Archives For News Report

The writing has been on the wall of the Christian bookstore – actually, bookstores in general – ever since 2009. I remember attending CBA in Denver, Colorado, where the obvious question on everybody’s mind was: does the Christian bookstore have hope for a future?

I remember Ed Stetzer took the platform and delivered a motivating and inspirational talk about how the doom of the Christian bookstore thanks to ebooks was highly bloated. It sounded nice at the time. But then everybody went back home, and back to their local bookstores where reality seemed to burst our bubbles.

The message: find a way to adapt or drown in despair.

Since then, Foundation Distribution, a Canadian Christian Distributor, has been working on a way to bring small bookstores across the country together through their site to enable small stores to benefit from ebook sales.

On December 17, 2012 a new tablet was launched specifically for Christian bookstores called Myeebo. This device is exciting. It is a full colour tablet with an 8 inch screen and front and rear cameras. It is fully integrated with Facebook and Twitter and carries apps from normally mutually exclusive platforms such as iOS, Android (already offer 500,000+), and Kindle stores, offering features not available on Kindle and Nook devices. The price point – only $179, isn’t too bad either. Continue Reading…

End times predictions are nothing new in human history, but they seem to have jumped into overdrive over the past few decades. They arrive frequently by “your everyday cranks predicting raptures and the end of days,” and by your superstitious folk who don’t know math and create mass hysteria that would cause the ancient Aztecs to laugh with delirium. But you also have the “experts;” legitimate scientists who have recently assured us that humans have fewer than a “few human generations, if not sooner” before the world as we know it ends – with “mass extinction.”

But this prediction is just as, ahem,  “terrifying” – scratch that, more so – than any other global warming end of the world hysteria type stuff we’ve been told by the “experts” before, because this “new study” has shown that we have past the point of no return. Eek!

That’s right. Most of the eco-doomsayer’s up to this point have insisted we all buy electric pinto’s (do those even exist?) and stop releasing internal combustion – farts – before it’s too late and the world implodes or something. But now we’re being told that we’ve crossed the line. We have only a few generations left – “if not sooner” – and all we can do about it is wait and watch it happen. Continue Reading…

Free eBooks

One of the major Canadian Christian book distributors, a company called Foundation Distributing, has been working hard to make Christian eBooks available in Canada through Canadian stores. Recently this vision has become a reality and to kick it off they have a contest running on their Facebook page.

1. Everyday they are giving away free eBooks. I mean really good stuff too. Recently they gave away a free copy of Death and Lifeafter: A Theological Introduction by Terence Nichols. Its a great book, I’ve read it before. They’ve also given away a novel called Paper Roses and a book titled What a Son Needs From his Dad: How a Man Prepares His Son For Life. Who knows what’s next.

2. Every Friday one of the participating retailers are giving away a $20 Gift certification.

3. They’re offering a grand prize valued at $200:

  • A Silver Kobo-Touch eReader
  • $20 Gift Certificate
  • Beach Bag
  • Reading Accessories

For complete details visit their Facebook page here.

Continuum TV Show

Derek Ouellette —  May 31, 2012

Television shows these days are hit and miss. The big ones I’ve been into are Castle, NCIS, and the Mentalist. When they introduced Alcatraz I began to watch it from episode one. I loved the concept of the show but the acting left something to be desire, so they killed. I tried to get into Unforgettable, but again, the acting was horrible. It’s dead too. They finally – and swiftly – killed CSI Miami (which took longer than I thought it would considering David Caruso’s less than stellar acting ability). Are there any good shows to latch on to? (By good I mean, well written – key – well acted, well produced and with a certain amount of depth to it.)

The answer may be yes. Continuum.

After watching the first episode I walked away with the sense the the quality was comparable to Stargate SG-1 (which I loved). It has fairly well known and tested sci-fi actors in it including Rachel Nichols (StarTrek, Conan the Barbarian, G.I. Joe), Victor Webster (Surrogates, Castle), Erik Knudsen (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), Lexa Doig (Andromeda, Stargate SG-1) and William Davis (X-Files) among others.

The story-line seems quite promising and offers something for philosophical reflection. Here’s the basic synopsis of this police sci-fi mix [spoiler alert]:

The story begins in the year 2077. The democratic government system has fallen and been replaced by the corporations when the corporations bailed out the government some years earlier. In this futuristic world, automobiles are scarce do to the lack of fuel (you don’t even see flying cars) as is running water.  At the opening of the pilot episode group of terrorist have emerged on the scene and have bombed a building in an attempt to take out the leaders of the corporations.

