The Creation Hypothesis (Moreland)

Moreland, J. P., ed. The Creation Hypothesis. Downers, Grove, IL: IntervarsityPress, 1994.

Stephen C. Meyer: Methodological Equivalence of Design and Descent. Meyer explores some of the arguments against any “method” used by Intelligent Design and how such a method can’t be scientific.  He points out that many of the same criticisms cut against methodological naturalism as well.

Demarcation argument: we know what “science” does and ID ain’t it. 
Response: The problem is that there isn’t one single theory of scientific deduction.  In fact, pure deduction is a rarity.  Naturalism then used logical positivism and falsificationism as a reference point, only to find that those methods were self-refuting.

Ultimately, though, the question is whether the theory is warranted by the evidence and not on the purity of a single method.

Secondly, many scientific laws are just descriptive and not explanatory, so the point can’t be that naturalism has explanatory power and ID doesn’t.  And laws alone don’t always explain events.  As noted, “Oxygen is necessary to combustion, but that doesn’t explain why my house burned down.”

Observability: true science is observable. ID isn’t.

Response: Numerous concepts in physics aren’t strictly observable: forces, fields, atoms, quarks, past events, mental states; they are inferred from observable phenomena (Meyer 83).  Even worse, no one has observed evolution in action.  Further, if ID isn’t observable, then it can’t be subject to refutation by empirical observations.

Hugh Ross: Ross gives a learned discussion of modern scientific cosmologies, noting how only a personal, transcendent Creator avoids all of the problems.  Immanuel Kant was the first modern to posit “agnostic cosmologies.”  God might exist, but you can’t know he created anything.  An infinite universe, so reasoned Kant, yields infinite possibilities of creation.  This sounded impressive in the 18th century.  The problem is that science makes complete nonsense of it.  (Ross doesn’t develop this point, but this is largely the reason Continental philosophy and all post-Hegelian streams are a joke.  They really don’t work in the real world).

“Heat transfer by radiation.” There is no infinite medium in the sky to soak up all the radiation.  If there were, then that medium would also be luminated.

“Gravitational tug.”  If there is an infinite universe, then the gravitational pull should be infinite in all directions.  This, obviously, is quite false.

I do appreciate Ross’s refutation of the “oscillating universe model.” Given the huge nature of entropy at the death of a universe, it wouldn’t have the needed energy to “bounce back.”  This refutes Hinduism and Alt-Right paganism’s desire for a “Kali Yuga.”

Time is finite.  It is the Judeo-Christian (and possibly some Islamic streams) view that a personal Creator who is extradimensional (beyond dimensions of time and space) creates the space-time dimensions (Ross 153).

Conclusion

Some chapters on bio-chemistry are above my pay grade, so I really can’t evaluate those.  The final chapter dealing with language is quite good, but complex.  This is an early foray into the ID movement.  It is somewhat dated, as recent volumes now focus on the information embedded within the cell. That’s hinted at in this book but not really developed.

Jesus Under Fire (ed. Moreland)

Wilkins, Michael J., Moreland, J. P. eds. Jesus Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents the Historical Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995.

If all we had were the remarks by Josephus, Tacitus et al about Jesus and the prima facie reports of the empty tomb, we would be fully warranted in believing Jesus of Nazareth lived, died, and rose again.  The Jesus Seminar rejects that and rejects that we can know most anything about Jesus.  This book is an early response to the juvenile methods of the Jesus Seminar.  It also serves as a great text for an intro to a Synoptic Gospels class.

I. The Seminar’s Method

Aside from their ludicrous coloring system, the Seminar says:

a. If an utterance isn’t a parable or an aphorism, then Jesus didn’t say it.  That’s rather strange; why would they say that?  They want Jesus to be a wandering Cynic or guru.  In other words, he’s from Woodstock.  Of course, no other body of scholarship would dream of applying such restrictive criteria to any other religious figure.

