Asked to share a few highlights from my life recently, I chose these for a speech last week, edited a bit here.
A year ago I published Living in Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. That book culminated my first career as a philosopher. I devoted that career to helping to construct a new philosophy of living based on truth, beauty, and goodness. And then I was called to a new career based on love, mercy, and ministry. The first career emphasized meaning and value. The second one emphases connecting with deity. For starters, truth reveals God’s love. Beauty expresses God’s mercy. And goodness is the outworking of God’s ministry.
Next story. Last winter, I saw a newspaper article telling that Wrayco, a nearby manufacturing plant, would be closing. Its 79 employees would lose their jobs. I went out to meet them on four occasions as they came into work. The first time, knowing the grieving process, I simply said to those who walked past, “I learned that the plant is closing, and I want to express my sympathy for your loss.” Then I would stop and let them respond. The workers were coming in early, and there was time to visit with many of them.
Although the first visit went well, I came back slightly frustrated because I hadn’t told the workers my core spiritual message. My drive to preach was fighting with my impulse to social service.
On the second visit, I decided to present that message, but only if they inquired. A number of them did ask about me, and I would say, “I’m an evangelist for the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. And I specialize in silver linings.”
On my third visit, my main message expressed a fresh realization, of the cosmos as a living organism. The plant manager had told me that these workers were the most skilled and had the best work ethic, of any group he had ever worked with. And this day I applauded them and thanked them for all their good work. And I said that everything good that we do has a ripple effect, and benefits everyone else. They really liked that idea.
On my last visit, I offered help to anyone who wanted it in their job hunt. Over the years, I have taken hundreds of job seekers and people in transition through a prayer process based on the conditions of effective prayer. On the back of the business card that I gave to those who were interested, I had written, “The truth of the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man—if you wholeheartedly believe it—will carry you through every transition.”
I want to acknowledge some things that I’ve learned personal ministry from two friends. To do this work, we need a particular quality of faith, which I see in Andrew Story and his reports of street ministry, as he will spend two or three hours with a person helping them find the light. His faith is like that of Jesus, “neither traditional nor merely intellectual; it [is] wholly personal and purely spiritual.”
Regarding street work, Ed Owen taught me that you can’t just preach to folks; you have to earn the right to be heard. You have to meet with people multiple times. Whet appetites. Don’t talk too much. Ask questions and listen. Find the one thought that you can give them on that occasion. And trust the spirit to do its work.
My third story begins last November, when my attention was suddenly drawn to a planetary emergency, occasioned by the rise of nationalism, with its increased risk of nuclear war. For a five months a significant portion of my blogging, podcasting, YouTube videos, and presentations were focused on how to stay spiritually anchored through the current crisis.
I’ll use a medical metaphor. The planet is in poor health.
Symptoms. The rise of nationalism, tangled together with ecological, social, economic, and political.
Diagnosis. Civilization suffers from acute imbalance: material achievement is racing ahead, while worship-wisdom lags behind. By “worship” here, I mean religious experience in its fullness. By “wisdom” I refer to more than book learning. Wisdom is experiential; and it covers all realms of human endeavor.
Imagine followers of Jesus who have studied some philosophy.
Here’s the prescription for the planet’s imbalance. Teachers who are experienced in personal ministry shall present to the world, the religion of the family of God, a message of love and mercy, worship and service, joy and liberty, doing the will of God and becoming like God. And this proclamation will be seasoned by the wisdom of the new and emerging new philosophy of living.
The new philosophy integrates religion with cosmology in a way that is commensurate with man’s intellectual and cultural development. I am using the word “cosmology” to include not just natural sciences but all of the sciences, including the discipline of interpreting texts by relating the part and the whole. Wise teachers meet people where they are; they trim their message to fit others’ capacity of receptivity. They study and apply the lessons of past history. No short cuts, or personal inventions to improve on the divine way. They see that people are in the temple before they try to show the beauties of the temple. A loyal combination of spirituality and wisdom will give our world a better chance to reverse its present decline and turn toward a spiritual renaissance.
In order for truth to move people, it must be appealing. And its appeal depends on three factors: what is presented, how it is presented, and the character of the messengers, their beautiful wholeness of righteousness. We gain that wholeness by coordinating in our lives the truths of science and the truths of religion. There is a sequence: truth-coordination first, and then the beautiful wholeness of righteousness.
The prognosis is that the short-term and intermediate term future is uncertain. But the long-term destiny is not in doubt. The patient will live. In the justice, power, and sovereignty of deity, truth and love will prevail. In an age to come, humankind will flourish gloriously.
My teachings on the planetary situation center on three pillars.
First, a perspective on law-governed evolution. This current crisis is an episode in a process of evolution that is divinely designed and supervised. Although the errors of imperfect creatures can cause horrific problems, we gain stability by recognizing the fact of the sovereignty of God. The Creator has established laws that are inherent in each level of creation—matter, mind, and spirit. There are laws that are discovered in the sciences. Laws of logical thinking that sharpen intuition of our moral duty. And laws of spirit about love, mercy, and ministry. Everything that happens takes place within the framework of these laws.
The second pillar is faith in God—not only as creator and controller but also as an infinite upholder. He is our friend, and the universe is deeply friendly—despite appearances to the contrary.
Third, reliance on the spirit. For example, the Spirit of Truth endows us with the power to sustain our poise in situations of serious injustice, to preserve our courage in the face of appalling danger, and to respond positively and actively to hate and anger by love and patience.
This approach to planetary problems applies to all kinds of difficulties. We pray not only for self but for all humankind. And then we shift into worship of the God who is the assurance of our eventual triumph.
The last story is not about spreading truth but about weaving the messenger. This is another story of sequence. After months of intense effort on the planetary crisis, followed by intense effort in my new ministry training program, there was a price to pay. Soon I realized the need to slow down and nurture the emergence of my own wholeness.
So now I am making it a major priority to balance my worship-wisdom by learning better to carry out material and social responsibilities. Spiritual experience occurs on a daily basis, as do new philosophical insights. When problems arise, breakthroughs come quickly. But my work now is to translate insights and breakthroughs into habits of trustworthy character. Health, sanity, and happiness are integrations of truth, beauty, and goodness as they are blended in human experience.
To celebrate with you this recovery of rhythm, I close with a poem that I call . . .
A friendly touch from out-of-sight,
A simple gift, a big delight.
Remember now to rise and turn
To thank and live and stand and burn
in flames of friendship deep and true.
While cosmic thoughts soar forth in hues
Of sky and stars and heav’nly home
that reaches down to welcome lone-
ly pilgrims. Here find calm
to rest and live your daily psalm
as friends of God, who deep within
strengthens all who live in him.
Photo credit: 5 By Jae – originally posted to Flickr as Making Peruvian Inca Textiles, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8963557