Sunday, March 29, 2009

Confession may be good for the soul, but not for the reputation

...and be sure your sin will find you out. Numbers 32:23b

Man recovers after 'deathbed' murder confession

By Tom Leonard in New York
Last Updated: 8:58AM GMT 23 Mar 2009

When James Brewer suffered a stroke and realised he was dying, the church-going Oklahoma factory worker decided it was time for an extraordinary death-bed confession. Local police were summoned to his hospital bedside where he lay after suffering a stroke. Brewer is alleged to have then told them he shot dead a man he believed was trying to seduce his wife more than 30 years ago. Detectives said Brewer, 58, told them he wanted to "cleanse his soul" and go to meet his maker with a clear conscience. But in a bizarre twist of fate, Brewer survived the illness and now faces a new murder trial over the 32-year-old death of Jimmy Carroll in Tennessee - where the death penalty may await him.

Last week, a newly recovered Brewer and his wife, Dorothy, sold all their possessions in a garage sale and left their modest wood-framed home in Shawnee, Oklahoma, where they had reportedly been living under the assumed names of Michael and Dorothy Anderson. They drove to Hohenwald, Tennessee, where he surrendered to the authorities.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Zechariah's Messianic prophecies

There are so many prophecies of Christ in the book of Isaiah that the book has been referred to as the "Gospel of Isaiah." A lesser-known Old Testament book with Messianic prophecies is Zechariah. Zechariah was a contemporary of Haggai, and the word of the Lord came to him from 520-518 B.C. (In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius...1:1), after Israel had returned to the land from the Babylonian exile. His book consists of a series of visions and oracles concerning Israel, including a number of prophecies of Israel’s Messiah--all of which were fulfilled (or will be fulfilled) by Jesus:

...I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH.
For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone shall be seven eyes: behold, I will engrave the graving thereof, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land on one day.
3:8-9

Then take silver and gold, and make crowns, and set them upon the head of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest;
And speak unto him saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is the BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD:
Even he shall build the temple of the LORD; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.
6:11-13

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. 9:9

...and he shall speak peace unto the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth. 9:10b

From Judah will come the cornerstone...10:4a (NIV)

So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver.
And the LORD said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD.
11:12b-13

...and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. 12:10b

And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends. 13:6

...smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered...13:7

Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.
And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.
14:3-4

...and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee. 14:5c

And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one. 14:9

Among the prophecies about Israel is this one:

Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem.
And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.
12:2-3

You only have to read your daily newspaper to know how the prophecy in Zechariah 12:2-3 has been, and is being, fulfilled. Here’s a disturbing prophecy which is yet to be fulfilled:

And this shall be the plague wherewith the LORD will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth. 14:12

This prophecy, given more than 2,500 years ago, sounds as though it could be describing the effects of a nuclear war or explosion.

Given the perfect fulfilment of Biblical prophecy in the past, it's reasonable to assume that the remaining prophecies will be perfectly fulfilled in the future. The fulfilment of prophecy is proof that the God of the Bible is the one true God. In addition to Isaiah, I especially recommend the book of Zechariah to Jewish readers, and ask them to consider the Messianic prophecies contained therein. Jesus not only fulfilled all the prophecies of Israel's Messiah (the anointed One), but he also came as the saviour of the Gentiles (I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth. Isaiah 49:6b). If you haven't yet trusted in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour, I urge you to do so today:

I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation. II Corinthians 6:2b

Monday, March 16, 2009

Grovelling Christianity

I’m a Christian, but I’m also a white person (and not ashamed of it), and as such, I’m becoming increasingly nauseated with grovelling before politically-correct minority groups. In the secular realm, the government of Trudeaupia (formerly Canada) is one of the worst offenders in this regard. The current Prime Minister, Stephen "The Great Groveller" Harper and his errand boy Jason Kenney (Minister of Citizenship, Immigration, and Multiculturalism) can’t seem to find enough groups to apologize to.

