A Farewell To Mars (Excerpt from ch. 8)
Isaiah, in his prophetic poems, frames the Messianic hope like this: A Prince of Peace will establish a new kind of government, a government characterized by ever-increasing peace. Weapons of war will be transformed into instruments of agriculture. Swords turned into plowshares, spears into pruning hooks. Tanks turned into tractors, missile silos into grain silos. The study of war abandoned for learning the ways of the Lord. The cynic will laugh (for lack of imagination), but this is Isaiah’s vision. At last the nations will find their way out of the darkness of endless war into the light of God’s enduring peace. This is Isaiah’s hope. (see Isaiah 2:1-4; 9:1-7)
Christians take Isaiah’s hope and make a daring claim: Jesus is that Prince of Peace. Jesus is the one who makes Isaiah’s dreams come true. From the day of Pentecost to the present, this is what Christians have claimed. We claim it every Christmas. But then a doom-obsessed dispensationalist performs an eschatological sleight of hand and takes the hope away from us. On one hand, they admit that Jesus is the Prince of Peace who has come, but on the other hand, they say his peace is not for now … it’s only for when Jesus comes back again. Bait and switch. Yes, swords are to become plowshares … but not today. For now plowshares become swords; in our day, it’s war, war, war! They abuse Jesus’s prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem in the first century by always applying it to the latest contemporary geopolitical events. They replace the hope of peace with an anticipation of war! They find a way to make war a hopeful sign. Think about that for a moment! And here is the worst irony: It was precisely because Jerusalem failed to recognize Jesus as Isaiah’s Prince of Peace right there and then that Jerusalem rushed headlong into the war that ended with its own destruction!
I used to believe, “It’s not about religion, it’s about relationship.” Yet, we are told in the New Testament, of course, that there is a good and bad type of religion:
“You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing. If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:19-27).
So, simply hearing (and, presumably, accepting—or cognitively assenting to—what we hear) without doing is not practicing “religion that is pure and undefiled before God.” The doing part is participating in the kingdom of God here and now by caring for orphans and widows (i.e., the marginalized and oppressed, or “the least of these”), but the prerequisite for this doing is being “slow to anger,” ridding “yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness,” and keeping “oneself unstained by the world.” This points to the capacitation for the doing, or the requisite transfiguration that intuitively enables one to participate in the kingdom of God by loving one’s enemies, caring for the oppressed, and giving a voice to the voiceless. We cannot, however, do this difficult “work” on our own, in a sort of stale, imitative style that fights against our fallen nature and resulting passions; we need to instead be gradually transfigured so that such “religion that is pure and undefiled before God” unfolds naturally and intuitively rather than forced and contrived.
“Religion” that aids this capacitation through transfiguration is pure and requires more than the so-called “freedom” to act apart from so-called “man-made rituals.” In my more Evangelical days, I had no categories for understanding the rhythms of liturgy and daily memorials, rituals, processions, etc. and didn’t respect or trust the 2,000 years of wisdom and experience that produced them, and therefore didn’t see any reason to follow them. Lumping these rhythms in with “bad religion” is to not give them a chance, is to expect the worst of them without legitimately understanding them and without giving them the benefit of the doubt. The “me-and-Jesus” routine is ultimately a manifestation of modern Western individualism to which Evangelicalism has fallen prey and envisages human beings as souls encased in flesh, where the flesh is simply utilitarian (or worse), like a jeep for getting around (or getting in the way).
We are all interconnected corporeal and spiritual beings, the spirit and body both declared “good” by God. In this sense, in a postlapsarian world, we cannot expect that the “freedom” to hear without doing or the freedom to maintain a “me-and-Jesus” relationship will restore the image of God unilaterally or just because we really, really want it. We need to do something to participate in the kingdom of God (as James says above), but we already saw that there’s a problem: How can we be transfigured—or restore the image of God in cooperation with divine grace—to capacitate ourselves for this doing?
