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Archive for the tag “faith”

Templeton Project: Coronavirus Update

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 “Coronavirus Update.”

See also:


In 1918 the flu spread throughout the world.  500,000,000 individuals contracted the disease; an estimated 20,000,000 to 50,000,000 died of it.  In the time during the Great Mortality (1347 and after) one-third of Europe’s population succumbed to bubonic, septicemic, and pneumonic plague.  So far 4 people have died in Pennsylvania of the coronavirus.  Now, it certainly could end up that many more will die.  Are we over-reacting and if we are, why?

Many brave and competent people are fighting the disease.  Precautions must be taken.  Prudence is required to protect people. At the same time, I see hysteria and over-reaction.  The reason is simply the fear of death.  Taking prudent action does not indicate the fear of death.  Hysteria does indicate the fear of death.

If fear of death is behind most of this (it does not take an astute observer to think it might be), the reason behind the fear is that most people no longer think that life is larger than this physical life.  A good devotion for this time would be the Gospel of John where Jesus extends eternal life to those who believe in Him.  The most important measures for the time are prayer, Scripture reading, and worship.

“In him was life, and the life was the light of men.”  (John 1: 4 ESV)

MJichael G. Tavella

March 24, 2020

Templeton Project: Encounters with Jesus in the Gospel of John–The Healing of an Official’s Son

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 “Encounters with Jesus in the Gospel of John–The Healing of an Official’s Son.”

See also:


Many miracles, called signs, are recorded in the Gospel of John.  The second one involved the healing of an offical’s son at Cana, the same place where Jesus turned water into wine.  While Jesus was critical of the official’s reliance on miracles to believe, He went to Cana to heal his son.  The official also believed in the word Jesus said to him.  The point is that one should not rely on miracles to believe but Jesus’ word.

The word of Jesus who is the Word gives eternal life to those who believe.  We are called to share the word of life with others. The world deals death.  It is the mission of every Christian and the Church to bring into this realm of death the life that only God can give.

At the very beginning of John the narrator asserts in the prologue that in the Word is light and life.  We may seek elsewhere, but we will not find either light or life.  Our defense does not only convey information, but also delivers the very life Jesus promises.  We are a rich and fertile field, green with life, that brings others to the same place.

Michael G. Tavella

March 24, 2020

Templeton Project: The Coronavirus

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 “The Coronavirus.”

See also:


The coronavirus has created a furor.  The store shelves are empty of hand cleanser and other such products; prices are steeply rising for supplies related to the pandemic; the media has rung alarm bells while calling people to calm; the restaurant where I ate breakfast this morning was empty but for the staff and myself;  we are passing the peace in church with a pat on the back instead of the handshake; and warnings and advice are being sent out by organizations that serve the public.  The politicians are fighting about how to respond and blaming each other for inadequate measures.  So what is new?  They fight about so many things.

What should Christians do as a witness?  Trust God in life and death; don’t panic; do what is necessary to keep you and the neighbor from contracting the disease; and don’t foment hysteria.  We must lead.  We must show that death is not the worst thing that can happen to us, while at the same time we should not be careless.  We should pray for others and call on the Lord in this time of affliction.

In our conversations with others we may find opportunities for witness and may have to defend the faith in light of the sickness and death that comes from the pandemic.  We must also remember that at this time the virus has not resulted in mass death.  Such a thing happened in 1347 and the following years with the advent of the Great Mortality, or Black Death, in the East and West.  A multitude of people died.  In those years about one-third of the European population met death because of the disease.

For now, we pray that we may continue to trust the Lord in all things including this time of the spread of the coronavirus.

Michael G. Tavella

March 10, 2020

Values and Virtue–the Difference

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 “Values and Virtue–the Difference”

See also:


The fundamental difference between values and virtue is a matter of where they originate.  God defines virtue, called fruits of the Spirit in Paul.  People choose values that may be good or bad.  Virtue is always good.  Christians are always to choose what is good. They are always to choose virtue.  Our values should always conform to what is good, right, and true.

The cardinal virtues that derive from classical philosophy are justice, temperance (self-control), prudence, and courage.  The theological virtues are faith, hope, and love, derived from Saint Paul. Moral guidance in the Christian tradition includes the virtues.  Other aspects of moral guidance are God’s commandments, Christ’s teachings and example, and a form of ethical evaluation that is critical of utility and personal advantage at the expense of the right.  Something that may be regarded as useful is a flimsy criterion for morality.

