judicialsupport

Legal Writing for Legal Reading!

Archive for the tag “abington”

Templeton Project: Nurturing Christian Disciples

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “Nurturing Christian Disciples.”

See also:

_____________________________

Templeton Project: Discipleship and Apologetics

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “Discipleship and Apologetics.”

See also:

_____________________________

Beginning with the next article we will engage in a series on Christian discipleship.  Nancy Ischinger will begin this series with an article, “Nurturing Christian Disciples.”  Following this piece will begin a series on “Discipleship in Matthew and Christian Apologetics and Witness.”  Discipleship will be viewed from the perspective of our main theme and concern about civil conversation with atheists and unbelievers.

Michael G. Tavella

September 23, 2019

Templeton Project: Of Anger

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “Of Anger.”

See also:

_____________________________

Anger is a dangerous emotion that can lead to harmful speech and actions. It is also destructive to the heart and soul of a human being. It can be as petty as a reaction to our not getting our way or as seemingly noble as a response to injustice.  Either way, anger is never an appropriate emotion in any situation.  Justice is better served by love of one’s enemies (See Mohandas K. Gandhi on satyagraha)  This stance may seem incredible to you, for anger is a natural human response to frustrating and outrageous behaviors of other people.  It seems an appropriate response to evil. Some would say it is a healthy response to certain situations.  This therapeutic view became popular in the 1960’s and has clung to “The Culture of Self-expression.”  Other ways to resolve anger of the heart need to be sought.

Several classical Greek and Roman writers were critical of anger and placed limits on its expression. In the New Testament anger is frowned upon.  Jesus directly addresses the subject in the Sermon on the Mount.  He says, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5: 21-22 ESV) Brother refers only to disciples, to those in the Christian community; but, a Christian also should not be angry with those beyond the Church. Another text will indicate this point. “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5: 38-39 ESV)

In Ephesians Paul writes, “Be angry but do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger and give no opportunity to the devil.” (Ephesians 4: 26 ESV)  The apostle places clear limits on the expression of anger. A little later he writes, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear it.” ( Ephesians 4: 29 ESV)  And then he says, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgives you” (Ephesians 4: 31-32 ESV) The limits seem to abide no exceptions. Paul is instructing the Christian Church in proper behavior among brothers and sisters in Christ; but, the restraint of anger also counts as the appropriate behavior among those outside of the Christian community.

In the Book of James we find a critique of the misuses of the tongue.  “. . . the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness.  The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.” (James 3: 6 ESV)  The tongue ” . . . is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.” (James 3: 8b-9 ESV)  Anger and the misuse of the tongue go together.

One may say that God expresses anger, why can’t I?  Paul refers to the wrath of God (Romans 1).  Jesus overturns the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple. The wrath of God is not a human emotion, but a reference to God’s judgment against sin. In the scene in the Temple no particular emotion is ascribed to Jesus.  One could say that anger is not mentioned, but Jesus expresses it in His actions. Again, His anger is an expression of the judgment of God against sin that the Son of God is certainly authorized to pronounce by word and action.  We are not so authorized.

It is clear that in the New Testament anger is condemned. Hear also words from the Old Testament:  “A worthless person, a wicked man, goes about with crooked speech, winks with his eyes, signals with his feet, points with his finger, with perverted heart devises evil, continually sowing discord; therefore calamity will come upon him suddenly; in a moment he will be broken beyond healing.” (Proverbs 6: 12-15 ESV)

With this wise advice from the Scriptures we conclude by saying that anger and its expression in speech and action are to be avoided and certainly in the case of our witness to and apology of the Christian faith.  No provocation justifies anger, though we weak and sinful human beings are tempted to harbor it and express it. Lord Jesus, have mercy!

Michael G. Tavella

September 18, 2019

Templeton Project: Dialogue and Personality

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “Dialogue and Personality.”

See also:

_____________________________

People differ, a well-known truth.  In dialogue and witness it is good to be aware of this and to observe and learn about the person with whom you are speaking. In no way is such close attention to the other to lead to a patronizing or contemptuous opinion of that person.  You may learn about an individual’s concerns, burdens, fears, and joys, if you listen and do not stereotype.  Such knowledge should not be weaponized to use against a person, but to help come to a greater understanding of the other.  We should care about our neighbor and even our enemies.

We should try to understand the unbeliever and atheist.  The atheist may be a convinced secular materialist that comes from the conclusions he forms from his education and reading.  Other atheists may bear a deep sadness in their lives that prevents them from believing in God and His Christ.  Questions of theodicy often play a role. How can a good God permit the evil that is in the world? is the central question. Due to life experience, people who have believed in God become unbelievers, though a tragic event in one’s life does not necessarily lead to atheism.  Some peoples’ faith after a tragedy can actually be strengthened, often after great struggle in which they are torn between belief and unbelief.

