Posted by: gcarkner | July 28, 2022

Do We Still Have High Ideals and Hopes?

In Search of a Few Good Adventurers/Interlocutors

Some see this as such a cynical age that they wonder whether ideals and the pursuit of excellence have currency anymore. We want 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, we are looking to find and nurture the next generation of culture- and nation-shapers, builders of the literary imagination, institution-shapers, breakthroughs in science and medicine. 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, advocates for the poor.

Show us the new prophetic voices who will shape public policy towards a more fair, merciful and just society, musicians captivated by beauty, medical people with an ear to their patients as persons, educators and thinkers with vision to make a more human world. We adjure you; step up into your calling wise counsellors and healers of broken hearts, leaders with moral depth, substance  and self-awareness. Become people who can benefit from the wisdom of history and pursue robust vision for a more compassionate world–even when the going gets tough.

Let’s inspire the world, new artists and writers, telling great stories. Let us capture the heart of human pain and struggle, be conscientious stewards of creation, people who want to leave a positive environmental legacy. Together we can be problem-solvers, engineers and architects who craft a more accessible, just, and compassionate world. Young scientists and technologists, you care about ethics, you are bullish on mapping the human and creational benefits of your work. Truth-seekers, don’t stop with superficial conclusions, instead, think through and pursue the point rigorously until you get fully clarity and logical turpitude. Young lawyers, maintain your moral compass, fight for the common good, maintain a strong concern for justice and democracy, fairness and holiness. Young philosophers, examine the evidence, fathom the logic of the case, lead us into wise reflection and wise life decisions. Help us to recover ethics and virtue. Build towards reconciliation.




Young business entrepreneurs, maintain an environmental conscience and a strong stewardship priority. Be generous, build useful and good businesses that add social value. Priestly people, develop your theological acumen and your art of soulcraft. Keep your integrity and lead by example.

Postgraduate and professional students, refuse to permit ‘technique’ or utility, consumption, power or profit to be the final word, or the defining posture. Understand how modernity has shaped you negatively, stolen your soul, and fight against it. Be willing to think differently and sense the need to explore how you can shape and contribute creatively to late modernity in fresh ways, to build a new narrative which is life-giving, creative and constructive. Don’t just copy old templates and parrot ideologies that can grind you down and lead you into the trap of nihilism and anomie. Young professors, focus on the flourishing of your students. Mentor them with diligence and care. Champion their successes. Point them in positive directions.

Truly, this is an exciting trajectory, a high privilege and a robust calling. Is it too idealistic? No indeed. Nothing is more pressing than the creative improvement of our world, healing broken hearts, and paving a way to a better future. We need leadership, peace-makers with courage today like never before, integrity and substance, well-roundedness and hope. Many have travelled before us through the halls of academia with such high ideals, people who refused to be sheep and decided to be thoughtful servant leaders with emotional intelligence, focused on developing those who worked for them. We all can do our part for the greater good, take responsibility for others and especially for our own actions. Below are some of the speakers who have inspired us at UBC in past years:

GFCF Visiting Scholars have helped us produce excellent dialogue. They have also modelled incarnational spiritual culture at UBC for some thirty plus years. Here are some of our top participants: Ray Aldred, Dennis Alexander, Stephen Barr, Jeremy Begbie, Francis Collins, Sy Garte, Brad Gregory, Owen Gingerich, Malcolm Guite, Deborah Haarsma, Ian Hutchinson, David Livingstone, Simon Conway Morris, Alister McGrath, Tom McLeish, Bill Newsome, Alvin Plantinga, John Polkinghorne, Jennifer Wiseman.  These gifted and gracious people have made a huge difference, embodying the love and wisdom of Christ. They have travelled from afar to extend an invitation to dialogue on faith and culture from within each of their fields: the humanities, social sciences, hard sciences, medicine, art and music. They have provided a significant witness for Christ and Christianity in the Academy, embodying a beautiful combination of academic excellence and philosophical/theological wisdom.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCl4NgIg_ht8IZCRIhho4nxA Lectures & Webinars GCU & GFCF

Don’t let grad school make you cynical. GCU and GFCF are in pursuit of moral and intellectual goods. We are rooted in a strong consciousness of transcendence, combined with incarnational relevance (faithful presence). We are an ongoing conversation that has existed here at UBC for three decades, building out from a core position of faith, hope and love. We seek to build constructive community networks of like-minded scholars and scientists. We mentor, inspire and resource students.

Together, we grapple with the transformative impact of delving deeply into the Christian narrative of meaning and purpose, to take on the full mantle of its redemptive, society-healing heritage–agape love. GCU & GFCF want to introduce you to some exemplars and great resources during your academic career. We believe that the Christian faith has never been more relevant to a hurting world. [Visit ubcgfcf.com]

~Dr. Gordon E. Carkner, Meta-Educator with UBC postgraduate students, author, blogger, YouTube webinar producer.

