Saturday, May 25, 2013

Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth (Really?!!?)

I was reading One World Classroom by Salmon Khan, in it he was mentioning some scholarly work done recently by Malcom Knowles on lifelong learning even until adulthood. Knowles promotes "androgogy" which is the opposite of pedagogy, pedagogy is learning through an instructor/lecture; but androgogy is self-guided/self motivated learning. Anyways, as I was looking into Malcom Knowles and his books I came across a humorous and slightly frustrating comment on one of his amazon pages. Someone who interestingly enough gave the book a five star rating and said he really enjoyed it also felt inclined to add this concluding sentence:
"For all who may read this, remember that the reason we are here on earth is to be people with whom God can fellowship. Are you in the daily habit of reading The Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth (BIBLE)?"
Does anything ring off to you when you read that? I had never heard that acronym used to describe the bible before, but sadly I think it captures the way many believers look at the bible and their churches. Seeing their churches as escape pods from earth, safe refuges from the diseased around them. Yes the reason we are here is to fellowship..and I fully believe God's fellowship of people is meant to bless and benefit the nations! While I do not have my mind concluded exactly about what it means to be both the salt and light of the world as well as just "sojourners in the world"; I do believe it will not end on the lines of....we are just passing through so don't worry about this world and those who live in it. Yes we are in exile, away from our heavenly home...groaning longing to be clothed, but what should our exilic mindset be? Shouldn't it mirror that of Jeremiah's instruction to the Israelite exiles in babylon:
"Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare." (Jeremiah 29:7)
I dont fully understand how present history and eternal consummation work together. I look at the world and wonder if we are progressing or digressing, and see reasons for both. I don't have my mind made up about matters of ecclesiology, pluralism..being the church in a fallen world. But what I am pretty certain about is that if we are more excited to escape the world than to "be fruitful and multiply in it and have dominion in it"...then we are missing our God given role of being his image-bearers. If our prayer is Lord get me out of here and not "let your kingdom come on earth" then our hearts are misderected. If our goal is to die and go to heaven and not to live eternally on the new heavens and new earth, the new Jerusalem coming down from the sky to the not our hope misdirected?

Excuse the ranting, just such an interesting topic. Overall, as a christian missionary I want to have an effect on the nation I live in in many ways more than seeing a few people pray a prayer. I want to pray, strive, work, sweat, bleed, fight, preach, argue, love and live my life for the well-fare and blessing of this nation, and I want to disciple up others with this same passion...not just enlist a few more people on my escape pod!

Peter Senge

This afternoon I listened to a few talks by Peter Senge (at the bottom of the page). I know Peter Senge through his book The Fifth Discipline, he is an MIT professor who challenges the way organizations (business, schools, governments...) think and act. He is most known for promoting "learning organizations" the idea of an organization that is constantly evolving and adapting, constantly learning. The talk I most enjoyed was the one on organizational culture (all 3 talks are only 3-7 minutes long). In the talk Senge defines culture as the deeply embedded unquestioned assumption that fleshes itself out in regular practices. He then makes in incredible remark on learning as a means of transforming culture...

"Learning...must transform culture, it must lead people to recognize unquestioned assumptions and entertain the possibility that they could be wrong and then do things that actually allow them to achieve things they could not achieve before and also embody a new set of assumptions"

This is the way I want to teach, this is the way I want to learn!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Dallas Willard Remembered

This week (May 10) a modern giant of the faith passed away. Dallas Willard was one of the first teachers I listened to and read that really opened up my eyes to the depths and importance of gospel, discipleship and kingdom. His teaching challenged me to think about not just converting people but conforming them to Christ, and for my own life I learned that being converted was a continual process of learning to follow Jesus more and a daily practice of entering into his kingdom and submitting to his lordship. Though I did not know him, here are some words from someone who did know him closely Todd Hunter. (interestingly the first audio teaching I listened too of Dallas Willard was a co-teaching between him and Todd Hunter). Here are some things Tom Hunter had to say about his close friend and mentor: 
Dallas Willard was an old-school Jesus Freak. He had a world-class intellect and passionate curiosity about all things concerning God and his kingdom.
Dallas did not scare people into heaven, nor did he wrestle them down as a philosophical bully. Instead he kindly and humbly set forward Jesus as the one who announced in his teaching, demonstrated in his miracles, and embodied in his life, the gospel of God’s kingdom. It was always so obvious that Jesus was Dallas’ hero in every way...
Dallas knew that much of the evangelical world had reduced Jesus to one thing he did: shed his blood. As unspeakably important as the cross is, valuing it and forgetting the rest of Jesus’ ministry has led untold numbers of people to become, in Dallas’ memorable phrase, “vampire Christians.”
Vampire Christians are people who want a bit of Jesus’ blood so they dodge hell but really don’t want anything to do with him. They had no vision for, or intention of, following him.
Dallas taught and embodied something better. We heard Dallas as a teacher discuss it, but we also witnessed him carry on his life as an apprentice of Jesus — learning how to be a philosophy professor in a major university, an author and a speaker, a husband and father, as Jesus would do it if he were in Dallas’ shoes.
It was this quality of being, more than the towering intellect, skillful teaching and masterful writing that drew those of us close to him, to admire, love, and cherish him so much.
Many people think Jesus Freaks died out with bell-bottoms and disco. I get it. The cultural phenomenon did pass away. But a new-school generation of apprentices to Jesus is rising on the heels of Dallas Willard’s work and his life’s message: Jesus and his kingdom. I want to live the kind of life that makes me counted among them.
This is my true testimony concerning Dallas: No human being taught me more about life in Jesus and his kingdom.
Yesterday morning, having received news of Dallas’ trip to heaven, I whispered a vow in my heart: I want to grow until the day I die, as an apprentice to Jesus, announcing, demonstrating and embodying Jesus’ gospel of the kingdom of God.