The utilitarian idea of the greatest good for the greatest number is rejected.  Utilitarian views exclude a concern for the minority and the weaker members of society.  Moreover, determining the greatest good for the greatest number may lead to highly immoral conclusions.  The ends do not justify the means. For example, it could be determined that the greatest good for the greatest number justifies mass murder, e.g. the holocaust. Admittedly, this is an extreme example; but, hopefully, it drives home the point. Attempts to base ethical decision-making on the consequences of an action are based on their indeterminate quality and ignores the duty that we have in any given situation.   Situation ethics, made popular by Joseph Fletcher in the 1960’s, is nothing but utilitarianism.  Love becomes what I feel is right without any other moral guidance and looks toward the uncertain ends. Love is to be determined by what the Lord teaches, not what I feel at any given moment.  Our duty is informed by God’s commandments, biblical moral admonition, Christ’s teachings, and the virtues. Deontological ethical reasoning, based upon our Christian duty in any particular situation, conforms to a Christian view.  It is a form of reasoning that rejects utilitarianism.

Despite this ethical richness, moral reasoning is required, especially in complicated ethical situations. Social issues, for example, may require some difficult and demanding thought to come to the most satisfactory conclusion.  This reasoning is dependent on the criteria one uses to make an ethical decision.

For Christians to support abortion, the gay lifestyle, euthanasia, and any number of other cultural favorites is simply to ignore the moral authority embedded in our tradition.  One may value a certain cultural view and live accordingly, but it may not conform to authoritative Christian ethics.

We must evaluate what we think is true and right in relationship to the virtues and other criteria to obtains a Christian ethical perspective.  Anything less does not hit the mark. Church leaders must defend our moral views and, where things are murky, help guide us to Christian moral conclusions. Anything else is unfaithful to the Office Christ has given them.

Always remember that even in virtue ethics, the source of empowerment to do the right comes from the Holy Spirit. In Galatians Paul calls certain virtues the fruit of the Spirit.  They are joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5). No manner of works righteousness has a place in Christian ethical thinking.

When you hear in the media about what people value, beware.  What they value may not be virtuous.  American culture stands far from any sort of Christian moral thinking. When we witness and defend the faith, we are also showing forth the Christian way of life that has much to do with ethics and moral thinking and action.

Michael G. Tavella

March 5, 2020

Templeton Project: Is Transformation Possible?

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 “Is Transformation Possible?.”

See also:


People change, but can they be transformed?  Change in a human being may be for the better or worse.  Transformation, or conversion, is always for the better, and it is radical.  The most significant, if not the only transformation, has to do with conforming to Jesus Christ.  Only by God’s grace is this possible. The person is turned from following a wicked path to the way of the pilgrim headed toward the kingdom of God.  Those who are converted will shine like the sun in the kingdom. (Matthew 13: 43)

But, is it really possible?  People seem to languish in habits from one year to the next.  Negative character traits seem impossible to change.  As people grow older, they become confirmed in the disagreeable aspects of their personalities.  Are conversion and transformation impossibilities?  Is the power of the Holy Spirit weaker than our own sinfulness?

I have seen transformation, as much as one can see without perceiving the heart. It does exist. The Holy Spirit is at work. This transformation in a human being is the most epic of stories.  It is the specific story of each person who is transformed in the context of salvation history, the story of God’s saving work among human beings in the world.

Transformation does not mean perfection that is not possible in this life.  Even the one being transformed must confess sin everyday until he/she dies and is born into the kingdom.  But, transformation, or conversion, is a setting upon a certain path directed toward the New Jerusalem.  It reveals itself along the way by faithful worship of the Lord and fruits directed toward the neighbor.  It is born of God’s transforming power.  It is aligned with God’s work in the world.  While at times, a believer may grow weary, yet he comes through all things as a believer and disciple.

The Christian that serves the Lord as a disciple always sees his witness and defense as an opportunity for the conversion of others.  What we say is God’s Word as long as it conforms to the apostolic teaching, the rule of faith.  We must also behave in a way that reflects our faith and reveals faithfulness to the Lord.  Conversion of others is always a possibility in whatever context.  We are called to go about this work wherever we may be and in whatever circumstances.

