Archive for February, 2007

Random thoughts on “A heretics guide to eternity”

Random thoughts on “A heretics guide to eternity”


A few months ago I received a review copy of Spencer’s latest book and I’ve been putting off the review for a long time.  I skimmed the reviews of people like Scot McKnight and I didn’t hear a lot of positive things.  I’d say that my initial impression of the book was worse than most of the reviewers.  From a typical orthodox evangelical point of view the book is a theological train wreck.  Spencer really challenges the traditional perspectives.

Through the first half of the book I’d say the biggest area of conflict I have with the book is Spencer’s characterization of “religion” and “institutional Christianity.”  Being part of a faith tradition (Anabaptism) that can pretty much write the book on being a post-establishment, post-Christendom expression of church you’d think I’d resonate strongly with his critique but I don’t.   I found it broad and imprecise.
Spencer blames “institutional Christianity” for things that are more poignantly a product of conservative American evangelicalism.   With references to things like the culture wars and capitalist style churches there is a huge disconnect for me as a Canadian.  The Christianity he critiques is not one that I’ve observed.  Much of his critique reveals an American bias.

Spencer talks about how institutional expressions are not working for people.  While I don’t disagree that a great many people are disenchanted with church I’m concerned with the way he frames the issue.  It comes across as very consumerist.  Regular church just didn’t work for Spencer so he moved on.  According to Spencer people are rejecting church because they don’t relate to the message.  That we need to present the message of Jesus outside the brand of Christianity.   I think he is wrong.  The rate at which people accept the message of the cross does not necessarily correlate with how relevant the message is.  The message of the cross was scorned upon by most of the people it was presented to in the early years of Christianity.  I believe our problem is that we’ve rebranded church culture as Christianity.  If we give up on the Christian brand what will we do when the next brand we adopt becomes institutionalized and muddied.

I’d be much more comfortable if we changed the church so that we are more faithfully represented Christ and connect people with Him rather than ourselves.  The church is not a franchise of grace to hungry spiritual consumers, but a vehicle for Christians committed with one another to proclaim Christ and build His Kingdom. 

Spencer does a thorough job of disassembling Christianity but the reassembly seems to be missing a few components.   In his book he consistently purposes that Christ cannot be contained within Christianity.  Christianity must “release the claim to universal privilege it grants itself as the only ’true religion’.” 

The discussion as to whether Christ’s saving grace extends to those outside of the Christian faith is an interesting one.  On that issue I like to use a phrase adapted from my discussions with the Eastern Orthodox.  With one particular person we were discussing whether evangelicals and other Protestants are actually the church.  This person would say he is sure of where the church is, not where the church is not.  I have a very good idea as to who is saved, I’m not as sure of who isn’t.  Regardless Christ instructed his followers to proclaim his message to the ends of the earth.  The implication is that his message is superior. 

Paul’s perspective is that the message of the cross was a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks, but to those being saved it was the power of God.  I believe this is an essential element to being Christ’s disciple.  I will say that the message the church often proclaims in North America is not Christ crucified, but the values of a specific subculture.  I believe our problem lies more in that we preach church values and principles rather than Christ.  Not only is our message unpalatable but it has no power as well. 

The next missing element is the problem of evil.  It would be difficult to explain to one of my buddies who came out of Satanism that Christ we can plumb the depths of other religions and find Christ without much concern.  There is evil, error and deception.  One must have some form of guide or framework to discern which is which.   That inevitably leads one to make judgment calls.

As a simple church advocate I have my share of beefs with church institutions.  We have to be real though.  Even the smallest group of people can end up becoming an institution with its own subculture that can slowly disconnect from the reality of Christ.  I don’t think you can completely deinstitutionalize any faith that requires people to commit to one another and work together.  Even decentralized expressions of Christian community like blogs or forums have their own pitfalls. 

In other emerging church books I’ve found myself agreeing with the critique but found myself unsatisfied with the purposed solutions.  With “A Heretics guide for eternity” I resonated with neither.
 

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My attraction to green issues

My attraction to green issues


My mind has been a bit pre-occupied with the environment. I’m continually thinking of what I could do
next in my house to reduce my “carbon footprint”.  It’s nice to think about things where I can
see tangible change (and watch my utility bills decrease).  The bug has so infected me I’ve started
spotting power sucking lamps at the school. 
Tomorrow the thaw happens so I’ll be doing some work on two storm
windows on sliders that have slid down a little too much.   We had
an aha moment when we figured out exactly why it was so much cooler in two
rooms of our house.

I must confess I like thinking about this stuff more than
church stuff right now.  I’m tired of
donut emerging church ministries.  What
is a donut ministry?  It is lots of hype
around the sides but nothing of substance in the middle.  I’m tired of people talking about change and not
changing.  I’m tired of reading people
complaining about all the talk…so I guess I’m pretty much hooped on that one.

Forgive me but I think I have a bit of pent up
frustration. 

I joined the Green Party a little while ago. 
Yep…the Green Party.  Must seem
odd, just a little while after I proclaimed I was becoming an “unapologetic
Liberal.”  The truth is my membership expired
and the same old disingenuous crap about Harper came flowing out of Dion’s
mouth that was flowing out of Martin’s mouth. 
I really wish all the brain dead pundits would look up Neo-Conservative
in Wikipedia and find out it really doesn’t mean an “extra-right wing”
conservative.

I switched because I believe the environment is the greatest issue facing our nation.  There is a lot of work to be done and I want to be a part of it. 

