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Posts by Ryan

Forgiveness and the “Poison” of Religion

I suspect that many do not share my interest in topics such as the problem of evil, the rise of neo-atheism, and whatever else I tend to post on ad nauseum. So if any are exasperated or wondering why I keep referring to the same topics and the same authors over and over again I can only plead, in my defense, that in the middle of researching a cluster of subjects one tends to filter almost all of what one sees and hears through that grid. I anticipate that someday—some glorious, eschatological, post-thesis day—my horizons will broaden; but until that day… Read more

Memory and Heaven

Some thoughts arising from my thesis research this week…

Reading people like Dawkins and Dennett, with their heavy emphasis on evolutionary theory and our obligation to dispense with religion now that we have “arrived” at our current levels of knowledge and understanding leads, at least for me, to the question of how we are to think about the past. The sense I get from these guys is that the past is to be seen as little more than a tragic curiosity from which we ought to be grateful to be liberated from. Human history is portrayed as a sequence of unrelenting progression, and the sooner we realize this, the sooner we can rid ourselves of relics of the past (like religion) that stand in our way. The blood-soaked and tear-stained path that led to the present can be nothing but a lamentable footnote in a curious tale that is going nowhere. Read more

Fear, Zen Neighbours, and the Nature of Faith

I’ve been thinking a lot about fear over the last couple of days. A couple of conversations and an article contribute to what follows. First, I had a discussion last night with someone who is struggling to navigate the tension that is arising in a church which is becoming polarized over the issue of whether or not the “Emergent Church” is a phenomenon that ought to be embraced or rejected. Not surprisingly, there are strong feelings on both sides of this issue, but at least as troubling as the division this is causing is the role that fear is playing in the discussion. I am certainly no cheerleader for the Emergent Church (in fact, I wish whatever it is that this term designates would just emerge already…), but I am troubled by the attempts of some to convince others that the ideas of this movement are “dangerous” and that we have to be “careful” that they don’t lead our children woefully astray. This seems to be nothing more than fear-mongering to me, and it does not portray the beliefs one is attempting to “protect” in a very positive light. Read more

The End is Where We Start From

I usually resist the temptation to comment on silliness like this, but this morning’s article about a “Creation Museum” opening up in Petersburg, Kentucky does point to what I think is an important question: Are we, as human beings, defined by the mechanics of our origins or the nature of our ends? The very existence of an organization called “Answers in Genesis” seems troubling to me. I believe that there are some answers in Genesis, although they are different answers to different (less important) questions than the ones on display in Kentucky. Regardless of how God got all of this started, what I want to know is, How does the story end? Read more

Hard-Wired for Redemption

The concept of redemption has occupied my mind for quite some time now, partly, I suspect, due to my interest in the problem of evil. The existence of evil forces serious reflection on what it means to be a human being—both in terms of what and how we think about evil, and what we do about it. Human beings have the capacity to both imagine and work towards improvement—to bring goodness out of evil, truth out of falsehood, beauty out of ugliness. From my perspective, this redemptive capacity is one of the most important and praiseworthy elements of human nature. Read more

The Faceless Consumer

Don’t ask me what we were thinking, but Naomi, the kids, and I went to the mall yesterday afternoon. I know, it’s a holiday, and in hindsight, we should have realized what an absolute nuthouse Metrotown would be, but we just wanted to return an item and pick up a few books for the kids… Alas. Read more

Memory Serving Reconciliation

So how does the future non-remembrance of wrongs suffered inform the way in which we live in the here and now? By showing how reconciliation reaches completion: a wrongdoing is both condemned and forgiven; the wrongdoer’s guilt is canceled; through the gift of non-remembrance, the wrongdoer is transposed to a state untainted by the wrongdoing; and bound in a communion of love, both the wronged and the wrongdoer rejoice in their renewed relationship. In the here and now this rarely happens—and for the most part should not happen. In a world marred by evil, the memory of wrongdoing is needed mainly as an instrument of justice and as s shield against injustice. Yet every act of reconciliation, incomplete as it mostly is in this world, stretches itself toward completion in that world of love. Similarly, remembering wrongdoing now lives in the hope of its own superfluity then. Even more, only those willing to let the memory of wrongdoing slip ultimately out of their minds will be able to remember wrongdoing rightly now. For we remember wrongs rightly when memory serves reconciliation.

