Posted by: gcarkner | April 17, 2022

Easter is When Hope in Person Surprises the Entire World

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Easter Carol by Christina Georgina Rossetti

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by: gcarkner | April 4, 2022

Is there rational evidence for the resurrection?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eugene Peterson, Practice Resurrection.

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

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

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

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

Empty Tomb

An Easter Carol by Christina Georgina Rossetti

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by: gcarkner | March 25, 2022

Spring GFCF Featured Lecture Presentation

April 6, 2022 Upcoming Lecture

Professor Ard Louis, Theoretical Physics, Oxford University

Science & Scientism 

12:00 NoonWednesday, April 6, 2022  on Zoom

Abstract

Abstract

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

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

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

Biography

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

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

~C. S. Lewis

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

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

Posted by: gcarkner | March 8, 2022

Scientism Revealed

Scientism & its Cultural Discontents

Epistemological Claim: No knowledge is deemed valid or justified unless its claims can be tested and verified empirically through experimentation, observation and repetition. This criterion is part of an intellectual house of the mind which controls the way people think, argue, infer, and make sense of things. Truth claims that do not submit to this kind of scrutiny automatically become irrelevant, invalid, implausible, or unacceptable. This principle of knowledge is heavily weighted or biased towards the instrumental and mechanistic. Its attraction is to greater certainty, especially of the mathematical/statistical type.

The Utopian Sentiment: Science is the futuristic guide to human progress, both intellectually and culturally. Past tradition, especially that influenced by Christian religion (any religion really), is taken as false opinion or superstition, even dangerous (Yuval Noah Harari). The growth of scientific knowledge is thought to guarantee social and political progress. Scientism entails a warfare model in the science-religion relationship, a posture that began in the mid-nineteenth century (C. A. Russell, Cross-currents, 1985). Secularity 2 (Charles Taylor) assumes that, as science advances religion will be culturally displaced, demoted in importance. This extreme optimism is found in the transhumanism discourse, and is the tone we often find in Wired Magazine, or the Humanist Manifesto. Quentin Schultze speaks to this in his Habits of the High-Tech Heart (2002). 

The next century can and should be the humanist century. Dramatic scientific, technological, and ever-accelerating social and political changes crowd our awareness. We have virtually conquered the planet, explored the moon, overcome the natural limits of travel and communication; we stand at the dawn of a new age…. Using technology wisely, we can control our environment, conquer poverty, markedly reduce disease, extend our lifespan, significantly modify our behavior, and alter the course of human evolution. (Humanist Manifesto II, 5) 

Intellectual Exclusion or Hegemony: Insights from the humanities, philosophy and theology are treated with suspicion. The poetry of life is removed. Scientific rationalism dismisses faith as mere fideism (belief without good reasons, non-evidential). Scientism’s inherent materialism entails that “science” refuses mystery, the metaphysical or anything transcendent, the miraculous, even the mythic, metaphorical or epiphanic. Certain common human ways of knowing are simply written off, ignored or treated with contempt. Example New Atheists.

Anthropological Consequences: People are viewed as sophisticated cogs in the cosmic machinery, or simplified as merely the most intelligent animals (higher primates). All human characteristics, including the mind or the soul, are believed to be explicable in terms of bodily functions (neural networks, DNA makeup, biochemistry or physiology, or at bottom physics and chemistry). A philosophical (ontological) reductionism is at work: methodology morphs into ontology: the phenomenon of ‘nothing but’. The higher order is explained in terms of the lower, mind in terms of brain, human social behavior in terms of ant colonies (E.O. Wilson). Humans are appreciated for their instrumental value: their earning capacity, socio-political usefulness and their excellence of giftedness (E.F. Schumacher, A Guide for the Perplexed, 1977; Craig Gay, The Way of the Modern World, 1998Thomas Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos, 2012).  

Scientism and Ethics: Science is seen to normatively provide a more reliable and superior decision-making guide. It becomes the new alternative to religion and traditional morals in discerning the good and shaping the moral self, moral discourse (Sam Harris, The Moral Landscape: how science can determine human values, 2010; Compare James Davison Hunter & Paul Nedelisky, Science & the Good: the tragic quest for the foundations of morality). Science asserts dominance as a culture sphere, absorbs and redefines morality in scientific categories, meeting a scientific agenda. Scientism claims that the scientific principle, scientific rationality is applicable to all things, all arenas of life, all culture spheres. Religious or personal moral values are to be kept to the private sphere of one’s life, but not to be part of public discourse (Lesslie Newbigin, Foolishness to the Greeks, 1986).

