Monday, October 31, 2011

Visiting The Crossroads: 494 Years After The Protestant Reformation

The door to the Wittenberg Castle Church engraved with Martin Luther's 95 Theses
          Today, a sizeable portion of the population of North America will celebrate a festival that is common to the prevailing culture and environment, that of Halloween. Over the last few days, I had seen people around Vancouver dressed up in various costumes - some comical, others provocative. But today is important to me for a very different reason. It marks an event whose repercussions have played a large part in defining the identities of millions of Christians over the last five centuries and today as well, including my own. Today is Reformation Day [1], marking the event of October 31, 1517 that began the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century and resulted in the biggest fracture in Church history that has drawn a firm dividing line between the Roman Catholic Church and all others who identify themselves as Christian for the last five centuries. I have been listening to some great talks from Dr. R. C. Sproul today, outlining the historical events of the Protestant Reformation, and thought I'd post the links to two of them here:

    Although I had never bothered with it before, Reformation Day is very important to me this year for a very personal reason. I am at a point in my own spiritual journey where I am attempting to sort and think through the deep theological issues, differences, teachings and controversies of differing church environments that I have been part of over the last 30 years. I am doing this because I want to better discern the truth of my faith and decide with conviction what my stand will be.

    Much of this is tied to my own spiritual history. I was born into a Christian family in India that was several generations old and originating from an apostolic-era church unique to Southern India, the Mar Thoma Syrian Church [2]. One of the churches in India that traces its origins back to the missionary work of the Apostle Thomas, it describes itself as "Apostolic in origin, Catholic in nature, Biblical in faith, Evangelical in principle, Ecumenical in outlook, Oriental in worship, Democratic in function, Episcopal in character and is a Reformed Church". At the age of two, my parents moved to the Middle East, and we attended an Anglican Church there [3] - for almost a decade. At the same time, I attended an international Catholic school [4], just up the road from our church where I spent all 15 years of my school life, well versed in Catholic theology and doctrine, but still inherently Protestant in my faith. When I was about 10 or 11, events in my family resulted in us transitioning in our church attendance into a Pentecostal and Charismatic Church [5] that used our Anglican Church's compound for their services. While my family has stayed within that general community of Christians since then, I left to pursue a Bachelor's and later, Master's degree that took me on quite an adventure (which I wrote about two years ago in my post 'Where Is Home?'). In the process, I attended four different churches in almost as many countries [6 - 9]. The last church, in Vancouver - Willingdon - is where I have stayed for the last three years, and God willing, will never leave because I have found a rare gem and as the saying goes, "once you find a good thing, don't let go".

    The upshot of such a hike (through the spiritual terrain of differing church groups and perspectives of faith - Mar Thoma Syrian, Anglican, Catholic, Pentecostal, Charismatic, Mennonite - is that I've had first-hand, in-depth experience of differing perspectives, theology and teachings in Christendom. The downside, which was inevitable, was that I came to a point of crisis a few years ago in trying to figure out what to believe and where to find truth and take a stand among the differing, contradictory, and sometimes seriously erroneous teaching that I had seen, heard, learned and experienced. Although there was a common core of agreement that I could see, I was confused about differences and disagreements in doctrine, theology, attitudes towards each other, practice of their faith and many other things. Catholics taught one thing, Protestants another; Pentecostals and Charismatics emphasized different things from Anglicans and Marthomites; the Word of Faith movement preached a God who would deliver unlimited blessing and anything one asked for. I believe that this eventually led to a 'patchwork quilt' theology and confusion in my own walk with God, and was directly responsible for some of my personal failures and the painful correction that has been necessary over the last few years.

    Consequently, the last two years have been spent doing a lot of hard thinking, reading, research, conversation with solid believers, prayer and seeking of discernment in trying to figure out what is truth and error, right and wrong. Two books that have been of tremendous help and influence in establishing a foundation for thinking were both given to me by very dear friends - "The Knowledge of the Holy" by A. W. Tozer and "The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment" by Tim Challies. I still struggle a lot and haven't found conclusive answers to all my questions, but through these books and other resources, a coherent church community at Willingdon and some wonderful friends, I believe God has granted me a firm footing to start with, and out of my pain, an idea for a theory related to a framework for testing the integrity of doctrine. I hope to write about and develop all of these ideas, slowly but regularly, in future posts.

    In my search for answers, my current study is spanning church and secular history, theology, doctrine, hermeneutics, philosophy and many other areas of study. It is hard work with toil, tears and sometimes sleepless nights. But it is worth it because the truth, when we find it, is sweet. As I wrap up this post in the midst of some of the internal frustration and conflict that I still wrestle with, I am reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul in his second letter to the Ephesian church. I feel that they are a gentle reminder from the Holy Spirit in moments like this:

     "I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of other calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." - Ephesians 4:1-6, ESV

    Thanks for taking the time to read what I consider to be a very important post on this blog. To those who read this - Catholic and Protestant - and would like to share their own experiences, questions, doubts, and insights on their own spiritual journey through the Church and Christian community, I would love to hear from you. I hope you had a great Reformation Day and have a blessed week ahead!

- The Wisdom Seeker

[1] Reformation Day
[2] Mar Thoma Syrian Church
[3] Holy Trinity Church
[4] St. Mary's Catholic High School
[5] King's Revival Church International
[6] Cathedral of Praise
[7] New Life AG Church
[8] Kerala Christian Assembly
[9] Willingdon Church

Thursday, October 27, 2011

In-Flight Insights: YYZ - YVR

WestJet Flight WS 0713 at the boarding gate
     Fourth row from the front, aisle seat, 37,000 feet and rocketing along at 499 mph. I'm almost an hour into my return flight from Toronto to Vancouver as I write this post. I don't feel like looking out of the window at what seems to be an endless landscape of cotton; the scenery doesn't seem to offer much in terms of intellectual stimulation, though the shades of orange and pink are unquestionably beautiful as the sun sets to our left. Having the entire row to myself, there's no one to talk to either, and the two ladies in the seats across the aisle from me are chattering away with an enthusiasm that I doubt that I can muster at the moment. I've already had a short in-flight nap, so I'm hoping to take a little time to think, and God willing, upload this post from Vancouver YVR airport after touching down in about three-and-a-half hours or so.

