The Question: Was Jonah swallowed by the fish for transportation, punishments, or protection?
Seminary doesn’t usually degenerate into such senseless questioning, although some might say that merely going to seminary is an excersise in senseless futility.
Something which may not be to far off the mark...or not.
His five perspectives were: contextualization (cont.) as communication, cont. as indigenization, cont. as translatability, cont. as local theologizing, and cont. as epistemology.
Yesterday I was thinking that I would say more today, but I’m realizing that the minimum amount of time and energy necessary to communicate what was taught is more than you or I want to exert. (you would be reading forever.)
If this is a subject that interests you e-mail me, and I can provide you with some resources, including some handouts from class. One of the primary books we worked from was Steven B. Bevans’ Models of Contextual Theology.
A little bit on the word “theology”. In my traditions, (all of them fundamentalist leaning evangelical), it is usually used to describe "biblical theology" or "systematic theology". These are excellent variations of theology, but narrowing the definition of the word to these two things makes communication on so many other subjects a bit troublesome.
The American Heritage Dictionary gives these three definitions for theology.
1. The study of the nature of God and religious truth; rational inquiry into religious questions.
2. A system or school of opinions concerning God and religious questions: Protestant theology; Jewish theology.
3. A course of specialized religious study usually at a college or seminary.
At Fuller, and I’m sure throughout academia, the word has been tagged onto many different subjects to denote a desire for "rational inquiry into religious questions" in that sphere. For instance, at Fuller, one can take classes on not only systematic theology and biblical theology, but also theology of music, theology of film, or my course, Theology in Context, to name a few.
When one considers theology in a particular context, one of the most important of the many questions asked is: “how does a given context or culture affirm Christ and Christianity; where is it ambivalent; and in what ways does it attack or malign the gospel?” The technicalities of this question, and how people are actually doing this (some of them in a North American context) were the primary concerns of the class.
What some of these models are, and how they are used, will be the subject of tomorrows post.
Rather than re-write what it was all about, here is the professor, Dr. Gibbs, description of the subject:
This course seeks to interrelate the disciplines of ecclesiology and missiology from a biblical perspective, and covers the following topics: the Trinitarian nature of the church, the relationship of the Church to the Kingdom of God, New Testament images of the Church, the classical marks of the Church, worship, unity, the Sacraments, ministry of the people of God, mission in the world, and the structuring of the church to facilitate its missionary calling.
What made the class further interesting was the format, one hour of lecture, followed by one hour of small groups in which we worked on a rather extensive group paper.
I think the most important thing I took away from the class is an understanding of the missional nature of God, and the churches responsibility to reflect and engage in that mission. (this also will be covered in another post sometime in the future) It also helped me to articulate why the church must me missional. Though we’ll never do it perfectly, we have a lot of room for improvement. In my estimation, the status quo of most churches is not acceptable, though since I’ve never been a pastor, I must give much grace because I am sure I too will fail in this area. (as I do in so many others) That said, we need to aim high, regardless of our chances for success. (more can be read from my previous post The Missional Ministry of the Church)
The class was taught by Fuller’s President, Richard Mouw. His presence was part of the reason I chose the class, I wanted to know more about this sometimes controversial figure, he did not disappoint. He told a lot of stories, so much so that I’m not sure if his stories were the best or the worst part of the class. One of the most important things I realized was that Christ or Christianity is never realized apart from culture, which is important because some of us like to talk about “pure Christianity”, or the “essence of the gospel”. But in fact, every theologian who has ever tried to hypothesize such a thing, themselves lives in a particular culture, with issues particular to that day that color their “pure” analysis.
We began the class by studying Niebuhr’s book Christ and Culture, in which he identifies five perspectives, or relationships, that Christ can have with culture. They are:
Christ Against Culture
Christ in Culture
Christ in Paradox with Culture
Christ Above Culture
Christ Transforming Culture
Within this perspective I argued that all of these can be valid, depending on the subject, because Christ is "above" culture. For instance, prostitution must be stood "against", nature shows us "Christ in", war can show us some "paradoxes", and we want all of humankind to be "transformed" , but all of this is possible because Christ is "above".
There are certainly other paradigms in which to consider Christ’s relationship to culture, but these are the ones we studied, a paradigm which was heavily influenced by the Modern world view. I got so tired of this modern world view that I decided for my final paper, to critique the ways in which Niebuhr was influenced by modernity. The first section of that paper was posted on the 6th of June and entitled Christ and Culture.
The latter half of the class focused on culture, what it is, what it’s not, and how it influences us. We used Abraham Kuyper, a man with a long list of accomplishments, as a model from which to work. (google “Kuyper”, he is very interesting)
Some of the other topics covered: generous orthodoxy, common grace, sphere sovereignty, multiculturalism.
