Wednesday, August 31, 2011

David Bosch's Definition of Evangelism

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David Bosch's views on evangelism and further on, his definition of evangelism, are taken from his missional masterpiece Transforming Mission. Within the section "Mission as Evangelism", Bosch highlights some helpful pointers when it comes to evangelism and sorting out its definition. He lists 18 particular points about evangelism, and they are listed here, with a few comments interspersed (see Transforming Mission, 1991: 409-420). Also, I have outlined David Bosch's definition of evangelism at the end of this article, which is well worth a study!

  1. Mission encompasses more than evangelism. Moltmann writes, 'Evangelization is mission, but mission is not merely evangelization'. Mission is a broader all encompassing view that includes evangelism as a vital part, but also includes the work of justice and the reconciling of the world to the glory of God.

  2. Evangelism should not be equated with mission (based on the previous comment). If this mission = evangelism model exists, it can close off other missionary endeveours that do not fit into the evangelical spectrum. Bosch writes, 'It is better to uphold the distinctiveness of evangelism within the wider mission of the church' (: 412).

  3. Evangelism may be viewed as an essential "dimension of the total activity of the Church". This is different than saying that evangelism is a 'department' of the church, or something Christians take part in once a week. Evangelism is seen within the context of the entire church, and is what flows out of the life and ministry of the local church.

  4. Evangelism involves witnessing to what God has done, is doing, and will do. This is referring to the good news (euangelion) of Jesus Christ! We are witnesses to this good news; the life, death, resurrection and soon to return Christ, who seeks to establish his Kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven.  

  5. Evangelism aims at a response. The first thing Jesus says, as recorded in Mark's Gospel is 'The time has come. The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news. (See Pete's Bible Commentary on Mark 1:14-20). The gospel always aims at a response. Bosch at times downplays this part of the salvation narrative, whereas many evangelicals would define this as a necessary moment in someone's life. The turning of one's life over to Christ - from darkness to light.   

  6. Evangelism is always invitation. Put more correctly, Bosch is indicating that evangelism should always be invitation, that is, it should not be communicated as 'turn or burn', 'repent or die', which may be more about coercing people into the kingdom than 'loving' them into the kingdom. I am sure hardcore evangelists probably would disagree with Bosch's assertions. In the end, we are in need of the Holy Spirit to draw people to repentance, whatever the form of communication. My desire is that people would turn to Christ, and that our words and actions would be seasoned with salt and be effective in having people consider their lives on a deeper level.
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  7. The one who evangelizes is a witness not a judge.

  8. Even though we ought to be modest about the character and effectiveness of our witness, evangelism remains an indispensable ministry. Evangelism is not an optional extra. Evangelism is indispensable.

  9. Evangelism is only possible when the community that evangelizes- the church- is a radiant manifestation of the Christian faith and exhibits an attractive lifestyle. To be technically correct, I would reword this statement to say, 'Evangelism is only most effective when...' as evangelism IS still possible even with Christians who do not reflect an 'attractive lifestyle'. Though, the Church needs people who WILL reflect an 'attractive lifestyle', in fact, what goes through my mind, is this should even need mentioning! Christians, who love Jesus, and are filled with the Holy Spirit, should naturally be living a life that honours him, and the church SHOULD be reflecting the image of God.

  10. Evangelism offers people salvation as a present gift and with it assurance of eternal bliss. Bosch quotes that evangelism offers people, 'a transcendent and eschatological salvation, which indeed has its beginning in this life but which is fulfilled in eternity'.

  11. Evangelism is not proselytism. David Bosch is referring here to the fact that evangelism is not about making prostestants catholics, or making catholics to become prostestants, etc, etc. Evangelism is about people turning to Christ.

  12. Evangelism is not the same as church extension. The focus on evangelism should not be about the growth of the church per se; though effective evangelism will no doubt cause a growth within the local church. Evangelism is about people coming to faith in Christ, and comes out of God's people having the desire to see that none should perish.
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  13. To distinguish between evangelism and membership recruitment is not to suggest, though, that they are disconnected. I think Bosch is attempting to make the point, that some churches may take part in effective evangelism, and not necessarily see an increase in their membership. Though evangelism and church membership are closely linked, they are not one in the same. 