John O’Malley, Four Cultures of the West.

Alister McGrath, A Fine-Tuned Universe.

David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God.

Curt Thompson, The Anatomy of the Soul.

James K. A. Smith, You Are What You Love.

Francis Collins, The Language of God.

Tim Keller, God and Reason.

Radcliffe Camera Library Oxford
Posted by: gcarkner | July 26, 2022

GFCF 2022-23 Lecture Series

GFCF @ UBC (The Forum) Speakers for the 2022-23 Academic Year

1. September 22, 2022: Michael Higgins, Principal of St Mark’s College and President at Corpus Christi College, UBC      

An Open Inquiry into the Ongoing Clerical Sex Abuse Crisis

Abstract

This will involve Michael’s state of the art exploration when it comes to clerical abuse of children:  improvements made, new challenges that have surfaced, suggestions moving forward. He co-authored with Peter Kavanaugh the ground-breaking book Suffer the Children Unto Me.

Biography

Michael W. Higginsa native Torontonian, is an author, scholar, Vatican Affairs Specialist for The Globe and Mail, Papal Commentator for the CTV Network, educator, CBC Radio documentarian, columnist. He has served as President and Vice-Chancellor of two Canadian Catholic universities, St. Jerome’s University in the University of Waterloo, Ontario, and St. Thomas University, Fredericton, New Brunswick, and as Vice-President for Mission and Catholic Identity at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut. He was named Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Catholic Thought in the Fall of 2020. He is currently Principal and President respectively of St. Mark’s College and Corpus Christi College, at University of British Columbia. He is author of several important books and a recognized Thomas Merton scholar.

2. October 25, 2022: Daniel K. Williams, Professor of History, University of West Georgia.                           

How Should Christians Think about Politics?

Abstract 

Does it matter how Christians think about political proposals that touch on moral issues such as poverty relief, racial justice, immigration, abortion, marriage, sexuality, and other matters that relate to biblical principles and human dignity?  What happens when Christians disagree with each other on these issues?  Is one political position or political party more “Christian” than another?  In this session, Dr. Williams will explore the recent history of Christian political activity and the reasons why political disagreements among Christians have become more heated lately.  He will then look at some ways to transcend partisan thinking and pursue Christian principles in the political sphere that should challenge those on both the left and the right.

Biography

Daniel K. Williams received his PhD from Brown University in 2005. He is a professor of history at the University of West Georgia and has taught there since 2005. He was the William E. Simon Visiting Fellow in Religion in Public Life, James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, Princeton University, 2011-12. Dr. Williams’ research focuses on the intersection between politics and religion in modern America. He is author of numerous articles and books including: God’s Own Party: The Making of the Christian Right. Oxford University Press, 2010 which was the recipient of the 2011 Phi Alpha Theta Best First Book Award; The Election of Evangelical Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and the Presidential Contest of 1976. University Press of Kansas, 2020; and The Politics of the Cross: A Christian Alternative to Partisanship. Eerdmans, 2021 (the theme of this presentation). 

3. January 26, 2023: Dr. Michael Ward, Black Friars, Oxford                                                                         

C. S. Lewis on Appearance and Reality in the Christian Life.

Abstract

C. S. Lewis knew well that Christians walk “by faith, not sight”, as the apostle Paul puts it (2 Corinthians 5:7).  But what is the difference between faith and sight?  How does faith differ from delusion?  Michael Ward will explore these themes as they are presented in Lewis’s writings, especially his fiction, and in particular his best-known works, the seven Chronicles of Narnia.

Biography

Michael Ward is the author of the award-winning Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis (Oxford University Press), co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to C. S. Lewis (Cambridge University Press) and presenter of the BBC television documentary, The Narnia Code. A member of the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Oxford in his native England, Dr. Ward is also Professor of Apologetics at Houston Baptist University.  He studied English at Oxford, Theology at Cambridge, and has a PhD in Divinity from St. Andrews University, Scotland. He played the role of Vicar in the film ‘The Most Reluctant Convert: The Untold Story of C.S. Lewis’ and handed a pair of X-ray spectacles to Agent 007 in the James Bond movie ‘The World Is Not Enough.’ In real life he is a Catholic priest, assisting at Holy Rood Church, Oxford alongside his work as an academic. His latest book is After Humanity: A Guide to C.S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man (Word On Fire Academic). 

4. Tuesday, March 14 @ 4 PM: Dr. Matthew Lynch, Old Testament Professor @ Regent College

Violence in the Old Testament: How Are We to Understand It? 