Weakness of Language: Within the scientism frame/map of reality, knowledge depends on a designative (versus an expressivist-poetic or constitutive) tradition of language (Taylor, 1978, 2007, 2016). Designative language (Hobbes to Locke to Condillac) traps the pursuit of wisdom within language and confines it to immanence where language and its relationship to truth are reduced to pointing or representation. Language primarily designates objects in the world. The object is held and studied at a distance, observed but not participated in. One assumes a use of language based on quantitative judgments that are non-subject dependent (objective). This view of language contributes to scientism’s mechanistic understanding of the universe, rendering it disenchanted (without soul or mystery). For a fuller treatment of the two major types of language, see Charles Taylor’s tome The Language Animal (2016). In my book, The Great Escape from Nihilism, I also compare the epistemological to the hermeneutical way of seeing and understanding the world.

Our language has lost its constitutive power: denotative versus expressive. This means that we can deal instrumentally with realities around us, but their deeper meaning (the background in which they exist), the higher reality which finds expression in them, is ignored and often invisible to us. Our language has lost the power to Name things in their embedding, their deeper, richer and higher reality. The current incapacity of language is a crucial factor in our incapacity of seeing well and our flourishing. Our language, our vision and our lives often remain flattened in late modernity. (C. Taylor, A Secular Age, 2007, 761; The Language Animal, 2016).

Scientism Acts as a Prison of the Mind: This ideology is a picture of the world that holds our minds captive. For some of the reasons above, scientism can lead us to nihilism, cynicism, addictions and despair (the malaise of modernity—Charles Taylor). There is a logical progression from the epistemology, ontology and anthropology of scientism to the moral confusion and identity crisis of late modernity. Scientism alienates and oppresses us, makes us less than we can be. We intuitively see ourselves as more than machines, more than animals, beings with purpose (telos). The dogma of scientism stifles, and even questions our very freedom and agency. It cramps and constricts our imagination, even in the practice of science itself. Ultimately, it threatens the human quest for meaning. Transhumanism seeks to remake humans in the image off the algorithm and the machine.

Dr. Gordon E. Carkner, Meta-Educator with UBC Postgraduate Students, Online Webinar Producer, Author

Posted by: gcarkner | February 13, 2022

Charles Taylor & the Myth of the Secular

https://youtu.be/f4KZhWc2TDY Charles Taylor and the Myth of the Secular 

Many people seem to be hungry for fresh perspectives on the current Western cultural ethos. I argue that we need to urgently rethink our view of the ‘secular’. In this video, I reveal something quite astonishing in the work of eminent Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor. See if you agree. At stake is a more complex and creative discussion of the secular that opens the imagination to dialogue and discovery–even new language. Taylor points out that many of our common assumptions about the relationship between science and secularity are shown to be quite faulty–including bad leaps of faith. His critical analysis of the Immanent Frame, which heavily influences the social imaginary of contemporary Western thought, is a brilliant contribution. I also offer a helpful comparison between Taylor’s idea of a Closed versus an Open Immanent Frame. This webinar gives insights that could well alter our outlook on the world in which we seek our freedom, identity and meaning. It can give Christians fresh angles and confidence in defence of the faith as well. The articulate grasp of some of these concepts make all the difference in the world.

Charles Taylor is a key thinker assisting us in our exploration through late modernity. He is one of the top twelve living philosophers according to many of his peers, the preeminent Canadian philosopher in the political, cultural and moral realm. We might well call him the premiere philosopher of Western modernity. Together we will attempt to discern our location within Western culture, with its various views on secularity, and thereby to rethink our identity. We will claim that Nihilism does not have the last word. Although we are located here amidst a confusing plurality of ideas and convictions, we are not intellectually trapped within an immanent frame. There is hope for connection with the transcendent. What follows is a deep structure protest that there are broader horizons, so much more to be said, explored, researched and discovered. The journey ahead entails an archival rediscovery of lost insights and language such as the good, metabiological meanings and incarnational humanism. 

Our language has lost its constitutive power. This means that we can deal instrumentally with realities around us, but their deeper meaning (the background in which they exist), the higher reality which finds expression in them, is ignored and often invisible to us. Our language has lost the power to Name things in their embedding, their deeper, richer and higher reality. The current incapacity of language is a crucial factor in our incapacity of seeing well and impacts our flourishing. Our language, our vision and our lives often remain flattened in late modernity. (Charles Taylor, A Secular Age)

~Dr. Gordon E. Carkner, PhD University of Wales in Philosophy of Culture.

Related Upcoming Lecture

Professor Ard Louis, Theoretical Physics, Oxford University

Natural Science & Scientism: Probing the Difference  

12:00 NoonWednesday, April 6, 2022  on Zoom

Join Zoom Meeting
Dr. Ard Louis Zoom Link

Abstract

Science is perhaps the most successful endeavour in which human beings have engaged. It is thus tempting for many to think that it should also answer the big existential questions (identity, morality, why we exist, the higher meaning of human life). Such explanatory hopes (rooted in the ideology of scientism) give impetus to modern versions of reductionistic/closed-world secularism. Scientism, the idea that only natural science brings us reliable knowledge, is less popular in the academy than it once was. This is partly because it hollows out and depreciates these important metabiological questions. Nevertheless, implicit versions of scientism remain surprisingly influential. What should be done to correct such perceptions? Realities beyond the realm of scientific study are pertinent to overall human flourishing. Professor Ard Louis will argue that neither science, nor any conceivable future advance in science, can answer such significant life questions. The scientific imagination contains appropriate built-in limits, and yet we want an articulate grasp of all domains of meaning available to us.

