Dion's random ramblings

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Work as worship... AND Charles Wesley.

Those of you who watch my little videos or listen to 'The Ministry and Me' (the radio show I do on radio pulpit, see http://www.radiopulpit.co.za , and sometimes repost here) would have heard me saying that 'work can be worship'.

I do believe that EVERY activity should be directed towards honouring God.  

The false dualism between sacred acts and secular acts is not in keeping with the faith of the Bible!  God is the God of all of life, there is no part of life that God does has no interest in (double negative... I know!)

I've had a few people contact me to say that we must not worship work.  I agree with that wholeheartedly!  But, how we do our work, what we do without the hours of our workday, and how we establish God's gracious, inclusive, and transformative Kingdom within our work lives can transform our tasks, energy and creativity in acts of declaring the worthiness of the God who sets us to our daily tasks (or at very least sustains us through them!)  Col 3.23-24 speaks so clearly of this, that we should work as if we're working for Christ.  

As a signatory of the Unashamedly Ethical pledge form (see http://www.unashamedlyethical.com and have a look at the individual pledge form) I have committed myself to working diligently and wholeheartedly.  Sure, this will please my employer.  But, sometimes it will not!  My diligence is to Christ!  So, if I am required to do something, or behave towards someone, in a way that is inconsistent with the principles of God and God's Kingdom then I shall choose the more worthy way, that is, the way of Jesus.  I rise early and go to bed late, and yes I am productive and careful.  I am a good steward and I hope that I am a valued servant.  But, ultimately I put my hand and my heart to the tasks of the day for the sake of serving Christ.  I can live (and die) for that!

This quote, from Charles Wesley (the hymn write and brother of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism), offered me encouragement in my daily task.

Forth in thy name, O Lord, I go,  my daily labor to pursue; thee, only thee, resolved to know in all I think or speak or do. Charles Wesley, from his hymn "Forth in Thy Name, O Lord"

As always I would love to hear your perspectives, insights, and feedback!

How should Christians respond to personal conflict and anger?

I'm not sure about you, but I often find it difficult to remain 'Christian' in the face of conflict and anger!  I am a passionate person (that's a gentle way of saying that I am still praying about my temper!)

I often get persons contacting me from my radio program on Radio Pulpit - http://www.radiopulpit.co.za asking about this issue.

We'll here's some insight from the Bible - How should Christians deal with conflict and anger.  I would love to hear your ideas and feedback!  Be blessed!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Are you saved? An Orthodox perspective

A few friends sent me this incredibly thought provoking video. I love the one particular line that says 'I am being saved daily'. I was saved when Jesus died (justification), but I am still 'living towards' that reality (sanctification).

I was challenged by this video!

What are your thoughts on salvation!? I recently wrote a chapter on the scourge of HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa in which I asked the question 'What does it mean to be saved when you are HIV+ and poor?' Surely it is something different from what it means to be saved when you have an income, a home, and good health?

I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Mark Penrith asked such a great question, that I thought I must elevate his question and my response to the actual post (just in case anyone doesn't open the comments!)

Thanks Mark!

OpenID markpenrith said...
Salvation is not a relative position. You either are or you're not. Salvation is not a temporal status tht you can fall into and fall out of. It also doesn't differ based on economic, social, ethnic or ... reasons. It's objective, measurable and positional. Have I missed the boat.
5:19 PM

