Monday, December 31, 2007

[THO] Pornography

I am totally impressed with Robert Jensen's Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity. I heard him speak on the CBC, caught the tail end of an interview. Then I tried to order the book, only to be told it was not in stock. My dear wife found a way to get it for me, although it arrived just after Christmas. I'm nearly done (just half a chapter and a post-script left). This is the book I have been wishing would be written by Christians, but I fear never will. This book took serious bravery to write. From what I have read on the topics of pornography addiction and masturbation coming out of the Christian world has always left me feeling like they missed the point. Jensen resonated so loud I was going aha all the way through. In fact he unpacks stuff about the domination embedded in pornography that I had intuited a ways back. This is a matter of justice, plain and simple.

I have yet to see Christians responding to pornography as they should. If they are please point that out to me as I'm not sure I can not act now that I've read this book. The typical Christian response is twofold: 1) pornography is indicative of the decline of this world and 2) the Christian should simply flee from pornography. Jensen isn't trying to mitigate his risk in a fallen world, no he is saying we need to face this head on. And his book does this (sometimes with quite explicit descriptions), it calls the reader to save themselves by taking on pornography.

Core to Jensen's message is a feminist critique of masculinity. Jensen is convinced that masculinity is not a helpful social construct in that anything we could ascribe as a good trait of masculinity is really a good trait of humanity. So Jensen argues that masculinity and even femininity should be replaced entirely with a call to humanity. I find this rich.

I dare you to read this book. I dare you to write this book for a Christian market, God knows we need something real on this subject.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

[LIF] Kicking Back

The kids are gloriously occupied with their new Barbies and puzzles. Ahhhh. We had a lot of fun wrapping presents and setting the stage for Christmas morning, it was well worth it. I scored some nice bling too. Yoder's The Politics of Jesus and Newbigen's The Gospel in a Pluralist Society were my more serious additions. Sharon also ordered me Getting Off:Pornography and the End of Masculinity (Robert Jensen) but it did not arrive in time. I heard his interview on CBC and am excited to read a male doing a feminist critique on pornography.

I also scored a new guitar case, I nice light gator case. My old one had served me well, but there is only so many times you can repair a case with duct tape! I will miss my Frosted Frog sticker. :-( But the new case is lighter and stronger! We also got a few movies, the latest Harry Potter DVD (me), Moulon Rouge (Sharon), Ella Enchanted (Elyssa) and our dear friends Brad and Mary sent us Brother Sun, Sister Moon and finally Barbie's The Princess and the Pauper (Chelsea). We all really enjoy movies.

Other than that Sharon gave me some gaming gear (Dungeons and Dragons) that I had picked out. A few boosters of miniatures, the Rules Compendium and the latest Tile Set. We are pooling the money we got from our parents to put towards a new camera, we have been eyeing SLRs for a year now. We just have to go and try them out. We'll have to see though, life will soon kick back into full throttle.

Oops, Elyssa needs help with her new Barbie computer thing, have a great day all!

Monday, December 24, 2007

[LIF] Merry Christmas!

I hope all of you have a wonderful Christmas this year.

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
-- Matthew 7:11
May Christ be incarnated anew in each of us this year.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

[LIF] Finally done!

I handed in my last paper (exam) and went to my last meeting of the semester. It sure feels good to be done. I am really confident that two of my courses are A+ and the others should be some sort of As. We'll have to see though. I was writing my exam until 5AM this morning, life just kept throwing curve balls at me. I spent about 12 hours plus a study group on the exam and I still think I could have done better. The more I wrote the more I realized how much deeper my analysis needed to go. At some point you have to say enough and trust that you answered the questions the prof. is looking for.

I'm taking it easy over the Christmas break, well if by easy you mean clearing out that incredible backlog of chores and reading a text that my director assigned before our next chat. Oh and that is not to mention the snow that just won't stop falling on my driveway!!!! At least it is pretty.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

[LIF] Almost There With Some Fun On the Journey

We had our first Christmas potluck last night, it was pretty laid back despite the multitude of kids. When I broke out the guitar my girls started dancing with all four of Sarah's boys. It was quite fun to watch the kids all twirl around like that. Greg snapped a lot of pics, of course I put the one of me up. ;-)

Had a great study group today, I'm pretty confident going into my Biblical Interpretation exam Monday. BTW this was a course on the history of interpretation, very cool course. If you want to know how things have shifted throughout the history of Christianity grab "A Short History of the Interpretation of THE BIBLE" (Robert Grant and David Tracy), our course covered more than this book, but I've been reading it as a sort of review and really enjoying it. This is the last scripture course I will ever _have_ to take on my road to a PhD at St. Paul. But I'm thinking I'll take the advanced NT Greek course at some point for kicks and giggles.

I also had a study group on Tuesday for my Spirituality and the Human Sciences course. I just have to carve out some time to write the paper. That one should be fun to write. I'm thinking of getting it done this weekend so that I will wrap everything up by Monday. That is if I can get my exit interview for the Methodologies course in on that day. I have done zero Christmas shopping!

Tomorrow I have some pastoral visitation to do, a lunch party at the Lonergan Centre and try to get the oil changed in the car. If I have any time left I'll get some shopping done, but I'm not holding my breath.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

[THO] Assessing Blog Posts

One of the big road blocks I'm hitting in my research is if and how I can use blog content. I am living proof that pretty much anyone with a computer and the requisite time can put up a blog and begin posting. Obviously some blogs are more useful than others and Matthew Hindman did his dissertation (Princeton, 2005) on the state of political blogs. I am about to tackle this, but my issue is that political blogs are a whole different demographic than what I am after - at least I hope so. Karen Ward mentions, in Gibbs and Bolger's EMERGING CHURCHES, how her community all read each others blogs as a means of staying connected, Freedom does this through Facebook and in the past we did it through Yahoo!Groups. It really shouldn't be a problem as I'm doing my critical work mostly with the published corpus. Any thoughts?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

[LIF] A Big Day!!!

Twelve years ago today I married the love of my life! I am blessed indeed!

Friday, November 30, 2007

[LIF] Home Stretch

One more week of classes! But this is a crazy week coming up. Monday I formally present my research proposal. I have a Powerpoint slide deck half finished for this. Tuesday I do a short presentation on Thomas Berry, I am a big fan of Berry. This is the last class in a very fun course on Spirituality and Human Sciences. Berry offers a way forward by recognizing and celebrating our embeddedness in the Earth.

Then it really gets crazy. My 7th and last paper on Religious Experience is due Wednesday. I have it outlined and started. The topic is the role of the community in validating religious experience and I decided to pick on my Pentecostal/Charismatic roots. I'm doing a critique of the personalization of religion and how it prevents a barrier for a mature discernment process. Should be fun. This paper is also accompanied with my own syllabus for how I would teach a course on Religious Experience. I have just been thinking about that one.

Finally Thursday I have a paper due for my french course on Biblical Interpretation. I did quite well on the others, it is basically a resume on an article. I have yet to read the article! That is the last official bit of reading I have to do for my semester! Although I do have an oral exam for that class and a concluding paper for my Spirituality class.

Over the holidays I will be continuing my research and reading Phillippe Bordeyne's L'homme et son angoisse: La theologie morale de "Gaugium et spes". I'm not looking forward to reading 349 pages in french! It is one of two french books that I will read this coming semester. They are bound and determined to make me fluently bilingual!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

[THO] Ecological Theodicy

Recently I was bothered by a comment on a friends blog. I'll not point to the blog because I don't think they meant ill, but I am convinced that their response represents a growing Christian response to the overwhelming evidence of climate change. The response of fatalism!

Basically this person attributed the bit of snow we've had recently as God proving that God is still in control of the environment despite what the environmentalist whingers say. It is disturbing that ecological events, especially our erradic climate, is re-interpreted to help bring a sense of comfort. This is an inability to deal with life on lifes terms. And worse it represents an inability to deal with history.

The question of where God is in disasterous events is an important one, but it is far from an easy one. The fatalist is crippled in the face of theodicy by an inability to act. The biggest problem with this is it paints an image of God as a celestial puppetmaster yanking the strings of all created things - this is not the God of Jesus Christ and is very hard to imagine, in light of history, as a benevolant God. This God is actually evil. I am convinced that this view of God is a destructive as the view of a divine clockmaker who has no connection to the physical world. Thank God these are not the only choices!

God's response to suffering isn't to prove God is in control. Rather it is to enter into our suffering with us. This is the whole purpose of the incarnation. God takes on the suffering of humanity, taking on humanity (kenosis) and entering into our reality on realities terms. How can we move from a kenotic God to a tyrrant overlord God? Do we somehow think that Jesus was spared from suffering? Can we honestly reflect on the gospels and come to that conclusion? I think not.

I understand the impulse for surity. Surity is one way we ground our hope. I just can't hope in a tyrrant God, that sort of God is fickle and as likely to flick you away as to keep you safe. But I can hope in a God who enters into life with me. Hope is that God, who is ever present, awakens my conscience to the suffering around me. Suffering in humans, animals and the very world that is my home. It is even more home when God is present. Surity comes not from a conviction that I'll be comfortable in life - it comes from a conviction that God's redemptive purposes include the world that I am sent to. This is the conviction that let Jesus embrace the cross (Thy will be done) and it is the conviction that lets me put my hands to the plow.

