Well, the combination of a bout with the Christmas flu, a trip back to Alberta for the holidays, and a general lack of reading and reflection over the past couple of weeks have conspired to make this a rather barren forum lately. We’ve just arrived back in Vancouver over the weekend and are slowly settling back into our regular routines. For me, this means writing. A lot of writing. I aim to finish my thesis by April at which time we will begin the process of discerning what comes next for us as a family. Read more
Posts from the ‘Hope’ Category
Sitting here in the library on a dreary, rainy December day, I find myself thinking about death—which is ironic, and perhaps a little morbid considering the fact that we’re in a season of the year which is focused on the birth of Christ, who came to give us new life. Nevertheless, I’ve been mulling over a conversation I had with a student on the last day of the class I taught at CBC this past semester—a conversation in which she wondered why I had presented death as the ultimate “enemy” of humanity in my final lecture. “Why do we need to see death as an enemy?” she asked. “Why not just look at it as a normal part of life and make the most of the time we have?” Read more
A lot of the reading I am doing for my thesis is related to the idea of hope—how it provides an account both of the “unfinished” or “unsatisfactory” state of the natural world and the existence of human beings who expect and long for better from the world. I recently came across this quote from Nicholas Wolterstorff, from a chapter in The Future of Hope, which I feel captures these two themes well: Read more
One of the things we’ve talked about in the course I’m teaching out at Columbia Bible College this semester is the importance of understanding how all world-views—whether they consider themselves to be “religious” or not—offer their own set of explanations to questions about the nature of the world, the nature of human beings and the problems that plague us, and the potential remedies that are available. The nature of the story one accepts about the world will determine both the kinds of questions one will be inclined to ask and the nature of answers that will be deemed acceptable in response to those questions. Read more
My parents came down for a visit last weekend and left me with some listening material for the frequent drives out to Abbotsford that I am making these days. The Massey Lectures are an annual Canadian event in which a noted scholar gives a series of addresses on some topic of current interest. Among the many notable past Massey lecturers are Noam Chomsky, Jean Vanier, Margaret Visser, John Ralston Saul, and Stephen Lewis. Read more
Over the course of the last half a year or so I’ve slogged through pretty much the entire catalogue of atheist writings that have come out in the last four years. Not surprisingly, this hasn’t been the most edifying experience I’ve ever gone through, but at the very least it does force one to think carefully about the claims these authors make about religious folks. One of the consistent refrains found in Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Dennett, Onfray, Stenger and, before them, Freud, Feuerbach, and Marx is that religion is for people who are afraid to face reality as it is. The inability of religious people to deal with the harsh realities of life is claimed to lead them to wild flights of fantasy and delusion in order to provide comfort and security in a universe that, at rock bottom, is characterized by nothing but “blind pitiless indifference.” Read more
I have spent and continue to spend a good chunk of time thinking and writing about the problem of evil in some form or another. I’ve been told on occasion that this is unhealthy, unproductive, or just plain weird. My thinking about evil has ranged from the purely abstract (the “logical” problem of evil) to the more pastoral (what do you do/say when someone close to you is suffering?) to the theological/philosophical (what is it about human beings and the world that leads us to expect better?) to the sociological (What role does theodicy play in the adoption of and adherence to this or that worldview?). What is notable about all of this thinking/writing is that it has, thus far, been undertaken by one who has remained virtually untouched by suffering. Read more
A rich self has a distinct attitude towards the past, the present, and the future. It surveys the past with gratitude for what it has received, not with annoyance about what it hasn’t achieved or about how little it has been given. A rich self lives in the present with contentment. Rather than never having enough of anything except for the burdens others place on it, it is “always having enough of everything” (2 Corinthians 9:8). It still strives, but it strives out of a satisfied fullness, not out of the emptiness of craving. A rich self looks toward the future with trust. It gives rather than holding things back in fear of coming out too short, because it believes God’s promise that God will take care of it. Finite and endangered, a rich self still gives, because its life is “hidden with Christ” in the infinite, unassailable, and utterly generous God, the Lord of the present, the past, and the future.
