‘Till You’re Blue in the Face: Some Thoughts on Faith and Reason

What is philosophy?

This  question has driven my studies since I first became interested in the discipline ten years ago. For the longest time, I gave little attention to philosophy, thinking that it was for really smart people and those who liked to ask nagging questions about abstract ideas. Yet, when I took my first philosophy class out of a desire to know more about the discipline (instead of taking it because I had to for my degree), I realized that there was much more to philosophy than I had dismissively thought before. More specifically, I began to realize the value philosophy has for the believer.

My interest in the nature of philosophy derives from my previous attitude toward the discipline, which mirrored the attitude many conservative evangelical Christians have toward it. In an age where many philosophers have done much to discredit and harm Christianity, it’s no wonder that philosophy has such a bad rap among many Christians. However, when I began to study the history of philosophy, as well as various philosophical disciplines, I was amazed by the fact that many of the questions philosophy has sought to answer are questions that are very near and dear to the Christian faith. How, I began to wonder, can we as Christians use philosophy such that it is a boon to the faith as opposed to a detriment? The more I studies philosophy, the more another question became prominent in my studies: What is the relationship between faith and reason?

FAQ-Faith-ReasonFaith. Reason. In our culture, where we like to pit A against B, ‘faith’ and ‘reason’ have become perennial foes in both Christian and non-Christian circles. Faith has come to represent those who grant authority to some holy book or, in particular to Christianity, in divine revelation as the basis for and grounding of knowledge. Faith has come to encapsulate anyone whose worldview has room for the supernatural and subsumes all belief under divine revelation.

Reason, on the other hand, has come to represent those who reject any form of divine authority and revelation in favor of human autonomy. Human reason is sufficient to grant us the knowledge we need to understand the world, the wisdom by which to live this life, and the ability to discover the means for survival. Reason is also the standard by which to judge all belief; for one to hold to any religious belief is to, essentially, be unreasonable.

This dichotomy between faith and reason has a long, storied past. But, in Western culture (particularly in America), it has gained prominence among Christians and non-Christians alike, to the point that the discussion has essentially become “faith OR reason.” More so, the discussion on faith and reason has increasingly become primarily an epistemological issue – the one who is right is he who has the right belief(s).

Indeed, it is very important that one believes the right things – Christianity is a religion that distinguishes right beliefs from wrong beliefs. We are called to share the Gospel to the entire world, and to encourage and admonish one another in the Word – matters that involve sharing, correcting, and elaborating upon propositions. However, the emphasis on the epistemological aspect of the faith/reason issue is to miss a key factor at play when Christians and non-Christians debate dialogue – it is the issue of the will.

Credit: Coldbourne.

Credit: Coldbourne.

Let me illustrate. Have you ever argued with a family member about a course of action they are about to take? You know (as do others) that you are in the right, and the reasons for your position are practically self-evident. Reason dictates that your family member not take a certain course of action. The particular family member “sees” what you are saying, and fully comprehends your reasoning. Yet, despite your reasoning, they still choose to take the course of action. That is, they’ve heard your reasoning, and they even acknowledge that they understand where you’re coming from, but they still choose to go their own way. As they saying goes, you argue until you’re blue in the face, but to no avail. Your family member has not heeded your reasoning.

So, back to the faith/reason dichotomy we’ve been discussing. If the matter were primarily epistemological—that it is just a matter of right belief versus wrong belief—then it would seem that the faith and reason problem would be easy to solve. But that is far from the case; instead, what we see is little headway made in one side convincing the other is wrong. One’s case only strengthens his own beliefs and the other’s beliefs.

The modern faith/reason dichotomy is missing the key component of the human will and the role it plays in one’s belief. A Christian refuses to believe the atheist’s argument because he chooses not to; likewise, the atheist refuses to belief the Christian’s argument because he chooses not to. As such, debates end up with the two parties talking past one another. The issue is not primarily an epistemological one; rather, it is also a volitional one.

Paul K. Moser, a Christian philosopher at Loyola University Chicago, has a helpful approach to the problematic faith/reason dichotomy. In 2012, Moser’s paper titled “Christ-Shaped Philosophy” initiated an on-going project at the website for the Evangelical Philosophical Society—a project titled the “Christ-Shaped Philosophy Project.” Though Moser’s earlier works touched on his Christ-shaped philosophy, Moser’s 2012 paper sought to sound a call for Christian philosophers to rethink what it meant to be a Christian philosopher, and to do Christian philosopher. What made Christian philosophy different from secular philosophy?

Agony in the Garden. Credit: Andrea Mantegna

Agony in the Garden. Credit: Andrea Mantegna

For Moser, what makes a Christian philosopher a Christian philosopher (as opposed to a philosopher who happens to be a Christian), is that the individual has encountered what Moser calls a Gethsemane union – the volitional act in which one commits “to the God who sends his Spirit with agape and forgiveness for the sake of union with Gethsemane union with Christ.”[1] Moser’s allusion to Gethsemane points to Jesus’ willing and humble obedience to God’s will when he was in the Garden of Gethsemane the night of his arrest.[2] Here, our Lord prays, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39, ESV). Despite knowing what he would endure on the cross, Jesus humbly obeys the will of the Father.  There is the volitional act of Jesus submitting to God’s will.

Likewise, when one comes to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, they are not merely assenting to a proposition (though this is involved). James 2:19 warns us that even the demons believe, yet they tremble in terror. Salvation involves one’s volitional act of laying aside her own will and submitting to the will and authority of God the Father through faith in Jesus Christ.[3] Moser emphasizes that one’s Gethsemane union with Christ cannot come about through their own intellectual power (or any other human power); it comes only through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Gesthemane union with Christ calls for “volitional cooperation and companionship with Christ, who empowers and guides” in all we do.[4]

[Moser states earlier – and this is vital to understand the proper context of the quote just given – that:

The Gethsemane union with Christ, although volitional, is grace-centered, because it revolves around God’s unearned offer and sustenance of companionship with receptive humans. One must “work out” this union for salvation (see Phil. 2:12), but such “working out” is volitional cooperation with God that differs from “works” as a means of earning or meriting salvation (cf. Rom. 4:4). Accordingly, Paul describes himself as struggling according to all of the energy that God empowers in him (Col. 1:29). No Pelagian threat will arise here, as we distinguish the terms for offering a gift (for instance, completely unearned) from the conditions for appropriating the gift (for instance, cooperation of receptive humans with God). A requirement of active human cooperation with God, after the model of Jesus in Gethsemane, does not entail a requirement of human earning (emphasis original)].[5]

In short, Moser’s “Gethsemane union” illustrates that the dichotomy between faith and reason is a false one; one’s beliefs and assent to authority necessarily involves the will—a volitional act. This is not relegated to Christians alone. All make the conscious choice of what to believe, particularly when faced with claims that go against one’s beliefs. In the context of Christian evangelism and apologetics – it is not just a matter of convincing a lost person that they are wrong and that they need to believe (assent) to the Gospel. It is (more importantly) that their will is moved by the power of the Spirit to choose to believe the Gospel and to accept in faith the God’s free gift of grace found in Christ Jesus. And this can only be done through the work of the Holy Spirit, for no man can move or change the will of another.