    It's difficult to believe that a little over a week has gone by since I touched down in Toronto to visit my family. In one sense, it feels like a month has gone by since I last saw Vancouver or anyone there; so much has happened in the seven days that I've been away that heading back feels a little unreal. In another sense, it feels like I've just landed, glimpsed my family's faces, and taken off again. So many events have been squeezed into such a short span of time, and I'm finding time to reflect on all of it only now. I hope to write more about it over the next few days, before my vacation ends.

    Whatever my perception of the passage of the last 192 hours, it is without question that this trip has been memorable on many, many levels. I saw my family after just over a year. I met a dearly-loved cousin who I hadn't seen in almost six years (5 years and 10 months, by his precise reckoning), and his wife who I'd never met. We all went on a road trip to visit relatives in Canada's capital, Ottawa, and breifly ventured on an impromptu excursion into Quebec. I visited my high-school friend and former roomate Brendan, who is just past his first anniversary of marriage and two months away from becoming a first-time father, and reminisced about old times over a cup of his home-made chai tea. But most of all, it is the conversations with my family that I remember and cherish as I look back at the last 8 days that I've spent in Toronto. Conversations about life, love, marriage, family, hope, faith, purpose, suffering, trial, burden, heartbreak, God and the future, among so many others. It is not that I have not conversed with them about these things in some manner before, for we frequently have; rather, it was a difference in depth, openness and oneness of heart with which I felt as we engaged with each other. A difference in kind, and not just degree. And it has given me immense pleasure, much to reflect on, and much to miss until I see them again.

    It is definitely true that much has changed in my relationship with my parents. When visiting them last year, I had turned 29, just graduated university with my Master's degree, and was undergoing a time of transition as I began searching for work and wrestled with questions of the mind and heart, for which I wanted answers. I was also desperately wanting stability and to get started on a path to establishing myself, both professionally and personally. All of us were undergoing a time of trial and refining in our lives in differing situations, though I have no doubt that theirs was much more severe than mine. One year later, I had crossed the significant age of 30, found a deeply fulfilling job with a wonderful company, begun taking the first steps to standing on my own feet, persevered through some difficult and painful times of mental, emotional and spiritual refinement, growth and change and embarked on another stage of adventure in my journey with God. Over the last week, I found that in the process of all that had happened to me at the other end of the country, I had also come to understand and empathize with them better, to relate and connect with their joys, sorrows, disappointments, hopes, concerns and faith in Christ. Looking back at the years gone by, I found that I had a better perspective and appreciation of their thoughts, endeavours, effort, struggle and sacrifice for our family, and all that they had endured; looking forward, I found a better empathy and appreciation for their ongoing concern for our family's future, for the generation that now is and those to come. I love and appreciate my parents more than I have ever loved them in my life, and I do not write superficially when I make that statement. May my love for them grow only deeper and stronger.
My awesome parents :)
    As much as I have enjoyed this deeper connection with my parents, I have similarly enjoyed a closer relationship with my "little" sister, who is not so little now! With the kind of age gap that exists between us, we have had been apart for much of the last decade. Those have combined to bring about their own difficulties of being close in general, and being there for her when she needed me in particular, which on many fronts I have not done and not been the brother that I could have been. I have missed our times together of long ago when we were still children and had not come to the time where we had to "grow up". So I was happy to see her again, and connect with all that was going on in her life, especially as she goes through her own growing pains in university and other fronts. It meant a lot to me that we were able to watch the movie 'Soul Surfer' together, which has had a significant impact on my life and my sister felt was a really good movie. However, the most memorable moments that I had with her were actually quite simple - walking her to the bus stop across the main road from our house to see her off as she caught the bus to Square One shopping mall from where she would then catch the connecting express bus to York University. As I watched the bus pull away and we waved to each other, it brought back happy memories of long ago, when I was a teenager and she a toddler, and I would pick her up from her school bus stop after school. I am really looking forward to having her visit me in Vancouver when she is able to!
Seeing Tiffany off at the bus stop before heading to the airport
    There is so much more that I want to write, about my cousin Aju (whom my father lovingly calls his "other son") and his wonderful wife Indu, and all that I learned from my time with them. But I will stop here for now, and pick up my thoughts tomorrow of the trip that is speedily coming to an end, for we are just one hour away from Vancouver, and my battery is getting low. Hopefully, you will be reading this post after my safe landing at YVR and I'll see you in the next post. Bon Voyage and Godspeed to all my fellow travellers out there who are reading this!
- The Wisdom Seeker

Monday, October 24, 2011

IRONMEN Session 3: Christian Faith and Homosexuality

     It has been a busy week in Toronto with the family since my last post. This final post of the IRONMEN Adventure Weekend is arriving more than two weeks late. There are other posts that I have in mind about things that have been happening in my life and thoughts, but I wanted to finish and upload this before I write anything more.

     The last session of the Willingdon IRONMEN Adventure Weekend in Whistler dealt with examining and understanding the issue of gender identity and human sexuality in the light of the wisdom called for in the Christian faith. As we began this rather intense session after the similarly fascinating talk of the night before on the topic of evolution and the Christian faith, I glanced over the general notes that had been provided and realized that there would be a lot of writing to do.

    As Pastor John opened the session with prayer that Sunday, he read from the book of Isaiah. It reminded us once again that though we had gathered to think and seek wisdom in dealing with the challenges that we faced to our Christian worldview, that we would find our ultimate answers only in humbling ourselves and considering the nature and majesty of Almighty God:

    "Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
    and marked off the heavens with a span,
    enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure
    and weighed the mountains in scales
    and the hills in a balance?
    Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord,
    or what man shows him his counsel?
    Whom did he consult, and who made Him understand?
    Who taught Him the path of justice, and taught Him knowledge,
    and showed Him the way of understanding?
    Behold the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
    and are accounted as dust on the scales;
    behold, He takes up the coastlands like fine dust
    Lebanon would not suffice for fuel,
    nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering.
    All the nations are as nothing before Him,
    they are accounted by Him as less than nothing and emptiness.
    To whom then will you liken God,
    or what likeness compare with Him?"
- Is. 40:12-18, ESV