Just before the terrorists are killed via capital punishment one of them employs a device that sends them reeling back in time to the year 2012 (thus, the majority of the show will take place in today’s world). A police officer named Keira Cameron (“Criminal Minds”) who was on duty in the execution chamber attempts to stop the terrorists from using the device and ends up reel back in time with them.

With no hope of returning to the future Keira starts on her mission to catch the terrorists before they can do any real damage. (She has a pretty nifty uniform that is fully of futuristic electronic tricks.) Thus the main plot line.

But there’s something to reflect on in this story line. In today’s world we tend to despise terrorists and root for good, honest law-enforces who want to do their job by protecting the citizens from terrorists. No doubt we want Keira to win. We like her. I think we always will (the show makes her out to be a very human heroine who will stop at nothing to catch the terrorists but who cries at night because she’ll never see her little boy or husband again, and desperately wants to get back to them, after all, her son as a dentist appointment “tomorrow”). But the escaped terrorists may not be entirely bad guys, after all, why are they terrorists? Who are they fighting against and what are they fighting for? Well, they’re actually fighting for liberty and democracy in a very tightly controlled corporation-government system world.

By all accounts they’re terrorists, and yet, by all accounts they’re us, they’re freedom fighters fighting to liberate people from the corporations as they fight for democracy. So who’s side are you on?

I just came across this interesting article published almost a year ago. This is no new news, but it’s new news to me and maybe to you.

Three Anglican bishops (now “former” Anglican bishops) were ordained as Catholic priests last January in a historic event, fully supported by their wives. This is all the stranger since Catholic priests are not allowed to have wives. So why did these Anglican bishops jump ship?

It is the Vatican’s negative attitude to women’s ministry that formed the backdrop to the whole affair. The three recruits oppose the Church of England’s plans to appoint female bishops and regard the Catholic priesthood as a safe, female-free haven. (Here)

Not surprisingly there was a demonstration from the Catholic Woman’s Ordination movement protesting out the front doors.

What made this event more unique is that it functioned more or less as the inauguratory of a new program set up by the Pope to make room within Catholicism for Anglican dissenters. The leader of this new program, called Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, is Keith Newton one of the three dissenters at this particular inaugural ceremony. Father Newton is the first “to preside over a church within a church, where the normal rules of Catholicism don’t apply.”

As the debate for women bishops heats up in the Anglican commune, more bishops are jumping ship and heading to Rome as recently as a few days ago (here). It is expected that the Anglican church will vote to fully approve women bishops next year with the offices beginning to fill up in 2014.

What do you think about this? Do you think that the Catholic Church itself will one day ordain women bishops?

The other night Canadians were reminded, in what is already said to be a historic election, that (sometimes) democracy actually works. In order for you to understand what made that night historic, you need to have a basic understanding of Canadian politics.

Canadian politics can be confusing, especially for my American friends just over the border from me. Our government is essentially a “British Government” style. In fact our Head of State is the Queen of England (still today, albeit mostly for symbolic purposes). We don’t vote for a person (like a President), we vote for a party and the leader of that party becomes our Prime Minister (PM). Actually it gets confusing because we vote for the person running in our “district” who represents a particular party. This is frustrating because you may not like the individual who is in your district, but if you want to see your favorite party become the government, you must vote for that individual anyways.

The geography of Canada is divided up into 308 (presently) different districts. When someone in a particular district wins a vote of those in their district they become their representative in the “House of Common”. The elected individual becomes an MP (Member of Parliament), and the party that receives the most amount of elected members becomes “the government”.

Canada has two types of government. A “Majority Government” which means that a particular party has filled a majority of the seats in parliament. Simply put, a majority government works well because when something has to be voted on, all the members of the party have to do is vote consistently, and the vote will go through. The other parties, even combined, do not have much power.

In a “Minority Government” things are quite different. A Minority Government is when the largest party has less than half the seats in parliament. They still form the government because they have the most seats, but they do not have the same power or ability to keep to their platform. If the other parties in government (traditionally there has been at least three other party represented in parliament) join voices, they can block the government from doing what it wishes and even vote something in and make something happen against the wishes of the government. The other parties form a “coalition” against the government. This is extremely rare, but possible. In a Minority Government nothing typically gets done. Parliament looks more like a kindergarten class out of control (complete with shouting matches, name calling, et cetera).

What eventually may happen is the “official opposition” (the party with the second most seats) will lead the charge with the other parties for a “vote of no-confidence”. When that happens the “Governor General” (the Queen of England’s representative) will disperse Parliament prematurely. The elections begin.

