Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Currently listening to

After breakfast with Mike and Amy at Friends and Neighbours, Krista and I walked around Whyte Ave with them, checking out clothes at Nokomis and picking up some new music at Blackbyrd.

M. Ward's Transistor Radio has totally blown us away. Lush guitar sounds, sweet textured melodies. An all-around great record. There's this cool song about insomnia and being afraid of packs of wolves that totally reminds me of our camping trip to Pidgeon Lake last weekend.

On this 2003 disc from Sufjan Stevens, which is 100% brilliance, we keep listening to "Vito's Ordination Song," with lyics spoken from a Divine perspective. Reminds me of the tender language of Hosea the prophet.

More of the usual gold from Calexico, along with gorgeous artwork in the notes.

It all seems to be late-summer music. Perfect for the warm nights, which we've been often enjoying on the patio at www.hulberts.ca, a great new coffeehouse in our neighbourhood.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Evangelical Theology: Witherington Digs Chrysostom

This post is not about the classic book "Evangelical Theology" by Karl Barth (which I wholeheartedly endorse), but rather an interesting interview I came across with the Methodist Biblical scholar Ben Witherington III. Isn't that a great name? Anyway, I quite respect Witherington's scholarship, and he lays it out pretty clearly. If you're at all interested in the relationship of exegesis to dogma, go check it out.

Here's a little snippet:

CT: Naturally, you argue that this requires a fresh approach to reading and interpreting the Bible. Who are some pre-Enlightenment interpreters of the Bible who are models of good exegesis for us today?

Witherington: Some of the Antiochian fathers would be good—Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory Nazianzus, for example. But if there's one person who seems to be in touch with the original Greek and rhetorical ethos of the New Testament and especially Paul, that would be John Chrysostom.

I'm thankful that we've got some wonderful new studies on Chrysostom as an exegete and a theologian (like Margaret Mitchell's The Heavenly Trumpet, which helps us appreciate his numerous homilies on the New Testament). In contrast to the Latin Fathers, like Augustine, he is very much in touch with the living language of the Greek text. He is able to resonate with it, to pick up the rhetorical signals, the cultural signals, and understand the trajectory of the theology and ethics being taught.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Righteous Shall Be In Everlasting Remembrance

I received news yesterday that the Revd. Gordon Thomas, a friend and theological mentor of mine during my time in Manchester, died Sunday morning. He had fought a strong and determined battle with cancer, unflagging in his faith throughout this two year ordeal. As a son of the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition, Gordon did a great deal to re-orient and "re-mint" that understanding in accordance with the whole witness of Scripture. He could be described as a man, like Apollos in the words of the Acts of the Apostles, "full of the Holy Spirit, powerful in the Scriptures" (Acts 18.24-35). I remember sitting with him in his book-lined study, talking about Northrup Frye or Old Testament theophanies, receiving his encouragement and guidance. Gordon was a devoted husband, father, teacher, stalwart Arsenal fan, and he will be missed.

May his memory be eternal!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Rivers North of the Future

Last Thursday I drove over 1100km, meeting with town officials in the predominantly LDS communities of Raymond and Stirling. After our meetings, I had a good visit with one of the guys, a young Mormon from Surrey my age, about his time of mission, proselytizing in Portugese to the tiny Brazilian community of Bridgeport, Connecticut.

On the drive home up the QE2 Highway, amidst severe thunderstorms, I listened to Ideas on the CBC. It was a sort of "best of" type show, and they played an old clip of Ivan Illich (1926-2002) speaking at the University of Toronto sometime in the 80s. This mercurial priest-historian has captured my attention at various times, with his scathing critique of what passes as "development," in terms of schooling, institutions, and modern culture more broadly. Having been introduced to Illich's thought by my good friend Matt Friesen, it made me remember my friend as well. David Cayley, the Ideas contributor, was featured, along with his recent book culled from conversations with Illich. Apparently, Illich had long wanted to write about his understanding of modernity in relationship to the Christian gospel. He never had the opportunity to do that, but the transcripts of his conversations with Cayley eventually evolved into The Rivers North of the Future.

The title of the book is taken from a poem by the German poet Paul Celan:

Into the rivers north of the future
I cast out the net, that you
hesitantly burden with stone-engraved

The book contains Illich's usual spectrum of thought, which chapters on such themes as "The Gospel and the Gaze," "Contingency, Part 2: The Origin of Technology," "Friendship," and "On Knowing How to Die: The Last Days of Savonarola."

On his final day of conversations with Cayley, Illich said this:

"My work is an attempt to accept with great sadness the fact of Western culture. Christopher Dawson ... says that the Church is Europe and Europe is the Church, and I say yes! Corruptio optimi quae est pessima. [The corruption of the best is the worst.] Through the attempt to insure, to guarantee, to regulate Revelation, the best becomes the worst... I live also with a sense of profound ambiguity. I can't do without tradition, but I have to recognize that its institutionalization is the root of an evil deeper than any evil I could have known with my unaided eyes and mind."

And then, Cayley recounts this story:

"In an interview that Illich recorded with his friend Douglas Lummis in Japan in the winter of 1986-87, Lummis asks him about a "possible future." "To hell with the future," Illich replies. "It's a maneating idol. Institutions have a future... but people have no future. People have only hope." Since there obviously was, and will be, a tommorrow, I interpret this curse in two ways. First, it points to the fact that no sane person can project the future of the economic utopia of endless growth in which we live as anything but catastrophe, sooner or later. Second, and even more important, the future as an idol devours the only moment in which heaven can happen upon us: the present. Expectation tries to compel tommmorrow; hope enlarges the present and makes a future, north of the future."


