Free refills here we come!

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This is a picture of our local McDonald’s taken from my phone at 6 o’clock in the evening today-a  Saturday night!

We’re about to take a trip to the States and I don’t expect  McDonalds there to be  looking like this on a Saturday night.

I think it must be the free refills (none in France!) that draws the crowd 🙂

Anyway I did this post with my phone (voice recognition and swipe typing) and the WordPress Android  app. I hope to do lots of little posts like this regularly during our trip…a  travelog made possible by free McDonalds wifi and free Android phone apps!

Mind the gap! The difficult path to “both and”

Well, it’s the eve of the US mid-term elections and here in France…well…no one cares I think. No, it’s All Saint’s Day (Toussaint) here and they’re mostly at the local cemetery putting chrysanthemum’s on grave stones. Tomorrow is “All Souls Day” where one prays for the deceased in Purgatory. Add to that the US import of Halloween last night and the ever important VE Day celebrations on November 11th where the French gather in every town’s war memorial (they call them “monuments to the dead”) and there’s a whole lotta’ “death” being celebrated over here!

The recent strikes and riots and fuel shortages have not helped either. The sense of “division/divisiveness”, at least for me, has a consonant ring with the “spirit of death”. To surmise that this period of time on the calendar and this period of time with respect to political events in the US and in France, is fraught with activity in the spiritual realm would not take a genius. The stakes are high and the tempers are too…prime territory for enemy seed to be sown in hearts. Kind of scares me that we cast important votes in such a climate!

What seems to be trumpeted around so often in American politics and, I see in French politics too, is that you have two real choices…no more…no less. One must fall on one side or the other and responsible engagement in the political process (aside from the ubiquitous call from all fronts to simply “VOTE!”) requires fighting for one side or against the other. As I’ve mentioned in other posts this sort of default engagement by the Body of Christ does no one any favors as we abdicate our priestly role to steward the land in which God has put us.

How do we get out of these deep ruts? Well, as one for whom concepts are primordial to shape certain kinds of behavior, I think we need to better understand what it looks like when the Kingdom of God is advancing…i.e. when God is King. What it looks like typically flies in the face of “either or” dualistic views of the social and political landscapes. Jesus bridges the gap and takes a path that doesn’t necessarily align with either right or left-winged expectations (no matter how hard we try to put Him in such “one-sided boxes.”

Recently, Duke University Divinity School held their Convocation and Pastor’s School where they had 3 outstanding speakers: NT Wright, Andy Crouch and Rob Bell. Each of these speakers, in different but complementary ways, outlined both concepts and practical application of how we “mind the gap”; how we, as the Body of Christ can and must embrace the tension of the “both and” and reject the easy slipping into left or right-wing ruts. I don’t do their excellent talks justice at all in this short blurb of publicity, but I’m much better at pointing you toward excellent source materiel than I am at summarizing it! So, I highly encourage a listen to these speakers. If you have iTunes and want to use the iTunes U. service, you can simply use the links here. If you, as I do, rather despise iTunes, feel free to take advantage of my efforts to extract these free mp3 resources from Apple’s grip and download them/stream them directly from here:

NT Wright Part 1

NT Wright Part 2

Andy Crouch

Rob Bell

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The Wisdom We ALL Need

I just received Jeff Fountain’s Weekly Word by e-mail today. I confess that often I don’t have time to read them. Today, I’m a bit under the weather so a more measured pace has me perusing some e-mails that otherwise would suffer neglect due to my haste.

This one was a gem! I quote it in its entirety:

The wisdom Europe needs

• European leaders came to an historic agreement in Brussels last week to limit co2 emission levels to help save the environment.
• Just a few days earlier, Christian scientists and philosophers met to discuss the relationship between faith and science at the University of Leiden in Holland.
• Also near Leiden, in 1642, two philosophers met in a castle to discuss this same topic-the interface of science and faith. Europe’s future, including that of her environment, would depend on which of these men’s views prevailed.
• It still does.

French philosopher René Descartes, sometimes called the Father of Modern Philosophy, spent most of his adult life in the Dutch Republic. He had been lodging in Endegeest Castle for several months before his visitor arrived for their four-hour discussion. Descartes’ famous statement, Cogito ergo sum, was to mark a fresh beginning in Western thought based on rationalism. His dualism separated the physical from the spiritual, science from religion.

Jan Amos Comenius, although exiled from his homeland at the time, also brought with him a reputation as one of Europe’s leading thinkers. He would earn himself the title Father of Modern Education and is today one of the Czech Republic’s national heroes. Comenius had developed a holistic or integrated philosophy called ‘pansophy‘, meaning ‘all wisdom’, taken from Colossians 1:28: We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.

Wisdom for Comenius was more than simply knowledge of things. It involved knowing the relationships between all things. It meant knowing the right decisions to improve conditions and circumstances. It was the ‘fullness of the right knowledge’.

Respect & Reservation
Both men had prepared for their meeting by reading at least some of each other’s works. They approached each other with respect and reservation.

Comenius proposed a philosophy of unity with distinct but not separated fields of science, while Descartes objected to the integration of non-rational knowledge with science.

The two men cordially exchanged arguments without convincing the other. They continued to hold different views on man and his world. The Frenchman, a practising Catholic, saw man as an observer of the world from the outside. The Czech, one of the last bishops in the Ancient Moravian Church, understood man as an inseparable part of something that had been a harmonious whole until disrupted by the Fall.

Comenius continued to criticise a science free of moral values which would result in the fragmentation of the essence and existence of man. He foresaw accurately that separation of faith and natural science would lead men to ask what could be done rather than what ought be done. The Cartesian reductionist approach merely asked for causes, not meaning or destination, he objected.

Ring of gold
He who improves in scientific knowledge and thereby declines in moral knowledge, will end up in decline rather than progress,’ he wrote. Quoting from Proverbs 11:22, he said learnedness without virtue was ‘like a ring of gold in a pig’s nose‘.

How different Western history could have been had Comenius’ pansophy prevailed! Today we find ourselves facing drastic measures to correct problems arising from Cartesian dualism.

The scientists and philosophers who met recently in Leiden believe the answer lies in Comenius-style wisdom, integrating faith and science. Twenty-two Christian scholars complied the book, ‘Geleerd en gelovig‘ (something like, ‘Scholars and believers‘), presented to the Dutch Prime Minister on the occasion of the Veritas Forum.

Jan Peter Balkenende suggested that faith and science today were actually closer than often presumed. Both involved a search for truth that existed but could never be fully known. Faith didn’t make you better a scientist or politician, said the prime minister, but raised different questions. Take the environment debate, for example. We seek all sorts of technical solutions. But the question how to steward God’s creation and pass it on to the next generation, for him personally, had a spiritual dimension.

That doesn’t make me a better politician morally,’ he admitted, ‘but it does shape my way of thinking.’

I, for one, think Europe would be a better place with more of this pansophy.

And I, for one think that the United States would be a better place with more of this pansophy.