I took great offense when The Great Groveller apologized to the Chinese in Canada in 2006 because early in the 20th Century Canada had charged a head tax to Chinese workers entering the country, and eventually enacted immigration laws that barred further immigration from China. It would probably come as a shock to Messrs. Harper and Kenney that white Canadians of an earlier era would themselves have been shocked to be accused of doing anything that merited an apology. I think "chronological arrogance" is the term that Joseph Sobran used when referring to the criticism of those from earlier times because they didn’t see things as people in our time see them. To Canadians of the early 20th Century, the idea of a "multicultural" nation would have been suicidal, and an oxymoron: to the people of those days, a nation was mainly an identifiable people group that had important things in common, such as ethnicity, language, and religion (indeed, the New Testament Greek words for "nation" are ethnos, genos, and allophulos; all of them refer to a race or people, rather than a political entity). Canadians viewed their country as one of white Europeans (mainly English-speaking, with a loyalty to Britain and British institutions, and a belief in some form of Christianity), with one mainly French-speaking province (also composed of white people of European descent, mostly Roman Catholic). The people of Canada thought it was necessary for the nation to be as homogeneous as possible; to change the racial makeup of the population would be to change the country for the worse, and they didn’t want the country to be changed. That’s why they charged the head tax to Chinese coming to work in Canada--if they couldn’t discourage these people from entering Canada, they would at least make them pay for the privilege.

As for the Chinese, they weren’t brought here as slaves, and they weren’t held as prisoners. They agreed to the terms of employment, which were better than anything they would have had at home, and ended up better off than if they’d stayed in China. Although they weren’t paid as much as white workers, they were free to take their earnings back to China, where those earnings were regarded as a small fortune. The Edmonton Journal of June 27, 2006 published an obituary of Fong Ping Mah, whose husband was one of those workers who came from China to Canada and paid the head tax. He made several trips back to China, where the money he had earned in Canada enabled his family to be regarded as wealthy capitalists. Why should these people receive an apology?

A similar apology was issued to Canadians of Indian descent (from India, that is) in 2008 for the incident in 1914 when the Japanese ship Komagata Maru, carrying 376 passengers from Punjab (mostly Sikhs, with smaller numbers of Muslims and Hindus) was prevented from docking at Vancouver, and was sent back to India. By 1914 Canada, as a Dominion, had control over her own immigration, and was increasingly enacting laws and regulations restricting non-white immigration. Those on the Komagata Maru were deliberately trying to force their way into a country where they knew they wouldn’t be welcome. The government of the province of British Columbia and the government of Canada both made it clear that these passengers (except for 24 who had complied with the regulations) weren’t welcome. Far from apologizing for the incident, I applaud the B.C. and Canadian governments of 1914 for standing up for the interests of the country; given the way that some Sikhs have behaved since they were allowed into Canada, I think the governments of the early 20th Century showed unusual wisdom. For those white people of a politically-correct persuasion who think such a view is horribly racist, consider the results of unrestricted Chinese and Indian immigration. Just on numbers alone, it would be only a matter of time until whites would become a minority in their own country; if you think this would produce a harmonious nation, look at the effect that Muslim immigration is having on western Europe today. The millions of Mexicans illegally pouring across the border into the United States are having an extremely negative effect on that country. As Mark Steyn says, diversity is great for the world, but not for a country.

I’m just as nauseated by professing Christians who think that the best way to reach some people groups is by grovelling before them, confessing sins (usually in the past, and usually committed by others) which may be real, but may also be imaginary. The target groups are often quite happy to exploit the guilt feelings for their own benefit. I don’t see any of this grovelling Christianity in the New Testament.

