Posted by: gcarkner | January 27, 2015

Building Bridges…2

Robust Evidence and Argument that Have Currency Today

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There is a strong heritage of evidence and good argument, a multivalent discourse, to establish the credibility and viability of the Christian faith. It is a several stranded cord which represents centuries of work, research, and debate by scholars. There is a strong rational and empirical ground or space to discuss all the parameters of the Christian convictions and spiritual journey. It offers a rich array of evidence for the seeker and the interested skeptic or agnostic.

  1. Meaningful Religious Experience: This refers to the power of individual stories with God, divine encounters and personal transformation. Where has God met me in my human situation and pain? How has my faith made an impact on my life? Stories of other saints who incarnate love or radical pursuit of God (Mother Teresa, Jean Vanier, Francis of Assissi, Martin Luther). David Adams Richards a famous Canadian novelist has such evidence: God Is: my search for faith in a secular world. (bestseller). Two billion plus believers is quite a number to deceive from all walks of life, all cultures, all careers, and all levels of education and wealth.
  1. Philosophical Credibility Tests These include criteria of coherence, consistency, unity, comprehensiveness (more important in the early modern outlook or those oriented to Anglo-American philosophy and the laws of logic). What is the explanatory range and cogency of  the Christian worldview? How much of reality can it explain? Is it compatible or does it conflict with science and how so?  Natural theology uses the wonders of nature to point to a creative mind, a cosmic artist; human consciousness and moral bent to point to a cosmic mind or a moral ground of the good (e.g. Robert J. Spitzer, New Proofs for the Existence of God: contributions of contemporary physics and philosophy; Faith and Reason: Three Views. edited by Steve Wilkins; David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: being consciousness. bliss). Critical realism is a key term; it encourages critical thinking and an open mind.
  1. Historical Evidence or Verification Who was Jesus? Can we believe in his resurrection? What about the scholarship behind the Scriptural documents? What evidence do we have from archaeology of the Ancient Near East? (See Rodney Stark, One True God: Historical Consequences of Monotheism. He is a major contributor in research on Christianity’s social impact. See also David Bentley Hart Atheist Delusions: the Christian revolution and its fashionable enemies.) See also the new Christianity on Trial: a lawyer examines the Christian faith by W. Mark Lanier (IVP 2014). This tends towards the empirical test or the integrity of the Christian story.
  1. Practical/Pragmatic Test or Livability We might say to our friend, “That’s a clever idea of reality that makes you God, but can you live it out responsibly without hurting a lot of people?” It is one thing to think nihilistically, another to live it to its bitter end. Reality bites back: this is important for university students who love those all-night residence discussions. One can invent sophisticated views of the universe, but can we build any long-term relationship upon it? You may like the idea of a world without God and without morality, but you may also be the first to cry injustice if you or your family are violated in some way. One cannot have the proverbial cake and eat it as well.
  1. Special Revelation This includes the prophetic and apostolic records in Old and New Testaments. This is a really astounding set of records with millions of hours of top scholarship behind it. Bishop Lesslie Newbigin in Gospel in a Pluralistic Society says we need to inhabit or indwell the biblical story, be embedded and nourished by it thoroughly. Natural revelation in creation is not enough; otherwise Christian ethics would be full of violence and cannibalism, tooth and claw; we need natural and special revelation in balance (Alister McGrath, A Fine-tuned Universe: the quest for God in science and theology) What is the Creator like and what does he have for us, expect of us? What is the storyline, the human narrative of the Bible? Is there meaning beyond mere survival, beyond mere human flourishing? The human narrative is powerfully recast in the Bible; it suggests that we are hard-wired for community and benevolence.
  1. Love, Compassion & Community People need to witness the human good incarnated in Christian believers, a good which is sourced in the infinite goodness of God. Incarnational humanism can be impressive: (Jens Zimmerman, Incarantional Humanism; D. Stephen Long, The Goodness of God)). One’s apologetic has to include words and argument, but also more than words–integrity, hope, compassion. James Davison Hunter in To Change the World articulates a very powerful idea of faithful presence, a commitment to shalom, the well-being or human flourishing of others. Jim Wallis has a new book along this line which includes compassion and the transformation of society in the gospel of Jesus: The (Un)Common Good.People need both reasons of the heart and reasons of the mind: credibility and relevance.” writes scientist and theologian Blaise Pascal.

Our Experience Establishes this Conviction: Intellectual Credibility/Cogency + Personal Relevance + Demonstrable Moral Integrity –> promotes Serious Plausibility and Curiosity in the Mind of the Seeker. Click on the Apologetics Resources button on this Blog to get a taste of some excellent writing in this area and answers to your questions.

