Saturday, April 30, 2016

Governor Mike Pence gives IWU commencement address

Governor Mike Pence at IWU
It is an honor to have a sitting governor speak at a university graduation, whether you agree with his or her politics. Today, IWU was honored to have Governor Mike Pence speak at our commencement. It was a very worshipful and enthusiastic service, truly memorable in a number of respects.

For example, Wilbur Williams was given the (not often given) World Changing Faculty award, as he begins his 50th year of teaching in the fall. Chris Bounds was voted Professor of the Year. He was sadly out of town because of the passing of his father last Friday. We are sad that he is going to do mission work down at Asbury College next year (I give him three years before he comes back ;-).

The music was exceptionally worshipful today. I am also convinced that Gov. Pence's faith is genuine, even if there are some areas where we would live out our faith differently. As is often the case, it is harder to vilify a person you know than someone who merely represents ideas or decisions you don't like.

Those who have been listening to hecklers should know that IWU, like any university worth its mettle, is a place where some think Gov. Pence is an angel and others think he is a devil. The standing ovation he received suggests that most respect him (you can see the ceremony on CSPAN). Even those who don't like some of his politics honored him by standing.

It should be clear from today that IWU is a conservative-leaning school that nevertheless has a broad constituency and indeed everyone is welcome. In the end, it's about the pursuit of truth in the context of faith, not about indoctrination in a particular ideology.

Seminary PL6: Casting Vision

This is the sixth post in the Pastoral Leadership stretch of my Seminary in a Nutshell series. The first five were:
1. In theory, the mission statement of a church or organization leads naturally to a vision statement. In our next installment, we will look at vision statements in more detail. However, in this post we want to strategize about how a leader can move a church or organization toward establishing these sorts of statements.

What we are talking about here is the broader matter of "leading change." Far more important than having mere statements about a church's mission/vision is a church embracing that mission/vision. And far more important than "buy-in" to a mission or vision is movement toward reaching that vision. "A leader without followers is just going for a walk." [1] Statements are meaningless if they don't actually result in change.

2. Here we have to face a fundamental reality. Having a position does not make you a leader, at least not a significant one. There is "formal power" and there is "informal power." Formal power is the power that comes from having a position or office. To the extent that an organization takes a position seriously, having a position can give a person a great deal of power and influence.

The duties and responsibilities of "formal polity" should be clearly defined to avoid unnecessary conflict. The boundaries and powers of an office are best set before conflicts ensue. It is difficult to set such parameters in the middle of a conflict. In such cases, a superior may have to intervene and make a power-based decision. At the same time, job descriptions can be modified to fit the individual strengths of a person playing that role.

But "informal polity" is sometimes even more significant than formal power. There are often individuals who have more influence than those who formally hold positions of power. The impulse to squash such influence often comes at great price. Indeed, it often leads to defeat and ministry failure. A leader needs to pick her battles.

Notorious here is the so called "church boss." There are often individuals in small churches who more or less run the show no matter who the pastor is. A pastor--especially a new pastor--should not think that he or she is really the boss just because they have the office of leader. It usually takes some time for a new pastor to gain the much more important informal authority. This dynamic can apply to many organizations.

3. So when it comes to formulating mission and vision statements, who should formulate them? Sometimes a pastor or leader has a strong sense of what they want such statements to be. Sometimes a leader is excited to see such statements emerge from the congregation or from a smaller group of leaders. Each situation will have its own unique dynamics and challenges.

For a mission and vision to go far, it will need buy-in from those who are going to live it. This fact immediately raises questions about the personality of the group. Is the congregation happy to go with whatever vision the leader casts? Are there informal leaders whom you will need to get on your side? Are there formal leaders you will need on your side?

Negotiating potential opposition is an art rather than a science. Timing is important. Contrarians are more likely to oppose something they hear about indirectly than if a leader has already secured their support before they hear of ideas, especially before some public unveiling. But they can also undermine movement if they are brought in too soon and do not join your side.

4. A colleague of mine used to say that "If there are more than six people in the room, then the decision has been made somewhere else." Big meetings rarely make significant progress on anything. Decisions are more often made at the water cooler or around the coffee pot or in the restrooms.

A leader is wise to have a strategic team, a go-to group that he or she strategizes with before moving forward. Formal polity usually involves a board that makes official decisions. It would be ideal if the official board were a leader's strategic team. But often those who hold official positions are not those who have the most insight.

Again, the path to generating a strategic vision can be more an art than a science. If your church or organization has a strategic planning committee, then the path to an official mission or vision will have to flow through it at some point. However, leaders often have a special "go-to" set of people who help them formulate their best ideas. This group can be as simple as two or three people you regularly email when you are contemplating a decision or strategy.

One way to work toward buy-in is to have a brainstorming session with a large group at the beginning of a process of strategic planning. Such a group is ill-suited to formulate a specific mission or vision statement, but they can generate a host of possibilities from which a smaller group can then select the best ideas. In this way, the larger group has a sense that they are involved in the process long before any final presentation is made to them for adoption.

5. Getting buy-in usually requires that key influencers put their fingerprints on the process and the final product. It's usually prudent to leave some aspects of a mission or vision or plan open to change. It's unwise to think you have a finished product when a statement or plan will have to go through several hoops. Each step of a planning process will almost certainly involve change.

So a leader should identify the key aspects of the mission, vision, or plan that he or she wants left alone and which parts can provide key constituencies the chance to put their fingerprints on the process.

6. As a process unfolds, a leader should informally build support among key influencers. Ideally, everyone should feel included. However, there are often difficult personalities who need to be negotiated carefully. Of course a leader should always listen to those difficult personalities. Sometimes they are right! There are some people whose personalities make you want to say no to anything they say, but a good leader will take the time to consider if they may actually be right. Always remember the old adage, "Don't ask a question if you don't really want an answer."

When it is important, a leader may need to marginalize difficult personalities. Often, these personalities have already marginalized themselves from others. But at times, difficult people have significant informal power. Although it is not ideal, a leader may have to keep plans carefully guarded, securing as much official and informal support before a final showdown at the right time. Hopefully, assuming it is important for the plan to succeed, by that time the plans will be far enough along or there will be enough support that the contrarian will not be able to kibosh movement forward.

7. There are costs for pushing forward in the face of opposition. A leader has a certain amount of capital that comes with the office and with the authority he or she has earned informally. There is not an infinite amount of capital to spend. Try to impose too much against the will of the church and you face the possibility of a coup. Win one battle today, you may be assassinated later in a weak moment.

It is unwise to try to push through a plan in the face of overwhelming opposition, even if you are sure it is the right plan. There is the leader that sacrifices him or herself for the good of the organization's future. They take down a bad leader or push through organizational change, but are "killed" in the process.

But, in the vast majority of cases, a vision for a church cannot go anywhere unless the church embraces that vision. There is a time to give up on a plan. There is a time to move on. There is a time to back off. Part of being a good leader is being able to read the times.

Next Week: Pastor as Leader 7: Identifying Strengths and Weaknesses

[1] John Maxwell

Friday, April 29, 2016

Friday Science: Does Time Flow?

Another Friday, another chapter in Brian Greene's, The Fabric of the Cosmos.

