Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Reformed vs. Charismatic: Some Quick Thoughts

I've been lightly following the discussion in the blogosphere between cessationist and continualist/charismatics. It's interesting to me because I came out of the charismatic tradition into the reformed camp, so I think I have a interesting perspective on the whole subject.

First, it strikes me as odd that being reformed is limited to the view that God is sovereign and believing in TULIP. There is so much more to the reformed position that I haven't seen expressed. Such as, being confessional. To me you can't call yourself "reformed" unless you hold to one of the historic protestant confessions like the Westminster Confession or the Belgic Confession. A person might not hold to every point in their particular confession, but realize the importance of confessioning what one believes. Another point missing is the means of grace. Historically protestants believed that the Holy Spirit operates within the means of grace: Word and Sacrament. But you don't hear the importance of that with Reformed Charismatics.

Second, it doesn't seem clear to me whether continualist are debating about particular gifts of the Spirit, such as what Grudam explains in his systematic theology, or is it the work of the Holy Spirit that has cessed? The reason why I asked this question is because if its the latter than of course you have a red herring fallacy. It seems to me the view is reformed churches in general don't experience the presence of God. So now the 'reformed' believers that want to stay reformed, but have a personal experience with God want to find the 'middle ground.'

This leads me to my final point. Did the Reformed-Charismatics forget the historical Reformed view of the work of the Holy Spirit within the Church and within the believer? Because it is one thing to say that you want a personal experience with God, but it is another thing to say that experience has to be tongues and prophecy.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: A Book Review

One of the pleasures (and also frustrations) is to compare a book with the movie version. It’s a pleasure because you look for those exciting markers in the movie that made the book so good. So, I set out to read the fourth book in the Potter’s series The Goblet of Fire before I venture to see the movie. So far I have enjoyed all the Potter movies, and book series (at least the books I've read). But, I heard that this particular book/ movie is a bit darker than the previous three movies. So I wanted to check this out myself. I found out that it is a darker story then the other three books, but there is an important reason why.

In the Goblet of Fire, you have the same cast of characters, but there is a definite edginess to the book that was not there in book one; it is Death. Death is real and palpable in this book. Rowlings introduces the theme of death in the first chapter with the unfortunate killing of a hapless muggle (a non-witch or wizard) and ends the book with the death of an innocent Hogwart student. She interwove this theme subtly through out the book by names like the Death Eaters, and how dangerous the even a Triwizard tournament can be. Previous books had characters that died, but death wasn’t in the foreground and holds such a major part of the plot.

J.K. Rowlings’ writing is fluid, yet descriptive. She has the ability to describe settings and surrounds, and character emotions in a crisp way that doesn’t allow the reader to get bogged down in minutia. For example, during the different Triwizard Tournament tasks, Rowlings active prose places you right in the middle of the action drawing layers upon layers of imagery to propel the reader along almost effortlessly.

Because she uses such a heavy theme as death, you could say that this book is Harry’s coming of age Book. By the end of the book you see Harry grow in maturity and depth that is heart warning and sad at the same time. The adolescent angst that is so typical of most light teen fair is offset by a dose of reality that is all to real. Death is real. It is painful, and The Goblet of Fire does not hide that fact, and shows through the adventures of a teenage wizard, a painful lesson we all learn in real life.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A Small Incident

Frustration can be summed up in the on-going tug-of-war between children and parents. As a single father of three, at times this tug-of-war seems like a losing battle. I’m constantly on them to pick up this, straighten out that, or think about somebody else beside themselves. It is an ongoing effort to correct, teach, and sometime just maintain normalcy.

You never know, when that time will come where something you have taught your children will come to fruition. A lot of times those little moments come and go and we don’t notice them. They pass before us like the vapors of breath on a cold morning. We know something just happened, but in the whirlwind of life and routine that moment evaporates among the confusion and chaos of ordinary home life. But recently I was able to capture one of these moments with my son, where a change in his attitude showed something was getting through.

Nobody likes to get stuck in a bathroom with no toilet paper. Children, for some reason, think toilet paper appears on the dispenser like Christmas gifts under a tree. Sometimes they want to use it up as quickly as possible to glimpse the magical change from empty to full. My children are no exception. They will leave an empty cardboard role on the dispenser and expectedly wait for the toilet paper fairy, which is me, to place a full role. So that the next trip to the bathroom the process starts all over, again.

But I wanted to change the children’s attitudes from passively expecting to actively participating. So that meant they will change the empty role of toilet paper. Some parents, might think that this is minor and inconsequential; an ‘empty role-smole,’ who cares! But it’s the small things in life that sometimes have the biggest effect.

Recently, I spied an empty toilet paper role in one of the bathrooms, in which I know the culprit had just minutes before left the throne room with book in hand. “Eh, come change this toilet paper!” I let lose. For the toilet paper fairy is dead, I thought. This time no lectures followed noting how my son could help me with the household chores and basic maintenance. Or the speech of how “your part of the fabric of the family,” and “your role is as important as mine, son!” Cosby would be proud. But this time there was none of that; quick action was expected.

So I thought nothing more of it, just another incident in time. But the next thing I know my son is tells me we need more toilet paper. I’m thinking, okay I need to add that to the never-ending list of things to pick up for WalMart. “Dad, I’ve put two extra roles in your bathroom and two in ours,” my son tells me.

“Two extra roles?” I asked.
“Yeah, I took the rest out and replaced both bathrooms,” my son said. Then the moment hit me. As I thanked my son, I realized that he is getting a little more mature. Not only did he replace the empty role in the bathroom he used, but also he replenished both bathrooms! He took it upon himself to show a little bit more responsibility and care. My son was growing up and his awareness increase that day. Was he aware of this change? Probably not, but I was.

This time the vapor appeared, and I saw it briefly. It shimmered for a moment, as I sat and contemplated what just happened. I did not have to tell my son what to do; he did it himself. No poking or prodding from Father. I realized the process is working, slowly but surely it’s working. My child didn’t selflessly place his life on the line that day, nor did he win the Nobel Peace prize, but he did take on a little bit more responsibility than he had yesterday. I was blessed to notice that moment and see the beautiful process continue to unfold in our lives.