Monday, November 02, 2009

The need for a mixture

I found these few statements on the maturation process of children to be quite interesting. What do you think? This is taken from "Hold Onto Your Kids; Why Parents Matter" by Gordon Neufeld & Gabor Mate:

"Maturation in the psychological realm involves the differentiation of the elements of consciousness - thoughts, feelings, impulses, values, opinions, preferences, interests, intentions, aspirations. Differentiation needs to happen before these elements of consciousness can be mixed to produce tempered experience and expression. It is the same in the realm of relationships: maturation requires that the child first becomes unique and separate from other individuals. ... More fundamentally, a sense of self first needs to separate from inner experience, a capacity entirely absent in the young child. The child has to be able to know that she is not identical with whatever felling happens to be active in her at any particular moment.

... Without the capacity for reflection, they [two immature children] were defined by the inner experience of the moment. They immediately acted out whatever emotions arose in them. They could be their inner experience, but they could not see it. This inability made them impulsive, egocentric, brazen, dogmatic, reactive and impatient. Because fear did not mix with hope, there was no courage. Because frustration did not mix with caring, there was no patience. Because anger did not mix with love, there was no forgiveness. Because frustration did not mix with either fear or affection, they lost their tempers. In short, they lacked the fruits of maturation in their lives."

I find this thought that the mixing of many or more than one feeling at any one time as a tell tale sign of a mature individual is incredibly interesting. I work with and meet many a person who I find rather immature. This makes some interesting sense and is worth reflecting on some more.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

NHL statistics

I'm a bit of a statistic nut. When I was but a teenager I would sit and watch cars pass my house and I would mark down what colour they were. I had a bar graph to show the ratio of car colours on the road. Maybe I was more than a nut.

I've recently been interested to know what the make-up of the NHL is. This all comes from the official sites of the the NHL teams.

You might be interested to know that 56% of the NHL players are Canadian born while 23% are out of North America and 21% are from the USA. By the way, there are 954 players on team rosters currently. Of the 56% Canadian players 39% of THAT number are from Ontario, 17% from Alberta, 12% from Quebec, 11% from Saskatchewan, 10% from BC, 6% from Manitoba, 2% from Nova Scotia and the remaining 2% from Newfoundland and New Brunswick.

Of the 23% from other countries, the greatest number of NHL players in this category come from Sweden making up 22% of that statistic. The Czech Republic, Finland and Russia hold the next highest spots with 19%, 17% and 13%. Slovakia is next in line with 8% of the total international playes and then Germany with 5%. The few remain players come from a variety of countries - 5 from Latvia, 4 from Belarus, 3 from Denmark and Switzerland, 2 from the Ukraine, Slovenia and Kazakhstan. There is only 1 person from each of these countries currently on an NHL roster: Italy, Austria, Poland, France, Ireland, Lithuania, South Korea, South Africa, Brazil, Japan, Norway and Brunei. The fella from Brunei was raised in Alberta Canada and has the last name Adams which leads me to suspect that though he was BORN in Brunei (tiny Asian country near the equator) his parents could very likely have been Canadian already.

Some other interesting facts: The Philadelphia Flyers have the highest percentage of Canadian players on their roster - 80%. Pittsburgh Penguins have the highest % of American players - 39% of their total players are American. And the Florida Panthers have the highest % of international players - 40%. The New York Rangers are the only team's roster who's American and International players outnumber their Canadian players ... and that only by 1 - 8, 8 and 7. It is also interesting to note that there is quite the discrepancy in the number of players that any NHL team may have on their roster. While the Detroit Red Wings have 48 players on their roster, San Jose have only 19. It may be that teams chose to put players on their roster that they are still considering for their team for the coming year while others choose to limit to those they know they will play. Florida's website has two lists. One with 20 players (called their roster) and one with 48 (called 'In the System'). San Jose have 4 different lists on their site. Their Roster - 19, their Rookie Games Roster - 26, their Training Camp Roster - 29 and their 'In the System' Roster or all their prospects - 48. For the purposes of my statistics I took only players who were on what a team called their Roster. I did not include prospects intentionally.

Friday, September 04, 2009

What Does it Mean to be Human? part 2

Sorry for the delay. This post carries on from the one below and continues the conversation through the last number of posts. I hope that you'll continue reading and enjoying them. Our summer camp season was busy and full and we're glad to have some time to spend together as a family. So, here you go:

So what I tried to argue was that from the bible’s point of view, starting in Revelation, it looks like it’s coming back here. What do we do with John’s odd description of this New Jerusalem that’s as big as the cosmos, shaped like a cube – track that imagery through the Old Testament and John’s vision is that God is going to come and dwell in a cosmic holy of holies with us. And that’s what he’s always intended to do and that makes sense all the way through the biblical narrative. Ours is a God who comes to us. He built us this wonderful place Eden, which means ‘the light’ and his concern is, he wants to dwell here with us. That’s why in Genesis 1 seven times, unparalleled in the rest of the biblical text, seven times God says this place is good, and we say ‘We believe the bible and all God wants to do is burn it up.’ How do you put that together? You don’t. That’s why Romans 8 Paul can say creation groans waiting for its redemption. That’s why John 3:16, the verse we all know, ‘For God so loved the ... cosmos.’ And now ... you ... know ... why! It’s his palace! It’s his temple! And he cares profoundly about it. You can ask people, ‘Do you love the cosmos? If you don’t this morning’s a good morning to become a Christian.’ So when you’ve gone walking through this extraordinary country Canada, you’ve stood on the beaches of Tofino and you’ve watched those breakers roll in and your heart wells up within you – this is not a non-spiritual aberration. That welling up is exactly what God intended. You’re struck with the wonder and the beauty of the temple of the palace He has made. Try thinking through that imagery.

When I’m driving on my way to work to Regent in Vancouver and I see the mountains rising up and in my mind I think of them as the pillars supporting the canopy of God’s temple. It changes the way you see the world. And this might sound really goofy, but I was out raking the leaves about two weeks ago and I had this epiphany. I was overwhelmed with emotion as I looked at each one of these … have you ever looked at a single leaf? Each leaf – the colour! And the shape. And this is all by accident. No. The bible rejoices in this. That’s why you get the Psalmist just overwhelmed by the beauty of creation. But what’s happened in the Christian tradition ever since the second century is we’ve been wanting to leave this place, get away from it. That’s what Nietzsche so repudiated about Christianity. He hated Christianity for that reason – because it treated the body and this present world with contempt and you know what, Jesus would agree with him in that critique. And we’re living with Nietzsche’s influence because we have lost sight of the biblical view of creation. Why should God care less? Because THIS IS HIS PALACE!! It’s HIS TEMPLE! And he’s going to get it back whether by hook or by cross. This is my Father’s world; I rest me in the thought. Yeah! Some of you look as if I’m speaking heresy here. [some laughter] How can it be any other way? So go search the scriptures.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What Does it Mean to be Human? part 1

This is the next lecture by Rikk Watts carrying on from the posts below titled 'Why Should God Care Less?' I hope you enjoy these as well:

Ah, a couple of things, just as we commence: Uh, if you want to get some of the information on this material we went through yesterday at a rather rapid clip, it’s on the American Scientific Association Website – so the American Scientific Association. They have a web page and if you get to the main page, I think on the left side there’s a column, on that column they have something like theology/bible, click on that, and about halfway down you’ll see something with my name on it and I think it’s called ‘making sense of Genesis 1.’ Now it’s not a, um, it’s kind of halfway between popular level writing and academic. There is a footnote in there for those of you who are interested about halfway through where I list about 4 or 5 critical books and articles that draw on this Egyptian background. But I would imagine, as far as you’re concerned, most of what you want is in the body of the text.

What I’m going to talk about today you can also get from a book called ‘What Does it Mean to be Saved?’ edited by John Stackhouse. It’s a series of lectures from a Regent conference and mine is the lead article that rejoices in the title of ‘Restoration of the Image.’ Salvation is new creation is exodus or some such thing. So if you want to get some more information on today’s session, at least the first half, you can get it from me. So that’s where to get the info from if you don’t get it all written down and the second thing is: one of the things I say to students who come to Regent is that some point in your education one of your sacred cows is going to have to come under the axe. And of course, we all say ‘We don’t have all the truth’, we all say that readily UNTIL somebody actually touches a point, ha ha, where we disagree and suddenly we DO have the truth and so it becomes and interesting little moment, eh. But, um, at various points we have to decide: are we going to Pentecostal or Christian? Are we going to be Baptist or Christian? And because, um, unless we really do think we’ve got it all together, which none of us thinks we have, then that does mean there are places where we need to reconfigure our thinking. At some point it’s going to have to happen and so we might as well get used to that. So, theological study is not about going around and finding reasons for why I was right all along. Theological study is only to grapple with this stuff and the chances are there are going to be some things I’m going to have to learn. But this should not be a reason for panic, because my faith is not in my theological system. If it was it would be in my ability as Rikk Watts to understand the profound mystery of God. I think that gets very close to idolatry. My faith is not my ability to understand God and if we get to it in the second half of this morning’s session, I think that’s where Greek philosophy took us astray. And unfortunately western theology has often been more captive to that than we realize. No, my faith is in the God who I’m coming to know and they’re two different things. What I know about God is not actually God himself. And what that means is my understanding of God is open to revision; to correction. Right, reformed and never reforming again – no, reformed and always reforming. And we’re always doing that. There are new things to be learned. There are some exciting things that we dig up in the ancient near east; more documents we translate and they give us some ‘aha!’ moments. ‘Oh, so that’s what it means’. We ought not to be afraid of that. It’s just like, you know, you’ve been married to somebody for ten years and then you learn something new about them. You ‘That’s it! We’re divorced! I can’t trust my marriage anymore! Ooo!’ Right? That’d be ridiculous. No, you know the person, you trust them but you learn something new and you adjust your knowledge of them. That doesn’t mean you have to collapse in panic here.

