Wednesday, August 20, 2014

It Is Finished!

263 pages including 16 pages of bibliography, 1 cover page, and a 5 page table of contents.

5 years of research and writing.

1 PhD dissertation complete!

Title: A Theology of Social Engagement for Evangelicals

I need to clean up a few pages (the printer overheated and didn't print a few correctly). Take the beast to Staples and get 5 copies made (unbound). Finalize the form and get it to my director for signing. Then drop this at the faculty.

So close, so close.

Monday, April 14, 2014

World of the Reader - World of the Text

In biblical studies the emphasis is often placed on one of these poles. This a a caricature, but it gets the point across. On the one hand, interpretation is about how we understand the text in the context of our current readings. Yet, on the other hand, interpretation is about determining the world of the text, including the mind of its author(s) and the context of its original hearing. Both views actually contribute to our understanding of the text - but I am convinced that we do more of the world of the reader and confuse it with world of the text. And I'm not sure that is a bad thing - but because we think we are doing the other we overinflate the authority of our own readings of the sacred texts.

The reason I claim this is because when we look at tough issues, like for instance what the Bible does or does not say about homosexuality, we cannot help but be influenced by our lived experience. I think this holds true for those who affirm and those who do not affirm the homosexuals' orientation. We bring a whole host of expectations to our readings of the texts. In fact we give those texts weight based on our assumptions - at least that is the only explanation as to why so few references are given such importance in the debates surrounding this particular issue.

The problem I have with this is that obscuring our methodological assumptions leads us to hear first our interpretations rather than the texts and contexts themselves. We work backwards from our presuppositions regarding the interpretations with the hope of genuinely hearing the other voices - including the canonical voice of scripture. Hence, the issue I have with the relatively scant passages brought to bear on out interpretation of God's plan/heart for individuals.

A good case for this is when I hear people claim that Jesus always tells people to leave their sin, as if that is the only response and as if anything we have a bias against can be captured in the term sin. But the reality of the text is that Jesus doesn't always tell people to leave what we (and even he seems to) consider sinful activities - consider the woman at the well in John's gospel. Jesus seems to have a lot of tolerance for a woman, known for adultery, would become an evangelist for him amongst the Samaritans. We have to read into the text to make Jesus tell her to leave her current partner. The better reading is that Jesus is not so concerned with the immediacy of the situation, but more with the unfolding of a new life within her. And we would do well to not judge the situation that God is working out through her life - no matter how it differs from our preconceptions.

We need to hear the text and we also need to hear the context in which it is read. Different readers can walk away from that Johannine text with different insights. This is the brilliance of the text. It is no less the work of the Spirit (with the text) than rigorous textual analysis. In fact the texts were meant to be read in communities where people lived real lives, struggled with real questions, and emphasized different aspects of the texts. This is the role of living text, one that lives in our context with us. But we miss something when we ignore the role that our context plays in our interpretation of the texts. And when interpretation is conflated with authority we have a problem.

I'm thinking a lot about how we view the Bible in Christian communities. I have a profound love for scripture, but probably an equally profound distaste for how scripture has been used in our communities.

Thoughts?  

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

MIA

I set my blog as the homepage for my browsers, that way I see how much I'm not posting almost every time I fire one up. It is not that I'm not active online - just not so much here.

This is what I'm up to:

Dungeon World Encounter Cards - soon to be a kickstarter.

Vineyard ThoughtWorks blog - I have a new writer coming on and hope to add a further one as well. But for now I'm doing a lot of the posts.

Canadian Theological Society - We are doing more posting as we ramp up for Congress 2014.

IARCCUM - the Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogues (going back to the 60s) have a new online archive. Right now the work I've done is hidden behind some static pages the webmaster threw up for a presentation. But I've coded a front end that lets you search an ever expanding archive of letters, papers, agreed statements, common declarations, etc. The coding is ready, but we've only scratched the surface of the data resources that will be available there.

My dissertation of course - I just layed out a big section on my eschatological theology of participation. I have big chunks of this section written, it is just shuffling the part around into the right order and then making them all connect nicely. Should have the section done by Monday and then I'll bang out the last section of the penultimate chapter. I should be able to write the concluding chapter by mid-April. It's getting so close I can taste it.