I have no problem with apologies being made and compensation paid to actual victims of injustice, but I’m sick and tired of white people, especially white Christians, allowing themselves to be played for suckers. In the Christian realm, we see this in the case of Indian (i.e., First Nations, Native, Aboriginal, or whatever such term you prefer) residential schools, where actual sins were committed; those sins have been confessed and repented of, and restitution has been made (as an aside, the residential schools situation is an example of the dangers of "faith-based initiatives," where churches carry out the social agenda of the state). Some professing Christians insist on confessing and repenting on behalf of others, even if the sins were committed by those who falsely claimed to be Christians. This makes the professional repenters look very pious, and there are those among the victim group(s) who are happy to encourage the guilt feelings of the repenters. An example of this can be found in the Response to the Prime Minister’s Apology to Aboriginal Peoples by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada’s Aboriginal Ministries Council. The response (an abridged version of which may be found here (on page 10)) was written by Ray Aldred, Assistant Professor of Theology at Ambrose University College, and Chair of the EFC’s Aboriginal Ministries Council. Below are some quotes from Dr. Aldred’s statement, followed by my comments.

I hope that when Canadians heard their government’s apology there were not those who said, "It wasn’t me, I don’t need to apologize."

Well, I’m one Canadian who says, "It wasn’t me, I don’t need to apologize." I’m perfectly willing to confess and repent of my own sins, but I resent being called on to confess and repent of sins that were committed by others, especially when those sins were committed before I was born (I can’t verify the accuracy of the list of residential schools as it appears in Wikipedia, but I found only one school on that list that opened after I was born, and almost all the schools had closed before I reached the age of 20). This is where identificational repentance comes in (see previous post). Certain professing Christians (especially those of the Charismaniac/Dominionist ilk) are of the view that if there is spiritual darkness or resistance to the Gospel in a particular area, it’s because there is a curse handed down from previous generations because of a sin or sins that occurred. It’s then necessary to conduct an investigation of the spiritual history of the area to determine when and how the area came under a curse. If and when the sin is identified, it must be confessed and repented of in order for the curse to be broken and reconciliation to take place.
This is contrary to scripture: The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. Ezekiel 18:20

In addition to the pagan nature of the spiritual warfare worldview with which IR is associated (see previous post), a problem I have with identificational repentance is the arrogance of those who presume to repent on behalf of people who: (a) may not have wanted to repent; (b) may not have thought they did anything requiring repentance; and (c) may have been right about (b) (e.g., the immigration issues cited above).

Let me suggest the theme of restorative justice. An attempt at reconciliation which might help us to think through what has happened in the apology because what has happened in Canada is not primarily a breakdown in law, but a breakdown in relationship. We need restorative justice because it is aimed at repairing relationship. Thus, when trying to walk in the theme of restorative justice there are three large tasks, according to Rev. Dr. Pierre Allard: Tell the truth; really listen; come up with a shared plan to repair the damage.

Let me suggest three tasks that Canadian evangelicals need to take in order to be better agents of reconciliation and that might help Canada in the continuation of walking toward restorative justice.

Task #1 A universalism of intention, not pretension (walking in the light of 1 John; the one who says they are without sin is a liar and the truth is not in him): Tell the truth.

When it came to residential schools the country and often the evangelical Church denied the truth by not acknowledging their responsibility for residential schools. But everyone was implicated by the residential schools, either because they ran residential schools or they stood by and did nothing to attempt to stop them.

In fact, it isn’t a denial of truth for evangelical churches not to acknowledge responsibility for residential schools. It wasn’t the evangelical churches that were operating these schools (I found one Baptist school and a few non-denominational ones on the Wikipedia list), but the mainline churches. More than half were run by the Roman Catholic church, and almost all the rest by the Anglican and United (and before they united, Methodist and Presbyterian) churches. Get your apologies from them, Dr. Aldred. And if you’re going to hold everyone guilty because they "did nothing to attempt to stop them," you may as well make similar accusations against the Lord Jesus Christ and the apostles because they didn’t do anything to stop slavery in their society.

Task #3 Reconciliation, repentance, restoration (How can two walk together unless they both agree?): Come up with a shared plan.

I wonder if we will be ready in the years ahead to come up with a real plan to repair the damage. We must not let ourselves stop short of this.

