Friday, December 30, 2005
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Ought we to show respect for beliefs or for the people who hold them?
Having thought this through only a bit, I expect some will see great gaps in the following logic. If so, feel free to point them out.
I tend to see respect as something you give to something or someone you esteem. I esteem people, regardless of who they are or what they think. I do this simply because of the fundamental equality of people. All are created by God in His image. Christ died to assume the sin of all people without exception.
Ideas though are not all fundamentally equal. Some are good. Some are excellent. Some are just dumb. You cannot give respect to all ideas equally. The same I think can be said for beliefs. While I can therefore see fit to respect all persons, I cannot respect all beliefs.
I think the rest of the world can understand and agree with this; there is by and large no problem with dismissing the belief that the Holocaust never happened, for example. That however is because the general consensus (in the global context) holds that such a belief is irrational and unfounded. Were I to use as an example something with no such consensus though, what might happen?
If I were to argue say that Christianity is the only ultimately true religion, I would be well received in my faith community, because that proposition is part of my faith community's consensus. I would be affirmed.
In the rest of the world though, which does not share my faith community's consensus, I would be told I am disrespectful of believers in other religions. I might be called archaic, a bigot or have my intellectual capacity dismissed, and by the same people who would be hailing me for comments I might make against the notion that the Holocaust is a myth.
This leads me to think that in some ways respect really means to fall into line with the governing consensus on an issue.
But if I voice my dissent in a way that speaks unequivocally to my belief while nevertheless affirming the worth of the person holding the opposing belief, am I really being disrespectful? I don't think so.
Perhaps then we should look at respect for what it is: code for "agree" or at least "don't disagree".
One wonders what kind of respect that shows for people...
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
What folks may not recognise is that the Liberals are also developing the art of being patronising.
The Liberals scream that a Conservative Government would be a disaster for National Unity, claiming that the Conservatives, unlikely as they are to win even a single seat in Quebec, cannot hope to be a truly national governing party. The Liberals insist that this is an ideal condition for a Quebec Sovereignty Referendum. Yet it is arguable that no one has done more to support the recent surge in Quebec Sovereignty support than the Liberals.
The AdScam affair has come to be seen as a blatant attempt to bribe Quebecers into staying in Canada. The result is that the people of Quebec are feeling justifiable rage at being so patronised. Quebecers are rpepared to all but eliminate the Liberals from the federal political landscape for that reason, replacing them withthe Bloc Quebecois. Surely such a large presence of the BQ is more of a ideal condition than a Conservative Government.
Whiel that is somethign we can quibble over, here is somethign I don't think is: AdScam is aresult of incompetence and corruption at the highest levels. AdScam was only made possible because of a program that was initiated because of the result of the last referendum which Canada almost lost because of incompetence at the highest level of the Liberal Government's campaign.
In other words, Liberal incompetence in the Referendum begat incompetence and corruption in AdScam. Yet the Liberals claim that they can make it all better.
Forgive me, but I just don't see how the Liberal track record leads to that conclusion. The fact that they obviosuly think they can convince us it does is just more Liberal patronising.
Speaking of which, I have rarely felt so patronised as this week with Liberal comments about the Conservative child care strategy. It began with Ken Dryden's assertion that staying home to care for your child is not in fact providing child care. The worst however was the complaint of a top Liberal that Canadians would spend any money we receive on popcorn and beer.
I see. The Liberals, who completely mismanaged AdScam, think they know how to spend money better than we do. Not only that, they seem to think we are unfit parents, preferring popcorn and beer over adequate childcare.
If that's what they think they better call the Children's Aid Society on us all.
Monday, December 12, 2005
Sunday, December 11, 2005
There are a couple of comments I can make on this:
1) Our so-called Christian Prime Minister is really more f a political pragmatist. Rather than be what he is supposed to be, a Christian buying something for his family's Christmas clebrations, he did a wild jig. Did he really think that peple wuld be offended if he persnally celebrated Christmas?
2) The notion of the inversion of tyrannies is quite something. At frst blush, I agree with it. It deserves more thought though.
Friday, December 09, 2005
CANOE -- JAM! Movies - The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe Review - 'Narnia' movie is pure 'childlike' magic
the villainous White Queen (Tilda Swinton unleashed and loving the
evil) and that it is populated by giants and dwarfs, by elfs and fauns
and by centaurs, satyrs, minotaurs, minoboars and a woodland of talking
But does God have a particular political party?
God has priorities, and principles, and these are refelcted in varying degrees in each political party. For example the Green Party certainly has the idea of stewarship of the environment ( a Christian principle). The NDP are concerned about social justice. The Conservative major on moral issues. The Liberals have a bit of all of these.
But these parties also fail to reflect God's priorities to varying degrees as well. The NDP fail on moral issues, as do the Liberals. The Green Party simply has little to say about God's other priorities. The Conservatives are not known for compassion, and IMO fail to take into account the fallen nature of humanity in certain social areas.
You will also find that Christians can be found in all the parties. Contrary to what some columnists might say, Conservative Christians have about the same level of particpation in the LIberal and Conservative parties.
So God may have politics, and He may love a good party, but He does not have a particular political party.
Happy voting (in about 7 weeks)!
Thursday, December 08, 2005
Once in my life I voted NDP. That time around Bob Rae became Premier of Ontario, and it may be that we are still dealing withthe imapct of that. Never agani will I vote NDP.
Once I voted Liberal. I really didn't want NAFTA. That didn't accomplish anything. Mulroney still won and as it turns out NAFTA has been good for the country on balance.
This time around, with AdScam, the same-sex marriage issue, and the fact that the Conservatives have managed to put out policies which are easy for average canadians to relate to, I fully expect a Conservative government.
But for the moment I want to turn my attention to the local riding. The incumbent is a Conservative, the first federal conservative in a very long time for this area. The Liberal challenger is the guy who was the MP for many years. Clearly he is counting on the riding going back to its traditional colors.
But there are good reasons to keep Diane Finley as our MP.
I think we all know that the real power in government is in the Cabinet. Being out of the cabinet, even if in government, doesn't count for much. Whoever your MP is, you want that person to be in the Cabinet. That being the case, we can see that Diane Finley is the person to elect over Liberal Bob Speller. Why?
The Liberals are not a slam dunk to form the next government. Even if they do, Speller is not liekly to be in cabinet. Yes, he was a cabinet minister the last time he was an MP, but that had little to do with Speller's ability. PM Martin chose Speller because he needed to create a cabinet that was not a Chretien cabinet. Speller had been an MP for many years under Chretien, but never considered for a cabinet post. Speller then was chosen less for what he is than for what he never was.
Finley on the other hand in her first term as an MP has been a member of the shadow cabinet as the Agriculture critic. It is not uncommon for MPs to assume a cabinet post in the same area in which they were the critic while in Opposition. Unlike Martin, who had relatively few chices from which to make his "not-Chretien Cabinet", Conservative Leader Stephen Harper had many choices. He could have overlooked Finley altogether but did not do so.
In short then, Finley is more likely cabinet material than Speller, meaning she is more likely to be able to represent this riding at the highest level.
In terms of voting strategically, and in the interest of this riding, that should speak volumes.
