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.

[LIF] Angst

I have an interesting feeling inside today. I think it is from being overwhelmed. I went into the school yesterday and it was a good thing, they had tried to put me in Ethics instead of Systematic and Historic Theology! Yikes. It meant they were having trouble getting me registered on the computer - that is a good thing in this case. But today I got my schedules sorted out and of course things have shifted. This is frustrating because it means we have to coordinate child care. It is a bit frustrating as we haven't got news of a placement yet for Chelsea and she starts really soon! So do I for that matter.

A bright spot, we finally connected with Yvonne and Jason Parks. After a few years of emailing Yvonne (I started it asking for chord charts for one of her songs) we finally got to meet. Jason is a great guy, I can see us hanging out. Yvonne made awesome strawberry smoothies and our girls (we have a set the exact same age!) got along great. Thanks for having us over guys, hope we can do it again soon.

It was a bit frustrating to leave their nice new neat and tidy home and come back to the disaster we call a home. I have been cleaning my office (just taking a quick break to blog) and am overwhelmed by how messy the whole place has gotten. I'm not the best at getting the kids to clean their rooms, Elyssa is better now but at the mere mention of cleaning Chelsea prostrates herself and begins moaning, "I'm too tired to clean." In fact one afternoon I put her in her room clean only to find her sleeping when I checked up on her later! Unbelievable.

The kids come by it honest. Sharon and I are both naturally disorganized people. I like an organized chaos around me, but when you introduce other people in the mix it quickly spirals out of control. It is no use kicking the kids out of my office, they just come back minutes later - usually depositing more little bits of toys and paper! I usually have the main level cleaned for games nights, but that is often an exercise in herding cats. "Kids pick up the livingroom!" I'm at my worst when it is an hour before folks arrive and the house is still upside down.

Well, best get back to cleaning. I fixed up my Library Thing, should be a pic for each book. Now I'll focus on getting the right pic for each book. I scanned in ~130 covers the other day. Can you say procrastination? Oh, just on que Chelsea has come down from her "attempt" to clean wanting to snuggle - procrastination runs deep in times like this.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

[THO] Privilege and the Practice of Theology

Recently I've re-watched a cute little video Vineyard Canada sent out called "What Love Does." It is a great description of the Vineyard. It urges us to be a people desperate for the Kingdom of God, so desperate that we are willing to give our lives for the sake of that Kingdom. Gary Best, the director of Vineyard Resources Canada, talks about this service and how we must never forget that it is a privilege to serve.

I think that we often look at ministry and service as anything but a privilege. And far too often we think of it as a right or an entitlement. You go to church, you get to participate and claim some sort of 'status' as a Christian. But what Gary was getting at flies in the face of that sort of superficiality.

While Gary isn't the only speaker in the video, he has a few very striking sound bites, including the title that this is "what love does." Early on in the video he tells us that the Vineyard in Canada wasn't started by theologians, but by individuals who had met the King and were empassioned for the Kingdom of God. Such a theologically packed statement, but I totally agree with Gary. It isn't theology that defines the Vineyard it is passion for a lived reality that also happens to be a theological reality.

As a theologian, or at least a wannabe theologian, I love how the interplay develops between spirituality and theology. We meet the King and become people of the Kingdom. Then we spend a lifetime passionately unpacking that notion. Unfortunately, I think we approach that notion the same way we approach everything else. It is not a privilege but a right, after all are we not the kids of the King? But like all the rest this whole passion to come to terms with even a bit of what a Kingdom people means is completely a privilege. Just as much as it is a privilege to walk out those implications amongst the weary, sick and lost.

There is an attitudinal change needed here, a move from spiritual arrogance (the very face of division in the Church today) to a deep abiding humility. A move from a controlled and measured service to a reckless abandon because there is no other response worthy of our King's expressed love. I want to make that shift. I want to live out of a sense of gratitude, overwhelmed by my Lord's love for me. I don't want to take the privilege of any of this for granted. I hope you are with me.

Friday, August 24, 2007

[THO] Ray Makes me UnComfortable (2)

Second of Mike Samson's guest posts, should be some good points to discuss in this and the next one.


The 10 Commandments. Heb. " 'aseret hadevarim," literally the "Ten Words." (Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 4:13, 10:4). "Decalogue," from the Latin for "Ten Words" is a more literal rendition of the original Hebrew than "Ten Commandments." What is their signifigance for us today? How should we understand them? How ought they to be interpreted and applied? Most important, can they be mishandled and abused?