My first four summaries were:

a. Overview
b. Spinning Space Buckets
c. Relativity and the Absolute
d. Particles Separated at Birth

This chapter was a dud to me. As usual, there are two possibilities: 1) I didn't understand what he was saying or 2) what he was saying just didn't make sense. He tried to make an argument that time was basically frozen. We might experience change from one moment to the next but really it was all one big spacetime loaf.

I may not have understood what he was saying about an observer in a galaxy far far away but it seemed to me he was only making an argument about when light arrived at a certain place, not a true difference in the speed at which time itself moves relative to the earth. It seemed like more subtle positivist nonsense, but I could be wrong (the mention of Carnap makes me think I'm not).

More thought provoking were the following statements:
  • "A particular moment can no more change in time than a particular location can move in space" (141).
  • "Each moment in spacetime--each time slice--is like one of the still frames in a film. It exists whether or not some light illuminates it" (140).
  • All points of time eternally exist. "They eternally occupy their particular point in spacetime" (139).
The idea here is that all of spacetime is something like a loaf. You can slice it up differently but it all already exists.

I'm not quite sure what to make of this, so I'll keep reading...

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Biblical Theology: Eschatology

Here is my 300 word entry for my biblical theology notebook:

The goal of New Testament eschatology is no doubt new creation. This new creation presupposes that the current creation is not as God wants it to be. The current creation, not least humanity, is alienated from God. Humanity was created to have glory and honor in the creation (Ps. 8:5), but because of sin humanity does not currently experience this glory (Rom. 3:23; Heb. 2:8). So the telos of the creation, including that of humanity, is glorification and restoration. The image of God in humanity, currently marred, will finally be restored. Indeed it will be more than restored. It will be consummated, along with the creation.

If those in Christ will be glorified along with the creation, the enemies of God face judgment (e.g., Heb. 10:27). The sermon called Hebrews suggests that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (10:31), and it has former believers in view. So we can hardly imagine what it would be like to face the Judgment outside the house of God. 1 Peter 4:17 says that the suffering Christians were then experiencing was the beginning of judgment, and it pondered how awful it will be for those who are not followers of Christ, given how bad it is for those who are God's people.

Most of the New Testament gives a unified sense of how the judgment will begin. Christ will first return from heaven with those in Christ who have been raised from the dead (1 Thess. 4:16). The resurrection of the righteous thus precedes the return of Christ. 1 Thessalonians suggests that those in Christ who are alive when Jesus returns will then be caught up to join him and the resurrected in the skies. Because Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:2-3 that believers will participate in the judgment (cf. also Matt. 19:28), we can infer that we meet Christ in the air only to return to the earth, not to go off to heaven.

There will also be a final judgment for all the living and the dead (e.g., Rev. 20:11-15). Most of the New Testament then pictures eternal life on a renewed and glorified earth. Since so much of the imagery of Revelation appears only in that book (e.g., the millennium), since Revelation is so highly symbolic, since it is so difficult to relate a literal interpretation of Revelation to the rest of the New Testament, it seems very likely that we should take most of its imagery as highly symbolic rather than literal.

Nowhere in the New Testament is a seven-year Tribulation explicitly mentioned. Much of the imagery of a man of lawlessness and a beast is rooted in the Roman Empire. Thus while it is possible that there will be a final persecution with major opposition to Christ by a key figure before his return, we will have to wait and see.

10. Religion is like Football

Almost done with Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind. I've blogged on:

1. Introduction
2. Intuitive Dogs and Rational Tails
3. Elephants Rule
4. Three Domains of Morality
5. Taste Buds of the Righteous Mind
6. The Moral Foundations of Politics
7. The Conservative Advantage
8. Morality an Evolutionary Advantage
9. The "Chimp to Bee" Switch

The second to last chapter, chapter 11 is titled, "Religion is a Team Sport."

1. Haidt's basic claim in this chapter is that religion has played and continues to play a positive role in human society. He connects it to the "hive switch" that helps us to "suppress or regulate self-interest and make cooperative societies possible" (314). Particularly enjoyable in the chapter was his roasting of the New Atheists (Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens).

2. A good bit of the chapter, as many of the chapters, is evolutionary debate. So Dawkins and others basically see religion as an evolutionary accident and misfire. They see it as a parasite of evolution, a "time-consuming, wealth-consuming, hostility-provoking" waste of human energy. To him it's "anti-factual, counterproductive" and full of fantasies. So Dawkins, tell us what you really think.

The problem with the four horseman of new atheism is that their analysis focuses on lone believers and it does so from an almost purely cognitive perspective. Unlike Durkheim, these thinkers have failed to see the reality of "social facts." Here are some of Haidt's responses:
  • "Trying to understand the persistence and passion of religion by studying beliefs about God is like trying to understand the persistence and passion of college football by studying the movements of the ball. You've got to broaden the inquiry" (290).
  • "The function of those beliefs and practices is ultimately to create a community. Often our beliefs are post hoc constructions designed to justify what we've just done, or to support the groups we belong to."
Let me just say how completely obvious this is and has long been to me. Christians who think it's all about getting our ideas straight so our lives can follow suit are so far off it's embarrassing, and the atheists who have tried to dismiss religion on this basis look just as stupid.

In Haidt's language, it is not believing that leads to doing, but belonging that leads to both believing and doing. This is sometimes just as true of scholarship, unfortunately, as it is of other thinking. Much of the stuff in New Testament studies right now is little more than intelligent, sentimental self-justification.

3.  In the middle of this chapter, Haidt presents three evolutionary models. The first is that of Dawkins and the new atheists. They see morality as having evolved in a two step process: a) hypersensitive agency detective devices helped animals detect the presence of potentially dangerous "agents" in their midst, like predators wanting to eat them. So we see faces in clouds but we don't see clouds in faces. Accordingly, we see gods in the thunder.

The second step for Dawkins is then b) cultural evolution. The most interesting god stories win. Dawkins and others see these stories as parasitic. Religions for him are like viruses.

A second evolutionary perspective recognizes that religion helped homo sapiens survive but denies any genetic component to it. Atran and Henrich found that communities with a religious component survived better than "secular" communes in the nineteenth century, and irrational requirements only helped them survive longer (like prohibitions on dancing and drinking). This is because religion makes groups more cohesive and cooperative.

"Sacredness binds people together, and then blinds them to the arbitrariness of the practice" (299). "Gods really do help groups cohere, succeed, and outcompete other groups."

Haidt goes one step further. He suggests that our genes may actually contribute to our religiousness as a species, even with genetic developments that have taken place in the last 10,000 years. Accordingly, "we cannot expect people to abandon religion so easily" as the new atheists may think (307).

4. He goes on to make other claims on the basis of research as the chapter ends. "Putnam and Campbell found that the more frequently people attend religious services, the more generous and charitable they become across the board" (310). "Religiously observant Americans are better neighbors and better citizens than secular Americans." How about this quote: "The highest levels of wealth, therefore, would be created when religious people get to play a trust game with other religious people" (309).

"It is religious belongingness that matters for neighborliness, not religious believing" (311).

Haidt suggests that it remains to be seen whether a secular world will economically prosper. Atheistic societies "are the least efficient societies ever known at turning resources... into offspring" (313). "Gods were helpful in creating moral matrices within which Glauconian creatures have strong incentives to conform." He has an aside on terrorism, arguing that religion is only a handmaiden to nationalism as a cause in such cases. Group fervor is the primary force, which religion only reinforcing it. In this claim, again, he seems to be stating the bloody obvious.

