Evangelism

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Exporting the Rapture

Exporting the Rapture

John Nelson Darby and the Victorian Conquest of North American Evangelicalism
edition:Hardcover
also available: eBook
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ReInvention

Stories from an Urban Church
edition:Paperback
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Excerpt

My education and my subsequent working career can best be described as ecletic.  My first degree was in engineering, my second in theoretical physics and my third in development economics, with a heavy dose of philosophy courses whenever I could fit them into my schedule.  But if there was anything that served as a common theme, apart from loving a good challenge, it was my fascination with models.  Models, conceptual frameworks, paradigms, or, if they are comprehensive enough in scope, worldviews, are the lenses through which we understand, interpret and interact with the world around us.  Without models, engineers can’t solve problems and economists would have nothing to say about economic behavior.  But the one model that captivated me more than any other and has since become a life-long passion is the model of quantum physics.

 

 

 

Up until third year university, I was immersed in the model of classical physics.  Newtonian physics.  Matter, motion and forces.  Causality and determinism.  Objective reality.  The clockwork universe.  Atoms as miniature billiard balls moving on a stage of space and time.  But in my third year of university all that changed when I hit quantum physics, with a few doses of Einstein’s relativity thrown in for good measure.  Atoms turned out to be mostly empty space.  Particles turned into waves.  Waves turned into particles.  An electron could be in two places at the same time.  Causality and determinism both disappeared at the microscopic level.  Day by day as I went to class, the concepts I’d grown up with, ideas like space, time, matter, particle, mass, causality, determinism, objectivity, all of these were chewed up and spit out, to be replaced by strange new conceptions.  My brain hurt as it was forced to move from the comfortable world of classical physics to the brave new world of quantum physics with its curving space-time, wave functions, tunneling electrons and uncertainty principles.  It’s one thing to talk about paradigm shifts – it’s a very different thing entirely to experience one.

 

 

 

Curiously enough, at the same time as I was being both disrupted and fascinated by these shifting paradigms, I discovered that Rev. Bob, the priest at the Anglican Church on the corner of campus, was also a big fan of models and paradigm shifts, which he regularly incorporated into his preaching and his theology.  “But what if we were to look at this with a new model” was one of his favourite ways of bringing fresh insight into a familiar passage of scripture.  We would often talk at the Wednesday morning breakfasts at the church.  He offered to read a paper I’d written on the wider influence of scientific models.  My thesis, which I still maintain, is that the conceptual frameworks developed by scientists to explain and understand nature have a profound impact on the world views of society at large and consequently affect our understanding in fields as diverse as politics, philosophy and theology.  Bob read my paper and promptly handed me a book to read:  The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn.  It was in this classic text that Kuhn introduced the world to the idea of a “paradigm-shift” using examples from the history of science.  Progress and change don’t happen as a result of the incremental accumulation of more and more facts.  Real change results from paradigm-shifts:  conceptual revolutions that ask new questions, fundamentally change the rules of the game and re-write all the text books. 

 

Is the church in North America in the early 21st century in the midst of a paradigm shift?  Or perhaps the question should be, does the 21st century church require a paradigm shift?  Many would say yes.  A quick survey of books and blogs inundates us with the emerging church, the converging church, the disappearing church, the post-Christendom church, the missional church and much more.  Something’s happening in church-land, and there are parallels with Kuhn’s analysis of the history of science.  One of the parallels is surely this:  paradigm-shifts are generally difficult, disruptive and divisive. 

 

 

 

If there’s a paradigm shift happening, I want to be right in the middle of it.  That’s what drew me to quantum physics, that’s why I used to teach about paradigm shifts in my history of science classes, and that’s one of the reasons that I jumped at the opportunity to plant a church in downtown Ottawa.  I think that there’s room for new ways to do and be church that will change the rule book and shift our expectations.  But while having a passion for shifting paradigms is a good start for a church planter, ideas alone won’t get a church plant off the ground.

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A Culture of Faith

A Culture of Faith

Evangelical Congregations in Canada
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback Hardcover
tagged : evangelism
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After Evangelicalism

After Evangelicalism

The Sixties and the United Church of Canada
edition:Hardcover
also available: eBook Paperback
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Revivalists

Revivalists

Marketing the Gospel in English Canada, 1884-1957
edition:eBook
also available: Hardcover Paperback
tagged : evangelism
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