Sunday, January 29, 2012

#7 God at War pt.2

     Gregory A. Boyd (Ph.D., Princeton Theological Seminary) was a professor of theology, is senior pastor at Woodland Hills Church (which he founded) in St. Paul, Mn., and is a brilliant author.  His book, God at War, The Bible and Spiritual Conflict, recovers the original Christian worldview.  In a nutshell:

        The New Testament is thoroughly conditioned by a warfare worldview.  In this view the whole of the cosmos is understood to be caught up in a fierce battle between two rival kingdoms.  This view entails that the earth has, quite literally, become a fierce war zone and a desecrated battlefield.
        Jesus entered this war zone to set up the rightful rule of God over against the illegitimate rule of Satan.  Jesus’ healings, miracles, exorcisms, resurrection, as well as most of his teaching, make sense only as various aspects of a unified ministry within the context of this worldview.  The cross and the resurrection were, above all else, the act by which God vanquished his archenemy. 

     According to Boyd, Christ’s victory concerns the whole cosmos before it centers on us.  Our salvation and liberation is part of an ages-long, but not eternal, war.  Satan is fatally wounded, yet he and his army live so the war rages on.  There are still important battles to be fought.  Fighting them is what life is all about.
     Mainstream Christianity prefers the “blueprint view” of life, in which everything that happens is willed by God for his mysterious purposes.  As comforting as this view is, the logical end to it is that nothing we do makes any difference.  Prayer makes no difference.  Our position in such a world is truly hopeless.  But the New Testament writers presented a world in which God’s will is often thwarted by evil cosmic forces.
     Boyd uses an image of Nazis torturing an innocent child.  Incredibly, many modern Christians prefer to see some secret providential design being fulfilled by means of the Nazis!  Boyd prefers instead to discern in the eyes of the Nazis something of an evil “twisting serpent” seeking once again to undo God’s creation.  In the New Testament worldview, the only reason a child is tortured is because free beings, human and angelic, can will such atrocities.
     Precisely because our present suffering is NOT God’s will—however much he can now use it for our ultimate good—we can have assurance that the cosmos will not always be this way.

#6 God at War pt.1

Mainstream Christianity is dying.  It no longer has an answer to "the problem of evil"; therefore, it has no application to real life.

On January 19, 2010, we met indisputable evil when we rushed Della to the hospital for what we assumed was appendicitis.  The doctor found a tumor covering her appendix.  At age 14, she had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

We got the typical answer for such an incident--that the pain and suffering of innocents somehow serves the mysterious "good" purposes of God.  Anyone who has been in a pediatric cancer ward knows how useless and repulsive that argument is!  The clueless, well-meaning people who offer it are baffled that you reject it.

The New Testament writers, on the other hand, were inclined to expect evil.  Instead of puzzling over why bad things happen to good people, they could address it and grapple with it.  The Eastern Orthodox churches still embrace this original Christian view, and at least one modern Western writer, Greg Boyd, has rediscovered it.  I am convinced that forces of Light and goodness led me to his work when I desperately needed it.  I'll state the nutshell version of this original Christian view in post #7.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

#5 Why Does God Allow Cancer?

From Greg Boyd.  Obviously, the man can speak for himself here:

#4 The Teacher: part performer, part dictator, part cajoler

An article written by senior editor Kathleen K. Wiegner celebrated what technology would do to transform education. In the next issue, the magazine published a dissenting commentary written initially as an internal memo by its technology editor, Stephen Kindel. He wrote:
“What kind of transformation will computer generate in kids? It could well be a lot less than all the hype would indicate. Just as likely as producing far more intelligent kids is the possibility that you will create a group of kids fixated on screens – television, videogame, or computer. The notion of learning at your own speed is a hoary educational cliché beloved by computer ed folks. In theory it sounds wonderful. In fact, it eliminates the community of the classroom, turns the student into a lone figure engaged in a yearlong dialog with a disembodied voice. What would happen to class discussion – and, more important, the sense of rubbing against other minds?”
Kindel observed that “the computer is a tool, like a hammer or a wrench, not a philosophers’ stone” and that “education depends on the intimate contact between a good teacher – part performer, part dictator, part cajoler – and an inquiring student. The importance of the teacher is not necessarily as a conveyor of information but as a catalyst to interest students in learning for themselves.” He predicted that when this revolution came to pass, the poor would get computers, and the rich would get teachers. Of course, that isn’t quite right. The rich get both computers and teachers.
Diane Ravitch, 2011

#3 Diane Ravitch on NCLB

These articles are simply 'must reads'; the entire piece is a highlight!  Corporate/charter school reformers and proponents have no data to support their claims that competition produces excellence in young children.  Children need nurturing in a structured, supportive environment in order to learn and grow.  Market-place principles simply don't apply to every facet of human life, and Ravitch brilliantly demonstrates how they hurt our educational system.

