Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Line Between Fatalism and Trust

I'm more and more convinced that the line between these two needs to be participation. We participate in what we are convinced God alone can/will do. And we trust that God will do more than we could ever do on our own. If we lose that edge of participation then we easily slip into pessimism and fatalism. Neither of which are sufficient responses to the great needs of our times - including the need for folks to encounter God's expressed reign.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

World of the Text

Just an additional thought. I find that Ladd, along with a lot of biblical scholars, gets lost in the world of the text. Text is prime and the real world is secondary. At least that is how it feels to me. All this talk of what the text really asserts or clearly shows feels to me like it is an inside conversation. The problem I have with this is that it is micro thinking, that is thinking so focused on a narrow scope that it easily becomes oblivious to its presuppositions. I also feel like it needs to have references outside of the text. The real world must have some say, because it does have a say even if we do not acknowledge it. For me the Bible must be in dialogue with real life or it is of no value (and can even be part of the problem). The one biblical scholar I find who does not do this (at least in what little I've read from him) is Brueggemann. Maybe I want a Ladd who is more like Brueggemann?

Dismantling Based on Wrong Criteria

I must admit my bias is that apocalyptic scenarios are largely constructed. Reading historically it seems that the content of apocalyptic scenarios shifts as time marches on unapologetically ignoring the scenario. At a certain moment the US was ripe for a new scenario and in came pre-trib rapture, fine. But as long as the criteria for dismantling the previous scenario (or existing scenarios) is our own construction, we will just be adding to the mess. This is what Ladd does in Blessed Hope. He takes on pre-trib rapture and while he does a good job dismantling it he replaces it with another construct sometime using the same inferential methodology he complains about from the pre-tribbers. I want something that lands outside the scenarios and then can come back to assess the scenario we like best (if we feel compelled to impose a scenario, I'm not convinced that we need to).

So what are the core eschatological notions? Ladd insists that they must culminate with the return of Jesus. I can appreciate that - if we have a Christian hope that is rooted in incarnation/advent then a God who buggers off completely is not an option. God must have the last word in history. Where this becomes a problem is when we flesh this out with gritty details about how this coming will happen. Confession time - I've dreamt several times of Jesus' return, profound dreams that in all cases were answers to prayers regarding what direction I should take next. In one I found myself with a great mass of people dropping everything and heading off to meet the Lord. In another I ran out onto the lawn to see the skies split open. I could easily construct something from these - but then I'd miss the point. I was working through my options trying to find the way my journey could continue to partner with God. Ultimately, God will have the last word, but my conviction (through study, prayers and experience) is that we work towards making that last word manifest even though we only see it dimly, with humility to adjust as God makes it clearer.

All that to say that it is not the clearest thing in my experience - I'm implicated. Yet I still dislike the way we construct end time scenarios. We need a criteria that stands up better than our biased reading of complicated texts. I say this as someone who loves the coming of God, but also someone who has seen how some of these scenarios render the church unable to cope with real life. Pre-trib rapture is a prime example of how destructive a scenario can be.

So here is where I turn to hope. Whatever we say about the future must be said for us here now. It must enable us to navigate the complexities of life, while giving hope for the betterment of society. Scenarios that don't care about society, environment, and the cosmos really will not work in an age where our vision encompasses all of these. To think that the ancient scenarios are sufficient misses that they have always been re-interpreted based on social location and scope of worldview and that they serve higher purposes than laying out a supposed road map to Armageddon. If such a road map were easily constructed there would not be such endless variance in these scenarios. And to be honest, I can construct some pretty Earth friendly readings of scripture if I wanted to (and have in the past).

Does this mean we discard the scenarios in the biblical texts? Not at all. In fact they give us hope that these scenarios can be constructed in ways that give constructive hope to a people. They themselves are often packaged in helpfully complex language allowing each generation to take up the Blessed Hope as a navigating principle leading towards the ultimate salvation of the world. What is even better is that we get to use the energy of such scenarios in our participation in God's work in the world, leading to the day when God will be all in all - the eschatological fulfillment.

Just some thoughts as I process Ladd.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Game Summit is a Hit!