5. He finally gets to a definition of a moral system: "interlocking sets of values, virtues, norms, practices, identities, institutions, technologies, and evolved psychological mechanisms that work together to suppress or regulate self-interest and make cooperative societies possible" (314). He is being descriptive here. Virtue ethics, he argues, fits human nature best as an ethical approach in terms of how we are hard wired (versus utilitarianism or deontology).

However, if this is a descriptive definition, he suggests Durkheimian utilitarianism as the best system for a society, a sort of "rule" utilitarianism that seeks the greatest benefit for a society as a whole, including its minorities. Meanwhile, any effort to define morality only by isolating a few (Western) issues like "justice, rights, and welfare" is bound to go parochial (315).

Monday, April 25, 2016

1.4-5 Measurement of Current and the Ammeter

Today we finish the first module of the Navy Basic Electricity and Electronics course from the early 70s. The module has been on Electrical Current. Previous review posts have included:

1.1 Electricity and the Electron
1.2 Electron Movement
1.3 Current Flow

We finish today with sections 4 and 5.

Here are the bullet points to remember from section 4:
  • When you add more battery cells in a series, a light bulb burns with greater intensity. More "current" is flowing through the bulb.
  • When we measure current, we are in effect measuring the (net) amount of electrons going past a given point at any given time.
  • A "coulomb" of electrons is 6,250,000,000,000,000,000 electrons (6.25 x 1018). Discussing electrons in groups this large makes it easier for us to talk about them.
  • The measure of current is called an amp (for ampere). 1 amp of current is one coulomb passing any point in a circuit per second. 1 amp = 1 coulomb per second.
  • I is the abbreviation for current or number of amps. a is the abbreviation for amps. The symbol for charge or coulombs is Q. So I = Q/T.
  • This section also introduces scientific notation. Especially important are micro (10-6) and milli (10-3).
Section 5 is then relatively brief by comparison. It deals with the tool used to measure current.
  • An ammeter is used to measure current.
  • An ammeter needs to be connected in "series," which means that all the current has to run through it.
  • the positive lead of the ammeter should connect to the positive side of the circuit and the negative lead to the negative side. In other words, "observe polarity."
  • De-energize the circuit before connecting the ammeter. Then re-energize. Also de-energize before disconnecting.
Next week: 2.1 Electromotive Force

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Seminary PL5: Identifying Mission

This is the fifth post in the Pastoral Leadership stretch of my Seminary in a Nutshell series. The first two were:
1. It's good for a church or organization to have a strong sense of why it exists. Most have some intuitive sense of what they're there for. Probably most people at a hospital think they are there to help sick people. Probably a number of people at a college think they are there to teach students. A pastor may think she is there to minister to people.

But there are often competing senses of what an institution is about. Many professors may think they are there primarily to push the bounds of knowledge, not to teach students. At some universities, that may actually be the case. Many ministers think the primary goal of the church is to reconcile the world, not to minister to those who are already coming.

Often, there are not absolute answers to these questions. There is room in the universe for churches with slightly different senses of their identity and mission. Like the "body of Christ" in 1 Corinthians 12, some churches may focus more on one part of the mission and others on other parts.

2. We should neither over- or underestimate the significance of a mission statement. For the intuitive, a mission statement gives power to what you already feel by naming it. In that sense, a mission statement doesn't have to be something new. It can simply put words to what everyone already feels. But once your already assumed mission is named, it can serve as a rallying point, a tool to synergize a vision to move forward.

For churches or leaders with a planning personality, it is absolutely essential to generalize one's overall sense of identity and purpose before you can move forward. This personality should be careful not to dismiss the intuitive personality. The intuitive can sometimes view the planner as pedantic and as wasting everyone's time by spelling out what they think everyone already knows. Meanwhile, the planner can view the intuitive as chaotic and directionless.

Both characterizations are false. Intuitives do often see things that the planner cannot see until it is spelled out. But planners often save an organization from wasting its resources by clarifying and prioritizing the values and purpose that lead to direction. An institution that only empowers one group diminishes itself.

3. A mission statement can either make explicit the general identity an organization already has or it can serve as a launching point for an attempt to change identity and purpose. A mission statement should not be changed very often, perhaps no more than once every ten years. They can last for much longer.

Mission statements are usually so general that many different visions can be set out within the framework of the same mission statement. My former colleague Keith Drury used to say that mission statements usually say much more about what an institution is or has been at the time the statement is drafted than about what the organization will actually be going forward.

For these reasons, an organization should not belabor its mission statement too much, nor should they use them to prevent organic developments that may take place after they are made. There may come a time when the identity of an organization has changed so dramatically that everyone senses that the mission statement is out of date. At that point, a change is in order.

4. The mission statement of my local church, College Wesleyan Church in Marion, Indiana, is "CWC partners with God to restore people and redeem the world by reflecting the image of Jesus Christ." You can see how general it is. Probably any church in the world could use it. Nevertheless, it captures some of the key categories of those who drafted it. They looked at people through the lens of the "image of God." It fits within the missional movement in its language of partnering with God (rather than the mission being that of the church itself). It says nothing of worship and presumably sees discipleship as part of restoration, assuming that all people are less than whole.

The mission of Indiana Wesleyan University states that IWU is "a Christ-centered academic community committed to changing the world by developing students in character, scholarship, and leadership." As of 2016, the university is under the third president since this mission statement was drafted and there has been no need to change it. In itself, the statement is general enough that three presidents have now been able to implement their specific visions for the university under the same overall sense of mission.

When would it be appropriate to change it? If a future stage of the IWU community ceased to think of itself as "world changing," then it might want to change it. Or if new leadership ever arose that had a distinct enough sense of the future that it wanted to initiate a new direction, it might create a new one. It has been long enough since the first statement that it could be changed.

However, the current president, David Wright, wisely did not reformulate the university's mission statement when he became president. For one thing, he was present at the university when the mission statement was drafted. He therefore already had some ownership of the mission.

But it would have wasted valuable institutional time. The university's sense of identity has not changed enough in the last 15 years that a new mission statement was necessary. Keeping it both gave a sense of stability/continuity and allowed his leadership team to move on to the specifics of his vision and goals. These are the real mechanisms of institutional change because they are more specific and targeted.

A new leader who wants to implement a new mission statement should not do so too quickly. If the organization does not have a mission statement or if the old statement is generally perceived to be out of date, it can be done in the first year. In other cases, a leader may want to settle in a little before implementing such change.

5. In Advanced Strategic Planning, Aubrey Malphurs suggests that a good mission statement for a church is broad, brief, biblical, is a statement, and is what the ministry is supposed to be doing. We can assume the mission of any Christian institution will fit with sound biblical understanding and orthodoxy Christian belief and practice. If a church wants to be explicit about that connection, it certainly can, but it can just as well be assumed.

We have already given some sense of why a mission statement should be broad--it should have some staying power. That it should be a statement also makes sense in that a question or command does not capture identity and purpose as well. Brevity means it will be more memorable and inspiring. When IWU first set its mission statement, then President James Barnes would give any employee 5 dollars if, when he randomly approached you, you could state the new mission statement from memory.

The previous post attempted to present some generalities about the Church's mission in general, what the Church is supposed to be doing. There is no need to reinvent the wheel, a church trying to formulate a mission statement has plenty of examples to choose from. Most churches have their mission statements on their websites. The team that proposes a mission statement should look at a variety of precedents and find those elements that best capture the identity and sense of mission in their particular context.

