Posted by: gcarkner | March 29, 2015

The Challenge of Easter


How are we to understand Good Friday and Easter from such a distance? How does it relate to our experience? Is it mere sentiment or something more profound? Andy Crouch in his book Culture Making: recovering our creative calling, (Chapter 8 “Jesus as Culture Maker”) has some brilliant insights into the difference that Jesus life, death and resurrection have for shaping the horizons of possibility (shalom and human flourishing) for societies, ancient and modern. He helps us grapple with the various dimensions of this sorrow and celebration. See also I Corinthians 15.

The Cross

He suffered the full weight of the human story of rebellion against God. He was literally impaled on the worst that culture can do–an instrument of torture that stood for all the other cultural dead ends of history, from spears to bombs, gas chambers to waterboards. Like all other instruments of violence, a cross is cultural folly and futility at its most horrible. (141)

The core calling of [Jesus] life is not something he does at all in an active sense–it is something he suffers. The strangest and most wonderful paradox of the biblical story is that its most consequential moment is not an action but a passion–not a doing but a suffering. (142)

On Good Friday, love embraced suffering as Jesus drank the bitter cup. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. self-consciously followed the same journey of the suffering death of Jesus, the way of the cross, as he promoted civil rights for African-Americans in the Southern USA in the 1960s. He worked hard to replace the perverted symbol of the cross which was used as a justification for aggression, hate and violence—e.g. the Ku Klux Klan. His life quest was to restore the cross as a symbol of love, mercy, justice and non-violence. He incarnated a form of extreme love, a committed non-violent protest against systemic injustice. ~Iwan Russell-Jones, Professor of Faith and the Arts, Regent College

Read More…

Posted by: gcarkner | March 24, 2015

Scholar Claims Moral Knowledge is Possible

Book Review by J. W. Wartick

(full review

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R. Scott Smith’s In Search of Moral Knowledge: Overcoming the Fact-Value Dichotomy (IVP Academic 2014) is a systematic look at the possibility of moral knowledge in various metaethical systems, with an argument that a theistic, and specifically Christian, worldview is the most plausible way to ground the reality of morals.

Smith begins by providing overviews of various historical perspectives on ethics, including biblical, ancient (Plato and Aristotle), early (Augustine through Aquinas), and early modern (Reformation through the Enlightenment) systems. This survey is necessarily brief, but Smith provides enough information and background for readers to get an understanding of various ethical systems along with some difficulties related to each.

Next, the major options of naturalism, relativism, and postmodernism for ethics are examined in turn, with much critical interaction. For example, Smith argues that ethical relativism is deeply flawed in both method and content. He argues that relativism does not provide an adequate basis for moral knowledge, and it also undermines its own argument for ethical diversity and, by extension, relativism. Moreover, it fails to provide any way forward for how one is to live on such an ethical system and is thus confronted with the reality that it is unlivable. Ultimately, he concludes that “Ethical Relativism utterly fails as a moral theory and as a guide to one’s own moral life” (163).

For Naturalism, however, Smith contends the situation is even worse: “we cannot have knowledge of reality, period, based on naturalism’s ontology. Yet there are many things we do know. Therefore, naturalism is false and we should reject it not just for ethics, but in toto” (137). His argument for this thesis is, briefly, that naturalism has no basis for mental states–and therefore, for beliefs–and so we cannot have knowledge (see 147ff especially).

For full review see:

Posted by: gcarkner | March 22, 2015

Is Agape Love a Source of the Good?

