Posted by: gcarkner | September 20, 2022

Beauty & the Imagination: Paul M. Gould

The imagination is crucial to how we experience, understand and act in the world. Philosopher Paul M. Gould notes about the imagination that it is: (1) a faculty of the mind; (2) it mediates between sense and intellect (i.e. perception and reason), the human mind and the divine mind; (3) it is a faculty for meaning and invention. It is crucial to our lives, playing a significant role in perceiving, creating, dreaming, meaning, judging, learning, and moralizing. Imagination helps us narrate our lives, serving as a guide to explore the various facets and dimensions of our longings, aiding us in drawing connections between art and our lives. We are in fact Homo Imaginus. We are captured by that which capture our imagination.

Without the imagination the mind lacks the ‘raw materials’ needed to judge something as true or false. The will possesses nothing to judge as worthy or unworthy of our devotion. (P. Gould, Cultural Apologetics, 74)

Beauty plays a key role in awakening us and sustaining our longing for what is true and good, awakening our longing for our spiritual home–which involves an epic journey. Beauty in a way calls us home. It awakens and transports us out of the mundane into the enchanted, brings heaven to earth.  “Beauty is a divine megaphone to rouse a disenchanted world.” (P. Gould, Cultural Apologetics, 104) We are called to love God with our whole being: including our aesthetic skills, sensibilities and perceptions, our creativity and inventions. We are talking about art, music, symbol, poetry, and story: all are part of our aesthetic currency. But it can also be a blog, video, architecture piece, or a garden sanctuary.

Genesis 1-3 reveals God as an artist and gardener as Andy Crouch writes in his book Culture Making. The Maker was thrilled with his creation. We who are made in God’s image should be creators and cultivators of goodness, truth and beauty in what we make and how we attribute meaning. The most beautiful thing we can do is to locate our life in God’s story, his narrative of healing and re-enchanting the world. A life of self-denial and service to God and neighbour is a beautiful phenomenon (Mother Teresa). Philippians 2:15 suggests that we are called to “shine like stars in the universe (as per our holiness and goodness). Seekers who are attentive to divine speech see that meaning and beauty find their source in Jesus the Christ.

Artists curate beauty, aiding us in seeing reality as it is, painting the world in its proper light and helping us to see it as enchanted, mysterious and sacred. Artists help us to see and understand truth… We are moved to worship God, who is the source of all things…. Art and the imagination help us to see the meaning of the world, our lives and the things we make. (P. Gould, Cultural Apologetics, 103)

In a world of increasing loneliness, angst and darkness, authentic beauty calls and invites people to consider something beyond this fallen and broken world. Jesus took on our sin and ugliness, horror and pain of this world so we can find forgiveness, hope, healing and wholeness. Beauty and goodness may be the first window for people to recognize the divine. Sometimes we need to clean it. Jesus is the source of beauty, he lived a beautiful life. He taught sometimes with puzzles, metaphors, stories. We were meant to wonder, to delight in, to be in awe. Moses’ tabernacle was a divinely crafted model that pointed to a greater reality—mediating the very presence of God.

Art, as we know it, stands on the threshold of the transcendental. It points beyond this world of accidental and disconnected things to another realm, in which human life is endowed with an emotional logic that makes suffering noble and love worthwhile. Nobody who is alert to beauty…is without the concept of redemption—of a final transcendence of moral disorder into a “kingdom of ends.”  (Roger Scrutin, Beauty, 156)

Let’s cultivate imaginative reasoning, writing and living at UBC this year. Let’s live large into full reality.

When we see the world as Jesus does, we see it in its proper light. We receive it as gift, as sacred. By perceiving the world as enchanted, we savor it, and find sustenance in it…. The path of return to God lies through creation itself. We can’t return to this God-infused reality by denying or devaluing the material world. All that God has made is good. All is intrinsically valuable and sacred, even as it is broken and bent…. Creation is haunted. Creation ushers us into God’s presence as we learn to see God in and through all he has made. (P. Gould, Cultural Apologetics, 83)

Dr. Gordon E. Carkner, Meta-Educator with UBC Postgraduate Students

See our GCU/GFCF YouTube webinars and lectures: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCl4NgIg_ht8IZCRIhho4nxA

Next Lecture Sept 22 @ 4 PM with the distinguished Dr. Michael Higgins https://ubcgfcf.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=2122&action=edit

Join our Wednesday noon dialogue group: 604.349.9497

Bibliography

George MacDonald, Phantastes.

C.S. Lewis, Voyage to Venus.

Roger Scrutin, Beauty.

Andy Crouch, Culture Making: Recovering our Creative Calling.

J.R.R. Tolkein, Lord of the Rings

James K.A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom.

