Posted by: gcarkner | November 16, 2019

June Francis Speaks on Our Narrative of Diversity


Posted by: gcarkner | November 6, 2019

Climate Change: a Christian Response

A Christian Response to Anthropogenically Generated Climate Change

Olav Slaymaker, Professor Emeritus of Geography at the University of British Columbia

Summary statement: “the really inconvenient truth about climate change is that it’s not about carbon–it’s about greed”.

Since 1990 the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change process has demonstrated with ever increasing precision the correlation between carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere at Hawaii’s Geophysical Observatory and the average temperature in the northern hemisphere. And the focus of the discussion has been the rising temperature, hence the expression “global warming”. But climate is about much more than temperature: it includes incidence of flooding, aridity, glacier melt, permafrost thawing and much else. And the driving force is much more than just carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere. It is no less than the cumulative behavior of society, especially our neo-liberal consumer society. The driving force behind our society is quite simply greed and the irresponsible, unsustainable way in which we use our resources.

One of the most helpful books on climate change is by Mike Hulme, a Professor of Environmental Science at the University of East Anglia in the UK. The book is called “Why We Disagree about Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity” (Cambridge University Press). He uses biblical imagery to enlighten the discussion. He points out that climate change is not a physical problem looking for a solution (although in 1990 this was the way in which the problem was couched by the IPCC) but to use his phraseology, climate change has become a kind of Christmas tree onto which we all hang our favourite baubles. He highlights the way in which the issue has been appropriated by so many different groups to promote their own causes. Four ways of thinking about climate change, Hulme suggests, can be labelled: (1) Lamenting Eden; (2) Presaging Apocalypse; (3) Constructing Babel; and (4) Celebrating Jubilee. These are all biblical metaphors which imply that climate change is not a problem to be solved but an idea of the imagination that requires deep reflection.

Lamenting Eden: This perspective views climate as a symbol of a pure and pristine Nature. Climate becomes something fragile that needs to be protected or saved. This is an idea which is associated with Western Enlightenment and treats Nature as a category that is distinct from Culture (the so-called Nature/Culture binary). A suggested Christian response would be to recognize the profound interdependence of Nature and Culture and to reject the ecotheology of the deep ecology movement.

Presaging Apocalypse: This view appeals to our instinctive fear of the future. Wildly exaggerated predictions of environmental collapse is an ineffective, counterproductive way of inducing behavioural change. A suggested Christian response is to examine very closely the extent to which such disaster scenarios are consistent with the available data.

Constructing Babel:  A confident belief in the human ability to control Nature is a dominant attribute of the international diplomacy that engages climate change and geo-engineering is a dangerous instance of humanitiy’s hubris. A Christian response would be to be highly suspicious of the claims of geoengineers. The Enlightenment project objectivizes climate through standardized measurement and quantification: hence prediction, management and mastery are the foci.

Celebrating Jubilee: This critique uses the idea of justice, freedom and celebration. This way of thinking about climate change uses the language of morality and ethics. For those in social and environmental justice movements climate change is not merely a substantive material problem nor simply (as in lamenting Eden) a symbolic one. Climate change is an idea around which their concerns for social and environmental justice can be mobilized. Climate change offers humanity the chance to do the right thing.

Climate change cannot be understood by focusing only on its physicality. We need to understand the ways in which we talk about climate change. What climate change means to us lies beyond the reach of science, economics and political science. “When we have found all the mysteries and lost all the meanings, we will be alone, on an empty shore”. (Stoppard, 1993, Arcadia). Christians can safely change the conversation and introduce the language of faith in a loving God.

The four ways of thinking about climate change above are mirrors that reveal important truths about the human condition. Lamenting Eden tells us of our desire or even yearning for a simpler time. Presaging Apocalypse tells us of our worries about the future. Constructing Babel tells of our desire for mastery and control. Celebrating Jubilee tells us of our human urge to respond to injustice. Climate change opens up new ways of understanding the greed, willfulness and structural causes of inequality and injustice in the world, but also reveals the limits of individual moral agency.

Other Material on Creation/Environment Care

Earth-Wise by Calvin B. DeWitt (Faith Alive Christian Resources 2007, 2nd ed.)