Friday, August 11, 2006

Sweet Sixteen

After a great visit with Kim this weekend, I am remembering today my other lovely sister. Sixteen years ago today, my eldest sister Pam & her husband Cameron were married. I was eleven, going on twelve, and got all dressed up to celebrate. It was a swelteringly hot day in Chilliwack, and I remember it well.

In honour of the event, I offer good ole' Barney Rubble's "Happy Anniversary" song to Pam and Cam!

"Happy Anniversary, Happy Anniversary!
Happy Anniversary, Haaaaaappy Anniversary!
Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy Anniversary!
Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy Anniversary!"


Thursday, August 03, 2006

A Good, and not lazy Missionary

I've been reading the journals of a Presbyterian missionary in the Canadian West, Reverend James Robertson. Later, he went on to be the Superintendant of Missions for the Presbyterian Church, serving from the 1870s through the 1890s. Quite a tough cookie, and a faithful preacher of the Word, not unlike Saint Innocent.

Here's a brief excerpt from the book about him:

A lazy minister or missionary, and he, alas, is not altogether a rara aris, drew his unmeasured contempt. Writing to a Western Convener, he thus discourses in regard to ministers of this class:
"I fear that the indifference you refer to in ministerial ranks is not confined to Kirkwall and Strabane; I meet it widely, and I am inclined to think it is doing more harm than the Higher Criticism. Men who work hard themselves are intolerant of idle and lazy ministers. Men appreciate an industrious, hard-working minister, and they despise the lazy slouch. But how are you to get such men retired ? They will not resign, they cannot work, to beg they are ashamed."
In a British Columbia mining town in the Boundary Country, no end of trouble might have been saved had the missionary in charge been simply faithful to his duty. As it was, he shirked, to the permanent injury of the congregation and of the cause of religion in that town.

The Superintendent visited the town a little later. The missionary then in charge tells the story:
"A year before, a young man had been in charge, and had been exceedingly popular. All agreed that if Mr. ______ had just said ‘build a church,’ the church would have been built with little trouble and no strife. Besides, the town was then in its most prosperous condition. That was the tide in the affairs that was missed. But Mr. _______ had not ‘bothered.’ Indeed, Dr. Robertson had heard that he had said he did not want to meddle with money matters. How the Doctor did hold this up to scorn! ‘Didn’t want to meddle with money matters! A very fine sort of gentleman, indeed! None of your coarse-grained, commercial sort. Didn’t want to meddle! He was too downright lazy. That is what was the matter with him. Popular preacher! Liked afternoon teas, I suppose. Liked the ladies to tell him how well he had preached on Sunday. But to build a church! No, he was of too fine, ethereal material to meddle with such mundane matters. What did we pay him for anyway? What did we send him here for? To have a good times? To be popular? That’s not the kind of man we want in these mountains.’"

And, indeed, it added not a little to the Superintendent’s burden that he had to assume the load too often that these men refused to bear. While he was full of encouragement for the "tenderfoot," he had little sympathy with a shirker, and exerted himself to develop in his men that indifference to discomfort, toil, and even danger, that was so conspicuous a characteristic of himself.
"Talking with a whining student one day," says one of his Conveners, "who was relating what he considered hardships in the way of uncomfortable beds in which there were crawling things, and irregular meals not always prepared in the most tasty form, the Superintendent began very sympathetically telling some of his own experiences. Sleeping one night in a dug-out, wrapped in his blanket on the clay floor which was several feet below the surface of the ground, he felt cold, clammy things on his neck and face. He would brush them off and turn over, and by the time he was getting off to sleep again there would be another visitation, and so he kept brushing them away the whole night.

"‘And what were these things?’ asked the wondering student.
"‘Well, you see the floor was two feet below the ground, and there was an inclined approach cut out towards the door. The ground was worn away several inches lower than the door, and the lizards would fall over the edge of the cutting and crawl under the door, and during the night creep over the floor. And these lizards were enjoying a warm nest on my neck and face.’
"The poor student stood horrified. The Superintendent enthused for a few moments on lice and lizards and snakes, as though encounters therewith were as valuable as theology in a true missionary’s education, and the complaining dude subsided. His hardships vanished into thin air. He was rebuked and shamed, but could not reply, and the conversation drifted to other themes."

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The One Book - Here it is, Victoria...

1. One book that changed your life:
The Book of Revelation (in the Bible)

2. One book that you’ve read more than once:
For many years, I read The Great Gatsby every Labour Day, in honour of the fact that it was the first book I ever stayed up all night reading. And, of course, I am constantly reading Four Quartets.

3. One book you’d want on a desert island:
Jesus and the Victory of God by NT Wright or perhaps A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth (another favourite novel)

4. One book that made you laugh:
Barney's Version by Mordecai Richler. His last, greatest novel is heartbreaking but hilarious. I also stayed up all night reading this one. Killer ending.

5. One book that made you cry (at least on the inside):
Peace Shall Destroy Many by Rudy Wiebe

6. One book that you wish had been written:
The Real John Wesley: Up Close and Personal by Mrs. Wesley

7. One book that you wish had never been written:
Kazuo Ishiguro's The Unconsoled At the end of its absurd seven or eight hundred pages (or whatever), I was supremely disappointed.

8. One book you’re currently reading:
The Nicene Faith by John Behr.

9. One book you’ve been meaning to read:
Silence by Shusaku Endo