The discussion on the relationship between faith and reason, then, is better presented as that of the relationship between faith, reason, and the will. With Moser’s concept of the Gethsemane union found in his “Christ-Shaped Philosophy”, I believe we can set the discussion on the relationship between faith and reason within a more proper context. We can then move beyond the faith=Christian/religious, reason=autonomous human distinction and into a more fruitful discussion of how “faith” is not relegated to the religious alone; rather, all of humanity practices faith—the issue is in whom/what one’s faith is placed. Further, “reason” is no longer seen as self-sufficient or as “requiring no justification from anything more ultimate than itself.”[6] Rather, reason is rightly viewed as one’s cognitive ability to discern, make judgments, and analyze ideas (this is a very basic definition; one of my goals is to write on the ontological nature of reason – a proper view of what reason is).

As believers, the question regarding faith and reason is not one of faith vs. reason. We need not shun reason in order to remain faithful. Rather, reason is an ability given to us by God to use for his glory. Rightly understood, faith and reason work together, and do so as intended when the human will is in Gethsemane union with Jesus Christ our Lord.

[1] Paul Moser, “Christ-Shaped Philosophy.” Evangelical Philosophical Society, Christ-Shaped Philosophy Project, 2012. Accessed http://www.epsociety.org/userfiles/art-Moser%20%28Christ-Shaped%20Philosophy%29.pdf.

[2] Paul Moser and Michael T. McFall, eds., “Introduction,” in The Wisdom of the Christian Faith (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 6.

[3] Moser, “Christ-Shaped Philosophy,” 6.

[4] Moser, “Christ-Shaped Philosophy,” 9.

[5] Ibid., 7-8.

[6] John Frame, A History of Western Philosophy and Theology (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2015), 7.

How I’m Starting to “Get” the Race Problem

I grew up in south Louisiana in a town where – from my perspective – racism was not out in the open. At least, I did not “see” instances of racism. My parents raised my siblings and me to respect everyone regardless of color, and because I did not see my parents speak of or act toward African-Americans in a derogatory or prejudiced manner, I assumed that everyone else was of the same belief. As such, I saw the world as one in which racism was an issue of the past.

There were moments, though, when it would hit me that my town still had a “black section.” Further, I did find it odd that our high school had a very disproportionate ratio between whites and blacks (if I my memory serves me correctly, I think it was 99% whites to 1% black, or something close). However, I assumed that the way I saw things was good – that we were beyond the racial strife of the ’60s and African Americans now enjoyed the rights and privileges whites had always enjoyed. In short, I didn’t see any problems with the way things were, and I had no problems with African Americans.

It was not until I moved to Kentucky to attend graduate school that I came to recognize that my view on race issues was not accurate. I began to see every time I visited home that there was a tenseness that increased the further south we travelled – that while there were no racial issues overtly public, it seemed to simmer just below the surface (this is not to say that racism is primarily in the south; rather, it is to say that my view of the south, in particular, was wrong). I also began to see racism differently; how I had initially understood racism (an overt act against another person because of their race) was a very narrow view, one that did not factor what I had been guilty of for quite some time – prejudice that isn’t overt, but which infects the very assumptions and beliefs of my worldview.

For example, for quite some time I believed that African Americans were given the same opportunities as me – a middle class white male. They lived in an age where the Civil Rights Act was firmly in place. Thus, any African American who lived in poverty and its resultant problems did so because they didn’t take advantage of what was available to them. That is, essentially, they “chose” to be who they were and where they lived (that is, that’s how I saw things). Any protests or demonstrations by African Americans was just an issue of “playing the race card” and refusing to work hard to get out of whatever situation they were fighting against. In short, I saw the current state of many African Americans as their own fault.

How wrong I was! It took me a while to really see that racism is not just an overt act against one of another race; rather, it is something that reaches down to one’s very attitude and assumed beliefs. It can lurk unseen, impacting how one interprets current events, how one votes on issues, and how one acts towards others not like themselves. We tend to focus too much on one’s visible actions; instead, the issue lies with the heart and one’s underlying beliefs and attitudes.

The news in our nation lately has been consumed with tragedies that have renewed the racial strife that defines our nation. In particular to recent police shootings, Jake Meador over at mereorthodoxy.com has a helpful post (On Alton Sterling and Philando Castile) in which he encourages white Americans to look at the heart of the issue that we tend to “not get”.

White people need to listen to our black neighbors when they tell us that they are afraid of the cops—and we shouldn’t assume the worst when we hear them say that. Indeed, the Castile shooting seems to be something of a perfect rebuttal to all the people who have, so far, tried to dismiss the other shootings as results of individuals not complying with police. Castile was calm, disclosed to the officer that he had a gun, and was reaching for his license and registration when shot. You cannot simply cite the more ambiguous cases, like Michael Brown, and act as if that solves the issue. It doesn’t at all. There are plenty of examples that adequately explain why a completely innocent African American, and especially an African American man, would still feel afraid when they see a cop (emphasis mine).

What Meador is getting at is that we white Americans tend to not see the real race issue behind the recent shootings – what looks like isolated events to us is instead to the African American just one more injustice in a long history of injustices at the hand of those in a position of power.