This multifaceted approach builds bridges and can rebuild the plausibility conditions for Christian faith in our late modern culture, in order to help people escape from Nihilism (a failure of culture). This is a trajectory of intrigue, attraction and engagement and hopefully down the road a life of faithful discipleship, meaning and joy. Willingness to deal with doubts and skepticism is vital. We are all some admixture or  combination of faith and doubt; it is a question of how we sort through both our faith and our doubt as a journey to maturity: See Philip Yancey, Reaching for the Invisible God. At the end of the day, we all have to make sense of our world and our experience. We can ill afford to keep our head in the sand and hope the issues will disappear.

~Gord Carkner

Posted by: gcarkner | January 27, 2015

Building Bridges to Faith

Six Pillars for a Growing Edge in Apologetic Dialogue

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What are the rules of engagement in dialogue? We assume that you desire to give a calm and reasoned answer for the vision of promise, hope, faith and love within you, the narrative vision that engages you, that motivates you and makes sense of your world. We assume that you are keen and willing to do some fresh work, reading and thinking. You sense the need for the Christian voice on campus and you are willing to step up to the plate, to become part of the answer. You are not going to assume that no one is interested in faith on campus. And you want to know the effective tools that are available to equip your personal dialogue with friends. Here are some parameters for discussion:

  1. Worldview Discernment: mapping the pluralistic landscape of the various spiritual journeys we are likely to encounter in today’s society. Posture: You refuse to be overwhelmed by difference and diversity of convictions. The landscape of campus is a global village and you want to learn and listen much.


  1. Investigative Journalism: employing fruitful human questions one can use to make deeper connections and find points of spiritual contact on which to build. Posture: You are a detective or reporter with a heart. You have a need to know what people believe about important questions.


  1. Establish Common Ground: finding the best in people as a point of non-defensive and non-offensive conversational entry. What are the assumptions we can make from our common aspirations, our creaturehood and our will to the common good and human flourishing? If Jeremy Rifkin is right, i.e. that we are becoming a more empathic civilization, there is great hope for sharing insights on meaning. We can help each other solve problems and figure out life. Posture: With a level playing field, you will have a just discussion, an exciting discovery.


  1. Reckoning with Cultural Barriers to Faith: understanding and mobilizing idolatries, roadblocks, closed world systems, loss of transcendence as leverage in conversation. Every posture known to university students and faculty is vulnerable under critical scrutiny, whether the hegemony is scientific materialism, nihilistic skepticism, or a hardened religious fundamentalism perspective. This involves mapping the modern and postmodern perception worlds (social imaginaries) that people inhabit. There are also moral ideologies that prevent people from hearing what you are saying; one’s moral and intellectual bent are more interconnected than many people often realize. Dialogue invites people to enter an open field of discussion, rather than fighting like a trapped fox, who has been cornered by a group of friends in a residence bull session.


  1. Communicative Potential of the Poetic/Prophetic Edge: especially in the aesthetic oriented Postmodern/Late Modern Condition. Here we explore the language of epiphany, agape love and transcendence. Scientific rationality does not work in this arena. Modernism and scientism have been called into question and found wanting. Hermeneutics is more the game and the alternative way of seeing the world. We are on the Continental Philosophy frontier.


  1. Biblical Narrative and the Jesus Story: always the fresh opportunity to come to understand Jesus in context of issues, aspirations and questions of one’s interlocutor. Celebrating a robust Jesus story and kingdom teaching for today’s complex world. How indeed is Jesus the Yes and Amen to it all? What is the God of Jesus of Nazareth like? There is a lot more to Jesus than many people think. The incarnation is up there with the most profound events in human history.

Working Proposal

We are suggesting a fusion between cultural research, apologetics and great story telling as a point of leverage for Christian communications and dialogue on campus. We see apologetics as a tool for finessing our approach to people, and a means to remove the violence, triumphalism and narcissism in some forms of presentation. We call this a confident, dialogical, pro-active stance; one needs to take the leadership in raising the right questions, and setting the agenda for meaningful moral, religious and inter-religious discussions. This includes picking up on the discussions and questions that come up every day in every sector of family life, school, work and media. It encourages us to employ our full intelligence, love, creativity. We employ our fullest imagination to say who we are and make the good news understandable and commendable, in order to resonate with today’s university community. We want to help make space for God in the lives of people and to help turn their love and passion towards their creator-redeemer, where we believe there is substantial hope.