Biography

Matthew Lynch spent the final year of his doctoral studies in Göttingen, Germany, remaining there as a postdoctoral researcher for another year following the completion of his PhD. He was subsequently hired at the Westminster Theological Centre in the UK, serving for seven years there in roles including Dean of Studies, Academic Dean, and Lecturer in Old Testament. During this time, he also lectured at Nashotah House and Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He is the author of First Isaiah and the Disappearance of the Gods (Eisenbrauns),  Portraying Violence in the Hebrew Bible: A Literary and Cultural Study (Cambridge, 2020), and Monotheism and Institutions in the Book of Chronicles: Temple, Priesthood, and Kingship in Post-Exilic Perspective (Mohr Siebeck, 2014). He also has a forthcoming volume entitled Flood and Fury: Engaging Old Testament Violence (IVP). Matthew is a founder and co-host of the OnScript podcast. He is married with two children.

These lectures are in part sponsored by the UBC Murrin Fund

Posted by: gcarkner | July 18, 2022

The Wisdom of Abraham Heschel

The Wisdom of Abraham Joshua Heschel

Abraham Joshua Heschel was a Polish-born American rabbi and one of the leading Jewish theologians and philosophers of the 20th century. He was a prophetic genius, a voice deeply concerned about justice and human rights, and a strong advocate of Jewish-Christian dialogue. He had a profound insight into society and its discontents. Here are some quotes from his thought:

Philosophy can be defined as the art of asking the right questions…. Awareness of the problems outlives all solutions. The answers are questions in disguise, every new answer giving rise to new questions.

Wonder (awe) rather than doubt is the root of all knowledge. Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement … get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.

The worship of reason is arrogance and betrays a lack of intelligence. The rejection of reason is cowardice and betrays a lack of faith.

What is the meaning of my being? … My quest is not for theoretical knowledge about myself … What I look for is not how to gain a firm hold on myself and on life, but primarily how to live a life that would deserve and evoke an eternal Amen. What am I here for?

To be human is to be involved, to act and react, to wonder and respond. For humans to be is to play a part in the cosmic drama, knowingly or unknowingly. Living involves responsible understanding of one’s role in relation to all other beings.

We cannot restrain our bitter yearning to know whether life is nothing but a series of momentary physiological and mental processes, actions, and forms of behaviour, a flow of vicissitudes, desires, and sensations, running like grains through an hourglass, marking time only once and always vanishing … Is life nothing but an agglomeration of facts, unrelated to one another–-chaos camouflaged by illusion?

Humans are more than what they are to themselves. In reason the human may be limited, in will perhaps wicked, yet the human stands in a relation to God which one may betray but not sever, and which constitutes the essential meaning of life. The human is the knot in which heaven and earth are interlaced. God in the universe is a spirit of concern for life …. We often fail in trying to understand him not because we do not know how to extend our concepts far enough, but because we do not know how to begin close enough. To think of God is not to find him as an object in our minds, but to find ourselves in him.

A religious man is a person who holds God and man in one thought at one time, at all times, who suffers harm done to others, whose greatest passion is compassion, whose greatest strength is love and defiance of despair.

God is not a hypothesis derived from logical assumptions, but an immediate insight, self-evident as light. He is not something to be sought in the darkness with the light of reason. He is the light.

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Vancouver, BC

Faith is not the clinging to a shrine but an endless pilgrimage of the heart.

People of our time are losing the power of celebration. Instead of celebrating we seek to be amused or entertained. Celebration is an active state, an act of expressing reverence or appreciation. To be entertained is a passive state–it is to receive pleasure afforded by an amusing act or a spectacle … Celebration is a confrontation, giving attention to the transcendent meaning of one’s actions.

A test of a people is how it behaves toward the old. It is easy to love children. Even tyrants and dictators make a point of being fond of children. But the affection and care for the old, the incurable, the helpless are the true gold mines of a culture.

The Search for reason ends at the known; on the immense expanse beyond it only the sense of the ineffable can glide. It alone knows the route to that which is remote from experience and understanding. Neither of them is amphibious: reason cannot go beyond the shore, and the sense of the ineffable is out of place where we measure, where we weigh. We do not leave the shore of the known in search of adventure or suspense or because of the failure of reason to answer our questions. We sail because our mind is like a fantastic seashell, and when applying our ear to its lips we hear a perpetual murmur from the waves beyond the shore. Citizens of two realms, we all must sustain a dual allegiance: we sense the ineffable in one realm, we name and exploit reality in another. Between the two we set up a system of references, but we can never fill the gap. They are as far and as close to each other as time and calendar, as violin and melody, as life and what lies beyond the last breath.

Remember that there is meaning beyond absurdity. Know that every deed counts, that every word is power …. Above all, remember that you must build your life as if it were a work of art.

