When dealing with creationists…

I wouldn’t begin with scientific arguments. I’d start with the biblical text and with Christian interpreters of the past.

Listen to the words of Origen (185–254):

Now what man of intelligence will believe that the first and the second and the third day, and the evening and the morning existed without the sun and moon and stars? And that the first day, if we may so call it, was even without a heaven? And who is so silly as to believe that god, after the manner of a farmer, “planted a paradise eastward in Eden,” and set in it a visible and palpable “tree of life,” of such a sort that anyone who tasted its fruit with his bodily teeth would gain life; and again that one could partake of “good and evil” by masticating the fruit from the tree of that name? And when God is said to “walk in the paradise in the cool of day” and Adam to hid himself behind a tree, I do not think anyone will doubt that these are figurative expressions which indicate certain mysteries through a semblance of history and not though actual event.

– Origen, On First Principles, ed. by G. W. Butterworth (New York, Harper and Row, 1966), p. 288

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Microsoft Office Suite available free for UofT Students (Mac and PC)

(This is an updated version of an old post.)

As a mac user and a UofT student, I use ‘mail’ on iOS and don’t bother with web-based Outlook or Office365 (the online versions of Word, Excel, Powerpoint).

However, as the title suggests, you can download (for FREE!) the ‘desktop’ versions (2016 update for Mac) of Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc.

Instructions

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  • Click “Office365” on the top-left of the web-page.

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  • Click “Install Office 2016” on the top-right of the web-page

(Your browser knows whether you are Mac or PC; don’t worry about downloading the wrong version)

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  • A pop-up window will give you more instructions for installationScreen Shot 2016-09-26 at 2.00.13 PM.png

  • Once downloaded, open the program and use your UTORid to activate your subscription.

On Community and Camp Crossroads

I read the introduction for the Month of October in Common Prayer: A liturgy for ordinary radicals this morning, and I had some reflections I thought I’d share.
(Scroll down if you wish to skip the excerpt)

Formation in the Way of Christ

For many of us, the judgmental, arrogant, legalistic Christianity we knew growing up has created a suspicion of discipline and order that can lead to a pretty sloppy spirituality.  Reacting against the institution’s sickness, we easily find ourselves with little to help us heal from our own wounds, create new disciplines, and carve out a space where goodness triumphs.  People who are afraid of spiritual discipline will not produce very good disciples.

Community is pretty hip these days.  The longing for community is in all of us.  We long to love and be loved.  But if community doesn’t exist for something beyond us, it will atrophy, suffocate, die.  Discipline and disciple share the same roots, and without discipline, we become little more than hippie communes or frat houses.  We easily fall short of God’s dream to form a new humanity with distinct practices that offer hope and good news to the world.  Like any culture, we who follow the way of Jesus have distinct ways of eating and partying, different from the culture of consumption, homogeneity, and hedonism.  Our homes, our living rooms, even our parties can become places of solace and hospitality for those with addictions and struggles.  But it doesn’t happen without intentionality.  Dorothy Day said, “We have to create an environment where it is easier to be good.”

Suggested Reading for the Month:

Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola

The Rule of St. Benedict

St. Francis of Assisi is a model for us not only of what it looks like to follow hard after Jesus but also how we can celebrate the disciplines that have been passed down to us and become the church that we long for, even among people who’ve given up on “church.”  Our communities should be places where people can detox, where that be from alcohol, tobacco, gluttony, shopping, or gossip.  We long for a space that tips us toward goodness rather than away from it, where we can pick up new habits – holy habits – as we are formed into a new creation, transformed by God.

It was the line, “We have to create an environment where it is easier to be good,” that reminded me of what I’ve heard from friends and their experiences at Christian camps.  Camp Crossroads is a place I’ve spent many summers attending as a camper and subsequent summers volunteering and working as staff.  In both situations, friends were aware that this was a good place, and that it was easy to be a good person (or Christian) at camp.

Camp Crossroads is to be commended for this.  The Christian community that it is, built by many people who have worked long and laborious hours over many years, alongside much prayer, has continued to flourish since its inception in the early 1980s.

Campers and staff have daily disciplines: meals together (with very delicious food), morning exercises, breakfast devotions (“Wheaties from the Word” though I think it’s called something else now), staff prayer, PQT (personal quiet time), morning chapel, “lets talk time” (group discussion on chapel), evening chapel, and every activity under the sun (and moon) filled with fun, laughter, and skills building together.

Teenage campers, particularly those from non-churched homes, can more clearly see a dichotomy between the “world of fun” at camp and outside camp.  Younger staff, myself included, have expressed that they feel this difference too.

Friends often lament that they will leave, afraid that their lives will fall back to patterns that they would rather not follow.  They recognize that there is a better way to live, that Jesus really is an important guy (i.e. God), that He really did show us a better way to live, and that another world is possible (i.e. the Kingdom of God).

The difficulty here is that camp is a short-term, intense, 1 week experience at camp.  Patterns, relationships, and disciplines are quickly formed by the community.  Leaving camp usually entails a descent from a “spiritual high”.

There are many reasons for this; two obvious ones: they cease following patterns (disciplines) that were making them into better disciples,s and they leave the community that helped them become better disciples.