This happened several weeks ago when the Conservative Minority Government received a vote of no-confident by the other parties. The Liberal Party fast-tracked the election period (the campaign was only 6 weeks long) hoping that Canadian’s would vote Liberal amidst all the confusion so that they might become the next government.

Historically the map has always been RED and BLUE. Canadians have always voted Liberal (red) or Conservative (blue). The NDP (New Democrat Party – orange) has traditionally been the third largest party, but never a real contender. The “Bloc Quebecois” has traditionally been a minor presence on the map, they are a separatist party whose main (perhaps we might say, only) platform is to see the French province of Quebec become its own sovereign country.

With this background, here’s what made Monday’s elections historic:

  • The Conservative Party received a vote of no-confidence by the opposition MP’s, but Canadians voted the Conservatives back into government and gave them a Majority Government (167 seats)!
  • The Liberal Party received its worse defeat in history. This is the first time in history that the Liberals are neither the government (position 1) nor the opposition (position 2). They received only a measly 34 seats in parliament.
  • The NDP rose in their place having received a staggering 102 seats in parliament. For the first time in history the Canadian map is Blue and Orange.
  • The separatist Bloc Quebecois party was crushed in Quebec by the NDP – it’s leader resigned.
  • A new party arrived in parliament, the “Green Party of Canada”, filling one seat.

Sometimes it’s easy to get discouraged and think, how can my one voice make a difference? Does democracy really work? Monday’s elections proved that when enough people feel strongly about something, if given a chance, they will unite to make a change. The message from the election is that Canadians want to see a government that will get things done (kindergarten is out, time to grow up). The only way for that to happen is for their to be a Majority Government. But Canadians also emphatically decided that they wanted no more of what the Liberal’s have to offer (for whatever number of reasons including the scandals last time they were in office and mixed feelings about the current – now resigned – leader). Thus the Conservative party made the best sense for a strong Canadian government. And naturally those who were usually inclined to vote Liberal would cast one for the NDP.

This just goes to show that sometimes Democracy does work.

Winston Churchill said “Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried.”

Sometimes you just have to shake your head at such nonsense. An ad campaign which may be run on city buses in Toronto next year, put on by an atheist group – the so-called Centre for Inquiry Canada which claims to be “the voice of reason” – compares belief in Jesus to belief in Bigfoot, UFO’s and Zeus. Really? At what school did they receive credentials in “Reasoning” and “Logic”? (Mental note: don’t sign up to that cracker-jack institute).

Denying Christ is comparable to denying the Holocaust or believing Elvis Presley lives on the moon. When one discovers that there are some who deny Christ – not belief that he is God, but denying that he even lived which is the clear implication by comparing him to the Tooth Faith, the Easter Bunny and UFO’s – all one can do is marvel at the desperation of these folks.

In an interview, a representative says:

Science makes extraordinary claims, but it has something to back it up.

Implying, of course, that belief in the historical Christ is an extraordinary claim with no evidence. Pure, blind faith. Ungrounded in reality, in history, in science. Can somebody say naive! Last I checked, historical criticism is a science. Besides, if we’ve learned anything over the past hundred years (what, with the horrors of not one, but two World Wars), it’s that Enlightenment optimism with it’s presuppositions squarely based upon Modernism’s unchecked overconfidence in itself proved a failure to the nth degree.

Want to know what the really sad part in all of this is? It is that people walking the streets of Toronto, Saskatoon, Vancouver, Calgary and other prominent cities will actually believe this extraordinary claim which requires – but is not supported by – extraordinary evidence.

Can somebody define irony?

(source)

It is difficult to overstate the influence Clark Pinnock has had on me and many others. I knew my chances of taking a class at McMaster in Hamilton Ontario (only three hours from where I live) under his tutelage were unlikely, but I hoped.

Clark is like the forefather of Post-conservative theology. The head runner to forward thinking, always accompanied by the humility required to admit a wayward path if only to somehow attain the truth. You might say he plowed the way for many of us to follow. He writes:

Not only am I often not listened to, I am also made to feel stranded theologically: being too much of a free thinker to be accepted by the evangelical establishment and too much of a conservative to be accepted by the liberal mainline.

I feel the same way. I want to cry out, “That’s me! That’s me too!” A quote I endeavor to model my faith after comes from Clement of Alexandria:

If our faith is such that it is destroyed by force of argument, then let it be destroyed for it would be proved that we do not possess the truth.

If Clement laid out the philosophy, Clark lived out the philosophy as a model to follow. From liberal Baptist to conservative Evangelical. From biblical inerrantist to biblical infallibilism. From exclusivist to inclusionist. From an orthodox theology of hell to a heterodox theology of anniliationism. From staunch cessationist to charismatic renewalist. From established Calvinist to forerunner and defender of Open Theism (or neo-Arminianism).

