Monday, November 26, 2007

Reformation in the Anglican Church?

On November 23rd, the "Anglican Network in Canada" was announced. It will be separated from the Anglican Church of Canada which many members are intending to dissociate from. This was covered by the National Post, AFP, Canadian Christianity and many others. Dr JI Packer gave a presentation at the launch. The reasons for such a move is quite similar to the 2002 situation where Dr Packer, together with many put a stake in the ground to halt any move towards liberalism in the Anglican Church. One of the hottest and most contentious issue has to do with blessings of gay couples in the Church. In the National Post article, the spokesperson said something very stunning:

"The homosexual issue is just the tip of the iceberg," said Cheryl Chang, a board member of the Anglican Network.

"It is what's under the water that is more critical to us. The liberals see the Bible as a book that can be changed and interpreted, and conservatives see it as unchangeable through generations. And those are simply irreconcilable views."
Two prominent bishops have realigned themselves with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, which oversees most South American Anglicans.

The Anglican Church hit back at this splinter group accusing them of schism, and at the same time threatening to keep existing property and assets from anyone who leaves the Communion. They also accused the South Americans for cross-continental interference into Canadian religious jurisdiction. The Anglican Network defended themselves as follows:
We are not leaving anything. It's actually the Anglican Church of Canada that is leaving Anglicanism. On that basis, should parishes choose to join new structure under the Southern Cone, we will not see that as a leaving, but as a staying, and we intend to defend that position.
Incidentally, last Sunday's message in the church I attend, happens to use the same argument with respect to the South American act of 'interference.' Essentially the argument is something like, Why is the Anglican leadership concerned with trying to keep 600 years of Anglicanism together when they have failed be faithful to the gospel that is 2000 years old! (sic)

I think he is right. What good is salt if it is not salty anymore? If the gospel can be easily whittled down according to all kinds of interpretations and misinterpretations, and selected on the basis of unity, is that really 'good news?' No, it sounds more like good playdol.

I choose to have no part in that. The gospel alone has the power to change lives. Should we shape (twist) the gospel in order to cater to people's perceived needs? OR Should we bring the people to the Word, and let the Word shines through?

Here is a metaphor. Natural foods are definitely better than processed substance. Processed stuff may have a longer shelf life due to artificial preservatives. It may even taste better upfront. In the long run, it is deadly.

I love my Anglican brothers and sisters in Christ, and I have no doubts that there are faithful people to the gospel within the Anglican Church now, no matter how liberal it may be. Whatever the disputes or disagreements, I pray that love be manifested throughout. Sometimes the most loving way to love is to be brutally honest with one another. This is what is happening now. Or is it too little too late?

1) Why I Walked (Dr JI Packer)
2) More articles by Dr Packer.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Dr JI Packer in the News

Our dear professor, Dr JI Packer is standing up for purity in the Anglican Church. I respect him for affirming principles he believes in deeply. Challenge him anytime, and the Word of God will flow out and educate many of us.

Links: Province Article today


Buy Nothing Day is Today!

Traditionally, this is done after the US thanksgiving. As the movement grows, it has attracted interest from outside North America. While November 23rd is the North American BND, November 24th is the International version. Started by Ted Dave, an artist from British Columbia, this year, it has attracted Christians who try to put on a 'Christian-equivalent' with names like Church of Stop Shopping, "Four Horsemen of the Shopocalypse", and "What Would Jesus Buy?". Recalling how some Christians try to be 'relevant' and my own reflections on what relevance should mean, I feel a little sad, that while the intent is to spread the kingdom of God, the way it is being done is certainly bizarre, even embarrassing. BND is started by environmentalists to combat the rising consumerism in the rich West and the wealthy societies worldwide. It is a day that people can take time to reflect. Things like this should not be a problem for people who have learned to fast from time to time. I wonder what will be more reflective of Jesus? Will Jesus practice a life of "Buy Nothing" or "Sell Everything"? From my reading of Scripture, Jesus will definitely practice the latter.


1) Buy Nothing Day website
2) CBC Report
3) "What Would Jesus Buy?" CNN Report.
4) Reactions to the 'Jesus twist' to BND.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Useful Movie Evaluation Links

Here is a collection of links that evaluate movies from a Christian perspective. It is listed here for convenience, and does not necessarily mean I agree with all of their content. Note that they are all USA based. Interesting.....

