Friday, October 17, 2014

A Day in the Pulpit - and Other Thoughts

Page 1: Years ago, it wasn't that uncommon to find me in the pulpit of a church. Rarely did I do a morning service but often as a guest speaker in an evening service or at a missions conference. But I haven't been in a pulpit in a genuine way (to actually do the sermon) in 20 years, but this Sunday I am. It is a strange event how this came about. I knew that I had to find common ground with this church to say things and to say them in a way that I would not be misunderstood.

Probably the major reason I accepted the opportunity is for personal reasons not to make some great point in the message. I suffer from speaker's anxiety and when I don't do it, it gets worse. When I was asked to speak this Sunday, there was nothing on this earth I would find more terrifying.  I mean, about six years ago I was laying in a pup tent in NW Pakistan (came to help in an earthquake) surrounded by Taliban-types screaming, in English, "Death to the Americans!"  My own body guard abandoned me because he was afraid. But that wasn't nearly as terrifying as speaking to a large group, especially a church group and I'm serious about that. But so far, with some prayer, deep breathing, cognitive thinking, I'm handling this rather well. There have been times in the past that I didn't sleep for days before a talk. I slept like a baby the night when the Taliban-types were threatening to cut my throat in my sleep.

But to deal with fears requires exposure and exposure it will be. But I do want to gently talk about the metaphysical problems that Christians can have when they see this material world as junk ( a Platonic idea) and only the "spiritual" has value.  The talk is about stewardship of time and our metaphysical view has a major impact on how we approach that topic. If this material world is junk, as I was taught during my first 15 years of Christianity, then only time spend in matters of the "spiritual," prayer, Bible study and evangelism are significant. But if this material world is of great significance, then the matters of this world are of great value. Things like feeding the poor, fighting Ebola, helping in earthquakes, listening to the hurting non-Christian because we really care about them, not because they are an object of evangelism.

Page 2: Speaking of Plato, many people have encouraged me to read NT Wright. I had never until now. I'm in the middle of Surprised by Hope. It is strange and reassuring how I reached the same conclusions as he has through my years of personal study (the influence of Plato on the current Christian view of the cosmos).  We do disagree, which is not a big deal, it seems,(as I'm not finished yet), about the future. I'm post-mil, believing that the Church will eventually succeed and then Christ will return.  It appears that he is saying that my type of optimism is misplaced rational optimist of the old modernity (thinking that science and reason will solve all of our problems).  I don't think that is my position. I love science and reason, but they each are wanting in the area of morals.

Page 3: I was listening to the end of an NPR program yesterday. They were talking about new type of pastors or chaplains.  I will have to cut to the chase to say this new generation of chaplains blend religious orientations. One young man, who is finishing up his ministry degree, shared that he started out as a Lutheran, then atheist and finally a Buddhist. However, he declared, all three positions rest comfortable within his mind and he can reassure people with each orientation.  Then he went on to add that this generation (people under 35 I assume) are comfortable with believing several ideologies at the same time, even if some of them have contradictory views.

I was thinking that we were in the post-post modernism age or what some call "The Age of Authenticism." In philosophical orientations humans always swing back and forth to the extremes.  I had assumed that that philosophical (logical) synthesis (see Hegel) was over and the pendulum starting to swing back to the other direction.  I thought it had reached its apogee by 1991 when there was an investigation of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.  In the hearing, Anita Hill (work colleague) accused him of saying sexually explicit things to her. He denied ever saying sexual things to her, not one word. I remember a news anchor saying (because it was so confusing) that both were probably telling the truth (synthesis). It is clear one of them were lying, possibly both. But both can't be true. It is a metaphysical impossibility.

But this new generation was born in that world of thinking so it may seem natural, while totally illogical.  I hope that the pendulum starts to loose its momentum and return to the truth that would be obvious to a typical person for most of the past 35,000 years . . . opposites both can't be true at the same time . . . quantum mechanics as the only exception, perhaps.  This age needs to doubt more, both Christian and non-Christian. 

Last Page:  The book I've been working on for 10 years is much nearer completion. I'm working with an outstanding editor who works for Penguin Books and she has helped me to hammer the book into shape (and to shave 3,000 words from the manuscript).  I'm excited to see the light at the end of the very long tunnel.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Back Through The Looking Glass . . . Once Again

This will be of those difficult post, like I use to do. The feelings are as real as any feelings can be, but the words to describe them are allusive.

