Thinking Out Loud

January 9, 2016

Can People of Other Faiths Be Worshiping the Same God?

Larycia Hawkins Press Conference

Yesterday I ran a review of a kids video. I did it because I think the problem when facing current events is that bloggers feel the need to rush-to-publish and sometimes there is some wisdom in waiting an extra 24 or 48 hours. Sometimes it’s better not to weigh in at all.

I’m referring to the case of Larycia Hawkins, a tenured professor at Wheaton College who was dismissed after demonstrating solidarity with her Muslim friends and especially for expressing the idea that we worship the same God.

In two short weeks she has raised a number of issues, and my personal take is that just as I waited a day or two to respond, I think that Wheaton College should have considered a more measured approach. While their action may appease conservative Evangelicals — many of whom form much of their donor base — I keep thinking this may come back to haunt them. As I did here, I wish they had not felt the rush-to-publish need to create the most drastic of all possible outcomes.

Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God? The knee-jerk reaction is to say, ‘Of course not.’ But an historical perspective yields different responses. Google the phrases “Three Faiths, One God” or “One God, Three Faiths” and you start to see the complexity of the issue.

But I want to ask a different question.

Do Jews and Christians worship the same God?

Again, the hard-line response of many is to say, ‘Of course not;’ after all, the God we worship is the God revealed in Jesus Christ, He who co-created the world with the Father, and sits at the Father’s right hand, and said, “No man cometh unto the Father but by me.” (And he really said cometh, according to my KJO friends.)

But the God we serve and sing to at weekend services is the same “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” I really believe you have to answer this two-step question before trying to answer the three-step question that includes Islam.

I can hear some saying, ‘Well, that’s different, it doesn’t apply here.’ But again, there are three (major) Abrahamic faiths, Christianity, Islam and Judaism. There is some commonality.

And may I say, echoing Paul’s approach at Mars Hill, we certainly all seek the same God.

I wish Larycia Hawkins the best. She has left her mark on the ongoing, contemporary theological conversation.

 

 

 

 

August 5, 2014

Canada’s Evangelical News Story of the Year

Tyndale College and Seminary - Arial View

Morrow_Park_Tyndale_Bayview_CampusIt’s only August, but I’m prepared to call it; I’m just not able to better report it. The short version is that Canada’s Tyndale University College and Seminary announced in the spring of 2011 its intention to “buy the house next door;” that is, to purchase the former Sisters of St. Joseph Convent, a rather imposing structure, visible from Toronto’s Bayview Avenue that more than a few visitors thought was the Christian university for many years.  The acquisition has been a slow and steady process dating back to 2007 and a $58M (CDN) fundraising program.

In fact this has been so long in quietly approaching fruition — students will fully occupy the facility in the second semester of the 2014-15 year — that leads me to make the “not able to report it” clause in my introduction. Basically, I think this story is the hottest news on the rack as far as Evangelicalism in Canada is concerned, but the institution has not exactly been blowing its own horn about it.

Tyndale’s existing property has been sold to a housing developer. This is the fourth significant location for the school which began life in 1894 first in a church and at 110 College Street as Toronto Bible Training School, and then in downtown Toronto at 16 Spadina Avenue as Toronto Bible College (TBC). The move to its current location, 25 Ballyconnor at the very north perimeter of what is now Metro Toronto in 1976 occured eight years after a merger with the London College of Bible and Missions (LCBM) and a change of name to Ontario Bible College. The seminary was later added and a new name incorporates both the undergraduate and graduate programs.

This report is rather sparse because, at least in this writer’s opinion, the new Tyndale campus is probably a story not known to the broadest percentage of the Christian community in Canada’s largest city; the biggest religious news story in town that nobody knows about. Capital projects tend to play to the donor base, who are no doubt better informed, and so far, this has been a very large capital project.  A blog documents the month-to-month progress and contains hints of what the future campus looks like, including state-of-the-art IT equipment in the classrooms and a much improved library.

The chapel, pictured below, will be quite a change from the informality of the present one, though I expect the acoustics are rather amazing. Otherwise, Tyndale seems to be saving all the photo ops for when the facility officially starts receiving the bulk of its student body, expected to be the first week in January, 2015.

Tyndale College - Bayview Campus - Chapel

October 16, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Follow Me

Sometimes people say I don’t share enough personal stuff on my blog. Fine. Here we go.  As I compile this link list, my wife is frying fish in the kitchen. There. Is that the kind of thing you mean?  For the link list with the actual links in them, click over to the Wednesday Link List’s new owner, Leadership Today’s blog Out of Ur.