The central issue here is one of grace. Do we see this life as a gift? Or is it a curse to be born in hopes of simply being purified for the next life? Or worse is this life just an inconvenience? I must confess that this philosophy of life is easily fallen into and I am just as guilty as the next person. But life, this life, is either a gift or God is a cruel tyrrant, not to be trusted at all. And if this life is a gift then how dare we throw that gift back in the face of the God of love? How dare we reject the crys of the outcast and the oppressed? How dare we continue to rape the planet? How dare we thumb our noses at God?

Friday, November 23, 2007

[FUN] I really enjoy Robot Chicken!

This is so typical of Robot Chicken, beware they can be quite offensive.

Mmmmmm gummy bears!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

[THO] You Don't Say

OK so I should be writing my paper. But I found this Ethics test and it is pretty interesting. Here are my results:

1. Aquinas (100%)
2. Jean-Paul Sartre (91%)
3. St. Augustine (87%)
4. Ockham (83%)
5. Spinoza (78%)
6. John Stuart Mill (76%)
7. Kant (75%)
8. Aristotle (67%)
9. Jeremy Bentham (54%)
10. Nel Noddings (50%) <--- no clue who that is???
11. Stoics (50%)
12. Prescriptivism (49%)
13. Plato (47%)
14. Nietzsche (38%) <--- much as I like Nietzsche this is comforting.
15. David Hume (36%)
16. Epicureans (32%)
17. Ayn Rand (25%)
18. Cynics (17%)
19. Thomas Hobbes (0%) <--- sorry Hobbes.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

[LIF] Lots going on, not much time to post

I am exhausted. After this post I'll probably curl up in bed with a book and that will be it for the day. Sharon is away this weekend so I've been with my girls all day. I love them dearly, but boy does that exhaust you. I don't know how single parents do it.

My research proposal is almost ready for submission, I have a small reading team and it has passed through their comments and my directors comments. I think it is pretty solid now. It is due monday and I'll present it on the 4th of December, after that one more pass and it is submitted as a guiding document for my research due sometime this coming summer! My tentative title is "Social Engagement in the Evangelical Emerging Church" which pretty much sums up my research. I'm probably the first Masters research proposal at St. Paul University to list blogs in the bibliography!

So reading, I'm wading through lots of stuff. Still lots of class work too. And as I read more material from the Emerging Church I keep getting sent off in more and more directions. But I did get a cool tool for my notekeeping. An IRIS pen scanner! This bad boy even translates! I've just used it a bit so far but it is an incredible time saver. For keeping research notes I'm using Nota Bene, I can attach a file for each book, pen scan in the direct quotes I want, type my comments and then search all of them rapidly through Orbis. When I grab the text the footnoting automajically follows and takes on the right style. That is pretty sweet. I tend to not use a lot of direct quotes, relying on footnotes to identify support for my arguments and claims, but it is easier to search Orbis for that quote I know I read than to thumb through fifty books everytime I think of something cool to add into my paper (what I usually ended up doing in previous papers!)

Well, I have the bed to myself, I can stretch out and fall asleep reading. Something I can't do when Sharon is home, not that I'm complaining.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

[FUN] Blog Reading Levels

Jim West is to blame for finding this little blog analyser. Apparently the prayer blog I started gets this rating:

But this blog only gets this rating:

try it yourself

Hmmmm. Maybe that says it is far more intellectual to pray than to just talk.
Then again a certain naked pastor rates the highest I've seen!

let me know what your blog rates

PS. I keep meaning to add Jim West's blog to my blogroll, next clean up. I often disagree with Jim, but he has a great blog.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

[THO] The Role of the Theologian

We had a really excellent discussion in Prof. Martinez de Pison's class regarding the role of the theologian in the Church. It really helped me to put some language around stuff I've been living for a while.

The Theologian is Part of the Community

This was the insight from class, and as a pastor who happens to study at the same time, this really helps me name why I find the whole process of studying so satisfying. Gerald McDermott brings up this point as well, we need to realize where we belong to know who we are. I think that we have no real sense of identity in a lot of our communities, and this is too our detriment. What I love about the Emerging Conversation is that the folks that take part of it are from all sorts of contexts, and their desire isn't to leave their denominational homes, but to bring a gift to their denominations by stepping outside the box and reaching this generation with something really good. So the theologian is first of all a participating member of a community of faith. Yes, this colours their theology, but if we honest about it that shouldn't be a problem. This has too benefits: 1) the theologian knows where she belongs, this is her family and 2) the community knows the theologian and trusts the theologian.

The Theologian Helps the Community Understand their Experience

Because the theologian is a trusted member of the community, they take up the primary task of helping the community reflect upon their corporate history with God. So this would involve helping to articulate faith and also to challenge the notions of faith in light of the shared experience of the group. We see this in one of our kinships as the group becomes more ecologically aware it is my role, as a theologian, to help shape the conversation so that we can effectively and uniquely respond to what God is putting in our hearts.

The Theologian Interfaces Beyond the Community

Beyond the community, the theologian is equipped to draw from the deep resources that exists already. Helping to provide an interface between these disparate sources and the community. We have seen this in action as we've adopted and adapted liturgical practices from various streams within the Church. Without that serious reflection, the role of the theologian, the community risks chasing after fads or living completely in isolation, constantly re-inventing the proverbial wheel.

This is also why I think that the theologian needs to be active in acadamia. How else will she become exposed to alternate views? How will he be able to communicate the relevant insights to the community?

What we have though, is theologians distanced from the community of faith. We often talk about the ivory towers of theology, and it is true that much of what happens never amounts to much more than words on shelves. Some great ideas and profound challenges never make it to the Church. That is a shame, but more than that it is a disfunctionality.

The Eastern Christians have a saying, the theologian is the one who prays. I would encourage us to take a cue from that. Without the theologians the Church is left only with its unreflected experiences (these vary every week which is why we have so many denominations!), and without the community of faith the theologian is irrelevant. We need each other.

[LIF] What an Honour

I was tired yesterday and didn't really want to go to church. So when we had a really small turnout I was kinda relieved thinking I'd just go home early. But the most amazing thing happened. We just started being the community. It was deep too. I ended up leaving at the regular time feeling incredibly blessed and honoured that this is the community I've been privilged to pastor. Freedomites are great people!

I love my church.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

[LIF] Cleaning up the Blog

Well as I promised Jamie, I did update my links. Am I the only one bugged by the lack of inclusive language in that last post of mine? I debated making modifications and now regret it. For those to whom such things matter, my apologies.

[photo from here, thanks JP]

[THO] Ponderables

"This truly is the vision of God; Never to be satisfied in the desire to see him. But one must always, by looking at what he can see, rekindle his desire to see more."

Gregory of Nyssa

Thursday, November 01, 2007

[THO] Jesus Camp

The other night Sharon and I watched the documentary film Jesus Camp. This film follows the ministry of Becky Fischer, a Pentecostal youth minister. I just noticed from her site that she is now connection with Patricia Cocking (now Pat King, but I knew her as Patricia Cocking and once ministered with her in Mississauga) of the Extreme Prophetic fame. I'm not keen on a lot of the directions the Prophetic movements have taken, but I'll reserve that for another post.

What was most interesting to me is how much of what was shown in the film is normative Pentecostalism. And I'll start by saying some of it is great. Praying over chairs, passion for God, passion for children and even praying for governments. But the good and the bad are thoroughly mixed together here. What I saw most was the unreflective Christianity that I spent my early Christian years in. There is something so good about grabbing the bull by the horns and going for it. But when there is no serious critical reflection it is easy to see, and this film shows this well, that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Meaning well and doing well are not always the same thing. As Gary Best always tells us pastors, "it is not good enough to do the right thing, you have to do the right thing for the right reasons."

So from that film (which was at times very painful to watch) a few things are worth engaging here. Hopefully we'll pick up a conversation in the comments.

1) Kids and Politics

Despite Fischer's insistance that this is not political this film shows clearly how incredibly political Christianity is. It actually shows it from both sides. The counterpoint from Mike Papantonio is just as much a call to politics as the rest of the film. Mike insisted on a separation of church and state, I'm convinced that is a delusional position, almost as delusional as Fischer's denial of politics. I'm not doubting their convictions, just their lack of honest critical reflection. What we need to realize is that religion is always politically orienting. Haggard's comment that if the Evangelicals vote they win the election is true - but only because Evangelicals represent a directed voting block. To me that is patently wrong. We need to wake up and help people reflect through the issues and vote from their heart and minds.

Now having said that, the question I have is "how can we expect children to make that kind of assessment?" There is a reason we don't let children vote. But over and over this film showed the manipulation of children's political orientation without even giving them an honest amount of data to work with. When we present complex situations, like the whole issue of abortion, and only tell these children that God hates this act - how are we orienting this generation towards those make other choices?

2) Symbols and Kids

Related to that was the taping of the mouth. What a powerfully charged symbolic action. There is no reflection offered in this film. I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt, but Lou Engle really didn't encourage me to give him the benefit of anything but being an alarmist, and assume they unpacked the meaning of the tape before they placed it on the mouths of these kids. But what gets me is that they are calling these kids to take on symbols which have powerful meaning. The word 'LIFE' does not belong to a symbol of silent solidarity that emphasises the helplessness of the unborn. This dichotomizes the issue in ways that are completely offensive, no matter what our opinion of abortion. We need to be more careful. I hope Fischer is right that some of these kids will want to get into politics, but I hope that first folks like Fischer wake up and realize that we don't need more fear based unthinking politicians in this world. Similar problems could be identified with the identification of American military service and the tradition of martyrs.