Friday, December 02, 2005
We play up Jesus for the holiday saeson, and take somethign of a "don't ask, don't tell" approach to Santa Claus. The boys will at times speak their minds about Santa, but we don't make much of it. My oldest has decided that he doesn't beleive in Santa, while my youngest is pretty sure he doesn't exist, but is willing to "believe in him" anyway. Being quite the pragmatists, he is just covering his bases, in case not believing means no presents.
But siblings being what they are the two are arguing about whether Santa Claus is real. I decided to stick my nose in between them (lest someone else's nose get too far out of joint). I thought to make peace, but instead got myself "the question: Daddy, do YOU believe in Santa Claus?"
I hate it when I have to answer a direct question that I am unprepared for. I told them it was a personal question (yes I know, bad cop out). But I said I would get back to them.
Since them I have been researching the actual Saint Nicholas. I intend to expalin to them the "hisotircal Saint Nicholas" and the development of the Santa Claus story (in an age appropriate manner of course).
My point? Well actually I just wanted to pass along a link that I am finding useful for information. I went here.
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
The last week is proving to be difficult for a number of reasosn:
- I am getting more guilt trips from management, and even some staff this week than in the previous 2 combined.
- I notice the time I spend there, and by extension, I miss the time I could be spending foing other things, more this week than ever before.
- I have the ominous feeling that there is a shoe todrop, like Satan is going to try something.
- More little niggling annoyances have popped up this week already than care for. The basement had water come in, I am feeling sick, that sort of thing.
- I have the feeling of waiting to exhale. I am so ready to be done.
- I am thinking of this in terms of being faithful to my family, not being unfaithful to my employer.
- I am getting excited about the several projects I can finally get to after this week.
- I have the strong sense that this is indeed what God wants.
God actually does use such obstacles to strengthen your commitment to His will.
Saturday, November 26, 2005
If, like me, you don't like shovelling snow, then you may understand that I consider shovelling to be an exercise in contemplation.
What, you might ask, does one contemplate while shovellilng? Besides one's sore back that is?
Well, I contemplated the way in which we consider snow to be so integral a part of Christmas, while much of the world knows nothing of it. Our Christmas is so Norman Rockwell it is almost sickening. It is such a luxurious image, something that is out of synch with the reality of so many lives.
We plan on having a Christmas that is, by the standards of many, spartan. Yet I know that by the standards of the world at large it will be almost extravagant.
Some might consider this contemplation little more than an expression of "white guilt." In reality though it is nothing more than thinking beyond my front door. Simply considering the disparity is not a sign of guilt. If I were to end up despising myself or my culture then I would say there is guilt invovled. I prefer to think of it as simply being reflective and taking note of ways that I might be true to the Old Testament teaching to care for the poor, the widow and the orphan.
We do need to appreciate the privilege of being able to have a Rockwellian Christmas. We need not feel ashamed of it. But we do need to be sensitve to the fact that our experience is not normal in this world, nor is it necessarily even (a) right. We need to subit our visionsof Christmas to Scripture and to teh Lordship of Christ.
Just like we do everythign else in our lives. Right?
Thursday, November 24, 2005
Yes I got them from Amazon.com.
I have now the following volumes in said series:
- John' Gospel
- John's Letters
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Sunday, November 06, 2005
I would like to see this blog be announced to be a joke in fairly short order. It is, quite simply, offensive.
The reasons are several:
1) The designation of the Bible as a superstition would seem to deny one the right to call onesself a Christian. Saying one is a Christian, a follower of Jesus, whilecalling the only source of Jesus' teaching superstition is irrational. If one does not take the Bible to be reliable, a mere supersition, how do you know what a Christian is?
2) The use of terms like "fundamentalist," without regard for their historic or proper use, is hard to swallow.
3) God is not a She.
I could go on, but you get the point.
In reality I more than half expect it to be a prank blog. Coming as this does on the heels of another recent hoax, and being in a similar vein, I would not be surprised to find someone doing a copy cat effort. Sadly this one is even more over the top, which is to say it isn't even as good a hoax as the other blog, should this blog turn out to be a hoax.
Some people I think have too much time on their hands.
Friday, November 04, 2005
It's an adventure.
My oldest son received candy during junior church last Sunday prior to the service. During the service he asked if he could have some. I told him he needed to wait until after the service.
This was not a welcome reply, or so it seemed. His repsonse was to begin yelling and shouting. I picked him to take him out of the sanctuary at which point he started to hit me, yelling he hated me.
Well we talked it out, and we went back in to the snactuary. I cn honestly say one of the reaosns I am proud to be a part of Ev ergreen is the way such events are handled. Some churches, many in my experience, would have reacted ina way that would have made want to resign on the spot and never walk in the building again. Evergreen though doesn't make me want to resign. They jsut look at you in a resigned way that says they've been there, and they understand.
God is good, and when is poeple reflect His character, so is the church.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
But I am a frugal sort, wanting to exercise proper stewardship of the money at my disposal. That means I do a fair amount of comparison shopping in order to find the best price. I figured the best place to go would be the publishers, so I tried them first.
Well the results were not entirely satisfactory (too expensive), so I thought I'd try Christian Book Distributors. I had used them in the past, and thought that I at least couldn't do worse price wise, and might do better with the shipping. To my pleasant surprise, I doscopverd that I could save quite a bit through CBD. But still, its an American company, and that led me to try Chapters-Inidigo Canada.
They were expensive for what they had in the way of commentaries, which was not much. That exasperated me, so I went to Amazon Canada, and they were the same as Chapters-Inidigo. That exasperasted me further, so I went to Amazon in the U.S., just to see if anyone other than Christiasn sold commentaries in any real variety and abundance.
I was shocked to discover the best price was at Amazon.com. I was also disappointed. I thought that if anyone was going to give the best price in Chrisitan books it would be CBD, a company I thought was of Christians, selling books by Christians to Christians.
It turns out that the secularists are doing better "ministry" in that regard. Go figure.
Saturday, October 22, 2005
That said, there are limits. One of those limits would be to try to promote the Christian faith by using a hook that appeals to humanity's baser characteristics. What I mean is that while I don't mind contextualising the Christiam message to answer contemporary questions, to do so in a way that essentially validates negative impulses or questionable assumptions about what is valuable in life is wrong.
Thomas Nelson Publishers has come up with a version of the New Testament geared towards men that validates a number of questionable ideas. For example, one of the "headlines" is "Sexcess: success with the opposite sex!" I realise that the point is likely to point men in the direction of how tio be godly men, but to do so while baiting them with sexuality seems quite opposed to the spirit of biblical teaching, not to mention pandering to the attitudes of an already oversexed society.
I give credit where it is due; this is a slick idea in terms of marketing. Marketing though can either create trends or follow them. It seems to me that Thomas Nelson is following here, and that is disappointing. The Holy Spirit is more creative than imitative, so I am given to wonder whether the Spirit is behind this product.
Thursday, October 20, 2005
|Your Personality Is|
You are both logical and creative. You are full of ideas.
You are so rational that you analyze everything. This drives people a little crazy!
Intelligence is important to you. You always like to be around smart people.
In fact, you're often a little short with people who don't impress you mentally.
You seem distant to some - but it's usually because you're deep in thought.
Those who understand you best are fellow Rationals.
In love, you tend to approach things with logic. You seek a compatible mate - who is also very intelligent.
At work, you tend to gravitate toward idea building careers - like programming, medicine, or academia.
With others, you are very honest and direct. People often can't take your criticism well.
As far as your looks go, you're coasting on what you were born with. You think fashion is silly.
