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August 23, 2005

This is the second article in a series that examines various doctrinal and societal challenges the evangelical church must face early in the 21st Century. Previously we examined the dangerous doctrine of Open Theism. Today we will examine relativism. Future articles will examine the Emerging Church, ecumenism, postmodernism, and a variety of other topics.

Relativism is a challenge every Christian must face, for it forms the very foundation for the morality (or lack thereof) of our culture. We live in a pluralist society in which many religions and worldviews co-exist. Society dictates that the way for these divergent views to happily co-exist is to encourage tolerance and relativism, where we do not seek after the blacks and whites or wrongs and rights, but instead allow truth to be whatever the individual chooses for it to be. As people of the Book, we are beholden to a system of absolutes; a system of objective, God-given truth. This truth underlies everything we believe in. Thus we must stand strong against the relativism that is in our schools, our worldplaces and perhaps even our churches.

A Definition

Relativism is the view that truth is relative to a particular context and is not absolute. Truth varies from people to people, time to time, culture to culture and there are no absolutes. Truth is determined or created rather than discovered or determined.

The Challenge

“Baseball is a fun sport.” If I say those words am I making a statement about baseball or about myself? While it may seem that I am stating an objective truth about baseball, the fact is that I am really making a statement about myself. The meaning behind my words is “I believe baseball is a fun sport.” This is how we determine whether a statement is objective or subjective: does it state a fact about the subject or the speaker? Does it state a fact about baseball or about me? A subjective statement is an opinion, attitude or belief. “Baseball is a fun sport” is a true statement, but it a subjectively true statement - it is true to me, but may not be true to another person.

My wife does not like baseball. When she says, “Baseball is a boring sport” that statement is also true, even though it is in direct contradiction to what I said. It is true because it is also a subjective statement. The meaning apparent behind her words is “I do not enjoy baseball.” This is an opinion. Thus she and I can state contradictory truths, but they can both be right because of their subjective nature.

“The Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series in 1993.” When we look at this statement we will see that it is not a statement of opinion, attitude or belief, but a statement of fact. It is an objective truth. The statement says nothing about me, but tells something about baseball. The truth of this statement does not depend on my beliefs. The truth of this statement is there to be recognized or discovered rather than determined or created by myself. If my wife were to say, “the Blue Jays did not win the World Series in 1993” we would have a contradiction in apparently objective facts. Only one of these statements can be true. It is impossible for two opposing objective facts to be true. In this case, only a small amount of research would be necessary to prove which of these two statements is correct. We would also learn why Mitch Williams can never again show his face in Philadelphia and why Joe Carter never has to buy a beer in Toronto, but that is a whole different story.

Problems often arise when a person treats a subjective statement as if it were objective (or an objective statement as if it were subjective). We know this as the “subjectivist fallacy” or the “relativist fallacy.” The European Society for General Semantics defines this as follows: “The Relativist Fallacy is committed when a person rejects a claim by asserting that the claim might be true for others but is not for him/her.” It takes the following form:

  • Claim c is presented.
  • Person p asserts that c may be true for others but is not true for him/her.
  • Therefore p is justified in rejecting c.

We might see this fallacy in action if I were to say to Aileen, “baseball is a fun sport and you are stupid if you don’t enjoy it.” I have taken a subjective belief or opinion and attempted to make it objective or normative. Most people will immediately recognize this problem and see if for what it is, even if they don’t know of a fancy term to describe it.

It should be noted that the distinction between subjective and objective is not always perfectly clear. For example, consider beauty. Are there objective standards of beauty or is it truly “in the eye of the beholder?” This does not prove that objective and subjective standards do not exist, but only that there are sometimes difficulties in distinguishing which is which.

So where does morality fit in? Is morality objective or is it subjective? Is it a fact or an opinion? This is where Christianity differs from culture. Our society teaches that morality is subjective - what is good or bad for you may differ from what is good or bad for me. The Bible, on the other hand, indicates that there are standards of morality that are given for all people at all times. Moral relativism asserts that there are no objective standards of morality that apply to all people at all times. Instead, all morality is consigned to the sphere of the subjective. Morality is not a collection of truths to be recognized or discovered, but to be determined or created by the individual.

It is possible for a Christian and a relativist to have the same belief, but they will be built on different foundations. When I say “abortion is wrong” I am in fact saying “abortion is always wrong because it violates an objective standard of morality.” A moral relativist who believes abortion if wrong is actually saying, “I do not like abortion because I feel it is wrong.”

The crux of the matter is that for a moral relativist, conflicting moral judgments, such as “abortion is wrong” and “a woman has the right to choose” can both be true in the same way that opinions about baseball can both be true.

Consider the following statements made by the umpires at a baseball game:

Umpire 1: I call ‘em as I see ‘em.
Umpire 2: I call ‘em as they are.
Umpire 3: They ain’t nothing ‘till I call ‘em.