Morally speaking, there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings, that indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, that in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.

There are no two hours alike. Every hour is unique and the only one given at the moment, exclusive and endlessly precious. Judaism teaches us to be attached to holiness in time; to learn how to consecrate sanctuaries that emerge from the magnificent stream of a year.

We stand on a razor’s edge. It is so easy to hurt, to insult, to kill. Giving birth is a mystery; bringing death to millions is but a skill. It is not quite within the power of the human will to generate life; it is quite within the power of the will to destroy life.

Creation is not an act that happened once upon a time, once and forever. The act of bringing the world into existence is a continuous process. God called the world into being, and that call goes on. There is this present moment because God is present. Every instant is an act of creation. A moment is not a terminal but a flash, a signal of Beginning. Time is perpetual innovation, a synonym for continuous creation.

See also Rabbi Jonathan Sacks on Sapiens and The Strange Death of Europe

Posted by: gcarkner | June 5, 2022

Virtues of Human Stewardship of Planet Earth

Respect & Receptivity: If life in all its diversity is a gift from a benevolent Creator, we should respect its innate, intrinsic and precious value—its creational integrity. Biodiversity (a rich and full flourishing fittedness) is an intended result of God’s wise and orderly creative activity. We as the human dimension of creation are only one species among multitudes, and so we should cultivate the earth in harmony with other creatures, so that we can all sing a symphony of God’s praises together (Psalms 104; 148).

In other words, other creatures count morally or have moral standing. We have the same God-loved home, and are interdependent with other God-loved creatures on this planet. The virtue principle is to act to preserve diverse kinds of life. The opposing vice is conceit: to ignore or disdain other creatures, or just use or abuse them for our appetites or pleasure. Conceit has no genuine interest in another and will if necessary violate the integrity of the other through a lack of regard. A different kind of vice would be to worship the other creatures through an excess of reverence. Receptivity is a form of hospitality, which acknowledges our interdependence with the creaturely other; self-sufficiency is the vice that says we don’t have need of the other.

Self-Restraint and Frugality: The assumption here is that since creation is finite, others’ basic needs take precedence over our greedy wants. We should learn to live within our means and learn when ‘enough is enough’. There is a prima facie duty to preserve non-renewable resources and conserve scarce though renewable resources. Self-restraint is moderation (old Greek concept) of inordinate desires (temperance), a habitual control of one’s appetites and desires. The vice here is profligacy or self-indulgence (to be belly-oriented). Frugality speaks to an economy of the use of finite goods which acts as a form of hospitality. The opposing vice is greed (excessive acquisition) or avarice, a craving to acquire, blinded to the limits inherent within creation. Think of the recent financial meltdown for illustration of this vice or the destruction of the rainforests of the world.

Humility and Honesty: Humility speaks to the art of being responsible, unpretentious and aware of one’s limits; it recognizes that we humanoids are both finite and faulted; we should act cautiously and move slowly with a view to the consequences of how we consume and live with others. We don’t know all of the implications of our actions and so we should endeavour to be circumspect and careful. The opposing vice is hubris or overweening pride, an exaggerated self-confidence in our own creativity. Honesty means to be without guile or duplicity (perversion of truth for personal gain); it entails that we will act with forethought and put on the brakes even when we are disadvantaged. Its opposite is deception, a cunning misrepresentation of the facts often fuelled by envy and spite in order to see enemies harmed and humiliated. When we make creation our enemy, we can see the potential for harmful destruction. When we make creation our partner as in the recently built greenest home ever near Kamloops, it is speaking to humility, truthfulness and integrity.

Wisdom and Hope: Wisdom is an excellence of intellect, developed over time, one that allows us to live the good life (For the Beauty of the Earth, p. 150). It originates in the fear or worship of God. It is “sound practical judgment based on uncommon insight honed through long experience and informed by cultivated memory.” Assumption: it is God’s will that the whole of creation be fruitful and flourish, not just humans. We should act in such a way that the ability of living creatures can maintain themselves and reproduce—fecundity. Foolishness is the vice of habitual lack of sound judgment, to act as if the earth is endlessly exploitable. Hope is trust oriented forward in time rooted in God’s promises as talked about in an earlier section, a yearning for shalom or wholeness. Despair, hope’s nemesis, is the absence of any expectation of a good future; it leads to the sickness unto death of Kierkegaard, and this cynicism leads to death dealing against others in creation.

Patience and Serenity: Assuming a belief in Sabbath rest for land, humans and animals, it is a principle of rejuvenation. It takes the long view and shows a calm forbearance. We should act in such a way that the creatures, land and property under our care are given their needful rest. The vice is impetuousness, an impulsiveness based on fear of the future, that drive to gratify our desires in the immediate moment. Serenity is an unruffled peacefulness, an inner calm amidst chaos rooted in an assurance of God’s grace and his patience. This is the founding principle of farming: planting the seed and waiting. This takes the pressure off our obsession with productivity, acquisition, and consumerism. If rest is part of our rhythm, we will stay in the game longer and do better more creative work–work towards the bigger contribution.