Blogger digitaldion (Dion Forster) said...
Hi Mark, Thanks for the reply! It is always great to hear from you! I don't think you've missed the boat. However, I do have a question and a comment to make. First the comment - Indeed, I agree that within the ordus salutis (the order of salvation) the most critical element of the order, salvation itself, is entirely dependent upon our Gracious God. That is unchangeable since it is always the same (it is a salvation from something towards something else - this is the Biblical perspective of both Jesus and Paul). In most instances it is expressed as salvation through Christ from sin (and that sin is separation from God the source of life and love) towards reconciliation with the God who is the source of all true life and love. Traditionally we, as Protestants, have believed that this is the second step in the order of salvation. It is called justification. This step is entered into when we respond to the first step (previnient grace, or 'preventing grace'). Step one is where God convicts us of our sin and we have the good sense to respond to that loving conviction in repentance (turning from sin towards God). Then, the second step is the act of justification (a term coined by Paul, used particularly in Romans) in which God saves us from the sins that enslave us. However, there is a Biblical distinction between being saved from the sins that enslave us, and Christ overcoming sin! Jesus overcame sin and death (according to 1 Corinthians and Romans) when he died on the cross and rose form the dead - in that sense salvation took place 2000 years ago and it is unchangeable! It is that reality that makes the first step in the order of salvation possible! However, the second step (being saved from the specific sins that enslave us today), justification from sin, that could differ from context to context! The sin that I struggle with may be different from the sin that enslaves you. Jesus sets me free, today, from that specific sin. Then there are traditionally two more steps in the order of salvation. Step three is growing in grace, 'working out our salvation with fear and trembling' as Paul describes it to the Philippians - [it is also called sanctification]. This is very much a context based thing! Yes, it has to do with an internal spiritual state of purity and holiness (being sanctified, or set aside), but it requires daily turning from the specific things that enslave us. This could be anger, bitternerness, hatred, abuse, fear, stigma (whatever is not of God). The final stage is entire sanctification - this is an unchanging element of salvation. So, I would say that of the four steps, one and four are immutable. They are entirely God's sovereign work. Steps two and three are relational, God in God's grace allows us to respond to God's power and love and so these are personal (or at least social) and they have a contextual element to them. Does that make sense? Be blessed! Dion
Now, I never got to the question I said I would ask of Mark (comments are only allowed to be a certain length on blogger!) The question I would ask is 'what does it mean to be justified and sanctified in South Africa today?'  I know that salvation means to be saved from our sin, and that the end state is an entirely restored relationship with God the creator, but form what sins do you and I need to be set free, and what do we need to turn away from daily in order to grow closer to God and the rest of God's creation?  I can assure you that it will be something different from what the person in Darfour faces, and different still from the person in New York, or the person in China.  The beginning and the end are the same, but the bits to which we are called to respond differ radically.  Don't you agree?

What I forgot to mention is that I have written about the Order of Salvation (repentance -> justification -> sanctification -> entire sanctification) in my little book Wesleyan Spirituality - An introduction  (Forster, DA 2001, Cape Town, Methodist Publishing House).

Thanks once again Mark

Friday, November 20, 2009

Qik - Reflection 20 Nov 09 when the poor are glad.. by Dion Forster

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Church, where people are turned to God, or turned away...

I found the following quote extremely challenging.  I am acutely aware of the importance of the 'local Church' as a community to sustain and support believers.  However, it is also intended to be place from which God's love is sent out into the world and communicated in tangible and accessible ways.

Today I met with a person who is doing incredible work in his local community, but he has not been into a Church since 2001 when his pastor had an affair with various women in the community, and one of the other pastors stole millions of Rand.

Indeed, this is the dichotomy of the Church community in the world...  It strives for perfect love, but frequently it falls short.  I still believe that the local Church is a central part of God's plan for the transformation of the world!

Here's the quote!

The Christian faith for most people is not communicated by doctrinal pronouncements ... but by what goes on in the church in its most local setting. It is here, in the church down the street, that people are caught up in the Gospel promise -- or are turned away.James C. Fenhagen, from his book Mutual Ministry

My struggle with our world... and the blessing of God's grace.

My life is shaped by various 'framing events' - some are much more arresting than others.  

Yesterday as I was driving to a meeting I stopped at a traffic light (strangely we call traffic lights 'robots' in South Africa... I'm not sure why!)  Seated just next to the traffic light was a street child.  There are many such children in South Africa, some are forced onto the streets because their family simply cannot afford to care for them, and so they beg for food and money.  Others are forced onto the street because of abuse at home, and there are many thousands of young children living on the streets because they have lost both their parents to HIV/AIDS.

