I have been teaching an adult education class at Mira Mesa Presbyterian Church over this semester. We have been examining some of the fundamentals of the Reformed/Presbyterian theology.  Here is a part of our study. If you would like to learn more about Calvinism please contact me and I would be happy to respond.

This paper will review the fourth point of the five points of Calvinism. Remember the five points of Calvinism followed the acronym TUL I P; total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints.

There are basically two types of grace; Common grace and special grace. Common grace is so-called because it is common to everyone. The whole human race experiences common grace without even realizing it, whether they believe in God or not.  It is everything that sustains life. It is the ability, generally speaking, for human society to continue in an orderly and cooperative manner to pursue the scientific, cultural, and economic pursuits of civilization. Although this is not the focus of this paper, it would be an exciting study to explore the Church role in Common Grace, and note how God exercises the expansion of his Kingdom through the use of our spiritual gifts as the body of Christ. Without Common Grace the world would be consumed by evil, however the Church as a means of this Common Grace is a light within the darkness which does not let the darkness overwhelm the world.

Special grace, unlike common grace, which is universally given, is given only to those whom God elects to eternal life through faith in his son, our Savior Jesus Christ. It is what Paul was speaking about in II Corinthians 5:18, “all this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself.” This grace not only saves but also transforms and revitalizes those lives which were previously broken and meaningless. There are four aspects of special grace and they are; prevenient, efficacious, irresistible, and sufficient.

Prevenient grace means that which comes first. It comes before any human decision can be made or any act on the part of human beings. Grace is always an act of God who takes the initiative on behalf of sinners who can do nothing. This is the whole point of grace: it is not earned or given for something we have done it is freely and lovingly given to us who have no resources to gain it or even win it. This is in fact what John was talking about in I John 4:19, “we love, because he first loved us.” God loved us before we even knew to love him. Paul concurs with John in Romans 5:8,10 “but God demonstrates his own love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us…… For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God to the death of his son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” As we can see, God took action when we could do nothing as Paul says in Romans 5:6, “for while we were still helpless at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”

Efficacious grace means that grace accomplishes its purposes. Everything that God sets out to do will be accomplished. God’s purposes always produce results they can never fail and they never come back empty; otherwise he is not God. This fact of redeeming Grace is not only seen in turning a sinner into a saint or moving a life from darkness to one of light but also in bringing them completely to salvation and eternal life. This is what Jesus was saying in John 6:37-40, “all that the father gives me come to me, the one who comes to me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. This is the will of him sent me, that of all that he has given me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my father, that everyone who holds the son and believes in him will have eternal life, and I myself will raise him up on the last day.”

Now we come to irresistible grace which can only be understood within the backdrop of everything that has been said above concerning the nature of grace. Irresistible grace is grace which cannot be rejected. We have learned that God always achieves his objectives and we now find that God’s plan and purposes cannot be resisted or thrust aside. Take for example Saul of Tarsus, who was told by Christ, “it is hard for you to kick against the goats.” This was a Greek proverb for useless resistance. Jesus was telling Paul it is useless to try to resist God, it can’t be done. As Paul was soon to learn the regenerating work of God in the believer’s heart, precisely again because it is God’s work, can no more be resisted than if it were to come up empty. As Paul later says in Galatians 1:15, “but when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me to his grace…” God not only called him to his grace but had set him apart before he was born and this is something that not only happens to Paul but to all those who are the elect. Paul states quite clearly that those who are in Christ were chosen in him before the foundation of the world in Ephesians 1:4-6, “just as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to himself, according to the kind intention of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, which he freely bestowed on us in the beloved.” Even the Old Testament supports this teaching, as is seen in the Psalmists liturgy of praise in Psalm 134: 4, “For the Lord has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel for His own possession.” As God’s all-powerful Word and Will could not be resisted at creation and the created order had to come into being; so also the elect, as new creations in Christ, cannot resist this same all-powerful Word and Will.

Sufficient grace is a grace that is adequate for the saving of the believer here and now and hereafter to all eternity. As with the other aspects of special grace, it is a work of God that will be accomplished. Those who draw near to him through Christ are saved “fully and completely.” This is what the writer of Hebrews was saying in Hebrews 7:25, “therefore he is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” It is God’s works through Christ to forgive, reconciled, and save and it is a job, as all God’s work, which will be accomplish.

Remember, Prevenient, Efficacious, Irresistible and Sufficient are all aspects of Special Grace. We are taking them apart to examine each, as if we were forensic scientists, to get a better understanding of Grace itself. However, they are one in the same Grace that must function together as a whole. Just like our body with its many systems, (Skeletal System, Muscular System, Cardiovascular System, Respiratory System, etc.) which we can examine, and have an appreciation of, but need all to sustain life.

One of the wonderful consequences of this teaching on special grace leads to the fifth and final point in Calvinism known as perseverance of the saints which is often stated in the Reformed motto “once saved always saved.”

Like what we learned with Special Grace, there are different aspects to the teaching regarding the perseverance of the saints. In the case of this teaching there are two; assurance of salvation and God’s providence. The first one, assurance of salvation, is the focus of this paper. However, like the aspects of Special Grace the aspects of this teaching must function together as a whole. God’s providence is His providing all our needs as we struggle to meet the challenges of the daily Christian life. As Paul wrote in Philippians 4:19, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” We can examine God’s providence in a later paper, for now we will focus on the assurance of salvation.

In the light of this focus, Perseverance of the saints means those who are truly saved will persevere to the end and cannot lose their salvation. It doesn’t mean that a person who is truly saved will never lose faith or backslide at any time. But that they will ultimately persevere in faith (in spite of failures) such as not to lose their salvation.

