GCI Update

Which is true: materialism or idealism?

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Joseph and Tammy Tkach
Joseph and Tammy Tkach

A good friend recently told me about his new diet based on portion control and healthy food choices (like tofu). I asked how it was going and he replied, “I don’t mean to brag, but I finished my 14-day allocation of diet food in three hours and twenty minutes!” I then asked how he prepares his tofu and he replied, “First, I throw it in the trash, then I grill some meat.” He noted that he also tried exercise: “I did a week’s worth of cardio after walking into a spider’s web!” I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that his understanding of diet and exercise is just a bit lacking!

There are, of course, other areas where understanding seems in short supply. We see this in the realm of philosophy where one of the big questions is this: Which is true: materialism or idealism? Though there are commonalities between these ideas, and various forms of each one, these two perspectives are largely polar opposites, resulting in debates between atheists (who typically embrace materialism) and theists (who can be said to embrace a form of idealism). Materialists generally believe everything can be explained in relation to matter, which then is lumped together in various ways. Idealists generally believe that ideas (which, by definition, are non-material) make up fundamental reality, and thus the only “thing” that is knowable is consciousness, which includes a person’s thoughts, ideals, principles and values.


Believing that mind is merely the byproduct of what happens in the brain, materialists view consciousness as an illusion. Various experiments have supposedly lent credence to this notion, but none are convincing, especially when the key “proof” offered is that our brains work by lying to ourselves. As atheist-philosopher Daniel Dennett put it, “Half the time our brains are actively fooling us!” (click here for his talk). With my tongue deeply buried within my cheek, I offer this response: “Officer, my brain was fooling me again, I thought I had a green light and all those other drivers’ brains told them they had a red light!” Well, I doubt the “my brain is fooling me” defense would hold up in court.

It may interest you to know that Dennett’s close associate, Richard Dawkins, lost badly when debating three notable theists: click here for Dawkins’ debate with John Lennox, here for his debate with Keith Ward, and here for his debate with Alister McGrath. For critiques of Dawkin’s positions set out in these debates and presented in more detail in The God Delusion, see Alister and Joanna McGrath’s book, The Dawkin’s Delusion and the article “The Dawkins Confusion” by theist-philosopher Alvin Plantinga.

Commenting on the origin of our humanity, professor of philosophy Quentin Smith wrote that “the most reasonable belief is that we came from nothing, by nothing and for nothing.” [1] Though you don’t likely agree with that assessment, you might be interested in what Smith wrote recently concerning a major renaissance in the field of philosophy where an increasing number of philosophers are embracing a theistic/idealist worldview. Why? According to Smith it’s because theists/idealists have been winning debates with atheists/materialists. According to Smith, “Contrary to popular opinion, God is not ‘dead’ in academia—he returned to life in the late 1960s and is now alive and well in his last academic stronghold, philosophy departments.” [2] Of course God wasn’t dead before the 60s either, though many refused then (as now) to open their eyes to see him, and for a number of decades, the topic of God was ignored by most philosophers. Things have certainly changed in academic philosophy!

Materialistic and atheistic philosophical arguments don’t seem to faze God, nor do they get in the way of what he is doing to make himself known to humankind. Peter Berger, a leading proponent of what is known as the “secularization theory,” which states that the more modern and technological our world becomes, the more secular it becomes, recently abandoned that theory, saying he and almost everyone in the field has changed their minds because the evidence demands it. He elaborates:

The real situation is that most of the world is as religious as it ever was. You have enormous explosions of religion in the world… In fact, you can say every major religious tradition has been going through a period of resurgence in the last 30, 40 years or so… anything but secularization. [3]

Though we are not materialists, we do acknowledge that we are made from matter. We believe God created matter out of nothing (ex nihilo) and then, as the Master Potter (Isaiah 45:9-12), formed us from “the dust [clay] of the ground” (Genesis 2:7). But Genesis also says that, in part, we are non-material beings. God breathed into us the “breath of life.” If there was no one (God) who is spirit to breathe that immaterial, life-giving “breath” into us, and then sustain it, we would either not exist, or fall back into non-existence. But we do exist because God, the non-material, living, dynamic and personal source of all being and existence, gave us material existence along with non-material mind (consciousness)—the ability to think and reason, and thus have a relationship with him.

