Wednesday, November 29, 2006

[LIF] Not sure if I am Crazy, but... emailed me a while back wanting to re-run my article on Poker from Christian Week. I hesitantly agreed provided they fix up some editorial mix ups from the Christian Week version - the friends I talk about in the intro are not fundamentalist whack-jobs like the Christian Week version could lead you to believe. They are simply concerned, like many conservatives about the Poker craze and its effect on young people in particular. So today it came out here. In some ways I am happy to share our experiences. But the only letters that I saw come back from the Christian Week run were not even worth responding to. Maybe there will be some good discussion generated this run, but it is interesting that they came after me for this article. I suspect partly because no one else dares write it. I imagine in some denominations it would be akin to coming out of the closet. "You play poker? Don't know you that will make you go blind and cause your kids to rebel???"

Anyway I was comforted when another Vineyard's weekly letter hit my inbox announcing Poker on the agenda at a midweek gathering. I'm not alone, and once again God is reminding me I am in the right family. I might be the quirky emergent fellow in Ottawa, but they know how to make me feel loved. I would really love to hear your comments on the article, even if you hate it and think I'm going to burn in hell over it.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

[THO] How TO be Emergent (Please)

Pretty consistantly I see the Emergent conversation either misreprented or misunderstood. As someone who sees a lot of value in the Emergent conversation I think it is about time to try and clear the air. I added the word please because what I see happening is Emergent is becoming the latest fad in the Church which makes it much less than helpful. (The same could easily be said for Missional). So if you are looking at joining in the conversation please weigh the following:

1) Don't miss that Emergent is a critique.

I am fond of saying that Emergent is at best a conversation and at worst a movement. The reason for this is that when a critique becomes a movement, it is starting from a fairly negative foundation. Some of what troubles me about fads is that they tend to just adopt methods or principles and miss the real purpose of what is happening. Emergent is what has always happened in the Church, there is always that edge that wants to take us out a little deeper, engage the culture a little better and see God as a little bigger than we have been. Emergent is best understood as walking in that tradition - it is not a comfortable place because it often is experimental and almost always misunderstood. So this isn't something new, but something that is definitely needed. Not to be embraced as a "new" methodology, but as a prophetic word that is trying to call us to a better place as the Church.

2) Don't think a few candles makes you Emergent.

Emergent isn't something you try and attach to how you have done church in the past. It is a conversation that dares to ask how what we are doing is working (or not working). It is a conversation that is happening amongst pastors, priests, leaders and laity from a wide range of ecclesial settings. That is one of its primary values. It doesn't look like anything because it is not a form, philosophy or even a methodology. It is a conversation and you are welcome to join in. In fact you have likely already joined in and not even realized. Sure there are some Emergent churches that use candles, but many don't and if you listen to the conversation - some actually shouldn't.

3) Don't think of Emergent as something other than the Church.

Emergent is not a new church. It is a natural function of the glorious Church of Jesus Christ. It just happens that some felt it was helpful to name it. Think of how many movements within the church have been named. Pietists, Orthodox, Protestants, Methodists, Revivalists, Charismatics. Sure some of us like the labels now, but these labels can be double edged swords. Please, if you want to make a new church, don't call it Emergent, in fact why not consider not doing that at all. The Church has had enough schism for ten Milleniums.

4) Don't think if you are Emergent you won't need the rest of the Church.

If you think Emergent means you don't need the conservatives that dislike your Emergent ways then you are sadly mistaken. One of the critiques that Emergent brings is that of a high degree of disunity. Now the critique is nuanced with a cry for diversity as the basis of unity, but let us not mistake that for a call to disunity. Again this is why Emergent is best as a conversation, conversations happen best with more voices not less, even those voices you don't always want to hear.

5) Don't miss that Emergent means a call to authenticity.

The main critique I hear over and over is one that asks, "where is the authentic experience of the Church?" It would be a shame to have that go forward and build something highly inauthentic. Emergent isn't a call to do what isn't you. It is a call to work within your blessed tradition and maybe reach a bit broader audience. It is a call to wade a bit deeper spiritually. To embrace practices from other traditions only when they are going to foster something deeper, something real. It definitely doesn't jettison the gospel or try to mush everything into a form of relativism. It might question some of the ways we describe this (and even understand this) but only so we can better frame our faith and communicate it to others, say in a way they can actually recieve (authentic). It is about being true to ourselves and the call of God on our lives. Anything less than that should raise a warning flag. Like I keep saying, Emergent isn't a fad we can jump on to try and make our church the hottest thing since sliced bread. Those sorts of things are a dime a dozen and if they really worked we wouldn't need new ones every few months. Emergent is something deeper, it is a conversation and you are welcome to join in.