Charles Taylor and the Constitutive Good 

According to Taylor, sources of the good tend to vary from (a) those solely external to the self, to (b) those both internal and external, to (c) those totally internal. As he notes, at one time, the good was wholly external to the self as it was perceived in Plato’s moral ontology; the good was endemic to the structure of reality. The Stoics also saw things this way. Taylor notes the big transition in moral sources in the last four centuries:

Moving from an epoch in which people could find it plausible to see the order of the cosmos as a moral source, to one in which a very common view presents us a universe which is very neutral, and finds the moral sources in human capacities. (1994, p. 215)

He takes Plato as his representative of the first. “The cosmos, ordered by the good, set standards of goodness for human beings, and is properly the object of moral awe and admiration, inspiring us to act rightly” (Taylor, 1994). There is, however, an important distinction. Taylor himself is a moral realist, but not a neo-Platonist (the view that the good is part of the metaphysical structure of the world). Platonic moral realism has been discredited because it leans too heavily on the idea of an ontic logos, a meaningful order. Nor is Taylor, on the other hand, a radical subjectivist. His view of realism lies somewhere between the Romantic subjectivist Rilke, and the Platonic objectivist. He wants to champion both the subjective and objective dimensions of the moral self, and maintain that there are sources outside as well as inside the self. Read More…

Posted by: gcarkner | March 15, 2015

The Courageous Quest for Justice

Thought-provoking Quotes from Jim Wallis, The (Un)Common Good

It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centres of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.  ~Robert F. Kennedy

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“People were made for family, community, and human flourishing, not consumerism, materialism, addiction, and empty overwork.” (p. 18)

“How do we build a culture for the common good in an age of selfishness?” (p. 21)

“Who we think Jesus is will determine the kind of Christianity we live.” (p. 25)

“We are looking for moral clarity, mental sharpness, and emotional maturity in our responses to the steady assault of outside messages on our lives.” (p. 37)

“The greatest challenge to us in a world of injustice and a culture of cynicism is how to hang on to belief in a better world that would change this one.” (p. 39)

“The pilgrimage of our lives is the learning to apply the kingdom to the biggest and most consequential of social and political events, to the most personal of our closest relationships, and to the daily interactions we have with colleagues, coworkers, neighbours, and complete strangers. The Teacher wants to teach us in all those ways.” (p. 39)

“The Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount are the charter of the kingdom of God, the Magna Carta or the constitution of the kingdom; they are the instruction manual for living in the new age.” (p. 47)

“To be able to feel the pain of the world is to participate in the very heart of God. The compassionate response of God’s people to human suffering is one of their defining characteristics.” (p. 48)

“And when Jesus is asked by his disciples who will be first in his kingdom, he tells them it will be the servants of all. Humility us the one of the most under appreciated values in our intensely competitive culture, economy and politics.” (p. 49)

Read More…

Posted by: gcarkner | March 12, 2015

C.S. Lewis and the Meaning of Love


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Jason Lepojarvi

Junior Research Fellow St. Benet’s Hall, Oxford University

 Agape versus Eros: C. S. Lewis and Anders Nygren on the Meaning of Love

Wednesday, March 25 at 4:00 p.m. Woodward (IRC) Room 1

Agape versus Eros (slides)

Recording File  120131_004

Agape versus Eros (handout) 



 C. S. Lewis noted that he was shaken by reading Anders Nygren’s famous book Agape and Eros(1932) while in his thirties. Nygren’s antithetical juxtaposition of eros and agape had become enormously influential in twentieth century Protestant theology. Among other controversial claims, Nygren argued that human love is always selfish. In The Four Loves(1960), C. S. Lewis vehemently denies this claim, and constructs his own theology of love. The lecture will evaluate this most important disagreement between these two prominent scholars, including its profound implications. Contrary to what Nygren thought, Lewis contends that the pursuit of happiness is not morally culpable and even eros has the dawn of agape. While arguing for this view, however, Lewis was driven to some exaggeration.



Jason Lepojärvi is a Junior Research Fellow in theology at St. Benet’s Hall, Oxford, a Ph.D. Candidate with a dissertation to be defended in early 2015, and a former President of the Oxford C. S. Lewis Society. Born to a Canadian mother and a Finnish father, he studied theology and philosophy at the University of Helsinki. His master’s thesis (2008) on the theology of the body and sexuality by John Paul II was later published as the first introduction to the subject in Finnish (2012), and his upcoming doctoral dissertation (2015) is on C. S. Lewis’s theology of love. His research interests lie in Roman Catholic and Protestant philosophy and theology, more specifically, philosophy and theology of love, the body, sexuality, worship, and idolatry. In 2014, he won the Karl Schlecht Award.


