Thursday, December 27, 2007
But the day after Christmas, December 26, is about us. SALE!! The guy at GAP yesterday said he got to work late--6:15AM. He had to park halfway back in the lot because of the long lines of new anticipation: SALE!!
Maybe many have the karma-dream that since they gave so much at Christmas they deserve to receive the day after Christmas.
By what a hypocrite am I! I only caught onto this little irony because Jonalyn and I went shopping at the mall. We needed to stock up on needed wares to return to our mountain town. And suddenly we got sucked into the mall sprawl. I even had to signal traffic on foot to help Jonalyn back out of our space. There cars vied for the spot.
Only in America.
Sunday, December 2, 2007
It is evident that student leaders are living with questions that are hot and personal. Some engaged us in private conversations about their doubts and continue to write us emails and meet us for "Ask! LIVE"--our Wed private chat session at www.soulation.org.
Thanks to Google Alert technology, we found Redwood Christian Schools student page that mentioned the event with pictures (excerpt):
Speakers Dale and Jonalyn Fincher of "Soulation" were the speakers and did a fabulous job at that! Students were given tools to use in a world that is unsaved. Devotions and fellowship helped to bring students together in an effort to prepare them the questions the "world" will ask.
In the Spring, we will be visiting some of the schools represented at the Leadership Conference for Spiritual Emphasis weeks for their student bodies, covering some of the themes they heard this weekend. Encouraged students want to be challenged on the hard questions, we are eager for the reuninons.
Friday, November 30, 2007
After this talk, a woman approached me, saying I need to write my ideas and message to teens. A few minutes later she connected me to a gentleman in that audience which led to Jonalyn and me signing on with our literary agent. This talk was the catalyst that made Living with Questions a reality. All because someone believed in me and started the dominoes which put my book now in the hands of teens.
So here's a little history I want to share with you.... And it's only 9 minutes long which is quicker than you can sip your latte. ;-)
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
After reflecting in her blog on the freebies given at the Atlanta National Youth Workers Convention, she gives an ever so brief review of my book that made my day:
Living with Questions by Dale Fincher (YS/Invert)–I love this book. It’s a new take on Christian “apologetics”, but it’s not lame. I think Fincher’s on to something here and I hope to read more stuff by him.This made my day, not because she liked my book, but because she *got* what I was aiming at. One target was to be "not lame." Yes, cuting out the cheese factor was a must. But also this is a new way to do apologetics: personal, conversational, breaking down hard concepts into coffee able talk that are meaningful, imaginative, emotional and just makes sense. At least to me.
Amy, thanks for "getting it"!
As Christmas approaches, consider stuffing a stocking with Living with Questions and then engage in some after Christmas discussion on Him who sets us free.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
When we open ourselves up to others, whether present in person or present in print, we risk confrontation. Dillard caught me carelessly unguarded when she finished her chapter with an unexpected flare of words.
The impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.
I have a penetrating fear, deep down, that if I share some of my deeper passions and ideas, the things I have mistakenly tied up with my identity, things brewing in me for my next book project, that they will be taken or exploited. I have a fear that what is bubbling out of me will be stolen. It isn't irrational, because I've seen it before--in my life, in others'.
The love that Jesus poured out flowed all the way to the cross. His love allowed exploitation. He reached for people to give them sight, knowledge, the Way to the Father.
My fear keeps that love from flowing.
A friend at church raise a question the other day, "What is the opposite of love?" he asked. I don't think 'hate.' Hate is too passionate to be the opposite; the question required a less obvious answer.
"What do you think?" I responded.
"Fear," he said.
Then another friend, a retired public school teacher, said something to me as I left the church house. "If you want to get someone done, don't expect to take credit for it."
Do you think God whispers through community? You betcha. Drop your guard and he'll stare your fear in the face.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
While I don't think the plight is as problematic as our statistically based alarmism shows, we are running on old models of what American teens want and need and how to reach them. They are exploring questions of truth and meaning, reading Nietzsche and Sartre, inoculated on music and video games, and they are not getting answers (nor are many of their youth workers equipped to offer them).
I believe more than ever, we need to start taking teen questions seriously. With a vacuum of literature that honesty address their questions on their level, we need to be sharing what IS available.
Evangelicals have limited our social justice issues to economic issues. We often overlook the soulish suffering and the preventative care that keeps kids of the street and engaged in healthy community. Legitimizing and helping them to live with questions is a place to start.