B. Jesus’s Jewish heritage is exorcised(!) from his ministry.  This makes sense, since a Hebrew prophet wouldn’t have been a Greek Cynic.  Of course, even critical New Testament studies would reject that today, since if anything all the emphasis is on Jesus’s Jewishness.

C. The Gospel writers either borrowed from the Gospel of Thomas and/or the Secret Gospel of Mark.  Oddly enough, the stringent criteria above is not applied to these texts.

Craig Blomberg gives a good rebuttal to the above points.  We especially note the oft-made claim that Jesus expected the end of the world (and was likely disappointed).  The problem is that he gave a bunch of instruction which presupposed a long interval of time (Blomberg 31). He mentioned mundane issues such as paying taxes, divorce, and marriage.

And to say the early church made up the texts simply won’t work.  If the church “invented” Jesus’s deity, then why are there passages where Jesus seems to downplay it?  

The most important essay is Darrell Bock’s essay on the historiography of the Gospels.  Is the reporting of the gospel events designed to be a memorex, live, or jive?  In other words, given the standards of ancient writing, did the authors write dwon the exact wording of Jesus (memorex), nothing of Jesus (jive), or the “gist” of Jesus (live)?  Bock makes a convincing case for live.

If you hold to the memorex view, then you have a hard time affirming inerrancy in light of different sequences (or even worse, did Jesus heal the blind man as he was going into Jericho or leaving Jericho?).

The live view seeks to reproduce the “voice” or Jesus, not the exact words.  Compare this with Thucydides account in 1.22.1.  Thucydides admits he is summarizing, and perhaps reordering, a speaker’s thoughts and words, yet scholars recognize him as a model of accuracy and good reporting.

Other comments:

Gary Habermas remarks on the Seminar’s disavowal of miracles:  the Seminar says we can’t trust the miracle narratives because the authors wanted to believe in them.  Whether they did or not is irrelevant.  It’s called the genetic fallacy.

Strangely enough, skeptics like Marcus Borg believe in the exorcism stories, but he gives us no reason for accepting the attestation of all Gospel writers on these stories while excluding the nature miracles.

William Lane Craig offers his standard defense of the Resurrection.  I’ll forgo it here because I think it is better presented in Craig’s later works (cf. On Guard). He does note that the Resurrection can’t be a hallucination on the disciples’ part.  Hallucinations can only show what is already in the mind, and Jesus’s resurrection isn’t identical with the Jewish afterlife (Craig 161).

Edwin Yamauchi’s concluding essay is  fine survey of “Jesus studies” after the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.  He also touches on Josephus’s writings, including the controversial passage in Antiquities 18.  It’s mostly authentic.  Eusebius’s edition is somewhat doctored, but it is clear that Josephus knew of Jesus and his miracles.

This is an outstanding short response to the Jesus Seminar.  It is somewhat dated as N.T. Wright’s refutation of the Jesus Seminar came out soon afterwards.

The God Conversation (JP Moreland)

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This book isn’t so much “here is a story to use with your technical apologetic argument.”  Rather, it’s how to frame it around anecdotes and stories that live in people’s minds. Communication 201, in other words.  This might be the best intro to apologetics on the most basic level.

It doesn’t deal with every aspect of “The 5 Ways.”  Rather, it focuses on the common talking points between believers and unbelievers.

Technical notes

Defeater belief: assumptions that make accepting the truth of x highly unlikely.

Problem of Evil

Story of a pre-programmed doll that says I love you when a button is pushed.  God could have made us like that. No evil. Is that real love?

Religious Pluralism

Weaknesses with the mountain path analogy: it changes the religious figures.  How would Mohammed respond? Further, it ignores the contradictions between religions:

Buddhism: No one waits at the top of the mountain.

Hinduism: Thousands of gods and goddesses wait.

Islam: A monad waits for you.

Judaism: The Father of Abraham waits for you.

Christianity: God in Christ waits for you.