I had only glanced at the young boy sitting next to the traffic light, as so often happens my attention was wrapped up on other things.  I was thinking of the meeting that I needed to get to, keeping an eye on the oncoming traffic so that I could find a gap to turn, and listening to the radio.

All of a sudden I noticed a minibus (we call them Taxis) slowing down as it approached the traffic light.  Suddenly the driver thrust his arm out of the driver's side window and threw and empty Coke bottle directly onto the child's head! I was shocked!  I still cannot understand what would make a person so callous and uncaring that they would slow down their vehicle in traffic and intentionally harm an already suffering child.

I stopped to see if the boy was OK.  He was, and of course he used this opportunity to get some money from me.  Feeling emotional I gave him a few Rand.

However, for the rest of the day I felt bruised.  I was bruised by the brutality of human nature, and bruised by the fact that I live in a world in which children live on the streets, a world in which people like me spend their lives rushing to meetings, a world in which someone would deliberately seek to hurt a child.

This morning as I turned to my devotions the following prayer brought me some comfort and hope:

Almighty God, send the light of your Son into our lives anew today.  Let your presence touch our minds and hearts with your mercy, grace, and truth.  Direct our thoughts, speech, and steps to the end that we may walk in your ways today and always.  In the name of Christ.  Amen.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Priase be to God! Liam (the great) turns 3!!

It was three years ago today that Liam entered this world!  How wonderful it is to celebrate his 3rd birthday!!!!

The 15th of November was one of the most difficult days of our lives as Megan went into labour for the third and final time, then just 27 weeks into her pregnancy.  She had been in hospital for about two weeks since she first went into labour after falling ill in her 26th week of pregnancy.

On the that evening I had just arrived home with Courtney after visiting Megan in hospital when the phone rang and the doctor asked me to come back as quickly as I could.  I took Courtney to our friend Madika's home and raced back to the hospital where Megan was already in the delivery room.  An hour or so later little Liam entered the world at barely 1kg. 

Naturally we were overjoyed at his birth, but we knew that we had a journey ahead of us.  As Megan was wheeled into surgery after the birth I stood by as the doctor and nurses prepared Liam to go into the intensive care unit at Pretoria East hospital (the neonatal ICU).  He was so tiny and fragile. 

Well, you can follow some of the story here, and some other bits here.

About a week or so after Liam's birth we took this picture of him with this tiny little teddy-bear.  Look how small he was!

We prayed through the day and night, and had many wonderful friends and family praying with us!  Liam remained under the wonderful care of the ICU unit for almost three months.  They were truly wonderful, not only caring for him medically and for us emotionally, but they even worked out a way to help us when our medical aid funds ran out two days before Christmas!  The hospital and doctors negotiated a reduced rate so that we could keep him in the ICU.  It was truly a magnificent Christmas gift!

Of course there were the many friends, like Wessel Bentley and his wonderful congregation who helped us to cover the almost quarter of a million rand shortfall that we had for his medical expenses.  Between our friends, and an extension to our home loan we were able to cover the costs entirely and soon Liam was at home growing at a rate of knots!!!

There have been a few little moments inbetween, he has been in hospital a few times (as you'll see from the links above), and we still have to pay some attention to his physical and cognitive development.

But, these little hiccups are not even worth considering in comparison to the joy of his life!!  He is growing up to be such an incredible little guy!  He has a wonderful sense of humour, he roughs it with the best of them (climbing, running and jumping), and like his dad, he loves his bicycle!

We were cautioned to expect the worst, and we are thankful that we have only been blessed with the very best!

Here's an updated photograph of our little miracle boy taken this morning... Just look how much he has grown in relation to that same little blue teddy-bear!!

Today Liam turned 3 years old, and we give thanks to God for the gift of his life! 