Michael G. Tavella

March 3, 2020

Officials Announce When, Where First Speed Cameras Will Be Installed On Roosevelt Boulevard

I have been writing in opposition to traffic cameras for a few years now (you can find all of my articles and posts on traffic cameras here).  They are consistently controversial and violative of basic rights as described in the article below.


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Speed cameras are coming to Roosevelt Boulevard in Philadelphia and we now know more about when they will be installed and where they will be located. Philadelphia’s Parking Association announced on Friday that installation will start on Monday, Jan. 13.

The first camera will be installed at Roosevelt Boulevard and Banks Way.

We’re expecting to learn more about the timeline for the other cameras at a press conference on Monday.

Officials will put cameras in eight different spots along Roosevelt Boulevard.

by CBS3 Staff

Officials Announce When, Where First Speed Cameras Will Be Installed On Roosevelt Boulevard

Templeton Project: Self-control and American Culture

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 “Self-control and American Culture.”

See also:


Last time, the discussion was about the importance of self-control.  Especially in these times, little support from the general community exists for the exercise of this fruit of the Spirit.  In American culture the media and educational institutions encourage the cultivation and expression of inordinate desire.  Lack of restraint has become a virtue.  This attitude is the legacy of the 1960’s and 70’s, and earlier.  The want of sexual restraint is at the top of the list.  But also, we find such moral dearth in many other areas. Deficiency of restraint of speech is one that is particularly relevant to this blog.

Name-calling, distortion of facts, invention of facts, hearsay, and threats characterize our nation from Washington to communities spread throughout the land. This sort of behavior is usually done in the name of ideology, mostly of the secular brand, but also of the religious. The result is bedlam, because we do not morally restrain ourselves.  Too often some Americans confuse forceful speech in defense of a perspective with calumny.

The Christian must cultivate self-control in the midst of the pandemonium of our society.  Few leaders or leading institutions will do so.  In fact, they will encourage the opposite by words and deeds.  Such is a major challenge.

To God we offer prayer that we may be inspired to be both effective witnesses and also ethical defenders of the faith.

Michael G. Tavella

Ash Wednesday, 2020

The Baby Is Still Not That Important

The phenomenon is for parents to choose to raise gender-neutral babies who are called “theybies.”

More and more parents in the U.S. are choosing to raise gender neutral babies. They use gender neutral words and pronouns for their children, and sometimes don’t disclose what’s in their babies’ diapers except to a very close circle of friends. These children are often called “theybies”—neither boys nor girls.

So, right off the bat, it’s really sad and wrong that “what’s in the diaper” is the very narrow way that a lot of people have come think about sex and gender. I remember a long time ago trying–and failing–to work out in my own self the curious disconnection between the mind, body, and spirit that is the property of being human. The three war against each other, which is why God commands that all three should be redirected toward him. Leaving aside the wars that human people have with each other, the internal war of the spirit against the mind against the body is painful. We all live with it in a thousand tiny, disquieting ways. All the more reason not to add to the disintegration of the self under the guise of reintegrating it. It’s not “just” what’s in the diaper. It is a whole person who has a certain kind of biology, however broken and dysfunctional.

Incidentally, I do think it is interesting that this “theybie” thing is arising at the same time as insane gender (which should be sex) reveal events, some of which are so extravagant that some of the participants have even died. Notice that the baby is still not being celebrated. It is a lot of broken people who don’t know God, don’t know themselves, and don’t feel comfortable about anything who are foisting an ideology on their children. Christians are accused of this, of course, but the accusation can absolutely be made the other way. The baby is not the important thing here. The underlying religious belief is, and the baby will have to get along as best “they” can.

So, there are five ways you can help parents raising Theybies, which is the point of the article/listicle/whatever. And the first way is to, “Remember that the intention is liberation.”

Parents who choose not to gender their children are trying to carve out space for them to be their full selves, unencumbered by gender expectations that are oh so pervasive in our gendered world. They do not want their child’s genitals or chromosomes to dictate what should play with or how they are treated by others. These parents want their children to get the opportunity to grow up to be the truest versions of themselves possible, and this is one of the ways they are trying to make that happen. Many studies have shown that children absorb gender stereotypes at a very young age, and that these implicit expectations are damaging to their self-expression and self-confidence. I sometimes hear people critiquing parent’s choices to use gender-neutral pronouns for their children as a way to force their own ideologies onto their kids. But isn’t the ideology of “girl” or “boy” even more constraining?