The Care of Creation ed. RJ Berry (InterVarsity Press, 2000)

For the Beauty of the Earth: a Christian Vision for Creation Care by Steven Bouma-Prediger (Baker Academic, 2001)

Serve God Save the Planet by Mathew Sleeth, MD (Zondervan, 2006)

Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community   by Wendell Berry

Blowout by Rachel Maddow

This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein

An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore

Posted by: gcarkner | October 30, 2019

Identity in Story: Charles Taylor versus Michel Foucault

Narrative Identity: Charles Taylor versus Michel Foucault

People see the world through the lens of belief; it is a search for meaning such as the good life. We need an existential (metabiological) reason for why we exist beyond the pragmatics of mere biological survival. These beliefs or social imaginaries can vary widely, from some religious or spiritual convictions to agnosticism to pure atheism or nihilism. Nihilism is a view that ironically poses a meaning of meaninglessness. Is this perhaps part of our current dilemma, our existential identity crisis? Why do we sometimes weaponize our identity? What do our best thinkers say?

In his articulation of moral mapping, eminent Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor looks to narrative depth as a defining feature of the moral self, identity and agency. Narrative is consequential to the stability and continuity of the moral self over time; it comes in the shape of a personal quest. Taylor gets this notion of self involved in a narrative quest from Alasdair MacIntyre (C. Taylor, 1989, 17, 48). Narration of the quest for the good allows one to discover a unity amidst the diversity of goods that demand one’s attention. The continuity in the self is a necessary part of a life lived well in moral space. He sees narrative as a deep structure, a temporal depth in his thick concept of the self. This adds another texture or dimension to its communal richness.

The good is more than a concept outside the self, an ideal of a life lived well. It is also something embodied, carried in one’s story and the story of one’s community. Community-narrative is a way to understand and mediate the good, be empowered by the good. Taylor writes,

This sense of the good has to be woven into my understanding of my life as an unfolding story …. Making sense of my life as a story is not an optional extra …. There is a space of questions which only a coherent narrative can answer. (C. Taylor, 1989, 47)

The key issue is the unity and past-present-future continuity of a life, over against a strong focus of the self-as-discontinuity–a view promoted by Michel Foucault, where the quest is to get free of oneself (one’s past).

The movement for Foucault is towards the ever-new, re-invented self, a self which dislikes vulnerability, and tries to avoid being known by the Other, wedging itself loose from history and community, as seen in the last blog post. The narrative depth is not a priority for Foucault, and there is a minimum interest in continuity of the life with the past. Foucault’s is a very future-oriented self, one that desires to escape the self of oppression history, power-knowledge, the self as a normalized entity. A moral norm speaks of oppression to him.

Taylor, however, believes that one’s story, properly understood, is an essential part of what constitutes the moral self. Thus, for him it becomes relevant to ask, “What has shaped me thus far?” and again, “What direction is my life taking in terms of the good?” or “Does my life have weight and substance?” (Taylor, 1989, p. 50). Taylor suggests that a healthy self must explore questions about the larger span of one’s life, beyond the here and now. This person is not only interested in the immediate present, or an escape into a fantastic future: “My sense of the good has to be woven into my life as an unfolding story.” (Taylor, 1989, p. 47). The pressing question in this dialogue between Taylor and Foucault is this: What is the way to substantial freedom? Is it denial/deconstruction of the burdensome past? Or is it fathoming one’s narrative depth of identity and marking out the trajectory of one’s narrative quest, in order to make sense of one’s story? Taylor wants to argue for executive control over one’s story, mitigating the pressures of cultural trendiness. Tied into this is the concept of a call on one’s life.

In his The Language Animal, Taylor writes: “Stories give us an understanding of life, people, and what happens to them which is peculiar (i.e., distinct from what other forms, like works of science and philosophy, can give us), and also unsubstitutable.” (C. Taylor, 2016, 291).  A key insight here is that:  “It is through story that we find or devise ways of living bearably in time.” (C. Taylor, 2016, 319). We must have a take on reality or we entertain an identity crisis. How I tell my story defines my identity, which is central to being a self.  We each have an inner biographer—linking past, present and future mental states. This kind of temporal (diachronic) mapping is critical to a healthy identity: Where have I come from?  Where am I going?  What time is it?  What are my challenges and opportunities? What are my goals? It is imperative that I care about my future self as much as my present self. Narrative is vital to my overall social, psychological, and spiritual health and flourishing. We need great stories to live by and make sense of what’s going on underneath our skin.

In this argument for narrative dimensions of the self, Taylor draws on French philosopher Paul Ricoeur (1992, pp. 113-68) who has written extensively on the important difference between ipse and idem identity. Idem-identity refers to the objective stability of one’s identity over time (read as a succession of moments) and outside time, character traits that don’t change with time. Ipse-identity is more fluid and dynamic, as per one’s personal identity as an unfolding character in a novel. It develops in the temporal becoming of the self. It is carried through memory and anticipation, and linked with narrative temporality. Crucial to ipse-identity is the ongoing integration of past, present and future in a unified fashion, a narrative unity (C. Taylor, 1989, 50). Many a story relates the journey from childhood to adulthood, one of moral growth (bildungsroman).