 God has left his fingerprints all over creation, from the expanse of the cosmos to the depths and contours of the human heart. It is our task to pay attention, examine the evidence, pick up the trail and discover how to discern the clues. This spectacular universe and the complex nature of humans intimates the possibility of a further knowledge of God, builds in longing for deeper explanation (creatio et anthropos). It is possible to move beyond cynicism and Nihilism, to restore one’s sense of wonder and hunger for discovery. Where does the evidence lead us? What are the possibilities of this all-important investigation? Strategically, we want to discuss ways and means to improve access, correct the misconceptions, confront the stereotypes, and to heighten people’s curiosity and awareness of God’s art, his deep vested interest in each human being and his tremendous offer of  love—a phenomenal gift.

~Gord Carkner

Posted by: gcarkner | January 18, 2015

Medicine and Sustainability, January 21 UBC

Craig Mitton

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Associate Professor School of Population and Public Health

UBC Faculty of Medicine 

Senior Scientist at the Centre for Clinical Epidemiology and Evaluation

The Challenges of Sustaining Excellence in Canadian Health Care

Wednesday, January 21 at 4:00 p.m.

Woodward (IRC) Room 1



In this presentation Dr. Craig Mitton will begin by describing the structure of the Canadian health care system and outline where Canada sits globally on several international outcome measures. In assessing the economic dimensions of the system, Craig will review two common myths related to aging and new technologies and will show that more resources for health care are not the answer. He will then put forward two key challenges, one related to the public and one related to physicians and finally he will offer a pragmatic solution to ensure excellence in Canadian health care that includes a number of immediate policy responses. The debate will be lively and the session will offer much time for interaction and audience participation.

GFCF Jan 21, 2015 Slides from Dr. Mitton’s Presentation    See for the audio.


Dr. Craig Mitton is an internationally recognized leader in the field of health care priority setting. He is a Senior Scientist in the Centre for Clinical Epidemiology and Evaluation and is both Division Head of Health Services and Policy and Director of the Master of Health Administration program within the School of Population and Public Health at UBC. Craig is the lead author on a book titled “The Priority Setting Toolkit: a guide to the use of economics in health care priority setting” and is the lead or co-author on over 100 peer reviewed journal articles. He has delivered over 150 presentations across many different countries and regularly runs short courses in health economics. He completed both his PhD and MSc at the University of Calgary and holds a BSc from UBC. Craig lives in Vancouver with his wife and two young daughters.

Posted by: gcarkner | January 5, 2015

A Prayer for a New Year

O God, you know our aspirations, our energy, our hopes, resolutions and dreams for this coming year;

You know also our fears, angst and hesitations, our personal burdens and hurt, our complexities, even our self-doubt;

You are the great God of new beginnings, the Alpha and Omega of our existence, the reason and source of all things;

Help us to keep the journey ahead in perspective of your narrative, your kingdom values and your will for us;

Give us wisdom to discern which voices to attend to, and which to ignore, what to question and what to affirm;

Help us dig deep below the propaganda and find the truth, to press beyond cynicism to hope;

Deepen our trust in you and your abundant grace, as we seek out your call on our lives and find our identity in you;

Help us to embrace your deep love, to reach out to others who need support or comfort, to sense your diverse community here at university;

May we know your presence as Trinity, Father of Creation, Infinite Love, Jesus Christ, Truth Incarnate, and Holy Spirit, Wisdom, Understanding and Empowerment;

May this be a year of wonder, joy, new relationships, full of discovery, adventure and surprises, of growing up into maturity in Christ.

Help us to send our roots down deep into the rich soil of your infinite goodness, to build our hope there, on that foundation.

Tuesday Prayer, 12:00 noon to 2:00 p.m., Regent College Prayer Room: Searching out the divine footprints…  David Wesley, One Thing Remains

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Posted by: gcarkner | January 4, 2015

Winter Wonder Shots

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Diamond Head Squamish

Posted by: gcarkner | January 1, 2015

2014 Highlights in Science and Morality

BBC Science News Highlights

1. We landed a spacecraft on a comet 67P. Bad luck on the final landing spot shaded from sunlight; her batteries died while solar panels languished in the dark. Very bad luck.

2. We discovered the world’s biggest and possibly most complete set of dinosaur bones in Argentina, a titanasour.

3. Loss of  a 44 year old white rhinoceros in the San Diego Zoo leaves only five left in the world, symbolic of the serious threat to species around the world and a horrific multi-billion dollar illegal trade in animal parts. Tens of thousands of rhinos, elephants, gorillas and tigers are egregiously killed each year by poachers.

4. The UN’s Climate Panel has rolled out parts two, three and four of its landmark assessment on global warming. 2014 is in the running for the hottest year yet globally. They highly recommend weaning ourselves off carbon (fossil) fuels to avoid planetary disaster. Will this be a key year to discuss climate change and the human future? One can only hope.