On weekends, you spend most of your time thinking, experimenting with new ideas, or learning new things.
|Your Brain's Pattern|
Your brain is always looking for the connections in life.
You always amaze your friends by figuring out things first.
You're also good at connecting people - and often play match maker.
You see the world in fluid, flexible terms. Nothing is black or white.
|Your Personality Profile|
You are dependable, popular, and observant.
Deep and thoughtful, you are prone to moodiness.
In fact, your emotions tend to influence everything you do.
You are unique, creative, and expressive.
You don't mind waving your freak flag every once and a while.
And lucky for you, most people find your weird ways charming!
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
I didn't get the chance.
Once I described what a blog is, I had to answer a question: WHY? Why would someone put heir thoughts, sometimes very intimate ones, out there for the whole world to see?
The question was very nearly rhetorical. Clearly the question stemmed from incredulity rather than curiosity.
Another person offered a very reasonable response. He said that it was about a need for community. I don;t think that is a bad response ( I gave it to him), but I do think it is inadequate top explain the appeal of blogging.
Yes, blogging creates community. It gives connections. It allows people to feel they are part of something far bigger than themselves that they can connect easily to.
But it is also a HUGE ego stroke.
People from all over the world read your writings, and they not only take you seriously (sometimes seriously enough to comment), they will even promote your writing for still more people to take you seriously.
Wow. You can have your own following. You can have a blog empire. You can be, like, a blog god!
Yup, I need to get out more.
Oh, the Sens are 5-0 to start the season. :-)
Sunday, October 16, 2005
Saturday, October 15, 2005
The first is Masterpiece In Progress . The author of this blog is, from my reading, a thoughtful person, reasonably well educated, but not thinking too much of that fact. He has opinions and is not afraid to stand for them, but you never get the sense that he assumes his superiority. He certainly seems ot have a proper disdain for certain ideas (read: bad ones), but does not trnaslate that into a disdain of people.
The second is, shall we simply say, the opposite of that. Fancying himself a "postevangelical" the blog is an outpost for many fringe ideas. The author seems to be nothing more than a liberal (though he considers himself moderate), who is "inclusive" in the worst way. He seems to think that pandering to the spirit of the age is being relevant. It is not a worthwhile read. That's why I am not linking to it.
Why mention the other blog if it is that bad? The contrast struck me. That's all.
Thursday, October 13, 2005
An Insider's View of Evangelicals
First of all, they are not fundamentalists. They're your neighbours who read, and try to live by, the Bible, but not to the point of absurdity. Some may see them as boring, but they're definitely not scary.
by Michael Davenport
This article was written to non-believers in response to a series of articles in the Vancouver Sun in July 2005, warning people about Evangelicals. Advertisements for the articles asked, for example, "Are they active in a church near you?" One reader wrote a letter affirming that she was afraid of Evangelicals. The Liberal party of Canada conducted a poll before the last federal election asking Ontarians if they would be "more or less likely to vote for the Conservative/Alliance if they knew it had been taken over by Evangelical Christians."
Mike Davenport wrote to the editors of the Sun suggesting that such rhetoric was marginalizing and thus incompatible with Canadian values. He offered to write an "Insider's View" and promised not to preach. To his surprise, they immediately said "yes" and offered him a quarter page. He said he needed a whole page, and in the end they gave it to him.
The following text is (approximately) the article that he submitted to them. They published a large portion of it, adding the headlines and their own photos and captions.
This article can be helpful to church leaders and individuals who wish to help seekers gain an understanding of the Christian faith and Christian community.
Does it ever happen that you and a friend view the same event or object and see completely different things? We have a blanket in our house that looks grey to me, but when I say so to my son he rolls over laughing and says "no Dad, it's green." Now, I can see green just fine, and that blanket does not look green to me.
… think of this as a National Geographic article about a strange tribe …
That's the sort of disconnect I experience when the media "warn" people about Evangelicals, or when someone writes a letter to the editor saying "I am afraid of Evangelicals." Afraid? Of us? The ones—you know—that bring you a casserole when there's a death in the family, that don't cheat on our taxes, that stop for you at the crosswalk?
My son and I resolved the blanket controversy by taking it outside into the sunlight, where I had to admit that is was green (a grey-green, ok?). My objective in this article is to bring Evangelicals out into the Sun where you can see for yourself what our true colours are. Think of this as a National Geographic article about a strange tribe living in your midst.
Let's get some common misperceptions out of the way. First, don't confuse Evangelicals with TV evangelists—they are no more similar than Conservatives and conservationists. In 30 years of attending Evangelical churches, I have honestly never seen Bible-thumping hucksters or white-shoed crooners … well, except once in New York in 1979, but let's not go there.
What the Words Mean
Christian: a follower of Jesus, whose life is described in the Christian Bible;
A Church: a group of Christians that worship together
Being "Saved": being reconciled to, and declaring allegiance to, Jesus
Evangelist: a Christian (not necessarily an Evangelical) who is telling non-Christians about Jesus;
Evangelical: a movement that affirms traditional theology and submits to the authority of the bible while striving to participate creatively in modern society
Christian Liberalism: a movement to assert intellectual and cultural authority over the bible, including revising traditional theology where it conflicts with modern ideals
Fundamentalism: an extremist movement within any religious or secular group, marked by dogmatic anti-intellectualism, unwillingness to engage opposing points of view, and separation from society.
Second, please don't confuse "Evangelical" with "Fundamentalist"—most Evangelicals would be offended by that. Fundamentalism began in the 1920s as a movement among Christians to separate from their "corrupt" society and to avert their eyes from intellectual attacks on the Bible. By the 1940s, the Fundamentalist movement had strayed so far from Evangelical values of intellectual and cultural engagement with society, that mainstream Evangelicals formed alliances and created programs specifically to strengthen their members against Fundamentalist influence. So you can imagine how galling it is for those same churches to now be called "Fundamentalist"—sort of like mistaking Greenpeace for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
An approach to faith
One source of confusion is that the term "Evangelical" identifies an approach to faith, rather than a separate denomination. The distinguishing features of the Evangelical approach are:
• acceptance of the authority of Scripture over all other documents and traditions;
• affirmation that, suddenly or gradually, individuals are transformed ("reborn") into believers;
• belief that Jesus' death and resurrection were historical facts, necessary for our new life; and
• commitment to prayer, discipleship, and faithful service to wider humanity.
You will find people who believe and live these principles within every Christian church. You can't be a card-carrying Evangelical, because there is no agency issuing "cards." We have no one like the Pope to rule on who may call themselves Evangelicals, and of course no one can control what Evangelicals say. So if you hear a prominent "Evangelical" promoting, say, assassinations of foreign leaders, please know that the real Evangelicals in the audience are as uncomfortable with this as you are.
Evangelicals in the community
… evangelicals: a bit different, but not scary …
Surveys indicate that about 12 percent of Canadians are Protestant Evangelicals. So there's a good chance that you know some from work, hockey, or your kid's preschool. Will they seem any different? Probably not at first. In my experience Evangelicals are often kind, generous, and thoughtful people, but so are people of all backgrounds. There are apparently some statistical differences—polls indicate that compared to average Canadians, Evangelicals
• typically give more money to charity, even when gifts to churches are ignored,
• are less likely to smoke, swear, or get drunk,
• are more likely to volunteer their time, and
• tend to place a higher value on marriage and family.