  • Ever wondered how the Catholic Church ended up with an amended Ten Commandments? Maybe there were Fourteen Commandments to begin with.
  • Think it’s bad where Malala Yousafzai is from? One writer thinks it’s just as bad in the United States where the daughters of homeschooling parents are being held captive and denied higher education.
  • Is it possible that we’ve missed a major nuance of a most-familiar story because of the placement of the chapter division?
  • Because it would be nice to know ahead of time, here’s six signs you’re dealing with a toxic person.
  • Programs, growth strategies, and ministry tools can all be helpful, but in this piece, a well-respected church blogger apologizes for seven years of misplaced emphasis.
  • The Hour of Power telecast is now airing fresh programs from their new home at Shepherd’s Grove, with pastor Bobby Schuller.
  • Facebook isn’t just posting your cat pictures, they’re also running the stats on info you provide, including your odds of getting engaged at a Christian college…
  • …But from a pastor’s viewpoint, what does a wedding ceremony look like when God isn’t invited?
  • CNN doesn’t so much interview Sarcastic Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Webber as it does ask for a guided tour of her various tattoos.
  • Stop the Presses! It’s a Justin Bieber photo album with pics of  J.B. with Pentecostal and Charismatic pastor friends.
  • Most Concise Reponse: Shane Claiborne on Texas’ capital punishment record.
  • September’s Best Object Lesson: Spiritual Warfare: What To Do When You Encounter a Lion. (Don’t miss page two!)
  • Essay of the Week: This week it’s another look at the (sometimes contentious) issue of infant baptism…
  • …while another writer suggests that errant doctrinal positions that led to the Protestant Reformation are slowly creeping back into Protestantism.
  • Most Linked-To Everywhere Else: An interview with Tipping Point author Malcolm Gladwell on the reigniting of his faith while working on David and Goliath.
  • From the Land of Unusual Allegories: Preaching is Basically a Hail Storm. (Are you making a dent?)
  • “Are we doing the right thing?” A prolific Canadian Christian author and mom to four boys on refusing to feel guilty in six different parenting departments.
  • Open Letter Department: Tony Jones to Marcus Borg: Jesus rose from the dead.
  • When writers Tweet older blog pieces: Michael Patton on reasons for and against the inclusion of the Apocrypha. (December, 2012)
  • And it came to pass that See You At The Pole begat Fields of Faith.
  • 25 Years Ago on this date (give or take several months) before we had the word ‘tween,’ the children’s music sounds of Prism Red.
  • Does your church dim the lights when the worship time begins? Lee Grady wishes you would leave the lighting alone.
  • If you’re in Atlanta on Thursday night, you can always catch the pairing of Ravi Zacharias with Jeff Foxworthy (and radio host Dennis Prager) but you’ll need tickets.  (Can’t wait to see if the next one is Hank Hanegraaff and Billy Ray Cyrus.)
  • When I say “Darlene Zschech” you say “Hillsong,” but more recently the word you want to remember is hope.
  • As wooden pews are slowly facing extinction in favor of chairs, this trend in church furniture has attracted the attention of The Wall Street Journal.
  • Married? Here’s a great checklist: Five Questions to Ask Your Spouse Every Week.  (Okay, I added the italics.)
  • Magic Musical Moment: Sam Robson’s acapella O Love That Will Not Let Me Go. Like that? Here’s a bonus: It is Well With My Soul.
  • Weird Video of the Week: Hosanna by Hillsong for Synthesia (Don’t think Michael W. Smith learned piano this way.)
  • Those “Get Inside Rob Bell’s Brain” mini conferences (my title, not his) must be going well, since there are two more events scheduled.
  • Last week was the 1,700th anniversary of the Edict of Tolerance aka the Edict of Milan. (Sorry I didn’t get you anything.)
  • Before you click the link, take a guess as to the Top 5 Bible translations in the U.S.
  • The Boy Scouts in the UK now have an alternative pledge for atheists.
  • King James Only advocates have a problem with the fact that HarperCollins publishes both the NIV and The Satanic Bible. So whatever you do, don’t show them this page.

Without giving away his age; Paul Wilkinson spent his formative years in Toronto’s Peoples Church at a time when it was Canada’s only megachurch, and attended their horse ranch, where one of the beasts once stepped on his foot. (More amazing personal details to follow…)

The upper image is from Church Funnies where it got 1,000 likes.  The lower image is from Christian Funny Pictures, where they’re trying to locate the artist.

vegan feeding 5000

September 25, 2013

Wednesday Link List

angelcowimage

Wednesday List Lynx

Wednesday List Lynx

The links are at the post… They’re off! (A bad mash up of blogging and horse-racing.) (You should never have to explain the humor.)  Click through to read these links at Out of Ur, the blog of Leadership Journal.