Let’s see now: there’s already been an official apology from the federal government; a settlement agreement paying compensation to all victims has been implemented (and those victims who chose to opt out of the agreement were able to apply for compensation through other means); a Truth and Reconciliation Commission has been formed as part of the settlement agreement; and healing funds have been available from the government and churches for the last decade. I think most Canadians would say that justice has now been served, and the debt has now been paid. If people such as Dr. Aldred continue to belabour their grievances, it will show that the issue is no longer one of "restorative justice," but about exploiting white guilt feelings in order to keep extorting as much money as possible. This won’t result in reconciliation, but in resentment. I’m reminded of the episode of M*A*S*H where Corporal Klinger was injured while saving Major Winchester’s life, and Major Winchester felt obligated to do good works for Corporal Klinger while he recuperated. Corporal Klinger took advantage of this to the point where Major Winchester said, "Max, there is a fine line between good Samaritan and abused toady--and I am teetering on the precipice!"

I’ve noticed two things about the "reconciliation movement:" (1) It’s always a one-way street, with white people, especially white Christians, doing all the confessing and repenting (an 18th Century Canadian ancestor of mine had his ears cut off by Indians, but I have yet to hear any apology from Indians for that act--although I don't hold today's Canadian Indians responsible for it); (2) It seems to be a perpetual process of confessing and repenting that never seems to arrive at a point where the aggrieved group will say that final reconciliation has taken place.

May 30, 2012 update: Something I should have posted a few weeks ago: That last paragraph has been proven wrong, at least in one recent example. As reported by Nick Martin in the Winnipeg Free Press, April 16, 2012:

There were sweetgrass and tobacco, solemn tradition intermingling with laughter, unspeakable memories and hope for the future, dancing and a feast, cultures coming together.

Archdiocese of Winnipeg Archbishop James Weisgerber was the central figure at Thunderbird House Saturday, still humbled and trying to come to grips with the generosity of spirit that would allow aboriginal people to show forgiveness for the church's role in residential schools.

Weisgerber was adopted Saturday as a brother by Bert and Phil Fontaine, and elders Fred Kelly and Tobasonakwut Kinew, the first such traditional Naabaagoodiwin ceremony celebrated as an act of reconciliation.

"I was very honoured. I was blown away," said Weisgerber, dressed in his traditional black robes and a pair of moccasins. "I've never had a brother. Now I've got four."

Weisgerber spoke repeatedly about the generosity of aboriginal people. "They're the ones who've been hurt.

"As colonials, we're the ones who made the error 125 years ago," said Weisgerber, who acknowledged the damage his church had done to aboriginal people and their culture.

All Manitobans must make the commitment to reconciliation, the archbishop said. "All of us have to do this.

"The heart of reconciliation is forgiveness. There has to be a change of heart. There's a lot of racism on both sides of the divide," he said. "I believe we have a very long way to go, but it's a road worth travelling."

Former Assembly of First Nations national chief Phil Fontaine issued his own apology -- to the Catholics who had shown goodness, but whom he had for years "tarred with the same brush" in "indiscriminately" expressing his bitterness and anger at his treatment as a child in the residential schools.

"That was unfair," Fontaine said. "I've been thinking about this for a long time. It's been a struggle to find some balance in this tragic history."

Fontaine said there were long discussions among the four men before the adoption proposal was put to Weisgerber.

"The community had to be willing to adopt Archbishop Weisgerber," he said.

It was Weisgerber who three years ago asked Pope Benedict XVI to meet with residential school survivors, Fontaine pointed out.

That wasn't a universally popular idea in the Catholic Church, said Weisgerber, "But once the Pope said yes...." Weisgerber said he has been receiving emails from clergy across the country since word broke about the adoption.

Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said he has not contacted other aboriginal leaders about the adoption ceremony.

"This is an initiative led by individuals. It's not a political initiative," Nepinak said. "I'm honoured to be here. This is an historic event. My mom went to residential schools, her mom went, and her mom's mum went."

Nepinak said Saturday's ceremony was a combination of the "relatively recent arrival of the Roman Catholic Church and its ceremonies" and ages-old aboriginal ceremonies.

