Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Day After

So last night the bill to legalize same sex marriages was passed in the House of Commons. You would think that the world should be ending, or at the very least that Canada would be dramatically changed.

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.

There is however one change that has become immediately apparent; Prime Minister Martin is decidedly more cocky than he was yesterday. Today he dared Opposition Leader Stephen Harper to overturn the newly passed bill. The way he id it though was utterly dishonest. Martin essentially said that if Harper wanted to go to an election on the issue of using the notwithstanding clause of the Constitution to overturn the law, then he was ready for that. The problem is that Harper has consistently stated he supports the creation of a parallel institution for same sex couples. That would not involve the use of the notwithstanding clause at all, just a good old fashioned amendment bill.

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

A slightly technical quiz

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.

Karl Barth




John Calvin


Martin Luther


Jonathan Edwards


Charles Finney


J�rgen Moltmann


Friedrich Schleiermacher




Paul Tillich


Which theologian are you?
created with
I sin. I don't know too many people who would say otherwise. It isn't something I am proud of, nor something I enjoy even admitting. Every once in a while though it is wortwhile to remember that I am really no better than anyone else, and in some ways worse, than those around me. Its good for the ego.

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.

Monday, June 27, 2005

So what's a right anyway?

It's odd but just about anything is considered a right these days. One seemingly can assert that they have a right to something and support it with nothing other than gratuitous slogans such as the Young Liberals did in wearing buttons that read "It's the Charter Stupid!."

Now, I delpore such argumentation, simply because it assumes so much and says so little. What does it mean to say a thing is a Charter Right? It seems to me that a Charter Right is little more than a legal fiction. The Rights we see being "won" today are won on the basis of legal argumentation not ethical, moral, or philosophical vision. In short if you can win the legal battle you have won a right. This however strikes me as little more than opportunism. Your chances of winning a legal battle depend on timing and who the Supreme Court Justices are. Hardly stirring stuff.

To my mind, it should be that principes that really matter, rights that really are rights, stir the passion and move the soul. Surely the "right" for two people of the same gender to engage in some perversion of God's ordinance of marriage is not to be considered on the same level as the grat fight for freedom of slaves, or the freedom from bondage and tyranny.

Where are the grand principles that guide a nation? They are absent. It seems that the great battles of the past, such as are enshrined in such landmark documents as the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independance are gone. These were issues that could rally the spirit. Freedom from tyranny. Now all we have are a series of far less substantial rights, ones are but motes in the eye comapred to those former rights.

If this is what we are reduced to then surely we are bankrupt as a society, philosophically and intellectually.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

A Dubious Potential First

When I was a boy, growing up in Ottawa, I would occasionaly get to see the Changing of the Guard. For those of you who don't know, that's when a troop of soldiers in the traditional red surcoats and bearskin hats marches from the Governor General's residence, acccompanied by a band, in order to relieve another troop.

This all happens duing the summer when temperatures cn reach 30-35 degrees Celsius. Now take into consideration the uniforms, especially the bearskin hats (no fans), and you can understand why they have ambulances standing by for those who faint due to the heat.

So why do I bring this up? Because today I am performing an outdoor wedding, with no shade, in a black suit, and it is supposed to reach 35 degrees Celsius. Factor in the humidity, and it will feel something like 40 degrees Celsius, or 105 Farenheit.

There will be no ambulances, but I dread being possibly the first minister needing to be dragged off the field...

Ok, not really. But I really don't look forward to all the sweating. Ew.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Go-Go's on My Mind

Yes the Go-Go's are on my mind. No, not because its an all girl band. I am not one of those who in the 80s who thought Belinda Carlisle was all that. (Acually I was kind of partia to Jane Wiedlin. She made a great Joan of Arc in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.)

No, the reason that I have the Go-Go's on my mind is because of a particular tune of theirs.

Sing along now (or hum):

Vacation, all I ever wanna do.
Vacation, have to get away.
Vacation, meant to be spent alone.

Yes I have scheduledmyself a vacation. Part of it will be spent withthe family, but, being in some desperate ned of some alone time (even us extroverts need solitude once ina while) I will spend from 11th to the 13th of July all by myself. I am hoping to camp at Tukey Point Campground, just me, my Bible, and my golf clubs. NO WORK.

Well, I am off to book a campsite!

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

My wife insists that there is value in having lists of things to do. She often speaks of the satisfaction derived from being able to strike off an item from a list. Well, that may be true, but I have to say that the joy of striking off one thing is mitigated somewhat wwhen the list is long.

As you might guess, my list this week is very long.

It is at times like this that I am thankful that Jesus was able to take time amidst a very demanding ministry to pray. If He were more like the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, I think I'd be frazzelled. Can you imagine Jesus looking at a watch and saying "I'm late!"?

Jesus was never late. He was rather more like Gandalf the Grey, who said that a wizard is never late, but arrives precisely when he intends to.

If only my deadlines were amenable to that kind of thinking.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

A Technical Point About Baptism

Well, it is technical, but it is also a vital point.

