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3 for 1

Posted on April 11th, 2006


I went home this past weekend so that I could bring some of my winter stuff back (which would save me from moving it at the end of the month), and so that I could be in Toronto for the “Evolving Church” Conference that was happening at Tyndale on Saturday. To my surprise, my dad was on time in the morning (as he has a tendency to be late) and we were on our way soon after he had arrived.

I’ve noticed that my driving was less skillful than before; that’s not to say that I was close to being in an accident, but I was more mindless with paying attention to what was ahead of me. So I sometimes had less stopping distance than what I would have liked. I should probably get my new license soon…

Dad and I had a pretty good talk on Friday. We talked about church and my future. I realized that my attitudes towards church has really changed since I left home to come to university. I also realized that I am not much closer to figuring out where I’m going to be in the future. πŸ™

I moped around the apartment until that evening, when I was supposed to see my mom (as it was her birthday on Saturday). She picked me up at around 7 and we made our way over to her place. I insisted that I would cook and I made two absolutely giant pieces of salmon. I also had the luxury of cooking on a cast iron pan!! (I know, I’m a dork.) While cooking, I stumbed upon a most unusual combination: salmon and curry. You see, I was putting some powder on the salmon as part of my marinade.. I thought it was onion powder and I knew that it looked a little funny and smelled a little funny. But it wasn’t until it was cooking that I realized what it was. Fortunately, it didn’t turn out all that bad! That said, it’s advisable to not put curry on your salmon πŸ˜‰

After supper, I browsed through some old photographs that she had. Most of the pictures of me were taken when I was between 0 and 7 years old. I guess they stopped taking pictures after that. But the ones I did see brought back a lot of memories: super untrendy clothes, Scouts Canada, playing with my brother, and birthdays. I got a good laugh out of a lot of them. Hopefully I can get them scanned somewhere and I’ll post one or two on here!

When I got back home, I thought about all that had transpired that day. It didn’t seem all that special at the time, but I think that I connected with my parents again.. at least for a moment. Truth be told, I can’t really remember the last time I felt that way. But part of me really wishes that it wasn’t so. While I attribute a lot of my independent behaviour to my experience with my parents’ separation, I think that I’d gladly trade that in to have a closer family.

I know that I’d be playing the what-if game by thinking about that too much, but I see other people with tight families and I do get jealous. It often seems like I missed out on something truly special. Not too long ago, I had a conversation with Jenna about our families… she grew up with a tighter family and we both couldn’t imagine what it would have been like to have experienced the other’s reality.

That conversation affirmed that I want a close family. I wondered, before, if it is too late to start with my own right now. As of now, I don’t think I’m any closer to answering that question, but I think that I”m more open to it than before. One thing that I know for certain is that I will really work to have a close family when I raise my own. Well, if that ever happens.


I had some really high hopes for the conference. The main speakers were Chris Seay, Donald Miller, and Brian McLaren. I’ve read some of the latter two’s books and I’ve really enjoyed them. Brian McLaren, in particular, is a very engaging author with some very fascinating ideas. The last time that I saw him, I was left dumbfounded by his message.

Chris spoke about being authentic. While his speech was geared more towards pastors (he discussed being real while preaching), part of it certainly applies to non-pastors. In a sense, we all preach what we believe by what we say and do. He believes that dishonesty is running rampant in our society today as we are brainwashed into believing that we are in competition with everyone else; by subscribing to that, weaknesses are covered up or ignored and strengths are advertised for all to see. So we all throw up fronts to each other and become disconnected. Nothing new here, but it was refreshing to be challenged to be authentic again.

(Aside: Interestingly enough, Tom Morris spoke about being real at The Embassy on Monday. It was an amazing message and I feel that it connected with a lot of people, myself included. While I’m not going to air my dirty laundry right here and now, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that things are a lot messier than I let on. More on this in a future post, I’m sure.)

Brian’s workshop dealt with the Kingdom of God, which is something he explores in his forthcoming book. With examples and Biblical references, he entertained the thought of the Kingdom of God already being here on Earth. I think that he was being intentionally vague because this could easily be misread and misinterpreted to lead to some very wild conclusions. I don’t think that I’m fit to really discuss this much more, so I’ll stop things here. But, needless to say, it was very thought-provoking and intriguing.

Donald’s speech discussed the problems with the modern, free-market-economy interpretation of the gospel. I probably enjoyed his talk the most, as it was riddled with a lot of great quotes. He spoke very much like he writes in his books; he was very down-to-earth, funny, and relatable. He pointed out how people have been selling Jesus and the Bible as products.. how people have claimed that we have holes in our lives and Jesus will fill it right up. This sounds great and all but, when I look at my life, I’m not completely fulfilled; I yearn for more and I’m not completely happy. So it seems to me that Jesus is a pretty mediocre product. Maybe I’m not using the product properly but what’s more likely is that it’s not supposed to be a product at all. Christianity is relational and we can’t sell relationships. Again, nothing earth-shattering but it was really good to hear it said.

Brian’s speech dealt with the emergent church. Whatever that means. He talked about what it might look like, and where it might fit in with the current status of the church. Perhaps it would be treated like another denomination, or perhaps it would be something that transcends denominations. It’s hard to be specific with any of this because it’s in motion and nobody really knows where it’s going to end up. It is because of this uncertainty and lack of substance that I found Brian’s speech to be the least engaging and useful.


