Josh McDowell: America's dad?

Last night at Calvary Chapel in Santa Barbara, one Josh McDowell, with 47 years of youth evangelism experience talked about the state of the youth culture in America and across the world. His talk was very confusing and upsetting to me. Part of this post is frustration at claims he made, part aims to shed light as to what is really going on here.

He tried to say epistemology was the "study of truth" - instead of 'a branch of philosophy that investigates the origin, nature, methods, and limits of human knowledge' (dictionary.com).

He talked about the 'epistemological turn' in youth culture around the world, citing about 6 different countries in which some statistics (unknown source) revealed that the amount of 'born-again' kids who believe in absolute truth has fallen to less than 4%.

'Born-again' to him means, "I have personally trusted Jesus as Savior and Lord. If I were to die today, I know I would be in heaven because He is my Savior and has forgiven me of all my sins."

Hmmmm....Is that definition of being 'born again' even in the Scriptures, Mr. McDowell? Is that Peter's story? Is that what Jesus is talking about in John 3 when he encounters a searching Pharisee named Nicodemus?

Unfortunately, the epistemological shift that happened prior to the one that Mr. McDowell is describing happened a couple centuries ago, as a Europe tired of years and years of wars within the church sought to move 'religion' into the private sector of human life for the sake of preserving life......This period of history is known as the Enlightenment. In enlightenment thinking, Reason is Lord, and the quest for certainty dominates. Rene Descartes ' famous Cogito, ergo, sum (I think, therefore, I am) is taken to be one of the crucial epistemological shifts in modern philosophy. True knowledge, according to this paradigm, is that which cannot be doubted. Certainty. Tracking?

And that's not the apostolic faith.

What Mr. McDowell doesn't realize is that he has accepted a mutant form of Christianity, heavily influenced by Enlightenment thinking (quest for certainty) and historical and apostolic Christianity does not include seeing truth in terms of certainty. If you do not believe me that Josh has fallen into this sort of association of the two, one of his latest books being sold before and after the seminar was named, "In Search of Certainty." If you'd like to buy it, click here:

And that intrigues me, with some background in the way modernity affected the telling of the biblical story. Here's some exposure to Kevin Vanhoozer's essay entitled Theology and the condition of Postmodernity:
"David Tracy states that modern theologies 'were principally determined not by the reality of God but by the logos of modernity.' (see below for reference). Hans Frei's diagnosis is similar: modern interpretative schemes eclipse the specificity of biblical narrative, and with it, the singular mythos of Jesus Christ. In so doing, thought Frei, modern theologians gain the whole world -- the world of academic respectability and cultural plausibility, in a word legitimation -- yet lose their own souls. Paul Tillich's method of correlation, for instance, let modern culture and thought forms set the agenda by asking the questions which theology then answered.......Tillich is illustrative of the modern tendency to let some logos or other swallow up the biblical mythos. Modern theological systems, like other -isms, are able only to think "more of the same"; they leave the "other" unthought. In Tracy's words: "Theology will never again be tameable by a system....For theology does not bespeak a totality. Christian theology, at its best is the voice of the Other through all those others who have tasted....the Infinity disclosed in the kenotic reality of Jesus Christ." (From The Cambridge Companion to Postmodern Theology ed. Kevin J. VanHoozer, from the essay Theology and the condition of postmodernity, written by Kevin VanHoozer, p. 19).

(Quotes from David Tracy come from two of his works, the first being: On Naming the Present: God, Hermeneutics and Church (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1994, p. 41 & the second being: Theology and the Many Faces of Postmodernity in 'Theology Today 51 (1994), 114).

If you are scratching your head, rest assured, so am I on certain parts, but I do see elements of what Vanhoozer quotes the David Tracy talks about in McDowell's approach to evangelization:

McDowell claimed:
"I've been going around the world for five years and I have yet to come across one Christian who could tell me why they believe what they believe." Now, he didn't give anybody in the room when I was there a chance to respond, but instead listed the most popular responses on his cute power point presentation.......Among the responses:

1. My church taught me
2. My parents taught me
3. The Bible is true

He insisted that these reasons were not good enough and if anybody had dare answer that night (the seminar I was in), he would be able to 'back you into a corner so fast' and destroy your argumentation....Do you see him playing by the culture rules, what Frei (above) is talking about? Do you see him not accept the answers of God's faithful as legitimate, but rather attack them and tell them that saying any of the above three answers is not good enough? Who says? Is he to say?