    With that in mind, Pastor John led us to his first point, in considering key scriptures that would be relevant in thinking through the issue at hand:

A. Key Scriptures

1. Proverbs 9:10: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight."
2. Genesis 1:27-28:
     "So God created man in his own image,in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
    The essence of the commandment being given to Adam and Eve was that in carrying out God's command to "be fruitful and multiply", they were to fill the earth with the knowledge of the glory of God. There is something unique and profound about being male and female.
3. Genesis 2:21-24:
     "So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,
     “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh;she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh."
    We are told that man and woman are of like substance. We are also held to believe that we are not egalitarian, but complementarian. Men and women are wired differently. As an illustration in differences in behaviour, Pastor John used the analogy of the modes of headlamps on a car to describe his observation of the differing perspectives of men and women - men frequently and inherently tend to focus on thinking about the long-term and the future (high beam), whereas women frequently tend to pay more attention to the short term and current circumstances (low-beam).
4. 1 Peter 3:7: "Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered."
    It is important here to note that God is angered when men do not honour their wives, and will not answer their prayers.
5. Matt 15:19:
"For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander."
    The word used in the greek for 'sexual immorality' is 'pornea'.

    Having gone through the ideas presented by these important verses with regard to the nature of men, women and the specified covenant of marriage, Pastor John turned our attention to specific passages in both the Old and New Testaments with regards to homosexuality.

B. The Overall Teaching of Both Testaments - and Homosexuality

1. Leviticus 18 & 20 - the holiness codes 
   Lev. 18:22: "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination."
    Lev. 20:13: "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them."
2. Romans 1- The depravity of man
    Rom. 1:18: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth." The Apostle Paul clearly illustrates that the truth is plan to all men - and yet we repress the truth
    Rom. 1:21-23: "For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things." The failure of mankind to honour God as God
    Rom. 1:24: "Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves," God gives them up, surrenders them to dishonour
    Rom. 1:25-27: "because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error." It is indicated that both male and female sexuality are contrary to nature
3. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11: "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." It is noted that there is a penalty to walking contrary to God's design of biology and sexuality - denial of entrance into the Kingdom of God. But even here, there is good news. The Gospel comes to broken and non-functioning people to wash, sanctify and justify them.
4. 1 Timothy 1:8-11: "Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted." There isn't an abundance of literature in the Bible about homosexuality. It is usually categorized in a group with other sins that break the system.

     Though we had waded through some of the critical passages of Scripture that defined the biblical and Christian perspective on homosexuality, there was still an equally critical and important aspect of the issue that John Neufeld wanted to clearly walk us through. We proceeded to an in-depth examination of what scientific research actually had to say about the subject.

C. What Does Scientific Research Say About Homosexuality?
  1. How prevalent is homosexuality?
  • 10%?
    • This value is commonly presented, cited or referenced in statistics, reports and literature regarding the size or prevalence of homosexuality within a population group. However, it is important to consider the origin of this value and the nature of the source. This statistic is generally credited to a study conducted in 1948 by Dr. Alfred Kinsey [1], researching the nature of sexuality in individuals in North America, specifically in the United States. Among many other statistics, Dr. Kinsey reports seemed to indicate that a large proportion of the population identified itself as homosexual, as high as 10%. This report has often been used and cited in the decades since it was first released. However, it should be noted that this number has never been sucessfully duplicated since then. With the claims of this report in our hands, and noting the counter-claims raised against its contents, we must also ask ourselves about its author. Who was Alfred Kinsey and what sort of man was he?
  • Kinsey
    • James H. Jones [3] authored a biography of Alfred Kinsey, titled "Alfred C. Kinsey: A Public/Private Life", attempting to construct a portrait of the man. Kinsey's spectrum of research involved more than just formulation of theory and interview of subjects. He notes aspects of Kinsey's own sexual activity and participation in experiments in great detail, noting that Kinsey was both a masochist and exhibitionist, who regularly filmed himself having sex with his wife, as well as other people, including co-workers. He also filmed her having sex with other men. In addition, Kinsey filmed himself engaged in what would be classified as sexually deviant behaviour, allegedly for the purpose of experimentation. He collected sexual material from around the world, which included pornographic films. In the process of investigating pre-adolescent orgasms, he is alleged to have interviewed a single paedophile and presented the data as being from various sources. He is also alleged to have over-represented prisoners and prostitutes in his work, and to have distorted his studies by including a disproportionate number of homosexual men in his sample. These and other details can be found in Jones' and others' biographical works of Alfred Kinsey.  
  • Real Numbers
    • Dr. Judith Reismann [5], who has authored a number of books on Kinsey and his work, cites studies that indicate that the actual proportion of homosexuals in a population sample may be 1 - 3% at the absolute most. But even that is not the central issue. So we must ask ourselves this question: 
  • So What Is This All About?
  2. What Causes Homosexual Behaviour?
  • Biological Basis? 
    • There is so far no evidence regarding a marker for homosexuality in human DNA. It has simply not been found.
  • Dangers
    • Studies and reports conducted among homosexual and heterosexual populations indicate that homosexuals in general:
      • Are 300 times more likely to commit suicide
      • Are likely to be involved with multiple sex partners
      • Are more likely to contract Sexually Transmitted Diseases and struggle with depression
      • Have a lifespan of as much as 20 years less than that of heterosexuals
  • Why hard to break?    
    • Yes, it is true that breaking the pattern of homosexual behaviour is one of the hardest things to do. But in the end, it essentially reduces to the truth that all behaviour pattern of sin are tied to the "flesh"
    As I listened to Pastor John thinking through the above points, it gave me much cause for thought and compassion towards the internal struggle of the homosexual person. I had encountered transsexuals in India, but I had never met a homosexual person in my life until I first moved to Vancouver, where my first roomates in a basement that I rented was a homosexual male. Though my acquaintance with him was short (he moved out to Montreal two weeks after I moved in), it was one through which I learned a lot and had much cause for examination of my own paradigm and behaviour, and still does so to this day. I have often wondered what became of him. And it was thus that John Neufeld moved on to the next section, which I found personally relevant.