Obviously this teaching is rooted in God’s unconditional election and predestination. That is, since God is the One who chose and predestined the elect to salvation, therefore the elect will be saved. They might turn away from faith and give appearance of losing their salvation, but if they really are elect they will repent and ultimately return to faith, because God is the One ensuring their salvation. A student in my Fundamentals of the Faith class gave a good example of the thinking here, that might be helpful to understanding this teaching.  Imagine being tethered to God by a very long rope that has a great amount of slack which allows us to drift away from, but never be totally apart from, God. In His favor He can pull us back to Him as He chooses.

This long rope is the assurance of salvation and it is the best part of this teaching. Christians can rest assured that their salvation is “taken care of” and they need only to live out their lives in acts of gratitude to God. All fear is gone only comfort and joy remain, knowing that nothing can separate us from God, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38,39)

This is a very difficult and deep teaching of Christianity. It is often very hard to understand, or even for Christians to agree on. This is why it is important to always remember that the operation of God’s grace is a deep mystery and far beyond our limited human comprehension. And yet at the same time God has given human beings the ability to think and reasonably come to conclusions. We always keep in mind that God does not treat human beings as though they were puppets with no mind or will of their own. This is the tension that must be kept in place. There is mystery and also the awesome ability and responsibility to use our minds as a part of the free will that God gives to us. I believe that God never violates this freedom, because it was given to us by Him. Confronted with this marvelous but mysterious reality, we can do no more than exclaim, with Paul: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!… For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11: 33,36)

John M. Scholte, M.Div.

©2015 Scholte Consulting Services


In his later years the frontiersmen Daniel Boone was asked, “In all you’re wilderness exploring did you ever get lost?” Boone replied, “Never lost, but I did wander around for three days.” When it comes to Christians trying to figure out what God’s will is for their life Daniel Boones reply might be apropos. They are not lost, they are just wandering around. In other words, they have faith in God, it just that they are not sure where he wants them to go next.

A couple of years ago a student in my religion course asked me if we could meet after class. She said she wanted to “pick my brain” about some concerns she had on her mind. We headed over to the student center for coffee and when we sat down she asked point blank, “How do I figure out God’s will for my life?”

I have reflected on that question and our conversation often and in this blog I would like to briefly share a few things that I have learned. If you are reading this blog and you feel the same as my student did, hopefully this will assist you in getting some direction. Or, maybe it will help you assist others to find their way.

Now, I can’t tell you what God’s will is for your life. That is something only God can reveal to you. However, I can tell you that God wants you to know his will. Ephesians 1:9 says, “He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him.” You may ask then, “If it is his kind intention to reveal his will for me, how come I don’t know it?” The answer may be found in where you start your search.

I remember hearing a story once about a man who was driving around the countryside completely lost. He came upon a small town and noticed a farmer walking up the street. He pulled his car alongside the man and rolled down his window. As he leaned out the window he asked the farmer if he knew how to get to the city for which he was searching. The farmer thought for a moment, and then he said with a smile, “Well, Sir, if I were going there, I wouldn’t start from here.”

Where is our starting point to figure out God’s will?  Paul said in the Ephesians verse that God’s will was “purposed in Him.” It means that God’s will was purposely placed in “Him.” The “Him” that Paul was speaking about is Jesus Christ. So, the first step in figuring out God’s will is to deepen our relationship with Jesus Christ. This happens through studying and meditating on the Bible, building a purposeful prayer life, and keeping consistent in weekly worship.

Have you ever been in a situation where you needed to make contact with someone to improve your business position, but you did know the person well enough to get an appointment with them? When I am in that situation, I usually try to find someone that knows the person well who could make the introduction or give me permission to use their name to smooth the first contact.  In business it is often “who you know” that gets you what you need. In figuring out God’s will the same rule applies, it’s “who you know.”  To figure out God’s will, you need to know Jesus.

Second, share your search with your friend, councilor, professor, pastor whoever you trust can give an honest assessment. They can often see the matter from a different angle; view the pros and cons dispassionately because they are not wrapped up in the emotion that often comes with having to make important decisions. Get them to lend their insight and mind to the issue, just like my student did concerning her search. They will not be able to tell you directly what God’s will is any more than I could tell my student, however God’s will can be revealed to you when their advice helps you see your search in clearer terms.

Third, consult your church. With the first two steps you will begin to get an idea of what God’s will might be for you and then get confirmation from your church. Share it in your small group, choir, men’s ministry, women’s ministry or class you attend.  Often the will of God will focus into crystal clearness when a group of loving and thoughtful Christian people have been asked to discern God’s will. Be open, honest and receptive to their discernment.

How often have I experienced a student who comes into the classroom with the thought that they know everything already and there is nothing more for them to learn. Their minds are closed. They cannot be discipled. To learn something is to be open to it, to be pliable, to have a desire to know more and to say with Socrates “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” A humble attitude will bring you to the point of understanding much faster.  Otherwise, you must go through the process of being broken by God so that you can be used by him. How this happens will need to be a blog for another day.  For now we will deal with the fourth way, use your common sense.

Common sense is often an unspoken part of the processes but I think it needs to be reflected upon. If you consult with your church and the majority of the group believes that what you think is God’s will, is not His will, then you must use your common sense and revisit the first and second process. You may also want to do some serious soul searching to see if you are not just looking to sanction your own will. This takes time and patience. Often people become frustrated and angry, but if you remain open and willing the answer will be revealed to you. Then the question will be; Do you have the courage to do the will that is revealed?