Look out CanGames, Game Summit is here. It is well organized, kid friendly, located in excellent facilities with plenty of parking, and quite a bit cheaper. Colour me impressed. They started these things in 2008 and a lot of the same wargamers go to both cons. However, a live DJ, hourly prizes, vendors all around the perimeter, carpeted floors that don't suck the very life out of you, and art/painting workshops - I think GS will give CanGames a run for the money. Plus, I ran games at both events this year. As a game master they really took care of me, I felt valued. Lots of volunteers made sure I had everything I needed to run my games and helped me get the players I needed even though I signed up late and didn't make it to any of their pre-meetings for ambassadors. When I registered I also noted some deficiencies in their GM sign-up material - while I was there Marquis, one of the main organizers, came up to me and, without my prodding, explained how they were going to make that sign up process better for next year. That is pretty sweet.

The pic shows some of the folks who played my Injurius Games scenario. My oldest also played as we demoed the game. Next year I'll try to run a full day of IG demos, maybe even their new pirate game if they have it ready. My daughter also played in a Monopoly tournament (me too) and won a copy of Monopoly City. She was over the moon. I also sold a pile of old games, which cleans up my shelves a bit. I wonder if it is time to sell off my D&D 3.5 - 4E has me sold completely. I don't expect I'll bother going back to 3.5.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Lies Christians Love

I think about a lot of troubling things. I was speaking to a class last night and defined my motivating theological impulse as a conviction that evangelical Christians can do much better than we are doing. I mean this in a lot of ways: how we treat people, how we think about social injustice, how we read scripture, how we worship, how we love, even how we work towards social transformation. Fortunately, I do find a lot of sites of hope in the world of evangelicals, even in the North American context which is my object of study. But one of the more disheartening things I run into is the love of lies that evangelicals have. I'm not saying this lightly. I first ran into it when I came to Christ from quite a bit of involvement in New Age spirituality. Some of the first books handed to me were by the cult sensationalists throwing out all kinds of matter-of-fact (and unsubstantiated) claims about the New Age being a highly organized out-to-get all Christians organization. While I'm not in any way endorsing New Age philosophy or spirituality - but the idea that this was a hyper-organized, actively anti-Christian organization was laughable. What I was part of was quite disorganized, multi-faceted and more concerned with its own spiritual insights than attacking Christianity.

Some of the lies that I keep hearing Christians tell are as follows:
- there is a gay agenda that is anti-Christian (I think my gay Christian friends would have a lot of trouble with this one)
- there is a gay agenda that wants to convert our kids to homosexuality (I think this fear is based on the realization that evangelicals want to convert kids so why wouldn't everyone else?)
- Dungeons and Dragons was created by Satanists to recruit kids to the occult (Actually it was created by a JW and a Baptist and a central idea for them was the epic battle between good and evil)
- Catholics (by which they mean Roman Catholics) can't be saved (that lie makes me want to cry actually)
- Pentecostals and Charismatics are so much closer to God than other Christians because they have the Holy Ghost (another one that makes me want to cry, seriously there are Christians who love lies about each other and not just about those outside of their religion)
- The slogan love the sinner and hate the sin isn't just an excuse to exclude people who aren't like us (I've come to detest most Christian platitudes)
- That their 'literal' reading of scripture is not actually another picking and choosing (this one goes out to all you shellfish loving homophobic literalists)
- That the King James bible is the only legitimate English translation (I'm being kind, I've run into KJ only folk who literally think it was the version Jesus used???)
- That it is ok to condemn sinners and sit around on their arses waiting for a rapture. (What makes you sure you'd qualify for a rapture?)

I could go one, but not without getting depressed. The thing is I'm convinced Christians should be lovers of truth. So the need of our day is to get off our complacent backsides and seek the Truth. I recently had a Christian minister send me a raft of homophobic hate articles telling me that if I was really interested in the TRUTH (her emphasis) then I should read these. I read three of the four - and all I found were lies. Maddening lies that were meant to dehumanize and justify hatred. Enough, this love of lies should really tell us something. The biblical father of lies is not God. Lies are not good. If you claim to have the Holy Spirit and are loving lies - well you would be the one I question if you really have the Spirit. I've spoken in the past of how certainty is the idol that has seduced modern North American evangelicals. That idol is entrenched in a fortress of lies. If we listen perhaps we'll hear another voice, "come out of her my beloved." And turn from the lies we love to tell.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Great Quote!

