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

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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

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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

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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

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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.


Charles Taylor and the Late Modern Search for Identity

University students today are obsessed with finding, copying or creating an identity. Their lives are in major transition, with the responsibilities of adulthood looming on the horizon. One’s identity can feel quite fragile and cross-pressured, especially under the strain of final exams or thesis defence. Students swim in a sea of multiple declared identities, and this can be deeply challenging. One might indeed ask, Who am I?  For students in the humanities, social sciences and education, identity politics is a ubiquitous concern. Cynicism about the whole prospect of shaping one’s identity is not really an option for the flourishing, whole individual, the examined life. How do I give account of myself amidst a vast universe and a complex global situation, with its intense competition? How do I insert myself into the larger scheme of things?

Pre-eminent McGill University philosopher Charles Taylor is an iconic figure in this field of defining what exactly constitutes identity. He can introduce us to new language and new concepts that build substance into our story. This super scholar has written three weighty tomes on the subject: Sources of the Self, 1989; A Secular Age, 2007; and The Language Animal, 2016. We have the highest respect for his work and his ability to analyze the depth and breadth of forces and ideas that have shaped the West, with its multiple identities and many social imaginaries. Much scholarship has branched off from his work, including the various human flourishing projects (for example, Miraslov Volf at Yale), and his brilliant insights concerning rethinking the secular. Perhaps our grande penseé can help us grapple with this important aspect of development, lest we feel totally out of our depth. The current existential identity crisis among Millennials is impacting so many, so we have good reason to pursue the inquiry.

Identities are constituted from moral sources, claims Taylor, sources that nurture the inner person (aka the soul). Identity, morality and spirituality are inescapably interwoven in our lives, our experience and our consciousness, if we take time to think about it. We intuitively grasp this. Central to an account of human existence is the moral sources which appear within one’s moral framework (aka moral horizon). These moral frameworks are often invisible to people, pre-articulate realities that we nevertheless depend upon, and interact with, daily.  Our education is partly to blame, rendering us illiterate or confused on the most important identity categories and questions. For Taylor, these categories and the reality they represent are absolutely vital to our sanity and wellbeing. Our relationship to our moral framework has deep significance. If we are not careful, our negligence can also handicap or even cripple us. For example, if we do not grapple with the framework of others, dialogue and mutual understanding can be very difficult to accomplish, leading to conflict and alienation. We are out of sync with a very important aspect of life.

Taylor notes that there exists a hierarchy of moral goods within each framework, and it is up to the individual to order these goods in priority.  As a key aspect of one’s identity, there must be qualitative distinctions between the value of each of these goods. The highest, controlling good within a framework Taylor calls the hypergood–also seen as a person’s core passion. We have a deep personal and emotional connection to our hypergood–it orders the other goods in priority within the hierarchy of the moral frame. Identity is the understanding of oneself as a person within family, a story, a religion, a profession, a country, in fact all one’s significant relationships. Sometimes these goods come into conflict with one another (work and family, for example) and need to be negotiated, but these qualitative distinctions are intrinsic to the way we conduct our lives. Critically, they inform our orientation towards the world, help us set our goals, and plan our future. The best account of human experience has to make sense of these moral sources which, at the end of the day, become sources of meaning and identity.

Three axes of moral frameworks: these are not properly defined by natural laws of science

  1. Beliefs about the value of human life, the respect that is due to others, and what this will cost us, demand from us.
  2. Beliefs about what kind of life is worth living. This permeates all our choices and actions.
  3. The dignity we afford ourselves and others based on how we understand our role and usefulness to society, and our place or calling within the larger scheme of things.

~Dr. Gordon E. Carkner

What exactly is a moral good in Taylor’s definition?

Read More…

Posted by: gcarkner | April 20, 2019

Easter Poems by Malcolm Guite

XI Crucifixion by Malcolm Guite
See, as they strip the robe from off his back
And spread his arms and nail them to the cross,
The dark nails pierce him and the sky turns black,
And love is firmly fastened onto loss.
But here a pure change happens. On this tree
Loss becomes gain, death opens into birth.
Here wounding heals and fastening makes free
Earth breathes in heaven, heaven roots in earth.
And here we see the length, the breadth, the height
Where love and hatred meet and love stays true
Where sin meets grace and darkness turns to light
We see what love can bear and be and do,
And here our saviour calls us to his side
His love is free, his arms are open wide.
XV Easter Dawn by Malcolm Guite

He blesses every love which weeps and grieves

And now he blesses hers who stood and wept

And would not be consoled, or leave her love’s

Last touching place, but watched as low light crept

Up from the east. A sound behind her stirs

A scatter of bright birdsong through the air.