Also keep in mind the words of Leslie Weatherhead in his book, The Will of God, “Sometimes I have made a mistake myself by trying to discern the will of God for years ahead. I have come to the conclusion that God does not encourage us to see too far ahead.” (pp. 69)

So in each stage of our lives we may need to revisit what God’s will is with openness, expectation and joy. From the younger years when we ask where do we go to college? Who we should marry? What profession should we go into? To the older years which may include; Should I make a career change? When should I retire? And how should I spend my retirement? And many more questions in between.

The fact is we may wander around a bit, but we can trust, in whatever stage we are in, that God will reveal his will to us and that it can be figured out.

John M. Scholte, M.Div.

Professor of Religion and Humanities

©2015 Scholte Consulting Services

One of the classes that I teach is PHIL 305 Business Ethics, and each semester that I teach this class, I try to take at least one session to discuss three sacred and essential principles for good management.

I use the word sacred in discussing the principles of good management because it is a religious word which means hollowed, venerated, revered, and treated with reverence and respect. In the business world these three management principles should be held and treated with the same reverence and respect as sacred rituals would be in any religion.

Another word I include with sacred is essential. The three management principles when applied correctly and when held in sacred trust are essential to giving the company and the manager the greatest opportunity to be successful.

In this blog, I am going to briefly cover the three sacred and essential principles with the young manager in mind. Partly because most of my students are young and learning how to become managers. And the other part is that experienced middle to upper managers should already have these principles as part of their management strategy. In my opinion, if they haven’t learned or applied these three principles they normally don’t make it to manager level, or if they do, they don’t stay in the position for long; if the company is worth its salt.

There are exceptions, of course, and that is part of the reason that companies don’t make it or lose market share and/or influence. However, an examination of why this occurs in some company cultures will have to be a topic for another blog. So here are the three sacred and essential principles for good management:

  1. Never place the company in a position of possible litigation.

The first and foremost sacred and essential principle for any manager to keep in mind as he or she makes decisions for the company is to never place the company in a position of possible litigation.

Every decision that is made should be placed up against this first principle.  When considering your decisions and hiring practices you may want to ask a couple of key questions that will help you in deciding if a certain decision is the best decision to make. First, does this decision support the mission and vision of the company? Second, does this decision follow the core values of the company?

Gwen Moran in her article Five Problem Employees and What You Can Do About Them, published by Entrepreneur.com, gives this as one scenario, “Randy Cohen, 46, thought he had hired a new employee who fit the energetic, open culture of his Austin, Texas, ticket brokerage, TicketCity. But soon the employee routinely ignored policy and procedures. Cohen found himself constantly correcting the young salesperson’s behavior so that he didn’t alienate customers. “He made the company a bunch of money, but he was a pain,” says Cohen. Over the past 21 years, Cohen says he’s had other employees who’ve bucked the rules, including drinking on the job.

Cohen now has a policy of “firing fast” when he finds an employee who isn’t willing to follow rules. Legally speaking, an employee who engages in reckless behavior, such as driving dangerously or drinking on the job, can leave the employer liable for the actions within the “course and scope of employment.” So, if you learn that an employee is behaving in a way that could put others at risk, immediately investigate the situation and impose discipline, if appropriate, Guerin says.” [Bold is my emphasis] (http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/220132)

As one CEO, whom I know well, often tells his management team, “think about each action with your employees as if that action will come back to bite you.”

It’s like the old saying about those who ride motorcycles. There are only two kinds of motorcycle riders; the ones that haven’t gone down but are going to go down and the ones that have been down. This is why you wear all the important gear because you know if you haven’t been down; the odds are you will at some time in the future.

To many of my students this philosophy sounds very cynical, but it is the very reason you wear the proper gear when you ride. Maybe you will be the golden one, and nothing will “go down” or “bite you” but you’re responsibly as a manager is not to be golden, but to be smart enough to protect the company.

It’s great that Cohen implemented a new policy; however, he also needed to make sure that he documented each and every time he corrected the employee because the reality is; if you’re in business long enough you will find yourself facing some type of litigation.

  1. Document, document, document.

If the company does go to litigation make sure you have placed the company in the best possible position to win. Even with the best decision, you can still end up in court.  But as I said before, it is the manager’s responsibility to protect the company. This begins with one of the most time consuming procedures that a manger can perform, hence they often skip it.

Documenting what took place is one of the most sacred and essential services the manager can perform. However, because it is often seen as a pain and a distraction taking away from the real work to be done it is one of the first responsibilities to be neglected. Often, even if not neglected it is halfheartedly done, particularly when dealing with an employee either through a disciplinary actions or an on the job injury. With both issues companies can find themselves in court, in front of the employment board, or dealing with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the responsible managers had better have completed their sacred and essential duties or they have a good chance of losing their jobs.

The fact is if the company goes to court, or the employment board, in most instances the judge wants to rule in favor of the employee or former employee. Documentation is one of the best ways to protect yourself and show your due diligence.  When a manager shows that he or she has done their due diligence they can be proud of their work, no matter the outcome, because they have fulfilled their ethical and managerial responsibility to the company.

Ray Cooper makes a good point in his article The Importance of Proper Documentation Procedures in the construction world, he says, “Good documentation just doesn’t happen by accident. Left to our own devices, many of us probably think we have better things to do than write down what the weather was that day, fill out the shop drawing log or, dare I say, update the schedule. After all, there’s a project to build. However, it only takes one time in litigation to change that mindset. In addition, the reality of a dispute resolution forum is that who’s right and who’s wrong may not determine who wins the case. It can come down to who can present the best documents to support their case.” (https://www.lorman.com/resources/the-importance-of-proper-documentation-procedures-15189)

  1. Treat your employees fairly and respectfully but never be their friend.

The last sacred and essential principle I want to review in this blog is one that my students resist the most. Treat your employees fairly and respectfully but never be their friend. My students often don’t understand why they should not “hang out” with those they supervise outside of work.