We will conveniently set aside the first umpire and look at the second and third. Umpire number two has an objective view. He understands his job as determining whether a pitch fits the criteria of ball or strike. He makes his judgment accordingly and calls them as they already are. The third umpire is a relativist who believes that in an objective sense a pitch is neither a strike or a ball. His opinion is the determining factor. He calls them as he creates them. Now let me ask: if you were a baseball player would you prefer the second or the third umpire? Clearly, if all umpires were like this one, the game would be impossible to play. Neither the batter nor the pitcher would have any sense of what made a ball or a strike. We can now see that this metaphor can be extended to moral relativists. Like this umpire, a relativist does not believe any action as being objectively good or bad.

The Downfall of Relativism

The great irony and the great failure of relativism is that almost no relativist is completely or even predominantly consistent in his worldview. Need proof? Break into his house and steal his television. When you do that he will be more than willing to call the police and inform them that you have committed an action which is intolerable. You may plead that in your view of morality theft is not wrong, but he will still demand that you are arrested and that his television is returned. The justice system will agree with him.

Our society is adamant that particular actions are wrong. At the top of the list is intolerance. Intolerance is regarded as the greatest of evils. Interestingly and ironically, the basis for tolerance, which is disagreement (after all, tolerance presupposes a respect for other beliefs despite objective disagreement) is undercut in our society. Further evils are slavery, rape, molestation and any other actions that infringe on the rights of the individual. But logically, relativists cannot condemn these actions simply because they cannot do so without expressing some level of objective morality.

Another confusion arises when relativists not only condemn actions of which they disapprove, but when they commend actions of which they approve. To be consistent with their beliefs they have no right to impose their beliefs on others. Relativists are only too happy to accept humanitarian awards, but with no objective standard of right or wrong, moral commendation has no place. It is illogical and even wrong.

Dealing With Relativism

In their book Relativism, Greg Koukl and Francis Beckwith provide several helpful pointers for dealing with relavists. First, they suggest showing the contradictions inherent in relativism, for in practice, this position is self-refuting. One effective tactic, then, is to show people that many of their positions depend on some type of absolute stance. They suggest the best way of dealing with the charge of “don’t force your morality on me,” is to simply ask “why not?” What gives him the right to impose his morality on you when you are not able to do the same to him? Second, they suggest pressing the person’s hot button. Find that person’s pet issue and relativize it to undermine his position. Third, force the tolerance issue. Force the person to examine why he cannot tolerate what he perceives as your intolerance. And fourth, have a ready defense. Know the issues and know the best ways to defend your position while casting doubts on the relativist’s position.


Relativism is an irrational, inconsistent view which many tacitly accept, but which few adhere to with any consistency. Indeed, it is nearly impossible for a person to be a consistent relativist. Interestingly, those who hold strongest to this view are condemned by society as sociopaths - people who care only for themselves. Yet when we look at people who believe in absolutes, we see that the one who held strongest to objective truth was Jesus Christ. One system leads to the worst of human depravity, the other to the pinnacle of godliness.


Relativism by Greg Koukl and Francis Beckwith.

Relativism by Paul Chamberlain.

Much of this article was drawn from “Talking About Good and Bad Without Getting Ugly” by Paul Chamberlain and “Relativism” by Greg Koukl and Francis Beckwith. You can generally assume that whatever is good and worthwhile in this article is drawn from the books, whereas I take full responsibility for whatever is illogical and obnoxious.

August 22, 2005

The Deliberate Church
One of the books I have most been looking forward to this year is The Deliberate Church by Mark Dever and Paul Alexander. Dever is author of the excellent 9 Marks of a Healthy Church and is known for his godly, biblical perspectives on church health and growth. I have been given the opportunity to read The Deliberate Church several weeks before it is widely available and thought I would provide a preview of what you can expect from this book.


I take extensive notes when I read books and will share with you just a few of the notes I’ve written about this title. You will have to excuse their randomness as I’ve attempted to provide a sampling taken from different areas of the book.

“This book does not seek to debunk Church Growth Methods or any other methodology. There is very little focus on the negative. Instead, the book is primarily positive and instructive, doing little more than providing biblical teaching on various aspects of the church’s mission and function.”

“The authors reveal that this book came around as the result of questions Mark Dever has answered. “Paul took things that I’ve taught and written, things he’s heard me say many times and questions he’s heard me answer from visiting pastors, and he added his gifts of time, organization, clear writing and thinking ability - along with some of his own ministry experience - and he produced the first draft of this book.” That flavor is evident throughout the book. Most of the chapters are quite short - often only a few pages. A pastor with questions about various aspects of ministry will be able to refer to this book to find short, helpful, biblical answers.”

“Dever’s sensitivity to difficult areas is especially evident in the section dealing with music. While he prefers a simple worship experience, opting to have only a single guitar and piano accompanying singing, he will not say that a large, loud band is wrong. Instead he argues that instrumental sparseness is a way of keeping methods basic so that the gospel remains clearly at the center of every part of the worship service.”

“This is not a book about method. There is no “ABC-123” system for churches to follow. Dever simply explains what has been effective in his ministry and provides a biblical basis as proof.”

