fan, but I also like non-fiction news about our advancing understanding of the universe. Recent articles, however, have made me chuckle more than marvel. Articles about space are getting stranger and stranger. Here are a couple of examples.

Article 1
This is an article about a newly discovered planet that seems to be in a 'goldilocks' zone. This means that the conditions for life on this planet may be 'just right.' Unfortunately, the article is filled with internal inconsistencies are ridiculous statements.

Example 1
The article begins, "Astronomers say they have for the first time spotted a planet beyond our own in what is sometimes called the Goldilocks zone for life: Not too hot, not too cold. Juuuust right." But a little later the journalist admits, "Scientists have jumped the gun before on proclaiming that planets outside our solar system were habitable only to have them turn out to be not quite so conducive to life." So really this is not the first time they've spotted a planet that they thought was habitable. It's just the most recent time.

Example 2
Steven Vogt of the University of California states that "chances for life on this planet are 100 percent." What!?!? This quote is found in the same paragraph as the fact that researchers don't yet know if there is water on the planet or what the planets atmosphere is like! The statement is also very philosophical (life simply must emerge when conditions are right) rather than scientific (observation).

Example 3
That same paragraph makes the following atrocious argument, "because conditions are ideal for liquid water [on this new-found planet], and because there always seems to be life on Earth where there is water..." What does the 'always' mean here? What about the 'seems'?

Example 4
The article closes with this laugher, ""It's pretty hard to stop life once you give it the right conditions." This is pure naturalistic philosophy, not science. This is not based on observation at all. It is based on worldview.

Article 2
A second article, from earlier in the week, is perhaps more insane. The UN is considering the hiring of an Ambassador for Planet Earth who will coordinate first contact with alien visitors. What her job description will entail until that day is an interesting question, but there are a couple real funny lines in this article.

Example 5
The potential coordinator states, "The continued search for extraterrestrial communication, by several entities, sustains the hope that some day human kind will received signals from extraterrestrials." In other words, since we are still looking, we still might find. Brilliant. And what of this word 'hope' if not a reflection of the fact that she is making a worldview statement here, not a scientific one.

Example 6
"Under the Outer Space Treaty on 1967, which Unoosa oversees, UN members agreed to protect Earth against contamination by alien species by “sterilising” them." Of course! Those aliens who just came from light years away on a spaceship will be glad to let you sterilize them upon their arrival! Thankfully, this new coordinator has a much more tolerant approach!

Example 7
No space talk is finished without a quote from Stephen Hawking. Not so optimistically, he states, "I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. The outcome for us would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans."

I don't know if there is life on other planets or not, but I do know the difference between science and philosophy. I also know the difference between imaginative conversation and flat-out comedy, and I think these articles fit the latter category a bit better than the former.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

NFL Predictions

AFC East
11-5 NY Jets
10-6 NE Pats
7-9 Miami
6-10 Buffalo

AFC North
13-3 Baltimore
10-6 Cincinnati
7-9 Pittsburgh
2-14 Cleveland

AFC South
11-5 Indianapolis
10-6 Houston
8-8 Tennessee
5-11 Jacksonville

AFC West
10-6 San Diego
7-9 Oakland
7-9 Denver
5-11 Kansas City

AFC Championship
Baltimore over Indianapolis

NFC East
11-5 Dallas
10-6 NY Giants
9-7 Philadelphia
8-8 Washington

NFC North
12-4 Green Bay
10-6 Minnesota
6-10 Chicago
6-10 Detroit

NFC South
12-4 New Orleans
10-6 Atlanta
4-12 Carolina
3-13 Tampa Bay

NFC West
9-7 San Francisco
8-8 Arizona
5-11 Seattle
4-12 St. Louis

NFC Championship:
Green Bay over New Orleans

Super Bowl:
Baltimore over Green Bay

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Delusion Confusion 9

We're still in chapter 4. Today I want to focus on pages 162-189.

Dawkins is targeting, here, the big question of ultimate origins. Theists suggest the answer to this question is God. Dawkins offers the following alternative points:

1. The origin of life only had to happen once (162)
2. He would not be surprised if chemists figure out an answer very soon (165)
3. The fact that we are here proves that it happened, no matter how unlikely (165)
4. He doesn't think the odds are as bad as sometimes suggested (166)
5. The odds aren't so bad b/c the universe is so big (many chances for luck, 168)
6. The odds are even better b/c there might be multiple universes (173)
7. God is too complex to have been the first cause (which must be simple, 185)

My comments...

As to #2, I think it is more likely that chemists will tout an answer that isn't actually an answer. They will produce life in a lab using building blocks and pretend like that solves the problem when, in actuality, the problem is where the building blocks came from.

I don't understand how #3 is considered circular reasoning. By 'it happpened,' Dawkins surely means life from non-life without divine aid. He is assuming his conclusion to help him prove his conclusion. He's free to do that in order to show the consistency of his theory, but he shouldn't pretend it helps prove his theory.

I think #'s 1 & 4-6 are strong evidence, again, that Dawkins is doing philosophy in this book and not science. #4 is somewhat of a science (statistical probability), but as we slide down to #6 we're dealing with pure speculation. This speculation is driven not by evidence, but by necessity. If the naturalist worldview is correct, the statistical problem MUST be overcome by increasing the pool of possibilities.

As for #7, I found myself constantly writing the word 'why' next to Dawkins' words from pages 184-186. Dawkins insists that the first cause MUST have been simple. But this is only true if we assume Dawkins worldview from the get-go. Dawkins believes that complexity ONLY comes after a lot of mutations and natural selection. He cannot fathom anything complex existing without such a build-up. And so a complex Being being the first cause is out of the question for him. But why must it be out of the question for me? Why must I work with the same worldview as him?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Delusion Confusion 8

Chapter 4, the longest chapter in The God Delusion (about 53 pages), is titled "Why there almost certainly is no God" (137-189). It is safe to say that this is where Dawkins sees his strength, but I found this chapter to be among the weakest in terms of argumentation. Here are some examples:

1. Dawkins says that "Darwinian natural selection is the only known solution to the otherwise unanswerable riddle of where the information comes from" (138). But this is certainly too broad a statement. Even if Darwinian natural selection is as explanatory as Dawkins thinks it is, it still doesn't explain where information ultimately comes from.

2. He hints that even though there's no evidence, a darwinian principle may actually have application to origins/cosmology (139, 141, 143). To me, this is direct evidence that Dawkins is working more from a worldview than from actual observation (as he claims).

3. He makes a repeated (and good) point that Darwinian evolution really isn't a 'chance' ordeal (145). I think it is too easy for non-Darwinians to dismiss the theory as one of (statistically impossible) chance. The kind of evolution that we all agree about is not a matter of 'chance' at all. It happens for a reason.

4. Dawkins insists that the design argument is flawed in that the designer's origin, too, would need to be explained (being a complex being and all, 146-147). But again, the argument only states that things that have a beginning (like the cosmos) have a cause. "Who made God" simply isn't a legitimate question b/c God is, by definition, a being without a cause.

5. Dawkins writes as if creationists don't understand the principle of accumulation. I respond by saying that I probably believe in it even more than Dawkins does. After all, I believe that the variety that we see came about in a (relatively) short period of time via evolution.