The Decalogue shold never be removed from it's proper context. Historically, that context is the Exodus of the nation of Israel from the slavery of Egypt. This is the great liberating event of the 1st Covenant and the Hebrew Bible. The Decalogue is handed down to us in the 20th chapter of Exodus and the 5th chapter of Deuteronomy. In both cases they open with the words,

"I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage." (Exodus 20:1 ( RSV CE)

The Decalogue points out the conditions of an existence free from sin, and a path to life. (Deuteronomy 30:16). One of the keys to understanding the signifigance of the Ten Words is the manner and time in which this gift was given.

In terms of timing, the revelation of the Law takes place between the proposal of the Covenant by God in Exodus 19:1 - 9, and it's conclusion when the people commited themselves "to do" all that the LORD had said, and to "obey" Him. (Exodus 24:7). The Decalogue takes on it's full meaning then within the context of the Covenant. As always is the way in sacred Scripture and in the economy of salvation, it is God who has initiated this Covenant relationship with His people. His love and mercy are clearly revealed here. The Commandments are secondary to this. The Ten Words spell out the implications of belonging to the People of God and the community of faith through the Covenant. Living out the Commandments then is our response to God and His love. This is key!!! They are a response to an already existing relationship. They are not, THEY ARE NOT!!!, a measuring rod to gage the worthyness of people to enter into the Covenant.

Secondly, the Decalogue is revealed by God through a "Theophany," an appearance of God. (Exodus 19:16 - 20:21). It must have been an absolutely unimaginable sight and experience. In revealing Himself in this way to Israel, and revealing the Law in such a fashion and under such circumstances, it should become clear that the Ten Commandments belong to the revelation of God Himself and His Glory. They are the gift of God, the gift of Himself and His Holy Will revealed plainly to His people. So much so in fact that it is God Himself who writes the Commandments on two stone tablets and gives them to Moses. (Deuteronomy 5:22). Understood in this way, we can say with confidence that our morality, lived out in obedience to the Decalogue is a response to the loving initiative of God and a response to an established relationship with Him. They are not, NOT a means of establishing a relationship with Him.

From all this is is obvious that the Ten Commandments can never be abolished. Indeed Our Lord said specifically that He had not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but rahter to fulfill them. ( St. Matthew 5:17). As Christians, we are invited to rediscover the Law in the Person of Jesus Christ who is it's perfect fulfillment. It is in the New Covenant that the full meaning of the Law is made known. (See St. Matthew 5 - 7). When asked which Commandment in the Law was the greatest, ( St. Matthew 22:34-36), ASTONISHINGLY, Our Lord does not, DOES NOT quote the Ten Commandments. Equally ASTONISHING though is that He does quote the Law! ( St. Matthew 22:37 - 40). Our Lord cites Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leveticus 19:18 respectively. This is a fatal blow to the Ray Comfort "Way of the Master" approach with all their emphasis on the Decalogue. Our Lord tells us that on these two Commands, to love God, and to love our neighbor depend all the Law and the Prophets. These two Commands are actually one in essance though two in form. They are identical in spirit although two in letter. If we love God, we will love our neighbor made in His image and likeness. It is impossible, IMPOSIBLE for it to be otherwise. ( 1 John 4:7 - 21) Love of God and love of neighbor are one in the same. The Will of God is manifested therefore to Christians above all in the Commandment to love. We are to love as God loves. Hear the words of St. Paul to the Romans,

"Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." (St. Paul to the Romans 13:8 - 10 (RSV CE).

Our Lord stated clearly that if we love Him, we would obey His commandments, ( St. John 14:15), and that we ought to love one another as He loved us. (St. John 15:12). St. John was consummed with the teaching of his Divine Master as is evidenced in the passage cited earlier. ( 1 John 4:7 - 21). Our Lord and His apostles summon us to love, to Love God and our neighbor in response, IN RESPONSE to the God who first loved us ( 1 John 4:10, 4:19) Again in the New Covenant, as with the first, our obedience to God and His commandments is the response of children to the initiative of our God who is love. The law is not abolioshed, but the Holy Spirit makes it interior. Our obedience is one of love freely chosen, IN RESPONSE to His love freely given.

Now compare this to some of the street "evangelism" methods being employed today. I am refering in case and point to Ray Comfort and the "Way of the Master" approach. The Ten Commandments are wrenched right out of their Judeo-Christian context and used to measure the morality of perfect strangers on street corners through something called the "good person test" discussed in part 1. If the Decalogue belongs to the Covenant of God and His people, what sense is there in showing people whom you assume, whom you ASSUME... are Godless that they have in fact failed to live up to their relationship with God? Paintbrushing people on street corners with the Law like this accomplishes little or nothing. Using the Ten Commandments in this way is disgraceful. It is an abuse of Holy Scripture and an abuse of people. (More on this in part 4). It is the cart before the horse in the worst way. It is shameful...and ridiculous...