What Others Are Saying

Don’t feel you need to take my word for it. Here is what has been said by men who are far more discerning than I am. These are among the endorsements that will appear in the book.

“Here is one of the most faithful and insightful pastors of our time, addressing the most crucial issues of church life. Mark Dever refuses to separate theology and congregational life, combining pastoral insight with clear biblical teaching. This book is a powerful antidote to the merely pragmatic approaches of our day—and a refutation to those who argue that theology just isn’t practical.”
—R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“This book is the perfect example of what a truly practical book on church health and growth should be—it gives concrete guidance for and examples of biblical principles being put into practice in the life and ministry of the local congregation.”
—J. Ligon Duncan III, Senior Minister, First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi

“Rare indeed are books on the church that begin with the Gospel. Rarer still are books that derive methodology for building the church from the Gospel. This excellent book does both.”
C. J. Mahaney, Sovereign Grace Ministries

“The Deliberate Church shares many of the ministry lessons that Dr. Dever and his colleagues have learned from Scripture and sought to implement in the life of their church community. This book is for anyone who wants to get serious about following the biblical pattern for the church and is looking for down-to-earth practical help.”
—Philip Graham Ryken, Senior Minister, Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia

“Here is a novel idea: use the Bible as a handbook to gather and guide the church! And The Deliberate Church is a novel volume indeed, standing amid the spate of ‘church-as-corporation, pastor-as-CEO’ manuals that glut church life. Here is a book that wafts a radical, refreshing breeze from the pages of Scripture that will breathe life into the church. A crucial read.”
—R. Kent Hughes, Senior Pastor, College Church in Wheaton (Illinois)


You can read the introductions and various other parts of the book at Crossway’s site.

The book is structured very simply. The first two sections deal with the church: first the gathering of the church and then what to do when the body gathers. The final two sections deal with leadership: gathering a group of elders and then what to do when that body gathers together.

Section 1. Gathering the Church

1. The Four P’s
2. Beginning the Work
3. Doing Responsible Evangelism
4. Taking In New Members
5. Doing Church Discipline

Section 2. When the Church Gathers

6. Understanding the Regulative Principle
7. Applying the Regulative Principle
8. The Role of the Pastor
9. The Roles of the Different Gatherings
10. The Role of the Ordinances
11. Loving Each Other
12. Music

Section 3. Gathering Elders

13. The Importance of Elders
14. Looking for a Few Good Men
15. Assessment
16. Why Character Is Crucial
17. Getting Started
18. Staffing

Section 4. When the Elders Gather

19. The Word and Prayer
20. The Agenda: What to Talk About
21. Decision Making: How to Talk About It


A Godward-looking Church
An Outward-looking Church


The Deliberate Church is a book I have thoroughly enjoyed and will be recommending. While it is not exactly what I thought it would be, it nevertheless lives up to my high expectations! I will post a full review on or around the day it is available from the publisher.


The book is currently available for preorder at Amazon. It will ship on or around the 28th of September.

August 22, 2005

Al Mohler’s Review

Be sure to check out Al Mohler’s review of Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families, a new book by Pamela Paul. This looks like one I may have to purchase.

August 21, 2005

This is the second part in a series examining The Radical Reformission by Mark Driscoll. The first article, which you can read here, served as an introduction to the book. In the introduction to the book, Driscoll introduced himself in a brief biography and then provided three formulas that explain how different churches react to the competing forces of gospel, culture and church. He showed that Gospel + Culture - Church = Parachurch, Culture + Church - Gospel = Liberalism and Church + Gospel - Culture = Fundamentalism. “This book focuses on issues related to the scriptural content of the gospel and the cultural context of its ministry, and I write out of my sincere love as a pastor for Christians, churches, lost people, and culture” (page 22).” You will recall that Driscoll defines Reformission as follows: “a radical call for Christians and Christian churches to recommit to living and speaking the gospel, and to doing so regardless of the pressures to compromise the truth of the gospel or to conceal its power within the safety of the church” (page 20). The goal of Reformission is “to continually unleash the gospel to do its work of reforming dominant cultures and church subcultures” (ibid).

Today we will look at Part 1 of this book, which is comprised of three chapters. I will provide an overview of the content of each of the chapters and then a little bit of analysis. It should be noted that each chapter follows a pattern. Driscoll begins with remembering the teachings of Scripture; he then repents of values, beliefs and behaviors which are sinful; redeems the future by obeying God; and reflects with God through the study of Scripture, both alone and in community with others.

eat, drink and be a merry missionary

Uppercase titles must be a throwback to modernism, as many books meant to appeal to a postmodern generation eschew them, preferring the lowercase. The Radical Reformission features lowercase chapter headings opposite trendy photographs of beer, cappuccinos and the like.