She turns, but cannot focus through her tears,

Or recognise the Gardener standing there.

She hardly hears his gentle question ‘Why,

Why are you weeping?’, or sees the play of light

That brightens as she chokes out her reply

‘They took my love away, my day is night’

And then she hears her name, she hears Love say

The Word that turns her night, and ours, to Day.

Posted by: gcarkner | April 13, 2019

Some Thoughts: Good Friday and Easter

Faith in God includes one’s ongoing resolve to receive God’s moral character in Christ inwardly, and to belong to God, in the reverent attitude of Gethsemane; Christ in you is the inward agent-power of Christ working, directing at the level of psychological and motivational attitudes, towards a cooperative person’s renewal in God’s image as God’s beloved child; furthermore Gethsemane union with Christ as Lord calls for volitional cooperation and companionship with Christ, who empowers and guides how we think, not just what we think.

~Dr. Paul Moser, Philosopher Loyola University, Chicago

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

~Gordon Carkner

The Cross

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

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

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

~Iwan Russell-Jones, former BBC Filmmaker and Professor of Faith and the Arts, Regent College Good Friday Poem by Malcolm Guite

Can Beauty Save Us? 

This is the image of a Jewish man from Nazareth, crucified. In fact, his is the face of “the King of the Jews” and yet, it is supremely grotesque, bearing all the marks of suffering. His face reveals real forsakenness; his body aches of real bodily torture and real agony. His corpse lies mangled and bloodied, and his eyes…proclaim the dreadful word that causes all who hoped in him to shudder: death. There is nothing at all glamorous, desirable, or romantic about this image of the crucified One. But, of course, what is so profound about the face of this human is that his is also the face of God. His face radiates the Beauty of divinity, for he is Light from Light uncreated, the perfect image of the Father. He is, as Hebrews 1:3 says, “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” The beauty of this person, wholly man and wholly God, lies in the mystery that he brings salvation to the world not by excluding suffering but by uniting himself to it. He refuses to recoil from a world that has become repellent; he does not laugh at the dereliction of others; he does not look at all that is bad and conclude, “all is well.” He does not stand far off. In his beauty, he comes near and embraces the “ugly” ones. He associates with strange and lonely and exiled folk, bringing the outcast in. He is the servant who suffers, and, protesting against “the way things are,” he laments “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He exemplifies and creates a people committed to what David Hart calls “strange, impractical, altogether unworldly tenderness” to those whom Nietzsche would have annihilated…. He brings the whole festival of divine grace to a world that has excluded itself from it and invites…humanity to take part, to enjoy a feast of resurrection where all divisions, segregation, and exclusion are transcended, where all have their place at the supper of the Lamb, where all, who see the face of the Beautiful One and in that seeing are transformed, are inundated and radiated by Beauty itself. In a word, to paraphrase St. Athanasius, he becomes the Ugly One so that we, the original ugly ones who have made this world ugly with our violence, might become beautiful. This reveals the scandalous message of the Christian aesthetic regime, an alternative regime to that of our time: Beauty saves the world, but only by facing the Ugly head on and actually uniting himself to the regime of the Ugly. We cannot be saved by beauty as long as “beauty” is held captive by immanent attempts to achieve transcendence. The thought that we can be saved by immanent beauty is the presumption of a contemporary secularity that thinks that humanity can ever slowly, by carefully putting one foot above the other, ascend the ladder towards infinite beauty that awaits an enlightened race of humans. The truth that will always confront all of us at the top of that ladder, however, is the face of the God who, beyond history, came into history and became ugly, mangled, and ripped apart by deep dereliction and thorns, a face that unbearably whispers: you can only be saved by the beautiful one who has become the ugly one. In other words, the Ugly one alone can save us, the man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, whose divine Beauty is manifest in his descent to become—Jesus of Nazareth. (Jimmy Myers, Can Beauty Save Us?