Courtney and Liam are the most precious gifts we have ever received!  Please take a few moments to give thanks to God with us for Liam, and perhaps also to thank God for your children.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

A new pony in the Forster stable. Has 91 000km's under the belt, but was affordable & good condition!

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A reflection on the partnership of missional congregations conference with Pat Keifert

This week I had the rare opportunity to attend an academic conference in my home town (Somerset West!) - the conference was the 5th anniversary conference of Churches in mission - attended by cluster Churches that belong to the missional Church movement.

First some personal background - I was humbled and deeply honoured when Dr Coennie Burger approached me a few weeks ago to join BUVTON at the University of Stellenbosch as a research associate.  The University and the Institute have some plans that will unfold in the next little while, so do keep an eye on this space.  It is a joy to be associated with BUVTON and with the faculty of theology at the University of Stellenbosch since this was where I first began my doctoral studies, and I have many friends in the faculty.  Moreover, the faculty has been very kind to me over the years (allowing rights to the library, giving me classes to teach, and inviting me to various conferences and events).

I still hold an adjunct post in New Testament at the University of Pretoria (working as an associate to honorary Professor Jan van der Watt who is now at Nijmegen in Holland).  And, I was nominated as a research Fellow for the Institute for the Study of Religion at the University of South Africa earlier this year as well.

Each of these posts caters to different interests - the value for me is that they keep me keenly connected to the academy, and the value for the various partnerships is that they get the benefit of my research output (each time I publish a scholarly article, present a conference paper, do book review for a journal, or write something in a book it adds value, and sometimes funding, for them).

So, Dr Burger and Dr Frederik Marais invited me to the abovementioned conference under the auspices of my partnership with BUVTON. I was truly thankful that it worked out that I could attend the conference since I had booked out some time for a conference that I was supposed to attend first in Argentina, but then when it moved to Hawaii (to cater for North American delegates) the cost made it impossible to go.  My boss did however go, and it meant that my diary was miraculously open!

The theme of the conference was 'Living as sent ones:  Congregations participating in God's Mission'.  It was such an uplifting and informative time for me!

The first most significant feature of the conference was the daily pracise of 'dwelling in the word' - I had read about the method in the past, but the simplicity of it had never appealed to me.  However, experiencing, and participating with others, in this spiritual discipline was truly a transformative personal experience!  Here is a brief explanation of the approach:

Church Innovations has the habit of text dwelling. That is, whenever we meet, as a staff, as a work team, as a training group, we spend the first 20-30 minutes, sometimes more, dwelling within a particular scriptural passage. For us, most of the time, the text is Luke 10:1-12. It is a text of mission, of being sent out with the most basic of instructions, dependent upon our receivers? hospitality....

You can have this habit, too.
  • Choose a passage - perhaps a lectionary text for this coming week, perhaps a passage already meaningful to your group, and read it aloud.
  • Sit together with the passage, in silence, or in conversation, sharing with one another where your imagination was caught or where a memory was triggered. Let the passage draw you together as a group.
  • Bring the passage up when you're trying to make a decision. See what it says to you then.
  • Close with the passage and prayer.
  • Bring up the passage again during the next meeting, in the same manner.
  • Live in the passage for several months. It will bring more and more to you as you revisit it (at Church Innovations we have been living in Luke 10 for over ten years now).

The particular text for this conference was Luke 24.  As a Biblical scholar I was constantly tempted to work with the technical elements of the text (historical background, grammatical and syntactical clues, the narrative style and construction of the narrative etc.)  However, the intent of this approach is to create a hospitable encounter with the power of the text, and to learn from one's own experiences, and the experiences of others.  This approach takes seriously what I have discussed in two recent books I have written for (see my chapter on Biblical interpretation, spirituality and postmodernism in 'What are we thinking' by Forster and Bentley 2009, and also my chapter in 'What is a good life?' by Bentley, Kretzschmar and van Niekerk 2009).  In both instances I discuss the value of approaching the text with an open recognition that we do so from a particular perspective (this is not only based on theological bias, personal experience, and socialisation, it is also influenced by our needs, our struggles and our desires).