I believe the issue springs from the fact that they often hire their friends. Hiring friends is an issue in itself, which can be fraught with all kinds of pitfalls that can cause harm to the company and real problems to the manager including job loss.  I can look at some of those issues in a later blog as well, but I can tell you this, it is probably a poor decision to hire your friend, particularly if you will be supervising the friend you hire. Recommending a friend or assisting your friend in making the right contact is fine. We all know the old adage “it’s who you know.”  But hiring a friend you will supervise is a problem. The problem lies in being able to draw the line between “friend” and “supervisor.” Where does being the supervisor end and the friend begin? What happens if you go out for drinks at the end of the day and things are said or actions are taken that reflect poorly on the company? Is the supervisor still responsible to “protect” the company? Is the employee still responsible to the supervisor? Does the supervisor say something to the employee?

Alison Green says it best in her article Can a Manager and Employees Be Friends? “Managers who try to be friends with their staff run into all sorts of problems. First and foremost, attempting to ignore that professional boundary doesn’t change the fact that you in are in a position of power over them. Your job is to judge their work and make decisions that could affect their livelihoods, so you are inherently on unequal footing. You need to be objective enough that you can honestly evaluate their work, give direct feedback, and even potentially fire someone one day. You might think that you can do that while still being friends, but you probably can’t, despite your best intentions – and even if you really can, others won’t believe you can, so you’ll still be dealing with a perception problem.” (http://quickbase.intuit.com/blog/2013/10/22/can-a-manager-and-employees-be-friends/#sthash.R8vhoR62.dpuf)

It is ethically responsible for the managers to treat and supervise their employees fairly and respectfully. At times this can be difficult in itself, and bring its own set of problems, but why compound an already challenging set of job responsibilities by creating problems that don’t need to be in the work place and could be avoided.

Respecting these three sacred and essential principles for good management will give the company and the manager the greatest opportunity to be successful.

John M. Scholte, M.Div.

Professor of Religion and Humanities

©2015 Scholte Consulting Services

Teaching Humanities, which I have been doing for the past ten years, has always included sharing three specific assumptions regarding the nature of Humankind. To my surprise and fascination some of my students are often shocked by these three key assumptions, when I teach them in class, with a few even denying that it could be true. Well, I believe that they are true, not only from my own observations and experiences, but also because anthropologist, scientists, theologians, sociologists, psychologist and other observers of human nature have supported it in study after study. The basic three assumptions include; human beings are religious by nature, human beings are social by nature, and human beings are conflictual by nature. As a way of wetting your mental appetite for further research and exploration let’s take a quick look at all three.

  1. Human Beings are Religious by Nature.

Now, I didn’t say that human beings naturally gravitate to one religion or the other, just that they are hard wired, created, or evolved to be religious. It is a part of being human. Recently, Psychology Today said this concerning the subject, “Though we can’t prove the existence of one (or many) god(s), we can provide evidence for the power of religion. For good or for evil, faith factors into our everyday functioning: We’ve evolved to believe. Religion can help us make sense of our world, provide motivation, and bind us together. Nevertheless, structured belief has its drawbacks. So keep your mind open when dealing with dogma.” https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/religion (I bolded the statement to emphasize the point)

This idea proposed in Psychology Today is backed up when we take a hard look at Primal (or Indigenous) Religions that have never had outside contact with the modern world. Often their whole existence and societal structure evolve around religious beliefs, in a very natural way, which create a bridge between the natural world and the spiritual one.

Even pop culture has shown this to be true. If you can go to the Travel Channel and order the Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern Collection 4 Part 1 and watch the Bonus Episode on Kalahari. In this episode Zimmern witness what he calls the oldest ritual known to man the Trance Dance. He notes that ancient rock paintings show that it took place some 20,000 years ago and that it is still happening today. The dance, which takes place around the evening fire, is a time when the souls of the Shamans and other village leaders leave their bodies as they go into a trance and they are filled with the souls of their ancestors.   When the ancestors enter the Shaman they bring the power to heal. It is a very physical ordeal, which includes the Shaman laying hands on those individuals in the village that need healing. As Zimmern watches these events he says that he is “a 20th century man losing all points of reference.” He feels himself being moved farther and farther from the world as he knows it and into a spiritual world. At one point the Shaman places his hand on Zimmern who refers to the event as “something I have never experience before.” It is so powerful that it brings tears to his eyes.  He says, “I can’t explain it at all, it’s just very, very personal.” Zimmern notes that for these primal peoples the dance which concluded the next morning, “is not a rare event but part of their everyday life.”

CNN recently reported on a huge new study indicating Religious belief is human nature. Richard Allen Greene reported that, “Religion comes naturally, even instinctively, to human beings, a massive new study of cultures all around the world suggests.” An Oxford University three-year study project, that included 40 different studies, and multiple countries and people groups, confirmed what Humanities has been teaching all along.

Roger Triggs, Oxford University Professor, who headed the project, acknowledges that the study does not prove the existence of God, but does show how important religion is too humanity. “If you’ve got something so deep-rooted in human nature, thwarting it is in some sense not enabling humans to fulfill their basic interests,” Trigg said. “There is quite a drive to think that religion is private,” he said, arguing that such a belief is wrong. “It isn’t just a quirky interest of a few, it’s basic human nature.” He also stated, “This shows that it’s much more universal, prevalent, and deep-rooted. It’s got to be reckoned with. You can’t just pretend it isn’t there.”