But, what if you meet up with one who is actually evil?  Pray that the works of the Holy Spirit may work in you.  They are love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness.  You must also be wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove.  The evil can be very cunning but can be won over.

When engaged in apologetics, be concerned for the person or persons with whom you are speaking.  Be careful of hasty judgments.  Do not be dismissive of them.  Remember that souls are at stake, nothing less.

Michael G. Tavella

September 17, 2019

Hildegard of Bingen, Abbess

Templeton Project: When We Differ

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “When We Differ.”

See also:

_____________________________

Dialogue may produce the resolution of differences or decrease the differences (It may, in fact, increase differences, but it should never do this, because we have spoken and acted poorly). When we differ with our neighbor or enemy about certain essential things, what then do we say and do?  We must live together in peace, if at all possible.

The Founding Fathers wrote a constitution that provided both for free exercise of religion (Note that free exercise of religion takes in a much wider ambit than freedom of worship) and for no-establishment.  No-establishment is different from separation of church and state.  Any institution in society must have a relationship of some sort to the government.  Total separation is impossible.  No-establishment has to do with the prohibition of an officially established church, protected and supported by the government.  Legislative statutes and court decisions decide what this means over time.  Originally, the Constitution prohibited only the Federal goverment from establishing religion.  In later court decisions, the states were also prohibited from establishing a religion.  The last disestablishment of a church occurred long before these judicial decisions were made (Massachusetts, 1833).

Even when we disagree on essential matters with others, we Christian are called to live in peace with atheists and unbelievers and all people. We are to disobey human laws that contradict the law of God. We are to work for the rescinding of laws that oppose the law of God.  The Book of Revelation describes a time when Christians in Asia (modern Turkey) were refusing to offer sacrifice to the emperor for which some of them paid with their lives.  John, the prophet, who wrote the book based on his visions, called the Christian communities to resist but without violence. The complete defeat of evil will take place at the end of the world.  God would vindicate the saints and martyrs. Non-violent resistance to evil (Gandhi’s Satyagraha) is an active mode of opposition.  Violence is unacceptable.

When laws are enacted that would have us transgress essential beliefs, we are to disobey the law, no matter what the consequences.  Where and when free exercise is protected, we are to live in peace with our unbelieving neighbor and continue our efforts at greater understanding.  We must continue witnessing to the faith so that others may believe.  We are to win over hearts and minds to Christ.  Remember that the Church grows, not only during times of tolerance and favor, but also during times of persecution.  We are to do the will of Christ in all circumstances.

When Christians are the majority, we are never to persecute religious minorities. Such a policy is in complete opposition to Christ’s teachings and His own sacrifice on the cross.

Michael G. Tavella

September 13, 2019

St. John Chrysostom, Bishop

Templeton Project: Do we understand each other?

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “Do we understand each other?.”

See also:

_____________________________

Respect for the other in dialogue or debate requires careful listening. But, listening to another does not come easily to anyone.  It requires discipline, self-control, and humility.  Why humility?  This virtue reminds us that we are not the only ones who have something important and beneficial to say.  In fact, it teaches us that on some occasions we have nothing important and beneficial to say and, therefore, should listen to what others have to say.  Our silence can contribute to the discussion.

While apparently listening, we should listen.  That is, we should not be thinking of the next thing we are going to say while we tune out the one who is speaking.  I must admit that I often do this.  When I do, I am compelled to ask what the other person just said–rather embarrassing.  Good listening requires an attentive, clear, uncluttered, focussed mind.  Body language should indicate an attentive mind.  To listen to another is one expression of the love of one’s neighbor.

Effective communication, whether there are two or more in conversation, requires everyone to have a commitment to attentiveness.  When one of the parties does not understand, he should ask for clarification.  Always remember to put pride aside so that you are not afraid to ask for the definition of terms and words you do not understand.

When in the conversation an important fact to the discussion is not known, make a commitment to research it.  Never defend an idea without the facts.  By the way, there is no such thing as a “true fact.”  By its very definition a fact is true.  “False facts” do not exist. If they do, they exist in another universe, not this one.  False information does exist in this galaxy and universe

A counselling technique I learned in seminary is to repeat what the other person has said both to insure you have it right and to further the discussion.  We use this technique in everyday conversation.

When we are speaking, we need to be as clear as we can.  We should define the terms and words we use if we think it necessary to clarify without being patronizing.  We need to admit mistakes when we are aware that we have taken a misstep.  We should avoid attempts at manipulation or deception.  We should manifest our beliefs and commitments, that is, our world view. We are to speak only the truth to the extent that we know it.  When challenged, we are to keep our patience.  When ridiculed, we are to keep our love.  When we witness our goals are understanding and conversion.