As corporeal fallen beings we need similarly physical “rituals” or liturgical rhythms of which we are constantly mindful to cultivate the virtues of humility, compassion, patience, self-control, love, gratitude, obedience, self-denial, etc. So, for example, if we take becoming “slow to anger” from the pericope in James above, we can’t simply try really hard in the depths of our soul to control ourselves, since anger (and all vices) manifests itself through physical contact with the physical world around us and in our own physical expressions of anger. So, the “ritual” of fasting, for example, is an ascetic discipline that—through attentiveness to what I should avoid eating and the resulting self-control—transfers into the “real world” as attentiveness to our own vices/temptations and therefore results in greater self-control; it is a practice drill for the real world, but one that truly transfigures and cultivates the virtues. Again, as corporeal beings, we innately react to and are transfigured by the sight of beauty entering our physical eyes (icons, architecture, symbolism, vestments, lit candles, etc.), the smell of pleasant odors entering our noses (incense, the wood of the iconostasis, beeswax candles, etc.), the sounds of sacred melodies entering our ears (hymns, chanting, bells, etc.), the tactile sensation of various textures on our bodies (kissing icons, touching the vestments of the priest as he passes by with the Eucharistic Gifts, prostrating with your forehead to the ground, the heat of the candle’s flame, etc.), and the taste of appetizing flavours on our tongues (the Eucharist, feasts, breaking the fast, etc.).
All of this combined may look like worthless “religion” to some, but to those of us who enter into it daily (which can’t be explained, but only experienced over time), it is the physical liturgical rhythm that acts on our corporeal selves and senses to catalyze, animate, and give shape to our transfiguration and cultivation of virtues. We may fail at entering meaningfully into the rhythms, keeping the fast exactly (or at all), keeping a prayer rule, etc., but we also fail at life, at having compassion on the marginalized, the poor, the oppressed; the two go hand-in-hand and we try knowing we will fail, though—with God’s grace—we sometimes grow incrementally.
To have the “freedom” to do “whatever I want” (and I’m hyperbolizing here, but mean it more as the rejection of so-called “constraining” rituals or disciplines in favour of a “me-and-Jesus” or “me-and-my-Bible” individualism) breeds the vices that reflect this doing “whatever I want.” To prostrate in prayer every day for years and years, however, instills humility; to wait until the end of a 7-week long fast period has ended to eat that burger you’ve been craving instills patience; to bow and ask forgiveness from a 4-year-old kid on Forgiveness Sunday instills compassion; to pray the prayer of the publican, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner,” thousands and thousands of times in one’s life and to recite every Sunday immediately before receiving the body and blood of Christ, “I believe and I confess that you are truly the Christ, the Son of the living God, who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the first,” is likewise to instill humility and commensurate compassion, love, and peace—internal and external; to know that I will carry the body and blood of Christ in myself as the Theotokos bore God in her womb without being consumed encourages my cooperation with divine grace through participation in these disciplines that trigger the transfiguration that will allow me to also bear God in myself without being consumed.
As members of an individualistic society, I think we are more prone to—even revel in—shunning “obligations” and “disciplines” (and heaven forbid we bring up the dreaded word, “obedience”!), even the liturgical rhythms that are shared by and therefore profoundly connect the many faithful across the globe. The more negative definition of “religion” that’s become fashionable among low church or free church folks is likely related to moralism, appeasing a wrathful deity, and obligations that immediately condemn us if we don’t follow through in every detail; this is indeed a false religion. But we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water, especially since the ancient forms of Christianity were here first before it became popular among Evangelicals—while completely separate from and with no categories to understand or esteem this liturgical world—to emphasize a “me-and-Jesus” relationship. Instead, we need to resuscitate the word “religion” so that it aligns with the scriptural model of pure religion that James endorses.
Clenched Fist or Opened Hands? (Excerpt from The Orthodox Way)
On the walls of the catacombs in Rome there is sometimes painted the figure of a woman praying, the Orans. She is gazing towards heaven, her open hands raised with palms upwards. This is one of the most ancient Christian ikons. Whom does she represent—the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Church, or the soul at prayer? Or perhaps all three at once? However it is interpreted, this ikon depicts a basic Christian invocation or epiclesis, of calling down or waiting upon the Holy Spirit.
There are three main positions that we can assume with our hands, and each has its own symbolic meaning. Our hands may be closed, our fists clenched as a gesture of defiance or in an effort to grasp and to hold fast, thus expressing aggression or fear. At the other extreme our hands may hang listlessly by our sides, neither defiant nor receptive. Or else, as a third possibility, our hands may be lifted up like those of the Orans, no longer clenched but open, no longer listless but ready to receive the gifts of the Spirit. An all-important lesson upon the spiritual Way is understanding how to unclench our fists and to open our hands. Each hour and minute we are to make our own the action of the Orans: invisibly we are to lift our open hands to heaven, saying to the Spirit, Come.