Up next, Part 3: Was Christ Punished? If He was, that is bad news for you and I...

To Be Continued...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

[LIF] 17+ years...great to see you David!

When I first moved to Ottawa I went to a little Foursquare church with my, at the time, girlfriend. Soon after I connected strongly with a Foursquare street mission and worked with that church for almost two years. So I never put down roots in this other Foursquare church, even though it was my first Ottawa church and the second church since coming to Christ. I actually look back with fondness to those days. They were formative to my spirituality. Pastor David Kitz was the pastor then and he is a neat guy. Over the years I heard snippets of what he was up to, the church was taken over by the parents of my good friend Isabel. David went on to write a book and take on a drama ministry (which I hear is really good, I'll let you know as I snagged some CDs).

I went over with a bit of fear and trepidation. You might recall from previous posts that my reconnections with folks from my Pentecostal past hasn't always been pleasant. It is not fun being written off simply because I happen to think the whole Church is a wonderful body and bride. But my fears were dispelled when David's smile met me at the door to his home. Thanks to facebook we reconnected and it is so cool to hear his journey, and how God has brought him into a much broader place too.

What was most encouraging is our discussion of the Eucharist. I know that there is a growing sense of Euchristic desire in the evangelical church. The reign of Zwingli is of numbered days for the younger evangelicals, and I say 'good riddance!' I heard his caution as he unfolded the story of his journey, but there are definite cracks in the foundation of flat symbolism that Zwingli willed the protestant church. We are longing for real encounter, real presence.

So thanks David! Thanks for the coffee and the talk. I was blessed and I hope we don't wait another 17 years to do that again.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

[LIF] Prepping for School

Where did the summer go?

I'm writing this post from a spiffy new laptop. I needed something that could handle recording whole classes. I'm paranoid about taking courses in french this semester. I know it will be good for me, kinda like being thrown in the deep end of the pool, but still I need some recourse. So it made sense to replace my ancient workhorse with a smaller, more robust model. Hence the HP Pavilion dv2000 I'm typing on right now.

I have lots of little niggly things to do yet before I return to classes. My youngest is still not completely sorted for childcare, Sharon isn't too concerned but I'm the type that likes to have all the ducks in a row. I've been power reading McDermott's excellent book "Can Evangelicals Learn from World Religions?" I really am enjoying it, despite his obvious fascination with Edwards. I have been carrying around "The Master Plan of Evangelism" Coleman for a few weeks too, but not done much reading in it. Soon.

I really wanted to get some writing done but between learning french, trying to do some of the neglected housework and just being a family - well there isn't much time for things like writing. The odd blogpost is about it. What I want to work on is my article on Grace and the series I have planned on the Kingdom of God. Ahhh, I'll get into it soon, or so I tell myself.

Well I need to finish packing my favourite softwares onto this lappy. I'll be giving One Note another whirl, perhaps it will be easier with a better computer.

[THO] Ray makes me UnComfortable

What follows is the first of a four part guest post on the evangelism strategies of Ray Comfort. These posts are by my friend Mike Samson, someone who lived in the evangelical world before finding his home in Rome. I know this came at a great cost to Mike and I really thought this story was worth sharing. He gave me permission to repost, I haven't seen the rest of the series yet, but I thought that it would get better visibility here than as a series of Facebook notes. Hope you enjoy the series and I do hope Mike will take the time to see our comments.

Part I: Ray makes me UnComfortable

It was a bright and sunny August day in 2005. Myself, along with a whole group of "street preachers" were heading out to down town Ottawa for a day of "seed sowing" as we liked to call it. I'm sure as she began her day it would have never even entered into her mind what we were going to do to her. We started by passing out tracts and even using a microphone and amplifier to preach our peculier version of the Gospel. We liked to set up near patio restaurants because we figured people couldn't just up and leave. Whenever the owners of these establishments would "shoo" us away or call the police, we were sure it had nothing to do with our uninvited intrusion. It had nothing to do with the fact that they were simply trying to run a business and cater to their clientel. No, NO!!! It was persecution for righteousness sake aimed directly at us. We were the victims here. The devil himself was moving in and through these people to quiet our preaching. Yeah, OH YEAH!!! That was it for sure.