We should note, though, that cultures outside of us can have wisdom.  Scripture is clear on that.

The Resurrection

Is it a well-planned lie?  A good lie has to have a number of traits:

(1) Tell only lies that benefit you.

(2) Don’t mention specific names or places if you can help it.

(3) Find a credible source to back your lie (yet the disciples appealed to women).

(4) Anticipate pesky fact-checkers.

(5) When the lie goes bad, save your own neck. None of the disciples, though, ever “cut a deal.”

Interesting tidbits:

In a debate Abraham Lincoln said he would concede all the points to his opponent, except the most important one.  This tactic unnerved his opponents.

Becoming Dallas Willard (Gary Moon)

This is a fine continuation of Eternal Living, which was a compilation of reflections on Dallas’s life.  It covers his early childhood in the poverty-stricken Ozarks (and echoes some of Thomas Oden’s own memories), his move to Temple Tenn. and later marriage to Jane.

Theme of the book:  Dallas went to “the thing itself,” whether in philosophy or in prayer. 

Metaphysical Realism

Is the object I see simply a representation of my own thoughts?  If it is, can I ever really know the object in question?

Moore and Husserl

Moore was the first philosopher in terms of an analytic approach that Willard read.  Moore helped explode the idealist thesis. Moore, however, left undone one crucial aspect: what to make of the human mind?   Husserl filled in the gap.

Husserl (as Dallas reports him): the basic problem is to understand consciousness and not try to hide philosophical problems by focusing on language or words. We have knowledge.  We deal with reality and not merely some historical process.

It is possible to have direct experience with a mind-independent world. 

The Philosophical Split and USC

Brother Dallas came to USC when the analytic/continental split was beginning to harden.  Some clarifications:

Analytic philosophy: originally began as a break from idealism and focused on linguistic analysis.

Continental philosophy: subjective starting point.  It later became postmodernism.

Dallas was able to avoid the worst of this split by focusing on the philosophical classics.  He focused more on questions of goodness, the soul, and moral development.

Finishing Well

Before his death, Dallas gave an outline to JP Moreland on where the spiritual formation movement should go:

1) Metaphysical realism.  There is a mind-independent world to which we have access.  This also includes the soul, the kingdom of God, and the Trinity.

2) Epistemic realism.  We are in direct contact with objects of knowledge.  Nothing stands between the mind and items of knowledge “in cases of direct awareness.”

3) Models of the human person and Christian spiritual formation.

4) Spiritually formative practices that are objectively testable.

The final section when Dallas was on his deathbed was very good.  Being weak and barely able to speak for weeks, before he died he said “Thank you” in a very clear voice to Someone else in the room.

JP Moreland (Universals)