6. In my opinion, Dawkins has an epistemology that makes his conversion (to theism or something like it) practically impossible. He states that it doesn't even make sense to search for evidence of design (151, 153). Instead, one should always assume that anything with the appearance of design is just an area of current human ignorance. How can irreducible complexity EVERY be shown if it is ALWAYS better to wait for more science (155)?

7. In this same context, he states, "It is utterly illogical to demand complete documentation of every step of the narrative" (153). But his discussion of God in the Old Testament is evidence that he does not extend that sort of grace to theists.

8. From the opening quote of Jefferson to the end of the chapter, Dawkins is attempting to ignite the supposed flaming gulf that exists b/w religion and science. But no such gulf exists. Good theism doesn't wish science would go away, nor do good theists shy from it.

I'll stop at 8 (it's a long chapter). Next I'll look at what Dawkins says about the Anthropic Principle (and probably be able to finish the chapter).

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Delusion Confusion 7

* Below is part 7 of a response to Richard Dawkins book "The God Delusion"
**I'm dealing with pages 100-136 here

In this chapter, Dawkins is basically attempting to dismantle a number of arguments for God's existence. Below I will list the 'proofs' he deals with, describe his problem (P) with them, and respond (R) with my own feedback:

1. There must be a first cause
P- Even if true, it doesn't tell us anything about the cause
R- Clearly Dawkins avoids the strength of the argument (that it shows there must be a first cause) by simply dismissing it with critical words (dubious, arbitrary) apart from actual argument. He then points out that nothing about this 'cause' can be learned from the argument. While this is an overstatement (certainly the idea that the cause resulted in this particular kind of creation tells us something about the cause), every Christian apologist would agree that the first cause argument doesn't give us much information. It isn't intending to. Agreeing with your opponent is not winning a debate! He quickly switches enemies and attacks and apparent contradiction b/w God's omniscience and omnipotence. Thus, I found his response to this argument very weak.

2. The universe appears designed
P- Darwin shows how things can appear designed without actually being designed
R- Even if Darwinian evolution is true it only shows how complex life (that appears designed) could possibly come from simple life (that, we know now, also appears designed). Dawkins is avoiding the subject of the appearance of design in non-living things (laws of nature). He himself is willing to admit that life may have been placed here by design (aliens).

3. A perfect being must exist
P- A big chunk of the chapter is spent showing the weakness of the ontological argument.
R- I think the ontological argument is worthless too. I wonder why he spent so much time on it. At least the section gives us the chance to hear Dawkins say he doesn't like (and doesn't really get) philosophy.

4. Life is beautiful
P- The existence of beautiful things in culture proves culture, not God
R- The argument from beauty is not really a proof (for the brain), but for the heart. I don't think it is even worth arguing over this point.

5. People have experienced God
P- Dawkins claims that all such experiences are delusions.
R- Certainly some religious experiences are delusions. But since we are dealing with many throughout human history, we certainly should not dismiss them as quickly as Dawkins has done here.

6. Scripture is of divine origin
P- He says that scholarship has shown that the Scriptures are unreliable and written long after Jesus
R- To be honest, Dawkins is so misinformed in this section that this paragraph would get way too long to read comfortably. I will make a list below, but will save further comments until we deal with his later chapter on the Bible's supposed faults.

- He starts with rhetoric by making it sound like there are just a few holdout believers in the divine origin of Scripture. False, the majority of the world probably believes divine texts exist.
- He thinks the historical evidence that Jesus claimed divinity is minimal. False, this could only be stated by someone very ignorant of how Jesus spoke, acted, and related to people and the institutions of his day.
- He thinks that even if Jesus did claim it, he could have been honestly mistaken (and yet implies this wouldn't make him a crazy person). False, if Jesus thought he was God and wasn't, he was crazy.
- The scholarly case against the reliability of Scripture is overwhelming. False, it's reliability has stood the test of time.
- The NT was written long after Jesus. False, it was written within a generation.
- Paul mentions almost none of the alleged facts of Jesus' life. False, Paul writes to people with a previous understanding of who Jesus was/is.
- The Gospel is borrowed from the myth religions. False, this was proven false a hundred years ago.
- The genealogies of Jesus contradict each other. False, I believe one is Mary's and one is Joseph's.
- The 4 Gospels were chosen arbitrarily. False, there was intense criteria. They were recognized early on and only institutionalized later on.
- The authors of the Gospels never met Jesus. False, the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses or associates of eyewitnesses.
- A serious case can be made that Jesus never existed. False, there is plenty of evidence outside of the Bible for the basic features of Jesus' life. Only if we hold this bit of history to a totally different standard due we arrive at such a conclusion. Dawkins even dismisses this (so why mention it?).
- The Christians changed OT passages (like Isaiah's young maiden) to fit their theology (like the virgin birth. False, the Jews translated it virgin long before the 1st century.

7. Some smart people believe
P- Dawkins dismisses most of this by saying that most of the 'Christian' scientists of the past would be atheists if they lived today. He then states that many apparently religious scientists today are only religious in the Einsteinian sense. He then admits that some are genuinely religious and simply says such cases baffle him! He later states the, nevertheless, the best scientists are not religious.
R- The first point is worthless and arbitrary. I'd agree with the second point. The third point is telling. The fourth point is circular.

8. It's a better bet to believe
P- Pascal's Wager could only ever be an argument for feigning belief in God.
R- I generally agree.

9. Theism is highly probable
P- If you put reality into an equation it becomes obvious that God is more likely real than not.
R- I don't think this type of proof has much substance or worth either.

Questions for Discussion:
1. Which of the above arguments do you consider the strongest argument for God's existence?
2. Which of the above arguments do you consider the weakest argument for God's existence?
3. Are there arguments for God's existence that you wish he would have dealt with?

Friday, July 16, 2010

How many times...

This video tests your observation skills. How many times does the white shirted team pass the ball?

Friday, July 09, 2010

Delusion Confusion 6

* Below is part 6 of a response to Richard Dawkins book "The God Delusion"
**I'm dealing with pages 85-99 here

Just a few odds and ends to deal with at the end of chapter 2. Dawkins writes briefly about prayer, evidence & the probability of E.T. life.

Dawkins speaks of various studies of prayer that demonstrate that prayer doesn't actually work. I think any thinking person would recognize the many stupidities involved in the experiment described in the middle of page 86. I, myself, really struggle with prayer. That might seem strange for a pastor to say, but I find it to be a very difficult subject to think about. But one thing I do know is that prayer is not powerful in and of itself. It's not like a vending machine in which we're guaranteed B3 b/c we put in our 50 cents. Nor is God like Santa Claus. Prayer must be thought of carefully and not in such childish manners.

Dawkins has a real problem with Swinburne's statement that "Too much evidence [of God] might not be good for us" (89). But again, I'm not sure how deeply Dawkins is willing or able to think on these issues. Perhaps there is something of 'free will' which is negated by an over-abundance of evidence. These are deep issues worth thinking about, but I see no reason to deny God because of them.