The second, and equally wonderful aspect of the conference was the narrative approach to sharing 'stories of mission'.  I guess there were about 100 or so participants at the conference.  They came from as far as Malawi, Namibia, Zimbabwe and all over South Africa.  The participants shared stories of how mission was being shaped in their context through an openness to what God is doing! This approach speaks of trust in God, rather than merely crafting a mission strategy.  It speaks of harnessing the move of God's spirit by dwelling in the word and seriously dwelling in the world.  These two things go hand in hand.  Scripture and context.

Various inputs were encouraging and inspiring - but perhaps the most remarkable for me were some conversations with old friends (like Prof Klippies Kritzinger (more of a mentor than a personal friend), Dr Breda Ludik (a friend I have known for years in the Helderberg who is doing some incredible work in spirituality), and Prof Pat Keifert (a new friend - I had read some of his works such as 'We are here now' (2006), and most notably 'Welcoming the stranger' (1992). You can find out more about Pat here)

Pat is the founder of the movement for missional Churches.  His theology and approach to being in mission (as a participation in the mission dei (mission of God)) resonates so strongly with my own perspective.  Moreover, he is a stringent and supremely well read Systematic Theologian, so his thoughts are 'tight', clear and orthodox.

Dr Frederick Marais summed up Pat (and the movement's) approach to being in mission as follows - true mission involves a series of conversions:

1.  From the Church to God.  Ultimately the reason for being and particularly being in ministry and mission is NOT to grow the Church, or perpetuate a structure. True ministry and mission is about a sincere and deep journey with God, along God's way in the world.
2.  From ideas ABOUT God to a journey WITH God!  The thrust of the missional movement is not theology (as such), the greatest value comes not from knowing things ABOUT God, but rather from lovingly and faithfully journeying WITH God (i.e., Knowing God and God's ways and responding lovingly to God's guidance and instruction).  This can lead one among strangers quite quickly!  I came to realise how this is the case for me.  I am minister in a corporate environment, I am a theologian among people who build roads, I am from a liberal theological tradition among persons who hold a much more conservative and literal approach to their faith... However, I am having to find Christ among 'the strangers' and to find friendly strangers with whom to share this journey with God in Christ.

3.  From power to vulnerability. Sadly Mission and ministry are often movements of Power - an imposition of ideas and concepts and structures upon persons in order to shape them in the image of the missioner or minister's theology or tradition (from those who have to those who don't, i.e., this was exemplified by the missionaries to Africa in the 19th century who maintained that they were bringing 'light to the dark continent').  This is not the way of Jesus.  The way of Jesus is to break down power with love.  To enter into a transformative relationship that is sacraficial and servant hearted.  This resonates so strongly with where I currently am!  I have had to give up titles, a pulpit, the right to contribute my thoughts and ideas - in the corporate environment my ministry is measured by my love and service, not my ideas and intelect.  This point breaks down the power of the minister or pastor.  It does away with unhelpfull dichotomies between the ordained and the lay ordained (because as we were reminded, Luther and the reformers accentuated the tradition that Baptism is an ordination to the priesthood of ALL believers!  Every members of the body of Christ is truly a minister in response to their baptism).
4.  From the extraordinary to the ordinary!  This point encourages us (like the disciples in Luke 24) to look for God with us in the ordinary things.  So often the Church and the Christian faith looks for God only in the extraordinary - of course God is there.  But, God is also present and powerful in the ordinary things.

Listen to this remarkable quote:

I have often maintained that the best poet is ... the baker who ... does [the] majestic and unpretentious work of kneading the dough, consigning it to the oven, baking it in golden colours and handing us our daily bread as a duty of fellowship.  - Pablo Neruda, Chilean poet and 1971 Nobel Laureate in Literature (1904-1973)

Isn't that so true?  Sometimes we miss the move of God because our attention is focused on the wrong things!