The mission statement will often have both a "being" and "doing" element.  Church X is something that aims at something by doing something.

Next Week: Pastor as Leader 6: Casting Vision

Friday, April 22, 2016

Friday Science: Particles Separated at Birth

Another chapter down in Brian Greene's, The Fabric of the Cosmos.

My first two summaries were:

a. Overview
b. Spinning Space Buckets
c. Relativity and the Absolute

1. This chapter seemed a lot longer than it needed to be to me. Hopefully I can give the gist fairly quickly. When you run a water wave through two openings, you will get an "interference pattern" on the other side of the openings. The same happens with light. When you shine laser light through two slits, you get the same interference pattern.

What is very, very strange is that if you take an electron beam and shoot electrons one by one, slowly at those same two slits. If you shoot them, each one separately so they do not interact with each other, over time the very same interference pattern will emerge. So electrons, photons, all matter may be made up of particles, but those particles behave like waves.

The kind of wave it is, Greene helpfully points out, is a probabilistic wave. That is to say, it is because particles have a greater or lesser probability of being at a particular place when interacted with, over time their interaction with the slits plays out as a distribution of lines that fits those probabilities.

2. Werner Heisenberg showed in the late 20s that you cannot measure both the position and velocity of a particle accurately at the same time. If you measure the position with precision you can't measure the velocity and vice versa. This also applies to a number of other atomic features, such as spin.

Einstein engaged in a longstanding debate with the quantum mafia led by Bohr. Einstein couldn't bring himself to believe what has more or less turned out to be true. Particles don't actually have a definite position or velocity until you measure them. The nature of the quantum world is probabilistic. There is a greater or lesser probability that an electron is somewhere. It's not that it is somewhere and we just don't know exactly where. It's that it isn't exactly somewhere.

3. Einstein and a couple colleagues unintentionally advanced this discussion with a thought experiment that was later carried out. He suggested that if two twin particles parted with a correlated identity, as is often the case, then by measuring the position or the velocity of the one you could indirectly infer the position or velocity of the other.

This seems like common sense. What you do to the one doesn't affect what you do to the other, so you can measure the one and not disturb the other. David Bohm extended the Einstein thought experiment to the spin of a particle. In theory, if you measure the spin of a pair of correlated particles, you should be implicitly identifying the spin of the other. [1] In other words, the other one would have a definite position and velocity even without measuring it, contrary to what the Copenhagen mafia insisted.

4. In the 1960s, Jon Bell came up with a way to see if Einstein was correct and in the 70s and 80s, it became possible to test it. He determined that if you randomly measured the spin of two correlated particles in relation to more than two possible states, you could determine whether both particles had a definite spin to begin with. If you randomly measured the spin at three different angles for both particles, those measurements would agree more than 50% of the time if both of them had a definite spin to begin with.

Some of the best tests took place in the early 80s by the French scientist Alain Aspect. He showed that the detectors did not show that the spins agreed more than 50% of the time. What they showed was rather astounding.
  • If Einstein had been correct, they would have agreed more than 50% of the time. The implication would be that the particles had a definite state before measurement, as Einstein thought must surely be the case.
  • If the quantum mafia had been completely right, the measurements would have agreed less than 50% of the time. [2] The implication would be that the particles had an indefinite state before measurement and randomly took a state when measured.
  • What happened is that they agreed exactly 50% of the time. The implication was that they had an indefinite state before measurement but both particles took on the same state when one of them was measured.
The unexpected result, which is one of the most striking findings in all of the history of science is that what you do to a particle in one place, if that particle correlates to a particle somewhere else, you do to both particles. Many aspects of particles are actually indefinite in the first place, but if you interact with one and make it definite in some respect, you make any companion particle definite as well, no matter where it is in the universe.

5. This is called quantum entanglement. What you do to a particle here can affect a particle there, no matter where "there" is. In a sense, there is no such thing as "locality" in space. There is no "here" that is distinct from "there."

It's not that one particle sends a message somehow to the other, correlated particle. They rather have a unity that transcends locality. Special relativity is not violated. Nothing moves faster than the speed of light. It's just that there is a synchrony that transcends space.

[1] BTW, Bohm fled the US in the middle of the McCarthy nonsense and ended up in England at the end of his life. I hope America will never have a witch hunt like that again. Just think of how many brilliant minds Hitler lost in the middle of his ideological nonsense. No country can afford to lose its scientists for whatever stupid reason the public or politicians come up with.

[2] The Copenhagen circle with people like Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, and Wolfgang Pauli were positivists in philosophy. They didn't consider anything to be real if you couldn't measure it. Their way of explaining the uncertainty principle is deeply unsatisfying to me. Although Einstein proved to be wrong, his objection to them was perfectly valid. Just because you can't measure something doesn't necessarily prove it doesn't exist.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

9. The Human "Chimp to Bee" Switch

Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind continues. I've blogged on:

1. Introduction
2. Intuitive Dogs and Rational Tails
3. Elephants Rule
4. Three Domains of Morality
5. Taste Buds of the Righteous Mind
6. The Moral Foundations of Politics
7. The Conservative Advantage
8. Morality an Evolutionary Advantage

Today it's chapter 10: "The Hive Switch."

1. Haidt's basic hypothesis in this chapter is that while we are mostly chimps who look out for our own individual interests, we have a switch of sorts that puts us into bee mode, where we fight for our group. "Human beings are conditional hive creatures" (258). Under the right conditions, we can enter the mindset of "one for all, all for one."

Haidt links this switch to the religious dimension of human existence. He mentions what happens when a group is involved in an ecstatic group dance. Later he will mention the raves that took place in Britain in the 80s. He has mentioned earlier in the book when soldiers are marching together. Following Emile Durkheim, humans are homo duplex, who exist not only as individuals but as members of larger society. The second dimension of human existence is not reducible to the first.

2. He gives three examples of how to "flip the switch" on a human being to this euphoric sense of oneness with something bigger, the flip to a sense of the sacred. Nature, he suggested, can switch us to a sense of awe and of oneness with creation. Drugs are a second. Raves are the third.

3. The next part of the chapter dives into the biological basis for the switch. He suggests two possible contributors. One suggestion is the chemical oxytocin. In experiments with an oxytocin spray, groups becomes more unified, especially in the face of other groups.

A second candidate is the mirror neurons we have. These neurons imitate in our brains what we see. They help us empathize. [As an aside this is an argument against watching certain things or playing certain video games. Our brains do what we see, which is part of the thrill we get at certain movies. Jesus' statements about already doing in our heart things we fantasize about also seems to fit here.]

4. It was the last part of the chapter that was more interesting to me. He talked about the difference between transactional and transformational leadership. The previous treats people as self-interested individuals who are all homo economicus and motivates with personal consequences. Transformational leadership plays into people's propensity to unite with something bigger than themselves. People want to give for the good of the hive, not just themselves.

Fun to see intersections with leadership theory and the church growth movement in this sections. He mentions Dunbar groups, for example (434 n.46), groups of 150. We only seem to be able to know everyone within a group of this size or smaller, which is why this is a typical church size. A single pastor cannot handle a church bigger than this size without additional staff of some kind. Some churches plant another congregation when they hit this size and megachurches might think about facilitating sub-groups of this size or lower.

