Friday, February 29, 2008

Frank Schaeffer

My mom gave me "Portofino" and "Saving Grandma" by Frank Schaeffer (the son of the famous evangelical philosopher/theologian Francis Schaeffer) and his books are hillarious. They're all about his life kind of but he just changes the names and stuff. The stories are about a boy named 'Calvin' who grows up in a family with parents as Presbyterian missionaries to Catholics. The books constantly have jokes that are references to the bible, Calvinism, popular evangelicalism an other things that I grew up around and Christians know about. The other joke is that every time the boy prays to the Virgin Mary she answers it and the problem is solved. The books do at times reek of a little blasphemy and bitterness towards his upbringing I guess, but they are just so hillarious that I had to put up a quote from the one I'm reading right now.

In the story of "Saving Grandma" the boy Calvin has been caught helping his spastic neighbour to keep quiet with he masturbates. (I know REALLY awkward) and his parents find out and think he has actually been touching the boy/they think their son is gay (pretty much the worst nightmare of any evangelical). As Calvin is called into his parents room the scene unfolds:
"Then he (Calvin's Dad) looked at me. "This is the most serious moment of your life. Your perversity casts doubt upon your election. It would seem that you are one of the hopelessly unregenerate, a Vessel of Wrath. It is clear that as of now you have not been called. It's clear that your profession of faith has been a sham." Dad had said a lot of things to me on a lot of occasions, but never that I was doomed, a Vessel of Wrath chosen from before the foundation of the world to be damned...I'm afraid we have some very bad news...When Mary Lou said the word masturbated, Mom screamed "Oh no!" and fell on the floor. Dad looked steadily at me. "This is only the first fruits."... (Calvin's dad slaps him trying to get him to confess and says) "You are a liar and a homosexual! You are hopelessly unregenerate and utterly depraved! You are not my son!" I guess Dad read in the Bible about how the Jews tore their clothes when really bad things happened...he tried to tear his blue plaid flannel shirt. He only managed to pop the buttons off... (Calvin then shows everyone in the room his dad's secret stash of adult magazines and calls his dad the real vessel of wrath, and runs across the room. As he runs out the door he finds his sister Janet, who was listening at the keyhole to what was happening) I hit Janet in the face. She didn't say a word, just sank to her knees...I thought about how if we had no free will, how they could blame God if they didn't like that I had broken Janet's nose"

The stories are just filled with hillarious scenes like this that make you laugh out loud, though I don't know how funny this one is without the full context of the story - but to ME - it was hillarious.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Stoicism and Calvinism

So I know basically every post is about Calvinism which will annoy the hell out of some people (if you can call arminians 'people' j/k). But I was reading about Stoicism and how they believe that logos or this unknown god holds everything together and that we are all part of a universal city. Their basic beliefs are kind of like Taoists which say that you have to live in submission to the will of God. This sounds a bit like Calvinism's acceptance of the ultimate divine will of God which is unchangeable. The Stoic's conception of the universe sounds alot like Calvinism's / Paul in Acts 17 's position. That in Him we live and move and have our being and that in Christ all is held together. I guess it would make sense to find lots of platonism and stoicism in Christianity but it always surprises me a bit when I see these fundamentals repeated. Which leads me to question, can you be a Christian Stoic? Controlling simply your reactions to a situation rather than trying to control the situation? I don't think you could accept Prudence, Temperance, Fortitude and Wisdom as your Cardinal virtues... maybe Faith, Hope, and Love? this is my pondering for today...

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Theology and Everyday Life

I was thinking the other day about something that puzzled me. I was arguing with an Athiestic Determinst Psychology major about why in his worldview he even bothered to get up in the morning. He kept saying 'we're just apes who think we're 'special'' - which was kind of funny- even though I didn't agree with him. He said that his worldview didn't actually have to correspond to the world he experiences because reason is the only thing that matters.

I think that was an interesting point. But I disagree with it. Ravi Zacharias says that one of the tests of a worldview is if it fits with all the data you are processing and inputting through it. That's when I feel I realized something. Calvinism to me is the strongest logical position, and that's why I believe it. Though it has little to no experiential value. I constantly struggle to accept God's grace and to live a godly life, it's not like I'm zapped with Grace and then I have no choice but to be good. I mean it logically makes sense, but it doesn't practically. Also I see non-Christians do 'good' things, and that means I'm either a Pelagian, or somehow God is using them without their knowledge, or maybe total depravity isn't correct.