Monday, November 5, 2007
"Fuller Seminary has launched a three-year study to determine why so many college students are leaving the Church. It is estimated between 65% and 94% of high school students stop attending after they graduate. The struggles students were found to have when making the shift into college were related to friendships or lack thereof, being alone for the first time, and having a desire to find a faith. 'Whether it was with the youth group overall or with a specific adult leader, students who had the opportunity to struggle with tough questions and pain during high school seemed to have a healthier transition into college life,' states Kara Powell, Center for Youth and Family Ministry.
Youth groups are leaving out preparations to help students make a successful transition."
I wrote Living with Questions primarily with the student in mind, to help him or her not only find some peace with the questions that haunt them but also to equip them to be leaders as they become adults.
But youth leaders and workers need to have the vision to make the impact.
Living with Questions is available through Amazon or your local bookstore.
Friday, November 2, 2007
With this issue, we've created a new podcast as well--the first of its kind and I'm excited about it! Let me know what you think.
To listen, go here.
To read, go here.
To subscribe to fledge (issued bi-monthly), go here.
Some Christian Pastors Embrace Scientology
Just like my post about the statues of St Joseph, modern man is growing more comfortable with having foreign gods in his house. The sheer incoherence about religion in the 'scientific' age is no surprise with the so-called death of God. "Simply enjoy your flavor of religion. I'll enjoy mine," so it goes.
Yet let's have some perspective on a slice of this. If Scientology has discovered some things that are true about the world, then does that make that truth false? If your enemy invented a better way to garden with the introduction of the shovel, does that mean you should shun all shovels?
The longstanding tradition of Natural Law is something friendly and even developed by Christianity centuries ago. The book of nature is a book laid open for all humans to read. It isn't as though the only truths we can find in the world are found in Holy Books. "The Bible may teach us to feed the poor," quipped C. S. Lewis, "but it doesn't teach us how to cook!" And the church father said it rightly when he noted, "Wherever truth is, it is the Lord's." And it is a good reminder for us to tread humbly.
The article isn't particular regarding which practices of Scientology are being taught. They could very well be a common-sense approach toward recovery. I don't know. What I do know is that it isn't automatically bad because Scientology wrote it down.
What troubles me is that these Christian pastors think they need to keep the Scientology label, pretending Scientology is the creator of those truths (if they are true afterall). This kind of labeling is the deception. And inviting people into the Scientology community (one that is no friend to Jesus and his Way) is irresponsible.
That is like inviting your enemy to be your roommate just because you bought his shovel.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
In many of today's churches, skeptics will enter and not find out what Christians do. They will find something strangely different.
They will find how Christians do church when they are catering to skeptics.
How is a skeptic ever to find out what Christians really do with this approach? How many will find this hypocritical and even religiously disgusting? How many will feel duped when they find out the entire service was built for them to feel more comfortable about coming?
If you were a skeptic what would you be looking for?
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Because the housing market is in a slump across the nation, some people are employing some pretty drastic measures to sell their homes. The WSJ article says people are buying statues of St Joseph (the step-dad of Jesus) because he's the patron saint of home-related matters--he was a carpenter after all!
They buy these statues, bury them upside down, sell their homes, and then (if they remember) dig up the statues again to place in their new homes. This is the ritual.
If one or two people were doing this, it wouldn't be newsworthy. But these St Joseph statues are flying off the shelves as Real Estate Kits!
Is Your House Not Selling?
St Joseph Statue Home Sales Kit.
The opening story in the article tells of a Jewish woman who is a practicing Buddhist and a discouraged home seller. So she added a Christian statue to her yard for good luck.
This attitude is very present everywhere we travel. When it comes to religion, in general, Americans want what they want. Otherwise, they'll employ drastic measures.
St Joseph's views of God are very different than the Buddhists. Joseph would say there is a God to pray too. Buddhists would not. Joseph would say that Jesus really is the world's hope. Buddhism would say Jesus is one way, but only if he's a way compatible with Buddhism. Joseph would say that you matter as an individual. Buddhism would say that, in reality, there are no individuals that can matter.
With all the science we claim to have today, polytheism (the belief there is more than one god) is growing rapidly. And this does not surprise me as the value of common sense is replaced with superstition.
People are afraid. People want results.
A question I often hear is 'how on earth can the ancient Israelites be so gullible to run after other gods.
When Israel wanted something and couldn't get it out of Jehovah the way they liked, they found another god fill their order. This is exactly what prompted Baal worship--he was a fertility god and Israelites really, really wanted babies. So instead of trusting, they became polytheists.
This is the same thing that happened in with the church in Ephesus. Read 1 Timothy and you get a whole polemic against the goddess, Artemis (though her name is never mentioned). She was the goddess of unapproachable light and the savior of child bearing. Paul writes Timothy and says in chapter 6 that God is the immortal one of unapproachable light (not Artemis) and that God will save in childbearing (not Artemis).