  14. In evangelism, "only people can be addressed and only people can respond". While the work of mission may encompass whole nations in repentance, or seeking justice for the oppressed, evangelism always has, and always will involve a personal response. While the gospel is not individualistic, for example, the good news is for everyone; the gospel involves an individualistic response. We still pray the gospel affects nations and Governments and economies and the like, but we understand that God requires the repenting of individuals; having faith in the death and resurrection of his son, Jesus Christ.

  15. Authentic evangelism is always contextual. Bosch is a little confusing on this point. His monologue suggests we don't let evangelism and the message of the good news simply fall into our culture, e.g. come to Christ and he will give you peace (because you are feeling down at the moment), or follow Jesus and he will give you all that you need (because you lack something). We need to embrace the full good news of the gospel. I struggle then to relate these words to 'authentic evangelism is always contextual'. I am sure some can share some light for me on point 15!

  16. Evangelism cannot be divorced from the preaching and practicing of justice. Bosch comes against the idea that Mission = Evangelism + Social Justice. Evangelism, he says, is far too embracing, or rather, evangelism will affect things in the justice realm, because of the inherent nature of responding to Christ. I agree with him on this. The rationale is that you cannot simply divide evangelism and social justice up into two neat packages, and employ one person to head up each of these departments in the church. When evangelism happens - people turn to Christ - social justice will happen atleast to some extent. Sure, extreme poverty will not be alleviated, for example, but evangelism in a sense IS a form of social justice. Maybe we are playing semantics here... so lets move on.

  17. Evangelism is not a mechanism to hasten the return of Christ as some suggest. I question whether I should agree with this statement or not. I am inclined to disagree with the proposition. While it is fair enough to question our motivation for evangelism, and to critically analyse those who embrace evangelism to simply bring on Christ's return. It is another thing to say that evangelism will not quicken the return of Christ. It is also mutually exclusive to whether Christian's have predicted correctly or not, the time of Christ's return. Or put it differently - just because someone has wrongly predicted the date of the return of Christ, based on their evangelical efforts, does not then presuppose that evangelism in and of itself does not hasten the return of Christ.  

  18. Evangelism is not only verbal proclamation. Newbigin writes, 'Words interpret deeds and deeds validate words, which does not mean that every deed must have a word attached to it, nor every word a deed'. That being said, it is imperative that we verbally proclaim the good news. As Bosch writes, 'In a society marked by relativism and agnosticism it is necessary to name the Name of the One in whom we believe'.

So there are David Bosch's views on evangelism, with a few of my points thrown in. To finish this outline of evangelism, let's finish with an exhaustive definition from Bosch on evangelism.

David Bosch's definition of evangelism - '...that dimension and activity of the church's mission which, by word and deed and in the light of particular conditions and a particular context, offers every person and community, everywhere, a valid opportunity to be directly challenged to a radical reorientation of their lives, a reorientation which involves such things as deliverance from slavery to the world and its powers; embracing Christ as Savior and Lord; becoming a living member of his community, the church; being enlisted into his service of reconciliation, peace, and justice on earth; and being committed to God's purpose of placing all things under the rule of Christ.' (: 420). Now that's a definition of evangelism! Phew!
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For more discussion go to our 'Disciples in Training' page on Facebook.
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The headings of the above 18 points on evangelism are attributed to David Bosch, a great South African Missiologist. These are taken from his book, Transforming Mission, 1991, pages 409-420. Taken together, Bosch helps us clearly make a sound definition of evangelism, which equips us for more effective ministry today.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Mark 1:35-39 - Jesus prays in a Solitary Place - Pete's Bible Commentary

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Mark 1:35-39 (NIV) - Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: "Everyone is looking for you!" Jesus replied, "Let us go somewhere else--to the nearby villages--so I can preach there also. That is why I have come." So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.