So what I was trying to do yesterday was open up maybe some new things for some of you. Some of you may have heard this material before. But I’d urge you to go back and check out the scriptures. We talk so freely about going to heaven, in fact we sang about it last night. Right, Jesus up there, we’re going to be up there with him. Oh, yeah, it’s a nice idea but is it biblical? And we’re bible people so let’s go back and read our bibles. And it’s pretty clear the book of Revelation says that the New Jerusalem’s doing what? What does it say? What’s the New Jerusalem doing? Let me hear you, what’s it doing? [‘Coming down’] Coming to earth, right? So, are you a bible believing Christian? ‘Yes! But not that bit.’ [laugher] Well, come on, you know. Let’s make our adjustments. If that’s what the scriptures says we should go there. Now I realize for some of us that’s a bit uncomfortable and if it is, it’s worth thinking about why. Because it might just mean that our faith is in our tradition rather than in something else. Now you understand these are not hard and fast, they can’t be neatly divided. Because what I know of God is given to me by my tradition; there’s some kind of overlap there. But, you know, if that’s the way the scriptures go, we should say, ‘Lord, ok, let’s go that way.’ So, you know, obviously if we were doing this personally I’d be a lot more gentle but you’re en-masse here so we’re just going to let it fly, ha ha, right.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Words about marriage

Here are a few words about marriage that I shared with my brother-in-law and his bride this weekend that I enjoyed:

The relationship that is marriage is an achievement that you will receive no award for but the rewards are never ending! The commitment that is marriage will take you to places within your own soul and the soul of your spouse that you never knew existed. And the geography of your partnership has more awe-inspiring locations than all the nearly 500 million square km's of the surface of our planet. You will receive no degree for the loving community that is and will be your family. But you can receive no greater recognition for that which you have begun to achieve today than the sincere and honest love that you share with your wife/husband. For it is then that your father in heaven smiles with love on you and says Well Done!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Why Should God Care Less? part 11 - final part

This carries on from the post below:

All right, I’m going to take maybe five minutes and then we’re done. Cause you need to hear this. We haven’t yet gotten to the.... Egyptian temples were constructed on the sites of the primordial mountains of creation. So their temples are actually mini universes. Right, they actually look like that. They have the ... columns are actually reeds; the tops of the temples are like heavens. And that’s where they had the images of their gods. ‘Cause they’re saying ‘It’s our god who created this cosmic temple.’ And I wonder if in fact the pyramids are perhaps representations of the great cosmic mountain. Where else would you bury the son of Amon Re if not in his own stylized, cosmic primordial mountain? Fits perfectly with the ideology. They’re not the only ones who do that. Babylon. When they talk about creation its always building. Tiamet built his palace on the watery body of Apsu. Marduk creates his palace from Tiamet’s watery carcass. Ugaret: Baal – his victory temple is a mini universe. That’s the way they think about creation. They think of it as temple building. Now do you find this in the biblical text? Look at it! Foundations, measurements, stretched out the line, bases, cornerstones, doors, etc. What is this? This is architectural language. What kind of building is it? Isaiah chapter 66? What do you have? Foundations. Foundations of the earth. Pillars of the heavens. Doors, beams, windows, canopies. Isaiah 66: ‘The heavens are my throne; the earth is my footstool.’ Where do you find a throne and a footstool? In a palace. What do you call a palace of a god? A temple. See what’s going on in Revelation chapter 20, 21? The Ark of the Covenant is Yahweh’s footstool – his holy of holies upon the earth. That says some things about the nature of creation. We’ll cover that in just a moment.

What’s going on in a holy war is the rededication of God’s cosmic temple. Finally, the whole universe must be regarded as the highest, and in truth, the holy temple of God. That’s how they understood it. Now, John 3:16. That’s why it says, ‘For God so loved my soul’ ... is that what it says? For God so loved human beings? No. For God so loved the ... cosmos, he sent Jesus. Jesus died to redeem creation. And now you know why. It’s God’s temple. It’s his palace. He’s not about to give it up to the first set of snake features that come along. Oh, and by the way, who is it that comes into the garden? What do you think an Israelite is going to do with that story? Hm?
May your kingdom take us away. Jesus teaches us to pray. Does he? Kingdom coming. Romans 8: creation awaits eagerly longing for it’s ... destruction! ‘Please destroy me! Burn me up!’ it cries. [laughter] Creation will be set free from its bondage. And the language that’s used here is exactly the language God uses to describe his taking Israel out of Egypt. Creation is NOT destined for destruction! It’s God’s temple! It’s his palace! Seven times unmatched anywhere else in the biblical material, SEVEN TIMES God says it’s GOOD!! And why do we say, ‘yes we believe Genesis 1 but it’s only good for being burned.’? Where did that nonsense come from? It came out of the pagan world folks. Because the pagans denigrated creation. The whole notion of going to heaven is a second century pagan innovation. It is not inherently Christian. And that’s the truth. [laughter] Now what about this one – what about it being burnt up, we’ll do that in question and answer session. I’m running out of time. Um. Simply, to note that that’s a mistranslation. It actually means to be disclosed. And it’s 2 Peter doing re-telling of Mt. Sinai. It’s not about God burning up the earth but about when God comes he burns through the stuff that separates him from the earth and comes face to face with his people. That’s what second Peter’s talking about.

I’ve overstayed my welcome already. It’s a time of purification, not destruction. So, let’s just do some conclusions here. So, it seems we’re not going to heaven. Heaven’s coming here. So, all those songs that talk about being in heaven with Jesus, stop singing them or rewrite them. Become biblical. Creation is God’s good gift. He intends to dwell with us here. What about John 14? Isn’t that about the rapture? No, not at all. That’s marriage language. Nothing to do with the rapture, sorry. He’s going to dwell with us here. Creation is a holy place. The first nations people understand this. They understand the sacredness of all things. We’ve had 200 years of treating creation simply as an object to be manipulated. It is not. It’s God’s holy temple; it’s his palace and he is about restoring it. That’s why Jesus teaches us to pray ‘... may your kingdom come.’ That’s why he’s coming back here and what we do is, to be involved in this process of the rededication of creation. Notice what’s going to happen to those who destroy the earth. God will destroy them. And now you know why. It’s His temple; it’s His palace. But we don’t worship it. Sacred, but we don’t worship it.

So, finally, being Christian is about working with God in redeeming his creation, rededicating this place. God’s work in salvation is as far reaching as his work in creation. He built this palace, this temple, because he wants to live here with us. He’s not abandoned that project. He comes into the tabernacle to begin that; He comes and dwells with Israel; and that’s the whole narrative. That’s why revelation ends up like it does. Jesus’ incarnation: God has not abandoned his creation and neither should we. Ultimately then, in the end, creation’s going to become what? It’s going to become, finally, God’s temple and that’s why in the New Jerusalem there is no temple. The whole cosmos becomes the holy of holies. Now that’s what being Christian is about. Understand? That’s why life here is about doing what we can here, not just hanging on until we get out of this place.

Lot of stuff there. Hope you still like me! Um [laughter]. If you don’t, too bad. No, no! Well, bless you folks and we’ll have question and answer about this some time or another. Thank you.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Why Should God Care Less? part 10

This carries on from the last post with this title:

Now this is a Pharaoh who’s crushing these little people; destroying them to build monuments in his own honour. And so what do they do? Aaron takes his staff and it becomes a ... beaver [laughter]. No. You ever wonder why they do that thing? Now you know! In this situation, Aarons staff represents his judicial authority. He’s come as a messenger. So his staff takes on political significance. He throws it down, it becomes a serpent and WHO’S watching this? What’s he got in his crown? Hm? This is no mere party trick friends. This strikes at the very heart of EVERYTHING that defines Egypt and that undergirds Pharaoh’s oppression of the little people. Now standing behind Pharaoh are his magicians. These are the people who are in touch with the gods. They read the omens; they utter the incantations – what it enables. They then advise Pharaoh to enable him to navigate through the vagaries of the faith that comes to Egypt. And what do they do? They’re staffs, signs of their authority, become serpents. And then what happens? Aaron’s rod swallows theirs.