The Aftershocks of the Resurrection

The New Testament writers speak as if Christ’s achievement in rising from the dead was the first event of its kind in the whole history of the universe. He is the “first fruits,” the “pioneer of life.” He has forced open a door that has been locked since the death of the first man. He has met, fought, and beaten the King of Death. Everything is different because He has done so. This is the beginning of the New Creation: a new chapter in cosmic history has opened. ~C.S. Lewis, Miracles

The resurrection was a culture-shaping event…. If indeed it happened as Jesus’ followers proclaimed, [it] changed more of subsequent human history, for more people and more cultures, than any other event one can name. See N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God. which examines it using the tools of historical research. (143)

The resurrection of Jesus is like a cultural earthquake, its epicenter located in Jerusalem in the early 30’s [C.E.], whose aftershocks are being felt in the cultural practices of people all over the world, many of whom have never heard of, and many more of whom have never believed in, its origins. (145)

The resurrection is the hinge of history–still after two thousand years as culturally far-reaching in its effects as anything that has come since. (145) It is a cultural triumph–an answer, right in the midst of human history, to all the fears of Israel in the face of its enemies. (146)

Indeed one of the most dramatic cultural effects of the resurrection is the transformation of that heinous cultural artifact known as a cross. An instrument of domination and condemnation becomes a symbol of the kingdom that Jesus proclaimed; an alternative culture where grace and forgiveness are the last word…. The cross, the worst that culture can do, is transformed into a sign of the kingdom of God–the realm of forgiveness, mercy, love and indestructible life. (146)

Adrienne von Speyr, a 20th century Swiss mystic, offers a reflection:

The Lord knows that all is now finished. His life is finished, what will succeed it is also finished. In the course of his sojourn on earth, he has put in place everything out of which the later Church will arise in the many-sidedness of her life; he has trusted his disciples and all those who believe in him with their special task. After he has then given his Mother to his favorite disciple, nothing further remains for him but to suffer; he can devote himself exclusively to suffering, plunge once and for all into suffering. It is in Christ’s isolation from the Father, where the center point of his suffering lies. To be separated from a love from which one has lived since eternity, one which constitutes the entire substance of one’s being, that is lethal.

Alister McGrath captures Easter’s impact: “The resurrection declares in advance of the event God’s total victory over all evil and oppressive forces—such as death, evil and sin. Their backbone has been broken, and we may begin to live now in light of that victory, knowing that the long night of their oppression will end.” ~What Was God Doing on the Cross?

Kari Jobe, Forever

Jesus is perlocutionary speech act, God’s most powerful communication to human ears and lives (Kevin Vanhoozer). He addresses us, calls our name, calls us forward into an adventuresome life. His words and teaching (e.g. the Sermon on the Mount) are a phenomenal culture driver that has helped to shape the world in positive ways. His compassion for the needy and broken is a sign that God has not given up on us, that he is there for us and that he cares deeply what happens to us. His resurrection is a starting point, a singularity that cannot be explained by anything prior; it stands as a huge revelation, an epiphany, a new beginning, a brilliant hope for change, for forgiveness and renewed relationships. It is hope for renewal of all our loves. He speaks for God from a powerful, dynamic center, a communion of love within the Trinity. This communion is the ground of being itself, the ground of human community. Through him, we have been identified and called into a new community, given a new identity as royal priests (I Peter) and the people of God, his loved ones. He is the hermeneutic of a new reconciled humanity, drawn from all the nations of the globe, committed to bless and make peace, to be compassionate, to live with integrity (shalom), to shine as moral light. He is the sign, the signifier and the signified. He calls us to practice resurrection, to move into resurrection life.  ~Gord Carkner from Jesus is the Yes and Amen to It All

If Jesus is risen, then – and only then – has something truly new happened, something that changes the state of humanity and the world. Then He, Jesus, is someone in whom we can put absolute trust; we can put our trust not only in his message, but in Jesus himself, for the Risen One does not belong to the past, but is present today, alive. ~Pope Francis

Andy Crouch, Playing God

Love transfigures power. Absolute love transfigures absolute power. And power transfigured by love is the power that made and saves the world. (45)

Sin and death, and the twin systems they create, idolatry and injustice, are already umasked and have lost the critical battle. Creative love was always stronger and more real—and in the community of the resurrection, the first and latest followers of Jesus find that the reality living, breathing and working powerfully through us. (53)

Within a few more generations, the news of Jesus’ resurrection had indeed “turned the world upside down,” just as the early reports from Thessalonica suggested (Acts 17:6). The proclamation that the true Image Bearer had lived, had not been vanquished by the powers of idolatry and injustice but had risen victorious over them, and had now poured out his spirit on flesh, turned out to be the pivot point of history, the hinge on which the whole story turned. The promise that human beings were not destined to be ground under the history of idols and god players like Caesar, but to lie and rise to participation in the divine nature, set in motion the most wide-ranging social movement in history.” (93-94)

When a man [woman] truly and perfectly says with Jesus, and as Jesus said it, “Thy will be done,” he [she] chooses the everlasting life-cycle. The life of the Father and the Son flows through him [her]. He [she] is part of the divine organism. Then is the prayer of the Lord in him [her] fulfilled: “I am in them and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one.”