Us, post-evangelicals, are a lonely bunch.  We fit (speaking for myself) better in non-Christian groups than within evangelical ones . . . but to a point. We also find an impasse with the non-Christians eventually.

I've struggled on how to place my hand. I found comfort within a mainline church but out in the periphery.  There is constant calling for those needing warm bodies for all the programs for me to become more involved. But to do so would eventually mean a nasty conflict of cultures.  I choose my involvement carefully, mostly where the exchange of ideas would be limited, such as manual labor or work projects.

My wife and I made the decision to become part of a small group.  We knew we needed a platform on which to nurture relationships better.  It was a real "small" group with only five of us at max. Then one of the other individuals dropped out leaving it as two couples.  We enjoyed the group very much.  Of course we didn't see eye-to-eye with everything as no two people do. The other couple were thinkers and had been around LAbri. The major disagreement (which was almost never an issue) is that the other man considered himself an intellectual-charismatic.  So, when I hear the word "charismatic" I get a cold chill up my spine as I've been there, done that and it was ugly in my experience.  But, he never made an issue of it or even spoke in tongues during our group time.

Then our group was combined with a much larger group of about 15 people.  Suddenly, like boarding a time machine, I'm plucked back to my early evangelical days.

Here is where wording is difficult.  I hate this new group.  I do like the people and I think they are fine people, but when they are put together, like putting nuclear fuel rods together, an energy is created that is ugly (in my humble opinion).  I mean, standing in the kitchen eating cake and talking one on one is great. Like I said, they are fine people . .  probably much better people that I am. But when they enter the living room and take up their Bibles something dramatic happens and they warp into someone totally different.

I will try to describe what I feel but I know I will get it wrong.  In the Bible study a couple of verses are read then people start to share about that verse.  I sense I'm at a puppet show where the characters on stage are not real but the real operators are behind the curtain.  First of all, the speaker shares a short speech and then another shares a short speech. Several of the group are big talkers. But the 'speeches" are so stereotypical evangelical that I know exactly the words the person is going to say before their mouths open.  It appears to me that each person (working the puppet) is trying to give the illusion that God is great but what they are really want to communicate is that they, the person behind the curtain, is great.  Each one seems to be desperate to unveil their great spiritual attributes. I also sense a desperate effort to conform to evangelical mores of speech, which of course is trying to say that God is great. No one can argue with that so that seals the deal on the comment.  This is exactly why a ISIL fighter screams "God is Great" when he fires a mortar into a school.  Who can argue with him about his moral actions. Of course we can but not his peers because he punctuates his actions with the undeniable statement.

So here is an example.  A verse is read that says that there should be no immoral deeds among you and then there is a pause.

The first person tells a story about how people around them at work were cursing and using God's name in vain and how that grieved them so much because they (the speaker) have such heart for God. But then, over time, that person (who was "swearing") saw how the (speaker) was reacting to difficulties, by praying and not cursing God so they eventually stopped swearing.  They even invited that swearer to church.

Then the next person adds another long story along the same lines that communicates that they were a saint and the nasty non-Christians around them were bad people. But they always smile and then say at the end, "God is great isn't he?"  Which of course the whole group smiles and gives them positive reinforcement that what they just said was wonderful. Then there is the constant suggestion of supernatural miracles around them . . . puny stuff . . . not real miracles, as if we need miracles.

I, at that time, feel like my head is about to cave in from lack of content.

Again, these are good people but are only following the norms of evangelical "Bible study."

I finally spoke up when I kept hearing that we Christians have our act together because, unlike the evil non-Christians, we study the Bible, which purifies us.  I said that this concept of "godliness" is a myth because we, in my old days, studied the Bible non-stop and thought we were the most godly people on the planet . . . but then did awful things to one another, hateful things.  My comment was met with stares.  I forgot to end it with a big smile and say, "God is great isn't he?"

So, I don't know what we are going to do.  If there was a silver lining to this, it was on the way home in the car.  My wife, who previously wouldn't have seen a problem with such a "discussion" commented that the discussion made her feel physically ill and totally unsatisfying. I think I've rubbed off on her over these years.