I could go on, but I think this conveys what is immediately on my heart. There is a great Emergent conversation going on over at Resonate, and I'm sure there are others. I hope to hear you there.

[Edit: I fixed my title.]

Saturday, November 25, 2006

[LIF] One Down, One to Go

My Eastern Studies paper is now done! I have a grace paper due Thursday and then it is just exams (which I start getting Monday). Even though I was really depressed doing the Eastern paper I did end up with a paper I am quite happy with. I compared the liturgy with a picture of the Christian life and was able to easily trace the themes of suffering and joy. In fact I ended the paper in joy which is both appropriate and makes for an excellent ending note. Now it is time to really buckle down with Moltmann and finish up my grace paper.

I am soooooooo tired.

Friday, November 24, 2006

[THO] The Divine Liturgy of Does This Ever End?

This was painful to get through. But it did give me a sense of what actually is going on. It is pretty hard to figure that out from words on a page. I was assuming a whole lot more of this was accessible to the people, boy was I wrong. I am not sure why it is so maddening to see a priest calling the occasional phrase over his shoulder at the people, but it is. I think what is more frustrating is that after watching this and pouring over the text I just don't get the sense of what Schmemann sees. It is going to be a long night.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

[LIF] Paper Crunch continues...

Still working on my papers. I keep getting drawn to my paper on grace, my working title is “The Weaker Grace” and I’ll probably tag on “How the Evangelical Vision of Grace Leads to Inadequate Social Response”, or something like that. I keep bouncing back and forth from Moltmann to a range of Evangelical authors (including Haggard). My working premise is not that Evangelicals don't respond socially (in fact the opposite is true) but that they respond either as a form of risk management or simply out of a bad narrative bias. Fun, fun, fun. Meanwhile I have yet to complete my reading and analysis for the paper due Monday! This is going to be a crazy week. My paper on Vineyard ecclesiology has already been submitted. I wish I had more time to work on that one, Sharon felt I spent too much time unpacking history. My concern was that the prof. likely does not have any background in where the Vineyard comes from. I’m usually lumped in with Pentecostals.

Friday, November 17, 2006

[THO] Lonnie Frisbee

I just ordered this video as well as Di Sabatino's The Jesus People Movement. I've been waiting a long time for both of these (really just an excuse to buy David's book). I'll have to review it here. Lonnie, for those who have never heard of him, was the figure who was central at the Mother's Day visitation that really shook up the Vineyard. He is so important that Vineyard historian Bill Jackson devoted a whole appendix to Lonnie. He was also, ironically, a major figure in the roots of the Calvary Chapel movement (sorry Hannegraff). But what is even more interesting, this lightening rod for God died in relative obscurity because his whole life he struggled with homosexuality. The fact that God so powerfully used a gay man really ruffles feathers. Let you all know when it arrives!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

[THO] Moltmann and Grace

The coming lordship of the risen Christ cannot be merely hoped for and awaited. This hope and expectation also sets its stamp on life, action and suffering in the history of society. Hence mission means not merely propogation of faith and hope, but also historic transformation of life.
Jurgen Moltmann, Theology of Hope, 329-330.

Just getting my head around Moltmann's view of grace for a paper I'm going to write in the next week or so. Loved this quote!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

[THO] Stacking up Capitalism

Part of the job of a theologian is to be able to look at the world and understand what is going on. To make judgements and when something is problemmatic, to sound the alarm. I mean that in the most prophetic of senses.

I've been thinking a lot about how we engage with the world around us. Introspective I know, but I think this is vital. The obsession that I have with stuff is incredible. I have a collector mentality and derive pleasure from sorting things. In fact it is one of my wierder traits. I like order, even though I live a lot of times in chaos from the sheer amount of stuff I have collected over the years. My wife is into purging, which is healthy for me, but it doesn't make it easy.

What got me thinking about this is a bit of TV I've seen lately, an advertisment and a show I saw tonight. The show was 'How Clean Is Your House' in which Kim and Aggie tackle the house of a literal rubbage collector. They dragged 4+ tonnes of crap out of this small flat (not exaggerating) and scrubbed some of the vilest crap I've ever seen. Now I live in a pristine castle compared to this man, but you know it is not hard to imagine being swallowed up by all my own crap. But for me it isn't recycling rubbish or being unwilling to part with broken stuff that does me in. I actually am pretty good at chucking real garbage. (Well if you look at my library there is a bit of crap in there that I should purge, likely will now that my shelves are full, say goodbye Josh McDowell!) What does me in is the allure of stuff that I just don't need.