5. Scientists modified an E. coli to include two new synthetic DNA base pairs. Scientists also manufactured the first complete synthetic chromosome for yeast. Genetics continues to be a booming field along with neuroscience. Human brain mapping continues with gusto.

6. Iranian professor Mayan Mirzakhani was the first woman to win the prestigious math prize for her work in complex geometry.

7. This year’s Nobel Prize in Physics went to three scientists  for the invention of blue light emitting diodes (LEDs); the Chemitry prize went to researchers who had used fluorescence  to improve the resolution of optical microscopes.

8. Human Genome: DNA from a thigh bone was sequenced from a 45,000 year old man found near a river bed in Siberia. You can receive your genome map for around $1000. That’s a wow development over the past decade.

Were there any breakthroughs in human morals and virtues or the common good for humanity in 2014? 

Perhaps the new film on Martin Luther King Jr. called Selma will offer some hope for homo sapiens sapiens.

Reading Jim Wallis’ book The (Un)Common Good inspired me in a deep way during the holidays, as did the gripping courage of Naomi Klein (This Changes Everything) to take on big picture political and economic issues as the back story to the discourse/debate on Global Warming.

Jeremy Rifkin gave an inspiring talk on YouTube to Google employees of a way to move towards and internet of everything. He held up the German example of moving 25% of their energy production to solar and wind power in a short time.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2014 is to be awarded to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzay for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education. Children must go to school and not be financially exploited. In the poor countries of the world, 60% of the present population is under 25 years of age. It is a prerequisite for peaceful global development that the rights of children and young people be respected. In conflict-ridden areas in particular, the violation of children leads to the continuation of violence from generation to generation.

Barack Obama handed out insurance life jackets to millions of underprivileged Americans.

Pope Francis challenges the wealthy and plutocrats of the planet and reminds the world of what matters most: compassion and mercy.

Oxford scientists suggest that the lateral frontal pole of our brain helps us evaluate our decisions. Interesting. Not there in monkeys.

Naomi Klein, in This Changes Everything, shows that the science is only one part of the climate change debate. She is revealing a gaping hole in our ethics and a brokenness in our governance.

~Gord Carkner  Views of Vancouver, B.C.

Posted by: gcarkner | December 21, 2014

Taylor, Christmas and Transcendence


Charles Taylor, Christmas and an Epiphany of Transcendence

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Mary pondering the immensity of it all

Epiphanies are suggestive of transcendence. Michael Morgan (1994, pp. 56f)) points out that Charles Taylor sees a parallel between the epiphanies of art and poetry in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and the I-Thou epiphany of religious encounter with the divine. Taylor elaborates the idea of epiphanies (1989, pp. 419f, especially 490-93). He sees Post-Romantic and modernist art as oriented to epiphanies, episodes of realization, revelation, or disclosure. Epiphanies and epiphanic art are about a kind of transcendence, about the self coming in touch with that which lies beyond it, a ground or qualitative pre-eminence.

Taylor reviews various ways of articulating epiphany in Sources of the Self (1989, pp. 419- 93). He articulates how God, inserted into this idea of epiphany, fits as a moral source (Sources of the Self, pp. 449-52). Epiphanies can be a way of connecting with spiritual and moral sources through the exercise of the creative imagination: sources may be divine (Taylor), or in the world or nature (Romantics), or in the powers of the imaginative, expressive self (Foucault).

These epiphanies are a paradigm case of what Taylor calls recovering contact with moral sources. A special case of this renewal of relationship between the self and the moral source is religion and the relation to God, which he sees in the work of Dostoyevski. The relationship to art parallels the relationship to religion. The self is oriented in the presence of the inaccessible or sublime, that which captures one’s amazement or awe, for example, when one’s eyes are riveted to a certain painting, and one’s inner emotions are deeply moved by a poem. One is taken beyond oneself, in an experience of transcendence; the experience involves both encounter and revelation.

When Mary hears from an angel that she is to become the vessel of a most profound turn of events in history, she is in awe, overwhelmed. It is truly an epiphany, an encounter with a radical alterity. Heaven and earth reach out to each other at this juncture and something dramatic occurs. Time stands still; it is a kairos moment. She allows transcendence and immanence to come together in her body and in her life. Her story is punctuated by the incursion of the eternal into the temporal, informed by the descent of transcendence into a historical teenager’s life. This encounter changed everything.

Mary Considers Her Situation by Luci Shaw

What next, she wonders,
with the angel disappearing, and her room
suddenly gone dark.

The loneliness of her news
possesses her. She ponders
how to tell her mother.