I think that I think about theology way too much and should just get over it. So maybe I'm no better than the psych major, do I trust reason above my experience? probably. . . But then again empiricism sucks anyway... so maybe after all of this, it is better to trust reason... hmmm. Food for thought.

Ironies in the Protestant-Catholic Debate

Protestants disagree with the Roman Catholic Church because it claims to be infallible, and we all know only Martin Luther was infallible.

Protestants think the Catholics teach the precepts of men instead of the word of God, they don't follow dead tradition, they follow Spurgeon and Wesley's tradition.

The Catholic church says that they only believe in the initial doctrines of the disciples...but that Papal authority and the Papacy by following their original teachings you have to reject the Pope.

Protestants claim that salvation comes from faith not works, and then criticizes Catholics on the basis of the lives that they live.

Catholics use the bible to try to disprove Sola Scriptura.

Monday, February 25, 2008

What Tradition are You?

Jared Emailed me this link to a quiz that tells you which denomination you agree with by percentage, here is the site
my results were:
(100%) 1: Presbyterian/Reformed
(97%) 2: Anglican/Episcopal/Church of England
(94%) 3: Baptist (Reformed/Particular/Calvinistic)
(93%) 4: Congregational/United Church of Christ
(90%) 5: Anabaptist (Mennonite/Quaker etc.)
(90%) 6: Methodist/Wesleyan/Nazarene
(88%) 7: Eastern Orthodox
(72%) 8: Pentecostal/Charismatic/Assemblies of God
(72%) 9: Roman Catholic
(68%) 10: Church of Christ/Campbellite
(51%) 11: Baptist (non-Calvinistic)/Plymouth Brethren/Fundamentalist
(45%) 12: Seventh-Day Adventist
(33%) 13: Lutheran

I'm happy about these results, but I know they have alot to do with my recent research in theology - before I never would have been 72% Roman Catholic. So I decided to redo the test and figure out where I was before my theological education and took the test as though it was sept 2006, here are the results and I think they are perfectly accurate for that time as well:
(100%) 1: Baptist (non-Calvinistic)/Plymouth Brethren/Fundamentalist
(96%) 2: Anabaptist (Mennonite/Quaker etc.)
(79%) 3: Seventh-Day Adventist
(71%) 4: Pentecostal/Charismatic/Assemblies of God
The lowest was Roman Catholic.

Thus this test has affirmed for me that now I must find a Presbyterian/Reformed church to attend, or an Anglican/CofE church.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Ekklesia Veritas - The True Body of Christ?

"One holy, catholic, and apostolic church" - Nicene Creed

This creed sent me in search of the true church. I trusted it because it proves the Trinity, but it had led me to at least 2 major problems.

1. It says that baptism is for the forgiveness of sins - which I still haven't even got to yet in my search.

2. The Church as recognized and defined by the early church against the threat of heresy (mainly gnosticism) that it had to be 4 things:

a. One - Unified. What kind of unity? in the gospel? in Christ? in the Holy Spirit? No the Church at the time was unified by a shared communion - like the Roman Catholic Church or the Anglican Church.

b. Holy - Seperated distinct from the people all around - like the Jews were to the Canaanites. It means that the church is set apart, and actively different and morally pure. I don't know if any church fully meets that standard. The Amish are good at the 'set apart' bit, but not at the Catholic, or Aposotlic bit.

c. catholic - universal. Protestants usually just say universal and quickly move on, however this is important. The amish are a great glimpse at an entirely local church. They are not universal. Many protestant denominations are 90% white middle class families, in Canada, US, and UK - that isn't Catholic. Many Roman Catholics argue that even saying catholic means universal is not enough, but that it means in submission to Rome, but since the Greek Fathers might disagree, we'll leave that out for a bit.

d. Apostolic. There is debate here and now because of the Reformation. Protestants believe this means that the church holds to the teachings of the apostles and thus it is apostolic. But it is hard to argue that at the time, many believed this. It has always meant until 1517 that the church has apostolic succession, that the offices of bishops and priests have been passed on to the church today in a direct line to Christ. The only protestant churches that may argue this - though not superbly - are the Anglicans (who have the best case), the Lutherans, and some Reformed (though Calvin was never ordained, unlike Luther).