  1. Attribute-Agreement
    1. Thesis: In what manner do two entities possess the same attribute?  If Socrates is white and Plato is white, how are they both “white?” (see 1.3.1).  Moreland writes, “Qualities are universals and not particulars and quality instances–like red are complex entities with at least three constituents in them–a universal, an individuator, and a tie of predication” (Moreland 192).
      1. Nominalism:  acknowledges the existence of qualities but denies they are universals.  Will use terms like trope, abstract particulars, perfect particulars, property-instances, etc.  
      2. realism: when an attribute-agreement obtains, it does so by universals.
    2. Nature of universals
      1. Kinds are universals to which instances belong.  They are similar to sets in that examples of a kind are members of a kind.
      2. intension: distributive unity (something each member of the universal has)
      3. extension:
    3. The relationship between redness and the abstract particular red:
      1. Realism: both the universality and particularity of an abstract entity must be given an ontological ground (Moreland 12; see 1.1)
      2. Nominalism: the relation between red and redness is the ∊ of set membership.
    4. An assay of the abstract particular
      1. trope: a simple entity that has no other constituent outside the infimae species that grounds its exact similarities with other tropes in the same set.
        1. it grounds exact similarity with other tropes.
        2. individuates them.
  2. Tropes
    1. Individuation of concrete particulars
      1. Identity of indiscernibles
        (Ф) (Фa    Фb ) (a=b)
        Ф ranges over pure properties, not impure ones
    2. A problem for the realist: how can Socrates’ redness and Plato’s redness be the same if they are in different locations, or if one is round and the other square.  The tropist assumes that phrases referring to the qualities-of-things must refer to the 
      1. Realist response:  we can hold that the “f-of-a” is a state of affairs.  This is the having of a quality by a particular.  It is a particular and a universal standing in a relation of exemplification.
      2. The universal is different from the having the universal.  
  3. Tropes and Individuation
    1. How do you account for grounding numerical differences between two entities that share all their pure properties in common?  What is it that grounds the “thisness” of Socrates and the “thatness” of Plato? If red₁ and red₂ are two exactly similar tropes, then how are they not the same thing?
    2. Suarez and Distinciton of Reason
      1. real distinction: two entities, A and B, are not the same thing and can be separated.
      2. distinction of reason (distictiones rationes): purely mental distinction.  God’s being and is simple, so we make a mental distinction between his mercy and justice.
      3. If A and B are distinguished by a distinguished by a distinction of reason, then A is identical to B.  
      4. modal distinction: obtains between quantity and inherence of quantity in a substance.  There is a distinction between six inches and the inherence of six inches in a pen.
    3. Hume’s distinction of reason
      1. shape and color of an impression are actually identical and are distinguished by a distinction of reason.
    4. Summary: trope view cannot account for individuation because its criterion of existence is independent existence. It makes the trope’s nature identical to a place. We have nothing then but bare particulars.
  4. The trope view and abstract reference
    Thesis: most people grant that certain sentences are true that appear to refer to universals (85).  “Red is a color.” This sentence accurately describes a state of affairs that obtains in this world. 

    1. a trope nominalist would say “the set composed of red” matches the set composed of color at instance a. 
      1. However, membership in a set of tropes is arbitrary (see previous chapter).
      2. Universal qualities are not sets.  Sets do not resemble the way colors resemble.
  5. The trope view and exact similarity
    argument:  trope nominalists use the argument of “exact similarity” to avoid the realist construction.  By contrast, the realist argues that cases of exact similarity (ES) are grounded in universals (110).