D. How Should Christians Respond?

  1. In wisdom - in a way that breathes life into other men
  2. With discretion
  3. With love - the greatest need that any man has is to known Christ and the love of the Creator

    Pastor John then proceeded to tie all his thoughts together and bring them to a close with the relevance of the Gospel and the truth of the Bible in this matter. I have more notes on this final section which I will update when I get back to Vancouver. Not having the time or space to pack the notes from the Adventure Weekend, I had attempted to photograph the last page using my phone and transcribe it from there, but it didn't turn out very clearly. I will update this final section before the end of this week, hopefully by Thursday night or Friday, and move on to other matters that I've been wanting to write about. Keep watching this space!
- The Wisdom Seeker
[1] Dr. Alfred Charles Kinsey
[2] Kinsey Reports
[3] James H. Jones
[4] Alfred C. Kinsey: A Public/Private Life
[5] Judith Reismann

    Wednesday, October 19, 2011

    Another Day, Another Flight: YVR-YYZ

    Poster at Vancouver YVR International Airport
    8:45 AM:
         While I put together the next post detailing Session 3 of the IRONMEN Adventure Weekend, I thought I'd beginning pen this interval post as I sit at gate C52 at Vancouver YVR, waiting the boarding call for my flight to Toronto. It's been quite a hectic morning, having slept at 1 AM and woken at 4:15 for my flight. at 7  It's been interesting as I've been wandering around the airport after check-in; airports are always interesting places to observe people and think. As people hurry for departures, rush for connecting flights, pour in from arrivals and meet those waiting for them, I find myself wondering who they might be, what they might be coming from and going to, and thinking about what their stories might be. Were they heading to sad or happy occasions? Some might be heading to weddings (perhaps even their own), funerals, reunions, or just routine flights on business or work. I wondered how many of them might be grieving or sorrowing inside, had stopped to contemplate their lives, or wonder about God. Airports and airplanes definitely seems to give one much occasion to think about the unfathomable mysteries of the universe in a way that the routine office commute does not - for example, how did the powers that be come up with acronyms such as YVR for Vancouver and YYZ for Toronto? I don't understand how "YYZ" is supposed to map to "Toronto" in the human mind...

        I also took photos of some interesting sculptures that decorated various terminals that I passed by while walking to mine. The sculpture of "The Flying Traveller" reflected how I felt today morning. I usually have my bags packed well in advance, and leave enough time to get to the airport, taking things at a pace that is most comfortable for me. They say there is always a first time for everything; today was that day, which is why this sculpture and its inscription resonated so well with me.
    Inuit art display at one of YVR's domestic flight terminals
    "The Flying Traveler" - this is what I felt like today morning
         Everything seemed to be going so well as the day started off. I was almost completely packed by midnight of the night before, and in bed by 1 AM. As I drifted off to sleep, I noted some minor things to be done after waking up at 4:15 - make my morning tea to fill my thermos with, print out my ticket details, check and store my ID and pack my laptop into my carry-on backpack. The taxi that I had booked for my ride to the airport was due to arrive at 5 AM, and dutifully called at 4:50 to let me know that he was waiting downstairs. We set off just a minute or two after 5, and at that time of morning, had a traffic-free and uneventful ride to the airport, reaching there well ahead of time at 5:30. Having paid, I cheerfully sauntered into YVR, went up to the WestJet automated check-in machine...and froze. That sickening feeling in the pit of the stomach of being in free-fall stole over me as I realized that I had forgotten my travel ID - my passport and other documents were at home.

        Panicking, I checked my wallet. No photo ID. Apocalyptic visions of one of an airline traveler's worst nightmares - a missed flight - swam before my eyes. Thinking almost on auto-pilot, I called the taxi driver and explaining the situation, asked him to swing around and drive me back home. In the meantime, I ran up to two WestJet service personnel and explained my situation. By this time, I had mentally prepared myself to accept the inevitable - that with all the solo travelling that I had done, for the first time in my life, I was going to miss a flight. What was that saying about the best laid plans?

        The staff told me that if I could make it home and back by 6:30, I could just make it. Looking at my watch, that seemed to be a quickly-fading possibility, which only seemed less realistic as the taxi drove me back home. Halfway there, I called WestJet, cancelled my booking for my flight and asked for a seat on the next available flight. With that done, I sat and digested the financial consequences that were staring me in the face over one small error - the mounting expenses of a cancellation fee and taxi fare for three trips between home and the airport - not a small amount. I can feel the twinge as I right this...

        Looking at the small Boeing that will be my confines at 529 mph and 37,000 feet for the next four-and-a-half hours on the flight to Toronto, I don't find it terribly comforting. It looks so small compared to the Air Canada plane at the gate across from it. Smaller planes are also bumpier when hitting turbulence...but I think I should be grateful for God's providence that I'm alive, well and boarding my flight. Speaking of which, I hear the boarding call. Time to go!

    Westjet Flight 712 - Boarding Calls!
    9:43 PM:
        Well, this end to the day is coming to you from my parents' house in Mississauga. It's been a simultaneously frustrating, difficult, exhausting, expensive, happy and satisfying day filled with a lot of lessons to mull over. It's good to see the family again after more than a year, and on the eve of my parent's wedding anniversary. I hope to have the final post of the IRONMEN Adventure Weekend ready and up by tomorrow. Until then, goodnight and God bless!

    P.S: Events like these remind me why the post script for this blog reads '"The story of a fool, who fell in love with Wisdom". If anyone reading this has similar horror stories of monstrous blunders they or others have committed on their airline travels and lessons that they have learned, please feel free to share them here. I promise to be an understanding and sympathetic listener :)

    - The Wisdom Seeker

    Friday, October 14, 2011

    IRONMEN Session 2: Evolution and Christianity

    Two posters from my days at Campus for Christ

         In my last post, I had detailed the opening talk by John Neufeld at the IRONMEN Adventure Weekend in Whistler, on the topic of wisdom and its necessity in understanding the conflict of the Christian faith with other worldviews. It was a great talk that laid a foundation for understanding the next two topics that he would talk about, the second one of which I will be detailing in this post - Evolution and Christianity, which we had the privilege of listening to at Milestones restaurant after dinner.

    Pastor John delivering his talk at Milestone's Restaurant after dinner

         I think the fundamental question that Pastor John wished to address, and indeed the thrust of Session 2 could basically be stated as follows:

    "Is the idea of subscribing to theistic evolution a viable option for Christians? If not, then how can we apply wisdom in approaching the challenge that this worldview presents to the Christian faith?"