Still, the secret at her heart burns like
a sun rising. How to hold it in—
that which cannot be contained.

She nestles into herself, half-convinced
it was some kind of good dream,
she its visionary.

But then, part dazzled, part prescient—
she hugs her body, a pod with a seed
that will split her.


It is a strong transcendence. Transcendence means more than a selfless exposure or reorientation alone, but also a receiving that deeply involves the self, its imagination, its inner resources, its visions and revisions. In this calculus, for religion and art, the self remains autonomous and becomes fulfilled as it opens to the impact of the Other. Morgan elaborates through the example of Jewish writer, Martin Buber, on this concept of religious epiphany or I-Thou encounter (Morgan, 1994, pp. 60-61). Taylor appreciates (1994, pp. 226-29) his use of Buber in relation to his (Taylor’s) concept of epiphany. For Buber, the religious event, revelation, involves a meeting between the self and the divine Other, an encounter that depends upon both parties. It is an act of self-affirmation, even as it is a giving over of the self to the Other.

The self is receiver, but it is a receiver, not of a content, a proposition, a truth, but rather of a ‘Presence, a Presence as Power’. Furthermore, that Presence provides ‘the inexpressible confirmation of meaning’, a meaning that calls out to be done, to be confirmed by the self in this life and in this world … This confirmation and this affirmation of God and self in the world are what Taylor calls a ‘changed stance towards self and world, which doesn’t simply recognize a hitherto occluded good, but rather helps to bring this about’. (Morgan, 1994, p. 60)

There entails the emergence of a good in one’s experience. Thus, the concept of transcendence through epiphany, that has currency for artists and poets of the twentieth century, provides a category for us to extend to the transcendence of God. May this epiphanic realization continue this Advent Season and open up our world to horizons beyond our imagination.

Dostoyevsky’s (1974) work The Brothers Karamozov reveals the power of transcendence and the danger of refusing it, i.e. remaining trapped by an immanent frame. Charles Taylor notes that:

One of Dostoyevsky’s central insights turns on the way in which we close or open ourselves to grace. The ultimate sin is to close oneself, but the reasons for doing so can be of the highest. In a sense the person who is closed is in a vicious circle from which it is hard to escape. We are closed to grace, because we close ourselves to the world in which it circulates; and we do that out of loathing for ourselves and for the world … Rejecting the world seals one’s sense of its loathsomeness and of one’s own, insofar as one is a part of it. And from this can come only acts of hate and destruction. Dostoyevsky … gives an acute understanding of how loathing and self-loathing, inspired by the very real evils of the world, fuel a projection of evil outward, a polarization between self and the world, where all evil is now seen to reside. This justifies terror, violence, and destruction against the world; indeed this seems to call for it. No one … has given us deeper insight into the spiritual sources of modern terrorism or has shown more clearly how terrorism can be a response to the threat of self-hatred … The noblest wreak it [destruction] on themselves. The most base destroy others. Although powered by the noblest sense of the injustice of things, this schism is ultimately also the fruit of pride, Dostoyevsky holds. We separate because we don’t want to see ourselves as part of evil; we want to raise ourselves above it. (Taylor, 1989, pp. 451-52)

There appears to be a provocative link from self-sufficiency to pride and to the aesthetics of violence (religious or secularist). Taylor holds out hope for a transcendent turn to agape love, hope for a different type of transformation from beyond pure immanent choice-focused self-invention and greedy self-interest which brackets the social world/common good and God. There is discovery of self within the economy of grace, a discovery and a transformation that offers a different stance towards self and the world. Continuing with his discussion of Dostoyevsky, Taylor (1989) writes of this epiphanic encounter with transcendence,

What will transform us is an ability to love the world and ourselves, to see it as good in spite of the wrong. But this will only come to us if we can accept being part of it, and that means accepting responsibility … Loving the world and ourselves is in a sense a miracle, in face of all the evil and degradation that it and we contain. But the miracle comes on us if we accept being part of it. Involved in this is our acceptance of love from others. We become capable of love through being loved; and over against the perverse apostolic succession [of terror and violence] is a grace-dispensing one. Dostoyevsky brings together here a central idea of the Christian tradition, especially evident in the Gospel of John, that people are transformed through being loved by God, a love that they mediate to one another, on the one hand, with the modern notion of a subject who can help to bring on transfiguration through the stance he takes to himself and the world, on the other … What he [Dostoyevsky] was opposing was that humans affirm their dignity in separation from the world. (Sources of the Self, p. 452)

~Gord Carkner

See also Real Presences by George Steiner; The Self After Postmodernity by Calvin Schrag.

Other GCU posts complementing this idea: Qualities of the Will series.