Biography

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

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

~C. S. Lewis

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

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

Posted by: gcarkner | January 31, 2022

Grappling with Radical Individualism

This new teaching video grapples with the power and the problems of the ideology of Radical Individualism in Western culture. The goal is to give perspective and to help people avoid the vulnerabilities of moral autism. Our success in life has a lot to do with our network and commitments over the long term. It is part of Dr. Gordon E. Carkner’s growing channel to stimulate mind and heart towards the good.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNA6wmP9Phg The Perils of Radical Individualism: the Myth and its Alternative

Posted by: gcarkner | January 21, 2022

Can Excellence Hurt Us?

High performance, excellence, superior effort: Who would argue against that? Matthew Crawford, senior fellow at the University of Virginia’s  Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, detects a flaw in the quest for excellence. He has some vital insights on a current dilemma facing students and faculty. In his brilliant 2015 book, The World Outside Your Head: on becoming an individual in an age of distraction, he suggests that our quest for radical individualism and autonomy is leading us into a unhealthy moral autism. We are actually losing our agency, our precious moral skill. Matthew calls this the ‘cult of sincerity’, i.e., that you yourself can be the source of the norms by which you justify yourself. This is a radical responsibility for which we may not really be prepared. It offers too much self-sovereignty of the wrong kind. He notes that we actually need others (friends, family, colleagues) to check our own self-understanding–through triangulation–to tell us we are doing okay, that we are good or excellent (or sometimes not up to our best effort, silly or downright irresponsible). How else do we avoid the narcissistic assumption that we are the centre of the universe, that we can do no wrong.

One thing that sets us apart as humans is our desire to justify ourselves; we never act without moral implications, says Crawford. We are the moral animals all the way down.. That might come as a shock. We all need a web of people that we respect to which we feel accountable. And we need a healthy set of norms to guide relationships and mutual expectations, in order to build trust in an uncertain world. Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor agrees (Sources of the Self) that morality requires an understanding of how certain goods operate within our psyche and within a community. See the series Qualities of the Will in this blog. Crawford appreciates Iris Murdoch, who was a mentor to Taylor during his PhD work in Oxford. Murdoch believed in the recovery of the ancient language of the good, in certain ideals that transcend human desires and decisions.

Ay, There’s the Rub Matthew Crawford notes that in times of cultural flux, where it is unclear what the rules or norms are in the greater society, it is quite difficult for us to understand ourselves socially. We feel isolated, disempowered, uncertain, afraid to make moral judgments. This leads to an existential problem, an angst. As a result, we become victims of the values of the marketplace–productivity, performance, usefulness, cash-out value. The marketplace was never meant to set the standards of human relations, moral identity or integrity, but today our consumerism/capitalism ideology is quite strong. This culture is performance all the way down. Psychologist Alain Ehrenburg (Weariness of the Self), notes that this is leading to epidemic levels of depression in our current culture of performance. Enough is never enough; there is always more that we could do to pursue excellence, to please our supervisors. We are never good enough on these terms and conditions. What started out as an inspiring motivator (high quality work) has morphed into a kind of slavery. 

Ehrenburg writes:

Depression presents itself as an illness of responsibility in which the dominant feeling is that of failure. The depressed individual is unable to measure up; he is tired of having to become himself. In a culture of performance, the person reads the value and status of her soul in her worldly accomplishments.

Today, we are suffering chronic stress about not doing enough, spending enough of ourselves, enough hours in the lab or library, not having a strong enough resumé. IT workers are constantly on the prowl of the internet in their off hours to keep up with the latest technology, so that new college grads don’t replace them in their jobs. The calculus of excellence often means for us that we feel that we have to hit a home run every time we are up to bat. We are always faced with the raw issue of our capacity to make things happen, leading to this new pathology of weariness. We are taught in graduate school either covertly or overtly, Be Exceptional! The weariness of having to become one’s fullest self is leading to new levels of depression, and personal breakdown. Workaholism naturally kicks in. On top of this, it is difficult to mitigate this depression level of stress and anxiety in an age of high performance, because weariness calculates as weakness. Guilt and shame kick in (Brené Brown).

Who wants to appear weak in a competitive marketplace of jobs and accomplishment? We are taught to make ourselves irreplaceable to our employers. How do you tell your supervisor that you are weary and need a stress leave? Thus, we turn to self-medication quick fixes, stimulants like Prozac or Adderall (an amphetamine) to keep us at the top of our game, high-performing. There is an epidemic in the usage of such substances among university students (engineers?) and also young faculty seeking tenure in high-performance universities. Many students that we have dialogue with strongly affirm this concern. But have we been sold a lie? Is excellence really a code word for workaholism and inevitable exhaustion and burnout, broken marriages and addictions? Where is the wisdom in that pursuit?