No, actually, it is not “even more constraining.” There is a link attached to the word “study” which I do not have time to click right now, but I happen to know that if you go looking for something in “science” you will always be able to find it because the hearts and minds of human people are darkened by sin, wickedness, and rebellion against the Creator.

Notice that the goal of parenting articulated here is “self-expression and self-confidence.” Much like the much confused American pursuit of happiness, which, having chucked the necessary element of virtue to the curb, has produced a generation of deeply unhappy people, so also recasting the purpose of parenting to be the rearing of a self-expressive child is bringing about the collapse of society. Think I’m being hyperbolic? I’m not. Children in this culture are unhappier than ever before and in any other place around the world.

Just like children are, in their created nature, sexed and gendered, so they are, by nature self-expressive. What children need in order to be happy is to discover that they are not the center of the world. Their natural selves need to be curbed. They need to discover the riches of self-discipline, self-denial, and the truth that something greater than them (God) is the ruler and judge not only of the cosmos, but of their own little selves. They learn this first by having loving parents who help them see the pleasant and beautiful walls that keep them safe. They learn it by discovering that their parents (and by extension God) are merciful. They learn that they can stop crying when told to, stop touching things when told to, to come when told to, to sit when told to. They learn that there other people more important than themselves—first their parents, then other adults and children, and most critically, God. The ears of their little minds are opened to the astonishing wonder of Jesus, and they discover that by loving him, they are able to love themselves and others, that they were created to enjoy him in peculiar and delightful ways with their minds, hearts, and bodies.

This vision is so much bigger than behavior or the paltry, ruinous idol of “self-expression.”

And I am so sorry, but my blogging hour is up and so I will pick up the second thing you are supposed to do tomorrow. I’ll destroy my routine and keep going over here at SF and do regular quick takes and book notes over on Patheos. See you tomorrow!

By Anne Kennedy and published on Patheos on January 16, 2020 and can be found here or here.

How America Killed Play—and What We Can Do to Bring it Back

In our last piece from our interview with play expert Dr. Peter Gray, we outlined the five criteria of play. For an activity to truly be considered play, it must:

  • Be self-chosen and self-directed
  • Be done for its own sake and not an outside reward
  • Have some sort of rules/structure
  • Have an element of imagination
  • Be conducted in an alert frame of mind

When you break it down like that, much of what modern parents think of as play doesn’t actually qualify. The truth is play has been gradually declining for the past five or six decades, but it seems to have come to a head in the last 10 years. According to the Child Mind Institute, American kids now spend an average of just 4-7 minutes a day on unstructured outdoor play, and elementary schools across the country are reducing or entirely eliminating recess. Play is an absolutely critical part of our youth, as it develops life skills in a way which is very hard to replicate elsewhere. How did this crucial component of the human experience get so diminished?

The 1950s were something of a “golden era” of play. The post-World War II baby boom left no shortage of potential playmates for a kid, and child labor laws passed in the late 1930s meant children could no longer be forced to toil inside factories or coal mines. Schools had multiple recesses throughout the day, the concept of homework barely existed, and the school year itself was about 4-5 weeks shorter.

“School was not the big deal it is today. Parents were not involved. You went home, you were home. School happened at school, when you were out of school, you were out of school,” says Gray, a research professor of psychology at Boston College and the author of the book Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life. The culmination of these factors created a generation where kids played for hours each and every day.

“You could go out anytime during daylight and you’d find kids playing with no adults around. Parents shoo’d you outdoors, they didn’t want you in the house—moms especially,” Gray says. Organized youth sports were still in their infancy, and if they did occur, they were a far cry from some of the ultra-expensive, ultra-regimented leagues that exist now. In some little leagues, the biggest or most mature kid on the team often acted as the coach, and there was rarely a parent to be found down the foul lines. But this golden age of play didn’t last forever.

The rise of television made the indoors more attractive, sure, but it was the shift in parental attitudes around school, sports and free time that really changed things. Elementary schools (and schools, in general) began placing a greater emphasis on testing results and homework. According to the University of Michigan, students aged 6-8 went from having 52 minutes of homework a week in 1981 to 128 minutes a week in 1997.

