Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Melba is Toast.

I give all credit for this witty title to my sister, Rachel, who is visiting me here in the Couv.

Yes, today we recognize the life and death of Melba, who turned out to be a svelte, black roof rat about the length of my fingertips to my elbow (including her long tail). Since I am always first to rise in the morning, I was first on the scene. Method of death was the good old mousetrap, which we've had set for a couple of months now. Melba just got a little too cocky, I suppose. Thought she was invincible. I decided to be brave and put her, with the trap, in a bag, and I was such a wimp - my hands were trembling. I've seen hundreds of dead rats in the lab, much uglier than she. But those rats' heads were not crushed. Anyway, it remains to be seen whether she had any friends in the walls.

I've had a wonderful week with Rach. I made her do grad school things with me, like coming to my classes, going to a Regent party, walking around Stanley Park, watching Dave Matthews and Jack Johnson DVDs, watching intelligent movies, hanging out with a prof's child, eating Ethiopian food and gelato, and ordering pizza. Also, we've had the mission to find her a one-of-a-kind Grade 12 grad dress, chocolate brown (for you Americans, in Canada, we don't have prom, we just have grad, but we still dress up.) Tomorrow we head to New West, to bridal avenue, to continue the quest. And then tomorrow night, she leaves. She leaves me to finish a paper and write a Hebrew test. I will most likely be up all night... I'm not good at writing papers efficiently.

One anecdote from our day... we were in the Stanley Park parking lot, and a car pulled up beside us and the guy inside said, "Do you know where we can get some bud?" I thought he might mean Budweiser beer, but I wasn't sure about the singular use of "bud". I said, "Huh?" He said, "Weed." I understand that slang. I said, "I don't know, man, but I suggest you kick the drugs and get hooked on the Holy Spirit." No, I didn't really say that. Actually, I said, "Sorry." So I have officially been asked for drugs in the Couv. Danice says it's a momentous occasion.

Thank you all for commenting about church unity. I will have to think of more issues to address on here. I agree with what you're all saying about diversity in worship - I would never want to have us all singing or responding to God in the same way, I'm all about flavors. I guess what I'm less sure about is diversity in doctrine, in theology. My prof told us yesterday that there are 200 000 Protestant denominations. Here's a rather provocative quote from Lesslie Newbigin's book, "Foolishness to the Greeks":

"It is the common observation of sociologists of religion that denominationalism is the religious aspect of secularization... The denomination provides a shelter for those who have made the same choice. It is thus in principle unable to confront the state and society as a whole with the claim with which Jesus confronted Pilate - the claim of the truth... It follows that neither a denomination separately nor all the denominations linked together in some kind of federal unity or "reconciled diversity" can be the agents of a missionary confrontation with our culture, for the simple reason that they are themselves the outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual surrender to the ideology of our culture. They cannot confront our culture with the witness of the truth since even for themselves they do not claim to be more than associations of individuals who share the same private opinions."

What do you think? Do denominations represent our culture's individualistic "shopping mall" approach? Keep the conversation going.

Rachel gives a shout out to Les-ball - she misses you lots. I give a shout out to CK. I love you, come soon.

9 comments:

Batgirl said...

I think that denominations are symptomatic of our consumer lifestyle. We even call it church shopping. There is an expectation that every person should be comfortable... I kind of think every person should be uncomfortable. That the liturgicals and the tongue-speakers and the hand-layers could benefit from less division and more time together.

But doctrine-wise, there are divisions that are almost impossibly wide. I'm not sure I can imagine a world where a Baptist and a Catholic could have communion/eucharist together and have it mean the same thing to both parties.

Matt said...

Does the eucharist have to mean identical things in order to share it?

While I still fully believe my comment in your previous post, I should I should follow it up.

I think that (especially in North America) we definitely have a consumerist mentality when it comes to churches. This isn't necessarily bad (in the sense that variety and diversity can be good as stated in the previous comment) when we are looking for a church, but it is necessarily bad when we are leaving churches based on stupid issues.

John Calvin essentially said that leaving the church is (essentially) sinful. This coming from the man who split from the Catholic church. His thoughts where essentially that the only reason you would leave a church is if they weren't truly church.