None of these attributes suggest to me that Evangelicals are scary. Boring, some would say, but definitely not scary.
Evangelicals have a long and honourable history of social activism, often as revisionists rather than conservatives. Here are some of my favourite examples of Evangelicals who had an impact on our world:
William Wilberforce, an Evangelical politician,
persuaded England to abolish the slave trade.
• William Wilberforce: an English member of parliament who single-handedly forced the abolition of the slave trade in 1807;
• The Clapham Sect: social activists from the same parish as Wilberforce who set up schools for impoverished children, improved the prisons, and pioneered labour laws and animal welfare laws;
• Tommy Douglas: former premier of Saskatchewan and recently voted the "greatest Canadian," who established universal health care in Canada;
• World Vision: global aid agency that brings crisis relief, feeds and educates children, builds self-sufficiency, and acts against social evils such as child prostitution, all without regard for race or religion;
• Jimmy Carter: former US president who works with "Habitat for Humanity" to build decent homes among the world's poorest people;
• Preston Manning: founder of the Reform Party who badgered the Liberals into eliminating the fiscal deficit;
• Brian McConaghy: RCMP scientist from Richmond who brought medical aid to children in the "Killing Fields" of Cambodia two years before the UN dared to become involved. More recently, he gathered key evidence in Cambodia leading to the first conviction under Canada's new child sex tourism law;
• Lillian To: Vancouverite and immigrant who established "SUCCESS" to help new immigrants adjust to living in Canada.
The Evangelical Environmental Network, in a widely-endorsed declaration, sums up our attitude to the environment as follows: "We urge individual Christians and churches to be centers of creation's care and renewal, both delighting in creation as God's gift, and enjoying it as God's provision, in ways which sustain and heal the damaged fabric of the creation which God has entrusted to us." This is the only approach to environmental issues that I have ever heard preached in church.
… morality does not revolve around human happiness …
Some fundamentalists (very few as far as I can tell) seem to use end-time prophecies as an excuse to neglect the environment, but that view is definitely not an Evangelical view.
Living from the heart
So what motivates Evangelicals to serve the world with such vigour? Are we, for example, reacting to a guilt trip laid on us by a manipulative church or vengeful God? More frighteningly would an Evangelical, given political power, visit the same guilt trip on you?
The answer is "no," but it is an interesting "no." In ancient times, and I think still in some religions, one tried to avoid God's wrath by following God's laws. Christians believe that this is a hopeless strategy—that we humans are predisposed to screw things up and break the laws. We believe instead that closeness to God comes as a free gift, when by faith we are ready to receive it. This is the "Good News" (in Greek evangelion) that gives our movement its name.
This means, logically, that our good deeds are of no value in "saving" us. So why do we do them? We do good deeds because we have fallen in love with a God of love, and when you love someone there is no greater joy than to please them.
It also means that Evangelicals believe very profoundly that you can't force a belief system or a morality onto others. Our God does not "force" us to believe or behave morally, but rather calls us to do so in love. You can expect that same model from Evangelical leaders—moral leadership based on influence rather than power politics.
Good and evil
I hope this hasn't given the impression that we take morality lightly—as you've probably noticed quite the opposite is true. Evangelicals believe that when a child is abused in Cambodia it is not an isolated tragedy, but rather an assault on the whole world. The grief and the pain ripple out around the globe and for generations forward in time.
The word we use for this is "evil," and it is the visible manifestation of an epic battle—a spiritual Lord of the Rings if you like—that, we believe, rages around our world. It is a battle best fought not with violence but rather with fierce love, patience, kindness, and self-control. And in this battle we do not see the "bad" people—the abusers, the cheaters, the destroyers—as the enemy, but rather as hostages of, and collaborators with, the enemy.
This view of good and evil makes moral relativism untenable for Evangelicals. Some choices, we would say, are inherently and non-negotiably wrong. It is just plain wrong to cheat on your wife even if "she'll never know so it can't hurt her." I mention this because some postmodernists, for example, believe that any talk of "right" and "wrong" is, well, wrong.
I suspect, however, that those who are frightened by Evangelical morality are less frightened by the prevailing environmental morality, which is equally committed to concepts of "right" and "wrong." Surely we can all agree that it is absolutely wrong to hunt a species to extinction. No argument of how "that species helps humanity" need be given, because morality does not revolve around human happiness.
… committed to excellence in biblical scholarship …
Environmentalists also understand the need to be careful of "small sins" which, integrated over time, can add up to great evil. Hiking on Vancouver Island years ago, I went up a forbidden trail to see the Carmanah Giant cedar tree. When a Park Warden stopped me on the way back, I explained that I was just one person, and I had been careful to stay on the path. "It's the path that's killing the tree!" the Ranger explained "What would happen if everyone ignored the trail signs?" He didn't give me a ticket, but I deserved one—not because I lacked concern for the trees but because, thinking I knew what the sign "really meant," I ignored what it plainly said.
High regard for the Bible
Evangelicals believe that humans are equipped to recognize what is right and what is wrong, and that the Bible provides essential "trail signs" to guide that instinct. More specifically, we believe in reading, discussing, and prayerfully considering the whole Bible, and allowing it to direct our morality. Very nasty things have been said and done by people who use segments of the Bible out of context to defend their pet projects.
Evangelicals are sometimes accused of "reading the Bible literally" as if we are blind to its subtleties. The truth is that Evangelicals place a very high value on excellence in biblical scholarship, as exemplified by the writings of CS Lewis. One of the world's leading Evangelical think-tanks, Regent College, is located in Vancouver and draws scholars from all over the world. So we read the Bible literally when appropriate, but we also know a metaphor when it hits us in the face.
Some people seem to be threatened by Evangelicals' apparently "old fashioned" sexual morality. More disturbingly, some have suggested that we are hateful to people with alternative sexual orientations. On the contrary; I have seen only loving and respectful acceptance of all people at our churches.
One Sunday long ago, when I was a junior Sunday School coordinator, a man came up to me wearing a very nice blouse, skirt, medium-rise shoes, and blonde wig, and offered to help teach a class. I explained that we did not appoint teachers until they had attended our church for some time, and suggested other ministries that might be appropriate in the mean time. Over the coming months he attended regularly, sometimes as a woman and sometimes as a man, and I was very impressed with the complete absence of fuss within the congregation. We accepted him as he was, and trusted that God would make our church for him a place of both grace and transformation just as it had been for so many of us.
So I find the accusations of "hatred" bewildering. Cannot our liberal society just accept Evangelicals as an odd minority group that avoids sex except between husbands and wives? Wouldn't that be just like accepting vegans as an odd minority group that avoids foods derived from animals? Cannot vegans dislike meat and still love meat-eaters? Should our laws forbid vegans from suggesting that their diet is healthier or morally superior? If I go to a vegan home would it be right, when they politely refuse to prepare bacon and eggs for my breakfast, to accuse them of hating me?
And if they refuse to appoint me, a meat-eater, as an official vegan spokesman, can I accuse them of unfair discrimination?
Evangelicals in politics
I am very proud of the achievements of Evangelical politicians such as Wilberforce, Douglas, Carter, and Manning. They show that great good can be done by people with solid moral foundations and a willingness to serve their people in the political arena. They also show that Canadians should welcome, not fear, the contributions of Evangelicals on the political stage.