So for this reason and Paul's writing in Ephesians that there is one church, and his criticism of denominationalism in Corinthians led me to the Roman Catholic Church. I figured unless I would doubt all the other dogmas of the faith I would have to convert. However, it was not that easy. I saw that many of their dogmas even if they had little basis in scripture, still worked (like purgatory). Though they did do many things -which no amount of reading will I think ever change my mind - which I utterly disagree with. The elevate Mary to the place of co-redemptrix and they are tricky with the wording of everything so as to not 'technically' fall into unbiblical heresy. However still, to claim a person was born without sin and ascended into heaven and is a mediator of Christ's grace... to pray to her more than to the Lord Jesus Christ. That is wrong. And it doesn't matter what wording you have. It is clear from Paul in Romans that people have always tried to worship creatures rather than the creator. And the whole 2nd commandment issue - don't even get me started (that's why East Orthodox is out as well). The biggest thing however is the Pope. For I heard one Catholic Theologian say he is 'in essence, God on Earth', they call him the head of the Church - Christ is the head. So I could never be a part of an organization that usurps Christ's titles and pays more attention to his mother than him.

Where does this leave me? Anglicanism. It seemed like the perfect answer. It is one communion, catholic - universal (composed of many poor in central america etc.), apostolic (when the CofE was established all catholic bishops and priests made anglican, and the line has continued). However is it Holy? I am disturbed by many things within the Anglican church. I attended a service at my local Anglican church and the Female Priest said that Paul in 2 Tim was praying like a Pharisee and was too proud and not humble and that already the church had lost it's way. Also my diocese of Niagara was I think the first in the world to bless gay marriages. Homosexuality is wrong. Marriage is a sacrament of the church and should not be put upon even Christians and non-Christians, let alone those who are practicing homosexuals. I have no problem saying Christians who are struggling with homosexuality are as Christian as I or anyone is. But I have a problem with blessing it. The Anglican Church has been destroyed by Liberal Theology. Thus in Canada and the Episcopal Church in the U.S. The Anglican church is nearly brought to nothing. However in England there are many godly leaders and there has been a great history of good Anglican thinkers. You have Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. I think that man is a genius and I respect him highly. You have Dr. N.T. Wright one of the best New Testament scholars around and I love his stuff on the resurrection and the authority of scripture. You have C.S. Lewis, John Stott, and many others. So maybe I could be an Anglican in England or elsewhere? I simply fear there is no perfect church, and that is why I am becoming more and more partial to Calvin and the other reformers' view on the Church. That we find our unity in Christ, that the church is holy because he is holy, that it is universal because every tongue, tribe, and nation will declare Jesus is Lord, and that these confessions of Christ are being made in every place in each church and thus the church is catholic, and that each church is only apostolic in so much as it's teaching agrees with the Apostles and their teaching.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Sinners In the Hands Of An Angry God

I just finished reading this classic sermon by the Puritan Calvinist Jonathan Edwards, it was definately unique to me. (I should've been doing homework). I have been reading "The Bondage and Liberation of the Will" by John Calvin as well. Both of them seem to begin in the same place really.

Total Depravity. Is man really completely corrupt? It is clear that Calvin and Edwards both think so. I have always been taught it, but never to the extent that I've seen in both these authors. Jonathan Edwards' entire sermon is about how we are so sinful that we have kindled God's wrath against us and we are in essence dangling above the fires of hell, and only by the absolutely unmerited grace of Christ can we be saved. This is quite different from Catholic Soteriology I've been reading about being made righteous through the sacraments and other things to the point of eventual perfection after purgatory.

Calvin wrote this in his book which I am still thinking about, "a work will not be righteous and pure unless it proceeds from a perfect love for God...the saints are held back by a permanent weakness of the flesh from doing perfectly the good works which they do; I mean that they walk when they should be running, often they even limp...there has never been a good work which was entirely pure and perfect...human uncleanness is so powerful and contagious a poison that it defiles by mere contact whatever is otherwise holy."

Edwards writes, "O sinner! consider the fearful danger you are in: 'tis a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you as against many of the damned in Hell: you hang by a slender thread... [and] nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one moment."

It is a teaching not heard often in the modern church about the wrath of God. I was very shocked at the end of the sermon. But what he says I think is true, and I feel the argument is fairly strong that we are totally depraved from an academic standpoint, it still doesn't quite mesh entirely with my own experience (as I feel I have chosen God many times) - however the point stands that I must believe it until I can disprove it.

Well with all that knowledge where does that lead us? To despair? That's what I was thinking, but both Calvin and Edwards have very different conclusions.