5. He mentions the homogeneous principle (although he doesn't name it). You won't have the switch (or perhaps slide, he suggests) to a higher group unity unless there is some strong sense of similarity. Of course he is not arguing for racial segregation. But he is suggesting that our differences need to be drowned in a sea of similarities if we want to experience this higher level of group cohesion. [My old colleague Bob Whitesel once cleverly suggested that multiculturalism in itself can be a basis for this sort of group bonding, if everyone in the group loves multiculturalism as a value!]

Another component of human bee hives is "team spirit," synchrony, group rituals that the group does together, chants, slogans, etc. Finally, healthy competition between smaller teams. Soldiers die more for their squad, not for their country. Basic training unites the soldiers, not the drill sergeant. So fraternities and sororities bond university students even more than university spirit in general.

So a thriving organization will not only make people feel part of a whole greater than themselves, it may also have smaller sub-units in healthy rivalries with each other.

6. Some people create these dynamics as a second nature. They are the cheerleaders. Where they need to be careful is in intergroup rivalry. "In group" enthusiasm can go too far in its attitudes and treatment of "out group" individuals.

Monday, April 18, 2016

1.3 Current Flow

I've been reviewing the Navy Basic Electricity and Electronics course from the early 70s. Previous review posts have included:

1.1 Electricity and the Electron
1.2 Electron Movement

Today's module is on "Current Flow."

Here are the bullet points to remember from the second module:
  • Random drift (previous module) of electrons doesn't do any work. What we want to do work is a "directed drift" of electrons, an "electron flow," also known as "current."
  • To have electron flow, we need a complete circuit, a "closed circuit," a complete path for the electrons to follow all the way from the source, through a path, and back to the source. Electricity can't flow in an "open circuit," where there is a break in the path.
  • This path needs to be made out of a "conductor," that is, a type of material in which electrons flow relatively easily (a path made up of an "insulator" material won't be much help at all).
  • The content of the rest of this module largely has to do with the symbols for some basic items you might find in a "circuit diagram" or a "schematic." A circuit diagram is a way of drawing an electrical system using symbols for things like batteries, light bulbs, and switches. 
  • The diagram at the bottom is an example of such a diagram. I have labeled the items.
  • For the battery symbol, the negative side is the shorter line. Electricity flows from the negative, around, and back to the positive terminal of the battery.

Next Week: 1.4-5 Measurement of Current and the Ammeter

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Seminary PL4: The Mission, Great and Small

This is the fourth post in the Pastoral Leadership stretch of my Seminary in a Nutshell series. The first three were:
1. One task to which a pastor may give oversight is strategic planning. Strategic planning is the process by which an organization determines what its goals are for the future and how it plans to meet them. Strategic planning is rooted in the organization's mission, which in turn leads to a vision for the future, which ideally results eventually in strategic goals and implementation plans.

Without goals, a person or organization just tends to wander aimlessly through its existence. Without a sense of mission or vision, an organization is unclear about its identity or purpose. We can of course have such things without them being fully conscious or thought through, but the more intentional and conscious we are about them, the more likely we are to meet them.

2. A local church at some point might develop a mission statement. This is a statement of the church's basic identity. For example, the mission statement of the local church I attend states that it "partners with God to restore people and redeem the world by reflecting the image of Jesus Christ." This is a very general statement that could refer to just about any church in the world.

In most respects, the mission of the Church is more or less the same no matter where you are in space and time. A church should not spend too much time developing a mission statement because in themselves they say very little that might not be said of any other church at any other time. Nevertheless, in some cases, developing a mission statement for a church--or for you as an individual--can capture a sense of identity, which can be very significant indeed.

3. So what is the mission of the Church? The Church is the body of Christ. We are God's hands and feet in the world, and the communion of saints which extends to heaven. The mission is actually God's mission rather than ours, and we only participate in it.

There is both a being and a doing dimension to God's church. We are the kingdom community of the Spirit, the collection of all those throughout history in whom the Spirit of Christ has dwelt, the people of God for all eternity. We fellowship. We meet together for worship. Although the Church universal is one, holy, universal, and missional community, the church local is where the word of God is rightly preached, the means of grace are rightly administered, and a community of individuals is rightly ordered.

The mission of the Church is to participate in the mission of God, and the mission of God is nothing less than the reconciliation, restoration, and glorification of the world. The world is alienated from its creator. The image of God is marred in humanity. All have sinned and are lacking the glory that God intended us to have in the creation.

The "Great Commission" of the Church is of course found in Matthew 28:19-20. At its heart, this commission is to "make disciples" by a process of baptizing and teaching. Churches have often reduced their sense of this commission to a shallow form of evangelism, but the grammar of the sentence focuses on making disciples and the bulk of what that means is "teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you."

So the mission of the Church involves going. It involves seeing the world reconciled to God, of which baptism signifies entrance into the people of God. It involves discipleship of that people once they have crossed from death to life. It involves service to its surrounding community and world, since social justice is one of the central teachings of Jesus.

4. All these are part of the mission of the Church: to worship our God, to go and participate in the reconciliation of the world, to disciple the people of God, to serve the needs of others, and to live together in unity and community. Individual churches may focus more on one of these than the others. Individual churches may use language that fits closely with its time, culture, or tradition.

But this is the overall mission of the Church, and the mission statement of a local church will likely present some element or elements of the Church's overall mission in its sense of its local identity and purpose.

Next week: Pastor as Leader 5: Identifying Mission

Friday, April 15, 2016

Friday Science: Relativity and the Absolute

1. I finished the next chapter of Brian Greene's, The Fabric of the Cosmos, a few days ago. I was excited because he filled in some things about relativity I had never really read about.

My first two summaries were:

a. Overview
b. Spinning Space Buckets

2. Greene begins with a little flashback to James Clerk Maxwell, whose beautiful equations conquered electromagnetism in the 1800s.

Maxwell's Equations
Maxwell, following Faraday, suggested that electric fields and magnetic fields (which are deeply related) spread out through space. Maxwell was the one who suggested that light itself was an electromagnetic wave that acted in space. In the late 1800s, the theory was that there was an "ether" that light moved through, like the water that ocean waves move through or the air that sound waves move through.

The problem was that there was no evidence of such an ether. More importantly, the speed of light seemed to be the same no matter where it was found--coming from something stationary, coming from something moving. Normally, speeds add up. A person walking 3 mph on a train moving 50 mph is moving 53 mph in relation to the ground. But light on the ground is 3 x 108 and light on the train is 3 x 108 and light from a plane is 3 x 108.

3. This is of course where Einstein comes in in 1905. Light can be the universal speed limit if space and time contract relative to speed. So the train is just a wee bit smaller from the perspective of the ground as it moves, to compensate for the speed of a flashlight shined by someone riding on it. You're not contracted on it, but it contracts relative to the person observing on the ground. A plane contracts relative the person on the ground a smidge more, so that the light shining from its wings also comes out exactly at 3 x 108 mps, no matter who is looking from whatever frame of reference, moving or not.

"The combined speed of any object's motion through space and its motion through time is always precisely equal to the speed of light" (49).

4. There were some new insights for me into some of the more precise contours of Einstein's theory in this chapter. So not everything is relative in Einstein's theory. "Spacetime" as a whole is an absolute reference point. It can be sliced up differently, but it is the same loaf. Time is sliced up differently in some cases. Space is sliced up differently in some cases. But it is the same loaf of spacetime, which he concludes by the end of the chapter is a thing. (I didn't fully understand this last part of the chapter, but I feel like I'm making progress)

At one point of the chapter, Greene talks about how there is a totality to motion through spacetime. If something is more or less not moving in space, then all of its motion is through time. But if it has a velocity, then some of its motion through time is diverted to its motion through space and time moves more slowly. It's a fascinating idea (48).