While we seek liberation through this glorious autonomy of the self, we are discovering that it can be a very serious kind of slavery. And we are desperately, painfully lonely. It is a Venus flytrap phenomenon. Has modernity and the Technological Society turned on us? Paul in the Book of Ephesians believes that Christ can give us some reprieve and perspective on this modern dilemma. But we will have to rethink reality, rethink where we place our identity and our understanding of success and excellence. Ephesians 4 gives an alternative paradigm of community and one-anotherness. The irony is that as we pursue excellence for the sake of love or appreciation (recognition, academic glory), but we often don’t get it in the end. We need a better place to locate our identity. We get disappointment, despair, and even jealousy from our peers.

 ~Gordon Carkner PhD, Philosophy of Culture, Meta-Educator with UBC Graduate Students

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2zhf2mqEMI David Crowder, Come As You Are

https://www.1843magazine.com/features/why-do-we-work-so-hard

__________________

Tough Questions:

1. How do we set boundaries on our work in such a cultural climate?

2. At what point does building our resumé become idolatry or enslavement?

3. Are we building significant, accountable relationships in grad school?

4. What are the virtues, character, values, principles, moral goods  that are worth fighting for? See David Brooks, The Road to Character.

5. How do we find spaces for reflection, deciding on big issues like calling and covenant?

6. Where is our community outside of work? When do we play? How do we escape self-absorption?

7. How does emotional intelligence apply to the current dilemma of workaholism and weariness?

8. We take time out to update our computer software. When do we take time out to update our soul?

9. How can professors aim for something less than excellence when we see our students striving to keep up with the literature, the laboratory production, the peer-reviewed paper writing alongside their personal, church and family relationships? They need encouragement as people.

Posted by: gcarkner | January 13, 2022

Challenges to Faith in the Middle East

Thursday, January 20, 2022 @ 7:00 PM  

THE APPEAL OF CAESAR

The Future of Christians Living in the Authoritarian Context of the Middle East

Dr. Paul Rowe

Professor of Political and International Studies
Chair, Department of History, Political, and International Studies at Trinity Western University. 

The past decade of crisis in the Middle East has claimed the lives and livelihoods of tens of thousands of its indigenous Christian populations. Among those small communities that remain, age-old strategies of survival under authoritarian governments persist. What are these strategies, and how might small numbers of Christians continue to claim a place in a region that seems singularly hostile to their persistence? 

Biography 

Dr. Paul Rowe, Professor of Political and International Studies
Chair, Department of History, Political, and International Studies at Trinity Western University. He earned a PhD from McGill University in 2003. His dissertation title is “Ancient Crosses and Tower-Keeps — the Politics of Christian Minorities in the Middle East.” He has spent extended time in the Middle East and continues to study the politics of religious groups in developing countries. He is author of Religion and Global Politics, Toronto: Oxford University Press Canada, 2012; and The Routledge Handbook of Minorities in the Middle East. Routledge, 2018.

“A freed activist, a captive church? How do Christians navigate new forms of authoritarianism in the Middle East?” ~Paul Rowe

Resources on Faith & Scholarship: https://ubcgcu.org/faith-culture/

Posted by: gcarkner | January 7, 2022

Incarnational Spirituality: a new horizon 15

The Holy Spirit as Ultimate Source of Human Goodness

As the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is a vital part of the discussion of goodness within incarnational spirituality. Humans cannot flourish by the example of Jesus alone. If goodness is a dynamic, mysterious gift, and cannot be achieved by human effort alone, even heroic effort, from whence comes Taylor’s source of motivation in the constitutive good (note 1. below)? How is the quality of the human will actually enhanced in everyday terms?

The Incarnation is the locus of God’s self-revelation–the primary site of God’s self-giving. Thus the logic of the incarnation is fundamentally an account of what gives, of how difference and otherness is revealed–whether that is the “horizontal” revelation of ourselves to one another or, paradigmatically, the revelation of divine transcendence in the region of immanence that is creation. Hence the logic of incarnation is an account of revelation. (J. K. A Smith, 2021, 201)

But how is goodness mediated through the transcendent turn towards agape love (Taylor, 1989), beyond the life example of the person of Jesus the Christ? Is this why Jesus sent the Holy Spirit after his ascension? Clearly, there must be a source of empowerment for living in a positive, inspiring relationship to the transcendent trinitarian good, motivation for the practices of the good, for mediating such goodness within society. If one pursues it alone without epiphanic divine help (grace), how can transcendent goodness avoid the charge of unattainable ideal–so heaveny other that it is no earthly help? What is its tangible, embodied human possibility of goodness transformation?