~George MacDonald, from Creation in Christ

Made for spirituality we wallow in introspection. Made for joy, we settle for pleasure. Made for justice, we clamor for vengeance. Made for relationship, we insist on our own way. Made for beauty, we are satisfied with sentiment. But new creation has already begun. The sun has begun to rise. Christians are called to leave behind in the tomb of Jesus Christ, all that belongs to the brokenness and incompleteness of the present world. It is time, in the power of the Spirit, to take up our proper role, our full human role as agents, heralds, and stewards of the new day that is dawning. That, quite simply, is what it means to be Christian: to follow Jesus Christ into the new world, God’s new world, which he has thrown open before us.

~N.T. Wright, Simply Christian

Dr. Gary Habermas on Transformation in Scholarship on the Resurrection:

See also blog on Evidence of a Resurrection

Rene Girard, I See Satan Fall Like Lightning (commentary of the New Testament unmasking of evil and scapegoating in the Easter Narrative)

Posted by: gcarkner | March 20, 2019

Malcolm Guite Lectures on The Imagination

Live streaming available at Regent YouTube Channel

See online Guite’s Sonnets of the Christian Year.

As an appetiser, and to give you an idea of my reasons for compiling this anthology here are the opening paragraphs of my introduction: ~Malcolm Guite

Why might we want to take time in Lent, to immerse ourselves in poetry, to ask for the poets as companions on our journey with the Word through the wilderness? Perhaps it is one of the poet’s themselves who can answer that question. In The Redress of Poetry, the collection of his lectures as Oxford Professor of Poetry, Seamus Heaney claims that poetry ‘offers a clarification, a fleeting glimpse of a potential order of things ‘beyond confusion’, a glimpse that has to be its own reward’ (p. xv). However qualified by terms like ‘fleeting’, ‘glimpse’ and ‘potential’, this is still a claim that poetry, and more widely the poetic imagination, is truth-bearing; that it offers not just some inner subjective experience but as Heaney claims, a redress; the redress of an imbalance in our vision of the world and ourselves. Heaney’s claim in these lectures, and in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, is that we can ‘Credit Poetry’, trust its tacit, intuitive and image-laden way of knowledge. I have examined these claims in detail elsewhere (Faith Hope and Poetry) and tried to show, in more academic terms, how the poetic imagination does indeed redress an imbalance and is a necessary complement to more rationalistic and analytical ways of knowing. What I would like to do in this book is to put that insight into practice, and turn to poetry for a clarification of who we are, how we pray, how we journey through our lives with God and how he comes to journey with us.

Lent is a time set aside to re-orient ourselves, to clarify our minds, to slow down, recover from distraction, to focus on the values of God’s Kingdom and on the value he has set on us and on our neighbours. There are a number of distinctive ways in which poetry can help us do that and in particular the poetry I have chosen for this anthology.

Heaney spoke of poetry offering a glimpse and a clarification, here is how an earlier poet Coleridge, put it, when he was writing about what he and Wordsworth were hoping to offer through their poetry, which was

“awakening the mind’s attention to the lethargy of custom, and directing it to the loveliness and the wonders of the world before us; an inexhaustible treasure, but for which, in consequence of the film of familiarity and selfish solicitude, we have eyes, yet see not, ears that hear not, and hearts that neither feel nor understand.”

(Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, Vol. II, pp. 6−7)

Posted by: gcarkner | March 7, 2019

Dennis Danielson Grapples with Moral Discourse


Beyond Paralysis: Radical Hope for Morality in a Cynical Age

Dennis Danielson

Professor Emeritus English UBC


Wednesday, March 13 at 4 pm,  

UBC Mathematics Building, Room 100

Audio Recording File: Z0000008


Three quarters of a century after the publication of C. S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man, moral relativism remains the approach to ethics that dominates the public square. The reductionist (even nihilist) approach to morality and other things that give meaning to human life also continues to shape what our children are taught in school. In the face of this ongoing dominance, it is imperative that we reassert a case for moral realism and cultivate hope for an ethics transcending a mere exercise of power.