  1. Childcare Action Project Movie Ministry
    Based in Texas, USA, this looks like a small independent group, concerned for movies that can impact children. Quite a number of interesting perspectives.
  2. Christian Answers Net
    A ministry of Eden Communications, based in Arizona USA.
  3. Christianity Today
    A popular evangelical ministry based in Illinois, USA.
  4. Crosswalk Ministries
    A for-profit organization, that belongs to a wider network called that is based in Richmond, Virginia, USA. Looks rather huge.
  5. GospelCom
    Member of the Gospel Communications International, famous for its ever popular Bible Gateway search engine, "Biblegateway", based in Muskegon, Michigan USA.
  6. Hollywood Jesus
    Aims to provide a spiritual point of view regarding modern pop culture. A member of the alliance.
  7. Movie Guide
    Founded by Dr Ted Baehr, the ministry aims toward "redeeming the values of the entertainment industry according to biblical principles." Based in Atlanta, Georgia USA.
  8. Plugged In
    A Ministry of Focus on the Family, founded by Dr James Dobson, based in

What if this is your church?

As a quick follow-up to my previous posting, this is an example of the tricky nature of wanting to be relevant. A church has invited young people to play Halo video game in their church. What will you do if this is your church?


Should a Church Try to Be Relevant?

Yesterday at church, someone brought up with the idea of Relevance. I have been hearing this word for a long time. I suppose it is because many churches are frustrated with the lack of growth, both numerically and spiritually. Megachurches and growing churches are taking up all the headlines. In America, "Willow Creek Community Church" and "Saddleback" are two of the most well known churches, precisely because it is attracting lots of attention in its growth. In Korea, Cho Yongi's name is household fame. In Singapore, City Harvest Church and New Creation Church are receiving rave reviews and headlines, both positive as well as negative.

There are many proponents to the idea of making the church relevant to the world. Some see this as a missional enterprise. Some churches like Focal Point believes that church should not be boring in the first place. Churches like Growthtrac wants to make their programmes attractive in the name of relevance. The Emergent Church movement is one major player in the relevancy enterprise. What is the Emergent Church movement? From my initial readings, they seek to engage the contemporary cultures, especially the younger generation in terms of first getting them into a conversation. According to Christianity Today, there are five defining streams. The writer, Scot McKnight, creatively puts it in alliteration form: Prophetic, Postmodern, Praxis-Oriented, Post-Evangelical and Political. There is a helpful definition from that article.
Emerging churches are communities that practice the way of Jesus within postmodern cultures. This definition encompasses nine practices. Emerging churches (1) identify with the life of Jesus, (2) transform the secular realm, and (3) live highly communal lives. Because of these three activities, they (4) welcome the stranger, (5) serve with generosity, (6) participate as producers, (7) create as created beings, (8) lead as a body, and (9) take part in spiritual activities. [Eddie Gibbs & Ryan Bolger, Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures (Baker Academic, 2005)]
Brian McLaren is often named the unofficial leader of the Emergent church movement (ECM). Some critics have pretty harsh comments for him. Another popular speaker is Leonard Sweet, who recently released a very catchy book by the title: "The Gospel According to Starbucks." Simply reading the title will make any bored soul sit up.

Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon, two very respectable evangelical scholars has this to say:
"The task of the church is not to make the church relevant to the world, but to make the world relevant to the church."
There is even a "Relevant Magazine" that comprises people who "want to break stereotypes, challenge status-quo and enact change through the media." Another evangelical scholar, DA Carson, has strong words against the Emergent Church. He says that the presupposition of the ECM's thinking is too 'reductionistic and wooden.' (Da Carson, Becoming Conversant with the Emergent Church, p59). Carson's enthusiasm or over-enthusiasm in trying to support his viewpoints even peeved my school professor when he lumped my professor with the ECM. From Carson's preface, it seems that the book is a book of generalizations. Apparently, Carson might have overdone this. While Carson made pretty good arguments against the ECM, his arguments loses much scholastic potency due to such generalizations.

Opponents to the 'relevance' doctrine see the problem in terms of consumerism. There are places which are strongly against the idea of a purpose-driven church and points out concerns about it being a church-growth movement. Others take a poke at the emergent church movement, by suggesting two ways to be relevant. I think this is more fine-tuning the relevance idea, rather than a direct criticism.

