Saturday, December 27, 2008

Problems with Salvation Language

I've been reflecting a lot on how frustrating evangelical speak can be. There was a thread a while back on the Canadian Evangelical Theological Association's yahoo group that was dissecting the idea of "inviting Jesus into your heart". The consensus was that this is not a very helpful analogy. We love these quaint little sayings that actually say absolutely nothing. And we wonder why people outside of the evangelical world do not take us serious.

The one that really bugs me right now is the saying that God/Jesus "saves our souls". Think about that for a minute - what does it actually mean? After trying to tease some meaning out of that hopelessly Hellenistic slogan I had to conclude that unless one does a careful exposition of the concept of soul from scripture - this pretty much means God is only concerned with some disconnected part of me that can neither be proven or disproven, so is easily bifurcated from the tangible aspects of life. Let me explain.

Most Westerners think of soul as that part of us which lives on after death. I suspect that many think of it as a composite of our beings, sort of a seat of personality, but that is a much more lengthy study than I'm prepared to undertake in a blog post. The idea is that soul is related to heaven - it is what we rationally connect with an after-death experience. Death being the great bugbear against which a saved soul is the perfect ward - or is it. What it really boils down to is purely semantics, that is it is just words we use to comfort ourselves in the face of the inevitable unknown. If having my soul saved is nothing more than this then I think I'll pass. Fortunately, there is another way of approaching the soul issue.

In the Christian tradition the idea of resurrection should challenge Hellenistic notions of a separation of soul and body. Unfortunately this supposed separation has led to the vilification of the flesh, another thread for another time. But we must not be so quick to separate our realities, as if the body was just some disposable husk we can't wait to shirk off. This devaluation of the body has been employed to justify all kinds of injustice - slavery and human trafficking continue today because we can somehow commodify the body. In scripture soul and body are not so quickly isolated (if at all).

The second issue is that if Jesus came just to save an abstract part of our being, albeit one that seems quite important and possibly the animating aspect, then why incarnate? What model does condescending into bodily form produce? For Jesus it is all connected. Body, spirit, soul - however you want to slice it up, it is all met together in the person of Jesus. If it was only our souls then would not ecstatics suffice? In point of fact they do suffice for many and serve as convincing arguments for obscuring ones own hermeneutics.

The third issue is that if the soul is really our animating whole seat of personality - how can be excuse our bodily existence? How can we ever justify bodily actions that do not prove a change in our souls in the here and now? I guess this is what frustrates me most - that Christianity is reduced through popular images to a pie in the sky religion while the world goes to hell in a handbasket. That sort of Christianity is not worth participating in.

Not enough effort is given into the trite little sayings we Christians throw around. Less thought is given to the worldviews behind our sayings. When we do so we risk making God into a god of convenience and a god of escapism. Neither is the God who so loved the WORLD (COSMOS) that John's gospel speaks of. Let me quote a bit of proverbs by way of conclusion. Let me first affirm that God saves all of me(you) and that must mean everything or it means nothing at all.
Do not withhold discipline from a child;
if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.
Punish him with the rod
and save his soul from death.
My son, if your heart is wise,
then my heart will be glad;
my inmost being will rejoice
when your lips speak what is right.
Do not let your heart envy sinners,
but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD.
There is surely a future hope for you,
and your hope will not be cut off.
Listen, my son, and be wise,
and keep your heart on the right path. (Psalm 23:13-19, NIV)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas day! I just popped onto the computer to send off an email, then I'm back to playing with my kids. Santa found me and dropped of a wonderful dice bag that came with a bonus bottle of rye! Soooooo sweet.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

How I Relax

I just sorted out the state of my stamp collection, that is what albums have I actually put together to house the countries that I collect. While some of my collections are better than others, I do love putting my own personal touch on my collection. So for instance in my German collection I have several pages detailing both world wars as well as a section on hyperinflation. I incorporate philatelic pieces into these sections and it makes them a bit nicer than just stamps on a page. But there is nothing wrong with stamps on a page - especially the joy of filling a page with stamps! Here is what I have so far:

Canada - up to 2001 (when I got back into collecting) in really nice Unity albums (3), after that I collect the year sets from the post office. Also I have an album of provincial stamps.