Ralph C. Wood, Flannery O’Connor and the Christ-Haunted South

https://bookstore.regent-college.edu/ Check out the books on art, literature, poetry and spirituality

Posted by: gcarkner | September 15, 2022

GCU & Re-enchantment of Reality

The goal of this video is the healing of all of our relationships. The discussion examines the power of commodity-think and the disenchantment it causes. But we can put our creativity and ingenuity to work on a new paradigm of Contentment, Gratitude, Compassion.

The book Cultural Apologetics by Paul M. Gould is an inspiring read, a mature statement on Christian witness in late modernity. He complements the work of Charles Taylor. It is also about re-enchanting the world. Let’s pursue the hope-filled, redemptive wisdom track in life: through imagination, reason and morality revived.

Our disengagement  from and objectivization of nature is a fundamental shift, which moves us from seeing things and people as gifts to viewing them as commodities for use and consumption. In this new immanent framework, meaning resides in our individual appetite and the “good life” is identified with our consumption.  The satisfactions of pleasure (hedonism) rule the day.” ( P. M. Gould, Cultural Apologetics, 2019, 57)

“The possibility of re-enchantment is always very real.” ~C. S. Lewis

Grad students find a home and a lively conversation in Graduate Christian Union

Let’s meet up for coffee or lunch at a place close to you: Gord 604.349.9497

We’d love to hear about your background and passion.

Join our stimulating lectures [ubcgfcf.com].

Study in Ephesians–The Discovery of a Re-enchanted Outlook on Life

We have decide to study the Book of Ephesians on Wednesdays at 12-2 pm. Join in as soon as you can and bring along a friend. We hope to meet in Sauder, but are still searching for an appropriate room

Sources of InspirationPractice Resurrection by Eugene Peterson; Towards an Incarnational Spiritual Culture by Gordon Carkner; Cultural Apologetics by Paul Gould (see quotes below).

Let us know if you can make it,

Gord & Ute Carkner

GCU Staff/Meta-Educators

Text: 604.349.9497 (Gord) Email: gcarkner@shaw.ca

778.840.3549 (Ute)

Quotes from Paul Gould, Cultural Apologetics

“Without the imagination the mind lacks the ‘raw materials’ needed to judge something as true or false. The will possesses nothing to judge as worthy or unworthy of our devotion.” (74)

“We long for God and a magical world full of deep mystery, beauty, holiness, and wholeness, a reality behind the material cosmos.” (75)

“Throughout history, those who live for something greater than themselves and greater than worldly desires have contributed immensely to the advancement of education, culture, and the common good. For those who accept the offer of “infinite joy”, contentment is obtained, and a powerful purpose for living is found. “ (79)

How does Jesus see and delight in reality? Nothing is mundane; everything is God-bathed, God-permeated, full of wonder and delight. He is ever present. When we see the world as Jesus does, we see it in its proper light. We receive it as gift, as sacred. By perceiving the world as enchanted, we savor it, and find sustenance in it…. The path of return to God lies through creation itself. We can’t return to this God-infused reality by denying or devaluing the material world. All that God has made is good. All is intrinsically valuable and sacred, even as it is broken and bent…. Creation is haunted; it ushers us into God’s presence as we learn to see God in and through all he has made. (83)

Brainstorming Sessions on Various Topics

Discover GCU Resources for Academic Research and for Life and Wellness

Lecture by Michael Higgins September 22 2022 https://ubcgfcf.com/2022/07/05/michael-higgins/

Posted by: gcarkner | September 8, 2022

Priorities for Success as a Postgrad Student

UBC Bird’s Eye View

Be proactive – take responsibility for your own grad school experience.

• Think about what you really want from graduate school, and identify opportunities to attain those goals.

• You are transitioning from being told what to do, to deciding what to do. You are your own boss.

• Don’t wait for faculty members to come to find you. Take the initiative and build relationships with faculty in your department. Make a special priority of getting to know your mentor/supervisor.

You need to stand out to make it through grad school! And to do that, you need to develop more pronounced academic or personal habits than you already established during your college years. Practicing these habits can:

  • increase confidence, competence, and self-esteem
  • reduce anxiety brought about by tests and deadlines
  • prevent cramming
  • significantly reduce the hours spent studying and instead give more room for the other facets of life.

Participate in the intellectual community of your department and the campus.

• Seek input and collaboration from faculty members and your peers – don’t isolate yourself. Sometimes a great idea emerges from a different department of study.

• Attend optional seminars and lectures within and beyond your program or department.

• Attend and present at conferences.

• Begin thinking of yourself as a member of your profession and academic field. Put on that cap.

Ask questions.

Learning things in grad school would always require asking questions. It may not be enjoyable to some, but this is one of the most effective ways to know certain things you are curious about. 