So, I had a chance to learn, and to share, what God is doing in other lives and in mine.  It was wonderful to be able to hear the stories of how God is doing God's mission among Churches and Christians all over the world.

It was also wonderful to share how my 'servant' role is indeed the work of mission.  I am looking forward to a significant partnership with BUVTON (although my input is more likely to be in the areas of systematic theology, social justice, HIV/AIDS and Wesleyan Theology), and as part of that partnership to learn much more about the partnership of missional Churches.

A picture of my therapist! 1hr and I'm well again!

Yup, the cat is out the bag - I have been in therapy for a while now!  Physical therapy!  Although believe me, it does something for my state of mind (and of course my soul)!

Our medical allows us to sign up to our local gym for a very small cost.  It is fantastic to be able to go to the spin classes (which I do on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at 5.45).  When the weather is bad I also do the 'double class' on a Saturday morning.  It is a great workout and I always feel much better afterwards.

The other bonus is that they have a heated children's swimming pool - so I take Courtney and Liam to swim once a week.  Courts is a real star in the pool!  She swims quite well already.  And, for Liam it is great physical therapy.  It allows me to work with him on reaching some of his developmental milestones (particularly those that have to do with hemispatial intersection of the right and left limbs.  And of course it strengthens his special left arm and leg).

So, I thank God for the privilege of a healthy body and the privilege of living near a gym, and the privilege of having a medical aid that allows me to go to gym!

After a long day like today it feels like therapy!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Liturgy, life and the Church growth movement

My friend Angus Kelly alerted me to this video of Stanley Hauerwas speaking on 'Liturgy and life' - I found it quite challenging and profound!

We live in a world where 'success' is the ultimate goal, and the measure of success seems to be so closely tied to numbers and size. In this world so many Churches aim to 'attract' people to their Church by offering them entertainment (engaging sermons, creative worship etc.) I think that these things are good! Heck, I have some of my most significant encounters with God in profound and beautiful worship. And certainly, some of my greatest awakenings have come through sermons and messages. However, these should not be the end towards which we strive! At its end all Christian worship should bring us into deep and significant communion with God!

However, Hauerwas reminds us, John van de Laar has been saying for some years, that true 'liturgy' connects us with life (it brings the sacred to bear on the secular, it stretches the congregation into the street).

Here's the video:

Let me know what your thoughts are! Oh, and please also check out John's worship resources.

Friday, November 06, 2009

When the creators become the creation - our relationship with our technolgies

Some time ago I posted the following thoughts on technology and our relationship with it:

Maurice Merleau-Ponty, the French phenomenological philosopher, understood that human interaction upon the world is not a one way street... We don't simply act upon the world!  There is a reverse action from the world upon us...  For example, if you were to walk into an empty room that had nothing but an chair in it what would you do?  At some point the emptyness of the room and the presence of the chair would act upon you consciously, or subconsciously, and they will cause you to sit.  This illustrates how the space and the objects in the space have informed and transformed your thought processes.  However, the very act of sitting (as an act of physics, where the human body and the structure of the chair encounter one another) is a mutual interaction of material realities in which each has an effect upon the other.  When you sit on the chair the structure of the chair flexes and takes up strain in certain areas.  Conversely the structure of the chair exercises pressure upon your body (changing the shape of your body, supporting your back, lowering the pressure on your feet etc.)

Technology thus has both 'subtle' and 'gross' interactions with its human creators - by this I mean that technology interacts both with what is unseen (thoughts, choices, dreams, hopes, aspirations, desires, fears etc.) and what is seen (our physical being, our environment, our proximity to self and others...)

When one comes to consider this complex relationship between consumers of technology, creators of technologies, and the technologies themselves one can begin to understand that the ethical considerations of what we do (and do not do) with our technologies is even MORE complex!  For example, how far do we go in manipulating the human genetic code to do away with certain pathological conditions (mental illness, disease etc.)?  When have we taken our use of technology too far, and when have we not taken it far enough!?
 Today I came across another very interesting post on the relationship between persons and the technologies we create.  Once again, I was interested by the naive view that the author had concerning our existing (and historical) relationship with the technologies we create in order to make our lives more comfortable.  The author's assumption is that we are only just beginning to see a shift in power from being creators of technology to being 'recreated' by our own technologies!