Dawkins says that science chips away at agnosticism on various fronts. The more we utilize science to chip away at the unexplained, the less we should feel the need to resort to God. This leads to a growing naturalism. Using this naturalistic worldview, our agnosticism about alien life is also chipped away. It is becoming more and more probable, according to Dawkins, that life exists on other planets. He thinks it is probably superhuman life (to the point of being god-like). Indeed, he states that these aliens are god-like "in ways that exceed anything a theologian could possibly imagine" (98). That strange statement aside, I can certainly see how a naturalistic worldview leads to belief in aliens.

Questions for Discussion:
1. Do you believe there is any power in prayer? In what sense(s)?
2. Do you think experiments trying to prove/disprove prayer are valid? Why?
3. Do you agree with Swinburne that too much evidence might not be good for us in matters of religion? Or do you agree with Dawkins that if there is a god(s) he/she/it should overwhelm us with evidence? Would this chip away at free will?
4. Do you think alien life exists? Why?
5. Dawkins has claimed that life on earth might have been intelligently placed here by extra-terrestrials. Do you find this to be a startling admission? If true, does this solve the dilemma of the origins of life or just push it further into the galaxy?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Delusion Confusion 5

* Below is part 5 of a response to Richard Dawkins book "The God Delusion"
**I'm dealing with pages 78-85 here

NOMA is an acronym coined by Gould (non-overlapping magisteria) which argues that science and religion simply cover different spheres. Perhaps science deals with the observable/material and religion with the unobservable/spiritual. Dawkins thinks "this sounds terrific - right up until you give it a moment's thought" (79).

In some ways this is really the core thought of the book. Dawkins is only willing to consider a religion that stands up to scientific scrutiny, that manifests itself in the material world. I, like Dawkins, agree that NOMA is all too convenient for religion. But I find it frustrating that Dawkins, when faced with apparent divine agreement on this point (incarnation, resurrection), is so quick to pass through the potential evidence with 1 mere paragraph (82-83). I'm having trouble remembering another mention of Jesus' resurrection in the entire book, the very kind of evidence Dawkins claims to be interested in!

So what does he say about the resurrection of Jesus?
1. If it occurred, it occurred within the material realm
2. It is unlikely that evidence will ever become available

Completely agree on point one (resurrection happens in the physical realm). But point 2 is where I think Dawkins has poor epistemology. He seemingly has such a preference for biology and contemporary observation that he either ignores historic evidence or pretends it doesn't exist. I get the impression that Dawkins would only accept the kind of evidence that nobody would expect to be available realistically (a strand of hair or drop of blood from Jesus that proved either incarnation or resurrection).

I'm going to stop there for the time being and finish chapter 2 in the next post. I was hoping Dawkins book would make some strong atheistic claims about 3 things: Origins, Morality, and refutation of Jesus' resurrection. I was disappointed that the resurrection got so little attention in this book (a few lines?). It's not that I was expecting a Bible study, it's that resurrection is the exact kind of evidence Dawkins claims to be interested in.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Matthew Series

These are the handouts (with some rough notes) from my sermon series through the Gospel according to Matthew...

Genealogy (1:1-17)
Joseph (1:18-25)
Wise Men (2:1-22)
Growing up (2:23)
John the Baptist (3:1-12)
The Trinity (3:13-17)
The Temptation (4:1-11)
D-Day (4:12-17)
The Calling (4:18-25)
The Beatitudes (5:1-12)
Salt & Light (5:13-16)
The Law (5:17-20)
Anger (5:21-26)
Marriage & Divorce (5:27-32)
Telling the Truth (5:33-37)
Dealing with Enemies (5:38-48)
The Secret Service (6:1-4)
Our Prayer (6:5-15)
Fasting for God (6:16-18)
Money Matters (6:19-24)
Worry Free Living (6:25-34)
Critique of Criticism (7:1-6)
The Golden Rule (7:7-12)
The Way of Life (7:13-29)
3 Healing Stories (8:1-15)
Theology of Healing (8:16-17)
The Cost of Christianity (8:18-22)
Calm in the Storm (8:23-27)
Swine Flew (8:28-34)
Questioning Jesus (9:1-34)
The Twelve (9:35-10:42)
Eulogy for John (11:1-30)
Lord of the Sabbath (12:1-21)
The Chained Beast (12:22-45)
The Family of God (12:46-50)
The Four Soils (13:1-23)
The Wheat & Weeds (13:24-30, 36-43)
Mustard & Leaven (13:31-35)
Full Faith (13:44-58)
Bread of Life (14:1-21)
Walking on Water (14:22-33)
Tradition vs. Transformation (15:1-20)
Jesus for Gentiles? (15:21-39)
How to Destroy Fellowship (16:1-12)
Peter's Confession (16:13-20)
Why Did Jesus Come? (16:21-26)
The Transfiguration (16:27-17:13)
Demon Possessed Boy (17:14-23)
Tax Questions (17:24-27, 22:15-22)
Like Little Children (18:1-14)
Sin in the Church (18:15-35)
One Thing (19:16-30)
Workers Paid Equally (20:1-16)
Upside-Down Kingdom (20:17-34)
From Triumph to Temple (21:1-32)
The Wicked Tenants (21:33-46)
The Banquet (22:1-14)
The Big Inning (22:15-46)
The Show Must NOT Go On (23:1-39)
It's NOT the end of the World (24:1-34)
Ready for the Return? (24:35-25:30)
What have you done to Jesus? (25:31-46)
The Betrayal (26:1-30, 27:3-10)
The Denial (26:31-35, 69-75)
He Exits the Garden Alone (26:36-56)
Jesus on Trial (26:57-68, 27:1-2, 11-44)
He has Died (27:45-56)
He has Risen! (27:57-28:15)
Go (28:16-20)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Delusion Confusion 4

* Below is part 4 of a response to Richard Dawkins book "The God Delusion"

Chapter 2 (Part A)

This chapter is about 50 pages and I hardly think a decent response can be made in 1 post/note. I'll deal with pages 51-77 here. Dawkins is attempting to show the weaknesses of non-atheist positions (polytheism, monotheism in various forms, and agnosticism).

Dawkins on Polytheism
It is clear that Dawkins' pictures worldviews through the same evolutionary lens than he pictures biology. For him, polytheism evolved into monotheism which evolved into agnosticism which should evolve into atheism. Dawkins basically uses this section as a 'warm up' to his attack on monotheism in all its forms (57).

Dawkins on Monotheism
Dawkins considers Judaism, Christianity & Islam to be practically indistinguishable for his purposes. He goes on a brief tangent to bring into question just how religious the founding fathers of America were. In all honesty, I have no real interest in that debate (though I tend to think that many of them were less 'Christian' than fundamentalists believe them to have been). I'm still a little puzzled why this tangent was even necessary.

Dawkins on Agnosticism
His basic point here is that agnosticism is fine when we lack evidence (69), but that in the case of theism the burden of proof rests on the theists (76) and that their is no evidence available for them to build their case. Perhaps the most interesting section in the first half of chapter 2 is where Dawkins provides a spectrum of 7 positions in regards to theism/atheism. Dawkins considers himself to be in category 6, but is leaning toward category 7.