But I'm not sure where this leaves us. Do we sit week after week tolerating the "God did this miracle and that miracle and I'm such a good Christian" talk just so we can have friends?  Is the trade off worth it?  My thoughts are trying to create a new small group.  I just don't know how many people I could find in the Church (a very good church in comparison) that has not drank from the Kool Aid bowl.  I just don't know. Being a Christian who is no longer an evangelical is a lonely place without an address.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Christian and the Statistician Walked into a Bar-Graph

Facebook, love it or hate it, gives me a cross section of my life. I joined it only to see photos of my grandsons. But quickly I met old friends from virtually each epoch of my life. There are people from high school, several from my evangelical days and then friends I'm met more recently.

I don't post that often. However, I have been bombarded by postings from old Christian friends. Some of them post about five times per day. I've had to "un-friend" many. The thing I notice the most evangelical posts (and I suspect that this is the backbone of the pop-side of the Internet) is the dissemination of "information" with quotes intended. This "information" is usually concerning political issues, such as "the lie of global warming." Recently it has been about the evil people in Gaza or the Soviet invasion of the Ukraine is proof that Jesus is coming soon (eyes roll here).  Regarding the situation in Gaza, if I've heard it once, I have heard it . . . well a hundred times at least, "Arabs believe only in death, Christians and Jews in life."  This is propaganda at its best.  But I digress.

Of course of late everything is about Isis. Their extreme violence makes them an easy "evil empire."  No doubt that they are evil and there is no excuse for that extreme evil, but the problems is, in the Christian domain at least, the discussion becomes very simplistic, dualistic and somehow points to the end times. We, the good guys are opposed to the bad guys.  No discussion of the political-social situation that breeds such groups as Isis.  To even bring up US foreign policy, as if were not perfect, would be an outrage. It did bother me that the greatest outrage of Isis' evil from my Christian friends came when they started killing Christians as if the tens of thousands of non-Christians of Isis' heinous crimes don't matter.

The topic that I'm the most expert in is medicine. Constantly cures are promoted on FB along with warnings against vaccinations, pasteurized milk, poisons in our food or the evils of prescription pills.  It seems that this "non-western medicine" has not only gripped the Post Modern society, but the Evangelicals as well and maybe more so. I remember when I was on staff with an Evangelical group that our insurance rates went sky high (like everyone's but more so) because the employees of the organization were extremely high-uses or non-western medicine.  If 20% of your company is going to the chiropractor twice a week it can be very expensive for insurance companies.

The evangelicals of course don't have the insight that they are just one small part of the present post-post modern culture. I work in what the lay people call "Western Medicine."  This is not an accurate title because most of the medical practitioners in China, India or any country practice the same type of medicine that I do. So the much better descriptive term is "Evidence-based Medicine."  This is what separates us out from the other side, which doesn't do studies or look for evidence but follow particular philosophical views about the body and health. It is a Gnostic knowledge, meaning in this case a spontaneous knowledge without supporting research.

I am not here to argue all the merits of Evidence-based Medicine because, like all things in this fallen world, it too is messed up.  I wish I had the time to tell the stories of how, what is best for the patient, is at the lowest end of the priorities in our present system. The top end is the war between insurance companies and providers and the constant fear of being sued. But I digress again but there are legitimate ethical questions that need to be asked about our system as well.

In Evidence-based medicine, as the name implies, the real dividing point is simple statistics and acknowledgement of the placebo (as well as the nocebo, imaginary negative effects) of treatments. In our form of treatment, we can not (or at least should not) promote a treatment unless it has been proven, statistically, to be superior to a placebo.  Our placebo is our gold standard because the placebo negates the physiological influence of the imaginary.

The backbone of evidence-based medicine is the well developed statistical method.  This is where this argument becomes philosophical as all mathematical arguments eventually do when you take them to their ultimate point. Statistics have worked out carefully the laws of probability and real effect. Math is the language of nature, meaning of all that is there in the physical world. I also am convinced that math explores the fabric upon which God as perched reality. I do believe that math is a "god-thing" to borrow an overused term from the evangelical. I've debated in my mind if I can say that math is infallible . . . and I think it is. It is my humble opinion that mathematics is spared from the Fall of Adam . . . but NOT the mathematician. So even in evidence-based medicine, the "mathematician" can get it wrong, either by poor calculations or by intent . . . in order to make something look better than it is.  As I understand, Mark Twain said that there are "Lies, Damn Likes and Statistics."  While I do believe, unlike Aristotle, that human reason is fallen and can't be trusted, the reason I believe that math is perfect, is because it is the echo of the creator Himself.