One thing we which we must take away from all of this is that religion and religious practice may change, but if it is in fact a part of our own make up, it will never wither away.

  1. Human Beings are Social by Nature

Anthropologist Paula Gray posts in her blog, “Human beings are social animals. Our lives depend on other humans. Human infants are born unable to transport or care for themselves. Their survival depends on another human’s efforts. We develop and learn about the world around us through the filter of other people. Our connections to others are key to not only our survival, but also to our happiness and the success of our careers.”

She recommends reading the book, Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives (2009) by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler. I am going to have to read this book myself. I see it on Amazon and it looks good.  According to Gray, “they delve into the social theory underlying the impact that our social networks have on our lives.”

Apparently, it expands upon the idea of our social nature and shows how our own natural instincts can be used to make us more productive in our lives and jobs. The books authors confirm the assumption of Humanities about the nature of Humankind which is fundamentally and distinctively social. They write, “While social networks are fundamentally and distinctively human, and ubiquitous, they should not be taken for granted.” How true. We should never take for granted what is basic and inherent in our own make up.


Dr. Dan Erwin, a specialist in performance improvement for executives and business, would agree. He reminds his readers in a blog post of a very famous study done in the mid-fifties by Harry Harlow, a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, who produced a series of influential studies involving baby rhesus monkeys, which became the basis for Humanities teaching on the subject. I take the liberty to quote his post to acquaint you with the study if you are unfamiliar.

“Human beings are social creatures. We are social not just in the trivial sense that we like company, and not just in the obvious sense that we each depend on others. We are social in a more elemental way: simply to exist as a normal human being requires interaction with other people.

Children provide the clearest demonstration of this fact, although it was slow to be accepted. Well into the nineteen-fifties, psychologists were encouraging parents to give children less attention and affection, in order to encourage independence.

He happened upon the findings in the mid-fifties, when he decided to save money for his primate-research laboratory by breeding his own lab monkeys instead of importing them from India. Because he didn’t know how to raise infant monkeys, he cared for them the way hospitals of the era cared for human infants—in nurseries, with plenty of food, warm blankets, some toys, and in isolation from other infants to prevent the spread of infection. The monkeys grew up sturdy, disease-free, and larger than those from the wild. Yet they were also profoundly disturbed, given to staring blankly and rocking in place for long periods, circling their cages repetitively, and mutilating themselves.

At first, Harlow and his graduate students couldn’t figure out what the problem was. They considered factors such as diet, patterns of light exposure, even the antibiotics they used. Then, as Deborah Blum recounts in a fascinating biography of Harlow, “Love at Goon Park,” one of his researchers noticed how tightly the monkeys clung to their soft blankets. Harlow wondered whether what the monkeys were missing in their Isolettes was a mother. So, in an odd experiment, he gave them an artificial one.

In the studies, one artificial mother was a doll made of terry cloth; the other was made of wire. He placed a warming device inside the dolls to make them seem more comforting. The babies, Harlow discovered, largely ignored the wire mother. But they became deeply attached to the cloth mother. They caressed it. They slept curled up on it. They ran to it when frightened. They refused replacements: they wanted only “their” mother. If sharp spikes were made to randomly thrust out of the mother’s body when the rhesus babies held it, they waited patiently for the spikes to recede and returned to clutching it. No matter how tightly they clung to the surrogate mothers, however, the monkeys remained psychologically abnormal.

In a later study on the effect of total isolation from birth, the researchers found that the test monkeys, upon being released into a group of ordinary monkeys, “usually go into a state of emotional shock, characterized by . . . autistic self-clutching and rocking.” Harlow noted, “One of six monkeys isolated for three months refused to eat after release and died five days later.” After several weeks in the company of other monkeys, most of them adjusted—but not those who had been isolated for longer periods. “Twelve months of isolation almost obliterated the animals socially,” Harlow wrote. They became permanently withdrawn, and they lived as outcasts—regularly set upon, as if inviting abuse.

The research made Harlow famous (and infamous, too—revulsion at his work helped spur the animal-rights movement). Other psychologists produced evidence of similarly deep and sustained damage in neglected and orphaned children. Hospitals were made to open up their nurseries to parents. And it became widely accepted that children require nurturing human beings not just for food and protection but also for the normal functioning of their brains.

Fascinating reminder of what it means to be human.”


Fascinating it is!

  1. Human Beings are Conflictual by Nature.

I have found that this third assumption about human nature seems to be more controversial than the first two. Last semester I was given a class at Woodbury University on the subject of Conflict. Of course, I taught the class through the lens of the Humanities and how conflict related to the nature of humankind. As I did my research in preparation to teach the class I came to realize that there is much debate about this subject.  Is conflict a part of human nature?

Well, I don’t think that any person would argue that conflict is certainly a part of the human experience, but is it an instinctive part of our nature? Are we hard wired for conflict as we are for religion or social contact?  There are many propositions given to answer this question. Let’s take a look at a few that might direct our thoughts to some viable conclusion as to why the discipline of Humanities would hold this assumption.