There are two significant implications of these two features of identity through time. One is the possibility of the future as different from the present and past, the possibility of redeeming the past, in order to make it a part of the meaning of one’s life story (C. Taylor, 1989, 51). It is to bring a fresh interpretation of, for instance, one’s suffering, failures and disappointments. Foucault wants a new future as well. But narrative does not allow for a discontinuity with the past, a refusal of past identity or origins–a strong feature in Foucault. Taylor cautions against any avoidance of wrestling with the past:

To repudiate my childhood as unredeemable in this sense is to accept a kind of mutilation as a person; it is to fail to meet the full challenge involved in making sense of my life. This is the sense in which it is not up for arbitrary determination what the temporal limits of my personhood are. (C. Taylor, 1989, 51)

The past, grappling with the meaning of the past, seeking healing from past hurts and failures, is vital to the healthy self as a narrative. Psychoanalyst Jordan Peterson agrees and through his program A Self-Authoring Suite, he has helped many Millennials to sort through the problems in their past that keep them from moving forward. In Sweden, it has reduced university student drop out rates by 20%. Taylor agrees with Foucault that it makes sense to set a future trajectory for one’s life, to project a future story, to have what MacIntyre calls ‘a quest’.  This promotes the sense that one’s life has a direction (C.Taylor, 1989, 48). He is equally open to personal creativity.

Because we cannot but orient ourselves to the good, and thus determine our place relative to it and hence the direction of our lives, we must inescapably understand our lives in narrative form, as a ‘quest’. (C. Taylor, 1989, 51, 52)

This quest requires a telos or goal, and for this, some knowledge of the good is required. Taylor believes in narrative in the strong sense—a structure inherent in human experience and action, narrative as a human given, an essential part of reflection and self-interpretative in the human moral agent. This narrative is embedded in community where one is accountable to other narratives in other interlocutors He sees these conditions as connected facets of the same reality.

For Foucault, the trajectory of the quest is definitely towards the beautiful (aesthetic self) rather than the good. In Foucault’s self-constitution, there is a strong will to escape the past, especially with his heavy emphasis on the continual reinvention of self. He does not want to leave a trail in the character of the self. It entails a very limited, abstract relationship to narrative. This is precisely where Taylor can correct or complement Foucault’s work on ethics and identity. He seems to be pressing the question as to whether I can so easily accomplish this escape from my past self, and whether this attempt is a boon or a problem for my self. There appears to be a deficit in the narrative unity and continuity of the self that is endemic to Foucault’s liberation strategy for the future. The continuity of the self is heavily in question, perhaps even broken in a harmful way.

In Taylor’s sense, Foucault is suggesting a self-articulation that attempts an escape or liberation from one’s earlier, historical self, untying/excising self from past identity. The assumption is that the earlier self is in the iron cage of power/knowledge, which prevents the future self from a positive emergence in full freedom and creativity. He believes in a horizontal transcendence of self. Foucault’s focus of concern is the becoming of the self (ipse-identity), the re-scripting of the self in the future, the self re-written. But he is very weak on the idem-identity. There is a common interest in both Taylor and Foucault, in the future of the self, but a sharp disagreement on the relationship with the past. The outcome is that there would also be a major difference in the stability and possibilities for the future self.

Taylor’s scenario maintains continuity with the past, attempting to resolve past issues and pain. Foucault’s scenario maintains a radical discontinuity with the past, seeing a need to deconstruct it, escape it, disrupt its hold on oneself, and change one’s identity in order to hide from the chains or the pain of the past (the fugitive outlook). There is difficulty here: the pursuit of a complete, discontinuous re-invention of self (which Foucault celebrates) is to court psychosis and possibly to do oneself personal damage (C. Taylor, 1989, 51). It is easy to imagine that some very extreme forms of life could emerge out of assuming such discontinuity and experimentation. Imagine a lying dictator who refuses accountability for his past actions or words. In Taylor, on the other hand, the good is interlaced with narrative and community in order to provide the self with more infrastructure, roots, accountability and depth of meaning. The quest should be to resolve the issues and problems of the past in order to maintain authenticity and integrity.