  • Why do Christian college and university educations get so expensive? Here’s a detailed explanation from someone who knows.
  • In an effort to emphasize “values not rules,” staff at Moody Bible Institute, and subsidiaries like Moody Publishing can now consume alcohol, but rules remain strict for students.
  • Jon Acuff took the platform he earned blogging at Stuff Christians Life into a job with America’s best known Christian financial planner, Dave Ramsay. Then, suddenly, he announced he’s leaving that job.
  • Video of the Week: Flagrant Regard is back, this time with a wild take on an old hymn that’s actually based on an idea my son came up with. You just might recognize the tune.
  • Essay of the Week: A Reformed blogger wants to show a distinction between those who consider themselves Reformed and the more prevalent perception of what is usually called Calvinism.
  • Too many pastors know the story of George, who frequently gets invited out for an attack lunch.
  • Does your church have a children’s sermon in the middle of the worship time? Perhaps you can learn from a popular AT&T television ad campaign.
  • Some Baptist Churches are abandoning sponsorship of the Boy Scouts, and are instead supporting the newly formed Trail Life USA.
  • Lee Grady thinks it’s good for several reasons that judges chose an Indian-American Miss America.
  • Sometimes the questions people have aren’t the ones we expect. For example this pastor is asked, Why do we say Amen at the end of prayers? (The answer includes a couple of times not to.)
  • Question of the Week: Should sporting events preempt church services?
  • I’d seen this two-minute video before, but appreciated Michael Hyatt’s reminder of The Power of Words.
  • An article I hope you never need but might want to bookmark: How to minister to the parents of a stillborn or miscarried child.
  • For only $777.00 and a new pair of spandex pants, you can attend the first ever fan weekend hosted by the band Stryper.
  • This Eschatology primer not only provides definitions, but suggests which favorite Bible teachers fit into which end-times-view camp.
  • A Tennessee judge rules that a child in that state can keep the name Messiah after all, overturning a lower court decision. (Will his friends call him ‘Messy’?)
  • In what is no doubt an often repeated story in North America, a church in New Brunswick, Canada tells a gay 20-year old he can no longer volunteer in their children’s ministry…
  • …While across the continent, a philosophy professor at Azusa Pacific University is dismissed after he comes out as transgendered.
  • Deep Bible Study Department: For all of you who find this column shallow and superficial, does the “I am the Bread of Life” passage in John 6 have a sacramental application, i.e. to the Lord’s Supper?
  • Two years later, Christianity Today — parent to this Out of Ur blog — wraps up its This is Our City feature with a visit to New York City.
  • Marijuana. That’s what caused the Colorado floods. Just sayin’.
  • Skeptics are somewhat … skeptical about a Charismatic Bible teacher’s claim to have witnessed the restoring of a cheek bone lost in an accident.
  • A Seventh Day Adventist Church in Las Cruces, New Mexico is in trouble with the city for failing to comply with an ordinance requiring churches to have business permits.
  • On both sides of the Atlantic, churches wrestle with how to deal with the situation arising when someone presents a new idea or concept.
  • An Anglican bishop in Wellington, New Zealand challenges high income earners to consider salary cuts.
  • Finally, at my own blogs, a look at worship hand-raising; and, when we say “God spoke to me,” there are different ways this can take place, each with different degrees of fallibility.

Paul Wilkinson is available to speak at your next battleship christening, or if you prefer, follow him on Twitter.

3 months to Christmas

September 3, 2013

The Money Spent on College Recruitment is Mis-Spent

A measurable percentage of what your son and daughter pay in tuition fees to their private college or university will be spent on getting other peoples’ sons and daughters to attend the same school in successive years. It’s a truism that is similar to the one that a notable number of pennies out of every dollar given to relief and development agencies is spent trying to get other people to give dollars to the same relief and development agency.

Choosing a Christian CollegeBut the choice of a school is often based on superficials.  It’s not, “This one has the course I want;” or “The faculty of this one include some renowned authors;” or “Graduates from _________ are often recruited by the best employers.”  Rather, the kids go where their friends are going. Or they take a two hour of the academic facilities only to choose a winner based on the promised dorm life.