1. Strong theist (100% certain there is a God)
2. High Probability (Strongly believe in God)
3. Greater than 50% (agnostic but lean toward belief)
4. Exactly 50% likely
5. Less than 50% (agnostic but lean toward unbelief)
6. Low Probability (Strongly disbelieve in God)
7. Strong Atheist (100% certain there is no God)

Questions for Discussion
1. Doesn't Dawkins use circular reasoning (over and over) by failing to let theism exist on its own terms? I am thinking particularly of his insistence on starting most arguments with potential straw men (using Oral Roberts as an illustration of a theist, describing the OT God is a monster, saying that Paul is the founder of Christianity).
2. Can it really be demonstrated that monotheism evolved from polytheism and not the reverse (or, perhaps, that the evolution could go in both directions)?
3. Are the 3 monotheistic faiths really indistinguishable, even for Dawkins purposes? Doesn't the incarnational theology of Christianity make it quite distinct?
4. Were the Founding Fathers' as religious as fundamentalists say they were? Were they as secular as Dawkins guesses?
5. Is the burden of proof really on theists?
6. Is there really no evidence available for a theist? What kind of evidence would satisfy Dawkins? Why only that?
7. Where are you on Dawkins' spectrum of belief/unbelief? What direction are you moving?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Delusion Confusion 3

* Below is part 3 of a response to Richard Dawkins book "The God Delusion"

Chapter 1

Dawkins uses his 1st chapter to talk about what he is and is not talking about in his book. It's a short section to establish important definitions. The key terms are atheism and theism. What form of Atheism is Dawkins defending? What form of theism does he find intellectually offensive? I will address these 2 questions below:

Some who claim to be atheists are probably closer to agnosticism in terms of technical definition. Someone who does not presently believe in any particular God or gods may define themselves as an atheist even if they are open to belief in the future (given enough evidence). But there is a much bolder kind of atheism which believes more certainly that there is no God or gods. Dawkins fits this stronger form of atheism. The chapter seems to make clear that he believes that the physical/natural world is all that exists (the spiritual/supernatural realm does not).

Just like there are different kinds of beliefs labeled as atheism, there are also different kinds of belief that include a concept of God. Dawkins defines a theist as a believer in a supernatural God (transcendent & immanent). A deist believes in a supernatural God too (but only transcendent). A pantheist uses the term God, but not in a supernatural sense (not transcendent). He declares, "Pantheism is sexed-up atheism. Deism is watered-down theism" (40). It is a major point of the chapter that many/most great scientists who are considered religious were closer to pantheism than to either theism or even deism.

I have no major (or even minor?) disagreement with Dawkins' definitions. I don't even care to dispute his claim that Einstein fits on the pantheistic (non-supernaturalist) side of the debate. I also welcome his ending disclaimer that he is targeting (in this book) the supernaturalist form of religion and will do so without kid-gloves.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Delusion Confusion 2

(Original) Preface

There are two themes in Dawkins Preface that I'd like to react to:
1. Dawkins seems to think atheists are a persecuted minority
2. Dawkins thinks a world without religion would be a better place

The first theme made me wonder if Dawkins was not just from another country, but a whole other planet. Dawkins uses the Preface to paint a picture that atheists are some sort of mistreated minority. He believes that the "status of atheists in America today is on a par with that of homosexuals fifty years ago" (26). This theme is carried throughout the book.

I find this same syndrome quite often in Christian circles. There is something attractive about thinking of your own group as a persecuted minority. We see this in sports all the time, but we also see it in theism and, apparently, atheism as well. But from a street level I just don't see what he claims to be seeing. Practical atheism is the NORM in America, not a minority. And, in this culture, it is usually religious belief that is treated with contempt rather than the lack thereof. But more often people are indifferent and tolerant to a fault!

The second theme is the classic John Lennon thought of imagining a world with no religion. But Dawkins also makes the classic mistake of taking out all the bad fruit of religion while not raising the issue of whether religion has produced much of the good fruit that we enjoy. I thought this was a pretty immature and un-thoughtful opening argument.

Dawkins preface states clearly some of his goals in writing this book.

1. He wants atheists to realize they can 'come out.' I would guess that most atheists, by the very nature of atheism (a positive belief that there is no god or gods), do not struggle with confidence issues.

2. He wants religion to be judged by the evidence. I was/am quite willing to grant this request, though I'd certainly critique Dawkins' epistemology.

3. He wants to bring an end to the practice of labeling children as 'Christian' or 'Muslim' (or whatever) since they have not yet made a decision of what to believe. He states at the bottom of page 25 that "There is no such thing as a Christian child." As an Anabaptist at heart, I'm hard pressed to critique Dawkins on this point.

4. He wants religious readers to be atheists by the time they finish reading his book. I can only say with complete honesty that my faith in Christ was actually strengthened by reading this book because I found Dawkins' arguments to be weak in the areas he addresses and his book very weak in terms of what was neglected. But we'll get into the particulars later on...

Questions for discussions (to keep things focused):
1. Do you think atheism is a persecuted minority in America?
2. Do you think Dawkins was fair in his imaginations of a world without religion?
3. What do you think of Dawkins' goals?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Delusion Confusion

For the next little while, I'm going to be responding to Richard Dawkins best-selling book The God Delusion. Dawkins is one of the world's most famous atheists and this 400+ page book is considered his strongest argument to date against religion of all kinds (but especially focused on Christianity).

Preface to the Paperback Edition
In this section, Dawkins deals with common objections to his book.

1. You can't criticize religion w/o theological training
Dawkins responds by saying that he has no interest or obligation to respond to theologians who take God's existence for granted. He claims to deal only with those who "take seriously the possibility that God does not exist and argue that he does" (14). I think this is a fair point on Dawkins' part, but I don't think he came through. When the subject comes up later in the book, I don't see very much dialogue with the best arguments of theism. A bit of the straw-man fallacy is present, which leads us to objection 2.

2. You always attack the worst of religion
Dawkins responds by saying that subtle/nuanced religion is "numerically negligible" in comparison to bad religion. I find this point to be at odds with reality. Of those who claim to be religious in our world (most people), I don't find the vast majority of them to be illustrations of the evils of religion. And if Dawkins is directing his attack against bad religion, I'll join in! But what is that to me?

3. You are too mean!
Dawkins uses comparison to show that he's not really very mean. Having read the book, I would tend to agree with him. He has strong opinions and he's blunt with them, but I wouldn't say he is mean in any sense that would drive me away from reading his book.

4. You are preaching to the choir
This point assumes that The God Delusion will only be read by atheists who already agree with Dawkins. I think this objection is weak. I'm a Christian and I was very interested to read the book.

5. You are just as much a fundamentalist as they are
Dawkins responds to this by saying there is a big difference b/w someone who is passionate against evidence (a fundamentalist) and passionate about the evidence (in his view, a naturalist). He states bluntly that "all available evidence (and there is a vast amount of it) favours evolution" (19). I find both components of that statement to be vastly overstated. Plus, Christianity does not stand or fall on whether Darwin was right! After reading the book, I would say Dawkins is so committed to naturalism that he would qualify as an equal though opposite fundamentalist.

6. Religion is here to stay, so live with it
Dawkins basically says that if something is false we should do everything possible to get rid of it. I agree with him in principle.