What can one conclude from the above discussion? With Taylor’s vision as a corrective to Foucault, one can build on Foucault’s strengths in the arts of escaping domination with its strong sense of responsibility for one’s self-creativity and self-empowerment, and moderate his extremes (the most blatant is social anarchy and violence, or blatant narcissism). As we say above, Foucault seems to miss the point of the idem-identity (the continuous aspect) as an essential part of the self—the unifying aspect of character. The individual self does have a significant part to play in the process of the development of character. All selves have creative possibilities too. Both great thinkers agree that taking responsibility for one’s self-constitution is a mature strategy.

Nevertheless, the two disagree dramatically on the importance of a thoroughly situated self with a freedom that is also intimately contextualized in a relationship to the good, to community and narrative. Taylor offers insights on the contours of the self that Foucault was philosophically blind to. His approach shows a more complex dimensionality of the self, while Foucault’s self is more stripped down.  These insights seem to be important in making intelligible sense of the moral self and the meaning of one’s life, ultimately shaping one’s whole identity. It also offers a dimension of normative accountability and structure for meaning.  I can check your past actions to see whether I should trust and hire you into an important job in the present. In general, Foucault over-plays the factor of power and the aesthetic to exclusion of the good in the moral self. His moral self is very power-laden. The moral horizon is a clear additive to Foucault’s thinking and offers a helpful critique of his minimalist moral self.

~Gordon Carkner, PhD Philosophical Theology

p.s. Perhaps it is time to stop asking why we are here and start praying for a vision for world impact, Dream Big:

Ricoeur, P. (1992). Oneself as Another. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Taylor, C. (1989). Sources of the Self: the making of the modern identity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Taylor, C. (2016). The Language Animal: The full shape of the human linguistic capacity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Posted by: gcarkner | October 29, 2019

Identity in Community: Charles Taylor versus Michel Foucault

Communal Identity: Charles Taylor versus Michel Foucault

How do we map our identity onto the communal landscape? Such a map is actually an articulation of one’s moral ontology. Taylor believes that we are vitally linked to our moral framework. How is identity formation interwoven with the constitution of the good life? How do we become a good person? A strong qualification in Taylor’s notion of the moral self is the communal or inter-subjective aspect of self-constitution. The good is not a free-floating ideal, but truly something embedded in human story and community. This aspect of his moral ontology stands in stark contrast to Foucault’s individualistic (rebellious) moral subjectivity. In Taylor’s view, the self is partly constituted by a language, one that necessarily exists and is maintained within a language community, among other selves.

There is a sense in which one cannot be a self on one’s own. I am a self only in relation to certain interlocutors: in one way in relation to those conversation partners who are essential to my achieving self-definition; in another in relation to those who are now crucial to my continuing grasp of language of self-understanding … a self exists only within …‘webs of interlocution’. (C. Taylor, 1989, 36)

These webs of interlocution prove significant for Taylor; the Other is critical to one’s moral self-constitution. In his view, there is a necessary, ongoing conversation with significant others which is critical to one’s moral identity development. In Taylor’s terms, there is a myth in Foucault’s moral self, which says that one can define self in terms of a relationship with oneself alone, and more explicitly in relation to no communal web, that true creativity and originality demands that one should work out their own unique identity (C. Taylor, 1989, 39). For Taylor, this is not possible at a practical level. It is rather an artificial and unhealthy abstraction of what it means to be human. Thus, against the backdrop of Taylor’s convictions about the play of the good in moral ontology, the character of Foucault’s quest for freedom can lead in an unhealthy direction, towards the isolation of self, and painful loneliness. It opens a key question of what is important to moral constitution and what fuels healthy agency and subjectivity.

These two grande pensée philosophers are in fundamental disagreement on this issue of self-definition with respect to the community: Taylor’s communal self contrasts starkly with the Foucault’s radically individualistic self. Taylor (1989) contests that:

I define who I am by defining where I speak from, in the family tree, in social space, in the geography of social statuses and functions, in my intimate relations to the ones I love, and also crucially in the space of moral and spiritual orientation within which my most important defining relations are lived out. (35)

The first half of my PhD dissertation outlined Foucault’s ethics of freedom and the aesthetic self. For him, moral self-constitution means that one defines oneself over against the social matrix. Taylor disagrees and sees the benefits of a self which is integrated into a social matrix, even if withdrawn temporarily for perspective. Foucault sees the need for disruption; Taylor pursues integration. Taylor notes that even from one’s earliest years, one’s language for the moral must be tested on others. Matthew Crawford agrees with this (M. Crawford, 2015, 183-85), and contends that the lack of such dialogue can lead to moral autism. Gradually through this sort of relational-moral-conversation, the individual self gains confidence in what it means and in who she/he is as moral being. This is no small thing, but quite a profound aspect of what it means to be human and to have metabiological meaning. The Other must also be granted her intrinsic integrity, voice and presence for this dialogue/interlocution to be effective.