All we need to do is formulate better arguments to figure out WHY we believe what we believe and HOW WE KNOW.....and what better way to do this than his books. Which was the real disappointment of the evening, because he presented as his answer, himself. His own thoughts, his 47 years of experience, which I heard him quote time and time again....What is he doing, friends?

At this point, you may recall that Paul in 1 Corinthians outlines to the Corinthian church that worshiping a crucified criminal is foolishness to those who are perishing (1:18). He doesn't try to say, "Now, everything that you do has to make sense to everybody else..." No, he says that his approach to evangelism was NOT to proclaim the gospel with eloquent wisdom, but to preach the cross, Jesus crucified, so that 'the cross of Christ may not be emptied of its power' (1:17). NOW, WATCH PAUL BE AN EVANGELIST/PASTOR:

"When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words of wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the SPIRIT and of POWER, so that your faith may not rest on human wisdom, but on the power of God" (1 Cor. 2:1-5). And that power is the cross, as he goes on to explain.

McDowell could have made the beginning of a Santa Barbara lent truly spectacular, re-focusing the faithful towards the cross, but instead, confused people and offered his books and wisdom as the answers. Sort of disappointing, especially after being introduced by Ricky Ryan, the pastor at Calvary Chapel as "America's dad."

I'll take Paul's epistemological assumptions and The true Father of our Lord Jesus Christ instead.


A Cottage Hospital Christmas

Dearly beloved,
For my own sanity and because I desire that everyone gets a full version of the events which have taken place these last two weeks, I have chosen to create an orderly account of my ten night vacation to Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara. My thanks go out to all of you who so wonderfully supported me during my stay there, brought me gifts, called me, texted me, and made me know I was loved this Christmas. I truly am blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life. Now, for the information.......

A little backstory:
Aug 6, 2006 - My Uncle Alex dies of a blood clot in his leg after a colon surgery. Afterwards, there was mandatory blood testing of all who have the blood type, 'Stuvland.'

Dec 29ish, 2006 - I find out, after getting blood work, that I am what is referred to as 'Laden Factor five,' which simply means that I am at a slightly higher risk of developing a blood clot than the normal population. Brother, sister, dad, all have same 'condition.'

August 28th, 2007 - Upon arriving back from his honeymoon, my dad, 52, finds a blood clot in his leg after a long flight back from Italy. He was supposed to move around and walk around, but his first class chair was too reclined and comfortable for him to really care that much.

December 17, 19, 2007 - I did two long drives to and from San Jose to Santa Barbara, CA. Rental car is uncomfortable for me, I make sure to stretch a lot, etc...

December 19, 2007 - Upon returning to Santa Barbara, CA, I notice that my right arm is more full of blood than my left arm and it is a slightly darker color, kind of reddish. I am worried as I think to myself that it could be a circulatory system problem, which triggers the history of blood clots in the family, and immediately I take two aspirin, wait till morning to get checked out in case it is a fluke thing.

Dec 20, 2007 - After a day long of explaining, an ultrasound test reveals some blocked blood flow in my subclavian vein (below the clavical (collarbone) ). Urgent care in SB admits me to Cottage Hospital for an overnight stay and potential procedure in the morning. My dad flies down from Portland to LAX, catches a taxi from LA to SB and arrives in the hospital room less than 16 hours after he has heard the news. (The image to the right, I found on the internet and is a picture of a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) aka 'blood clot' of somebody's subclavian vein.)

Dec 21, 2007 - First procedure done in the morning puts a catheter running from my bicep vein on my left side through my shoulder and into my chest, dripping blood thinners on the clotted area. Plans of driving back to San Jose to visit special friend is shattered. Going home to Portland for Christmas is up in the air. About 6 different drips are being pumped into my chest, including a few blood thinners, and ultrasound, and coolant.

