Monthly Archives: May 2011

A Prayer

O Lord, we come this morning
Knee-bowed and body-bent
Before thy throne of grace.
O Lord — this morning –
Bow our hearts beneath our knees,
And our knees in some lonesome valley.
We come this morning —
Like empty pitchers to a full fountain,
With no merits of our own.
O Lord — open up a window of heaven,
And lean out far over the battlements of glory,
And listen this morning.


James Weldon Johnson, from God’s Trombones

Theology of Nakedness

“So, how do you feel about nudity?”
“Personally it has always left me cold.”

Waldorf and Statler, the Muppets.

Tim Challies has a post up about his reflections on watching the documentary Human Planet. He ends up making this observation:

There Is No Innocence
A couple of the episodes in this series show nudity—either women with bare breasts or men who do not cover up their genitals. I watched these episodes and thought little of it at the time; it was just like reading a National Geographic. In many cultures breasts are almost-wholly functional (something that becomes obvious when you watch women nurse monkeys or gazelles!). In other cultures the women cover their genitals but the men to do not. And yet as I reflected on this I realized that nudity is nudity, whether functional or sexual. Those cultures that do not cover themselves are doing so despite the consequence of sin, not apart from it. It is not innocence that keeps them from covering up what has become shameful after the Fall, but disobedience. Nakedness is not redeemed even in a culture where it is considered meaningless.

So, now I’m trying to work through a practical theology of nakedness after the Fall, and a theology of nakedness for a Christian. My thoughts are all over the place, so I’m going to do them in point-form.

1. “Nakedness is not redeemed even in a culture where it is considered meaningless.” I can see his point. We will one day be clothed with robes of white (Rev 6:11), we will not be returned to naked. On the other hand, we we will be given resurrected bodies, which seems to suggest that our nakedness will be redeemed.

2. On the other hand, what do we do with things like Song of Solomon, which clearly (explicitly) praise the nakedness between a husband and a wife?

3. For a Christian, is the problem nudity or modesty? Can a tribe where women do not cover their breasts still be practicing modesty? If this tribe encounters the gospel should they be expected to start dressing differently?

4. If nudity is disobedience then shouldn’t we as Christians be fully clothed all the time? And how fully is fully clothed? In the 19th century, it was titillating for a guy to even catch a glimpse of a woman’s ankle. Should we always wear socks (please say no! I hate socks!) Does this mean that muslim women who observe the practice of wearing burkas are more obedient than we are? Should we be making burkas for men?

5. What about the phase that all toddlers go through? Parents, you know what I mean: The Naked Phase. No matter what you do, the clothes come off. It’s a stage, it’s a way for them to learn how to undress (and hopefully eventually redress). Are they practicing disobedience or is it a natural psychological development? And, then, what about naked potty-training? Are we encouraging disobedience by using this technique to get them out of diapers?

Perhaps the solution is to emulate the best muppet discourse: Sam’s Discourse on Nudity.

What are your thoughts? Let’s talk about nudity!

N.T. Wright, Stephen Hawking and Heaven

So supposedly Stephen Hawking made a comment earlier this week that heaven is a fairytale. N.T. Wright has written a response over at the Washington Post:

Hawking is working with a very low-grade and sub-biblical view of ‘going to heaven.’ Of course, if faced with the fully Christian two-stage view of what happens after death — first, a time ‘with Christ’ in ‘heaven’ or ‘paradise,’and then, when God renews the whole creation, bodily resurrection — he would no doubt dismiss that as incredible. But I wonder if he has ever even stopped to look properly, with his high-octane intellect, at the evidence for Jesus and the resurrection? I doubt it — most people in England haven’t. Until he has, his opinion about all this is worth about the same as mine on nuclear physics, i.e. not much.

Also, check out the conversation about Stephen Hawking’s comments over at First Thoughts.

20th Century Theology

One of my favourite and most useful books on my bookshelf is Grenz and Olson’s 20th Century Theology. It does a really good job of tracing the ebb and flow of theology (particularly in tracing how the pendulum of theology swings back and forth between emphasizing the transcendence and immanence of God). The only downside is that the book is a little dated, and being written in the early 90′s is missing some of the late 20th century theological developments.

Well! Good news! Roger Olson has announced on his blog that he is in the process of revising and updating the book!