Being broadly Reformed in my theology, and yet a committed adherent to the biblical doctrine of Believer's baptism (credobaptism), I sometimes have to deal with the arguments that some put forth in favour of Infant Baptism from a Reformed Protestant perspective.

Recently I have been reading a discussion wherein a Presbyterian is arguing for "Baptismal Forgiveness/Justification." I won't go into teh details, but it is interesting to me that this Presbyterian does seek to answer the question "What does Baptism do?" At this point it is a good idea to quote Wayne Grudem:

"Roman Catholics have aclear answer to this question: Baptism causes regeneration. And Baptists have a clear answer: Baptism symbolizes the fact that inward regeneration has occured. But paedobaptists cannot adopt either of these answers. They do not want to say that baptism causes regeneration, nor are they able to say (with respect to infants) that it symbolizes a regeneration that has already occurred. The only alternative seems to be to say that it symbolizes a regeneration that will occur in the future, when the infant is old enough to come to saving faith. But even that is not quite accurate, because it si not certain that the infant will be regenerated in the future-some infants who are baptized never come to saving faith later. So the most accurate paedobaptist explanation of what baptism symbolizes is that it symbolizes probable future regeneration. It does not cause regeneration, nor does it symbolize actual regeneration; therfore it be understood as symbolizing probable regeneration at some time in the future.

But at this point it seems apparent that the paedobaptist understanding of baptism is quite different from that of th New Testament. The New Testament never views baptism as something that symbolizes a probable future regeneration. .. This is simply not the way the New Testament speaks of baptism. Baptism in the New Testament is a sign of being born again, being cleansed from sin, and beginning the Christian life. "
It seems to me that two things are happenning in the discussion with the Presbyterian. One is that he is adopting a view that is not actually Reformed. His view seems closer to the Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, or Lutheran. That it is very akin to Lutheranism may be the most accurate since the Presbyterian has cited Luther often in his comments.

But here is the secnd thing that I see happening. The Presbyterian seems keen on denying Reformed Baptists the title of being "Reformed" because they stream from the "Radical Reformation," regardless of the fact that the only point of differnece between their beliefs and those of Calvin is in the area of Baptism, and of course the related issue of Covenant Theology. But Prebyterians also disagree with Lutherans on the issue of regeneration, as Lutherans hold that regeneration actually occurs at baptism. Is this not a double standard? Is no the difference between Luteran and Reformed views of baptism not great enough for Lutherans to not be "Reformed" (which the Pesbyterian sometimes broadens to refer to "major" groups arising out of the Reformation, and sometimes narrows to "pure" Reformed theology)? Or is the fact that Reformed Baptists come from Anabaptism merely a comfortable pretext which allows the Presbyterian to pick and choose those whom he considers Reformed?

We'll see how the conversation unfolds.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

For Isaac and Joel

I have memories of childhood
Images of happy times
So scarce I scarcely remember

I look to my children's childhood
Unfolding like a flower
In the warm morning sun

I pray for plentiful memories of play
Of happiness in bloom
No mourning sons.

Always thinking of the long run
A telescopic visionary
Missing the forest for the horizon

Seeking insights into the distant future
I fear being blind to distance
That being absent from the present creates

Lord God grant that I guide
As I walk at your side
And lead my sons as I am lead

Monday, June 13, 2005

2 Signs That People are Depraved, Sick, and Stupid

These are the sorts of events that drive parents who really love their kids crazy. Is there anyone who seriously doubts that the doctrine of Sin is anything less than completely true?

Cabbie Rage

Whose Fault Is It Anyway?

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Some Random Thoughts

  1. Why is it that people who say that "gender doesn't matter" when it comes to leadership positions in a church are the first to insist that both genders have to be represented? Either it matters or it doesn't.
  2. "Star Wars 3: Revenge of the Sith" reminded me that I really need to love God more than anything I have.
  3. You know that sex has saturated the culture when your 6 year-old comes home saying there is a girl in his class who wants to "hump."
  4. You can't afford to be too French (ie. talking with your hands) with people who don't understand "personal space." Too much accidental contact involved.
  5. I never thought I'd see the day when I would want to preach just because the pulpit was right under the ceiling fan.
  6. It is an odd feeling when you get a hug and slap from the same person for the same act. Talk about ambivalence!
  7. Wendy's is definitely a better bargain than McDonlad's.
  8. I get really annoyed with people who are younger than I am and think they are smarter for no reason other than that they are younger. My elders tell me I should just ignore them, but they're old. What do they know?
  9. Having your kids fall asleep on your lap is really sweet. Except when the house is 85 degrees. Then its just sweat.
  10. I don't actually have a 10th thought. I just wanted to get to 10.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Debate on Same-Sex Marriage

I have been listening to a debate dealing with the issue of same-sex marriage called "Breaking With Radition," found here. Now, I have only gotten about half way through it, but I must say that I have been left with some impressions, some good, and some bad.