I’ve written two sentences and I am already off-topic. The first chapter is subtitled “imitating the reformission of Jesus.” It begins with a brief and somewhat irreverent overview of the store of redemption as told in the Bible. Here is a small sample. “[God] starts over with another decent guy named Noah, who nevertheless ends up having a bad day, gets drunk and passes out naked in his tent like some redneck on vacation” (page 28). Or again, “And to top it all off, God comes to earth. He has a mom whom everything thinks is a slut, a dad whom they think has the brilliance of a five-watt bulb for believing the “virgin birth” line, and brothers who likely pummel him frequently, because even God would have to get at least one wedgie from his brothers if he were to be fully human. The God-man goes through puberty and likely goes through that weird vocal transition in which, in the course of one syllable, a young man can go from sounding like Barry White to sounding like Cindy Brady.” (page 29).

He goes on to relate a story of when he was challenged by a homosexual friend to visit a gay bar. He went with his friend and learned “that reformission requires Christians and their churches to move forward on their knees, continually confessing their addictions to morality and the appearance of godliness, which does not penetrate the heart and transform lives” (page 35). In short, God does not seek merely to create a team of good and decent people, but to create a movement of loving, holy missionaries who are comfortable around lost sinners and who look far more like Jesus than many pastors do.

Moving on to share the story of “the woman at the well,” Driscoll says that “Reformission is ultimately about being like Jesus, through his empowering grace” (page 39). We have to know that neither the freedom of Christ nor our freedom in Christ is intended to permit us to dance as close to sin as possible without crossing the line. Instead, they are intended to allow us to dance as close to sinners as possible by crossing the lines that seperate the people God has already found from those he continues to seek. Does this mean that Christians are more likely to sin? No, because the way to avoid sin is not to avoid sinners but to stick close to Jesus.

and now, the news

To begin the second chapter, Driscoll tells the reader about Street Talk, the radio program he co-hosted for six years. The hosts boasted that they would never back down from a difficult question. Eventually the show came under fire from within the church when they addressed the issue of oral sex. What he learned from his experience is that “as the gospel moves into new cultures in our day, and as new cultures emerge, we must struggle to sift out what is cultural and what is scriptural” (page 47). He poses a large list of questions that may have been foreign to previous generations, but which Christians must be prepared to answer. Examples are “can I continue being a professional blackjack player now that I am a Christian?” and “Can I get breast implants as my husband’s Christmas gift?”

Driscoll repents for the nostalgia many Christians are prone to adhere to. “A naive romanticism in each of use desperately wants to believe there was a time after Genesis 2 when the world was a wonderful place to live, when things were better and easier than they are today. This powerful delusion enables to excuse our laziness and failure to be about reformission because of the difficult days we live in” (page 50). The truth is, of course, that there have never been “good old days.” The history of the church is one filled with sin and sinners, but with God’s work prevailing nonetheless. Traditionalism, at its best, is informed by a grasp of the best and worst of what Christians have done and believed in the past. At its worst it fail to distinguish between what is biblical and what is cultural, clinging to what is outdated and ineffectual. The result is a church that has all the right answers to all the wrong questions. The opposite to traditionalism, innovation, is equally dangerous, as churches seek relevance at the expense of the gospel.

When the church has removed the stains of traditionalism and innovation, it is ready to contextualize the gospel in a way that is to the content of Scripture and the context of the ministry. Driscoll concludes the chapter by listing several “signposts” that he has found useful in directing people to Jesus. Among them are, “the gospel infuses daily activity with meaning” and “the gospel is about Jesus as the means and end of our salvation” (page 60,61).

shotgun weddings to Jesus

The third chapter discusses evangelism in a reformissional context. What was once considered effective evangelism, methods such as door-to-door and street preaching, are becoming increasingly inappropriate in our cultural context. Driscoll feels that the best approch in our culture is to invite people to see the transformed lives of Christ-followers, for these people are “the greatest argument for, and the greatest explanation of, the gospel” (page 68). He then provides an apologetic for the “belong and believe” mentality popular in emergent churches. Unbelievers are invited to participate in church community and activities and eventually come to faith, perhaps not in a moment, but over time.

Our society seeks experience. We live in an experience economy, where products that are most successful are sold not on the basis of their usefulness, but on the basis of the experience they can provide. But even more than a mere experience, people want to participate in an “immersion experience,” one in which they are not spectators but participants. Thus churches need to allow unbelievers to participate in immersive experiences. For example, “allowing people, while the sermon is being preached, to paint or draw scenes from the sermon text to be displayed after the service, permitting people to come forward for communion when they feel prepared, allowing people in the congregation to call out the songs they would like to sing next, or permitting congregants to interrupt the sermon to ask questions of the preacher” (page 73).

Here, then, are the benefits of reformission evangelism:

  • It blurs the lines between evangelism and discipleship
  • Conversion to Jesus is a conversion of old lifestyles to his mission of reaching the lost.
  • Conversion is more than mental assent to facts, but a conversion of the entire life.
  • Reformission insists that evangelism is more than an activity, but is a lifestyle.

