Monthly Archives: July 2011

Sunday Meditation

“What God demands of us is far more than to realize he has plans for our individual lives, plans for good and not for harm. In fact God demands of us a less narcissistic focus of ourselves and our own needs. When we actually examine the use of the phrase ‘the will of God’ in the only two places it appears in Paul’s writings (1Thess 4:3; 5:18) it has to do with the mandates to maintain a holy life and to take up and practice regularly the three major forms of prayer (adoration, intercession, thanksgiving). It has little to do with finding some more particular purpose or calling in one’s life when it comes to our tasks in life or our occupation.”

Ben Witherington, The Problem with Evangelical Theology, pg. x.

Complementarianism — The Litmus Test for Faithfulness

Kevin DeYoung has posted his take on the Mark Driscoll #ManlyMan hoopla. Kevin lists three principles that should frame the discussion of masculinity and femininity, and it’s the first principle that is frustrating me to no end. Here, he talks about the changes in culture, and how “biblical” submission is increasingly a strange custom, bordering on offensive. Then, he writes this:

It’s safe to say the default position in America is not the biblical view of men and women. So wise faithful pastors should not be closet complementarians—who believe and do the right things when push comes to shove—but candid complementarians. If we don’t address these issues head on the world will press thousands of Christians into its mold.

So, wise faithful pastors cannot be egalitarian, and obviously by extension, wise faithful pastors cannot be women.

I get that there are different positions on women in ministry. And I respect churches’ rights to decide the qualifications of a pastor (meaning I won’t go crusading to change a congregation that refuses to ordain women).

But what frustrates me to no end is the idea that to be an egalitarian, and worse a female pastor, is unfaithful, unChristian and unwise.

I don’t want to fight about it, but where is the charity? Is it not possible that there are some faithful pastors who are not complementarian? Is it not possible that the move towards egalitarianism is not just a product of culture, but is the trajectory of Scripture? (Of course, complementarians tend to have a problem in general with the redemptive hermeneutic model).

As much as I try not to fight and crusade for egalitarianism, I can’t say that my attempts to ‘agree to disagree’ don’t affect me on a very personal level. I have been a pastor. I have been in leadership in church. I have the gifts and talents and passion to serve the church, and I truly believe that I have been ‘called’ into ministry. If I were a man saying that, people would have no problem seeing the gifts and talents and passion and would have no problem affirming and encouraging and mentoring it. But because I am a woman, those things can’t possibly be true.

How does this fit in the masculinity/feminity debate –> to know that there are days when I wish I was a man. It would be so much easier.

The Future of Canadian Christianity

Sociologist Reginald Bibby has an article summarizing his latest findings about the state of Christianity in Canada. He finds:

…the restructuring of religion in the country is seeing Roman Catholics and evangelicals emerge as the dominant Christian players, with mainline Protestants experiencing a diminishing role in Canadian religious life.

Bibby lists three implications of this finding:

The first is the need for a mindset change. For too long, Canadian Christians have been intimidated by proclamations of religion’s demise. Polarization is far different from eradication. The time has come to discard ideas like “post-Christian,” “faithful remnants” and even “secular societies.”

Faith continues to have a significant place in the lives of millions of people, led by Catholics. That solid core is not going to disappear.

Second, a fascinating element in the ongoing vitality of religion in Canada is immigration. Globally, the fastest growing groups are Christians — led by Roman Catholics and Pentecostals — along with Muslims.

The heightened racial and ethnic diversification that you have been seeing in many of your parishes, particularly in urban areas, is only going to accelerate.

Third, it might be radical but it needs to be considered. If Canada is increasingly divided between people who are religious and those who are not, those who value faith need to find ways of working more closely with each other. More specifically, Catholics and evangelicals in particular need to explore and tap into commonalities that can contribute to a more effective Christian presence in Canada. This is a time for bridges, not chasms.

Read the whole thing here.

Upgraded to OSX Lion — Need Some Suggestions

I upgraded to OSX Lion this weekend. I really like some of the features included with this upgrade (like the new Mail, and Mission Control). But, in upgrading to Lion, my Microsoft Office for Mac 2004 is no longer compatible. Reading some of the discussion forums, it sounds like the newer Microsoft Office for Mac is a little bit buggy with Lion, so I’m not sure I want to purchase it.

So, is this the right time to say good-bye to Microsoft? If so, what productivity software (word processor, spreadsheet, presentations) should I get?

Open Office?

iWork (Pages, Numbers, Keynote)?

Google Docs?

Something else?

Happiness is a Choice — Or Is It?

@RickWarren tweeted this on Thursday:
Happiness is a choice. You are as happy as you choose to be.

I read that, and my inner Eeyore cringed.