Jesus was committed to being one with the Father. Well theologically speaking, he IS one with the Father, but during his time on earth, as the Incarnated Son of God, he needed to pray just like any Christian would today. Early in the morning, before the sun is even up, Jesus is off to pray. When you consider the busyness of ministry that Mark highlights in the previous verses (calling his disciples, healing the sick, casting out demons), you sense the importance of this time of prayer.

As we read Mark 1:35-39, while only a short paragraph, we note that Jesus has been praying for some time; hence the slight indignation that the disciples are expressing. 'Where have you been!?' How I wish, I would regularly be caught up in prayer to the point where people would say, 'Where's Pete gone? Is he off praying again?' I could only ask God for a greater sense of passion for prayer and seeking after the purposes of God.

Jesus responds to the disciples and encourages them to follow him to some nearby villages to continue to preach, because, 'that is why I have come' (Mark 1: 38). I find this verse captivating, and it bears some response here. Firstly, I want to look at the word, 'solitude'. Jesus went to a solitary place before he went and preached the gospel. What is solitude? This word 'solitude' or 'desolate place' (ερημον - eremon) is a place that is free from human activity, like a wilderness. Some secular dictionaries say it is a lonely place, but this would sure be theologically incorrect in this passage, because a time of prayer (which I guess is assumed from the passage) is not a time of loneliness as such, but a time of intimate connection with God. 

Some people live their lives with a strong comtemplative spirituality, which is admirable, and they have a great commitment to prayer, solitude, listening, etc. We all good learn something from this tradition. This being said though, the Jesus recorded in Mark's Gospel is one who intends to reach out to his community and spread the good news. I have met a small handful of people who embrace contemplative spirituality so strongly, that it lacks any kind of pragmatic expression of kingdom ministry. Let me put it like this - Jesus did not go up the mountain and stay there. He spent quality time with the Father and then he did up the shoe laces, so to speak, and got on with preaching the good news to 'nearby villages'.
Mark 1:35-39 are an important few verses. Mark shows his readers, that Jesus relied on the Father. While he does not unpack the benefits of the time of solitude, we can only assume, that through this time of prayer, Jesus was encouraged, felt empowered and was now more equipped and ready to fulfil his mission in the world.

Will you find a place of solitude and spend some quality time with Jesus?
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Mark 1:35-39 - Jesus prays in a Solitary Place - is part of Pete's Bible Commentary and is written by Pete Brookshaw.
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To continue the discussion go to www.facebook.com/disciplesintraining for more
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Friday, August 26, 2011

Law No. 9 - The Law of Magnetism - John C. Maxwell's 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

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The Law of Magnetism is taken from John C. Maxwell's, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and says, 'Who you are is who you attract'.

I have my background in leadership within the church realm, and I have seen the law of magnetism very clearly. Churches with pastors with a young family, seem to attract members who have young families. Churches with leaders who are bible scholars and are strongly into dissecting the biblical writings tend to have people in their congregations who are analytical and passionate about this kind of study.

We only have to look to the business world for a second and we see the law of magnetism at work. Two young surfers, Doug Warbrick and Brian Singer, in 1969 began a now multi-million dollar industry called RipCurl. They initially sold surfboards, and then a year later expanded to sell wetsuits. Who do they attract to work at their stores? Well, the last time I walked through their shop at Torquay, Victoria, Australia (where they founded their business), the employees were young people who loved to surf! They attract to their business, the same kind of personality and interests that they have.

This is a natural part of leadership. We attract who we are. That's the law of magnetism. The challenge of leadership is to attract people who do not naturally connect with us. If you are a business leader, church leader, School Principal and so the list goes on, you cannot simply employ people who fit into your mold. We can't afford to have clones of leaders walking around our hallways. Why? To be really effective in an organisation you need a wide variety of views, of personalities and leadership styles. Without this kind of variety, you end up with Henry Ford clones, who only make their Fords black. While my personality is not attracted to the dry, analytical, systems-driven kind of person, I need this person around me at times, to help pick me up in areas I would not see. If you are a visionary, having someone who can see the nuts and bolts of the whole picture is someone you probably need on your leadership team!