The problem with following after other gods is no different yesterday as it is today.
Yet don't we want to base our lives on is something real?
Do we really want to pull out the latest trendy rabbit's foot, pretend that it is a REAL comfort, and then live our lives on trinkets buried in our yards, hung from our rearview mirrors, or worn around our necks.
Trinkets, no matter how we play with them, will never give us what we want.
Only a God who is there can do that.
Paul had it right. There is a better way.
Friday, October 19, 2007
This summer we hit the famed Rubicon Trail near Lake Tahoe. JPFreek published my story and pictures on the adventure. You can download the PDF subscription for free. Click here.
Then go to page 44.
(Dial-up, beware.... it's a big download. But worth it!)
Earlier this year, Douglas Wilson (Christian) and Christopher Hitchens (Atheist) exchanged responses to one another in Christianity Today under this question: Is Christianity Good for the World?
If you are up to reading this six-part exchange, none of which is too long (I read it all in one sitting), here are a few observations I made you can look for.
- Christopher Hitchens and Douglas Wilson know their material and represent their various perspectives well. This isn't a mismatched dialog, like we have seen in recent debates with 'new' atheists.
- Hitchens is promoting the 'new' atheism on the block with his recently released and bestselling book, God is Not Great. I find it interesting that 'new' atheism is using the same arguments and assumptions as 'old' atheism (empiricism and a strict atomic story).
- Hitchens often dodges the point until his position becomes so weakened that he must address it. And in addressing it, he simply announces it ad hoc (that is, the world is just so without a need to give a reason).
- Hitchens, by the end, leaves the reader with a good perspective on 'new' atheism to wrestle with.
- Even though many atheists are telling us the 'argument from morality' for God's existence isn't a good argument, Wilson uses it first and Hitchens has a hard time with it. Then Wilson moves to the 'argument from reason' and again advances the Christian side as being more reasonable as Hitchens cannot offer a solid reply.
- Douglas Wilson gives a fine example of whimsical and thoughtful replies to the opposition. While I could have thought of a few philosophers who could have replied Hitchens much more exactingly, Wilson brings in a breath of fresh imagination into such a dialog which many apologists would do well to note.
- Wilson brings to the table a reformed theological perspective which, sometimes, weakens his argument. His closing remarks in part 6, though nicely written, feel forced and unnecessary. It is so poetically written, it loses accuracy and impact. But you'll have to decide that yourself as reader.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Once to the top the falls, we jumped stones and boulders and crossed a fallen tree. It was quiet but for the movement of water. The autumn leaves still glowed. Mossy rocks bordered the creek.
We took in a few moments of meditation.
And then home again as the sun dipped into the valley.
Okay, so my book was released in early August. If you've read it, you'll know how I talk about marketing in the first chapter and how consumer businesses play "Jedi Mind Tricks" on us to get us to buy. I hadn't yet seen anybody talk about marketing in this way--until today.
We use Vertical Response for Soulation emails. As part of their new integration program for customers to reach customers, they add this little paragraph:
Ever wished you could read peoples’ minds? Contrary to some reports, VerticalResponse staffers aren’t (yet) able to share their mind-reading superpowers. However, our latest integration with Google Analytics is a step in the right direction toward mastering Jedi mind tricks for email marketing, without needing seven years of training.Well, doesn't that just confirm what we've known all along?! Part of marketing is not just to make us aware of products (I wish that's all it was). Rather, it is also designed to build corporate business by putting hard-earned money into the pockets of businesses for things we never knew we wanted but are made to feel we need to make life a little more meaningful.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
New York Times article.
The article describes the boy in this way:
Several students said the shooter was called “Jack Black” by others because he resembled the actor in the movie “The School of Rock,” and was a bit loud like the actor. He favored Goth fashions, they said, and he walked with a bit of a limp that some kids made fun of. Earlier in the week, some of them said, he had gotten into a fight with another student, over whether or not there was a god, and both had been suspended.
There are many difference sides to this story that will unfold in the following days. No doubt what was spurred at Columbine is being repeated again and again. Cleveland weeps today. Thankfully, apart from the gunman, nobody else was killed.
What immediately came into my head when I first read this was why the boy was suspended in the first place: "He had gotten into a fight with another student, over whether or not there was a god."
This does not surprise me. With all the hype about teen development today and parenting and everything else, few are addressing students in the deeper areas of questions they are asking, especially when it comes to God and God's purposes for this world. "Is God There?" is one of the popular questions I get on the road and forms one of the chapters in my book. We need to be addressing students where their questions are hottest and in ways they can understand. From there, maybe new vistas in their souls will open up and new conversations will be made. Maybe they will see the universe isn't empty.
