Thursday, August 31, 2006

Forgiving the Church

"When we have been wounded by the Church, our temptation is to reject it. But when we reject the Church it becomes very hard for us to keep in touch with the living Christ. When we say, "I love Jesus, but I hate the Church," we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too.

The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the Church seldom asks us for forgiveness, at least not officially. But the Church as an often fallible human organization needs our forgiveness, while the Church as the living Christ among us continues to offer us forgiveness.

It is important to think about the Church not as "over there" but as a community of struggling, weak people of whom we are part and in whom we meet our Lord and Redeemer."
Henri Nouwen

Thursday, August 24, 2006


Annie, Silvi and I went to two used bookstores last night to find copies of Perelandra, That Hideous Strength and any book by George MacDonald (I settled on The Princess and the Goblin, one of his better known children's books). I also bought another Bible, a used NRSV. I often buy books based on aesthetics, and Bibles are no exception. I would rather buy a trade paperback over hardcover, and try to stay away from mass market paperbacks. I also hate buying the "movie" version of a book. I looked for a copy of Contact without Jodie Foster on the cover with no luck.

I own about ten Bibles. (apologies to Brother Andrew): the NIV, NASB, The Message, New Living Translation, The Living Bible, The Complete Jewish Bible, and the New English Bible from Scotland. The last two I purchased in an effort to free myself from Reformed and conservative evangelical theology (although the CJB was translated by a graduate from Fuller Theological Seminary). I needed to view the Scriptures through a new lens, gain fresh insight into the words. I wanted a literary Bible, one with language that was both poetic and true to the spirit of the texts. I found that in the NEB.

I bought the NRSV last night as a version with which I can commit verses to memory. Much of the NEB's language, although movingly poetic, is difficult to follow in that it is written for readers in the United Kingdom. (Examples include asphodel, batten, bustard, distrain, felloe, hoopoes, keen (as a verb), lapis lazuli, panniers, reck, ruffed bustard, runnels of water, and stook.) I also like that the NRSV is used by Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox believers.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Best soccer film ever?

Last night in Edinburgh the film Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait was screened at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. (It was shot before the infamous head butt.)

Training 17 cameras solely on footballer Zinedine Zidane, over the course of a single match between Real Madrid and Villareal, we see the legend in action and in repose, following him around the pitch. Sometimes at the centre of action, more often waiting, watching - while, in voice-over, the footballer himself broods over what he can and cannot remember from his matches. Magnificently edited, and accompanied by a majestic score from Scottish rock heroes Mogwai, this is not only the greatest football movie ever made, but one of the finest studies of man in the workplace - an ode to the loneliness of the athlete, the poise and resilience of the human body.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Blog depression

There are a few blogs that I glance at most days. It's starting to get to me. Being the contrarian that I am, I like to frequent opposing viewpoints. I find myself reading a few Emerging Church blogs, such as TallSkinnyKiwi and Backyard Missionary, then click over to Slice of Laodicea or Apprising Ministries to read some rather forceful critiques. When I'm done with the "serious" discussions, I pop by Purgatorio for some old-fashioned satire. I sometimes follow links to the people that comment on these blogs, and their blogs usually reflect similar positions.

By the time I finish with these writers, I usually need a shower. I find some refreshment from reading Rain City Pastor, the blog of the pastor (obviously) I knew in Seattle. His thoughts are usually balanced and matured, seasoned by years of pastoring a rather large metropolitan church.

A few months of following the battle within the walls of the Church has me longing for something - solid. Maybe that's why I find myself gravitating toward Lewis and Chesterton and MacDonald. I'm searching for the "mere" in the chaos of modern-day Christianity.


I finished reading Out of the Silent Planet by Lewis last weekend; I am about a third of the way through Till We Have Faces. I am also 120 pages into Stephen Lawhead's The Paradise War and 200+ pages through Contact by Sagan.

Thus far, I am unimpressed with Lawhead. It's really quite uninspiring writing. Chapter upon chapter with not much happening (kind of like this blog). I like the concept (based on Plato's idea of Forms) but he needs to tighten everything up. Three or four chapters could be condensed into one. Sagan, on the other hand, is a good writer, but provides entirely too many details. And his constant insistence that Beings from other planets must possess higher intelligence can get old quick; he refers to this belief all too often.

Lewis, of course, is the master of words. It is refreshing to come back to him after an hour with Lawhead or Sagan. His sentences are taut, the action is compelling yet not overwhelming and his characters stay with me into the night. Next? Perelandra.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

No limits

One of my favorite movies is The Big Blue (the theatrical version, not the director's cut). It's the story about two competitive "free divers," also known as "no limits diving." A free diver is
one who tests how deep humans can go underwater or how long they can remain submerged--on a single gulp of air. "No limits" free divers go deeper than most. Wrapped around a weighted sled that slides on a cable, they plunge hundreds of feet down, then inflate an air bag that shoots them swiftly back to the surface. In the process, they withstand near-crippling water pressure; their lungs shrink to the size of baseballs; their hearts slow to 20 beats a minute; and their sinus cavities fill with salt water to keep their eardrums from exploding.
The above video is of the deepest dive in history by Patrick Musimu to an astounding 687 feet. It's best watched with the sound up.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


One of the primary arguments for the need for propositional and foundational apologetics is the "crisis in the university." According to many traditionalist organization's estimates, 75% of Christian students lose faith when they attend college. They attribute this to the fact that when students "have no idea why they believe what they believe and have no ability to defend their beliefs, they’re taken captive by ideas for which they aren’t prepared."