So, while John C. Maxwell's law of magnetism is true, we need to challenge ourselves to find ways to connect with differing personalities and to have people on our leadership teams who see things from a different angle. We attract who we are, but that is not necessarily the only people we can attract to our goals and vision.  
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Also have a look at the TOP 100 Leadership Tips here.
The law of Magnetism is law no. 9 and continues our look at John C. Maxwell's 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Psalm 73 - God is the strength of my Heart - Pete's Bible Commentary

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Psalm 73 - Pete's Bible Commentary

Psalm 73:1 A psalm of Asaph. Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.

Psalm 73:2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.

Psalm 73:3 For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

Psalm 73:4 They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.

Psalm 73:5 They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills.

Psalm 73:6 Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence.

Psalm 73:7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity; their evil imaginations have no limits.

Psalm 73:8 They scoff, and speak with malice; with arrogance they threaten oppression.

Psalm 73:9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth.

Psalm 73:10 Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance.

Psalm 73:11 They say, "How would God know? Does the Most High know anything?"

Psalm 73:12 This is what the wicked are like-- always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.

Psalm 73:13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence.

Psalm 73:14 All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments.

Psalm 73:15 If I had spoken out like that, I would have betrayed your children.

Psalm 73:16 When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply

Psalm 73:17 till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.
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Psalm 73 captures me as it gets to verse 17. Before we unpack that a little, it is interesting to note that this Psalm is the first of the Asaph collection of Psalms (Psalms 73-83). Asaph is a musician, whom King David had appointed for work within the Sanctuary, including two other men, Heman (that's right, He-man!) and Ethan. When the temple of Solomon was completed, bringing the ark and altar together, these three musicians were reunited to serve in the Sanctuary.Wilcock writes, 'The God of the Asaph Collection is repeatedly a God who judges, as he did in Egypt; who speaks, as he did at Sinai; and who over the years constantly shepherds his people' (2001: 6).

Lets look at the first half of Psalm 73. We see Asaph saying his foot nearly slipped; he nearly found himself living the 'wicked' kind of life that the people in his culture were living. Interestingly, Psalm 73:12 says these people were living 'care-free' lives. Immediately my mind considers the people of our culture today, that like healthy, strong, care-free lives, with no need for a God who cares for them and no need for any kind of salvation.

I am captured then by verses 16 and 17, that when I tried to understand all this wickedness, I was troubled. I couldn't understand why people were living this way, and I couldn't understand the reason for their disobedient ways. It was not until I entered the Sanctuary (v. 17), that it became clear to me. What became clear to me, was that I understood their final destiny. All of sudden, after being in the Sanctuary, I had revelation as the result of wickedness and disobedience. We see this today, that people who enter the Sanctuary or rather people who gather together in the presence of God, have greater clarity and understanding of the effects of sin on people's lives. Personally, when I connect deeply with Jesus in a time of worship/prayer, I am at times confounded by my own need of redemption or I am given a clearer picture of the heartache God has for those who are far from him.
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Psalm 73:18 Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin.

Psalm 73:19 How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors!

Psalm 73:20 They are like a dream when one awakes; when you arise, Lord, you will despise them as fantasies.

Psalm 73:21 When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered,

Psalm 73:22 I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.

Psalm 73:23 Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.

Psalm 73:24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.

Psalm 73:25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

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

Psalm 73:27 Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.

Psalm 73:28 But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.
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What promises Asaph gives his readers! That even though at times our foot slips, and our flesh and heart fail (v. 26), God is still our strength and God is always with us. What a promise! Even though at times we envy the care-free life of the people around us, who live according to their own humanistic moral standards, we desire after God more. We long to always have God at the forefront of our minds. We long to say, 'God, be my portion and my strength!'

Finally, I'm captured by the last verse of Psalm 73 (v. 28). Even after Asaph considers the sinfulness of the people around him, and then concludes that he will always be with God and desire after God, he says, 'I will tell of all your deeds'.