Do you hear what’s going on there? Then what happens? You get nine plagues plus ten. Now, for a person who knows a bit of Hebrew poetry, you realize that Hebrew rhymes numbers. ‘Saul has slain his thousands, David his ten thousands.’ It’s not saying David is ten times better, it’s saying David’s equal. And that’s why Saul says: ‘What remains but for them to give him the kingdom?’ So the rhyme of 9 is 6. Nine plagues plus one and creation – six days plus one. Explicit literary structure so that those echo and if you know how to read Hebrew poetry you’ll immediately go reading those stories in the light of one another and of course they are to be read in the light of one another because it’s Yahweh who calls creation into being and His Word causes Egypt’s created world to fall apart. Everything that was once separated now begins to bleed over. The boundaries begin to break down. The river turns to blood. The frogs come out of the place they should be living in and invade the land. The huge hailstones come – the heavens now begin to invade the waters below. The night bleeds into the day! So all of that beautiful water that they thought was the result of the gods of Egypt, they’re learning now, actually it’s Yahweh who speaks this. And Israel happens to be His firstborn son.

So finally they get to leave. And they find themselves standing in the darkness by the Yam Suph, the Red Sea. And Yahweh appears as a fiery pillar bringing light ... in ... the ... darkness. Oh! And then what happens? A strong east wind begins to blow. The sea turns into dry land. And they go across. Where have you seen this before? This is exactly what we hear about in Genesis. I want to suggest that where Israel learned that Yahweh was the creator was at the Yam Suph. You know that Red Sea, by the way, to the Egyptians, was part of the cosmic Sea of Reeds that preceded creation. Now what does Pharaoh do? Well he’s got the Uraya in his crown. He’s the living embodiment of Amon Re and in his narrative Amon Re defeats Appophus who dwells in the Sea of Reeds. So what does he do? He sends his armies in after them! Of COURSE he does! Everything in his ideological world tells him that this is what you need to do! Because AMON RE, whose son he is, defeats Appophus. And what happens? It’s not that the Israelites have this ghoulish delight. But what you find lying around the edges of the sea are the Egyptian dead bodies. It’s like that film ‘The Mummy’ where the guy tries to get his sweetheart out of the well of souls. And what you’ve got there is a statement that ‘It’s not Amon Re who defeats Appophus. It’s Yahweh.’

Now, just a few quick things. Notice these parallels. There are a number of texts from Egyptian finds, archaeological digs. Look at some of the parallels. Starting with water and then you have the god appearing. Creation happens through speech, whether the material world or animal life. You know what’s interesting? Is that only in Egypt stories do you have gods who create through speech. You don’t find that in Babylon or Sumer. Here are some other parallels. In the Egyptian stories you start with four primal elements: you start with the formless deep, the darkness, breath or wind and illimitable chaos. That’s exactly what you find in Genesis. Water, right, the deep, it’s dark, the wind is blowing and it’s chaotic. You don’t find this collocation of stuff in any other literature, except in Egypt. A creator/deity who creates through speech; creation as acts of separation. You know it’s only in Egypt that you have light before the sun. Nowhere else. Sequences: stars, birds and fish, animals and humanity. That’s Egyptian. Fashioning humanity like a potter. That’s Egyptian. Enlivened with the breath of the god. That’s Egyptian. What’s going on here?

A couple of things. First of all I want to suggest that these three structures have nothing to do with how long it took God or when. It’s simply someone in the ancient saying ‘This is the world I live in; this is how it’s structured; the first basic structure is night and day. That’s the fundamental structure whether you’re above or below land or sea. That’s the basic one. Yahweh did it. The next structure: above and below. Third structure: land and sea.’ You do that and you find the world in which you live. And their making the statement that Yahweh does it. That’s all it is. It really has nothing to do with it taking 24 hours or not, it’s simply not the point. It’s being structured by something else and the form and the content of Genesis makes this really clear, it seems to me. But it’s not just that. It’s also an attack on the ideology of Egypt. Now this is Moses. Where did Moses live before he went out of the desert? He grew up in the house of Pharaoh! He has access to these secret tomb paintings. He knows about this priestly stuff. And I think, inspired by the Spirit, he takes the language of Egyptian ideology and TURNS it on its head! It’s NOT Attum that separates the waters, its Yahweh. And how do they know that? they stood at the Red Sea and saw it took place. Right. So, Genesis 1. It’s highly stylized form, unrealistic content suggests that to read this as straight history is mistaken. Doesn’t mean it’s not true, it’s doing something else. What is it going after? Yahweh, not the gods of Egypt, as creator. And these days, they’re nothing but this, kind of a natural period of work. That’s all they mean. Just so you can move through the sequence. That’s all they do. Nothing more beyond that. So, I would urge you, as a biblical scholar, please don’t try to defend a burning tiger by arguing for 24 day creation. And that’s going to tread on some toes here. But folks, I just ... it doesn’t stand a chance of flying I don’t think. Not if you take this seriously. And then we wonder why people don’t want to follow our Jesus and we’re talking about burning tigers and saying that Marg Simpson has a kidney problem. Now I know that’s a bit provocative but I don’t have time to really, you know, do it gently. So [laughter] you need to hear that. All right?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What if the power went out

What if ... the power went out. This is a thought I've had running through my mind lately. It has come to my mind recently because, partly, of the economic 'crisis' we're in, or that has been claimed by our governments and culture. My life has not been highly negative affected by this turn of events ... BUT! What if the power went out?

I mean, what if it REALLY went out. COMPLETELY! No way of restoring it. Indefinitely lost to us is the use of electricity. Keep in mind, electricity has really only been around for about 200 years - in the form and measure we've been using it. What would happen?

Most of us would not be able to heat or cool our homes. We'd have no lights. No kitchen appliances would work (fridge, freezer, stove, oven, microwave, beater, bread maker, etc.). You'd have no money (banks would lose all their records, I would assume, of our accounts as they are, for the most part electronic). You'd eventually run out of gas because all the gas pumps are electronically driven. You'd have no cash registers or ATM machines or interac. You might have a few batteries, but after they've been used up where will you get more? Are not most every business and factory and manufacturer run with electricity? Robots produce most of our vehicles. You'd have no phone system. No computers. No internet (no Skype, Facebook, Hotmail). No T.V.. No more big screen movies. No video games. No alarm clocks. No plug in air fresheners. No garage door openers. No power tools (unless they're cordless). No fans. No printers. No battery/phone/radio chargers. It is AMAZING what we have with the use of electricity now. No airplanes or helicopters. No tazers. No cell phones. Nothing could be mass produced.

So, that said, what would our society look like? What kind of changes would happen? What happens when we're not able to communicate to each other instantly? Or able to travel large distances with only money changing hands? What happens when our society/government is no longer able to support the lifestyle or standard of living we're used to? How would our communities change? How would we eat?

I was reminded again yesterday that we are not all that far removed from this lifestyle. My Grandparents lived in a small house with no electricity and drove a horse and buggy back in the 30's. My Great Grandparents lived in a sod house when they lived in Saskatchewan. That's not that long ago. Within a hundred years.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Why Should God Care Less? part 9

This carries on from the post below:

But, traditionally, who is the author of Genesis? It’s your chance to respond now, on the count of 3. One, two, three! Moses, yeah. Good. When do you think he wrote it? When he was in the little ark floating along, kind of a child protégé? [laughter] When do you think Moses wrote this? Sorry? Help me here. Speak up, I’m a drummer and I’m a bit deaf, so I need to hear from you. Before he died. YES! Very good, before he died. [laughter] So, somewhere after his birth and sometime before his death. Excellent! [laughter] Geri [the Canadian Inter-varsity Christian Fellowship President], you’re in strife. You’re in real trouble. Well, o.k., that’s a good place to start. Can we perhaps refine that just a little? Any other suggestions? When do you think he would have written this? Well, in his lifetime. At the end of his life? So, that would be after the exodus? Of course. And people who work in these texts realize there are lots of things in the book of Genesis that reflect exodus events. Yes, of course, it’s after the exodus. And then where has Israel been for 400 years? Egypt. Not in Babylon. Not in ancient Sumer. They’ve been living in Egypt. Now, you know what’s staggering? Very few biblical scholars bother to look at what’s going on in Egypt as background to Genesis 1. We’re going to do that. Even if I am a new testament person.