One is moved, even transformed, by the lives, the wisdom and the deeper understanding of the Other. Taking his picture of moral ontology a step further, Taylor argues for self as socially embedded in its moral constitution. One relates to the good, not only as an individual self, but within a communal context, where the community also relates to and incarnates some good or goods, some ideals. Some today would use the language of values or moral convictions. This stands in contrast to the distinct lack of we (communal) language in Foucault’s grammar of the moral self. He instead promotes a more decontextualized, aesthetic self, which embraces an agonisme with respect to the social sphere of life. He is especially sceptical of social constructions of the good. The communal and narrative dimensions of self are not on Foucault’s map. He makes a move to return to agency, and yet lacks a full, robust version of healthy subjectivity. Here’s telling quote from William Connolly:

Foucault … cannot endorse this quest for attunement and self-realization. He proceeds at the second level, as a genealogist, deploying rhetorical devices to incite the experience of discord or discrepancy between the social construction of self, truth, and rationality and that which does not fit neatly. And the recurrent experience of discord eventually shakes the self loose from the quest for a world of harmonization, a world in which institutional possibilities for personal identity harmonize with a unified set of potentialities in the self, and the realization of unity in the self harmonizes with the common good realized in the social order. This quest for identity through institutional identification becomes redefined as the dangerous extension of “disciplinary society” into new corners of modern life. Genealogy exercises a claim upon the self that unsettles the urge to give hegemony to the will to truth. (W. Connolly, 1985, 365)

Community in Taylor does not necessarily entail uniformity, or a dull conformity and conventionalism, but rather can be a dynamic, growing economy of being-with-others. Community occurs even where there is disagreement between interlocutors. He opens this theme up beautifully and profoundly in his The Language Animal, chapters 6-8 (C. Taylor, 2016). But one cannot have community without some sort of normativity, some common commitment to the good. There is no value-neutral inter-subjective state of affairs. There should be no surprise that there is a notable link between Foucault’s avoidance of community and his transgressive attitude towards normativity.


Genuine, authentic community cannot exist without the normative–there must be a good or goods, virtues or values that we hold in common. This element is essential to trust and mutual respect. The interpretation of self in terms of its relation to the good can only proceed in recognition of self’s interdependence with other selves. Taylor (1989, 37) presses Foucault here: “The drive to original vision will be hampered, will ultimately be lost in inner confusion, unless it can be placed in some way in relation to the language and vision of others.” Foucault’s thin version of self is abstracted out of community, and out of narrative continuity, because of a concern to avoid domination, and a need to resist power relations. This is a classic overplay of his power relations and truth games. It is overreach.

~Gordon Carkner PhD Philosophical Theology.  James K. A. Smith @ Regent College on Augustine and Late Modernity

Taylor, C. (1989). Sources of the Self: the making of the modern identity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Connolly, W.  (1985) Michel Foucault: An Exchange: Taylor, Foucault, and Otherness. Political Theory 13 3 Aug.  365-76.

Crawford, M. (2015). The World Beyond Your Head: one becoming an individual in an age of distraction. New York, NY: Allen Lane Press.

Part II is on Narrative Identity

Some Reflections on How WE Got to Where We Are as a Society in the West: Dr. Anders Kraal, Philosophy, UBC

Visit the GFCF Website for other recordings of Previous Talks:  

Enjoy the Excellent Selection at Regent Bookstore


Posted by: gcarkner | October 11, 2019

2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry: Goodenough


The Award of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to John Goodenough is noteworthy

He is aged 97 and still active in research!

His autobiography describes his fascinating scientific and spiritual journey.


Canadian Climate Scientist Katherine Hayhoe wins Prestigious UN Award

2019 Champions of the Earth Award


Screen Shot 2019-10-11 at 2.55.24 PM

Nobel Peace Winner Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopian PM, also a Christian

Posted by: gcarkner | September 22, 2019

Special Lecture This Week September 26, 2019

Audio Recording of LectureL

Other Scholars Interested in Technology and Culture

Quentin Schultze

George Grant

Albert Borgmann

Jacques Ellul

Sherry Turkle

Bob Doede

From the beginning, machine technology was developed to function automatically…. designed and deployed  to function independently of unauthorized human interference and unimpeded by human frailties, inconsistencies, and irrationalities…. Modern technological development has as a result been moving away from ordinary embodied human existence for some time…. From within the technological worldview, human embodiment is simply not a particularly high priority. This, I want to suggest, betrays serious confusion about the nature of the created order as well as confusion about the human place and task within the created order.