With these questions in mind, it is crucial knowledge that the Holy Spirit is a key inspirational and transformational factor in human goodness, that is, the human receipt and actualization of divine goodness. The Spirit is at work amidst the historical contingencies of community development. This is pertinent to the “logic of incarnation” spoken of by James K. A. Smith (2021, 63-92). Incarnation does not stop at the life of Jesus. Brilliant theologian D. Stephen Long (2001) is both realistic and optimistic about the human quest for the good, and for good reason. He believes that with the Holy Spirit, the third member of the Trinity, moral self-constitution can be intimately and fruitfully interfaced with the goodness of God. This will in turn rejuvenate ethics and moral self-realization. It offers a reconstitution of both goodness and freedom for the individual (producing goodness-freedom).

The Holy Spirit infuses a goodness into us that makes us better than we know we are by ourselves. This better is what theologians mean by grace. People find themselves caught up in a journey that results in the cultivation of gifts and beatitudes they did not know were possible. They discover that this journey was possible only through friendship … The mission of the Holy Spirit is to move us towards the charity that defines the relationship between the Father and the Son, a charity so full that it is thoroughly one and yet cannot be contained within a single origin or between an original and a copy, but always, eternally, exceeds that relationship into another. The Holy Spirit is that relationship. (D. S. Long, 2001, 302-3)

Divine goodness is made tangibly available as a gift, by means of the Holy Spirit, for the transformation of the individual self–everyday folks have the potential to become ‘new creatures in Christ’. The Holy Spirit offers relationship and empowerment towards acting out and promoting the good in the world, working towards a more fair and just world. Humans embody and become entrepreneurs of divine goodness via the empowerment of the Spirit.

This is an aspect of the epiphanic experience of I-Thou encounter that we spoke of in earlier posts. The Holy Spirit is very central to the moral life because the Spirit gifts individuals for works they cannot achieve in their own strength, i.e., within the limits of their personal resources. He makes them capable of forgiveness, virtue, reconciliation and love. He makes possible and effective the mission of transformative goodness of Jesus Christ within and through his church. The Spirit represents the ongoing presence of Jesus in the church and in the world; the church can become the faithful presence of Christ (J.D. Hunter). The Spirit catches humans up into the life of God in this profound way, into the communion of the Trinity.

This particular process of moral self-constitution and spiritual wholeness opens up the horizon of human moral thinking and action (qualities of the will), first towards God. Secondly, it connects the individual through compassion with human suffering, empowering people to move beyond raw self-interest into self-giving service to the other (hospitality). Within the trinitarian goodness plausibility structure, we can answer Charles Taylor’s question: Can we sustain our world benevolence? The Holy Spirit enriches, motivates and empowers the self and the human community as the abundant and fecund source of goodness/grace.

Stephen Long adds an important addendum. Along with Christoph Schwöbel, he finds that the kind of ethics that emphasizes the will and absolute freedom of choice (Foucault et al), is poorly focused on a Dionysian release of the self and its desires. It leads to the dangerous human temptation to set its own standard of goodness as the ultimate standard, and thereby to manipulate the language of the good in the direction of self-interest. In past, that has created a problem for human society and lead to corruption, violence and exclusion of the other (especially the poor and weak).

Humans are very capable of using their freedom in contradiction to God’s goodness: to coerce or deceive fellow humans, to misrepresent the truth, or abuse the natural world through their own controlling interest in setting the standard of moral currency. Long and Schwöbel promote the idea that ethics should be focused on the constitution of the self as it relates dynamically, and embraces God and transcendent goodness as a moral a priori. This is a parallel thought to that of Charles Taylor, who noted that the first question of ethics is: Who or what do you love? The qualities of the will comes into play at exactly this point (see the series in this blog ubcgcu.org on Qualities of the Will). Long believes that moral self-constitution must be rooted in, and animated by, a love of God and a love of the infinitely superior and pure goodness that is God. This is a trajectory for self-transformation and renewed energy for the good.

The picture of a lone will choosing between good and evil, or embracing both in an aesthetic move of self-mutilation, or choosing to define self, constitutes a distraction from moving into the goodness-which-is-God, and being taken captive by this goodness. Long’s focus is to build one’s life-orientation, one’s identity, one’s lifestyle around transcendent trinitarian goodness. It cannot to be reduced to an achievement of the mere human will. Goodness-making is not a faculty, within the all-too-human, that can be conjured.

Human freedom is not about the capacity to choose [merely] between good and evil. Human freedom occurs when our desires are so turned toward God and the good that no choice is necessary … Jesus shows us that such a life is possible in our humanity—not against it. (D.S. Long, 2001, 46)

It follows in sync with the trajectory of our lives, loves and longings. Moral transformation comes to us through a commitment to the good, not through seeking a controlling knowledge of good and evil or through creative strategies for self-control or manipulation of power relations and truth games (Foucault). Human creatures as self-legislating, individualistic beings do not possess the moral resources to enact goodness per se, although they certainly have tried. Acts of the will do not automatically constitute acts of goodness. Goodness is discovered in God, not invented by the self. Further in the same moral direction as Taylor, Long concludes that the primary question for the moral self is “What or who is the good I seek and that seeks me?” (D. S. Long, 2001, 130) Here lies the idea of a serious quest for the good in one’s whole life. Schwöbel summarizes the thrust of our argument.