In discussing the problems with biblical propositions for premillinialist variations, Ladd says this: "Our problems arise when we begin to ask questions which were not in the minds of the authors." (The Blessed Hope, 13) So true. And it is compounded by modern views of Scripture that treat it like an answer or rule book for life. So what happens is that any marginal reference to an issue is grasped at, uncritically I hasten to add, and used to support our ideological stances. For me this is epitomized in the conversation about homosexuality. A scant few references are used to hastily bring the supposed judgment of scripture onto an issue that does not inhabit the same social import then as it does today. The good test of this is to ask, where does Paul ponder whether or not God would bless the lifelong marriage of a homosexual couple? Or where does Jesus ever ask if homosexuals should not be permitted at his table fellowship? Nowhere. In fact we could probably infer that Jesus' table was wide open. So far from saying the scriptures are unable to help us develop a response to the questions of our day - we need to approach them differently and let that question be asked of the Scriptures. The more I do that the less I can find reasons for closing my table, my church and my life to all. About the only ones I'm finding legitimate grounds to critique and condemn are those who behave like the Pharisees of Jesus' time. The ones who want to close the tables, keep their comfortable little religion and pretend the world around them has no relevance to their lives (and as a result participate in the systemic injustice of society, which was very much part of Jesus' critique).

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Healing Leprechauns!

Now I already knew Jesus rocked, but in a little known reading of the gospels we find out that Jesus was rockin' the Irish long before Patrick! Thanks Scott for this exegetical wonder and your deft commentary.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Apocalyptic Constructs in Eschatology

I'm spending the next few weeks working my way through some of Ladd's key texts (plus a few that I just have on my shelf!): Blessed Hope, Gospel of the Kingdom, Presence of the Future, NT Theology, & the Last Things. I have some key questions as this is not the first time I've read most of these. However, as I launched into it I find myself wrestling through the apocalyptic scenarios that we attach to eschatology via the book of Revelation (and I would argue some gospel passages we interpret via Revelation). Ladd certainly picks and chooses his way through these - dropping things like the supposed rapture. But still he has a specific end time scenario laid out. For me the essentials are the eschaton in Christ's return - but I'm flexible in how this all plays out. I'm not so sure his discount of immanence based on a literal yet-to-come anti-Christ is solid. I get that this focus on eschatology through narrative does certain things for Ladd - but I'm wondering if the particular narrative that takes Revelation as a sort of timetable to destruction is helpful or even correct.

Maybe part of this is a knee jerk on my part against dispensational narratives that I find dangerous to Christian witness. But I think there needs to be a way to wisely navigate texts which have been the source of huge division and even undermining the mission of the Church (this is how I see it). I'm not willing to throw out the text of Revelation (nor would I propose that), but I think that there have to be other ways to read it - as a fifth gospel perhaps? After all the title is the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Much as I talk about not being a biblical scholar - I guess I have some biblical work ahead of me here.


Injurius Games - Gauntlet

Every year for CanGames I come up with some crazy new Injurious scenario, based on the conference theme. This year I came up with Gauntlet. This one was a lot of fun. There were two types of squads - runners (human marines or orx both with augmented speed) and blockers (mechs, humans or orx). The blockers started up high and the runners had to navigate a valley towards the finish line. Once at the finish line they could turn around and rain steel and energy blasts on whoever they liked. So much chaos, so much fun.

The first running didn't see any runners on the finish line. So I upped their speed for the second go. My buddy Jason took the trophy with his running orx! The second running saw a surprise at the end as a marine seemingly came out of nowhere to take the finish line and set up a defense. In that game one of the new players took it, I hope he found a nice place to show off his trophy. I'm hoping to run a simplified version at Game Summit this month, care to join in the mayhem?

(BTW Firefox is behaving again!)