Sensationalistic news reports led parents to believe the world was becoming increasingly dangerous for their children, though statistics show the opposite was in fact true. As time has gone on, the outdoor world’s only become safer for our children. Either way, parents became increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of their child playing around town without adult supervision, and organized sports slowly came to replace play. As the demand for organized activities for younger and younger ages increased, organizations quickly met the demand. Parents stopped allowing their kids to walk or bike to practice, instead shuttling them there themselves.

“Kids going to games themselves by bike or walking became somehow dangerous. So parents felt the need to drive them there. Then if you’re going to drive them there, you might as well watch. Then it became a sort of parental duty to stay and watch. If you don’t stay and watch you don’t care about your child. So you’re supposed to be there, you’re supposed to be cheering your child on. You’re supposed to care if your child’s team wins or loses,” Gray says. “It was gradual, it happened over time. (Organized sports) came to replace actual play in people’s minds—this is how my child gets exercise, this is how my child meets other children, and so on.”

The undercurrent among all this was the idea that play was largely a waste of time. Adults believed structured, adult-guided activities were of greater value to their children, so they began filling their free time as such. As the commitments mounted, time for play decreased. “Instead of the idea that childhood was an idea of freedom and play and children were largely free of adults, we began feeling increasingly responsible for the children’s development,” Gray says. “And accompanying that idea was that children’s own activities are a waste of time.”

Of course, we now know that couldn’t be further from the truth. A 2018 report from the American Academy of Pediatrics confirms that play enhances creativity, imagination, dexterity, boldness, teamwork skills, stress-management skills, confidence, conflict resolution skills, decision-making skills, problem-solving skills and learning behavior. Play is an essential part of the human experience, and a lack of play can have troubling short and long-term ramifications for children.

A major benefit of play is what’s known as “risky play.” This entails engaging in play that creates some sense of fear. This often involves ascending to great heights (climbing a pine tree), moving at great speeds (riding a bike or swinging on a rope swing), play fighting (wrestling), going off on your own (hide and seek) or engaging with dangerous tools/environments. Risky play is a fundamental part of play. Children like to test their limits and innately know how much fear they can tolerate, and when they engage with fear and survive the experience, they become more resilient, confident and better-equipped to handle stress and anxiety. While play in general has decreased over the last five or six decades, risky play has been hit particularly hard due to overprotective parents. Playgrounds have become increasingly sterile in America—most are now devoid of equipment that allows you to confront any fear of heights or high speeds, and offer little challenge in the way of dexterity or agility.

“Natural selection has designed children to play in risky ways so they learn how to deal with risk…I can do this thing that stretches my physical and emotional abilities and I can survive it, I can do it. What you’re practicing is controlling your mind and body in a somewhat fear-inducing situation. But it’s a fear-inducing situation that you can control, you put yourself there. But what you’re learning is you can deal with feeling fear, you can hold yourself together. So when you experience something that produces fear in real life, it’s not a new thing to you,” Gray says. “I feel confident I can handle this instead of panicking. I think that’s part of the reason we’re finding a lot of lack of resiliency today, we’re finding a lot of people falling apart when something difficult happens in their life. Because they haven’t practiced this kind of play where they’re deliberately putting themselves into difficult positions and learning how to deal with that.”

Gray notes that continually decreasing levels of play have coincided with increases in depression and anxiety among young people. In a 2014 TEDx Talk, he outlined how five to eight times as many children now suffer from major depression or a clinically significant anxiety disorder as compared to the 1950s. Questionnaires have also revealed a continuous decline among children and young adults in the feeling that they have “control over their own lives.” They’re increasingly micro-managed and have limited chance to cut loose or follow their intuitions. It’s not an exaggeration to say a lack of play may be at the heart of increased anxiety and decreased resiliency in young people. It’s not their fault—they’re simply ill-equipped to handles life’s ups-and-downs.

How can we put play back in our children’s lives? We’ll get to integrating more “true” play in a second, but you can start by shifting certain organized activities into more playful states. Are there ways to help them self-select and self-direct more of what they’re doing? Or decrease the focus on outside rewards? Or foster a grander sense of imagination? The more an adult is telling them exactly what and how to do something, the less play is taking place. The U.S. Soccer pamphlet Best Practices for Coaching Soccer in the United States sums it up nicely: “Coaches can often be more helpful to a young player’s development by organizing less, saying less and allowing the players to do more. Set up a game and let the kids play. Keep most of your comments for before and after practice and during water breaks.”