Late in the morning we launched our first campaign. Through a series of trivia questions with 1$ rewards for correct answers, we lured in our unsuspecting targets. Once we had a crowd, with a 20$ bill as reward, we got a volunteer to undergo the "Good Person Test." I never will forget that young lady standing there in front of everyone. Cornered...Thinking she was participating in some kind of street drama or something like that. Her face quickly changed though. It wasn't long before she began to sense that all was not on the level so to speak. She began to get very uncomfortable. It didn't stop us though. Through a despicable and deluded use of God's Holy Word and the Ten Commandments we proceeded to humiliate this young woman in front of a crowd of people in broad daylight on Sparks Street. "Have you ever lied?", "Have you ever lusted?", "Have you ever stolen?", and on and on it went. When we finally got to the part about grace, (strange grace this is indeed) it turned out that she didn't want the 20$. You see, even though you fail Ray Comfort's Good Person Test you still get the reward promised should you pass. This shows how Good God really is!! Looking back, the tears rolling down her face said it all. Her friends there with her were urging her to just "come on, let's get out of here." But in order for us to finish our little drama we needed her to take the money. Looking back, I'm glad I can say with honesty that I never administered a "Good Person Test" to anyone. I was never comfortable with the whole thing. Little did I know though that our encounter with this young woman wasn't over, at least not for me.

Later in the day, late afternoon to be exact, I saw her walking downtown. I felt terribly about what had happened that morning and wanted to let her know how sorry I was for the way we had treated her. As I approached her though, she spotted me. She stuck her arm out at me showing me her palm as if to say "stop right there." I did of course. What she said next I was not prepared for. She said,

"You stay the f#*k away from me! You people are sick in the head!"

WOW... There wasn't anything I could say. So ......I walked away. Later I recounted this turn of events to some of the team members in the group. To my surprise they seemed rather pleased!? "The Good Person Test had done it's work," I was told. "This was obviously the conviction of the Holy Spirit at work in her life." "She is on her way to 'gettin' saved'!!!" It suffices to say I wasn't convinced of that. In fact I thought we had accomplished little except to convince her that religious fanaticism was alive and well. Fanaticism of the undesirable kind. Does it make any sense to believe that she is out there now 'saved' and administering good person tests of her own to all her family and friends?

I have thought alot about that day. I have thought alot about that poor woman we abused so freely. We were so self righteousness in and through it all as well. To think that by intruding into people's lives and insulting them to no end we were doing something good for God. We were fulfilling the "Great Commission." Or were we?

This note will appear in 4 parts. Part 2 will be a brief examination of the 10 Commandments, their true application and how Ray Comfort abuses them. Part 3 will ask the question whether it is possible that Christ was punished by God His Father on the Cross, Ray Comfort's mistaken idea of the Gospel. Part 4 will be an invitation to engage in real evangelism, and all that it entails.

I won't apologize for this note. My prayer is that it will challenge the hearts and minds of those who engage in these types of practices.

As always, your comments are welcomed, whether sympathetic or critical. I will not delete any of them. :-)

To Be Continued...

Monday, August 20, 2007

[LIF] I Passed My Exam!!!!!

Just got the results. The requirement of passive French comprehension has been met! Wow, I am so relieved. Thursday I go in to complete the enrollment and in two weeks I'll be starting classes. I've still a long way to go, two of my classes this semester are in French! That is going to be crazy. I still struggle with spoken French, but it is coming along. Watching the news helps.

I've started a new experimental blog. One of the things that I've found helpful in my Christian walk is randomly showing up at a church and praying in the sanctuary. Most churches are tickled pink to have someone come in off the street to pray. I usually poke my head in the office and ask if it is ok, then go and enjoy God in their place. I love that about St. Paul, there are a few great chapels to use in this way. Often I'll go into one and pray through the daily office, out loud if I'm alone. I'm looking for ways to replicate such experiences online. So I created a blog a while ago called the Praying Pastor. Then I thought, "what an arrogant name for a blog."

Well, it might be, but my disclaimer is that I'm not a super prayer, or even a consistant prayer. But I do believe in praying and I thought that I could create a space for public prayer online. So this is my space. But like any good chapel, I'm opening it up. You can join in the prayers through comments. Or even become a member of that blog (Blogger) to just pray out your own prayers as you feel fit.

Who knows, maybe it will fizzle as an experiment? But it is worth a try. Please be respectful that it is a prayer room and not a conversation room. If I get questions or comments, I'll likely port them to this blog for discussion.

Friday, August 17, 2007

[LIF] Gone Marrying

It is not for lack of things to say that I've been silent. I'm about to perform my very first marriage tomorrow and have been a bit busy learning the chops. I'm joining two dear friends from my gaming community and I'm really stoked. Plus we are doing it at some really spiffy digs - the National Arts Centre. Not bad for my first eh? Anyway, in case you missed me, I'm hoping to get back to a sanity sometime next week.

