Monthly Archives: June 2013

Canada — A New Homeland

This special article in honour of Canada Day (July 1) is by my older daughter, Allison Hunter-Frederick.

In 1992, I wrote an article for our family’s newsletter about my two grandmothers, neither of whom was originally from Canada. As I reread the thoughts now that they shared with me, their pride in their new country rings strong, but I’m most struck by how relevant the differences in their viewpoints about whether to hold onto or let go of their heritage are to me today.

czech My Nanny Hunter lived in Czechoslovakia until she was eight years old, while my Nanny Burry was born in Newfoundland at a time before it had joined the rest of Canada. Even into my adulthood, both my grandmothers have told me stories of the lands of their birth but also have emphasized how glad they are to be Canadian.

When my Nanny Hunter (then Mary Tanchack) was only five years old, her father left the family to move to Canada. He wanted to find a life better than the one they had as part of the poor in Czechoslovakia, where the family had lived off the land, eating what could grow. Most of the time, this meant potatoes and vegetables. Twice a year, at Christmas and Easter, they would have meat too. White bread was also a luxury as the family normally ate rye bread, which was made from their crops. Their house was a small thatched-roof building with a curtain dividing the inside rooms. The family lived within these rooms. Her father found conditions much improved in Canada and so that is why when my nan was eight the whole family moved to Canada.

The family made a promise to leave their traditions behind in the “old country”. Canada was their home now and so they would live as Canadians. My nan’s father worked on farms and also found a job with highway construction when the Queen Elizabeth Road (between Toronto and Niagara Falls) was built. They moved in with another family in a house in Toronto. True to their promise, they learned English (although this was difficult) and Canadian customs.

newfMy Nanny Burry faced a similar situation growing up as a girl in the central part of Newfoundland. The standard of living for her family was also low, with no great wage earnings for her father. They too ate potatoes and vegetables from the garden. Their meat came from chickens in the yard killed for a special occasion. Food was rarely brought from a store; instead the family made their own bread and even their own ice-cream.

Unlike my Nanny Hunter, however, she didn’t move from her home country. In our interview she said that she had many childhood and adolescent memories of playing on swings and seesaws that families made themselves, attending concerts, marching in parade’s on the King’s birthday, and participating in the Salvation Army Girls. She also remembered being part of an old Christmas tradition in Newfoundland. Mummering is an event not held often today, where folks dress up in costumes and visit neighboring homes for snacks, music, and dance.

However, in 1947, under the leadership of Premier Joseph Smallwood, Newfoundland became part of Canada. My nan was part of the majority who voted to become part of Canada and told me during our interview that Newfoundland gained plenty in the years following Confederation. For one thing, the economy greatly improved. Roads were built, as were playgrounds, stadiums, and swimming pools. Water didn’t need to be drawn anymore from a hydrant. Residents stopped having to walk or rely on horse-and-buggy as their only means of transportation. They also started to receive unemployment checks and old age pension. Businesses increased too.

Neither of my grandmothers has ever regretted her decision to become a citizen of a new country, to become Canadian. My Nanny Hunter, who has spent most of her life in Canada, is very patriotic. As such, she feels disturbed by immigrants who refuse to relinquish the traditions from their “old country”. She feels that when they come to Canada to live they should leave their old ways behind.

My Nanny Hunter is proud of our Canadian heritage, which includes things as simple as the uniform of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and as complex as the Canadian Constitution which guarantees religious freedom. Her family came from a Greek Orthodox country, where most people were required to be Greek Orthodox. In Czechoslovakia, when she became a Protestant Christian, not only was she excommunicated but also she was not allowed to attend school. When her family moved to Canada, she started going to school again.

When my Nanny Hunter was eight years old and coming to Canada by boat, she never dreamed that years later she’d have the opportunity to travel from coast-to-coast, including to Newfoundland. She’s proud of the United Christian Canada to which she moved as a girl and remains proud to this day to be a Canadian citizen.