The problem is, sometimes the dorm in question fails to deliver; and the schools are often structured so that the administration of residences isn’t a high priority, or it is contracted out completely. A negative residence experience casts a shadow over the school year, over the school itself, and over academic performance. A student who is coping with the interpersonal dynamics of mismatched roommates and dorm-mates is going to be seriously distracted from higher grades. A school with loose noise and curfew guidelines is left with a free-for-all that is merely a playground for spoiled rich kids. A school that only matches student personalities in their first year dorm choice is undermining the experience of upper-year students.

Once the school has cast their spell on the student, they then step back and allow dorm life to take whatever course it follows; while the academics preoccupy their thoughts with loftier things. Besides, they’ve blown a wad of cash on recruitment, and nothing is left to pay people to deal with problems when they arise.

And everybody suffers.

Any guesses why I’m writing this today?

June 6, 2012

Wednesday Link List

Wednesday List Links

Welcome back to WLL. You’re not playing the game unless you click through. Place your mouse on the underlined section of each story and click.  (“Oh, you mean that’s how it works?”)  Above image: Sacred Sandwich archives.

  • Like his father before him — and at almost the same age and circumstances —  a Pentecostal minister from a snake-handling sect dies from a rattlesnake bite.
  • A former marine gets assigned to preach the section of the Sermon on the Mount dealing with non-violence. Reactions were strong, but not from military people.
  •  “For an insecure 16/17-year-old kid whose life, identity, main social activity, and faith were wrapped up in the church she’d been a part of her entire life, it was devastating.”   Check out 11 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me When My Church Split.
  • Saturday, May 26, 2012 was supposed to be M.’s wedding day. But in between, after reading the book, When Sinners Say I Do by David Harvey, things changed.
  • Thanks to whoever sent me info about Cardiphonia. Original worship songs on three different themes on a pay-what-you-can basis. The newest is Hymns for the Ascension.  Or just listen.
  • Just when you thought you had solved the dilemma of whether to be buried or have your ashes scattered to the four winds, now there is the option of diamond burial.
  • On a similar theme, here’s a major discussion at Parchment and Pen on the subject some of you have considered, How Can Heaven Be Heaven When People You Love Are In Hell?
  • Got 9 minutes? On video, an orthodox priest teaches the difference between the Protestant view of salvation and the Orthodox view of salvation, under the title, Love Wins – An Orthodox View.
  • Got 53 minutes? That’s a greater commitment. But you’d get to hear the very first ever Phil Vischer podcast with Skye Jethani. (This is for you adults, not the kids.)
  • Got all day?  Check out the video-on-demand apologetics programs featuring Ken Ham at Answers in Genesis.
  • Joel Osteen is set to sit in the producer’s chair for a new movie about the life of Mary which he hopes will be “the biblical prequel to the story of The Passion of The Christ.”
  • Remember that story about the 43-building college campus that was going to be given away free of charge?  Well, it’s down to two finalists.
  • Here’s an article by yours truly at C201 designed for those of you who want to rethink how you draft your prayer lists. (I actually do some serious writing once in awhile.)
  • And a message to those graduating from the hallowed halls: The academy doesn’t need more academics, but the local church does.  Advice for theological seminary grads.
  • Mystery link: Does anyone know the story behind this Elevation Church music video? The YouTube location has no information and the blogger who posted this was equally silent.
  • Matt Hafer’s advice to pastors actually has application to anyone who proposes to stand before a group of people and lead them into God’s Word.
  • It’s “the only billion dollar house in the world.  Ironically, it’s found in one of the poorest countries; India.” America’s Next Top Mommy looks at over-indulgence.
  • You have to read the comments on this one: Advice for students heading off this fall to a Christian college or university.
  • Todd Rhoades thinks it’s only a matter of time before a pastor legally changes his name to something ending in dot com.
  • If the Blue Like Jazz movie missed your town, you can arrange for a showing.

Classic auto emblem from The Holy Observer

February 26, 2012

Real Estate: A Fully Renovated College Campus – $0.00

They bought it for: $100,000.

Spent on renovations: $5,000,000 (US).

Acreage: 217

Buildings on site: 43

School auditorium seating: 2,400

Your cost: $0.00

Jerry Patengale, who was hired by the Green family to help find a new owner of a college campus in Northfield, Mass., points out the stone chapel that has once slated for demolition. Religion News Service photo by G. Jeffrey MacDonald.

The family who own the U.S. retail chain Hobby Lobby are behind this generous gift to the right organization.  It’s not the first time they’ve contributed significantly to the cause of Christian higher education with significant contributions to Oral Roberts University, Liberty University and Zion Bible College. Ironically, they aren’t college graduates themselves.