In a media poll, Evangelical Tommy Douglas
was identified as the "greatest Canadian"
for bringing universal health care to Canada.
1965 CP Photo
But what about Evangelical politicians who seem to be doing bad things? The first thing to remember is that no-one will ever perfectly exemplify Christian principles. Evangelical leaders struggle against many of the same failings and temptations as the rest of humanity, and of course they are not all intellectual giants and brilliant speakers. Furthermore, politics is a complicated dance of rhetoric and compromise, and I suspect there is often no way to move forward without in some way compromising ones ideals.
So if an "Evangelical" politician is making you squirm, take some comfort in knowing that if they were not Evangelical it might have been even worse. Or maybe, just maybe, you have something to learn from them.
It's also possible, of course, that they are just claiming to be Evangelical for political gain. Not that there is much gain to be had in Canadian politics. Polls indicate that in our last election, Evangelicals split their vote approximately evenly between the Liberal and Conservative parties, just as the rest of Canada did. I have never heard any political party endorsed by my church leaders.
Welcome in a liberal society
OK, so after all these words, I'm guessing that some of you still don't really like Evangelicals. Maybe I've convinced you that we're not all dangerous, but even in the bright light of day we don't quite match your colour-scheme. Here's my challenge: get over your fear—it's called xenophobia—and accept us as just one more quirky component of this country we call Canada.
We are a minority group accounting for about one eighth of all Canadians and holding some values that differ from the ruling elite. Should we be encouraged to get politically active? The answer is "yes" if Canada is a liberal democracy, and "no" if it is a liberal hegemony.
With the passage of the same-sex-marriage law, perhaps it is time for social liberals in Canada to accept that they are now the Establishment. As the Establishment they have the primary responsibility for defending Canada's commitment to tolerance and multi-culturalism—core elements of our identity. This means they need to shift from "fighting for their voice to be heard" to "fighting to ensure that other voices are heard."
Judging from some of the rhetoric we read in the media, this may require a bit of an adjustment.
Mike Davenport bases his observations on 25 years of membership in Vancouver Evangelical churches. He has a PhD in theoretical physics, works as a research scientist, and attends St. John's (Shaughnessy) Anglican Church with his family.
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
First there is the Spezz Dispenser (Jason Spezza) who is still very much a kid in the way he plays and grins at the camera. You also have Zdeno Chara, who is one of the very few elite defensemen who will actually fight when called out. The Dominator (Hasek) is always interesting just because you're always waiting to see what move he pulls to stop a puck. Alfredsson is a guy with a sense of humour.
Without a doubt though the most intriguing personality in the room for me is Razor Ray (or Sugar Ray) Emery. For a goalie, he gets into a lot of fights, and he makes no bones about that fact. He sems to actually enjoy the fights. Last night, a Montreal player, Ivanans, was yapping at him, and Emery claimed he hadn't realised it, but that it was probably a good thing since he "wouldn't want to hurt" Ivanans.
Now don't get me wrong, I am still a pacifist; I am just pointing out the humour and personality that lies behind comments like that. Ottawa has historically been about as colourful as white bread, so its nice to see these things happening.
That said, colourful is a lot easier to enjoy when your 4-0.
Now, throughout this post I have steadfastly avoided making comments about the other teams. I could have made many. But some peopel I know seem to think that it is inappropriate to say negative things (even if they are true) about another team. If I do I am trashing the team. Saying nothing is supposedly the better part of valour.
Let me say that I don't support real trash talk. I have been to enough game to know what trash talk really is a bout; personal comments against ones parentage, sexuality, race, ethnicity, etc. I would even include such vague comments as calling a player a bum or saying they can't play.
But I do believe I can make some comments, provided they are true, without them being considered trashing the team. There are players out there who are just slow skaters. They look lost on the ice and can't keep up with the pace. Simply pointing to these things is not trashing the team. There is nothing personal about the comment.
I believe in giving a team its due, both in the positive and the negative. That is the better part of valor.
Except where the Leafs are concerned. (wink)
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Usually the grocery run follows a pretty predictable course. We start at the deli counter where the kids get a slice of bologna, then get the milk and other dairy prodicts, followed by frozen things, and then bread at the bakery where the boys get a cookie. From there, its through the last few aisles to the checkout. Finally its off to the van , there to place the bagged groceries in preparation for the short drive home.
Tonight though, while I was loading the groceries into the van I found a couple of items of deli meat that didn't get rung through because they were under the flyer. Once I saw them I had to make a couple of decisions. The first was pretty easy: I was going to go back into the store and pay for the deli meat.
The second decision was harder. I debated how much to tell the boys. On the one hand I thought it would be a good chance to illustrate what you are supposed to do as a Christian in these situations. On the other hand I was conscious that I might be puffing myself up. In the end I decided that it was more important for the boys to get an example than to worry about whether I was being humble enough. Still, it was a bit of a dilemma for me.
Its a bit silly I know. But these are my boys and I reallt wonder about how I teach them to behave. Maybe too much, eh?
Saturday, October 08, 2005
One thing that has become very disturbing is the propensity to play chicken with sin. Many tactics are being employed by the American military in order to extract information. Some Christians seem quite comfortable with this, apparently wanting to justify it with a certain "ends justifies the means" argument. They think it courageous to want to debate the finer points of what constitutes torture and what is justified in extracting information.
This of course runs exactly counter Jesus' teaching. Jesus did not commend to us a process of seeing how close we can get to the line without crossing it. Rather he told us to hold to his teaching. Any process that tries to see how we might go about doing what we feel justified in doing without being overtly disobedient is sophistry, and closer to the spirit of the Pharisee than to the Holy Spirit.
One of the most facile justifications is that "I am sorry but they started it." Now Americans will likely find my next statement repugnant because I am Canadian and 9/11 "didn't happen to me," but it must be said: Jesus said "turn the other cheek." He did not say we would be justified in hitting back. Love your enemies, pray for them, yes. Hit them back, no.
Some might wish to point to the scale of 9/11, but that really is a bogus argument. No one has ever been more justified for retaliating against personal attacks, for no one has suffered more or more severe ones, than God. God the Father sent God the Son to reconcile the world to Himself. In short the War on Iraq, as it is nothing more than a pretense for vengeance, and a false pretense at that (no WMD) cannot be supported by Christians.
Another simplistic reason for supporting the war is the "fact" that Christians make up a good size chunk of the armed forces. This is also false. We should support the troops in prayer for safety, that they will be proper agents of reconciliation, that they will not compromise their Christian witness. Should we support them in the sense of giving approval if they do breach their witness or do harm? No. If they sin then we need to simply say that they need to repent and offer them forgiveness and help so that they do not lapse into further sin.
It is also unfortunate that some try to make false comparisons in justifying torture. One blogger mentioned that we don't send surgeons to the Haag when they inflict pain and suffering as a means to an end. This argument is offered after pointing out the definition of torture involves coercion. Patients submit to surgery willingly.
This particular blogger has a habit of making this kind of argument. It involves going from a specific situation allegedly analogous to the one under discussion (ostensibly for "clarity") to a general principle. That general principle is justified and then is then used to justify, not the allegedly analogous situation, but the one under discussion. Of course if the analogous situation is not analogous at all, the argument does not work. As noted the blogger fails to provide a truly analogous situation.
IT is very sad that we actually do manage to live down to the caricatures that Muslim extremists have of us. If we were more Christlike, I have no doubt that things would be better.