In the “repent” section of this chapter Driscoll repents of self-righteousness and encourages the reader to do the same. He then shows, using various statistics, how people in our society are increasingly desiring community, but at the same time are becoming more and more isolated. “Isn’t it odd,” he asks, “that we are apparently becoming a nation of attractive people who sit at home alone at night with our pets, watching television shows about relationships and taking medication for our depression brought on by our loneliness? Meanwhile, our neighbors, whom we do not know, are spending their evenings in much the same way” (page 82).


There is a lot of content here to consider. Perhaps in the future I should attempt fewer chapters at a time. Regardless, there were a few points of interest I would like to discuss.

First, I am not entirely comfortable with the irreverent summary of Scripture in the first chapter. This seems to me to be an attempt to be cool and engaging more than an effective method of summarizing the history of redemption. Perhaps I am too sensitive about such matters, but I see little benefit in treating biblical truth so flippantly.

Second, Driscoll outlines the pattern he used to begin his church as if it is the Bible’s teaching on church-planting. “When God called me to plant our church, Mars Hill Church, I had worked for nearly two years overseeing a college ministry, but I had never been a pastor or even been an official member of any church. I was unsure of how to begin a church, and so I simply read the Bible and tried to imitate how Jesus gathered the first workers for his ministry. In the opening chapter of John’s gospel, I saw that Jesus began his ministry not with a large crowd, a formal program, or an organized event but rather by informally building friendships with a few men. Once those men trusted him, their friends, family members, and coworkers also became his followers. This simple pattern seemed attainable” (page 66-67). So Driscoll began inviting people into his home and soon gathered what became a growing, thriving congregation.

My concern is that this does not account for the message Jesus brought with him. It would also be difficult to defend this as a normative teaching on the biblical way of beginning a church. Finally, I am not even sure that it is accurate, beyond the statement that Jesus began with a small group of disciples. There seems to be little evidence that Jesus used this “Mary Kay” approach to grow His ministry.

Third, I do not sense a consistent pattern in which Driscoll will address the unanswered question from the first chapter, which is Gospel + Culture + Church = ?. This first section was called “loving your Lord through the gospel” and the second (and final) section is “loving your neighbor in the culture.” I’m wondering if he will adequately explain how reformission provides the solution to the problems presented in the first three formulas.

Fourth, while I understand the emphases on community, mission and relationship that are always present in books of this nature, I am gratified to see there is a real emphasis on theology as well. This is something that has been sorely lacking in many of the other books I have read on this topic. While many giving a passing nod to sound theology, the authors seem to deny this very thing throughout their books. Driscoll clearly seems to appreciate the importance of orthodox theology.

Fifth, I appreciated Driscoll’s comments that the way to avoid sin is not through system of rigid rules and scrupulous conformity to external standards, but through walking closely with Jesus. This is a liberating truth, I am sure. Where I am less sure is that he will give wisdom on “how far is too far.” When does our cultural engagement work against us by denying our profession? Is a visit to a gay bar not a tacit endorsement of the lifestyle and behavior of those present? I foresee a similar concern with the “belong and believe” mentality. At what point do we agree that we cannot allow a person to belong among us? Surely there are times when we need to sever ties with certain people.

Finally, I enjoyed Driscoll’s comments on traditionalism and innovation. I agree that they are equally dangerous and we are prone to adhere to one or the other. He writes about churches that have all the right answers to all the wrong questions. That is a damning indictment of many churches I have seen, as they have the answers only to the questions unbelievers were asking forty or fifty (or one hundred and fifty) years ago. He is equally hard on innovative churches that become so relevant that they are unable to call lost people from or to anything because they have lost what is supposed to make them distinctive.

On the whole I am enjoying the book, but I’m not entirely sure at this point where it is going. I will check in again when I have completed another couple of chapters.

August 21, 2005

As early as this week.

Movabletype 3.2 may be released as early as this week. Six Apart was hoping to release it last week, but opted instead to go with one final beta release (Beta 5) which is available right now. They warn that the beta should not be used on a live site. I am looking forward to the new software as it provides some new tools which will be most helpful. Primarily I am looking forward to the new Spam protection which will allow me to moderate trackbacks, which in turn will allow the trackback feature to return to the sidebar. I am a tad nervous that it will tamper with some of the plugins I use, and most notably the forum integration plugin.

August 21, 2005

“Move over, politics. Americans are looking for personal, ecstatic experiences of God, and, according to our poll, they don’t much care what the neighbors are doing.” So says Newsweek in the first line of the feature article in the latest issue of the magazine. I think it would be safe to say that many professed Christians are seeking the same. “ ‘Young people got tired of hearing that once upon a time people experienced God directly,’ says historian Martin E. Marty of the University of Chicago. ‘They want it to happen for themselves. They don’t want to hear that Joan of Arc had a vision. They want to have a vision.’” Many forms of religion are only too happy to provide that type of experience. The article goes on to point to Catholicism, Buddhism, Islam, Kabbalah, Wicca and Pentecostalism. Each of these is able to provide the type of ecstasy that Americans are seeking after.