Who knows yet the exact frustration in this gunman's soul or what his home was like. But what we can see is that even at 14, he's sophisticated enough to know and understand that the world is complex and often difficult to deal with as you live with questions.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
If you want to know the need students are facing today and how my book Living with Questions helps address that need, listen here: Living with Questions (mp3).
I also just found out this weekend that Living with Questions has started it's second printing! I'm stoked.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Given that I'm doing apologetics on the 'front-lines' every week through speaking, answer questions, writing books, and replying emails to the hottest issues of the day, the release of this Apologetics Study Bible was of keen interest to me. I wondered how they would tackle some of the objections I face on the street and with my own every growing list of questions.
Late yesterday afternoon, UPS delivered my pre-ordered Apologetics Study Bible from Amazon. This work has been many years in the making, having heard about it from J. P. Moreland while sitting in his class on consciousness. Moreland is one of the editors of the work. So is another friend of mine and former colleague, Paul Copan.
This Apologetics Study Bible is how theologians and philosophers defend the evangelical faith. It does not represent how thoughtful creatives, artists, or those in the humanities defend the faith. So expect from this work what it is offering. It doesn't follow the tradition of G. K. Chesterton or C. S. Lewis as it does Francis Schaeffer and Alvin Plantinga.
I've been thumbing all over the book since I received it--last night and this morning. I am pleased with the many notes and the honest evangelical scholarship throughout the work. And the articles highlighting various questions, helps the reader at least begin to think about some of the weightier questions people are facing today. For brevity, many of the articles hit the nerve of the controversy and the short answer to the question.
Most of the scholars in this book are professors and researchers and some of the best in their field on these particular topics. I would have liked to see some Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Orthodox and the like to also get a little representation-- like N.T. Wright). I would also have liked to see more women apologists represented, like Eleanor Stump and Nancy Pearcey. The names that are used to market the book like Colson, Zacharias, and Strobel have very little input in these pages. I would have like to seen a little more information and perspective of reaching some of the existential issues as well as practical ways to articulate. So much of my own work at Soulation is translating those abstract arguments into tangle ideas for the common-person to feed on. And my own work is to breath the life of metaphor and meaning into it.
There is only one article on the Trinity that I can find. This article by Douglas Blount (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) spells out how God can be three in one sense and one in another. After spelling this out (a bit unsatisfactory) there is no indication that I can find (yet) in the bible of the great significances of the Trinity... as an answer to deeper problems that every other religion in the world falters on.
My alma mater, Talbot School of Theology, is very well represented in these pages, including every philosopher I studied under while at Talbot.
J. P. Moreland has over 10 articles. Doug Geivett has one on religious experience. Garry DeWeese has one on knowledge. Scott Rae has three on ethical issues, including business and homosexuality.
Talbot's Dave Horner has an article on beauty which gives an ontological look at beauty, though I would have liked to see an entry as well on the role of imagination and metaphor as truth teller. (Yet evangelicals are not as good at that.)
There are many other familiar names in this volume: Arnold, Bock, Copan, Habermas, Craig, Dembski, Feinberg, Finley, Geisler, Groothuis, Hazen, Hultberg, Ware, and others.
The "scripture twisting" sections found in the text are especially helpful to show how aberrant versions of "Christianity" use those verses to mean things contrary to historical or exegetical thought.
Again, this study bible is an apologetic engagement from the conservative evangelical side, much of which is represented by the Baptist point of view. And within that, they have done a fair job balancing some views that are sometimes polarizing in evangelical discussions. Their discussion of origins (youth earth vs. old earth) is short but presents the major arguments of each, concluding that there has been too much heat in the debate and that both sides should continue to seek out evidence.
Their discussion on sovereignty vs. free will was also well played, with Bill Craig weighing in on Molinism and Bruce Ware showing well the tension but evidence for sovereignty and free will in Scripture.
These issues, once hotly debated in evangelicalism, has found some common ground and are moving forward with honest dialog.
Not as much can be said about the way gender is viewed in this study bible. And this is something I want to highlight.
This is an area of real apologetic need. And if the strong patriarchical view is what God is really teaching us, there must be a better way to reconcile it with sound philosophy. We need a better presentation on what God thinks about gender, theologically and philosophically (I haven't found any philosophers on gender represented in this work--Rebecca Groothius would have been a good choice). In fact, in reading the Bible alone with historical background I would not reach the forced conclusions some of the commentary this book pushes. Based on the evidence below, I would have either treated this issue more fairly or left it altogether out of the study Bible. As it is, it is an ugly mark against it, especially in light of today's evangelical scholarship.