Kinew told the community gathering "the ceremony means we are now prepared to move ahead... I want to leave residential schools behind me because I want to live my life in a good way."
This is a refreshing change, which does come as a surprise to this blogger; let's hope that this isn't an isolated example, and that things move in the direction of true reconciliation.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Identificational Repentance

One of the more annoying fads to come into evangelicalism in recent years is identificational repentance, where Christians take it upon themselves to publicly confess and repent of the sins of their ancestors, supposedly to break demonic strongholds so that God can then work miracles, and cities and nations can then be "taken for God." As is so often the case, the movement originated with Charismaniac Dominionists. Herescope has an excellent article on IR.

Identificational repentance is connected with a spiritual warfare worldview, which believes that life consists of a constant battle between good and bad, light and dark spiritual forces, and that we must use shamans prayer warriors to find out what these forces are and what they’re up to in order to appease them or break their grip. Bob DeWaay, pastor of Twin City Fellowship in Minneapolis, Minnesota, formerly subscribed to the spiritual warfare worldview. His written commentary on the subject may be download in pdf or html . I particularly recommend downloading Pastor DeWaay’s radio broadcasts of May 22 and 29, 2006; and December 1; 8; 15; and 22, 2008. Pastor DeWaay explains that the spiritual warfare worldview is basically a pagan worldview dressed in Christian terminology, where being in Christ isn’t enough in itself to provide for a victorious life.

In 2001 the Evangelical Alliance in the United Kingdom, whose slogan is the Dominionist-sounding "Uniting to Change Society," published several articles promoting IR which may be found here. The one I'll be quoting from is Identificational Repentance--Is it Necessary? Is it Biblical? by Frank Green.

According to Mr. Green:

Identificational repentance is a term coined by John Dawson in Healing America’s Wounds to describe a type of prayer which identifies with and confesses before God the sins of one’s nation, city, people group, church or family. It may also involve formally apologising to or asking forgiveness of representatives of the victims of the corporate sins (such as white Christians repenting of racism and asking a representative group of black people for forgiveness in a public ceremony)...

As a practice, identificational repentance has been encouraged in the context of mission, especially by those with a strong spiritual warfare slant to their ministry. They argue that the corporate sins of a nation or city form a major obstacle to the revival God wants to bring and that when the Church takes time to investigate and research the history of her nation/city, the Holy Spirit will reveal to her the specific roots of that which blocks the blessing. The next steps are the same as those taken by an individual who turns to God but with the added dimension of the involvement of a group of intercessors:

1. Identify the national sin
2. Confess the sin
3. Apply Christ’s blood
4. Walk in obedience and repair the damage

Mr. Green, typical of the promoters of IR invokes II Chronicles 7:14 (If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.) and Exodus 20:5b (...for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me) in support of identificational repentance. However, he takes both of these verses out of context. The context of II Chronicles 7:14 is the dedication of Solomon’s temple in Israel under the Old Testament. The land is Israel. The church of Jesus Christ is now under the New Testament, and no specific land is promised to the church.

In the case of Exodus 20:5b, H.L. Ellison explains in his book Fathers of the Covenant (pp.109-110) that three and four generations was the normal family group in Israel at the time. The preceding verses in Exodus 20 were warning against having too small a view of God. If a great-grandfather held to this inadequate view of God, the resulting sins would affect all those under his roof down to the great-grandchildren. I find it interesting that the IR proponents never mention Exodus 20:6 (And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments). The thousands in this case refers to generations. Why do the IR proponents always invoke the "curse" verse and not the "blessing" verse that immediately follows?

Mr. Green invokes the examples of Nehemiah and Daniel in support of IR. Once again, this occurred in Israel under the Old Testament. The church is now under the New Testament, and we have the Lord Jesus Christ as our priest; we don’t need a Nehemiah or a Daniel.

Later in his paper, Mr. Green admits:

There is no clear NT reference to it: Jesus never mentioned it, nor did Paul or any of the other NT authors (although, as we have seen, the Hebrew Bible contains numerous examples in the context of the nation of Israel before Jesus came, so it is not an unbiblical activity).