7. Religion is false, but people need it
This objection basically speaks down to the common man who doesn't know enough to become an atheist. Such unlearned people need religion to help them through life. But Dawkins thinks this is arrogant and I agree. However, Dawkins feels that most people are religious b/c they simply don't know there is a solid alternative (a point he gets into more in the regular preface). I find this point ridiculous (I'll get into this in the next post).

So, after reading the book, what objections do I think stick? I would say 1, 2 & 5 are strong points against what Dawkins has written. He hasn't dealt thoroughly with the strongest theistic arguments. He definitely avoids dealing with the strengths of his opponents (basically ZERO discussion of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ) or the weaknesses of his own view (very little worthwhile discussion of true origins, unpersuasive discussion of morality w/o theistic foundations). And he's clearly assuming his naturalist position in making most of his arguments.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010


I have a BBC intern
What should I make him do?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Idol #1

I thought the final show was missing the 'moment' that the judges seemed to have found in Crystal's last song. That being said, I do think Crystal won the night and, therefore, retained the overall top score for the season. THAT being said, I still think Lee appeals to a broader base and will probably get the most votes tonight.

54 Crystal Bowersox (271)
50 Lee Dewize (266)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Q&A for Today

My small groups are working on developing some evangelistic materials. We are interested in being prepared to answer the kinds of questions that non-Christians might have about God. I started with a list of 20 questions and then got more questions from Christians and non-Christians alike. I thought I'd simply share the questions we've gathered so far...

Questions of Philosophy
Who made God? How could He just exist?
Where does God live? How about Jesus?
Why does God need to be worshiped?
Does God intervene in our lives?
Aren’t monotheism & trinitarianism incompatible?
Why does God allow so much pain and suffering?
How could a loving God send people to Hell?

Questions of Creation
Haven’t science/evolution made God obsolete?
Would the discovery of E.T. destroy Christianity?
Is the earth is young? If so, why do I see stars?
Wouldn’t there be evidence of Noah’s flood?

Questions about the Old Testament
Isn’t Genesis 1-11 just a fairy tale?
Is God racist for picking 1 people group (Israel)?
Isn’t the OT God somewhat of a monster?
Why do some Christians ignore some OT laws?

Questions about the New Testament
Can you prove that Jesus actually existed?
Why worship Jesus if he never claimed to be God?
Why should I actually believe in the resurrection?
Why should I care what Paul says?

Questions about the Christianity
If it’s true, why is Christian history so bad?
Why are there so many denominations?
What about those who have never heard of Jesus?
Shouldn’t I wait until I am absolutely sure?

Questions of Comparison
Are Christians actually happier than others?
What makes Christianity superior to other religions?

Feel free to suggest more questions

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Idol #3

It was April 20th, on my blog, that I first predicted that Lee should & would win American Idol this year. And I think that prediction has been vindicated by his recent performance. Even without the comments from the judges, I gave him two 9 out of 10's.

37 Lee Dewize (216)
33 Crystal Bowersox (217)
28 Casey James (202)

Earlier in the season Crystal built a pretty big lead by my stat system, but now Lee is within 1 point of her. In other words, whoever performs better next week deserves to win. Unless, of course, it is Casey. He doesn't even deserve to be in the top 6, let alone the top 3. If he doesn't get voted out tomorrow I'm moving to Canada.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Idol #4

I agree with the judges that the duets were way better than the performances this week. I think everyone was just sorta average.

21 Crystal Bowersox (184)
20 Lee Dewize (179)
20 Michael Lynch (175)
20 Casey James (174)

Casey should have gone home before Michael, but I'm not upset about that since BOTH of them should have gone about before Shiabjon (spelling?). In either case, it should definitely be a battle b/w Lee & Crystal. In that case I wouldn't be upset either way, but I think Lee will win.

*Programming note: After Idol is over, my next series will be a chapter by chapter review of Richard Dawkins "The God Delusion"

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Idol #5

After Tuesday's show, I really think it's got to be either Casey or Aaron on their way out. The other three were either too good last night or are too good overall. I will not be sad to see either Casey or Aaron go. Whichever one doesn't get voted out, the other one should go next week. I predict Casey will go first.

19 Lee Dewize (159)
17 Michael Lynch (155)
15 Crystal Bowersox (163)
14 Aaron Kelly (140)
13 Casey James (154)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Idol #6

I was less shocked that Siabjon (I never spell it the same week to week) was voted out and more disappointed. Let's face it, the show just got a LOT more boring. She was one of the more interesting contestants of all-time in my opinion. And she was certainly talented. America stinks. Here's my rankings for this week...

17 Casey James (137)
17 Aaron Kelly (126)
16 Siabjon Magnus (138)
16 Michael Lynch (138)
15 Lee Dewize (140)
14 Crystal Bowersox (148)

I am still confident that it will come down to Lee & Crystal (I think Lee will win). But I really thought Siabjon deserved 3rd place. Now I am perplexed.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Idol #7

In my transition from the apartment to our first home, I missed American Idol last week. But since I'm not really an Elvis fan, it was no big deal. I can't say I'm surprised that Katy and Andrew were voted off as they were definitely two of the most underwhelming contestants left. So we're down to our final 7. Here are my scores for the night (overall score in parenthesis):

17 Lee Dewize (125)
17 Crystal Bowersox (134)
15 Aaron Kelly (109)
14 Siobhan Magnus (122)
14 Michael Lynch (122)
13 Casey James (120)
12 Tim Urban (100)

Based on this, I again declare that Tim should be voted off. Casey and Michael, I think, are both in trouble. The more I think about it, the more I think that Lee is going to win this year. He's a little more 'pop' friendly than Crystal and, frankly, she'd be better off on her own than with all that comes with 'winning' American Idol. I think Siobhan will finish 3rd.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Idol #9

I thought this was one of the better episodes of American Idol in terms of performances. There was a lot of variety and, more importantly, a lot of quality. In fact, the only one I felt was below average was Aaron Kelly. Here are my rankings for the week (running tally in parenthesis):

17 Casey James (107)
17 Crystal Bowersox (117)
17 Katie Stevens (98)
16 Lee Dewize (108)
16 Siabhan Magnus (108)
16 Tim Urban (88)
16 Michael Lynch (108)
15 Andrew Garcia (96)
13 Aaron Kelly (94)

Based on these rankings, I'd hope that Aaron is in the bottom 3. Tim, despite his best week, should also still be in the bottom 3. Andrew should probably be the other, but it could still be Katie. I'd be very surprised to see anyone else in the bottom 3. I predict, though, that Tim will actually be voted off. It'll be nice for him to go out on a high note.

Saturday, April 03, 2010


This is a good Easter video illustration. I actually own 2 copies of the short-film MOST if anyone local wants to borrow it (pretty moving).