Sun Tzu the ancient military strategist whose work, The Art of War, is considered the holy grail of military strategy even in modern times, certainly believed and proposed that humanity was conflictual by nature. Jan Willem Honig, professor at the Swedish National Defense College and senior lecturer at the Department of War Studies at King’s College London write this about Sun Tzu, “War, or more broadly, conflict is viewed as a never-ending process in Sun Tzu. ‘Winning’ is never defined in the treatise or even identified as an attainable, conclusive state of affairs. Because no end state, no final peace, is ever reached, there will always be an opponent with whom to contend.” (The Art of War Barnes & Noble Signature Edition pp. xxiii)

Jared Diamond, professor of geography at UCLA and author of the book Gun, Germs, and Steel (which I highly recommend you read or at least watch the National Geographic special by the same name) writes this about ancient New Guinea society, “if a New Guinean happened to encounter an unfamiliar New Guinean while both were away from their respective villages, the two engaged in a long discussion of their relatives, in an attempt to establish some relationship and hence some reason why the two should not attempt to kill each other.” This desire to kill an unknown person has been confirmed in many other primal societies by anthropologists and missionaries alike. According to Diamond, people have to learn not to be conflictual which for the New Guineans began with the rise, according to Diamond, “of chiefdoms around 7,500 years ago, people had to learn, for the first time in history, how to encounter strangers regularly without attempting to kill them.” Part of the reason that this natural instinct changes with the rise of chiefdoms was that the chief was given the power to decide if and when force would be used. (Guns, Germs, and Steel Jarod Diamond pp. 260 – 262)

In other words peace not only had to be learned but there had to be an intentional control of the natural inclination to use violence.

Not only is there the idea that peace has to be learned, because it is not natural, and violence must be controlled, because it is natural, we see in the premise for the book Strategic Nonviolent Conflict by Peter Ackerman and Christopher Kruegler.  (Another book I would recommend if you are interested in pursuing more about this topic.) peace can be created with the same strategies as conflict. So peace can also be intentionally pursued in strategic ways that can overcome conflict. Ackerman and Kruegler examine strategies and case studies that support their premise particularly in the nonviolent movements that have been successful and not-so-successful. An interesting point that they add is that to be successful in peace a nonviolent movement needs to build, “broad external support for nonviolent struggles” which can be done when that struggle has “core objectives that are of value beyond the fight itself.”

I agree with Ackerman and Krueglers added point as most theologians would. Peace is not only learned, but is also possible through change that has come from some value beyond the fight itself. Although Ackerman and Krueglar don’t address this directly theologians certainly have with the idea that a higher power, or other moral authority, can change human nature; including the inherent tendency to be in conflict. Take for example, the Apostle Paul who certainly felt human beings are conflictual by nature. He wrote that, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.” (II Corinthians 5:17 I bolded the statement to emphasize the point)

Of course, St. Paul made the statement “a new creature,” he would have too, because he was well aware that humans can’t possibly act in some other manner than what they are naturally. According to St. Paul, if humanity is to find peace, it is more than just learning; humanity must change its very nature.  He goes on to teach that this change occurs through Christ who changes people from naturally conflictive to a completely new being of peace.

The point is that St. Paul saw people as naturally conflictual and in need of change.

Mahatma Gandhi was different according to the book, The Social Philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, by K.S. Bharathi, who writes that Gandi, “knew that man at the present state of his being was not perfect, but that did not negate the theoretical possibility of further development which amounted to his perfectibility. Different than St. Paul, but at the heart similar, particularly in the idea that humankind can change and be remade. Bharathi writes, “And this belief (the perfectibility of humanity) logically leads to the conclusion of conversion and remaking of man.” Gandhi told the story, “When I was a little child, there used to be two blind performers in Rajkot. One of them was a musician. When he played on his instrument his fingers swept the strings with an unerring instinct and everybody listened spell-bound to his playing. Similarly, there are cords, in every human heart. If we only know how to strike the right chord, we bring out the music.” Bharathi analysis of Gandhi’s teaching is the foundationally it is a process of “the depraved, being reformed under humane and skilled treatment.” (The Social Philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi K. S. Bharathi, Gandhian Studies and Peace Research Series, No 4 South Asia Books April 1992 pp. 108) So although Gandhi did not believe that human beings were by nature conflictive, according to Bharathi, there was still something “depraved” that needed to be “reformed.”

My final thoughts on this third assumption in the Humanities are the possibility that conflict can also be positive. A little known paper by M. Gene Aldridge, President of the New Mexico Independent Research Institute and Associate Professor at Troy State University in Alabama, makes the case that conflict is one way that can bring about positive change in culture and people.

In his paper, What is the Basis of American Culture, Aldridge discusses the importance of language and its use in the equality of American citizens. He brings out the fact that the civil rights movement in the 1960’s was related to the incongruences between the use of language in our founding documents, where we are told “that all men are created equal,” with the opposite cultural experience for African Americans. This incongruence was, according to Aldridge, what led to our cultural conflict and the civil rights movement. And although there was intense conflict in the United States during this time the results that came from this conflict was positive and the culture was forced to move forward. For Aldridge cultural evolution happens in conflict, and if there is no conflict the culture will stagnate and there will be no innovations.

I think Aldridge would agree, human beings are naturally conflictive, and although it can go terribly wrong as history has shown, through Aldridge, we can also see that conflict is wired into human nature as a way of bringing innovation and progression.

Hopefully this quick review of the three basic assumptions, has spurred your interest and enthusiasm to more research and exploration into who we are as human being and what makes us tick. After all that is one of the reasons I teach Humanities in the first place. If you have something you would add, or you would approach this topic differently I encourage you to write it up, post a blog and send it to me.

John M. Scholte, M. Div.

Professor of Religion and Humanities

February 6, 2015

©2015 Scholte Consulting Services

I have been teaching Religion and Humanities for the last 20 years and I have really enjoyed learning about both disciplines.Teaching and learning about the many world Religions has informed and enriched my life and assisted me to better understand and live out the faith that I have chosen to follow. Over the years students have asked me what I believe and which religion I personally practice. This blog post is a brief response to those two questions from my students.