In terms of pure or “true” play, we’re not getting back to the days of the 1950s anytime soon. However, some communities are fighting to bring play back with encouraging results.

Schools around the country are integrating “play clubs” and finding great success. These clubs typically take place on school grounds for 1-2 hours directly preceding or directly following the school day. Different equipment is set out for kids to play and experiment with at their leisure, and adult supervisors (of which there are not an abundance) are trained only to intervene when something truly dangerous is occurring. Gray recently observed an elementary school play club that takes place prior to the school day once a week (though they’re trying to make it more frequent) and was delighted with the result.

“Free play indoors in the school and outdoors, it’s age mixed, all grades K-5…It’s working wonderfully. It’s working partially because the age mixing. Older children are helping to solve the quarrels among younger children,” Gray says. “Children are truly running in hallways, wrestling, playing chasing games, some old-fashioned games, very vigorous play. Here’s a situation where there are adults present, but the adults are initiating actives (and) they’re not intervening. I was there for an hour, there were 150 kids, and I did not see any single case of adult intervening. It went so remarkably well.”

Gray also offers up the idea of recreation departments including more sandlot-style activities among the more organized sports. It would be formalized in the sense it would take place at a given location at a given time, but it would really be just a way to get a bunch of kids together. A volunteer could help get games going during the first few sessions, but slowly step away and intervene less over time. New equipment could be added over time to help inspire different games or different styles of play.

“Maybe one parent is there at a time to help each other put their minds at ease. It begins with something more formal, but over time, that structure falls away,” Gray says. “I think that could catch on. I think there’s enough kids and enough parents who would want to do this as an alternative…Ideally, over time, the kids who are coming together (for this) every Saturday afternoon start realizing they can do it every other day, too.”

By Brandon Hall and published in Stack on March 25, 2019 and can be found here.

Templeton Project: The Need for 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 “The Need for Self-Control.”

See also:


A few days ago as I was driving to Easton, I thought of the importance of self-control in our lives and in our dealings with others.  I felt such an urgency that I decided to interrupt the articles on “Encounters with Jesus in the Gospel of John.”  We will return to this subject.

The Greek word for self-control, or temperance, is used in classical literatature and a few places in the New Testament.  Among the New Testament citations one is found in Paul’s Letter to the Galatians.  There Saint Paul list the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit.  The works of the flesh, which Paul says are obvious, are sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and so on. The fruit of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and self-control.

Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit that applies to every one of the works of the flesh.  It reins in the expression of all manner of immoral behavior from promiscuous sex and drunkeness to behavior that causes disruption within a community. It requires one to control desires and passions that are destructive to the person who exhibits them and to the people who are the victims of such behavior.

In the context of apologetics self-control has the significance of being important for a proper witness to the faith.  One who defends the Christian ethical life defeats his purpose by the expression in word and deed of inordinate desires that are destructive to himself and others. Anger is a key matter of concern. As best as he can in a sin-ridden world, the Christian is to manifest the new man in Christ.  Though not perfect until the fulfillment of the Kingdom, the believer shows forth qualities that are the result of the work of the Holy Spirit.

Christian anthropology is adverse to the body-soul split that maintains the soul is housed in a body until death when the soul is liberated.  In Plato this perspective includes what seems to be a belief in re-incarnation in which the soul lives in a series of bodies until final liberation. In Christian theology, however, humans are considered to be body and soul, both of which constitute what a human is.  In the afterlife, both body and soul are reunited.  The works of the flesh, therefore, involve both body and soul. Against Socrates as he is found in the works of Plato, sin, not ignorance, is our primary problem. The corrupted will is what the Spirit battles against. The works of the Spirit come from the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father through the Son.

Self-control is impossible without the power of God behind it.  This fruit of the Spirit is necessary for civil speech and the conducting of a civil conversation, no easy matter when we are battling anger and resentment within us.  But, we must fervently pray for it.

The Holy Spirit is the source of all the fruit that Paul mentions.  This does not mean that we should not practice daily discipline in the application of self-control in all circumstances of our life.  We betray our calling when in conversation with atheists and non-believers we act without restraint and respect.

Michael G. Tavella

February 20,  2020

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