Germany - a big album for German States, West Germany, early Germany and occupation stamps. I have a second album for East Germany (DDR) and another with Berlin, Saar and Danzig in it.

Great Britain - a big hand made album. I also have a second album for Machins. In other albums I have Ireland and the Channel Islands.

Apart from that, in various albums, I have:
Australian States
Brazil (some)
Ceylon (I only collect pre-Sri Lanka)
Hong Kong
India & States
Netherlands (Holland)
New Zealand
United States
Vatican City
Eventually I will add the rest of South America, possibly Central America and Austria. Now that I have a good handle on what is made up I can dive back into sorting. Oh such fun.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Tis the Season...

I have Internet again, yay! Even though I was off I did have a new cell phone with free internet for three months. Of course that is super slow, but it let me keep up with Facebook. I finished off my coursework with a truly delightful read of Russell Moore's "The Kingdom of Christ". He is quite careful until the second to last chapter, but even there it is a very worthwhile read. I highly recommend this to anyone who is interested in the development of evangelical theology in North America. His proposal of a growing consensus amongst evangelicals based on a tensional (now/not yet) understanding of the Kingdom of God is intriguing. The only unfortunate thing is that this is pretty much the book I would have written for my PhD dissertation! Ah, well I think I have some outs yet.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Cake

* 2 cups flour
* 1 stick butter
* 1 cup of water
* 1 tsp baking soda
* 1 cup of sugar
* 1 tsp salt
* 1 cup of brown sugar
* Lemon juice
* 4 large eggs
* Nuts
* 1 bottle wine
* 2 cups of dried fruit

Sample the wine to check quality. Take a large bowl, check the wine again. To be sure it is of the highest quality, pour one level cup and drink. Repeat. Turn on the electric mixer. Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add one teaspoon of sugar. Beat again. At this point it's best to make sure the wine is still OK. Try another cup... Just in case. Turn off the mixerer thingy. Break 2 eggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit.

Pick the frigging fruit up off floor. Mix on the turner. If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers just pry it loose with a drewscriver. Sample the wine to check for tonsisticity. Next, sift two cups of salt. Or something. Check the wine. Now shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts. Add one table. Add a spoon of sugar, or some fink. Whatever you can find. Greash the oven. Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over. Don't forget to beat off the turner. Finally, throw the bowl through the window. Finish the wine and wipe counter with the cat.

Bingle Jells!

Thanks Gabe, I thought this was quite cute.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ugh. Still not Internet.

I'm at a hotspot, seems Sympatico will not have me up properly until the 18th!

I'll post something then.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

No Internet

Somehow Sympatico deleted my internet service??? Anyway, I'm back up now. Did you miss me?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Great Post and Sad News

I meant to post a link to this post yesterday, Drew often tackles issues that others avoid. I think he makes some interesting points about the way we use scripture, it is worth thinking through.


I got some really sad news today. The minister of my parent's church died suddenly today. He was with my dad at the time. I'm a bit shaken up. He was one of the good guys and it was just a few weeks ago that we had dinner together (in Truro). My prayers are with his wife and their children. I already miss him. I know my dad is really going to miss him too, they were really good friends.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Promise from Moltmann's Theology of Hope

I really enjoy this read. Moltmann is wonderfully engaging. If you haven't read any Moltmann - don't deprive yourself any longer. In Theology of Hope he builds a strong case for eschatology as the center of a Christian theology. Now, those of you who hear eschatology and start getting ruptured over the rapture - eschatology actually means last things and escapist notions like a rapture really don't cut it. His emphasis is that the 'not yet' opens up a future that is pregnant with possibility. Eschatology is about a particular view of history that is shaped by an understanding of God as revealed through promise. To get a handle on this Moltmann draws our several key ideas about promise from the First Testament:

  1. "A promise is a declaration which announces the coming of a reality that does not yet exist." (103)

  2. "The promise binds man to the future and gives him a sense of history." (103)

  3. "The history which is initiated and determined by promise does not consist in cyclic recurrence, but has a definite trend towards the promised and outstanding fulfilment." (103)

  4. "If the word is a word of promise, then that means that this word has not yet found a reality congruous with it, but that on the contrary it stands in contradition to the reality open to experience now and heretofore." (103)

  5. "The word of promise therefore always creates an interval of tension between the uttering and the redeeming of the promise." (104) I really like this point, it is exemplified in the tension of the Kingdom as both 'now' and 'not yet', but more on that in another post.

  6. "If they are God's promises, then God must also be regarded as the subject of their fulfilment." (104) God is not abstracted from the promises as a sort of deistic clockmaker god, yet at the same time this is not a fatalistic claim that God is the only actor in history. Earlier in the text Moltmann states clearly that our lives in this world are not adiaphorais, meaning having no good or bad effect on our world. Think tension and participation.

  7. "The peculiar character of the Old Testament promises can be seen in the fact that the promises were not liquidated by the history of Israel - neither by disappointment nor by fulfilment - but that on the contrary Israel's experience of history gave them a constantly new and wider interpretation." (104) That is "[t]he 'not yet' of expectation surpasses every fulfilment that is already taking place now." (106)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Exciting Timesin Canadian Politics

This topic is generating a tonne of heat over on facebook. I thought I'd throw it out here as well. As you can see I am for the coalition, in fact I am ecstatic the the Bloc Quebecois has decided to support this coalition - they are working harder for national unity than the Federalists??? Harper has to be on the way out and I think he can kiss goodbye any gains the Conservatives have made in Quebec. I find it so offensive his attacks on the Bloc. Why he can't own up to his own culpability in engineering his downfall, is simply beyond me. His penchant for bullying and US style politics led to the last election. And contrary to the little dream world he has concocted, he did not get a mandate to rule like he has a majority. He won a minority, that means Canada expects him to behave himself and cooperate for the good of the country. Obviously he is incapable of this.

I'm probably biased though - I can't say that I've ever really trusted Harper. I just thought with all the rhetoric about a more civil parliament he would have at least tried. Enough is enough and I say Harper has to go. Obviously I would rather see the Green party represented, but at this point if we have elected leaders willing to lead through cooperation then by all means we need to let them. That is why I support the Liberal-NDP coalition.

Jesus and Repentance

"John was known for his practice of baptism, which was understood as a sign of repentance (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3); but Jesus, according to John's emphatic note (4:2), did not practice baptism himself. This corresponds to a notable absence of instruction on the need for formal repentance, restitution and sacrifice. St Luke emphasises this especially. Zacchaeus offers restitution spontaneously, after Jesus has entered his house and not as a condition (19:18). When the Prodigal Son tries to deliver a speech of penitence, it is brushed aside (15:20-4). If there is, in Jesus' teaching, anything like a condition for being forgiven other than faith itself, it is, as we find St Matthew emphasising, forgiving others. And this is a condition only because it shows we have taken God's act of forgiveness seriously as a world-changing event which leaves no relations in the state that they were. On this understanding, however, it is clear that faith implies a change of life. Repentance is included in, rather than excluded by, the priority of faith."
-- Oliver O'Donovan, The Desire of the Nations, p.113-114.

Consider the implications, if this is a valid position, on our understandings of evangelism.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Interesting Vid on Evangelism

Found this on Scott Paeth's blog and it raises some important questions about strategies of evangelism. I wonder if our strategies have become way too important to us. If we are committed to seeing people come into relationship with God, then why does that have to look one specific way? It was suggested to me that the dirty little secret of evangelicalism is that we don't really like to evangelize. By that it was meant that evangelism is an often long and messy process with no guaranteed payoff. Strategies are an easy substitute and almost guarantee that if someone becomes part of your church they will have a lot of the same values you have already formed and intact - they won't rock the boat.