The short answer is that I follow the Christian religion. And I practice this religion as a protestant with a particular focus on the Reformed teachings of John Calvin. If you want too, you can google his name and I am sure you will find all kinds of interesting things about him and his brand of Christianity. I am not going to go into “Calvinism”  with this blog, but would be happy to discuss his teachings with you at another time. For now I want to share with you how and when I became a Christian.

I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior when I was 8 years old. A Sunday school teacher simply shared the gospel story with me.  Showing me how I was separated by sin from God and that to be saved from sin I need to accept Jesus into my heart. She followed what later became known as the “Four Spiritual Laws” format. You can google that if you don’t know what I am talking about. I remember thinking that this made sense to me and I prayed with her to receive Christ.  I was fortunate enough to grow up in churches that were willing to have youth participate in ministry.  By the age of 12 I preached my first sermon and felt God calling me into ministry. My parents were Dutch immigrants and we followed the traditions of the Dutch Reformed Church.  They became missionaries and as I was growing up we lived in the Philippines where I learned to temper our Calvinistic theology with Dutch tolerance and East Asian philosophy as well as Catholicism. Later my parents divorced and my Dad moved to Hawaii and my mother back to her Dutch roots in Michigan. I split my time between them. During this time my Grandmother introduced me to the Power of Positive Thinking and the ministries of Robert Schuller and Norman Vincent Peal.  I enjoyed the teachings of Dr. Schuller and made regular visits to the Crystal Cathedral and attended the Leadership Institutes. Later, Dr. Schuller was kind enough to endorse my ministry in both the churches I served.  While I was in High school I became involved with Youth for Christ and later became a staff member while attending College. I was drawn to their teachings about the whole person: Mental, Physical, Social, and Spiritual. While in seminary I had the opportunity to work at fusing the many different religious experiences I had and the various faiths I had encountered into a way of ministry that addressed the holistic health of each person.   After my ordination I continued my interest in a holistic health approach and how East Asian spirituality can inform my Christian faith.

I accept the following creeds as a statement of my faith; The Apostles Creed, The Possibility Thinkers Creed, and the Heidelberg Catechism.  I believe that my theology must be practical, and spiritual and not some religious dogma which may not relate to life.  I emphasize the Grace of God and give gratitude to God for the union I have with the Lord Jesus Christ, and express that by accepting others where they are in their journey, even if they are of another religion. I believe in the healing wholeness and regenerative power of the Holy Spirit and strive to share the joy and comfort of that healing with others who may also be seeking it.   I believe the Bible is God’s word which shows us the truth and its fullness. I work to be open to different and varied faiths and religious experiences, from all histories and traditions.

Although I am not a Taoist, Buddhist, Hindu, or Muslim I have found that these religious traditions can enhance, sharpen and inform my own faith.

Now as a full-time Professor of Religion and Humanities I continue to grow and learn about my own faith and the faith of others each semester. It’s always a privilege and a joy!

I feel that education at the college level should provide students with the tools needed to think “outside the box.” For me teaching at the college level is like spreading out the pieces of a large puzzle which students are going to piece together into a whole.  By encouraging students throughout the educational process and constructively challenging their outcomes I strive to build their reasoning, critical thinking skills and confidence as they work the puzzle pieces together.

College education is not a professor lecturing to students who then memorize the lecture and restated it on the exam.  It is assisting the student to process the information in a way that does one or more of the following; brings the answer into clear focus, provides an opportunity to see an idea in a new light, finds a whole new answer, or brings new questions for further study and research.

In the disciplines I teach, which is religion and the humanities, I also want to support students in reaching their educational goals and encourage students to be lifelong learners in the Liberal Arts.

I practice several principles to make my Philosophy of Education a reality. The following are the principles I strive to use.

The first principle is to be prepared for each and every class period.  I always tell my students that I expect them to be prepared for every class session and that they can expect this of me.  I have everything that I need to present the course material for the class session ready to go. I know that all audio visual or on-line links have been tested and are working. I make it a point to come at least 15 minutes prior to the start of class so that I know the classroom is set up appropriately and will assist in the facilitation of the course material for that class session.

A second principle, and very much related to the first, is to know my subject matter.  Even if I have taught the subject matter many times it is important to present the information in a fresh and relevant way that will capture the attention and imagination of the students. I review the content that needs to be presented to make it fresh in my mind and I look for any new or developing information I can add since the last time I taught the subject matter.

The third principle often correlates with the second.   I take time to get to know my students. Not only to learn their names, which can be a challenge in large classes, but at least to hear the needs, expectations, and career goals which will assists me with how I will present the class information. I also try to take in consideration the students age and years in college, or whether they are a returning student after years of no school.

The fourth principle is to encourage students to participate.  I immediately create the expectation that participation is a vital part of the class.  From the first day when I review the course syllabus to inviting students to e-mail or even call me with ideas, questions or new observations that they have made.  I make it a priority to answer or respond to them as quickly as possible.   I welcome students questions even during lectures and I often call on students in class.  When teaching an on-line course I make it a priority to participate in the forums and add links that may deepen the discussion. I enjoy and have students work in groups on exercises that involve discussion within the group and then together as a class.

The fifth principle is to make the material relevant to the student. I frequently use examples from my business background to show how pertinent the information can be for students in their careers. I also utilize current events to show how the course materials related to students’ everyday life.