The reality is of course that our technologies have impacted, and changed, us since the very first time we used them!  The development of farming changed nomadic tribes to static people groups.  The ability to harness the energy of animals or aspects of nature (such as wind and water) made production possible that introduced surpluses into the economy that moved societies from an agrarian economy to a trading economy...  I could go on forever citing historical examples of such shifts in our behaviour as a result of the impact of our 'created technologies' upon us, their creators!

I would simply state two points once more.  The first is that this affirms, for me at least, the fact that all of reality is interconnected.  We act upon reality and there is always a reaction as a result.  This fact should cause us to be mindful of our relationship with creation, and of course also with God our creation, with whom we are in relationship.  It is not by accident that the fundamental expression of the mystery of God is the concept of 'Trinity', three persons in a relationship identity and life forming interaction (called perichoresis by the Greek philosophers who influenced and formed early Christian Confessing (Creed based) theology).

Second, I would affirm once again that the central aspect of human identity - the human brain, is a simplistic system geared towards survival.

Remember the 3 questions that every human brain asks:

  • Can I eat it?  Will it eat me?  (Survival through avoiding threat, or through gaining sustenance - which is why action movies and food advertising work so well!  They reach straight to our primal brain).
  • Can I mate with it?  Will it mate with me?  (The preservation of the species in general, the furtherance of our gene pool in particular - which is of course why sex advertising works so well, and also why we find ourselves more readily attacted to persons who personify the best qualities of people like 'us' (e.g., Caucasian people tend to be more attracted to Caucasians, Hispanics to Hispanics, Orientals to Orientals... This is not always a race based bias (in the negative racial sense), it is to some extend a social and genetic predisposition that is 'hard wired' into our makeup in order to protect our gene pool within the species!)
  • And then of course the 'efficiency' question, have I seen this before (or do I recognize what I see, hear smell or taste?)  This final question forms a recursive loop into the two questions above.  If I have seen it, is it a threat or a help, will it harm me or help me?
Your response to people, situations, and just above every stimulus you encounter will result from these questions.  Interestingly enough the largest portion of our decision-making competency comes from visual stimulus (I have written about this elsewhere and here on visual stimulus) - this makes sense in a survival and efficiency system!  The eye is almost directly connected to the hind-brain (or old brain), which is the decision-making centre.  You brain receives visual stimulus and reacts upon it many times faster than smell or sound.  For example if you're walking down a pathway in the forest and see what looks like a snake you will jump without thinking!  Before you even have a chance to process what you're seeing your brain tells your muscles to react...

OK, so how does this relate to technology?  Well, our use of technology causes the development of new neural pathways (and the strengthening of existing neural pathways).  For example, I can type on my computer keyboard without having to look at my fingers on the keys.  Or, I can drive my car without having to think about exerting pressure on the clutch when I change gears.  I have done it so frequently that my mind can manage these tasks without having to interrupt my regular thought processes - that efficiency!

In some sense the technology of driving a car has had a radical effect on my life!  Because I can cover large distances at speed without exerting much energy I have had to devise other ways to generate fitness and maintain muscle tone (so, in my case I go to the gym for spinning classes and I cycle two or three times a week)...

But there are also other technologies that have changed my life - for example because of an inbalanced diet I have to take vitamins and supliments.  Because I work more hours than I sleep I have had to learn to manage my mood and state of mind (manage stress etc.) through prayer and meditation...

In short, the technologies we have created are recreating our lives!  I'd love to hear what you think!