Dennis Danielson (PhD Stanford) is Professor Emeritus and former Head of English at the University of British Columbia. His interests have ranged across literature, religion, the history of science, and ethics. He is a past recipient of UBC’s Killam Prize for research in the humanities, and of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation’s Konrad Adenauer Research Award. His articles have appeared in Mind, Milton Studies, Nature, American Journal of Physics, Journal for the History of Astronomy, and Scientific American. His books include Milton’s Good God: A Study in Literary Theodicy (1982), The Book of the Cosmos: Imagining the Universe from Heraclitus to Hawking (2000), The First Copernican: Georg Joachim Rheticus and the Rise of the Copernican Revolution (2006), Paradise Lost and the Cosmological Revolution (2014), and, most recently, The Tao of Right and Wrong: Rediscovering Humanity’s Moral Foundations (2018).


On The Tao of Right and Wrong:

“Dennis Danielson’s message in The Tao of Right and Wrong needs to be urgently heeded. … This book should be on every teacher’s reading list.”

—Margaret Somerville, Professor of Bioethics, University of Notre Dame Australia


The Tao of Right and Wrongis a remarkably compressed and equally lucid exposition of the truths that really count. … The debate in which this book engages is, in the full sense of the term, a fundamental one.”

—Rex Murphy, Commentator for The National Post and formerly for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation


“Dennis Danielson marks the 75thanniversary of C.S. Lewis’s classic work The Abolition of Manby updating it for our present situation and applying it to current concerns in a skilful and thought-provoking way. Timely, deft, impressive.”

—Michael Ward, University of Oxford, co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to C.S. Lewis; author, Planet Narnia.

In The Tao of Right and Wrong, Dennis Danielson offers a vigorous primer on moral realism, asserting that humans can and should exercise ethical judgments—and that these judgments are not reducible to subjective opinion, animal instinct, or cultural “construction.” The book is a twenty-first century call for the virtuous cultivation of “humans with hearts,” for a rejection of moral nihilism, and for a life-affirming embrace of moral realism founded in the Tao—the transcultural fund of ultimate postulates that form the very ground of moral judgment, codes of ethics, and standards of right and wrong.

The point is not that animal behaviours have no relevance to our understanding of human nature, but rather that we  require a standard  of judgment above and beyond that offered by bare biology as a guide to what is morally permissible, advantageous, or obligatory. (39)

The very fabric of our lives is teleological–purpose-driven–in ways that far transcend the disseminating of our genes (though perhaps that is part of it). Therefore, a failure to account for that strong sense and experience of purpose, of goal-directedness, of moral worthwhileness, is a serious failure indeed. It points decisively to a limitation of science as naturalistically conceived and practical….So the inability of naturalistic science to account for the “goods and shoulds” of human moral life might accordingly be treated less as a failure than as blameless omission–a mere innocent incapacity to achieve something that was never part of its competence or job description in the first place. (58, 59)

[Human rights codes] embody, or should embody, or at least reflect, a vision of what it means for human beings to flourish, to fulfill their potential, to cultivate their gifts, to pursue good purposes, to live lives of meaning and justice….Rights codes by themselves, however, are inadequate as a moral foundation….They are no substitute for the cultivation of virtue. (63, 75)

What assumptions are you making about the nature and purpose of human beings, about what constitutes the good life? How does your moral framework promote virtues of beneficence and magnanimity? How does it cultivate human happiness? (76)

Great selection of C.S. Lewis books at Regent Bookstore (Wesbrook @ University Blvd.) Gate One

Other Scholars Who Hold to a Form of Moral Realism

Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self; A Secular Age; The Language Animal.

Alasdair McIntyre, After Virtue; Three Versions of Moral Inquiry

R. Scott Smith, In Search of Moral Knowledge.

Russ Shafer-Landau, Moral Realism: a Defense.

Miraslov Volf, Flourishing: Why We Need Religion in a Globalized World.

Jim Wallis, The (Un)Common Good.

Dennis Hollinger, Choosing the Good: Christian Ethics in a Complex World..

David Brooks, The Road to Character.

Glenn Tinder Atlantic Monthly 1989 article “Can We Be Good Without God?” which morphed into his book The Political Meaning of Christianity.

Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life. (read in parallel with Gordon Carkner’s The Great Escape from Nihilism)


Read More…

Posted by: gcarkner | March 4, 2019

Sources of Identity and Meaning

Sources of Identity, Sources of Meaning

The Examined, Reflective, Purposeful Life is  Well Worth Living

  • my culture, country and family of origin, the history of my people, my mother tongue and color–where I was born, my early years
  • my personal passion, or more deeply, my sense of calling–what I want to contribute, my life trajectory
  • my educational and job experience/training–my leadership skill set
  • my personal mentors, coaches, partners and life journey guides
  • my sexual orientation, the biology of my body, my gender socialization and choices about self-expression, my management of sexual desires
  • my religion, philosophy of life, worldview or ideological orientation, my ideals, standards and principles–the meta-biological drivers or factors of life
  • my experience of trauma, tragedy and suffering, failures, handicaps and how I cope with hard circumstances or personal loss
  • the friends I hang with–my social life and romantic life
  • my creative engagement with people who differ from me, either in background or convictions, my listening skills and ability to learn from others that I may disagree with, or who make me feel uncomfortable with my assumptions
  • the community or charity projects where I volunteer and attempt to make a better, more equal playing field
  • the larger story or narrative that makes sense of my life–clarifying what really matters, what constitutes being human, what gives solidity and substance to my biography
  • my children, their lives, their needs and aspirations–the creative sacrifice of giving them life, nurture, guidance and purpose
  • my commitments to the poor, the homeless, the marginalized–community service, social compassion, positive social change
  • my political affiliations, causes, debates and engagements–my sense of justice, human rights, concern for peace-making
  • my moral commitments to certain virtues and values (strong evaluations)–the good and the common good, the admirable and noble–leading to my growth in character and civility, my relationship to my highest good, things that empower my moral agency. This is how I “become better through seeing better” (Charles Taylor).
  • my self-concept as a global citizen, commitments to the wellbeing of other people groups and nations
  • my relationship to creation, to the land, air, and oceans, to the wellbeing of the planet for the long term
  • my local social roots–my deeper experience of neighbourhood and community
  • my economic, career track potential and capacity–traction in applying my knowledge, being innovative, taking leadership, shaping culture, leaving a positive legacy
  • my prayer, worship and spiritual life practices, relationship with the divine–experience of the transcendent, my quest for wisdom towards a life worth living
  • my music interests, loves, participation–seeking the good of my mental and emotional health, my creative artistic expression, the nurture of my aesthetic self
  • my personal addictions and obsessions–darker motives and habits–my chaos, my deceptiveness, dishonesty with self and others, my refusal to take responsibility, to admit where I have been wrong, to admit where I am not speaking the truth
  • my means of recreation, relaxation, creative outlets, entertainment, fun and adventure
  • my self-articulation on social media, video, audio or print media, public speaking, book and article writing
  • my relationship to agape love, which helps heuristically to shape and interpret both my stance towards myself and my stance towards the larger world

Be Real; Be Attentive; Be Whole; Be Innovative; Be Resilient; Go For Depth; Live with Integrity; Take Care of Yourself; Find Harmony Between Various Sectors of Your Life; Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Identity Basket, Prioritize Them; Examine Your Motives and Conscience; Tell the Truth; Invest in Community, Write Your Unique Story; Build Out From What You Have Been Given; Practice Gratitude; Keep the Poetry in Your Life; Take Full Responsibility for Yourself and Your World

To have meaning is to stand for something other than oneself, to establish a link with a value, an idea, an ideal beyond oneself [a referent]. Life has meaning, for example, for those who spend their lives in search of a cure for a disease., or in the struggle against injustice, or just to show every day that society can be more than a jungle. The link one establishes with this value or idea confers a higher value on life….A life that has meaning recognizes certain references….In other words, it is paradoxically worth something only to the extent that it admits itself not to be of supreme value, by recognizing what is worth more than itself, by its ability to organize itself around something else. Everyone will admit that existence is at once both finite and deficient. We consider society to be mediocre, love insufficient, a lifespan too narrow. The person whose life has meaning is the one who, instead of remaining  complacently in the midst of his regrets, decides to strive for perfection, however imperfectly, to express the absolute, even through his own deficiencies, to seek eternity, even if only temporarily. If he spends his life making peace in society or rendering justice to victims, he is effectively pointing, even if it is with a trembling finger, to the existence of peace and justice as such….By pursuing referents, he points to them. He awkwardly expresses these impalpable, immaterial figures of hope or expectancy….Individual existence, when it means something, points to its referent through its day-to-day actions and behaviours, the sacrifices it accepts and the risks it dares to take….The seeker moves forward, all the while wondering, “What is worth serving?” Individual existence structures itself through the call for meaning. Existence is shaped by questions and expectations.