Benevolence and Love: Benevolence is willingness to promote the well-being of another despite our feelings; love involves a feeling of affection (care) for the other. To love the earth means to serve and cultivate it and protect it from harm (to be earthkeepers), to take responsibility for it. It involves recognition of God as the real owner and we humans as the tenants, those who tend the earth gardens for the Master. If we love God’s good creation, we will not exploit, waste or pillage it; we will nurture it and preserve its well-being. This idea of loving (not worshipping) creation may seem strange, but it is biblical (Genesis 2:15). Caritas (charity or love towards the other) is the ultimate goal of Christian spirituality. The ecological tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico should actually break our hearts; creation is groaning (Romans 8); what a terrible waste.

Justice and Courage: Justice is a central feature of human flourishing, the disposition to act impartially and fairly; it implies respect for the rights of others, especially the vulnerable. In Isaiah 24, justice is intimately tied to the health of the land; social justice and ecological health are bound together. Biblically we are enjoined to act so as to treat others, human and non-human fairly and to attend to the weak, widow, orphan, sick and handicapped. Courage is the moral strength in the face of danger, tenacity in the face of opposition, a stubborn persistence in the face of adversity. Often it takes tremendous courage to sustain justice, to lobby for justice and to do the right thing.

Such is the leverage of virtue. In today’s late modern world, older vices such as acquisitive attitude have become virtues causing a moral inversion. There is still time to recover and retrieve these ancient virtues once again and to truly flourish on this blue green planet. Steve Bouma-Prediger is a good place to start on this journey home. He is a lead voice in this field of creation care

Notes from the book,  For the Beauty of the Earth by Steven Bouma-Prediger

Posted by: gcarkner | May 23, 2022

Gord’s Summer Reads 2022

Gord’s Summer Reads 2022

Putting Knowledge to Work for a Better World

Daniel K. Williams, The Politics of the Cross: A Christian Alternative to Partisanship (Eerdmans, 2021).

Rosaria Butterfield, The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radical Ordinary Hospitality in our Postmodern World (Crossway, 2018).

Eric Mason (ed.), Urban Apologetics: Restoring Black Dignity with the Gospel (Zondervan, 2021).

Michael Ward, After Humanity: A Guide to C.S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man (Word On Fire Academic, 2021). 

Robert Farrar Capon, Hunting the Divine Fox: Images of Mystery in the Christian Faith.

Walter M. Miller Jr., A Canticle for Liebowitz.

Michael W. Higgins & Peter Kavanaugh, Suffer the Children Unto Me: An Open Inquiry into the Clerical Sex Abuse Scandal (Novalis, 2010).

William Lane Craig, In Quest of the Historical Adam: a Biblical and Scientific Exploration (Eerdmans, 2021).

Brian Stanley, Christianity in the Twentieth Century: A World History (Princeton University Press, 2018).

Kati Martin, The Chancellor: The Remarkable Odyssey of Angela Merkel. (Simon & Shuster, 2021–Ute’s pick)

Douglas Moo, A Theology of Paul: The Gift of the New Realm in Christ (Zondervan, 2021).

Daniel Block, Covenant: The Framework of God’s Grand Plan in Christ (Baker Academic , 2021).

Paul Gould, Cultural ApologeticsRenewing the Christian Voice, Conscience, and Imagination in a Disenchanted World (Zondervan, 2019).

Russia Explained by Dr. Peter Rutland, Wesleyan University

Posted by: gcarkner | May 15, 2022

Daily Habits Help us Keep Perspective

  1. Eat a good healthy diet: roughage, vegetables, probiotics, prebiotics, good protein and fats.
  2. Kill the ANTS in your life: Automatic Negative Thoughts. They distract from good effort and waste your time and energy.
  3. Exercise daily at some capacity: aerobic and muscle building, plus stretching.
  4. Write, Create, Teach something to someone every day. Invest in the future generation.
  5. Manage your stress and work on your patience when things don’t go your way.
  6. Learn something new–keep an open and active mind. Be a curiosity bug for positive life-affirming content.
  7. Get adequate sleep. This is critical. Set boundaries on your work or burnout will surely come.
  8. Develop a positive peer group, support group. This is priceless to keep you persevering in your quest. They also help you see the lighter side of life.
  9. Do your daily devotions and spend time with God in prayer.
  10. Keep play and pleasure reading in your life.
  11. Bless other people whenever you get the chance–it raises the moral and emotional capital of campus life.
Posted by: gcarkner | May 1, 2022