Miroslav Volf, Free of Charge
Gratitude, contentment, trust; past, present, future. A good and necessary reminder.
I’ve been reading a lot of Peter Berger lately. His approach to theology, not to mention his honesty regarding doubt and certainty are aspects of his thinking that I am finding deeply resonant. He calls his approach to theology “inductive” in that it starts from human experience in the world, and then proceeds to ask what might account for it. While he certainly doesn’t claim that this provides us with proof of God’s existence, he does think there are enough “signals of transcendence” to take seriously the idea of a personal God who is in the process of redeeming a damaged world. Read more
I recently became aware of a tragic automobile accident which claimed the life of a young man and seriously injured a fellow passenger. I don’t know any of the people directly affected by this tragedy personally, but I am aware of many people who do. This death, as all deaths are, will be devastating for a huge network of people connected in a variety of different ways. Read more
I’ve been meaning to write a few (!) words about this article since I came across it in The Globe and Mail several days ago. It’s a review of a book called The World Without Us by Alan Weisman, and while I’ve not read the book yet, I find the premise of the book to be a curious one—one that I’m not sure is best suited for what it is trying to accomplish. Read more
Well, I apologize for the lack of activity here over the last couple of weeks. The infrequency of my posting is due to the fact that we are out in Alberta and Saskatchewan visiting family and friends. We’ve been out here for just over a week now, and so far we’ve been having a very enjoyable time. Read more
I came across these powerful lines, which conclude Moltmann’s Theology of Hope, this morning and thought they would be worth sharing in light of my previous post on the inappropriateness of perpetual happiness in a world plagued by sin and evil. I think that this is a much better (and much more realistic) way of understanding the state of the world and what we ought to do and expect in it:
This means, however, that the hope of resurrection must bring about a new understanding of the world. This world is not the heaven of self-realization, as it was said to be in Idealism. This world is not the hell of self-estrangement, as it is said to be in romanticist and existentialist writing. The world is not yet finished, but is understood as engaged in history. It is therefore the world of possibilities, the world in which we can serve the future, promised truth and righteousness and peace. This is an age of diaspora, or sowing in hope, of self-surrender and sacrifice, for it is an age which stands within the horizon of a new future. Thus self-expenditure in this world, day-to-day love in hope, becomes possible and becomes human within that horizon of expectation which transcends the world. The glory of self-realization and the misery of self-estrangement alike arise from hopelessness in a world of lost horizons. To disclose to it the horizon of the future of the crucified Christ is the task of the Christian Church.
The Globe and Mail is currently doing a very interesting feature on happiness. I was particularly intrigued by this article that I came across yesterday which questions our cultural fascination with the “cult of happiness,” both its legitimacy as an enterprise, and its efficiency in achieving the results we crave. We are obsessed with being happy, and when this happiness eludes us, we’re desperate for someone to tell us how to fix the problem. Everywhere we turn, there are no shortages of “life coaches,” psychologists, therapists, and all manner of “happiness experts” eager to lead us (usually for a handsome fee!) to the promised land of rapturous bliss. Read more
It seems like every second author I’ve come across lately is full of references to some book or other by Jürgen Moltmann. So, this week I decided to start reading him for myself. Suffice it to say that I think I’m starting to see why many find him to be such a compelling voice. This quote, in the middle of a reflection on the nature of Christian hope, stopped me in my tracks: Read more
I’ve been meaning to read this little book for quite a while, and finally got around to it last week (ironically, the spur that finally prodded me to buy it was the fact that we needed another $7 to push our Amazon order high enough to get free shipping and this was the cheapest book I could think of off the top of my head—it’s a good thing edification isn’t tied to the purity of one’s motives…). It’s really quite moving to see a guy who I’m used to reading in dense philosophical discourse struggling with the pain of losing his son, and how his faith is tested and strengthened by this awful tragedy. For those inclined to think that death is just a normal and proper part of life (or something to that effect), Nicholas Wolterstorff’s lament represents a pretty convincing voice to the contrary. Death is, and always has been, the enemy of humanity. Read more
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