This past Friday wrapped up six long weeks of four hour a day, lectures, which means I’m half way through with my MA in theology. I still have some papers to write, but overall I get to enjoy something resembling a summer break. I’ll also be busy with my internship, which I'm really excited about.

We have another year here in Pasadena; after that only God knows. At this point truly anything could happen. We will probably start exploring just what “anything” is going to look like in a few months, but for now were simply enjoying the present.

New (to us) Car

Check out our new car, a 91' Honda Accord EX, fully loaded with 120,000 miles. It's a replacement for the one a drunk driver totaled a week ago. If you want, you can see some more pics here.

91' Honda Accord EX


Effects of Drunk Driving

This weekend a drunk driver slammed into our parked car, (which we were not in) as it sat on the street in front of the house.

The collision with our car caused him to spin out of controll until he came to a sudden stop at the foot of a tree, which caused his van to collapse in on him, nearly killing him. The van was full of cement mix and tools making it very heavy, which combined with his aproximate 55mph speed (in a 40 zone)combined for a great deal of energy. The paramedics didn't think he would make it to the hospital, though two hours latter we received word (as we waited for the tow truck) that he did not have to undergo any emergency surgery which is usually a good sign.

Funny how these things play games with you. I usually don’t leave the car out front, and if I hadn’t he probably would not have ended up in the emergency room. I don’t blame myself at all…intellectually, but none-the-less the incident still tried to play “what if” games with my mind. I suppose this is a good thing, allowing me to relate ever so slightly with people that have experienced truly traumatic events for which they feel responsible, even though they are not.


Pastoral Counseling, Philosophy, and Theology?

Below are a few interesting excerpts from Counseling in Context, written by David Atkinson and Francis Bridger, the latter of whom is the proff for my class, Ethics of Pastoral Care and Counseling.

Is it legitimate to use the term ‘Christian counseling’, over and against counseling in general? Should we speak simply of ‘counseling by Christians’ which lays the emphasis upon the distinctiveness of the counselor rather than the process or context of the counseling? Or should we speak of ‘counseling in a Christian context’? (p. 23)

Are psychology and theology to be regarded as friends or enemies? Should they operate as alliance or antithesis? (p. 42)

Our starting point must be to acknowledge that the theological and philosophical context in which counseling takes place is rarely made explicit. Few counselors receive either theological or philosophical training and although some leading counseling theorists have recognized that mere therapeutic technique is not enough, at the day to day clinical level, most counselors operate without looking at their presuppositions at all. Counseling is perceived as dealing with real people in the real world with real problems. Theology and philosophy are perceives as dealing with high-flown abstractions. We shall try to show that far from being irrelevant to counseling, philosophy and theology are essential. (p. 53)


Moral Authority?

Today in class, we were talking about, among other things, the loss of moral authority that modernity took from the powers that be; society, government, church, etc…

I wonder, did modernity take the authority from the powers, from the church in particular; or did the church forfeit its authority even before the enlightment?

If it is the latter, have we done anything to earn the authority back?

Should we even want the authority back?

Don’t misunderstand me. I do believe that God is the absolute authority over everything…but the church…I don’t know if it should have or want any authority. Which should not be misconstrued as me saying unequivocally I don’t think it should or does have moral authority. I am simply asking questions.

What do you think?
Does the church have moral authority?
Should the church have moral authority?


Notes on Suffering

I try to continually integrate my classes with my personal spiritual growth, the ongoing conversation that is my Christianity. Sometimes I’m successful, and sometimes not.

In class today we were considering the theological answers to the “why me, God?” question, and in doing so I had an awesome awareness of the presence of the Holy Spirit. The non-answer according to Dr. Bridger lies first and foremost in the cross, and it was here, reflecting on what happened on Calvary, that that which is wholly other, the Holy Spirit, manifested himself in a beautiful way.

I said "non-answer" above because for the person that is suffering, there is no good answer to the "why me?" question that you or I can provide. All our theology, valid as it may (or may not) be, will only melt at best, and may cause great harm for the person who is at the preverbal end of their rope. (though this is not to say that the counselor should not have a theology of suffering)

Only the Holy Spirit can speak into horendous circumstances, and though He may use you or I to do so, the "peace that passes all understanding" comes only from Him.

