Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Review: A Climate for Change

I actually have a bit of a backlog on books I'm supposed to be reviewing. But when A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith Based Decisions (Katharine HayHoe, Andrew Farley, Faith Words, 2009) arrived, I had to take a gander. In fact I had to read the whole thing. The first 3/4s, or more, of the book is an apologetic for climate change, specifically that climate change is happening and that humans are the source. This part is ok, except that the quotes that start off a chapter usually have much more depth than the chapters themselves. I chalked this up to how volatile this debate has become South of the border (in the United States), and how careful the authors wanted to be. Unfortunately, nowhere in the book does it state that we need the Earth and not the other way around. I suppose such a fact would not sit well with the intended audience of this book. But knowing that is my bias, it is not surprising that the last few chapters made me want to throw the book at the wall. If you spend that much time outlining a real problem then you would think you could at least propose a stewardship approach (even though I am convinced stewardship is not near an adequate response to the ecological crisis we are facing.) Actually, the response section begins with an affirmation of the pessimistic claim that God will yank us out of here anyway, or at least destroy the Earth and create something new. They even quote Revelation, but not the parts about the new coming down to the old or that God will return to destroy those who destroy the earth. So after discounting the possibility that anything we could ever do to respond to the ecological crisis is useless, they propose another reason. It makes a good witness??? Actually, I think if you motivation is to look good to maybe win people - is that not hypocritical? Seriously, if I got excited about Jesus through someone doing something they didn't believe in I think I'd probably not be too excited about that person's religion when I figured it out. This is what I would call a bad witness. Color me frustrated at this point.

They actually end on a good point. It is true that none of us can do it all. And the best place to start is with small steps having the goal of changing our lifestyle (especially our dependence on non-renewable sources of energy). And for all I complained about lack of depth, the chapters do cover off the majority of falsehoods I've heard from folks who deny the ecological crisis. Not sure how convincing their arguments are, I was convinced from the beginning. And the quotes, many of them are really good.

I'm not sure I could recommend this book. I really want to. This is an area that evangelicals really need to think deeply about. But I would want a response that includes faithfulness to God, particularly God's love for this whole world. I want something that challenges anthropocentrism, the arrogance of our species. And if this is part of our witness, and I believe it should be, then I want something that engages the issue on the issues terms, not as a smokescreen for evangelistic motives with no real desire to make a real difference for our planet. Bottom line is, we screwed this planet up, we can't fix it (despite a few hints in this book that there is still time to fix the problems, they waffled on this point though) but we have to do something, if for no other reason, the ones who suffer the most are the ones least able to do anything about climate change. But, I'd add, that as Christian we also need to have hope that through God we can do more than is humanly possible and maybe through God's grace give our kids a planet that will be livable.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Today it Arrived!

I have been waiting a long time for fresh + re:fresh to come. I was really excited when Len emailed me to say they had finally landed with him, and still it took over a week to arrive. Canada Post battered the spine up a bit, but not to let that squash the extreme joy of seeing my article actually in print! Wahoo! I instantly added it to LibraryThing and I'm wondering if a single chapter qualifies me for a LibraryThing author badge. Ah, but I'm gushing. I read my article sitting in the parking lot of my regular grocery store, and it is pretty good. I've spent a bit of time with the book, taking breaks from my work, and I think it is a great addition to the growing body of literature on emerging/missional church. Some of the best stuff coming out is descriptive, it is an important place to start. As Noll says, evangelicalism at its best is a blending of innovation and tradition and this book certainly represents that (Noll, American Evangelical Christianity, 15). Thanks Len for letting me contribute to this project, I hope it brings out the best in evangelicals all across this wonderful country of ours.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Back but still busy!

The Theology Intensive at Dominion Hill was excellent. It was great to get to meet theologians and pastors that I didn't know and hang out with a few that I did (and really like!) I was really encouraged that the Vineyard, in Canada, is wrestling with the important issues of our time. I think about four years back I got the impression that we were in a holding pattern, which I found a bit frustrating. But that is definitely not my impression after this past week. I was also really encouraged with an insight of David's about the mode of deconstruction that many people are engaging in these days - at the end of ourselves what we really need is an encounter with God. In fact the whole mystic thrust is that we stand before the unknown and are undone. The Vineyard is good at that, we have a long tradition of experiencing God. This is something we need to celebrate and look for as a way forward into the future. To that I say "Come, Holy Spirit!" David wasn't suggesting we somehow disconnect our brains. While we engage with the issues to the fullest of our capacities - there is always something more than what we can do on our own. The wonderful insight of Kingdom Theology is that the Kingdom is God's, not ours. And while we love to partner with God in the stuff of the Kingdom, it is God who leads and reigns.