3) Directional Prophetic and Kids

Lou Engle called up the young boy Levi and prophesied over his life. He was careful to give himself some outs. But this is quite common in the prophetic movement. Everywhere you go God has some big plan for your life. I find this so disturbing. Not that I don't think God wants to do great things, even great things through our lives. But what is done here is that unrealistic expectations are being given. The other problem is that when you start to realize that everyone who is "prophetic" and speaks over you has some big vision (not often the same as the others) then you start to become cynical about the whole prophetic project. I think in the long run this will force the prophetic to the fringes (this is a historically recurring trend). Let me go out on a limb and say I believe in the prophetic. But I believe the prophetic types should shut up, listen and reflect a heck of a lot more than they do. It was so obvious that Lou was Levi as fulfilling what Lou wants in his political agenda - so he projects that, gives it the weight of his "prophetic" title and now you have a recipe for disaster. Folks develop the prophetic within your community and stop bringing in the "prophets". If they are really prophets then they will train your people, not hear for them.

4)Over Simplification of Life

The other thing that sets up these kids for a fall is the over simplification of life presented. God has a wonderful plan for your life. God will protect you from the harshness of life. God will take care of you. While there is some truth in this, God doesn't promise us an easy life, but rather in this world we have trouble. I'll leave the promise of heaven stuff out of this for now, it didn't get much treatment in the film anyway. But the life we live in the world means getting our hands dirty. It means kids like Levi have a rough road ahead. Life is ultimately worthwhile and good. But that is a trajectory that is not always apparent in the day to day living. Fischer loved to oversimplify things. Her object lessons were cute, but really could use some unpacking and reflection. We were watching her tactics as she preached at the camp. Fear and shame are not God's tools. This is always where over simplification leads. It has to. When God is painted as the one that makes everything hunky dory, then adversity has to rest on our shoulders. Life is not as simple as all that. Give kids strenght to face life on life's terms and not fill them with false hope.

4) Evangelism and Kids

I didn't realize that people still used Jack Chick tracts. The only thing worse that Chick tracts are Westboro Baptist placards. Ok, so don't get me started on their ill choice of literature. What really bugs me is that these kids are trying to do what they were told to do, which is proslytize everyone, but they were so obviously ill equipped for the task. At one point the kids start to question if maybe it looks like they are trying to sell something (watch for that moment, it is very interesting), that's good reflection, that should be encouraged. Evangelism isn't just spouting some cute rote statements at folks, it is engaging with people and partnering with God's own efforts to bring them to God's self. But these kids aren't given the tools for that sort of work, they are sent out with cuteness hoping that will win the day.

5) Parenting of Kids

My last critique is about the way we parent our kids. I have my oldest in a Bible club (AWANA). And it drives me nuts at times. I want my kids to be equipped for life in this world. They see our love for Jesus. They ask really good questions and I make of point of not giving them simplified answers. I want to encourage them to think deeply about their faith. I want them to know that there is something good about Christianity, but that they need to choose for themselves. To be honest I'd rather they lived fully and honestly out of their conclusions than to fake being a Christian for the sake of mom and dad. Having said that I am so blessed with how Elyssa's faith in Jesus has been growing, and I want encourage that. I think Christian groups are a great touchstone for kids, but what about when they get into the real world? Not everyone is going to have the same convictions in the real world. That is a tough lesson to learn when you are so sheltered by your parents. Christian schools (or homeschool), a plethora of Church activities, Christian camps, Christian TV and radio (exclusively), the parents in this film live in a bubble! The problem with bubbles is that they burst. What was worse was that the homeschooling was focused on developing a polemic against the rest of the world's thinking. Here you have the chance to develop a real intellectual wealth - seriously homeschooling could be an awesome opportunity to strech a childs mind and develop great habits of thinking. But it is such a wasted opportunity when it is just used to indoctrinate and inocculate children.

I recommend this film to all my Pentecostal and post-Pentecostal friends. It made me really think. It frustrated me but at the same time helped me see that there is work to do. Thank God that not all Pentecostals are like this. Becky Fischer has a great heart, and I'm sure we'd get along. But I hope that folks who follow in her footsteps might read this and pause to think. We want to give the kids great tools for the works God has for them. That is noble and I'll definitely pray for her important ministry. But this is a call to step it up a notch and bring in some needed critical reflection in all we do in the name of Christ.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

[THO] The Corporate Church

I get a few different ministry newsletters that point me to web articles, often of dubiuos quality. But occasionally a topic catches my attention. Today I was directed to a short little list on the difference between Corporate Strategy and Ecclesial Strategy, I think it is worth perusing. It is also one of my frustrations with modern ecclesiology and I'm not sure that we can just blame an incorporation of corporate methodology. There is a deeper psychosis at work in the Church, an inward turning that has left it with a diminished witness in the world. The corporate methodologies only strengthened a trend that was already present in the Church.

The core of this is an inward turning of the Church. We have reigned so long that our self-importance has left us unable to cope with any other reality. So we bolster the structures that protect our identity at an organizational level at the expense of the people who are the true Church. Theologically this is rooted in a false equation of the Church with the Kingdom of God. But it lives in a fearful protectionist stance towards the encroaching secular reality of the world we live in.

What the world needs is not a starkly isolated and corporately driven, albeit slickly organized, Church. What it needs is a people in the world, yet not of the world. What the world needs is a Church that is struggling with the reality of this world, just like everyone else, and crafting hope wherever she finds herself. There is a lot I can agree with on Mattera's short list, but a lot of it needs to be properly unpacked and meditated on.

Friday, October 26, 2007

[THO] The Religious Experience

While I might throw out terms like post-charismatic, I am very comfortable in the charismatic world. At least experientially. However, I do have some reservations about the way that charismatics understand their experiences with the Holy Spirit. I am convinced that we charismatics could actually do things in a lot healthier ways.

Let me qualify that just a bit. People get hurt because of the ways that charismatics, and I've been just as guilty as the next charismatic, approach their spirituality. Yet, the temptation is to get so wrapped up and overwhelmed by the event that we miss what God really wants to do. So to that end I propose a few considerations about the religious experience we charismatics like to call the gifts of the Spirit.


The first thing that we need to insist, and to this task I would call all charismatic leaders of integrity, is that of recognizing that we only have access to the experience of God by the human. That is when we experience God's presence we can only describe and understand that experience through our own capacities. More harm has been done by well meaning folks who think they have a direct and unmediated understanding of the experience of God. Really understanding what happened takes time and reflection. In fact I would insist it takes a Church because no word of prophecy is of private interpretation. Too often we want to claim the upper ground because we fear invalidating the experience. But the reality is God has asked us to test all prophecy, so to do less is to dishonour God's intent. The experience comes as a grace (and we love it) but it also demands reflection, humility and community to be of real value.

I am always reminded that first Corinthians was written to correct us. A little more reflection and we might find that Paul is right.

God's Purpose in Visiting Us

We should begin our reflection with a question - what is God saying to us through this experience? I've seen too many charismatic junkies running from fix to fix and never pausing to ask why. John White (When the Spirit Comes With Power) reminds us that we are psychological beings, and that we can live in a Pavlovian experience where we react in a pre-determined way whenever the Spirit shows up. At some point our response just serves to deaden us to the voice and intent of God. I remember the first person to tell this Pentecostal to stop speaking in toungues (the usual reaction to being prayed for) and just listen to what God was saying. I was offended, but I now know that person did me an immense favour. I would say that if you always react the same way when the Spirit comes then you need to look for real fruit, if you don't see it then stop and start listening to God. God is more interested in what is going on within us, that is converting us to the mind of Christ, than what is going on externally.

For the Church

The gifts of the Spirit are for the Church. This is so important. If something is disrupting the service then stop it. If something is happening, then share it. The fruit to look for are unity, peace, healing, forgiveness, liberty and joy. I'm not saying shut down things just because someone doesn't like the way it is going, but for heaven's sake if there is confusion then look for clarity. Don't ignore their frustration, ask the folks manifesting what God is doing. If it isn't God then it will likely put a stop to grandstanding, and if it is God then that clarity will bless the Church. But don't stop there either. Take that and reflect, search as a community for what God is calling you to through this. Too often we think that this is just a personal experience - Paul's correction was to tell us that God is not that selfish, the gifts are for the Church.

For the World

The gifts are also for the world. God shows up because God still loves this world. When we miss this we turn into a pathetic bless me club. If the visitation doesn't send you out into the world with good news. Then quesiton it. Seriously. Good news, we've talked about here a lot, it is more than just telling others to come get drunk in the Spirit in some hedonistic festival. It is to love mercy, do justice and walk humbly with God. This is exactly what the world is looking for. This is exactly what God wants for the world. So when the visitation leads us elsewhere - we need to really quesiton if it is God who is visiting, or at least if we are really listening to what God is saying in the visitation.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

[LIF] A Bit About My Programme

Now that I'm well into my programme it might be interesting to give you a bit of a snapshot of what I am doing. I have three classes and a seminar this semester, all of them quite intense.

I like least the Biblical Interpretation course, not because the subject matter isn't interesting, a history of Biblical Interpretation is awesome. But the class is in french which makes it exhausting. We are looking at Origen. Honestly I don't find much difference in this course than the undergrad Biblical studies courses I have done. I could not say that about the other courses though.