My Nanny Burry also remained loyal to Canada to her death. However, in our interview, she admitted to missing some of Newfoundland’s old ways, ones that were being lost or forgotten even in her day, which made the province “a distinct society”. My nan expressed regret that in the process to acquiring a better life, Newfoundlanders were drifting apart from one other and growing more hurried in their lifestyles. There used to be a time when everyone in town knew everyone else. Despite many gains, she felt there had also been many losses. The removal of old buildings has resulted in the destruction of landmarks. One can no longer hear the whistle of the train, for trucks have replaced trains. The mainstay of the economy, the fishery, has collapsed due to careless supervision by Central Canada. All of these changes and more, including the conversion of small-town offices into super mailboxes, have been witnessed by both my Nanny Burry and me.

At the start of this article, I wrote that in my interviews with my grandparents, I felt most struck by how relevant the differences in their viewpoints about whether to hold onto or let go of their heritage are to me today. One reason I have already alluded to, which is that I have lived long enough to see some of the ways of my hometown succumb to change that is brought on by economic needs. Another is that now I see my province only on visits, which means the features that most make it distinct are the ones which I most fight to see stay. In reality though, both of these may have less to do with the decision by Newfoundlanders to become part of Canada and more to do with the tides of change which everyone faces whether they leave their country, become part of a new one, or remain of the same nationality.

A third reason then is because as an American teacher, I often work with students who have moved here from countries from all over the world. Some of them wish to return to their homeland, others want to share and hold onto their traditions, and others have all but distanced themselves from their culture. In one school where I worked, our English Language Learners held a celebration day where their parents brought in foods traditional to their homeland. In another school, a student struggled daily because he was the only Mexican in class and he missed the life he once knew. In a third school, students enjoyed stories with their peers about their unique traditions. I loved the diversity but also realize that to varying degrees all of these students were also embracing American ways.

A final reason is that in 1998, I moved from a small town in Canada to a much bigger town in the United States. Although I hated the big buildings and frequent sirens which greeted me, features of a big town, I otherwise felt eager to acclimate myself to my new country. Obviously, there weren’t many changes, especially in contrast to those my Nanny Hunter would have faced coming from Czechoslovakia. In fact, at first the changes were so unnoticeable, I didn’t miss much about my old life. Slowly though, I began to realize that I pronounced some words differently and could purchase certain foods only in Canada. I also discovered that I feel most comfortable near trees, ponds, hills, and mountain, of all which I can find it much greater abundance in my hometown. Oh, and the political system is different, the medical system is different…. As much as Canada and the United States are alike, they also have many ways in which they aren’t the same. While some of them I obviously don’t have any control over, there are ones which I do. And so every year I bring back tangible reminders from Canada, including handfuls of books about my home province. I also feel pleased when a person I first meet says I have an accent.

My husband and I have chosen to live in the United States, which is his country of birth. This is now my home and I am proud of it. However, when I eventually apply for American citizenship, I don’t intend to relinquish my Canadian status. I’m equally as proud to be Canadian. As my grandmothers would agree, Canada is the perfect place to live.

canada1

Next week I’ll post an update on the comments that I made on books opposing open theism in my initial “Some Books on Open Theism” post.

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The Problem of Evil

Last week I said, “Next week I’ll post an update of the comments that I made on books opposing open theism in my initial ‘Some Books on Open Theism’ post.” However I still haven’t received one of the books that I planned to comment on, and so am postponing publishing that post.

“Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature–that baby beating its breast with its fist, for instance–and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears, would you consent to be the architect on those conditions? Tell me, and tell me the truth.”

This is the challenge that Ivan presents to Aloysha after describing several incidents in which children were grossly mistreated in Book VI, Chapter 4, of Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov (available online free at Project Gutenberg). Basically Ivan is charging that, even if He offers a place in Heaven in the end, the kind and amount of evil that God allows to take place in the world casts doubt on His character and/or power. In other words, he raises what is known as “the problem of evil.”

This fall the Life small group that my wife and I attend plans to study the problem of evil (and suffering) using a booklet by Randy Alcorn based on his If God Is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil (Multnomah Books, 2009). As I did when we studied Ephesians 6:10-20 in May, I’m going to post here comments and questions on what we study. Hopefully the group’s study and what I share of it here will result in our being encouraged by what the Bible reveals about evil and suffering and being strengthened to hold onto our faith when we encounter storms in our lives. I plan to publish the first post in that study on July 26. However in the two weeks before then I plan to consider what the opening and closing chapters of the book of Job reveal about the problem of evil.

