Training in Righteousness
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Nothing like a good argument

My school year came to an end yesterday when I clicked on "send," emailing my prof my term paper on abortion. Following my final exam in Systematic Theology on Thursday, I basically lived with this term paper. I had all the research, but it was a task to sort through everything and crank out fifteen pages. I felt a weight lift, and following that, we took the dogs out for a walk in the orchard to celebrate. I felt a little giddy, wondering what I should read first. For the next few days, I have to clean up a house which has been much neglected and then, I head home to the west for a celebration and to soak up the big sky. There is something restful and soothing about returning to our roots.

I have looked back at what I have learned this year, and I think the most significant thing is the fact that argumentation skills are lacking; in my own life and from others. Every week in theology and ethics, I had to prepare reflections that demanded sound argumentation. There was no room for emotional appeals, and that was often hard in ethics. The prof was looking for sound arguments. It was a challenge, because I do tend to be an emotional person, and having to argue dispassionately is work for me. But I am seeing the absolute necessity of it.

In order to prepare for my research paper, which was on the justifiability of abortion (or, in the case of my thesis, the lack of it), I read Peter Kreeft's highly entertaining book The Unaborted Socrates. This book presents the return of Socrates to modern times to debate abortion with a doctor, a philosopher, and a psychologist. Being Socrates, or course, he uses Socratic dialogue to debate the issues. As he simply asks questions, he frequently leads his opponent to see the contradictions or discrepancies of their arguments. In the course of his dialogues, he keeps after his opponent to keep on topic, and not skirt the issue by bringing in matters that detract from the argument. As I read the book, I realized how often my own arguments are less a focus on the issue and more my own personal feelings or misunderstandings of an issue. It was a very helpful book not only for understanding the issues around the abortion debate, but for pursuing solid argumentation with everything.

I will share one of my favourite exchanges. In the course of discussing what makes a person a person, essence or functionality, Socrates's opponent, Herrod, comments:

Herrod: Wait a minute! Are you saying a fetus is a person just because it is a potential person?

Socrates: No.

Herrod: I should hope not, because if so, then a single spermatazoon or a single ovum is also a person, and spermicide becomes homicide. In fact, even the primordial slime that evolved into us during ten million years or so is a potential person, and slime-killing becomes murder.

Socrates: Ah, yes. Our Father Slime. I found it a fascinating experience to read your science library and meet your new gods. A real advance upon ours. We thought ourselves to be bastards of the gods above in our foolishness, rather than legitimate children of the slime below. We knew so very little about the true gods, it seems.

I confess to enjoying discussion that may involve a little debate, but I know that I don't always have the best argumentation skills. I'm beginning to learn, even if it is late in life. It is interesting, because now that I have had to confront my own skills, I am beginning to recognize bad argumentation in others. And there is a lot of it out there.

Now that school is done, I've got some reading planned. I'm starting with the book Knowing God and Ourselves. I picked up a used two-volume edition of the Battles/McNeill edition of the Institutes, and I am going to endeavour to read as much as I can of it over the summer. In addition to continuing to read Canadian fiction and non-fiction, I am starting right away with a book on baptism written by my prof and Sinclair Ferguson's Devoted to God. I plan on studying I Corinthians over the summer, along with Anthony Thiselton's commentary. I don't know how much I'll get read, because it is summer, and spending time in the outdoors and with other creative pursuits is something else I have planned. I shall be ready and able to meet in September with Greek Elements I and Church History I.


And then comes the letdown

It has been my intention to spend less time here talking about personal matters; being less "transparent" if you will. However, this has been on my mind.

A number of years ago, my husband and I spent some time helping out at a Christian camp. It was in the final week of the official season, and we were there for the last staff meeting. The camp director had a word for those young people who had spent their entire summer serving there. He cautioned them about the letdown which would ensue after having spent an intense six weeks with the same people. We often come away from a time of service fo God on a high note, and when life goes back inevitably to the normal routine, it can make one feel a little down. I have a little bit of that feeling already, knowing that yesterday was my last trip home from school until September. I drove home in a cold, driving rain, feeling a little flat.

Since September, I have spent a lot of time with the same people.  Some of those in my Systematic Theology class are also in my Moral Theology class, so there was always a lot to talk about week by week. I love to talk theology, and having a room full of others who share that love was a great experience. I will miss those conversations. I don't have a lot of people in my life who like to do that.

I find that among most Christian women of my acquaintance, there is not a similar love. I have a couple of friends who like to do so, but most of them don't. Spiritual conversations mostly revolve around personal issues of sanctification, daily life, and more practical matters. And we need those conversations. But most of the female friends I have don't want to spend time talking about the reasons for or against a pretribulational return of Christ. And if I suggested that I had any desire to do so, I may be labelled as one who does not take Scripture seriously. Nor is there a desire to understand the fine points of justification, what it actually means to say that something is a means of grace, or what Lutherans mean when they say Christ is "under" the sacraments. I find those things fascinating. I found the notion of that an evangelical believes in purgatory fascinating. And it was so enjoyable to have others around me who felt the same.

