Monday, August 25, 2008

Journey to the Center of the Earth

Last week I got to do something that I haven't done since I left Colorado - go camping.
Not the kind of camping that you do at some fenced-in place with paved parking spots and bathrooms with hot water - real camping, in the middle of nowhere, where you just walk until you decide that you've found a good place for your tent, where you have to do your business in the forest, and you have to bathe in a creek. Now that's good stuff!
In order to do this kind of camping, we went to Romania, since "wild camping" is not permitted in Hungary or Slovakia. And "wild camping" is a good term to use about Romania, which is one of the few places I've been in Europe where you can still get the feeling that you are in the wild.
We went to the Bihor/Bihar Mountains, to a place called Padiş/Pádis (everything has a Romanian, Hungarian, and often German name in Transylvania), which is like a high plateau, close to many cool places to hike and things to see.
Getting up there was no easy task. There are 2 roads that lead to Padis - one from the north and one from the south. Because of picking up John, we took the road from the north on the way there. This was one of the worst roads I've ever been on. I don't even thing this should be called a road - it was more of a series of pointy rocks and car-sized puddles. We went 20 km in a matter of 1.5-2 hrs. A lot of the time, everyone had to get out of the car and run alongside to help me not to bottom out on the pointy rocks.
At one point I saw a line of oil running down the road, and it took me a moment before I realized it wasn't from my car, but from the guy in the Dacia who had come the other way going about 40 km/hr. In one of the travel books someone had for the region, it said that you should only take the northern road to Padis if you are driving an SUV or a Dacia! Our Peugeot did a good job though, even though it wasn't a Dacia. Go Dacia!
On the way back home, we took the southern route, and left John in Oradea/Nagyvárad. Praise the Lord, that way was a great road and totally uneventful.
This was originally planned as a church camping trip, done together with Calvary Chapel Cluj, but both of us had almost everyone back out at the last minute, so in the end it was just me, 3 people from our church in Eger, and John - the pastor of the Cluj church.
It was a great time. The mountains there are karst, so they are full of caves to explore. The people from our church kept asking if it reminded me of Colorado, but I had to explain that although the Bihar Mountains are beautiful, they are a completely different kind of mountain than what I grew up with. But, that said - I really liked Pádis, and it was my first time climbing around in caves like that.
It was good to get back home to Rosemary and Nate, and I'm looking forward to going back, and looking forward to when Nathaniel will be a bit bigger and I can take him out camping and doing man stuff like starting fires and peeing outside. I guess I could always teach him to do that stuff here in Eger too, but my neighbors probably wouldn't appreciate it very much!
If you're interested in seeing pictures of the whole trip - shepherds, caves, horses, etc..., you can click here, or just watch this slideshow.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Thoughts on Calvin

This one goes out to all my Calvinist friends out there:I've had a few posts recently about John Calvin - mostly because of our church moving to a building called the Kálvin Ház in Eger, and every Sunday,there is this picture of John Calvin hanging over my head as I preach, and there is this statue of him in the courtyard. So, Calvin's been on my mind lately, since I see him almost every day of the week.

But in regard to Calvin and Calvinism, I would like to say the following:
I'm not a Calvinist.
But I have friends who are.
A few years ago one of my friends became a Calvinist; not long afterwards, I got an email from someone who knew him, asking me - Hey, I heard that (my friend's name) lost his mind and became a Calvinist. Is that true?
It was like this guy was asking about my friend as if he were Anakin Skywalker, who had just gone over to the dark side and become Darth Vader.

One thing which I make try to make very clear in the church I pastor, is that there is a difference between "primary" and "secondary" theological issues.
Here is an excerpt from a handout we pass out in our church about baptism:
Primary Theological Issues are those which are necessary for Christian Orthodoxy. They include such things as our belief in: One God, the Trinity, Jesus (i.e. His Virgin Birth, sinless life, death for sin, and resurrection), the perfection and authority of the Bible, and salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
Secondary Theological Issues are those matters that are of varying degrees of importance, but which are not necessary for salvation. They are disagreed upon among Christians, and include such issues as speaking in tongues, different worship styles, baptism, and eschatology.

It was in regard to this distinction that Augustine is quoted with the following: In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas. (In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.)
Since Calvinism is a way of interpreting scripture in the areas of the sovereignty of God and often eschatology, which are not necessary for salvation, these are things which fall into the "Secondary" category - topics which are worth studying, debating, discussing and having strong opinions about, but not worth dividing over.