I want to suggest that Egypt is the ideological context for these five books of Moses. It’s not to say there aren’t some bleed overs from other cultures, because there were. The ancient world had lots of comings and goings; lots of communication. There was cultural diversification; that was happening. But primarily Egypt. Now what’s going on in the Egyptian stuff? Well, first the Egyptian royal ideology. Amon Re, he’s the sun god. He brings light and life to Egypt. Every morning he arises out of the sea of reeds. In the Egyptian creation story you start with the sea of reeds. Out of that emerges the first cosmic mountain. The gods self materialize on them. Amon Re is the sun god representing some of this. He rises in the east, travels across the sky and you can see the rays coming down – the picture on the left here – as those rays come down they bring life and light to Egypt. In the evening he descends in the west again into the sea of reeds. The great pre-cosmic ocean. He goes into the underworld. And while he’s there he meets Appophus (spelling?) – the chaos monster. A serpent. Amon Re is escorted by two fire breathing cobra. He does battle with Appophus and he arises the next morning victorious in the east to bring again life and light to Egypt. Every day is a recapitulation of the creation cycle. So in this period of time, in the Middle Kingdom, they build these huge temple structures, and they have these processional ways oriented toward the east so that when Amon Re rises his light shines down these processional paths to light up the little na-os (sp?) in which his image is contained. And on either side of these processional ways some of these old temples would have little mini cosmic seas of reeds. Shallow pools with reeds in them. So the architecture of their temples re-capitulated their creation narrative. My bell’s gone; I’m only part way through this. Well let’s see if we can go a bit more quickly. Pharaoh is the son of Amon Re and he’s actually the embodiment of god upon the earth. Very important to keep that in mind. Son of god language. Egypt knows what that means. That’s Pharaoh. Now, notice what Pharaoh wears in his crown. Notice that? What’s he got there? An enraged uraya (spelling?). Sorry, an enraged female cobra called a Uraya. Why do you think he’s wearing a cobra? Because cobras are what escort Amon Re as he defeats Appophus. So here you see Pharaoh, and it’s not that Egyptians don’t know about perspective, but their art was a form of magic. It was, not quite a Greek Memmasis (s?), but a way of somehow capturing the life forces. So Pharaoh is much bigger than anyone else because he’s the son of Amon Re. There’s his crown. He’s walking around and he’s got this enraged cobra and what’s he doing? He’s defeating these Nubians who represent forces of chaos.

Now that’s their narrative. One day, out of the desert, comes Aaron and Mo. And they meet Pharaoh and they have a word for him. ‘Yahweh says Israel is my first born son!’ What do you think that says to Pharaoh? Heh? You see the first person called the son of god in the bible is not Jesus, actually its Israel. It doesn’t mean Israel is divine. It’s father – son relationship and its speaking directly into the Egyptian ideological environment.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Why Should God Care Less? part 8

This carries on from the post below:

Can I suggest what’s going on here? This is not straight narrative, but neither is it straight poetry. We have examples of ancient Hebrew poetry: Exodus 15, Numbers 13, 14, Judges 5, there’s a number of them. Very old Hebrew texts and they’re poetry and Genesis 1 is not poetry. Not on those parameters. But it’s clearly not straight narrative. Something else is going on. And what I think is happening is this: given the repetition, given the architectonic structure we have here a liturgical text. The point of it is to build this crescendo which we saw so brilliantly this morning. What you guys did really got into Genesis 1. It just begins to build. Did you feel that as you work through? That’s what Genesis 1 is doing. That’s what the literary structure is on about. That’s why there’s repetition. That’s why it’s so architectonic. It’s designed to finally have people go YES!! The LORD is KING! That’s what they meant to say at the end. And if you didn’t feel like doing that after the presentation earlier this morning, goodness. That’s to exalt the name of God. That’s partly what’s going on here.

Now, of course Genesis 1 wasn’t written in a vacuum. It belongs to a culture. And in order to understand something about a cultural artefact you need to know something about the culture. I’m still trying to learn about ice hockey. Ah, it’s all these guys skating around on this kind of thing [laughter]. And they’re wearing all this body armour kind of stuff. What is that? Ah? Come on, be real men. Watch Australian rules. No protection. Well you can tell I know nothing about ice hockey, right? Obviously. So what’s going on culturally? How do we make sense of this kind of thing?

Let’s look at some of the background – this is ancient Sumer [Rikk is now making us of overhead visuals behind him]. They also told themselves creation narratives. And look at some of the things they’re concerned with. So, what we’re doing here is simply trying to get a feel for – when ancient people talked about creation, what were the kinds of things they discussed? We’re simply doing cross-cultural contextualization. We’re doing this for reading Genesis now. Not so much evangelism, but just for listening rather than speaking. Notice they had this idea of first heaven and earth being separated and you’ve got a watery goddess who is the antecedent of heaven and earth. That means that someone reading Genesis isn’t going to be completely thrown. They understand this language of first of all water and then some kind of heaven and earth stuff. This is not unfamiliar language. Notice there’s an increase in order. I’d put the text up for you but it’d be too technical, but you start with this amorphous water and then slowly more order comes. Human beings begin as animals and end up being a special creature. They see this increasing complexity. People were aware of these kinds of things. Then there’s the Babylonian stories. I put them in inverted columns because, technically speaking, in the second millennium BC, Babylon suffered from several incursions from Amorites and also from some other Semites, so we’re not entirely sure just how Babylonian these stories are. And by this I mean the early Babylon, not Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon. So, in their stories, what do we have? Well this is the Atraharsis myth on a tablet that was dug up. We start off with Tiamet, who’s salt water and Apsu, the fresh ground water. That shouldn’t be Tiamet ... that’s mis-typed. The point though is Marduk defeats Tiamet and creates heaven and earth from her body. So you notice we start with water, then the separation – heaven and earth. And then humans are created from the blood of a rebel god, to serve the gods. Just imagine what your society will look like if that’s your creation narrative. Human beings, created from the blood of a rebel to do the dirty work of the gods. Guess what your political structures will look like. Hm? Worth thinking about. People who say that Christianity has nothing to do with politics understand neither.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Why should God Care Less? part 7

This carries on from the post below:

Now, when you read that word, earth – arretz [phonetic spelling only], don’t think of the blue globe spinning in space, that’s not what that word means. It means homeland. God created the heavens and the place where I belong. Not some generic planet. That’s not what it means; it means ‘the place where I’m rooted.’ Read Genesis 1 like that. This is where I think the first nations people have got it over us. They understand some of that. God created the heavens and the place in which I am rooted. Eh? Beautiful.

Well, let’s go to the content. A few questions about this. Now, I don’t mean to be facetious here, though, it’s going to come out a little bit. Sorry. I’ll try to keep it filed back a bit. But we’re going to ask some questions of this text because I think the kinds of questions we ask of a text help us to understand what it’s trying to say and what it’s not. So the first question: How come it takes God the same amount of time to make such vastly different things? I mean, the universe is mind numbingly HUGE! How come it takes him the same amount of time to do that as it does to separate the waters above and below? That’s one of those ‘have you ever seen a tiger explode?’ questions. Do you see, if you were reading this as a regular person, without some pre-commitment to what Genesis 1 was saying, you’d go, ‘gee, it’s really odd that it takes God the same amount of time to do all of that as it does to do this.’ That doesn’t quite make sense. Well, some other things. Why just twelve hours? It doesn’t say twelve hours but its morning and evening so we’re kind of assuming it’s a twelve hour day. Why doesn’t it take him 11 ½ hours one time and a 135.6 hours another time? Why exactly twelve hours? Ever thought about that? Didn’t that strike you as odd? In fact, why any time at all? Why can’t God just go, bazzing, and there it is? Jesus can do miracles like that, can’t he? I mean, the blind guy sees. He didn’t have to wait 12 hours. Jesus says: ‘Well, wait ‘til the next morning. Morning, evening then you’ll see.’ Right? It doesn’t happen like that. Why should it take God any time at all? When you start asking these kind of questions and get kind of embarrassing answers like this, what’s it telling you? It’s probably telling you that we’re miss-reading the text. It’s not trying to tell us those kinds of things. ‘I wonder what kind of disease Marg Simpson is suffering from to get hair like that. We should send her to the doctor.’ Ah no, no, it’s ridiculous. Don’t ask that question. That’s not what it’s on about. Well, same with Genesis. Does God need to talk to the U.S. marines? Does he need night vision goggles? Can’t he see at night to create? Why only during the day? Absurd – the very suggestion. Something else must be going on then. What about the amphibians? What’s the Emu doing? Blubblblblblbublblblblub. Maybe that’s why it grew a long neck – kind of evolving as ... come on! This is highly stylized. Something’s going on here, I’m committed to the truth of it but please folks, no way is this a blow by blow account of what actually happened. Everything is telling us ‘Don’t READ me like this!’ The form, the content and then Genesis 2. Oh! Big problem now because Genesis 2 tells us plants were not created until after humanity and Genesis 1 says they were created before. So, brilliant western scholars say ‘Well, we have two versions of the Genesis account and these guys hadn’t talked to one another, didn’t get their facts straight, and then someone didn’t know what to do with them and so just plunked them both in Genesis and let the two contradictory things stand.’ Well, that’s one option. The other option is, maybe we don’t know what we’re talking about. But that doesn’t occur to scholars. [laughter]

Friday, May 01, 2009

Why Should God Care Less? part 6

This carries on from the post below:

Now, people who study ancient documents understand because they don’t have indices. If you go to your local scroll store, you want to pick up a copy of Genesis, right, um, it’s not like you open it up and there’s a table of contents. Maybe there’s a picture of Aaron, you know, a big cut-out holding a copy of Genesis there you know. ‘This is a wonderful book and everyone ought to buy it.’ Right, then on the back there’s kind of a few ... maybe Paul got in his tardus(?) and he wrote and kind of little kind of blurb saying buy this from Zondervan, or something. I’m sure they were there. [laughter] Ever try to flick through a scroll? It’s pretty hard to do. The ancients new that, so what they do at the outset is they tell you where they’re going. So you really do have to pay close attention to opening sentences. So you get ‘bar a sheet, el o him, ba ra’ [phonetic spelling only] ‘In the beginning, God created’ and then what do you get? ‘the heavens and the earth’ and ‘the earth was tohoo wavohoo [phonetic spelling only].’ Sounds like something you buy at one of those new age festivals. Honey and sugar and cream or something. Formless and empty. Now, they could have said a whole range of things. ‘And there was a Starbucks on every corner.’ There’s a whole range of things the writer could have said, but he chooses to say this. Pay attention to it. Take it seriously.