On one hand it is exciting that Americans are seeking after a personal experience with the Divine. That is an experience that Christianity can and does provide. Christianity is the first faith that offered a personal experience with God - to know Him in a deep, intimate personal way, and at the same time to be known by Him. It may not be exactly what people expect, but as long-time believers we are prone to forget just how powerful an experience it is to be indwelt by the Spirit of God.

What Christianity cannot truly provide is the type of ecstatic experiences many people desire. Christianity is a religion where we are never encouraged or expected to take leave of our senses. The ecstasy that is found in the techniques of Eastern meditation or in the wild dancing and yelling of pagan religions is completely foreign to the Bible. And yet many Christians try to blend religious experiences. The article mentions Ron Cox, a New Yorker who left his Southern Baptist Church and tried and rejected Hinduism and Buddhism before experiencing a Pentecostal worship service. “he was trans—fixed by the sight of worshipers so moved by the Holy Spirit that they were jumping, shouting and falling to the floor in a faint. Soon he, too, was experiencing the ecstasy of the Holy Spirit. Once, it seemed to lift him right out of his body: ‘I felt the Spirit come upon me, and it was an overwhelming presence. It was bliss. I thought only 10 or 15 minutes had passed, but three hours had gone by. And I remember just shouting, ‘Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah!’ ‘” This type of experience may be produced in the name of God and with fleeting reference to the Bible, but this is not what God desires of us.

In our day it is increasingly important that we know what God expects and allows in worship. He has not kept silent when it comes to his expectations of our worship. The Bible is filled with godly wisdom that instructs us how we can worship Him in spirit and truth. Let’s not lose sight of this as our culture becomes increasingly desirous of experience that we cannot provide if we are to remain faithful to our Guide.

The article concludes with the type of line we have come to expect in a postmodern society. “So let us say together: Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! Sh’ma Yisrael. Allahu Akbar. Om. And store up the light against the darkness.” After all, Americans agree that all (or most) roads ultimately lead to the same destination. And they are right: most do. Thankfully, God has seen fit to show us the one road, the narrow road, that runs straight to Him.

You can read Newsweek’s article here.

August 18, 2005

In what is destined to be a failed marketing tactic, the Toronto Sun, a Toronto newspaper (remember newspapers - those odd book-like objects we used to read before we had high-speed Internet access) has been dropping their Sunday edition on my doorstep. This is one of those tabloid-esque newspapers that culminates on the final page with a nearly-naked woman (The Sunshine Girl). The final interior page is always a picture of a bikini-clad woman along with a little bio to try to convince the reader that there is more to her than an airbrushed body. Based on childhood memories (when bikini-clad pictures in newsprint held far more allure than they do today) the average bio reads, “Sparky is a capricorn who enjoys hot coffee, cold ice cream and long walks along the beach. She is currently a bartender but hopes to someday be a marine biologist. She would never, ever, ever date someone like you, so don’t even bother.” Somewhere in the paper there is also a Sunshine Boy - perhaps stuck among the fifteen or twenty pages of “adult only” advertisements. He always looks like he was clipped from a WalMart catalog and is there only to ward off charges of sexism. At any rate, this paper is an absolute rag.

When I returned home from the cottage on the weekend, I found newspapers all over my front step. I had asked me neighbour to collect the mail, which he did, but for some reason he must have thought that our verbal contract did not include the collection of newspapers. Perhaps he is unionized. I took all the newspapers and tossed them into the recycling pile without giving them as much as a second glance. This morning I was taking out some really horrible-smelling trash (did you know that cucumbers can liquify if left in the fridge long enough?) a headline on the cover of the Sun caught my eye. The front page had a picture of two straight men with the caption “Straight to the Altar.” Below the picture it said, “Best pals Bryan Pinn, left, and Bill Dalryimple are definitely not gay, but they’re planning on getting married to take advantage of the tax benefits.”

Wow. I have to admit that when the Canadian government dismantled marriage I did not see it falling so far, so quickly. The story begins:

What’s love got to do with it?

Bill Dalrymple, 56, and best friend Bryan Pinn, 65, have decided to take the plunge and try out the new same-sex marriage legislation with a twist — they’re straight men.

“I think it’s a hoot,” Pinn said.

The proposal came last Monday on the patio of a Toronto bar amid shock and laughter from their friends. But the two — both of whom were previously married and both of whom are still looking for a good woman to love — insist that after the humour subsided, a real issue lies at the heart of it all.

“There are significant tax implications that we don’t think the government has thought through,” Pinn said.

Dalrymple has been to see a lawyer already and there are no laws in marriage that define sexual preference.

The great irony in this story is that Toronto lawyer Bruce Walker, a gay and lesbian rights activist, has issued a warning in defense of marriage. “Generally speaking,” he says, “marriage should be for love. People who don’t marry for love will find themselves in trouble.” The irony is palpable.

As a lawyer and activist Walker worked tirelessly to dismantle the God-given plan for marriage and replace it with a fraudulent shadow of what it ought to be. God, as Creator, defined marriage as the union between one man and one woman. End of story. We have no right to tamper with this God-given ordinance.