Take this cup stacking game that is advertised on the tv all the time now. At first I thought 'that might be fun', but then I thought about it. 'What the heck?' They are re-selling the common plastic cup as a game??? This is the empitome of capitalism. Convincing the masses to buy more crap that they won't ever need because it fuels the artificial economy and keeps the wealthy happy in their relative comfort. But are we happy? Even the rich? The thing is for capitalism to work we all have to buy into this buy to be happy deal. If someone wakes up and begins pointing out that they are just re-selling cups then possibly the illusion will be shattered. Well, I can hope can't I. (The illusion is necessary because it lets us sleep in a world where our capitalism hides incredible disparity and oppressive poverty in the world, but let's keep this light shall we.)

Sears has this new wish big campaign for Christmas shopping, where folks are going home with more oversized things they likely don't need. It is madness, sheer madness. But what drives me nuts is I am the worst culprit. I fight with my wife over buying new tools I could borrow from neighbours. I purchase more paintable terrain than I could ever use to populate a battle map, or make sure I have oodles of miniatures for trading, yet hesitate when the offers to trade come in? I am just as sick as the whole system.

I think what this points to is my next Lenten fast. Instead of giving up food or coffee. I think this time I'm going to give up buying, in fact I think I need to find something each day of Lent to either give away or chuck out. Think of it as a protest of the capitalism that so enthralls my soul. Lent is a ways off yet, so I have a chance to get my ducks in order first. A chance to flesh out the ground rules. Last year I gave up Internet Poker for Lent, and you know what I've played maybe three times since giving it up. It was hard, damn hard actually. I really enjoyed the thrill of gaming. I actually enjoyed making new online friends. But giving it up I realized how much I was missing out on simple things, like playing with my kids (or letting them have the computer long enough to learn how to use it well). And I wasn't really playing that obsessively before! I wonder if this will change the way I feel about buying into this commercialism driving society. I know I am already very distrustful of capitalism. I see the cup game and it is like writing on the wall.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

[LIF] Nightmares and other stuff

I have been spending my online moments getting through the 3 hour documentary Sam pointed to in this post. All I can say is holy crap! I ended up having an interesting chat about Leo Strauss in my Grace class (at break) after the first hour of this. Not sure I have the tools to sort through it properly, the thesis is pretty darn scary and makes me very glad Rumsfield is gone! Kenny, would love to hear you weigh in on this.

I've been progressively stuffier over the last four days, today I have a sinus headache. Yuch. Two papers to try and finish today (one is just little on the Eastern Churches Pneumatology)All the Easter papers should be "God Said it so we believe it and say it twenty times each liturgy." But they usually end up in me working out my frustrations over the horrid texts. This week we did Kalistos Ware and it is like a breath of fresh air. Sure I don't agree 100%, but Ware doesn't make me feel like a knob for having a different opinion.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

[THO] Theological Influences

There has been a lot of buzz about books that have influenced our theology and I feel a bit out of it because I can maybe list a handful of really prominent influences view books, but the real influence belongs to the context of where those books came into play. I discovered Moltmann in James Pambrun's classes, that is also where I discovered Ricoeur, Lane and Charles Taylor. I discovered O'Donoghue in a Celtic Christian Spirituality course which was very influential on my theology of worship and evangelism (George Hunter jumps to mind). Also without John Gibaut I would not have developed such a passion for the Eucharist. Heather Eaton put writers like Johnson, Soelle and Berry in vivid context. And I could go on. So I was delighted when Ben decided to list his top 20, in no particular order, theological influences. Here are mine.

  1. Eucharist - for anyone who has discovered the richness of the Eucharist there can be no doubt that theology starts here.

  2. Planting a church - I am convinced that theology and church belong together.

  3. James Pambrun - a systematics professor par excellance. Probably one of the best lecturers you could even meet, and passionate about theology.

  4. Celtic Spirituality - I came at this from a few routes, but the biggest was a course at St. Paul. This has impacted my theology of worship, evangelism, community and life.

  5. Questioning my Pentecostal roots - this is likely why I have so much trouble with the course I'm taking on Eastern Christianity. Questions are good.

  6. My wife - sometimes in the middle of wrestling through questions my wife will say something profoundly grounded and help me make sense of the bigger picture. She is definitely a gift to me.

  7. Ecumenical Friends - I am part of a lot of mixed tradition communities which has always been a source of rich theological insight for me. I guess that is why I persist with such communities even when I am the minority voice in the conversation.

