Tuesday, 28 May 2013

In Response to Pope Francis: A Call For Mystery

In a recent article Pope Francis declared that some people can be good and not Christian; I agree. In fact both the Pope and I agree with the some foundational principles of creation and redemption. Everything is originally created good. Man and woman as image bearers of God are created very good. This original blueprint becomes the ultimate redemption promise of Christ who through his Death and Resurrection has sought to restore and work all of creation for his purpose. Colossians 1 tells us that in Christ "all things have been created through him and for him" (Colossians 1:16). This includes Atheists, Buddhists  Muslims  etc. "Through him" all things have been reconciled to him, "whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross" (Colossians 1:20).

Beyond this agreement however I am uncomfortable with the  "if-then" clause he is proposing. The Pope suggests that in this life we should "do good" and "we will meet one another there.” While poetically beautiful and reminiscent of  Maximus' famous line in the popular movie Gladiator ("What we do in life echoes in eternity") it is a false order of reality. The central difference between Islam and Christianity as an example is that we receive the grace of God before repentance. Repentance is but an important fruit of what has already been given. I should be clear however that I am not proposing the modern Christian call to intellectual acceptance of Christianity in order to be saved; nor am I proposing the popular understanding of Universalism (ie: we are all touching one part of the same truth).  Rather I propose we accept the beautiful reality that this is God's mystery. Salvation through an intellectual acceptance of Christianity is simply another form of what the Pope is proposing. The prerequisite for salvation in both instances is in human action. Whether through the mind or the body. The mystery of salvation is that Christ has redeemed everyone, but for whatever reason, in the end not all will be at the wedding table. We can you use different passages of Scripture to support our arguments for why that may or may not be. But nobody really knows, and I think that is how Christ wants it.

Just because all have been saved by Christ, this does not mean that all live into that salvation. While those who experience the ultimate power of grace will seek a new life in him we can (and often do) choose to cheapen this by living without discipleship. We rely on a grace that is devoid of the cross, a "grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate” (Bonhoeffer, Cost of Discipleship). But we must always remember that it is "only because he became like us that we can become like him” (Bonhoeffer). This fruit bearing life is always "miraculous" and created by God alone.

"It is never the result of the willing, but always a growth. The fruit of the Spirit is a gift of God, and only He can produce it. They who bear it know as little about it as the tree knows of its fruit. They know only the power of Him on whom their life depends” (Bonhoeffer).

In short the Pope and I agree that God chooses to work good through all people, but this does not mean that  the good that is done will be the reason for our place in the new Jerusalem. The source for all redemption, reconciliation, and new creation is in Christ alone.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Loyalty and the heart of Hockey in Valleyview Alberta

Small towns in Canada represent the heart of Canadian hockey. I was walking around Valleyview, Alberta on my day off today and saw this sign. The call to bring back the Winnipeg Jets in the late nineties became a grassroots movement which moved into a matter of national identity. This is an example of the heart of that movement. Long before the possibility of the Jets ever coming back, people from local communities all over Canada rallied around their long lost team.

2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs

The only team that will be able to stop the stack Pittsburgh Penguins  is the Chicago Blackhawks. Chicago is the only team that can match the wave of experience, power, and skill the comes shift after shift from the Penguins. Not only does this team have the two best players in the world in Malkin and Crosby; but also have a plethora of other offensive options like Iginla, James Neal, Brendan Morrow, Dupius, Letang, and Kunitz just to name a few. The key to these players is not just their offensive ability but also their character. Iginla and Morrow are proven leaders who will do anything to help their team win. That said if the Chicago Blackhawks catch fire I do think they can mount a challenge....all of this is prefaced on Chicago overcoming the pesky and always dangerous Detroit Red Wings. While some might suggest that the power and grit of the Bruins could be enough to end the Penguins Stanley Cup hopes, my guess is that with the additions of Iginla and Morrow will give them enough character to push through. P.S. John Tortella is ridiculous.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

A Treeplanter's View of Pentecost

In a treeplanting camp the tension between a deeply knit community and the desire for individual wealth is strong. People of various backgrounds and worldviews come together in pursuit of being pushed to their limits and making money in a short period of time. Restoring the earth of the trees that have been lost and the strong relational ties that are created in a diverse community are often considered secondary benefits to the money that is made. It is incredibly difficult on both a mental and physical level, so earning your reward is crucial for most (for me!). Yet God chooses to work with our individual aspirations in creating a community of people who genuinely care for one another.