I have no problems with the intent of the ECM, which is to reach out and touch lives for God. Neither have I any problems with the desire to identify with the surrounding culture and to revitalize the church. What is my concern is the danger in diluting the gospel. Any attempts to be relevant risk some kind of compromise and oversimplification of the gospel message. Jesus does not mince his words when he teaches his disciples to sell and give away everything they have and then follow him. Paul urges the church not to be conformed to this world. Eugene Peterson's rendition of Rom 12:2 makes it very clear:
Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. (MSG)
Firstly, when we want to engage culture, we need to engage it from the basis of Scripture teaching. Remember that we are not of the world. We are in the world. As long as we are in the world, we need to wear the armour of God before venturing forth. Otherwise, we are exposed to all kinds of worldly influence that will eventually destroy us, and the people we are trying to reach.

Secondly, we must take note of place. The idea of place is something we cannot do away lightly with. Can we teach the Bible in the pub or the discotech? Can we try to preach Christ in a busy shopping mall? Even churches find it hard to teach the Bible through the pulpit and resort to spiritual retreats or annual camps away from the city! Jesus often retreated to the mountains and the wilderness to pray and be with God.

Thirdly, we must take notice of individual persons rather than generalizing how people looks like. Mass appeal programs do not necessarily meet the needs of every individual. If ECM becomes like a mass evangelism enterprise, it will not go far.

Fourthly, the notion of relevance needs to be constantly examined. We do not become relevant for relevance sake. Instead, we grow to be like Christ, and in the process we become like light set on the hill, that shines its brightness to the world around us. We do not need to sugar-coat the gospel to attract people. The gospel alone has the power to change people. Moreover, a lousy program that is run by loving and devoted people reaches deeper than a wonderful program operated by people merely going through the motions, and distancing themselves from the people they are trying to reach.

Fifthly, we need to see that the battle is often internal. Taking Paul's letter to the Ephesians, we must beware of spiritual warfare. Os Guiness in his wonderful book "Dining with the Devil" warns us that the problem about megachurches in the shopping mall, is not the church inside the shopping mall. It is the 'shopping mall' that is inside the church that is troubling. This reminds me that while it is easy for Israel to leave Egypt physically, it is harder for Israel to remove 'Egypt' inside them out of their lives. Look at how often they complain to Moses, after the Lord has delivered them from slavery!

Sixthly, becoming culturally relevant must never be done at the expense of biblical reverence. If Jesus does not mince his words, and Paul is prepared to stand for Christ even risking martyrdom, why should we as his disciples mince ours?

Seventhly, we must constantly 're-invent' our methods and structures not according to changing cultural norms, but according to what the Holy Spirit is teaching us. There might be formulas that work for certain churches but not for others. We must discern carefully all the time, wearing TRI-FOCAL lenses, to check whether the prompting, the message or the idea is from God, from the devil or from our fleshly desires.

In a nutshell, the need to be relevant can be one style of outreach. It must never become the only or the main way to do it. The chief way is always prayer with Scripture and obedience to its teachings. The best 'culturally relevant' enterprise for me lies in the following. Jesus said.
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35, NIV)
Practicing this transcends all kind of relevancy equations, all kinds of megachurch mania and all kinds of statistical concerns. It transcends time zone. Love is a language that the world understands. We need not worry so much about becoming relevant, when we are able to show love and concern for one another in the church. If church members are prepared to go all out to help one another in all kinds of ways possible, it will attract the world to the church, like bees to honey. People will then be enticed to taste and truly see for themselves that the Lord is good. Indeed, for those of us who have such a privilege, we can say without blinking an eye that the Lord is truly good.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Jolt Quote XVI

"The world has grown too small to forgive us any big mistakes." (Ronald Wright)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

"The Moral Compass" vs "The Golden Compass"

I have been getting several emails about this "Golden Compass" movie, due to be released soon. Initially, I was unwilling to add any more to its already huge publicity stint. However, the growing interest makes it quite necessary for me to say something about it. In summary, while I have my reservations about the movie/book, I think Christians must play fair when critiquing anything.

The most popular posting AGAINST the movie is this. Snopes is often used to check against hoax messages on the internet. This time, it looks like people are using them as a warning label against the Golden Compass movie. The Catholic League condemns the movie outright. They are unhappy that the movie targets the Catholic Church institution directly, and that the movie is an insidious invitation for unsuspecting minds (especially children) to read Pullman's other books. If the "Golden Compass" is considered mild, the other books are worse, so says the Catholic League. They also argue that the timing of the release of the movie is an affront against Christian values, since it coincide with the coming Christmas season. The logic is this: Children will be confused that the coming of Christ gets meshed up with the 'killing of God'. Can children able to link the two together? Even adults can sometimes be confused. How much more our kids?

