Football: I suspect God was indifferent to the ultimate outcome

Finding God in Suffering: A Journey with JobBruce Epperly, author of the recently released book Finding God in Suffering: A Journey with Job, questions the view that God determines the outcome of football games (or, I suspect, any other sport), rewarding the faithful and punishing the unfaithful. The title to this post includes his money quote from his post, Is God a Seahawks Fan?. Here’s the full paragraph:

I am sure that God was present on the playing field but not as a miracle worker or team mascot; God was there urging the players to achieve their best as team members, to be sportsmanlike, and to remain healthy amid a rough and tumble game. I suspect God was indifferent to the ultimate outcome.

I found this post refreshing. God is involved, but God isn’t there to make your team win–or lose. He’s there with each person.

Sunday Fish Stories

Yesterday was a great Sunday for me, though I still feel as though my previous week never really ended!

There are times when I feel that I heard precisely the right message for the time and place, not just for me, but for all there. There’s kind of a sense with a congregation hearing what they need to hear, or so I imagine at least. Yesterday at First UMC Pensacola was like that as Dr. Wesley Wachob told fish stories. He did this thing with Louis Armstrong’s Jonah and the Whale and really had the congregation going. The idea was “fish that are called to fish.” He ended briefly with the gospel message as Jesus calls disciples away from their fishing nets (Mark 1:14-20), but he spent most of his time in Jonah.

Here’s the Louis Armstrong song with some humorous animation I found on YouTube:


In the evening we hosted quite a number of teenagers in our home. I think the count was 14, but I lost track. They were lively, energetic, and very smart. It was fun talking with teenagers about the meaning of the tabernacle, the temple, and sacrifices. And I wasn’t even the one to introduce it; they did!

I believe we generally underestimate our young people and don’t treat them like significant persons, called and gifted by God, and capable of thinking. Sometimes this is because they don’t act like we do when they think something is important. They can shift topics in an instant, and it can be hard to follow, but it’s also worth it.

We need to get our young people involved and active earlier. They have a great deal to contribute.

Follow-up on According to John: Making Himself Equal with God

There are a number of points I need to write about to follow up on my hangout from last Thursday night, but first, here’s the YouTube video of the event.

I would like to remind you that you can ask questions or comment during the event using the Google Hangouts Q&A feature. Normally I’m also watching my Twitter (@hneufeld) and will see any Tweets @hneufeld. If you comment on something here and I can find a place for it in the next event, I will refer to it.

I plan to follow up before Thursday with posts on the language of the trinity, and biblical inspiration.

In the meantime, Bob Cornwall has written an interesting post on the language of the trinity. Check it out!

Book Extract: Interpreting Experience

The following is an extract from Philosophy for Believers by Edward W. H. Vick, pp. 122-123. I’m the publisher. I was reading this section as I was thinking about my study in According to John tonight (Jan. 22, 2015). How does experience relate to the development of religions doctrine?

8   Experience and Interpretation

Question: How shall we decide between interpretations of something that happened, whether unique public experiences e.g. a thunderstorm, or private ones e.g. visions, inner voices?

You and your friends are given a sheet of paper on which a lot of lines have been drawn. You are each asked what it is you see in the jumble. Replies will be different. One will see a horse drinking. Another will see cloud formation. Yet another will see the lines as a jumble of graffiti. We see things differently.

There has been murder in the town. Those people who are aware of it will have very different experiences. The relative, the detective, the editor of the sensational newspaper, each has his different view point of the event based on his unique experience of the event. Since they each experience the same event in different ways, let us call the phenomenon ‘experiencing as’. One experiences it as a personal loss, another as a case for investigation, another as the prospect of sensational front page headline and report.

Now think of different ways of experiencing the same events. As the Chaldeans approached Jerusalem and threatened its destruction, the Jews in the city experienced it as intense fear of coming catastrophe. The prophet experienced the events as the prospective judgment of God on the city. The Chaldean soldier experienced it as prospect for slaughter and booty. The experiences are different because each brings their own immediate background into the process of interpreting the meaning of the event.

So there is an analogy between ‘seeing-as’ and ‘experiencing-as’. Believers see the world as a world where God is present. Non-believers see the world as a series of purely natural events. We must consider that (a) there can be alternative characterisations of the event of ‘seeing’, ‘experiencing’. (b) Something more than the fact that I experience X as Y is required to establish the validity of my interpretation. For when I try to establish my belief in its significance I must explain both what the experience was and in addition contend that it has the significance I give it. This means that I must make explanations, use arguments, give reasons. When others have similar experiences to mine and do not interpret them as I do, it appears that it is the argument I produce to support my interpretation that is the important thing. So the notion of the existence of God can collapse into something that looks like the notion of being convinced by an argument. But the argument is to be seen as the instrument leading to an interpretation. That interpretation makes possible the belief in and so the assertion of the reality of God. It also, when articulated, enables the believer to give some account of his belief.