If we broaden out to our culture in general, I think Meador’s observations apply. It’s easy for whites to look at African Americans and think that they don’t encounter the racism and prejudice experienced just a generation ago. It’s easy to think as such since we are now in a day of civil rights, where we now have laws protecting against discrimination based upon race. And, indeed, this is true. No longer are African Americans enslaved or under the crushing burden of Jim Crow laws – America has changed laws and entities that prevent the sins of our past toward our African American brothers and sisters. But what American law and government cannot change are the decades upon decades of beliefs and attitudes that undergirded race relations from the beginnings of our nation. Laws and government pronouncements cannot change the hearts and minds of men and women who grow up within a particular context and culture – one in which whose fabric is made up of the attitudes and beliefs of those who have gone before.

So, for the African American, there is a long and arduous history of oppression and discrimination at the hands of whites in some form of power or authority. Thus, fears, apprehensions, and distrust toward whites is handed down to future generations because it is in the very fabric of their lives. Sure, the Civil Rights Act has given them the equal standing they rightly deserve, but what the Civil Rights Act cannot change are the hearts of men in which lies attitudes and beliefs of prejudice, discrimination, mistrust, and wrong perceptions. So while race relations have indeed made improvement and the law seeks to be blind in regard to race, African Americans still face the attitudes and beliefs that have shaped and defined our culture for over two centuries. As such, the killings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and Paul O’Neal are not isolated events – rather, they are one more note in the cry of anguish from a people still seeking to overcome the oppression caused by the sins of our nation. Further, acts of discrimination (real or perceived) are not isolated events – rather, they are yet another affirmation that the status quo continues. [The author of the blog Beyond the Glass Wall wrote a very helpful blog post titled “Why I am a Racist…” that explains better than I can what I tried to express here.]

Some may say: Are there acts of racism not just by whites, but by blacks (and Hispanics, etc.) as well? Yes. Is every white person racist? No. What I am saying is that though many white Americans do not condone racist acts and beliefs, we can unwittingly harbor prejudice beliefs that cloud how we interpret current events such that we don’t see things the way the African American community sees it.

Personally, I don’t think white Americans will ever “get” it – that is, we will never fully know the struggle that African Americans speak of. We won’t ever truly understand their cries for justice and pleas for peace after yet another tragedy, because we, as white Americans, have not had to experience what their people have faced and still face. But, we can do our best to try to understand their pain – to see why they continue to fight for their rights. What has helped to open my eyes to their plight (and here I get to the point of my post) is probably the one source that most anyone would not think of – fiction. Several works have had significant influence in opening my eyes to my own prejudices that have gone unnoticed for quite some time. Here are a few with some thoughts:

  1. The first work that had a significant impact on me was The Same Kind of Different as Me, by Denver Moore and Ron Hall. This is a true story (the only non-fiction book I note in this post) of how an international art dealer from Texas and a homeless, former sharecropper African American became best friends and brothers in Christ. The chapters alternate between each men as they tell their history, how they crossed paths, and how their friendship grew into brotherhood. The book is a picture of God’s saving grace and his divine healing of both men from the sins of their past and racial prejudice.
  2. Another influential book was Leon Uris’ Trinity – a book about the Easter Uprising in Ireland (1916). Though it takes place in Ireland and the struggle between the Catholics and Protestants, it captures the very matter I discuss in this post – the struggle of an oppressed group to overcome prejudice and discrimination, and to break out of the cycle of despondency brought about by oppression. What stood out in particular was how prejudiced beliefs and attitudes played out through politics, economics, and even religion can have a long-lasting affect upon successive generations, creating a perpetual gyre of hopelessness and despondency from which a rare few can break.
  3. The works of Ernest Gaines – a Louisiana-born, African American, award-winning author (for a biographical note on Gaines, go here) – are of particular importance to me and my changing view of the racial issue that divides our nation. The setting for most of Gaines’ novels is in the Louisiana of the 1960s and 1970s in which, through the power of fiction, he illustrates the struggle of African Americans in a post-Civil Rights South. Two novels in particular that have had an impact on how I have come to understand race relations from the perspective of African Americans are: A Gathering of Old Men – a novel in which a black man kills a white farmer in self defense, yet is in danger of being lynched by the dead man’s powerful father. The second novel is In My Father’s House – a novel about Phillip, a minister and civil rights leader who encounters his past when his son from a previous relationship seeks to contact Philip for the first time in years. These two novels – in a simple yet powerful way – illustrate the struggle of African Americans that we hear spread over the news after yet one more tragedy. Here one experiences the fear of injustice, the struggle to overcome discrimination, and the herculean effort to fight the past in order to forge a new, hopeful life. Gaines gives the reader a unique perspective that otherwise would be missed by anyone not in the African American culture.
  4. The Forge by Thomas Stribling follows the Vaiden family in the moments before and during the Civil War, followed by their changed way of life during the Reconstruction. Though the Vaiden family is a white family, Stribling using them to illustrate the attitudes of the white South toward blacks, and how they justified slavery and the social structure of the Old South. Interestingly, despite the Vaidens’ attempt to begin life anew in an ever-changing post-war South, the family illustrates how racism kills essentially deadens a culture, stripping away any life and vitality.

There are many more books that help us to “see” what the race issue is about, particularly those of us who have never had to face racism or prejudice directed toward us. These, however, are the books that have had a very significant impact on me and have changed how I view our culture.

Jarvis Williams, PhD, is a professor of New Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and he has done significant work in calling for racial reconciliation within not only the Southern Baptist Convention, but within American Christianity as well. He recently sent me a helpful link of past and current works by African Americans on the race issue in America – thoughtful pieces that seek to put into perspective the reality of racism today, and how we can move forward. The link was put together by the African American Intellectual History Society in the wake of the Charleston shooting on June 17, 2015. This is a great way to gain a deeper understanding of America’s racial issue.

The race issue today is complex, and it will take all parties’ cooperation to move forward. Everyone, regardless of race, has some level of prejudice that must be dealt with. We must all do our parts. And one way we can move forward is for white Americans to strive to understand African Americans’ side of the race issue and to reassess attitudes and beliefs accordingly. This isn’t the only step needed for reconciliation, but it is a necessary and vital one.

Two Rams Fighting

The Act of Disagreement: A Vanishing Art

It goes without saying that if you want encouraging news, then don’t go on Facebook (or any other social media site, for that matter). Whereas social media seemingly began as an innocent means for friends to connect, it has increasingly become a virtual soapbox for anyone to broadcast whatever chaps their hide. Though there are many who seek to avoid the cacophony of complaints and rants, they are seemingly unable to be heard above the noise of political, religious, and cultural rantings.