No one is going to follow all of Clark’s theological shifts. No one should. But I wish more Christians followed Clark’s openness, willingness and embrace of free-thinking and his post-conservative approach to life and theology.

Clark Pinnock passed away August 15th, 2010 from a heart attack. (ct. reports it here.) More on Clark Pinnock and how his theology has influenced me personally to come.

John and Noel Piper

I am very critical of John Piper. In my last post I fear I did not do a very good job of restraining my sharp criticism (though I tried).

When he preaches I hear “John Piper, the staunch Calvinist”. When he writes I read “John Piper, the dogmatic evangelical bully”.

It is easy to forget that John Piper is also a brother in the Lord, an individual with a family, friends, strengths and weaknesses just like everyone else.

When discussing theology it is difficult not to react to sharp dogmatism with sharp criticism. But John Piper is not just a theologian with whom I take many issues, he is also a child of the Lord with whom I have much in common – not least our shared union with Christ.

As I said in my last post, John is taking an 8 month leave from ministry. In a letter he posted on Desiring God he explains in some detail his reasons for the leave. In this letter I finally see the John Piper I have longed to see: a man of humility.

You can find his letter posted here. I’d encourage you to read it carefully.

As is well known to casual readers of Covenant of Love, I am a fan of N.T. Wright and I do not appreciate John Piper very much. (I was a not a fan of John Piper long before these two came to clash.) At the Evangelical Theological Society’s 62nd Annual Meeting, the topic is Justification by Faith and both N.T. Wright and John Piper were invited to be plenary speakers for this event. Taking the position I do, the “dialogue” would have essentially amounted to Wright embarrising John Piper in my opinion. Even fans of Piper usually acknowledge that simply put, him and Wright are in completely separate leagues (Tom being in the Big Leagues and Piper in the Minors).

Still, I am amazed that some bloggers holdout underdog hopes with a great deal of misguided confidence that John Piper is more then up to the task, that he would somehow be able to sweep Wright aside, that it would somehow amount to little more than a walk in the park of Piper. I have no clever response to that, I simply stand in awe that someone could reasonably think such a thing.

But I saw Wright at the Wheaton Conferences. His respectability, his humility, his willingness to engage other perspectives, to think through reasonable critiques of his work by his opponents, and sometimes to consider their suggestions for further dialogue. I think the question of “who would win” or “who would lose” in a debate between John Piper and N.T. Wright is, from Wright’s perspective and probably from the perspective of Wrightians, irrelevant.

John Piper has written against Tom Wright (The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright), and Tom has written a response (Justification: God’s Plan Paul’s Vision). I think it would have been beneficial, even crucial, for these two men to have met and to get to know each other’s personalities. Who knows, maybe an unlikely friendship is lurking right around the corner.

Alas we may never know. For reasons which are unclear to me, the ETS announced:

We had previously announced that Pastor John Piper would be one of our plenary speakers at the November meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Atlanta addressing the theme of “Justification By Faith.” Unfortunately, Pastor Piper has had to withdraw from his involvement in this meeting in conjunction with an eight-month leave of absence that he will be taking from his ministry assignments. (Here)

The last time I am aware that Piper took a leave of absence from his ministry responsibilities, it was to write a book against N.T. Wright (Future of Justification, p.10). Is it possible that he has chosen to forgo an opportunity to meet the good Bishop so that he might rather write another book against him? Nah, pure conjecture. I wish to attempt to give Piper the benefit of the doubt (however difficult that may be) and believe that he has not backed out of this engagement for fear of the humble Bishop or intimidation of the Bishops godly presence and vast knowledge.

In any case, Piper has been substituted by Thomas R. Schreiner, an expert in Pauline scholarship and (by all accounts) a better match with Tom Wright. Tom and Tom will share a discussion panel and engage each other on the subject of Justification by Faith. It is my hope that this discussion panel and lectures of Tom W and Tom S will be made available via on-line in the same way that the Wheaton Conference lectures were. The ETS meeting will be held in Atlanta GA on November 17-19, 2010. Praying for a good and fruitful engagement!

David Platt, pastor of Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, while traveling to underground Asian house churches discovered that they “study the Bible together, under the threat of persecution, for as long as 12 hours in one sitting.”[1]

Yes, I did say twelve hours of bible study. Can you imagine anything akin to this in America?

Well David could. In fact, he not only made it happen, but he made it popular too. So popular in fact that if you wish to attend what he refers to as “Secret Church” you need to purchase a ticket at $5 a pop (evidently to cover study material costs).