The sixth principle is quality.  Speaking from my marketing and public relations experience I endeavor to provide a quality product to students.  They must receive what they are paying for which is a high quality education.  To meet this obligation each of my classes has defined objectives and student outcomes and I am open to reexamine course content to make sure the objectives are being met. I am always open to implementing positive changes that will maintain and improve quality service to students, colleagues, and the university. I availed myself of continuing education, research and study opportunities that will keep me on the cutting edge of my disciplines. I also appreciate and welcome the evaluation from my students, colleagues, and administration.

The seventh principle is to have high standards that are both fair and challenging. Students should be expected to act responsibly, learn to be professional, and to meet high standards in the classroom. The teacher should be fair and consistent in all dealing with students. I insist that all students adhere to deadlines, deliver college level work, and conduct themselves professionally in their interactions with one another and with me.  I always attempt to make my expectations clear both in written as well as verbal instructions, and to be fair and impartial in grading and interaction with students.  It is also my desire to treat all students with respect.

The final and last principle is to have fun and joy in teaching. I think the best way to learn is to make the topic enjoyable and to create an environment in which students can have a good time while they learn. I therefore try to inject not only humor into my lectures and discussions but also make projects fun and enjoyable. The best thing in the world is when I make a connection with my students while teaching. When the light comes on and they see how to fit things together it releases an energy and power that is hard to describe.  Much like when Lewis and Clark finally made it to the west coast and Clark wrote in his journal, “Ocean in view! O! The Joy!”

The following is the Commencement Address I gave at the 2012 graduation ceremony for Southern States University:

“Read, Read, Read, Study, Study, Study, Prepare, Prepare, Prepare!”

I would like to acknowledge and thank:

Carmen Tepper, Southern States University Founder
JohnTucker, Chancellor
Stephanie Dieringer, Vice Chancellor and Chief Academic Officer
William Amoke, Dean of Students and Academic Advisors
My esteemed colleagues and fellow faculty members
The administration and staff of Southern States University
Family and Friends in attendance this afternoon
And most of all,
Southern States University 2012 Graduates!

If you have taken any of my classes I am sure you would have heard this mantra many times over; “Read, Read, Read, Study, Study, Study, Prepare, Prepare, Prepare!”
Party, Party, Party!

Remember those Friday nights when you had a Saturday morning class and your friends were coming over and they were inviting you to the new club that was opening up. But you said, “No party, party, party, I must Read, Read, Read, Study, Study, Study, Prepare, Prepare, Prepare!”

They would say, “But there will be music and dancing.” And you would respond, “No! I must listen to my professor.”

They would say, “There will be cute guys to look at, or hot girls to see.” And you would respond, “No! I must look at my old professor.”

Well, I might be exaggerating a bit but the fact is you are graduating today because you have achieved this success, by working long hours, redoing papers, working on projects, taking exams. Paying attention to what is important, being open to learning new things. It hasn’t been easy.
There have been some tough professors. Let’s take a look at them……they look tough. I would be afraid to take their classes. But you did and through the hard work of reading, studying, preparing and focusing in on what you needed to accomplish you have earned your degree.

It hasn’t been easy, many of you have traveled to this country, away from family and friends, into the strange and foreign culture of the United States, learned English (a difficult language to master), and new educational standards and expectations of learning at a University level. However, because you were willing to read, read, read, study, study, study, prepare, prepare, prepare you were able to overcome those challenges and will now receive your diploma.

I hope that you will frame your diploma and hang it proudly where you will see it every day. Perhaps in the bathroom, right by the mirror, so that as you shave, or put on your make-up it will be right there to remind you of the hard work you have done and the fact that it was achieved by reading, reading, reading, studying, studying, studying, preparing, preparing, preparing, and NO party, party, party.

As you past through these doors as our alumni you are entering a world of business that is facing a very tough economic challenge. Whether you return to your home country, go to some other country, or stay here in the United States the fact is you will encounter a tough business environment. There can be no doubt about that. There is an American idiom which fits well with the business climate you are entering. It is called “The School of Hard Knocks!” This simply means that as you enter this new stage in your life, as a recent graduate, you will find yourself faced with many tough trials that may knock you down, or batter you with difficult problems. I hope you are planning on this, because the odds are that you will face tough times. Success never just falls into someone lap, it doesn’t happen by accident.

Some of you have a vision to start a business and you will need to find scare funding sources, others will be fighting regulatory issues that are blocking your dreams from becoming reality, a few will be bogged down working with personnel and human resource concerns that drain precious time and energy from the fulfillment of your vision. Many will work under someone that they wish would be a better supervisor. Most will experience burn-out at one time or other.

When these things happen, I advise you to take a good hard look at your diploma and let it remind you of what you learned at Southern States University.

And follow that same mantra that you did to be successful here; Read, Read, Read, Study, Study, Study, Prepare, Prepare, Prepare….No party!

This mantra is the edge that you need to get ahead, this is how to find the answer to your business problems, this is what will focus you on the tasks that need to be accomplished, and this is how the answer will be found. How you found success here at Southern States University will be the way you will find success in the business world.

We will be excited to hear your story and we hope you, as our alumni, will keep in contact with us. We know that you will do well, after all, if you can master Moodle then you can do anything!

Finely, I would like to say a word directly to our first graduating class of BBA students. It is important to create goals and benchmarks to help you reach your vision. It seems so often in business that when we reach a goal we simply move on to the next one. However, never forget to celebrate each achievement and milestone.

So…….ok, today you have achieved a pretty significant goal. You have read, read, read, studied, studied, studied, and you are prepared, prepared, prepared! Today…you can party! Just a little!

Come Monday morning…no more partying…you must go right back to Southern States University and sign-up for our Master Degree program! And it’s back to read, read, read, study, study, study, prepare, prepare, prepare….no party. party, party!