5. The last part of the chapter turns to the question of acceleration. Einstein's special theory of relativity only applied to objects moving with a constant velocity. His general theory in 1915 turned to the question of gravity and acceleration.

The fundamental insight here was that gravity is really only a body following the contours of spacetime, which is warped by mass. So a planet bends spacetime, and gravity is basically our bodies wanting to follow the path of the warp. The ground stops us. Free fall is thus nothing different from weightlessness.

His field equations were the result:

Monday, April 11, 2016

1.2 Electron movement

Last week I started reviewing the Navy Basic Electricity and Electronics course from the early 70s. Last week was:

1.1 Electricity and the Electron

Today's module is on "Electron Movement."

Here are the bullet points to remember from the second module:
  • Protons are said to have a positive charge and electrons a negative charge.
  • Like charges repel; opposite charges attract.
  • So the negative electrons are attracted to the nucleus by the positive protons. [1]
  • The neutron has a neutral charge.
  • In an atom like copper (which in its neutral state has 29 electrons), some electrons are closer to the nucleus than others. 
  • The outermost electrons are sometimes knocked out of an atom. What's left of the atom then becomes a charged "ion" (because it has lost some negative).
  • The process of becoming an ion is called "ionization" and the amount of energy necessary to cause ionization is called the "ionization potential."
  • The random drift of "free electrons" in a wire doesn't do anything. They need to be pushed.
Next week: 1.3 Current Flow

[1] The electromagnetic force between these charges helps keep the atom together. Another force, the "strong nuclear force" keeps the protons together, even though their charges should repel them. The strong nuclear force only works over a very short distance, but it is stronger than the electromagnetic force that would otherwise push the protons apart.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

ET18: Thou shalt not steal.

This is the eighteenth post on Christian ethics in my ongoing series, theology in bullet points. The first unit in this series had to do with God and Creation (book here), and the second unit was on Christology and Atonement.

We are now in the third and final unit: The Holy Spirit and the Church. The first set of posts in this final unit was on the Holy Spirit. The second set was on the Church. The third set was on sacraments. This final section is on Christian ethics.
Thou shalt not steal.

1. The basic meaning of the commandment not to steal is clear enough. Don't take other people's stuff. Both Exodus 20:15 and Deuteronomy 5:19 simply prohibit stealing without any expansion or commentary. In the New Testament, the command is similarly stated more than once in its basic, simple form (e.g., Matt. 19:18; Rom. 13:9). The command seems straightforward.

As an example, Exodus 22:1 states simply, “When someone steals an ox or a sheep, and slaughters it or sells it, the thief shall pay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.” The chapter continues to address various scenarios in which one person's grain, crop, animal, or possession is lost for some reason when some other person is involved. "Restitution" is often required, where the person under whose watch or action the possession was lost replaces that which was lost. In general, it does not seem to matter whether negligence or bad intention was involved.

This is of course part of Israel's civil law. The important thing is thus not the specifics but the general idea. Don't take other people's stuff. The laws are very specific and very concrete. If I have food in my refrigerator that is there so that my family does not starve, do not take my food.

2. Of course everything that exists in the world technically belongs to God. God owns everything. Nothing I have is really mine. I'm just a steward of it. “The world and all that is in it is mine,” God says (Ps. 50:12). "Every wild animal of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills" (50:10). When Haggai speaks of the wealth of the nations flowing to the house of the LORD, God says, “The silver is mine and the gold is mine, says the LORD of hosts” (Hag. 2:8). "The earth is the LORD's and all that is in it" (Ps. 24:1).

So you might say technically that anything I "own" is really God's stuff that he has let me use. This is one reason why the farmer thinking he will hoard his grain for years to come is offending God (Luke 12:15-21). It is not his grain, and God gets to decide what happens with his life. We come into this world naked, and we will be forced to relinquish all our possessions when we leave (e.g., Job 1:21).

We are thus to rely on God, not on our possessions. God is our true Patron, not any other human who might appear to have material resources (Jas. 1:17). We are to store up treasures in heaven, not on earth (Matt. 6:19-20). The Lord will clothe us (6:30). The Lord will feed us (6:25).

Because everything we have belongs to God, it is not really ours to do what we want with. Malachi 3:8-10 chastises the people of Israel for "robbing" God by not giving the temple a tenth of their crops. So also John calls someone with resources a murderer who would see a brother (or sister) in the church in need but who would withhold assistance (1 John 3:15-17).

3. Work is not part of the Fall, but part of God's intention for the creation. After God creates humanity in Genesis 1, they are told to “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). Adam's toil is intensified in consequence of the Fall (3:17-19), but his work does not begin there. When God first places the man in the Garden, he is charged with tilling and keeping it (2:15).

Ephesians 4:28 makes a correlation between stealing and not working. "Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy." (Eph. 4:28). The person in mind here is someone who could work to provide for him or herself, but who chooses instead to take from others. But interestingly, one of the purposes of work is apparently to be able to provide for those who cannot fully provide for themselves for whatever reason.

The sense we get is that God smiles upon work. We may go through phases of life where we fall on hardship and have to rely on others, and God expects those with excess to come to our assistance when that comes. However, there may come another time when we will have excess and our brother or sister is in need. Then we must come to their aid.

4. 2 Thessalonians has stern words for individuals in the church who could work but do not. “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living” (2 Thess. 3:10-12). This is of course the "Protestant work ethic" that featured prominently in Puritan New England--"He who does not work, shall not eat." [1]

The picture we get is of individuals who could work but who instead have chosen to rely on the charity of the church. They are content to let others in the church work and provide for them. God thus expects everyone to contribute who can. We all play a role. No one is merely the mouth of the body of Christ, if that person is able at to play some positive function in the body.

1 Corinthians 12:24-26 says that "God has so arranged the body... the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it." So we each play our role when we are able, and God will raise up others when we are not able.

There will always be those who are incapacitated or who have very little they can contribute. Jesus' ministry to the marginalized suggests that God expects us to care for such individuals. In biblical times, these were individuals like orphans and widows (e.g., Jas. 1:27; Matt. 23:23).

5. So there is a fairly straightforward sense to the command not to steal. I am not to take your stuff. However, there are other lines of obligation and we must remember that everything we think is ours is really God's. God expects the community of faith to help each other when we are in need. But he also expects us all to do our part.

Next Sunday: ET20. The Bible views hoarding wealth as a sin against God and neighbor.

[1] No doubt in the early days of New England, all hands were needed on deck to survive.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

8. Morality is an Evolutionary Advantage

Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind continues. I've blogged on:

1. Introduction
2. Intuitive Dogs and Rational Tails
3. Elephants Rule
4. Three Domains of Morality
5. Taste Buds of the Righteous Mind
6. The Moral Foundations of Politics
7. The Conservative Advantage

Today it's chapter 9: "Why Are We So Groupish."

1. This chapter seems to me an intradisciplinary debate over whether group morality provided a real evolutionary human advantage or, what seems to be the current majority position among evolutionary theorists--an evolutionary misfire or really just individuals working toward their own individual advantage in disguise. I like the side Haidt comes down on--that morality has provided homo sapiens with an evolutionary advantage. But in many respects, the whole discussion seems somewhat tangential to me as a Christian.

