I wanted to explore some of the world of different Christian leaders, small and big. However, I wanted to report less on those and more in their own words. These will be published, slowly, over time. This, I trust, may open dialogue and understanding between various communities. Of course, an interview does not amount to an endorsement, but to the creation of conversation, comprehension, and compassion. Pastor Andy Steiger is the Pastor of Northview Community Church and the Director of Apologetics Canada. Here we talk about his life and views.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: With respect to personal and family background, what was it?
Pastor Andy Steiger: I am from the United States. I was born in Redding, California. My parents separated when I was around 4 years of age. My mom moved to Portland, Oregon with me, my three sisters and our dog named Fluffy. I lived in Portland, Oregon until I was 19. Then I moved to Canada to go to college.
With regards to religious background, my mom became a Christian later in her life. I committed my life to Christ at age 17.
Jacobsen: Can you relate your personal experience of becoming a Christian? I know there are different backgrounds and experiences for how those people develop their faith. For some, it can be a one-time experience. For others, it is over the long-term. They grapple with issues of daily life or theology and then convert.
Steiger: When we moved to Oregon, my mom started to take us to church. I, as a child and into adulthood, believed that God existed and that there is more to the universe. The question for me was who God was and if I cared to know God.
Even though I went to church it didn’t mean a whole lot at first. That changed when I was around 17-years-old. That was when I really wanted to know who this God was. I began to look into it. For me, the question about becoming a Christian was more of an intellectual question.
Ultimately, this journey led me to Jesus. One of the important things to me becoming a Christian and going into ministry was this: if I really believe God existed, I should act on that belief. Ultimately, this propelled me to become a Christian and to go into ministry.
Jacobsen: Your favourite scriptures is John 17:3. Why?
Steiger: It’s a prayer from Jesus. Specifically, it reminds us that eternal life is found in relationship with God. This is a re-occurring theme throughout Scripture from the Old Testament to the New Testament, that the meaning of life and the purpose of all this is to be in relationship. You can see that with the shema found in Deuteronomy chapter 6.
Throughout the Gospels, when Jesus is asked what is the greatest commandment – the Jewish equivalent to the meaning of life – his answer is consistently to quote Deuteronomy 6 and Leviticus 19, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself.”
Jesus’ answer is relational the whole way through. In the prayer, Jesus is reiterating the truth of eternal life. I think it is significant that eternal life is connected to relationship. People often have this misunderstanding of heaven. I often hear heaven spoken of as some kind of monochromatic nightmare, where you are floating around on clouds, playing harps and singing the halleluiah chorus forever and ever.
Steiger: That sounds more like hell than paradise to me.
Steiger: But that’s a wrong understanding of heaven. Jesus describes heaven in relational terms. On that note, a person can experience, at some level, both heaven or hell here on Earth with regards to your relational status. We’ve all experienced the bliss of friendship and darkness of loneliness.
Jacobsen: How does the relational aspect of that connect with the relational aspect of having a spouse and having children?
Steiger: From what we see, the idea that people are made in the image of God, which you find in Genesis chapter 1 verses 26 and 27, is a significant idea in Christianity.
These verses raise a significant question, “What does God look like?” In Christianity, that answer is unique, in that God looks like a family: Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the trinity. The point being, God is relational.
God lives in right relationship within Himself. God’s nature becomes the standard of right relationship, which ultimately is the foundation of morality, as morality is a relational term. What you see then, especially in a triune or relational God, is that there is this understanding of sacrificial love as found in a family.
You get this also from St. Richard of Victor. He argues that God must be three persons to be a perfect being. God is a being than which nothing greater can be conceived. Richard argues that a Triune God is a greater God. If God is only one person, God would need to have created people in order to know what love is. That becomes problematic in that God would be incomplete without us. However, if God is Triune: three persons in one essence, or soul, then God embodies love within His nature.
Richard argues that God must be more than one and even two persons to account for the fullness of love. For example, with two persons you have love but it’s an infatuated love that has no need for anyone else.
The family understanding comes in here. There is a third understanding of love, according to which a relationship is concerned with more than just each other, such as in a family when a husband and a wife’s love sacrificially include children.
In one sense, children have a pragmatic place in the society. On the other hand, having children is sacrificial. It requires your time. It requires your money. It is a challenge. It is interesting that two people who would be in love with one another would live sacrificially together and create life.
From a Christian understanding of the Trinity, there is this understanding that it is love that welcomes others and brings forth life. It is relational in nature. That love is outward- and not inward-focused.
Jacobsen: With respect to the pastoral position as well as the young adult ministries at Northview Community Church as well as being the director of Apologetics Canada, what are some of the responsibilities that come with this? How do you build a community at a church and also within a larger association including Apologetics Canada?
Steiger: It is a unique combination of ministries with the young adult pastoral work and the work with Apologetics Canada. They work well together because, with Apologetics Canada, our goal, first and foremost, is to help Christians strengthen their relationship with God.
I see apologetics more as discipleship than as evangelistic, which may come as a surprise for some readers. My desire is to help people through answering their questions and doubts that everyone wrestles with. I deal a lot with university students.
The questions university students deal with are everything from philosophical, scientific arguments and everything in between. My desire is to help young adults grow in their relationship with God and in their relationship with one another.
Everything we do is done through that matrix. You can see that this all follows from this understanding of what it means to be a human being and what is a human being made for, and what is life all about. We, as Christians, understand human beings are created for the purpose of relationship and our desire is to see that purpose fulfilled through Christ.
In fact, this is the Christian understanding of church. When we come to church it is an opportunity to be in relationship with God and also with each other.
Jacobsen: Final question, and as a director of Apologetics Canada, you have a broader view on this, probably. That is, it is a question a little bit peripheral, but I see this in commentary and writings from people who not only are part of the global Christian church but also the Western European and North American church.
The issues, within the church, of more women and less men with congregation numbers, taking part in activities of worship (e.g., coming to Sunday sermons, Bible study groups, college theological classes, and so on), and so on. Does this reflect your own experience, of a decline of men in the church?
Steiger: Yes, however I see a much broader issue. I would argue we are seeing a decline of men being involved in social gatherings in general. Men tend to be quite busy, quite insular. I think it is easy for men to get caught up in work or whatever else. We tend not to spend time with other men.
I think it is a challenge, whether you are a Christian or not, and I believe it is partly to do with our culture. Men tend to like to do things that are more individualistic, such as playing video games to working on their car.
It is a real challenge for men, where they need to make a concerted effort to participate in the things that are community-driven. Also, you read books like Bowling Alone and Alone Together. They demonstrate that this is something happening in our society.
We see this in women as well. But it is not nearly to the same degree as men. Yes, it is true in church as well. It is a challenge we men need to face. It is a Challenge to get people to value community and participate in that community. Yet, when they do they are glad they did.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Pastor Steiger.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
Do not forget to look into our associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, and Centre for Inquiry Canada.