This blog is about life, mostly my life, and about the Christian God (both my experience of God and my understanding of God through the Bible).
And It is about the two things that I have come to see as co-central to both of the above: truth and love; love and truth.
I was raised in a nominally Christian family and became a Christian when I was 16. I was rather fervent (what 16 year old isn’t?) and remained a Christian until I was 23. In 1991 at the age of 22 my father and brother died in car crash that also killed a young couple, orphaning their pre-teen children. My father was undeniably responsible.
The accident, combined with having been severely abused by my father and having experienced numerous abuses of Christianity (one highlight is my pastor being arrested in a K-Mart bathroom for having sex with the male principal of our local Christian school) was the tipping point. I gave up Christianity because, in the face of real evil, God was all talk and no show. God was a fake; Christianity was a lie. And as disappointing as the truth might be, it was better than embracing lies.
Several years before the accident I had begun counselling and spent a number of years trying to unravel the half-truths and misdirections that always accompany growing up in an abusive home. Then as I continued with grief counselling (and as I gradually released my hold on Christianity) the goals of self-understanding and self-betterment became more prominent. My attachment to love (as self-love and being loved) and truth (as self-understanding and understanding others) began to develop.
Informal education about Christianity
The accident my father caused occurred when I was at university for my undergrad. When I graduated I married Susan and 6 months later we left for Europe. We worked in London for 2 years and then, because she too had lost her faith in God and wanted to reclaim it, we went to Switzerland for seven weeks in autumn 1995.
I agreed to go to L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland so that we could travel this beautiful yet expensive country. I had no interest in God, so I decided to use this time to let go of my hostility toward Christians for their stupid beliefs and often hurtful practices. But I got more than I bargained on.
All tolled I studied there for 6 non-consecutive semesters between 1995 and 2007. While these studies are informal in the sense that students are not graded on their efforts nor do they receive a certification of achievement–L’Abri does not offer such things–my studies there were rigorous (focusing on thinkers such as Merold Westphal, Anthony Thiselton, Kevin Vanhoozer, and particularly Paul Ricoeur).
Here I was formally introduced to a world that I had informally know, through being a child in an abusive family, for most of my life: hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is the science and art of interpretation, both literary and existential (as interpreting existence). The connection between hermeneutics and child abuse is that the parent both abuses and professes love, and the child is always trying to make sense of (or interpret) this contradiction.
Formal education about Christianity
In 2009 I received a masters from Regent College, Vancouver B.C., where I my studies focused on a blend of philosophy and theology. I received top departmental honours and my 95,000 word research effort received A+ (a rare mark at Regent).
My thesis is entitled “Reversing Trust and Suspicion, Integrating Ontology and Epistemology: A dialogue with Paul Ricoeur, evangelicals, and outsiders.” Yep, that’s a mouthful.
Basically this research is an exercise in philosophical theology from a continental perspective, and its focus is religious dialogue. As such it uses primarily the work of Paul Ricoeur to interact with, and evaluate, evangelical Christianity from the perspective of both atheists and of Christians who read the Bible differently from mainstream evangelicals.
My research and studies in general were greatly aided by the generous and thoughtful input of my academic mentor, Dr. Gregory J. Laughery. Greg and his wife Lisby now run Swiss L’Abri and I have been in regular contact with Greg since 2000.
As academic and intellectual as the preceding may appear, its motivation is not. For as I indicate in my “About this blog” page and as I implied above, the result of my time at Swiss L’Abri is that I fell in love with God. And I did so through encountering God as love and truth, truth and love, even as I had come to understand that my best existence (and being the best self that I could be) likewise focused on–and was informed by–the same.
As such, my studies at Regent College were really an effort to bring to light how the love and truth inherent in the Christian God interface with and enliven how we as humans are orientated by (and deeply desire) the very same. Practically speaking, it was an effort to explain the how real life–life with all its wonder and failings–interfaces with a Christian God who is real (i.e., who really “shows up”).
This blog is a continuation of that effort. In it I hope to defuse the harmful presentations of Christianity that are like bombs waiting to go off, to navigate Christianity’s quagmires that threaten to bog us down intractably and, ultimately, to define and demonstrate the ways in which being “in right relationship with God”–the Christian God–not only makes sense but is the most alluring and meaningful of possibilities.
At Swiss L’Abri I began reading the likes of Merold Westphal, Anthony Thiselton, L. Gregory Jones, Kevin Vanhoozer and, above all, Paul Ricoeur. To this list were later added a myriad others, such as Hans-Georg Gadamer, Nicolas Wolterstorff, Augustine, Richard Kearney, Immanuel Kant, Martin Heidegger, and N. T. Wright. And dozens and dozens of others.