Two Rams FightingWe could spend countless hours discussing the reasons why negativity reigns supreme throughout social media, but that’s not the purpose here. What I want to focus on is the vanishing art of disagreement. I wrote in a previous post that social media has exacerbated the tendency of poor argumentation – attacking the person with whom one disagrees as opposed to dealing with the issue. Instead of dealing with the issue, it is easier to resort to character-bashing, name calling, and ranting. One result of this poor approach to argumentation is the devaluing of the act of disagreement. What can be a fertile field for dialogue tends to be nothing more than a verbal slugfest.

When two or more people disagree, there is an opportunity for both to seek to either demonstrate the plausibility of one’s view or to persuade the other of one’s view. Here, the parties seek to reason with each other about the issue(s) at hand. And while agreement is not always attained, a disagreement handled well can aid in the parties at least understanding where the other is coming from.

"Dialogue" within social media. Credit: Coldbourne.

“Dialogue” within social media. Credit: Coldbourne.

However, we are human; disagreements involve not only one’s reason, but their emotions and deeply-held beliefs as well. As such, disagreements can descend into shouting matches or verbal standoffs as emotions rise and beliefs are insulated from attack. Granted, this is not a problem that has risen since the advent of social media, but it has become more of an issue recently because we daily encounter an onslaught of disagreements as more and more people are able to have their voice heard.

What is needed today is a refresher on what it means to disagree and how to operate within a disagreement. Honestly, I don’t have this issue figured out—it’s something I’ve just begun reflection upon. But, here are a few thoughts that came to mind:

  1. Is voicing a disagreement necessary? That is, why do you feel the need to state a disagreement? Is it for edification (there are times when a disagreement must be voiced)? Or, is it to satisfy the desire to get on the proverbial soapbox?
  2. Is the disagreement legitimate? That is, is there a valid point of disagreement? Sometimes disagreements are over peripheral issues or matters of preference – things where there is room for disagreement without the need to break fellowship.
  3. Why are you disagreeing? This question is similar to the first question, but here I have in mind the idea of purpose. A disagreement seeks to right a wrong, expose error and promote truth, and to clear away any hindrances to right relationships. Yet, often times one disagrees out of dislike of a person or idea. Some are contrarian by nature, while others have a strong sense of being right in all (if not most) matters. Thus, they pick a battle often. Regardless, disagreement for the sake of disagreeing does nothing more than stir strife and deepen any divide.
  4. Is it the right time to disagree? Here, I have the idea of choosing your battles wisely. As a parent, I find myself so quick to correct my daughters. Yet, as they’ve grown older (and I hopefully wiser), I’ve found that it is best to be silent at times, while there are other times best for correction. That is, I don’t need to nit-pick their every wrong – I’ll end up exasperating them. Likewise, if one’s tendency is to voice a disagreement at every wrong (real or perceived), then they are likely to be viewed as the boy who cried wolf. There is wisdom in the words of Proverbs:

    A fool gives vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back (Prov. 29:11, ESV).

    Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him (Prov. 29:20).

  5. Is the disagreement stated in context? Twitter and Facebook allow for quick responses to news, articles, etc. As such, the temptation is to simplify the issue of disagreement. That is, it comes across like “they say A, but I say B!” It sets up a dichotomy between the two parties. I just did this in a Tweet (since deleted) where I linked an article with which I disagreed along with a claim of my own. Sure, it let others know of where I stood, but it did little on illuminating what the article’s author said that I disagreed with, and how I believe we should answer him. Most people, when reading a status update, will only read a linked article’s title as the context of the disagreement. But, if this is the case, little is done by way of edification or correction; rather, it just illustrates a dividing line between two people’s ideas and beliefs.

If there is anyone who had the authority to call out every point of disagreement, it was Jesus Christ. God Incarnate, the Truth, walked among mankind two thousand years ago. Amazingly, Jesus Christ exhibited much patience and grace toward sinners. Granted, Jesus was quick to rebuke at times the Pharisees and scribes, and even the disciples, but his overall approach was not like the cultural warrior we see today – wielding a verbal sword to cut down every false notion and word. Rather, firm in truth, he approached mankind (and still does) with patience and grace. The Gospel accounts show us Jesus patiently teaching, asking questions, and listening to the lost. Even with the religious leaders of his day Jesus exercised patience in his rebuke of sin and error. We can learn much be reflecting on what the Gospels teach us about how Jesus interacted with those who disagreed with him, and with those who were in error.


Read to Them Still While They’re With You: Dispatches from a Dad of Girls

This was the night before my PhD interview (2009). Angie told them to act like daddy. :) Credit: Angie McDonald

This was the night before my PhD interview (2009). Angie told them to act like daddy.🙂 Credit: Angie McDonald

My wife and I made it a regular practice to read to our girls when they were young. The time spent reading to them before bed time formed sweet memories. Sure, there were nights when we would rather go to bed, and other nights where the last thing we wanted to was to read to them [parents, you know what I’m talking about😉 ]. But, all in all, I look back on those times with much fondness.

As the girls have grown older and more independent, our practice of reading to them has become more of a rarity. Speaking for myself, I did not see the “need” to read to my girls; my thought has been that they are now old enough to read on their own. They need the practice of learning to work through books, build their comprehension skills, and venture out to discover what kind of literature they enjoy. So, for the last several years, I honestly can’t think of many times when I’ve read to my daughters.

The Last Sin Eater, by Francine Rivers. Credit: Amazon.com

The Last Sin Eater, by Francine Rivers. Credit: Amazon.com

The past several days have brought a dramatic change to the way I think about reading to my children. My oldest daughter, Maddi, has to read Francine Rivers’ The Last Sin Eater before the new school year begins. She had been trying to read it on her own (she has developed into an avid reader, willingly reading a book while her sisters are watching TV); because I see her reading so much, I just assumed that she was enjoying the book. The other night, however, I realized that the opposite was true – she said that she didn’t want to read the book…at all.

My wife and I began to pepper her with questions, such as “Why don’t you like it?” and “Don’t you know it’s required for school?” Of course, I brought up the obligatory reminder: “We bought that book for you to read! You have to read it!” But nothing we said would deter Maddi from her decision – she was not going to read the book. Then, in a rare moment of lucidness in the face of conflict, a new question came to mind. I asked Maddi if I could read the book with her. I told her that I was interested in the book and that it would be fun to go through it together. Well, my suggestion worked. Maddi would finish the book, only if Angie and I would go through it with her.