~Craig Gay

Posted by: gcarkner | July 25, 2019

Welcome to Graduate Christian Union

Join the GCU Community Adventure

Time Well Spent

Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

Graduate Christian Union welcomes you to UBC

Inspired by your curiosity

Faculty Mentor Support

Cool Lectures, Debates and Forums

Promoting Christian Scholarship Excellence

Apologetics and the Tough Questions

Bible Study on Romans: “The Journey Home” (Oxford Tutorial Style)

Prayer Support and Spiritual Direction (Ute @ GCU Prayer)

Thought Provoking Articles

Multiple Resources

Bibliography on Meaning, Identity, Purpose, Wholeness, and More…

Let’s have coffee!

Dr. Gordon E. Carkner and Associates

We Add Value to Your Educational Experience

Screen Shot 2019-08-28 at 12.49.22 PM

Reading the great books; exploring the deeper questions of life

RSVP      t. 604.222.34549

Fall Hike in Local Mountains: September 28

First GFCF Lecture: September 26, 2019 Craig Gay, Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies, Regent College. Modern Technology and the Diminishment of the Human, 4:00 pm, Woodward, Room 3


Nothing worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous,  can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness.

~ Reinhold Niebuhr



We highly recommend this service for posters, banners, printing your thesis, etc.


Why is GCU Studying Romans this Academic Year?

Romans is the uncontested most important letter of Paul the Apostle to the early church. It has impacted many great thinkers over the centuries:  for example, Augustine of Hippo in North Africa, Martin Luther of Wittenberg Germany, John Wesley of England, and Swiss theologian Karl Barth, to name a few. As N.T. Wright says, it is a peak of philosophical thought/theology, a majestic articulation of the central focus of God’s plan for humanity. Both dense and rich, it draws on the history of Israel with extensive  reference to ancient Hebrew text, following a strong trajectory of hope. Touching on Adam (Genesis 1-3) and Abraham (Genesis 15), the Exodus, Deuteronomy 32, Psalms 2, 8, 44, 110 and Isaiah 40-55, Paul draws together various themes to show how unique Jesus of Nazareth really is. He is the long awaited Messiah for Israel and for the whole world, through whom God has revealed himself, his purposes and  intentions. He is the one through whom all believers discover true identity. Jesus is the focal point, central to understanding the depth and breadth of God’s love and grace, God’s purposes, God’s justice, God’s people, God’s future.

In our pluralistic age, sometimes we feel disoriented, lonely and depressed amidst a myriad of choices. We feel the angstof intellectual, spiritual, and existential homelessness. We are in search of a vision for life. Romans offers a profound discourse, a moral footing, that can empower our lives, fill us with identity, hope and purpose. Playing the infinite game, it points us in the direction of home and meaning, grounds and centres us, raises the deeper questions of the human condition, and reveals a solid way forward for contemporary culture, offering prospects for healing our broken world. Woven throughout is a robust worldview or social imaginary, one that can move and reshape our imagination. One might call it a masterpiece or great symphony, one that has inspired much human creativity over the centuries.

Join us on Thursday evenings on campus to fathom the insights of this great book.

Contact:   t. 604.349.9497


What Can I Hope to Get Out of this Grad Community Group?

  • friendship, collegiality, dialectical thinking skills, interdisciplinary intellectual stimulation, potential collaboration
  • prayer support and a growing sense of community among graduate students
  • get to know the gospel at a deeper level–see how radical it is actually in terms of its implication for life and culture
  • get to know the God of the Bible better (as opposed to a lesser god, an idol or some kind of syncretism or gnosticism)
  • critical skills in analyzing culture
  • get to know yourself better: your humanity, your calling, your identity, the meaning of your life, your fullest vocation
  • experience the existential momentum of Paul’s argument for Jesus as Israel’s long promised Messiah–but for the whole world
  • a strong sense of how God can help you flourish as a whole person, and how you can experience personal transformation
  • the eschatological thrust of the Bible: future hope brought alive in the present–the glory of God to fill the whole earth
  • learn how justice and mercy embrace within the covenant: righteousness as right standing within the covenant
  • learn how Paul’s doctrine of justification works hand in hand with his idea of transformation by the Spirit


Suggested Reading

Screen Shot 2019-08-22 at 12.50.53 PM


Paraphrased from the Book p. 70  Worldview is storied vision of life. It gets at the implicit depth of orientation that gives meaning and directs our lives. Our communal orientation involves habitual ways of experiencing the world: these habitual ways are constitutive of all human life and shape our understanding of what the world is, and how we should comport ourselves in it. As an imaginative construal of reality, a worldview tells us what is of ultimate significance at the heart of human life. This is true especially in terms of a grounding  and directing narrative or  myth that is encoded in symbols and rituals and embodied in a way of life. In the book of Romans, we see a clash of worldview, a conflict of gospels at the heart of the discourse. Biblical faith has always been shaped in the shadow of empire, and Paul is fully conscious that he is writing a subversive letter to young believers, to help them grow into their new identity in Christ.

