Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Willard on Pluralism

Everyone is talking about pluralism these days…
What is it? Well to start with pluralism is actually a term that can be applied to a number of different aspects of philosophical understanding. It can apply to social, moral, political, metaphysical, ideas – to name a few.
Lots of people (especially people who label themselves as Christians) are actually really concerned about pluralism. They figure that it is a bad thing that our culture is pluralistic. That is to say that our culture can tolerate competing religious and ethical views. They suggest that when people advocate differing moral, theological, religious and philosophical perspectives they are harming the strength of the Christian position. The problem is that for years and years Canada and the United States have lived under the concept that Christianity formed the foundation of our society. Christian ethical positions have held the most authority. Along with that the two countries have slumbered along with a quasi Christianized culture. There are a lot of things in our culture that reflect a Christian perspective: think holidays, swearing on a Bible, public institutional prayers. So when in the last few years we see people suggesting that other perspectives and cultural ideas should be embraced in our culture many people start to get uncomfortable. But all too quickly we forget some of the founding principles of our countries. Fairness, equality and justice are hallmark virtues of our nations.
Enter Dallas Willard:
First, pluralism is not a bad arrangement. It is a good thing. It is, in fact, a social expression of the kind of respect and care for the individual that is dictated by trust in God and love of neighbor. Therefore the Christian does not oppose pluralism as a social principle. Pluralism simply means that social or political force is not to be used to suppress the freedom of thought and expression of any citizen, or even the practice that flows from it, insofar as that practice is not morally wrong.
Pluralism does not mean that everyone is equally right in what they think and do. It does not mean that we must agree with the views or adopt the practices of those of other persuasions. It does not mean that we must like those views or practices. It does not mean that we will not appropriately express our disagreement or dislike for other viewpoints. (emphasis mine)
I realize that philosophical or theological pluralism is different than pluralism as a social concept but…
I get really worried when I hear people complaining about pluralism as a threat to Christianity.
Basically, I think it amounts to laziness. Why should we worry about Christianity losing strength to other religious perspective in our culture and society? Really the way I see it this just gives us another great chance to show the beauty of life lived in honor of Jesus’ principles.
Sure it means our kids will face increased opposition to their perspectives. Sure it will mean that we will actually not only have to be able to know what we stand for but be willing to live it out in the face of opposition.
Willard again:
Second, the Christian gospel does not require cultural privilege or even social recognition in order to flourish. God's work is not disadvantaged by persecution, even to death, and much less then by mere pluralism. As Christians we stand now in the Kingdom of the Heavens, and it is always true that they who are for us are more than they that be against us. (I Kings 6:16) It is always true that the One who is in us is greater than the one who is in the world. (I John 4:4)
On the other hand, there can be little doubt that if the teachings and example of Jesus were generally followed in a given society, that society would be remarkably better off than any which followed another way. The constant drumbeat of moral failure and incompetence now heard from American institutions--from the universities and scientific or artistic communities to business corporations, the Church and sports--simply would not exist if Jesus were trusted and obeyed. There would be no sexual harassment, no gutted savings and loans, no homelessness or gang violence in a society that substantially accepted Christian principles of life. It is not the Christian who loses when social prejudice goes against Christ, but the society itself.

skate me

ht: Dan King

Monday, February 26, 2007

Love, Truth and who we really are?

I am reading this and this which got me thinking about:

Most people would identify love as being essentially selfless. Love should not expect any rewards otherwise we wonder if it truly is love. Right?
So we have a husband who keeps on visiting his comatose wife who can not respond in any way to his gestures about love. We say that is a very loving thing to do. But we can also see that it is out of his sense of duty or obligation that he continues to do what is clearly something he would not do naturally. He does is duty. But isn’t even his duty something that fulfills some personally directed motive? Essentially, selfish? But yet we say this is a good thing for him to do. So what do we do? Change our definition of love so that we include selfish motives as acceptable reasons for loving? Can we trust ourselves enough to say that? Even if it is duty why is one thing seen as a duty and another thing seen gratuitous? Do we need to change our understanding of who we are? Are we essentially good or intrinsically bad or flawed? I love this stuff - it is fascinating.