Clark Pinnock is perhaps the most significant evangelical theologian of the last half of the twentieth century.
- Henry Knight III
No twentieth-century evangelical thinker has been more controversial than Clark Pinnock. He has been lauded as an inspiring theological pilgrim by his admirers and condemned as a dangerous renegade by his foes. Yet no story of evangelical theology in the twentieth century is complete without the inclusion of the fascinating intellectual journey from quintessential evangelical apologist to anti-Augustinian theological reformist.
- Stanley Grenz
In Pinnock’s interaction with conservative evangelicalism, Pentecostalism, Wesleyianism, process thought, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Roman Catholicism, one sees the vision of an open and generous evangelical theology which still remains true to evangelical distinctives.
- John Sanders
In many respects Clark Pinnock’s fascinating theological pilgrimage illustrates the sometimes strained diversity of theological options which comprise contemporary evangelicalism.
- Gregory Boyd
I received a lovely email from Brian McLaren (March 18 2014) in which he said, ‘I never met Clark. We almost met once, but missed each other. I remember Stan Grenz (who also passed from us too soon) saying to me, “Clark is the canary in the coal mine. If he can survive as an Evangelical, the rest of us can”. I was quite fortunate, unlike Brian McLaren, to meet Clark many times. My wife (Karin) and I were in a house group with Clark and Dorothy Pinnock in the mid-1980s when I was doing PHD studies at McMaster University in Hamilton---Clark was teaching across the road at the time at McMaster Divinity School. Clark and Dorothy often attended St. Cuthbert’s parish where Karin/I were parishoners, and Clark gave the occasional homily in the parish---the sermons were always a delight to hear and most insightful.
The cross is shock therapy for a world addicted to solving its problems through violence. The cross shocks us into the devastating realization that our system of violence murdered God! The things hidden from the foundation of the world have now been revealed. The cross shames our ancient foundation of violence. The cross strips naked the principalities and powers. The cross tears down the façade of glory that we use to hide the bodies of slain victims.
In the light of the cross, we are to realize that if what we have built on Cain’s foundation is capable of murdering the Son of God and the whole edifice needs to come down. In the light of the cross, our war anthems lose their luster. But this throws us into a crisis. What other alternatives are there? How else are we to arrange the world? The alternative is what Jesus is offering us when he told us that the kingdom of God is at hand. God’s way of arranging the world around love and forgiveness is within reach. If we only dare to reach out for it, we can have it. But we are so afraid. We’re not sure we can risk it. It’s so hard for us to let go of the sword and take the hand of the Crucified One. It’s so hard for us to really believe in Jesus.
Dear friends of Tent of Nations,
Yesterday at 08.00, Israeli bulldozers came to the fertile valley of the farm where we planted fruit trees 10 years ago, and destroyed the terraces and all our trees there. More than 1500 apricot and apple trees as well as grape plants were smashed and destroyed.
We informed our lawyer who is preparing the papers for appeal. Please be prepared to respond. We will need your support as you inform friends, churches and representatives when action is needed. Please wait for the moment and we will soon let you know about next steps and actions.
Thank you so much for all your support and solidarity.
Please follow us on Facebook Tent of Nations/Nassar Farm.
Blessings and Salaam,
Tent of Nations
–People Building Bridges–
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In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning. All things that have been created were created
through Him. Nothing that has been created was created without Him (Jn.1:1-3).
There is a consensus among many scholars that the reference to the "Logos" at the beginning of John's Gospel is borrowed from Plato. However, most scholars have their own concepts of typology which are generally foreign to the typology of Scripture, Jewish or Christian.
Nikolai Sergeevich Trubetskoy developed his doctoral thesis "The Doctrine of the Logos" around this idea.
Let us begin by observing that “In the beginning” is something about which the ancient Greeks were ignorant. To my knowledge Christianity and Judaism are the only religions that espouse it.
Plato's concept of Logos as cosmic intellect or reason is not the first place in Hellenic and Hellenistic thought where we encounter the expression. Heraclitos (d.475 B.C.), seems to have originated the concept of Logos/wisdom (though certainly not as an attribute of a Supreme Deity, but as an expression of pantheism) though some concepts of Logos originated with the Stoics.
