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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

A Different Kind of Easter Message

Easter is the season for celebrating Jesus and what his death and resurrection accomplished for the world. It seems to be one of those times of the year when everyone who has some nominal identification with the Christian tradition finds their way back to a church service. Apparently, even some members of the Toronto Maple Leafs have taken an interest in churchgoing and prayer during this, the most important period of the Christian calendar, in the hopes, I presume, that God is as concerned that the New York Islanders lose tomorrow as they are. Read more

To What End, Ethics?

One of my philosophy professors at the University of Lethbridge once said something to the effect that all higher education is, in some form or another, about learning how to read a book, and the farther I have gone in my academic journey, the more I have realized the truth of this statement. I have actually found blogging about the books I read to be a helpful way of learning how to do this, both in terms of processing them more fully, and learning how to articulate their arguments more adequately through the discussions that sometimes follow. So, having said that, on to what’s currently distracting me from my studies… Read more

Rewind?

Well here’s a story that’s bound to generate a bit of controversy especially given our current political climate. I saw this on a newsstand as I was waiting for Naomi and the kids at the airport last week, and I had to do a double-take to make sure I saw the headline correctly. I’m not sure it’s exactly the kind of thing some in America are looking for when they seek to “get the bible back in the classroom,” but it’s a somewhat surprising argument to find in a major news magazine nonetheless. The following quote offers a summary explanation of sorts as to why such a “step back” might be a good thing: Read more

Tending our Gardens

As some of you may know, I’m hoping to do a thesis this year which focuses on the problem of evil in some form or another. With an eye towards that, I’m currently researching a history paper on the Lisbon earthquake and the decline of philosophical optimism in the eighteenth century. Read more

Comb-Overs and the Kingdom of God

I’m bald.

I thought I would start with a frank admission of the fact that my own head is, shall we say “sparsely populated” lest anyone think that in what follows I am poking fun at a segment of the population for which I have no affinity. I’ve probably been shaving my head at least since I was twenty-five, so I feel the pain of and stand in solidarity with all those men out there for whom combs and shampoo represent hazy memories of a distant and beautiful past… Read more