God help us not to envy the people around us, who live these seemingly joyful and abundant lives, with not a care in the world. God help us to not let our foot slip into that consumeristic, hedonistic kind of life. We enter the Sanctuary many times, and you speak to us and remind us that you love us, and that you are with us. By your Holy Spirit will you also reveal to us the importance of living a holy and pure life before you. Break our heart for the oppressive destiny that so many people have for their lives. Help us and equip us to tell of your deeds, all the days of our lives.

We believe Christ came many years after these words in Psalm 73, and we will tell of the salvation, goodness, forgiveness and hope that he can bring into the lives of people in our community. 
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This is another reflection on the Word of God written by Pete Brookshaw and is part of Pete's Bible Commentary.   

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Law No. 8 - The Law of Intuition - John C. Maxwell's 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

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John C. Maxwell's Law No. 8 is the Law of Intuition.

"Leaders evaluate everything with a leadership bias" - John C. Maxwell.

Great leaders are ones who have intuition. You know, that sense within that you should head a certain direction, or the inkling that there are people on the leadership team who are not with you. Intuition is seen on the sporting field when the sportsman knows to run left and anticipates the play. Intuition is witnessed in a leadership meeting, when the leader says, 'You know what, I have a feeling we should be investing our money into that new product.' Intuition occurs in the church, when someone discerns that a new direction is needed, even though this may not be the popular view.

Dictionary.com defines intuition as, 'Direct perception or truth, fact, etc, independent of any reasoning process'. Some people have intuition and some do not. This has always puzzled me. How do you teach someone to have intuition? How do you teach someone to be intuitive, and look at a situation and understand the right direction or the right answer to the problem? Within Christianity, some would say people at times are given the 'gift of wisdom' to know the right response for the moment. You could say, people have an inbuilt intuitive nature. Though, like any leadership quality, intuition can be developed.

Say for instance you are the owner of a local cafe, that serves great hot food to the community, with your freshly baked pies and pasties, and your homemade vanilla slice. The sales have declined recently and you just know what you need to do. Your intuition kicks in. Even before you re-do a demographical study of your city, and a survey of people's taste habits, you just know you need to implement some healthier choices on the menu. Other people say to you, 'But you're going to loose what makes you unique as a Cafe!' You decide to implement a new menu, that incoporates the healthier choices, and your intuition was right, sales increase, and your brand loyalty strengthens despite what the nay-sayers said.

This example is simplistic, but it does highlight intuition. Leadership intuition, is really that inner thought, or perception to make a particular change in an organisation. As you understand your organisation/group better, intuition will come more naturally. The successes and failures of the past, help to sway you a particular direction that you know you should take. Without being arrogant, at times your intuition is strong enough to not have to concede to the other opinions around you. Let me qualify this by saying, it is important to seek advice and colloboration, but at times, because of your experience in leadership and the organisation in which you are a part, you have the intuition to know what to do.

Question then: How do you develop intution? I believe that when you grow and develop within your particular field, whether it be science, religion, politics, entertainment, etc, you understand the environment better. You begin to perceive future trends because you have a good grasp on the field you are in. John C. Maxwell writes, 'Natural ability and learned skills create an informed intuition that makes leadership issues jump out at leaders' (: 82). Your decisions, while backed up by research, teaching and the opinions of peers, managers, etc, when interwined with your intuition, there exist a greater potential for having a greater effect on your situation. 

John C. Maxwell says the following, that:
  • Leaders are readers of their situation

  • Leaders are readers of trends

  • Leaders are readers of their resources

  • Leaders are readers of people

  • Leaders are readers of themselves (: 82-83).
Growing leaders, will grow their intution. As they understand their situation better, they will have better intuition. As they understand future trends they will enhance their intuition. As they are wise in their use of resources, their ability to be intuitive in their use will increase. As leaders understand people better, and motivate people more effectively, they will have the intuition to respond to people issues/problems well. Finally, as leaders are able to 'know thyself', and have a clearer picture of themselves, and become less clouded by their own mistakes, they will find their ability to intuitively know the response to make in a given situation increase. Leaders evaluate everything with a leadership bias.