Anaxagoras uses "Logos" interchangeably with nous, as a principle. The Logos idea occurs in Plato, but it is very difficult to see how the theological critics derived evidence of Platonic influence in John's Gospel, since the concepts in Plato bear no resemblance to the context of this Gospel. Plato was a dualist who had only contempt for the flesh (thus the heresies that arose from adaptations of his metaphysics). St Justin the Philosopher (Apology.1) sought to influence the Greeks by connecting the stoic Logos idea with the Logos of Scripture, but only unfortunately and unconvincingly. For Stoics, "Logos" was either potential Reason, or manifested Thought. They, like Plotinus (a spiritual monist), were pantheists. Their construct is radically different from John's Incarnate Hypostasis of the One God.
The idea that John's use of Logos is Platonistic is not altogether consistent with his identification of Logos with the hypostatic Word of God. The Greek Logos is not God nor personal; nor could the Greeks have imagined that He would become incarnate. They generally despised the flesh and it was unthinkable that God or the Logos would join themselves to Him. Likewise, His crucifixion was folly to them as it was a scandal to the Jews.
Metropolitan Antony Khrapovitsky suggests that there is a word usage in the Hebrew Scripture that would be more consistent with the concept of Logos in John’s Gospel. The word is "dabhar," and we can look at Metropolitan Antony’s reasoning on this subject.
Christians have had enough of the detention of asylum seeker children. They aren't going to burn down politician offices, but they will sit in them and pray, writes Chris Bedding et al.
On Monday a nun was arrested. That's right, a nun. She was one of a crowd of Christian leaders who engaged in nonviolent sit-ins at the electorate offices of Bill Shorten and Tony Abbott. This is the latest#LoveMakesAWay action protesting indefinite imprisonment of children in our immigration detention centres. When nuns are cranky at this bipartisan brutality, its fair to say something is gravely wrong.
Recently, in a candid moment with the BBC, Malcolm Turnbull let slip what a lot of decent Australians are thinking, not just placard-waving radicals with witty Twitter handles, but families with mortgages who ferry their kids to weekend sport. "I don't think any of us are entirely comfortable with any policies relating to border protection," he said.
Malcolm is a team player, so he's never going to come right out and say it. But nuns will. Desperate people are coming to us seeking safety from persecution, and the way we treat them is wrong.
There's a long history of nonviolent protest in Christianity, but the average church leader doesn't actually break the law in this country. Australian Christianity has typically been a religion for the Prefect class - a good way to get a scholarship and be recruited by the right firm. There's even a new breed of Christian trying to convince people that they are cool. But all the Celtic cross tattoos and nasal piercings in the world can't hide the fact that Christianity is daggy.
The finest of wines without a glass is nothing but a mess. And the most skillfully etched glass without wine is nothing but a decoration.
We see theology as a fine wine glass. Masterfully created, etched in such a way that the wine breathes as it is poured. The glass is beautiful on its own, but empty - nothing but a decoration. The wine is our experience. Aged perfectly it will send our heads spinning and tastebuds dancing. The wine is wonderful on its own, but without a glass to pour it in, it makes a mess.
Many would say "i just drink from the bottle" and while it may be funny, in this example, drinking from the bottle prohibits others from tasting of the experience themselves. An experintialholic does no good to anyone when the experience isn't shared with others.
Trying to drink the wine without the glass to bring out its beauty, aroma and flavor dishonors the wine, it cheapens it to a quick means of getting drunk. Refusing to pour the wine into the glass because we don't want the glass to get dirty dishonors the glass, it degrades it to a mere dust gathering decoration.
So it is with theology and experience. Experience must be framed by theology, and theology must contain experience if both are to be honored rightly for what they are. Theology without experience is dry, and a mere decoration, a waste. Experience without theology is a mess, and once poured all over the floor, near impossible to put back in the glass.
Our Father is not the wine, he's the wine maker. Any wine maker would feel immense personal loss to watch their beloved wine be irresponsibly poured out on the floor because someone didn't want to use a glass. Jesus is the master etcher. His work of art is a glass that enables the experience the Father wants to pour out on us be its most beautiful and delicious. The Father's experiential wine pairs with everything, and it is drunk responsibly through theology perfected by the Son.