That night I began reading to Maddi – the first time in quite a while. And what a joy it was! I’ll be honest – my throat was dry and my voice getting hoarse (middle school books have longer chapters than the kid books!). There was even a point when I felt that Chapter 1 was taking way too long (again, middle school books have longer chapters than kid books). But, as I read through Chapter 1, I stopped periodically to answer her questions or to offer an explanation of a concept. Already, in one night of reading, we were able to discuss the problem of sin and our need of a redeemer. The next night I read Chapter 2 to her – there were not as many questions this time, but again, we were able to discuss some underlying themes of the story (how we can’t remove the sin of stain, for instance). Little did I know going into this “compromise” that our reading time would be an opportunity to discuss Scripture and biblical themes. Further, I did not realize that it would rekindle the joyful practice of reading to my children.

Our Libby asleep with her favorite blankie and a good book. Credit: Angie McDonald

Our Libby asleep with her favorite blankie and a good book. Credit: Angie McDonald

Where have I been all of this time?! As I type this, I don’t see how I thought that reading to children was only for the toddler years. Rather, it can be something that lasts as they grow older. I’m not trying to say here that if you’re not reading to your older kids, then shame on you. Not at all! Rather, what I am saying is that I have missed out on something that I find my children are still open to. We are always looking for teachable moments – what better way than when reading to our children?

For more on reading to older children, check out this helpful article: The Importance of Reading Aloud to Big Kids  by Melissa Taylor.

John Leland, Baptist Minister

Russ Moore’s Soul Freedom: An Idea as Old as Baptists Themselves

John Leland, Baptist MinisterA video of Russel Moore’s response to a question at the SBC Convention has made the rounds today. It is a video of Moore’s response to a question from John Wofford of Armorel Baptist Church, Blytheville, Arkansas. Generally questions from SBC messengers or members are not worthy of re tweeting or posting on some social video site, but Wofford’s question strikes a chord with many conservative Americans, and Moore’s answer (to which I agree) ruffles the feathers of many of the same. Watch the video below for Wofford’s question and Moore’s response:

One can understand Wofford’s question in light of the atrocities that have happened on American soil and abroad at the hands of Islamic extremists. But, denying Muslims in America the right to build mosques is to undercut the very religious liberty Baptist enjoy – the very religious liberty every religion in America enjoys. The government is to extend to every individual right of “soul freedom” – the right to choose to worship their religion without interference from the government. That is, the United States government should not dictate who is able to build a house of worship and who is not. The government should not dictate who can worship their religion and who cannot. Religious liberty is extended to every individual and guarantees that the government will not interfere.

The idea of “soul freedom” is not unique to Moore, nor is it an idea that has been birthed by the recent clash with militant Islam. Rather, it’s an idea that has been around as long as Baptists have been around.

John Leland (1754-1841) was a Baptist minister in early America, having served churches in Virginia and Massachusetts. What Leland is perhaps most known for is his fight for religious liberty. Robert G. Torbet, in his A History of the Baptists, says Leland was “leading Baptist spokesman in behalf of religious freedom.”[1]  Leland states in his An Address Delivered at Westfield, March 4, 1833, that “next to the salvation of souls, the civil and religious rights of men have summoned my attention, more than the acquisition of wealth or seats of honor.”

Leland’s view on religious liberty directly flows from how he understood the relationship between church and state. Leland believed that “government has no more to do with religious opinions of men than it has with the principles of mathematics.”[2]  So strongly did he believe in a strict separation of Church and State, that any idea of a Christian commonwealth (i.e. State) “should be exploded.”[3] 

Government, when rightly formed, embraces Pagans, Jews, Mahometans and Christians, within its fostering arms – prescribes no creed of faith for either of them – proscribes none of them for being heretics, promotes the man of talents and integrity, without inquiring after his religion – impartially protects all of them – punishes the man who works ill to his neighbor, let his faith and motives be what they may.[4] 

Note again: “Government, when rightly formed, embraces Pagans, Jews, Mahometans [i.e. Muslims] and Christians, within its fostering arms.” Baptists, for over 200 years, have championed religious freedom not just for Baptists alone, but also for Muslims, that they too may have the liberty to practice their religion (even build their own mosques) in America.   All civil laws should recognize all individuals of all religious backgrounds as citizens and should protect their rights.[6] 

Baptists, and all other faiths, in America are in debt to Leland and his tireless work (along with other Baptists like Isaac Backus) to ensure religious liberty is extended to all religions in America.  May we as Southern Baptists today continue to champion religious liberty for all – even to Muslims who are here on our soil.

Post Script: I encourage you to read Russ Moore’s post dated June 8, 2016, titled “Is Religious Freedom for Non-Christians Too?” Moore provides excellent insight into a difficult issue, but one that we must face in today’s turbulent times. Though we as Christians are rightly troubled and angered by the actions of Muslim extremists, we live in a country where one religion is not to be favored over another by the state. The federal government is not to endorse one religion over all others; in particular, our government is not a Christian government. We are not in a Christian nation. Rather, we live in a nation where religious freedom is extended to all – even though with whom we are at odds.


                [1] Robert G. Torbet, A History of the Baptist (Valley Forge: Judson Press, 2000), 241.

                [2] Isaac Backus, A Fish Caught In His Own Net, in Isaac Backus on Church, State, and Calvinism [Works], ed. William G. McLoughlin (Boston: Edes and Gill, 1768; reprint, Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1968), 190-1.

                [3] John Leland, The Rights of Conscience Inalienable, in The Writings of the Late Elder John Leland [Works], ed. Miss L. F. Greene (New London: 1791; reprint, New York: G. W. Wood, 1845), 184.


                [4] Leland, The Virginia Chronicle, Works, 107.


                [5] Leland, Short Essays on Government, Works, 476.

                [6] Leland, Letter to the Rev. O. B. Brown, Works, 608-10.

Backlit keyboard

Reflective and Reactive Thinking in a Social Media-Driven World

In a previous post, I shared how the reactionary-nature of social media leads to more reactionary ventings than actual “engaging the culture.” What under girds our tendency for reacting as opposed to engaging is that our way of communicating online tends toward reactive thinking over reflective thinking. Before I explain what I mean by reactive and reflective thinking, allow me to set the context.