This idealist, theistic perspective seems to be growing in acceptance among philosophers who formerly were radical materialists. Isn’t that just like God! Just when it seems that bankrupt intellectualism and materialism have gained the upper hand, he shows up with his idealist revelation. Paul put it this way: “[God’s] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20 ESV). I’m delighted (but not surprised) that God is revealing himself to materialists who, in the past, attempted to deny God’s existence (or relevance).

It’s my prayer that those leaning away from materialism toward idealism (theism in particular) will continue that journey in response to the Word and Spirit of God, finding faith in God’s personal self-revelation and self-giving in Jesus Christ. In doing so they will be following in the footsteps of Oxford scholar and former atheist, C.S. Lewis.

Forever in awe of God’s incomparable goodness, knowledge and power,
Joseph Tkach


[1] Quentin Smith, The Uncaused Beginning of the Universe, quoted in William Lane Craig and Quentin Smith, Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology (1993), 135.

[2] Quentin Smith, “The Metaphilosophy of Naturalism,” Philo. 4.2 (2001), 197.

[3] Peter Berger, “Six Decades as a Worldwide Religion Watcher: Observations & Lessons Learned.” Ethics & Public Policy Center, accessed online on July 22, 2014 at http://eppc.org/publications/berger/.

Hands for Christ’s 4th anniversary

Hands for Christ Community Church, GCI’s congregation in Staten Island, New York, recently celebrated its 4th anniversary as a church. Lead Pastor and Church Planter Mary Bacheller commented:

Jesus planted this church and with his guidance and blessing we look forward to good years ahead. We are grateful to those God placed in our path to love, guide and support us: New Life in Christ Church (our “mother” church in Queens, New York), Pastor Al Barr, Pastor John Newsom, Jonathan Browne, Regional Pastor Randy Bloom, my ministry coach Becky Deuel and our denominational president, Joseph Tkach.


At our anniversary celebration worship service, we had 64 in attendance, not counting our family who connects with us by live-stream video in Texas, West Virginia, Las Vegas and North Carolina. We look forward to next year when we hit our five-year mark and begin to cast a vision for the five years following that. Many thanks and blessings to all of you who have supported us through your prayers, donations and encouragement. We ask that you continue to keep us in your prayers.

Here is a short video showing highlights of the anniversary celebration service:


On YouTube at https://youtu.be/ntnoD2gnucM.

Festivals and retreats

GCI congregations and national and regional offices host festivals and worship retreats at various times throughout the year—the fall season is particularly popular. Here are reports about three such events—held recently in the Philippines and Canada.


GCI-Philippines held a festival in September at Teachers Camp in Baguio City. The theme was Spread His Love, Share Your Life. It was attended by more than 800 people. GenMin’s national coordinator Anthony Mullins and his wife Elizabeth were guest speakers. For a report, click here, and here is a video with comments from the Mullins:


On YouTube at https://youtu.be/uyYN8bFYJ1g


GCI’s churches in Saskatchewan held a worship retreat in September at a resort hotel on Lake Manitou. The lake, which has a very high mineral content, feeds several pools at the hotel which are warmed, providing what is considered to be healing properties. This is the second year this event has been held with members (pictured below) attending from Regina, Saskatoon, Yorkton and Battleford.


A week later, a two-day worship retreat was held near Edmonton, Canada. Members attended from Edmonton, Westlock and Evansburg. The retreat included worship services on both days, an evening session, and meals (one pictured below).


The power of small churches

Are small churches too small to make a difference for the kingdom? According to Karl Vater, the answer is a resounding, “No!”—small churches have astonishing power. Click here to learn more.