Charles Taylor on Lost Language

Some elements in modern culture have repressed our language usage, in particular what Charles Taylor calls the ‘meta-biological’, the language of significance. Restricted language means necessarily limited awareness/thinking capacity. This webinar is not about a lost civilization discovered by an anthropologist, but similar. Taylor seeks a recovery of ‘constitutive’ language, and he wants to expand our restricted linguistic horizons to enrich and empower our lives. Dr. Gordon E. Carkner shows the dynamics of the three rungs in Taylor’s ladder of meaning: habits, verbal articulation, and interpretation. Scholar N. T. Wright offers an excellent illustration of Taylor’s expanded linguistic grasp in speaking of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. He reveals it afresh within a larger landscape of meanings, building out the human imagination. See also Gordon Carkner’s YouTube webinar ‘Charles Taylor and the Modern Quest for Identity.’

Posted by: gcarkner | April 17, 2022

Easter is When Hope in Person Surprises the Entire World

On Good Friday, love embraced suffering as Jesus drank the bitter cup that led to his humiliation, alienation and violent death. All was broken, disillusionment reigned. Hope seemed utterly lost. But his resurrection on Easter morning is something brand new—a singularity that cannot be explained by anything prior. Evil, nihilism and despair did not win. Resurrection remains an epiphany, a brilliant, inbreaking possibility for change, forgiveness, reconciliation and renewed relationships. To practice resurrection and lean into its power calls us to a new level of being (Eugene Peterson). It casts a long shadow into the future.

Andy Crouch in Culture Making captures the gravitas: “The resurrection of Jesus is like a cultural earthquake, its epicenter located in Jerusalem in the early 30s, whose aftershocks are still being felt in the cultural practices of people all over the world, many who have never heard of, and many more who have never believed in, its origins…. The resurrection is the hinge of history—still after two thousand years as far-reaching in its effects as anything that has come since…. The second Adam’s influence on culture comes through the greatest act of dependence, the fulfillment of Israel’s calling to demonstrate faith in the face of the great powers that threatened its existence comes in the willing submission of Jesus to a Roman cross, broken by, but breaking forever its power.” 

Jesus the Messiah is a re-interpretation, the hermeneutic of a new reconciled humanity, drawn from all the nations of the globe, committed to bless and make peace, to embody agape, to live shalom, to shine moral light into a dark world. There is no other who can compare. He is the eternal flame of the kingdom of God—the realm of forgiveness, mercy, love and indestructible life.

Truth & Consequences  “Our task as image-bearing, God-loving, Christ-shaped, Spirit-filled Christians, following Christ and shaping our world, is to announce redemption to a world that has discovered its fallenness, to announce healing to a world that has discovered its brokenness, to proclaim love and trust to a world that knows only exploitation, fear and suspicion…. The gospel of Jesus points us and indeed urges us to be at the leading edge of the whole culture, articulating in story and music and art and philosophy and education and poetry and politics and theology and even—heaven help us—biblical studies, a worldview that will mount the historically-rooted Christian challenge to both modernity and postmodernity, leading the way… with joy and humour and gentleness and good judgment and true wisdom. I believe if we face the question, “if not now, then when?” if we are grasped by this vision we may also hear the question, “if not us, then who?” And if the gospel of Jesus is not the key to this task, then what is?” (N.T. Wright, The Challenge of Jesus)

Enactment/Articulation/HermeneuticLove is the most complete form of knowing and the resurrection is the most complete form of love. ~ N.T. Wright’s theme for his Gifford Lectures 

A new creation people, a new moral order, a new future in the present, emerges through the cross and resurrection. Love is articulated as a new, life-giving hermeneutic.

Jesus’ resurrection, by unveiling the creator’s love for the world, opens up the space and time for a holistic mode of knowing, a knowing which includes historical knowledge of the real world by framing it within the loving gratitude which answers the creator’s own sovereign love.” ~N. T. Wright from his Gifford Lectures

New Creation and New Covenant/God’s Good Creation and God’s Healing Justice: (Romans 8: 18-30) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GenlGUkZ-6Q Resurrection and the Renewal of Creation, address by super scholar N. T. Wright

https://youtu.be/6081klkdqGo Charles Taylor & Recovery of the Language of Meaning

An Easter Carol by Christina Georgina Rossetti

Spring bursts to-day,
For Christ is risen and all the earth’s at play.

Flash forth, thou Sun,
The rain is over and gone, its work is done.

Winter is past,
Sweet Spring is come at last, is come at last.

Bud, Fig and Vine,
Bud, Olive, fat with fruit and oil and wine.

Break forth this morn
In roses, thou but yesterday a Thorn.