Friday, April 02, 2010

Such was the Suffering

Accepts Cup (Matt 26:39, 42)
Deserted (Matt 26:56b)

Before Annas
Bound (John 18:12)
Struck (John 18:22)

Before Caiaphas
Spit on (Matt 26:67)
Blindfolded (Mark 14:65)
Mocked (Matt 26:68)
Struck/Slapped (Matt 26:67)
Beaten (Mark 16:65)
Insults (Luke 22:65)

Before Sanhedrin
Condemned (Matthew 27:1)
Bound (Matthew 27:2)

Before Pilate

Before Herod
Mocked (Luke 23:11)

Before Pilate
Flogged (Matt 27:26)

Stripped (Matt 27:28)
Thorns (Matt 27:28)
Mocked (Matt 27:28-29)
Spit on (Matt 27:30)
Struck (Matt 27:30
Disrobed (Matt 27:31)

Carried Cross (John 19:17)
Nailed to Cross (John 20:25)
Disrobed (Matt 27:36)
Mocked (Matt 27:37)
Insulted (Matt 27:39-44)
Forsaken (Matt 27:46)

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Idol #10

I was actually sad to see Didi Benami go. Certainly she had a bad week (she had the lowest score of the night on my ratings), but I still think she was better than a few of the remaining contestants. Her and Lilly Scott both had voices that made for enjoyable listening. On the other hand, the constant crying was probably getting annoying to America. Here are my weekly rankings (overall score in parenthesis):

18 Lee Dewize (92)
16 Crystal Bowersox (100)
16 Michael Lynch (92)
16 Casey James (90)
16 Andrew Garcia (81)
14 Siabhan Magnus (92)
14 Katy Stevens (81)
13 Aaron Kelly (81)
13 Tim Urban (72)
12 Didi Benami (84)

So the bottom 3 were indeed on the bottom 4 of my rankings and the one with the worst week did indeed get voted out. Hopefully Tim goes next week with Katy & Aaron to follow. I think Casey, Andrew & Michael will go after that. At this point I think the final 3 will be Crystal, Siabhan & Lee (but Crystal is the only lock)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Miss Layup

I'm not a male chauvinist. Really, I'm not. But I have to say, anyone pushing for 'equal treatment' for women's college basketball is out of their mind. If an NCAA Men's Elite-8 game ended as pitifully as this women's game, it'd make shameful headlines. With the game tied, a Xavier player misses 2 wide-open layups! Then the Xavier defense allows a Stanford guard to go coast to coast in less than 5 seconds to make a game-winning layup! Ugly ugly basketball. And this is one of the top 8 teams?

But just to prove I'm not a male chuavinist, I will admit that the UCONN women's basketball team (winners of something like 76 in a row) could beat me 5 on 1.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

American Idol 10

For the last couple of years I've posted my statistical analysis of American Idol. I've been watching it and scoring them, but I haven't been blogging it b/c I watch it so late that by the time I'm done I just want to go to bed. Nevertheless, I will start blogging now that they are down to the top 10. I just want to say that it was really stupid that Lilly Scott didn't make the top 12. She was one of my favorites. I am glad Paige is gone, but I wish they could have voted both of the bottom 2 out last night.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Wii Bowling Night

Scott 201

Bryan 182

Jeff 179

Honorable Mention
Noel 149

Top 8 Qualifying and semi-final scores
Matthew 214, 168
Jeff 206, 170
Elise 205, 115
Bryan 200, 175
Samantha 186, 123
Fred 177, 167
Noel 174, 175
Scott, 168, 224

Qualifying Scores
Garrett 160
Robyn 158
Drew 165
Melanie 182
Katie 145
Mindy 182
Katlyn 160
Evelyn 159
Sharon 149
Donna 114
Brandon 129
John 167

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Case for Tirzah

Ever since I first heard it, I have always liked the name Tirzah (pronounced Teer-Zah). It comes from the Bible (she's one of Zelephohad's 5 daughters), but I really began to like the name when I watched the movie Ben-Hur (Tirzah was his sister in the movie). My like turned to love when I added the middle name Joy. Tirzah-Joy (get it?). I thought this was my own creation, but in fact that are a number of Tirzah-Joy's (mostly in New Zealand it seems). I think it is a beautiful name and I've always imagined it for my first baby girl.

Here is my case for the name Tirzah:
1. Katie & I both like the name
2. It's always been my dream name for a baby girl
3. It's unique (Katie & I both like unique names)
4. It's connected to one of my favorite movies
5. It's a Bible name
6. Tears-of-joy is connected to childbirth
7. Hebrew means pleasent/delight

In the interest of full-disclosure I will admit that some people think the name could result in Tirzah being made fun of. But I don't think it's a name that will attract too much attention to be honest. All kids will probably be made fun of at some point anyways, but I don't think the name Tirzah, or even Tirzah-Joy is especially susceptable to peer-attack.

This is my quick case for the baby-girl name Tirzah :)

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Invention of Lying

The Invention of Lying is like Jim Carrey's Liar Liar on Steroids. Rather than just one man telling the truth no matter how hard it hurts, everyone in this films' world does so. Ricky Gervais' character, as a chubby man with a snubby nose, is on the losing end of all this truth telling. But then he learns how to lie! Deception opens doors for Gervais' career, popularity, and romantic life. With everyone else so gullible, the sky is the limit for this fomer loser!

Of course, things get quite out of hand when Gervais tells his dying mother that, rather than nothingness, the afterlife is a wonderful place. The doctors, nurses, and soon the whole world want to hear more of this new information. Gervais invents the idea that there is a man in the sky that is in control of the world, but has trouble filling out this newly invented theology. His life gets even more complex as he begins to see the value of truth in relationships. Is it better to live a 'perfect' lie or an authentic reality?

I'd imagine that some Christians might find this film offensive in that it implies that the 'man in the sky' is the product of human invention. But we should not discount the reality that some religions (and aspects of all religions) are man-made. Technically the film does not deny the existence of God... the people of that world simply didn't have any information about such a being (and when they got some, it was made up).

All in all, the movie was worth watching and I'd recommend it to people who like my kind of movies. I like Gervais style of humor and there were quite a few funny lines. I doubt anyone would say the movie was all that it could have been, though, and at certain points the blatent honesty was either crude or annoying. Overall, I think Liar Liar was more funny and perhaps even more thoughtful.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Matthew Perry

For the full ACTOR RANKINGS click here

A Great Movie earns you 3 points
A Good Movie earns you 1 point
An Average Movie counts for nothing
A Bad Movie costs you 2 points


Fools Rush In

17 Again
The Whole 9 Yards
The Whole 10 Yards
Three to Tango

Almost Heroes

Total Score: -3

Rules I've Made Up Along The Way:
1. No animated/computerized/cartoon voice acting stuff counts
2. The actor must have played a major role in the movie, not some two minute cameo.
3. I had to have seen over 90% of the movie UNLESS it was so bad that I turned it off.
4. I must have seen them in at least seven movies that fit rules 1-3.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Apology Series

I wanted to make a post of links to all the apology analysis for future use. This series focused on the strengths and weaknesses of word choices in celebrity apologies. Analysis of body language, tone, and future behavior would be necessary to fill out this study of apologies.

Marks of a Bad Apology
Marks of a Good Apology

Monday, February 22, 2010

Apology 5 (Amended)

As I'm sure you've all heard, Tiger Woods made a lengthy public apology the other day on television. Now, the public apology is a strange thing (after all, it's not really the public that are owed an apology!), but these famous statements do allow us to analyze the differences b/w a good and a bad apology (and that was the point of my previous series). So here is Tiger's official apology:

Good morning. And thank you for joining me.