My Lazy Version Workspace

I’m doing a considerable amount of correction work that requires two monitors, and I didn’t want to spend the hours at my desk or worktable. Thus:


It’s good to be my own boss!

The Ethics of Publishing

One of our authors sent me a link to Christianity Today’s article Is Buying Your Way onto the Bestseller List Wrong?

In the interest of honesty—and that’s what this is really about—let me note that I’m not playing in the same league as the folks referenced in this article as a publisher. I do work with publicity campaigns. I do market books. But the best I’ve done is to get a book temporarily onto the bestseller list for a very narrow category. That wasn’t even my goal in those few cases, but it happened. So I should be clear that few temptations of the level described here are ever presented to me. Nobody has offered to put one of my books on the New York Times bestseller list, and the costs involved simply reinforce what I already said: As a publishing enterprise, I’m not in this league.

But the ethics of the situation seems rather simple to me. It doesn’t matter what the “everyone” is doing in the industry. It doesn’t matter if it’s standard practice. The tobacco companies had “standard practice,” and while it was legal at the time, it wasn’t ethical. It doesn’t even matter if the New York Times bestseller list is a game. What matters to me, and what should matter to any Christian writer or publisher, is whether our own actions are true and honest. We don’t live according to other peoples’ standards.

When you write publicity copy, there’s always the possibility that one can disagree on what is honest. What does “the best book on ____” mean? I have even seen such hyperbolic claims in the prefaces to Bible translations. I try to avoid that kind of statement, both because of the question of truthfulness, but also from consideration for my own credibility. Even if I think I’ve found the best book on a subject, such subjective judgements are empty claims at best. I should think what I publish is good, but I can say that without resorting to empty statements or falsehoods. Even though we can disagree, I think that in most cases we do know what is right and wrong, and we know when we are rationalizing the thing we want to do.

Ethicists have to study questionable instances in order to develop the proper principles. People in those equivocal situations need that kind of nuance. Rationalizers do the same thing, but for a different reason. They want to make simple look questionable. If you can make a truly simple decision look doubtful, that gives you cover.

As Christians we should instead be looking for “whatever is true, whatever is honorable” (Phil. 4:8). When we find we have strayed off the path, we need to acknowledge and correct the error. I confess it would be nice to be a large enough player in the industry to have to worry about these things. I hope that if that happens, I will be able to uphold the appropriate standards, by God’s grace.


Energion Google Hangout on Air Tonight – Creation and Christianity

creation-5Tonight at 7:00 pm central time for the weekly Energion Google Hangout on Air I’ll be moderating a panel of four authors. You can find the event information on our Google+ page.

The participants are:

This event is not a debate about creation and evolution. While I vary the content from hangout to hangout, I avoid outright debates. Each of these authors accepts the theory of evolution but also believes that God is the creator. Dr. Herold Weiss started the series, which also includes Creation: The Christian Doctrine by Dr. Edward W. H. Vick, who is unavailable for this panel. What I have asked them to do for this panel is talk about how their beliefs about creation impact the way the read scripture, teach, worship, and live.

The YouTube embed to view the event is below. If you want to ask questions of the panel using the Q&A App, you’ll need to sign into Google+. There should be a link on the YouTube viewer at the time the event starts for you to do so.


Better Learn to Live with Technology

Mark Bauerlein at First Things doesn’t like laptops in the classroom (HT: Dave Black Online.) Even the title of the post says something about his view of technology. For what it’s worth, I write things by hand on my tablet. I teach Sunday School using notes, book, and Bible references on my tablet as well. If a speaker is boring, I might well be reading e-mail. The solution? Improve your content.

I agree with one of the commenters who said he used a laptop in class and if he ended up in a class where the teacher banned laptops, he dropped the class or found a section with a different teacher.

Just so!

Quote: Prayers Make a Difference, But

“I think my prayers make a difference, but they’re not omnipotent.”

Listen to the whole interview by Doug Pagitt with Dr. Bruce Epperly, author of the recently released book Finding God in Suffering.

According to John: Making Himself Equal with God

The reading is chapter 2 of Herold Weiss’s book Meditations on According to John, Making Himself Equal with God and the scriptures in it. My recommendation is to read the entire gospel of John through each week during this study. The topics are so carefully tied together through the entire book.

Here’s the trailer:


And you can watch the event here (Jan. 22, 2015, 7:00 pm central, 8:00 pm eastern):