"They [denominations] cannot confront our culture with the witness of the truth since even for themselves they do not claim to be more than associations of individuals who share the same private opinions." I don't buy that Newbigin quote. I think he is wrong to assert that denominations only claim to be nothing more than associations who share the same private opinions. I think that if that were correct, his conclusion would be correct. But just because there are different denominations doesn't mean that we lose a Truth claim. I think he may be acting out of his context of a missional pastor who as seen many of the things that he concludes which obviously suggests that it often may indeed be the case. But I think it is taking it a bit far to suggest that it is necessairly the case.

Having different denominations to choose from can be a good thing. Leaving a church over little things is a horrible thing that does come back to our consumerist nature. "If this pastor says something I don't like, I will just walk five minutes more and maybe that church will tell me what I want to hear..." That mentality breeds nominal Christians. Bad news.

This has become a very long winded answer... sorry. You can see that I am quite conflicted over the issue as well.

How do we help the situation?

-Matt

Andrea said...

Oh I think we live in an exciting time... there is more dialogue between Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant theologians than ever before.

One anecdote: My nephew (who is Protestant, but has come to appreciate things Catholic and Orthodox as he has studied history and theology) has lunch regularly with a plainclothes Franciscan friar. In fact, it took him a good month to find out that he was indeed a friar. Anyway, the other day the two of them had lunch with a Greek Orthodox woman and the friar's spoke of his hope that someday soon the three of them would be able to participate in the Eucharist together.

Oh, I hope so too.

I think that we on the 'non-sacramental' side are beginning to look at what sacrament really is. (see Gordon T. Smith's "The Holy Meal") and the Catholics are still putting into practice what happened in Vatican II. Many of the dividing doctrines were softened or even reversed in Vatican II. I don't know as much as I'd like to, but in "Meaning of the Sacraments" last term (Yes!! taught at REGENT) Smith talked with such excitement of the changes brought about by Vatican II and those yet to be implemented.

As you think on these things, I highly recommend his book. And if he teaches this class again, TAKE IT. Much reflection on both our own traditions and on at least a few others. It was very moving for me to go to a high Anglican service and experience a Eucharist with them.

Smith also cited many examples of being welcomed to the Eucharist by Catholic brothers and sisters. This has been the point on which I've been most concerned for our unity as non-Catholics are traditionally excluded at the table. (although, have you ever gone to Mass and gone up for your blessing?...that's pretty amazing too!)

Okay, like Matt, I ended up saying more than I meant to.

Sorry.

So glad you had fun with your sister!

Matt said...

Great thoughts there Andrea. I guess one thing that I could add here is that it seems like the church as a whole has more problems with things than people, individually, do. I grew up presbyterian but have gone to an Anglican church where I took communion. I didn't question what their specific beliefs were around it (which at times we probably should do), I just celebrated in the Supper along with them.

So why can we individually deal with our differences in a real, meaningful way (like actually sharing in the Eucharist) when the church as a whole seems against it?

christine said...

I have nothing intelligible to say in regards to this debate about communion. Gordon T. Smith just spoke at our church though, and based on what he said to us, I know he'd be fantastic as a prof. In regards to our differences- I that think we're all looking to belong, to meet God and to find value. We've gotten ourselves into some messy situations because of that- and I think the way out is to help each other to belong, to find God and to find value. Without that we miss the point.
And the point is...Beth I miss you terribly. You have been love to me. Whatever you learn there, or become there, remember that my life isn't the same without you in it.

Matt said...

So what are YOUR thoughts on the issue Beth?

Beth said...

The whole point of this is that I don't have to share my thoughts! Haha.

Fine. My thoughts are basically that I don't know. I'm mostly still dealing with the fact that I've never thought about it before, that I've always assumed denominations were an awesome thing. Maybe it's because I've gone to the same church my whole life. It takes a while for some challenges to sink in.

I'm excited about what Andrea said. I agree with Matt and Christine in that for most people in the church, doctrine isn't as big a thing as it is for theologians: it's more about belonging. My state of mind right now is that I hope the dialogue between denominations will continue, I want to watch for how it affects our witness, I want to learn more, and I want to put my energy into making everyone feel like they belong and are valuable, and focus on what we share.

Matt said...

Amen sister. Seems like this is all stuff we have to think about along the path that will hopefully draw people closer to Him.

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