So, we’re going to do that and we’re going to look at the literary structure of Genesis. So, very quickly, day 1, what happens? God said ‘let there be light. And God separated the light from the darkness.’ Day 2, another separation – waters above, waters below. Day 3 the waters are gathered together; dry land appears. Now, what’s happening? That which was formless has been given form. Three days of giving form to that which was formless. And the earth was formless and empty – tohoo wavohoo. First three days you give form; what do you think is going to happen on the next three days? Just hazard a guess. [some in the audience answers ‘they’ll be filled’] Hey. Low and behold, that’s what happens. The realm of night and day, filled with rulers. What’s going to happen on the corresponding day 5? You’ve got waters above, waters below. What do you thinks going to happen? Birds and fish. What’s going to happen in the next one? On the land – humanity and animals. What’s going on? Three days formed. Three days filled.

Now, that is a highly architectonic literary structure. Anyone do humanities here? Anyone doing English Lit.? Couple of you. Strike. You’re in serious trouble reading the Bible folks. We have two or three people who know about literature. [there are some few hundred people in the audience]. And we’re going to try and read our Bibles. Oh boy. We’re in for real strife. Oh, that’s o.k., I love you all. You know what I’ve found that’s real interesting? When I talk about this stuff the English Lit. people go YEAH! And the engineers, the mathematicians and often the systematic theologians are busy running out lighting fires. [laughter] The Bible’s literature! It’s really important to have some skills in that bible reading. Now, again, I don’t know anywhere in the Bible, and I’m pretty familiar with parts of it, I don’t know anywhere in the Bible where you find this kind of literary structure in a straight forward historical account. You just don’t find it. Now, that’s not to say it’s not true. It’s absolutely true. But maybe the truth is more like the fact that tigers, Blake’s tigers, read that little couplet, you’ll learn more about the essence of tigers from that couplet than you will from a 500 volume DNA map. You read it right, it’s very powerful. I want to suggest that that’s what’s going on here in Genesis as well. And then finally on the seventh day God rests. Notice there’s no evening and morning to the seventh day. That should give people pause. Something else is going on here. Let Genesis 1 speak to us as it wants to.

There’s some other things we can say too. It’s a little bit clearer in the Hebrew. I do apologize for mentioning that language but it was written in Hebrew, so, there you go. The corresponding days 1 and 3 have one creative act. The next two days have one creative act of two parts; they’re becoming increasingly complex. And then the final days, 3 and 6, have two separate creative acts. Notice that? Increasing complexity as you move through both form and formless and notice the direction: the focus is from heaven to earth. EXACTLY what you find in the book of Revelation. The emphasis in Genesis is the focus upon the earth.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Why Should God Care Less? part 5

This carries on from the post below:

So I get very nervous when I meet evangelicals whose first line of faith is ‘Propositional Revelation!’ And I want to say to them ‘You’re god is way too small.’ It’s not to say I’m against proposition, but if there’s no room for metaphor and image then your god is way too tiny. Metaphor expands horizons. That’s why the prophets use metaphor over and over again. This thing in which we are involved is ENORMOUS! It’s huge. And you caught some of that with that video. Singing those songs about creation and just seeing the glories of this ... it’s too big, isn’t it? It’s too big for us. And then you hear the Psalmist – the wonder of creation. How glorious this is. That’s what metaphor is really good for dealing with.

Now, so I’m arguing for this: metaphor is used in the Bible as a striking way of telling the truth and often the most important truths are going to be told in metaphor. I simply want to do that because in my theological education, theology was kind of like an atomic table of God. Euclidian theology. The geometry of the trinity. Eh, and it all gets reduced this kind of mathematical statement. Pardon me, but a pox upon all such houses. Because really what’s going on with that Euclidian geometry is, well we don’t have time to talk about it, but if you know some philosophy, they’re basically responding to the critique of creation as a way of finding the truth from Parmenides and Heraclites. And that’s not the Biblical view in Genesis 1. Creation is good, good, good, good, good. It’s not to be disparaged. And often these ways of talking about God I think, actually, at bottom, imply some denigration of the goodness of the material world. But that’s another thing. We can have questions and answers about that later on. [someone’s cell phone rings] Who wakes up at this time of the morning? It’s a cell phone, isn’t it? It’s a cell phone. Those of you sitting around that person, feel free now to pounce upon them. [laughter]

O.K., so let’s go to Genesis 1 and quickly work through some of this. We’re going to do what we’ve done with The Simpsons, what we’ve done with Blake, what we’ve done with Isaiah. Let’s look at the form! And the first thing you get, as we heard in this wonderful presentation. Wasn’t it amazing? Did we actually say thank you for that? No. [Clapping and cheering] It’s really moving. You read Genesis 1 in a new way, don’t you? You know, I think that’s part of our task – is to read these things anew every generation to find new ways in telling the same truth. I think that’s the real exercise. It’s one thing to exegete. That’s the easy part. The difficult part is reframing these in a new incarnational moment for every generation. That’s the hard part. It takes a lot of work. Let’s do this now for Genesis 1. First of all, the repetition. And God said, and God said, and God said, and God said, and God said, let there be, let there be, let there be, let there be, let there be, and there was, and there was, and there was, and there was, and there was, and God saw, and God saw, and God saw, and God saw, and God saw .... You’re familiar with this, aren’t you? You’ve sung choruses over and over and over again. [laughter] Now, in terms of content, maybe some of you know the book of Samuel. Maybe some of you know the books of Kings. Or even the narratives in Genesis chapter 12 about God’s call of Moses. Let me be provocative. I defy you to find me one piece of biblical historiography that has this kind of repetition. I defy you. What’s that telling you? At the very outset it’s telling us this, folks, whatever you do, don’t read Genesis 1 as straight forward historiography. It’s just not that. You’d laugh at people who misread Blake or who misread The Simpsons, don’t become a laughing stalk by misreading Genesis 1. That doesn’t mean it’s not true! I’m not saying that. But clearly, the form! In terms of genre, this repetition is telling us this is not straight forward historical narrative. It is some other kind.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Why Should God Care Less? part 4

This carries on from the post below:

Is it true? … ah, very quiet out there. And, partly, that‘s because I’m Australian and you know I’m sneaky! Well, it’s kind of yes and no, isn’t it? If we think The Simpsons are about people who run about with very serious kidney and liver ailments, then no, probably not true. But why is it so popular? Because it is profoundly true, in other ways. Now what helps us make that distinction? Form and content – it’s the genre. You recognize from the form it’s a cartoon. So you’re thinking, it’s going to be over the top. There’s going to be some ridiculous, unreal elements to this. But at the same time, it does that usually in the service of making another point. So, the form: cartoon. The content: you know people don’t look like this; the kinds of things that go on are too extreme. You recognize that and you don’t read it, as it were, too concretely – you’re able to distinguish between, kind of, the extreme stuff, and the real point it’s trying to make. A very powerful way of communicating. Why do you think political cartoons are so effective?

Now, we can make that distinction. Well, o.k., that’s great for The Simpsons but we’re talking about the Bible here. Well, yes we are, we’re talking about literature. What about this one: ‘Tiger, tiger burning bright, in the forests of the night.’ Is it true? Well, not if you think Blake’s talking about the propensity of feral cats to ignite spontaneously during their nocturnal wanderings! [Laughter] You like that, did you? I had practiced that so it’s really not quite as astounding as it sounds [laughter]. And it’s not going to help to keep saying: ‘Blake says it. I believe it. And that settles it!’ It’s not going to help anything. The question is: have we understood the genre? Now, you look at the form – it’s poetry. Dut da dut da dut dad a, dut da dut da dut da da. That immediately alerts you to metaphor, symbolism. To be open to these kind of things. And then the content. You KNOW tigers do NOT spontaneously combust. You know that. And you know what? Blake actually hopes that you know that. He’s assuming you know that. And for someone to say then that Blake is actually arguing for the fact that tigers explode in forests, you’d laugh. But you’d be amazed at how many Christians do that with Genesis 1. Hm.

