Monday, May 9, 2005

Another Faith Step -- Together

Last Wednesday was our 20th wedding anniversary, as I mentioned earlier. Wendy & I were unable to go out on the actual day of our anniversary (although I did bring her roses!), but we had the chance to go out last Saturday evening instead.

During our relaxing and fun time together, at one point we stopped by Mountain Brow Park in Hamilton, and looked out over the view of downtown Hamilton and the factories in the distance.

Wow, how terribly romantic, you're thinking. Wait, it gets better.

Back in August 1984, at the advanced age of 19, Wendy flew out to Ontario from her home in the Interlake of Manitoba. We hadn't seen each other all summer, so I couldn't wait to be with her again, but another significant part of her trip to visit me was that she was meeting my parents for the first time.

The good news is that both of my parents immediately connected with Wendy, and Wendy had a lot of fun getting to know them as well.

During that all-too-short week, Wendy & I ended up relaxing together at Mountain Brow Park, on Hamilton's Mountain (not really a mountain; it's part of the Niagara Escarpment). While we were there, talking about our deepening relationship and our future together, at one point I gestured to the sprawling downtown of Hamilton, and told Wendy that, although our relationship was obviously growing, I knew that I was called to youth ministry.

"If you were to marry me," I said, "you might end up living in a place like this", as I pointed to the downtown area.

Wendy looked at it for only a moment before replying, "If that's where God wants us, then that's where we'll go."

We were married a few months later, and when Jo was born four years later, we were living in downtown Hamilton, right below the spot in the park we'd been at in 1984!

If you think God doesn't have a sense of humour, guess again!

It seemed kinda fitting, on a night when we were celebrating our 20th anniversary, and with another faith-step chapter ahead of us again, to remind ourselves of our commitment with each other, years ago, to do whatever God seemed to be calling us to, regardless of the cost.

Sunday, May 8, 2005

The Myth of Objectivity

As I surf around various blogging sites, covering a wide range of viewpoints, I can't help but notice a strange blind spot that many people seem to have developed.

You hear people quoting Augustine, Luther, and Calvin as if everything they wrote or did was completely un-touched by their own personalities, hangups, personal histories, prevailing societal thought and culture, etc.

It's as if everyone thinks that Augustine's works were not affected by his association with the heretical Manicheans before his salvation, or to admit the possibility that his work on predestination might have been influenced by the fatalistic determinism of his pre-Christian days.

There was also his taking verses completely out of context to refute Pelagius (who needed refuting, but not by twisting Scripture), and his development of "Limbus Infantum" (Baby Limbo) as a pleasant form of purgatory for un-baptized infants (Augustine previously taught that all un-baptized infants went straight to hell).

Martin Luther's pendulum swung so far towards justification by faith that he called the book of James "an epistle of straw" which would be burned up also with wood, hay and stubble, and wanted to remove James from the Canon of Scripture. His treatise "Against the Murderous Peasants" gave the German aristocracy the "blessing" to go ahead and slaughter thousands of peasants who were protesting injustice.

John Calvin, flying in the face of 15 centuries of Christian history and theology, thought that the book of Revelation was bogus, and if you read Calvin's commentaries on the Bible (which are worth reading generally), you may notice that there isn't one for Revelation. Like Luther, Calvin wanted to get rid of a book of the Canon.

Of course, there was also that nasty business in Geneva, where there were -- what? 58 or more? -- executions by Calvin & Co. of people who sinned or questioned Calvin's Institutes.

And, of course, we should remember that these three gentlemen developed most of their signature doctrines out of reaction against others -- this isn't usually a good idea if objectivity and fairness is valued.

I'm not trying to suggest that any of these three be rejected or held in suspicion. There is a great deal that can be learned from their writings. I DO run the gamut between being amused and alarmed at how people point to Calvin, Luther, and Augustine as if each of the three had been parachuted in from heaven, completely untouched by anything, and wrote completely objective, doctrinally and theologically pure treatises.

Let's face reality: the idea that anyone writes from a completely objective viewpoint is a myth. We're all interpreting data and concepts through a grid that we've developed over the years. We all "see through a glass darkly" (1st Corinthians 13:12, KJV), and that includes Augustine, Calvin, and Luther. They aren't super-human, nor are their written works on a par with Scripture. While we can learn from them, we must cultivate the "Berean" approach: searching the Scriptures for ourselves, and exercising discernment.

Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Party Time

20 years ago today, Wendy and I became husband and wife in central Manitoba, not too far from where this picture was taken. When our pastor (we imported him from Full Gospel Chapel in Steinbach to do the ceremony) got to that part about "richer or poorer", I couldn't help smiling and Wendy laughed out loud.

Thinking of all of our earthly possessions stuffed into a 1968 Volkswagen Beetle (hidden in a friend's garage till loose lips led to its sacking), we knew which side of "richer or poorer" we were on at the time.

Now, 20 years later, we have many stories of God's provision and faithfulness, often in unusual and creative ways. We've gone through some heavy situations in churches, come out the other side a little burnt but hopefully a little wiser. We have three children that mean the world to us, and a fourth child (he'd be 14 now) who preceded us to heaven. We've lived and ministered in Ontario, British Columbia, Manitoba, and California. We've had some incredible highs and some desperate lows.

To employ a much-abused Christian saying, "I'm blessed" -- in the truest sense -- to have walked these roads with such an amazing spouse. Happy anniversary to us!