A Psychological Perspective:

Is it true? Considering there is an entire field of psychology, called positive psychology, that looks at happiness, I thought I would ask my resident expert for his opinion. Here’s what Chuck has to say…

As is so often the case, this is… partly… true. Your level of happiness is influenced by a wide range of factors, some of which are under your control, while others are not. Researchers such as Martin Seligman, David Myers, and Ed Diener have studied happiness extensively, and here is a summary of their findings:

Happiness variables that ARE subject to your choice:
1. Marriage. On average, married people are happier than unmarried people. The “choose”-iness of this is limited, however. I could choose to be married all I want, but unless someone else chooses to marry me, I’m out of luck.
2. Friends. Happy people spend a lot of time socializing with their friends. (This might be a large group or a small group, depending on whether you are an extravert or an introvert.)
3. Religion. There is strong and consistent evidence that the more religious you are, the happier you will tend to be. In the words of Cab Calloway, “You get wise. You get to church.”
4. Thought patterns. Seligman’s research on cognition and depression shows that, when bad things happen, unhappy people tend to explain them as resulting from “internal” (my fault), “stable” (can’t change it), and “global” (this impacts my entire self-concept) causes. A classic example would be getting a bad grade on an exam in school, and concluding that “I’m just stupid.” Albert Ellis’ approach to cognitive therapy focuses on people messing themselves up by holding irrational beliefs (“I MUST win my mother’s approval” “Everybody HAS to like me” “I’m NEVER wrong”). It takes effort, but it is possible to gain control over these thoughts and steer them in healthier directions (“It would be nice if everyone liked me, but not really necessary”).

Happiness variables that are NOT subject to your choice:
1. Genetics. If we were to ask you to rate your level of happiness on a scale from one to ten, roughly fifty percent of the variability on your answer would be due to your DNA.
2. Money. This is somewhat subject to your choice, but only somewhat. If your income is above a minimum threshold, then the relationships drops off, but below that threshold, money and happiness are strongly related, and telling someone “Well just choose to have a better-paying job” is hardly useful. So, money might not be able to make you happy, but being broke can certainly make you unhappy.

While we have a certain amount of freedom to choose our level of happiness, that freedom is constrained by numerous factors. Overemphasizing the role of choice in happiness leads to what psychologist Barbara Held calls the “tyranny of the positive attitude,” the notion that those who are insufficiently happy should be blamed for their condition. An example of this is Dennis Prager’s facepalm-worthy claim that happiness is a moral obligation (being unhappy, according to Prager, puts you in the same moral category as terrorists and war criminals).

A Theological Perspective:

Is it true? My initial thoughts on happiness…

Scripture talks about joy, peace, love and other fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). But what is the relationship between joy and peace, and happiness?

Jurgen Moltmann, in writing about being born again, looks at two outcomes: joy and peace.

Joy is that what happens “when the Spirit of the resurrection is experienced, a person breathes freely again, and gets up out of the defeats and anxieties of his or her life…We beign to love life with the love of God which we experience in the Spirit. It far outdoes the disappointments and hurts which reduce our love for life and weigh us down.” (pg. 31)

Peace is, according to Moltmann, a “coming to rest…It also means arriving at consonance and concord with God and ourselves. People of peace radiate a quiet assurance.” (pg. 31)

And yet, Moltmann is quick to point out that this does not mean that Christians are always happy or cheerful. Indeed, he points out that Jesus was not always happy. We are “saved none of the torments of soul…The Spirit leads [us] into the wilderness just as it led Jesus too. By this I don’t mean the external lonelinesses. I mean the soul’s dark and desert hours.” (pg. 32). Moltmann points to what John of the Cross called the dark night of the soul, “when God-forsakenness drives a soul into cold despair, and we can only go on clinging to faith in God in companionship with the assailed Christ between Gethsemane and Golgotha.” (pg. 32)

Looking at this, joy and peace, and the emotions that come from experiencing the Spirit, seem to point to the cause being something outside ourselves. It is because of the Spirit, and because of the Resurrection of Jesus that I experience joy. It is because of God’s presence that I experience peace.

Happiness is the by-product of experiencing the work of the Spirit in our lives. Happiness flows out of the joy, peace, love, etc., and is not the cause of these fruits. The Spirit is the cause of the fruits, and happiness, being the by-product, is not rooted in our ‘choosing’ to be happy.

While positive experiences of the Spirit are good, and are to be sought after, our faith is not founded on them. If I am unhappy, it should not mean my faith dissolves and disappears. As Moltmann says, “The firm lodestone of faith is not provided by the inner experiences of the Spirit…but by community with Christ, in the living and dying and rising again with him.” (pg 32).