Well, what about the Bible? Yup, it’s in the Bible too. There it is folks; Isaiah prophesies that one day the trees will grow hands. Well, it’s ridiculous, isn’t it? Did you know that most of what the prophets write is poetry? So be really careful about how you interpret it that stuff. Doesn’t mean it’s not true. In fact, if you think about it, when there’s some really important things you want to say …. (for instance) as a guy you find this really nice woman… wow! Eh? Thank you Lord! And, you know, you take her out to dinner and what do you start saying to her? “Oh I’m really, I just love the way that radiation in the 55 kilohertz band width just strikes off those retinal cells and they just cause this chain …” What’s she going to do? She’s going to throw her soup at you and you deserve it. You don’t hear people going: “E equals M C squared da na da na da na!” That’s not on the radio. [laughter] And the reason is, and our culture doesn’t really understand this, knowing e=mc2 will not give you a better marriage. Now that’s a trivial example but our culture thinks that scientific knowledge is the way to learn what it means to be human. They need to listen to the radio. That’s not what being human is about and yet we are convinced that we can discover what it means to be human by reducing ourselves to these kinds of things. Now we write poetry about the things that matter most to us. Why? Because equations constrain. They confine. Metaphor opens up horizons and there are some things that are just too big, they are just too alive to be captured by mere proposition.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Why Should God Care Less? part 3

This carries on from the post below:

... Now, how could I have missed this? Well, the problem was, I didn’t know how to read the book of Genesis. We’re going to spend a bit of time that morning to unpack some of that. And I think though certainly familiar, it’s been transforming. Now the problem with ancient documents is this: they’re written in another language. And you know people where you talk about Genesis 1 and you are really walking on thin ice. You can lose your eternal destiny according to some people if you misread Genesis 1, is that not true? There are all kinds of bun fights that go on about the meaning of this text. Well, it’s interesting though, that the people who have these arguments ... (uh, by the way, bun fight is an Australian term. It doesn’t mean what bun means here. Ok? [laughter] Just to kind of clarify that. And it’s in the singular. Not plural.) People read Genesis 1 off the page in English and they say, ‘well, that’s what it says.’ But of course it wasn’t written in English, it was written in Hebrew. And that’s significant. Why is that so important? Well, you probably know this, but it’s worthwhile to be reminded, that there’s no such thing as a generic word. Every word is culturally bound. They have to be. That’s the kind of world God made. God did not make some kind of Socratic world of forms and essences. He made particular trees, particular plants, particular people, particular languages .... We don’t have time to talk about that but western philosophy, for two thousand years, has been diametrically opposed to what God has actually created. And Heigl represents the pinnacle of this. He really can’t deal with the particular and Kierkegaard recognized that so that’s why on Kierkegaard’s tombstone he has written ‘That individual.’ It’s his last shot at Heigl. These world encompassing maps that explain everything. Kierkegaard recognized ultimately how, and maybe he wouldn’t have used this language, but I would, how demonic they can become. And you see it happening in church systems too. In the name of efficiency we turn people into generic persons. And then people feel de-humanized. God did not make a world like that. He made a particular world with particular people - that means particular cultures. And this culture is from a long time ago.
Now I’m an Australian. I’ve been here for 9 years. I still don’t understand Canadians. I’m working on it. I used to think that Canadians and Australians were pretty similar. In fact I think that we’re rather different in all kinds of ways. Actually sometimes it’s good. You’re polite. It’s great. But from an Australian’s point of view sometimes we think you’re dishonest. You’re being polite and we think: ‘You’re not really telling the truth, are you?’ And I’m not making a value judgement on that, it’s just what happens when two cultures meet one another. Well, if we have that kind of interaction and we live in the same time frame, imagine the problems we’re going to have understanding a culture that’s 3 thousand years distant from ours. Now, you’ve done some training on this, you understand these issues. It’s really important to take those very, very seriously indeed. Sometimes we only give them lip service. We need to take it more seriously than that. So, very different culture, long time ago, different language, how do we understand this? Well there are some clues. There are some tricks we can use and it’s to do with the question of genre, form and content and the first place to go when talking about Genesis 1 is ... The Simpsons. [Laughter] And you knew that, right. Uh, I once mentioned that in church and really got into trouble for talking about The Simpsons on Sunday morning. I was talking about the book of Daniel actually and mentioned The Simpsons in that context and it was very quiet in this very large Pentecostal church in Vancouver and, uh, I should have picked up the signals but then I’m Australian so I’m not very sensitive; I’m not polite. So I said ‘You don’t watch this show?’ [laughter] Well, the point that came after was ‘how in the world do you expect to share the gospel with people when you don’t understand their language?’ Got a bit of a blast about that. Well, this is not the right thing to do. But any case: The Simpsons. Now here’s the question: Is The Simpsons true?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Why Should God Care Less? part 2

This carries on from the post below.

... So, according to Revelation, the new Jerusalem is coming down out of heaven. There’s also some interesting things that happen: notice, God’s home is ...? Among mortals. It doesn’t say we’re going to dwell with God. So the one who is making the move here is God, not us. His dwelling is going to be with human beings. If I was going to be with Him, that’s the kind of language I would use. ‘One day I’m going to be with Jesus,’ that’s not what Revelation says. One day God is going to be with us. A few other things about this particular story that are interesting: notice that there’s no temple. Now when I was a young lad there was all this talk about rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem and I don’t know if that’s maybe part of some of your heritage, it would certainly be part of mine. It’s a bit of a shock to realize that God apparently could care less about a temple because there isn’t one in this new Jerusalem. That’s rather striking, it’s hard to imagine. Jerusalem apart from a temple, and yet, finally there will be no temple. There’s also some other things about this picture that are strange and that is, this city is quite extraordinary. 1,500 miles a side or 12 thousand stadia John tells us. That number 12, 000 is significant; reminds you of the 144,000 doesn’t it? That’s kind of alluding to the complete fullness of God’s people, namely Israel, or the new Israel. But it’s huge! And it’s shaped like a cube! I always think of the Borg [laughter]. Imagine living in the inner city. ‘Wanna go to the suburbs? Yeah, pack several cut lunches ‘cause it’s a 750 mile trip’. Well, what’s intriguing about this is if you know something about the 1st century you’ll realize that this is about the size of the known world. They believed the known world was about 1,500 miles square. So here’s John’s picture – you’ve got a new Jerusalem that comes down out of heaven, there’s no temple in it, it’s cube shaped and it’s the size of the known world. Now what’s he trying to tell us?
Surely you know how to read Revelation; a lot of it is symbolism. So you have to ask yourself: ‘O.K., there’s something I don’t understand in Revelation. Where do I go?’ And usually the answer is back to the Old Testament. So the question is, what do you know that’s shaped like a cube in the old testament? And most people go for the Ark of the Covenant, which is pretty close. It’s as hot as you can get in one of those ‘you’re getting warmer’ games without actually being boiling. Where do you find the Ark of the Covenant? You find it in the Holy of Holies. And you can see from these texts here: 20 cubits long, 20 cubits wide, 20 cubits high – it’s the Holy of Holies in Solomon’s temple and probably based on the pattern of the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle.
So what’s John telling us? He’s telling us the entire cosmos is going to become the Holy of Holies. So I was quite moved when you had that fabulous piece of video work there with that ... how did you get that synchronization there ... all those images of creation. Their destiny is to become the Holy of Holies. I was brought up thinking that my destiny was that I was going to leave this place, that it was all going to get burnt up, and I was going to be on these clouds playing a harp (hopefully electric), and getting to look like some high church Anglican for the rest of my life. Which as a Pentecostal is a little troubling, huh. [Laughter] But now my Dean is an Anglican who once was a Pentecostal and he apparently likes these kind of things so you probably can survive. He’s a pretty nice bloke by the way, and still into that stuff, so, it’s ok. The whole cosmos is going to become the Holy of Holies. God is going to dwell with us in this restored creation. That’s the destiny; that was not my eschatology. And I think that’s why my sense of evangelism and my sense of Christian life were so dislocated. I didn’t really quite understand, at a profound level, why I was here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Why Should God Care Less? part 1

The following number of posts will be a recorded lecture by a professor of Regent college. This particular professor gave 4 lectures on a study of creation and revelation that profoundly changed my outlook on how it is I read the Bible and my understanding of God's design when it comes to creation and how He views it all. I intend on posting these in segments as they are lengthy but full of excellent stuff worth commenting on. Please do dialogue and let me know what you think of what is said. I have obtained permission to post these lectures. Please note that when the word 'I' is used, it is referring to the lecturer, not myself. So you have a little background, he was speaking to a gathering of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship staff workers from across Canada in Ontario - very thought provoking type people. Also, he makes reference to slides and images on a screen behind him while he speaks at times. There are also obvious humurous tongue-in-cheek moments that are not always noticed in typed words. I hope that you will enjoy the following. Enjoy!