The Master's Seminar, which is new to the programme, combines a course in theological methodology (the next section) and a way of preparing with each other for our research project. That has been good and we are all pretty well narrowed in our topics (and we all have directors now). I started out with an idea to open a dialogue between the Evangelical church and the Emerging church on the issue of social engagement, but I am doing a much smaller slice of that now. The goal is to become a local expert on your topic so hopefully at some point I will be able to teach on the contemporary Emerging church. Fun stuff.

My other two courses have a lot of overlap. One is a reading course on Religious Experience and the other is a course on Spirituality and the Human Sciences. Both are heavy reading, but very rich. I'm just finishing up Transcendant Experiences by Louis Roy and am going to start Helmeniak's The Human Core of Spirituality. In the course of studying religious experience I've been spinning off and looking at some of the spiritual expressions from my own traditions (Pentecostal and Charismatic). I've been able to bring some dialogue with this material and the ecstatic experiences of the Toronto Blessing as well as the Asuza Street Revival. That has been very interesting, I get to design a course on Religious Experience as part of the reading course, so I'll definitely have a section on the psychology and theology of ecstatic experiences. One of the things I've come to realize is that we don't process those experiences well. I'll have to unpack that in a later post, maybe when I'm more awake.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

[LIF] Progress

I now have a working outline to direct my research. That means I can more readily filter the material I am diving into. I'm really excited to pour into some of the books I've been collecting in anticipation of this project. I'll finish up Mark Noll and then go right to Grenz's primer on postmodernity, a book I've wanted to read for quite a while now. Then I'll finally get to McLaren's new book.

My undergrad convocation is tomorrow. My parents couldn't get away so it is my dear wife and my wonderful mother-in-law who are coming to see me wear the robes. Christopher Plummer will be there getting an honourary degree, that should be interesting. I was told it is a long ceremony and the St. Paul grads (there are four of us this time) are up first! We do our convocation with Ottawa U. I'm going to have a book under my robes, shhhh don't tell anyone.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

[LIF] Resolving Tension

It is funny that I just finished (yesterday) a paper critiquing our human tendency to not live with unresolved tension (even if we just develop tactics to ignore the tensions) and yet I am overjoyed that the tension with my youngest daughter has been resolved - at least for now. We still meet with her principal and teacher Monday, but my girl apologized to the bus driver already. Thanks for the prayers all.

Friday, October 12, 2007

[LIF] Parenting Heartaches

My youngest is misbehaving on the bus. It is fairly serious in that if she gets kicked off the bus we have no way to get her to school and back. I had to punish her, gave her several dice (dice get put in a jar when one of the girls is bad and they have to work them off before they can have any playdates or watch any movies). I also made it clear that if she doesn't apologize to the bus driver, he's such a nice guy too and she just laughed at him when he tried to tell her to sit down, she will miss out on halloween.

Now the thing is after all that I absolutely feel like crap. I feel let down and disappointed. Chelsea can be very strong willed. We try to direct that knowing it is good to be strong in who your identity in this world. But strong willed is just the other side of the belligerant coin. Chelsea is only four which doesn't help.

Pray for us. Thanks.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

[LIF] Books!

It has been a while since I've posted my book purchases, fear not they are aplenty. Here are a few highlights.

The Craft of Research (Booth, Colomb and Williams) - Man I wish I had had this book years ago! Some great insights into the whole writing process. If you are just starting out in studies this book will be a great boon to your work and get you up and running in no time.

The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Noll) - I'm a Noll fan. I have a feeling that this book will be a great springboard for my studies this year. BTW Kenny reviewed this one already. [EDIT: Kenny actually reviews Ron Sider's Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience, not Noll's book. But that review is where I heard of Noll's book in the first place. It was a while ago that I read it.]

Spirituality and Society: Postmodern Visions (Griffin ed) - I've started this and am considering some more from this series. The essays are excellent and postmodernity is the issue of our time. Griffin is a reconstructionist thinker.

Everything Must Change (McLaren) - I've been waiting a while for this one. I have really appreciated McLaren over the years and this book is right on topic for my research project. Thanks Brian.

I bought a slew of emergent titles and have been reading the ones I already had on the shelves. My shelves, BTW, are bursting. I do thin out the herd from time to time, but I really like books, even books I strongly disagree with.

OK one more of note, and this is a really special one.

About the Fruit (Young) - A while back I reviewed MJ Young's _What Does God Expect?_ and as a way of saying thanks MJ sent me his latest. He even put a little note inside the front cover. It isn't a huge book but it looks like a great scriptural study. I like how careful MJ has been in the past, he has a lot of wisdom to share. Thanks Mark, I'll let you know when the review goes up. BTW my last name only have one 'm' :-)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

[THO] What are you saved from?

I might have asked this here before, it came up in a class again. We are so fond of using easy slogans to try and articulate our religious experiences, that is part of the process of mediation that we all go through. The problem is that these slogans don't often translate well outside of our communities. Now this would not be a problem if we reflected deeply on our slogans. What does it mean to be 'saved'? What does it mean to be 'born again'?

I readily admit to being a born again Christian and can easily articulate a further slew of slogans to back that up - of course it means that I was born spiritually when I gave my life to Jesus. But think about all the assumptions even in that explaination? What does it mean born spiritually? or even to give your life to Jesus? and further what is Jesus? It is not simple stuff. But it is worthwhile stuff. In fact it is so worthwhile that people have given their lives to understand (and often live out) even just one of those assumptions. Unfortunately the average believer does not reflect upon their slogans.

I want to encourage you to answer just this one: what are you saved from? What I want to do is keep prodding behind the answers to get at the real question to which 'saved' is an answer. If nothing else, I would love to encourage you to think deeply about your faith, because the deeper you reflect the more of a claim it will make on your life.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

[THO] Sacred Epistemology?

I'm getting much closer to having my research topic refined, I'm confident enough that I ordered a slew of books on topic. The refining is important because it will determine how I read those books. Should be fun though as most of the books are out of the Emerging Church. As I've been reflecting on the engagement of the Emergent church with postmodernity, and also on the response of the evangelical stalwarts like Carson and MacArthur, I'm wondering if we haven't mistaken our epistemology as sacred?

It is interesting that in the modernist revisions of Christianity there is an emphasis on faith being something reasonable. The modern church presents a primarily propositional gospel message, assent to these truth claims and you are in. But that sort of understanding does not get very far in postmodernity. In the postmodern mind those truth claims are also a created reality so they need to be brought into the matrix of community forming. The postmodern mind also doesn't expect faith to be reasonable, but rather uses a different criteria of authenticity.

Authenticity is different than truth. The way truth is used assumes that there is an unmediated communication of said truth and that there is a faithful encapsulation of that truth in the form of doctrine or dogma. But here is where most of the mainline evangelicals mess it up, they assume that to think anything else less about truth is less of a committment to truth, by that I mean what is truly true. It is not truth that is rejected, it is how we arrive at and appropriate truth that is at stake in the postmodern turn.

Here is where the disconnect of lived experience and creedal affirmation comes in. The great proponents of propositional truth have claimed to live according to truth, but really there are two types of truth operative: the truth we say we believe and the lives we truly live. What we live is what we really believe, no matter what we say we believe. So if you say it is wrong to steal, but you enjoy pirating videos, well the truth that is operative in you is not a simple proposition against theft, but rather a complex belief about degrees of theft and possibly a belief about what constitutes an apparently victemless crime. Now when you try and navigate to the true truth this gets messy. Which is why the need for a new category: authenticity.

Authenticity is a way of affirming a lived truth. To be real or authentic is to be in touch with the greyness of our lives. It is to recognize that each of us is embedded in systems and ideologies that are not helping the world, our community or even our selves. So you now have a generation that want to keep it real. This scares the crap out of those who are staunch defenders of the truth, not the least because this authenticity is messy and doesn't care about the old categories of truth that were so important to the modern revision of Christianity.

But here is the opportunity, and if you have been here a while you know that I see postmodernity as an incredible opportunity. In the past, when the lived life comes into focus we've fallen to systems of personal holiness to help us navigate the greyness of society. I think in the past these have been very beneficial to the church, although not always. But such efforts are based on propositional thinking and readings of the scriptures. This has to shift slightly for the postmodern setting.

Postmodernity is not only a call to authenticity, it is a recognition that the myth of progress has failed us. The world is screwed up and we are implicated strongly in the actions that have led us to this place. So those same passions for holiness can be used to call for deeper committment to an authenticity that leans into common good. Here is the opportunity we have to craft a hope filled generation. See the postmodern mind is concerned with truth, but it is just less picky how it arrives there. That is an incredible opportunity.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

[THO] Location of the Divine

In Varieties of Religion Today Charles Taylor explores the shift in religious sensibility we inherit from modernity (Chapter 3 is brilliant!). With the age of reason the natural world was pulled down into the realm of comprehension. We could now measure, desconstruct and pull apart the created order. It belonged to the dominion of man, or so we now assumed. What was lost was the mystical connection with the world as created. The world became more and more mechanistically understood and God became more and more distant. We might remember that the deists came to believe in a divine watchmaker, winding up the world to let it run of its own accord.

In this Newtonian atmosphere we began to elevate the notion of law. After all laws are what govern the created order, and laws represent the enduring connection of the Creator to creation. It is not a wonder then that when Western humanity began looking again for the location of God we looked not to the world but to the lawfulness of society. It is from here that Kant makes his great contribution. No one of that age is unaffected, morality becomes the dominion of God. Understanding this is it really any wonder that we have evangelists who introduce us to the law instead of the person of Jesus Christ?