Uplift thy head,
O pure white Lily through the Winter dead.

Beside your dams
Leap and rejoice, you merry-making Lambs.

All Herds and Flocks
Rejoice, all Beasts of thickets and of rocks.

Sing, Creatures, sing,
Angels and Men and Birds and everything.

All notes of Doves
Fill all our world: this is the time of loves.

Posted by: gcarkner | April 4, 2022

Is there rational evidence for the resurrection?

Under Investigation: Some Allege that the  Resurrection of Jesus was a Hoax

If this statement is true, there is no evidence for the most central Christian belief next to the existence of God. That would be tragic indeed. As the Apostle Paul wrote to one of the first Christian churches, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless, and so is your faith” (1 Corinthians 15:14). Easter becomes pure myth without historical substance. This is a powder keg question.

But a reasonable and responsible person needs solid evidence. It is common historical knowledge that Jesus died on a Roman cross and was buried. And the biblical records indicate both that his tomb was found empty shortly afterwards and that a large number of people claimed to have spoken, walked and eaten with him after his death. These claims are indeed unusual, even  startling! They need explanation. We must decide whether there is a more plausible alternative than an actual physical, bodily resurrection. Much hangs on the answer.

Alternate explanations abound: 1) that thieves stole the body of Jesus; 2) that the Roman or Jewish authorities stole it; 3) that Jesus’ disciples stole it; and 4) that Jesus was not actually dead when buried and left the tomb on his own. Below we deal with each one briefly.

1) We are told (for example in Matthew chapter 27:62 through to chapter 28:4) that the authorities placed a guard at the tomb to prevent the body from being stolen. And when the body was discovered to be missing, it was noted that the grave clothes—loaded with spices to preserve the body—were still present. They would be strange grave robbers who would fight Roman soldiers to steal a naked corpse, when the only thing of value in the tomb would have been the spice-laden grave clothes.

2) The authorities posted the guard to keep the body buried. We must ask why they would subseqently remove it. When Christianity was first proclaimed, it was seen as a threat to the political and religious establishment of the day. Jesus was executed partly as a threat to Rome’s sovereignty. Because the new teaching was explicitly based upon belief in the resurrection, it would have been a simple matter for the authorities to quash the rumour by producing the body of Jesus. The fact that they did not do so indicates that they did not have the body. Why hold back such critical evidence?

3) Because Roman discipline provided punishments ranging from beatings to death for sleeping on duty, we may assume that the soldiers were alert. This means that the disciples (a discouraged, frightened group of fishermen, tax collectors. and one political activist) would have had to fight the soldiers to get the body—a fight they stood a poor chance of winning. But it was not just the disciples who claimed to have seen Jesus alive post-crucifixion. They would, in other words, have had to convince others to join them in their deception—a deception these others would have no motive for maintaining. Furthermore, 11 out of the original 12 disciples were martyred for their belief and their claims that Jesus rose from the dead. Now people might die for what they believe to be true, even if they are wrong. But few will die for a known lie or deception. The fact that the disciples died saying that Jesus was alive, and therefore Lord and God, means that they certainly did not have his dead body hidden away somewhere obscure.

4) If no one stole the body, then perhaps Jesus did not quite die on the cross, but was buried alive and revived in the tomb. This may be. However, this position reduces to absurdity when we are asked to believe that, half dead due to blood loss, a beating and no medical attention after his crucifixion, Jesus struggled free from his shroud, pushed aside a stone that three healthy women were not sure they could move (see Mark 16:3), and walked several miles on wounded feet. Then he met his disciples, claimed to be risen, victorious over the power of death, and was so convincing that Thomas called him “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). After about a month he wandered off and died in solitude. Remember that no one ever found his body, and that there was massive motivation to search for it. This is surely a theory of desperate last resort. A supernatural resurrection is certainly not less probable than this, unless we reject it from the outset by an uncontrollable bias. Perhaps we should rethink our position as skeptical lawyer Frank Morrison was forced to do by the evidence (Who Moved the Stone).

In conclusion, there is considerable weight behind the claim that Jesus rose from the dead. The implications are staggering! It changes everything. We must then ask why it happened. And we must deal with the Christian claim that this is the supreme act of God intervening in history to restore the world to himself through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, called the Christ or Messiah. Hear the profound implications from a modern author Andy Crouch (Culture Making):

