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Think Christianly

Think Christianly: June 2009

Monday, June 29, 2009

Get to know 100 Christian apologists....

Sunday, June 28, 2009

God Has Spoken

It is sometimes said that God has written two books: creation and the Bible. God has first revealed Himself through and in what He has made. This is His general revelation to all people, in that everyone has equal access to it simply by watching a sunset at the beach, standing on a mountain top, or observing the night sky.

But God has also spoken through people in history and this is known as special revelation. In special revelation, God reveals information that could not have been discovered any other way (e.g., people can’t deduce from a sunset that Jesus Christ has provided salvation for any who would place their trust in Him). As they were led by the Holy Spirit, the authors of Scripture communicated God’s words to His people (from 1405 bc to ad 95). The books we possess, from Genesis to Revelation, are God’s final and authoritative revelation to the world. No clearer word is needed and no higher authority can be appealed to.

An important corollary to this discussion is the Bible’s status of being “without error,” known as the doctrine of inerrancy. Because of God’s perfect character and the fact that He cannot lie, it follows that His revelation to us would be without error. But, you might ask, didn’t flawed and sinful human beings pen Scripture? Yes. But that is why the Holy Spirit guarded the original writings from error.

Theologian David Dockery offers a good summary of this doctrine, “When all the facts are known, the Bible (in its original writings) properly interpreted in light of which culture and communication means had developed by the time of its composition will be shown to be completely true (and therefore not false) in all that it affirms, to the degree of precision intended by the author, in all matters relating to God and his creation.” And even though none of the original manuscripts exist today, biblical scholars have sufficiently demonstrated that the Bible has been accurately and reliably preserved for us. Therefore, the Bible you can buy today is essentially the Word of God. Indeed, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16–17).

Passages to explore: Psalm 19:1–4; Matthew 5:18; John 10:35; 17:17; Romans 1:18–25; 2:14–16; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 1:1–2; 6:18; 2 Peter 1:16–21.

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

On Knowledge and Virtue

Peter has some encouraging and instructive words for us. Notice the role that effort plays in the cultivation of virtue and maturity. It is all fueled by grace and the power of the Holy Spirit of course...but we must be intentional about it if we are to mature.

3His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

5For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

10Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Psychiatry Textbook Acknowledges that Homosexuals Can Change

I came across this post which was both interesting and encouraging. Change is possible, despite what is often touted in the media. check it out (HT / STR).

Essential Psychopathology and Its Treatment is a textbook used at medical schools and psychiatry departments. The newest edition cites evidence that homosexual orientation can be changed and therapies that help people change are not necessarily harmful. The relevant text is on page 488:

While many mental health care providers and professional associations have expressed considerable skepticism that sexual orientation could be changed with psychotherapy and also assumed that therapeutic attempts at reorientation would produce harm, recent empirical evidence demonstrates that homosexual orientation can indeed be therapeutically changed in motivated clients, and that reorientation therapies do not produce emotional harm when attempted (e.g., Byrd & Nicolosi, 2002; Byrd et al., 2008; Shaeffer et al., 1999; Spitzer, 2003).
Interestingly, one of the researchers they cite to back up their claim is Dr. Robert Spitzer. He was once considered a champion of gay activism because of his instrumental role in removing homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association’s manual of mental disorders in 1973. Thirty years later, however, he published his new findings that some homosexuals were able to change their "orientation." (HT / STR)

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

China Blocks Google to Stifle Online Dissent Ahead of Nation's 60th Anniversary

Who says information, ideas, and images aren't powerful? Just ask Iran. Now China sees the writing on the wall. Regarding the porn, I am all for getting rid of that--for the good of humanity (I think it could be argued that this is a human rights issue because of what it does to people, families, and ultimately societies). "Desire" and "Freedom" must be subordinated to the Good. But something tells me China is not ultimately concerned with porn blocking. You can read for yourself...