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Other Lectures on C.S. Lewis Lecture on Four Loves

Posted by: gcarkner | March 4, 2015

Surprised by Oxford

Surprised by Oxford: a memoir. by Carolyn Weber
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Commentary by Jan Porcino, former Student Worker at Harvard University

This is a great book. It gave me so much joy to watch this very competent and diligent young Canadian woman journey from agnosticism to faith in Jesus as she pursued her studies for a D.Phil at Oxford.  There are wonderful quotes from great literature she includes in each chapter. It is fascinating to observe the varied circle of friends and professors God brought into her life: their significant conversations over time, her deep questioning and diligent study in the rich (yet decidedly hostile to Christianity) environment of Oxford. It was completely engaging; I could have sat down and read it cover to cover in one sitting.

One male theological student befriended Carolyn; he not only makes good coffee, but is skilled in carefully discussing her tough questions and patiently listening to her many doubts over the weeks and years. He is also consistently gracious and kind to her in her suspicions about the trustworthiness of men arising from her life-experience and her feminist convictions. I was particularly moved by her description of this theological student’s American parents who visited Oxford and invited Carolyn to join them for dinner. They embody the beauty of the gospel and life-long discipleship through the tough places of life: including his father’s military service in Viet Nam. That evening visit impacted her deeply. When I finished the book, I read the “Acknowledgments” and to my joy, discovered a personal link to his folks who are now her in-laws. Her father-in-law, Stuart Weber, was an outstanding member of my graduating class of ‘67 at Wheaton College! Her description fits what I knew of him from a distance during those four years. This is a thrilling true story.

30% off at Regent Bookstore
Hope you have time to enjoy this special journey to faith, one of real integrity.
Posted by: gcarkner | February 28, 2015

What Happened to Ideals?

In Search of a Few Good Adventurers

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Some see this as such a cynical age that they wonder whether ideals have currency anymore. We wish to protest. As a ministry to graduate students at UBC and beyond, in Graduate Christian Union and the Graduate & Faculty Christian Forum, we are diligently on a quest. It is not an easy, safe or superficial desire. Quite the contrary, in our quest, we are looking to find and nurture the next generation of culture- and nation-shapers, builders of the literary imagination, institution-shapers. We are looking for the future apologists, justice-seekers, politicians who care about the common good and the weaker members of society, peace-negotiators, international relations adjudicators. Read More…

Posted by: gcarkner | February 27, 2015

The (Un)Common Good The (Un)Common Good by Jim Wallis, Bestselling Author

In his important 2014 book The (Un)Common Good:How the Gospel Brings Hope to a World Divided, Jim Wallis posts an epilogue of Ten Personal Decisions for the Common Good which relate strongly to the concept of a calling where human beings can flourish together. We highly recommend this book of solid, tangible vision. Wallis is one of the mature prophetic voices in our day. I find this book offers a great balance in the path of following Jesus and a close reading of Scripture. Wallis expands the horizons of the possible for believers

~Gordon E. Carkner Ph.D. Philosophical Theology

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1. If you are a father or a mother, make your children the most important priority in your life and build your other commitments around them. If you are not a parent, look for children who could benefit from your investment in their lives.

2. If you are married, be faithful to your spouse. Demonstrate your commitment with both your fidelity and your love. If you are single, measure your relationships by their integrity not their usefulness.

3. If you are a person of faith, focus on not just what you believe but on how you act on those beliefs. If you love God, ask God how to love your neighbour.

4. Take the place you live seriously. Make the context of your life and work the parish that you take responsibility for.

5. Seek to develop a vocation and not just a career. Discern your gifts as a child of God not just your talents, and listen for your calling rather than just looking for opportunities. Remember that your personal good always relates to the common good.

6. Make choices by distinguishing between wants and needs. Choose what is enough rather what is possible to get. Replace appetites with values, teach your children the same, and model those values for all who are in your life.

7. Look at the business, company, or organization where you work from an ethical perspective. Ask what its vocation is, too. Challenge whatever is dishonest or exploitive and help your place of employment do well by doing good.