Explaining how the Bible was built to Junior High’s

I’ve been doing this series of talks on the nature of the Bible with the senior high’s – it has been pretty good so I thought I would try to adapt it for the junior high crowd and here’s how I am going to do it.
Object: to help youth grasp the complexity of how the Bible has arrived to us. In so doing I want to help kids to have an increased confidence in the authority of Scripture and a desire to ‘worry’ the WORD.
I will have one of my sponsors come up with a paragraph of important text. (This will likely be some message about where the students can find the snack for the night or the location of a prize of some sort)(4 or 5 sentences)
I will have that sponsor tell three students that same message separately. Each time the sponsor will use a slightly different approach. One will be a motivational speech. One will be a factual dictation. One will be in the form of an experience (In the case of the message being about the snack I will have the sponsor go and show the student where the snack is instead of reading the paragraph that he/she wrote.
Each of these students need to then write down in their own words the basic idea about what the sponsor has said. They should use three different styles of writing (prose, poetry, drama, song, story, facts or illustrations. One of them should draw the message as a picture.
Then these students will present what they wrote to two other people who will copy what they wrote after seeing it for a minute. The original documents will get discarded (only put them away for later use – but they can not be seen by anyone again till the whole thing is finished)
These six documents will contend for supremacy.
Each of the six people will choose someone else to represent their document. These next six will play a simple game of rock paper scissors until only two contestants remain.
Then the two documents will be shown to the rest of the group. The group then tries to determine what the original message was. They write down what they think is the original message of the sponsor.
Make it even more bizarre have one of the original three write the message down in a different language.
Drawing out comparisons
-talk about the different way that God is like the sponsor. and how God uses different ways to communicate truth to people.
-talk about different writing forms in Scripture and how we have to interpret them differently.
-talk about how certain material was discarded and certain material was kept through dynamics like habitual use, canonical councils etc.
-talk about how important it is that we use our brains in the act of interpretation to find the real message.
Driving home the point:
-help kids realize that they can trust this process precisely because of its intricacy. Reinforce God’s supervision of the construction of the Bible.
-help kids to realize how spectacular the Bible is in its diversity and complexity. Encourage kids to eagerly wrestle through the stuff that is found in the Bible.
-encourage kids to be disciplined about reading and living with the Bible.
I will let you know how this all turns out.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

how bigotry seeps in?

You've read some of my point of view on the subject of yoga.
Isn't actually hilarious that I would be posting about yoga? I mean close your eyes and think about me actually doing yoga. If you're at least not smiling - I am wondering if you know me at all...
Actually I have very little interest in yoga (still laughing?). But yoga has become little flash point for me due to concern that some has had for how the pominence of yoga is evidence of a larger problem of pluralism in culture and even in the church. I received a brief article (an exerpt for a larger book YOGA AND THE BODY OF CHRIST) by Dave Hunt that describes the dangers of yoga and how Christians should respond - or more precisely: why we should be afraid of the subtle intrusion of this demonic force into Christianity.
"Yoga opens the door not to true enlightenment but to demonic seduction of mankind. is gaining adherents amoung Christians and being practiced in a number of churches, including those that claim to be evangelical."
The article is little more than excessive fear mongering which in itself presents a wider problem in addressing the issues of pluralism that are present in our culture. Unfortunately, this over anxious approach tends to obscure truth by inciting reaction in people's hearts instead of an honest investigation of truth.
But what is most disturbing to me is how the article itself sneaks a subtle bigotted remark into the work. Now this may seem insignificant to some and quivelling over words to others but in a time when words are more important than ever I think we need to pay attention.
The article warns that Yoga is actually mounting a spiritual assault on Western culture. Then this:
"Most Westerners find it difficult to think of these smiling, bowing, obsequious, and supposedly broadminded yogis, (etc.) as missionaries determined to spread their mystic gospel."
Did you notice? The word 'bowing'? Why would the author insert that word particularily? Is he trying to convey the concept of respect that these yogis have? Or is it a subtle reference to their ethnicity? The latter is what is disturbing? The term brings to mind instantly the common oriental practice of bowing in their greeting rituals. When one (me in particular) reads that phrase it immediately brings to mind ethno-oriented imagery. What's wrong with this? Aren' t most yogis of oriental background? Sure. But the image actually goes beyond trying to describe their ethnicity it is actually intended to draw out a particular reaction toward a broader ethnic group by linking this term with the implied intention to 'spread the gospel'. So the effect ends up producing something along the lines of: BEWARE of those orientals they will introduce this yoga stuff which will destroy your faith.
I know this seems like a big jump. One I am not altogether comfortable with. But the imagery and implications that come to mind for me are unmistakable. Perhaps it is an equally anxious over reaction - I am open to that.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Dogs and Lent