Hurricane Matthew

matthewAs noted in GCI Weekly Update last week, Hurricane Matthew was very powerful and wide-ranging. It left a trail of destruction extending from Haiti, through the Bahamas, then up the Atlantic coast of Florida, Georgia, South and North Carolina (see the map at right).

In Haiti, Matthew killed at least 1,000 people and wiped many villages off the map. It then battered the Bahamas, and in the U.S. it left at least 24 dead, over 1 million homes and businesses without power, and caused billions of dollars in damage. Here from three GCI regional supervisors are reports on how our members fared:

  • From Caribbean Region Mission Developer Charles Fleming: “None of our members in Haiti were harmed, though one lost the roof on their home. Our church-owned building in Nassau, Bahamas, had a foot of sea water throughout the building as a result of the storm surge. All computers, etc., had be relocated to homes. One member in Freeport, Bahamas, suffered some damage to their home. Pastor Robert McKinney flew to Freeport to assess the damage.”
  • From U.S. Regional Pastor Ted Johnston: “Our members in Florida and Georgia all escaped significant damage. All are safe.”
  • From U.S. Regional Pastor Paul David Kurts: “All our members in the Carolinas are safe.”

Leonard Banks

Prayer is requested for GCI pastor Leonard Banks (Rochester, New York) and his wife Patama.

leonard-banksLeonard will undergo surgery on October 13 to remove a section of his colon. If the surgery can be performed using a laparoscopic procedure, the operation will take about three hours followed by three days in the hospital. If laparoscopy is not possible, five + days of recovery in the hospital will likely be needed.

Cards may be sent to:

Leonard and Patama Banks
40 Fountain Street
Rochester, NY 14620-1902

Earl Jones

earl-jonesPrayer is requested for GCI pastor Earl Jones (Fayetteville, North Carolina) and his wife Betty.

Earl suffered a massive stroke over a week ago. He is recovering at the UNC Hospital in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Cards may be sent to:

Earl and Betty Jones
168 N. Gaines Street
Southern Pines, NC 28387-3906

Ingrid Mandel

Thanks for praying for Ingrid Mandel, wife of retired GCI pastor Willi Mandel (click here for the prayer request). Ingrid had been scheduled for a second hip surgery a day following her first one, but it was decided to let the first hip heal first. Ingrid is now at home resting and receiving therapy. The next surgery will likely occur in 2 or 3 months.

Cards may be sent to:

Ingrid Mandel
747 Tanner Drive
Kingston, ON K7M 9G7

Michelle Fleming ordained

We are pleased to announce that Michelle Fleming was recently ordained a GCI elder, now serving the Orlando, Florida, congregation. Orlando lead pastor, Steve Schantz, commented:

michelle2It was a joyous time of prayer and celebration as Michelle’s church family affirmed her call to serve her Lord and his church as an elder. I opened the ordination ceremony with scripture reading, then Michelle’s father, Dr. Charles Fleming (GCI’s Mission Developer for the Caribbean), read more scripture and shared ways God prepared his daughter for pastoral ministry—serving the congregation first as an intern, then as a member of the preaching-teaching team, worship leader, small group leader, and assistant curriculum writer. Charles then led the ordination prayer while brothers and sisters from Michelle’s physical and spiritual families joined in as Charles and I as officiating elders laid hands on her. Tears of joy were in abundance!

Below are pictures from the ceremony. The top picture shows the laying on of hands with Steve on Michelle’s left, and Charles (holding the microphone) on her right. The bottom picture shows the congregation gathered for the ordination. Congratulations to Michelle, her family and congregation!



Crossing Borders

Crossing Borders (a GenMin mission organization) will embark on its 22nd trip into Mexico on December 9-12. Ages 15-99 are invited to come along. As noted by Crossing Borders’ director Lee Berger, “We will be hand-delivering hundreds of shoeboxes full of supplies and gifts to children and families—a life-transforming experience.” A passport is required, and for more information about attending or sending shoebox gifts, go to http://cbmission.org/ or call Lee at 903-746-4463.