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Welcome to College Reviewed on Probe Ministries

I came across a review of Welcome to College at Probe Ministries. (thanks to Byron for taking the time to thoughtfully interact). If you are not familiar with Probe, they do an outstanding job at worldview formation and engagement. You should check them out. (click here)

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design By Stephen C. Meyer

"In Signature in the Cell, Dr. Stephen Meyer shows that the digital code embedded in DNA points powerfully to a designing intelligence and helps unravel a mystery that Darwin did not address: how did the very first life begin? Follow Dr. Meyer as he investigates how new scientific discoveries are pointing to intelligent design as the best explanation for the complexity of life and the universe."

The origin of information is a powerful pointer to an intelligent mind, not unintelligent evolution.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Iranian Rally Is Dispersed as Voting Errors Are Admitted

These are interesting times globally, and thanks to Twitter and social networking; the emerging generation in Iran is making their voice heard (in the face of oppression and violence). We take for granted the right to assemble and protest in america. And I think America and President Obama should be more forthcoming in their encouragement of these young Iranians who are seeking freedom and a representative form of government.

Here is the latest in a New York Times article.

Our prayers are for peace and for justice.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Should People Take the Bible Literally?

My answer may surprise you. Check out this week's podcast. (also available on iTunes - "thinkchristianly podcast").

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Posture is everything...

"For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe."--1 Thessalonians 2:13

If we do not think we need input and help to learn how to live well...we will not change. We must be willing to receive and accept. Humility is a prerequisite for true and lasting spiritual growth.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How do we live a successful life?

(from mojo blog) It’s high graduation season—the time when Valedictorians and VIPs rifle their mental files for Something Significant to say about new beginnings and the quest for the good life. This week on The Things That Matter Most Lael’s radio interview with Faith and Culture contributor Dallas Willard explored how we can have reliable knowledge about success. The interview began with questions about an essay in Atlantic Monthly. Journalist Joshua Wolf Shenk was allowed access to the archives of The Grant study, a long range Harvard research project that asked, What Makes us Happy? What should one do to live a successful life?

A team of doctors, sociologists, anthropologists, psychologists and psychiatrists followed 268 of the brightest and best and most well adjusted Harvard sophomores (including JFK) to document the scientific answer. But the baffling variety of outcomes of these lives shows just how elusive the scientists found the answer to be. David Brooks summarized the findings in the New York Times: “A third of the men would suffer at least one bout of mental illness. Alcoholism would be a running plague. The most mundane personalities often produced the most solid success…There is a complexity to human affairs before which science and analysis simply stand mute.”

The study offered one major scientifically quantifiable conclusion (more...)

For more on Dallas Willard's book, click here

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Professor John Lennox discusses Christianity, atheism and science

John Lennox is a philosopher of Science and Mathematics at Oxford and he discusses the natural relationship between Christianity and Science. (8 min)

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Review of Bart D. Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why

Here is the review of Bart Ehrman's previous book (2005) by respected NT Scholar Dr. Dan Wallace (his intermediate Greek Grammar textbook is one of the standard Greek textbooks used all over the country and beyond (including shabby institutions such as Yale and Cambridge).

If you would like to read some of his popular introductions to NT issues, see the Amazon carousel above and look for Reinventing Jesus.

Review of Bart D. Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005)

By: Daniel B. Wallace , Th.M., Ph.D. (Bio)

Note: This is an abbreviated review. The full review is also posted on

Bart Ehrman is one of North America’s leading textual critics today. As a teacher and writer, he is logical, witty, provocative, and sometimes given to overstatement as well as arguments that are not sufficiently nuanced.

His most recent book, Misquoting Jesus, for the most part is simply New Testament textual criticism 101. There are seven chapters with an introduction and conclusion. Most of the book (chs. 1—4) is simply a lay introduction to the field. According to Ehrman, this is the first book written on NT textual criticism (a discipline that has been around for nearly 300 years) for a lay audience.1

The book’s very title is a bit too provocative and misleading though: Almost none of the variants that Ehrman discusses involve sayings by Jesus! The book simply doesn’t deliver what the title promises.

But it sells well: since its publication on November 1, 2005, it has been near the top of Amazon’s list of titles. And since Ehrman appeared on two of NPR’s programs (the Diane Rehm Show and “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross)—both within the space of one week—it has been in the top fifty sellers at Amazon.

For this brief review, just a few comments are in order.