No doubt some will say that Christians should expect to be hated. That is true, but they are to be hated for being Christlike. No one I think would argue that Muslims hate the US for its being an exceptionally Christian nation.
Thursday, September 08, 2005
Sadly, that fact is lost on many people of intelligence.
Over the years of reading shcolars, I have often lamented that while they may be great thinkers, they are not therefore also great communicators. In fact, it is most often the opposite that is true.
Why this is the case is a mystery, but I have a few thoughts. The one that I find most liekly is that these thinkers have become basically disconnected from the world they live in. It doesn't matter that they may be husbands and fathers, mothers and wives, or whatever else. Fundamentally they "live" in their area of expertise. Its where they spend most of their time, and are most at home. Its laguage has become thier first language. The people in it are more real to them. Their feelings and opinions matter more.
Now one may argue that a person cannot become a true authority in their field without making such acccomodatioons, but that is empirically false. There are scholars who are able to communicate complex ideas accurately in simple ways. They have not lost touch with the world outside their area of expertise.
Becuase they have remained balanced. They have not taken the world of the academy moe seriously than the one outside the academy. They remain essentially "down to earth."
That's why they are such good communicators fo ideas. Great scholars who are also great communicators are essentially great translators. They take ideas conceived in one world (the academy) and elucidated in that one world's laguage and translate them into laguage which is used by another world (the one outside the academy). That requires being well versed in both laguages, being connected to both worlds.
Some folks are out of balance, too connected to one world. They take themselves and their ideas too seriously. They deride those who don't. In the end all they do is isolate themselves furhter, make themselves more irrelevant.
That's too bad; the world needs people of intelligence to provide a certain leadership.
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
Friday, September 02, 2005
But apart from the physical destruction that the strom caused is the spiritual damage that is being caused. Of course Katrina herself is not causing it, but there are peopel, Christians and non-Christians alike, who seize upon the opporutnity afforded by Katrina to grind an axe.
So far, I have seen three such axes. The first is one that I am sure Christians have come to expect;the old theodicy argument, which essentially melts down to: "If there is a god and he is so good, how could he allow this to happen?" The problem of evil has confronted Christians, indeed all theists, from the beginning. There are some things that are well worth noticing:
1) It doesn't make sense really for people who posit a non-moral universe to attach moral values such as "evil" to what are, by thier definition, random acts of nature.
2) The presence of evil in the universe, if accpeted, does not mean that the theis is the only one with a philosophical problem. Those arguing for the non-existence of God cannot simply use evil to disprove the existence fo a good God, they have to account for the existence of evil itself.
A second axe comes from Christians who want to show that God really isn't in control of everything, or at least that he doesn't cause things like "evil storms." But that doesn't square with the Bible. The Bible does say he causes things to happen. But the Bible also says that God brings good out of things. Even calamity is a tool in His hand. Perspective is also an issue. We rush to judge something as evil and horrendous without waiting to see what good might result. Certainly I don't want to say that God is into the ends jsutifying the means, but it would be wrong to say that stroms and such show God is not in control or does nt cause, because really we need to wait and see what God is going to do with it.
A third axe also comes from Christians, and it is specifically from ones whose main focus is Israel. There are actually people who want to say that this storm is a judgment because of the American support for the current pull out in the Gaza. There are a lot of problems withthis, not least of which is a post hoc type of reasoning and a blatant sense of America at the center of all things, but the most permicious thing is the timing! The rush to judge ios smply unacceptable. This is no time to be pointing fingers and laying blame. Even if the claim is true, it is also irrelevant to the suffering going on. Those who are calling out "judgment" would be wise to show mercy and send help to those in need.
All in all I think it obvious that for the time being all the axes need to be put away or else be put to use in rebuilding and rescue efforts.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
I had a fun time performing a wedding for a couple who took what they were doing seriously, but not themselves seriously. An excellent combination as it turns out; they were innovative without being irreverant. Highlights included:
Having a wedding reception in a tobacco barn. The stacks of dried leaves made for pungent decoration.
Watching people go ga-ga for what must be the gazillionth time over the "Chicken Dance Song". Praise the Lord, the Macarena failed to make an appearance.
Seeing the bridal party show up in NFL Jerseys.
Seeing at least one person freak out because a rather large bug crawled up her leg.
It was a fun time. What made it really awesome though was the fact that the couple was aunashamedly Christian without being pretentious or stuffy about the fact.
Sunday, August 28, 2005
Beginning as a reaction against liberal Protestantism, one of its key tenets was that historical investigation was not to be relied upon for to provide verification for scriptural historical claims. Instead, Neo-Orthodoxy began with human experience for doing theology.
The reason I bring this up is that some elements of Roman Catholicism, and the so-called "Reformed Catholicism" seem very much, if unintentionally, influenced at this point.
In reading several conversations between Evangelicals and the RCs and "rCs", I have noted that the claim is made that the standard method of biblical interpretation, known as the Grammatical-Historical Method, is invalid as there is no sound epistemological foundation for it (epistemology deals with the question of how we know things). This, it seems to me, is not unlike the claim that the Neo-orthodox made.
Another similarity lies in that RCs and rCs seem to claim that the individual must reckon first with the epistemological issue and then build a theology. This beginning with the individual seems again to hearken to the Neo-Orthodox notion.
(On a side note, the emphasis on the individual is ironic since both RCs and rCs seem to decry the "every individual an interpretational island" idea.)
But if this seeming connection to Neo-Orthodoxy is true, then the thinking of the RCs and rCs would share the same weaknesses, such as it being essentially fideistic, as it insulates itself from any kind of verifiability or falsibility. That makes sense as neither RCs nor rCs have actually put forward a positive case for their position. Perhaps it is because, under the influence of Neo-orthodox-style thinking, they don't see the point of such evidence. It is also vulnerable because it makes a claim about history that is inconsistently applied (in that they accept the historicity of the resurrection on usual historical proof grounds without the issue of epistemology arising) and actually essentially skeptical, meaning it is at bottom negative, and can therefore make no real positive contribution to theological method or hermeneutics.
Now in saying this I am making no claim to being a master of Neo-Orthodox thought; these are at best impressions garnered from a few years of seminary and some random book reading from Neo-0rthodox authors. Please take this post for what it is; a suggestion, and perhaps a starting point for discussion, thought, and debate.
Saturday, August 20, 2005
I have noted that sme enterprising people have started sending "junk comments." Until I can figure out how to delete or otherwuse filter comments. I am just turning off the comments feature. If anyone wants to make a commenbt, please contact me using email. A link exists somehere on the page for that purpose.
Can you not hear the "sigh" in this...
Some think that it measn every person believeing the same things. I can see value to that. A lot of arguments would be avoided if we all agreed on all theological matters. In fact a lot of arguments are avoided by the level of agreement we already have.
Still, doctrinal agreement isn't everything. I have been in churches where there was as close to 100% doctrinal agreement as I have ever seen, but there wasn't much unity. In fact they fought often like cats and dogs over personality and control issues. So it seems to me that unity without an actual love for one another is impossible.
That kind of love though is from above, and only from above. Only God can give us a love that allows us to disagree with others over important issues and still worship, pray, and work with them.
That kind of love is vry evidet in my church. That's why we have no fear in facing potentially divisive issues. We know that even if there is not unanimity, there will always be a loving consensus.