So, I do say that I believe that evidence-based medicine is more godly than that which is not because of the science behind it. It is based on statistical proof of effect and not just emotional placebo. I think you should expand this topic to the general way that Evangelicals approach truth. They don't consider the math  and they don't respect to how we can so easily deceive ourselves psychologically.

The key support of non-evidence based medicine is the testimony. From a mathematical side, and understanding human psychology (and economics) this is a very weak body of evidence.  back to the case of medicine, the testing where 1,000 patients are treated for y disease with x treatment and another 1,000 are treated for y disease with a placebo and neither the patients nor the investigators know who got the real, x, (double blind) can statistics be fulling trusted  . . .  but at that point it can be fully trusted due to the perfection of pure math.

Sorry, once again I only had time to type once and not proof-read. I dream of a day when I can think and type and proof-read what I type.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Friendships Across Philosophical Lines

It has been awhile since I've been here as of course I've been busy. Not only don't I have time to write, but sadly, I don't have time to think.  But there is something that has been on my mind and I wanted to air it out here.

I think men tend to be lonely by nature. So some of us, are far more lonely than others.  It isn't like I'm not around people. I sit all day long and listen to the most intimate stories of heartbreak and suffering and my job, by definition, is to console and comfort them. I even have my own therapist that I'm seeing right now to help me process my stress and deal with my natural anxieties. But neither of those are the same as friendships of course.

I asked my wife today why am I one of the loneliest men I know?  I, like a scientist, was seeking some common denominator that would explain it. I don't want to be alone.  I loved my years in college when I had many close friends. I loved to seek them out and to spend time together. But we were part of a cult and we shared one brain among us.

I know that one factor is my lack of time.  For example, I sometimes come here to Starbucks early in the morning, say 6 AM, and people I know come in. They say "hi."  But I'm here either to work on bill paying for my company or dealing with patient's requests for medication refills.  I know if I don't get all of this work done before 8 AM that I will behind all day. So I say "hi" back but I give body language that I don't want to sit and chat.

Today Denise, as we were driving home, said one of my problems is that I keep looking for people who think like I do.  She is partially correct.  But I'm old enough, however, to have given up the idealism that once had that I could be part of a Christian group where we all thought alike.

But I do find it hard to be close to someone who often brings up their views, such as the Democrats are Satan's tool for destroying America. Or that the Arabs should all be bombed. When Christian "friends" say things like that, I have no desire to be around them anymore.

I think one of the reasons . . . backtracking for a moment . . . that men in general are lonely is that men are more insecure than women.  We put up layers and layers of protection, hiding the true self.

I went to a dinner party last night at one of Denise's fellow employee's houses.  I knew no one, but I determined that I would make the best of it.  There were two other men and I tried stand in a circle and talk with them with some red wine in hand  However, they constantly talked of their accomplishments and how much money they had.  I was quite miserable until I stumbled onto a group of women in conversation, where I quite enjoyed the exchange. But, I can't have women as friends.

So, now back to my main point.  Recently we became part of a small group through our church. I do like it quite well.  It seemed like a good match as one of the couples had some experience through a LAbri  ministry. They were quite bright and understood philosophical  and theological issues quite well and didn't seem to be pretentious. The other person is a physician, so not an dumb person either.

As we have gotten closer to the first couple, the  man reveled to us that he was somewhat of a misfit in our church and within Christianity, because he considered himself as an intellectual mystic.  To be more precise, he is charismatic and speaks in tongues on a regular basis.  My heart sank.  I've been there and done that. I think, personally, that 99% if not 100% of so-called charismatic experiences are emotional and not spiritual. In my personal opinion it is the Christian equivalent of New Age spirituality, where the emotions are reinterpreted as supernatural spiritual experiences.

So, while I was disappointed,  I know that I can still be this man's friend.  Denise argues with me at this point that it is all my fault. But, my concern isn't that I can't accept someone who thinks different than I do, but I fear what is coming.  I've been told by so many charismatics over the years that my problem is that I haven't had x,y or z experience so therefore I am not a "spiritual person."  But they don't get it that I did drink of that Kool Aide once a long time ago and those years were the most dishonest of my life (and I think for everyone in our group). I never have a desire to go back there again.