Backlit keyboard

By © User:Colin / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30343877

The Internet and social media (from here on out shortened to “the Internet”) gives us the ability to access news and goings on with incredible ease. Likewise, we can respond to issues with incredible rapidity. Gone are the days of waiting for news to unfold; we can literally watch (or read) the news as it unfolds. In a related vein, but one more germane to my topic for this post, is one’s ability to develop and maintain a presence online and garner a following of sorts. One does not have to rely on the traditional methods for their voice to be heard (print, TV, radio). Now, the Internet offers a far cheaper and instantaneous method for one to develop and project their voice to a much larger audience than the traditional avenues. Consistently post and reply to others’ thoughts, and you can develop quite a following and presence rather quickly.

Today there is a push in corporate America, academia, and even within the church for individuals and groups to develop an online presence. Now, developing an online presence is not a bad thing, but the reactionary-nature of the Internet and social media feeds the sense that one must respond quickly and frequently in order to stay current and relevant. Such an approach – though helpful at times – does not foster good thinking habits. Rather than fostering reflective thinking (where one takes some time to think through the implications of one’s assertions, the relevance of their examples or support, or the coherence of their thought with their worldview and with the Gospel), one is caught up in the moment of winning the verbal battle or making their voice heard above others. The end-goal is short-sighted as one seeks to deal with that issue at that moment. After the issue has concluded or attention has shifted elsewhere, the work one has done evaporates in the wake of the never-ending Internet news cycle. Thus, maintaining one’s online presence involves constant awareness of current news and the cultivation of one’s ability to think quickly and broadly. But, I’m afraid, it does little by way of fostering deliberate and sustained thinking. Instead, it becomes easy for one to create the habit of what I call reactionary thinking – a sort of thinking on the fly in order to address the immediate issue in the context of a specific argument within a particular forum (comment section of an article/blog post, Facebook post, a Tweet, etc., etc.).

By British Cartoon Prints Collection - Library of Congress Catalog

By British Cartoon Prints Collection – Library of Congress Catalog

Perhaps I’ve overstated the issue here. However, I know that in my own experience of developing some sort of online presence while maintaining a writing schedule for journal and book publication, I’ve found that I am caught between the Scylla of maintaining a research and writing schedule that demands reflective thinking, and the Charybdis of maintaining an online presence – one is sacrificed over the other.1 Broadly speaking, when a Christian seeks to address cultural issues, they tend to favor either engaging the culture (as intended by Carl F. H. Henry and others) or reactionary ventings (as fostered by the Internet and social media). In short, one is caught between the Scylla of reflective thinking and the Charybdis of reactionary thinking. When one is faced with these two options, a person generally fosters one type of thinking over the other as well.

The more one favors a particular mode of thinking over a period of time, the more it becomes habit. And when something becomes habit, it becomes the default mode for approaching various situations. If more time is spent developing and maintaining an online presence, then they will tend to favor and employ reactive thinking. However, if one develops and maintains a presence in taking time to spend time on a particular issue, then they default to reflective thinking. Unfortunately, I think many of us today (myself included) have defaulted to reactionary thinking as more time is spent surfing the Internet and social media.

Note, what I’m not saying is that we have an either-or situation. There are times when reactive thinking is needed, and there are other times when reflective thinking is required. What I am saying is that if we are to favor one mode over the other as our default approach, it ought to be reflective thinking. Too often, it seems, we think on the fly – as if the matter requires immediate resolution or addressing. Too often, it seems, we give too little time to reflection before we speak (or write). We have put the proverbial cart before the horse. An emphasis on reactive thinking only reinforces reactive thinking. However, if we place the proverbial horse before the cart (emphasize reflective thinking over reactionary thinking), then what we do is enable one to develop a solid foundation from which one can think reactively when the situation calls for it. Reflective thinking can inform and foster reactive thinking, but the converse is not true – for reactive thinking begets only more reactive thinking.

What many think of when they hear "reflection." Credit: By Karora - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2810153

What many think of when they hear “reflection.”

So, what does reflective thinking look like? For many, I’m sure, “reflection” conjurs up images like The Thinker where one is caught up in deep, sustained, uninterrupted thought. For others, it may include original and profound thinking. While these characteristics are included in reflective thinking, they are not the essence of reflective thinking. Rather, here are some characteristics of reflective thinking that I believe are less intimidating but capture what I believe we all can practice:

  1. Allow time to pass between one’s reception of and response to an issue. I think the Bereans in Acts 17:10-15 provide an excellent illustration here. Upon hearing Paul preach the Gospel, they would “receive the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so” (ESV). The Berean’s did not just receive and react to Paul’s message. More importantly, they went home and studied Scripture to ensure that what Paul said was actually the case and then acted upon what they heard and studied. When there’s an issue you need to address, don’t feel that you have to respond immediately with your complete answer. Giving yourself time allows your emotions to settle; often times emotions can cloud thinking and dictate how you respond. Further, distance between the issue and your response gives you the opportunity to consider other angles that you may not have considered otherwise.
  2. Ask questions. As a parent, I know how wearying questions can be. However, the longer I have taught and parented, I’ve come to see the value and necessity of questions. Asking questions helps to drive reflection, it guides one’s thinking, and it helps you to go beyond the surface issues. Further, asking questions can sometimes help you to “see” where the other side is coming from; the more you understand the assumptions and underlying motivations of the other person, the better you can respond. Questions aid you to this end.
  3. Read (or Re-read) on the Issue. Sometimes you may be very familiar with the issue, while at other times you may have some level of unfamiliarity on a particular topic. Regardless, read what others have said (both those with whom you agree and those with whom you disagree). There’s little by way of original thought – somewhere someone has written what you are thinking or has alluded to what you want to say.2 Be informed (as much as possible) before you respond.
  4. Talk to Others. Sometimes just talking to someone about an issue helps you to think through its various nuances. The other person may provide some helpful insight or ask some pointed questions. Or, just vocalizing your thoughts may help you to “see” something you had not thought of before (this happens to me often). Further, by talking to others, your thoughts will be accountable to others – a reminder that you are not a lone ranger, but a member of the body of Christ.
  5. Remember the Big Picture. Issues do not occur in isolation, nor do your thoughts. That is, what you say now can have implications down the road. Further, what you share is a reflection on you, your family, your church, and on Christ. As a believer, you are a Christ-bearer; as such, do your best to speak and write in such a manner that you reflect Christ. Pray, asking the Lord for his wisdom and discernment. Remember, interacting with others is not about you (or me); rather, it’s ultimately to proclaim the truth of God in Christ.