Side note: What is the one who perpetually suffers to do with the praise songs that tend to dominate many church services? I believe that worship leaders need to reengage the laments found in the Psalms. We are supposed to both cry with those that are suffering and laugh with those that laugh, but it seems that we usually have a lot more of the latter, at the expense of the former.


Ethics of Counseling

My last class of the summer is here, and will occupy my mornings (8am-12pm) for the next two weeks. It’s entitled Ethics of Pastoral Care and Counseling, and so far I’m loving it. It is taught by a Dr. Francis Bridger, an excellent professor who insists on being called Francis.

The course description reads thus:

This course is designed for those who wish to become more effective pastoral practitioners. It aims:

• to enable students to bring together theological and counseling insights from a practitioner perspective.

• to address such topics as: the nature of pastoral care; the importance of ethics for effective pastoral care and counseling; the counselor as ethicist; issues in the professional ethics of counseling; learning from codes and guidelines of churches and professional counseling organizations; developing frameworks for Christian ethical practice; ethical problem-solving.

• to develop practical skills in pastoral casework from an ethical standpoint.


Fundamentalism, what would we be without it?

Are you a Fundy (fundamentalist) hater, or a Fundy lover?

Regardless of your oponion, you will probably appreciate one of the
assigned readings from my church history class. It gives a great commentary on Fundamentalism, Evangelicals, Fuller Seminary, and our current setting. Incendently it also communicates the direction I am going in. Hope you will check it out, it’s by some guy named Rich. ; )


Our Sometimes Christian Heritage

(Note: this post has been edited a few times since it's origional posting, sorry for any confusion regular readers)

Some thoughts from my American Church/Religion History class.

Did we ever have a Christian nation?

Depends on how you define Christian. The morals people lived by, kind of Christian, (if you ignore that whole slavery thing) The theology they professed, also kind of Christian; again it depends on who you ask, the average Joe in the shop or field, or the intellectual’s at the Continental Congress. One thing is for sure, you can’t say that everyone believed one thing, or were even Christian, there were a plethora of opinions and beliefs well before 1787 when the constitution was written.

However, by and large the history of our morals are Christian-Judeo, something which didn't start to significantly change untill recently. BUT, we routinely get off track, especially in the area of social justice (which should include a pro-life stance), and particularly race relations.

Here is the ironic part.

The people that tend proclaim the fact that we were a Christian nation (mostly evangelicals), also have a pretty narrow view of what constitutes a Christian. (I’m not saying this is bad…or good, that’s another post)

Clearly, far from all of the founding fathers would fit an evangelical definition of Christian.

Now considering the fact that few evangelicals want to be known as ecumenical, it’s pretty ironic that they gravitate toward our sometimes deist founding fathers, and others who were hardly evangelical.

What ever we used to be, Christian or not, we aren't now; and were not going to be by passing laws that require people to act in a manner they do not believe.

(though we do need to pass laws that protect people that may be infringed on, or other wise harmed, which is why I support affirmative action, pro-life, and some environmental laws)


My Father

I have such a cool Dad. He simultaneously challenges my thinking theologicaly and otherwise, yet supports me 100%. I know not everyone is blessed with a Father like this, so I am very thankful that I have him in my life! Check out his comment on my A Blender of And’s post. And while your at it say a prayer for him, your dad, and fathers everywhere.

Dad said...
From my early years in high school, then Christian college, then Christian schools, I have been working throughout my life with Christians from many different Christian denominations. What I have always appreciated is not what church someone attends, but where they are with Christ, and where they are going with Christ. What a blessing to find brothers and sisters all over this globe who are experiencing a daily, warm relationship with their Lord. This is a great blessing!



I bought a motorized scooter a couple of days ago, (click here to see it) not one you sit on, but the kick type you stand on…except you don’t kick, it’s motorized. It’s definitely a toy, but I have my excuses. One, I don’t have a car, so spending a bit on this thing pails in comparison to a vehicle. Second, riding my bike was resulting in a sweaty, stinky student, and with this internship requiring me to interview various community leaders, I figured this would make everyone a lot happier. And of course it is slightly faster, allowing me to go farther. The fact that the bus does all of these things is beside the fact, besides, who wants to wait for the bus?