    1. Trope account of ES
      1. Two red balls (A and B) resemble each other because they have red₁ and red₂ constituents.
      2. The copula “is” in question is neither of predication or identity, but set membership.
      3. Rejoinder:  why red and not green?  Red tropes resemble each other in a different way than green tropes?  Why?
    2. If two tropes, Red and Sweet, are in the same location, how are they not identical on the Trope Nominalist view.
    3. Three Infinite Regress arguments
      1. The trope nominalist will try to avoid the universal red by introducing the universal “exact similarity.”  It is a relational universal that holds between all pairs of red tropes.
        1. potential infinite: something that can increase indefinitely but is always at every point finite in number.
        2. actual infinite: unattained, indefinite goal of a potential infinite.
          symbolized . It is a set such that each of its members can be put in a one to one correspondence with one of its parts.  
      2. If one accepts the existence of an actual infinite, certain paradoxes arise:
        1. “Imagine a library with an infinite number of books. Each book has a different natural number.  Further, there are an infinite number of red books and an infinite number of black books such that each even number is on a red book and each odd number is on a black book. 
          Problem: there could be no red or black book added to the library because there would be no natural number for its cover.  Further, if one took away all the red books, one would diminish the library by an actual number of infinite books. Yet one would still have the same number of books in the library.
      3. Medieval regresses
        1. per se regress: a causal regress like a’s being moved by b, and b’s being moved by c, and so on, cannot go on to infinity. The second cause depends on the first cause, the third on the second, and so on, precisely in its act of causation
          A causal series is per se iff it is of this form: w’s being F causes x to be G, x’s being G causes y to be H, and so on. 
          The relations between the members of a per se regress are transitive.  If x moves y, and y moves z, then x moves z.
        2. per accidens:  if x begets y, and y begets z, then x does not necessarily beget z.
  6. Realism and Quality Instances
    1. Wolterstorff: universals as kinds
      1. universals are kinds or types with examples or tokens as their instances.
      2. cases as simples: 
      3. Socrates is an exemplification of wisdom and the case “Socrates’ wisdom is an instance of wisdom.
  7. Seven Theses
    1. Universals are multiply exemplifiable entities.  They are ones-in-many (194). They are numerically identical constituents in non-identical entities.  Universals exist and the qualities of objects are universals.
  8. Concluding notes:
    1. Nominalists hold to a bundle-theory (Hume?).
  9. Terminology
    1. entity: any existent whatsoever (17).
    2. existent: anything that has properties or can be a property of another thing
    3. predication: primitive, intransitive, non-linguistic relation that obtains in cases like Socrates’ being white.
    4. universal: an entity that is capable of multiple exemplification.
    5. Third man argument (Plato): Let’s say that A, B, and C, partake of Largeness (L₁).  By self predication L₁ is also large. There is now a new plurality: A, B, C, and L₁.  Given the One-over-many principle, there is a form of largeness in which all of the above partake.  We will call it L₂.  
    6. impure property:  makes essential reference to a particular
    7. Pure property: makes no such reference
  10. Critique of Hume: 
    1. Hume sought to reduce the universal to an abstract idea. 
    2. Hume failed to note that words and ideas manifest type/token phenomena
      1. a type is a general sort of thing.  A type is close to a universal.
      2. a token is a particular instance

Eternal Living (Dallas Willard)

Image result for eternal living dallas willard

When Jane Willard first met Dallas in the college library, she noticed he never wore socks.  She thought he was some kind of rebellious hippie. She later found out that he couldn’t afford socks.

Richard Foster:  Dallas and I used to team-teach Sunday School.  When I taught, people might come. When Dallas taught, they brought their tape recorders.

Every contributor notes how Dallas was always in the presence of God.  He was never rushed. Never startled. He moves and speaks with a calm power.  Dallas not only imitated what Jesus taught, but the Hebraic way he taught (Cf. Jane Willard’s chapter).

Husserl and Knowledge

Greg Jesson: For Dallas knowledge was the most practical thing, as it enabled you to grasp reality.  The problem with modern philosophers (Kant, Hume, etc) is they believed our awareness is always of some mental state, such as an idea or perception.  They couldn’t explain how it relates to the mind-independent world.

If I am thinking of the Pythagorean theorem, then I am thinking of the same mind-independent fact that he thought of 2500 years ago.  This means that the mind has the ability to grasp things that are not part of itself. For Husserl, a mental state isn’t something that just floats about in our mind.  It is necessarily vectorial. It is always of something other than itself. This pointing feature is called intentionality.

Moreland and Dallas

Moreland gives a brief summary of Dallas’s epistemology and the various ways it means “to know.”  There is knowledge-by-acquaintance, propositional knowledge, and know-how. Further, knowledge doesn’t require certainty.  Only immutable facts are certain, and there aren’t many of those. In Ephesians 5:5 Paul says to “know with certainty,” which would be redundant if all knowledge were certain.  Further, my degree of knowledge can grow or weaken over time.

Five Tips for a Teacher

By Gary Black Jr.  

Focus on your purpose.  

Cultivate patience.

Accept solitude and sustenance from God.

Stay engaged with others.

Beware of intellectual pride.

 

Defeating Dark Angels (Kraft)

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Kraft, Charles.  Defeating Dark Angels.

After John Wimber’s Power Healing and Power Evangelism, this is the best book on inner healing and deliverance.  I would also recommend you read it in conjunction with JP Moreland’s book on Anxiety, whether you have anxiety or not.