Reflective thinking is not for the deep thinkers or the ivory tower academics – this is a myth that needs to be dispelled. Rather, reflective thinking is something we are all capable of doing. More importantly, it’s something we are all called to do – note the Bereans’ example. Further, 1 Peter 3:15 implies that we reflect upon what we believe before we give a defense for our faith. Finally, when Jesus states that we are to worship God in spirit and in truth, this implies that we are to understand what this truth is and how it directs our life before God and others.

Lastly, reflective thinking need not be something you do when in isolation (free from distractions) or when you are able to devote an hour or more to it. Rather, it’s something that you can do as you go or when you have a lull in action. The great thing about thinking is that you can “take” your thinking with you anywhere you go.

In short, as we develop the habit of reflective thinking, our responses will become better informed, structured, and poignant. Further, we will have a better foundation upon which to think reactively when called upon.

Origins by Philip Rolnick

Book Review: “Origins” by Philip Rolnick

Origins by Philip RolnickOver at the Journal of Biblical and Theological Studies, I had the opportunity to review Philip Rolnick’s Origins: God, Evolution, and the Question of the Cosmos? Evolution continues to be a point of contention between not only some corners of Christianity and science, but between Christians as well. Rolnick seeks to provide a solution to this ongoing debate. You can see my review at the online journal of JBTS.

There’s More To Music Than Meets the Ears: Thoughts From Behind the Drum Kit

When it comes to breathing, we just don’t think about it, whether it be regarding the act of breathing or the essence of breathing. It’s basic to who we are, thus we rarely take the time to appreciate its complexity and beauty. Likewise, the consumption of music is as natural to us as breathing.  We are surrounded by music – it saturates the airwaves and occupies space on electronic devices and bookshelves (if you have CDs, LPs, cassettes, etc.). Music is so easily accessible today that it’s something we take for granted – we get annoyed when the radio plays songs we don’t like, we can easily access our favorite album and listen to it as much as we want, and we can purchase and discard music on a whim. Like breathing, we rarely take the time to appreciate music’s complexity and beauty, and thus fail to appreciate music as it is.

Perhaps what I’ve shared is more of a reflection of me than of people in general. Regardless, it’s a slumber in which I often find myself. I have been involved in music for thirty years as a drummer – it is such a part of me that I often take music for granted. This is particularly the case when it comes to the music that I listen to. I indulge in listening to music at my convenience and impulse, and just as quickly brush it away as distracting noise and an annoyance. Music, often times, is just a convenience to enjoy as I would a good movie or book.

maxresdefaultHowever, just as Hume awoke Kant from his “dogmatic slumber”, so did Shearwater’s Pale Kings awake me today from my most recent bout of consumeristic apathy toward music. As I was driving to work, Pale Kings filled my ears when I was struck by how the music – not the lyrics – expressed and communicated how I am feeling today and this past week. I can’t really put it in words – but the chord structure; the instrumentation; the tension between a slow lyrical rhythm and an active, moving instrumental rhythm—the song in its entirety said something that I could not – and cannot – verbalize. If someone were to ask, “How are you today?” I can point to Pale Kings and say, “This!

The nature of music is a matter that has captured and occupied the imaginations of thinkers and musicians of ages past and present. There is something to it that is more than just its notes, melody, chorus, and lyrics. Music can capture our emotions and express our deepest longings in ways that words cannot. Music can sweep us up in into exhilaration or drag us down into despair. With the music-saturated culture, I think we often we fail to appreciate this power of music.

What I say here is not meant to downplay or reduce the power of the spoken word. That is further from the truth. God has spoken to us through his Word, and his Truth is communicated through word. What we say and express carries much weight. But, Scripture also illustrates the limited nature of human communication. In Romans 8:26-27, Paul states: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (ESV). To be clear, this passage refers to our prayers to God, particularly as we live in a fallen world as we “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23).  So, Paul isn’t speaking specifically to the limited nature of our language; however, I do believe that we can infer from Paul that there are times when experience the inadequacy of language.

There are times in prayer where words fail to do justice to what we want to express, and all that we can do is groan. Amazingly, and mercifully, the Holy Spirit knows our heart helps us in our weakness and intercedes for us. Broadening out our perspective, we experience the limited nature of words when we try to express the depth of love we have for our spouse, or when we are so angry that we can only growl and huff about, or when we are overcome with gratitude that we can only weep. The spoken and written word is a vital and necessary aspect of our communication – it is the primary means by which we communicate with one another and (more importantly) how God communicates to us. However, just as we are finite, so is our language in its ability to fully express the depths of our heart.

In light of our language’s finite nature, God has given us the ability to create music to be able to express our thoughts and feelings in ways that words cannot. Granted, I believe that there are other reasons why God has given us musical ability, but what’s germane to this post is the idea that God has given us music as a form of communication and expression that helps to carry our words farther than they can on their own. The music we listen to, then, does more than entertain us or serve to satisfy our consumeristic desires. Rather, it carries with it the ability to express the myriad of emotions and thoughts that swirl below the surface of our spoken word.

PetersonBeholdThere is so much more to say here, but I’ve gone long enough. So allow me to summarize further thoughts: How beautiful, then, when the spoken word and music are perfectly wedded that points us to who God is and what he has done in Christ (for me, the one of the best examples is Andrew Peterson’s So Long, Moses)! Further, what a great responsibility we have in ensuring that our music accurately reflects the intent and message of the spoken word (i.e. the lyrics of our hymns, praise songs, etc.); if there is dissonance between the two, then the impact of the song’s message can be diminished. Finally, what a beautiful mystery music is! Think about it, God has created us – and the world – such that we can string together notes and rhythms in such a way that the very depths of our being is moved to respond. Music is so much more than the sound waves vibrating our eardrums—it is the means by which we can communicate and express ourselves more richly and fully.