Random Blog Posts and Stuff

Eric Ortlund has had a short piece of fiction published over at Mindflights. Check out: I Am Your Son That Was.

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Statistics Canada has announced that they will no longer be tracking marriage and divorce rates:

Marriage data has been collected in Canada since 1921 and divorce data has been on the books since 1972.
Moving forward, StatsCan said it will still be able to collect information on marriage through the census and it will gather data about families through a general survey conducted every five years.

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Mark White asks: Are Captain America’s Ethics Too Old-Fashioned for the 21st Century?

Captain America, with his “outmoded” moral code based on virtues like honor, integrity, and courage—or, if you prefer, following duty despite all costs—ended up being just what the Marvel Universe needed all along, and this is just as true in the real world of 2011. The importance of virtue and duty never changed, though the world itself changed around them.

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Internet Monk announces a new advocacy group that is calling for the book of Genesis to be banned:

“This book [Genesis] is a classic case of the devil’s bait and switch. It opens with an outstanding scientific depiction of how God created the universe, but then you turn the page and you have two people running around naked in a garden! That’s Satan’s way. He draws you in with something that sounds good, and before you know it, you are looking at pornography. ‘They were naked and not ashamed’? That is so disturbing and it’s all you need to know about this book. No shame! I wouldn’t want my boys reading that for anything.”

The name of the group — People Involved in Saving, Securing, and Defending the Old-Fashioned Family (PISSDOFF). You’ve got to read the whole thing; the satire is brilliant!

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Women in Academics

An observation by Bridget, over at Women in Theology, about assumptions about female professors:

“Lots of women academics have had experiences of being assumed to be staff rather than faculty (or assumed to perform staff functions even when it is known they are faculty); lots of women academics have had experiences of students expecting them to be more pastoral (or, worse, “motherly” — pastoral isn’t a dirty word in my book: theology instructors should have a certain pastoral sense… but when I am grading your papers, I ain’t your mama) than they expect their male professors or TAs to be.”

Reminds me of assumptions I have observed being a student in theology:

Them: So you’re new here. Is your husband in the seminary?
Me: No, I am. I’m working on my master’s.
Them: Wonderful! So what do you think of our counseling program?
Me: I’m not in the counseling program, I’m in the theology program.
Them: (physically take a step back). Oh…Well…Isn’t that…nice?

I Need To Read More Fiction

I say it every time I finish reading a good book: I need to read more fiction. Normally, I read non-fiction: theology books, commentaries, philosophy etc. I poo-poo the need to read fiction, until I actually sit down with a good book, and then I say to myself, “self, you need to read more fiction. This is fantastic!”

I finished and submitted my papers last weekend, and spent the next four days devouring Storm of Swords, the third book in G.R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire Series. I’ve now started book 4, and book 5 should be arriving in the post any day now. If Chuck’s not careful, I might end up getting to the post office before him and reading A Dance with Dragons before he does!

This week also saw the blogosphere abuzz with the latest tizzy about comments that a celebrity pastor made on Facebook. As I read through my google reader every morning, I couldn’t help but think “bored now“. (And you know that whenever a red-head says ‘bored now’ you need to watch out). I had more exciting things to read, like finding out what happens to Tyrion, Arya, Brienne, and Jon.

I get the appeal of controversy. It’s great for blog hits. I learned this after Rob Bell’s book came out. The posts I did on that hoopla still generate hits for my blog.

But, maybe the difference is that this new celebrity controversy occurred while it is summer. I want to be outside in the backyard, enjoying the heat and sunshine and a good book. It’s not winter. I’m not trapped inside while it’s 40 below. There is life outside the house! There is life outside the blogosphere! There is life outside theology! (Hey, wait a minute…life outside theology?! Let’s not go too crazy).

The keepers of all things biblioblog have reorganized and set some parameters on what constitutes a true biblioblog. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been contemplating moving to a more biblioblog format. That way I could be part of the rankings. But, no. I like writing about random things. I like ‘cheese-wearing‘ aspect of my blog. If I want to write about theology, I’ll write about theology. If I want to write about biblical studies, I’ll write about biblical studies. If I want to write about crazy random thoughts that pop into my head, I can do that too. It’s about creativity and having fun. If I’m not having fun writing on my blog then it no longer serves its purpose.

And that’s what I like about fiction. It allows me to read something ‘other’, to get lost in a world far far away. It activates my imagination, and gives me ideas to explore.

So how about it? Care to join me outside in the sunshine? Find a good long book and sit out in the backyard with a nice glass of lemonade, and lots of sunscreen and bug spray. How different would the next blogosphere controversy look if we all walked away from our computers and headed outside with a book or two tucked under our arms?