Some groups feel that it is blown out of proportion. There are those who see the movie as an opportunity to talk about the pros and cons of atheism. The National Catholic Register has this to say. There are also scholars who while normally moderate, tilt towards asking people to "avoid the movie like a plague."

There are plenty of arguments for and against the banning of the movie. For me, it is certainly not safe for people (not only children) who are biblically illiterate to read and draw conclusions just by reading the book. It will be like eating bad pizza and concluding that all kinds of pizza are equally bad. For those who have biblical grounding already, this book serves as an opportunity to engage the cultural mindset of this age. For those of us who fall into neither of this camp, and would like good family read-together, may I suggest that the reader read "The Moral Compass" instead. Perhaps all parties in dispute ought to read BOTH books!

My plea to Christians will be this. If you want to criticize a movie/book, do so credibly, and not simply quoting a source and assume its accusations are gospel truth. The Snopes warning seems to be bordering on the sensational.

If there is one reason to avoid watching any movie, it will be this. Children needs books like "The Moral Compass" by William J Bennett, more than the "Golden Compass". The former encourages children to develop family virtues like courage, friendship, love, trust and goodness. The latter on the other hand seems to put into children the ability to criticize what they see, to be suspicious and ultimately cynical of life and society. Do our children need to learn how to criticize others? If we groom a new generation on the basis of questioning authority for the sake of questioning, how do we cultivate healthy respect for one another? Even though the book/movie tells a story for the sake of entertainment, does that justify slaughtering the character of people and institutions? A book written for children, no matter how entertaining, needs to have their own moral bearings. Writing an entertainment book without any consideration of a child's moral development is downright unethical. If the Golden Compass is such a book, I will agree with Ben Witherington that it should be absolutely avoided. I have yet to read the book from cover to cover, so I cannot make any conviction to ban or to recommend it absolutely. Having said that, some fundamentals still hold.

For Christians, read the Bible daily and pray. That is the best way to wear and train ourselves to use the armour of God. No earthly book can ever pierce this armour. In conclusion, if our kids have not learned how to waddle in the swimming pool of the bible, why throw them to the deep waters of secular beliefs? They may drown.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Another Fairplay Video

As a follow-up to my earlier sportsmanship post, here is another amazing example from the Netherlands. Following a sporting stoppage gesture from the opponents, Ajax was supposed to return ball possession to team RKC Waalwijk. However, the return kick resulted in a goal! The restitution was eventually made when Ajax allowed a free goal in exchange to even things out. Amusing to see the confusion on the players' faces.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Variant of "Interview with God"

I have came across several versions of Interview with God. Most are variants of the original. Others cater more to the wider public where 'God' is used instead. The one below contains essentially the same kind of message, that life is more than simply swinging from one objective to another. There is more to life. Enjoy the video below.

Friday, November 09, 2007

In Remembrance

November 11th, 2007 is Remembrance Day in Canada. It is observed annually in Australia, the UK and Canada plus several other Commonwealth nations, to remember the war heroes in WWI. Always observed on at 11AM. Why the poppy? It was said that poppy flowers were visibly seen growing over the graves of the war veterans.

Today, I wore a poppy flower on my shirt. This year, there is another person special in my heart to remember. My grandmother passed away on the 29th Oct 2007 at the age of 87. She has strong survival instincts. I wrote a eulogy to honour her.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Links Regent Students Ought to Know

Here are some of the links that Regent students in Vancouver ought to know.

  1. Etcetera Online
  2. (This is an online newsletter available every week in Fall and Winter terms)

  3. LendList Online
  4. (Setup by a Regent student, this site promotes sharing one's possessions)

  5. Bookstore Online
  6. (Main Regent Bookstore website)

  7. Regent Radio / (itunes ver)
  8. (Lots of good audio to listen or buy. Some are free for you to download.)

  9. Regent College website
  10. (Regent College Public site)

  11. Paper Template Online
  12. (My own paper template!)

  13. Rivendell Retreat Center Click
  14. (Favourite Retreat place and very affordable too.)

  15. Libraries on Campus [Regent / VST / St Marks / UBC / VPL]
  16. (Books galore)

  17. Regent Students Intranet website
  18. (Regent students access only)

  19. Transit Link website
  20. (helps one to plan time for commuting by bus/subway)

  21. Regent Alumni Blogs website
  22. (There is life after Regent)

Latest Posts