He writes:

I am now in the process of revising 20th Century Theology. The revised, updated work will include more chapters on 19th century theology (thus probably requiring a new title) and postmodern theology. One glaring omission of 20th century theology was Kierkegaard who got only passing mention in the introduction to the section on neo-orthodoxy….the revision of 20th Century Theology… will probably turn out to be a whole new book on modern theology incorporating some of the material in 20th Century Theology.

I am very excited :)

Barth, Barth, Everywhere is Barth

I’m in the middle of reading two books at once (quel surprise). I am reading Clark Pinnock’s Flame of Love as part of my post-course work for the Theology of the Holy Spirit class I took last week. At the same time, I am reading my m-day present, Michael Horton’s The Christian Faith.

It’s been interesting to see how both books, which come at theology from two very different traditions (Horton from a Reformed perspective, Pinnock from an Arminian perspective), are both interacting heavily with Karl Barth.

For example, I just finished reading Pinnock’s chapter on the Spirit and Christology, and he presents a recapitulation and representative view of Christ. In doing so, he describes the parable of the Prodigal Son and how Christ is the Prodigal Son. As I read it, I said to myself, “this sounds an awful lot like Barth.” Sure enough, I got to the end of the discussion and Pinnock’s footnote for the section points to Barth’s examination of the Prodigal Son in CD IV.

In Horton’s book, I’ve read the first five chapters, and Barth is present in every chapter. For example, in his chapter on Revelation, Horton gives a very good summary of the argument between Barth and Brunner over the issue of Natural Theology.

What I find even more interesting, is that I can identify references, interactions and influences of Barth before even getting to the footnotes. You know what that means….I’ve been reading too much Barth! Hahaha.

Of course, once I’m done reading Pinnock and writing the reflection paper, it’s on to the major paper for the class. My topic: Karl Barth’s Theology of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. It’s definitely a Barthian year.

Random Blog Posts and Stuff

Jon Coutts writes about why he is dropping TGC blogs from his reading list:

But as we are only connected by their celebrity and influence within a big thing called evangelicalism, and since I have found their blogs more discouragingly mystifying than helpful, and because they have not once interacted with my comments and questions, and since those of their followers who have interacted with me have not appeared to consider anything I’ve said, I have decided that their blogs are hardly worth the effort. I actually feel that my presence there has only served to solidify other commenters in their allegiance to their views.

*****************

Speaking of TGC, Kevin DeYoung wishes that Christian colleges highlight “just” moms in their promotional and alumnus materials:

So here’s my challenge: let me know if you’ve seen an alumni magazine from a Christian college that spotlights mothers, not mothers who also dance in the ballet and spin centrifuges, but mothers who are “just” mothers.
And a bonus challenge, this one for our fine Christian colleges: we’d love to see how proud you are of the half of your graduates putting their education to good use by helping their husbands, raising kids, serving in the church, and doing a hundred other amazing things that don’t look impressive to most people but should look impressive to us.

******************

The Catholic Church in Quebec is going green. Instead of having sacramental wine sent up from California, wine used in the Eucharist will now come from a vineyard in Quebec:

It’s very symbolic,” said Norman Levesque, the man behind the initiative. “By taking bread and wine and replacing those elements with ones that are more environmentally friendly, we are touching the core of people’s faith.”
Although the practice won’t make a big difference on its own, it is one of a growing number of initiatives aimed at making churches more environmentally responsible.
Mr. Levesque is the director of Green Church, an initiative of the Montreal-based Canadian Centre for Ecumenism advising church leaders on ways to reduce their carbon footprints.
Since its launch last fall, more than 25 Montreal-area churches — Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant — have signed commitments to introduce more environmentally sustainable practices, usually involving heating, insulation and recycling.
The implementation of Quebec wine for communion is the program’s latest achievement and forges new spiritual ground.

************************

And in the “weird news” category, there is a group of nuns who have decided to venerate Russian leader Vladimir Putin. The reason: They believe he is the reincarnation of the Apostle Paul.

“According to the Bible, Paul the Apostle was a military commander at first and an evil persecutor of Christians before he started spreading the Christian gospel,” the sect’s founder, who styles herself Mother Fotina, said.
“In his days in the KGB, Putin also did some rather unrighteous things. But once he became president, he was imbued with the Holy Spirit, and just like the apostle, he started wisely leading his flock.”