But all is not lost. More and more people are realizing the incredible poverty losing a sense of divine in the created order has meant. So many are longing for the authenticity of mystery. It also shouldn't surprise us that many in the West have turned elsewhere to feed their souls. For me I believe we face a time of incredible opportunity. Are we to continue to offer a morality based religion or will we introduce the world to a Jesus who holds all things together. Will we continue to preach a destructive message divorced from our lived reality, or will we call for believers to love the world Jesus died to save?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

[LIV] Falling into a Groove

I'm starting to get into a groove with school, that is a welcome relief. It was pretty crazy there for a while. I'm still overwhelmed with the gear shift, but I am confident that I'll be good and this will be an amazing year. I spent a good chunk of time chatting with Lydia Bean. She is doing doctoral work that is similar to what I want to do, well except her scope is much broader. But she has a good handle on the differences between American and Canadian evangelicals. Through her I also heard about some really cool evangelical movements that are taking serious the call to justice that is integral to the gospel message. Check out Sojourners and Friends of Justice. That is pretty encouraging.

Another fun side note, one of my profs has been getting us to read from his new book. He speaks a lot of languages but his English is funny, I call it Spanglench. It is actually endearing. But what is cool is he asked if I would keep an eye out for language errors in the text. So I sent him my first installement from the first chapter and introduction and he was impressed. Not that there were a lot, but they were simple things that I could hear him saying not realizing that this doesn't work n written English. Anyway he appreciated it and added me to the list of folks who helped him edit the document. That is really cool.

Well, lots to do. If I don't write as much you know what I'm doing: head buried in book or typing out papers on my lappy.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

[THO] First Impressions of 'What Did Jesus Do?'

Ray Comfort has been a hot topic here and on my Facebook page. I couldn’t help but take a quick look at one of the books Chris Curry sent me, “What did Jesus do?” I began sharing some of what I had gleaned from the first couple chapters and Sharon stopped me asking if I was talking about a cult. While the aspect that Comfort proposes a private truth is troubling, I am not convinced he goes beyond the pale of popular evangelical notions. But what is clear to me is that Comfort is operating almost exclusively out of a propositional theory of revelation – that is the notion that revelation is communicated to a specific people through a series of truths often collected into a text (Lane, The Experience of God, 34). Adherents to this view of revelation insist on a literal reading of their text(s) in order to preserve the truths contained within them. This is a very common paradigm for the evangelical world, at least in North America.

Before we look at why this view of revelation is flawed, I would be remiss to gloss over Comfort’s confusion of the Law with the Decalogue (p.25). This is very evident in his writing and thinking and it is an understandable confusion knowing that within the Protestant church there is a long tradition of using the Decalogue as a touchstone for Christian moral teaching. But when we look at the New Testament there is more of a tendency to reduce the Law to two propositions instead of the Decalogue. This is significant if you buy into Comfort’s insistence that the Law must come before grace then your understanding of what constitutes the Law matters gravely. But I’m sure I will have more commentary on this after I finish this book.
The second important omission is any sense of ongoing justice. On page 16 there is a list of what the fruit of salvation should look like (in Comfort’s mind of course). While half of this list is questionable, what is more startling is what is not listed. The list is completely devoid of any sense of justice. Where is the fruit of justice or has Comfort completely discarded the prophetic tradition that he claims to lean on so heavily? Where is the fruit of mercy? Love towards neighbours is reduced to getting along with Christians (which is easier for Comfortians who have narrowed greatly the definition of who is actually a Christian) and evangelizing the lost (obviously only with the ‘right’ method of evangelism). This list is what caused Sharon to conclude that Comfort has cult potential.

Those particularities fall out of Comfort’s flawed view of revelation. This theory of revelation often buys into the myth of unmediated access to divine truth, meaning that adherents actively resist the self-examination and self-criticism that is part of any healthy theology. (Interesting enough Comfort wants to undermine confidence in salvation but not in his propositional view of revelation?) Comfort definitely resists such activity, while he mentions that others oppose his views, there is no chance for examining their complaints as his work does not permit us the courtesy of proper footnotes and references. Obviously Comfort has no intention of defending his particular position, rather he wants to bolster the troops and convert the uncritical to his way of thinking. Academically these texts are useless, except as an example of how not to do a theology of mission.

I would encourage you to read with your eyes open.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

[LIF] Conversation Comes to an End

Well my conversation with Chris over at Living Waters came to an end. I am planning on the reviews, but his answer to my last email was quite curt and polite. I'm going to miss that discussion. Chris, I extend an invitation to go for coffee, my treat. I would love to sit down, brother to brother, and hear your heart a bit more. I have a real concern for helping widen the discussion amongst my evangelical brothers and sisters. I think it is important for us as a movement to work on unity and to combat the history of polemics that so easily ensnares us. Also know that I'll continue to pray for you that you would open yourself up to other resources that would enable you to preach the gospel clearly, maybe give that Ray Comfort guy a rest for awhile.

The end of that conversation is also the beginning of my research work this semester. I am working on narrowing my research problem and finding a director. But all of the areas I have a passion to tackle address the issues surrounding the need for a re-instatement of public religion in the evangelical world. Not that there are not great examples of public religion re-emerging, but usually only with great suspicion from the rest of the evangelical world.

Friday, September 14, 2007

[LIF] Grad School

Wow, this is a bit different than I expected. This is going to be an awesome semester. I finally made it through the first class for each prof. and I'm both overwhelmed and excited.

I'm actually happy with the classes in French. I feel like my head is about to explode towards the end of the class, but I'm positive my comprehension is increasing each moment. I was able to follow both profs, at least for the main ideas being presented. There are quite a few of us in the same boat which makes it easier. It is hilarious how we each heard different things for the assignments in one class. :-) We'll do fine.

The programme is focused on the thesis, which is 60 pages max (including bibliography). But the process of even beginning that thesis is intense. I am supposed to be chatting with different profs already to find a director, but I'm not completely sure how to carve off a manageable portion of what I want to study - basically Evangelical hermeneutics as it relates to social engagement. I was feeling stressed over this but right now I have too many other homework assignments to worry about that.

My courses are Spirituality with Prof. Heather Eaton, as you know from my blog I really like Prof. Eaton. She has challenged the heck out of me, but I really feel I grow spiritually in her courses. Plus she is the one that introduced me to Thomas Berry. Sad news is that the Berry Group looks like it might not do too much over this semester, everyone is swamped.

I am taking a Methodology class with Prof. Gregory Bloomquist, I've always wanted to take a course from Bloomquist, he is an amazing biblical scholar. But he is looking like the best candidate for director right now, he has a doctoral student doing a similar topic. This is the course that gets us ready for the thesis, so the class is pretty informal and geared towards coming along side us in this process.

I am also taking Biblical Hermeneutics with Prof. Christian Dionne. This one is in French and thankfully I find the biblical courses like this really easy. My mistake of neuf for nine instead of new really broke the ice for me. The anglophones outnumber the francophones, but the lecture is delivered in french. I'm happy with this one. His french is clear so I'll benefit a lot from the lectures.

Finally I am doing a directed reading course with Prof. Ramon Martinez de Pison Liebanas (there is a mouthful). He is Spanish, so his french is not bad to follow, his english is a bit funny though. This is my first directed reading course, I think it will be great. I'm re-reading Dermot Lane's The Experience of God this week. The topic of the course is Religious Experience.

Today I have to go to the library and get my late night pass approved! But tonight I have a little me time, gaming with my East end friends. Then it is nose to the grind.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

[LIF] Last Night Before Class

I have my first class in the morning. Research Methodology with G. Bloomquist. I decided to check his website again, there wasn't much the last time I checked. Yikes! There is reading assigned for tomorrow. I'm about halfway through it. I have some guys coming over for Injurius Games tonight, but that is easy to set up and tear down. Hope to get my reading done before they come, otherwise it will be a late night. We'll see.

I am halfway through the first article in my KoG series. I might redo it, I'm not happy with the flow. In fact I might do it in three short pieces (the first topic that is), I want to cover off the assumption many people make that Kingdom Theology is the same as Dominion Theology.

I'm toying more and more with the idea of doing a critique of the Evangelical Theology of Grace for my thesis, but maybe I need to let that one percolate more first. I know I need to read a heck of a lot more and there are some other areas I need to work on. I'm planning a book with my friend Brad Culver, we're in the preliminary stages but it should be a good project. Brad should be up around Thanksgiving to share in our church community. Perhaps I can weave some of the research for that into my Masters work, I need to think that one through.

If I don't post in the next week, know I'm knee deep in classes trying to get my bearings. I'll be around in the comments at the very least.

Friday, September 07, 2007

[LIF] Holding Pattern

Seems like I'm waiting a lot these days. It is funny because I am not always sure what to do with myself when I am waiting. Perhaps this is my opporunity to learn how to wait well. Waiting is a normal part of creation, but that's the subject of a whole discussion.

I have new software in the mail, at least I hope it is in the mail. A French-English Dictionary, supposedly one of the best. I couldn't find a copy in Canada, just the UK or the US. So I put in my order, paid my money and now I wait impatiently.

I am waiting for classes. My first class was supposed to be Thursday, but the prof cancelled. It worked out for stuff going on here, but it was disappointing.