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Few Things I Know About the LGBTQ and Christianity Issue



I want to start off saying this post is my own opinion. These thoughts are something I feel I need to get out there and off my chest. As a pastor of a congregation that tries to welcome everyone who came I feel like I've been thrown into the whole LGBTQ arena. It has caused me both pain and joy. As a trans-local leader and theologian I am struck repeatedly at how this is an issue many leaders and congregants are wrestling with, often with a lot of their own pain and joy. (I want to thank those who have taken the time to be vulnerable with me over the years, I hope this post helps in some small way.)
Personally I've tried to keep out of the debate of what is the right way to approach this issue - I have my views and I'm not convinced that trying to make others agree with me is that fruitful. In fact the more time I spend wrestling with this issue the more I'm convinced that there is no one solution, but that we need to pursue God with boldness and see where we end up. Mistakes are inevitable, but humility must triumph over fear. What I want to do in this post is identify a few issues that I think get in the way of having a fruitful conversation around this important issue.

Homophobia

This is a term that gets thrown around too easily and also disregarded too readily. Much as I try to avoid this term if we are going to use it then it might be helpful if we found some precision for what homophobia actually is. For those who disregard it, it might be helpful to reflect on the fact that homophobia is not just being afraid of queer people or a so-called 'gay agenda'. Homophobia is also being afraid of the effect that your response to queer people will have on your ministry or relationships. Fears play out in the arena of speculation, so when we imagine the worst outcome we are being homophobic (and also allowing the fear of other people's opinions cloud our ability to hear and obey God.) Just because welcoming or accepting a queer person might strain other relationships is never a good reason to not do what you know to be the right thing. We are always accountable for our response to those whom God brings to us and not for how that might make it hard (or easy) to fit in with everyone else.

On the other side, when we just name as homophobia every possible objection raised against including and/or affirming (these are two distinct things) LGBTQ persons and concerns, we are refusing to hear what underlies the objections of others. This is a difficult tension. It is worth hearing the objections of others and actually having the conversation. And not just to find faults in these objections - the underlying foundation for these objections is often rooted in concerns we can all share (such as the concern over faithfully following God). Sharing concerns does not mean we need to always share conclusions, but it is important to not let an issue like this lead us away from the deeper issues. As a result, my queer friends don't get to label everything homophobia. In particular they do not get to discredit arguments based on a blanket statement that might not name what is the real concern. By the same token my queer hesitant friends cannot dismiss their own possible homophobia. Homophobia, if we insist on using the term needs to be used carefully.

Foundations are Painful to Uproot


Which leads to the second thing I know which is basically that there are hard liners on all sides of this issue. Unfortunately hard liners usually just cloud the issues. You can tell them because they refuse to hear and acknowledge the legitimacy of the other side. Hearing the other side does not mean you have to give up your own views. I was talking with a guy I really respect yesterday and he reminded me to the term "mutually transformative" relationships. This should be our goal when engaging in this conversation, we must go into it with the humility that says there is probably good reasons for the views of the others and understanding those reasons might even shift my own views, but also have confidence that we too have good reasons for our own views. When we lose sight of that goal we risk becoming unhelpful in the conversation. I think it is really important for us to have a voice, to speak our minds and hearts. I think it is also just as important for us to hear one another.

The Issues are Complicated

The reality is that you can still be an ally of LGBTQ folk and hold a complicated or even unsettled view of the issue. Jesus really calls us to be an advocate of people. We can affirm people and walk with people as they move towards wholeness, even if their understanding of wholeness differs from our own. Church leaders in particular need to learn to do this better, and I'm encouraged when I encounter those who are trying to do just that. I actually consider myself an LGBTQ ally not because I'm in favour of marriage equity but because I want to be Christ to the people God sends my way and want to see them through God's eyes not through my own biases. I'd be lying if I say that I'm completely settled on the issues. Some of it just puzzles the heck out of me. Where I am settled is that I want to treat every person with dignity and respect, and am willing to walk and pray with them as they follow after God. One size really does not fit all. I will do my best to obey God as I see God leading in every situation trusting in God's leading and faithfulness.

