• DIY Religion: What is it and Why it Doesn’t Work

    Pharell Williams

    Perhaps you’ve heard the ubiquitous Pharell Williams song, Happy. The chorus goes infectiously like this:

    Because I’m happy
    Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
    Because I’m happy
    Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
    Because I’m happy
    Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
    Because I’m happy
    Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do

    I could easily write a dissertation on just the chorus of this song, but I will spare you all the ink and pixels and cut to the chase.

    Worldviews have been historically judged on two separate criteria:  1. Is it true?  2. Does it work?

    In the 1980s a professor at Stanford named Richard Rorty did something really sneaky and subversive and said these aren’t two separate questions. Prof. Rorty said they are one question and they are circular in nature. In other words, something is true if it works and vice versa. How he accomplishes this feat is by marrying two different streams of thought – pragmatism and post-modernism. Pragmatism values ideas for their practical worth. Post-modernism values ideas that tear down and deconstruct “capital T” Truths.

    I severely doubt Pharell has read Rorty’s Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity but he is clearly espousing a similar sentiment in Happy:

    Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
    Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
    Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do

    Translation: Happiness is truth. Happiness is subjective. Pursue happiness.

    This is the credo of DIY religion. Happiness is god. Do whatever makes you happy.

    DIY religion is like going to Costco, except your shopping cart is your head and heart, and the items in the cart are worldviews:

    If you want a little Jesus (you know, just the Sermon on the Mount Jesus please), a little Ghandi (you know, to be hip and stuff), a little Nietzsche (you know, to keep it morally loose and authority-less), a little Darwin (you know, to make sure we don’t let too much God in the mix), and a heaping portion of Rorty (you know, to make ME the ultimate curator and taxonomist of time/space, history, truth, morality, goodness, and beauty).

    Yesterdays professors are today’s ideas without genealogies.

    DIY religion doesn’t work because individual humans are severely limited, biased, and full of blind spots. Individual humans are limited by space and time – one doesn’t have the benefit of living in every culture in every time period. Individual humans cannot experience every aspect of the world. Individual humans cannot read every bit of information every created. Individual humans cannot interact with every other individual human. These limitations make individual humans very poor curators and taxonomists of truth, goodness, and beauty. This is why history, creeds, and long-standing narratives are very important to the human condition.

    There is enough truth in every lie to make it float.

    The reality is that happiness is really important but it is not individualistic and subjective.

    Question One of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “What is the chief end of man?”

    Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

    Clap along if you know what happiness is to you


  • Nietzsche vs. Christianity: Part 3

    Lecture 3 focused on four things:  1.  The intellectual backdrop to Nietzsche  2.  Nietzsche’s 3 main objections to Christianity  3.  Nietzsche’s positive affirmations in place of Christianity  4.  The Nietzschean Catechism.  Audio is available here.

    I.  Intellectual Backdrop

    19th century Western (Continental) Europe was unkind to Christianity.  Some of the major works floating around were:

    The Origin of Species: By Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life by Charles Darwin

    Replaces need for God in cosmology

    The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

    Inherently atheistic

    On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers by Friedrich Schleiermacher

    Book basically splits Protestantism in two

    Origins of the History of Christianity by Ernest Renan

    The New Testament is essentially myth.  This revisionist history was seminal in classic liberalism and influential in the later Jesus Seminar.

    The Essence of Christianity by Ludwig von Feuerbach

    Christianity is superstition that will soon be replaced by humanism

    The Future of an Illusion by Sigmund Freud

    Humanity has invented God and this delusion is a kind of mental illness.

    Prolegomena to the History of Israel by Julius Wellhausen

    Wellhausen espouses that the first five books of the Old Testament were not written by Moses but by editors from four schools of thought.  A flood of Bible criticism followed Wellhausen.  Tubingen.

    History of Materialism and Critique of its Present Importance by Friedrich Lange

    Atomistic Materialism and Darwinism.


    1.  Intellectually impossible (this is assumed a priori without argumentation)

    2.  It demeans humanity (herd mentality, Dionysianism…)

    3.  Its morality is fatal to life (slave morality, Dionysianism…)

    Nietzsche is more concerned with assessing the damage that Christianity has done rather than tearing it apart limb from limb.  Nature was determinant and all metaphysics are to be rejected.

    III.  Nietzsche’s Positive Affirmations

    1.  Be a free-spirit

    2.  Be curious

    3.  Be nomadic (as well as will to power, master morality…)

    IV.  The Nietzschean Catechsim

    Nietzsche ends book 3 of The Gay Science with 8 hypothetical questions and answers (see page 142):

    1.  What makes one heroic?

    To approach at the same time one’s highest suffering and one’s highest hope

    2.  What do you believe in?

    In this, that the weights of all things must be determined anew.

    3.  What does your conscience say?

    You should become who you are.

    4.   Where lie your greatest dangers?

    In compassion

    5.  What do you love in others?

    My hopes

    6.  Whom do you call bad?

    He who always wants to put people to shame

    7.  What is most human to you?

    To spare someone shame

    8.  What is the seal of having become free?

    No longer to be ashamed before oneself.

  • Best Creeds, Confessions and Catechisms of the Christian Church

    Trinity Shield from Athanasian Creed

    Our faith is 2000 years old.  We have a long obedience in the same direction, affirming the same truths.  We are wise to be familiar with the many wonderful orthodox creeds, confessions, and catechisms of the Christian church.

    Apostles Creed (~2nd century)

    Nicene Creed (325)

    Athanasian Creed (5th century)

    Definition of the Council of Chalcedon (451)

    The Canons of the Council of Orange (529)

    London Baptist Confession (1689)

    Westminster Standards:  Westminster Confession of Faith, Westminster Shorter Catechism, and Westminster Larger Catechism (1646)

    Heidelberg Catechism (1563) – Note:  Kevin DeYoung has a book coming out on the HC next year entitled The Good News We Almost Forgot.  I would be surprised if it was not excellent.  CJ Mahaney says, “Doubtless this will be the finest book I will have ever read on the Heidelberg Catechism. It will certainly be the first.”

    Belgic Confession (1618)

    Canons of Dordt (1618)

    Second Helvetic Confession (1536)

    Genevan Catechism (1536)

    The Thirty Nine Articles (Anglican, 1572) and Augsburg Confession (Lutheran) are not bad and worth familiarizing oneself.

    Also of note is the Westminster Shorter Catechism for kids – the entire list of questions and answers can be found here for free.

  • Top 5 Childrens Books

    The Jesus Storybook Bible

    Someone asked for this list.  I have no children and am not very knowledgeable here.  Hence, someone who has children and better resources please post books that should be listed here.

    1.  The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones

    This book is a monumental achievement.  I really don’t know what parents did for their children before this book.  I have heard that The Big Picture Story Bible is also good.

    2.  Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

    These are classic books and solid Christian allegory.  When they get older, have them read the Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien

    3.  The Poison Cup by R.C. Sproul

    Yes, R.C. Sproul has written some children’s books.  The Poison Cup is the only one I am familiar with, but I have heard that The Lightlings and The King Without a Shadow are also good.

    4.  Window on the World by Daphne Spraggett and Jill Johnstone

    This is like Operation World for kids.  It will introduce them to world missions and prayer for other people groups.

    5.  First Catechism

    This is the Westminster Shorter Catechism for Children.  Also, the entire list of questions and answers can be found here for free.