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”→
(On October 24, 2015, I delivered this keynote address at the Christian Courier Story-maker’s Symposium, celebrating that Christian newspaper’s 70th anniversary. Give and take some spur of the moment revisions and minus introductory remarks and the power point slides, this is the presentation I gave.)
I am going to show a music video as part of my talk today. But before I do that, I am going to read three passages from the Bible. There are well known Bible passages. And then, I will give some background info so that you can appreciate the video better, then show the video. And after that, I will try and tie them all together in my talk, somehow.
I am going to show you a music video by Sinead O’Connor. Sinead O’Connor, if you don’t know, is an Irish singer, raised Roman Catholic.
There are a couple of things you need to know about her in order to fully appreciate the music video I am about to show you. First is that Sinead became an international music star in 1990 when her hit song Nothing Compares to You hit No. 1 in several countries including the UK and the USA. Nothing Compares to You, which I think is still the song that most people remember Sinead for, is basically a song about a woman lamenting the departure of her lover, as nothing is the same without him in her life because, well, nothing compares to him. Its accompanying music video also became iconic, where the video comprised almost entirely of a close up of Sinead’s face as she sings the song. Remember this iconic close up shot (for the video).
A note about Sinead’s shaven head – she originally shaved it as a protest against traditional views of women, it became her trademark but also became part of her identity. She once said, “I don’t feel like me unless I have my hair shaved. So even when I’m an old lady, I’m going to have it.” [Barkham, Patrick (20 February 2007). “The Bald Truth”.The Guardian (London).]
One other thing that Sinead O’Connor is (in)famous for is her appearance on Saturday Night Live in 1992, where during her performance, she presented a photo of Pope John Paul II to the camera and ripped the photo to pieces and said, “Fight the real enemy.” Sinead, throughout her career, has, shall we say, a testy relationship with the church? She has often criticized organised religion although she has said before in interviews that she still considers herself a Christian. She is an outspoken feminist and had spoken against child abuse in the church.
(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”→
(This post was originally published as an article in The Banner, Feb, 2010)
Are you a perfectionist? Is your boss one? Perhaps you have a perfectionist parent or sibling? In any case, you probably know that perfectionists can be hard to please.
The pressure to be perfect is hard to escape. We live in a culture that demands, especially at work, things and products to be just right. Some of us, like me, also have perfectionist tendencies. When I try too hard and expect too much of myself—trying to write that perfect sermon or that perfect article—it can really slow me down or even paralyze me from doing what I can.
Perfectionism is a tough critic and master.
And how many of us expect perfection of our local church and/or worship experiences? How many of us expect perfection in our spiritual walk with God? Moreover, how many of us think that God expects perfection from us?
Jesus commands us in Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” That sounds impossible to live up to. What kind of perfection does Jesus expect from us? Are we doomed to failure and frustration?
To answer such questions, let’s first consider what biblical perfection is not. Then, digging deeper, let’s look at the Old Testament view of perfection, followed by the New Testament view and the Matthew text in particular. You may be surprised by what we find.
I ended my last post by making the point that Scripture is not authoritative on everything but only on matters of salvation and church beliefs and practices. This might give the impression that I am suggesting that Scripture is irrelevant to everyday life and to learning. That is not the case. Just because the Bible is not an authority or a textbook on science, history or other matters, does not mean that it cannot speak or inform those areas at all. An old article by Sidney Greidanus, “The Use of the Bible in Christian Scholarship” (Christian Scholar’s Review 1982, Vol. XI. No. 2) provides some helpful guidelines. In adapting Greidanus’ points, I will use three metaphors to help us see the three visions for how Scripture relates to life.
The recent controversy at Calvin College over the issue of human origins in the publications of two of its professors causes me and a friend to think about how Christians disagree with one another. In a connected blog, Jason Postma, Youth Pastor at Bethel CRC in Newmarket, Ontario, explores how at the root of these debates is how “we use (and abuse) history and tradition in the formation of our identity” as Christians of a particular denomination, in this case, the Christian Reformed Church, to which, Calvin College is affiliated. Postma suggests that we remember the dynamic nature of tradition – that tradition is a living thing that requires “continual negotiation between imagination and preservation” – and the Scripture’s call to work towards Christian unity in our disagreements over interpretations and uses of Creeds and Confessions. He implores that we “always extend a hermeneutics of charity to those with whom we are in disagreement rather than point accusatory fingers and call each other heretics.” It is this “hermeneutics of charity” that I wish to explore further in this blog post.