But back to Ivan’s challenge. Aloysha answers softly, “No, I wouldn’t consent.” However he goes on to answer with flashing eyes a question that Ivan had asked before issuing the challenge, “Is there in the whole world a being who would have the right to forgive and could forgive [the horrible suffering that people had inflicted on children in the incidents that he had described]?” Here is his answer: “You said just now, is there a being in the whole world who would have the right to forgive and could forgive? BUt there is a Being and He can forgive everything, all and for all, because He gave His innocent blood for all and everything. You have forgotten Him, and on Him is built this edifice, and it is to Him they cry aloud, ‘Thou art just, O Lord, for Thy ways are revealed!'”

Similarly Randy Alcorn concludes in his booklet that Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is God’s answer to the problem of evil. I hope to demonstrate this to the Life group and here in the next few months.

Next week I’ll honour Canada Day by posting an article on it by a guest author, Allison Hunter-Frederick, and the following week I’ll post the update on the comments that I made on books opposing open theism in my initial “Some Books on Open Theism” post.

Some Websites and Blogs on Open Theism

This is a revised version of my November 10, 2012, “Some Websites and Blogs on Open Theism” post.

In my first post, “An Introduction to Open Theism,” I recommended these websites on open theism, the first two supporting and the third opposing open theism:
Open View Information Site
ReKnew – Open Theism
The Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry – Open Theism
In this post I’ll describe them, give links to other websites and blogs about or with significant material on open theism, and give links to websites for discussing open theism.

Open Theism Information Site

As its name indicates, Open Theism Information Site contains information about open theism. It has these sections: Home, Information, Publications, Questions, Opposition, and Contact. Home features a definition and summary of open theism by John Sanders, author of The God Who Risks. Information explores various sources of information about open theism; its Articles subsection provides articles on open theism by John Sanders, Gregory Boyd, William Hasker, Clark Pinnock, and other scholars and an enlightening debate about open theism between John Sanders and Christopher A. Hall, “Does God know Your Next Move?” Publications lists several books on open theism and related topics by various authors. Questions contains answers to various questions submitted by visitors to the site. Opposition contains a few items opposing open theism.

ReKnew – Open Theism

ReKnew is the website of Gregory Boyd, the author of God of the Possible. Its Resources / Essays / Open Theism section contains several items, one of which I especially recommend to anyone wanting to know what open theism is, “A Brief Outline and Defense of the Open View.” The other items are more advanced.

CARM – Open Theism

Open Theism at Matt Slick’s The Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM) contains material opposing open theism. It has four sections: Introduction, describing open theism; Issues and Answers, criticising open theism; Scriptures Examined, explaining Bible passages cited by open theists as evidence that God learns; and “A Dialogue with an Open Theist.”

Other Websites and Blogs about or with Significant Material on Open Theism

Library of Theology – Open Theism and Revival Theology Resources – Omniscience and Openness provide numerous articles and longer works on open theism by various writers of the past and the present. Their content is similar, but each contains some items not on the other. In particular, Library of Theology – Open Theism includes several articles by Jesse Morrell of Open Air Outreach.

The orthodox Open Theist is the personal blog of the administrator of Facebook’s Open View Theists group, Michael Faber.

All Things Rabyd – Open Theism contains some articles by Edward W. Raby about or referring to open theism.

The two blogs that I recommended in my original “Some Websites and Blogs on Open Theism” post aren’t active at this time.

Websites for Discussing Open Theism

I’m registered at these websites that host discussions of open theism:
Facebook – Open View Theists
Facebook – Open Theism, Moral Government Theology, Pentecostal
Open Theism Discussion Board

I joined Facebook so that I could participate in its Open View Theists group and I do so regularly. I recommend it to anyone who wishes to learn more about and/or to discuss open theism. Some of its members clash with each other over differences of opinion but so far they’ve been quite kind in their interactions with me.

After joining Facebook and the Open View Theists group, I found that Facebook hosts some other open theist groups. So far I’ve joined just one of them, the Open Theism, Moral Government Theology, Pentecostal group.