I grew up as a Pentecostal, and this is actually an Australian accent, as you probably realize, I’m not speaking in tongues; though you may doubt that at some point. I don’t know what your experience was, but, my experience was pretty much: what happened on Sunday really had nothing to do with the rest my Christian life in the work place. I was talking to a couple of Regent board members about 6 months ago, maybe a bit longer, 18 months ago, and uh ... you’ve turned that light on me haven’t you? And the Lord said ‘let there be darkness’ and there was. [laughter] Thank you! Good. Ah, this is more important than me, so, I want you to see those images. I asked them, as we were preparing for this meeting, how many of you here on a Sunday morning have anything that has the slightest bit to do with your weekly work life? And one person out of the ten said ‘sometimes’. Now that’s a tragedy. But that was my Christian background. We were waiting for the eschaton; waiting for the rapture. And I remember (some of you have heard this story) when I was about ten or twelve years old, living in Western Australia, the Six Day War was on. Some of you remember the 6 Day War? Israel, Egypt, Armageddon? That kind of stuff? Well, I went to bed one night in the middle of that war and just FULL of eschatological anticipation. I wouldn’t have called it that back then at ten, but that’s what it was. Now I’m old enough to recognize it. Well, in the early hours of the morning, wee hours of the morning, we weren’t that far from a major trucking route, apparently some very large articulated vehicle felt the need to blow their air horn. Bah raaaaah! Well, there I was! I was just ready to go, and [laughter] talk about leaping for the Lord. A very disappointed boy woke up on the wrong side of the ceiling the next morning.

That’s what I grew up with. That being Christian was about eventually leaving this place. Then I went to seminary and began to do some study and discovered some other things were going on. Notably, when I read the book of Revelation, I discovered this: What does the new Jerusalem do? You can read it, right there in front of you. Check your Bibles, I haven’t fiddled with the text. The new Jerusalem does what? Comes down out of heaven. Now this is a bit of a shock. You do understand of course that Pentecostals own the title to the book of Revelation. We let you read it provided you pay a poll tax, eh. Now the same applies to Acts chapter 2, that’s our chapter but the one about sharing things with one another, that can belong to somebody else but we’ve got Acts chapter 2, that’s ours. Now, it’s a funny thing isn’t it, how you can read a text and it can be your text that defines who you are and never really see what it says. So what would have happened was, here I am whizzing up into the air and I would of waved at Jesus as he comes down ... heading in other directions.

Now, I’m convinced folks, our eschatology has a huge amount to say about the way we do evangelism. Because it says a great deal about how we view creation. I was talking to Ray about what it means to him to be a first nations person and worshipping, and there are some people in his tradition that get very nervous about feathers and smoke. And I think that grows out of a very faulty, perhaps even pagan, view of the nature of creation. I think if they had more of a Christian view, they might not get so upset about those things ... though I understand it's a little more complex. People who've grown up with certain associations connected to those objects, well, it'll be unsettling for them. But for a generation whose not grown up with those kind of associations, then there's a sense in which these things are pure. It can be then used in the service of worshipping God.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The need to connect

I recently have been playing with a new online connective tool meant to better bring together individuals who are working together but who are not in relative geographic proximity. It's called a Wiki - an online collaborative work page, essentially. A web page that can be edited by multiple persons at nearly the same time from any location (where there's a computer).

Yet another attempt at closing the relational gap made prevalent (originally) by the internal combustion engine that made it possible for all humans (along with drivable roads) to travel impossible distances with relative safety, ease and comfort. Strange, then, isn't it, that we use so much of this electronic world (e-mails, facebook, skype, wikis, blogs, etc.) to reconnect with our fellow human beings. Is it a case of valuing our freedom to travel and be wherever we want without the inherent labour involved in having to live in close proximity with the people near to us?

Saturday, February 28, 2009

All for one person

The other day I finally had the opportunity to respond to an emergency with the volunteer fire department I am a member of. I've been a member for nearly a year but had yet to make it to a call either because we've been called off the scene before we've arrived or I've been out of town or busy working during the call. But this other day I made it!

I won't give any great details (because I'm not sure that I'm allowed to share them) but, needless to say, it was a motor vehicle accident involving a semi-truck. Off the road and off a bridge and into a creek. Having a high level of first aid I was on scene and at the victim's side for most of the time we were required to be there before he was extricated. What I found to be remarkable about the whole event was the level of care, dedication and work that went into saving and helping just one life. There were roughly 8 of us fire fighters, some police men, Search and Rescue people and ambulance paramedics. Probably close to 20 different people with all different skills assisting this one poor (and lucky) soul. We all worked hard for nearly 3 hours to get the driver safely out of the truck and the creek and into medical care. All that for one person!! I was unequivocally astounded by our standard for how greatly we value human life ... at least in emergency situations. That people will voluntarilly and with sincerety put their own lives on the line for another person. It just felt RIGHT to be a part of a team whose underpinning drive for responding is that all life is invaluably precious and worth fighting to save.
If only this care and sincerety could be translated to other circumstances.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Prayer, is a fascinating thing. This act (if it can simply be called an act) is our tangable bridge of relationship with God. The vehicle that often proves faith is evident and invokes the hand of God to salvation. Often it is the means by which we learn our true relation to the maker of all that is created. Prayer.

And yet, I have some difficulty with it. With, perhaps, how I have been taught prayer is used. What it is. How I have been taught to pray. The reason I have difficulty is this: (and I have only really been able to put words to it just recently) that how we understand how we relate to God/pray to Him, greatly affects our understanding of the kind of God He is - His characteristics, the truth of His views. This is true in any relationship. How you're told to communicate properly with certain individuals greatly changes what you think they're really like. If your parents tell you you can only call other adults Mr. & Mrs. so and so, and to do so is rude or whatever, how does this affect what you think of adults? Or society? Or what's acceptable or isn't?

This is troubling for me because how I have prayed/been taught to pray, has been limited. It, in the beginning at any rate, was mostly a formula. Kind of like coming before the audience chamber of a king. You don't just jump up to the throne and 'hang' with the king. There's protocol. You have to petition for an audience. Make sure your appeal is worthy to bring forth to the king. Follow the procedures in honouring Him when you enter the throne room. Only get so close; don't look at him for too long. Hope beyond hope that he has regard for your now seemingly insignificant request amongst the vast list of petitions he's already received, etc. But this is not prayer, far from it.
I used to have this magnet on my fridge. It said 'Pray, there is immeasurable power in it'. I hated that magnet. Not just because it had these cheesy pastel flowers on it, but because there is a small but incredibly subtle untruth in that statement. There is NOT immeasurable power in prayer. Meaning, there is not immeasurable power in WHAT I DO to affect what God can do. Only God has the claim and right to immeasurable power. That small phrase stinks of manipulation - of faith based on works. The works being: the harder I pray, the longer I pray, the more I pray, the earlier I pray, the more likely God will hear me, do something, listen, help me, change my circumstances, relieve my guilt, make me holier, more godly, spiritual and so on and so on. And is this not how and why we are taught to pray?? Even subtly? I remember being taught the old A.C.T.S. acronymn. That 4 step process to positive prayer: adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication. But they all formulas! How do you put a formula to a relationship? How to you formulize (I just made that word up) communication between friends? I have to laugh thinking that if I stepped up to my best friend and looked him in the eye and began reciting that acronymn and repeating the steps and voicing my structured thoughts to him how sick he'd become of my attempt to communicate with him. No matter how sincere my attempt, my own understanding of prayer would keep me at a distance from my friend that He never intended or wanted.
So ... what is prayer then? Well, first, I must say that all my life I have most sincerely sought to communicate with the Lord. And I felt that He has always been gracious to listen to me despite my misunderstandings. But my knowledge and understanding of Him is changing ... all the time. Because He is HUGE and beyond comprehension. And so my understanding of how I relate to Him changes ... all the time. I find that prayer is far larger and encompasses far more than we would probably like or feel comfortable admitting. To me, I think, prayer is every thing I do that affects my relationship with my creator. Which is really ... everything I do and say and think and experience. My whole life is prayer, everything about it, if I'm conscious to remember that God is at all times amongst me, listening, watching, working, caring. So, in my mind's eye, when I'm walking silently up the road to work in the morning on a crisp winter day with the sunlight falling through bare branches and the wind whistling over cold mountains, my God my friend walks with me beside me, enjoying the same crisp morning I am. And so I commune with my God. When my heart aches to hear of how a friend has lost someone he loves to death, my God aches with me! When in conversation about difficult and trying issues and circumstances with my wife, we are not only talking to each other by also sharing with our Lord. For He listens and acts and yearns with us. Most every, if not every, conversation I have with another person, is a prayer. It is communication with the Almighty - '... for whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' (Matt. 25:40) and '... men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.' Sobering thoughts for me. I am not trying to make excuses for my own failings, but I will certainly not choose to treat God as less than He is. As though I have power over His will. I don't think those great men and women of faith cause great things to happen because of how they pray. I think they have a deep understanding of God's character and are close to Him and we see that and we wish we could be like them, perhaps, and we wonder what must we DO! But it is not what we DO! It is perhaps simply BEING with God. It is knowing Him, being loved by Him and returning that love. Perhaps. I'm not sure. I'm still working through it all and likely always will be.