The perfect time to ask questions in the university or school is once you get accepted. Your entrance to such a new journey would require you to list some essential questions that you need to ask certain people. This will eventually prepare you for what to face for graduate school. 

Be original!

Graduate students’ one major ticket into surviving grad school is to have an excellent research paper. But what makes other students stand out from the rest is that they have uniquely crafted research that reflects their specialty in their chosen field. 

A research paper is a comprehensive paperwork that emphasizes interpreting a chosen topic or argument and supporting references to validate your point. You can gather and use four types of research data when doing your research paper for grad school. Make sure to choose the best one that can make your research interesting and impressive. Here are the ways on how you can be original in making your research paper in grad school: 

Know your program requirements and timelines.

Masters students

• Coursework

•Comprehensive or qualifying exams

• Research thesis or major project 

• Public presentation and/or defense of thesis or project

Doctoral students

• Coursework

• Supervisory committee

• Research proposal approval

• Comprehensive exam 

• Dissertation completion and defense

Find your study spot.

Your study space is an excellent booster to your ability to study efficiently. As a grad student, it’s vital to this stage of your life to create a study environment that fosters productivity and minimizes distractions. So make an effort to manage your study space. After all, a comfortable space sharpens the mind and improves concentration. 

Create your designated space.

  • Decide between an open or closed environment. Customize this spot to your liking. 
  • Invest in materials that can make this area suitable for studying.
  • Keep away from loud areas or distractions like television.
  • Find a comfortable desk or table with ergonomic seats.
  • Commit to studying only in this space and always keep it clean.

Create and follow an annual plan.

• Track your specific program requirements (e.g., courses taken, comprehensives, research, thesis, etc.).

• Schedule meetings with your supervisor and committee. They are there to serve you.

• Publish articles and produce patents, copyrights, artistic works, performances, designs, etc.

• Attend conferences and make presentations.

• Apply for fellowships, scholarships and research grants.

• Think “next stage” —develop an individual professional development plan for the future. Set up a LinkedIn profile.

  • Set one specific, achievable goal. A goal can lead you to a direction you can focus on – set one that’s considerable and has an endpoint. This can lend you a hand in staying motivated.
  • Integrate your goal into your day-to-day life. Think about an objective that you can quickly and frequently do or choose goals that interest you so that it wouldn’t seem like an obligation; instead, it will be like a routine. Then set a timeframe on it.
    • Break down large goals into digestible micro-goals and easy tasks. When faced with a big overwhelming task, it dramatically helps divide the task into more manageable parts and steps. The strategy will help you rid of stress and procrastination. And achieving these smaller steps can build confidence too.

Establish positive relationships with your supervisor and members of your committee.

• Schedule regular meetings with your entire supervisory committee – at least once a year.

• Have a clear purpose for each meeting, and communicate the agenda in advance to your supervisor / committee.

• Follow up on items discussed in meetings – keep your supervisor informed of your progress and challenges.

• Act as a “junior colleague” – ask questions, advance ideas, show interest and support for shared goals.

Bring a professional approach to your studies and interactions.

• Build key skills: organization, preparedness, collegiality, budgeting.

• Take workshops on teaching; write a grant proposal.

• Mentor an undergraduate researcher.

• Learn about research ethics and scholarly integrity. You are building a reputation for a lifetime.

Set up a Document Management System. As you proceed to your graduate programs, you will accumulate numerous documents, such as research materials, readings, assignments, essay papers, and manuscripts. Here are ways to keep your documents well-organized:

  • Use binders, shelves, filing cabinets, and folders.
  • Label your documents accordingly and keep them within reach.
  • Sort them periodically and keep away what’s no longer necessary.
  • Categorize and store your electronic documents like research ideas, professional credentials, articles, and study materials in separate folders named accordingly for easy tracking and retrieval. Store and share bigger files using Dropbox, Box, or Google Drive.
  • Organize your emails. If possible, create an email exclusively for your graduate school work, create labeled folders, delete spam, and unsubscribe from emails that are no longer useful.

Seek balance and a support network in your life. Have some fun and adventure while you work on your degree.

• Remember that you have friends and family outside grad school. Find a church home in town.

• Seek out the many resources on your campus that can help you through the tough times (join a graduate student organization like Graduate Christian Union or attend GFCF (Graduate & Faculty Christian Forum) thought-provoking lectures.

  • Be inspired by others. Feel motivated by reading books, watching motivational shows/videos, and talking with your mentors or friends or family that you look up to.
  • Seek social and emotional support. Open up to your family and friends about your struggles and plans. If you have a mental illness, there are mental health care plans available that can aid with the cost of counseling. All these can help you manage the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Be with positive people. Being surrounded by positive colleagues, friends and family can boost your positive self-talk. Look for support groups with the same interest and endeavors as you.