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Also have a look at the TOP 100 Leadership Tips here.
This is John C. Maxwell's 'Law of Intuition' (Law No. 8) adapted from his 1998 classic, 'The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership'.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Contagious Boil on the Face of Religion: Book Review - The God Delusion (2006) - Richard Dawkins

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Book Review - Dawkins, Richard (2006). The God Delusion. London: Transworld Publishers.

Dawkins is the contagious boil on the face of religion. Religion tries to squeeze him out to get rid of him, but he spreads his ideas and influence all the more. He holds back no punches as he releases, what seems to be, his apologetic against religion. While controversial religious ideas and practices are at the forefront, interestingly, some of the book seems to be an advertisement for natural selection and scientific endeavor, rather than what the title exclaims.While you expect a book all about faith and theology; at times you find yourself delving into the intricate insides of evolutionary biology and are left wondering whether he forgot the title of his own book.

Ebbs and flows exist between the highlighting of why Christians (not to mention Muslims and Buddhists), are naïve in their belief systems, to that of scientific progress. The issue then is really whether this is a book about science or religion? If it is the former, then the book should be called something like The Origins of Life and Natural Selection, but if it is really The God Delusion, then the author should not wander off into justifying scientific process (unless it is closely relevant to the argument).

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For more, check out another of Pete's Blogs - Richard Dawkins & Alister McGrath - "The Delusions!"
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Some argue that a scientist should avoid attempting an exposition on religion; that the two do not mix, and they should not cross paths. This is really Stephen Jay Gould’s brainchild regarding, what he calls, NOMA (non-overlapping magisteria). The thesis is that science and religion exist in two different planes, one that is about empiricism and one about ultimate meaning and morality (: 77-85). Science still has much to say within the realms of religion, for example, the scientific progress in cosmology, or the debates about evolution/creation and the origins of life and even in the scientific rationality behind miracles and seemingly ‘super-human’ feats (like rising from the grave). While Gould may be right in saying that science says little about how we are to live, and eternal life and such, science still offers much to inform and sharpen theological thinking. McGrath highlights the idea of POMA (partially overlapping magesteria) which is helpful in understanding that there is a ‘crossfertilization of science and religion (McGrath, 2007: 19). The point being, Dawkins has just as much freedom to speak out and discuss religion as does a professor of protestant theology. While his ideas are forthright and at times offensive to people of faith, he is nonetheless entitled to an opinion, and for those opinions to be challenged. Admittedly, when he is discussing scientific progress and ideas though, it is more refreshing than having to stomach the continual mockery of religious fundamentalism.

The question begs asking - is Dawkins too offensive towards religious followers? He mentions he is ‘tame’ compared with other literature (: 16), and that religious followers are just overly cautious about religious material. Unquestionably, to the person of faith, he is, at times, rude and offensive. Take the following statements:
  • ‘A popular deity on the Internet at present – and as undisprovable as Yahweh or any other – is the Flying Spaghetti Monster, who, many claim, has touched them with his noodly appendage’ (: 76).

  • ‘…visionary religious experiences are related to temporal lobe epilepsy’ (:196).
While arguments regarding the existence of God are appreciated, the occasional sarcasm and humour detracts from any intellectual pursuit. Epistemologically speaking, what matters, is whether there is any substance underneath the rhetoric of ‘religious naivety and stupidity’ which is worthy of his readership?

Amongst the pages of The God Delusion, Dawkins occasionally provides some rigorous apologetics against religion that are difficult for even the most intelligent theologians. In relation to morality he questions the Christian who asks, ‘If there is no God, then why be good?’ He fires back at the questioner, arguing that this question presupposes that the only reason the Christian is good is because they believe in their God. Then if the Christian says, ‘No, wait a minute, I am not good just because of God in my life,’ the response is that there is no need for a God then.