Dec 22, 2007 - Second procedure done in the late morning, including trying to suck up the blood clot with a vacuum-like process and trying to re-inflate my subclavian vein, which had been compressed and blood flow was minimal. I was moderately sedated, meaning that I was still awake, but had enough narcotics in me to make me not feel anything and for time to pass very quickly. In fact, they gave me too many narcotics, and I got back to my room in the Critical Care Unit (CCU), felt nautious, waited for Janelle to arrive from San Jose and then threw up (nothing), for I had nothing to eat since 12 midnight the night before. I was able to eat a bit later after I felt better. I was still heavily doped up on pain medication, the morphine made me either really sharp and engaged or completely out of it and asleep, with little middle ground.

Dec 23, 2007 - Third procedure involving the removal of the catheter from my arm and more picture taking of the reduced blood flow. Doctors are able to deduct that it is no random blood clot, but rather, a condition called 'Thoracic Outlet Syndrome' (first rib and collarbone pinch together the subclavian vein) and determine that surgery will be necessary to remove my first rib in order to relieve the pressure from the vein. Plans of going home to Portland for Christmas are shattered, I'm going to have to remain in the hospital for the holidays. Luckily, my dad was there and was able to create a Christmas sort of feel in my room. Janelle and my dad took turns feeding me Sat/Sun. when I had minimal use of both my arms.

Dec 24, 2007 - Day of rest in the hospital
Dec 25, 2007 - Day of rest in the hospital

Dec 26, 2007 - Rib Rissection surgery, removing the first rib from my rib cage completely. Surgery was in the afternoon, they laid me on my left side, made a long, horizontal incision underneath my armpit and removed the rib. They also put a drainage tube to collect leftover blood and such dangling from out of my armpit as well. It took me a long time to come out of the General Anesthesia and wake up. More rest to be had in the evening. But not great sleep, for in case you didn't know, hospitals are not a good place to get a solid 8 hours of sleep. In fact, they are the worst places to sleep with nurses coming in every 4 hours to check vitals and every 6 hours to take blood. I shouldn't be complaining, for God has given me great health.. (The image to the right shows the process of what Thoracic Outlet Syndrome does to the vein and what the removal is supposed to help with )...

Dec 27, 2007 - Day of rest in the hospital (Thursday)

Dec 28, 2007 - Last three-hour procedure. Catheter goes back in my arm, through the same vein, and the doctors are finally able to suck out the blood clot and perform an angioplasty (balooning) of my vein to make it easier for the blood to get through. This day, I find out that I will need to be injecting a blood thinner called 'Lovenox' into my abdomen for the next five days, twice a day, 6AM, 6PM. I initially tell my dad that I would rather die than give myself a shot, but he convinces me that in order for my blood to be thinned, and to protect against another clot, I need to do this. I have to talk myself up for about 10 minutes before I am able to pierce my own abdomen.

Dec 29, 2007 (Saturday) - Day of rest in the hospital, cabin fever set in a long time ago, and I anxiously await my release on Sunday.

Dec 30, 2007 - Released from the hospital after 10 nights, 4 procedures and 1 surgery. I know that I like to be dramatic and add juice to the story, but it really wasn't too bad. There were times of intense pain (usually taken care of by morphine within a few minutes), bad news (not being able to go to SJ, Portland, Seattle), but I have to fall on my knees and praise God that my arm is not still swollen, that my surgery went successfully and my procedures accomplished the task of dismembering the blood clot. So, it was and will be worth every minute of the pain.

Thanks to the St. Andrews Presbyterian Prayer team, who visited me almost daily, to the Riva di Nera (sp?) family for taking me in to their house after my hospital stay, to Anna and Kiah Jordan, who allowed me to sleep in their bed after my hospital stay so I could be close to the Riva's, to Janelle, who fed me, watched me throw up, rubbed my feet when I was going to sleep, held my hand when I couldn't hold hers, to my extended family in Oregon on my mom's side, who nourished me with a constant flow of text messages and phone calls, including one on Christmas Eve that enabled me to talk with the whole family, to my friends in Santa Barbara who came and visited me, to my students I work with at Youth Group who called and came to visit, to the parents of those students, who came to visit me and cooked me dinner when I got out, to my friends in Portland who prayed for me to pull through, to my roomate Joe, who came to visit almost every day and always brought special treats and television shows and candy, to my dad, who pushed my IV carts when i needed exercise around the floor, who fed me when I couldn't reach my mouth, who gave me presents for Christmas when I had nothing to give him back, who tied my hospital gown every time I got up to go for a walk, who helped me sit up, lay down, lift books, mail letters, make phone calls and updates to loved ones, stayed by my side, laughed, and cried with and for me. You have no idea how much I felt loved.

