Posted by: gcarkner | March 19, 2018

Gethsemane to Calvary

Garden of Gethsemane

Gethsemane by Rowan Williams

Who said that trees grow easily
compared with us? What if the bright
bare load that pushes down on them
insisted that they spread and bowed
and pleated back on themselves and cracked
and hunched? Light dropping like a palm
levelling the ground, backwards and forwards?

Across the valley are the other witnesses
of two millennia, the broad stones
packed by the hand of God, bristling
with little messages to fill the cracks.
As the light falls and flattens what grows
on these hills, the fault lines dart and spread,
there is room to say something, quick and tight.

Into the trees’ clefts, then, do we push
our folded words, thick as thumbs?
somewhere inside the ancient bark, a voice
has been before us, pushed the densest word
of all, abba, and left it to be collected by
whoever happens to be passing, bent down
the same way by the hot unreadable palms.

Rowan Williams, Remembering Jerusalem (Oxford: The Perpetua Press, 2001), p. 21

Giovani Bellini, The Agony of the Garden, 1459

Posted by: gcarkner | March 5, 2018

Expert Panel on Addiction, March 14, UBC

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Dr. John Koehn

John completed his medical education at the University of British Columbia, receiving certification from the Canadian College of Family Physicians. He acquired additional training in addiction medicine through completion of the St. Paul’s Goldcorp Addiction Medicine Fellowship and is certified by the American Board of Addiction Medicine. Currently, he is a consulting physician in addiction medicine at the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, British Columbia, where he also teaches as a member of the UBC Clinical Faculty.

” I tell my patients that addiction is a treatable disease and that people get better when they take steps to address it. I am very hopeful for my patients because I’ve seen the difference that recovery can make in their lives.”


Dr. Gabriel Loh

Gabriel is currently Clinical Coordinator of Pharmacy Practice at Richmond Hospital and is also a Clinical Assistant Professor with the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at UBC.  Gabriel obtained his undergraduate Pharmacy degree at UBC in 2001, subsequently completed a hospital pharmacy residency at Saint Paul’s Hospital in 2002 and then a post-graduate Doctor of Pharmacy degree at UBC in 2007.  He has worked as a front-line clinical pharmacist in the Intensive Care Units at both Vancouver General Hospital and Richmond Hospital for the past 10 years and has helped care for patients and families with various addiction issues in his daily work.

“Addiction is a complex medical disorder that not only affects the individual but which can also destroy the lives of entire families and loved ones.  While various interventions and treatments are now available to help an individual manage addiction, the Christian community must not neglect the patient’s family members and caregivers who desperately need support and healing as well. While there are all sorts of therapeutic interventions and harm reduction strategies being promoted right now, I believe that a holistic approach that incorporates the physical-emotional-spiritual aspects would be most successful in breaking the cycle of addiction.”

Jadine Cairns, Registered Dietician, MSc. Nutrition

Jadine Cairns has worked as a registered dietitian for over 30 years and completed her masters in Human Nutrition at the University of British Columbia in 2003.  She has published and presented at national and international conferences in the area of eating disorders.  She was the President of the Eating Disorders Association of Canada and Chaired the National Eating Disorders Conference in 2014. Currently, Jadine works with the BC Children’s Hospital Eating Program for almost 30 years. She also has a private practice specializing in weight management, eating disorder and disordered eating issues.

Eating Disorders

“Causes of Eating Disorders, simply put, is multi-factorial.  It has been described as a combination of genetics, internal personal factors and external (environmental) factors.  Not much can be done with genetics, but the goal of treatment would be to address the internal space of being human and to be aware of the environment where we live.  Is an eating disorder the result from our “addiction to health”, “perfectionism”, performance, or our need to preserve our self-image in the only way we know how?  The latest thoughts and research around what is helpful and has good prognostic outcomes include psychoeducation, dialectical behavior therapy, family base therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and self-compassion.”

Jay C. Wang, MD, a graduate of the University of British Columbia School of Medicine.
PGYIII Psychiatry Resident: Currently, Dr Wang is completing his specialty training in psychiatry.
“Having seen the effects of drugs and addiction on psychiatric patients, he is interested in the interface between psychiatry and addiction, and will be completing subspecialty training in addiction psychiatry in the following academic year. In his opinion, the treatment of addiction emphasizes the biopsychosocial approach, where medications, therapy, and social factors all have a role to play in helping a patient recover.”
Some Questions to Ponder

Is addiction a brain disease or a chosen habit or something in between?  If we call addiction a disease does that absolve individuals from moral responsibility?

Do you think decriminalization (rather than legalization) of opioids would increase or decrease the present addiction crisis?

Is there a danger that widespread use of opioid antagonists  might merely encourage greater use of opioids?   

Nicotine is far deadlier and more addictive than cannabis. Should the government be taking greater steps to prevent nicotine addiction?

Bill Newsome Lecture, January 31 @ UBC

In order for organisms to learn and successfully repeat behaviours that result in survival of the individual and the social encounters necessary for survival of the species, certain brain mechanisms for motivation, emotion and executive control must be activated.  Addiction occurs when these normal mechanisms become hijacked by particular substances. The common mechanism for this hijacking involves increased sensitivity to the neurotransmitter dopamine. Pleasurable behaviors including eating, drinking, music, video games, social and sexual interactions are all accompanied by dopamine release in an area deep in the frontal brain called the nucleus accumbens.   Substances that are abused also directly or indirectly activate this area, but psychostimulants, opiates, ethanol, cannabinoids and nicotine all result in bursts of dopamine release 3 to 5 times greater than that provided by normal reinforcers.

Dopamine release in this brain area flags whatever produced this dopamine spike as worth attending to, and any cues associated with it as worth learning. This is the normal brain mechanism which promotes learning of the behaviours necessary for survival.  Initial bursts of dopamine during successful behaviours causes positive reinforcement and results in the  longterm structural changes in synapses and dendritic spines which underlie learning. The mechanism works as it should if the organism learns, for example, where food is available. The problem arises with the supra-physiological amounts of dopamine produced by addictive substances. This learning of drug associated cues and pleasurable feelings leads to addiction.

Sensitization of the nucleus accumbens occurs during this addiction process. Drugs, alcohol and nicotine can restructure the synaptic pathways so they stimulate more dendrites than previously, but other normal reinforcers stimulate fewer dendrites. This action hijacks motivational processes and the person becomes focused only on the drug. Now the brain is sensitized to the drug cues and any reminder of the drug can cause craving and drug seeking even in abstinent former users. Cues associated with the drug such as paraphernalia or even specific places and people increase anticipatory activity in the sensitized nucleus accumbens and related areas and bring back the craving.

Now we have set the stage for long-term changes in motivation, emotion and executive control of behavior that occur in addiction. Due to physiological adaptation to the high levels of dopamine, chronic use leads to a decrease in the  subjective feeling of pleasure provided by the drug by a mechanism referred to as tolerance. Tolerance means an increasingly greater amount of the drug is necessary to produce the same “high”. Eventually drug users seek to avoid the distress, irritability and restlessness of the withdrawal symptoms produced when dopamine release in the accumbens is decreased if they do not continue to take the drug regularly. To prevent withdrawal with its resulting negative sensations and feelings, individuals become focussed on compulsively seeking more of the drug. Thus, in addition to changes in motivation, there are changes in emotional mechanisms. The memory of reinforcement also decreases the activity in the cortical executive circuits which normally provide inhibitory control over all adult behaviour and allow us to make wise decisions. Thus ability to regulate behaviour thus becomes impaired due to altered cortical control circuits.

~ Dr. Judith Toronchuk, Neuropsychologist  Hacking of the American Mind, Dr. Robert Lustig, Paediatrician.

Lustig’s Book: The Hacking of the American Mind: the science behind the corporate takeover of our bodies and Brians  Gabor Mate


Posted by: gcarkner | February 25, 2018

Reflections on the Core: Loves and Identity, James K.A. Smith

Brilliant Quotes from James K.A. Smith, You Are What You Love: the spiritual power of habit. (Brazos, 2016)

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James K. A. Smith

Canadian philosopher who is currently Professor of Philosophy at Calvin College, holding the Gary & Henrietta Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology & Worldview. He is a notable figure associated with radical orthodoxy, a theo-philosophical movement within postmodern Christianity (although Smith now questions the reality of radical orthodoxy as an ongoing theological movement: “Is ‘radical orthodoxy’ still a thing? I hadn’t realized”). His work is undertaken at the borderlands between philosophy, theology, ethics, aesthetics, science, and politics. Drawing from continental philosophy and informed by a long Augustinian tradition of theological cultural critique—from Augustine and Calvin to Edwards and Kuyper—his interests are in bringing critical thought to bear on the practices of the church and the church’s witness to culture, culminating in the need to interpret and understand what he has called “cultural liturgies”. He is also heavily influenced in his take on the secular age and disenchantment by Canadian iconic philosopher Charles Taylor. His work in this book is cutting edge as a faith and culture interface.

Jesus is a teacher who doesn’t just inform our intellect but forms our very loves. He isn’t content to simply deposit new ideas into your mind; he is after nothing less than your wants, your loves, your longings.


Worship works from the top down, you might say. In worship, we don’t just come to show God our devotion and give him our praise; we are called to worship because in this encounter God (re)makes and molds us top-down. Worship is the arena in which God recalibrates our hearts, reforms our desires, and rehabituates our loves. Worship isn’t just something we do; it is where God does something to us. Worship is the heart of discipleship because it is the gymnasium in which God retrains our hearts.


Learning” virtue—becoming virtuous—is more like practicing scales on the piano than learning music theory: the goal is, in a sense, for your fingers to learn the scales so they can then play “naturally,” as it were. Learning here isn’t just information acquisition; it’s more like inscribing something into the very fiber of your being.


Your deepest desire,” he observes, “is the one manifested by your daily life and habits.” This is because our action—our doing—bubbles up from our loves, which, as we’ve observed, are habits we’ve acquired through the practices we’re immersed in. That means the formation of my loves and desires can be happening “under the hood” of consciousness. I might be learning to love a telos that I’m not even aware of and that nonetheless governs my life in unconscious ways.


Similarly, if I am going to be a teacher of virtue, I need to be a virtuous teacher. If I hope to invite students into a formative educational project, then I, too, need to relinquish any myth of independence, autonomy, and self-sufficiency and recognize that my own formation is never final. Virtue is not a one-time accomplishment; it requires a maintenance program.


Jesus’s command to follow him is a command to align our loves and longings with his—to want what God wants, to desire what God desires, to hunger and thirst after God and crave a world where he is all in all—a vision encapsulated by the shorthand “the kingdom of God.”


As Blaise Pascal put it in his famous wager: “You have to wager. It is not up to you, you are already committed.” You can’t not bet your life on something. You can’t not be headed somewhere. We live leaning forward, bent on arriving at the place we long for.


Formative Christian worship paints a picture of the beauty of the Lord–and a vision of the shalom he desires for creation–in a way that captures our imagination….The biblical vision of shalom–of a world where the Lamb is our light, where swords are beaten into ploughshares, where abundance is enjoyed by all, where people from every tribe and tongue and nation sing the same song of praise, where justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like an everlasting stream–is the vision that should be enacted in Christian worship.


Our wants and longings and desires are at the core of our identity, the wellspring from which our actions and behavior flow.


The place we unconsciously strive toward is what ancient philosophers of habit called our telos–our goal, our end. But the telos we live toward is not something we primarily know or believe or think about; rather, our telos is what we want, what we long for, what we crave. It is less an ideal that we have ideas out and more a vision of “the good life” that we desire.


But once you realize that we are not just thinking things but creatures of habit, you’ll then realize that temptation isn’t just about bad ideas or wrong decisions; it’s often a factor of de-formation and wrongly ordered habits. In other words, our sins aren’t just discrete, wrong actions and bad decisions; they reflect vices. And overcoming them requires more than just knowledge; it requires rehabituation, a re-formation of our loves.


Not many people can confront the truth about themselves. If they did they’d run a mile, would take an immediate and profound dislike to the person in whose skin they’d learned to sit quite tolerably all these years.


Indeed, the telos for a Christian is Christ: Jesus Christ is the very embodiment of what we’re made for, of the end to which we are called….and how does this happen? By being regularly immersed in the drama of God in Christ reconciling the world to himself, which is precisely the point of Christian worship–to invite us into that story over and over again, ‘character-izing’ us as we rehearse the gospel drama over and over.


To recognize the limits of knowledge is not to embrace ignorance. We don’t need less than knowledge; we need more. We need to recognize the power of habit.

Dialogue on Human Rights

Date: Feb 28, 2018
Time: 7pm – 9:30pm
Place: The Centre, 777 Home Street, Downtown Vancouver
Room: The Commons
RSVP at:

*RSVP required to attend. 

This was a very good event, a fair exchange between two different worldviews. A key question discussed was the rooting or grounding of the good of human rights. There was good humour and kindness between candidates. ~Dr. Gordon Carkner

A video will be available through Apologetics Canada. Conference in Abbotsford March 2-3

Key Questions from a Conference in Langley, BC with James K.A. Smith:

Since all beliefs are currently contestable and fragile, in a secular age, what are the plausibility conditions necessary for Christian belief?

Within the current immanent frame described by Charles Taylor, what does faith in the transcendent look like and how is it accessible? Everyone is feeling cross-pressured by other beliefs and doubts.

With the Nova Effect of multiplication of convictions and beliefs, spiritual journeys, what are the chances or opportunities of Christian re-enchantment of life?

In a secular age, can we bring the transcendent into our politics? Christian politics starts in community.





Posted by: gcarkner | February 6, 2018

Thirteen Good Books for 2018

Thirteen Top Apologetics Resources for 2018

You Can find them all at Regent College Bookstore

~Dr. Gordon Carkner


  • Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies.
  • David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God.
  • James K.A. Smith, You Are What You Love.
  • Alister McGrath, A Fine-Tuned Universe.
  • David Brooks, The Road to Character.
  • Miraslov Volf, Flourishing.
  • Jonathan Sacks, Not in God’s Name.
  • Andy Crouch, Playing God.
  • Steven Bouma-Prediger, For the Beauty of the Earth.
  • Tom McLeish, Faith and Wisdom in Science.
  • N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God.
  • Craig & Meister, God is Good; God is Great. 
  • Tim Keller, Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical.

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Snow Geese Migration, Fraser River in Vancouver

Posted by: gcarkner | February 3, 2018

National Science & Faith Conference, May 2018


Posted by: gcarkner | January 14, 2018

Leading Stanford Neuroscientist Bill Newsome at UBC/TWU    Bill Newsome January 31 @ UBC

This is where the fulcrum of our fears lie: that humans as a species and we as thinking people, will be shown to be no more than a machinery of atoms. The crisis of our confidence springs from each person’s wish to be a mind and a person in the face of the nagging fear that one is only a mechanism. ~Jacob Bronowski, Mathematician, Biologist and Historian of Science

“In my lifetime, there has never been a moment like this one… in terms of the speed and acceleration of discovery.” William Newsome, director of the Stanford Neurosciences Institute, says new technologies are allowing researchers to make significant progress in understanding the brain.


Co-sponsored with the Canadian Science & Christian Affiliation and UBC Graduate & Faculty Christian Forum. Other lectures in the series at 

Supported financially by the UBC Murrin Fund and Oikodome Foundation

What about our brains allows us be one person at the office and a very different person at home? Professor William Newsome explains how a constant rewiring of neural connectivity enables the “socially sensitive” production of behavior.

See also the January 6-12 Issue of the Economist.

Read: Explaining the Brain: mechanisms and the mosaic unity of neuroscience by Carl F. Craver

Compare post on Ghost in the Machine.

Further Reading on neuroscience and faith, the body-soul question:

Nagel, T.,  What is it like to be a bat?; (2012) Mind and Cosmos.

Brown, W.S. & Strawn, B.D. (2012). The physical nature of Christian life: Neuroscience, psychology and the church. NY: Cambridge University Press.

Jeeves, M. & Brown, W.S. (2009). Neuroscience, psychology, and religion: illusions, delusions, and realities about human nature. West Conshohocken: Templeton Foundation Press.

Brown, W.S. and Murphy, N. (2007). Did My Neurons Make Me Do It?: philosophical, and neurobiological perspectives on moral responsibility and free will. Oxford Clarendon.

Markham, Paul N. (2007). Rewired: Exploring Religious Conversion. Eugene, OR: Pickwick

Murphey, Nancey. (2006). Bodies and souls, or spirited bodies? New York, NY: Cambridge

Green, Joel & Palmer, Stuart. (2005). In search of the soul: four views of the mind-body problem. Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Jeeves, Malcolm, ed. (2004). From cells to souls–and beyond: changing portraits of human nature. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

Jeeves, Malcolm. (2006). Human nature: reflections on the integration of psychology and Christianity. Radnor, PA: Templeton Foundation Press.

Swinburne, R. (2007). The Evolution of the Soul. Oxford. Bill Newsome on State of Neuroscience Bill Newsome on Free Will Test of Faith Series with Bill Newsome

Awards and Prizes

  • Rank Prize in Opto-electronics
  • Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award (American Psychological Association)
  • Karl Spencer Lashley Award (American Philosophical Society)
  • Champalimaud Vision Award
  • Pepose Award for the Study of Vision at Brandeis University
  • 100 Published scientific articles
Next, GFCF Panel on Addiction

Wednesday, March 14, 2018 at 4:00 p.m.

Woodward IRC Room 5, GATE One UBC


Distinguished Panel Members

John Koehn, Addiction Medical Practitioner, New Westminster, Royal Columbia Hospital, completed a Fellowship under Dr. Evan Wood, BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS

Jay Wong, Psychiatry UBC, Providence Health, front line addiction worker, under Dr. Evan Wood

Jadine Cairns, Nutritionist, Children’s Hospital, Specialist in Eating Disorders

Gabriel Loh, Doctor of Pharmacology, Vancouver Coastal Health, Clinical Assistant Professor, works at Richmond Hospital. 


Various types of addiction, especially drug, food and alcohol, are showing up as a major social and health problem in Canadian society. It has been recognized by the Royal College of Physicians as a training priority. In recent years, substance abuse and the concurrent disorders have been highlighted in the media through the fentanyl crisis. This interdisciplinary panel of healthcare professionals will address various aspects of the problem and propose some ways forward from within their fields of expertise. Faith-based and medical solutions will be explored as a long-term solution to this vexing problem that deeply challenges so many lives.




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Posted by: gcarkner | January 13, 2018

Recovery of Identity through Virtue

 The Power of Virtue to Transform and Empower

What kind of people do we aspire to be? What will help us persevere amidst challenges and tragedies and show resilience for the long haul? What kind of things which we think, say and do will make us stronger, focused, more effective? How do we locate ourselves in relation to the good? What do wisdom, courage and hope, benevolence and love, moderation, self-restraint and frugality, patience and gratitude have to do with academia and with everyday life? Can we live well if we live and love virtuously? Our virtue will inform our academic vision, and our vision shapes our goals and actions day to day, and cumulatively this impacts creation and society. Virtue involves our desires and emotions, disposition and attitudes, our stance towards and within the world. There is an art, a joy, a creativity, a finesse to virtue. To embrace virtue involves living deeply, prayerfully, circumspectly, hopefully, expectantly.

A moral virtue is an excellence of character, developed by conscious choices over time and thus for which we can and should be praised, that disposes one to act in such a reasonable way to avoid extremes, to act in short as a sage would act. ~ Aristotle

Here are some examples of virtue that leads us into taking responsibility for ourselves and our world from Steven Bouma-Prediger, For the Beauty of the Earth.

  • Respect & Receptivity: If life in all its diversity is a gift from a benevolent Creator, we should respect its innate, intrinsic and precious value—its creational integrity. Biodiversity (a rich and full flourishing fittedness) is an intended result of God’s wise and orderly creative activity. We as human creation are only one species among many and we should cultivate the earth in harmony with other creatures, so that we can all sing a symphony of God’s praises together (Psalms 104; 148). In other words, other creatures count morally or have moral standing; we have the same God-loved home, and are interdependent with other God-loved creatures on this planet and it is our obligation to respect and manage it well. The virtue principle is to act to preserve diverse kinds of life and the opposing vice is conceit to ignore or disdain other creatures, or just use/or abuse them for our appetites or pleasure. Conceit has no genuine interest in another and will if necessary violate the integrity of the other through a lack of regard. Another different vice would be to worship the other creatures through an excess of reverence. Receptivity is a form of hospitality, which acknowledges our interdependence with the creaturely other; self-sufficiency is the vice that says we don’t have need of the other.


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


  • Humility and Honesty: Humility speaks to the art of being responsible, unpretentious and aware of one’s limits; it recognizes that we humanoids are both finite and faulted; we should act cautiously and move slowly with a view to the consequences of how we consume and live with others. The vice is hubris or overweening pride, an exaggerated self-confidence. Honesty means to be without guile or duplicity (perversion of truth for personal gain); it entails that we will act with forethought. It opposite is Deception a cunning misrepresentation often fuelled by envy and spite in order to see enemies harmed and humiliated.


  • Wisdom and Hope: Wisdom is an excellence of intellect, developed over time, that allows one to live the good life (150). It originates in the fear or worship of God. It is sound practical judgment based on uncommon insight honed through long experience and informed by cultivated memory. Assumption: it is God’s will that the whole of creation be fruitful and flourish and not just humans. We should act in such a way that the ability of living creature can maintain themselves and reproduce. Foolishness is the position of habitual lack of sound judgment, to act as if the earth is endlessly exploitable. Hopetrust oriented forward in time rooted in God’s promises, a yearning for shalom. Despair is the absence of any expectation of a good future; it leads to the sickness unto death of Kierkegaard.


  • Patience and Serenity: 152 assuming a belief is Sabbath rest for land humans and animals, it is a principle of rejuvenation. It takes the long vew and shows a calm forebearance. We should act in such a way that the creatures under our care are given their needful rest. The vice is impetuousness, an impulsiveness based on fear of the future that drive to gratify our desires in the immediate moment. Serenity is an unruffled peacefulness, an inner calm amidst chaos rooted in a assurance of God’s grace.


  • Benevolence and Love: Benevolence is willingness to promote the well-being of another plus a feeling of affection for the other. To love the earth means to serve and cultivate it and protect it from harm (to be earthkeepers). It involves recognition of God as the real owner and we humans as the tenants, those who tend the earth gardens. If we love God’s good creation, we will not exploit or pillage it; we will nurture it. This may seem strange, but it is biblical (Genesis 2:15). The ecological tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico should actually break our hearts.


  • Justice and Courage: Justice, a central feature of human flourishing, is the disposition to act impartially and fairly; it implies respect for the rights of others. In Isaiah 24, justice is intimately tied to the health of the land; sociall justice and ecological health are bound together. We are enjoined to act so as to treat others, human and non-human fairly. Courage is the moral strength in the face of danger, tenacity in the face of opposition, a stubborn persistence in the face of adversity. Often it takes tremendous courage to sustain justice.

A virtue is a state of praiseworthy character—with the attendant desires, attitudes and emotions. Formed by choices over time, a virtue disposes us to act in certain excellent ways. Knowing which way is the truly excellent way involves avoiding the extremes of vice by looking to people of virtue as role models. As certain virtues shape our character they influence how we see the world. And the entire process of forming virtues is shaped by a particular narrative and communities. The settled disposition to act well, which makes us who we are, are nurtured by the stories  we imbibe and the communities of which we are a part. ~ Steven Bouma-Prediger

See also David Brooks, The Road to Character.

Our lives often follow either of two dramatically different routes:

  1. expedience, pleasure now, entitlement, short cuts morally, take all you can get and run, immediate self-gratification. This route can lead to nihilism (loss of self) or tyranny.
  2. sacrifice, work hard for a better future, delay gratification, focus on the greater good, think about others, share, take responsibility. This is the route to a higher freedom, a legacy life. You are saving up for a better future self (a university education, a better marriage, a better reputation, a better world).
Posted by: gcarkner | January 8, 2018

Late Modernity and its Prospects

Learning from an Analysis of Late Modernity

The irony of late modernity is that, just when we thought we were most  free, we discovered that we were actually in chains of a culture of nihilism and cynicism, anger and resentment. We dare to know the truth about our situation, and to think critically about it. We also long to experience life in its fullness and abundance, to live with passion towards the good. We want to discover our calling and make a meaningful contribution. We have discovered that nihilism is a seductive trap, with false promises that cannot deliver. Radical individualism is out of touch with reality, it does not sustain, and cynicism self-destructs. Nihilism leaves us homeless, fearful, deceptive, suspicious, isolated, and morally frozen.

Ultimately, it is a form of anti-humanism, working against our best interests, as well as the best interests of others. The great escape from nihilism, as we have articulated it, is a committed process. It moves us out of naïveté into maturity. We have been on a spiritual journey that requires both map (a new paradigm) and compass (wisdom, discernment, interpretive skill). We do have the choice of a robust alternative, an upward trek towards virtue, which is at the heart of human flourishing and meaning. With some help, we can recover a fresh consciousness, an effective individuality in relation to the good, to agape love, and to community. We can live from the depth of character, rather than stroll superficially as flâneurs, aristocrats of style, or reduce ourselves to technical performers, a mere cog in the big economic machinery. Read More…

Posted by: gcarkner | January 4, 2018

GCU Winter-Spring 2018

 Grad Christian Union, Winter/Spring Term 2018

We exist to help you reach high as a graduate student and to find your truest self. GCU is a network of believers and seekers, a friendly learning community providing mutual support and dialogue. We include those pursuing the deeper life, meaningful character formation, those who want to grow in personal/emotional intelligence as well as in academic skill. We would be excited to meet you and hear about your journey, your passion and your areas of curiosity and joie de vivre. Join us at upcoming activities which include social outings, study group and special lectures. I’d be happy to meet personally over coffee as well. ~Gord

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Welcome to New Opportunities to Expand Your Horizons