Language is the Problem

Unfortunately, we as a species do not like complications. Over and over I hear language used in this conversation that is meant to frame the debate in ways that are easy to dismiss. One that I really dislike is the appeal to 'same sex attraction'. Nice language if you want to imply sexual orientation is a choice and that being queer is ultimately something you can cure. While this may be an important view in the conversation, it is not helpful to make it sound like 'the answer' because we've claimed that homosexuality is just attraction to the same gender. Human sexuality has never been this simple. Sexual orientation is more than just being attracted to someone of the same gender, and when we frame it that way we deny the identity component. Worse, it allows us to belittle the struggles of those who don't fit into the heteronormativity of our society.

Terms like traditional, orthodox, etc., always make appeals to norms that are constructed and highly contextual. I'm grateful that some of the conversations are reflecting a hesitation with these terms that gives me hope. (BTW I moved to the term queer because my queer friends tell me that is the term they prefer to use.) Maybe we should let the others have an equal say in the language we use? That said, I'm just as bad at this as the rest of you - so really just recognizing that language is a problem is helpful.

Love is the Bottom Line

So here is where I end up - ultimately I know I will be judged not on how well I fit in, but on how well I loved. I'm not always the best at this, I think of myself as a learner of love. But my heart is to love because I was loved. What overwhelms me most about God is that even in full understanding of all I've done, do, and will do - God chooses to love me. I'm so grateful for this. So I've made it a mission to try and emulate that love to all who come my way. It is hard. But it is also worth it. I get that some of my queer hesitant friends think the most loving response to my queer friends is to tell them they need to get right with God. In fact I think that if this is your conviction then you should voice it - but at the same time you should listen to God and not expect that their getting right with God will look like you expect. Heck, the reality is that all of us could use some getting right with God. But if all your expression of love is telling people you dislike who they are (and are convinced God also does not like who they are) then you might want to think about that. There has to be more to love than dismissing a person.

I remember my friend James who came out to me (I was a new Pentecostal convert at the time). I remember telling him that I thought God had a problem with him being gay, but I didn't. At the time that was my honest view on the issue. James became a great friend of mine and a genuinely enjoyed hanging out with him. The point is that love is so much more than a warning (no matter how well intentioned) can ever be. Love involved me being there when James was going through hard times, not judging but listening and caring. Love is what we are called to do as Christians, more than anything else love forms and informs our way of being in this world. If we have not love, then we really have nothing.

Conclusion

I'm sure that this will continue to be a complicated issue. I'm sure it will be painful too. I don't have a lot of answers, but these few things are what I do know about the LGBTQ issue. We need to listen more. Find places to be vulnerable (and as leaders create places where people are safe in this vulnerability). We need to be careful about our language. And most of all we need to let love take the lead in all we say and do.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Renovations....

OK so the blogging on the tablet experiment didn't work. The reality is that I've just too much else on the go. Plus my mouse and keyboard are dying, grrrrrrr. It is a hassle to work on the computer until I get them replaced. But with all the renovations, I'm never here long enough to tackle that problem.

On the plus side, I've really developed some good skills this summer. I've installed my first built in cabinet, refinished my first stair railing, done my second wood floor install, improved my woodworking (especially table saw) skills, finally mastered caulking, developed some better painting skills, and basically made our old house beautiful (with a little help from some friends).

I'm needing to spend some time Monday working with some web publishing tools for a contract I secured at the beginning of the summer. So perhaps I'll post something then.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

blogging on the run

not had a lot of time to blog lately. we are in the process of moving from one house to another, just down the street actually. i am doing a lot of the renovations on the old house myself. I'm actually looking forward to the challenges. my thesis is almost done, just need to carve out the time to write. i just finished teaching a course on eschatology and politics in North America. the exams come in Monday which is also the day we take possession of the new house.

as I'm less stuck behind a desk for a while just trying out blogging via tablet. going to see how difficult Autocorrect makes my life.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Think on This

Jesus’ ethics do not stand apart from the kingdom, rather they inhabit the kingdom bringing about the redemptive work of God in history, even if they do so presently only in a provisional way.

Thoughts?