To remember Dallas more check out this website that is the official home of his teaching resources:

Book Review on Sanctorum Communio

Bonhoeffer's first published work (i believe that is correct) was his theological dissertation named "sanctorum communion", it was a blend of sociology and theology addressing the church. The link below are connecting to a free online copy of the book as well as an introductory book review. . It has some good quotes from the book and a basic overview of what you will be getting into if you want to read the book. While I would encourage you to read through the whole review (it's not that long), I have also taken a few quotes from the review:

"I simply cannot believe that a young man in his twenties could write such a mind-boggling, thought-provoking, and insightful masterpiece as Sanctorum Communio.  I feel that I will never think of “church” in quite the same way again.  In fact, I feel like I’ve just been given a view of a mountain that I know I must go back and climb again, but the overall sensation of its height is so startling that I’m not quite sure how to begin....  Karl Barth would later say of this work, “I openly confess that I have misgivings whether I can even maintain the high level reached by Bonhoeffer, saying no less in my own words and context, and saying it no less forcefully, than did this young man so many years ago”.  He would also call this book “a miracle.”
It is steeped in sociological categories that many readers might find offputting.  I do not claim to have followed some of the more technical aspects of the social philosophy sections, but struggling through these parts is reward enough in and of itself to warrant the effort.  Even so, I daresay that the work is accessible enough to anybody who cares deeply about the church.  I found it to be so anyway.  (In a strange way this book reminds of Moby Dick.  I had to sludge through some of the sailing history and terminology that was, frankly, foreign to me.  But the story, and, on hindsight, the foundation that the denser parts of that book lend to the story, was overwhelming.)"

Sanctorum Communio Book Review

Free PDF & Kindle version of sanctorum communio

Monday, May 6, 2013

What is Evangelical Theology?

I recently started reading "Introduction to Evangelical Theology" by Karl Barth and in his introductory comments, he lays out a basic definition of what he means by "evangelical theology" which is invigorating and has stayed in my my mind for a few days now. I wanted to briefly summarize what he stated and then share a few quotes with you from this first chapter. As I read his chapter, and almost every time when I read Barth, I wanted to highlight every single word; but that would not be very conducive for future reflection so I have just selected a few of my favorites points of his. First the summary and then the quotes:

Barths' basic definition is that evangelical theology is the study of the God of the gospel. In poetic and scholastic writing he brings out the two main elements of this definition: GOOD AND GOD; the euangelion and theo. Barth first strongly lays out that theology is "theo-centered", its subject is God- a personal and ultimate being. It is a study of God. And then he goes on to show how evangelical theology is studying God as revealed in the bible which finds its centerpiece the gospel. It is studying the revelation that the ultimate being is a good and loving one! The God of the bible is a God bringing and announcing good news.

"The theology to be introduced here is evangelical theology. The qualifying attribute 'evangelical' recalls both the New Testament and at the same time the Reformation of the sixteenth century. Therefore, it may be taken as a dual affirmation: the theology to be considered here is the one which, nourished by the hidden sources of the documents of Israel's history, first achieved unambiguous expression the writings of the New Testament evangelists, apostles and prophets; it is also, moreover, the theology newly discovered and accepted by the Reformation of the sixteenth century. The expression 'evangelical', however cannot and should not be intended and understood in a confessional, that is, in a denominational and exclusive, sense. This is forbidden first of all by the elementary fact that 'evangelical' refers primarily and decisively to the Bible, which is in some way respected by all confessions. Not all so called Protestant theology is evangelical theology; moreover there is also evangelical theology in the roman Catholic and Eastern orthodox worlds, as well as in the many later variations, including deteriorations, of the Reformation departure. What the word 'evangelical' will objectively designate is that theology which treats of the God of the Gospel."

"The object of evangelical theology is God in the history of his deeds...Let it be noted that evangelical theology should neither repeat, re-enact, nor anticipate the history in-which God is what he is. Theology cannot make out of this history a work of its own to be set in motion by itself. Theology must, of course, give an account of this history by presenting and discussing human perceptions, concepts and formulations of human languange. But it does this appropriately only when it follows the living God in those unfolding historical events in which he is God. Therefore, in its perception, meditation, and discussion, theology must have the character of a living procession. Evangelical theology would forfeit its object, it would belie and negate itself, if it wished to view, to understand, and to describe any one moment of the divine procession in 'splendid isolation' from others. Instead theology must describe the dynamic interrelationships which make this procession comparable to a bird in flight, in contrast to a caged bird...the god of the Gospel rejects any connection with a theology that has become paralyzed and static. Evangelical theology can only exist and remain in vigorous motion when its eyes are fixed on the God of the Gospel." 

"Evangelical theology is concerned with Immanuel, God with us! Having this God for its object, it can be nothing else but the most thankful and happy science"