Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What is a Pastor?

I'm wondering here. I think that some people think a pastor is someone you can walk all over and will just take it with a smile. The reason I think this is that when folks do that to me long enough I bite back - and when I do I feel like a complete failure. I know that this is really my issue, but I'm wondering if there isn't a better theory of pastor that might encourage me. Help me frame my responses better. Really I should learn to stand up earlier when folks are abusive towards me. Shoulda coulda woulda - yeah.

Looking forward to what you have to share.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

When is it Helpful?

I'm watching a few blogs report the sad news about Benny Hinn's immanent divorce. As you know I'm not a real fan of Hinn, I think he is quite heterodox actually. But what I'm wondering is when and how it is actually helpful to bring a critique on a Christian ministry? It is a serious question. I find that sometimes I want to jump right in when folks are slamming what I consider to be gross theological errors. But then another part of me wonders how helpful that is. I'm not afraid to give my opinion, but at the same time I need to be self-aware enough that I realize that I'm not always going to be right.

I'm wondering what your thoughts are? When it is helpful? What form is helpful? Is there a line we shouldn't cross? What do we do when we inadvertently or deliberately cross that line?

For the meanwhile my heart goes out to the folks who have put Benny up on a pedestal. I trust that you will meet God in your pain. I trust that God is working through this whole situation and will ultimately have the last word.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Bulwarks of Belief (B van den Berg; Repost)

By the fifteenth century, Europe had emerged from the Age of Calamity (as referenced by one of my history books), or an age of anxiety as described by Charles Taylor (p.88).

In this new era comes two major societal transformations: the Renaissance and the Reformation. On page 75, Taylor turns his attention to the impact of one particular Protestant theology, Calvanism. It emerges* during the Reformation as a continuation of St. Augustine's thoughts on God's sovereignty and our predestination, as furthered by John (Jean) Calvin.

* Could they be the Emergents of their day? But I digress ...

According to Taylor, the Reformation - and particularly Calvanism - is central to the "abolition of the cosmos" (that is, the loss of the enchanted world) and the "eventual creation of a humanist alternative to faith". The Calvanist approach to faith leaves little room for mystery. In an attempt to create a rigid system of theology (and by rigid, I mean the need to have everything figured out), there is a "lock on the mysteries" (p.78). Anyone with experience in Calvanism recognizes this trait; there is little room for mystery or wonder. Taylor states that this "offers a model for the later humanist hostility to mystery" (p78).

Taylor discusses three levels that are emphasized with the Calvanist Reform: 1) a disciplined personal life, 2) a well ordered society, and 3) a right inner attitude. The third level creates a cycle that oscillates between salvation and depravity. We are saved, but before we become too comfortable we are reminded that we are depraved, but before we become too distraught we are reminded that we are saved ... The second level results in attempts to engineer society through social reforms, and causes the pendulum to swing between spasms of Arminianism and Calvinism.

Finally, this age also sees the "succession of elites from popular culture" (p.87). The elites begin to view moments of anti-structure (that is, the times the populace lets off steam, such as Carnival) as simply depraved acts, whereas previously they would have actively participated; there had been little difference in the activities of elites (clergy, nobility) and the common folk. It is here that Taylor argues this is the forerunner of political correctness. There is also the establishment of a "less enchanted" version of the Catholic church by the elites.

And now, for my own observations:

Recognizing that Taylor doesn't normally opine, his use of phrases like "horrifying conclusions" (p.78) and "repelling people from the faith" (p.79) make it easy to infer his views on Calvanism. Without forgetting about the log in my own eye, the phrases could be applied to his own Catholic faith too. There have been many other so-called Christian institutions fraught with corruption, playgrounds for bloodshed, politics, and power (in the manner of repelling people from the faith). I agree with him more so on the Problem of Evil - which cannot be addressed by Calvanism - and the movement towards total disenchantment (abolition of mystery). Whereas one cannot base an entire system of theology on Romans 9, one cannot dismiss it either.

I am hesitant to accept that one specific Protestant theology can be given as large a responsibility for ushering in certain aspects of the modern secular age as Taylor initially suggests, but there are over 700 pages left and I hope to find more answers there.

I gave thought to our own elites in North Atlantic societies; whereas the sixteenth century saw a succession between elites and the common folk, our own society sees an entire class of elites created by popular culture. We create icons out of movie stars, athletes, musicians, and politicians (for example, the recent Obama Mania). We adore them, gossip about them, keep track of them, and then discard them when they no longer interest us (or fail us). This is almost akin to the anti-structure described by Taylor, such as fools made king for a day, or a child in Bishop's clothes. Is our society coming full circle on some of these things?

Finally, his quick statement about the birth of political correctness could have used more fleshing out (as in, some data or studies to support his argument). What can I say? zetetic skepsis ...

Please comment here.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

So Sad...

This makes me want to weep. What leap of logic could support the idea that our interaction with God could possibly automated? Has God become that depersonalized? Is it possible to think that God responds to petitions that cost us nothing but a wee bit of money - oh wait, that's that the whole notion of charities is based on. Sorry, my bad. Carry on. I'll be the one weeping in the corner over here.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Paper Proposals

I fired off two paper proposals this week. Well one just got back from my director and will be packaged up and emailed out in the next day or two. It is a bit of a challenge to choose something that will help with my dissertation work, but will also not be too much my dissertation. I think I have hit on it, hopefully one or both will get accepted.

The first is for the AAR Eastern Regionals, here in Ottawa! I'm proposing to write on the the Emerging church as an evangelical effort to return from a self-imposed cultural exile. Basically I'll be comparing Carl Henry's project in The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism with what is written about Emerging church forays into social justice.

The second is for CETA at Congress 2010 (Concordia, Mtl). And I want to look at the problem of imprecision in popular evangelical terminology. In this one I'll be taking a focused look at the term missional. I have written about that term here in the past, this will be a good opportunity to spend quality time with the Gospel and Our Culture Network folks (their books anyway). The title I have so far is: Is there a Missional Bridge to Evangelical Unity? I think it is catchy.

I figure I'll just try for two this year. I did two proposals last year and ended up with both being accepted. This was great, except both conferences are in the same month, the same month as the Vineyard pastoral retreat! It made for a busy month and this year Sharon is also writing an exam in that same month.