According to the Christianity Today article where I first heard of this story, “Platt preaches for six hours on a single topic, such as a survey of the Old Testament. About 1,000 people, mostly college students and young singles, turned out for the first Secret Church.”

The amount of people who now attend the Secret Church numbers around 2,500 and the topics have included the Atonement and Spiritual Warfare. The next Secret Church will be in October 2010.

When I read this story it made me think, maybe people don’t really want shorter services and fluffy sermons, maybe what people want – what they crave – is a reason to go deeper.

I attended a particular church for a brief period of time and discovered early on that this church had a reputation of believing in longer services and longer sermons. If a guest preacher from out of town came in and only preached for 45 minutes to an hour, the pastor felt the need to conclude the guest’s sermon by adding an additional hour or so footnote. People hated it.  They often complained. Grumbled. Slept. Or left the church always looking back and remembering how boring services were there. This is not what I mean when I say maybe people want longer services to go deeper. This is simply preaching long for the sake of believing in being long-winded. It didn’t help the churches case much that it was essentially a fundamentalist church – simplemindedness, lack of depth, dogmatic in areas that should not be dogmatic (such as bible translations and eschatology) and often legalistic, but lacking in good exegesis and failing to communicate the complexities of the metanarrative of the scriptures.

It’s not that people want or don’t want shorter services; it’s that people want a reason to go deeper. Maybe people want the Bible to make sense to them. Maybe they want to understand the big picture and not just the “moral stories” gathered from Old Testament characters or “how to” antidotes from New Testament “commandments”.

A friend of mine has weekly bible studies were its not unusual for someone new to comment in frustration, “Why aren’t we being taught this in church?”

It’s a good question.


[1] Christianity Today (ct) , May 2010

“Atheist Pastor”

Derek Ouellette —  April 1, 2010

Klaas Hendrikse, "Atheist Pastor" of a Protestant Church in the Netherlands. He wrote a book called "Believing in a God that does not Exist".

To the tune of Jesus Loves Me: “If God were real he would love you this I know; for the bible tells me so; though you can’t trust what the bible says in any actual sense because it assumes God is real. La la la.” Like my jingle?

How about this one to the tune of Heresy:

“God is for me not a being but a word for what can happen between people. Someone says to you, for example, ‘I will not abandon you’, and then makes those words come true. It would be perfectly alright to call that [relationship] God.”

Only this quote is a tune not sung (mockingly) by me, but is a direct quote by Klaas Hendrikse, a Lutheran pastor in the Netherlands who wrote a book called “Believing in a God who does not Exist”.

The church authorities have decided not to discipline Hendrikse and, in a letter written to denominational congregants, write “People have debated the issue of Gods existence throughout time.” Now keep in mind that this is a CHRISTIAN CHURCH – A PROTESTANT CHURCH – A LUTHERAN CHURCH!

According to the April edition of Christianity Today, Hendrikse “claims in his book that he believes in the idea of God but not in the existence of an actual God”. How does Hendrikse preach the Gospel: the life, death and RESURRECTION of Jesus Christ? Did Christ rise from the dead as Paul says? How does Hendrikse pray? Does he pray? Why does he pray? How does he council? How can be claim to be a Christian of any shape or form?

Can an asteroid claim to be a dog? Can a fish claim to be a tree? Can a car claim to be man? (As a side note, look at how happy he looks? Isn’t that a face who knows the joy of the Lord – oh wait, the Lord doesn’t exist.)

What would Paul say if this was going on in a Church he planted? Never mind debating his pastorate, this man would swiftly be handed over to the devil – whether Klaas believes in the devil or not!

Out of respect Mr. Hendrikse, if for nothing else then at least out of self-respect and a sense of human courtesy, you ought to resign your post and stop calling yourself a Christian! Something you are not, unless we throw language to the dogs where words mean nothing. Except even dogs know that certain words mean what they mean! Even mature dogs know “sit!” does not mean “piss”. But you Mr. Hendrikse have made the word “Christian” to carry less meaning then the word “sit” for a dog.

These are strong words – but I am absolutely baffled! Would Paul or Jesus have kind words for such a man? I do not believe so! Keep in mind, this is a man who does not claim to be on the outside of Christ – he claims to be a “Christian” (and a Christian leader to boot). Jesus and Paul treated those who claimed to be followers of God, but who were certainly not, with the harshest words. And I don’t think either of them faced someone who claimed to be a follower of Christ while simultaneously denying his existence (no God means no historical and real resurrection which means no living Jesus).

An article with details can be found here.