         In his opening statements, Pastor John referenced some observations by Dr. David Berlinski, a postdoctoral in mathematics and molecular biology at Columbia University and among other notable achievements - an author, lecturer and agnostic - in an opening statement between evolution and intelligent design:

    "The Darwinian theory of evolution is the last of the great 29th century mystery religions, following Freudianism and Marxism into the nether regions, and I am quite sure that Freud, Marx and Darwin are commiserating one with the other in the dark dungeon where discarded gods gather. The problem facing us at the beginning of the 21st century, with a magnificent body of theoretical accomplishments....that when it comes to the large body of global issues that Darwin's theory is intended to address....Random selection is known to be inadequate - especially when it comes to the overwhelming complexities of living forms."

         Dr.  Berlinski pointed out that some major mathematicians simply discount it - the fact that we cannot set up a computer schema to actually show the mechanism whereby it works. He said that workable mechanisms for evolutionary biology are missing - that we cannot point out the amount of changes needed to move from one species to another, neither the process whereby they change. He suggested that Darwinian theory places us into a kind of straight jacket, that does not allow the flexibility to consider the emergence of various theories. Thus evolutionary biology as the grand theory explaining everything continues to bind the discussion in only one direction.

         With that laid down, the question that Pastor John presented to our consideration was one that I myself had been pondering for some years:

    A. Is Theistic Evolution a Viable Option?

         Theistic Evolution [1] can be summarised as the view that posits that there is one God, who created using evolution as a process or mechanism to bring about the world and universe as described in the creation account of Genesis, the first book of the Bible. Thus, God basically employs a procedure where He sets up the system and allows random mutation to occur, and evolution to happen.

          A major example of a proponent of this worldview would be Francis Collins [2], the American physican-geneticist and Director of the National Institutes of Health, who is better known for his leadership of the Human Genome Project.

         With that in mind, we proceeded to the next point of consideration - what was to be held in the 'closed fist', ''guarded hand' and 'open hand' in approaching this matter? For a detailing of the idea of the closed fist, guarded hand and open hand, see my last post 'IRONMEN Session 1: Wisdom and the Conflict of Worldviews'.

    B. Things In the "Closed Fist"

    1. God created the world and God is distinct from it. This is rejecting the idea of "God" presented by Baruch Spinoza as being nature itself [3]
    2. God is directly involved in the creation. This rejects the worldview postulated by Deism, which must be rejected if we affirm the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
    3. God created, "ex-nihilo" (out of nothing). This implies that we also deny the eternal nature of matter and the physical world, i.e. that this universe will go on forever. It means that we accept that this phsical world and universe will come to an end at some point.
    4. God's world was originally good, and therefore, is different from the corrupted world in which we now live. This is something that evolutionary biology, including the idea of theistic evolution, cannot say - that the world was originally good.
    5. Romans 5:12 - that sin came into the world through one man, and death - through him (that is, his fall from grace) spread to all men - death reigned from Adam to the present. Hence the story of redemption is redemption from a world cursed by Adamic sin.
    6. God's character is revealed (his glory) as he deals with the corruption of his good creation - by providing redemption through Jesus. The entire biblical drama is based on this single premise. Thus, until we recognize that paradise was "lost", we cannot speak of paradise being "regained". Theistic evolution does not provide for this senario either.
    7. According to Romans 1, creation speaks of the Creator in such a way that it is impossible to deny his existence.
         With these points clearly laid out, we were led to raise the question with regard to the topic of evolutionary biology - when we encounter the word "evolution", we must ask ourselves the question, "what exactly are we talking about?"

    C. Definition of Evolution

    1. Micro-evolution - refers to small scale changes within a species allowing it to adapt to its environment. Everyone agrees on this. An example cited is the Hedylepta, a butterfly in Hawaii found only on the Hawaiian islands, and a species that eats only bananas. The point of interest is that bananas were first brought to the Hawaiian Islands only about 1000 years ago - indicating that the species evolved within that time.  
    2. Macro-evolution - refers to large scale changes occurring over vast period of time into the formation of new species. It refers to a universal common descent - the idea that all organisms descended from a common ancestry - solely through unguided, purposeless material processes such as natural selection, random variation, mutation, etc. - and this accounts for the appearance of design.
    3. Those who hold to the idea of evolution resist the idea of Intelligent Design (ID) [4]. Francis Collins is an example of those who argue against this. It should also be noted that people in the ID movement are only making the case that evolution cannot account for the current scale of biological reality.
    4. Evolution or ID essentially presents a system of origins that leaves open belief in a Creator, but does not need it. Essentially, it is atheism, subscribing to a philosophy of materialism.
         Having said all that, Pastor John raised some of the questions that occur to Christians who hold to the creation account of Genesis 1 and 2, which I myself have been searching for answers to.

    D. Problems for Those Who Believe Genesis 1-2

    1. The age of the Earth. This deals with the question of the Old Earth vs. Young Earth Theory.
    2. The fossil record. If death occurred because of Adam's sin, how do we explain the evidence of death & extinctions of species that we see in the geological and fossil record?
    3. Meticulous Sovereignty or Deism? The Bible teaches that God is meticulously involved in His creation. For example, the book of Colossians says: "For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities - all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all thing, and in Him all things hold together." - Col. 1:16-17, ESV
    4. The problems with science class
          With these points in our heads for consideration - the non-viablility of theistic evolution as an option, the non-negotiable aspects of biblical thought and doctrine that must be held in the "closed fist", the two scales of evolution that could be defined and the questions in the mind of the believer, Pastor John proceeded to lead us through a detailed study of the first two chapters of Genesis, which are outlined below.