I think this issue is more complex. But first, I have to challenge the statistics a little bit. Statistics are all too aften misleading. Statistically speaking, Vatican City is the most dangerous place in the world while Yemen is the safest. Of couse, reality is much different.

Is it true that because students are ill equiped to face the ideas they encounter in the classroom that they walk away from a relationship with Christ? Sometimes. But I think that ideas that challenge faith are only a part of the problem, and may indeed may not be as significant as claimed.

I assert that proximity and peers probably have more to do with any loss of faith than contact with abstract ideas. Proximity because for most students it is the first time in their lives when they experience freedom from the watchful eyes of parents. Peers because it is friends that shape and reflect who we are within. True, false cerebral ideas often do lead the faithful astray. But let's not forget the role of relationships in this battle for the heart.

And let's be more careful with statistics. I know higher numbers mean higher dollars, but sometimes they only mean greater fiction.

Friday, August 11, 2006

A just Israel

Martin Buber's great-granddaughter, Tirzah Agassi, writes about the current situation in the Middle East.
We can’t turn back the clock and undo mistakes that have already been made. But we can note the wisdom of Buber’s warnings, understanding our own people’s contribution to the chronic mistrust between ourselves and the Arab world.

It is easy to point to Arab provocations that have contributed to the current horror. But how about our own part in its creation? What could we have done differently? And what can we still do differently? How does Israel, the Jewish state, live up to Buber’s vision of “prophetic politics” which, like our prophets, charges us “to remain ever cognizant of the effects of our community’s actions on others and, accordingly, to ‘sin’ no more than is absolutely necessary”?

Thursday, August 10, 2006


I am prone to live in the world of abstraction. I enjoy philosophical language not only for it's poetry and ability to clarify, but because it can transport me into an ideal world. Unfortunately, we do not live in an ideal world. I was reading, re-reading, Subversive Spirituality by Eugene Peterson and he says that only stories can rescue us from abstraction. Once we lose our place in a Story, we tend to interpret the events in our lives disconnected from any greater meaning.

The lady who lives across the hall was arrested last night. Two police officers banged on her door, and in the matter of a minute or two, cuffed her and took her away. She talks to Annie almost every day, telling her about her recent divorce, custody battle and losing her daughter to her ex-husband. She's been drinking heavily nearly every day, and lost her job last week when she showed up drunk. She broke a restraining order yesterday, trying to get her daughter back. After the police took her, she never came home last night.

I tell you this because I have a question: How do you stay in a Story if the Story is filled with pain and heartbreak and loss? Peterson encourages us to revisit our Stories, to live in the concreteness of life, to abandon abstraction. I agree with him, but what he asks of us is almost impossible.

Peterson calls us to see our stories in the light of the bigger Story. Only there will the seemingly random occurences in our lives find the thread that will weave them all together.

Give us some words

An excellent article by Peggy Noonan: What is the president's philosophy?
I continually wonder, and have wondered for two years, what his (the president's) philosophy is--what drives his actions.

Does he know? Is it a philosophy or a series of impulses held together by a particular personality? Can he say? It would be good if he did. People are not going to start feeling safe in the world tomorrow, but they feel safer with a sense that their leaders have aims that are intellectually coherent. It would be good for the president to demonstrate that his leadership is not just a situational hodgepodge, seemingly driven and yet essentially an inbox presidency, with a quirky tilt to the box. Sometimes words just can't help. But sometimes, especially in regard to the establishment or at least assertion of coherence, they can. And it's never too late. History doesn't hold a stopwatch, not on things like this.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Nil, nil

Very witty, guys, but it makes me want to buy a plane ticket to Spain.
Soccer is the perfect game for the post-modern world. It's the quintessential expression of the nihilism that prevails in many cultures, which doubtlessly accounts for its wild popularity in Europe. Soccer is truly Seinfeldesque, a game about nothing, sport as sensation.

Good Morning

Some mornings I make a lot of noise when I'm dressing so that my daughter will wake up before I leave for work. Most mornings, she wakes before I do, and asks - rather, demands - to climb into our bed. She usually falls back asleep, her feet finding their way into my back or onto my face. She's a bed hog. She likes to stretch out, arms over her head.

She's in a good mood when she wakes up. "Hi - hi," she says. She lays her head on my all-too-soft stomach, and laughs. When the clock radio alarm sounds, she begins to bounce up and down to the music. She will watch the clock LED numbers for minutes on end as they advance into eternity. She laughs again as each minute ticks by.

These are some of my happiest moments each day. Her bedhead. Watching her stagger down the hallway to watch "Elmo," her morning ritual. Pausing to pet the cat. Eating cheerios in front of the tv.


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Legalism and alcoholism

I thought this was excellent (by John Piper):
Legalism is a more dangerous disease than alcoholism because it doesn't look like one.
  • Alcoholism makes men fail; legalism helps them succeed in the world.
  • Alcoholism makes men depend on the bottle; legalism makes them self-sufficient, depending on no one.
  • Alcoholism destroys moral resolve; legalism gives it strength.
  • Alcoholics don't feel welcome in church; legalists love to hear their morality extolled in church.