Key worldview questions

Where are we?

Who are we?

What’s wrong?

What’s the remedy?

What time is it?

A Word to the Wise from UBC Professors

The twenty-first century university campus can be a scary place if you don’t know anyone well enough to be able to ask for help. Many of us recall that we learned more from our fellow students, both as undergraduates and as graduates, than from our professors because we knew our friends, trusted them and were open enough to ask them questions when we felt intimidated by professors. Never be afraid to ask questions. There really is no such thing as a stupid question when you are seeking answers seriously and with integrity. Make sure that you have at least one  friend who will listen to your questions, no matter what. Ultimately, this is what prayer is all about: asking someone who can be totally trusted your most troublesome questions.

~Dr. Olav Slaymaker, Professor Emeritus,  Physical Geography

Long hours in the laboratory, thesis proposals, the weight of comprehensive exams means that a grad student needs a support infrastructure. I can’t speak highly enough about getting involved with a group on campus like GCU, and also finding a good church home base. Also as you are walking into your office or biking into campus, try praying for your profs, fellow students, or admin staff; this can help stimulate surprisingly fruitful conversations. And don’t forget that you are here to serve undergrads with grace. Feel free to track me down for coffee; I love ideas exchange.

~Dr. Craig Mitton, Associate Professor, School of Population and Public Health

As a graduate student several decades ago I found the Grad Christian Union community at my university uplifting spiritually and socially. In an often chilly secular environment, it was a great venue to meet other grads outside my own field and cultural background and develop friendships and join in events with those who shared the same core values. I am still in contact with several of these friends 30 years later. With some other faculty and graduate students, I helped to launch the Graduate & Faculty Christian Forum a number of years ago. Gord has been a solid advisor to this group as well 

~Dr. David Ley, Professor Emeritus, Department of Geography

There is no more important bellwether for our society and our culture than the university — and yet Christians within academia often travel incognito, which isn’t good for them, isn’t good for the university, and isn’t good for other Christians, who often feel alone when really they’re not. A ministry to grad students and thus provides a vital venue where Christians can connect, show their colours, and stimulate each other to play the full role they’re called to play as fully alive and “out” followers of Christ. Decide to be a public Christian at UBC.

~Dr. Dennis Danielson, Professor Emeritus, English

Graduate research is often like looking for a lightswitch in a totally dark room. It can be frustrating at times. It certainly was for me! It was invaluable for me to have close connection with other Christians whom I could share that load with, and who were praying for me.

~Dr. Bé Wassink. Instructor, Materials Engineering


Academic Virtues Worth Preserving
  • Integrity of scholarship, protection against the evil of cheating and plagiarism, preserving the value of a liberal education
  • introduce students to bodies of knowledge and traditions of inquiry
  • equip students with analytical skills that will enable them to move confidently within those traditions and to engage in independent research
  • be current in the literature of the field, teach well and be available for consultation with students
  • in publishing, one should acknowledge predecessors and contributors, provide citations to the sources and give accurate account of the material presented, show methodology and evidence
  • thoroughness, perseverance, intellectual honesty, conscientious in the pursuit of truth
  • avoid politicizing the classroom
  • interrogation of ideas and events: history, why are they thought significant, prevailing answers for questions it raises, where do the answers come from
  • pursuit of truth wherever it may be found and wherever it may lead, combined with wisdom on how to use it
  • believing in Christ as Veritas, the incarnation of God’s wisdom brings us to the assumption that all truths ultimately cohere, and can therefore be explored critically, without limit or fear
  • confidence to investigate different narratives and worldview paradigms
  • love is the foundational fact of existence and essential to the pursuit of truth: belief in the hermeneutic of love and the importance of transcendence to intellectual creativity
  • love, as a core virtue of virtues, must be central to academic work
  • honesty and transparency in claims and reporting
  • critical rigour–all people are finite and fallible
  • open to correction of error–use the stress test of criticism
  • intellectual fearlessness: willingness to drill down into an issue in the pursuit of truth, even when it is unpopular or risky
  • truth discovered should be applied to the common good of society: application of innovation and insight should take the moral high ground
  • humility to learn from others, and often especially those who disagree with you most sharply; commitment to collegiality
  • promotion within academia and beyond by merit and equality of opportunity for men and women of various backgrounds
Posted by: gcarkner | June 20, 2019

GFCF Lectures for 2019-2020 Academic Year

Critical Thinking for the Common Good




2.November 20, 2019 June Francis, Associate Professor of Marketing at the SFU Beedie School of Business; Director of the Sustainable Development Program in the Faculty of Environment.