One article, "Does the Bible Demean Women?" by Sharon James (author, pastor's wife) tows the typical hard patriarchal line that doesn't even hit on a lot of modern scholarship or arguments dealing with the equality of women. In the article, she eternally subordinates the Trinity to justify her position (a heresy in the early church) and even concludes that the roles of man are 'provider and protector' and the roles of a woman are 'nurturer and carer' (a stereo-type that ties down both genders). Ironically, her article falls in the book of Esther where the queen is playing the role of 'provider and protector.' For a good treatment on how femininity is unfairly boxed in with romanticism or stereo-types, see "Femininity Beyond Fairy Tales" in Jonalyn Grace Fincher's Ruby Slippers: How the Soul of a Woman Brings Her Home.
"Is God Male?" by Chad Owen Brand (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) continues with gender misconceptions. If God is masculine as his article implies, then that really does rule out that femininity is made in the image of Go--a category he doesn't want to deny but gives no room for it. He says the Holy Spirit is neuter gender in the Greek but with male pronouns, but he avoids that the Holy Spirit is feminine in the Hebrew. Then he caps off his article by saying that seeing God as only a Father and Jesus as only a Husband is the key to life transformation--leaving no room for how potentially homosexual that sounds for a man to think of Jesus as his husband. Again, this really is a gross misconception of the work being done in the area. It is not even a good apologetic!
Some of the verse-by-verse commentary says that the Bible is clear that men and women are equal, etc., yet this view was only formulated in the late 1970s by the patriarchalists which did not find it "clear" prior to that. Beware of cultural moves in gender that say the Bible is 'clear' on some of these issues. Most of the time it isn't clear and requires good scholars and research to find the clarity.
Both of these entries pay lip-service to the equality of women but do not give good grounds of it. They say men and women were made in God's image, but even the translation they use, Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), says God created 'man' in his image. They use the masculine word even though the Hebrew word can be used for humans--male and female--not just males.
I appreciate many things about the Apologetics Study Bible. If the editors could have seen that the gender issue is like the creation issue (a non-essential issue), they would have made a better study bible. Seeing that the general editor of this study Bible is part of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (like Chad Owen Brand) and that the HCSB version (like the ESV) were translated with a gender agenda in mind that skews gender in some texts to maintain modern-day partriarchialist views, I am not surprised to see the bias on the gender debate.
But I expect better things from scholars.
Here's is evidence to me of gender agenda taking precedence over apologetics: I wanted to see what the editors would say about 1 Peter 3:6.
It says in the verse that Sarah called Abraham, "Lord." This particular phrase is not Peter's quoting from Genesis, where the story of Abraham is found. Rather, it is Peter quoting from a Jewish source contemporary to him that is not part of the Scripture.
This particular verse has come up in my apologetic conversations. In the notes in the Apologetics Study Bible they do not mention this apologetic issue, rather they immediately go to the gender debate, about subordination in the Trinity and the subjection of women to men. I perceive it is because of their focus is so pitted on the gender debate, they overlooked the more important apologetic issue in this particular verse.
To the editors' credit they do note in Eph 5 that Paul commands mutual submission of the sexes, but this doesn't inform the special articles written by James or Brand nor does it inform the commentary on 1 Timothy 2:11-15 (which is, in my opinion, abominable). Even some patriarchalists are conceding there was mutual ruling in the Garden of Eden. For an apologetics book, this contradiction between Eph 5 commentary and 1 Tim 2 commentary should have been more clearly dealt with.
I just wish a poor treatment of gender didn't show up in a work that offers so many other valuable insights and resources.
In the back of the study Bible are timelines and charts of major apologists throughout the ages. This is good for the reader to see the tradition, learn new names, and, consequently, pick up some new titles.
Overall, I think this Apologetics Study Bible an excellent resource. But it lacks in the area of gender, imagination, and existential engagement. Someone reading this may perceive that all apologetics is academic and find it irrelevant to their daily life and neighbors. While so much of cerebral apologetics depends on research in the academy, a lot of work still depends on the thoughtful creative to translate truth into a truth and goodness full of beauty and everyday life.
If you are new to apologetics, this study Bible will help get you started. Even better, my book, Living with Questions, covers a lot of the major first questions in our culture and it's easier to walk through.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
In the list of questions to explore at the end of the chapter, one of them reads:
Hunt for Jedi Mind Tricks. Watch your favorite TV show. Pay close attention to the commercials. Whom are they trying to convince? What are advertisers trying to get you to believe?
Today, a reader of Living with Questions came across this magazine advertisement and he immediately thought of chapter one and sent me the following from Visa (click pic to enlarge):
Notice what is in the picture. It's the New York City skyline redrawn in endless electronics. And many of those electronics are for music (a diversion I cover in chaper 1 as well).