On the positive side, I appreciate that Michael Coren, a defender of marriage, was able to effectively communicate that heterosexuals don't corner the market on bigotry and hatred. It is a good thing that we keep homosexuals in proper perspective, by which I mean that we see them as human beings fully capable of the same range of behaviors, positive and negative, as heterosexuals. That they have been greatly discriminated against there can be no debate. Yet we must resist the urge to develop a romanticised vision of homosexuals on that account so that they become inherently more virtuous, their cause inherently more just, than that of heterosexuals who defend marriage. Michael made himself something of a sympathetic figure, and, I think, leveled the rhetorical playing field somewhat in so doing.

On the negative side, I was saddened mainly by two related things. The first was that the proponent for same-sex marriage from the outset ratcheted up the emotional volume of the debate by casting himself and his cause in the victim's role, playing for sympathy, and elevating the role of emotion and denying the proper place of reason in what is already an emotional topic. Such placed Coren immediately in the position not only of having to defend marriage, but also of having to disassociate himself from others who may share his position on the issue of same-sex marriage, but few if any of principles.

The second thing that has disappointed me thus far has been the fact that there have indeed been those present who spoke in a way that fully justified the emotional characterizations that the proponent of same-sex marriage out forth. Now, one might well wonder why I was saddened by this. If one is cynical, then one might conclude that I was saddened to have been, in a sense, "outed," for having seen my camp portrayed in what some consider to be its true light. Those of a fairer frame of mind however might well recognize the truth: that I am saddened because debate ought to be the place where both sides put forth their best arguments, presented by their best representatives. Anything less than this fails to advance the discussion.

Again, I have only listened to about half the debate, so there is yet hope that the event will to some extent be redeemed. I' ill report back when I have finished listening.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Because someone asked...

This is a link to a pdf file that does a good job of providing an overview of rthe issus surrounding egalitarianism and complimetarianism.

This is a link to the book I most recommend for a discussion of the issues. Why do I recommend it? Well, it "presents two essays representing the complementarian/hierarchical view of women and ministry--one by a man and one by a woman--and two essays representing the egalitarian view of women and ministry--one by a man and one by a woman." I don't think you can get more balanced than that. Also it is a discussion of the contemporary issues, meaning it does not deal with points that both sides consider settled.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

What I like in a good theology book

I read a lot of theology books. Mostly dealing with pastoral issues.

Now, some of you may be wondering what theology has to do with pastoral ministry. I can understand why you would wonder, since a lot of pastors don't care for theology, and are willing to downplay it. Myself, I find that a frightening state of affairs. I certainly am not one who defends "doctrinal detailism", but it is important for pastors to be well grounded in the how, why, and what of theology.

For instance, one of the hot button issues today is the role of women in ministry. I am of the opinion that a pastor should have reasons for holding a position that are based in the Bible first, and personal conviction second. Granted that every pastor would say they do that, I think it is prima facie true that all people also go looking for ways to have the Bible say what they want. I do not exclude myself from that.

That's why I like theology books that deal with these kinds of issues that follow a certain format. I am thinking particularly of Zondervan's "Counterpoints" series at this point, but there are books that follow this kind of format:

All sides are represented. Each side makes its best case, and has a chance to rebut all other contributions. The interaction is, I think, vital. When we read something we agree with, we think the arguments that support that position are unanswerable. It is valuable to see how they in fact can be answered. It keeps us humble. It seems to be too often the occurrence that a person will offer a point or argument in a way that suggests they think it has no answer. That has the effect of making the person offensive, and hence harming relationships. That has to be paramount since no discussion or debate should degenerate to the point where relationships are sacrificed on the altar of being right.

Another, related effect, is that it is likely that the argument will not get addressed. When you as a person offend, then your argument's merits are never considered. That may not be right, but it is how human nature works, and it is important to make that admission, or, if you prefer, that condescension.

So I highly recommend this format in theology books, particularly on contentious issues. It will help you gain a better respect for the people you disagree with, and their arguments.

Friday, June 03, 2005

So Why Am I Mennonite Brethren

when I have already stated that I stand largely in agreement with the distinctives of the Reformed faith?

Well, let me explain first that the M-Bs are anabaptist. The M-Bs are related to, and have been influenced by, baptistic thought. Hence there is baptism by immersion, and of beleivers. That eliminates my concerns about covenantal misunderstanding, and in fact places me in agreement with the MB polity as well.

Really, for someone with Calvanist leanings, the only real problem should be that anabaptism is historically arminian. It should also be a significant one. But it is not a problem, significant or otherwise.

The reason for that simply is M-B biblicism. The statement of faith sticks to biblical phrases, without getting into potentially contentious and controversial explanations of those phrases, which I appreciate. M-B approach to the Bible is inherently Christo-centric, which makes it a natural fit for Kingdom Theology, of which I am a big fan. The M-Bs also practice biblical interpretation in a believing commmunity context, so that is never the case that the individual interprets the Bible in a vacuum, but the individual interprets surrounded by the rest of the family. This means that M-Bs are willing to be influenced, but not overtaken, by new ideas.

Finally, the M-Bs are not opposed to Reformed theology as such, but rather to an emphasis on the soverignty of God that does not adequately make account for human responsibility. As one who holds that divine sovereignty and human responsibility are necessary complements, this is wonderful.

So if I were starting out again, I would start where I am now. Too bad it took so long to get here. God however has His reasons.