8. Ask yourself what in the world  today most breaks your heart and offends your sense of justice. Decide to help to change that and join with others who are committed to transform that injustice.

9. Get to know who your political representatives are at both a local and national level. Study their policy decisions and examine their moral compass and public leadership. Make your public convictions and commitments known to them and choose to hold them accountable.

10. Since the difference between events and movements is sacrifice, which is also the true meaning of religion,  and what makes for social change, ask yourself what is important enough to give your life to and for.

Finding the integral relationship between your own personal and the common good is your best contribution to our future. And it is the best hope we have for a better life together. (Jim Wallis, The (Un)Common Good, pp. 297-8)

Posted by: gcarkner | February 24, 2015

Human Slavery in Canada: Feb 25 Professor Ben Perrin

Professor Benjamin Perrin

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Associate Professor UBC Law

Senior Fellow MacDonald-Laurier Institute for Public Policy


Confronting Modern-Day Slavery: Human Trafficking in Canada

Wednesday, February 25, 2015 at 4 p.m.

Woodward (IRC) Room 1, UBC

120101_003 Audio  File


Modern-day slavery is one of the most egregious human rights violations of our time. Human trafficking involving sexual exploitation and forced labour occurs around the world – including here in Canada. Professor Perrin will present the main findings from his study on human trafficking in Canada, including the shocking prevalence of Canadian women and girls as victims, and discuss how our country is responding to this hidden national tragedy.


Benjamin Perrin is an Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia, Faculty of Law and a Senior Fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute for Public Policy. He is one of Canada’s leading authorities on human trafficking and author of Invisible Chains: Canada’s Underground World of Human Trafficking (Penguin, 2011), which was named one of the top books of the year by the Globe and Mail. Prof. Perrin has served as Special Advisor in the Office of the Prime Minister and Senior Policy Advisor to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. The U.S. State Department has recognized him as a “hero” acting to end modern-day slavery.

He received a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Calgary in 2001, a Juris Doctor from the University of Toronto in 2005, and a Master of Laws (with honours) from McGill University in 2007. He was called to the Bar in Ontario in 2007 and the Bar in British Columbia in 2010. Professor Perrin is an internationally recognized researcher and advocate for victims of crime. The Governor General of Canada and victims’ groups have also recognized him for his work to combat human trafficking and child sexual exploitation. Professor Perrin is the recipient of the Wilson-Prichard Award for Community and Professional Service from the University of Toronto. He is co-editor of Human Trafficking: Exploring the International Nature, Concerns, and Complexities (CRC Press, 2012), and editor of Modern Warfare: Armed Groups, Private Militaries, Humanitarian Organizations and the Law (UBC Press, 2012). He is also the author of numerous law review articles and book chapters, and regularly provides commentary in the media. Prior to joining UBC, he was a law clerk at the Supreme Court of Canada, judicial intern at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, assistant director of the Special Court for Sierra Leone Legal Clinic (which assisted the Trial and Appeals Chambers), senior policy advisor to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, and executive director of a non-governmental organization that combats human trafficking.


Posted by: gcarkner | February 18, 2015

Bring Me Justice

Top Picks on Social Justice

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Strength to Love by Martin Luther King Jr.

Let Justice and Peace Embrace by Nicholas Wolterstorff

The (Un)Common Good by Jim Wallis

The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence by Gary Haugen and Victor Boutros (OUP)

Leading with Cultural Intelligence by David Livermore

Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger by Ronald J. Sider

Justice Awakening: How You and Your Church Can Help End Human Trafficking by Eddie Byun

Reconciling All Things: a Christian View of Justice, Peace and Healing by Emmanuel Katagole and Chris Rice

The Paradox of Generosity: Giving We Receive, Grasping We Lose by Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Invisible Chains: Canada’s Underground World of Human Trafficking (Penguin, 2011) by Benjamin Perrin–> See his upcoming lecture at UBC on February 25

The Idea of Justice by Amartya Sen

I am Malala: the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai


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