The term “homosexual marriage” is an oxymoron, and a tragic one at that. A heterosexual marriage of fiscal convenience is no better. In Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, Al Mohler writes, “The fact that homosexual marriage is even an issue for public debate demonstrates that we are a civilization in crisis, because a great many barriers must be breached in order to put this question on the cultural agenda. Firewalls, traditions, habits, and convictional practices must fall before marriage can be redefined and utterly transformed by the inclusion of same-sex relationships” (page 105). Mohler correctly states that at the very heart of this debate is an attitude of moral rebellion that seeks to bring confusion to the God-given order of nature and that seeks to redesign human sexuality.

And now that we have tampered with God’s design for marriage, confusion reigns. Marriage has been taken from a sacred institution and been made into a mockery.

Bruce Walker, always the postmodernist, concludes with that hallmark of postmodern thought - feigned tolerance. “Walker isn’t personally insulted by the planned Pinn-Dalrymple union because he believes in personal freedoms and rights.” But don’t forget his warning that marriage should be about love. Katie who blogs at Outside the Beltway writes, “Having convinced a majority of Canadian MP’s that the ‘ability to procreate’ isn’t a defining characteristic of ‘marriage’, tell me - -what’s so damned special about ‘love’?”

Postscript - Rumor has it that after the story was printed the men decided to call off their union. I do not know if they merely wanted their fifteen minutes of fame or if they truly were planning to get married. Perhaps they still are. Regardless, this story highlights what can and no doubt will happen now that we have redefined marriage.

August 17, 2005

Canada may be unique as a nation that has two official national anthems. I was too lazy to do the legwork to find if there are any other nations with two, but I suspect there are not. To add to the strangeness, both of Canada’s anthems are entitled “O Canada.” Many people erroneously spell “O” as “Oh.” In reality the “O” is used as a vocative to apostrophize Canada and rather than as an exclamation. But most people prefer it as an exclamation.

O Canada was proclaimed to be Canada’s official anthem on July 1, 1980 (July 1 being Canada Day). Yet it was first sung almost exactly 100 years earlier. The music was composed by Calixa Lavallée who at that time was a well-known composer. But, as we know, popularity is fleeting and I’d guess you do not have any of his albums in your collection. The lyrics were written in French. Though it was well received on the occasion it was first performed, it had little immediate impact beyond that evening. Here is the song as it was first composed. For those who do not speak French, I’ve included a rough English translation:

Ô Canada ! Terre de nos aïeux,
Ton front est ceint de fleurons glorieux !
Car ton bras sait porter l’épée,
Il sait porter la croix;
Ton histoire est une épopée
Des plus brillants exploits.
Et ta valeur de foi trempée
Protégera nos foyers et nos droits;
Protégera nos foyers et nos droits.

O Canada! Home of our ancestors,
Your brow is wreathed with glorious garlands!
Just as your arm knows how to wield the sword,
It also knows how to bear the cross;
Your history is an epic
Of the most brilliant feats.
And your valour steeped in faith
Will protect our homes and our rights;
Will protect our homes and our rights.

In 1908, Dr. Thomas Bedford Richardson, a Toronto doctor, completed a translation into English. A quick look at the lyrics will show why we no longer use this particular version.

O Canada! Our fathers’ land of old
Thy brow is crown’d with leaves of red and gold.
Beneath the shade of the Holy Cross
Thy children own their birth
No stains thy glorious annals gloss
Since valour shield thy hearth.
Almighty God! On thee we call
Defend our rights, forfend this nation’s thrall,
Defend our rights, forfend this nation’s thrall.

“Forfend this nation’s thrall?” I’m sure God is eager and willing to do that, but I can’t recall the last time I used either “forfend” or “thrall”, which incidentally mean “ward off” and “slavery” or “bondage.”

That same year Robert Stanley Weir, a lawyer living in Montreal, penned another adaptation that eventually formed the basis for the song as we know it today.

O Canada! Our home and native land!
True patriot love thou dost in us command.
We see thee rising fair, dear land,
The True North, strong and free;
And stand on guard, O Canada,
We stand on guard for thee.
O Canada! O Canada!
O Canada! We stand on guard for thee.
O Canada! We stand on guard for thee.

The version that was official adopted in 1980 is quite similar.

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

Thus we have two official national anthems, one written in French and one in English. It must be noted that the lyrics of these songs, even when translated to the same language, bear little resemblance to each other. Beyond the first two words there is little correlation in language or underlying themes.

It is also interesting to note that while the songs are written in different languages, they were also written by men of different theological backgrounds. The English version is Protestant and emphasizes hard work and duty. The French version, written by a Roman Catholic, emphasizes history and national glory.

Today it is common for performances of the anthem to mix the French and English versions of the song. This leads to a rather interesting mixture of thoughts that actually makes the song seem quite militaristic.