Posted by: gcarkner | December 15, 2014

Christmas Reading Corner

Great Read Suggestions by Gord Carkner et Amis

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Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. (Random House)

The World is Not Ours to Save: Finding Freedom to Do Good. by Tyler Wigg-Stevenson (IVP)

Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France by Carolyn Moorehead. (Random House)

The (Un)Common Good: how the gospel brings hope to a world divided. by Jim Wallis (Brazos 2014)

Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More by Karen Swallow Prior. (Thomas Nelson)

Why Cities Matter: to God, the Culture and the Church by Stephen T. Um and Justin Buzzard (Crossway Books)

True Paradox: How Christianity Makes Sense of Our Complex World  by David Skeel. (IVP)

Charity: the Place of the Poor in the Biblical Tradition by Gary Anderson (Yale University Press)

Can We Believe the Bible? An Evangelical Engagement with Contemporary Questions by Craig Blomberg (Brazos)

Vanishing Grace: Whatever Happened to the Good News? by Philip Yancey. (Zondervan)

For the Glory of God: Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship by Daniel I. Block (Baker Academic)

The End of Apologetics: Christian Witness in a Postmodern Context by Myron B. Penner (Baker Academic)

The Searchers: a Quest for Faith in the Valley of Doubt by Joseph Loconte (Thomas Nelson)

This Changes Everything: Capitalism versus Climate by Naomi Klein


Visit Regent College Bookstore at Gate One UBC

for some great Holiday Reading  Cambridge University Poet Chaplain Malcolm Guite reads his sonnets for Advent. Emerging Scholars Advent Reflections

Journey of the Magi by T. S. Eliot
‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kiking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.
T.S. Eliot reads his poem Journey of the Magi:
A photograph of three camels, taken at the Pyr...

A photograph of three camels, taken at the Pyramids of Giza (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A photograph of three camels, taken at the Pyramids of Giza (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Posted by: gcarkner | December 8, 2014

Brene Brown on Vulnerabilty

Brene Brown on Discovering the Power of Vulnerability

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American Scholar, Author, and Public Speaker

 Research Professor at the U. of Houston Graduate College of Social Work.

1. We begin with the problem of shame: a fear of disconnection, alienation, a fear of excruciating vulnerability, a sense that I am not good enough, smart enough, beautiful enough, strong enough, etc. Conclusion: I am unworthy to be loved, valued, cherished.

2. People who feel a strong connection to others have a sense of their worthiness; they believe that they are worthy, that they belong.

3. How do we get there? It takes a. Courage to tell people who you really are with your whole heart, including family. This leads to b. Compassion for others who are also not perfect or totally in control. This also leads to c.  Feeling of Connection as a result of practiced authenticity. It does take wisdom and work to move in this direction, take this posture.

What’s the Take Home about Vulnerability?

1. It is absolutely necessary to embrace your vulnerability; it makes you both interesting, attractive and beautiful. Be the first to say “I love you.” or “I’m feeling sad.” or “I am uncertain about the future.” or “I struggle to raise my kids well.” or “It’s not always clear what is expected at work.” The risk of vulnerability makes you more human. It is a courageous pursuit.

2. Don’t numb vulnerability because this leads to negative side effects like addiction, debt, broken relationships and obesity. Vulnerability is a risk but it also leads to joy, gratitude and happiness.

3. Don’t pretend that you are certain about everything; be willing to struggle and own it. Make space for others to support you, feed you emotionally. False claims to certainty will lead you to blame others for your problems and sense of unworthiness. Blame is a way to discharge your pain in unhealthy ways–the way of the narcissist.

4. Allow yourself to be seen. Take off that set of protective armour once in awhile. Love with your whole heart. Practice gratitude and joy (Ann Voskamp).

5. Say to yourself, “I am enough.” Don’t try to be someone else. Live your life and celebrate your story. This will make you a kinder and gentler person, more at home with yourself and others. You don’t have to be a super hero. It is important to step up to your calling or your domain.

David Wesley sings You Make Beautiful Things

Posted by: gcarkner | November 29, 2014

Advent Reflections

 Advent Reflections

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Just at the right time, kairos time, he comes to dwell among us in incarnate flesh: pulsating corpuscles, arms and legs running to greet us, face filled with compassion, hands breaking bread to feed the masses, words that give life and vision. Here lies the grand invitation to counter nihilism, violence, will to power, to search into the deeper things of life, reach higher for a transcendent encounter with divine Otherness. It is time to ponder the big questions of meaning, purpose and identity: the profound light that shines in the darkness of our world. There is more to this than meets the eye. We need our best philosophers, historians and scholars, poets and scientists to work on this investigation. There are clues to a great quest here. What kind of in breaking is this? How does it connect with our history? What’s the meaning of this virgin birth, this epiphany of grace, these angelic visitations, this gift, this cosmic wonder, this explosion of the imagination? Advent is that and a sign of more…