The resurrection of Jesus is like a cultural earthquake, its epicenter located in Jerusalem in the early 30s, whose aftershocks are still being felt in the cultural practices of people all over the world, many who have never heard of, and many more who have never believed in, its origins…. The resurrection is the hinge of history—still after two thousand years as far-reaching in its effects as anything that has come since…. The second Adam’s influence on culture comes through the greatest act of dependence, the fulfillment of Israel’s calling to demonstrate faith in the face of the great powers that threatened its existence comes in the willing submission of Jesus to a Roman cross, broken by, but breaking forever its power…. Indeed one of the most dramatic cultural effects of the resurrection is the transformation of that heinous cultural artifact known as a cross. An instrument of domination and condemnation becomes a symbol of the kingdom that Jesus proclaimed: an alternative culture where grace and forgiveness are the last word…. He faces the worst that human powers can do and rises, not just with some merely “spiritual” triumph over those powers, but with a cultural triumph—an answer, right in the midst of human history, to all the fears of Israel in the face of its enemies…. The worst that culture can do, is transformed into a sign of the kingdom of God–the realm of forgiveness, mercy, love and indestructible life.

Other Resources:N.T.Wright’s excellent DVD video on the Resurrection; and his book The Resurrection of the Son of God: Christian Origins and the Question of God, Volume 3. (academic depth)

Richard Swinburne, The Resurrection of God Incarnate.  Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003.

Classic Historic Debate between Gary Habermas and Antony Flew: Did jesus Rise from the Dead? The Resurrection Debate. Harper & Row, 1987.  (republished Wipf & Stock 2003) Famous Atheist Philosopher Antony Flew has converted to theism since then. See Antony Flew, There is a god.

The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus
Gary Habermas and Michael Licona

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ay_Db4RwZ_M Gary Habermas on scholarship re: Resurrection

Eugene Peterson, Practice Resurrection.

Michael Green, Christ is Risen: So what? (popular writing)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7M5P_DxqPas N. T. Wright on Why the Resurrection Matters @ Emory University (Veritas Forum).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4iyxR8uE9GQ Resurrection Reflections: William Lane Craig in Southampton, UK

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59L1CkF1y98 Tim Keller Encountering the Risen King

Empty Tomb

An Easter Carol by Christina Georgina Rossetti

Spring bursts to-day,
For Christ is risen and all the earth’s at play.

Flash forth, thou Sun,
The rain is over and gone, its work is done.

Winter is past,
Sweet Spring is come at last, is come at last.

Bud, Fig and Vine,
Bud, Olive, fat with fruit and oil and wine.

Break forth this morn
In roses, thou but yesterday a Thorn.

Uplift thy head,
O pure white Lily through the Winter dead.

Beside your dams
Leap and rejoice, you merry-making Lambs.

All Herds and Flocks
Rejoice, all Beasts of thickets and of rocks.

Sing, Creatures, sing,
Angels and Men and Birds and everything.

All notes of Doves
Fill all our world: this is the time of loves.

Posted by: gcarkner | March 25, 2022

Spring GFCF Featured Lecture Presentation

April 6, 2022 Upcoming Lecture

Professor Ard Louis, Theoretical Physics, Oxford University

Science & Scientism 

12:00 NoonWednesday, April 6, 2022  on Zoom

Abstract

Abstract

Science is perhaps the most successful endeavour that human beings have ever engaged in.   It is tempting to think that it should also answer the big questions of life, such as why we are here and whether there is a purpose to life. 

Such hopes give impetus to modern versions of secularism.   At the same time a fully fleshed out scientism, the idea that only science brings us reliable knowledge about the world, remains  unpopular in the academy, in part because it hollows out these existential questions.   I will argue that it is not hard to see that neither science, nor any conceivable advance of science, can answer such existential questions.   Nevertheless,  implicit versions of scientism remain surprisingly influential in the academic world.  What can and should we do about this? 

https://www.whyarewehere.tv/about-science/scientism/ A Clip of Ard Louis.

Biography

Ard Louis is Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Oxford, where he leads an interdisciplinary research group studying problems on the border between chemistry, physics and biology at the Rudolf Peierls Centre for Theoretical Physics. He also writes and speaks widely on science and faith, for which in 2013 he was elected a member of the International Society for Science and Religion.  He recently made the 4-part documentary Why Are We Here with David Malone and  appeared in  The Story of God with Morgan Freeman, giving him an Erdős–Bacon number of 6.

No Model of the universe is a catalogue of ultimate, comprehensive realities.

~C. S. Lewis

An admirably severe discipline of interpretive and theoretical restraint [modern empirical science] has been transformed into its perfect and irrepressibly wanton opposite: what began as a principled refusal of metaphysical speculation, for the sake of specific empirical inquiries, has now been mistaken for a comprehensive knowledge of the metaphysical shape of reality; the art of humble questioning has been mistaken for the sure possession of ultimate conclusions. This makes a mockery of real science.” (David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God, 2013, 71)

Satire: “Physics explains everything, which we know because anything physics cannot explain does not exist, which we know because whatever exists must be explicable by physics, which we know because physics explains everything.” (David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God, 2013, 77)

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