There is nothing earth-shaking in the first four chapters of the book. Rather, it is in the introduction that we see Ehrman’s motive, and the last three chapters reveal his agenda. In these places he is especially provocative and given to overstatement and non sequitur.

In the introduction, Ehrman speaks of his evangelical background (Moody Bible Institute, Wheaton College), followed by his M.Div. and Ph.D. at Princeton Seminary. It was here that Ehrman began to reject some of his evangelical upbringing, especially as he wrestled with the details of the text of the New Testament.

The heart of the book is chapters 5, 6, and 7. Here Ehrman especially discusses the results of the findings in his major work, Orthodox Corruption of Scripture (Oxford, 1993). His concluding chapter closes in on the point that he is driving at in these chapters: “It would be wrong… to say—as people sometimes do—that the changes in our text have no real bearing on what the texts mean or on the theological conclusions that one draws from them. We have seen, in fact, that just the opposite is the case.”2

Some of the chief examples of theological differences among the variants that Ehrman discusses are (1) a passage in which Jesus is said to be angry (Mark 1:41), (2) a text in which “even the Son of God himself does not know when the end will come” (Matt 24:36), and (3) an explicit statement about the Trinity (1 John 5:7-8).3

Concerning the first text, a few ancient manuscripts speak of Jesus as being angry in Mark 1:41 while most others speak of him as having compassion. But in Mark 3:5 Jesus is said to be angry—wording that is indisputably in the original text of Mark. So it is hardly a revolutionary conclusion to see Jesus as angry elsewhere in this Gospel.

Regarding Matt 24:36, although many witnesses record Jesus as speaking of his own prophetic ignorance (“But as for that day and hour no one knows it—neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son—except the Father alone”), many others lack the words “nor the Son.” Whether “nor the Son” is authentic or not is disputed, but what is not disputed is the wording in the parallel in Mark 13:32—“But as for that day or hour no one knows it—neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son—except the Father.” Thus, there can be no doubt that Jesus spoke of his own prophetic ignorance in the Olivet Discourse. Consequently, what doctrinal issues are really at stake here?4 One simply cannot maintain that the wording in Matt 24:36 changes one’s basic theological convictions about Jesus since the same sentiment is found in Mark.

In other words, the idea that the variants in the NT manuscripts alter the theology of the NT is overstated at best.5 Unfortunately, as careful a scholar as Ehrman is, his treatment of major theological changes in the text of the NT tends to fall under one of two criticisms: Either his textual decisions are wrong, or his interpretation is wrong. These criticisms were made of his earlier work, Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, which Misquoting Jesus has drawn from extensively. Yet, the conclusions that he put forth there are still stated here without recognition of some of the severe criticisms of his work the first go-around. For a book geared toward a lay audience, one would think that he would want to have his discussion nuanced a bit more, especially with all the theological weight that he says is on the line. One almost gets the impression that he is encouraging the Chicken Littles in the Christian community to panic at data that they are simply not prepared to wrestle with. Time and time again in the book, highly charged statements are put forth that the untrained person simply cannot sift through. And that approach resembles more an alarmist mentality than what a mature, master teacher is able to offer. Regarding the evidence, suffice it to say that significant textual variants that alter core doctrines of the NT have not yet been produced.

Finally, regarding 1 John 5:7-8, virtually no modern translation of the Bible includes the “Trinitarian formula,” since scholars for centuries have recognized it as added later. Only a few very late manuscripts have the verses. One wonders why this passage is even discussed in Ehrman’s book. The only reason seems to be to fuel doubts. The passage made its way into our Bibles through political pressure, appearing for the first time in 1522, even though scholars then and now knew that it is not authentic. The early church did not know of this text, yet the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451 affirmed explicitly the Trinity! How could they do this without the benefit of a text that didn’t get into the Greek NT for another millennium? Chalcedon’s statement was not written in a vacuum: the early church put into a theological formulation what they saw in the NT.

A distinction needs to be made here: just because a particular verse does not affirm a cherished doctrine does not mean that that doctrine cannot be found in the NT. In this case, anyone with an understanding of the healthy patristic debates over the Godhead knows that the early church arrived at their understanding from an examination of the data in the NT. The Trinitarian formula only summarized what they found; it did not inform their declarations.