I wish I had time to properly capture the rich discussions of this past week, but alas it is back to the grind for me.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Hermeneutics with Derek Morphew

I'm heading off to Dominion Hill (New Brunswick) to participate in a workshop with South African Vineyard theologian Derek Morphew. I've met Morphew in the past, he is quite an interested guy. Apparently they are video taping this workshop for Vineyard Bible Institute. I hope I don't get myself in trouble. :-) The main text is Kevin Vanhoozer's Is There Meaning In This Text? which I'm quite enjoying. Unfortunately, I have too little time to adequately prepare for this (We are supposed to read this book, a 69 page course book and watch a presentation Morphew recently did as a webinar). But on the other hand I have read the majority of the suggested other reading - some of which is really, really good material. I am hoping this will be a really in depth exploration of hermeneutics, I'll definitely blog a bit if I have internet access.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch... I am working on my OGS application, prepping an undergrad class on Early Christian Spirituality for Thursday (filling in for my director who is away) and frantically trying to work through my themes on the Kingdom of God tradition. And that is just the academic front - we also moved our oldest from French immersion to English school, survived my wife being away all weekend, took care of a few semi-surprise pastoral issues and entertained my kids. Life is pretty darn full right now.

Friday, October 02, 2009

How to Get at the Sources an Author Does Not Acknowledge

One of the tasks I'm wrestling with tonight is how to get at the sources for several biblical scholars: C H Dodds, J Jeremias and G E Ladd. Ladd I have some good leads to follow. But this is not my world. I don't know Schweitzer enough to know exactly how Dodds is interpreting him. What I have are bibliographies and a computer. So dig, dig, dig. It could be worse, my director did Thomas Berry and he didn't even use footnotes! So to figure out his sources was a huge piece of work that took several scholars. She told me it was a risky (academically) venture and I can believe it. The things I'm appreciative is that not all theologians are that evasive of who their sources and dialogue partners are. If you have any nice leads on the three I chase down tonight please pass them along (even if it is not tonight anymore).

Thursday, October 01, 2009

I Write Like Jazz???

While I was doing some final edits on an article for Word in the World (Concordia) I had an insight into my writing. I realized that I write jazz. While that is kinda cool, it is not a good style academically. But at least now I know what I am doing so I can address it. Here is what I mean, let's say the next paragraph is a sample of a typical paragraph in one of my essays.

All the balloons in the world are blue. Fourteen years ago the shuttle Survivor ran into a strange space gas. It was quite upsetting for the pilots, all of whom found it hard to deal with the colour blue. The gas they ran into was blue and piercing the cloud brought it raining down on the planet. Most things were affected, even temporarily, blue became the new black. Now all that is left is the inflation effect, remnants of that strange space gas cause inflated objects to turn blue. The effect is still a puzzle to the scientific community. The blueness of balloons has led to many a sad birthday party, it is these parties that I will turn next.

There are a couple of things - I typed that quickly so it probably has many unintentional problems as well - I want to point out. Multiple ideas in one sentence, I'm working on that one. Connecting sentences at the end that are disconcerting leaps. But there is a strategy that I noticed. I call it the jazz paragraph.

Jazz introduces tension into music, then the listener follows longing for that tension to be resolved. Good jazz resolves this, but not always in the way we expect. This tension and resolution is what makes the music so interesting. (I could be completely off here in my understanding of jazz, so if I am just call it Frank's erroneous understanding of jazz and follow me to the next part.)

My paragraphs often begin right away with a clear claim. That I do well actually. So my strategy should be how I establish the validity of that claim - and there are several ways of doing that. What I tend to do is make my claim and then immediately jump several steps down the rabbit trail. Then I scramble back up to make my connection, but if you missed that this disconnect was the tension you probably are stuck trying to figure out what the first two sentences had to do with each other and completely miss my point. That is the problem with my jazz approach. I need to close the gap between sentence one and sentence two, easing myself (and hopefully my reader) into the rabbit hole.

It is actually encouraging to recognize this. One of the hardest things for me has been to become self-aware when I am writing. When you write you have a whole world of thought in your head and some of it makes its way to the page. If you leave out too much you can't be followed, or at least your arguments cannot be followed. That has been a comment I've gotten a lot from my director - that she can't follow the thinking between sentences. Now that I discovered the jazz aspect I realize why it makes sense to me (plus I'm an abstract thinker, not linear). She knows I know the material, as she once said I can always explain what I am trying to do, but it is not translating to the page.

I'll probably read this post later and laugh. I hope you find it amusing too.

Honesty is a Beautiful Thing

It warmed my heart to read an honest statement about personal ideological claims from a Creationist! Thank you Todd. That is the sort of disclosure that actually gives me hope that there can be conversations, worthwhile conversations between people with different ideological stances towards the science and religion debates.

Let me be equally as honest. I believe that evolution is compelling. I also believe that the Bible is compelling. But I don't feel obligated to believe the Bible weighs in on the science of creation any more than it tells us how a light bulb works. My ideological stance is that the Bible tells us more about the way life should be and in Christ can be than it does about why it is the way it is. The Bible isn't a textbook on socio-cultural analysis any more than it is a physics textbook. That doesn't mean it doesn't have insights that are valuable in that area - but that isn't it's primary thrust. I believe that through the Bible I meet the God who gives me a future and a hope. I also believe that this same God is the creator of all that is. And I also believe that the marvels of evolution, creation and the universe all tell of God's glory. Convoluted as that all sounds, it is where I start in the discussion.