There are of course significant discussions to be had among Christian thinkers in relation to evolution. The situation has become more complex theologically, I think, in the last twenty years because of the cracking of the human genome. There is a tendency on a popular Christian level to be anti-science, which is bad for Christianity in general. It says, "You have to be stupid to be a Christian," which is neither a good witness nor a testament to the likelihood for Christianity to be true.

But this chapter really seemed tangential to my beliefs as a Christian. Haidt is assuming a complete naturalism, a process that has to be explained entirely by natural selection. Whether you believe in some degree of evolution or not, a Christian will have no problem with God playing a role in why we are the way we are as humans.

2. Haidt is arguing for something that Darwin himself argued for, which was the consensus until the late 1960s. Darwin argued that groups that cohered well together in the face of competing groups had a greater tendency to survive that groups full of purely selfish and contentious people. Darwin also recognized the problem with the "free rider." Within a group, those who give everything away are less likely to thrive than the person who looks after him or herself.

So Haidt sides with those who see a "multilevel selection." When it comes to fighting between groups, those who are most selfless and most "groupish" provide an advantage. When it comes to individual survival, those who look out for themselves over others often win.

Haidt's bottom line is that we as humans are 90% chimp and 10% bee, so to speak. Chimps don't work together. They look out for number 1. Bees think nothing of themselves. They live for the greater good. Humans, Haidt would say, are a combination. Mostly, we look out for ourselves. But we do have this little piece that will die for others or our country.

3. The main opponent was George Williams, who in 1966 said pish posh to Darwin's group advantage. Morality, said Williams, is "an accidental capability produced, in its boundless stupidity, by a biological process that is normally opposed to the expression of such a capability" (229). To him, a fast herd of deer is just a group of individuals running fast together, not a group thinking of the herd. Richard Dawkin's Selfish Gene said more or less the same thing, as did Ayn Rand, who considered selfishness a virtue and altruism a sin.

4. So the rest of the chapter presents an evolutionary argument for multilevel selection. He points first to major transitions in evolution, the last of which he attributes to a shift to humans becoming "ultrasocial." Unlike chimps, who have not taken over the mammalian world in their pure selfishness, humans began to think a little "bee-ish" and have dominated the planet.

His second point points to the ability for human groups to "share intentionality" as the key. His third point tries to identify when this "Rubicon" was crossed. He suggests "homo heidelbergensis" some 600,000 year ago.

His final point is that evolution can move fast and that it has in the last 50,000 years, perhaps even in the last 12,000 years. This last number may be of some significance from a Christian standpoint. Has human morality shifted significantly in what he calls the Holocene era?

[An interesting aside is that Soviet morality did not allow someone to believe in Mendelian genetics in the 40s. It was important for them to believe that how a person lived affected the genetics of their children. There is actually a little truth to this, although mostly our genes aren't affected by how we live.]

5. Well, there you have it. As a Christian, I of course believe that morality does provide important advantages to human thriving. I strongly disagree with the purely "homo economicus" of Ayn Rand. There is more to morality than just my individual advantage. Any form of capitalism based on this philosophy is not Christian.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

1.1 Electricity and the Electron

1. In 1980, when I started my freshman year in high school, I signed up for an elective I think was called "Electronics 1." It was with Mr. Richard Brandt, a delightful if shall we say slightly overweight teacher. It was a different sort of class.

I suspect most of the students were on a vocational track. It was geared around the kinds of things you would need to know to be an electrician. In my third year I built a power supply and circuit board that I still have. Radio Shack has long stopped selling the kinds of transistors, resistors, diodes, and capacitors of that day, which was right on the cusp of integrated circuits.

I needed three slots in my circuit board for one Radio Shack transistor in 1983. Now an iPhone 8 has 2 billion of them on a chip. Sigh.

So we worked at our own pace through a series of self-directed Navy Basic Electricity and Electronic books (you can now download them for free). The books were from 1972 (or earlier) and were initially designed for electricians in the Navy. For example, some of the first module talks about the kinds of batteries they used to have on submarines.

My old friend Casey Walker and I made a number of visits to the public school Book Depository our senior year and snatched a host of the textbooks we'd had in high school. I think that's where I nabbed all the Navy modules I'd gone through in two and a half years with Mr. Brandt.

In my plot to take over the universe, I've been reviewing a lesson each weekend and thought I'd blog down study notes for future review. These books are so tedious. The questions are painfully simple but it asks you the same questions over and over and over in slightly different ways. It's learning... and death... by repetition.

2. So Module 1 (i.e., book 1) is called "Electrical Current," and Lesson 1 is about "Electricity and the Electron." Here's the scoop:
  • Electricity does work.
  • All matter is made up of atoms. Atoms are very, very small. They are so small that they are the stuff of theory rather than direct observation (although now see this).
  • At the center of an atom is a clump of small "particles." The clump in the center is called the nucleus, and the particles are called protons and neutrons.
  • Most of the space around the nucleus is empty. The third basic "particle" in an atom is about 100,000 nucleus lengths away. It's called an electron.
  • Electrons thus surround the nucleus. You might start by thinking of planets surrounding the sun, although that's not quite right. Electrons are much, much smaller than protons (about 1/1845 as massive)
  • So atoms are made up of protons, neutrons, and electrons.
  • Electricity is the movement of electrons through a medium.
  • Wires are solid. They don't have holes in the middle for the electrons. :-)
  • Different kinds of atoms have different numbers of protons. (For example, copper has 29 protons in its nucleus. Most copper atoms have 34 neutrons in their nucleus. And in its neutral state, copper has 29 electrons.)
Next week: 1.2 Electron movement.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Seminary PL3: How does God lead?

This is the third post in the Pastoral Leadership stretch of my Seminary in a Nutshell series. The first two were:
1. Individuals and cultures have a tendency to "create God in their own image." So both in the way we read the Bible and in our theology of God, our natural tendency is to see God as we already think he should be, as we ourselves are or think we should be. As it were, we see what we want to see.

In fact, since God spoke to the authors of the Bible in their own languages and categories, the picture of God in the various books of the Bible may include elements of the cultures and contexts of the authors. This is why a "whole Bible" approach is so crucial. We need to see God in a truly "biblical" perspective and not just in the particularity of a single passage or biblical situation.

2. So just as there are individuals whose natural tendency is to be more autocratic or more laissez faire as a leader (see previous post), different people and traditions have a tendency to see God as more autocratic, democratic, or laissez faire. Similarly, different people and traditions have different formulas for the proper mix of human and divine will in life.

There are, as it were, four main perspectives:
  • High determinism on God's part, fatalism on human part
  • High determinism on God's part, but manifested through strong human action
  • Selective determinism on God's part, cooperation with God's will
  • Low determinism on God's part, high requirement of human action 
View 1
3. It is very popular right now to think that everything happens for reason, and Rick Warren encapsulated the force of this trend with a book that sold like wildfire: Purpose Driven Life. This perspective is high determinism, with a high sense of fatalism. So we try to live our lives as the Bible tells us too, but we will fail miserably (in this perspective).

Nevertheless, this perspective holds that everything happens for a reason. The most deterministic version would say that even when I sin or do something bad, God has caused me to do it for a reason. Others might limit this sentiment to when bad things happen to me that I have not in some way caused by my actions.