We have touched him with our hands, rubbed shoulders, felt his robust embrace, dined and broke bread together, listened to wisdom that set our minds on fire, felt his care and inclusion, captured a mission that drove us to reach the world with a compelling love. We saw him die and rise again, ascend through the heavens. Divine presence is with us in his Holy Spirit. It has unleashed an economy of grace and goodness, humility and compassion. The pregnant Mary sings her Magnificat, saying an awe-filled Yes to God’s work in and through her: “Things hidden for centuries have become so crystal clear tonight. Insight and justice have set up a new epistemology, a new way of knowing and being, a new world where love is the main game in town, where peace-making and blessing (shalom) are our politics. It is a new playing field, a new paradigm, a new human narrative. Infinite meets finite like a comet burning through the atmosphere; divine goodness ushers in hope of healing; a new future is born. Our people, our human race, have longed for this for centuries only in our wildest dreams, feeding on divine promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, David. Once we could only hope for such wondrous things. Now they are tangible, palpable, life-transforming.” What a reality check Advent brings to us.

Christians claim Jesus as God’s Word (divine logos) made flesh, dwelling among us. Here God’s speech is embodied, full-blooded, not flat and lifeless, not reductionistic or atomistic. It is a sign, a communicative action (Kevin Vanhoozer, 2009), much more than the mere letters. It is poetic, prophetic, pedagogical, full of spiritual vitality revealed in a tangible historic person. The language of incarnation leverages the world and transforms individuals; it is strategically located within the human story, not a fantasy. The incarnation is the only adequate reply to the challenges of dissolution (loss of connection between word and world). There is much to grapple with as we see in Jens Zimmermann’s scholarship on the subject.

Christ the creative wisdom of God, and God’s active Word in creation, is enfleshed in the temporal-historical dimension of our world as the concrete Jewish Messiah, Jesus the Christ…. This is the Word through whom all things were made, and the Word hid in the eternal bosom of God, the Word who spoke through the prophets, the Word whose mighty acts defined the history of Israel. In Jesus the Christ this Word has become flesh, and the eternal has become temporal, but without ceasing to be eternal…. In Christ temporality and eternity are conjoined…. In the incarnation, creation, the world, time and history have been taken up into the God-man, who is the center of reality…. Faith and reason are inseparable because their unity is in Christ. (J. Zimmermann, 2012a, pp. 264-5)

Language (speech act) starts with creation: God spoke and the heavens, the stars, the seas, the plants and trees and living creatures, man and woman came into existence in abundance. They continue to do so (creatio continua). God’s word was enacted in a particular place and time in history. It makes space for new drama. There is intense presence and place; God has carved out space and time for his presence. When humans are addressed by God (the whole premise of Judeo-Christianity), they are drawn up into a divine dialogue, to reason and commune with their Creator, their ultimate mentor. They are identified, loved and valued. A perlocutionary act is a robust speech act that produces an effect in those addressed through the speaker’s utterance. God speech has impact in all of human culture. Theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar (R. Gawronski, 1995, Word and Silence) sees the Word of God revealed in three rich and powerful ways: Creation, Scripture, and Incarnation, three different types of language, each powerful in its own right, each complementary to the integrity and impact of the others, using both traditions of language culture. The incarnation is God’s megaphone to late modernity with all its challenges, conundrums, contradictions and struggles.

~Gord Carkner

See also Emerging Scholars Advent Reflections:

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“But God is present in reality no matter what unreality our practice and our ponderings imply. He is forever trying to establish communication; forever aware of the wrong directions we are taking and wishing to warn us; forever offering solutions for the problems that baffle us; forever standing at the door of our loneliness, eager to bring us such comradeship as the most intelligent living mortal cannot supply; forever clinging to our indifference in hope that someday our needs, or at least our tragedies will waken us to respond to his advances. The Real Presence is just that, real and life-trasforming. Nor are the conditions for the manifestation of his splendours out of the reach of any of us! Here they are; otherness, openness, obedience, obsession.” ~The Captivating Presence by Albert Edward Day

Advent, like its cousin Lent, is a season for prayer and reformation of our hearts. Since it comes at winter time, fire is a fitting sign to help us celebrate Advent… If Christ is to come more fully into our lives this Christmas, if God is to become really incarnate for us, then fire will have to be present in our prayer. Our worship and devotion will have to stoke the kind of fire in our souls that can truly change our hearts. Ours is a great responsibility not to waste this Advent time.”  ~Edward Hays, A Pilgrim’s Almanac