AND…Upon further reflection, I think it was an appropriate purchase to make on the 4th of July. It burns fossil fuels, (at a rate of roughly 55 miles to the gallon) and all I have to do is stand there and do nothing…now what is more American than that.


My America My World

bold the states you've been to, underline the states you've lived in and italicize the state you're in now...

Alabama / Alaska / Arizona / Arkansas / California / Colorado / Connecticut / Delaware / Florida / Georgia / Hawaii / Idaho / Illinois / Indiana / Iowa / Kansas / Kentucky / Louisiana / Maine / Maryland / Massachusetts / Michigan / Minnesota / Mississippi / Missouri / Montana / Nebraska / Nevada / New Hampshire / New Jersey / New Mexico / New York / North Carolina / North Dakota / Ohio / Oklahoma / Oregon / Pennsylvania / Rhode Island / South Carolina / South Dakota / Tennessee / Texas / Utah / Vermont / Virginia / Washington / West Virginia / Wisconsin / Wyoming / Washington D.C. /

HERE to have a form generate the HTML for you.

And the nations I've visited: Jamaica, Mexico, Bahamas, Canada, Belize


Political Boxes

This being the 4th of July, I suppose it’s as good a day as any to say why I don’t get into politics here at Swimming in the Deep End. Our founding fathers quickly discovered they had some deep differences on many issues, however, this did not stop them from uniting to fight for a common cause.

I have met people that clearly have a close relationship with Jesus that are: “green”, “corporate”, Catholic, Protestant, “Red” and “Blue”, to name just a few of the “boxes” we put people in. Some great people I know think Bush is an immoral liar, others a mistaken blundering idiot, and some, one of our greatest presidents.

In the past, (before I started blogging) I did pen and send some politically oriented apologies, most of them in defense of the “right”. However after a time I realized that when I was defending Republicans I was fighting against issues I cared about…not that I could become a Democrat, I would still have the same problem.

The value of “community” is one of the reasons I have recently shied away from political engagement. For many, these two things: political engagement and their relationship with fellow Christians and Christ, are not in conflict. They have no problem engaging in X controversy, and symultaniously growing closer to Christ, and community. Which is good, I wouldn’t want them to stop; I have to assume that that is where God wants them. However, for me, “community” includes people of many different shades and colors, including “the Left” and “the Right”, and it is in that community that I grow closer to Jesus.

Don’t misunderstand me, I do have convictions and act on them, but unfortunately, if I put my political ideology out front, some people will immediately tune me out, which serves neither of our purposes. I am not suggesting one should compromise their political or theological convictions. However, I am suggesting that there are a few ideas that are more important, and, that quite possibly, something besides “right thinking” could unite us. Could that thing be “right living”?

A Blender of "And's"

Dr. Mouw, the president of Fuller Seminary, recently published an article which I really liked in the campus newspaper here at Fuller. The title, The Importance of “And”, sums up one of the directions I have been moving in. Below are some excerpts.

“In a recent casual conversation one of our veteran Fuller trustees was making a point about two things that he considered to be relevant to the subject at hand. He started his sentence by emphasizing one of the items he was concerned about, and then went on to make his next point by using the word “but.” He stopped, however, in mid-sentence. “I have to keep remembering something that David Hubband taught us.” He said. “When you are intending to emphasize two important things, try to connect them with ‘and’ rather than ‘but.’”

I was glad for the reminder, because I often find myself saying “but” when I should be saying “and.” David Allan Hubbard-my distinguished predecessor in the Fuller presidency and a mentor who taught me many good lessons-wanted Fuller Seminary to posit smooth connections between things that evangelicals often see as being in tension, or even in direct conflict.

I remember his key examples. At Fuller he would say, we are both evangelical and ecumenical, we encourage learning and spirituality, and we promote evangelicalism and social action. When we use “but” instead of “and” in talking about the relationships between such items we run the risk of fragmenting what in God’s mind is clearly integrated.”

This past year I have been playing with a jigsaw puzzle of theology, spirituality, philosophy, worship, and culture, trying to put as much of it together as possible. Mouw’s words help me sum up in part what I want to see happen. However, at times, even the word “and” dose not do justice to the junctions I would like to create. I wish there was a word that summed up the five things I listed above, because that’s how I see them. If you put theology, spirituality, philosophy, worship and culture in a blender, the thing poured out is what I really get excited about.