Many of you in the room are my friends. Many of you in this room know me. Many of you have cheered for me, or worked with me, or supported me, and now, every one of you has good reason to be critical of me. I want to say to each of you, simply, and directly, I am deeply sorry for my irresponsible and selfish behavior I engaged in.

I know people want to find out how I could be so selfish and so foolish. People want to know how I could have done these things to my wife, Elin, and to my children. And while I have always tried to be a private person, there are some things I want to say.

Elin and I have started the process of discussing the damage caused by my behavior. As she pointed out to me, my real apology to her will not come in the form of words. It will come from my behavior over time. We have a lot to discuss. However, what we say to each other will remain between the two of us.

I am also aware of the pain my behavior has caused to those of you in this room. I have let you down. I have let down my fans. For many of you, especially my friends, my behavior has been a personal disappointment. To those of you who work for me, I have let you down, personally and professionally. My behavior has caused considerable worry to my business partners.

To everyone involved in my foundation, including my staff, board of directors, sponsors, and most importantly, the young students we reach, our work is more important than ever. Thirteen years ago, my dad and I envisioned helping young people achieve their dreams through education. This work remains unchanged and will continue to grow. From the Learning Center students in Southern California, to the Earl Woods Scholars in Washington, D.C., millions of kids have changed their lives, and I am dedicated to making sure that continues.

But, still, I know I have severely disappointed all of you. I have made you question who I am and how I have done the things I did. I am embarrassed that I have put you in this position. For all that I have done, I am so sorry. I have a lot to atone for.

But there is one issue I really want to discuss. Some people have speculated that Elin somehow hurt or attacked me on Thanksgiving night. It angers me that people would fabricate a story like that. She never hit me that night or any other night. There has never been an episode of domestic violence in our marriage. Ever.

Elin has shown enormous grace and poise throughout this ordeal. Elin deserves praise, not blame. The issue involved here was my repeated irresponsible behavior. I was unfaithful. I had affairs. I cheated. What I did is not acceptable. And I am the only person to blame. I stopped living by the core values that I was taught to believe in.

I knew my actions were wrong. But I convinced myself that normal rules didn't apply. I never thought about who I was hurting. Instead, I thought only about myself. I ran straight through the boundaries that a married couple should live by. I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled. Thanks to money and fame, I didn't have far -- didn't have to go far to find them.

I was wrong. I was foolish. I don't get to play by different rules. The same boundaries that apply to everyone apply to me. I brought this shame on myself. I hurt my wife, my kids, my mother, my wife's family, my friends, my foundation, and kids all around the world who admired me.

I've had a lot of time to think about what I have done. My failures have made me look at myself in a way I never wanted to before. It is now up to me to make amends. And that starts by never repeating the mistakes I have made. It is up to me to start living a life of integrity.

I once heard -- and I believe it is true -- it's not what you achieve in life that matters, it is what you overcome. Achievements on the golf course are only part of setting an example. Character and decency are what really count. Parents used to point to me as a role model for their kids. I owe all of those families a special apology. I want to say to them that I am truly sorry.

It is hard to admit that I need help. But I do. For 45 days, from the end of December to early February, I was in inpatient therapy, receiving guidance for the issues I'm facing. I have a long way to go. But I've taken my first steps in the right direction.

As I proceed, I understand people have questions. I understand the press wants me to -- to ask me for the details of the times I was unfaithful. I understand people want to know whether Elin and I will remain together. Please know that as far as I'm concerned, every one of these questions and answers is a matter between Elin and me. These are issues between a husband and a wife.

Some people have made up things that never happened. They said I used performance-enhancing drugs. This is completely and utterly false.

Some have written things about my family. Despite the damage I have done, I still believe it is right to shield my family from the public spotlight. They did not do these things. I did. I have always tried to maintain a private space for my wife and children. They have been kept separate from my sponsors, my commercial endorsements, when my children were born, we only released photographs so they ... so that the paparazzi could not chase them.

However, my behavior doesn't make it right for the media to follow my 2½-year-old daughter to school and report the school's location. They staked out my wife and pursued my mom. Whatever my wrongdoings, for the sake of my family, please leave my wife and kids alone.

I recognize I have brought this on myself. And I know above all I am the one who needs to change. I owe it to my family to become a better person. I owe it to those closest to me to become a better man. That is where my focus will be. I have a lot of work to do. And I intend to dedicate myself to doing it.

Part of following this path for me is Buddhism, which my mother taught me at a young age. People probably don't realize it, but I was raised a Buddhist, and I actively practiced my faith from childhood until I drifted away from it in recent years. Buddhism teaches that a craving for things outside ourselves causes an unhappy and pointless search for security. It teaches me to stop following every impulse and to learn restraint. Obviously, I lost track of what I was taught.

As I move forward, I will continue to receive help because I have learned that is how people really do change. Starting tomorrow, I will leave for more treatment and more therapy.

I would like to thank my friends at Accenture and the players in the field this week for understanding why I am making this -- these remarks today. In therapy, I have learned that looking at -- the importance of looking at my spiritual life and keeping in balance with my professional life. I need to regain my balance and be centered so I can save the things that are most important to me: my marriage and my children.

That also means relying on others for help. I have learned to seek support from my peers in therapy, and I hope someday to return that support to others who are seeking help.

I do plan to return to golf one day. I just don't know when that day will be. I don't rule out that it will be this year. When I do return, I need to make my behavior more respectful of the game.

In recent weeks, I have received many thousands of e-mails, letters and phone calls from people expressing good wishes. To everyone who has reached out to me and my family, thank you. Your encouragement means the world to Elin and me. I want to thank the PGA Tour, Commissioner [Tim] Finchem and the players for their patience and understanding while I work on my private life. I look forward to seeing my fellow players on the course.

Finally, there are many people in this room and there are many people at home who believed in me. Today, I want to ask for your help. I ask you to find room in your hearts to one day believe in me again. Thank you.

The Good
- Takes complete responsibility
- Expresses remorse
- Uses strong language
- Recognizes words aren't enough
- Clears Elin of wrongdoing
- Recognizes fallen spiritual condition

The Bad

The Questionable
- Comment on PHD's unnecessary in context
- Quite lengthy (militates against plea for action)

Previous Grade: C
New Grade: A-

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Miller Time!

I'm still a Wesleyan, but that was quite a hockey game!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Road to Find Out

I'm going to recommend a downloadable radio show: The Road to Find Out w/host Steve Gregg. Steve is a Christian asking for non-Christians to call in and share their spiritual journeys, criticisms, etc. It's a good chance to learn about other world views and to observe what truly friendly and meaningful dialogue looks like.

2009 Episodes (10)
2010 Episodes (7)

Saturday, February 06, 2010

1500th Post

It's true. This is the 1,500th post on this blog. To celebrate I'll give 1,500 bullet points on recent happenings of my life.

1. This weekend I am home alone. Katie went to snow-camp with the teens.

2. I ran errands all by myself this morning. I felt very grown up until I cooked a frozen pizza with the cardboard bottom still on it.