In sum, Ehrman’s latest book does not disappoint on the provocative scale. But it comes up short on genuine substance about his primary contention. Scholars bear a sacred duty not to alarm lay readers on issues that they have little understanding of. Unfortunately, the average layperson will leave this book with far greater doubts about the wording and teachings of the NT than any textual critic would ever entertain. A good teacher doesn’t hold back on telling his students what’s what, but he also knows how to package the material so they don’t let emotion get in the way of reason. A good teacher does not create Chicken Littles.6

1 Misquoting, 15.

2 Ibid., 208.

3 Ibid. These passages are especially discussed in chapters 5 and 6 in his book.

4 See the discussion in the NET Bible’s note on this verse.

5 When discussing Wettstein’s views of the NT text, Ehrman argues that “As Wettstein continued his investigations, he found other passages typically used to affirm the doctrine of the divinity of Christ that in fact represented textual problems; when these problems are resolved on text-critical grounds, in most instances references to Jesus’s divinity are taken away” (Misquoting, 113 [italics added]). He adds that “Wettstein began thinking seriously about his own theological convictions, and became attuned to the problem that the New Testament rarely, if ever, actually calls Jesus God” (ibid., 114 [italics added]). But these statements are misleading. Nowhere does Ehrman represent this conclusion as only Wettstein’s; he seems to embrace such opinions himself. But the deity of Christ is actually more clearly seen in the Greek text behind modern translations than it is in the KJV (see, e.g., D. A. Carson, King James Version Debate [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979], 64)!

6 Although Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus may well be the first lay introduction to New Testament textual criticism, in the spring of 2006 a second book that deals with these issues (and many others) will appear. See Reinventing Jesus: What The Da Vinci Code and Other Novel Speculations Don’t Tell You (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2006), co-authored by J. Ed Komoszewski, M. James Sawyer, and Daniel B. Wallace, for a more balanced treatment of the data.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Bart Ehrman: Without Peer… Review

Peer review is where other scholars who know as much as you do about a given topic offer critique and generally serve as a gatekeeper process to make sure information is reliable and solidly researched. Unfortunately, when it comes to the New Testament, Bart bypasses that important step and makes everyone think the sky is falling when it is not. His peer, Dr. Dan Wallace, weighs in on this...

Bart Ehrman has become the new media darling of the 21stcentury. He’s been on seemingly every major media outlet...(more)

Have you subscribed to the thinkChristianly blog and podcast yet?

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Monday, June 8, 2009

Got Wisdom?

"My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, 2 for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. 3 Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. 4 So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. 7 Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. 8 It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. 9 Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; 10 then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine. 11 My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline or be weary of his reproof, 12 for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. 13 Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, 14 for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. 15 She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. 16 Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. 17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. 18 She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed." (Proverbs 3:1-18)

We need help in learning how to live well. Have the courage to ask for it and then act on it.

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Friday, June 5, 2009

What is theology?

Technically, theology is the study of God. But the goal of theology is not to accumulate data about God. Theology should deeply affect us—from head to toe. Theologian David Clark paints a compelling picture, “When…theology reaches full bloom, it blossoms into…the wisdom of God. This leads us to passionate love for God, genuine worship of the Trinity, true community with fellow Christians, and loving service in personal evangelism social compassion—all to the glory of God. That is what it means to know and love the true and living God. Absolutely nothing matters more." Or put another way, "we are to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Peter. 3:18). In a very important sense, everyone is a theologian because we all have thoughts about God. The big question is...are they true? (i.e., do they accurately reflect God's nature and character?).

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

New Hampshire legalizes gay marriage

"New Hampshire on Wednesday became the sixth U.S. state to authorize gay marriage, deepening a New England niche for same-sex weddings and the spending that comes with them." (more from article)

How do you go about thinking about the issue of gay marriage and homosexuality?

here is a previous blog with some thoughts and links.

Also, there is a forthcoming book, The Complete Christian Guide to Understanding Homosexuality, which looks very promising as well....

