Was John Calvin a Nominalist?

I have published a three-part series looking at the nominalist roots of John Calvin’s theology. Here are the links to my articles:

Comfort and Emotional Numbing

From my article ‘What Gratitude is Not‘:

“When our pursuit of comfort causes us to numb ourselves to the pain and hurt happening around us, and even happening to us, what we’re doing is we’re also inadvertently numbing away the capacity to empathize, to feel love, joy and gratitude. When we harden ourselves as a defense against fear, grief, disappointment, shame, rejection or vulnerability, the result is that we’re reducing our capacity to feel the emotions that are important for our wellbeing, including gratitude.”

The Power of Attitude

Last year I received an invitation to speak at a conference for professionals in the caring professions. The conference, which was attended by doctors, nurses, counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, dentists, hospital and army chaplains, missionaries, marriage and family therapists, surgeons and students, was on the topic of pain and suffering. The conference organizers asked me to give a seminar on the topic “Gratitude During Times of Suffering” and my marching orders were simple: explain how it’s possible to remain thankful in the midst extreme of suffering.

Now I’ve never been particularly good at being thankful when things are going wrong. If I have trouble sleeping, I grumble the next day. If I don’t have enough money to buy something I want, I whine and complain to whoever will’; listen. If I have a physical injury, everyone in my circle of friends is sure to know about it. So expecting me to give a talk about practicing gratitude during times of suffering would be like asking ask John Wayne to dance Swan Lake, or asking Justin Bieber to sing the part for Count Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro. 

To put it bluntly, I found my assignment daunting. How could I teach other professionals a lesson I had not even mastered myself?

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The Yawning Chasm

From John Ferling’s book Jefferson and Hamilton: The Rivalry That Forged a Nation, p. 207:

“During one dinner, Hamilton gazed at Jefferson’s portraits of John Locke, Sir Isaac Newton, and Sir Francis Bacon. He asked the identity of the subjects, to which Jefferson replied that they were ‘the three greatest men the world had ever produced.’ Hamilton responded: ‘The greatest man that ever lived was Julius Caesar.’ If he did not already know it, Jefferson discovered in that instant the yawning chasm in sensibilities that separated Hamilton and himself.”

Confessions of a Recovering Gnostic

Having grown up as a Christian, I would always have said I believed in the resurrection of the body. However, the doctrine of resurrection functioned as a kind of footnote in my thinking while my primary concern was focused on the immortality of the soul. Without giving it much thought, I simply assumed that the doctrine of resurrection was a shorthand way of referring to going to heaven when you die. Even though I had read the Gospel accounts of Christ’s resurrection many times, and even though I had read Paul’s lengthy discussion of bodily resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, I still unthinkingly assumed that the resurrection of believers would be non-physical.

My belief in a non-physical resurrection was part of a larger perspective which deemphasized the importance of the physical world. Some of my earliest writings had argued that during the Old Testament the Lord’s work had been focused on the material world but in the era of the New Covenant His work was purely spiritual (i.e., non-physical). What happened in the material world is unimportant to God; the best we can hope to do is prepare for the next. In the next life, the soul will be liberated from the body that now imprisons it.

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The Life-Changing Magic of Reframing

Father Gheorghe Calciu-Dumitreasa (1925–2006)

When Romania was taken over by the Communists in 1944, they began rounding up Christians and sending them to prison. One young Christian who found himself caught in the communist backlash was George Calciu.

George Calciu was first imprisoned in 1948 and sent to Pitesti Prison. Pitesti was part of an experiment on new torture methods designed to eliminate all vestiges of humanity from the human soul. The goal in these hideous experiments wasn’t simply to pressure the prisoners to renounce their Christian faith; rather, the goal was to break down their entire sense of self, to cause them to forget who they even were. The inmates were compelled to deny that they loved God, that they loved their country, that they loved their mother and father—in short, to renounce everything that made them human.

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Habits of Successful Students

Last week I published an article for the Taylor Study Method titled ‘10 Steps to Learning Anything Twice as Quick‘. Here are some snippets from the article.

Passive vs. Active Learning

“Passive learning is when you simply read and re-read material, or listen to it on audio over and over again. People engage in this type of passive learning on the assumption that repeated exposure to material will result in learning that material. By contrast, active learning is when you create flashcards, summary sheets, take practice tests, set yourself challenges, and constantly dig deeper into elements you are having trouble understanding. Active learning may require more initial effort, but in the long run it could save you hundreds of hours.”

Don’t Trust in Google

“When it comes to learning, it’s easy to think that everything we need can be found on Google. However, to truly master a field of knowledge and sediment it in your long-term memory, you need to do more than simply memorize isolated facts. Rather, you need a foundation of knowledge that can become a basis for conceptual thinking, contextual reasoning, and the ability to for schemas out of that knowledge. All of this requires a deep familiarity with your subject that cannot be achieved by simply Googling what you need to know.”

Take Baby Steps

“Baby steps are especially important when a person is trying to learn material or master a field of study. Through cramming and massed practice, anyone can learn something quickly. However, to truly master a field, one needs to study it consistently over time—little and often. Baby steps lend themselves to this type of necessary consistency. Baby steps also help to shift the focus to small wins that can accumulate over time to help you reach larger goals.”

Self-Monitor Towards SMART Goals

“Self-monitoring is especially important in the learning process. Whatever you are trying to learn, whether it’s a foreign language or the material you need to know for the psychology licensure exam, you should break your goals into manageable steps and have a clear way of monitoring your progress in each of these steps. Self-monitoring enables a person to continually adjust their goals so that they can be SMART. A goal that is SMART is one that is specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound.”

To read the entire article, click on the link below:

 ‘10 Steps to Learning Anything Twice as Quick

Free Lesson on Mindfulness in the Classroom

Here is a FREE interactive lesson from the Masters course I wrote, which is about to launch at Central Michigan University, Argosy University, Antioch University, Benedictine University and Valparaiso University. This course is for the professional development of teachers, who can gain graduate credits when they enroll to take it. This free interactive lesson offers an overview of the research that prompted me to write the course.

Gratitude as a Way of Seeing

Complaining is one of those things we do without even thinking about it. Some researchers have suggested that during an average conversation we complain to each other about once a minute.

From a health perspective, this should be concerning. When we complain, stress hormones are released that harm healthy neural connections in the brain. This also occurs when we aren’t actually complaining ourselves but are exposed to someone else grumbling.

In his book Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and LifeTrevor G Blake shared some Stanford studies showing that being exposed to 30 minutes of complaining each day physically damages the brain by peeling back neurons from the hippocampus (the part of the brain used for problem solving and higher cognitive functions). Over time this can actually lead to the hippocampus shrinking, resulting in decline in memory and adaptability.

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