The season of Advent means there is something on the horizon the likes of which we have never seen before…. What is possible is to not see it, to miss it, to turn just as it brushes past you. And you begin to grasp what it was you missed, like Moses in the cleft of the rock, watching God’s [back] fade in the distance. So stay. Sit. Linger. Tarry. Ponder. Wait. Behold. Wonder. There will be time enough for running. For rushing. For worrying. For pushing. For now, stay. Wait. Something is on the horizon.”
~Jan L. Richardson, Night Visions: Searching the Shadows of Advent and Christmas

“You keep us waiting. You, the God of all time, Want us to wait. For the right time in which to discover Who we are, where we are to go, Who will be with us, and what we must do. So thank you … for the waiting time.”
~John Bell, quoted in The Westminster Collection of Christian Prayers, compiled by Dorothy M. Stewart

“To have found God, to have experienced him in the intimacy of our being, to have lived even for one hour in the fire of his Trinity and the bliss of his Unity clearly makes us say: Now I understand. You are enough for me.” ~Carlo Carretto

“God’s word of love becomes flesh in us, is embodied in us, is enacted through us and in doing so, trust is forged between word spoken and the reality of which it speaks, between the words we speak and transcendent realities to which we point. The Word became flesh … a human life … a work of art … a new humanism … a new community … a new social imaginary. Integrity is his name. Hope is what he offers.” Anonymous

O almighty God, who by the birth of the holy child Jesus has given us great light to dawn upon our darkness: Grant, we pray thee, that in this light we may see light. Bestow upon us, we beseech thee, the most excellent Christmas gift of charity to all, that so the likeness of thy Son may be formed in us, and that we may have the ever brightening hope of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen ~ The Book of Worship

“God is coming! God is coming! All the element we swim in, this existence, Echoes ahead the advent. God is coming! Can’t you feel it?”
~Walter Wangerin, Jr., from “The Signs of the Times,” in The Manger Is Empty

How can God stoop lower than to come and dwell with a poor humble soul? Which is more than if he had said, such a one should dwell with him; for a beggar to live at court is not so much as the king to dwell with him in his cottage.”—William Gurnall

A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes… and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1943

Take time to be aware that in the very midst of our busy preparations for the celebration of Christ’s birth in ancient Bethlehem, Christ is reborn in the Bethlehems of our homes and daily lives. Take time, slow down, be still, be awake to the Divine Mystery that looks so common and so ordinary yet is wondrously present. “An old abbot was fond of saying, ‘The devil is always the most active on the highest feast days.’“The supreme trick of Old Scratch is to have us so busy decorating, preparing food, practicing music and cleaning in preparation for the feast of Christmas that we actually miss the coming of Christ. Hurt feelings, anger, impatience, injured egos—the list of clouds that busyness creates to blind us to the birth can be long, but it is familiar to us all.” ~Edward Hays, A Pilgrim’s Almanac

This Advent we look to the Wise Men to teach us where to focus our attention. We set our sights on things above, where God is. We draw closer to Jesus… When our Advent journey ends, and we reach the place where Jesus resides in Bethlehem, may we, like the Wise Men, fall on our knees and adore him as our true and only King.” Mark Zimmermann in Our Advent Journey

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Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this life, in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; So that, at the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal.” ~The Book of Common Prayer, published in 1662

One of the essential paradoxes of Advent: that while we wait for God, we are with God all along, that while we need to be reassured of God’s arrival, or the arrival of our homecoming, we are already at home. While we wait, we have to trust, to have faith, but it is God’s grace that gives us that faith. As with all spiritual knowledge, two things are true, and equally true, at once. The mind can’t grasp paradox; it is the knowledge of the soul.” ~Michelle Blake, The Tentmaker

Sometimes it seems as though we spend our lives waiting. Daydreaming about an upcoming vacation, worrying over a medical test, preparing for the birth of grandchild-our days are filled with anticipation and anxiety over what the future holds. As Christians, we too spend our lives waiting. But we are waiting for something much bigger than a trip, bigger even than retirement or a wedding: We are waiting for the return of Jesus in glory. Advent heightens this sense of waiting, because it marks not only our anticipation of Jesus’ final coming, but also our remembrance of his arrival into our world more than 2,000 years ago.” Anonymous

Virgin by Luci Shaw

As if until that moment

nothing real

had happened since Creation

As if the world outside were empty

so that she and he were all

there was–he mover, she moved upon

As if her submission were the most

dynamic of all works; as if

no one had ever said Yes like that

As if that day the sun had no place

in all the universe to pour its gold

but her small room

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