Indeed, one only has to look at the book of Acts. The apostles visited a number of places on their journeys, and never once did they feel it necessary to conduct a spiritual history investigation to find out which demons were afflicting these areas in order to free up God to do His work. Instead, they just proclaimed the Gospel, sinners were saved, and churches were started. In striking contrast, one of the things that’s missing from identificational repentance methodology is the clear presentation of the Gospel. It’s also worth noting that the Epistles, which were written to address issues specific to the church of Jesus Christ, contain no mention of identificational repentance.

Mr. Green does ask a number of questions that other proponents of IR should ask:

Is there a preoccupation with certain types of sin in some circles? The sociological analysis of the spiritual warfare movement frequently sounds like the U.S. Moral Majority or the former Tory Government in the U.K. ...

Is it easier to engage in repentance than mission? John Dawson says that we need to "keep doing it until it’s over." Isn’t this playing directly into the hands of the Enemy by busying ourselves with anything other than actually sharing Good News with lost people, which is supposed to be the primary activity of the Church militant.

How do we know if or when we have "broken through" and actually received the forgiveness for which we are asking? Will there be quantifiable results in the material realm that "breakthrough" has occurred in the spiritual realm?

Perhaps this is the most serious question of all: is it easier to repent of other people’s sins than those of our own? ... There may well be some railway-sleeper sized sins sitting comfortably in the corner of our own eyes that require urgent attention before we start focusing on the specks of dust in our history.


More on how identificational repentance is coming to the fore in evangelical and government circles in Trudeaupia (formerly Canada) will be in the next post.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Ambrose University College trains Nazarene pastors using materials from a company with ties to Mormonism

If you look at page 8 of the Ambrose University College Report to Donors 2007-2008, in the section titled "Transforming the Church," under the subheading "Ambrose Sponsoring Clergy Education for Nazarene Pastors," you see the following:

The curriculum presented includes The Seven Habits of Effective Managers (Franklin Covey)...The resource person is Rev. Terry Fach, who is a trained facilitator for Franklin Covey seminars.

According to Wikipedia:

FranklinCovey (NYSE: FC), based in West Valley City, Utah, is a provider of time management training and assessment services for organizations and individuals. The company was formed on May 30, 1997, as a result of an acquisition by Franklin Quest of Stephen R. Covey's Covey Leadership Center. Among other products, the company markets the FranklinCovey planning system, modeled in part on the writings of Benjamin Franklin, and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, based on Covey's research.

This is a company founded in 1983 by Hyrum W. Smith as Franklin Institute, Inc. In 1992 the name was changed to Franklin Quest, Inc. According to the Funding Universe history of Franklin Covey:

The company's offerings are based on its comprehensive 'Franklin System,' which is designed to help individuals identify goals and prioritize tasks, as well as the 7 Habits as outlined and explained in Stephen R. Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People...

Benjamin Franklin served as the inspiration and guiding philosophy for the courses. In fact, Smith attributed his own achievements and the success of his company to Franklin's ideas about human values and quality of life. It was after reading Franklin's autobiography that Smith decided he would build his own time management program based on Franklin's proven self-improvement philosophy. Smith interpreted Franklin's philosophy to mean that peoples' happiness and inner peace do not come from owning things, but from identifying what is important to them and then making their lives conform with those goals...

The program was based on a checklist of 13 virtues, which included frugality, industry, sincerity, and temperance. 'If you're not doing what you value, you don't value yourself, so you won't value your time and make good use of it,' Smith posited in the December 1992 issue of Success.

Using Franklin's ideas, Smith developed a time management and motivational seminar program. The program's basic goal was relatively simple: to help people realize what they really want to accomplish, to help them do things for the right reasons, and to motivate them toward action.

You don't have to look too hard to discover that both Hyrum W. Smith and Stephen R. Covey are devout members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, more familiarly known as Mormons. For a Christian examination of the influence of Mormonism on Stephen Covey and his writings, read A Closer Look at Stephen Covey and His 7 Habits by Bill Gordon, and The Shifting Paradigms of Stephen Covey by Bob Waldrep.