I realize that this post can imply a sort of dualism between music and the spoken word. In fact, there are those who place more emphasis on one over the other. What I am trying to communicate is that music plays an important role in how we communicate – a role we tend to neglect or take for granted. I believe the spoken word has primacy over music—it is the means by which we communicate (for this is how God created us!) and it is the means by which God has communicated to us. Further, God has created us such that we are able to rely upon and function through spoken communication; it is not so inadequate that we are left confused and unable to act. Far from it! If spoken communication were this inadequate, then I’d be writing this post in vain! What I am trying to say is that there are limits to the spoken word; it is at these limits where music can carry spoken word to its intended end.

As I close, I can’t help but fear that some will interpret this post as saying something other than intend. That is, I feel that no matter how hard I try, I’m not clearly or sufficiently communicating what’s on my mind. Perhaps I need a song to couple my message…😉


On Being a Father of Only Daughters: Dispatches from a Dad of Girls


Goofy GirlsIt was some time in the fall of 2002 (I think?) that my wife and I found out we were having a baby girl. I was excited as I’d always wanted a little girl—a daddy’s girl. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I wanted a little girl, but it didn’t matter. We were having a baby girl and I was excited! When our little bundle of joy (Maddi) arrived in the spring of 2003, I was smitten right away. In fact, she had me wrapped around her little finger from day one. I would have bought her a pony if she had the ability to ask for one.

Two years later, my wife and I found out we were pregnant with our second child. I wanted to know what we were having—I needed to prepare myself mentally in case we were having a boy. You see, I’m a person of habit and of a one-track mind. By this point, I was used to raising a girl and felt comfortable in my role. If we had a boy…well, that made me nervous. Do you change your approach in relating with a boy? Would it be a challenge to raise a girl and a boy—a sort of disjointed approach? (Note, these are questions from a still fairly young parent.) But…we decided to be surprised (well, my wife wanted to be surprised at the get-go, I eventually came around to wanting to be surprised). I knew that whatever the sex of our baby I was going to love it with all of my heart, but the uncertainty made me nervous.

Our anticipation for the arrival of baby #2 would finally be met in the summer of 2005. As I paced the delivery room that one hot summer day, I became nervous. Raising a child is a significant responsibility—raising two is that much more. Am I going to live up to this responsibility? Also…the question of “What if it’s a boy?” popped into mind again. (Silly question…I know.) My questions quickly vanished, though, with the birth of …girl #2! Our sweet Libby was ushered into the world with great joy. First thought after announcing her name was that I have another girl! And, to be honest, the follow up thought was, “I have two weddings to pay for!”

As I said before, I’m a creature of habit, so it should be no surprise that two years later, Angie and I were expecting our third child. Again, we were going to be surprised on the baby’s gender (despite my best efforts to have the nurse tell me the gender). Though I had a few more years of parenting under my belt, I was still a little nervous about the baby’s gender. This time, though, my concerns were more practical in nature. For instance, we had quite a bit of girls’ clothing—how easy would it be to just hand them down and not buy new clothes for a boy?😉

What differed this time around, though, were the comments I received. There were those who, upon finding out we were pregnant again, would say, “I bet you’re hoping for that boy!”  Or, “Wow! Two girls?! I bet you want a boy now!” I wasn’t sure how to answer these questions; I was happy with whatever the Lord blessed us with. But, I rather liked being a dad of girls. I know the motives behind the questions were good-natured and well-intended, but I didn’t really see why it was necessary that a dad “had to have” a son. The small rebel in me wanted to have another girl just to go against the perceived notion that a dad had to have a son—as if one is less of a father if he didn’t have one to carry on the family name, to do “guy stuff” with, etc.

They were so young!Well, baby #3 arrived in the summer of 2007, and Angie and I were three-for-three. We had our little Emma! I was a dad of all girls, and man! I was proud! As soon as I announced Emma’s name, I thought, “I’m a dad of another girl!” And, in full disclosure, I literally followed up that thought with another, “I have three weddings to pay for.” Weddings aside, though, I basked in the joy of having another daddy’s girl—something only a dad of girls can understand.

So, what is the moral of the story? Is it to say that I (like all dads of only girls) am in a more privileged position than other dads? Is it to set myself apart from other dads? Or, is it to rebel against some perceived notion of real fatherhood? No, no, and no. Rather, my point in writing this post is to share that being a dad of only girls is a great joy.

Though I don’t have a son, I’ve been able to do those activities typically relegated to dad-son activities. My girls enjoy (granted, up to a point) LSU sports. I’ve taken my girls fishing, golf ball hunting, and fossil finding. My girls have participated in volleyball and basketball. All three of my daughters have played with my old Hot Wheels, many times choosing my Hot Wheels over playing with their dolls and dollhouse. They have spent countless hours building with Legos. Further, they have shown interest in studying history, math, art, baking (hopefully philosophy and theology J )…. I want them to discover what interests them so that they can utilize their gifts given by God.
Maddi, Libby, and Emma 2016In short, being a dad of only girls does not limit what I can do with them. I’m not relegated to playing dolls and house (though I have done that). Being a dad of only girls means just that – I am a dad…of girls. I don’t stop being who I am. I don’t have to suspend my interests because they are “boy” interests. Instead, I share my interests with them because it is through those opportunities that they can learn what they like or dislike. Further, by experiencing activities typically relegated to guys, my girls won’t be wandering into a foreign land once they begin dating (*sigh* I don’t want to think about that) and eventually get married. Football, baseball, basketball, fishing, etc. won’t be a foreign language to them; they’ll be able to hold their own.

Being a dad of girls does not mean you have to change who you are. Let your girls know you, in part, through your interests and activities. You are not “missing out” if you don’t have a son. Instead, you have gained a gift that only be obtained by having a daughter. You gain a new perspective on what it means to be a man (for instance, the moment you have a daughter, you quickly foster your instinct to protect). You also have one more reason to strive to be a better man—you want to be a better man for your wife; when you gain a daughter, you want to be a better man that much more.

Lastly, though you don’t have to change who you are, you find that you change nonetheless. I’ve often shared how Angie has made me into a better man; she has a knack for challenging me in areas of my life that need strengthening. Daughters have a similar effect. Indeed, my wife and daughters have a keen sense of seeing me for who I am—encouraging me when I need it and challenging me when I need to grow. I have far to grow—I fail more often than not, but I do know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I would not be who I am today if it were not for my wife and my three daughters.