Calvin writes, "We say that man cannot do anything good but cannot even think it, so that he may learn to depend totally on God and, despairing of himself, to cast himself entirely upon him; and so that [man] may give the credit, if he has done anything good, to God and not to himself...this entire teaching trains a person only to be humble, to fear God, to place his trust in God, and to ascribe glory to God."

The Conclusion of Edwards is, "Therefore let every one that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come"

Furthermore, I think this is an interesting glimpse at old fashioned 'gospel' messages. For the most part I feel the Evangelical Church now holds more of an Armenian or even Catholic position that we choose God and that saves us, but the great theologians have always said the opposite. This knowledge of our sinfulness and inability to save ourselves when spoken of correctly as Edwards and Calvin have done, leads us to total trust in God and thus the ends seem to justify the means. I will close with the words of Charles Spurgeon on the issue:

"Trembling, yet believing, I cast myself wholly upon thee, O Lord. I trust the blood and righteousness of thy dear Son...Lord, save me "

Thoughts on Jeremiah 1

I've been reading Jeremiah recently and been inspired by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. He writes about the prophets, in his appropriately named book "The Prophets",

"...the sorts of crimes and even the amount of delinquency that fill the prophets of Israel with dismay do not go beyond that which we regard as normal, as typical ingedients of social dynamics. To us a single act of the prophets it is a deathblow to existence..."

I've basically just tried to accumulate some thoughts on the chapters, they might be helpful for someone so I'm writing it out. It probably will make alot more sense with the passage open: hence the link


Jeremiah Ch.1
I love this chapter, it's amazing to think about God's call for Jeremiah, the fact that he calls us all so differently. Imagine the place of Jeremiah, just a child in war torn Jerusalem growing up in a world filled with people who had an amazing history but who it seemed had been abandonned by their great God.

Suddenly Jeremiah is called and it shakes him immensely and it should, the voice of the creator of the Universe is enough to shake anyone I'm sure.

Look at 1:7-10
But the LORD said to me, "Do not say, 'I am only a child.' You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you," declares the LORD. Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, "Now, I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant."

3 Things I note about this as interesting:
1. God comforts Jeremiah -> He tells him not to be afraid, and reaches out and touches him.
2. God gives him Authority. It's funny that whenever God gives someone authority or the ability to preach, like Paul, how even though God says they have authority to speak, no one else realizes it and they usually end up beaten or rejected or killed. Maybe Jeremiah knew this and that's why he was so scared. I think it's both sad and interesting that the God who created this world is never recognized. Not by Jews who Jeremiah preached to in the 8th Century BC, not to Christ about 900 years later. That must make God heartbroken. His own people. His own children don't recognize him.
3. God promises Protection. God says he will rescue him. I wonder if Jeremiah was thinking about these words while he was thrown into a well later on for preaching God's word to the people. It would take quite a bit of faith to hear words like that, to live the life he did, and then still have faith.

Then Jeremiah gets told his message.

1:16 "I will pronounce my judgments on my people because of their wickedness in forsaking me, in burning incense to other gods and in worshiping what their hands have made

If God said this to me in North America in the 21st century I'd have to fight not to respond "is that it?... I hate to break it to you God but the church has been trying for a long time, and they're just not listening, why don't you just beam us up now and leave these people"

This was true for Jeremiah as well. There were already lots of prophets, Jeremiah probably walked by other prophets yelling in the streets. It wasn't a 'popular' profession by any means. If you prophesied and it didn't come true...they would kill you. That adds some pressure.

It's also very similar to today because while the West only worships one god now, Mammon, the Greek god of money and materialism, we know all about worshipping what our own hands have made. The iPod is better understood than the gospel, and man is not slow to congratulate themselves for all their 'accomplishments'. It's funny to me that this isn't God's view.

I had a Roman Catholic friend the other day talk to me about doing drugs and drinking and partying. When I told him I thought it was wrong he said, "do you think God really cares? Does he care what we do all the way up in Heaven?" My answer was an awkward 'yes' but I wished I said "He seemed to think our sin was important enough to come down here and sort it out himself, and go through an excruciating death just to cover the horror of our iniquity"...

Rabbi Heschel says this about Disobedience and God as well, "... [in] our moral comprehensians, the incapacity to sense the depth of misery caused by our own failures, is a fact... Our eyes are witness to the callousness and cruelty of man, but our heart tries to obliterate the memories, to calm the nerves, and to silence our conscience. The prophet is a man who feels fiercely. God has thrust a burden upon his soul, and he is bowed and stunned at man's fierce greed. Frightful is the agony of man; no human voice can convey its full terror. Prophecy is the voice that God has lent to the silent agony, a voice to the plundered poor, to the profaned riches of the world. It is a form of living, a crossing point of God and man."