    Bible Study
    1. Genesis 1:1. Creation is therefore out of nothing. Creation is also therefore not eternal as it is in Bhuddism. But that raises the question - what is the age of the universe?
    2. Genesis 1:2. Uses the term "formless and void". In Hebrew, it is transliterated by the term "togu va bogu", meaning without purpose, a howling wasteland. How long was the earth "togu va bogu"? Moses (who wrote the book of Genesis) is silent on this issue. One way of reading Genesis 1:1-2 is in the style of a newspaper headline - the opening sentence being the summary, followed by more detail. Alternately, it could be read sequentially - that God created the Cosmos in Gen. 1:1, and then shifts focus to creation account on Earth.
    3. Day 1 (Genesis 1:3-5) - One of the questions raised relates to the described order of creation - how is there "light" without the sun? Day 1 describes God bringing light into being, but then Day 4 talks about the creation of the sun and stars. So what "light" is Day 1 talking about if the sun and stars were not created yet? This seeming contradiction in account can be resolved if we understand the description of conditions and changes as seen from the perspective of an observer standing on the surface of the earth. Thus, Day 1 might be referring to the clearing of interplanetary debris, so that light could penetrate. Day 4 would then be referring to the ordering of already existing sources of light.
    4. Day 2 - Genesis 1:6-8. Creation of dry land.
    5. Day 3 - Genesis 1:9-13. Creation of vegetation. From our previous discussion on the differences between micro and macro-evolution, we take this to mean creation of all organisms in their mature form.
    6. Day 4 - Genesis 1:14-19. Creation of the luminaries. From the assumptions of the perspective adopted on Day 1, we can take this to be the creation of a transparent atmosphere, so that the sun, moon, stars etc. become visible.
    7. Day 5 - Genesis 1:20-23. Creation of sea animals.
    8. Day 6 - Genesis 1:24-31. Creation of land animals and then creation of man.
         With this reading and study of the creation account and deductions laid out, Pastor John noted that it still left some outstanding questions, and proceeded to walk us through them.

    E. Outstanding Questions
    1. The day/age question. The first question to ask is - is this a closed, guarded or open hand question? In interpreting the Hebrew, this could be read literally as 6 24-hour periods of time, or alternately, can also refer to an extended period of time. Both might be possible, and it is not necessary to divide as believers over this.
    2. Arguments for 6 literal days. The arguments note first of all that each day ends with a morning, and an evening pattern. Secondly, they note that in Exodus 20:11, God specifies 6 days of work, followed by a day of rest, patterning His methodology of creation
    3. Arguments for 6 long periods. These arguments point to the 6th day as being crowded with events, and unable to fit in 24 hours - the creation of species, the creation of Adam, the naming of species by Adam and finally, the creation of Eve. Secondly they note that the formula of morning passed and evening came doesn't work the other way around. Thirdly, they point to the verse of 2 Peter 3:8: 8 "But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day."
    4. Thus, there are problems that both sides need to address, and one might seem to be convinced if reading one side only.
    5. Conclusion: The question of the age of the earth is a very different question than the question of evolution.  
         I am still pondering over these points that Pastor John put forward, even as I type this post. However, he proceeded to bring his talk to an even more interesting point of focus and which became very personal - what do and do we not learn from nature about God and ourselves?

    F. What Does Nature Teach All People? From Romans 1:
    1.  That there is a Creator. Creation lives and breathes the testimony of a Creator.
    2. That we owe God an infinite debt of gratitude. Our Creator has provided us with abundance, even in a fallen world.
    3. That our gratitude has not been in keeping with his kindness.
    4. That we have substituted our knowledge of him with idols - gods that are fed and taken care of.
    5. That we are therefore guilty as ingrates.
    6. That we should seek mercy
    G. What Nature Does Not Teach Us
    1. Whether the God who exists is cruel  or kind
    2. Whether the God who exists will bring us mercy
    3. The need of Special Revelation through the Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
         This was an incredible talk and evening as Pastor John brought things to a close. I don't think I will ever forget it, and am still pondering these points as I type them out. See you in the next post, where I wind up this series with detailing the final session - Christian Faith and Homosexuality. See you then!

    - The Wisdom Seeker


    Monday, October 10, 2011

    IRONMEN Session 1: Introduction to Wisdom & the Conflicts of Worldviews

    IRONMEN 2011 Adevnture Weekend poster
         The last post I had updated was on the second day of the Ironmen's Adventure weekend. As I didn't take any photos on Day 3, I'm going to start detailing the individual session notes that I took during the retreat. As I mentioned in my previous posts, there were three main sessions that were held. The titles are as follows:

    • Session 1: Introduction to Wisdom & the Conflicts of Worldviews
    • Session 2: Evolution and Christianity
    • Session 3: Christian Faith and Homosexuality

        Pastor John opened the evening of Session 1 with an overview of what we would be looking at over the next three days, and more specifically, why. Given the nature of our times and the frequency of the ideologies and worldviews that we are presented with everyday, it is important for men to cogently decipher, understand and respond to them, especially those that challenge the Christian worldview. We will inevitably find ourselves in such situations as we pursue academic routes at colleges and universities, at work in the professional marketplace, and of significant importance, at home as fathers having to provide answers for the questions that our children may seek answers for, trusting that we will be able to impart wisdom to them. And that is why we need to think carefully through the importance, approach and application of wisdom to some of the foremost and significant questions that we as Christian men will be faced with. As he opened with these thoughts, I was reminded of a question raised by John MacArthur:

        "Today's evangelicals are confronted with a multitude of new perspectives, emerging trends and evangelical fads - all claiming to be more biblical or more effecive than the ideas they seek to overthrow. With such a broad patchwork of competing ideas all clamoring for mainstream acceptance, how can the average person in the pew be expected to know what is truly sound, safe, and biblical? In a world where everything seems colored in shades of gray how can Christians develop the discipline of discernment?"