Rethinking Our Narrative of Diversity: Collaboration for Social Transformation

 4:00 pm, Woodward (IRC) Room 6

3. January 22, 2020 Dr. Gordon Carkner and Two UBC Doctoral Students

 Charles Taylor and the Shaping of the Modern Identity


4. March 11, 2020, Raymond C. Aldred, Director of the Indigenous Studies Program and Professor of Indigenous Theologyat the Vancouver School of Theology

Can We Handle the Truth and Take Responsibility for Reconciliation?


Link to American Scientific Affiliation Summer Conference 2019

Posted by: gcarkner | May 29, 2019

Key Titles to Move Your World


GCU Reading List: Quest to Inform, Empower and Inspire

Screen Shot 2019-08-07 at 9.15.00 AM

Articulation Can Move Your World

Twelve Books to Change Your Life, and Shape Your Outlook

  • David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God.
  • Jim Wallis, The (Un)Common Good.
  • Gordon Carkner, The Great Escape from Nihilism.
  • Jens Zimmermann, Incarnational Humanism.
  • Eugene Peterson, Practice Resurrection.
  • James Sire, The Universe Next Door.
  • David Brooks, The Road to Character.
  • Jonathan Sacks, Not in God’s Name.
  • Miraslov Volf, Flourishing.
  • Mark McMinn, The Science of Virtue.
  • James K. A. Smith, You Are What You Love. 
  • Charles Taylor, A Secular Age; The Language Animal

More Great Reads

Tom McLeish, The Music and Poetry of Science: comparing creativity in science and art. Oxford, 2019.

Keesmat, Sylvia & Brian Walsh (2018) Romans Disarmed: Resisting Empire, Demanding Justice. Brazos Press.

Conway Morris, Simon (1998) The Crucible of Creation: the Burgess Shale and the Rise of Animals. Oxford University Press; Life’s Solution.

Gore, Al (2013) The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change. Random House.

Hallesby, Odd (1950) Conscience. Inter-Varsity Fellowship.

Harris, Peter (2008) Kingfisher’s Fire: a Story of Hope for God’s Earth. Monarch Books

Hindmarsh, Bruce (2018) The Spirit of Early Evangelicalism: True Religion in a Modern World. Oxford University Press

Pattengale, Jerry and Ream, Todd (editors) (2018). The State of the Evangelical Mind: Reflections on the Past, Prospects for the Future. IVP Academic.

Houston, James (2006) Joyful Exiles: Life in Christ on the Dangerous Edge of Things. IVP Books

Houston, James and Zimmerman, Jens (editors) (2018) Sources of the Christian Self: a Cultural History of Christian Identity. William B. Eerdmans.

Lewis, C.S. (1944) The Abolition of Man. (Harper One Edition, 2001)

McLeish, Tom (2014) Faith and Wisdom in Science. Oxford University Press

Polanyi, Michael (1958) Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy. Harper Torchbooks.

Zimmerman, Jens (2019) Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Christian Humanism. Oxford University Press.

Makoto Fujimura, (2014) Culture Care: Reconnecting with beauty for our common life.

Walter Bruggemann, A Gospel of Hope.

Jerry L. Wallis and Trent Dougherty (eds.), Two Dozen Arguments for God.

David O. Taylor & Taylor Worley (eds.), Contemporary Art and the Church: a conversation between two worlds.

Bob Goff, Everybody Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People.

James K.A. Smith, Awaiting the King: Reforming Public Theology.

Brian J. Walsh, Kicking at the Darkness: Bruce Cockburn and the Christian Imagination.

Frances E. Jensen, MD, The Teenage Brain: a neuroscientist’s survival guide to raising adolescents and young adults.

Rowan Williams, Christ the Heart of Creation.

Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom, Clouds of Witnesses: Christian Voices from Africa and Asia.

James Davison Hunter, Science and the Good: The Tragic Quest for the Foundations of Morality.

Luci Shaw, Eye of the Beholder: Poems.

Jason Byassee, Surprised by Jesus Again: Reading the Bible in Communion with the Saints. 

Bradley P. Holt, Thirsty for God.

David Brooks, The Road to CharacterThe Second Mountain: Quest for the Moral Life.


Older Posts »