I also moved to a riding where the Liberals come in a
distant 3rd and I can’t say I liked the clowns to the left of me and
the jokers to the right.  I’ve only been
to one Green Party get together and they seem like good folk.  They are more idealistic and principled which
makes them easier to work with.  I get
way more opportunity to use my talents in a fresh organization.  I really like that. 

I think the highlight of my day was buying Carol a monstrous
chocolate heart from her favorite chocolate store.  (I hope she gives me some….it looks really
good).   

 

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Matthew's Music Playlist

Matthew’s Music Playlist


For about a year I’ve enjoyed a Yahoo Music Unlimited subscription.  Our 6 year old, Matthew has his own playlist.  It has three songs.

I can’t dance – Genesis
We will rock you – Queen
Another Brick in the Wall Part 2 – Pink Floyd

I’m so proud!

STAND STILL LADDY!

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This quiz turned out to be more accurate than I expected


Lifelike Electronic Individual Generated for Hazardous Troubleshooting and Online Nullification


Get Your Cyborg Name

Thanks Krisis

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National Post series on climate change misrepresented scientists

 National Post series on climate change misrepresented scientists


In a previous post I linked to a series in the National Post on climate change.  Up until now I thought it was the most persuasive set of articles arguing against the notion that human activity is causing global warming.  It turns out the author of that series so mischaracterized one scientist in particular that he issued a press release setting the record straight.  

There are a couple of other mischaracterizations as well.

Interesting to see this come out when in another article in the post an author was complaining that scientists that didn’t believe in the “climate catachism” were being muzzled.  

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Sign me up when contemporary worship gets this good

Sign me up when contemporary worship gets this good



I have become comfortably numb!

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FireFox 2 is brutal right now

FireFox 2 is brutal right now


I had switched over to Firefox has my main browser.  Unfortunately FF2 has serious memory issues and it crashes a lot.  I just imported my bookmarks in to IE7 which I seem to be using more and more.  I guess it’s because I’d like to have some memory left over for other applications.

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Oh man was I ever wrong on Garth Turner

Oh man was I ever wrong on Garth Turner


Check out this post.  Then compare that with the text of this interview.  BTW I think Prairie Wrangler is one the best Canadian political blogs out there.

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Yes folks Doug Heidebrecht is now blogging

 Yes folks Doug Heidebrecht is now blogging


After years of pressure the dam has broken and a torrent of new posts have flooded forth.

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global warming, climate change, environment, Kyoto

Why I jumped on the climate change bandwagon


Up until a few weeks ago I had only taken moderate strides towards reducing my impact on the environment.  After seeing An Inconvenient Truth it forced me to think through the issues on a deeper level.  It isn’t uncommon for documentaries from popular left of centre personalities to have serious flaws.  Fortunately Al Gore’s latest work is a cut above Bowling for Columbine but it isn’t perfect.

I found other resources helpful. This is a good article on the issue.  Here is Wikipedia’s article.

Based on what I have looked at I’d say that no one can be 100% sure we are barreling towards a global environmental catastrophe.   However it is far too risky to ignore the risks.  There is only about a 0.1 percent chance I’ll be in a car accident tomorrow but I will still wear my seat belt.   There is little doubt the earth is getting warmer but no one can say with great assurance how warm it will get and how it will change the climate patterns on the earth.   There is a strong chance we will experience things like stronger storms and rising sea levels.

The global warming skeptics have arguments that have strength on the surface but upon closer examination don’t carry much weight.  Some point to the fact that some areas of Antarctica are getting colder and some glaciers are getting larger.  What they fail to grapple with is that when you heat the earth the wind and ocean currents that redistribute heat across the globe change.  Some places will get colder.   The issue is whether the earth on average is getting warmer and whether more ice is melting than forming.

This article points out sea levels have not changed much.  This is true because most of the polar ice that has melted is sea ice.  When the land based ice begins to melt in significant quantities we will see sea levels rise.  The skeptics, some of whom are well funded by elements of industries with a financial motivation to muddy the waters of climate change, seem desperate to attach themselves to any plausible theory that would let us off the hook.  

Some articles written by skeptics attempt to use individual scientists to poke holes in the scientific evidence for climate change but can’t seem to construct a better alternative theory.  One scientist is appealed to point out global warming isn’t happening.   Then another is used to claim that global warming isn’t all that bad.  This series in the National Post is a good example of this.

Not all the skeptics are stooges of the oil industry.  Not all the advocates on global warming are completely upfront about the weaknesses in the science.  In An Inconvenient Truth an animation depicts a rise of 20 foot in sea level in New York and other cities even though most estimates put the rise at 3 feet.  The documentary warns of light fresh water from Greenland stopping the ocean current that brings warmth to France.   This outcome is highly unlikely.

The sad thing is this issue has been politicized by those on the right and the left.  In as much as I think Stephane Dion is sincere about wanting to face this issue, the sudden and radical transformation of the Liberal Party is just as suspect as Harper’s recent conversion.  As for the NDP I don’t have to look much farther than my own province to find hypocrisy on the issue.  Despite the polarization between the right and the left on this issue many prominent evangelicals have awoken to climate change.

There are still elements that believe this whole thing is a scam.  To take this approach is to really bury your head in the sand.  There is a small chance the majority of scientists could be wrong.  Perhaps when solar activity drops in the next 20 years we’ll see the temperatures come back down.  Do we really want to risk it?  Are we really so sure that the majority of the world’s scientists have been co-opted by some socialist scam?

I believe that climate change is a moral issue.  It is an issue of personal responsibility.  We all have to act and we cannot expect the government to do it for us.  If we do not change we will reap what we have sown.

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