Demons can attach themselves to wounds.  As Jesus brings healing to the wounds, the demons get weaker.

He makes an identification between demon, angel, and evil spirit.  I don’t think that is exegetically warranted, but that’s not where Kraft’s real strength is, either. He sees these as “the ground troops,” which are distinct from the principalities.  That much is correct. I think demons are “ground troops” as well and that is a good way of putting it. I just don’t think demons are fallen angels.

Can Christians be demonized?  We need to be clear that demonize does not mean demon-possessed. Kraft makes a very subtle distinction:  a demon cannot live in a Christian’s spirit–the deep core of a person–because Jesus lives there. Very true.  But the Christian’s spirit is not the whole person.

>>A demon cannot indwell a Christian in the same sense as the Holy Spirit can.  A demon is a squatter and subject to momentary eviction. 

>>Do demons “cause” events?  Not really. Normally they will simply “tag along” with a bad event and exploit it.

>>Demons will often “bluff” because they know while Christians have the greater power, they usually don’t use it.

>>Not only will demons attach themselves to sin, but also to damaged emotions.  In order to enter a person (but not a Christian’s spirit), a demon either has a legal right (e.g., the occult) or an entry point via an emotional or spiritual weakness.

Finding Quiet (Moreland)

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JP Moreland tells his story of how he overcame crippling anxiety by using practices known to the historic Christian tradition. He responds to the bad advice that says Christians don’t need anxiety medication because all you need is the bible and you’re in sin.  That is crippling, if not enslaving advice.  Flee from it.

Some fundamentalists say we can’t go to the outside world to learn about the soul or medicine, but Scripture does exactly that: Isaiah 19:11; Jeremiah 49:7; Zech. 9:2; Job 28:1-11).

Moreland begins with his well-known insights on the soul.  “The soul is an immaterial substance or thing that contains consciousness and animates/enlivens the body” (Moreland 31). The soul has sensations that reside in the soul, not the brain.  However, given certain “triggers,” they can obtain during physical moments.  The soul also contains faculties, capacities that are not currently “being actualized” (32).  When these capacities are properly grouped, they are called “faculties.”

The spirit is the faculty of the soul that relates to God (33).

Moreland’s key point, which I believe unanswerable, is that the body and the soul, while not the same thing, interact with each other.  The body “traduces” the soul, as it were. The soul has the faculty of sight, but without working eyes it cannot see. The body traduces the soul.

Then there are habits.  These are ingrained bodily practices.  Moreland argues, and I think it makes sense, that “anxiety is a learned habit that, through repeated flesh-forming activities (e.g., engaging in ‘what if?’ thinking about the future and exaggerating what might happen if the ‘what if?’ actually happens), forms grooves in the brain, the heart muscle, and nervous system that trigger uncontrollable anxiety” (43).

Let’s Sum Up

  • Our habits form grooves in the brain.  If these grooves are triggered (e.g., by a memory), “the conscious state will obtain in the soulish aspect of the body” (45)

Getting a Handle on Anxiety/Depression

Anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness, apprehension, or nervousness.  It always has a trigger, but we often don’t know what the trigger is (Moreland 52).  It acts as a cover on many of our deeper feelings.

Happy thoughts are not narcissistic.  In this book Moreland tells you to think happy and positive thoughts towards yourself.  He isn’t saying “Be happy clappy.”  The point is that you are trying to replace bad brain grooves with good ones.

Tools for Defeating Depression

Anxiety is a habit that is wired into our brain and nervous system (66ff).  Moreland draws upon the concept of neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to form new grooves.  This is why habit is so important.  Presenting our bodies before God in a certain way can rewire the brain.

The Four Step Solution

Step 1: Relabeling. We identify our destructive habits.

Step 2: Reframing.  We change our perception of the deceptive brain message (71).

Step 3: Refocus. We focus on something that distracts our attention.  We need to be very careful not to “outmuscle” the deceptive brain habit, since that only focuses on it all the more.