The reconstitution of created freedom through the appropriation of the revelation of God’s goodness in Christ which is made possible in the Spirit is characterized by the acknowledgement of the limitations of human freedom that become evident where this freedom is no longer understood as self-produced, but as a gift of grace. The liberation from the abortive attempt of self-constitution of human freedom discloses the reality of the other person and the non-human creation as the one to whom good action is directed. Human goodness is realized where it is acknowledged that it is not self-produced, but the gift of God’s creative, revealing and inspiring action. (C. Schwoebel, 1992, 75)

Through the Spirit, goodness becomes both radically communicable and accessible. It impacts culture deeply as Larry Siedentop (2014) writes in Inventing the Individual. The individual is not left alone to their own devices and resources, to make their way in the world, nor to continually justify their behaviour (which can be a narcissistic obsession). The Holy Spirit initiated connection of human goodness to the transcendent brings a robust hopefulness of reviving the culture along with the language of the good. Charles Taylor has sought to do this in Sources of the Self (1989). This is also writ large in the poetry of Psalms 90-103; the sheer majesty of the breathtaking goodness of God is made very powerful and transformative in the lives of people. We remain skeptical regarding human construction of the good, but open to all that can be communicated about the goodness of the triune God. The conversation about the good in moral discourse is fruitfully enlivened as we experience the tangible presence of the life transforming divine goodness within the New Covenant.

This is a paradigm shift from Foucault’s position. He assumes that individual humans are the origin and controlling agents of moral currency and the moral life through his ethics as aesthetics. The moral self, in his picture, seeks for autonomous resources (apart from God) in the pursuit of a radical freedom of self-control, self-expression and self-construction. In the dialogue/debate between Foucault and Taylor, it does come to a watershed between the sovereignty of self versus the sovereignty of God (who is essential, infinite goodness), the telos of self versus the telos of divine love. It makes a huge difference whether God and agape love are allowed to enter the map of one’s moral and spiritual horizon. This raises us to a new horizon level. It encourages love of self and love of the world (despite the evil inherent in that world and in oneself) as one is open to the circulation of grace (Ephesians 3: 14-19). This is incarnational spirituality at its core.

Dr. Gordon E. Carkner, Meta-Educator with UBC Postgraduate Students, Author, YouTube Webinar Leader.

In light of all this, one is inspired by a new possible hermeneutic of emancipation, a theonomous goodness-freedom, a God-related freedom that is defined or qualified by trinitarian transcendent goodness. The transcendent turn has proved a fruitful thought experiment that bears deep consideration and reflection for progressive moral identity thinking and just living. As an alternative to the radical approach of Foucault’s aesthetic, autonomous view of morality, a paradigm of trinitarian goodness-freedom reveals a fresh and vital subject position within community–with weighty agape love at its core. The Holy Spirit builds this relationship.

Schwöbel, C. (1992). “God’s Goodness and Human Morality.” In C. Schwöbel, God: Action and Revelation (63-82). Kampen, Holland: Pharos.

Long, D.S. (2001). The Goodness of God. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press.

Smith, James K.A. (2021) The Nicene Option: An Incarnational Phenomenology. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press.

Siedentop, L. (2014). Inventing the Individualthe origins of Western Liberalism. Belnap Press.

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

Note 1. The constitutive good (a category of moral motivation) gives meaning to and empowers, the hypergood (our dominant inspirational ideal) and the other life goods within the moral framework. It provides the constitutive ground of the worth or value of the life goods, and allows the self to live the good life, to flourish. Moral identity is interwoven with the pursuit of the good in life in Charles Taylor’s moral ontology. It is the type of good that provides enabling conditions for the realization of strong qualifications in one’s life. Therefore, one’s relationship to such a good is vital to building moral capacity for individuals and communities. Knowing such a good personally also means loving it, wanting to act in accord with it, growing toward it. Crucial to the position of the constitutive good is that it has independence from the self. As Taylor put it to me, “A constitutive good is a term I used for what I also called moral sources, something the recognition of which can make you stronger or more focused in seeking or doing the good. It’s a matter of motivation and resilience, and not just definition of your moral position.”