I am waiting to find a good daycare for Chelsea. This one is hard, we were waiting for a subsidised spot to replace the one we gave up last year, but no such luck. We interview three candidates tomorrow! Pray for us, she is only there three mornings a week.

I am waiting on the books from Chris. Yeah, I actually would like to give them a read. I'm more interested as to how the ongoing conversation will continue, if it continues. Seems Chris has run out of steam. Actually, it seems he has moved the discussion to his blog, sweet - Facebook is frustrating for comments.

Well my waiting for supper is over. The buzzer is going off.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

[THO] What is the Gospel?

My buddy Byron posted a series on this recently. Byron started off with a challenge to write down in a sentence or two exactly what is the gospel. I've been thinking about that a lot lately as I have been engaging in a debate with the Living Waters Canada Rep, Chris Curry. Chris has generously sent me a few of Ray Comfort's books which I will endeavour to review here. I've endured a few of Ray's videos and I find him quite offensive actually. Which begs that question - what is the gospel?

Byron does a great job of defining the gospel in terms of the Kingdom of God. Where I want to go is to look at the implications - how do we live out what the gospel is? If we believe that the gospel is essentially only about your personally getting right with God then perhaps Ray Comfort is not so far off in his thinking. But if the gospel is the good news of the Kingdom, as Jesus claims, then it has far greater implications than merely getting folks saved and in the waiting line for heaven. A lot is at stake on our understanding of the gospel.

For me it comes down to what Jesus did. If we want to follow the true way of the master, then it definitely isn't going to boil down to a modern formulaic representation such as Comfortians often employ. As long as it is missing the heart of the gospel - that is good news that the King has come - then it is nothing more than what the Pharisees did when they searched out converts to become twice as good at converting others as they were. Jesus wasn't impressed. Neither should we be impressed. The King changes everything.

So what did Jesus do? Well he healed the sick, drove out spirits, mended relationships, restored dignity, stood for justice, called for repentance, fed the hungry, taught the masses (inside and outside the synagogue!), loved the children, freed prisoners, gave people purpose and meaning... In short Jesus changed everything. So how can we call gospel anything that compartmentalizes a small bit of this? We can't, it is all or nothing. But isn't that What Jesus did for us? He gave everything for us. Paul aptly responds that our only reasonable response is to give our whole selves as living sacrifices.

I was watching one of those videos yesterday, where Ray is berating a young man who dared to admit he believed in evolution. I kept thinking, "what is your point Ray?" I think there is a place for even the law in evangelism. But when that is your only option then you miss the bulk of the richness of what the gospel really is. Why would I believe God loves me after you've just treated me like shit? How can that thought not go through the minds of those accosted with such a stark misrepresentation of God's good news? Maybe I don't get it. Maybe I'm missing something and the books will help me with that. Then again... what is the gospel?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

[THO] Kingdom of God - Preamble

Yup, as promised this is that new series on the Kingdom of God. It will likely be sporadic and in the next few weeks I'll be revisiting my original series outline. I'll definitely let you know if I plan on a wild deviation.

If you have been around the Freedom Log for a while you will hear me talk of the Kingdom of God a lot. I did a search and was surprised at how often it comes up. That has a lot to do with my denominational home, the Vineyard. Our movement takes the key insight of George Eldon Ladd (which I feel is actually an advance of Dodds even though Ladd takes pain to distance his idea from Dodds) that the Kingdom of God is an eschatological tension. It is the tension of this age and the next age, where this age is pregnant with the possibilities of the next age breaking in at any moment.

This is an important theology for us as it distinguishes us from similar movements like Pentecostalism or the Charismatic movement. It is how we understand the nitty gritty of Christian life, both the struggles and the triumphs. Even though it is so important I find that it is also something that gets lost as the movement grows beyond its Fuller roots. Fortunately the Vineyard in Canada has been working hard trying to ensure that these roots are nourished. Perhaps, in some way, this is my part in helping all of that.

I want to start with the language of the Kingdom. I am of two minds in this regard. On one hand I'm highly sensitive about how language can hinder the sharing of ideas. But at the same time I am convinced that distinct language has incredible value for the groups that adopt it. So here is also a tension. So I anticipate that I will take pains to clarify the language, identify the issues and then continue to go right on using the language of Kingdom. It is comfortable langauge for me, not that this is a reason for using a language, but it does evoke in me that sense of connection to Ladd and the heart of the Vineyard movement.

Hope that you enjoy the series.

Monday, September 03, 2007

[THO] Why We Need Each Other

The recent thread on Ray Comfort has led to a sort of response by Living Waters Canada. I'll post his response if there is enough interest, but in post response dialogue to Chris Curry's credit he did admit to not even reading the Ray makes me UnComfortable series??? Apparently once one has made up their mind on an issue it is not advisable to look at alternative view points, at least that is the impression Chris is leaving on me.

But that is really a side issue. The problem I'm having here is that the factioned body of Christ has missed sight of the fact that we all need one another.

We don't need clones and constant affirmation. How are we ever going to grow if all we get tickles our ears? I appreciate the Ray Comforts out there for the simple reason that he doesn't think like I do. Heck I'm even willing to bet God is big enough to work powerfully through Ray's flawed theology to do some good in the world. But, and this is a big but. All of us, even Ray, could do much better.

Recently I was given some articles critical of my denomination, the Vineyard. At first I was a bit ticked, but then I decided to scan them. I heard in them the voice of someone hurt by Vineyards and struggling to articulate what he sees as reals pitfalls. If this is true then is it not worth engaging? So I emailed this fellow and we've begun a dialogue. Does this mean I love my Vineyard less? No, I want what is best for my denomination and that means learning even from those we might be tempted to call our enemies. We have a long standing tradition of not responding to criticism in the Vineyard, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't consider that criticism doesn't come out of nowhere.

I love the ecumenical school where I study. I need those voices. I need the Catholics with their sacramentality. I need the Anglicans with their passion for concensus and unity. I need the Pentecostals with their passion for the Holy Spirit. I need the Anabaptists with their passion for peace and justice. I need the Orthodox with their committment to mystery. I need the Comfortians for their zeal for evangelism. I need the whole Church. That doesn't mean I'm like the whole Church. I'm definitely unique. But that is why the rest of the Church needs me too.

So if Ray makes you comfortable or uncomfortable, I pray that either case will propel you to think deeper about your faith and how you live it. The examined life is definitely worth living!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

[THO] Communication via the Internet

Communication in the electronic age can be quite challenging. Tools like the internet have allowed us to have more communication to more people, but has this really been helpful? I enjoy blogging, email and various forums. When you are conveying flat facts and academic topics this is a wonderful medium. But we are essentially social beings - it is much harder to do community on the web simply because of the drawbacks to e-communication.

1) E-Communication lacks an emotional connection. A lot has to be said for not seeing the face of the person you are talking about. When we can't connect at a visual level we lose a whole dimension to communication. How many of us have experienced the frustration of being completely misunderstood through email. The problem is twofold. Because when we type out the message we actually express with our faces to the unresponsive computer screen. So when we are misunderstood our prejudice is that we effecively communicated. We need to see each other in real-time to capture that whole non-verbal dimension.

2) E-Communication allows for a false anonymity. Because there is a buffer between commucators it is too easy to forget that you are communicating with people. People who have the same potential for frustration, anger and poor communication that you do. Being a fan of online forums (since FidoNet actually) it is common to see misunderstandings escalate into veritable flame wars. As one who has participated in such conversations as both the voice of reason and the unreasonable voice, I know how easy it is to feel like you are fighting a machine or worse being treated like you are a machine.

3) E-Communication is too easy. This is both boon and bane. The fact that I can email my friends and organize a get together is incredibly easy and convenient. That I can post discourses like this on my blog and engage with a community interested in exploring the same thoughts, is incredible. But how much does e-communication erode our social skills? I've been trying to find ways to build real community on the Internet, and the more I try the more I realize the incredible challenge that this is.

Where I find this issue of ease most stark is in my role playing communities. I play pencil and paper role playing games with a couple groups of friends. When new folks come in there is a awkward, but necessary, integration period. The group gets to know each other. But our common bond of the game makes us want to do this. These groups work best with smaller numbers (8 or less in my experience is best) and so you can develop some really amazing community that way. In the latest group I've joined I feel, finally, like I'm through that initial awkward stage and that I'm starting to get to know these guys a bit. We are starting to have some more meaningful dialogue as well as a heck of a lot of fun trapsing around a dungeon chasing dragons. But it takes work. It takes some effort to open up and join in to what the community is doing together (which is telling a story in which we are the main characters). In the online versions it is too easy to connect to a multitude of folks and think that you have community, but when it comes down to it these are just other players who don't want to do the work that real community takes. It is an illusion of community. In my established gaming group most of the guys who've been gaming with us for a year or more have become better and better friends. In fact in some cases our families have connected significantly. It extends well beyond the game.

It is too easy to abandon the so-called friends we make online when it involves breaking out of the virtual realm. We can make new 'friends' online. But in person-to-person community it is hard to ignore the request for help (often unspoken). (I should note that the same phenomenon occurs in large impersonal groups, but that is another post).

My main concern is that we are becoming so used to e-communication that we are learning to accept these limitations as the status quo. When we do this we impoverish communication as a whole. I am not advocating abandonment of technology, but rather recognition of these limitations. Recognition will achieve two goals, first it will help us treasure what we have in person-to-person communication and second it will spur on the search for innovative ways to overcome these limitations and improve the advance in communication (audience and ease) that technology has given us.