Adventures in non-3D: Thor, the Church and Random Thoughts

Usually when we want to go to the movies we drive into Moose Jaw, which is about 20 minutes down the highway from Caronport. That was the plan this week, as Chuck and I were eager to see the new Marvel movie Thor. I looked up the showtimes, and figured out what worked best for our schedule.

And then I saw IT.

One number and one letter.

3D.

The MJ theatre was only showing Thor in 3D. There was no 2D showing. Grrr. Arrrgh. I quickly looked up the next closest theatre in Regina, nearly an hour away. It too was only showing Thor in 3D. Finally, I found a theatre, in the far north-end of Regina, that was offering both 3D and 2D showings. Not the most convenient location, but we were on a mission. We were going to see Thor. We were going to have a ‘date night.’

It isn’t the extra cost of 3D that bothers me (though is it really necessary to charge an extra $3-$5 for the experience?); it comes down to the practical. Watching a movie in 3D gives me migraine headaches. I’ve tried. I just can’t watch them.

I was lamenting the overabundance of 3D movies and this move by the studios (or theatres?) to only showing movies in 3D to a friend.

His response: “3D is the wave of the future.”
My retort: “That is what they said in the 50′s”.

I keep hoping this 3D craze is a fad. Another year or two and we’ll be back to standard 2D movies. Am I deluding myself by thinking that?

Of course, one could point out the hypocrisy of my rant, as I have no problem going to see comic book movies and they are definitely a money-making Hollywood fad. But here’s the difference: Comic book movies, so far, continue to tell a story. What does 3D do? Does it add to a storyline? Does it add to character development? Other than adding ‘wow and pizazz’ does 3D actually serve to better a movie?

Which got me thinking about the fads that flitter through the church every couple of years. Other than adding ‘wow and pizazz’ do the fads that churches embrace (blindly?) actually serve to better THE Story?

Think about it. How many churches jumped on the bandwagon to offer the Porpoise-Drivel life*? Or the Prayer of Jammies*? Or…fill in the blank. Sure the churches got shiny posters and increased their advertising budgets, but at the end of the fad program was THE story better? How many churches went right back to their regularly-scheduled programming, and six months later, the time and the money and the hype of the hip, new program were forgotten?

[Now before you accuse me of being 100% anti-Porpoise-Drivel Life, let me note for the record that if it wasn't for PDL, Chuck and I would never have met. PDL served as a wonderful dating screening tool. How many guys would answer the question "what was the last book you read and enjoyed?" with the response PDL? A whole bunch, let me tell you. Which clued me into the idea that maybe they hadn't actually read anything, and were just trying to look spiritual to be impressive. Thankfully, Chuck's answer to the question included five books at the same time and none of them were PDL. Talk about standing out in a crowd.]

And it’s not just pre-packaged programs that are the culprit. Buzz-words and trendy new ways of “doing church” are just as faddish as 3D. Take the Shmissional* movement. Everybody wants to be Shmissional. What does that mean?

Sure, the original shmissional is a lot like the 3D of Avatar — a breath-taking experience that was at the heart of the entire movie-making process. Shmissional was cutting edge. shmissional was revolutionary. But now, like Hollywood, every church is trying to jump on the shmissional/3D bandwagon. Is it the same as the original? No. It’s a way to cash in. And at the end of the day, what does it do? Does it better THE story? How long before the next buzz-word comes along to replace shmissional? How powerful will shmissional be then? And at what point does it actually detract from THE story?

So we drove over an hour to go to a theatre that gave us a choice between 3D and 2D. We made an adventure of it. But, we know that given the blockbuster movies that are opening this summer, this will probably not be a one-off occurrence. Green Lantern, Captain America etc will probably be predominantly shown in 3D and we will once again have to decide if we want to drive far away just for the luxury of seeing it in 2D. With gas prices rising, we’ll probably opt to wait until the movies come out on DVD and we can watch them from home.

I wonder how many people, sick of the never-ending cycle of Christian fads, choose to stay home because finding a church that focuses on THE story and not on the ‘wow and pizazz’ is too much hassle?

*due to copyright laws me being in a warped mood, references to Christian fads have been altered to protect their identity.