O Canada! Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
Just as your arm knows how to wield the sword,
It also knows how to bear the cross;
Your history is an epic
Of the most brilliant feats.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

In recent years the song has come under attack from various parties who claim that the anthem is either sexist or too religious. Some have suggested removing the words “in all the sons command” to “in all of us command.” Others have suggested ways of removing the references to God. So far these suggestions have met with resistance, but it is likely only a matter of time before the changes are made. After all, this is the nation that has legalized homosexual marriage and has decriminalized marijuana. We’re on the forefront of political correctness.

In How To Be A Canadian, Will and Ian Ferguson suggest that a defining characteristic of Canadians is that they do not know their own anthem. Certainly they do not loudly sing it with pride as do our American neighbours. “First lesson as a newcomer to Canada: Whatever you do, do not learn the words to ‘O Canada’! Nothing will mark you as an outsider more quickly. Canadians don’t know the words to their national anthem, and neither should you.”

So there you have it. Canada has two official national anthems. It’s a fact, eh?

August 17, 2005

“It’s A Fact, Eh?” is a new occasional series I am beginning today. In this series I will introduce various interesting and factual aspects of Canadian life and culture (and yes, both exist in this nation).

“And the Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan against the Ephraimites. And when any of the fugitives of Ephraim said, “Let me go over,” the men of Gilead said to him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” When he said, “No,” they said to him, “Then say Shibboleth,” and he said, “Sibboleth,” for he could not pronounce it right. Then they seized him and slaughtered him at the fords of the Jordan. At that time 42,000 of the Ephraimites fell” (Judges 12:5-6).

Perhaps the most distinctive mark of a Canadian is his use of the word eh. While the word itself is not distinctly Canadian, its usage is. The right usage of eh is a Canadian Shibboleth - a way of immediately identifying a person as a Canadian or as a fraud. In their book How To Be A Canadian, Ian and Will Ferguson write, “Eh? is what seperates Canadians from the unwashed, envious hordes outside their national boundaries. (You know who you are.) Eh? is the secret password, the cross-Canada countersign, a two-letter, single-syllable symphony that takes years of diligent study to master. It must flow naturally into the sentence. It must never stand out, never call attention to itself - and yet must remain inextricably linked to the harmonial whole. It should trip melodiously off the tongue.”

Many people erroneously assume that the Canadian eh? is equivalent to the American huh?, but this is simply not the case. Many Americans feel that they know all about eh simply because they have watched a few clips of Bob and Doug McKenzie. Again, this is not true. Proper usage of the word can only be gained through complete absorption in Canadian culture.

Wikipedia defines eh as “a spoken interjection.” That does not do it justice. According to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary the only usage of eh that is peculiar to Canada is for “ascertaining the comprehension, continued interest, agreement, etc., of the person or persons addressed” as in, “It’s four kilometres away, eh?, so I have to go by bike.” Similarly, “It’s nine-o’clock, eh?” means “You do know that it’s nine o’clock? You are aware that it’s nine-o’clock?”.

In that case, eh is used to confirm the attention of the listener and to invite a supportive noise such as “Mm” or “Oh” or “Okay”. It essentially is an interjection meaning, “I’m checking to see you’re listening so I can continue.”

It is important to note that eh is always, always spoken as a question. There are no declarative eh’s - they are all questioning. Also, usage of the word must be completely naturally. If you have to think about it, you’re probably using it improperly.

Eh can also be added to the end of a declarative sentence to turn it into a question. For example: “The weather is nice.” becomes “The weather is nice, eh?” I believe that this usage points to an ingrained Canadian insecurity and tendency to duck any question. “The weather is nice, right? Because if you don’t think so, that’s okay too.” It is also a good way of encouraging conversation, as if to say, “The weather is nice, right? Don’t you agree? Wouldn’t you like to discuss this while we wait for the bus?”

Depending on the speaker’s tone or the dialectal standard, eh can also be perceived as rude or impolite, as “Repeat that!”, and not a request. If I were to say, “The weather is nice, eh?” and were to receive no response, I might then say, “The weather is nice, EH?” to try to force the person into replying. Eh? implies that I am looking for some type of response.

Further examples of Canadian usage include: “I know, eh?” This expresses agreement. “The Leafs look like they are going to win the Cup this year, eh?” “I know, eh?” I could also say, “Yeah, eh?” to express my agreement.

The Ferguson brothers believe that the quintessential Canadian question is “Why not, eh? “ ‘Why not, eh?’ is a phrase at once plaintive and cajoling, and Canada is a nation of cajolers, the Land of the Hedged Bet. All that talk about the “national genius for compromise” is just a bunch of hooey. Canadians don’t negotiate - they cajole. What was Confederation itself, if not the Cajoling of a nation? No burning slogans. No guillotines. No oppressed masses yearing to be rich. Nope, the fathers of our nation sweet-talked their way into a union.” Why not, eh?

So there you have it. While many nations use some variation of eh, the Canadian usage is unique and deeply-ingrained in Canadian consciousness. It is such a part of Canadian identity that rumors abound that Canada Customs and Immigration use it as an identifying clue when interviewing people at our borders.

It’s a fact, eh?

August 16, 2005

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