Nurture Your Mental Health:

  • Maintain a regular schedule. Sticking to a consistent schedule will condition your mind and body to follow a daily routine. Devote yourself to a well-prepared timeline to prepare for your day.
  • Distinguish “real problems” from “hypothetical problems.”  A real problem can be addressed at the moment like you would resolve flooding in a home. A hypothetical worry essentially wastes your time because it hasn’t happened yet, like the flood causing problems on the wooden floor. According to Dr. Matthew Whalley and Dr. Hardeep Kaur of Psychology Tools, real-problem worries require that we look into them, while hypothetical worries will have to be dealt with in the future.
  • Try “postponing” your worry. It might sound like procrastinating, but it greatly helps when you give yourself a moment to reflect and take action. For example, you can tell yourself, “I will only let myself worry between 8 am to 10 am today.”
  • Choose the news you should be listening to. Try to read good and helpful news, and limit your overall news intake, such as reading the news once a day.
  • Avoid panicking and overthinking. According to Standford School of Business, it’s critical not to overthink the light decisions and underthink the big ones. In grad school, learn to decide on important matters and never over-analyze petty stuff!
  • Prioritize the things that you can manage. Using your energy for more important things is much worth doing than waste it on something unpredictable. There is a higher chance of accomplishing many productive things once you develop a habit of prioritizing things you have control over. 
  • Incorporate positive distractions. Instead of dwelling in sad problematic news, watch your go-to movies or series, go to wholesome blogs, and watch relaxing videos or interesting clips. You can also spend time with your people to calm yourself out. Use your downtime to focus and prioritize pleasant distractions.
  • Be kind to yourself. Treat yourself with loving-kindness and mind your health. Do simple tasks that give you the feeling of progressing. Making your bed first thing in the morning keeps you from getting back in!
  • Set realistic goals.  The best goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. Divide your tasks into tiny chunks, and decide on one activity at a time. It helps to finish one chapter of your reading instead of skipping pages and rushing to the next.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxW5D5VPg_0 Michelle Obama Reflects

Be optimistic!

Optimism is a healthy habit that helps us become happier and calmer. It can save people from depression and anxieties. An optimistic mindset and outlook make people more resistant to unnecessary thoughts that lead to stress. It may even help people live longer.

Your success in grad school is closely dependent on how capable you think you are! If a graduate student is convinced that they can overcome everything, they will face challenges head-on and a strong positive outlook.

Join a study group.

A wide array of study groups are always present in graduate schools and universities. Study groups promote a lot of different benefits. Here are some ways how study groups are helpful for you as a graduate student: 

  • They keep you accountable. Study groups mostly have a regular meet-up session where members undergo in-depth discussions about lessons and topics. It establishes a sense of routine wherein you can always follow how the discussions are going and stay up to date with the topics being discussed. 
  • They keep you sane. Your mental health would need a slight pause to make sure you are still focused on your tasks. The social interaction you get from such a set-up can help you ease up and realize your thoughts and priorities without being too hard on yourself. 
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, capturing beauty. Let us listen to the heart of human pain and struggle, be conscientious stewards of creation, people who want to leave a positive environmental legacy. Take care of the earth, oceans and air. 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. Use reason well. 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, to 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 and watch out for the disadvantaged. Priestly people, develop your theological acumen and your art of soulcraft. Keep your integrity and lead by example. Become people of deep prayer and reflection.

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, angst 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 towards constructive projects to pour themselves into.

https://allard.ubc.ca/about-us/events-calendar/truth-seeking-mission-university

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 optimism. 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 and shortcomings. 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, in pursuit of truth, beauty, wisdom and goodness. 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.

Paul Gould, Cultural Apologetics.

UBC President Santa Ono speaks on: ” Faith Seeking Understanding”

7 PM, Wednesday, September 28, University Chapel

sponsored by Scriptorium Study Centre

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

Join Zoom Meeting
https://twu.zoom.us/j/98953250068

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

 The Land Keeps the Score: Violence in Creation According to the Old Testament

Abstract

Most scholarly and popular treatments of violence in the Old Testament focus on social or personal dimensions of violence and its impact. Similarly, contemporary Christian attempts to grapple with the challenges of violence in Scripture often focus on the ethics of human-on-human or divine-on-human violence. While important, these approaches fail to address the Old Testament’s emphasis on the land as a victim of human violence. According to the Old Testament, the land bears the marks of violence because violence is, fundamentally, an ecocidal phenomenon. This talk explores this reality in Scripture and its implications for contemporary ethical reflection. 

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.’

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