Friday, August 19, 2005
For example, in my conference we are discussing the possibility of eliminating all restrictions to women in ministry leadership (currently only the office of senior pastor is denied to women). The method used to arrive at a consensus, which has been used very well in the recent past, has failed us in this instance. That's because the process has foucssed on what has clearly become the wrong question. The conclusions that people are reaching are by and large being influenced by a new hermeneutic, one whose validity ought really be discussed on its own, independantly of the women in ministry issue. But there doesn't seem to be a desire to really discuss the hermeneutic; it seems that the "need" to answer the question of women in ministry is too pressing.
That distresses me. It seems to me that the value and validity of the hermeneutic must be discussed first, or else we risk arrriving at the right decision for the wrong reasons. Those who are more concerned with the immediate question of women in ministry might not be upset about that, but some of us who take a longer view to things realise that the wrong reasons won't always lead to the right answers, so its better to get your reasons right first. Jesus taught as much with the parable of the two builders.
Then there is the issue of women as elders in our church. Thankfully there is enough wisdom in the elders to realize that we do need to have a sound process for determining what direction the church takes. We still ahve to figure out what the process should look like, but at least ther seems to be more of a commitment to the process than the outcome. IMO, if we fail in that we fail as elders, for we will have begun to lead by pragmatism.
Friday, August 12, 2005
Anyway, I thought I'd put a link to some news which ought to be of interest to t believers and non-believers alike on the qquestion of whether the Bible,specifically the gospels, are reliable historical guides.
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
| You scored as Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan. You are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God's grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavly by John Wesley and the Methodists.|
What's your theological worldview?
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Monday, July 25, 2005
Deep stuff, I know. Bear with me. If get this out of my system now, I will likely be fine for a few weks if not months. I mean, I said hardly anything during the lockout, so give me a break here...
On the plus side, we finally have a hockey season to look forward to. Of course the price, especially for fans, was pretty steep. The new CBA should provide some pay back, in the form of more competitive balance. Sure, there have been a series of cinderellas making it deep into the Stanley Cup Playoffs the last few years, but I don't think anyone would seriously argue that all teams have a reasonable chance at winning the Cup each year. That should change under the new arrangement, which effectively caps the disparity in payrolls, and the increased movement of players created by liberlaised free agency and the cap, should make more and better players available every year. That means a pretty quick rebuilding process. Revenue sharing should also give encouragement for low incomce teams to spend, further narrowing the payroll disparity.
So what does this mean for my team? Well I am of two minds. On the one hand the liberalised free agency should make it harder to keep the team together. The cap ensures that the team can't just keep paying your players more money all the time. Eventually you bump your head against the cap. So keeping a large core of really good players together may be impossible.
On the other hand, I expect that a team that pays really good attention to scouting, drafting and development should be able to continuallly turnover its roster of middle and low skill players. That would have the impact of keeping the cost of 3rd and 4th line players as well as #5-7 d-men down, freeing up salary for more elite players. Ottawa does excel at drafting and developing, so this may work out alright. The so-called "middle class" player gets squeezed though.
Of course it is also posible that teams will opt to stock their rosters with mostly middle class players. Lots of depth that way. But I confess that when I think of that, I see a whole lot of Minnesotas. That defense first style is what we want to avoid. But that defense first style comes from not being able to compete in terms of skill, which is partly due to inability to compete in terms of salary. Maybe the new CBA will make i so easy for teams to get skill players that there won;t be the need for such stiff defensive strategies.
Of course parity could also make such startegies that mcuh more important.
As for the rule changes, the only one that matters is enforcement. If enforcement on the clutch and grab doesn't happen, the rest is just window dressing.
If it does happen though, teams like Ottawa, which are built on speed, should thrive.
Other little thought for my team:
Sign and trade Todd White, and leave a roster spot open for Alexei Kaigorodov. The Russian is bigger, faster, cheaper, with more offensivce upside.
Don't resign Curtis Leschyshyn. You already have a very solid defense corps in Phillips, Redden, Chara, DeVries, Pothier, and Volchenkov. If depth iw what you want, there are some AHL guys who could stand to be called up, and would be cheaper. Think Christoph Schubert.
The answer to the Sens left wing problems may already be in the system in the form of Brandon Bochenski.
I would favour ditching Chris Neil in favour of B-Sens captain Chris Kelly. Even if you don't get rid of Neil, Kelly deserves a look.
Antone Vermette is wasted on the 4th line. Get that kid on the 3 or even the 2nd line.
Speaking of lines, here is what I would like to see:
Hossa - Spezza - Vermette
Alfredsson - Smolinski- Fisher
Havlat - Kaigorodov - Langfeld
Kelly - Neil - Varada
Spare: Schaeffer; First call up: Bochenski
Redden - Volchenkov
Phillips - Chara
Pothier - De Vries
Spare: Schubert; First Call up: Platil
Let me first say that if I had my druthers, I'd sign Khabibulin. I am not convinced that Hasek can do it. So, in the absence of anohter signing, here is what I see:
Prusek gets traded. First call up would be Billy Thompson, who will get the #1 job in Binghamton, backed up by Kelly Guard or Jeff Glass.
I Hasek doesn't come bac, then expect Prusek to stay and platoon it with Emery.
I expect Patrick Eaves to sign and play in the AHL. He may get a look towards the end of the season.
So that should be all you hear out of me hockey wsie for a while.
Saturday, July 23, 2005
An odd week in the family, with a couple of deaths occurring. In both cases the relations are a bit on the distant side, but its amazing how far the ripples of such events extend into the lake of life.
It is a pleasure to welcome Holly Adele into the world.
Is it just me, or does anyone else think its weird that the same country can refuse to call the people responsible for the bombings in London "terrorists" while at the same time denying the reigning Miss Universe (a national) the opportunity to be greeted at Toronto City Hall?
Do mainline protestant Christians who deny the deity of Jesus consider themselves Trinitarians? I don't see how they can.
When ants come marching into the house, it ain't by no measly two by two.
Speaking as someone who grew up as an only child, every day I seeing how and why my two boys fight is a revelation. Speaking as a parent, its an Apocalypse.
My oldest arrived home from summer camp with a great attitude. God is good.
My youngest greeted his arrival with a lot of grief about no longer being the center of attention. God is still good.
Thursday, July 14, 2005
This was a three day retreat from pretty well everyone. I spoke to virtually no one. It was great.
This was a big step for me. I am an extrovert, so I tend to thrive on being around and interacting with other people. I really enjoyed the solitude though. I realized that I have really come to be comfortable with who I am. I have really gotten to know who and what I am, both good and bad. I am not satisfied with who I am. I want to be more godly, more effective for Christ. But I am comfortable with who I am at this moment. I don't need external validation like I once did. I now realize that part of the reason for being an extrovert was a need to find such external validation.
But I was alone, and I was happy to be so. I played 27 holes of golf, and I was just happy to be on the links. I really didn't care if I scored well or not. I just wanted to enjoy the time. As it happened (and I understand this is normal) I ended up playing my best 27 holes in over 5 years. I scored a combined 138, with 9 hole breakdowns of 44, 53, and 41, for an average of 46 per 9 holes. I lost exactly 1 ball. I know that isn't stellar, but considering that the last time I played 18 holes I scored 135, I think I have reason to be pleased.
