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