This Massachusetts campus was built in 1879.  Fifteen organizations were selected for initial consideration, but after that the Oklahoma-based Green  family will consider possibly hundreds of other offers. Their particular concern is seeing a Christian college or university established in the more secularized northeast United States. 

Obviously, an organization has to be able to respond swiftly to take advantage of an offer of this nature, while also being able to prove financial stability over the long term. But look again at the initial cost price; this is a good news story that rarely comes around. I can’t wait to see how this develops; and as a parent with a teen about to embark on a private Christian college education in the fall, I hope the organization in question offers tuition that is priced commensurate with the price they paid to acquire the property!

Read the story at Religion News Service.

January 19, 2009

Chasing After Words – Encore Presentation of 6/11/08

Ever wish some of those doctrinal bloggers would just let their hair down and deal in some real world issues?  I guess that’s what I was thinking on June 11th when this post originally appeared.

Acts 18:15
But since it involves questions
about words and names and your own law—settle the matter yourselves. I will not be a judge of such things.”

1 Timothy 6:4
he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels
about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions

2 Timothy 2:14
Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling
about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.


Looking back with consideration to what I’m doing today, I wish I had pursued an MTh degree.   There was a time it almost happened.   My lowly honors B.A. in Sociology and Philosophy doesn’t enter my day-to-day activities.   I think theological education is great; and while pastors don’t tell you everything they know on Sunday mornings, things they’ve studied are often looming in the background to the text they choose to preach on that week.

I have been fortunate to have a gift for writing that has allowed me to be an ‘influencer’ in various facets of the Christian world.   From my days writing record reviews for Contemporary Christian Music magazine in the ’70s and early ’80s, to position papers on FM Radio broadcasting in Canada that helped pave the way for Christian stations here, to various articles and related speaking opportunities on Christian culture generally and Christian music and publishing specifically; to a book on a particular social issue hopefully publishing in the fall of this year.

The blog you’re reading was sparked to some degree by some writing an old friend sent me; it wasn’t an article like the kind I write here, but it reminded me that my creative output had been slowing down.   So armed with a backlist of newsletter articles, I started blogging and in the process more than tripled the time I had spent reading other peoples’ blogs and discovering new ones.

Many of the Christian blogs are written by Christian academics writing to other Christian academics.   They may be pastors vocationally, but they are part of an academic world.   Three or four this week comment about completing DMin degrees in the spring.   One talks about a symposium he has been asked to participate in overseas.   Several discuss the latest commentaries.   One mentions the new edition of a Greek text.

Like I said in the first paragraph, I think education is great and I’m openly green with envy about some (not all) of the subjects these guys (and a lesser number of girls) get to study.    But it is incredibly time-consuming, and for the ones who are in pastoral ministry, much of this is at the expense of time that could be spent with parishioners.    In fact, there’s one blogger who I have to hope doesn’t have a congregation that reads his blogs, because  I think some of them might be rather upset if they did.   Or, as one church board member told me:

“Over the years we supported and indirectly paid for the completion of his masters and doctoral studies.   But as soon as he completed his doctorate, he was outta here.”


Which ranks right up there with

“We encouraged him to take a month off and get some third world missions exposure in the far east.  Instead he came back and typed his resignation and now pastors the International church in the capital city.”

Much of what is discussed in the theological blogosphere is about words.   As I said so eloquently in an earlier post on this topic, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”   The NIV scriptures posted above remind me how all this “talk” is represented in the Bible.  Oddly enough,  I couldn’t find a reference to the word “blog” in the King James, but I think that many bloggers are afflicted with the same spirit of words.  A bunch of guys talking to each other, talking about what others have talked about, and talking about what someone said about what they talked about the day before.  (With one doctrinal group much more vocal than their counterparts, but that’s another topic for another day.)

So, it came to pass this morning that I had a revelation:  Christian academics are rather cultic.  Some of them, anyway.   The problem for me, and others like me, is that it’s easy to sucked into the vortex of these theological discussions.  “Though I speak with the words of a theological genius, but have not love…” It’s easy to think that these are things that really matter.  Many of them dance around core doctrinal values, which lends to their air of importance.   But much of it is just words.   Theological wood, hay and stubble, if you like.   That’s why I’ve tried to keep this blog with both of its blogfeet firmly planted on the ground.

So there you are.   I just declared some of the most brilliant Christian academic minds in the blogosphere as part of a cult.   What are you going to do about it?

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