Friday, August 10, 2007

[THO] Otherworldly Antics

I heard about this Heaven's Rehearsal event and couldn't believe it. I've heard of some pretty arrogant Christian ideas but this just takes the cake. Although the idea of worshipping with a massive number of people has a great appeal to me. There are some real issues that need to be addressed with the way this event is being billed.

First it is based on a flawed eschatology. This escapist notion misses completely that the Kingdom of God is Heaven. Heaven is not some far off spatial reality to which we are all Hoovered away. Heaven is the presence of the fullness of the Kingdom of God. So instead of playing out some otherworldly drama in a fit of narcissism, worship is meant to orient us towards the world that God so loved. It turns our heart to God to get ahold of what God loves. God came here and sent us here. Why do we somehow think our lot is to simply hold the fort until we go off to some literalized hyper-Eden. Meanwhile, leaving the real object of God's love to suffer the grossness of our sin. It doesn't add up.

They opening page says that the purpose is to pollinate the Kingdom. What it pollinates is this narcissistic notion that God loves those who bury themselves in the ground until God's return. Have we even listened to Jesus at all? If you really want to see the Kingdom of God, get your arse out of the Church and go where God is. Visit those in prison, offer help to the poor, embrace those with aids, heal the sick, love the lost and do something worthy of the Kingdom of God.

The idea that this is a rehearsal is so deeply offensive. We are living the real deal folks. Life is not just some practice session that doesn't matter. God returns to destroy those who destroy the earth! For the love God stop living in a fantasy world and realize that what God created is very good, and God longs to restore that goodness. You want to practice for heaven - then learn to love justice. Worship and justice are meant to kiss - this event sounds like worship is kissing off justice.

I hope they have a good time at this one. In fact I hope God shows up and blows the whole thing onto the street where it might actually do some good. Me, I'm going to invest my talent in the world and see what returns I might get. I know my God is a tough task master who will not look favourably on those who simply buried their talents in fear. I urge you to do the same.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

[LIF] Summertime

I wrote my french exam yesterday. What a relief. I'm sure I bombed the grammer section, and when he asked me to speak about the article I read en francais I choked at first. He said, it's ok so I plowed into it. Badly, but I did it. All in all the article was not too hard to read, knowing scriptures really well helped me immensly though, and I was able to respond fairly well to the questions he asked me about it in french. (I answered in English BTW). He told me my passive comprehension was good. This is the same guy who told me on my first visit that I had very basic french. Having a tutor was the best decision for me, thanks Franck! Plus now I need to continue so that by the time I'm ready to teach I am fluently bi-lingual. I think I'll enroll in some conversational groups though, now that the pressure is gone.

Over the long weekend, instead of cramming, we went camping with our friend Kurt. It was an amazing time. Charleston Lake near Kingston, I highly recommend it. The highlight was Sunday morning, Sharon took all the kids to a park activity and Kurt went back to bed. I had my Sunday lectionary and a french bible. What was funny was I didn't know what Sunday we were on, so I decided to have a personal service with somewhat random readings. I went and stood looking out over the calm, sparkling lake and began the service. It was calming and wonderful. When I got to the readings I sat down at the picnic table and read John 3, Psalm 1 and Ephesians 1. All texts I know fairly well. Then I returned to the lake for my general intercessions. If I had elements handy I would have done a Eucharist, but instead I returned to the picnic table and just listened for the voice of the Spirit. Soon I was led to open up another chapter of John, the french was not hard as I read how God had chosen me be bear fruit that lasts. I was greatly encouraged and thanked God as Sharon pulled up with the kids.

Nature is such the perfect cathedral. I always think that when I get a chance to do a liturgy in the midst of creation, I wish I did that more often.

Friday, August 03, 2007

[LIF] Moi, je parle en francais...sort of

Learning a langauge in a short amount of time is hard. Doing it when your family expects you to be on vacation with them is even harder. I'm pretty happy with my progress, but I am cramming a lot at night trying to make the most of internet and film resources. When I listent to french I no longer feel like I have no clue what is going on, but I still know that I don't understand that much. It is like the feeling I get listening to spoken German, I feel like I should understand it but it is just outside of my grasp. I'm taking that as progress. However, the real test is coming, literally. I write a comprehensive french competency test on Tuesday at 1PM. The school only cares about reading and passive listening. I've been focusing on these two things more than writing or speaking. In fact I have a lot of hesitation in speaking. Sure I can fumble together crude thoughts but maybe it is my pride that keeps me from stepping out. It will come though.