Enter the local church.  Churches often have Sunday Services, Small Groups/Bible study meetings once weekly, Youth group meetings once a week.  Some churches are successful with creating a space for youths to enter into disciplines and patterns that help form them as people in the Christian community.

But for the Church overall (this would include Christian camps): people, Christian or not, recognize that their lives could be better and, indeed, that the world could be better.  Toward the end of the fourth chapter of Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, the dichotomy I mentioned earlier is made quite plain – though it sounds somewhat awkward for our ‘modern’ ears.

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

 

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

(Ephesians 4:17-32 ESV)

When we participate in the body of Christ, joining communities that follow in the way of Jesus, offering hospitality, healing, and hope to the world, while participating in the disciplines, practices, and hard work that holy habits take, we open ourselves to be formed into new creations.  We also open our lives to taste the Kingdom of God.

I want to encourage those who have experienced the goodness of the life that Christ offers and have left Christian communities to find them again, to again form holy habits and disciplines.  I want to encourage churches and places like Camp Crossroads to continue to do the work they do.  That they may work harder and harder to do their best to practice the disciplines that make their communities easy places to be good, offering hope and good news to the world, where they may be continually transformed by God, helping others be transformed by God.

Reading in the Economy of Grace

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Much of John Webster’s Holy Scripture: A Dogmatic Sketch has been ridiculously dense for me to read through.  I might yet actually write something about what I’m reading, but I’ve found this chapter “Reading in the Economy of Grace” easier to read and beneficial.

In discussing the creaturely act of reading Holy Scripture (a.k.a. the Bible), Webster says:

We do not read well; and we do not read well, not only because of technical incompetence, cultural distance from the substance of the text or lack of readerly sophistication but also and most of all because in reading Scripture we are addressed by that which runs clean counter to our will.  Reading Scripture is thus a moral matter; it requires that we become certain kinds of readers, whose reading is take up into the history of reconciliation.  The separation of reason from virtue in modernity has made this acutely difficult for us to grasp.
Nevertheless, a Christian theological anthropology will envisage the act of reading Scripture as an instance of the fundamental patter of all Christian existence, which is dying and rising with Jesus Christ through the purging and quickening power of the Holy Spirit.  Reading Scripture is thus best understood as an aspect of mortification and vivification: to read Scripture is to be slain and made alive. And because of this, the rectitude of the will, its conformity to the matter of the gospel, is crucial, so that reading can only occur as a kind of brokenness, a relinquishment of willed mastery of the text, and through exegetical reason’s guidance towards that encounter with God of which the text is an instrument.

p. 87-88

All U of T students have access to free copies of Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook)

So, I’m sorry if this isn’t new to you, but it is to me.  I’ve already finished an undergrad (plus OISE) and have now started a masters degree at U of T.  During this time, the mail server changed (we now have @mail.utoronto.com email addresses) to a Microsoft based online version of Outlook – which has at been visual improvement.

But to cut to the chase…

We have access to Office 365 – an online version of Outlook, Calendar, People, OneDrive, Tasks, Word Online, Excel Online, PowerPoint Online, and OneNote Online.  This is useful when making small adjustments, or viewing an attachment.  To access this just click “Office 365” when you are logged into http://www.mail.utoronto.ca

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HOWEVER! most of us do the bulk of our writing on programs/apps “offline”.

I’ve been rocking my 2008 Mac version since the start of my undergrad (and have been using Pages for the past couple years… then converting to .docx when professors can’t handle .pdfs).

See the “Install Office on more devices”? (on the screenshot above)

You can install Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook all onto your Mac or PC by clicking Install.

It really is that easy.  All you need is your UTORid and password.

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“One ironic example is our talk of Scripture as ‘the Word of God’ … The scriptural word for Scripture is Scripture.”

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James Barr’s Fundamentalism contains its misapprehensions about evangelicalism but also its penetrating insights, and one of the latter is this criticism, that for evangelicalism the Bible often has the form of authority but not the reality.  Doctrinally we are committed to a theology of the Word, but precisely that commitment can hinder us from actually being a people of the Word, because the fact that we accept that theoretical commitment provides us with a false sense of security, as if it guaranteed a real commitment to scripture.  The result is that it does the opposite.  We love to tag texts onto things, as if that made them biblical.  One ironic example is our talk of Scripture as “the Word of God”; in Scripture, phrases such as “the word of God” or “the word of truth” are not used to refer to Scripture.  The scriptural word for Scripture is Scripture.

John Goldingay, Key Questions about Biblical Interpretation, pp. 104-105.

Really enjoying life: a very brief story

Indian priest Anthony de Mello told this story:

“A rich industrialist from the North was horrified to find a Southern fisherman lying leisurely beside his boat. ‘Why aren’t you fishing?’ asked the industrialist.

“‘Because I have caught enough fish for the day.’ said the fisherman.

“‘Why don’t you catch some more?’

“What would I do with them?’

“‘You could earn more money,’ was the reply. ‘With that, you could fix a motor to your boat, go into deeper waters and catch more fish. Then you would make enough money to buy nylon nets. These would bring you more fish and more money. Soon you would have enough money to own two boats… maybe even a fleet of boats. Then you would be a rich man like me.’

“‘What would I do then?’

“‘Then you could really enjoy life.’

“‘What do you think I am doing right now?’ said the fisherman.”