Dawkins though, falls short earlier on when he describes the idea that every human has a sense of morality. He falls short, not because of the interesting, abbreviated monologue and reasoning from biologist Marc Hauser (: 254-258), but because he simply makes the assumption that because of this universal sense of morality, there is no need for a God (: 258). He says this sense comes from our evolutionary heritage. The counter argument is clear:What if God placed in human hearts a sense of morality?What if this sense of good and evil did not merely evolve from natural selection but was conveniently designed that way from a deity?

Another persuasive apologetic Dawkins offers is his scathing attack on Scripture (: 117-123). It is not so much that he is right in his assertions, but that his comments are hard to respond to in affirmation of the importance of Scripture. Take for example, the comments that the Scriptures about Jesus were recorded well after Jesus’ death and thus are erroneous (: 118). One must enter into detailed analysis of the effectiveness of oral communication in the first and second centuries to refute the argument. This apologetic about the validity of the Scriptures can disturb any Christian who is not well versed with oral tradition, exegesis and the Synoptic Gospels. Dawkins mentions that Luke ‘screws up’ his dating of events, that the Christmas story is recorded incorrectly and that the recorders of the gospels were fallible and had hidden agendas (:118-119). His presuppositions about Scripture begin to become weak though, when he says, ‘The four gospels that made it into the official canon were chosen, more or less arbitrarily, out of a larger sample of at least a dozen…’ (: 121). The canon was never ‘arbitrarily’ chosen, like some lucky dip competition. The canon was divinely orchestrated by the self-revelation of God, through the use of fallible human beings. The canon (Scriptures) will undoubtedly and continually be debated by scientists and the like, in relation to providing evidence to substantiate the claims of its authenticity.

One of the techniques Dawkins uses in The God Delusion is the discrediting of religion, predominantly Christianity, through the use of stories, analogies and witty comments. While the stories he tells are no doubt empirically true, most stories he uses are so far beyond what any Christian would call orthodox faith. His arguments are thus diminished, because what he is parading around as orthodox responses to faith and reason are in fact emanating from people not upheld and respected by orthodox religion. He quotes angry letters written to him from so called Christians (: 242-243), as if this is the common letter writing technique from Christians. He tells of the agonizing sexual abuse of a seven year old by a Catholic Priest, as if this action is common practice amongst believers (: 357). He speak of the murders caused by religious fanatics, like 9/11, or suicide bombers, or the persecution of the Jews inWorld War II (: 23-24), as if that is the common way that religion is expressed within society today. His stories may be entertaining for some, but they fail terribly at offering readers a clear, balanced picture of religion today.

There are some comments Dawkins makes, that could apply to either side of the science/religion debate. Take for instance, ‘…perhaps you need to be steeped in natural selection, immersed in it, swim about in it, before you can truly appreciate its power’ (: 143). A theist would argue that perhaps Dawkins needs to swim about in the pool of theological ideas before he can truly appreciate God and faith. He also says, ‘It is utterly illogical to demand complete documentation of every step of any narrative…’ (: 153), which of course is only meant to refer to science, but surely it could also refer to the realms of spirituality? Is it not just as illogical to demand theologians to explain every step of their theological presuppositions? As McGrath says, Dawkins makes the transition, ‘from a scientist with a passionate concern for truth to a crude anti-religious propagandist who shows a disregard for evidence’ (2007: 27).

McGrath’s The Dawkins Delusion is a helpful rebuttal to the work of Dawkins. While questioning your own belief system at times, havingMcGrath touch on the exact aspect of Dawkins ‘theology’ and then show you why it is skewed from the truth is pleasing. Take for example the role of science and religion. When reading Dawkins, the thought rises about whether everything should be scientifically proven. Then McGrath writes, ‘Scientific theories cannot be said to ‘explain the world’ – only to explain the phenomena which are observed within the world’ (2007: 16). McGrath shows you how to bring stability and intellectual dialogue to a heated debate, and how to engage the ideas of Dawkins in ways that are not written for entertainment sake, but for the sake of discovering the truth.