Miroslav Volf, The End of Memory

Remembering Evils Rightly

I suppose at some point every student of theology has their own “pet theologian”—someone who they think just “gets it” in such a profound way, and who has such a knack for explaining things in a coherent, cogent, and compelling manner. Usually, of course, they also happen to share one’s own theological outlook, or to have proven instrumental in shaping it. While I typically find this kind of “groupie” mentality a little distasteful (“I’m a Barthian,” “I’m an Augustinian,” “I’m with N.T. Wright…”), I’m starting to think that if I were to pick one theologian who is currently exerting considerable influence upon the way that I think, it would be Miroslav Volf. Read more

The School Play

Well, today is a big day for our kids—Nicky in particular. Today, their kindergarten class is putting on two performances of their play entitled “Celebrate You and Me.” Nicky is the emcee for this play, and has been working very hard on his lines for the past couple months. He has something like seven mini-paragraphs that he has to deliver in between each song in the play. Claire also has a speaking part, but it’s “just” the recitation of a tortured excerpt of existential poetry (I’m not kidding!) in the middle of a song about wanting to belong. Read more

Tech-ed Out

I first came across the writings of Neil Postman in the late 90’s—before I decided to return to school, and just before I owned my first computer. Since then, I have spent a good deal of my time in academic environments where I have observed the steady proliferation of technology in classroom situations. In my first year at university, there were a couple of laptops in the classroom, my second year a few more, and this past year at Regent a friend and I estimated that in a class of 130 people, somewhere between 40-50% of the students were using laptops—myself, by this time, included. Read more

A Picture Says a Thousand Words…

For all the Canucks fans whose acquaintance I have made during our time out here in Lotus-land…

But Why, Daddy?

The other day one of the moms from our kids’ kindergarten class asked me for some “pastoral” advice about how to deal with what was for her son, the traumatic discovery that everybody dies (this discovery came via the film Charlotte’s Web). I fumbled and mumbled my way through some explanation of how we try to teach our kids that God is ultimately going to reclaim and redeem the world of our present experience, validating all that is good and true etc. My response may or may not have been adequate, but I was reminded of some of the questions that arose when our kids recently encountered death. One of their preschool friends was tragically killed in a traffic accident last year, and I remember being surprised (and heartened) by their bewilderment—even outrage—that such a thing as death should occur. Read more

To What End, Ethics? (II)

A few final thoughts about The Ethical Imagination

Somerville concludes her reflections upon how and why we must find a well-grounded basis for a shared ethic with a plea for a return to “past virtues for a future world.” Our humanness ought to be held in trust for future generations—in other words, we have an obligation not to radically alter, through our various technologies, the essence of what it is to be human. Trust, courage, compassion, generosity, hope—these are all thought to be vital components of thinking and acting ethically in a context where human beings possess unprecedented capabilities to alter what it means to be human. Read more

The Limits of “the Natural”

More on The Ethical Imagination

Somerville exhibits a virtual reverence for “the natural” in her quest to argue for the “secular sacred” as a potential universal grounding for ethics. In situations of ethical ambiguity, our default position should always be to “the natural.” Let me give you an example. Read more

The Elephant in the Room

More on Margaret Somerville’s The Ethical Imagination

For those who remember, Somerville’s project is to argue for a shared ethic based on what she terms “the secular sacred” (a term that I continue to have reservations about). I read her take on “truth” a couple of days ago and while my initial reaction was somewhat negative, I now find myself wondering if there may be some pragmatic merit in what she says. Read more

Appropriately Gnostic

Evil is in the news again. This week’s tragedy in Virginia, the seemingly endless stream of death and destruction that comes out of Iraq, the recent tsunami in the Solomon Islands… these things always force us to acknowledge, again, that our world is not as it ought to be. Read more

The Perpetually Distracted “Informavore”

I’ve been meaning to bring up an article from last month’s edition of The Walrus for a while now, but time has not permitted it. The article is called “Driven to Distraction,” and discusses the effect of the “ubiquitous technology” of our modern world upon our ability to think (I tried to link to the article, but it’s in an area only available to print subscribers. I guess you’ll either have to trust my summary of it, or go find an actual hard copy—which may not be a bad idea, given the content of the article…). Read more

Update

Well, I haven’t posted anything for a while here, so I though I would provide a brief update for those who are interested.

I wrote my last exam (!) yesterday afternoon, and am looking forward to a little bit of time off now before I start research on my thesis this summer. It was a very strange feeling walking out of school yesterday knowing that I have likely written my last major exam in this academic journey I began five years ago. My hand is certainly grateful—they still haven’t figured out a way to let us use laptops for exams at Regent, and 27 pages of handwriting leaves the digits feeling a little cramped to put it mildly. It’s a relief to close the chapter of preparing for and worrying about these three hour “information dumps” that are worth such significant portions of final grades… Read more