Today there exists in our country a great divide in understanding.  Several reasons account for this situation.

  1.  Ideologies that people hold are widely divergent, e.g.  secular materialism and Christian faith.  A Civil (or Uncivil) War is being fought over ideas and world views.  May this logomachy (war of words) never become a hot war among our people.
  2. People are often talking over each other and not listening first before their turn, e.g. on the news channels, all of which promote uncivil speech and rudeness. The media has produced a new type of gladiator.  Outrageous speech is a relatively new sort of entertainment. My thumb is down, not on the people, but on the modern circus that coarsens our lives.
  3. Little effort is expended on compromise where an issue does not involve an essential belief or a known fact.  In some cases, compromise can bring about fresh insights and new solutions to problems.
  4. Reputations are at stake.  One does not want to lose one’s standing so does not admit false or harmful ideas when such are obvious.
  5. Hatred of other groups (race, nation, ethnic group, religion) remains a constant human factor and greatly distorts our conversations. The new tolerance is ironically intolerant, contributing nothing to civil discourse and, in fact, inhibiting it. One can add it to the list of prejudices.
  6. Political power is sought at the expense of truth.
  7. Ideologies sometimes make little room for the truth, because the truth may threaten the ideology’s credibility.
  8. The internet and other technologies make it easy for an individual to be rude and obnoxious without looking at one’s opponent eye to eye.
  9. American values are focussed on the old idols–power, fame, and money. Hypocrisy about what our values really are adds to the misery of the situation. All good things are sacrificed to them.
  10. No common ground exists on what is truth.

We need to remember that none of us is the center of the universe.  We are not God or a god.  We must unlearn what we have learned about self-esteem and enter the real world of people where relationships require a mutuality that self-centeredness and narcissism destroy.  Our schools need a much more compelling foundation than self-esteem. What this would be without religion, I do not know. (See Neil Postman’s The End of Education. A good book that more effectively presents the problem than the solution).  Education is not to be a godmaker.  It is the church that prepares people for living the divine life in heaven and for serving others in this life.

Much greater commitment is required to increase civil discourse in America.  At this time, little effort is expended on this most important requirement necessary for civil amity.  The Church must promote respect both intramurally and extramurally.

We must continue to ask, do we understand one another?  And, we must keep making the effort to understand.

Michael G. Tavella

September 9, 2019

Templeton Project: Utopian Dreams

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “Utopian Dreams.”

See also:

_____________________________

One must remember when in dialogue with unbelievers that a utopian longing may be present.  Christians believe the kingdom of God will become fully realized in the future. It is by God’s power, not by human strength, that all things promised come to fulfillment.

For five-hundred years in the West  a number of authors have described fulfillment by human power.  Thomas More enlisted the Greek derived word. Utopia (meaning nowhere), as the title of his book, describing an ideal society.  A host of books, published since then, have dwelt on the same subject.  Dystopian (referring to highly dysfunctional societies) novels, mostly written in the Twentieth and Twenty-first centuries, e.g. 1984 and Brave New World, are available in abundance.  A novel, The Light in the Ruins (by yours truly), that has recently been published by Westbow Press, is an example of this type of writing.

Many secular-minded individuals, certainly not all of them, long and work for an ideal society in which all human beings flourish.  Communism is a utopian ideology that has produced dystopia.  One need only read about the modern history of Russian and China or the equally nightmare reality of Cambodia.  Utopia seems as far away as ever.

The problem with utopia is that the requirements of a perfect society do not at all match the nature of human beings who from a Christian perspective are sinners.  Imperfect beings cannot produce a perfect society, but are more likely to produce its opposite.

In the literature many different kinds of utopia have been described.  Different writers have different ideas about what is ideal. Utopian and dystopian novels are most often critiques of present reality.

The fact is that only God can bring about a perfect society under His reign of love.  You may have opportunities to share this perpective when in dialogue with unbelievers.

It is good to listen carefully to others to discover their aspirations and hopes about the future.  Few people live under a regime of pure nihilism that denies any sort of fulfillment in the future.  Human beings were not made to look into the face of nothingness and exclaim, “All is well.”  Christians can encourage the belief that God will fulfill our lives through the coming of the New Jerusalem where love conquers all.  It is a matter of faith, not sight.

MIchael G. Tavella

August 20, 2019

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

Templeton Project: Humor in Dialogue

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “Humor in Dialogue.”