Posted by: gcarkner | December 15, 2021

Incarnational Spirituality: a new horizon 14

Transcendent Goodness and Human Hospitality

Dr. Gordon E. Carkner

Abstract: What are the theological and philosophical roots or drivers of hospitality? From his research on the self in late modernity, Dr. Carkner delves into this question. He draws on the insights of eminent Canadian philosopher, Charles Taylor. In his project Sources of the Self, Taylor attempts to recover a discourse of the good for contemporary moral philosophy, and for culture. He believes that a transcendent turn towards agape love could help solve a contemporary existential crisis of affirmation. The human goodness that is hospitality stems from a social imagination inspired by the self-giving love within the Trinity. Jesus in his human flesh is the most clear instantiation of this agape love. He embodies and mediates God’s goodness, his gift of hospitality in dramatic and fruitful ways. The Body of Christ thereby knows that hospitality, generosity and grace lie at the core of its identity.

Strong transcendence is critical to our exploration of the good. For Charles Taylor, transcendent agape love transforms the self, a love from above, transcendent of the human community. This is the constitutive good which can empower the moral self, a self that emerges most robustly within a community of mutuality. Trinitarian divine love offers the self a certain stance towards society; it sees something good in the human self, that is, the created image of God (imago dei) in the human (C. Taylor, 1999, 33). Taylor’s solution is an unconditional love, and a belief that people are made in the image of God:

Our being in the image of God is also our standing among others in the stream of love, which is that facet of God’s life we try to grasp, very inadequately, in speaking of the Trinity. Now it makes a whole lot of difference whether you think this kind of love is a possibility for us humans. I think it is, but only to the extent that we open ourselves up to God, which means in fact, overstepping the limits set by Nietzsche and Foucault. (C. Taylor, 1999, 35)

It is intriguing to see that Taylor suggests that Foucault sets limits (weak transcendence) that stifle certain alternatives for self-constitution. Foucault operates within the immanent frame and a posture of intense self-love/self-care. This is ironic, because Foucault is the champion of a freedom which resists stifling limits. What will transform the self, under these circumstances, is an “ability to love the world and our selves, to see both as good despite the wrong and the suffering”. Taylor extends that thought.

The original Christian notion of agape love is of a love that God has for humans which is connected with their goodness as creatures (though we don’t have to decide whether they are loved because good or good because loved). Human beings participate through grace in this love. There is a divine affirmation of the creature, which is captured in the repeated phrase in Genesis 1 about each stage of the creation, “and God saw that it was good”. Agape is inseparable from such “seeing-good”. (C. Taylor, 1989, 516)

The individual self is elevated by this love, affirmed in its destiny. Agape informs the good and the quality of the will. Trinitarian goodness empowers, clarifies, and animates the human self in its moral and meaning quest. It acknowledges the value that each person gains from the recognition, mercy and affirmation of God. Within this paradigm, the self does not struggle to define itself by itself alone (self-reflexivity) but engages this transforming love from the divine Other.

Divine trinitarian love creates the very possibility of human loving, a love that issues from the power to love in spite of rejection: a sacrificial, courageous love of friends and enemies. This goodness is a relational attribute in God; it exists and exhibits itself in the form of a communion of love: the relational, interpersonal, mutually supportive, loving relationship among the persons of the Trinity. Theologian Christoph Schwöbel (1992, 73) explains how human goodness is rooted in this divine transcendent love: “In a conception where goodness is understood as a divine attribute, rooted in God’s trinitarian agency, goodness has to be understood as an essentially relational attribute.” From this perspective, humans do not invent the good, but discover it derivatively from God and in community. We don’t invent it, but it comes to us as a gift from God, full of surprise and delight. Agape love (I Corinthians 13) overcomes the distance between divine and human goodness. We can love one another because He first loved us (I John 4).

This plausibility structure of divine trinitarian goodness calls into question the validity of a pure self-assertion, self-indulgence or violence. Taylor’s appeal to the concept of quality of the will offers one hope and a basis for critical evaluation between destructive forces like Dachau, Hiroshima or Cambodia’s Killing Fields, and the constructive forces like Amnesty International, Doctors without Borders, the World Wildlife Fund. The motives for the former are destructive and death-dealing greed and will-to-power; the motives of the latter are compassionate, life-affirming and life-protecting. They are not both legitimized because they are self-expressions or practices of freedom. Foucault’s outlook of aesthetic freedom and anti-normativity makes him blind to this discernment at a fundamental level.

The discussion of this section lays the foundation for a new definition of freedom as goodness-freedom, freedom qualified by divine goodness. The will is qualified; pure autonomous choice is seen not to be adequate or sufficient; the beautiful life must be scrutinized by transcendent goodness and the Other.

This transcendent divine goodness is both present and accessible in the human sphere through the incarnation of Jesus the Christ, one of the members of the Trinity. Transcendence does not therefore mean aloofness and indifference, or a burdensome or unreachable standard of perfection, but rather a creative, fruitful engagement with the world, everyday people, society and its institutions. Transcendent divine goodness takes on an historical and christological determination in order to impact the human moral world. By reading the moral life through the life of Christ, one cannot espouse a minimalist and juridical conception of the moral life that merely acts on what is permitted and forbidden. We find a moral life that makes sense in the light of a Christ who is full of a rich and dynamic goodness, who incarnates goodness in human flesh, articulates it historically and culturally with integrity. D. Stephen Long appeals to the moral normativity of the life of Jesus.