Easter is pretty much the central defining idea of Christianity – experientially, theologically, and actually. We would have a really hard time talking about Christianity if we didn’t have the cross. The cross and the tomb stand as the two most powerful images – obedience and sacrifice and then victory and hope. I am intrigued by the idea of sacrifice. It is after all this aspect of the Easter story that is most profound. The common understanding is that Jesus took upon him the sin of the world and died paying the penalty we all deserved. THAT, we say is sacrifice. Or is it?
To me the greatest sacrifice in the whole story about Jesus is what happened at his birth. That God would choose to lower himself into a actual human body is a form of sacrifice I am sure that I have not mastered or understood.
I think about it like this:
I love my dog (or so my wife tells me). Let’s say I knew that my dog’s habits and behaviour were leading her to a deadly confrontation with a wolf. Of course, as her owner I would do all in my power to train her to change her ways but failing that there would be only one choice left. Become a schnauzer myself. If the technology were available to me to do what Tim Allen did in that movie and I were to seriously consider doing that in order to save my dogs life, I know that several people would protest. (Others of course would no doubt cheer me on – thinking I am a dog after all.) And if in spite of the protests I went through with the procedure what would my friends say about me.
They could laugh at me behind my families back – scoffing at the insanity of lowering myself to the level of a dog
They could mourn what they ultimately see as a waste.
They could call into question my love for my family and friends.
But they would have to admit that I loved my dog.
And then after I became a dog I would no doubt proceed to warn my dog of the perils of her behaviour. If she rejected my instruction I would no doubt be obligated to face the wolf myself and try to defeat the beast. And then what if I died trying to defend my dog – what would my friends say then?
I’m not sure they could/would say anything appreciably different, because in actuality I was already lost to them as a human.
Good thing that technology exists eh?
I know that an illustration like this is a poor way to describe the theology that is woven through these thoughts but…
1. For me Jesus is a picture of sacrificial love long before he gets to the cross
2. For me Jesus life, even without the cross, stands as blistering assault on everything that my natural tendencies want to do. For me Jesus life shows me how to be truly humble – selfless. This is important to me because I see selfishness as being the default problem for human beings. 3. For me Jesus life, teaches me about redemption. When I believe that God made himself into human flesh it just seems like a matter of course to me that he would use all his powers to provide a vehicle for his love to reach the people he cared about.
The cross means something different for me then. For me the cross becomes the inevitable result of an unshakeable love that began with the choice to become human like us.
I have tended to be satisfied with acts of sacrifice. Events that demonstrate my ability to sacrifice like Jesus did on the cross. But I have this sneaking suspicion that when Jesus taught about ‘taking up our crosses’ he meant more than just a string of meaningfully placed (even tightly spaced) events of sacrifice. What he was demonstrating and teaching was how being incarnational (that is willing to fully identify with another) is not only truly sacrificial but also deeply and redemptively powerful.
These days it is common for me to hear people (even evangelicals) asking each other (much to the chagrin of the Catholic haters) what they are giving up for Lent. The question intrigues me. I know that for many this Lenten practice is important and a valuable spiritually maturing discipline. However, I wonder if this Lent phenomenon is really little more than cleverly disguised pietism. So what if I prove at the end of 40 days that I can go without chocolate, junk food, buying new clothes, eating out, even food itself. In the end has it helped me to become more incarnational – more willing to live in someone else’s economy?
So this year for Lent by goal is to live more intentionally incarnational.
Philippians 2: 5-11 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself.
He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to
cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time
came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave,
became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly
humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. INSTEAD, HE LIVED A
SELFLESS, OBEDIENT LIFE and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst
kind of death at that—a crucifixion.
him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all
created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will
bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the
Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