Step 4. Revaluing.

Heartmath

The heart is the deepest recess of our being (81).

Step 1.  Freezeframe.  Take a time out from the deceptive thought.

Step 2. Refocus. Shift away from the thought and focus more on your physical heart muscle.  I’ve done this.  It works.  Pretend like you are breathing in and out of your heart.

Step 3.  Wait for the emotion.  CFAN (Compassion/Care, Forgiveness, Appreciation, Nonjudgmentalism).

Step 4.  Melt the anxious thought.

Habit-Forming Practices

Contemplative prayer.  This is tricky, as it is easy to take it in a New Agey/Yoga Mom direction.  That’s not what Moreland is doing.  He isn’t saying, “Empty your mind and connect with the Beyond.”  Rather, we attach our emotions to God and calm ourselves in his presence.  In any case, it’s often hard to pray to God when you are buzzing with different thoughts and emotions.  This lets you “pray until you can pray.”

Step 1: Find a Quiet Place.

Step 2: Do a body scan and see if your are tense or anxious. Start praying some of the psalms you have memorized.

Step 3. This is probably where some will push back against what Moreland is saying.  He is saying, “Open yourself to Jesus’s presence.”  As long as you don’t get New Agey about it, it’s probably not a bad idea.

Step 4. Quietly wait in anticipation on God.

Step 5. Let go of all distractions.  Say, “Jesus, have mercy on me.” “I receive you.”  It hones your focus on God.

This isn’t mindless repetition, since the point isn’t to finally get God’s attention by chanting a mantra.

Practice Gratitude

I can attest to this one.  I have practiced being grateful even when I haven’t felt like it.  It really works.

Presenting our Bodies

Our fleshly habits are stored in our bodies.  Remember, our bodies “traduce” our souls. If our bodies are messed up, if our brains have stored anxiety in their grooves, then they won’t be able to properly transmit from the soul.  This is why taking medicine is okay.

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)

Bilateral stimulation. I used this a few years ago.  It works, though I don’t find it as effective as Heartmath.

Heartmath: the ancients knew that the “heart” was both physical and spiritual and that it had its own rhythm. That’s the point behind ascetic disciplines. Good and bad habits are stored in bodily grooves.  The disciplines retune the body.

Step 1: Heartfocus.  Focus your attention on the heart.

Step 2: Heart breathing.  Breathe in and out through the heart five or six times.  This can synchronize the breathing and heart rhythm (other things being equal).

Step 3:  Heart feeling.

Finding Quiet (Moreland, part two)

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Part 1.

Getting a Handle on Anxiety/Depression

Anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness, apprehension, or nervousness.  It always has a trigger, but we often don’t know what the trigger is (Moreland 52).  It acts as a cover on many of our deeper feelings.

Happy thoughts are not narcissistic.  In this book Moreland tells you to think happy and positive thoughts towards yourself.  He isn’t saying “Be happy clappy.”  The point is that you are trying to replace bad brain grooves with good ones.

Tools for Defeating Depression

Anxiety is a habit that is wired into our brain and nervous system (66ff).  Moreland draws upon the concept of neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to form new grooves.  This is why habit is so important.  Presenting our bodies before God in a certain way can rewire the brain.

The Four Step Solution

Step 1: Relabeling. We identify our destructive habits.

Step 2: Reframing.  We change our perception of the deceptive brain message (71).

Step 3: Refocus. We focus on something that distracts our attention.  We need to be very careful not to “outmuscle” the deceptive brain habit, since that only focuses on it all the more.

Step 4. Revaluing.

Heartmath

The heart is the deepest recess of our being (81).

Step 1.  Freezeframe.  Take a time out from the deceptive thought.

Step 2. Refocus. Shift away from the thought and focus more on your physical heart muscle.  I’ve done this.  It works.  Pretend like you are breathing in and out of your heart.