Note what is written in the bottom left.
What belief is this advertisement pushing? The Jedi Mind Trick is that electronics are 'essential' for 'modern living.' So if you don't have them, you aren't 'modern.' And, 'modern' is another way of saying 'up-to-date' or 'with-the-times' or 'relevant.'
To compound the ad, Visa isn't selling you electronics. They are selling you a loan at a high interest rate. So the 'essentials' to being 'modern' are within reach and Visa dupes the reader (especially the lower-income reader who needs loans to have such 'essentials') as it takes your money to the bank.
The truth is most electronics are not 'essential.' Food is 'essential.' Love is 'essential.' Electronics are not 'essential.' They are mere luxuries that often divert us from real life and the things that matter.
And 'modern living' is an illusion. We're still the same kind of humans that existed 5,000 years ago. The only thing modern is our technology. But our souls still need the same answers they needed in the ancient days.
Will we be tricked into ignoring we're connected to a larger story?
The diversions are endless in the Wild. Keep an eye out for them on your journey Home.
Friday, September 21, 2007
fledge | v2, i10
In the last fledge, I wrote about a boy that missed the important thing because he was distracted the lesser thing. And oftentimes, the more important thing is how we use such meaningful and intentional words like sin, faith, and love. In this fledge, I will begin to unpack the meaning of 'sin.'
Standing before a couple hundred teens in
New England, I asked them to define "sin" for me. A rumble moved over the audience, several shouted out answers, and then one blurted, "Anything we think, do, or say that displeases God." Everyone nodded, excited that someone finally got the right answer articulated for everyone.
I paused. "You've told me what sin does, but you still haven't told me what sin is."
Thursday, September 20, 2007
by Nathan Black
Sometimes, giving pat answers to some of the most common apologetic questions students ask isn't satisfying.
"What is truth?" and "How can we know Christianity is the true religion?" are two questions that Dale Fincher, author of the newly released Living with Questions, frequently comes across in his ministry career.
Fincher is offering students a softer approach to apologetics, a reading that doesn't sound academic and that's more accessible to younger Christians and those seeking answers about Christianity.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
fledge | v2, i9
While I was sitting in a wooded park this evening, three boys around age 7 rolled up on their bikes to the market in the campground. They went in the store and back out again, talking in excited, disjointed phrases. Then the mother of one of the boys rode up on her bike with urgency and a firm face, "Where’s your brother!?"
"He's at the campsite," said the boy distractedly.
"No, he isn't. I was just there." Her eyes scanned the picnic tables where I was sitting.
"Mommy, come see this thing in the store!" said the boy.
"I need to find your brother!" She leaned her bike against the fence, sighed and looked up the road...
Thursday, August 16, 2007
It’s dark in the kitchen and your stomach growls. Feeling the wall, then an appliance, than the countertop, like a blind person you search for food. You touch something crispy on the edges and soft in the middle. You lift the morsel to press your tongue and teeth into the bread.
Would it matter to you that the bread is moldy? Would it matter that bugs are crawling on it? Would it matter that it wasn’t bread at all (as you perceived with your hands) but rather a ratty sponge, crisp around the edges?
Would you prefer a light switch nearby to get a good look at what you're holdnig in the dark?
Today, in the world of spirituality, people often prefer mystery to knowledge. It leaves people in the dark to heighten the anticipation of new light. It is more appealing in ways to some, even safer. It cannot be scrutinized because there isn’t much to examine. It promises that just around the corner everything will suddenly explode into what they’ve always wanted—peace, money, love, happiness.
But why do we take this approach with spiritual experiences that we would not assume with any other experiences? In searching for food, we prefer to see it in the light.
In contrast to many religions and secrets of “The Secret,” Jesus isn’t bound to mystery. He is bound to knowledge. He doesn’t hide in blindness, but encourages sight. He doesn’t wow us with obscurity, but makes things clear. He doesn’t play hard to get, but makes himself available to all. If Jesus isn’t rooted in actual history and knowledge, if he isn’t found to enter into everyday human experience, no amount of spiritualizing will help.
If we will turn on the light to inspect our physical food, what keeps us from flipping on the light to inspect our spiritual food?
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Just after we arrived I got an email: my book was in the warehouse and would be overnighted to me right away.
That did me no good. My porch in Steamboat received my book while I was on the other side of the country.
Then Friday I got another email: Living with Questions officially released!
Amazon says it won't be released till the end of September. Don't believe it. Expect those pre-orders to ship very soon!
So it's been an exciting week, speaking to students, answering their questions, and then hearing my book on the very same thing is released to the wide world.