OtherLong-Standing Feuds I'd Like to See Explored in a Commercial à la"Hi, I'm a Mac" ..."And I'm a PC."
- - - -
"Hi, I'm Dad's Root Beer." "And I'm RC Cola."
"Hi, I'm the Misfits." "And I'm Glenn Danzig's solo career."
"Hi, I'm buying alcohol." "And I'm paying rent."
"Hi, I'm Long Island." "And I'm New Jersey."
"Hi, I'm the Internet." "And I'm Doing Something Productive With My Free Time."
"Hi, I'm Lactose Intolerance." "And I'm Lactose Tolerance."
"Hi, I'm buying alcohol." "And I'm paying off student loans."
"Hi, I'm Woody Allen's 1989 film Crimes and Misdemeanors." "And I'm Woody Allen's 2005 film Match Point."
"Hi, I'm a Mac." "And I'm a Golden Delicious."
some of my own additions:
"Hi I'm a Dispensationalist." "And I'm anything but..."
Hi, I'm a just war theorist" "And I fight for peace, man!"
add your own...
A friend of mine recently had a stroke – it knocked out his speech!
I did not anticipate how hard it would be to visit him in the hospital. There were times during that brief conversation that I felt completely frozen and completely out of control with my emotions.
Every Friday afternoon we usually meet at the local elementary school. He gets off work early to pick up his daughter and I wait around after teaching a Bible class to pick up my youngest boy. We always banter back and forth. Most recently he bugs me about how I could get away with almost anything in my youth ministry here. “After all,” he says, “what are they gonna do fire you!”
But these are days when despair follows pain very easily for me.
It is hard to visualize the long difficult road that lies ahead for him as he tries to retrain his mind and body to make words again. And then to live with the haunting fear of another stroke - hope slinks to the furthest corner underneath the bed in his room. He’s resilient – he fights!
Prayer feels so hollow.
Asking God to heal him makes me feel like an old time medicine peddler handing our miracles in little bottles. And saying that makes me feel like a faithless floozy.
What other prayer is there?
Every other prayer seems to ‘give up’.
Give him strength Lord.
Do you hear that tiny corner where hopelessness has gained a grasp?
Perhaps there is no meaning to struggle, but what does God mean to us in the pain?

“I was stabbed by Satan on the day that I was born. I was promised lovin’ but instead I was torn. My heart bled fear, my eyes shed tears.” –K’naan

Listen to the song here:

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Char's Blogging space is moving...

update your links to...

Gross Out Poker Food Version

Here's how it works:
The object is to be the person who does not have to eat or drink the disgusting things that are placed in the 'pot' as bets.

The betting rules:
-ante is a small glass of water (the first two people after the dealer have to put thier cups in the pot as the blinds)
-bet whatever gross food item is available (even just adding a tall glass of water can be a significant bet)
-in order to call the bet players must match whatever is bet. (so if you bet 1 pickle who ever else is in has to call one pickle)
-players who fold must drink or eat their share (a portion equal to what they called) of the pot.

The Bible

Recently, we have been going through a series of talks in Senior High about how to understand the Bible. I’m trying to help lay some ground work for these students so that they become familiar with the complexity and unique beauty of Scripture. So often I the Bible seems to be an assumption that we have taken for granted in our spiritual conversations. So I started with a few images or illustrations to help us compare and relate the Bible’s essence and function. Here’s the list:
An Instruction Manual
A Map
A Billboard
A Flashlight
A Feast
The Foundation
A Love Letter
A Story Book
A Science Textbook
A Rule Book
A Crystal Ball
A Debate Reference Tool
A Psychiatrist or Self-Help Tool
An illustration always falls short of being able to give a well rounded sense of what something really is. An illustration is usually good at highlighting one particular aspect of the concept we are trying to illuminate. In this case it is my suggestion that some of these illustrations have been overused in our spiritual conversations. In fact in some cases I have had to recognize that I need to repent from seeing the Bible in a particular light. Some pictures of scripture that I think are less than helpful are: instruction manual, crystal ball, science/history textbook (in some cases literally), and a debate reference tool.
What are some pictures of Scripture that you have noticed? How is the Bible being used? Which pictures of the Bible are helpful for you and which ones are harmful?


Read this:
I am the gate I am the door. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats from this bread he will live forever.
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not come from this sheepfold. I must bring them too, and they will listen to my voice, so that there will be one flock and one shepherd.
Let the little children come to me and do not try to stop them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.
Foxes have dens, and the birds in the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head. The one who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. The doorkeeper opens the door for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought all his own sheep out, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they recognize his voice.
My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; no one will snatch them from my hand.
If you obey my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete. My commandment is this – to love one another just as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this – that one lays down his life for his friends.
If you wish to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. And whoever has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life because of me will find it.
Do you see all these things? I tell you the truth, not one stone will be left on another. All will be torn down
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry. So then, don’t worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.
So if the son sets you free, you will be really free.
Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, so that your Son may glorify you –just as you have given him authority over all humanity, so that he may give eternal life to everyone you have given him. Now this is eternal life – that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent. I glorified you on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me at your side with the glory I had with you before the world was created. I have revealed your name to the men you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have obeyed your word.
I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them safe in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one. When I was with them I kept them safe and watched over them in your name that you have given me. Not one of them was lost except the one destined for destruction, so that the scripture could be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I am saying these things in the world, so they may experience my joy completed in themselves. Set them apart in the truth; your word is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.
And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Then watch this:

ht: Tall Skinny Kiwi (he actually suggests that you read the text as the video is being played)

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Words are not enough?

Let me introduce you to the Mapuche (mä-pū'chā) people of Chile. Yesterday listening to And Sometimes Y on CBC sparked me up a little. I have this closet, amateurish linguist lurking in the shadows of my mostly empty brain. See if you can follow this:
Remember this tirade by Steven Colbert well it gets worse – sort of. Turns out Microsoft wants to use the Mapuche language in its software platforms (as it does hundreds of other languages). So they make a deal with the Chilean government (who are famous for their upstanding human rights record) to use the language. Turns out roughly 95% of all Mapuche do not even own a computer but…
Now the Mapuche want to take Microsoft to court. Smelling the potential of a healthy settlement, they claim Microsoft did not follow due process in gain the right to use their language for their software. They are ticked that Gates and Co. did not consult with Mapuche leaders before incorporating the language into their stuff. (read more here)
This got me thinking about who really owns the words we use. Owning a language could be a difficult thing to do but it is clear in this case that Microsoft stands to benefit financially from securing the exclusive rights to use this language (especially if they can convince more Mapuche to buy and use computers). And as such they clear have some influence on the way the language is used and how the words in the language are interpreted and understood – even if that is only in the context of their own software. So even though they may not be able to change the meaning of words outright they will still have and influence on the words thus changing the language. That is the privilege of ownership.
So who owns English words? And what scrim illuminates and reveals the meaning of those words? This is where Colbert’s rant really starts to haunt.
Language is constantly shifting. It is influences by so many factors: the function of words, the common cultural understanding, technology, etc. But what happens when language – the words we use are controlled and shifted due to profit margins?
And then the next question that comes to mind is – wait for it – come on – Who owns Christian words?
Let’s take the word “worship” for instance. If by some enormously fabulous twist of fate the Christian establishment were to decide to return the word worship back to its original meaning and intent and not just a primary reference term for music done in the church, what would be the implications on our Christian music industry? I dare say there would be some significant scrambling to re-orientate the way most of these recording companies market their products. So you say you want a revolution why not start with the words?


ht: Nathan

Tuesday, February 6, 2007


Does "Evangelicalism" need to be saved? I was really intrigued in where this article goes by asking the question: ---so who gets to decide what the term evangelical means? Obviously, when, "people who preach values in its name didn't live up to their values in their actions and politics."
Evangelicalism has morphed into a common understanding that may not be endorsed by everyone who has been labeled as such. Many as the article suggests have tried to avoid or drop the term as a personal label yet that can only serve to further dilute the meaning of the term. Without anyone to take responsibility of the meaning of the term - without anyone to defend a correct definition - it will inevitably flounder into usage that is less intentional. It is to some extent illogical to see how Jim Wallis and George Bush could be labelled by a term that once held a very distinct and defined meaning.
But when control of the usage of term has been lost is it really possible to regain a correct definition once again? Is the need to redefine a certain type of follower of Jesus an important cultural and theological task? Is it possible to admit that the 'fight' for accuracy in the definition of the word is mostly a futile exercise? Are we willing to ignore the history that has given us the context for our faith?

Thursday, February 1, 2007

A new rag...

Gareth Brandt a prof at Columbia Bible College (Abbotsford, BC.) - (highly respected by one Mark Dyck) has his own top ten list found in a new magazine called GEEZ:
Top Ten Reasons Why I don't like identifying myself as evangelical...
here's reason number 8: People don’t like evangelicals and I want to be liked.
Kinda interesting stuff sounds like something Tony Campolo might resonate with...
Of course it would be interesting to see what Stackhouse would say...
So is the term evangelical worth saving/restoring or is so corrupted that we need to find a different term to whatever it is that we are or are becoming or once were but aren't yet...
ht: jc