* Note: Scott Smith is the person who I first remember talking through these ideas, I owe a debt to him for the thinking in this post. Thanks Scott (NeoInsight).

Thursday, August 30, 2007

[THO] Ray makes me UnComfortable (4)

Mike's final installment, maybe his best too. Enjoy!

In part 1, I recounted the rather unfortunate story of my experience back in the summer of 2005 in publically administering the "good person test" with a group of 'street preachers' here in Ottawa. In part 2, I tried to show why I thought using the 10 Commandments the way Ray Comfort and his movement uses them was at best, misguided. At worst, an abuse of Holy Scripture. In part 3, I tried to show again how the "good news" offered in the tracts and preaching of Ray Comfort definately leaves something to be desired. This brings me to part 4 and the challenge of counting the cost of true evangelism. I must be honest, this part is what I have been wanting to say from the beginning. I felt however that I needed to lay the groundwork and context of the first 3 parts in order for part 4 to make any sense. So, in light of the first three notes, where does that leave us?

Well,...let me say right off the how much I actually like Ray Comfort Tracts! Sounds unbelievable right? Despite all of the objections I have raised and will raise here, I find his tracts incredibly creative and rather innovative. Ray Comfort has a wonderful imagination and comes up with some truly unique materials. We should also give credit where credit is due. At least the people devoted to Ray and his methods are serious about their faith and are doing something. So, what's the problem? Well, there are many I wish to outline briefly.

The first is simply that the message is, I think, theologically and philosophically unsound. Since I have already explained my concerns in parts 2 and 3, I won't go into them again here. I will add this though. I do not believe for a second that there is any malice whatsoever in the heartrs of Christians who use the methods of Ray Comfort and Living Waters. I certainly do not believe that they are trying to purposefully misrepresent or distort the Gospel. I do think however that they have not thought through their propositions and that their zeal is misguided.

Secondly, the aggresive tone of the approach is more than a little troubling. It reminds me of James and John whom Jesus nick-named the "sons of thunder." ( St. Luke 9:51-55). James and John thought that surely God is displeased with the Samaritans and perhaps would like to destroy them. Jesus assures the two disciples however that they know not what manner of spirit they are.

Thirdly, and this is closely linked to the second, the Ray Comfort approach is intrusive and disputatious. How many of us appreciate ininvited intrusions? Do we like telemarketers phone calls during dinner? Do we appreciate canvasers ringing the door-bell after we have put the children to bed? How about Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons showing up at inopportune times in the day? Do we like spam? Do we carefully pour over every pop-up window that shows up on our computer screen? Do we like these things or are they annoying to us? If our Lord exhorts us to love our enemies, ( St. Luke 6:27-36), and St. Paul lays down a criteria of gentleness in dealing with those who oppose the Gospel, ( 2 Timothy 2:24-26), what in heaven's name would make one believe that people would respond positively to the rude intrusion and entrappment that is the "good person test" publically administered?

"Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on it's own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." (St. Paul to the Corinthians 13:4-7 RSV CE).

Love believes and assumes the best about people, not the worst.

Fourthly, I find it all to be sheer spiritual arrogance! It is the "we/they" mentality at it's worst. We are the "saved," they are the "lost." Nothing but presumptious arrogance would lead a person to think such a thing. I can say that with confidence because I used to think exaclty that way. Prideful, presumptious arrogance is the only motive I can come up with to explain it in me. If you decide you are going to venture out into the public domain and engage people at random with something like the "good person test" and the Ray Comfort approach to evangelism, you are going to inevitably meet people from a WIDE variety of backgrounds both culturally and spiritually. How can we assume that everyone is going to hell and they are all obvioulsy sinnng in the most despicable ways possible and often as possible? In my experience this was and is the assumption. The problem is that there is no way to know that. Only God knows the hearts of people. Our Lord in this context Commands us not to judge others, not to assume to know their spiritual status and standing before God. ( St. Matthew 7:1). What about all the people out there who belong to other faith traditons? It is only arrogance of the worst kind that announces to people that they are in fact going to hell! We ought to remember that we are all , ALL OF US created in the image and likeness of God. We are all one human family descended from our first parents. God's goodness extends to all humanity. (Wisdom 8:1; Acts 14:7; Romands 2:6-7; 1 Timothy 2:4; Luke 6:35-36). God has not left Himself without witness in the world of religion outside of the Christian faith. (Romans 1). Why should we assume that other faiths are all bad? There is much wisdom in the religions of mankind. If we were to ask God for His opinion of the religions of the world, I don't know what He would say. I know it would surprise us all though!!! :-) Mankind's religions can and should be seen for the most part as representing what is best in humanity. These faiths are the expression of our brothers and sisters grasping after God and seeking answers to life's questions and mysteries. Some of them may have been prepatory for the Gospel. Since all truth is ultimatlely God's truth, after many years of "bashing" other faiths, I am convinced that the Holy Spirit of God is working in and through them. Confucius sustained the civilization of China for 2000 years. Do we really have nothing to learn from this man? Buddhism, India's great contribution to the world testifies to the essential inadequacy of this changing world. It proposes a way for people to attain liberation and illumination through self-effort or with divine help. In Hinduism men and women explore the mystery of God through rich mythology and sound philosophy. In Islam, which speaks to approx. 1 billion people on this planet, we hear faint echoes of the Gospel in the Qur'an. (A Book for which I have found a new respect and admiration). I'm not saying that everything in all religion is always good, but it certainly isn't all bad! There is much we can learn as Christians through dialogue and interraction with fellow believers. As Christians, we are of course bound and obligated to proclaim Jesus Christ as the Way the Truth and the Life through whom alone is granted access to the Father. ( St. John 14:6). There is no other Name whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:12). The other religions are not alternative paths to salvation. However, that does not mean that people of other faiths cannot be saved either. Many will be of course! Again though, it will be because of Jesus Christ and His saving work, even if that knowledge remains unknown to them.

Fifthly, and lastly, is the key problem in my estimation. Ray Comfort seems to make a fatal error in interpreting the Gospel in light of the Law rather than the Law in light of the Gospel. ( St. John 1:14-18). In Matthew chapters 5-7 Our Lord's famous "Sermon on the Mount," He teaches with authority, adds to and explains the true meaning of the Law. The passages dealing with this are far to numerous to list here. The entire book of Hebrews sets Jesus Christ in His nature and Priesthood as superior to Moses, superior to the Levetical Priesthood and over and above the Angels. It is the Gospel which illuminates the Law, and reveals it's true meaning and application. The Incarnation and all that it entails, seems to be lacking entirely from the Ray Comfort teaching and methodology.

So, how then do we evangelize??? What do we do? Let's remember that even though many will prophesy, cast out devils, and do many might works in the Lord's Name, we may still be rejected by Him and told to depart! ( St. Matthew 7:21-23) It is those who "do" the will of My Father in Heaven who will enter His kingdom. I encourage here the reader to read the parable of Our Lord told in the Holy Gospel According to St. Matthew 25:31-46. We evangelize our world and promote the Kingdom of Christ by entering into His work of redemption. If we would see others come to faith in Jesus Christ, we must model Him to those with whom we have direct and intimate contact. Our family, our friends, our co-workers, our next-door neighbors. These are the people we must evangelize. How do we do that? By living sacrificially for their sake and for love of them. We serve Christ by serving Him in the people we see every day. As Thomas Merton says, the will of God is manifested to Christians above all in the Command to love. Our love must must first be extended to those who are closest to us, but eventually it must reach out to all people. All people are potentially members of the Kingdom of God. Who among us can say with certainty that the non-Christian is not in some way, some hidden way, justified by the indwelling Spirit of God and though not visibly, a true brother or sister in the Lord? Our evangelism should be zealous of course, but a zealousness born of joy and peace, and God's love for all people. It should not be aggression acted out of a misguided sense of duty. Our relationship with God should always be growing and maturing. In God's grand design, our knowledge and wonder of Him depends to an extent upon our experiencing His love in the process of someone else's salvation. Our relationship with God can never be truly fulfilling in my opinion until we learn to love as He loves. ( St. Matthew 22:37-40; Philippians 2:1-5). Real evangelism requires time, effort, prayer, sacrifice, investing in people, for the sake of God's love for them. Ray Comfort's approach doesn't really require any of that. You simply walk up to strangers, chastise and offend them, then walk away.... No investment, no sacrifice. It seems rather carnal to me. A clever way to avoid the labor of love that is true evangelism, but satisfying your own flesh and pride that you have. Our evangelism should always spring from our hearts as spontanious acts of love and joy in serving others. The opportunity to share what is most precious to us, our faith, should be by invitation from people with whom we have a relationship of love and trust established through our evangelism. That as I have said takes time, effort and sacrifice. Investing into the lives of other people. If our faith is truly precious to us, and I pray that it is, why then cast it before swine? Why berate people in the street, perfect strangers no less, who may openly mock it anyway? I'm sure the people we see on the streets, the strangers to us, have someone in their lives who should be we pray modelling Jesus Christ to them. We should concern ourselves with those God has placed on our sphere of influence.