See also:

_____________________________

Humor is appropriate in apologetic dialogue and witness, but there are boundaries to it.  I suggest these guidelines:

  1. No humor is acceptable that is at the personal expense of the other individual or individuals or is meant to discredit them.  It is the world view that needs to be discredited and revised through new insight, not the person.  If the person is deceptive, the strategy will probably show without help.
  2. Disarming humor to prove a point is acceptable, but one should be careful not to insult another.
  3. Off-color jokes have no place.
  4. Illustrative humor to explain your Chrisitan perspective is appropriate. (See Matthew 5: 27ff and 19: 24–examples of hyperbole)
  5. Telling jokes can be good if they are pertinent to the point that is being made. They should never serve as a distraction.
  6. One shouldn’t seek to show that the other is a fool.  This will come to light by what the other person or persons say and do.  They do not need your help. (Proverbs uses the word fool, for those who are fools.  But, in the course of a dialogue one should refrain from its use, for it does not promote conversation).
  7. Humor should always serve to further defense of the faith and witness to Christ.
  8. Laugh with, never at another person.  (Though it may be good at times to laugh at ourselves for our own foolishness).
  9. In the Warner Brother’s cartoon “Robin Hood Daffy,”  Daffy Duck shows that he is an incompetent Robin Hood.  Throughout, Porky Pig in the role of Friar Tuck laughs at Daffy.  At one    point, Daffy says, It is to laugh” with a sour, ironic humor.  He obviously does not mean what he says.  At the end Daffy becomes a friar like Tuck rather than pretending that he is an effective Robin Hood, “Defender of the Poor.”  Was Porky’s laughter helpful (I don’t think he meant to be helpful).  We should use humor to help others gain insight, not to get a good laugh.  We would expect the same treatment.  (I must admit, the cartoon made me laugh, but it’s only a cartoon).
  10. We should never be patronizing, showing in our words and actions that we feel superior to another.  (Being contemptuous can backfire).

Always remember what the author of Proverbs says:  “The wise lay up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool brings ruin near.” (Proverbs 10: 14 ESV)

Michael G. Tavella

August 20, 2019

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

Templeton Project: Of Self-control

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “Of Self-control.”

See also:

_____________________________

Self-control, or temperance, is one of the four cardinal virtues along with courage, prudence and justice that come to us from pagan philosophy.  It is found in the list of fruits of the Spirit in Paul’s letter to the Galatians (5: 23).  It is a virtue that pertains to keeping the passions and desires under control.  It bespeaks moderation.

Can we restrain our passions in our speech to others?  In the midst of dialogue and debate can we refrain from out of control  behavior.  This is a test for the man or woman who would be self-controlled.  To be unself-controlled is a great temptation. We do not need any coaxing to bad behavior.

In a discussion where there are high stakes (as religious faith always is), it is very tempting to call someone a name, interrupt, be accusatory, blame, distort, attempt to manipulate, make fun of, yell, insult, discredit another’s character, dismiss, and so on, and so on, and so on ad nauseam.

We must remember our identity as Christians.  We can pray that the Spirit give us a better capacity for self-control.  We can test our ability in our relationship with loved ones, especially our spouse and children.  In debate we can be emphatic and committed to our faith without being unself-controlled.

Paul writes,  “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” (I Corinthians 9: 25 ESV) Controlling our temper and anger in everyday relationships is a sign that we may do the same in our private and public apologies of the faith. Our discipline must be intentional with those we love, especially spouse and children. I have failed many times in this endeavor, but I also hope that today and tomorrow I will do better. We must focus on a discipline of moderation. The Holy Spirit will lead us to do this.

Michael G. Tavella

August 6, 2019

The Transfiguration

Templeton Project: Examples of Uncivil and Civil Speech

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “Examples of Uncivil and Civil Speech.”

See also:

_____________________________

Uncivil Speech

  1. Name-calling  (pinhead, jerk, bozo, idiot, moron, stupid, etc.)
  2. Attacks on character.
  3. Intentional distortion of opponent’s/opponents’ views and argument.
  4. Humor directed at the person of the opponent so as to cause shame or embarrassment.
  5. Monopolizing the discussion.
  6. Sloppy argumentation; attempts at obfuscation in order to win the argument.
  7. Return abuse with abuse.

Civil Speech

  1. Respect for the other no matter how much you disagree (Don’t call him fool.  Comment that his argument is unwise).  Address him/her respectfully.
  2. No derogatory references to the person’s character, in fact, no references to the person’s character.
  3. Carefully lay out the opposing party’s position, as you heard it, so that you are sure that you have it right.  Ask questions for clarification.
  4. Humor pertinent to the topic, but not to the embarrassment of the interlocutor.  Self-effacement is proper as long as it is not intended to manipulate.
  5. Giving the other person an opportunity to express his views and ask questions.
  6. Carefully laying out one’s argument in a clear and coherent way.
  7. Return respect for abuse.

A public dialogue should be well structured so as to help minimize abuses.

At a later time we will discuss one on one or small group conversations

 

Michael G. Tavella

July 22, 2019

Post Navigation