The unfortunate thing, is that some Christians are willing to, even eager to, divide over "Secondary" theological issues.
Not long ago, I was looking at an evangelical apologetics website; on the left-hand side was a long list of articles to choose from, which included Buddhism, Islam, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, the Baha'i faith, and so on. And there, on this list of non-Christian religions and cults was also "Calvinism."
Now, I understand that this is just a list of things this guy has articles on, and that he is not necessarily saying that Calvinism is heretical, but it bothered me that a position and interpretation of scripture which is not only Christian, but actually Evangelical, would be listed in the same list as non-Christian religions and cults.
This just illustrates for me how some Christians are quick to demonize anyone who has a view which is different from theirs - even if that view is a "secondary" theological issue - and treat them as enemies of the faith, portraying them as people who must not truly love God, the Bible, or people, whose hearts are black, and who hate everything that is good and beautiful, including puppies, babies, kittens, and flowers - and who have some dark agenda.

I think that there are things which are actual threats to Christianity which would be a better use of our time to fight against than to attack those amongst our own ranks who have different methodology or interpretations of secondary issues. The latter is probably much easier to do - although it avails little, if anything, for God's Kingdom.

I recently read this quote by Robert Frost:
"Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence."
I like that. I hope that more of us as Christians could be like that when we encounter those who have different views than we do - and especially those brothers and sisters of ours with whom we have differences of opinion on secondary issues.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Place That Time Forgot

Last week we were in Felsőtárkány, right outside of Eger, for our 3rd English Camp in Eger. The Lord answered our prayers and we had a lot of kids, and it was a great camp. We got to share the Gospel with those who came, and some responded that invitation to know God.
It was a great week. We had great helpers from America (and Canada!), and everything went smoothly.
A few things made this camp harder than those in the past though. Most obviously - this is the first year that we've had a baby. So we weren't able to be as involved in the "fun stuff" because of naps and bedtime and stuff like that. Another part was that the more kids come, the more punk and jerk kids come as well - and we had a bit of that this year.
But one thing about the camp is the place we have it. Táltos (which means "Mustang"!). The staff is nice, and the price is right, but the place is a bit rough around the edges.
It was built over 40 yrs ago as a Communist Youth camp. In the center of the camp still stands a statue of Hámán Kató - Hungarian Communist hero - with the text: "Hűség a Néphez, Hűség a Párthoz" (Faithfulness to the Nation, Faithfulness to the Party). Yea, that's the Communist Party, just in case you weren't sure.
If any of you have ever been to Csillebérc, its kind of like that - but maybe not as nice.
I think this place hasn't been cleaned thoroughly since the fall of the Iron Curtain. Actually, the place was abandoned for quite a few years, so that might well be the case. But this place is seriously unkempt. Some of our helpers who have come in past years lovingly refer to it as "The Bomb Shelter".
There are a lot of bugs up there. One of our helpers this year, on the last day, said - It is now time for us to leave this place, and turn it back over to the bugs. I think its possible that they have some nuclear waste stored up there, because the bugs are bigger than life. So much so that you're tempted to put a leash on them and give them cute names and take them home to live with you.
The main hall where we had our big events was cluttered with fragments of the walls and 10 yrs worth of dead june bugs. We lost power a few times because we plugged in a laptop and a fan - which overpowered the system - and another time we had a power surge and a light bulb exploded right above everyone.
For me, this picture really sums up Táltos in an artistic way:You see those stars under the horse's feet? Yea, its kind of like as if to say, We used to have more stars! This place used to be kind of nice - but not any more! Its all been trampled on! And now all we've got left is these 2 stars - which is probably an exaggeration to say even that.
But despite its flaws, we love the Bomb Shelter. Its in a really great place in the hills, we are friends with the staff, and they treat us well. We're going back next year for sure. Táltos, here we come!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

New Camera

I've been wanting to buy a DSLR camera for a while now, but the price always deterred me. Finally I sucked it up and decided to buy one (or maybe Rosemary sucked it up and decided to let me buy one - whichever it is).
After spending a lot of time on ebay, and worrying that it wouldn't arrive on time to the person from California who brought it over for me - I got a used Nikon D50.
I'm really enjoying it, and it takes great photos.
I have some posted on this site: