Problems with Equality

Can the quest for social equality actually be masquerading as justice while causing the loss of even more important social goods?

Sunday, October 1st

Equality is perhaps the most influential ideal in contemporary Western social, political, & economic thought and culture today. It is the core value in ‘social’ justice and people accept it as self-evidently a good thing. History teaches us, however, that great evils can be justified by appeal to equality when it is isolated from concepts of justice and liberty. So how are we to balance these concepts? What are the various kinds of equality? How are they related to freedom and justice, to sameness and difference? This talk will provide key distinctions and clear contexts for this often misunderstood value in the current culture wars.

Saint Paul, Universalist

Saved or lost, heaven or hell – what is the ultimate fate of all people?

Sunday, October 1st

Contrary to what you may have thought, there is a way to interpret St. Paul that does not render his doctrine one of salvation for only a minority ‘elect’ to the exclusion of the majority of humankind. In fact, within Paul’s writings themselves, it is less difficult than one thinks to support the venerable, though minority view, of universal salvation for all. Drawing on the work of philosopher and theologian Thomas Talbott, this talk just scratches the surface of a controversial topic.

A Very Particular God

Speciel Guest: Dr Jason Byassee, Vancouver School of Theology

Sunday, December 3rd

We have all heard that God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and transcendently cosmic. Then how and why might God love a particular people? What if God is particular? In this talk, Dr Byassee will argue that God is Jewish, Catholic, and Pentecostal. Modernity has tried to frame humanity in universalistic terms—we are all equal, modernity insists. But the church is a people called out from all nations to be part of a Jewish body. What does that have to say about how we should think about cultures, race, gender—about humanity?

What ‘Inclusion’ Really Means

Depending on which view one espouses, the notion of ‘inclusion’ will take on varying forms and implications.

Sunday, January 7th, 2018

Surely there is more than one way to think about the social implications of sexual orientation and gender identity. Depending on which view one espouses, the notion of ‘inclusion’ will take on varying forms and implications. We'll look at classic notions of liberty and civic unity that we find in early modern philosopher John Locke’s concept of ‘toleration.' A free society must allow for the acceptance of variety and difference. To make sense of this we'll need to look at notions of belonging, neighbourliness, identity, toleration, inclusion, and the principles of dissent and minority protections.

Sweat Shop Guilt

If we buy things at Walmart aren’t we aiding and abetting the exploitation of child labour and suppressed wages in prison-like factories in China and Bangladesh?

Sunday, February 4th, 2018

If we don’t shop at Walmart do we feel morally superior to people who do? Is there anywhere in our globalist economy where we can escape the guilt of purchasing products manufactured outside of Canadian labour laws? Or… are we framing all this in half-truths, urban legends and myth? Let's try to clarify some of the complex moral relationships of a global production culture.

True Conservatism

Preserving and passing on a most important of human value: tradition

Sunday, March 4th, 2018

If you think you know what 'conservative' means because you’ve had to endure contemporary political, moral or economic voices, you probably don’t know what classic ‘Toryism’ was and is. (Hint: it’s not what we see in Canadian or American politics.) In fact, you might be surprised (and relieved) to know that the roots of conservatism, as a reaction to Enlightenment industrialization and revolution, are friendly to aspects of liberalism, communitarianism, and environmentalism. In fact, you might discover you are more of a conservative than you think! This talk draws upon the work of philosopher Roger Scruton.

How to Think #14

"All generalizations are wrong." Really? That's quite a generalization. How to think in categories while avoiding the fallacies that would make you sound prejudiced or bigoted.

Moslems are terrorists, right? Americans are greedy capitalists. Blacks are better athletes than Koreans. Men are more violent than women. It is impossible to think and speak without categories and generalizations. So what is the difference between a valid generalization and hasty one, a observation of probability and sheer prejudice, a wise insight based in experience and a stereotypes based in bigotry? Learn some critical thinking principles that will help you distinguish the difference between valid and invalid ways of handing groups and categories.

Anti-Liberalism

FEBRUARY 11 - the goal of fascism is always to suppress and control all thought and speech. How far down that road has the West already travelled?

The number one political and social value of the modern West is individual liberty and its most basic manifestation is freedom of thought and speech. Nowadays, however, a French magazine prints religious satire - then journalists get gunned down. Scientists who question the data and theory promulgated by global warming ‘believers’ now face character assassination and career destruction. All across the Western world, having an opinion that is not PC is construed as a moral failure. And to question this is proof of guilt. Let’s look at some ways contemporary culture forbids you from thinking, speaking, and believing freely. What does this portend for liberty, religions, and a culture that claims to value diversity while slamming any deviance from the party line?

Movie Night: A Serious Man

FEBRUARY 18 - Movie Night!! Bring popcorn and snacks to share. We watch a great film then chat about it.

We learn from the Book of Job: “Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble.” Such a man is Larry Gopnik. He lectures on physics in front of a blackboard filled with bewildering equations that are mathematical proofs approaching certainty, and in his own life, what can he be sure of? Nothing, absolutely nothing. This movie is set in what I assume to be a Minneapolis suburb, a prairie populated by split-level homes with big garages but not enough trees around them. In this world, Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) earnestly desires to be taken as a serious man, a man striving to do the right thing, but does God take him seriously? "I read the book of Job last night," Virginia Woolf said. "I don't think God comes out well in it." Someone up there doesn't like Larry Gopnik. - Roger Ebert, commentary on A Serious Man - an allegory of the Book of Job.

Hell No! Hell Yes!

FEBRUARY 25 - Wading into the lake of fire once again. How have Christians thought about the nature of hell, damnation, and divine punishment?

What do John Stott, C.S. Lewis, and N.T. Wright have in common? None of them thinks of hell as literal eternal conscious torment forever and ever. Neither did many founders of the Western church (e.g., Gregory of Nyssa) nor whole swaths of Eastern Christians. Hell as such is not found in the Old Testament at all. Just what are the alternatives to classical concepts of hell? How would we justify alternative interpretations? What is at stake with altering our views on this? If the classic view is wrong, would we not lose faith in the authority of church and tradition? In the Bible itself? Of course, if we have been wrong all these years we should correct our errors regardless of outcomes, no?

Hating ISIS

MARCH 3 - Jesus said "Love your enemies." How do you love yet fight diabolical evil like ISIS?

The internet is flooded with real snuff movies: videos depicting unimaginably gruesome tortures and murders by humans who seem as callous as demons. Murder of children by torture, rape, fire, stoning, etc. and all in the name of a god. So what’s not to hate? Isn’t this exactly the sort of thing that justified war against the Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan? (e.g., see: rape of Nanking.) So how are Christians to voice their opposition to such evil? Do we call for a war of extermination? Jesus said ‘love your enemies’ but how do we kill an enemy without hate? Can we fight fire with fire? What is the basis of moral warfare, of just retribution, of necessary evil? What would the voice of Jesus say?

Transgender & Christian

MARCH 10 - Caitlyn Jenner was all the tabloid rage last year, putting transgender issues front and centre in the news. So how come churches can't seem to talk about the subject?

While Christians for decades now, along with the rest of our culture, have been learning to think in new ways about alternative sexualities - the phenomenon of transexualism and the narratives of transgendered people has only recently been given some equal time. How do we define and understand transexualism? What do we learn from transgender people and their experience? How do we think about all of this in relation to the Bible, sexual ethics, science, and social justice. And most importantly, how do churches welcome trans people into the community of redemption with equal love and acceptance?

How to Think #13

SEPTEMBER 24th - Opening party and a look at some tools for how to think, such as occam's razor and what is wrong with the 'negative question.'

Introduction to this seasons topics plus some critical thinking for the road ahead. This fall 2015 season explores the interphase of Christian thought and post-modern themes. The jostling of modernity with it's spoilt child is of interest when it starts rocking the religion boat. And quite frankly, we're watching fundamentalism's boat just sink. So how does faith survive? Good news, it's a better day for faith than ever...

Subjectivity and Reality

OCTOBER 1st - Are there any unseen rainbows? Are there any unheard melodies? Is our reality the horizon between our senses and thoughts and whatever it is that's 'out there?'

It is ancient wisdom that appearances and reality are not necessarily the same. How is it that the same things can appear differently to different observers? Some things don't appear at all unless there is an observer present, like rainbows. But now, perhaps, the basic constituents of the physical world depend somehow on observers, if we believe the 'quantum' physics parables. So how does human subjectivity determine the world of appearances, judgements, and values in which we live? What does this mean for truth, objectivity, reality?

Podcast parts 1 & 2 here.

Social Construction of Reality

OCTOBER 8th - Is what we call 'reality' and 'truth' actually just a habit of thinking, a prejudice, a collective invention? Are we trapped within our own subjectivity? Are morality and value-claims just a matter of perspective? Can we ever find sure answers?

How much of what we claim to know as objective fact, as empirical truth, is actually a projection of our gender biases, cultural biases, vested economic interests and political viewpoints?  What is the relationship between nature/reality/truth and custom/perception/belief? How do collective beliefs pre-determine the way the world appears to us? How are collective beliefs formed? Is it even possible to avoid all preconceptions and attaint a 'view from nowhere?/

PODCAST CLICK HERE

Insight from Calvin: "

Questions for further discussion

Ethical Relativism

OCTOBER 15th - With so much of our consciousness evolving and changing, how can we know whether our values and morals are objectively true?

Everyone acknowledges the existence of many different moral systems in the world today. There are a many conflicting claims of what is right and wrong, good and bad. The difficulty is finding a valid standpoint from which to judge among them: whose values are better or worse, which system of ethics is true and which is false? What really threatens us is the thought that moral claims have no objective truth value whatsoever, but are all merely relative to the preferences of a particular time and place. Nothing is universally or absolutly right or wrong. Is our world awash in a sea of mere opinion regarding morals? How would one argue against the claims of moral relativism? Does post-modernity makes things better or worse?

The Equality Delusion

OCTOBER 22nd - Find out why equality does not equal justice. In fact, equality misapplied is the essence of injustice.

Aristotle defined justice as 'equality to equals, inequality to unequals.' Does this sound right? Is everybody equal? In what way? What about all the differences? Does everybody deserve the same? Why? What is the relationship of equality to justice, to mercy, to faith? What is the relationship of equality to freedom, to DNA, to social status, to where and when you were born, to gender, to wealth...? It's actually not so easy when you get started. In fact, more evil has been done in the name of equality than in the name of religion. Are those fightin' words? Come out for the discussion tonight.

After Inerrancy

OCTOBER 29th - How did a Swiss theologian change the way we think about the Word of God in ways that perturb fundamentalist and liberals alike?

Because of the improving study of manuscripts, arguments against Biblical inerrancy are getting stronger. Since the Bible is also fully the 'word of man' would we not expect human weaknesses to be an authentic part of the text? Let's look at the problem and then learn how last century's greatest theologian, Karl Barth, tried to resolved the challenge of modernity and the doctrine of the 'Word.''

Post Traumatic Church Syndrome

NOVEMBER 5th - A look at how bad religion can harm you and how to tell if you have the symptoms.

Spiritual abuse doesn't have to be as extreme as 'drinking the Kool Aid' in the Jonestown cultic compound. It can still consist in doctrines, methods, and communities that are harmful to human flourishing. Many people have run from religious harm. Some move to other churches, change religions, are reject religious or spiritual beliefs altogether. This session looks at what is called Post Traumatic Church Syndrome. PTCS has a very recognizable set of symptoms, a definitive set of causes, and a debilitating cycle of abuse. There are ways to stop the abuse and recover.

The Crucified God

NOVEMBER 12th - Exploring the thought of theologian Jurgen Moltmann

quotes from Moltmann...

“When God becomes man in Jesus of Nazareth, he not only enters into the finitude of man, but in his death on the cross also enters into the situation of man’s godforsakenness. In Jesus he does not die the natural death of a finite being, but the violent death of the criminal on the cross, the death of complete abandonment by God. The suffering in the passion of Jesus is abandonment, rejection by God, his Father. God does not become a religion, so that man participates in him by corresponding religious thoughts and feelings. God does not become a law, so that man participates in him through obedience to a law. God does not become an ideal, so that man achieves community with him through constant striving. He humbles himself and takes upon himself the eternal death of the godless and the godforsaken, so that all the godless and the godforsaken can experience communion with him.”

More Peter Rollins

NOVEMBER 19th - Post-post-modern theology, how to be an idiot, moron, or imbicile...for Christ in the world today.

Muslim Identity in the West

What are the challenges for Muslim immigrants when it comes to retaining religious identity while adapting to a new host cultures?

What’s it like for North African Muslim immigrants negotiating their religious identity in cultural centres such as Paris &Montreal? Specifically, what role does food and food practice play in living out religion & culture in a host country? In a multicultural context, how do differing identities encounter one another in productive, loving and respectful fashion? Rachel Brown (PhD cand.) shares from her experience in Muslim communities in France and Quebec.

Podcast parts 1 & 2 here.

Islam & the True Scotsman

Critical thinking tips for handling the news stories involving Islam

Have your heard these claims – the majority of Muslims are not terrorists, but the majority of recent terror is Muslim. ISIS and Al Qaida are not true Muslims? Islam is a religion of peace. Let’s not be sloppy in our thinking and rhetoric. Let’s learn some definitions, distinctions and arguments that help us think clearly and fairly about doctrines, cultures, and the personal faith of individual people.

Podcast here.

Engaging Muslim Spirituality

How does the Gospel impact Islamic hearers and converts? A study of spiritual life among various Islamic traditions.

Dr. Mark and Karen Naylor spent 14 years presenting the Gospel to Muslim groups influenced by various local traditions. He returns to the East each year to translate Scripture. Mark shares insights into three different faces of Islam – conservative (orthodox), mystical (Sufi) and syncretistic (folk Islam) and how each responds to the Gospel. Both religious and cultural interactions will be considered with a special consideration concerning the dynamic of spiritual conversion and the “insider movement.” What happens when a Muslim from these backgrounds begins to follow Christ?  How does their theology shift? 

Podcast parts 1 & 2 here.

Slave, Women, and Homosexuals

Let's face it: we just don't think every single passage of the Bible still applies today. How do we justify such a belief?

To modern ears, the Bible says some shocking things. If a man rapes a virgin and is caught he pays her father a monetary fine and is forced into marriage (Deut. 22:29). You may enslave war captives, even marry female ones (Deut 21:10-13), but you must execute homosexuals (Lev. 20:13). Jesus seemed to raise a new standard of grace for today. Still, slavery as an institution is nowhere condemned in the NT. In light of these facts, the question we ask is: on what basis do we determine which Scriptures still apply today and which ones do not? Does ‘Redemptive Movement Hermeneutics’ justify our selective readings?

Dr Fitterer's Podcast Here

Video we watched

Dr Gordon Fee on the context 'male headship' in Ephesians 5:18-33

Movie: Calvary

Calvary is a 2014 Irish drama film written and directed by John Michael McDonagh.

Father James is a good priest who is faced with sinister circumstances brought about by a mysterious member of his parish. Although he continues to comfort his own fragile daughter and reach out to help members of his church with their various scurrilous – and often humorous – moral problems, he feels troubling forces closing in, and begins to wonder if he will have the courage to face his own personal Calvary. A dark, yet sometimes funny parable of sacrificial atonement.

(100 mins, Rated R for crude language and human sinfulness.)

Making an Idol of God

Examining the radical theology of Peter Rollins

In contrast to the dominant forms of Christianity, Peter Rollins argues that faith has nothing to do with upholding a religious identity, affirming a particular set of beliefs or gaining wholeness through conversion. Rollins’ thinks Christianity is a critique of these very things. His ‘anti-religious’ theory stands against the actual existing church and lays the groundwork for faith as a type of life in which one is able to celebrate doubt, ambiguity and complexity while deepening care and concern for the world as we find it.

Rollins will be channelled by Dr Robert Fitterer Podcast here

Unmasking the Powers

What is the nature of systemic evil, of daemonic evil, of spiritual wickedness in high places?

Some of the language of the Bible personifies evil as the fallen angel Lucifer or the arch deceiver Satan. In other places the nature of higher evil is more mysterious – the world system of powers and principalities (Ephesians 6:12). Drawing on the thought of Biblical Theologian Walter Wink, this session examines some fascinating ways to conceive of systemic evil and practical ways to do spiritual combat with it.

Podcast here

Toward a Better Atonement

Did God the Father vent His wrath over our sins by killing His Son Jesus instead of us? Is that the only way to think about the Cross?

Was the atonement like this: a judge finds you guilty of murder and then takes off his robes and goes to the gallows in your place? Well, these doctrines would hardly be recognized during first thousand years of Christianity. We explore the various ways that Christians have thought about the Cross and what Jesus accomplished there. Is substitutionary atonement the only model we can use to understand the mystery of the Christ’s death? This session draws on the thought of theologian Tony Jones.

Podcast here.

Human Evil: Ignorance or Wickedness?

October 2th - is the root cause of what call 'evil' in our will or in our understanding? Both? Neither? Other?

Aristotle said all people seek ‘the good’ or at least what seems good to them. Christianity claims that people often deliberately choose evil, eyes wide open. Who’s right? What’s the difference between making a mistake and doing evil? What do we mean by ‘good’ people and ‘bad’ people?

Get the podcast here.

Can Bible Translations be Trusted?

OCT 9, Special guest Dr Mark Naylor from Northwest Baptist Seminary in Langley, BC

Topic: How does God communicate through the Bible?

Why doesn’t the New Testament condemn slavery? How can a text that tells women to submit to men be applicable in the 21st century? What is the point of studying the biblical descriptions of blood and sacrifice? How do we connect with the Bible in a way that has significance today?

Some people approach the Bible saying “if the plain sense makes good sense, seek no other sense” implying that the Bible is not only readily understood but directly applicable to us today. Others seem to “cherry pick” rejecting certain teachings labelled “cultural” and specific to a particular time and place while accepting others as universal and lasting. Still others emphasize certain “key” passages and pay less attention to those parts of the Bible that do not seem so relevant to their concerns. Should the Bible be taken “literally” or “metaphorically”? How does God communicate to us through the Bible?

This question of understanding the Bible relates closely to the dynamic of Bible translation. Bible translation is a form of interpretation through which a message given in another time, cultural and language is represented for people in a modern setting, well separated from the original audience. How does this reality affect the way we read the Bible. Can Bible translations be trusted? Which translation is the most accurate, a “literal” translation or a “meaning-based” translation?

Mark will present an understanding of how communication works with implications for reading and understanding the Bible in a consistent and profitable manner. Recognizing how translation works helps us choose and use different translations in an effective way. Sensitivity to culture and the limitations and strengths of language gives us the ability to connect with the author so that the appropriate message is engaged. Because the Bible is not written TO us, but it is written FOR us, we can approach the text in a way that resolves many of the puzzles that confront us in a manner that strengthens our life in Christ.

Faith, Community & Tibetan Buddhism

October 16 - A visiting guest bring photography and story from Buddhist cultures of the Himalayas

Our surprise guest is a Christian who integrates faith, work, and daily life among Tibetan peoples. Many Tibetans believe that to be Tibetan means to be Buddhist.  But what does it mean for Tibetans to become Christian?  Must they deny their culture altogether?  Or can their culture and elements of their religion be redeemed and focused on the person of Christ?

Homosexuality & the Bible Part 1 - Robert Gagnon

October 23 - This session present the traditionalist view using the research of Dr Robert Gagnon

Robert Gagnon’s is considered a foremost expert on homosexuality and scripture. His work relies on both analysis of the biblical text and on ideas in biology, gender complementarity, and natural law. He comes down firmly on the conservative side of the debate. Dr. Gagnon is an associate professor of New Testament at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

Podcast is here

Homosexuality & the Bible Part 2 - Dan Via

October 30 - We examine Dr Dan O. Via's challenges the traditional view presenting by Gagnon.

We look at the work of Dan O. Via, Duke University & Harvard Divinity School, who challenges the traditional position. Examining ancient cultural context, interpretational issues, and new categories now informed by reason, tradition, experience, Via argues that homosexual practice, under certain conditions, need no longer be judged as intrinsically wrong and sinful. Both scholars face head on the crucial issue at play here – how are we to handle the negative bible passages we know so well?

The Podcast is here

Holy War: Thoughts on God and Genocide

November 6 - Our Judeo-Christian history and tradition includes extreme violence. Lest we forget.

On the centenary of the start of World War One and in a day of renewed religious violence, this session is devoted to reflection on three great ages of religious warfare: the Hebrew taking of Canaan, Roman emperor Constantine’s Christian warfare, and the slaughter we call the wars of the Reformation. Lest we forget...

PODCAST HERE.

Emergent Fascisms: Enemies of Freedom

November 13 - What has united liberals and conservatives in the West today? Answer: emerging new forms of Fascism.

Fascism is political power deployed in utter disregard for law, morals, and the interests of others – ‘might makes right!’ Social/political pressures to suppress freedom of thought and speech have been with us from earliest times. How do we define such freedom? Is it really the great good that liberalism claims? Why? Who is threatened by such freedoms? Must we put up with Islamist attacks on such freedom. We listen to the ideas of Christopher Hitchens and George Orwell.

PODCAST HERE.

The Problem of Evil

This time we follow St Irenaeus (early 2nd century – c. AD 202, Bishop of Lyon, Gaul, Roman Empire) as he attempts to reconcile the experience of suffering and evil with the God of love and grace. Why would an all-powerful and all-loving God allow the horrendous evil we see in the world? Is evil utterly irrational or could it have a purpose? Couldn't God achieve his purposes without allowing evil? Why should we worship and love a God who permits evil? These are ancient questions and we will explore an ancient answer that many still consider valid today?

The God Concept

All our thoughts & images about God, even from the Bible, are human constructs. Creator, Father, Good Shepherd, Savior - all human, earthly images. But don’t human concepts place a limit on – or even misrepresent – a God who is beyond all human comprehension? Let’s find the edge & peer across the boundary of our thinking.

Ethics & Relativism

Given a world where no culture seems to be 'the centre' anymore, whose ethics get to be absolute? How do you prove an ethic is universal? Why is relativism so threatening? Is there an up side to moral relativism? What would such relativism mean for religious faith? For our view of the Bible?

Frames of Reference

Interpretation is always by means of reference to previously held knowledge, beliefs, and assumptions. These, in turn, were also attained by reference to previously held such criteria. Don't we have any final and absolute reference frames that give certainty to our knowledge claims? What are the implication for doing science? What are the implications for interpreting Scripture?

Conspiracy Theory!

Let's examine a fascinating habit of the human minds, the need for pattern recognition where this is no pattern. What is the lure of conspiracy thinking? Certainly there is no denying that various conspiracies abound. And suspicions are sometimes valid. But how do we know when we are going overboard and seeing conspiracies where their likely aren't any? Can we articulate a criterion for valid suspicion? (Remember, just because your paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you)

The Gospel Problem

What's the problem with Matthew, Mark, and Luke? These have been called the 'synoptic' gospels because they seem to narrate from a common point of view. But why are they so different when referencing the same events in the life of the same Christ? And why do some of these differences seem irreconcilable? Special session with guest lecturer Dr Spencer Stadler

According to Dr Stadler, the synoptic problem addresses the sometimes problematic literary relationship between Matthew, Mark and Luke, and in particular, how the authors of Matthew and Luke used Mark in the composition of their own gospel accounts. For example, were there 1 or 2 demon possessed men among the graves? Did Jesus say, “blessed are the poor,” or “blessed are the poor in spirit”? Did the holy family travel first to Egypt or did they move directly back to Nazareth? A tangential issue raised by differences such as these is how they impact the view of biblical inerrancy as championed in the evangelical church for the last 100 years.

Movie Night: Cool It

In a world of breathless enviro-panic fear-mongering, it's important to let cooler heads prevail. Bjorn Lomborg has such a head. An acclaimed environmental specialist dials down the panic and seeks workable solutions and more adequate appraisals of the problems we face. A timely topic for F&R.

Denominations RIP

Where are we in Christian history? At an epoch-changing threshold: the death of denominations, and with it, the death of the Protestant project as we have known it. (How's that for a dramatic headline.) We'll look at where evangelical Christianity fits within the history of our faith. What has ended? Why? What is the new beginning opening up before us? Are these exciting new days for the church or another defeat in the culture war we are also losing?

Movie: Hellbound?

Hell is all the rage these days as the classic doctrine of eternal conscious torment for all eternity is being challenged from various circles. Just how strong or how weak is the case for the traditional view? Are there plausible alternatives? Has the view of the church been consistent over the centuries? Just how certain is our knowledge of eschatological matters? Get ready for some great discussion.

Heaven & the Afterlife

Especially in Jewish and early Christian thought. What do we really know about the afterlife? How much does the Bible tell us? How do concepts of the afterlife and the future come together? What do we mean by 'eternal'? Lots to talk about here.

Don’t Lose Your Faith For a Dumb Reason

Unless you've been studying and suffering for a long long time, you probably have only unoriginal reasons for giving up your faith. Don't be foolish; use your doubts carefully.

Thursday, September 26th

An overview of some major arguments heard in college (as well as the workplace) that try to undermine your faith. Most of these are not valid. But some are, and moreover, many of us hold religious beliefs that deserve to be knocked down. Find out more. Learn how to refute bad arguments & avoid bad theology.

What is God Anyway?

How do we get around this problem: Since our minds and senses are finite, and God is the infinite being, how can we comprehend or perceive this being? Skeptics and atheists welcome.

Thursday, October 3rd

Scripture says “no-one has seen God (Jn.1:18).” Yet, for all our talk about God - who is the transcendent cause behind all reality - what can we really know about such a Being? Do we grasp Him through sense perceptions, reasoning, experiences, intuitions, revelations, holy practice? How do we conceive of God? How do we even define him?

Listen to the 2012 Podcast Part 1 & 2 here

Here is the 2013 podcast

The Evolution of Adam - Dr Peter Enns

Dr Enns, Faculty of Biblical Studies at Eastern University, enlightens us about current historical & Biblical critical studies and in the process deepen our understanding of some difficulties in New Testament interpretation.

Special TUESDAY session, October 8th, 7 pm at Lambrick. Dr Enns will also be speaking on academic freedom at the David Lam Auditorium, MacLaurin Bldg, University of Victoria, at 2:30 pm on October 8th.

Can Christianity and evolution coexist? Traditional Christian teaching presents Jesus as reversing the effects of the Fall of Adam. However, an evolutionary view of beginnings doesn't allow for a historical Adam, making evolution seemingly incompatible with what Genesis and the apostle Paul say about him. For Christians who accept evolution and want to take the Bible seriously, this presents a faith-shaking tension.

Peter Enns, an expert in biblical interpretation, offers a way forward by explaining how this tension is caused not by the discoveries of science but by false expectations about the biblical texts. Focusing on key biblical passages in the discussion, Enns demonstrates that the author of Genesis and the apostle Paul wrote to ask and answer ancient questions for ancient people; the fact that they both speak of Adam does not determine whether Christians can accept evolution. This thought-provoking book helps readers reconcile the teachings of the Bible with the widely held evolutionary view of beginnings and will appeal to anyone interested in the Christianity-evolution debate.

Podcast of Dr Enns speaking in Victoria, Oct 8, 2013

Randal Rauser interview with Peter Enns, on faith, the Bible, and evolution.

Visit BIOLOGOS, a forum co-developed by Enns to integrate theology and science in the areas of evolution, genetics, protology, and Biblical theology.

Dr Peter Enns of the future of Biblical Studies:

Tremper Longman III on a literal, historic Adam:

The Psychopath Next Door

Is there a spectrum of human evil that ranges from simply annoying to absolutely wicked?

Thursday, October 17th

How do we classify human evil? What are the categories and symptoms by which we diagnose someone as genuinely evil? What is the difference between good people acting badly and genuinely bad people who can fake goodness? This is a conversation about the intersection of sickness and evil, and between the categories of normal and abnormal. Do such distinctions even make sense if we see human evil along a graded scale rather than in black and white categories?

Deep Exegesis: The Text as Event

A conversation about how we should read our scriptures led by insights from Peter Leithart. Interpretation is much more subtle than we usually realize. How would a text shift its meaning through time?

Thursday, October 24th.

Studying the Bible, or any ancient document for that matter, is a very challenging and subtle art. Suppose an Old Testament scripture takes on a new meaning in the New Testament, a meaning the original author did not intend. Messianic prophecies often seem like this. Perhaps such a passage has more than one meaning. But could we say that the text actually changed its meaning over time; that it meant one thing to an earlier generation and now means something different to a newer generation? So how, exactly, would a text change meaning after it has been written? How do we know if and when such a change is happening? We'll look into this mystery with insight from Peter Leithart.

Podcast here

Halloween & Near Death Experiences

Oh yeah - halloween party !!!! And you're coming in costume too! Besides the food and fun, we will explore the accumulated data for the reality of human soul or spirit.

Thursday, October 31st

What is the evidence that we have a soul quite distinct from the physical body? Is this purely a faith position of religions and metaphysical speculation or is there anything that can pass for even moderately reasonable evidence? A perfectly suitable topic for the ancient Christian eve of 'All Soul's Day'.

We looked at several videos about 'Near Death Experience', a growing body of evidence that human consciousness can continue when the brain is seriously compromised or clinically dead. Is this evidence for soul survival, for afterlife, for God?

Podcast here

Why Materialism is Dead

Some recent thinking in neuroscience, mind-brain philosophical theory, and metaphysical enquiry has returned us the paradox of dualism - the judgement that there are two irreducible and distinct modes of being: something like mind and matter, spirit and body.

Thursday, November 7th

who knew....? Oh, yea, that's right...the whole human race until arrogant modern science. It's the time for some humility now. We take a look at the cracks appearing in the materialist assumptions behind modern science and philosophy. Two themes tonight: the mind is not identical to the brain, and, the insufficiency of evolution to account for the emergence of consciousness from matter.

Let the Poor Eat Capitalism

Bono, yes multi-millionaire U2 front man Bono, has either smelt the free trade coffee or gone socially and morally insane. Which is it?

Thursday, November 14th

Wow, even Bono himself is suggesting that exporting capitalism to the developing regions will do more good now and in the long run than the misplaced compassion of foreign aid. What has Bono discovered about human action, economics, incentives that we should know.

Guest: Dennis Venema, Biology Dept, TWU

What is the human genomics evidence for evolution? Why is every version of creationism and even 'intelligent design' inadequate? A look at the genetics evidence for human population dynamics (i.e. is there a genetic Adam and Eve?) and the attendant theological issues.

Thursday, November 28th

Genomics, the biological science of sequencing and comparing the complete DNA sequence of various organisms, has provided a new set of powerful technologies for testing Darwin’s theory of evolution. Many aspects of evolutionary theory are of particular interest to evangelical Christians: do we share common ancestors with other forms of life such as chimpanzees? Has genomic science identified an ancestral couple from whom the entire human race has descended? This lecture will explore the genomics evidence that addresses these two questions, discuss the challenges the evidence presents for common evangelical interpretations of Genesis, and present an array of evangelical responses to these issues.

Nov 28, 2013 Podcast Part 1 & Part 2

UPDATE: Watch the 100 minute interview with Dennis Venema and Ben Koop right here.

Avoiding ‘Cult-Brain’

With only a few basic logical moves, you can protect yourself from a case of 'cult-brain'. Don’t let gullibility open your mind to unscrupulous charlatans who, if given the chance, will string you along until you run off a cliff, lemming-like. (Also, why do you believe that lemmings jump off cliffs?)

This session is just a warm up in logic and rhetoric so we can test out our skill is deconstructing the movie: Zeitgeist next week. Nevertheless, these pointers in critical thinking are always useful, especially is spotting lies and spin from politicians, cultists, and the producers of conspiracy theories.

We will cover four main principles of reasoning:

  • burden of proof
  • post hoc fallacies
  • argument from silence or ignorance
  • and occam's razor

These should set us up nicely to demolish BS structures as we find them. Come, enjoy, be strengthened.

Here is the podcast.

The Pagan Christ, Not

There is an old theory that claims the story of Jesus Christ is just warmed over Egyptian paganism sold to the unwashed masses. Let's examine the trash-cult film Zeitgeist and, using last week’s logical fallacies lesson, deconstruct propaganda when we see it.

ohhhhh yeeaaahhhh! More fun than a tinfoil hat in an Idaho compound....

We look at some of the arguments presented by Tom Harpur, from whom Zeitgeist stole virtually ALL their data, to see how strong the case is for a pagan source for the Gospels. We'll watch the first part of Zeitgeist and go from there. Don't miss this one!

The podcast is here, front end includes the audio from the video Zeitgeist.

Zeitgeist

Zeitgeist Refuted

Hearing Voices

So much of what was called 'demon possession' in the ancient world resembles what we would today call mental illness. Are they the same thing? Has one category supplanted the other? Are they both valid? Or both just social constructs?

All over the world, you will find 'demon-possession' as an explanation for a whole set of bizarre symptoms and behaviours that, in the modern West, have either been discounted as misdiagnoses based in ignorance, or are simply common mental illness. But if possession is just mental illness, what are we to do with the Gospels in which demonism plays a significant role? Still, why has pharmacology virtually replaced exorcism as effective treatment for symptoms previously thought to be demonic, such as schizophrenia and tourette syndrome? Are we dealing with a single phenomenon under two conflicting paradigms, or do mental illness and demonism represent two distinct kinds of phenomena?

Here is the podcast in two parts

MOVIE: Born Into Brothels

About child prostitution in Calcutta, India. A family business and prison sentence for those born into it. Yet, here is a documentary that shows a path of escape – through art and creative possibilities. This should put some wind into your social-action sails.

In 2003, Zana Briski, a documentary photographer, went to Calcutta (now: Kolkata) to photograph prostitutes. While there, she befriended their children and offered to teach the children photography to reciprocate being allowed to photograph their mothers. The children were given cameras so they could learn photography and possibly improve their lives. Much of their work was used in the film, and the filmmakers recorded the classes as well as daily life in the red light district. The children's work was exhibited, and one boy was even sent to a photography conference in Amsterdam. Briski also recorded her efforts to place the children in boarding schools.

Also watch:

First Nations Canada

Many Canadians are not aware of the political, cultural and justice troubling First Nations peoples as they try to regain identity apart from that imposed by the European migration. What have Christians done to be part of problem? How can they be part of a positive future?

more description to come

Shifting Paradigms

Thomas Kuhn and Karl Popper have changed the way we think about science. Gone is the sense of certainty. We are left with the suspicion that all our knowledge is but historically relative opinion. How does this effect our claims to Biblical knowledge claims? Or is theology exempt from paradigm shift?

Two immensely important thinkers of last century were philosophers Karl Popper and Thomas Kuhn.

Concerning the method of science, Karl Popper's rejected classical empiricism, and the classical observationalist-inductivist account of science that had grown out of it. Popper argued strongly against the latter, holding that scientific theories are abstract in nature, and can be tested only indirectly, by reference to their implications. He also held that scientific theory, and human knowledge generally, is irreducibly conjectural or hypothetical, and is generated by the creative imagination in order to solve problems that have arisen in specific historico-cultural settings.

According to Kuhn, "When scientists must choose between competing theories, two men fully committed to the same list of criteria for choice may nevertheless reach different conclusions." For this reason, the criteria still are not "objective" in the usual sense of the word because individual scientists reach different conclusions with the same criteria due to valuing one criterion over another or even adding additional criteria for selfish or other subjective reasons. Kuhn then goes on to say, "I am suggesting, of course, that the criteria of choice with which I began function not as rules, which determine choice, but as values, which influence it."

THE QUESTIONS:

At first, early modern science thought it's certainties had obliterated faith and revelation. Intellectuals turn away from God, or toward a rationalistic god behind the laws of physics. But now, even that god is undermined, and we have been cut adrift from the certainties of human reason. Is this a good or a bad day for metaphysics and faith? Did Kuhn open the door for post-modern theologies, or render further religious claims just more shifting frameworks destined for the dustbin of history?

Old Testament Studies Today

Modern scholarship raises new challenges for thinking about inspiration, canonicity and interpretation. How the Bible was compiled – the writers, editors and their historical context – is now better understood. What issues do we face today that past generations barely understood?

Authorial intent is often appealed to when interpreting a text's meaning, at least by conservative interpreters. The very same principle would be involved in interpreting the intention of editors of Biblical text, not just authors. But what if the editor's intention differed from that of the original author? These are precisely the challenges we need to face in reflecting upon the history of text transmission, the theologies that emerge from the Bible, and the theory of how we are to interpret this Book.

The Bible shows overwhelming evidence of having been edited, and the faithful would presume the Holy Spirit works through this process as well. Here is just a snip of how Biblical scholars spot the signs of editing:

the Podcast of the evening is here.

Reinhold Niebuhr’s Realist Voice

Each season, F&R looks at historic theologians and philosophers. Niebuhr has largely been forgotten of late, even though just a few decades ago, he was a towering voice for Christian engagement with the cultural and political life of the 20th century West.

Reinhold Niebuhr (June 21, 1892 – June 1, 1971) was an American theologian, ethicist, public intellectual, commentator on politics and public affairs, and professor at Union Theological Seminary for more than 30 years. Also known for authoring the Serenity Prayer, Niebuhr received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964. Among his most influential books are Moral Man and Immoral Society and The Nature and Destiny of Man, the latter of which was written as the result of Niebuhr's delivery of the Gifford Lectures. Niebuhr was also the brother of another prominent theologian and ethicist, H. Richard Niebuhr.[3] Starting as a leftist minister in the 1920s indebted to theological liberalism, he shifted to Neo-Orthodox theology in the 1930s, explaining how the sin of pride created evil in the world, and created the theo-philosophical perspective known as Christian realism. He attacked utopianism as ineffectual for dealing with reality, writing in The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness (1944):

"Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible; but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary."

Peter Pan Syndrome

So what's wrong with living in your Mom's basement until your in your forties, playing computer games all day, and just hanging with your friends? Nothing - just blame it all on 'women these days.' Is there really a crisis of masculinity? How have male / female roles changed?

It's a widely-agreed belief that girls mature faster than boys. But a new book claims that an increasing number of men never grow up at all.

Author Kay S. Hymowitz says that the rise of women at school and in the workplace is fuelling a 'Peter Pan syndrome' in the opposite sex - men who continue to act like teenagers well into adulthood. She says that changing sexual hierarchies mean that today's men are uncertain about their social role.

In her book, Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys, she explains: 'Today's pre-adult male is like an actor in a drama in which he only knows what he shouldn't say.

Is just feminist bashing bunk or is there some truth here? Don't miss this session of F&R. Bring a date too.

Read more here: Peter Pan syndrome: Does the rise of women mean men will never grow up?

Collective Responsibility

What collective sins could we commit living in community? Racism comes to mind, but how about knowingly benefiting from the products of slave labour? Do good intentions excuse individuals from collective responsibility? Or maybe the whole notion is just bunk - only individuals can be morally culpable, not groups.

So how are ordinary people complicit in systemic evils? Racism comes to mind, but how about knowingly benefiting from the products of slave labour? How would an individual morally resist cultural of systemic evil? Do good intentions excuse individuals from collective responsibility? Maybe the whole notion is just bunk - only individuals can be morally culpable, not groups.

ETHICS: Euthanasia and Suicide

Is it ever right to speed up the death of a terminally ill patient? Is it ever permissible to assist someone in killing themselves?

Judeo-Christianity exalts the value of human life more than any other tradition. Yet we are mortal, and there are circumstances around death and dying that complicate our imperative to value and protect life. Is it ever right to speed up the death of a terminally ill patient? Is it ever permissible to assist someone in killing themselves? What are some of the signs of suicidal depression? Lets think these things through a bit more.

MOVIE: Religulous

Bill Maher, one of the most overrated Hollywood blabbermouths, made this hit piece designed to mock and ridicule people of religious faith

Bill Maher, one of the most overrated Hollywood blabbermouths, made this hit piece designed to mock and ridicule people of religious faith. It is a good study of how others see us, and the kinds of impressions we might make on others. Youll laugh and youll get angry.

SOCIETY: Relativism and Tolerance in Canada

We live in a secular society, one that tries to offer a level playing field for atheists as well as theists, for every flavour of religion and non-religion under the sun...

Throw in an ethics of tolerance and just where do we stand? How does a strong view of truth fit in? Is there any basis for intolerance? What is it? Truth according to Calvin:

SOCIETY: Fundamentalism and Us

So after watching Jesus Camp, Canadian's need to ask themselves how 'American' is Christian fundamentalism and are we any different?

Responding to the previous movie, if we dont like fundamentalism, just how are we to understand ourselves as different and yet still evangelical.  Or are fundamentalist really more scriptural and non-compromising that wSe?  What are the doctrinal and attitudinal marks of fundamentalism anyway?

JESUS CAMP the Trailer

MOVIE: Jesus Camp

This film received an academy award nomination for best documentary. Both lovers and haters of US fundamentalism felt it was accurate and true.

A very biased movie that has a cynical agenda. Yet, it does capture a certain side of American fundamentalism that Canadians should look at and wonder how we might be different, if in fact we differ in substance at all. We took a closer look at what happened to Ted Haggard too, after meeting him in the film. How the mighty and arrogant are fallen.

THEOLOGY: Concerning the Nature of Evil

Have the modern and post-modern eras forced us to rethink traditional accounts of evil, esp. diabolical evil.

How does the Bible guide us in thinking about the nature of evil, and have the modern and post-modern eras forced us to rethink traditional accounts of evil, esp. diabolical evil.  We looked at the work of Walter Wink, in his trilogy about powers and hierarchies, thrones and principalities.  These turn not necessarily to be daemonic at all, but are principle of emergent order that are broken and will be restored to the proper place ‘under Christ’ in due time.

TRADITION: Violence vs. Non Violence

Is it evil to use violent means to oppose violent evil? How about to overthrow tyranny or to stop genocide?

We discuss the major biblical arguments surrounding the use of violence and war to fight against evil.  Beginning with Augustine and Aquinas’ argument for just wars, and the distinction between just war and justice in war, we contrasted this with Yoder’s peace position and Bonhoeffer’s crises of conscience under Nazi German tyranny.

This is a huge, ongoing debate among pious Christians - and we still come to different conclusions regarding the ethics of war and violence.  A subject to be treated with all earnestness and humility.

ETHICS: Sex, Desire, Art & Porn

The Christian ethic speaks of sin of lust. One interpretation of this has led to terrible sexual repression and self-destruction. Today, fewer Christians know how to define the sin of lust. What's the difference between healthy and wicked desire? What about temptation and addiction?

Christianity has a reputation. Anti-sex, anti-pleasure, anti-art, prudish, conservative and repressed. But not us modern Christians, eh?  We’ve all grown up with Dr Dobson making us wholesome sexual creatures.  So now that we’re past all that old fashioned stuff, let’s start answering some hard questions.  If we are not going to put undies back onto Michaelangelo’s statue of the biblical character King David, just where are we going to draw the line on nudity in art.  What characteristics make nudity and sexuality one person’s art while being another person’s pornography?  Does public art have a different standard from private art collections?  Why?  Can extremely sexually explicit depictions count as art?  Why or why not? 

Furthermore, what is the difference between an appropriate sexual desire and a sinful one?  What is the difference between being tempted by desire and actually sinning though our desires?  And how shall our society handle all these subtleties in a world where sexual addiction is no longer a laughing matter, but a life-destroying tragedy?

SOCIETY: Abortion Canada

Did you know that in 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down all laws restricting the performance of an abortion? Anything goes now.

Did you know that in 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down all laws restricting the performance of an abortion on the basis of section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms?  We are perhaps the only industrialized nation to have no regulation of abortion.  Are we satisfied with this?  Is there still some conversation to be had about all this?  Every generation should ask itself some tough ethical and theological question about life, death, and the extent and limit of rights and obligations.

MOVIE: Baraka

Imagine what would be seen by visitors from another galaxy as they explored the earth. You won't be sure what you just experienced, but you'll know you have witnessed something profound.

Baraka means ?blessing?. This majestic film contains no dialogue, story or plot. Instead, it uses universal themes to present new perspectives and evoke emotion purely through cinema and music. It is a truly breathtaking visual journey that uncovers the mystical and eternal between the rhythms of nature and the pulse of urban industrial life. You won’t be sure what you just experienced, but you’ll know you have witnessed something profound. (97 min.)

 

PHILOSOPHY: Some Tough Questions for Environmentalism

Environmentalism has many of the elements of a religious worldview with many devotees promoting an ideology instead of pursuing a science. It's time to counter this with a new philosophy of nature, say Dr. Jeff Foss, UVIC department of philosophy.

It?s not politically correct to question the basic ideas underlying many strains of environmentalism. We all want to love and respect the earth. But are we stumbling over ideology, bad science and other agendas? What?s the difference between Nature & Creation; between the earth sciences & environmentalism? If much environmentalism is at bottom political, what would a new philosophy of nature look like? 

You must keep two things distinct: a critique of the ideology of environmentalism is not the same project as scepticism regarding anthropogenic global warming (AGW).  Climate scientists need not be environmentalists in the sense discussed in our session: an ideology and metaphysics of nature based in a new age spirituality.  Climate scientists may have no use for Gaia worship.  On the other hand, ideological environmentalism bears little resemblance to a legitimate science and much closer resemblance to a superstition or religious sect.  This distinction must be kept in mind.  Dr Foss spent far less time on the global warmist alarmism and much more on the call for a sharper analysis of such terms as ‘nature’ and ‘environment’, an analysis that would see humans as part of nature and not the villains in an enviro-morality play.  We don’t need more smug news reports that pit hippies against capitalists or animal rights heroes against Alberta cattle ranchers.

The Best Book on the subject right now: Beyond Environmentalism by Dr Jeffrey Foss, University of Victoria

This one-of-a-kind book provides thoughtful insight into the current relationship between humankind and the environment Beyond Environmentalism is the first book of its kind to present a timely and relevant analysis of environmentalism. The author’s decades of experience as a philosopher of science allow him to critically comprehend scientific issues and to develop and explain sound, ethical policies in response to them. The result is a volume that builds a philosophy of nature and helps the reader assess humankind’s relationship with and impact on the world around us.

This innovative book discusses the inconsistencies, both scientific and philosophical, of popular environmentalism and sheds new perspectives on the issues, causes, and debates that embrace society today. The goal is not to settle environmental issues once and for all, but rather to provide the basis for more reasoned, scientific, and productive debates. The need for a new philosophy of nature is explored through methodological discussion of several topics, including: The rise and fall of scientific proof;  nature in religion, romance, and human values; humankind’s responsibility to the environment; the value of freedom; kinship among species

Numerous case studies throughout the book delve into global warming, the “sixth extinction,” the precautionary principle, pollution, and other popular issues within environmentalism. Feature boxes guide the reader through complex topics such as eco-sabotage, the Gaia hypothesis, and the urban heat-island effect, while vivid illustrations demonstrate scientific data, theories, and philosophical arguments in a reader-friendly manner.

With its balanced approach to provocative issues, Beyond Environmentalism serves as an excellent, thought-provoking supplement for courses on environmental studies at the undergraduate and graduate levels. It is also an interesting and accessible read for anyone with a general interest in environmental issues.

POSTSCRIPT: Since this session the entire edifice of AGM has come crumbling down as the myth of the ‘scientific consensus’ has been exposed. Hopefully there will now be some breathing room to develop environmentally responsible policies without the eschatological panic and bullying we have been getting from ideologues.

Pascal, the Heart’s Knowledge, & the ‘Wager’

The heart has reasons the mind knows nothing of. In a world where rational thought will never reveal God to us, how can someone come to faith? How will the heart make the decision for us? What is the knowledge of the heart?

Each season of Faith & Reality we show-case one of the great Christian thinkers of the past - someone whose impact and influence is still with us. Blaise Pascal (1623-62) was a contemporary of Descartes, and it was the latter philosopher who bequeathed to the West one of the great curses of modernity: the radical distinction of mind and matter, of body and spirit, or reality and illusion. Pascal went down another path, one that is even more relevant now that we are adrift in the postmodern age.

Some of his quotes:

“Men despise religion. They hate it and are afraid it may be true. The cure for this is first to show that religion is not contrary to reason, but worthy of reverence and respect. Next make it attractive, make good men wish it were true, and then show that it is.”

“The heart has its order, the mind its own, which uses principles and demonstrations. The heart has a different one. We do not prove that we ought to be loved by setting out in order the causes of love; that would be absurd. Jesus Christ and St Paul possess the order of charity, not the order of the mind, for they wished to humble, not to teach.”

“If I saw no signs of a divinity, I would fix myself in denial. If I saw everywhere the marks of a Creator, I would repose peacefully in faith. But seeing too much to deny Him, and too little to assure me, I am in a pitiful state, and I would wish a hundred times that if a God sustains nature it would reveal Him without ambiguity.”

MOVIE: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

The classic early study of the dangers when science plays God and of the moral responsibility we owe the monsters we create. Since mankind is now poised to create new life forms with DNA and AI perhaps we need to listen the message of this story.

The classic early study of the dangers when science plays God and of the moral responsibility we owe the monsters we create. Since mankind is now poised to create new life forms with DNA and AI perhaps we need to listen the message of this story.

In the first gothic tragedy of our era, Mary Shelley explored the future of what might happen if science achieves the power to create life from the dead. But wait! We are on the brink of linking brain neurons with microcircuits. Genetic engineering can make human hybrids, resurrect dinosaurs & perhaps create a superior being. What ethics & values would bind human creators to their creatures? Are there any limits? Prove it.
(123 min. Rated R for gore.)

SCIENCE: How Complexity Emerges from Chaos

Just how does order emerge from chaos, life from non-life, and how might minds emerge from matter? Intelligent design theorist need to look a lot closer at the phenomena of 'emergence.'

One key to science is the application of analytic method: the technique of taking things apart to understand their elements & relations. The result, however, has often been the belief that complex beings ?are merely the sum of their parts & processes.? But just how does order emerge from chaos; life from non-life; and how might mind emerge from matter? Actually, you?d be surprised about the latest thinking on ?Emergence? and its challenge to both materialism & spirituality.

Emergence 1

Emergence 2

MOVIE: AI Artificial Intelligence

A more spiritual film than you remember. What are the ethics & responsibilities inherent in creating other minds?

Review by Roger Ebert

Greatness and miscalculation fight for screen space in Steven Spielberg’s “A.I. Artificial Intelligence,” a movie both wonderful and maddening. Here is one of the most ambitious films of recent years, filled with wondrous sights and provocative ideas, but it miscalculates in asking us to invest our emotions in a character that is, after all, a machine.

“What responsibility does a human have to a robot that genuinely loves?” the film asks, and the answer is: none. Because the robot does not genuinely love. It genuinely only seems to love. We are expert at projecting human emotions into non-human subjects, from animals to clouds to computer games, but the emotions reside only in our minds. “A.I.” evades its responsibility to deal rigorously with this trait and goes for an ending that wants us to cry, but had me asking questions just when I should have been finding answers.

At the center of the movie is an idea from Brian Aldiss’ 1969 short story, “Supertoys Last All Summer Long,” about an advanced cybernetic pet that is abandoned in the woods. When real household animals are abandoned, there is the sense that humans have broken their compact with them. But when a manufactured pet is thrown away, is that really any different from junking a computer? (I hope Buzz Lightyear is not reading these words.) From a coldly logical point of view, should we think of David, the cute young hero of “A.I.,” as more than a very advanced gigapet? Do our human feelings for him make him human? Stanley Kubrick worked on this material for 15 years, before passing it on to Spielberg, who has not solved it, either. It involves man’s relationship to those tools that so closely mirror our own desires that we confuse them with flesh and blood; consider that Charles Lindbergh’s autobiography We is about himself and an airplane. When we lose a toy, the pain is ours, not the toy’s, and by following an abandoned robot boy rather than the parents who threw him away, Spielberg misses the real story.

The film opens with cerebral creepiness, as Professor Hobby (William Hurt) presides at a meeting of a company that makes humanoid robots (or “mechas”). We are in the future; global warming has drowned the world’s coastlines, but the American economy has survived, thanks to its exploitation of mechas. “I propose that we build a robot that can love,” Hobby says.

Twenty months later, we meet Monica and Henry (Frances O’Connor and Sam Robards), a married couple whose own child has been frozen until a cure can be devised for his disease. The husband brings home David (Haley Joel Osment), a mecha who looks as lifelike and lovable as—well, Haley Joel Osment.

“There’s no substitute for your own child!” sobs Monica, and Henry tries to placate her: “I’ll take him back.” Cold, but realistic, David is only a product. Yet he has an advanced chip that allows him to learn, adapt and “love,” when Monica permanently “imprints” him. In some of the film’s most intriguing passages, Spielberg explores the paradoxes that result, as David wins their love and yet is never—quite—a real boy. He doesn’t sleep, but he observes bedtime. He doesn’t eat, but so fervent is his desire to belong that he damages his wiring by ingesting spinach (wouldn’t a mecha be programmed not to put things into its mouth?). David is treated with cruelty by other kids; humans are frequently violent and resentful against mechas. Why? Maybe for the same reason that we swear at computers.

Events take place that cause David’s “mother” to abandon him in the woods, opening the second and most extraordinary section of the movie, as the little mecha (and Teddy, his mecha pet bear) wander lost through the world, and he dreams of becoming a real boy and earning Monica’s love. He knows Pinocchio from his bedtime reading and believes that the Blue Fairy might be able to make him real. David and Teddy are befriended by Gigolo Joe (Jude Law), a love mecha, living the life of a hustler. There is a sequence at a Flesh Fair, not unlike a WWF event, at which humans cheer as mechas are destroyed grotesquely. Eventually, after a harrowing escape, they arrive at Rouge City, where a wizard tells David where to look for the Blue Fairy.

It’s here that “A.I.” moves into its most visionary and problematical material, in spectacular scenes set in a drowned New York. There are secrets I won’t reveal, but at one point, David settles down to wait a very long time for the Blue Fairy, and the movie intends his wait to be poignant but for me, it was a case of a looping computer program—not a cause for tears, but a case for rebooting. In the final scenes, David is studied in a way I will not reveal; it is up to us to determine who, or what, his examiners are.

The movie is enormously provocative, but the story seems to skew against its natural grain. It bets its emotional capital on David and his desire to be a real boy, but it’s the old woodcarver Geppetto, not the blockhead puppet, who is the poignant figure in Pinocchio. The movie toys with David’s nature in the edgy party scenes, but then buys into his lovability instead of balancing on the divide between man and machine. Both of the closing sequences—the long wait, and an investigation—are unsuccessful. The first goes over the top. The second raises questions that it isn’t prepared to answer. There are a couple of possible earlier endings that would have resulted in a tougher movie.

Haley Joel Osment and Jude Law take the acting honors (and of course Hurt is perfect at evoking the professor). Osment, who is onscreen in almost every scene, is one of the best actors now working. His David is not a cute little boy but a cute little boy mecha ; we get not the lovable kid from “The Sixth Sense” but something subtly different. The movie’s special effects are awesome. The photography by Janusz Kaminski reflects Spielberg’s interest in backlighting, bright whites and the curiously evocative visible beams of flashlights. The effects seamlessly marry the real with the imaginary.

“A.I.” is audacious, technically masterful, challenging, sometimes moving, ceaselessly watchable. What holds it back from greatness is a failure to really engage the ideas that it introduces. The movie’s conclusion is too facile and sentimental, given what has gone before. It has mastered the artificial, but not the intelligence.

MOVIE: Lars and the Real Girl

Not some stupid indie comedy. Its a parable about the pain of loneliness, love & mental illness, and the healing of community of grace. Some people are just shy, other are Lars. We need empathic compassion here

Synopsis: As the title character, Ryan Gosling is a strange but likeable young man who manages to keep down a job but keeps mostly to himself. He only leaves the garage where he lives when his older brother Gus (Paul Schneider) and loving sister-in-law Karin (Emily Mortimer) drag him to their house next door for dinner. Lars doesn’t take well to questioning, so the disturbing level of his isolation is never openly discussed. It’s only when he announces he has a girlfriend in the form of an anatomically correct doll he purchased via the Internet that everyone must admit his precarious mental state. No one quite knows how to help Lars, so they play along, careful not to do anything that might push him or Bianca (his plastic fiance) over the edge. The results are touching efforts on the part of all those who love him to help Lars through what his psychologist (Patricia Clarkson) assures them may be only a stage. Kelli Garner shines as Margo, the real, live girl who Lars seems incapable of seeing. Despite being ignored, Margo hangs in there, hopeful Lars will come around to sanity and to her. Craig Gillespie’s LARS AND THE REAL GIRL is a sweet love story and a film which deals with mental illness in surprisingly subtle ways. With a formula that could easily have manipulated for cheap laughs, the film achieves quirky humor in parts but mostly touching observations about the nature of delusions themselves. The film’s talented cast gathers around Lars, a sensitive character who the film respects and who Gosling (THE NOTEBOOK, HALF NELSON) brings fully to life.

PEOPLE: Dating and Romance: Part Two

The oldest truth in the world is this: boys and girls are different. You better know what this entails when it comes to dating...or else you'll make the many stupid mistakes that our dating coaches warned us against.

Because of shyness and fears of rejection, many people feel awkward about approaching the opposite sex.  So how are we supposed to meet potential mates? What are some appropriate ways to behave on a date? How does your Christian faith effect your dating, your mate selection? What are the main elements of our cultures current form of dating?

Well, this set of videos and conversations was a huge hit.  Clearly, people care about the mysterious gnosis of how to find a boy/girlfriend.  We asked 6 questions in our introductory quiz, questions about how men and women are different/same when it comes to attraction, preferences, dating, etc.  Watch the 2 minute video results of that quiz.  Youll laugh, youll cryand youll probably agree that men and women know each other pretty well.and here it is THE QUIZZZZZZ:

Best of YouTube

PEOPLE: Dating and Romance: Part One

Ok, so Faith & Reality is a place full of single 'twenty-somethings.' This session is nothing but frank talk and practical advice on how to meet people of the opposite sex and make a good connection.

Whatever the case may be regarding the wisdom of inter-faith dating, when it comes to walking across the room and saying ‘hi’ to someone you find attractive, most people get very uptight.  How are we supposed to meet potential mates? What are some appropriate ways to behave on a date? How does your Christian faith effect your dating, your mate selection? What are the main elements of our cultures current form of dating?

Well, this set of videos and conversations was a huge hit.  Clearly, people care about the mysterious gnosis of how to find a boy/girlfriend.  We asked 6 questions in our introductory quiz, questions about how men and women are different/same when it comes to attraction, preferences, dating, etc.  You’ll find the results of that quiz in Part Two, check out that page.  Youll laugh, youll cry…and youll probably agree that men and women know each other pretty well.

Best of YouTube

TRADITION: Dating Infidels - Romance with Unbelievers

God is love. Every good gift comes from above, that is from Heaven. So what happens when a believer falls in love with a non-believer? Is this a temptation to evil or a gift from God?

What is the Christian ethic regarding interfaith dating and marriage? Where does such an ethic come from? What comes from scripture and what comes from tradition? Lets talk about love, romance, wisdom, family, faith, friendship and happiness. Don't come to this talk with pre-conceived ideas. Lets really explore this issue with sincere openness to what it true, good and best.

MOVIE: Lord Save Us From Your Followers

Why does the Gospel of Grace cause so much anger and misunderstanding in American society? After seeing Lord, Save Us From Your Followers, you will never talk about faith the same way again!

FILM REVIEWS
Lord Save Us From Your Followers—Film Review
By Eric Monder, September 24, 2009 05:18 ET
Bottom Line: More engaging than enlightening, this doc never lives up to its clever title.
NEW YORK—Like a more genial, “balanced” version of “Religulous,” “Lord Save Us From Your Followers” covers similar ground about religious hypocrisy in the modern Western world while also giving due deference to the followers’ side of the argument, affirming true Christianity. In its way, Dan Merchant’s documentary sheds greater light than the Bill Maher movie on the subject of Christians not acting Christian, but because of the evenhandedness, “Lord Save Us” might not satisfy any faction of the so-called culture wars.

Without the Maher name and star power, “Lord Save Us” will never garner the same media attention or boxoffice profits. It also is hard to know toward what audience this film is aimed. At the very least, though, lay people interested in the nexus of religion, politics and popular culture should find the film a resourceful if jumbled text.

Merchant is neither as witty nor as charismatic as Maher, but he is less arrogant and gains considerably more access through his nonthreatening manners and questioning. Thus, we get friendly, contrasting interviews with liberal new Sen. Al Franken and conservative ex-Sen. Rick Santorum, liberal evangelist Tony Campolo and conservative radio host Michael Reagan. Likewise, there are archival video and audio clips of the usual “culture war” suspects: Jerry Falwell, Rick Warren, Ann Coulter, Bono and, yes, Maher.

Merchant also interviews men- and women-on-the-street in several different cities.
Merchant is lightly and briefly critical of some of the louder, crasser celebrities and pundits as part of an effort to bring everyday people together to have polite discourse and search for consensus. The last section of the film emphasizes this by showing the odd-couple pairings of George Clooney and Pat Robertson and George W. Bush and Bono doing good works and saying nice things about each other.

The pollyanna approach steers clear of the controversies and hypocrisies in the lives and careers of these folks. So those looking for exposes on Bush, Warren or the pope won’t find them here.

The highlights of the film are Merchant’s nonscientific experiments: a “Culture Wars” game show that reveals how secularists know more about Christians than the other way around; and a “Confession Booth” (in which Merchant apologizes for religious intolerance) that becomes surprisingly popular with the passersby at a gay pride parade. This section of the film is the most moving and memorable.

The lack of penetrating ideas or narrative structure are minor faults of “Lord Save Us” compared to the uneasy way the film finds moral equivalency amongst the participants. For all his folksiness, Merchant seems too savvy to believe that Janeane Garofalo is as obnoxious or vicious as Ann Coulter. Even the clips Merchant uses inadvertently prove that point.

The title “Lord Save Us From Your Followers” suggests a much harder-hitting film than the one at hand. Fortunately, there are enough choice moments to mitigate the disappointment. In today’s charged and ominous political atmosphere, moviegoers could do much worse than getting a lesson in civility.

PHILOSOPHY: The Limits of God Language

Christians speak so casually about The Supreme Being who is utterly transcendent beyond our thinking and experiencing. Yet all our language uses earthy, human references. Is our 'God-talk' making any sense at all?

If all of our thinking and all our language is based on reason and experience, how can we think and talk about the God who is beyond all human reason and experience?  If our language about God is limited by our humanness, how does that effect the Bible and our interpretation of it? How do we avoid the twin extremes of taking our concepts too literally or too spiritually? And what is really at stake here?

Key Thoughts to Take Away

  • univocal language
  • equivocal language
  • analogical language
  • metaphor
  • allegory
  • simili

Each of these would be interesting to explore just on wikipedia alone.  Try it.

Best of Youtube:

On Language: Taylor Mali on speaking with conviction:

 

TECHNOLOGY: Friend, Foe or What?

Special Guest: Bryn Stevenson, Regent College Masters student researching the thought of Jacques Ellul. Beside discussing whether technology might be an intrinsic evil, we look toward the future and worry about artificial intelligence...

We once lived on the land; we now live inside of technology, e.g., the modern world - and we no longer know how to live without it. But what is the price we pay for the powers technology gives us?  Does technology affect our values without us even knowing? Instead of using things and valuing people, does it make us use people and value things? What have Christians thought about nature, power, and human ingenuity? 

Whatever the case may be regarding mechanistic technology, we are now in the age of global information technology mated with the world wide web and increasingly powerful artificial intelligence algorithms.  When our global information infrastructure, linked vitally as it is to our fully electrified civilization, becomes a machine more power and more complex than we can ever understand, or even control…how safe will we be with this creature of our own making?

Stanford University hosted Ray Kurzweil

and a symposium of other to talk about what will be coming upon us with the unimaginably power new computing powers:

GUEST: Dr Rikk Watts, Regent College

Professor Watts is a master of New Testament usage of Old Testament themes. He'll be at Uvic and F&R this month. Talk: why history and narrative trumps systematic theology.

Philosophy, Science and the Long Journey into Night: Why Knowledge and Ethics are not Enough.

From Pythagoras to the present the long and glorious history of Western philosophy, and more recently, science (with all their undeniable benefits) has in the end proven incapable of providing any lasting basis for human meaning. In this lecture we will suggest that this is because neither has taken seriously enough the ontological priority of history (Croce). Furthermore, by focusing on virtue and knowledge as ends in themselves, they have failed to grasp the true nature of either humanity or reality.

Download the Poster here: Rikk_Watt_Poster,_UVIC_2010.pdf

MIND: Freedom and the Paradox of Choice

Freedom is God's gift and the intrinsic dignity of human beings. Today we live in a time of unprecedented freedoms. In our consumerist society, maximum freedom means maximum choice. But is there such a thing as too much choice?

Freedom is God's gift and the intrinsic dignity of human beings. Today we live in a time of unprecedented freedoms. In our consumerist society, maximum freedom means maximum choice. But is there such a thing as too much choice?

Freedom is the gift of God and the intrinsic dignity of human beings and we are living in historys freest society.  But is there such a thing as too much freedom?  How do you measure that?  Who sets the limits?  What do we mean by freedom anyway?  What are the many forms of bondage?  How does choice effect freedom?  Feel free to attend this discussion.  Here is the Barry Schwartz presentation that got us going:

Only when you’re done watching the Schwartz video, should you visit Lewis CK at this link to discover what it really might mean to ‘lower your expectations’ in order to find happiness again…

The F&R End Times Party

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord! Well, do we have to justify having a party? Of course not. This is the end of the year, graduation, summer is coming, BBQ big bash. If you miss this, you have no reason to live.

The most important social on the Pacific Rim: the F&R closing party for our season: Spring 2010

How NOT to Read the Book of Revelation

No biblical text has caused more confusion and terror than The Revelation of John the Seer. There have been various ways that this apocalyptic work has been interpreted. Do you know what some of them are?

Cant we prove biblically that Christians will escape in the rapture seven years before the AntiChrist takes world power, only to be deposed by Jesus when He returns for his 1000 year reign?  Actually, no.  And historic Christianity never taught this.  So just how are we to interpret the Book of Revelation?  Of the various theories of interpreting this book, we will look at one that is a venerable favourite of the Protestant tradition and perhaps the one that is most overlooked: Preterism.  Whatever we learn from this discussion, we will surely overcome the nonsense that now dominates Christian Fundamentalism and it’s ‘end times’ hysteria.’