In conclusion, I feel that after having lived it in the past, Ray Comfort's approach to evangelism lacks wisdom, lacks truth, and requires no commitment whatsoever. I wonder if people who are following Ray today use his method's such as the "good person test" on family and friends. Or, like I did, do they reserve it for strangers?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

[THO] Ray make me UnComfortable (3)

So, once you have gone through the "good person test," and after having been berated with the 10 Commandments, it's finally time to hear the "good news" according to Ray Comfort. What exactly is that "good news?" I'll let Living Waters speak fo themselves.

"Does the fact that you have sinned against God scare you? It should. You have actually angered Him by your sin. The Bible says His wrath abaides on you, that you are an 'enemy of God in your mind through wicked works.'

-"Gospel" Tract "Are You Good Enough to go to Heaven?"


"To make clear what an incredible thing He has done for you in the Gospel, let's look again to civil law: You are standing in front of a judge, guilty of some very serious crimes. All the evidence has been presented and there is no doubt about your guilt. The fine for your crime is $250,000 or imprisonment, but you haven't two pennies to rub together. The judge is about to pass sentence...he lifts his gavel, when someone you don't even know steps in and pays the fine for you. The moment you accept that payment, you are free to go. Justice has been served, the law has been satisfied, and what's more, the stranger who paid your fine showed how much he cares for you. His payment was evidence of his love.
That's what God did for you, in the person of Jesus Christ. You are guilty, He paid the fine 2,000 years ago. It is that simple."

"Gospel" tract "Are You Good Enough to go to Heaven?"

How exactly did Jesus pay this fine? I'll let Living Waters Canada answer that.

"If you've admitted to breaking one commandment you are falling towards God's judgement and will end up in hell when you die. God doesn't want that to happen to you! He provided a way for you to be saved when Jesus Christ took the punishment for your sin upon Himself."

"Gospel" tract "CN Tower Collectible" Living Waters Canada.

Did Jesus Christ our Lord pay the price for our sins? Did He satisfy the the letter of the Law and take upon Himself our punishment? Was Christ punished for our sins, in our place? The Ray Comfort movement certainly thinks so. The way I see it though, there are two things wrong with these two propositions. The first proposition simply isn't true, and neither is the second. I'll attempt to deal with them one at a time. I wish to acknowledge my indebtedness to two authors whose work over the years has proved very helpful in the study of moral and philosophical issues and or pitfalls involved in researching the Atonement. One is the 19th centruy revivalist Charles Grandison Finney, the other is Frank J. Sheed.

Did Our Lord Jesus pay the fine? In other words, did He in His atonement actually satisfy the Divine retributive justuce? Did He pay exactly the penalty of the Law in order for us to be released form our debt? Remember the $250,000 payment mentioned above? The simple answer is no, He did not. HE DID NOT!!! Why?????? Because it would be naturally impossible. It would require that satisfaction be made to "retributive justice." It would require that Jesus pay exactly the requirement of the Law. Paying exactly what every sinner ultimately deserves and will recieve. This type of justice can never be satisfied, NEVER BE SATISFIED. Legally you could justly punish a sinner as long as he or she remained guilty. Unfortunately that is forever! Once we break the Law, we are forever guilty. There would never come a time when we would cease to be guilty and become innocent once again. Divine retributive justice will indeed be everlasting. Those who are ultimately lost will be lost forever and forever and forever. Everlasting separation from God and His Glory. So, in order to satisfy the letter of the Law and "pay the fine" as Ray Comfort would have us believe, Jesus Christ would have had to suffer eternal separation from God His Father multiplied bythe number of people who have ever lived, are living, and will live. That, quite obviously is impossible, and did not happen.

There are two difficulties associated with this "payment of the fine" idea of the Atonement. There are many difficulties of course but I wish to highlight only these two here.

1. It should be noted that Universalism, (the teaching that because Jesus has paid the price for the sins of humanity and satisfied the requirements of the Law, then all men will be saved) stakes it's claim right here. It, Universalism, insists that it would be unjust then to condemn sinners to hell.

2. Closely linked to the first and of course the natural outflow of it's thought, is how, if Jesus paid the penalty of the Law for sinners, could God then repunish them in the end if their price has already been paid? Why would God punish Christ, and then still on top of it punish sinners, if Jesus had paid the fine?

I should also mention here that in general the idea that Our Lord 'paid the fine' for us is usually married to the idea that He also obeyed the Law for us as a covenant of works with the Father. It goes something like this, since we cannot obey the Law, Jesus obeyed it for us. Then, he 'paid the fine' for our disobedience on the cross, and His righteousness is then imputed to us. (It goes without saying I take serious issue with this teaching). The problem again should be obvious. If He, Jesus, obeyed for us, why then should He also suffer for us? This arrangement represents God as requiring:

1. The obedience of our substitute.
2. His suffering and death as though no obedience had been rendered.
3. Our subsequent repentance.
4. Our return to personal obedience.

On top of that, it would ascribe the whole thing to grace! Strange grace this is. Does God require the fine to be paid several times over before it is forgiven?

As for the second point, the idea that Christ was punished by the Almighty Father, again I say no! NO! A THOUSAND TIMES NO!!! How could Our Lord have been punished in any way whatsoever? Punishment implies guilt. In the case of Jesus Christ however, the Hebrew Prophets, (Isaiah 53), the Apostles ( 1 Peter 2:22), Our Lord Himself, (St. John 8:46) and even the world, (St. Matthew 27:54) are unanimous that Christ is without sin. An innocent being cannot, CANNOT be punished. It is a natural impossibility. Now an innocent being could suffer unjustly, as in the case of someone wrongly found guilty of a crime. However, they are not properly being "punished." They are victims of injustice. If the Father "punished" Christ in the Atonement, then He commited an injustice. He, God willed a moral evil. This should cause us concern. If God is capable of such things with His own Son, what might He do to us? Is this really and truly the Gospel of the Blessed God!? Ray Comfort's "good news" is not good news at all. It is the bad news of the arbitrary, capricious, and even dangerous God.

So, if Our Lord didn't obey for us, and He didn't 'pay the fine' for us and was not punished by His Father, then what did He do? What He did, is far more glorious than any of the absurdities proposed above.

The Atonement of Christ Jesus was intended as a satisfaction not to retributive justice, but rather to public justice. The Law of God is not arbitrary. It does not origininate in His will as a "My way or the Highway" command. It is founded rather in His self-existence and unchanging nature. God cannot change His Law. To the letter of the Law there may be exceptions. The the spirit and heart of the Law, never! Therefore, God could not set aside the execution of the penalty of the Law against sinners, (which was what He desired), without something being done to satisfy the spirit and heart of the Law. Listen to the words of St. Paul,:

"...they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus." (St. Paul to the Romans 3:24-26 (RSV CE).

In this passage St. Paul defines the grand design of the Atonement to have been to justify God in pardon of sin. Or, in God remaining true to His character nonetheless in setting aside the execution of the Law against sinners. The Atonement is about God. It vindicates His character and reveals His heart. It reveals in our God His merciful disposition. It was because God desired to pardon and forgive sinners that He consented to give His only-begotten Son. His motive?, and this is key, is what we have been discussing all the way through these notes. JOHN 3:16-17!!! "For God SO LOVED the world..." It does not say, IT DOES NOT SAY that" God was so poised to judge the world and to pour out His wrath upon sinners that He gave His Only-Begotten Son to be punished instead." The Atonement is not about the law of the angry God! It proclaims in glory that God IS LOVE!!!, and that in His imeasurable LOVE HE GAVE HIS SON, NOT TO CONDEMN THE WORLD, NOT TO CONDEMN THE WORLD!!!!!, but rather to save it!

It is the suffering and death of Our Lord that constitutes His Atonement. God does not punish Him. He lays down His life freely. Nobody took it from Him, He gave it! Our Lord offers Himself to the Father through the Spirit in sacrifice for our sins in the place of the execution of the Law. ( see Isaiah 53). The substitution is not God punishing Christ instead of us, it is God the Father accepting the suffering and death of Christ as an offering for sins instead of, INSTEAD OF the punishment. The letter of the Law is not satisfied directly. The spirit and heart of the Law IS! It is the relationship of Christ our Lord to the universe as Creator and God that makes His voluntary suffering and death to be of infinite value. God could have written off humanity and consigned everyone, every last one of us to hell, and been completely justified in so doing. But then, where would His mercy be? He could have forgiven the sins of our race without an atonement through a sovereign act of the Divine. But then, where would His justice be? He did neither. He chose rather that sin committed in human nature should be expiated in human nature. In Christ, the Word of God made flesh, humanity, in Him, gave it's all back to God, holding nothing back. There was total obedience, total self-surrender and the sacrifice of the Last Adam over against the self-assertion and sin of the First Adam. Because He was truly human, His sacrifice was human, so it could be set against the sin of the human race. Because He is God, His sacrifice is of infinite value and so compensated and outweighed not only all of the sins committed by humanity collectively, but all possible sin as well. Again, He could not suffer and be punished as a guilty member of our race having never sinned, and therefore He also could not have endured remorse since He was not guilty of any crime. He did however take the weight of our sins, and experienced the anguish and sorrow for our sins which we, sadly,...for the most not.

The sin of our race afforded God the opportunity for the exercise of His highest virtues. Forebearance, mercy, self-denial for enemies, suffering for them even though they were always in His hand and He could have destroyed them. Suffering for them, for us, when there was no conceivable way for us to pay Him back...

Up next, Part 4: Counting the Cost of True Evangelism.