And finally, to Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, Immanuel, God with us, of whose birth we celebrated on Christmas Day, for never leaving nor forsaking me for even ONE MOMENT in the hospital. From the day I entered until the day I left, His Holy Spirit was with me, much to the request of many prayers from all over the West Coast, and showed up as the Healer many, many times, through the doctors, through people, and I am deeply grateful for the gift of a Savior and friend today. Thanks be to God for His wonderful, wonderful, blessings that we are aware of and not aware of.

Ride on, King Jesus. No person can hinder thee, no person can hide from thee.

Truly, you are the great 'I AM'.


Peace be within your being,


The Golden Compass and the Search for Truth

While sitting in my office yesterday pondering world I wish I knew, a fax started coming through the office machine like a slow moving locomotive. The context of the fax was a warning about a New Line Cinema movie, The Golden Compass, which is based of a trilogy, His Dark Materials, by Phillip Pullman. The movie has supposedly sparked much theological controversy, particularly in its' supposed attack of the Catholic Church (I must confess I have not seen it to verify), and authority of all kinds. I decided to explore on the Golden Compass site at www.goldencompassmovie.com. I watched the first five minutes of the movie, which draws the audience into the imaginative world(s) of Pullman, where souls live outside of their bodies in the form of animal partners called daemons (pronounced 'demons'). Connecting this magical world and worlds like the one we inhabit is dust, which was known at one time, yet the knowledge was destroyed by the 'ruling power' and fearing any truth but its' own, destroyed the golden compass devices, telling of the dust, except for one, which is where the story begins......
I just can't imagine the point that Phillip Pullman is trying to make. (History majors, stop laughing, you are giving away my sarcasm). Maybe instead of sending faxes to churches warning against the dangers of such movies, those who think they hold a monopoly on the truth should acknowledge that they serve a God revealed in Jesus Christ found outside of their walls. Nobody owns the Holy Spirit, for it is God the Father (filioque, (and the Son's)) to give, not ours.
How about seeking reconciliation with a confused, yet truth-seeking author, instead of attacking his work? Who's reaching out to him and telling him the story of Christ this Christmas, who promises that those who seek the truth will find it?
Peace be with you today.


Questions On My Mind

1. The first question has been on my mind since the September 11th attacks, and that is--

Q- What are the aspects of United States culture, society, and foreign policy that are legitimate cause for re-action from non-American countries? I do not mean 'Is there justification for killing thousands of innocent people', my question has to do with the legitimacy of the re-action, not the action itself.. I hope this makes sense....

2. The second question has to do with a BBC news article that was posted late Saturday night, PST, concerning UK Major General Tim Cross, an officer that was a part of the post-war planning, who told the 'Sunday Mirror' that US policy was "fatally flawed" (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/6974611.stm):

Q-- Doesn't the United States of America need the rest of the world to help understand itself from an outside perspective?



Hello and Welcome to my blog. This is my first attempt to write online and share different thoughts with the online community. Included will probably be anything and everything that I find interesting, past journal entries, events in my life and world history that have shaped me and continue to shape me. The first of those events is the event in world history in which Jesus Christ, eternally begotten Son of our Father in heaven, became a human being and for our sakes and our salvation became sin for us, taking our rebellion upon himself on the cross and doing away with the hell that we unleashed on this earth once and for all. In these blogs will include various stories and testimonies to the work that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have done in my life and the lives of the people that I know. To him be the glory, now and forever, and may this blog testify of his faithfulness.

Once again,

-Brett Stuvland, creator-