  8. The Bible - yeah there are a few books that make this list, but I have had the sheer privilege of studying under Walter Vogels who is able to hold the tension of a historical critical analysis and a love for the sacred Scriptures. I bless my Pentecostal heritage for its emphasis on reading the Bible has made it so that the Scriptures are part of my vocabulary.

  9. John Gibaut - how could I not acknowledge his influence on me. He encouraged me to study the primitive house churches and imparted a passion for the Eucharist that marks almost everything I do liturgically. A finer Anglican Scholar I have yet to meet.

  10. Training Ministers - I prepared and ran a year long ministry formation class for leaders form Freedom and the Smiths Falls Vineyard. I focused on the Vineyard, but we covered biblical interpretation, preaching, history, theology and spirituality. It was intense but I learned so much.

  11. Philosophy - for helping me gain a critical distance from my engaged theology.

  12. Jurgen Moltmann - both from books and from the dialogues those books have spawned. Moltmann is my homeboy!

  13. Heather Eaton - she taught me how to take my spirituality apart and put it back together again. That is one of the most imporant abilities for a theologian.

  14. Theology Blogs - man I am loving the richness of this community. I list many of the regulars I follow in my sidebar, but more often than not I'm following their links in the rich conversation that happens on the web.

  15. Eastview Baptist Church - where I was given wings to fly and the freedom to realize I am not a Baptist. That is also the place where my library began, thanks Aubery!

  16. The Vineyard - where I found a home. Kingdom theology is the bomb!

  17. My kids - I think Luther was onto something when he said you are not a man until you change a diaper. My kids make me think deeply about a lot of things. Who the heck tried to tell them we aren't animals?

  18. Experiences - I've had lots of freaky experiences along the way. The influence of witnessing healings, visions, guidance and other Kingdom realities can not be overestimated. I might not be Pentecostal, but I am definitely not a cessationist.

  19. Worship in Song - I am oriented towards worship in this way. Especially to participate. I love to pick up my guitar and just worship. This has shaped my theology with a leaning towards the expressed love of God.

  20. Preaching/Teaching - especially lectionally, but any time I've wrestled with scripture to prepare a message for our community (or another community) I've been blown away by how God shows up. Though it is scary, I do love it when the Word challenges my preconceptions.

[LIF] Haggard and Joseph

My buddy Joseph emails a semi-daily newsletter called Coffee Jesus. Yesterday he was lamenting the responses to Ted Haggard's indescretion. Of course Joseph didn't name Ted, but a quick look at my Yahoo! showed me the story. I think Joseph was more upset at how the Christians were responding to this tragedy. When I read it my heart was very sad for everyone involved, but mostly for Ted who will likely always have this shadow over him. Christians are not good at dealing with their heroes floundering, we tend to shoot our own wounded. Joseph also included this tounge in cheek video of the Americanization of Jesus - but I took no comfort in its jangly song (but maybe you will).

I would encourage you all to pray for your pastors and leaders. I think a big part of the problem is found in our ecclesiologies that just don't work. I could also have some interesting comments on the pressures of a mega-church. I also could find many issues to disagree with my brother Ted about and maybe point a finger there. But no matter what it always boils down to our own responsibility in our own affairs. And when we are honest with ourselves we dare not think if we were in Ted's shoes we would do any better. So let's pray for the Haggards as well. God let your love rest on your servant. Thank you for the courage in you he has found through all this. Protect and restore his family. And God have mercy on us all, for we all have the capacity to go where our brother has found himself.

Monday, November 06, 2006

[LIF] Back to the Grind

Had a great weekend of gaming, I actually took the prize last night. I wasn't too thrilled with my pulls in a sealed event - got a second Pit Fiend if anyone is looking for a trade. But I fireballed the first band until they were so soft I swatted them away like flies. The second band was Richard, who I think is a really good player. He came at me with the Solar (angel). He could have played points denial and maybe won, but he is a much more noble player than that and it cost him the game. His one chance to use the slaying arrow and he missed! Doh. My last matchup was with the new player Jason. He was good for his first time out to our group. His band had a Maug and an Owlbear for rending power, but I was careful, got off my fireballs when it counted and kept my Fiend from the big guns until he could easily mop up. It was a total party kill! We had all pitched in on a booster which I pulled a second Solar from.

But this crazy weekend also included a whole day in which my router refused to connect to the Internet! That meant having to get an extension on my paper for tonight's class. Sucks, but at least I have half of my next big paper done and my paper for the class this afternoon is complete. I am definitely not happy with the Eastern studies class. I'm sick of being the one who always has to tear apart the readings. I'm tired of writing papers about how the authors miss the point. I fear it is going to take me quite a while to begin liking Eastern Christianity again after this. Ignorance, in this case, is bliss.