(from amazon) Product Description

One of the hot–button issues of our day is fully addressed in this comprehensive new resource on homosexuality. This well–researched and highly readable guide is the perfect go–to manual for families, church workers, counselors, pastors, civic leaders, schools, and those who themselves struggle with same–sex attraction.

Readers will find the answers to these and many more important questions:

  • What is homosexuality?
  • Is the tendency for homosexuality genetic?
  • How should the church respond?
  • What’s the proper response when a relative or friend announces they’re gay?
  • What are the legal and civic ramifications of homosexuality?
  • Should homosexuals serve openly in the military?
  • What about gay marriage and adoption?

Authoritative authors Joe Dallas (Desires in Conflict, When Homosexuality Hits Home) and Dr. Nancy Heche (The Truth Comes Out) tackle the hard questions about same–sex attraction in this helpful volume.

Another helpful book is God's Grace and the Homosexual Next Door: Reaching the Heart of the Gay Men and Women in Your World by Alan Chambers

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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Do we have all we need for life?

Do you ever feel like you don’t have what it takes? That other people can be spiritual, but not you?

Then Peter has some words of encouragement for you:

2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

The very power of God is available to us. And everything it takes to live life well—to know God and know others, we have in virtue of knowing Jesus Christ. So, if you know Him then these very great and precious promises are yours. By yourself, you don’t have what it takes. But with him, you have all you need.

Check out the latest thinkchristianly podcast by clicking here.

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Monday, June 1, 2009

Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge by Dallas Willard

Dallas Willard is one of my favorite authors / speakers. Having taught on the spiritual life for decades and having taught philosophy at the University of Southern California give him the conceptual skills and heart to talk about spiritual knowledge in a robust, yet deeply human way. I highly recommend his latest book.

"A spiritual defense of the proposition that faith and reason are not contradictory." (Peter L. Berger, Director, Institute on Culture, Religion and World Affairs, Boston University )

"This is clear, lucid thinking about what matters most, as is desperately needed today. Only Dallas Willard could have written this, but I don't know anyone who doesn't need to read it." (John Ortberg, Pastor, Menlo Park Presbyterian Church and author of Faith & Doubt )

"Dallas Willard focuses like a laser beam on the issue of moral knowledge as a legitimate source for understanding reality and applying it to daily life. It is a must read." (Richard Foster )

This book deals with the disastrous effects of divorcing the teachings of Jesus Christ and his people from the domain of human knowledge. Its aim is to reposition the substantial teachings of Christianity ("Mere" Christianity) as a body of knowledge in the contemporary world. In the process it explains what knowledge is, as compared to belief, commitment and profession, and clarifies the difference it makes whether or not an area of thought and practice is regarded as an area of knowledge. Then it proceeds to deal with some of the most basic points of Christian teaching from the viewpoint of knowledge.

It is Dr. Willard's hope that this book will put those who practice Christian discipleship in a different and much stronger position, and that it will be helpful for all areas of education, but especially for Christian schools, colleges and universities.

From the Preface:
"I should alert the reader to the fact that this is not a devotional book, and that it will require considerable mental effort to understand. This lies in the nature of the problems to be dealt with. I have tried to ease the pain as much as possible. One effect of the displacement of faith from knowledge, which we are dealing with in this book, is that many people now believe you do not need to think deeply and carefully to follow Christ. C. S. Lewis has a very penetrating comment to make about this matter: "God has room for people with very little sense, but He wants every one to use what sense they have. The proper motto is not 'Be good, sweet maid, and let who can be clever,' but 'Be good, sweet maid, and don't forget that this involves being as clever as you can.' God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than of any other slackers. If you are thinking of becoming a Christian, I warn you you are embarking on something which is going to take the whole of you, brains and all…. One reason why it needs no special education to be a Christian is that Christianity is an education itself." (From Mere Christianity)

About the Author

Theologian and scholar Dallas Willard has long been an eloquent voice for the relevance of God in our daily lives. His groundbreaking books Hearing God, Renovation of the Heart, and The Spirit of the Disciplines forever changed the way thousands of Christians experience their faith. He is a professor at the University of Southern California's School of Philosophy and has held visiting appointments at UCLA and the University of Colorado. He lives in southern California.

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