There can be a kind of fatalism with this view. "When it's your time to go, it's your time to go." So it doesn't really matter what I choose to do, because if God wants me to die, he'll find a way to do it. Maybe it will be on this plane I'm about to get on or maybe I'll die in a car accident on my way home if I decide not to get on the plane.

4. What is the view of God expressed here? Most Christians who express this view see God as having a loving purpose behind his autocratic or "sovereign" leadership. He is the boss and as boss decides everything that happens in the world. We just go along with it.

You might expect that this view of determinism might manifest itself in a very laissez faire style leadership among pastors who hold it. God can almost seem distant in this view. He is mysteriously making everything happen that happens, but we do not always know the purpose. We often do not see him personally but experience him impersonally in the events of the world.

However, this laissez faire mentality is probably more common among non-ministers than ministers. After all, churches hire ministers to do stuff, and a church probably isn't going to keep you long if you do nothing because you are waiting for God and not doing anything yourself. Indeed, even non-ministers go about their lives as if they have free will, reserving the "God controls everything" view for the unexpected.

5. We do find parts of the Bible that embody this sort of approach to life. When calamities come on Job, his natural response is that "The LORD gives, and the LORD takes away, blessed be the name of the LORD" (Job 1:21). Job of course does not know what is going on in the skies between God and the Adversary. He does not know that God did not originate the idea to afflict him.

Job himself thus reflects the human perspective of much of the Old Testament--God directly causes everything that happens. But the book of Job itself suggests a more complex picture, where God allows some things to happen that are not part of any specific plan on his part. As James 1:13 will later say, no one should attribute their temptation, let alone their sin, to God.

View 2
6. For many Christians, God is an autocrat, and they as ministers imitate the kind of leader they think he is. In the Calvinist tradition especially, which originated with John Calvin in the 1600s, we have often found this flavor of leadership. God is an autocrat, and we as his ministers should force the rest of the world to follow his will.

When John Calvin had the influence to mold the city of Geneva (in Switzerland today), he implemented what he saw to be biblical law on the people of the city. Similarly, Puritan New England expected civil law to mirror their understanding of biblical law. Today, there is a strong grass roots tendency among American fundamentalists to want to make American law mirror their understanding of the Bible on various issues. [1]

There is an implicit theological perspective at work here, one that sees God as autocratic, with us as his representative autocrats.

This perspective draws heavily on the relationship God had with Israel in the Old Testament, and it is no surprise that Jonathan Edwards saw the Puritan England of the 1700s as a kind of new Israel. Some parts of the Old Testament look at Israel before the monarchy as a kind of theocracy, a direct rule by God without a designated human leader. Some Calvinists see that type of arrangement as ideal for the world today as well.

However, the New Testament certainly has no view of this sort, since the notion of Christians having political control had no possibility whatsoever at that time. There is a sense both in the teaching of Jesus (Mark 12:17) and in the teaching of Paul (1 Cor. 5:12-13), 1 Peter (2:12-14), and elsewhere that the Roman Empire is part of the evil context in which the people of God are submerged as strangers and aliens (e.g., 1 Pet. 2:11; Heb. 11:13; Phil. 3:20). The New Testament has no thought whatsoever of imposing Christian values on the world around them. Rather, God and Christ will do that by force in the eschaton.

View 3
7. The third position is one that looks for cooperation between God and human will and a "selective" determinism on God's part. [2] This is the dominant perspective held until the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s, and it continues to be the perspective of many Christians, especially in the Wesleyan-Arminian tradition.

Technically, Arminians believe that any "free will" we have in relation to God is God-empowered. That is to say, we cannot do good under our own power but only under God's power. That of course is all a matter of theology. In real life, we act as if we are free, while seeking God's direction.

The Quakers present one extreme form of seeking God's direction. Their approach has historically been, Do nothing until God speaks. Wait until the Spirit intervenes. The opposite extreme would say to move forward in action as if you are deciding everything--only stop if God steps in and redirects you. Act until God intervenes.

8. The most balanced position from a Wesleyan-Arminian perspective is one that 1) regularly seeks the Lord's guidance and direction but 2) moves forward under the collective wisdom of the body of Christ and its leaders. So God does direct, but at some points he leaves room for human freedom. Sometimes he mysteriously works through our wills. Sometimes he steps in and redirects our wills. Sometimes he lets us decide.

This view requires us to take responsibility for our actions. This view requires us to grow up. To be sure, God has not left us as orphans. We have the Holy Spirit as our guide to walk with us and guide us (John 14:15-18, 26). God is working in us collectively, to lead us to will and to do his purpose (Phil. 2:12-13). God does not make us sin, nor does the Devil.

But God does not dictate everything that happens or everything we do. God may even allow the creation some freedom, to where not everything that happens is predictable. And God allows the consequences of sin to play out (Rom. 1:28). Not everything happens for a micro-reason.

God is not a micro-manager, no matter how much comfort that may give us. When Romans 8:28 speaks of everything working out for good, it is talking about the redemption of the creation as a whole. In the eschaton, everything will work out for good. Collectively, God's people are predestined for a collective destiny of salvation. Romans 8:28 was never a promise that a person's individual circumstances would always bring a greater good for you as an individual.

9. So are good leaders today. They are selectively directive, when it is really important. They empower other leaders and the people to do the work of the ministry as God leads them too. Sometimes they let others make choices that they do not believe are the best ones. They cooperate and work together with those under their charge.

This is the most balanced theological view of God, and it is the most effective leadership style as well.

View 4
10. Perhaps we should at least mention view 4, which from one point of view can become something like, "the Lord helps those who help themselves." This way of leading sees God as very laissez faire and may even approach Deism, where God created the world but is largely uninvolved with it right now.

By contrast, there are some like Thomas Oord who in an extreme form of Arminianism believe that God does not force anyone to do anything. He is very involved with the world, but only trying to convince the world to change. In Oord's view, God actually lacks the power to force anyone to do anything. His sense of ministerial leadership, accordingly, no doubt sees a minister as someone who passionately tries to influence others but who never uses an autocratic or authoritative style.

This is, however, neither an orthodox nor a biblical view of God.

Next week: Pastor as Leader 4: The mission, great and small

[1] The parallel between Geneva, Puritan New England, contemporary American civil religion, and the desire on the part of some Muslims to implement sharia law should be obvious. There is a tendency on the part of religious groups to want to make an entire culture conform to their religious understanding. It is exactly this impulse that the American Constitution protects the general populace against.

[2] It is possible to take this perspective "phenomenologically," meaning that it appears that human will is involved. Some Calvinists believe in "soft determinism," which is a sense that we perceive ourselves to act freely, even though our decisions are ultimately caused by God.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Fusion is sold out!

IWU chapel auditorium
Every year, IWU hosts Fusion, a two day blast for high school students on campus with fun, music, a band, and a speaker. Every year, Charlie Alcock puts this thing together and thousands participate. Every year thousands come and get some spiritual food! Imagine IWU's huge chapel auditorium completely full!

This year it's NeedToBreathe as band and Antwaan Randle El as speaker, with College Wesleyan's own Jordan Brown leading worship. Let me just say that I am constantly in awe of the gifts God has given Charlie to put together these things. And even more in awe that an academic institution would realize that these kinds of events are not distractions but the very stuff that make places like IWU great.

Keep it coming!