In Christian theology, Jesus reveals to us not only who God is but also what it means to be truly human. This true humanity is not something we achieve on our own; it comes to us as a gift … The reception of this gift contains an ineliminable element of mystery that will always require faith. Jesus in his life, teaching, death and resurrection and ongoing presence in the church and through the Holy Spirit … orders us towards God. He directs our passions and desires towards that which can finally fulfil them and bring us happiness … [and] reveal to us what it means to be human. (D. S. Long, 2001, 106-7)

This immanence offers the option of life of the self, lived not autonomously but in cooperation with divine wisdom and goodness. In the incarnation of Jesus Christ, goodness is made accessible, personal and real. It is not left as an abstract unattainable ideal, or a wholly other reality alone. It is a transcendent goodness expressed within immanent reality, a will-to-hospitality.

Within the plausibility structure of the Christian meta-narrative, the roots for the ethical life, the transcendent condition for this life, lie in God, not in a mythological ontology of freedom (a hollow concept). Jesus and his followers (the church) are the dynamic unity between the transcendent and the temporal, eternity and time, the absolute and the contingent. The relational goodness of God is discovered not by means of a merely abstract speculation but in embodied human lives oriented toward God. It involves human subjectivity engaged and inspired by the needs of the human Other, as well as by the goodness of God.

Therefore, the first human life to consider for this position of hopeful goodness-freedom is the life of Jesus. This trinitarian goodness is a gift, and profoundly it is the gift to the human race of Jesus Christ. He is God’s goodness embodied, God’s own self revealed in a most dramatic way. It makes him the ultimate mentor, as Jordan Peterson might say. The big shift from Foucault’s interpretation is that the human self, in this case, is constituted by its engagement with the divine self in the process of discovering spiritual and moral epiphany. This is breakthrough at its best. It is an existential encounter which provides transformation of the self to be better, more resilient in doing the good, living the good. The focus is on love not power. One does have a relationship with one’s self, but one can also have a relationship with a transcendent self who is goodness, love-in-communion. This social imaginary provides a morality that is robust and sustainable.

The church at its best is an organization that majors on hospitality (welcoming the other). As Christ’s representatives on earth, it produces people on a quest for goodness of this quality, and seeks to mediate this transcendent goodness (righteousness) into society. It still believes that God speaks and acts, that the triune God is present to and in the world, that it is vital to love this personal Good and be loved by him, vital to seek the divine personal, unfathomable Good and be sought by him. It renders problematic the seeking of the good or goodness apart from seeking God, the pursuit of the good while walking away from relationship to God. It transforms ethics, within the economy of human relations, from a contest within a general will to power and self-assertion, to the economy of grace within a communion of agape love. It is not the economy of a naked, free human will choosing to design oneself autonomously. Goodness is no mere achievement of the human will. It is truly a mysterious gift of God. That is what we celebrate at Christmas.

Ruth Haley Barton has a wonderful chapter on our longing for a strong sense of God’s goodness in leadership loneliness in Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership (155-167). It is rooted in a meditation on Moses dilemma of leadership in Exodus 33.

~Dr. Gordon E. Carkner, Meta-Educator with UBC Postgraduate Students and Faculty, Author, Blogger, YouTube Seminars.

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

Taylor, C. (1999). In J.L. Heft (S.M.). (Ed.). A Catholic Modernity? Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Long, D.S. (2001). The Goodness of God. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press.

Schwöbel, C. (1992). God’s Goodness and Human Morality. In C. Schwöbel, God: Action and revelation (pp. 63-82). Kampen, Holland: Pharos. 

Prayer on Christmas Day

Giver of all that is good,
we thank you today for the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,
who was born into poverty in a hard and cruel time,
who gave himself for us,
and lives with you in glory.

We thank you for all your friends and prophets who have gone before us,
and those who taught us to celebrate this feast of the Nativity with beloved
Scripture, and beloved carols, and loud rejoicing;
help us to teach those who come after us that Christmas is a holy time, a
time to seek reconciliation and peace.

Bless us, Lord, as we seek Christ in the lowly mangers of this world,
bless us, as we seek to honor the mystery of the Incarnation in our midst,
remembering always that you made us, and all humanity, in your divine 
image.

Help us to gladly welcome today, and all days,
your Wisdom, your Power,
your Emmanuel, your Prince of Peace.

– Kathleen Norris from God With Us

Song for the New Year: “By Gracious Powers So Wonderfully Sheltered,” whose lyrics are from an Advent poem by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  During this time of pandemic weariness and economic ruin facing so many nations, the words are indeed a salve and source of encouragement, especially when we learn that Bonhoeffer wrote it just months before his execution, in order to comfort and encourage his parents and fiancée.  

https://youtu.be/aN7dGz6NH5M (German, with English subtitles)

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

Categories