It is amazing to think that God cares so immensely. While people may feel guilty or scared when they read Jeremiah, to me it is deeply filled with the love of God, he is a God who cares so much about his people, he continually sent them messages, and tried to show his world how to live, how it was made to function, and eventually in Jesus he lived out what our lives are to look like. That is no God of Deism, it is the mark of someone deeply involved in our day to day lives.

Finally, look at 1:17-19"Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. 18 Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. 19 They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you," declares the LORD."

I like that God says "Do not be terrified by them...I will terrify you" That's so powerful. It's as if God is saying if you think they're scary you don't understand my holiness, my glory, and my authority. And all of that awesome power is now with you.

The Lord tells Jeremiah that he will be an iron pillar, and that all of the country including the priests who are to bear God's name and purpose, will be against him. It was not an easy task for poor Jer. But at the same time imagine his resolve. Imagine God telling you that he will make you like a fortified city and be with you rescue you. That would bring a huge amount of confidence.

Basically, It is a good part of God's story to know - the Call of Jeremiah - if God is truly unchanging, he could call us to the same thing and it is interesting to look at God's relationship with Jeremiah and see it in the light of our relationship with him. I think if we were honest in our prayer and seeking for God, we would have much scarier but ultimately more real lives.

Being "In Him"/"In Christ" from Paul to Descartes

Lately I've been reading some stuff on Justification and what it means. I was reading some N.T. Wright and he talked about how many scholars (though not himself I think) believed that the central theme of all of the apostle Paul's writing was the mystical (in a Christian sense - remove modern connotations) was his most important Idea.

In Philosophy we were going through Rene Descartes' Meditations and other metaphysical writings. I love learning about Descartes at Brock because 1) our Professor is smart and accurately portrays him, and 2) Descartes makes me feel like I have a friend, like somewhere even in the distant past there was actually someone who thought about the same things I do. Now I am not trying to compare myself to Descartes, but I'm just saying I love his philosophy because at this point of the book all that Descartes says he can trust is that he exists, and that in order for him to exist, God must exist, and somehow we exist in God.

It reminds me of Acts 17 when Paul goes to Athens and starts debating with the philosophers. Getting up early every morning I drive to philosophy makes me feel like Paul. Maybe I'm being melodramatic but I like to imagine these genius platonic philosophers, and it says that, "While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols". I know the feeling, you know the feeling, when you're sitting there and people around you are reading celebrity magazines and listening to iPods, and talking about money. Everyone has idols - especially here at brock, people embrace the strange polygamy of sources from Nietzsche to Buddha they all deem them 'respectible' but in the end there is no authority to which they owe their allegiance. They believe they are their own end and the 'master of their fate'.

as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.

"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 'For in him we live and move and have our being.'

I think one of my Personal dreams is to somehow before I leave brock get a platform and microphone and scream this out.

Because this is Paul's thinking, it is Descartes thinking. When asking the biggest questions of life, when trying to realize what we are as humans, humanity itself can have no answer. Descartes Cosmological argument shows that the only thing you will ever get from human finitude is finite and human ideas. But as Paul reminds us, when we are 'In Christ' we have access to a whole other world. Something much greater than ourselves. When we enter into the new covenant we have bound our fates together, for all times.

The Greeks talked about an idea where when two people were born a soul was broken in two and your 'soulmate' is the other person in the world who makes you complete. Well call me cynical about women, but I've never met one who could be that (and certainly no men...let the rumors stop lol). I think Paul's idea parallels that quite nicely. That all of our idols and temples built by men cannot contain the greatness of the infinite God, and that only in this covenant with him can we be made whole (salvation means to make whole).

Those are just my thoughts from this morning.

Gratias Tibi Domine


Welcome to my blog. My name is Andrew (strong, manly) Peter (rock) and I am unexemplary at living up to such a name. However by the grace of God I am what I am, and I am on - and have been for a while - a great spiritual journey. I am uncertain of many things but I am certain that Jesus of Nazareth was and is today God, and is -or rather should be- the centre of every aspect of my life. So I welcome you to join with me in my random thoughts about how different philosophies and theologies tell me about the Lord and his truth.

"You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free"