~Chantal Delsol, Icarus Fallen: The Search for Meaning in an Uncertain World (4-5)


Two Ways of Seeing/Reading/Understanding the World 

a. The Epistemological Way of Seeing:

The set of priority relations within this picture often tends towards a closed world position (CWS) within the immanent frame (Charles Taylor, A Secular Age, 2007, chapter 15). Its assumptions include proponents like Descartes, Locke, and Hume. Taylor calls this the modern buffered self. We find this approach rooted in Anglo-American philosophy. The connection between self and world is an I-It relationship.

  • Knowledge of self and its status comes before knowledge of the world (things) and others (cogito ergo sum).
  • Knowledge of reality is a neutral fact before the individual self attributes value to it.
  • Knowledge of things of the natural order comes before any theoretical invocations or any transcendence. Transcendence is often problematized, doubted or repressed—for example, in reductive materialism. This approach tends to write dimensions of transcendence out of the equation as a danger to wellbeing (superstition). Science morphs into scientism.
  • Human meaning is much harder to capture in this frame of reference—leading to disenchantment. It can cause alienation and lead to skepticism, or promote disengagment from a cold, mechanistic, materialistic cosmos.
  • Language is the Designative type (Hobbes, Locke, Condillac)—instrumental, pointing at an object, manipulating objects, and often in turn manipulating people as objects. It is a flattened form of language, which does not allow us to Name things in their depth of context, their embeddedness. Poetry, symbol, myth are missing. Scientific rationalism is dominant: evidence and justified belief.
  • Power and violence hides under the cloak of knowledge and techne: colonization, imperialism, war, environmental exploitation, Global North versus Global South. Hubris is an endemic problem.
  • Ethics is left to the private sphere of individual values, because of the fact-value split or dualism—moral subjectivism results. This often leads to loss of moral agency and nihilism, partly due to the loss of narrative and the communal dimension of ethics.
  • Human flourishing is a central concern within this immanent frame: reduction of suffering and increase of happiness/wellbeing. Health, lifespan, safety, entertainment, economic opportunity, consumer choice are key cultural drivers. This results in a thin self, focused on rights, entitlements, opportunities to advance one’s own personal interests.

b. The Hermeneutical Way of Seeing:

The working assumptions of this approach includes proponents like Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Gadamer, the later Wittgenstein, Charles Taylor and Jens Zimmermann. We find this approach rooted more in Continental philosophy. The connection between the self and the world is an I-Thou relationship.

  • Self is not the first priority: the world, society and the game/drama of life come first. We only have knowledge as agents coping with the world, and it makes no sense to doubt that world in its fullness. Taken at face value, this world is shot through with meaning and discovery.
  • There is no priority of a neutral grasp of things over and above their value. It comes to us as a whole experience of facts and valuations all at once, interwoven with each other.
  • Our primordial identity is as a new player inducted into an old game. We learn the game and begin to interpret experience for ourselves within a larger communal context. Identity, morality and spirituality are interwoven within us. We sort through our conversations, dialogue with interlocutors, looking for a robust and practical picture of reality.
  • Transcendence or the divine horizon is a possible larger context of this game. Radical skepticism is not as strong here as in the epistemological approach. There is a smaller likelihood of a closed world system (CWS—closed to transcendence as a spin on reality) view in the hermeneutical approach. In a sense, it is more humble, nuanced, embodied and socially situated.
  • Language use is the Expressive-Constitutive type (Herder, Hamann, Humboldt, Gadamer) The mythic, poetic, aesthetic, and liturgical returns. Language is rich and expressive, open, creative, appealing to the depths of the human soul. Language is a sign. See Charles Taylor, The Language Animal.
  • Moral agency is revived within a community (oneself as another) with a strong narrative identity, in a relationship to the good, within a hierarchy of moral goods and practical virtuous habits that are mutually enriching and nurturing. One is more patient with the Other, the stranger: hospitality dominates over hostility.
  • The focus of human flourishing is on how we can live well, within our social location—a whole geography of relationships that shape our identity, and which we in turn shape as well. This is a thick version of the self, open to strong transcendence, within a meaningful whole.

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