Jesus is what the Father has to say, and His revelation of Abba is the final answer to the question of theology. Drink daily, but drink responsibly and honor what you are drinking for what it is, a masterful creation by the universe's best vintner.
Caleb Miller leads Father's House Ministries in Fort Collins, CO. His book,
The Divine Reversal : Recovering the Vision of Jesus Christ as the Last Adam, is available HERE.
Roderick Haig-Brown (1908-1976): Conservation-Preservation
"The 988-hectare Adams River recreation area was dedicated in 1977 and named for Roderick Haig-Brown, the eminent salmon conservationist and writer… In 1991 Roderick Haig-Brown became a full Class A park."
James D. Anderson, British Columbia’s Magnificent Parks: The First 100 years
"As the foremost conservationist in British Columbia from the late 1940s to the late 1960s, the internationally known fishing writer and naturalist Haig Brown fought conservation battles and promoted ecological ideas during a time of aggressive industrial expansion into the province’s resource hinterland."
Arn Keeling, "A Dynamic, Not a Static Conception”: The Conservation Thought of Roderick Haig-Brown
You (Haig-Brown) ought to have a halo, an angel’s halo quivering over your head.
The historic conflicts about how to view and use Nature that occurred in the United States between John Muir and Gifford Pinchot have played themselves out in Canada in a variety of ways. Pinchot, who became the chief forester in the US Forest Service in 1905, was a “conservationist”. John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club in 1892, was a “preservationist”. The conservationist position tends to see parks as a resource that needs to be managed for sustainable commercial use. The preservationist position sees parks (and much else) as not for profit wildness that should not be a plaything of mining, logging, hunting, trapping, city tourism, hydro, dams and many other entrepreneurial interests.
The founding of Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park in British Columbia in 1977 (a year after Haig-Brown’s death) signalled that the life and writings of Haig-Brown had played a significant role in the conservationist-preservationist horn butting in British Columbia.
From the New York Times bestselling author of Crazy for God
Caught between the beauty of his grandchildren and grief over a friend’s death, Frank Schaeffer finds himself simultaneously believing and not believing in God—an atheist who prays. Schaeffer wrestles with faith and disbelief, sharing his innermost thoughts with a lyricism that only great writers of literary nonfiction achieve. Schaeffer writes as an imperfect son, husband and grandfather whose love for his family, art and life trumps the ugly theologies of an angry God and the atheist vision of a cold, meaningless universe. Schaeffer writes that only when we abandon our hunt for certainty do we become free to create beauty, give love and find peace.
ADVANCE PRAISE FOR
WHY I AM AN ATHEIST WHO BELIEVES IN GOD
“Frank Schaeffer always writes well, but Why I Am an Atheist Who Believes in God is extraordinary. Somewhere between the sterile, absolute, and empty formulae of reductionist, totalitarian science and the earnest, hostile, excessively certain make-believe of religious fundamentalism, there is a beautiful place. There is room in this place for honesty. For tenderness. For fury. For wonder. For hope. For mistakes. For paradox. For grace. This book is written from that in-between place. It will help you get there too, if you're interested in finding it.”—Brian D. McLaren author/speaker/activist
Free Will, the Nous and Divine Judgment
A Critical Analysis of Three Visions of Universalism
I’ll say it again at the outset. I’m not a universalist. But some of my friends are … some of my evangelical friends, some of my Orthodox friends. So I ask them questions about that. This is not flirting (as Lewis and Barth were accused of), but simply being fair. In the name of ‘discernment,’ I’ve encountered a LOT of name-calling, dismissiveness, intentional misrepresentation and caricaturing. “Earth to Matilda!” – that’s not discernment. We can and must do better than that. Surely we could at least build bridges (from both ends of the chasm!) long enough so that listening could displace lobbing.
In this article, I’m trying to address fairly and critique carefully three brands of universalism, which I’ll call popular universalism, Reformed universalism and apokatastasis. Although I personally self-identify as a ‘hopeful inclusivist’ (cf. Kallistos Ware and Hans Urs Von Baltasar), I think it’s important to fairly distinguish and assess these points on the universalist spectrum, for they represent quite a broad range and some extremely different convictions about Christ, redemption and human response.
It’s also an important exercise for me: can I fairly represent a view to which I don’t hold with both enough charity and accuracy such that the universalist (in this case), can say, “Yes, that was fair.” Or at least, “not exactly, let me explain.”
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