Before joining Facebook I used to occasionally visit and contribute to discussions at Open Theism Discussion Board, but I no longer do so.

I’d appreciate your telling me, either in a comment on this post or by e-mail, of other websites or blogs about or with significant material on open theism.

Next week I’ll post an update of the comments that I made on books opposing open theism in my initial “Some Books on Open Theism” post.

Some Books Promoting Open Theism by Gregory A. Boyd

In my original “Some Books on Open Theism” article, I included the following paragraph:

book 3A briefer and easier primer to open theism than The Openness of God and The God Who Risks is Gregory A. Boyd’s God of the Possible (Baker Books, 2000). It consists of four short chapters. “The Classical View of Divine Foreknowledge” presents examples of God predicting future events in the Bible and then explains the passages from the open perspective to show they do not teach that the future is exhaustively settled. “The God Who Faces a Partially Open Future” examines the Scriptural evidence for divine openness and concludes that the future is partly open and partly settled. “What Practical Difference Does the Open View Make?” shows that the belief that the future is partly open and that God knows it as such has important, beneficial, and practical implications for our lives. “Questions and Answers” considers the commonest questions asked about and objections raised against the open view. (Personally I disagree with Boyd’s assertion in “Questions and Answers” that possibilities and probabilities, unlike actualities, are eternally in God’s mind.)

Here I’m going to describe three other books that my family has in which Boyd promotes open theism. Each of my children has a copy of Letters from a Skeptic (SP Publications, 1994; Cook Communications, 2003), and I have copies of God at War: The Bible & Spiritual Conflict (InterVarsity Press, 1997) and Satan and the Problem of Evil: Constructing a Trinitarian Warfare Theodicy (InterVarsity Press, 2001), both Christmas gifts to me from my wife. Letters from a Skeptic is aimed at the general reader. So is most of the text of God at War and Satan and the Problem of Evil, but each of them contains extensive endnotes intended for specialists.

Letters from a Skeptic

Letters from a Skeptic contains letters that Boyd and his agnostic father exchanged about God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, and Christian life and doctrine in 1989-91 that led to the father’s accepting Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Saviour. The first of the book’s four parts, “Questions about God,” focuses on the problem of evil and provides as good an introduction to open theism as I’ve seen anywhere.

God at War: The Bible & Spiritual Conflict

God at War demonstrates that that a central concern of the Bible is what Boyd terms a “warfare worldview,” the view that the world is populated by spiritual beings at war with each other. The book is divided into two parts, each with five chapters. The first part consists of an introductory chapter relating the warfare worldview to the problem of evil and four chapters considering the warfare worldview of the Old Testament, and the second part considers the warfare worldview of the New Testament.

Satan and the Problem of Evil: Constructing a Trinitarian Warfare Theodicy

Satan and the Problem of Evil attempts “to render philosophically coherent the warfare worldview of Scripture as well as the war-torn appearance of our world” (p. 16). The book is divided into two parts, each with six chapters. The first part has an introductory chapter presenting the warfare worldview of the Bible (for those who haven’t read God at War) and showing that it was embraced by the early church and five chapters that develop these six theses: (1) love must be freely chosen; (2) love entails risk; (3) love, and thus freedom, entail that we are to some extent morally responsible for one another; (4) the power to influence for the worse must be roughly proportionate to our power to influence for the better; (5) not only does love entail freedom, but this freedom must be, within limits, irrevocable; and (6) this limitation is not infinite, for our capacity to freely choose love is not endless. The second part works through the implications of this theodicy in relationship to prayer, natural evil, and the doctrine of eternal punishment.

When I studied the free-will defence to the problem of evil in the mid 1980’s, I rejected the suggestion that Satan was responsible for natural evil. One reason was that I felt that the Bible pictured Satan’s as being able to inflict pain and suffering upon humans (or at least the righteous) only with God’s permission and I questioned a God of love’s allowing Satan to do such. However after reading God at War and Satan and the Problem of Evil, I’m more sympathetic to the idea.

In my next post I’ll give an updated version of my November 10 post on “Some Websites and Blogs on Open Theism.”