3. I prepared a sermon on the rich young ruler. I admit I don't quite understand parts of that story.

4. The Sabres are really struggling right now.

5. My oldest sister will be having her 3rd baby boy any day now.

6. I predict the Saints will beat the Colts 37-35.

7. I also predict the Colts will beat the Saints 31-30.

8. I'm teaching a Sunday School class tomorrow on how sports can and has become an idol in our culture. Super Bowl Sunday is considered sacred.

9. Even this post has 3 bullet points about sports and only 2 about Christianity. For shame.

10. I'm going to stop at 10 instead of 1500. Goodnight!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Perfect Apology

After looked at a bunch of famous apologies and learning how NOT to apologize, we should be ready to make some sound statements about the characteristics of good apologies...

1. A good apology uses strong language in describing the sin being repented of. This shows that the repenting party is taking their sin seriously. It wasn't an accident or a mistake. It was a sin.

2. A good apology focuses on the personal nature of the sin. Even if other people were involved, a personal apology is about the individual person. A good apology doesn't focus on other people's role in the sin or the aftermath.

3. A good apology is usually short. I say this for two reasons. First, long apologies, by the nature of their length, usually include some excuses and attempted justifications for the sin(s). Second, a short apology suggests that the person knows that words are not enough to make the situation right (a change of behavior couples a genuine apology).

4. A good apology isn't motivated by a desire to avoid all the consequences to the sin. Someone who is genuinely repentant is willing to take on the consequences if need be. They may even insist on them because they know they need help to change.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Apology Principles

I've spent a peculiar amount of time analyzing apologies recently on this blog. Why? In large part, I did this because the nature of genuine repentance is one of the greatest themes of my life and ministry. Genuine repentance is vital to the initiation and continuation of the Christian life. So what has been learned by looking at numerous examples of various apologies? Today I will list what I've learned is the mark of a bad apology:

Marks of a BAD apology

1. A bad apology is late in arriving. Any apology that is initiated by the evidence rather than the guilty party is (and should be) automatically suspect. A time-gap between the sin and the apology probably means that conviction has been rejected and excuses/justifications have already been made. This leads to a 'sorry I got caught' mentality more readily than a genuinely repentant mindset.

2. A bad apology casts blame on others in addition to accepting some of the blame (if all blame is cast on others, it's simply NOT an apology). The more blame is cast on others, the worse the apology really is.

3. A bad apology changes the subject. I noticed that in many of the celebrity apologies the subject change was from the offense to the problem of media in America. Often the subject change is directed toward the person or people who exposed the sin.

4. A bad apology uses bland wording. Words like sin give way to words like mistake and accident (and countless other examples).

5. A bad apology claims pure motives for the sinful decision (or the decision to not repent sooner).

6. A bad apology compares the sin in question favorably against general human depravity. What was done was wrong, but it wasn't a very big deal in the grand scheme of things.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Apology 7 (David)

For our final apology (though I'd be interested in adding to this series when future apologies are made known), I'm going to examine the apology of David. It's quite a contrast from that of Saul. We know the story, David was guilty of adultery and, essentially, murder. The prophet Nathan confronted him through parable and David's great sin was exposed. Here's his apology/repentance:

"I have sinned against the LORD."

- Short and to the point
- Strong language (sin)
- Accepted consequences

- None

- None

Grade- A

Next post, I will gather all the data from these examples of apology and develop a list showing the marks of a good or bad apology.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Apology 6 (Saul)

I'm not really changing gears by switching, at this point, from contemporary apologies to biblical ones. Repentance, in its better and worse forms, is a constant of history. We're going to look at 2 more apologies (one from Saul, one from David) in the same way we've looked at the previous 7.

Saul had been told to completely wipe out the Amalekites, but came home with a captured king and some beautiful beasts. Below is the dialogue he had with the prophet Samuel after these events.

When Samuel reached him, Saul said, "The LORD bless you! I have carried out the LORD's instructions." But Samuel said, "What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?" Saul answered, "The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the LORD your God, but we totally destroyed the rest."

"Stop!" Samuel said to Saul. "Let me tell you what the LORD said to me last night." "Tell me," Saul replied. Samuel said, "Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king over Israel. And he sent you on a mission, saying, 'Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; make war on them until you have wiped them out.' Why did you not obey the LORD ? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the LORD ?"

"But I did obey the LORD," Saul said. "I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at Gilgal."

But Samuel replied: "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD ? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king."

Then Saul said to Samuel, "I have sinned. I violated the LORD's command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them. Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the LORD." But Samuel said to him, "I will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you as king over Israel!"

As Samuel turned to leave, Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe, and it tore. Samuel said to him, "The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors—to one better than you. He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind." Saul replied, "I have sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel; come back with me, so that I may worship the LORD your God." So Samuel went back with Saul, and Saul worshiped the LORD.

- Using strong wording (sinned, violated)

- Initially denies wrongdoing
- Blames others (soldiers)
- Claims pure motives for his wrongdoing
- Sticks to his story
- Follows up apology with 'but'

- Seems more interested in appearances than repentance

Grade: D-

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Apology 5 (Phelps, Woods)

I want to look at 2 more athlete apologies today. Once again we are dealing with very famous men (Michael Phelps & Tiger Woods), but this time very different offenses (drug use and multiple adulteries respectively).

Michael Phelps, after winning 8 gold medals at the 08' games, was pictured partying and using illegal substances. He gave the following apology:

"I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment. I'm 23 years old, and despite the successes I have had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner that people have come to expect from me. For this, I am sorry. I promise my fans and the public -- it will not happen again."

- It's short and too the point
- Strongly worded (bad, inappropriate)
- Stated regret, sorry

- Partially blames his age (kids do this sort of stuff)

Grade: B
Tiger Woods, of course, is now known to have been involved in a series of adulterous affairs (he seems to have since checked into a clinic for sex addicts). Though he is a very rich man for being a public figure, he hasn't made much in the way of public comment. In fact, this is about all we have:

"I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart. I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves. I am not without faults and I am far short of perfect. I am dealing with my behavior and personal failings behind closed doors with my family. Those feelings should be shared by us alone.

Although I am a well-known person and have made my career as a professional athlete, I have been dismayed to realize the full extent of what tabloid scrutiny really means. For the last week, my family and I have been hounded to expose intimate details of our personal lives. The stories in particular that physical violence played any role in the car accident were utterly false and malicious. Elin has always done more to support our family and shown more grace than anyone could possibly expect. But no matter how intense curiosity about public figures can be, there is an important and deep principle at stake which is the right to some simple, human measure of privacy. I realize there are some who don't share my view on that. But for me, the virtue of privacy is one that must be protected in matters that are intimate and within one's own family. Personal sins should not require press releases and problems within a family shouldn't have to mean public confessions. Whatever regrets I have about letting my family down have been shared with and felt by us alone. I have given this a lot of reflection and thought and I believe that there is a point at which I must stick to that principle even though it's difficult.

I will strive to be a better person and the husband and father that my family deserves. For all of those who have supported me over the years, I offer my profound apology."

- Starts fine
- Makes clear wife is not at fault
- Some strong wording (transgression, profound)

- More mad at media than self
- Almost sees himself as a victim
- Paints himself as a great holder of principles!

- I question whether someone who made millions on public endorsements has not surrendered the right to privacy

Grade: C