I'm not the kind of person that tries to impose his views on other people. I'm quiet about my views. I only speak up when the pressure is being applied to me from the other side to believe like they do.

So we will see where this relationship will take me.

I'm being summoned so I must go once again before I can proof-read.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Problem of Certainty - Frank Says it Better

I've talked about this many times here, the issue of certainty being a delusion in both the Christian and Atheist's camps.  My son shared this interview with Frank Schaeffer where he says it better.  Do I agree with all of his views?  Probably not. But then again possibly . . . depending on how they are framed.

You can go here for the pod cast.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Question of Miracles

When I raise questions about mysticism or so-called supernatural events, I'm often misunderstood as a pure materialist.  That is the belief that miracles are impossible . . . even for God.  That is not true at all.

I don't like using the term "miracle" because it is loaded with connotations and emotions that I would like to avoid. Let's use an emotionally neutral word (made up word of course) of "outside-the-material-laws."  Do I think that God, in history, has stepped outside the laws of the material to do things?  Yes I do.  The Bible records some of those events. The fact that we and the material universe exist is a testimony to one of these events (creation). However, when you look at human history it appears that God very rarely works outside the beautiful laws of "nature" (actually laws of God). These actions are in unique times in history and for special purposes.  That leaves about 99.99999999999% of the time that God works within the beautiful laws, which He has created.

The real problem is, and the whole theme of this blog, is that in our historical past, we have become confused.  Due to the philosophical pressures from outside the Church, we have come to have a very distorted view of reality.  While we talk about the beauty of God's creation, in our deep places (underlying philosophical and emotional slant) we have the feeling that this material world is inferior.  Some of the old Gnostics expressed it most honestly when they claimed that the God of the Old Testament, the one who created the material universe and all of its laws, was an inferior god . . . maybe a "blue-collar" god.  He had to get dirty to make the material things.  Their God of the New Testament was only "spiritual" or non-material and the only way to know him was via the non-material.

We have adopted this into our Christian thinking that only the non-material is of significance.  Sure, we might like a sunset over the Grand Canyon and praise God for it. But we feel that we must re-label the emotional as "spiritual" or the works of the Holy Spirit to have any merit.

The other problem becomes emotional dishonesty.  If we live in a material world, one that God created and adores, yet we believe that events that are not explained by the material laws have value, then we seek the non-material. How many times have I heard pastors, on TV and in person, say things in closing like "Expect a Miracle."  We start to imagine that we see the non-material as a common occurrence.  We start to live in reality less and less.  Most of the TV evangelists are so far removed from reality that they might as well be living on a different planet.

My Christian friends often use the term "God thing."  What they are implying is that certain events happened only because God stepped in and did something outside of the material laws that He has so fondly created.

 "Sandra got the job!  It was clearly a God thing!" However, in that case, imagine that Sandra got the job because she was the most qualified and aced the interview.  But if you put it in those latter terms for your Christian friends they will not be nearly as impressed with you as if you had called it "clearly a God thing."

When I talk this way, my Christian friends feel a bit offended.  They sense that some how I'm trying to discredit God.  Holy cow (no pun intended) that is the total opposite of what I'm trying to do.  It is God who has created this material universe with all of its laws of physics, human psychology and human physiology.  It is glorious. It was made of out of nothing and therefore the whole damn thing is really "supernatural."  As Einstein said, either everything is a miracle or nothing is a miracle.  You can't  have a Dualistic universe where everything you see, the laws of physics, the laws of human behavior are all crap and the immaterial (the Holy Spirit speaking into my heart these special words) is far better.

I spent 20 years lying about miracles and my Christian friends did too. I know they did. I was there and witnessed the same reality that they did, but then they dressed it up as a supernatural event. Lying, all lying, is evil and separates us from the God who lives in reality.  We lie to ourselves more than anyone else. This is the human dilemma that, at its worse, becomes mental illness.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Brain . . . Meet the Soul

Throughout human history, philosophers, theologians and the common person have speculated on the resting place of the soul. This has been a huge metaphysical question. I think Plato did more thinking and writing about this than almost anyone else. It is far beyond this short posting between patients to give this idea any scholarly work.