Having a community to talk about such things was something I realized I was missing. While I do have online friends, there is nothing online like the community I experienced this past school year. One thing has become glaringly apparent to me over the past four months: I don't fit in with the little pockets of female Christian fellowship I see on my social media feeds. I don't always agree with everything the female leaders say, and that earns me an automatic place outside of the circle. 

I have a busy summer ahead. I wanted to take a summer course, and there were some good ones available, but my son is getting married, and I have home projects to tackle. I have a healthy reading list waiting for me, and I hope to get my puppy walking on a leash with a lot more manners than he currently has. But I will miss that community. I don't expect to find it online anymore. At one time, I did, but not any longer. That is a letdown, too. Things change; it is the normal course of life. One thing doesn't change, though: God wants me to know more about him, and I will keep on learning even if it is in a more solitary venue. God is good, and the letdown will pass.


Thirty years gone by, just like that

Thirty years ago today, I awoke to face the excitement of my wedding day. And it was exciting. And it was a beautiful, sunny day in April. We had wedding photos at the Royal Botanical Gardens, among red and yellow tulips and white birch trees. I was a young woman, with no idea of how marriage actually worked. It is a steep learning curve for every couple. I have found that the only thing more difficult than marriage is parenting. But there are moments -- many moments -- of blessing.  

Instead of waking up to the excitement of a wedding today, I woke up with plans to study all day and work on my term paper. I never imagined I would be here, a seminary student. I actually thought I would have grandchildren at this point, but that has not happened yet. And I'm actually kind of glad about that. Grandchildren will be welcomed, loved, and cherished when they come, but right now, I'm enjoying this season of student-hood. I love school. I love being able to talk about my school in a way that means a lot to me. And I'm learning so much about who God is. I am thankful for my husband's support of what I am doing.

Tonight, we will enjoy a dinner at one of my favourite restaurants, an old school house re-done. Then, hopefully, we will enjoy watching the Montreal Canadiens win again over the New York Rangers. We are not complicated people, and celebrating in this way is just perfect. My husband has the day off, so he is on puppy duty today so that I can work in peace.

Thirty years is a long time to be married. I always figure that I must have acquired some kind of profound knowledge at this point, but honestly, it has gone by so fast, there are times when I don't know exactly what I have learned. There are times when I think that all of the marriage books, conferences, and advice that floats around the internet is not always good for marriage. My husband and I joke with people that we don't attend marriage conferences (we have never attended one) because we don't want to be told what marriage problems we have or be given new ones. My husband is a wise man, and there are times when he has pointed out to me that the solution to conflict and dissent is simply loving each other as we want to be loved and being less selfish. Sometimes, all the talking in the world won't make that happen. It's a matter of our will and dependence on the Holy Spirit. Often, the times when my attitude is the worst is when I am most removed from God's Word.

There are couples in my church who are celebrating 60+ years of marriage. Will there be 30 more years for my husband and me? I don't know. But I am thankful for the past 30, and it is hard to believe I have been married to someone for that long when inside myself, I still feel like a foolish 15 year old girl. Maybe that's a good feeling to have.


Behold Our God 

Who has held the oceans in his hands?
Who has numbered every grain of sand?
Kings and nations tremble at his voice,
All creation rises to rejoice.


Behold our God,
Seated on His throne,
Come let us adore Him. 
Behold our King,
Nothing can compare,
Come let us adore Him.

Who has given counsel to the Lord?
Who can question any of his words?
Who can teach the one who knows all things?
Who can fathom all His wondrous deeds?

Who has felt the nails upon his hands,
Bearing all the weight of sinful man? 
God, eternal, humbled to the grave,
Jesus, Saviour, risen now to reign!


Men: You will reign forever!
Women: Let your glory fill the earth! 


Easter with Eschatology

It's crunch time at school. It's unfortunate that the end of the semester is running into Easter, because I'm sure most students at my school are feeling the pressure, and sometimes, that distracts us from what's happening around us.

In my systematic theology class this week, I've been immersed in eschatology. It is intereting to be looking at the culmination of God's plan and the end of the age while being in the middle of Easter. And yet, it is rather fitting in some ways. The death and resurrection of Christ is what allows the end to be what it is promised for those who believe. Revelation 21:1-4 says:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth pased awy, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and he will dwell anong them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself with be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.

We can't have what is depicted here apart from what happens on Good Friday. So, while it seems out of sync to be studying eschatology during Easter, it is a reminder of what it ultimately bought: our entrance into a new heaven and a new earth.

Today, at Out of the Ordinary, Becky is writing about the death of Jesus. It was just what I needed this morning. It reminds me of what was done for me so that I may partake of the new heaven and the new earth.