This week we have out sending church pastors coming to visit us. I'm making a chili! Should be a really good time, George and Janet are a lot of fun to have around. Because Elyssa is just getting over the chicken pox they can't stay with us (it wouldn't be right to boot Elyssa out of her bed). But we have them for a whole night, Friday. I've invited the whole Freedom Vineyard to hang with us. Hope we can have a bit of worship as well.

Better get off to class.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

[DDM] Bloodwar Is Here!

Lots is happening in the world of Dungeons and Dragons Miniatures! This new set is really nice. Colourful and really interesting sculptures. Tonight I am hosting our local release party! Yeah, I know it came out Friday, but that didn't work for most of us. I really don't have time for it tonight, but how can we not have a sealed event in honour of the new set?

I bought a case for myself and opened them up with my oldest daughter. She loves helping me open up minis. The first one was the Githyanki riding a Red Dragon - what an awesome miniature. There are a lot of demons/devils in this set, it is Bloodwar after all. Which doesn't thrill me too much, I always prefer the more standard fantasy fare of dragons, spiders, warriors and the like. But I must admit the Pit Fiend is a nasty beast and a great sculpt. I can't wait to field him in an Epic game.

I have two new articles published. A scenario for minis where two necromancers dual by summoning undead. It was supposed to be for Halloween, but was bumped by articles for the new set. The problem with an article coming out the same time as the gallery for a new set is that it gets lost in the shuffle. The other article was for Knowledge Arcana and is a piece on how to run a great game of minis. I share some of the insights I've gained from organizing gaming communities in Ottawa. KA has great editors and I think they did an awesome job with the layout for my article, I love the images!

I'll probably lay low for a bit on the scenario writing. Paper crunch at school and all that fun stuff. I know going into this new set of minis I was thinking I'd slow down, maybe cherry pick the next couple sets. But if the next set is as sweet as this one I'm going to be hard pressed not to pre-order a case. We'll just have to wait and see.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

[REV] A Quick Drink from the Well

Last week I had 7 days to read Gustavo Gutiérrez's We Drink From Our Own Wells. I hate power reading such a deceptively profound book. And I would commend it to anyone who is wrestling with Liberation Theology, especially to evangelicals who think that Liberation Theology is just Socialism dressed up like Christianity. Gutiérrez reveals that Libeation Theology is deeply embedded in the experience of God in the midst of situations all of us would find intolerable if we were truly to face them ourselves. Liberation Theology is an orientation towards hope and the pursuit of justice that can only be described as the inbreaking of God's Kingdom in the lives of the oppressed. I am carefully using the term oppressed because we have some romantic notions of poverty in North America that do not describe what it means to be poor in 'developing' nations.

Gutiérrez begins with the definition of a Christian "as a follower of Jesus" (p.1) a great place to start for any theology. Because he begins here I think this book would be incredibly accessible to folks who have been afraid to Liberation Theology. He then begins to describe a spirituality that arises in the midst of a foreign and oppressive land (foreign to the Kingdom that is). "We are confronted with a reality contrary to the reign of life that the Lord proclaims." (p.10) It is this that is the reality of many oppressed in our world.

His insistance though is that it is in the face of such adversity that spirituality is born. And from the depths of spiritual experience a profound theogical reflection is able to occur. This is the experience of German Political Theology in light of the horrific Second World War. I find it interesting that in the evangelical world there is a glamourization of martyrdom. Something deep inside us knows that real theological reflection occurs in the midst of real social challenges. Yet that same evangelical world is quick to dismiss what is going on in neighbouring countries, right under our noses. To this Gutiérrez makes an incredibly bold claim, one we need to consider. "There is no authentic evangelization that is not accompanied by action on behalf of the poor." (p.44)

The other aspect of this book that I think makes it accessible to evangelicals is how Gutiérrez works with scripture. This book is predominantly a scriptural study - profoundly contextualized, but a study of scripture much like I would expect from contemporary evangelical writers. I think that is also what makes this book deceptively simple. It is not a simple text. There is something profound in what Gutiérrez is asking his readers to take in. It challenges our whole notion of what it is to do theological reflection. It calls us to be aware of the deep injustices that occur in our world, but not to lament and throw money at them - but rather to come along side in solidarity with the oppressed in a way that changes our own comfortable views of reality. In that place we encounter the Lord, surprising though that may be.