What I'm wondering is how the church of Jesus Christ managed to train leaders for almost 2,000 years without employing the services of secular self-improvement techniques and businesses. The discerning reader will notice that the power of the Holy Spirit is completely unnecessary in order to follow the principles taught by FranklinCovey. The New Testament mentions some qualifications for leadership in the church (I Timothy 3:1-12 comes to mind); I suggest that the church would be better off sticking to the scripture and rejecting worldly ideas and methods.

Ambrose University College and "Transformation"

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Romans 12:2

Romans 12:2 refers to the sanctification of the individual believer in Jesus Christ; believers are to adjust their thinking to that of God, which will in turn affect their conduct, leading them to become more like Christ. This has nothing to do with the way the word "transform" and its derivatives are being used in evangelicalism today. When I heard such words in the 1980s, they usually came from New Agers who were talking about the way they wanted to see society and the world changed. I’ve noticed an increasing use of such terminology in evangelicalism in recent years.

According to Lynn and Sarah Leslie in their article What is Transformation?:

When evangelicals hear the phrase "church transformation" they may think of the paradigm shift in liturgy, worship styles, music, mega-churches, etc. In reality, "transformation" is substantial and deep, intent on re-forging the very foundations of Protestantism, western civilization, and ultimately the governance of the entire earth. While lip service is being paid to the traditional definitions you read about above, in reality the word "transformation" now indicates a societal, cultural and global revolution.

For an example of this, look at the Ambrose University College Report to Donors 2007-2008. The title is "Transforming Students to Transform the World." On page 2 we read:

At Ambrose University College, we strive to give our students an educational experience that is truly transformational. It is our expectation that upon graduation they will in turn find places of service and leadership through which to transform our churches and society. A transforming vision is a trust given to us by our stakeholders. This report is our accountability to those who entrust us with the finances to accomplish this great task.
(emphasis added)

Sections of the report are titled: Transforming through Scholarship; Transforming Cross-Culturally; Transforming the Church; Transforming the Community; A Place for Transformation (emphasis added). I counted 16 mentions of "transform" and its derivatives of the report. In addition to the Leslie article cited above, the reader is invited to go to Lighthouse Trails Research Project and search the site using the terms "transform" or "transformation."

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Ambrose-contemplative connection

This might offer part of the explanation for the naming of an evangelical college after Ambrose of Milan.

From The Catholic Encyclopedia entry on St. Ambrose:

He delights in the allegorico-mystical interpretation of Scripture, i.e. while admitting the natural or literal sense he seeks everywhere a deeper mystic meaning that he converts into practical instruction for Christian life. In this, says St. Jerome (Ep.xli) "he was disciple of Origen, but after the modifications in that master's manner due to St. Hippolytus of Rome and St. Basil the Great ".

This sounds a lot like the modern movement known as contemplative spirituality. The best site for information on this trend is Lighthouse Trails Research Project.

St. Ambrose took a mystical approach to the Bible, and Ambrose University College does the same in at least a couple of their course offerings. From Ambrose University College's Academic Calendar, June edition, 2008-2009 (scroll down to page 74):

TH 661 Exploring the "Desert Experience" in Christian Spirituality

An examination of the "desert/wilderness" experience in various traditions of Christian spirituality. An integrated biblical/historical/theological/formational approach to the subject is used to assist the student in understanding the nature and purpose of the "desert/wilderness" experience in the spiritual life of the church and the individual. A special feature of the course is a one-day guided silent retreat.


TH 662 Prayer Paths to God: The History and Practice of Christian Prayer

An advanced course which studies the historical theology and practice of Christian prayer as it pertains to understanding the role of prayer within the spiritual life. The course is taught from an ecumenical perspective and includes a prayer practicum in the lectio divina (praying with scripture).

Lectio divina is a prayer technique that involves clearing your mind and then taking a passage of scripture and repeating it slowly until you have a mystical spiritual insight or communion with God. I can't see any significant difference between lectio divina and Transcendental Meditation. Like so much of the content of evangelicalism today, this is paganism in Christian dress. For more detailed information on lectio divina, go here and here.