New worry: what will happen to my pets after the rapture?

Openness Theism - Does it Help Us Pray?

Openness theism provides concepts that allow us to think of God as all-knowing without being all-controlling of the future. It seeks to resolve concerns about human freedom and our authentic relationship with God. Does it satisfy?

If we take human freedom to be a true gift of creation - then how are we to think about the nature of Gods sovereignty?  Did God limit himself to make room for freedom?  Does God really foreknow actions that free creatures will perform in the future.  Openness theism is a recent attempt to solve some dilemmas by questioning what we have traditionally been taught about God, creation and human freedom.

This discussion will just begin to explore a new take on a very old theology. 

Aftermath

Ok, we just finished the second most difficult session we’ve ever done.  We covered ‘middle knowledge’ and then a brief comparison with openness theism .  Everyone thought that middle knowledge really did not provide anything that soft determinism didn’t already provide.  As for openness theism, while it fits better with our practice as prayerful persons in relation to a caring, responding God, it still left unanswered the issue of God apparent knowledge of the future as visible in many prophetic scriptures.

Just to lighten things up: Monty Python argument clinic

Praying to a God Who Knows Everything

When you are told that God knows everything, including every detail of the future - that He can read even your innermost thoughts - then what is the point of praying to Him? Will we change His all-knowing, all-determining mind?

Depending on how we conceive of the universe - as permitting human freedom or as predestined fate - we will have a differing view of prayer.  What are we doing when we pray to a God who foreknows everything we could ever ask or think?  Why pray if outcomes have been predestined?  Prayer itself becomes a different thing depending on your view of Gods nature and the kind of universe he created.

This discussion will force us the clarify the deepest concepts and categories we use when thinking about God, freedom, community and personal reality.

More:

We did a part-two continuation of the subject of God’s foreknowledge and pre-determinism the following week: Go here.

Being Gay & Being Christian

It's not about being intolerant toward gay Christians. It's about seeking clarification: please state clearly & convincingly why the biblical passages that condemn homosexuality have been wrongly understood or are no longer valid?

What new facts have changed things?  Precisely which interpretational errors has everyone been making all these centuries?  This session will look at several arguments for what is going on with the Bible.  We will focus on how we are expected to interpret St. Paul’s Book of Romans, chapter 1:18-27, the primary text condemning homosexuality in the New Testament.

We are not having the conversation says Bishop N. T. Wright:


Dr. John Corvino can’t see what wrong with homosexuality anyway…


Of course, there is THIS conversation going on and here it is (Dead Link, no replacement found, sorry):

Abraham, Isaac & God’s Voice

If the Bible is to be our guide in faith and morals, how do we handle the really tough passages? The father of the faith, Abraham, is a case in point. What kind of moral lesson can we draw from his willingness to kill his own son for God?

First of all, let’s blow away the bogus Neo-Atheist rubbish that from the ‘binding of Isaac’ we can conclude to the moral depravity of the Old Testament God.  It is illegitimate to take this one legendary anecdote, in isolation from the rest of the Hebrew moral corpus (the decalogue, the prophets, the proverbs), and make YHWH (or Elohim as the case in point) an arbitrary moral monster.

Having said that, what can we learn about ‘the good and the right’ from the story of Abraham’s willingness to obey a voice that tells him to kill his own son?  Let’s face it, if someone today told us that he is being called by God to kill his child, the very content of that command would be proof positive that this was not God’s voice. We have the ‘insanity defence’ for people who carry out such delusional acts.

So how do we draw moral truth from this Bible story?  Is the answer suggested by Danish Christian philosopher Soren Kierkegaard satisfactory: that to truly obey in faith is to move beyond the plane of moral universals and to make a leap into the absurd?  His claim is simple: faith is a call to trust in the ‘transcendent’ and this can often be a call to what would seem to us ‘the irrational’.  Abraham was forced by no universal maxim: there is no obligation to kill one’s child in his scenario.  Can the voice of conscience, nagging Abraham with the wrongness of what he is about to do, become a voice of temptation?  Can ethical scruples become a diversion from God’s command? 

Whatever we think of this, Kierkegaard’s ideas remains hugely influential today through the disciples he unwittingly spawned: the Nietzscheans and the Existentialists.

Salvation in a Multicultural World

In a world increasingly self-aware of its multitude of religious traditions, each with strong reasons and traditions of belief, just how wide can the saving mercy of God be? This session explores the concepts of inclusivism, pluralism and universalism.

If we assume, as does the Christian tradition, that Jesus Christ is the only Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6)...then how can peoples from other cultures, eras and faiths, ever be included in any of that Truth and Life? 

Some would say that salvation is only possible to those who intentionally respond to an explicit gospel invitation.  Turn or burn!  But if explicit faith in the correctly presented ‘good news’ is the only possible way to be saved, then how would infants, small children and other who cannot believe ever be saved?

This raises a further question: Could the work of Jesus Christ bring salvation to those who cannot believe because they are outside the zone of explicit evangelism.  We explore three different ways to think about this question: inclusivism, pluralism and universalism. 

Don’t think you already know the answers.  Come and join an honest discussion.

Slides for this presentation

(Quicktime Movie format - You must click the curser on the screen to change slides)

FR_2010_-_Nov_28_-_Multi_Culti_Salvation_Issues_-_Short_Version2.mov

Beheading Santa Claus: On Church Corruption

A discussion following on the movie of the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In what ways has 'the world' infected the church? What can we do about these things? Will we be ready to pay the full price?

A group discussion launched from the PBS documentary about the life and death of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who in his own spiritual journey went from pacifism to participation in the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.  Bonhoeffer’s life is a warning to all civil societies of the often irreversible spiritual trainwreck that happens with the churches begin slowly collaborating with social and political evil. 

The question for us is this: what issues today in Canada may be tempting the churches, let alone individual Christians, to become complicit in evil?  How do we even discern these things?  What about church silence while evil is perpetrated or condoned, as in the cases of abortion or sanctioned torture.  What can we do about these things?  Will we be ready to pay the full price of resisting evil, and confronting a compromised church culture?  It happened in Germany.  Don’t say it can’t happen in Canada.

It happened in Russia too….

 

Bonhoeffer - Pastor, Pacifist, Nazi Resister

What caused pastor & theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer finally to take up his cross and follow Jesus at all cost? It was when the German churches welcomed Nazi doctrine & dominance. How could Christians succumb to such evil?

The PBS documentary BONHOEFFER tells the dramatic story of one of the greatest theologians of the 20th century, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, his life and his resistance to Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. While the German Church establishment embraced National Socialism, Bonhoeffer challenged his church to stand with the Jews in their time of need. Learning of the death camps, Bonhoeffer’s religious convictions led him to the seemingly paradoxical conclusion that the only ethical solution was to conspire to assassinate Hitler.

Extensive research in archives in both Europe and the U.S. yielded extraordinary archival footage - including a speech by Hitler praying for God’s blessing on him and the German people- and compelling images of the Catholic and Protestant churches open support of his regime. Bonhoeffer’s life and thought are traced through family photographs from his childhood and early education in Germany to his travels to New York, where he met with black church leaders in Harlem and was exposed to the realities of racism and intolerance. It was in America that Bonhoeffer became convinced of the importance of social and political engagement on a personal level and for the Church community as a whole. Alongside this thorough visual documentation is extensive commentary by a number of Christian intellectuals including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, John de Gruchy and Geffrey Kelly on Bonhoeffer’s contribution to theology and philosophy. BONHOEFFER creates a well rounded picture of a man whose influence continues to be felt not only by his writings, but also by his the example of his life.

Trailer

On Telling Lies

Truthfulness is a Christian virtue but what counts as lying? Exploring how we misrepresent things will clarify both what we mean by 'truth' and help us understand the ethics involved in truth-telling and lying. This topic is huge for spiritual growth and character formation.

How can I lie to you?  Let me count the ways:

bluffing
exaggerating
dissembling
white lies
being ‘tactful’
body language
using truth to mislead
telling half the truth
withholding truth

Questions to ask:

  • What was Jesus doing on the Road to Emmaus?  Read it carefully (Luke 24:13-35)
  • Talk about the ways your spiritual life would be different if you considered lying as having the same degree of sinfulness as do murder or adultery.
  • Think of the movie, The Invention of Lying  In what ways would the world be a better place if everybody said exactly what they were thinking all the time, without censorship.  In what ways would this make the world worse?
  • What modes of deception can you engage in and still remain a moral person?  Talk about the role of ‘intent’ and ‘context’ in determining your answers.

Slide presentation

FR_2010_-_Sept_26_-_On_Telling_Lies_-_notes_only.mov (click screen to change.)

FR_2010_-_Sept_26_-_On_Telling_Lies_PDF.pdf

What is Truth?

The man who sent Jesus to his death asked him 'what is truth?' Actually, you already know what truth is - you just get lost whenever you have to articulate it. Let's get to the truth about truth.

One thing is certain, there is a serious contradiction between what skeptics say about truth and what they actually assume about truth when they say it.  This session is especially important for students facing the many counter-intuitive and radical ideologies that live on university campuses. 

mp3 audio of the session (90 min.)

PP slides as Quicktime file FR_2010_-_Sept_26_-_What_is_Truth_-_no_videos.mov

Questions for disciples:

  • What was the question to which Jesus answered ‘I am the truth?’
  • In Gospel of John 18, Jesus said…for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” “What is truth?” Pilate asked.  Discuss.