Last night we flew back from Boston. Arriving home at 2AM, I found the yellow envelope from Zondervan. I opened it and peered my half asleep eyes inside. It was all shiney with a note of congratulations.
I'm thrilled this book available to the thousands of students we meet across our land.
In the quiet today, I signed several books to mail to those I love. I thought of my mother (to whom I dedicate it) and my grandfather. They were my two big cheerleaders and both of them are gone. And I so wanted them to be proud of this accomplishment, to see it, to hold it in their hands. It's such a bittersweet feeling when the ones who built so much into you from childhood aren't here to see another milestone. I look up into the grandstands and they just aren't there.
The ache of loneliness meets me again. But all is well, really. Their God is here.
Monday, June 18, 2007
On June 2, I gave my last talk at our church in Laguna Beach... well, the last talk as a regular. I will be speaking there often in the future whenever we are in town. The Little Church by the Sea "commissioned" us as we left... we feel like amabassadors of our little church to help people be appropriately human in this new town of ours.
The church in both services gathered round us for prayer... A simple ceremony, but very human, spiritual, and deeply meaningful. Several encouraged us personally and added their own words of blessing. My heart will remain with the Little Church for a long time.
Steamboat is like a Laguna Beach in the mountains... small town with lots of pride and generations that want to stay. We are told the spiritual quality of the people here is dark... though we haven't found it to be that way. Yet we have encountered a lot of confusion about the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
We are eager to jump in!
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Suddenly I noticed a dichotomy on the word "Youth." In clothing, "youth" is that size you wear in elementary school. It is when you are a mama's boy or daddy's girl, still unscarred from hearing that parental talk about Birds and Bees.
Teens, however, are not sold "youth" clothing. They have grown into adult sizes of various sorts.
Yet when you go to church, the word "Youth" is used to speak of these same teens. Adults at the mall; youth at church. These "youth" carry with them the auspicies of family protection, of church parenting, and of sheltering seedier things. If you show a movie in "youth" group, you can guarantee it will rated fitting enough for the 8 year olds.
This is not to say that those marketing to teens have it right and the church has it wrong. The marketers may only be making a plea to sell clothing. And movie ratings that give kids permission to start watching partial nudity by age 13 may have it all wrong. And church may make too many excuses for immature behavior in their "youth" groups.
But I want to point out this one thing:
There may be an underlying subconscious belief among teens that when they go to the mall and the movies they are talked to and treated like adults. But when they are in their Christian 'youth' groups, they are treated as much less. They may have the perception that what the marketers are offering them is real life, telling them to grow up and join a larger crowd. While in their homes, they may rightfully be treated as still not mature enough to grow up.
How many stories have I heard from families who do not want their kids to go "away" to college because they think a college close by is a better bet. And what they really mean is that they want to continue parenting and not set their kids to fly to other skies. This is often the voice of parents who haven't faced the fact that they cannot live vicariously through their children but must find their place, happiness, and value in other ways God designed.
So guys and gals, go easy on your parents as they care for you and love you. But be always thinking that today is a day to grow up in. However we decide to define "youth," do bear in mind your part to grow up, to build up, and live into the permanent things.
Monday, May 14, 2007
This did not coincide with the contract and I immediately called my agent about what to do. My editor had already graciously re-edited my manuscript so I wouldn't have to. But that meant cutting out the personalized feel of the book as well as many anecdotal moments. That wouldn't do for me, in part, because that would only heap it upon the large pile of already impersonal apologetics books on the market. It's personalization is one thing that sets it apart.
I took a walk out of our campsite under the shadows of the mesas. Lady Jane, one of our corgis, fell into step beside me as I walked and walked to find a quiet place. And there I spoke with God.
I shared my frustration with him at the many, many re-writes to trim the book down to its length. I told him that had I known it would have needed to be 1/3 shorter, that I would have approached the book chapters a little differently.
He listened and waited for me to finish. I felt heard and that my frustration was on the table for him to consider. Would he even have an answer?
His first question back to me was not about edits. It was, "Whose book is this? And what is it's purpose?" Well, the purpose is to help wandering folks who are looking for some tidbits of an answer to live into. It is for those myriad of students who ask me for book recommendations to their questions. It is for those who are intellectually suffering but may not have the staying power to trudge through academia.
But whose book is this? Hmmmph. It was his. I thought it was mine for a moment, but it was his. And that only made sense, really. I wasn't writing the book to be anyone special. I was writing it for the students.
Then he seemed to reply, "Perhaps I want these new edits in the book to make it accessible for those I have in mind."
Fair enough. There, in the red rock, I matter-of-factly let him make his edits. If it will help, then let it help. If it required hacking out my journey to finding God that is in the midst of the book, then so be it.