    - John MacArthur, in Tim Challies' "The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment"

        As I mentioned in my opening post of the Adventure Weekend, as John Neufeld proceeded to outline the thesis of his talk for the evening, I was thrilled that I had taken this faith step with the Ironmen, for his chosen topic was the fundamental theme of this blog, and the central pursuit of my life over more than a decade - Wisdom. Needless to say, I thus proceeded to scribble furiously, wanting to compile as detailed a set of notes as I could. Pastor John began with the first two chapters of the book of Proverbs, which are themselves an extensive discourse by Solomon on the importance of acquiring wisdom. From here, he laid out the following points:

    A. From Proverbs We Learn:

    1. The definition of wisdom (Proverbs 1:1-7)
    • Wisdom is practical. It is concerned with the ability to live well, and to live skilfully
    • Wisdom is moral. It is intrinsically geared towards taking hold of what is right, and rejecting that which is wrong.
    • It is intellectual. Those who would be wise must be lifelong learners, pursuing the development of mind and skillful thought.
    • Wisdom is probing. It compels the seeker of wisdom to question and dissect, to inspect the veracity and truth in a truth claim. By its very nature, it consequently differentiates the wise from the vast majority of people who succumb to mass hysteria, believe anything and shake their fist in anger at those who are labelled their 'opponents'
    • Wisdom is theological. It is fundamentally predicated on the fear of the Lord, and emerging from a reverential attitude of worship
    2. Prerequisites for gaining wisdom (Proverbs 2:1-22)
    •  Wisdom must be overwhelmingly desirable
    •  Wisdom must be paired to seeking God
    •  We must train our "palette" to like wisdom. Wisdom forces the person who seeks it to humble themselves, and reject pride.
    •  Wisdom must reject "quick solutions". It cannot be instantaneously acquired. It is developed through faithful and diligent seeking, learning, practice, even hardship. I was reminded of the following verse from Hebrews:
        "...solid food is for the mature, those who have had their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil." (Hebrews 5:14, ESV)

    3. Five reasons to be wise (Proverbs 8:1-36)
    •  Wisdom is available to all
    •  Wisdom is the most valuable thing you possess
    •  Wisdom keeps us from rash decisions with bad consequences
    •  Wisdom leads to enduring success
    •  Widsom leads to unending joy

        Moving on to a related passage in the book of James, we examined two distinct kinds of wisdom identified by the apostle, and Pastor John laid out the following five points.

    B. From James We Learn About 2 Kinds of Wisdom (James 3:13-18)

    1. Earthly wisdom includes
    • Strong feelings of resentment against someone
    • A rigid personal pride. There is a distinction to be noted between pride and rigidity. Pride is characterised by the attitude of "I know better than everyone else" and rigidity by the attitude of "my way or the highway"
    2. The origin of earthly wisdom
    • Human opinions and cultural norms
    • A product of your personality
    • Demonic
    3. The result of human wisdom
    • Turmoil in relationships
    • Every vile practice
    4. Wisdom from above includes
    • Humility. One can never be wise until they humble themselves
    • Unmixed motives
    • Harmony and unity
    • Not responding in anger, but in kindness
    • Open to dialogue with an open heart
    • Quick to seek reconciliation
    • Bearing the fruit of the Spirit
    • Treats others with fairness
    • No mixed motives
    5. The result of wisdom from above
    • A harvest of righteousness
    • Sown in the soil of peace

        As John Neufeld moved on to the next major sections, related to truths about God and the implications derived from those truths, I found myself listening with rapt attention because it was quite relevant to my ongoing struggle to understand differences in doctrines among denominations and various camps in Christendom. I will be writing extensively about my thoughts on these in upcoming posts.

    C. Wisdom As It Pertains to the Truths About God

    1. Things we hold in a closed fist
    2. Things we hold in a guarded hand
    3. Things we hold in an open hand

       The wise individual knows the difference between these categories, and issues that fall into these general groupings. Because I was previously aware of these categories and trying to keep up with Pastor John who was moving along quite rapidly, I did not take down extensive notes in this section. However, I was reminded of the following passage from Tim Challies' "The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment", in which he dealt with the same topic referencing a quote from Dr. Albert Mohler:

        "Though we are to test everything, there are some areas of Christian life and doctrine that are of greater consequence than others. Dr. Alber Mohler...writes:

        'Today's Christian faces the daunting task of strategizing which Christian doctrines and theological issues are to be given highest priority in therms of our contemporary context. This applies both to the public defense of Christianity in face of the secular challenge and the internal responsibility of dealing with doctrinal disagreements.'

        Mohler proposes three levels of theological urgency. While it may not always be perfectly clear which category a doctrine falls into, this structure can, at the very least, guide us toward the issues that are of the greatest importance. Debate that is most helpful will be debate that takes into consideration the relative importance of the particular issue.
        First-level issues are those that are most central and essential to the Christian faith. This includes the doctrines of the Trinity, atonement, the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, justification by faith alone, and the authority of Scripture. Those who deny any of these doctrines are denying truths that are absolutely and fundamentally essential to the Christian faith. Denial of these key doctrines necessarily represents the abandonment of biblical Christianity.
        Second-level issues are doctrines that believers may disagree on but which still represent important issues and will form significant boundaries between Christians. These are often the doctrines that have defined or divided denominations. Examples might include the mode and meaning of baptism or the continuring miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit. While Christians from either camp will affirm that those on the other side of the disagreement are brothers or sisters in Christ and will share fellowship with them on some level, these people will always experience a level of disagreement that will likely preclude greater unity.
        Third-level issues are those over which Christians may disagree even while maintaining close fellowship and remaining in the same local church. These may include doctrines such as the end times or whether Christians may consume alcohol in moderation.
        A caution is in order. Mohler writes, 'A structure of theological triage does not imply that Christians may take any biblical truth with less than full seriousness. We are charged to embrace and to teach the comprehensive truthfulness of the Christian faith as revealed in the Holy Scriptures. There are no insignificant doctrines revealed in the Bible, but there is an essential foundation of truth that undergirds the entire system of biblical truth.'"

        The next section that Pastor John bridged to from here was the conflict between the wisdom-based foundation of Biblical perspective and the conflict with our culture on major questions of life. The main areas of contention are spelled out in the following points:

    D. Wisdom - and the Conflicts With Our Culture
    1. The question of truth
    2. The question of outcomes in terms of human lives.
    3. The question of how we handle disagreements
    4. The question of how we instruct our children
    5. The question of 1 Peter 3:15
    6. The ultimate question: What is the endgame?
        This can be better expressed by the question "What am I seeking to accomplish?"

        With these points laid out relating to the necessity of Wisdom and a biblical perspective, the next logical step that we stepped to in the train of thought was the examination of a wordlview, and the conflict that arises due to differing worldviews. Pastor John began this section with the following quote from James Sire:

    E. A Conflict of Worldviews - Or What Is A Worldview?

    1. "Whatever anyone thinks is premised upon a worldview. A worldview is a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart that can be expressed in a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being."