I met with Dom today for a long time. Over three hours long. It was supposed to be about the website, but I’d say that the bulk of the time was spent talking about theology and applications to The Embassy. It was a good, long talk.

The biggest thing that I got out of the conversation was a greater appreciation for my Catholic upbringing. In the past, I have been awfully cynical and negative towards how I was raised in the Catholic church, but Dom impressed on me how meaningful and useful it is.

As seemingly repetitive and redundant as it is, the Catholics (in general) do seem to have one thing right: a devotion to tradition. Some see this as a bad thing. I used to. I used to think that the Catholic church clung too tightly to tradition and didn’t grow and adapt to our culture.

Then Dom pulled out a money quote: “Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.” The distinction can be subtle, but it’s there. I had used tradition and traditionalism interchangably and that, as I learned, was a terrible mistake.

It is through tradition – and only through tradition – that was know about Jesus. The early Christians passed information about Jesus by mouth and eventually on manuscripts. They knew, more than anyone else, who Jesus was. After all, they were the ones that were around at the time (or shortly after) of Jesus.

As time wore on, new generations questioned these things and came up with new theories. But, through the oral and written tradition, Christians could gauge which were consistent with what they believed and which were not. As an example, the gnostic beliefs were inconsistent with what Jesus taught and Christians clarified this through various creeds so that others can know what Christians believe.

Traditionalism, however, is a different story. This happens when people do things because that’s the way they have always done it. (Read: this is not people doing things because that’s the way they believe it is right to do it.) I still think that the Catholic church does suffer from this a little bit, but it’s not nearly as big of an issue as I thought it was. After all, Masses are now held in local languages and priests now face the congregation. So the church is changing, but its roots are still firmly planted in tradition (and I feel that they should be).

With this new perspective, I have a drastically different picture of my upbringing. The faith was not dead; instead, I let it die in me. I let myself become lost in the recited prayers. I let myself just go through the motions. I was the one that lost meaning. Part of this dawned on me when I went back to a Catholic Mass after I started to go to The Embassy; I thought about what I was saying and it started to be meaningful again. Now, I feel like I could go to Mass and love every moment of it.

So, thanks to a heavy dose of reality by Dom (he said that we ate steak today while he usually serves milkshakes), I have a newfound respect and appreciation for Catholicism. I am intrigued by early Christianity. I am fascinated and mystified by the creeds. I am excited as a Christian again.


7 Responses to “3 for 1”

  1. Keith Says:

    I’m glad to hear that you’re seeing your Catholic roots from a new perspective, I think it’s awesome. Ever since I went to Mass with my friend James I’ve been intrigued and excited about the same kind of ideas that you’re talking about here.

    I’m definitely going to write more about this once I’ve had some sleep, as you may notice I’m posting this at 4am. πŸ˜‰

  2. Jasmine Says:

    I’m also glad you’re beginning to appreciate your catholic background. Did you go to mass with us here in ottawa? i can’t remember. I love that church.

    Good post in general. πŸ™‚


  3. Justin Says:

    Keith: You’re insane! I hope that you weren’t playing Rollercoaster Tycoon until then…

    Jazz: Yeah I did go to Mass in Ottawa… I remember that I was really surprised that they were playing Rebecca St. James!

    I’m looking forward to going to Mass on Easter Sunday… it should be a beautiful celebration.

  4. Sarah K. Says:

    Hey Justin,

    Thanks for sharing this. It was encouraging!


  5. Backguy Says:

    This was a really good entry and probably one of the more personal ones that you have written. I’m glad to hear that you connected with your parents and enjoyed your time with them.

    What you said here about tradition was what I was trying to get at at The Forum a few weeks ago when we were talking about what the role of the church is. Although we need to reach out to people and show them God’s love (which is *so* crucially important), we also need to build up believers and to carry on the traditions and teachings of those who have come before us. What kind of faith would we have if we neglected 2000 years of history and teaching? Because of our tradition and history, we can see God in so many more ways, and we need to teach people about that.

    Of course, we need to make sure that we don’t fall into routine, and think that what you wrote about tradition vs. traditionalism sums it up nicely.

    I’m hoping to take RS 230 (History of Christianity) and either RS 100K (Catholicism) or RS 231 (History of Christian Thought) next year. If you happen to have extra space in your timetable to fit one of those courses in, then I think you would find a lot of interesting material in there.

    Happy Easter, Justin! And sorry for the long comment. :$

    (PS: Out of curiosity, which Rebecca St. James song were they playing?)

  6. Justin Says:

    Rodney: I think that I got a different message that one night at The Forum… I thought you were talking about how important it is for churches to have events and programs (like book studies and so on) for their congregations. While that is good and all, I still contend that those should not be done at the expense of world service.

    So I didn’t get the whole teaching part. If that was what you were saying, then I think I’d be more inclined to agree with you. The problem that I find is that it often stops there; people learn the history and whatnot, but then proceed to sit on it. They are taught WHY they should be doing things, but not enough emphasis is placed on actually doing them.

    And I think that they were playing her version of ‘Let My Words Be Few.’

    Happy Easter!

  7. Tony Says:

    I’m going to hear Donald Miller speak next maonth; so exciting πŸ™‚

    I think the thoughts you expressed here have made me think more than you ever have in the past. I too find that I can enjoy a Catholic mass more when I attend one now that I grok Christianity better.

    Also, cast iron pans are awesome!

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