Pentecost is a re-visioning of God's purpose for our lives. It is the healing of Babel and a reflection of Jubilee. In Babel the community becomes one for the purpose of idolatry. The virtue of relational coherence runs wild into a desire to become monolithic gods of one language and purpose. But God does not give up on his pre-designed purpose of diversity and unity in him. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit allows us to speak to one another coherently within the diversity of our languages. In the last few days I have had passionate and respectful conversations with friends from a range of worldviews and perspectives. Whether they know it or not we have come together under the uniting of the Holy Spirit, and fed each other with the wisdom of Sophia written on the heart of all humanity through the power of Christ (Romans 1:20; Colossians 1:15-20; Proverbs 9).

While we often unite under the purpose of individual wealth, Christ purposes us into giving of ourselves for the sake of the other. Leviticus 25 calls us to reset our desire for individual wealth and give to each other equally. At Pentecost the early Christians re-vision this call of Jubilee in their own community as "all the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need" (Acts 2:44-45). While this often goes against the central purpose of an individual's purpose to go treeplanting, the mutual suffering and hardship that a treeplanter goes through in a summer often decreases the value of the money that is made (at least in midsummer perception). In order to remain sane and loyal to the daily task at hand individual's turn to one another for support. While the early church experienced much greater hardship then any treeplanter or most western persons today could imagine, I have seen how even the smallest amount of daily suffering can either bring us together or force us apart. May the power of the Holy Spirit continue to bring us together for the purpose of the common good in our communities and global humanity.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

The Idolatry of Community

The narrative of the Tower of Babel reminds us that simply being in a strong community is not what God wants. Scripture tells us the people of Babel had such a coherent identity in relation to one another that they all "used the same language and the same words." They became such a unified force in the world that nothing they purposed themselves to do was "impossible for them" (Genesis 11:6). This lack of diversity and fear of God forced God to scatter them and confused their language. God fragmented their strong tight knit community...

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Creational Law and Scripture

Creational Law as understood from the Bible was formed before the creation of the world, and is God's blueprint for creation (Proverbs 8):

Friday, 3 May 2013

The Problem of How to Understand Sin and Righteousness

Understanding original sin is a complicated issue. Should we fully accept Augustine's perspective? Or Luther's? Or how American evangelism has altered the original understanding of those perspectives?

The purpose of original sin is centrally to show us that we need God. Not to solely judge us on some personal level. Judgement is primarily intended to be a positive thing where God makes the world right. Psalm 82:3 declares that God will “judge the poor and the orphan.” The only coherent way to read this passage is to see Judgment as God’s bringing justice to the world, and making all things right.

I think Jesus often uses the term "righteous" as a rhetorical strawman to make a bigger point.

In Luke 5 Jesus is said to be eating with sinners and tax collectors when the Pharisees come to ridicule him for associating with such people. He responds that he has "not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” We know from other passages that Jesus obviously does not think the Pharisees are "righteous" in its most literal meaning, but is juxtaposing their self-righteous piety with people who are fully aware of their brokenness  It is not about who is good or bad in the individualistic modern sense, but God's grace which is over all of us.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Post-Liberal vs. Contextual Theology

A major problem in Modern Christian theology has been the tendency to emphasize methodologies like historical critique and the contextualization of scripture over and above understanding scripture as God’s word preserved by him throughout time as his canonical revelation through the church. Post-liberal theology wants to affirm that God was in control of the canonical process, and continues to speak to us to through his word in the here and now. Furthermore we should not be so arrogant to assume that God’s voice was muffled in Christian theology before the modern age. The theology of Irenaeus, Luther, and Augustine should be taken just as seriously as modern historical critical thinkers like N.T. Wright and Marcus Borg. At the end of the day, the revelation of Scripture speaking into our lives is God’s work not our own. The methodology of inter-textual canonical reading is used heavily by post-liberal theologians along with examining the patterns in past Christian theology to see how God was and is continuing to work in the Scripture. Post-liberal theologian David Yeago, as an example, likes to show how past theologians like Martin Luther would actually agree a lot with what folks like N.T. Wright and the New Perspective on Paul have to say. In his commentary on Matthew Stanley Hauerwas gave himself rules that he would not fall into the historical critical trap of theorizing Matthew’s historical context. Instead his only exegetical reference would be scripture itself (how does a passage in Matthew relate to other passages in the Old and New Testament?) and how it applies to our current context today.    

While Contextual theologians like Sylvia Keesmaat, Brian Walsh, and Ellen Davis understand the danger of thinking historical critical lenses will allow us to more objectively understand scripture, examining our context as it potentially relates to the context or narrative of scripture is seen as important in understanding how God might be moving in our lives. When we see the human context of the scripture, we are able to relate to each in other in our joys and our suffering...