I also got a lot of opportunity to read my Bible as well as a commentary on Luke. Over the three days, I read James, Luke, and some scattered old Testament passages. I also read about half of a book by Greg Laurie, called "God of the Second Chance." I enjoy the book; its a nice change of pace from the other things I usually read.
Well, I look forward to sharing some of the insights I gained in my (very) mini-sabbatical next time.
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
The simple answer is that these may be the last two weddings I perform in my life.
No, I am not dying, nor am I leaving the ministry. But I may be abandoning marriage as a legal institution.
This week a parishioner asked me directly if I would ever officiate a same sex-marriage ceremony. I said, equally directly, that no I never would. The Law may have a different view.
It is my hope that denominations would free themselves from any possibility of prosecution or persecution by simply getting out of the marriage business. The arrangement that denominations have with provinces regarding the registration of marriages that ministers solemnize is, to the best of my understanding, a voluntary one. That is, there is no legal requirement that ministers serve as agents of the state in performing a marriage ceremony. My thought is that ministers could continue to perform marriages "in the sight of God" that would be recognized by the churches. Couples would be therefore married in the eyes of God, if not that of the state.
But this week the thought crossed my mind that we ministers may not be permitted to disentangle ourselves so easily. It occurred to me that some might try to accuse ministers of an illegal activity. I know that this probably sounds alarmist, but hear me out. The federal and provincial governments have, with the passage of this Bill and existing jurisprudence, established that they alone have the right to define marriage, and have exclusive control over its solemnization. With that in mind, and assuming that churches do indeed get out of the "marriage business," I ask: If a minister performs a ceremony of marriage, calling it such, would that minister be guilty of performing an unauthorized service?
In a prior post I had said that the government ought have no more say over a marriage performed purely as a matter of religious observance than it does over baptism. Yet the state does claim exclusive right to control marriage. It makes no such claim to baptism.
So what will happen? I don't know. I am no lawyer. Nor am I prophet. But I am sad.
Saturday, July 02, 2005
In theological terms, this is called "justification." It's an ancient legal, or forensic, term that carries a very special meaning in the Bible. Our legal system really has no parallel for it. "acquitted," or "not guilty" comes close but doesn't quite capture it.
The situation that is envisaged in the Bible really is a mixture of what we would call legal and civil proceedings. A legal proceeding is one wherein a law has been broken, and the alleged perpetrator is before judge or jury to determine guilt or innocence. In a civil proceeding, the judge chooses between two parties, one who has been harmed in some way, and the one who has allegedly done the harm.
According to the Bible we are judged by God for our sins, which are at the same time matters of breaking God's Law, and a matters of causing harm to God. One trial, one judgment, speaks to both the "judicial" and "civil" elements.
It would be, in our society, a gross miscarriage of justice for the victim to be the judge in either case, let alone both. We would assume impartiality to be impossible, and that this "justice" is little more than vigilantism.
What then are we to say when it is made clear to us that through faith we are justified by God? As I said earlier, the words we typically apply, "acquitted" and "not guilty," are insufficient. Those terms suggest that we in ourselves are found to be innocent. That isn't the case; if it were then no one would be punished. Yet Christ died for our sins. Clearly in the matter of our sins, we are found guilty. The reason we are not punished though is Christ Jesus. He took our penalty upon Himself. In that process we received his righteousness, and that is stronger than just innocence. Innocence connotes the mere absence of evil, but righteousness gives the idea of having been obedient.
That's what happens when we believe in Jesus Christ. When we trust Him to bear our punishment for us, we find that He did just that. We also find that God declares that we have not been disobedient, but we have been actively obedient to His will, in all ways, and in all things. Our obedience is found to be perfect, because that's the obedience that Jesus had.
Now since that obedience is perfect, there is nothing we can do to add to it. Nothing at all. And it doesn't matter if our obedience from the point of belief onward is not perfect; all our failures were born by Jesus on the Cross, even the ones that follow that moment of faith.
That doesn't mean though that we can just live however and get away with it. The fact is that when you are justified, your whole life orientation changes; you want to serve and please God. Your lifestyle will reflect that inevitably. There is no going back to the old way because you don't want to go back. Sure, there may be moments when you feel like it, but over the long run your life will be characterized by obedience to God, not sin.
So it happens that when the Final Judgment comes, God can say what he already said; you are justified, righteous. He said you were when you believed, and because of that, your life since gives evidence of it.
This is how the Reformation has come to understand the answer to the question: How do you get to be right with God? I confess I don't understand why so many don't believe when they have it explained to them. I don't understand why so many who are Christians don't accept it, but would rather try to add to Jesus' obedience with some of their own.
Maybe its just because I've studied the question so long. Maybe.
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
It isn't however, and I think for good reasons. First and foremost is the fact that the bill simply codifies what has been, via jurisprudence, the law of the land for some time now. Then there is the fact that over the course of the entire debate, public opinion has not changed at all; most people still prefer the traditional definition. The fact of this bill becoming law is not likely to change that.
It is likely that whatever changes do come about as a result of the passage of this legislation are likely to take years to be felt fully. Some things I can see happening:
1. Denominations in the free church tradition will experience splits or slips. There are already rumblings that rogue, or "free thinking" ministers will want to marry same sex couples, regardless of denominational beliefs or policy statements. This will test the resolve, internal discipline, and unity of several denominations. Either they will discipline the ministers and the congregations who want to head in that direction, meaning suspension of denominational credentials and membership, or they will compromise.
2. A large percentage of Christian denominations, if not of faith communities generally, will get out of the marriage business. Marriage ceremonies will be performed, but no longer will ministers register them for the government. That function is voluntary, and only matters if the couple wishes their marriage recognized by the government. There are favorable tax implications to not registering the marriage, and there is no legal obligation to do so, thus no issue of failing to submit to authorities is involved. Couples would be free to register their marriage so via a justice of the peace at their option in any case. Spousal benefits are not at risk since the government accepts all conjugal cohabitation arrangements as defacto common law marriages.
3. In fact getting out of the legal marriage business may be the only way for churches to avoid prosecution in the future. If marriage in churches is strictly a religious matter independent from, if parallel to, the legal institution, then it would seem impossible for churches to be sued for discrimination. It would simply be a matter of the church separating from the state, and removing itself from the state's jurisdiction. The state has no say on whom churches may baptize, so making marriage a purely religious ceremony should provide the church a similar jurisdictional hedge. Strange as it may sound, the best way for marriage to be preserved in the church may be for the church and state to amicably divorce over what can only be called irreconcilable differences on the point of the definition of marriage.
Of course it is more politically expedient to try to paint the opposition as a radical fringe that will go to the extreme.
That is an old tactic of the Liberals. In that regard, nothing has changed.
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
| You scored as Karl Barth. The daddy of 20th Century theology. You perceive liberal theology to be a disaster and so you insist that the revelation of Christ, not human experience, should be the starting point for all theology.|
Which theologian are you?
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I really appreciate how Paul calls himself the chief of sinners, not becuase I am a masochist who likes to beat himself up, ut simply because it helps me keep God's grace in perspective. It can be very easy to forget that what you have and are is a gift of grace. I don't deserve the intelligence, the gifts, the family, the ministry that I have. But as Paul said its all about grace, and God's grace has not been without effect.
I often wish it were of greater effect than it has been; I would like to be more of what I one day will be right now. Patience is hard. But I know the time will come. I just need to trust and obey.