If the aim of The God Delusion was to sell numerous copies while increasing the financial coffers of scientific research there is success. If the aim was to write a persuasive, rationalistic, intellectual exposition about why following God was delusional, he missed the mark. He nonetheless produced a provocative account of religion melded with science that raises the eyebrows of people of religion and provides entertainment to the religious cynics and the atheists. It seems Dawkins never intended to write an apologetic against religion, but rather to offer readers a frank, passionate bleat about religion and a convicting plea for the embracing of evolutionary biology. All in all, it seems that the contagious boil on the face of the religious community is not going into hiding anytime soon.

  • For more, check out another of Pete's Blogs - Richard Dawkins & Alister McGrath - "The Delusions!"


- Book Review of The God Delusion by Pete Brookshaw (Aug 2011).

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Necessary Endings - Henry Cloud (2010)

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Dr Henry Cloud (2010). Necessary Endings: The Employees, Businesses, and Relationships that all of us have to Give Up in order to Move Forward.

Henry Cloud offers some helpful insight in his latest book Necessary Endings. Necessary Endings is about what the name implies; creating necessary endings in situations. I heard a leadership principle that says, 'Good cannot begin until bad ends'.

Think about your local business, church, school or even your family. Here are some highlights from Henry Cloud that provide some insights about those difficult situations we need to 'end'.
  • We hang on too long when we should end something now.
  • We do not know if an ending is actually necessary, of if 'it' is fixable.
  • We are afraid of what is unknown.
  • We fear confrontation.
  • We are afraid of hurting someone.
  • We are afraid of letting go and the sadness associated with a 'necessary' ending.
  • We do not possess the skills to execute the ending.
  • We do not even know the right words to use.
  • We have experienced too many painful endings in the past and are thus fearful of experiencing that pain again.
  • We these 'necessary endings' are forced upon us, we do not know how to process them, and we sink or flounder.
  • We generally do not learn from them, so we repeat the same mistake over and over again.  (This list adapted from Gilbert Foster).
Have a read of a quote from the book, from page 74: "...successful people...all have one thing in common: They get in touch with reality...you must finally see reality for what it is...what is not working is not going to magically being working...The awareness of hopelessness is what finally brings people to the reality of the pruning moment. It is the moment when they wake up, realize that an ending must occur, and finally feel energized to do it. Nothing mobilizes us like a firm dose of reality. Whether is is finally getting an addict to hit bottom and end a destructive pattern or getting a CEO in front of a bankruptcy judge to force the restructuring that he has been avoiding, only reality gets us to do difficult things."

We must face reality at times. If you are a part of a local church, you might think of an example of a ministry that desperately needs a 'necessary ending'. The purpose of the ministry has been lost amongst the weekly drain of the same old thing week after week. It takes a leader; someone with some intuition, to say, 'You know what, this ministry has drifted so far off its original course, its time to close the doors'. Then the common excuses in ministry pop up:
  • 'But we've always done it this way'.
  • 'We've been running this program since 1963'.
  • 'This program has brought 70 people to the Lord' (10 years ago).
  • 'This ministry was implemented by the founding pastor of this church'.
  • 'I started this ministry'. (Thought: And if you close it, you are saying that I'm a failure. Well actually no - we're saying that it's had its time, it was great and we appreciate all you did, but its time to start something new and fresh.)
Here's another quote from Henry Cloud's Necessary Endings:

'When a spouse says to the alcoholic, "you need to go to AA," that is obviously not true. The addict feels no need to do that at all, and isn't. But when she says, "I am moving out and will be open to getting back together when you are getting treatment for your addiction," then all of a sudden the addict feels "I need to get some help or I am going to lose my marriage." The need has been transferred. It is the same with any kind of problematic behavior of a person who is not taking feedback and ownership. The need and drive to do something about it must be transferred to that person, and that is done through having consequences that finally make him feel the pain instead of others. When he feels the pain, he will feel the need to change...' (page 142).

Is there something you know needs to have a necessary ending? And further, will you have the courage to create the ending that you know it needs?



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