        That being said, we proceeded to think through the following points:

    2. All worldviews ask and answer 7 basic questions:
    • What is ultimately real?
      • Everyone lives with basic pre-suppositions. Either:
    1. There is one God
    2. There are many gods
    3. Everything is God
    4. Nature just exists
    • What is the nature of external reality? What kind of world is it?
    • What is a human being?
    • What happens to a person at death?
    • Why is it possible to know anything at all?
    • How do we know what is right and wrong?
    • What is the meaning of human history?

        Having thought through these questions related to the fundamental idea of a worldview, Pastor John took us to an examination of how Christians sometimes respond to the worldviews around us.

    F. Christian Responses to the Worldviews Around Us

    1. A reactionary response
    •     People adopting this response tend to always be fighting, finding problems with the world around them.
    2. An accommodating response
    •     This response is adopted by those who are afraid of what other people might think/respond and don't want to be the only ones who think differently from the culture around them
    3. The response of wisdom

        And with this laid out, we came to the final section of the first session, setting the stage for the topics that we would think through over the next two days:

    G. Two Great Worldview Questions

    1. Evolution and the question of origins
    • Am I the product of design or random blind chance?
    • Do I have purpose?
    2. Gender identity and human sexuality
    • What is the nature of sexuality?
    • Are there ethics based upon sexuality?
        I will be laying out the notes for the next session sometime over the next few days. Do leave feedback and let me know your thoughts on the points laid out in this session. See you in the next post - Session 2: Evolution and Christianity!

    - The Wisdom Seeker

    Ironmen 2011 Adventure Weekend Video Highlights

          I was in the process of writing up the notes from Session 1: Introduction to Wisdom & the Conflicts of Worldviews for the next blog post, when I happened to come across this video that was created by Eric Muir from some of the photos taken by men during the retreat, and shown during the final session on Day 3. If I'm not mistaken, I believe it is set to the song "God of Heaven Come Down" by Casting Crowns. I think I'm in one of the group photos taken during the hike that I went on!

         I should be uploading the post detailing Pastor John's talk during Session 1 later today.
    - The Wisdom Seeker

    Saturday, October 1, 2011

    Willingdon Ironmen Fall 2011 Retreat: Day 2

    8:27 AM:

         We're having a great breakfast in our apartment as the second day of the retreat opens. Tim is an awesome planner - he took all our food needs into account and came fully loaded. The end result is that he made us all awesome breakfast - scrambled eggs with shitake mushrooms and green onions, accompanied with toast and orange juice. Tim Leung is an awesome cook, so impressive that Johnson smelt the aroma while walking down the corridor and came in to join us :) We'll be going for our individual activities later on in the day. Johnson is heading off for a tree-top ecology tour; Bryant and Bryan are running a testimonial workshop in our suite, helping people develop and write a concise testimony of how and why they came to Christ. I'll be heading out to a 6-hour hike at 10 AM, and then off to lunch and second session with Pastor John. I'll update sometime then. Hope everyone reading is having a blessed day!
    - The Wisdom Seeker

    At breakfast. Johnson dropped by after smelling the delicious aroma in the corridor :)

    Tim and Jason making breakfast - scrambled eggs and bagels!
    11:49 PM:

         This has been an exhausting, but highly fulfilling day. It had a great beginning, and a wonderful ending. I would write much more in depth, if I wasn't so tired. The hike was great! There were two hikes offered, one covering 13 kilometers, mostly uphill at a steep gradient and ending at a lake with spectacular mountain views from 3,200 feet. The second was a shorter, milder hike across more level terrain with gentler slopes, to Cheakamus Lake, located in Garibaldi Park [1]. I opted for the second one, because I hadn't brought proper hiking shoes and rain gear with me. At the end of the day, after hearing some of the stories of the men that had gone on the more difficult hike, I was glad that I did!

         I met some great men on the hike, and made quite a number of friends. The conversations were deep and personally meaningful. It was surprising how quickly 6-odd hours seemed to fly past with almost non-stop conversation. In spite of that, I still remembered to stop at interesting locations and take photos, some of which I have posted below. One of the great shots I got was a panoramic photo at Cheakamus Lake, which I stitched together later at home using the most handy and open-source tool, Hugin [1].

    By a stream going down to the river (shouldn't use the Foliage setting on my camera)

    Alex Gonzales by Cheakamuk Lake

    A panoramic shot of an area of Cheakamuk Lake, taken during our lunch stop

    Collapsed tree trunks and rocky outcroppings by the trail

    The intrepid explorer!

    A view of the river from the suspension bridge near the trail
          On the way back, I was surprised to get a call from Johnson (who had opted to go on a tree-top ecological tour), asking what I was doing. It turned out that he was back at Tantalus Lodge, unwinding in one of the heated swimming pool, and asked if I wanted to join him in one of the hot tubs. Never having been in a hot tub before and starting to ache from 6 hours of walking, I was most enthusiastic to savour the pleasures of a soak in hot water, until I suddenly realized that I had no swimming trunks. I mentally kicked myself for not having bought one earlier. In any case, after getting back to the lodge, I did drop by the hot tub and snapped Johnson enjoying himself:

    Johnson unwinding in the heated swimming pool
       At around 5, we all headed out to dinner at Milestone's restaurant, and the main event of the day which everyone was looking forward to - Session #2, with Pastor John. The topic was something of high anticipation, as he would be delivering a detailed talk on the subject of Evolution and Christianity. And what an evening it was! From the food, fellowship and conversation, it turned out to be a most memorable evening, with 200+ Ironmen filling the restaurant, which we had booked till midnight. And at the end of dinner, the tables were cleared, Pastor John took a seat on a stool with his notes laid out in front of him, and for the next one-and-a-half hours, proceeded to deliver one of the most incisive and fascinating talks that I have heard on the subject. Needless to say, I scribbled furiously as I tried to take down everything I could. I hope to post a detailed layout of his talk in the coming week. See you in the next post!

    Alex, Jason, Ben, Tim and Johnson at dinner

    Pastor John prepping during dinner

    Pastor John speaking after dinner on Christianity and Evolution

    - The Wisdom Seeker

    [1] Cheakamus Lake
    [2] Hugin Panorama Photo Stitcher