It was a simple dialogue with God. Not much wrestling. We've been through similar things before and I know it is just easier to lay it out there and move forward.
I returned to camp, whistling at Jane to catch up, and ready to work on my edits in a few days.
On our drive out of Moab, I got a call from my editor again. "No need to edit. We made it fit!"
And just like that, my book remained in tact. Unfortunately, to keep the length down, they had to remove a lot of the cool formatting elements inside that would have spiced up the viewing pleasure of the reader. But I'm glad they didn't sacrifice content for some extra graphics and paragraph spacing... I'm unsure what the statistics are, but I don't think book format has helped people see God as much as the content of ideas.
So the book is steadily on track. And my final edits are due Sunday.
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
Many parents of teens approached me afterwards about the presentation with things like, "Can we have dinner later? I want to talk about my daughter."
But one woman approached me with a larger, expanding vision. "You need to write a book! Have you thought about it?"
As a matter of fact, I had. But pulling together the right people and making the right connections hadn't happened yet. It was more of a 'something to do in the future' kind of idea.
"I know who you need to talk to!" And with that, she whirled away.
Five minutes later, she introduced me to someone who had also heard my presentation. He was the president of a literary agency. "Let's have lunch tomorrow," he said.
And we did.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
One evening, my wife and I returned home and listened to our usual list of messages on the answering machine. Nancy was one of them, "Do you guys know a book I can recommend a teenager who is asking a lot of questions?"
I was hanging my jacket in the hallway closet. I turned around and in a semi-dramatic posture, bent on frustration, I said, "That's it. I'm writing a book for students!"
I lay in bed an hour later staring into the dark, remembering my student years. I remembered wrestling with questions and the long agonizing nights I stayed awake wondering if God was there. And if He was, why He seemed so disconnected from me. I remembered my fear of death. I remembered the strange looks from my friends whom I left back at the crossroads of an easier, less thoughtful, and less meaningful life. I remembered a deep compelling, the kind that drew Moses closer to a bush that didn't burn.
Then my mind was made. I would begin to write a book.
Monday, March 19, 2007
Yesterday, I was notified of a page with the first appearance of my book, Living with Questions.
It will be released this September. You can read more info on it here.
I'm pumped to see this much progress from the publisher. I turned in the manuscript the end of January and am waiting to put the finishing touches of editing on it.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
When I finished graduate school (the first one) in Florida, I moved to Vancouver, BC, to apprentice at a theatre.
Now I came from a family where (how shall I say this?) the 'art of listening' did not come as a natural gift. And I wanted my family, particularly my nearly deaf grandfather and my mother, to understand my thoughts and directions and get a better idea of the inner-workings of my own life and mind.
Moving to the other side of the country was a good opportunity to invite them into my world. So I took the time and the chance to write creative non-fiction of my week. It was weekly memoir, weaving daily stories together into something they all shared in common... little pictures that formed larger meanings.
Call me narcissitic, I don't know. My mother loved them, printing out every one and putting them in a folder. I found that folder after she died.
My grandfather enjoyed them as well, though I don't remember him telling me. At his memorial service, his secretary shared that he printed them out and read them at his desk at the office.
My mother phoned me one day saying, "Grandpa feels uncomfortable with some of your letters," she said. "He thinks they are too personal to share openly." I took that with a grin, pushing outward the culture of 'uncomfortable feelings' that I had grown up with. I admired my grandfather immensely and delighted that he loved the little tomes I put together. Maybe, in some ways, they helped him push outward too.
Those writings were called "The Tales!" I wrote them for several years. And people I didn't know would email me asking to be put on "The Tales!" list. I guess they were forwarded a lot, like those spam letters people enjoy sending to keep brimstone or bad luck or a rabid tooth-fairy all at a safe distance.
Not only did I write "The Tales!" to let my grandfather and mother into my little world, but I did it to hone my writing skills... by using material I knew intimately: my own life.
Friday, March 16, 2007
Through youth invitations, I discovered intense and mature questions from students. I'd talk to them. My wife, Jonalyn, would talk to them. Helping them navigate some of their ideas, I found a more difficult question emerge, "Could you recommend a book that talks about these things?"
Ouch. I couldn't. We had looked through the books available. Most of them were not accessible to a teenage education. Still more, the ones that were, didn't deal with many of the questions we did. And even those did not answer questions the way we did.
I started seeing students as a group mature enough to deal with the hard questions. Many of them as mature as their parents when it came to facing life's puzzles. These kids were asking for a lifeline to walk into a wider view of life. They wanted something in their hands to read, mull over, wrestle with.
I started to think about a book.