Monday, February 09, 2009


Recently I was chatting with a pastor friend of mine about "a great many things." The phenomenon of our current evangelical church was a part of the discussion and something of a revelation (pardon the pun) came to me.

I had asked this friend, retorically, what would happen if we decided to shut all the churches down in the town I live in (Hope) for, say, a month ... or a year. Believe it or not, there are a number of small churches here: Baptist, Church of the Nazarene, Pentecostal, Harvest, Two Anglicans (recently divorced), Catholic, United, etc.. By shut down, I mean close the buildings and keep the pastor/priest from performing his 'religious' duties. What would happen?? - well, I thought, you'd probably have a good number of people down right upset! Like, they'd probably think you were loony (if YOU were the one to shut them down). The really zealous ones might say something like: 'You're destroying the work of God!' or 'Satan has deceived you!' or some such thing. There would probably be a good many who would break into the church and do something like a 'service' anyway and think of themselves as clever christians who are persecuted for their faith. And, I bet there would be a few who might actually enjoy not having to go to church on the Sunday mornings.

I had thought that something else might also happen: it might be (if the buildings couldn't be entered) that people would meet to worship the Lord anyway, just not in a church building. They might just decide to keep the old system going as best as possible. And then again, maybe there would be a change in how we view this machine we call church. Like, it might actually start looking more like a living organic thing. One that is not segregated and categorized by walls or building structures; by doctrines and emphasies on particular statements of belief. One that does not set one person (usually a man) above the rest in the spiritual hierarchy of our so called evangelical churches (the pastor/priest). One where one person is not guaranteed a wage to support a growing unsupportable system of maintaining a spiritual worldview that is limited to the confines of a few buildings, programs and people who call themselves 'Baptist' or 'Nazarene' or whatever. Of course, denominations surely wouldn't go for it. We'd be dismantling the entire organization! Plus the financial system that keeps it afloat. And the means by which spiritual success is somehow measured [sic].

And then I got thinking about how I feel like God just isn't cooped up in a church building or even every church building. Like he's just too big for this. He's so much greater and vaster! He has such grander ideas! His ways are so far above ours. As if we can keep him confined to a particular structure. Wait a MINUTE! Isn't that what the Israelites did in the desert? They made this golden calf thingy, like RIGHT after Moses brings them out of slavery in Egypt, led by the Lord Almighty himself as a pillar of fire and cloud. They make this gold cow and start worshipping God as if he's inside this golden calf!! Or ... worshipping a god as if he's inside the cow. But what is an idol but a definable, limited manmade structure? An attempt at controlling that which we know we have no control over. It's, presumably, easy to worship a cow! We know exactly what a cow does, how it lives, what it lives for, what it eats, where it stands on the survival chain. It then gives definable and explanatory reasons for a god's or God's actions and thoughts and intents. But then, does not a church building and programs do that too?? Do not our own doctrines do that too?? That to say I'm Pentecostal means I believe that God is more interested in the act of giving spiritual gifts than he is in another equally important article of the faith I have? That God really only works to bring about his kingdom through his church ... and therefore through the people who believe ... well, believe like I do? People who go to THIS building and are a part of THIS denomination? Are our churches (the buildings and organizational institutions) not just giant gold cows!!!!

I guess I'm just redefining the term idolatry, in my own mind. It seems to me that we have often used the term 'put God in a box' a whole lot but never really considered just how ridiculous that thought is because of how un-puttable God is. His dimensions cannot be grasped and his thoughts cannot be measured and our religious gatherings in NO way are any where CLOSE to the summation of His intent and action. Oh how quick we are to deify even how we do what we do. I'm not suggesting that churches are evil or buildings are useless or programs are pointless. No, but if they become the focal point and the anchoring cement to how it is we choose to know who our Saviour is, we have completely lost the point. And God, then will only be as big as we see Him to be. But that's a scary place to be for some. Myself notwithstanding. Even our doctrines can become snares and traps that give us some false hope that our God has limited bounds that give us ease in thinking about who He is.

When I hear God say 'You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.' (Exodus 20:4) I hear him say 'You shall never control me nor shall you ever make yourselves slaves to your own ideas of who you think I am. I am uncontainable!'.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Conference and canoeing

Just this past few days I have attended the BCCA/FCC camping conference at Stillwood Camp and Conference Centre in Chilliwack, BC. It was a most rewarding time, enjoying the company of many other people (directors, camp cooks, maintenance folk, interns, administrators all others who make a camp run). The world of camping is expanding and growing and changing all the time. What was once considered a way to have fun in the summer is a burgeoning business and a ministry that meets an enormous variety of needs and serves people of all ages all year round. I continue to have a deepening respect for those I work alongside and I hope that you, too, will grow in such respect. The highlights for me are always the connecting and relating to others who are friends, or who, for the first time, become friends in this shared adventure and love I call Christian camping.

Also, very soon, I will again be paddling down the Fraser River to raise monies to support our young volunteers who come to counsel and care for children for the summer months. Please consider this an exciting invitation to support us in our efforts to reward these young people with a bursary for tuition after their months of service. Last year over $70, 000.00 were raised and we hope to continue the momentum! For me, I just enjoy being on the mighty Fraser and steering that large voyageur down that ancient waterway with a bunch of enthusiastic paddlers. If you'd like to donate for such a cause, contact camp Squeah:

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The sacrament of marriage

Recently I spent some time chatting with a few of my male friends in Hope and we got onto the topic of marriage. My question to them (and to myself) was, 'why is the line of "you can't have sex until ..." right after the officiator says "I now pronounce you man and wife!"'? Which led to some very interesting discussion. But it was difficult to have an answer to this question. It has been ingrained in me that sex is only morally 'right' in the context of marriage. Which I believe wholeheartedly. But marriage now, consider this thought:

Marriage is an extremely old covenant or arrangement. In the Bible, the first woman is called Adam's wife. Interesting that this is her first title and there's no ceremony (that's recorded). It's simply a truth of her relationship with this man. We aren't given another detailed glimpse into marriage or courtship (apart from reading that, say, Noah has a wife) really, until Isaac and Rebekah get together. And even then we're only told "... and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her;" Gen. 24:67. The first marriage celebration we're invited to learn about is Jacob's marriage to Rachel & Leah.

What is interesting to me about marriage, is it's this cultural phenomenon that has been around for as long as man has lived on the planet. It is accepted as the natural and good event that binds a man and woman together. Nearly EVERY culture has this observance in it. Marriage is a universal relationship within the human race - and by extension, the family unit. And though God gives strict moral laws regarding marriage in the old testament, he does it to solidify and purify the accepted observance that has already been going on for millenia. So, people are married and given in marriage all the time ... and the church has NOTHING TO DO WITH IT! Until ... the church forms. Then, in the first few centuries of christendom the catholic church recognizes a few of the things that Jesus commands us to observe and remember (and a few others that Jesus does not ask us to remember) and calls them sacrements. These 'holy' and sacred events that all believers now should participate in. Here are some definitions of what these sacrements are: "a rite in which God is uniquely active." , "a visible sign of an invisible reality." and "an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace." . The seven sacrements of the Catholic church are: Baptism, Confirmation, Ordination, The Eucharist, Confession, Extreme Unction and Matrimony.

Matrimony, of all these actions (aside from perhaps confession) is the only event listed that was instituted by God before the church came to exist as it does today. Now as the church grew in prominence and power it also used that power to change and create a culture around itself. A 'spiritual' or 'church' culture that all Christians are a part of. This language and rituals and traditions that are unique to the church. What the Catholic church continued to do was limit the view of marriage solely to the authority of the church. So, marriage now loses, over time, it's former cultural context. It now is something condoned only in and through the catholic church. Marriage in any other context is not considered legitimate. Then the reformation happens and the Protestants toss aside a great deal of the values and traditions and cultural ideals and icons that were once associated with the sacrement of Matrimony. But the church does not relinquish its authority over the observance of marriage. So now, I would argue, today, especially in our relatively young and forming North American culture, we have this recognized relationship, honoured and serviced by the churches but with almost NO cultural significance along with it. Marriage is DEPENDANT now on how it is defined by the church in our culture.

Perhaps this is why people are sometimes disallusioned by the idea of marriage (or perhaps the church's way of instituting it). I have a particular relative who chose, against the wishes of his parents, to 'shack up' with the woman he loved. It has been many a year since then and they have exhibited all the positive aspects of a loving marriage from what I can see. They have a young daughter now as well. A number of years after their joining, they decided to go through with a marriage ceremony (more for their parents sakes it seemed to me). Were they any less married before they stood before the officiator? Were they 'living in sin' before they stood to bear witness of their mutual love and commitment to each other?

Don't misunderstand me, I'm not arguing against marraige - but I'm questioning the FORM through which this holy union has changed and become to be in our day and age and region of the world. I have often remarked, with friends nodding accent, that we seem to have lost some of the meaning of marriage when I witness a wedding feast or celebration that is not tied to the western church. Maybe because there is so much culture attached to marriage in places that it seems to have more substance as an observance. I'm not sure. But I've had these thoughts lately. Your thoughts?