Anyway, here's the article that got me thinking along these lines:

We make technology, but our technology also makes us. At the online science/culture journal Edge, BB pal John Brockman went deep -- very deep -- into this concept. Frank Schirrmacher is co-publisher of the national German newspaper FAZ and a very, very big thinker. Schirrmacher has raised public awareness and discussion about some of the most controversial topics in science research today, from genetic engineering to the aging population to the impacts of neuroscience. At Edge, Schirrmacher riffs on the notion of the "informavore," an organism that devours information like it's food. After posting Schirrmacher's thoughts, Brockman invited other bright folks to respond, including the likes of George Dyson, Steven Pinker, John Perry Barlow, Doug Rushkoff, and Nick Bilton. Here's a taste of Schirrmacher, from "The Age of the Infomavore":
We are apparently now in a situation where modern technology is changing the way people behave, people talk, people react, people think, and people remember. And you encounter this not only in a theoretical way, but when you meet people, when suddenly people start forgetting things, when suddenly people depend on their gadgets, and other stuff, to remember certain things. This is the beginning, its just an experience. But if you think about it and you think about your own behavior, you suddenly realize that something fundamental is going on. There is one comment on Edge which I love, which is in Daniel Dennett's response to the 2007 annual question, in which he said that we have a population explosion of ideas, but not enough brains to cover them. As we know, information is fed by attention, so we have not enough attention, not enough food for all this information. And, as we know -- this is the old Darwinian thought, the moment when Darwin started reading Malthus -- when you have a conflict between a population explosion and not enough food, then Darwinian selection starts. And Darwinian systems start to change situations. And so what interests me is that we are, because we have the Internet, now entering a phase where Darwinian structures, where Darwinian dynamics, Darwinian selection, apparently attacks ideas themselves: what to remember, what not to remember, which idea is stronger, which idea is weaker...
It's the question: what is important, what is not important, what is important to know? Is this information important? Can we still decide what is important? And it starts with this absolutely normal, everyday news. But now you encounter, at least in Europe, a lot of people who think, what in my life is important, what isn't important, what is the information of my life. And some of them say, well, it's in Facebook. And others say, well, it's on my blog. And, apparently, for many people it's very hard to say it's somewhere in my life, in my lived life.
The Age of the Informavore

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The unchanging faith that is dedicated to change... And, the mystery of Christ.

I like this quote:

Even though our faith may be 2,000 years old, our thinking is not. True progress is a balance between preserving the essence of a certain way of life and changing things that are not essential. Christianity was born a revolutionary faith, and we have preserved that ... Paradoxically, we have succeeded in not changing the faith that is itself dedicated to change
 His All Holiness Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Christian World.

It reminds me that we need innovative theology in the Christian faith - by innovative theology, I mean theological perspectives that are grounded in the unchanging truths of the the Gospel of Christ, yet flexible enough to find fresh expressions in varied and changing contexts.

Theology, in this vein, is not dry, dead, and static - it is deeply rooted in eternal truth, yet fundamentally relevant to current reality.

I suppose one could say, this is the mystery of the incarnation of Christ?  The archetypal person, Jesus, who is the logos that is present before the creation of the world, is courageous enough to take on human form, to find a fixed expression in time and space by becoming a historical person.  Yet at the same time He remains fully God (and fully human).  What a wonderful, divine, mystery, one ousia with two hypostasis.

It sounds strange to say - and please believe me I do not intend it as vanity - but I have recently been re-reading my book 'Christ at the Centre'.  In that book I attempt to make a strong case for the fact that there can be "no expression of the mystery of God with first having an experience of the mysterious God" (p.10).  In some senses, spirituality is a precursor for good theology, and of course true transformation is the result of good theology.

I continue to live my life in order to fully experience Christ in every situation, person, and task - no matter how grand or humble.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Otium Sanctum: a Sunday afternoon cycle on the Helderberg

videoIn this video are Lyle Romanes, Graham Power, Greg Long, Frans (not
sure of his surname) and myself behind the camera. We did a 25 km
mountainbiker ride up to the masts on the Helderberg and then down the
single track. It was awesome! Good friends, great scenery and an bit
of 'Holy Leasure' for the week!

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