Let's let the Lord Jesus Christ have the last word:
But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Matthew 6:7

Monday, March 2, 2009

Why is an Alliance-Nazarene college named after a Roman Catholic saint?

In 2007, Alliance University College and Nazarene University College joined to form one institution, and chose the name Ambrose University College.

According to their website:

Ambrose is a Christian who predates the Reformation. The selection of any individual who is post–reformation or aligned with either the Nazarene or Alliance denominations would be highly problematic...
Ambrose stands as one of the great Christians of his generation; a servant leader in both the church and society, an individual who embodies the values of our institution.
Figures like Ambrose are significant to all streams of Christian tradition and experience. He therefore serves as a figure who emphasizes unity in Christ rather than the particular emphasis of any group.

I'd like to know the names of the post-Reformation figures who were rejected, and why they were rejected.
Note the mention of leadership in both church and society. This is typical of modern evangelicalism, which seeks to have a foot in both camps. Where in the New Testament are Christians called to be leaders in society? The apostle Paul certainly wasn't a leader in society after his conversion:

...for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake...we are weak...we are despised.
Being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.
I Corinthians 4:9-10, 13

The New International Version renders the latter part of verse 13 as:

Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.

As for "unity in Christ," that's a lot easier to achieve with an evangelicalism that emphasizes works over doctrine.
For evidence of Ambrose's Roman Catholic credentials, look at his entry in The Catholic Encyclopedia. By the way, there's a St. Ambrose Parish in Coaldale, Alberta, about 100 miles southeast of Calgary; and yes, it's a Roman Catholic parish.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Campus Crusaders and Atheists Together

When I was a student involved with Campus Crusade for Christ at the University of Alberta in the 1980s, we occasionally brought in a guest speaker to debate a volunteer skeptic (usually a U of A professor), but we never teamed up with the skeptics in order to support a mutually agreed-upon cause. The extent to which things have changed is shown by the following:

Event Details
Debate: "Does God Exist?"
A formal debate on the existence of God between atheist Paul Zachary Myers, biologist and associate professor at the University of Minnesota, Morris, and theist Kirk Durston, national director of the New Scholars Society and PhD. candidate at the University of Guelph. Debate will be followed by a question and answer period.
Tickets will be sold at the door $2 students, $10 non-students

Welcome to the University of Alberta Atheists and Agnostics
[Atheists] Does God Exist Debate, featuring PZ Myers
The University of Alberta Atheists and Agnostics, and Campus for Christ are co-hosting a debate on the existence of God. Arguing that a God does exist is Kirk Durston, national director of the New Scholars Society and PhD. candidate at the University of Guelph, and arguing the other side is Dr Paul Zachary Myers, biologist and associate professor at the University of Minnesota, Morris, as well as famed author of the blog, Pharyngula.
Date: Monday, January 26th
Time: 5:30 PM
Location: ETLC E1-001
The cost for students is $2, non-students, $5. CFI Friends of the Center are free. All profits will be donated to a local charity.
The debate will last approximately 2 hours, with the second hour being audience questions.

The charity wasn’t publicly specified. In my day the proceeds weren’t given to any charity, because admission was free. I wouldn’t pay $10, $2, or any other price to hear these two speakers (especially since I used to be able to hear Kirk Durston in the ‘80s without paying anything). If the article in The Gateway and this blog review are any indication, it doesn’t sound as though it was much of a debate; both speakers got off topic, especially Professor Myers.
For another blogger's view of the debate, go here and here.

Another difference between the debates of the ‘80s and those of today is that the topics were more interesting then. I well remember a large crowd turning out on a Thursday night (March 5, 1987, to be precise) to hear Jeff Amano of Probe Ministries (author of The Reincarnation Sensation) and Edmonton Buddhist priest Fred Ulrich debating reincarnation vs. resurrection. To debate whether or not God exists is to dumb things down to a kindergarten level.

The New Scholars Society is affiliated with Power To Change (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ, Canada).