I do want to bring one thought, continuing with my previous post, about this endeavor.  It is basically about the roles of emotion and rational thinking.

God has given us truth via His scripture and by His creative act of what is (or reality in other words).  When reality (creation) comes in conflict with scripture, one of them must be wrongly interpreted (if you follow the rules of logic).

We have come a long ways in our understanding of who we are.  The research is not complete. If the human mind was a city, we know the streets, the buildings, the infrastructure . . . while we may not know, yet, the names of each person residing in each of the buildings (cellular level). This evidence has come from decades of scientific investigation.  While it started with gross observation (looking at the brain), then moved into the mechanical (stimulating different parts of the brain with electrodes) now our examinations are far more complex using instruments such as Functional MRI and PET scans.

In very simple, high school, terms, it is within the cortex that higher reasoning takes place. This is the computational part of the brain. It is at this level that you could say "reason" resides. "Wired" into the cortex (as well as other places) are the senses of hearing, seeing, touching, tasting and smelling.  At this level language and memory are also a key component.

Beneath the cortex is another complex array of connections, which makes up the limbic system. Within the limbic system lies the seat of the emotions, sadness, fear, elation, excitement, hate and love.  Along with those emotional components lies also some aspects of long-term memory and the sense of smell.  We know these things with certainty. To steer away from theological or philosophical arguments about the source of the soul, this neuro-physiological reality is well established and trusted.

The purpose of our cortex is to explore the world around us (via sensory input) and to make sense of it through reason.  The purpose of our limbic system is to interpret the information organized and presented via the cortex. Due to both genetics and life experiences (nature and nurture) both the cognitive organization and the limbic interpretations can make mistakes.  The best example is with the paranoid schizophrenic.  They can see two people whispering (via the senses) but then interpret it as them talking about themselves. Then, via their limbic system, feel fear and threatened.

It really seems to fit well that God designed us and blessed us with the cortex of our brain as the part of us which finds knowledge about the created world around us.  Reason, as the method of that thinking, too is God's gift to us to find truth. It is our emotions, which God has also blessed us with, that can enjoy that knowledge once discovered.

Because of the powerful influence of Gnostic Dualism upon the Church and the western world (as well as the eastern world via other historical vectors) we have this warped economy of spirituality.  That which is physical, the earth, the product of human endeavors and the human mind have been relegated by his system, into the insignificant as compared to the grandeur of the invisible and subjective (what some would call mystical).

Sit in any Christian circle of sharing. The person who says, "I was driving home today and the sun broke through the clouds, forming a rainbow in the spray of the fountain by the lake and I heard clearly the voice of the Holy Spirit saying to me loud and clear that I should quit my job."  No one in the group would question your gnostic truth.  I know about this because I lived in this world for 20 years.  It wins you many brownie points among other Christians and makes you look spiritual.  Most of the time it is very emotionally dishonest. We would share things like that even if we didn't see a rainbow in the fountain but just make it up.  I'm speaking very candidly here and honest.

Now, imagine that you say, "I've thought long and hard about my job.  My talents are not being used properly, I don't like going to work, and I figured that I should change jobs. It is logical. I assume that God wants me to be fulfilled and that I use my talents, which He has given me, to their fullest."

Which of the two seems most spiritual in our present system?  I think it would be the first one. However, in reality, I think it is the second which is most spiritual. The reason is, if God is there, he exist within reality. The more we make stuff up and live in a magical world that is not really there, the less contact we have with real world where God dwells.

We now have created a system where we use emotions as our system for finding truth. This has been very dangerous and has often led us astray.  Our logical minds, married with our senses, is our real, God-given instrument for knowing truth. Our emotions make up our God-given ability to enjoy that truth.  It is the icing on the cake. It provides no nourishment, but pleasure or, in the case or terror, keeps us safe.

The position that I'm making is extremely unpopular in this present age where signs and wonders are considered the hallmarks of true christian spiritual experience. Frankly it is threatening to people.  However, it is a voice that is needed.  We now live in a post-Christian world and I do believe that one of the major reasons that we are now post-Christian is the failure of the Church to teach people to love God with their minds and to appreciate the material and wonderful world, which God has made . . . and made good.