Step 3.  Wait for the emotion.  CFAN (Compassion/Care, Forgiveness, Appreciation, Nonjudgmentalism).

Step 4.  Melt the anxious thought.

Habit-Forming Practices

Contemplative prayer.  This is tricky, as it is easy to take it in a New Agey/Yoga Mom direction.  That’s not what Moreland is doing.  He isn’t saying, “Empty your mind and connect with the Beyond.”  Rather, we attach our emotions to God and calm ourselves in his presence.  In any case, it’s often hard to pray to God when you are buzzing with different thoughts and emotions.  This lets you “pray until you can pray.”

Step 1: Find a Quiet Place.

Step 2: Do a body scan and see if your are tense or anxious. Start praying some of the psalms you have memorized.

Step 3. This is probably where some will push back against what Moreland is saying.  He is saying, “Open yourself to Jesus’s presence.”  As long as you don’t get New Agey about it, it’s probably not a bad idea.

Step 4. Quietly wait in anticipation on God.

Step 5. Let go of all distractions.  Say, “Jesus, have mercy on me.” “I receive you.”  It hones your focus on God.

This isn’t mindless repetition, since the point isn’t to finally get God’s attention by chanting a mantra.

Practice Gratitude

I can attest to this one.  I have practiced being grateful even when I haven’t felt like it.  It really works.

Presenting our Bodies

Our fleshly habits are stored in our bodies.  Remember, our bodies “traduce” our souls. If our bodies are messed up, if our brains have stored anxiety in their grooves, then they won’t be able to properly transmit from the soul.  This is why taking medicine is okay.

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)

Bilateral stimulation.

Heartmath: the ancients knew that the “heart” was both physical and spiritual and that it had its own rhythm. That’s the point behind ascetic disciplines. Good and bad habits are stored in bodily grooves.  The disciplines retune the body.

Step 1: Heartfocus.  Focus your attention on the heart.

Step 2: Heart breathing.  Breathe in and out through the heart five or six times.  This can synchronize the breathing and heart rhythm (other things being equal).

Step 3:  Heart feeling.

Finding Quiet: What is the Soul?

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Moreland, J. P. Finding Quiet: My Story of Overcoming Anxiety and the Practices that Brought me Peace.  Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2019.

This is JP Moreland’s memoir of how he overcame debilitating anxiety.  It’s more than that.  It explains–in a way that the ancient Christians had long known–how formative practices can rewire the brain to combat anxiety. It deserves widest possible readership.

Some fundamentalists say we can’t go to the outside world to learn about the soul or medicine, but Scripture does exactly that: Isaiah 19:11; Jeremiah 49:7; Zech. 9:2; Job 28:1-11).

Moreland begins with his well-known insights on the soul.  “The soul is an immaterial substance or thing that contains consciousness and animates/enlivens the body” (Moreland 31). The soul has sensations that reside in the soul, not the brain.  However, given certain “triggers,” they can obtain during physical moments.  The soul also contains faculties, capacities that are not currently “being actualized” (32).  When these capacities are properly grouped, they are called “faculties.”

The spirit is the faculty of the soul that relates to God (33).

Moreland’s key point, which I believe unanswerable, is that the body and the soul, while not the same thing, interact with each other.  The body “traduces” the soul, as it were. The soul has the faculty of sight, but without working eyes it cannot see. The body traduces the soul.

Then there are habits.  These are ingrained bodily practices.  Moreland argues, and I think it makes sense, that “anxiety is a learned habit that, through repeated flesh-forming activities (e.g., engaging in ‘what if?’ thinking about the future and exaggerating what might happen if the ‘what if?’ actually happens), forms grooves in the brain, the heart muscle, and nervous system that trigger uncontrollable anxiety” (43).

Let’s Sum Up

  • Our habits form grooves in the brain.  If these grooves are triggered (e.g., by a memory), “the conscious state will obtain in the soulish aspect of the body” (45).