#2 What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland's Schools

Finland's schools now lead the world in standardized test scores. With "No
Child Left Behind" and the "crises of public education" in America, we should naturally look at Finnish schools.  Some highlights:

The answers Finland provides seem to run counter to just about everything America's school reformers are trying to do.
     For starters, Finland has no standardized tests. The only exception is what's called the National Matriculation Exam, which everyone takes at the end of a voluntary upper-secondary school, roughly the equivalent of American high school.
     As for accountability of teachers and administrators, Sahlberg shrugs. "There's no word for accountability in Finnish," he later told an audience at the Teachers College of Columbia University. "Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted."
      And while Americans love to talk about competition, Sahlberg points out that nothing makes Finns more uncomfortable. In his book Sahlberg quotes a line from Finnish writer named Samuli Paronen: "Real winners do not compete." It's hard to think of a more un-American idea, but when it comes to education, Finland's success shows that the Finnish attitude might have merits. There are no lists of best schools or teachers in Finland. The main driver of education policy is not competition between teachers and between schools, but cooperation.
      Decades ago, when the Finnish school system was badly in need of reform, the goal of the program that Finland instituted, resulting in so much success today, was never excellence. It was equity.

#1 "Has Europe Lost Its Soul?"

Brilliant perception and analysis of modern Western culture by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks speaking at the Vatican.  Some highlights:
      To whom is an international corporation answerable? Often they do not employ workers. They outsource manufacturing to places far away. If wages rise in one place, they can, almost instantly, transfer production to somewhere else. If a tax regime in one country becomes burdensome, they can relocate to another. To whom, then, are they accountable? By whom are they controllable? For whom are they responsible? To which group of people other than shareholders do they owe loyalty? The extreme mobility, not only of capital but also of manufacturing and servicing, is in danger of creating institutions that have power without responsibility, as well as a social class, the global elite, that has no organic connection with any group except itself. As for moral responsibility, it seems that that too can be outsourced. It is someone else's problem, not mine.

     Giambattista Vico described a similar cycle: "People first sense what is necessary, then consider what is useful, next attend to comfort, later delight in pleasures, soon grow dissolute in luxury, and finally go mad squandering their estates."

     So the Sabbath, the family, the educational system, the concept of ownership as trusteeship, and the discipline of religious law, were not constructed on the basis of economic calculation. To the contrary, they were ways in which Judaism in effect said to the market: thus far and no further. There are realms in which you may not intrude.  The concept of the holy is precisely the domain in which the worth of things is not judged by their market price or economic value.
     We should seek to recover the alternative world created by the Sabbath, one day in seven in which we set limits to the power of the market to enslave us with its siren song, and instead give our relationships the chance to mature and our souls the pure air they need to breathe. We should challenge the relativism that tells us there is no right or wrong, when every instinct of our mind knows it is not so, and is a mere excuse to allow us to indulge in what we believe we can get away with. A world without values quickly becomes a world without value.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Why the weird title for this blog?

What do I mean by "evangelical" and "anglican"?

The short answer is:  By evangelical, I mean a person who is aware of one's need for a relationship with God, has a sense of awe about life, has a high view of scripture, and tries, with varying degrees of success, to be self-reflective about one's choices and actions.  By anglican, I mean a person who realizes one needs some type of system in order to nurture and develop the evangelical qualities, and that the catholic tradition of Christianity offers such a system.  I am that kind of person.

The long answer is: It's taken me years to sort this out.  I wasn't raised in any religious tradition.  You could say my family of origin was materialist, if you needed to classify it, but even that's too strong; we virtually gave no thought or discussion to such matters at all.  One important exception in the family was a step-grandmother, whom I'll write about in another post.  Being from Oklahoma (mainly), we knew many Baptists. We simply considered them to be annoying hypocrites. They thought they knew something we didn't, yet they surely didn't live or act any better than the rest of us.  And the rest of us, both old and young, were pretty immature, to put it politely. We thought Catholics were a voodoo cult.

Becoming a parent changed everything.

All the big questions about life and death and meaning and purpose suddenly came crashing down on me. Having no family tradition to turn to for answers, I became a seeker.  After many false starts, I eventually found the works of C.S.Lewis. Suddenly life began to make sense.  In Mere Christianity and The Problem of Pain, I finally found a worldview that fit the facts of life and explained our experiences in this world, while affirming that we are all meant for something better.

In 1994, I joined the local parish of the Episcopal Church, the American version of the Anglican Church.  I had found my spiritual home and began to thrive!  I couldn't have known it then, but a huge spiritual storm was gathering then in the Episcopal Church, and my happiness there would soon end.
That's for another post.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


My name is Jerry Woods.  I live in northern California, and the title of this blog [evangelical Anglican] reflects my principal approach to everything in life! The purpose of this blog is to be a resource or a clearinghouse of resources for anyone who wishes to approach the world through a thoughtful Christian lens.  Specifically, I'll be looking at these categories:

Religion/Philosophy (boring, until you realize nothing is more important to how you live your life!)
Health/Nutrition (with a strong emphasis on natural and alternative methods)
Education (particularly public schools vs. charters, testing, etc.)
Politics (as it relates to all the previous categories)

I am not by any means an expert or authority in any of these categories.  I offer these resources only as modest possible tools for growing toward our full human potential--spiritually, intellectually, and physically.  I'm always open to contributions in any of these areas.  It really is a wonderful life, and it gets even better!

Happy reading,

January 7, 2012