 Welcome to UBC if you have just started your program.  We begin January with our study group on Tuesday, January 16 at 7 pm at our home 277 West 16th Ave., Vancouver (just east of Cambie), in the book of II Corinthians, continuing our theme of Incarnation and the New Covenant. We start with an introduction to Paul’s invention of Christian theology with top scholar N.T. (Tom) Wright. GCU sponsors discussion groups, retreats, films, speakers and fun outdoor hikes, some ski trips, in the local mountains. We like international food and fun. GCU is like a little UN with friends from around the globe. Write to if you want to be regularly informed about our activities and resources to enhance your experience at UBC. All of us are on a journey both academically and spiritually. We hope that GCU can add fun, wisdom and colour to that adventure as you travel with new companions. Success in grad school is aided by a good support group–walking through your challenges with others. You have much to offer to UBC and to other students, things from the centre of your passion, questions that lead into curious investigation. We have just released a book written by our staff support worker Gordon Carkner which gives the spirit of GCU, and we think that you will benefit from it as a resource. It is called The Great Escape from Nihilism: rediscovering our passion in late modernity

GCU helps you navigate 

Joined by his wife Ute, and a number of UBC faculty interested in supporting graduate students, Gord loves to hear stories from around the world and he enjoys the wonder of engaging our Christian faith with culture and with science. In one sense, we drill down into the ancient Christian heritage of the university.  Ute has expertise in spiritual formation and intercession. Contact her for prayer about your issues. We work hard for you! GCU is all about dialogue, discussion, probing good question and personal growth, keeping us on the cutting edge.

First Lecture of 2018

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Posted by: gcarkner | December 11, 2017

Christmas Reading

Christmas Reading Suggestions

Scot McKnight, The Hum of Angels: Listening for the Messengers of God Amon Us. Waterbrook.

Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. Vintage; and The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom.

Terry Glasprey, 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know: The Fascinating Story Behind Great Works of Art, Literature, Music and Film. Baker

Michael Rota, Taking Pascal’s Wager: Faith, Evidence and the Abundant Life. IVP Academic

Marina Nemat, Prisoner of Teran: a Memoir. Penguin (International Bestseller)

Tim Keller, Making Sense of God: an Invitation to the Skeptical.

Sandra Maria Van Opsal, The Next Worship: Glorifying God in a Diverse World. IVP

Steven Backhouse, Kierkegaard: A Single Life. Zondervan

Stephen Bauman, Matthew Soerens & Issam Smier, Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis. Moody

Miraslov Volf, Flourishing: why we need religion in a globalized world. Yale University Press

Jonathan Sacks, Not in the Name of God: Confronting Religious Violence. Schocken. Piano Guys Christmas


Pastors and Christian Leaders

Christopher Wright, How to Preach and Teach the Old Testament for All its Worth. Zondervan 2017

Kevin Vanhoozer, Biblical Authority after Babel: Retrieving the Solas in the Spirit of Mere Protestant Christianity. Brazos

Oliver O’Donovan, Entering into Rest: Ethics as Theology, Volume 3

Gordon T. Smith, Institutional Intelligence: How to Build an Effective Organization.

Preston Manning, Faith, Leadership and Public Life: Leadership Lessons from Moses to Jesus.

Richard Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels. Baylor University Press.


Perhaps you will attend a Handel’s Messiah concert at this time of year to revive your sense of wonder at the nature of the Christmas celebrations. You want to rise above the pressures of wants from your kids and the consumeristic greed, the stresses of entertainment. One of the grand pieces in this phenomenal production is the oratorio “Unto Us a Child is Born”. This powerful, stirring  piece of music is based on a prophetic passage in the Hebrew Bible, Isaiah 9: 2-7, rooted in a poem delivered 600 years before the birth of Christ. Christians have taken this as a predictor of the coming Messiah. They own it as a statement about the prophetic child, a royal agent. He would be a Wonderful Counsellor, someone filled with wisdom about how life and relationships work; a Mighty God, a champion with authority to bring change for the good into the world; Everlasting Father, someone benevolent who knew the end from the beginning, who had a unique, eternal perspective on our lives and our troubles;  a Prince of Peace, someone who would sort out the injustices and remove oppression, who will level the playing field, and promote reconciliation. It speaks of the presence of Yahweh with his people, a presence of renewal and reformation, in a time of transition to a new cultural ethos. This prophetic child would bring Light, Joy, Freedom, and Peace.


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