Power-With vs Power-Over

Back in 2016, I wrote a Banner editorial on “Power-With“. This is a concept I acquired from reading Jim Olthuis’ The Beautiful Risk. Olthuis didn’t really elaborate on the concept but used it evocatively in his descriptions about two different spiritual ways – the spirituality of control and the spirituality of compassion (p. 42). In his description, the spirituality of control manifests itself in one-directional power-over, while the spirituality of compassion manifests itself in multi-directional power-with.

I really liked this concept as I think it helps add a layer to our understanding and engagement of power in our lives and in our institutions. The old adage that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” is tired but also an overstatement. Power, in that popular idiom, is inherently corrupting, inherently negative. From a biblical worldview perspective, I will say that is only looking at power from the lens of sin and the fall. But God, of course, is powerful and used power to create the world and all of life. Power, originally, was good. God even built power into the fabric of creation. Here are excerpts from my editorial as I start teasing out this concept of power-with:

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Success through the Eyes of Faith

Public Domain via Pixabay

My apologies for not blogging for the last four to five months! Major transitions have happened in my life. It has been pretty busy, not to mention stressful, these past months! I am no longer a campus minister serving at York University, a role I served in for the past 15 years. Since August 2016, I am serving as the Editor in Chief of The Banner, the official magazine of the Christian Reformed Church in North America. Hence, a new chapter has begun in my life of following Jesus and serving his church and the world.

I wish to make it clear here that my transition was more about following Christ’s calling rather than finding greener pastures. This “career move” can easily be made to fit into the world’s narrative of success, as in constantly moving on to bigger and better. But I had always said that I go to (and stay) where I believe God is calling me. Success, in my understanding of Scripture, means, above all, faithfulness to Christ’s call, along with the missional kingdom fruitfulness (which includes, but not exclusive to the fruit of the Spirit, Gal. 5:22-23) born of that. Continue reading “Success through the Eyes of Faith”

Counterfeit Faith 2 – Experientialism

No Experience Necessary

In my previous post, I warned against dogmatism as a counterfeit faith. In this post, I want to warn about falling into the opposite extreme. This post was actually published in The Banner (April 2014 print edition) as “The Idolatry of Experience“.

In addition to simply giving equal time, I also think this post helps to avoid some misunderstandings from my previous post and also to clarify some concepts. I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not against theology or dogma or doctrines. I love theology. I think it is important. Neither am I suggesting that we get rid or do without theology or dogma. A previous post suggests that theology matters deeply. I was merely warning us from turning good, necessary and important things like beliefs, doctrines and theology into an idol.

Theology is an aid that helps us to love God. In fact, it is a necessary aid, without which we cannot know God. Everybody has a theology, which can be as simple as a rudimentary form of knowing what one believes to the more sophisticated academic style theology that you find in systematic theology textbooks, or even to more articulated ones like we find in church confessions and creeds. But precisely because it is so good and necessary and so helpful that we can be tempted to trust it or to love it more than we ought.

Hence, this article on the idolatry of experience also nicely illuminates how idolatry works – how we can be tempted to turn something good and necessary, even a gift from God, into an idol. And also explains why idolatry is bad for us. Although applied to experience, you can also see how to apply it back to dogma/theology/intellectual ideas.

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Thanksgiving (Canadian) Devotion 2014

Thanksgiving grace 1942 Public Domain
Thanksgiving grace 1942 Public Domain

Last night at Theology over Pizza (our weekly gathering for York students), I asked everyone to name one specific thing that they were thankful for. A variety of things were mentioned: people were thankful for siblings, spouses, children, parents and pets. One was thankful for being at York. Another was even thankful for public transit!

It is a good exercise to be thankful because we so often take things for granted. Sometimes, it takes tragic loss to shock us back into realizing how important certain things are to us, and how we should be grateful that they were in our lives.

I wonder sometimes if we take God for granted. I think this is a temptation for Christians because we always emphasize God’s love and grace to us undeserving sinners. We have never needed to earn God’s love. God loved us before we loved him.

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Talking with Jews and Muslims

Religious symbols of Judaism, Christianity and Islam
By Szczepan1990 19:14, 22 July 2006 (UTC) (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
(Another blast from my past. This article was originally published in The Banner, September 14, 1998. I graduated from my MA at the U of Alberta, Edmonton the previous year and just started work as an Admissions Counselor at Redeemer University College back then.)

A few years ago the University of Alberta held an interfaith forum on faith and learning. The panel consisted of three students, each representing one of three faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. As the Christian representative, I was pleasantly surprised at the almost unanimous agreement between the three faiths as to what hinders our faith from integrating with our studies. However, we disagreed as to a possible solution. This experience seems like a metaphor for the relationship between the three faiths. There are agreements and disagreements, continuities and discontinuities between Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

In this age of religious pluralism we need to consider our attitude to other religions. Judaism and Islam have more in common with Christianity than other faiths. We can each trace our spiritual roots back to Abraham and the God of Abraham (via Isaac for Jews and Christians, via Ishmael for Muslims). Yet, do we all mean the same thing when we say “the God of Abraham”?

Are the Jewish Yahweh and the Muslim Allah the same as the Christian God? Is “God” a continuity or discontinuity between the three religions? I believe the answer is both yes and no. On the one hand, we are all responding to and groping after the same God. But on the other hand, our conceptions of God are radically different.

To explore these questions, we need a biblical framework for thinking about the religious impulse in humanity. Secondly, we need to consider Judaism and Islam within this framework. Finally, we also need to consider how and why we should dialogue with other faiths. Continue reading “Talking with Jews and Muslims”

Spirituality is NOT an Adrenalin Rush

Copyright: bokica / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: bokica / 123RF Stock Photo

Lately, for my daily devotions, I am reading the devotions in my NIV Men’s Devotional Bible (Zondervan 1993). Last Friday’s reading, an excerpt by Archibald Hart, really rang true for me and I just had to share this with the world.

In sum, Hart cautions Christians not to confuse being spiritual with having adrenalin arousal. Here’s an excerpt from the excerpt:

Continue reading “Spirituality is NOT an Adrenalin Rush”