Today I started a two week intensive class entitled Old Testament Prophets. There are classes you want to take, and there are classes you have to take, the trick is to treat the latter like the former, something I’m not very good at. I think this OT class will be a bit of both, the topic isn’t my favorite, but our professor, Dr. Scalise, is making it palatable, so that’s good.
One of the things I think I will enjoy is what appears (at least after the first day) to be an emphasis on the text of the Holy Scripture, as opposed to what scholarship says about the text, as was the case in my New Testament classes. Not that there won't be any scholarly analysis, but that does not appear to be the emphasis of our time and energy.
I’m really looking forward to seeing friends and family and my small home town. I need a break from this fast paced, traffic clogged, “paradise”. It will be nice to go for a walk in silence for a change, and sleep without the lullabies of traffic ten yards from my bedroom window.
As you regulars can tell, I was playing around with the template last night. I’m not sure it actually looks better, but at least it is slightly different from every other blog, though not much. The thing is, I’m sick of having the same template as thousands of other people. I bought html for Dummies, so we’ll see how that goes, it that doesn’t pan out I may just take this thing over to TypePad, or some other host that will let me do more, but that would require some time, so I don’t know. If you have an opinion on blog hosts let me know.
The ministry of the Church has too often been divided between clergy and laity, with the majority of the responsibility for ministry falling to the “professional” clergy. This fact is responsible for the serious diminishment of the missional presence of the Church in the world, and can be seen in multiple areas of ministry. In this section, we will begin with a look back at some aspects of the church’s history, and then consider what some churches are doing to move forward.
Looking back, the reign of Constantine instigated, or some might say, brought to fruition, patterns of thought and ministry that handicapped the Church and it’s ability to engage in ministry. Even before the Christianization of the Roman Empire, leaders in the church reigned supreme…when they were not being killed or driven into hiding. Christians of the fourth century then formalized what had already begun, namely a separation between clergy and laity.
This separation, according to Bloesch, severely limited ministry, and though the reformers of the sixteenth century re-emphasized, at least intellectually, the priesthood of all believers, they failed to overcome the grip of this perspective’s gravity, which pulled them into its orbit. Guder picks up this same theme when he points out the fact that the Church tends to focuses on “identifying, training and credentialing…the pastor teacher.”, and this at the expense of the other gifts listed in Ephesians chapter four. The effects of a Constantinean perspective on ministry and mission still handicap us today.
The leadership of ministry that is missional, leans on the example of Jesus, and seeks to serve rather than being lifted up to an elevated position. It also takes Christ’s model of discipleship seriously. Having twelve disciples is not necessary, but discipling people is. When we begin to see the church as the “fellowship of believers”, we are much more likely to involve all members in missional witness.
If the church is to minister effectively and missionally, it must do three things: take discipleship seriously, bridge the gap between, and ultimately abolish clergy/laity distinctions, and seek to empower all the gifts of the Holy Spirit for the sake of the church. As these things become increasingly true, the church will become increasingly missional.
Following are Excerpts from a reflection paper I did for a class entitled Christ and Culture taught by Richard Mouw
The past year has taken me from a place of questioning world views, to a place of mild confidence, yet that confidence is not necessarily with out risk. I am like a skydiver in free fall, believing that I am safe, yet absent the evidence. (sounds a bit like a certain unknown author, if you know what I mean) I suppose this is a good analogy for all who have faith of whatever kind, but I would like to use it as an analogy of my growing state of comfort with the postmodern world. Having said this, I am not myself a full fledged supporter of postmodernity, I believe it is simply one of many world views complete with pros and cons. Rather, I am a Christian who lives in a world which is daily becoming increasingly postmodern. Separating me from other Christians who agree with this analysis, is the fact that I believe that the change is often a change for the better.
This class, which has sought to analyze both culture, and Christ’s relationship to culture, has been a key contributor to my growing state of comfort in the postmodern world. Primarily we have interacted with two people, Niebuhr and Kuyper; both approached their topics from the modern world view they lived in. For me, our analysis of these men served not only to teach me about Christ and culture, and “sphere sovereignty”, but also about the failures of modernity; failures which have spawned postmodernity, or whatever comes as a result of postmodernity. Consequently, I will reflect on my journey from the modernism of my youth and my Christian tradition, and into the coming world of postmodernism. I will do so by analyzing both the strengths and the failures of Niebuhr’s perspectives in his book Christ and Culture, and Kuyper’s belief in “sphere sovereignty”.
The problem is that all those zero’s look awfully pitiful, so the three of you that visit this site on a regular basis, (there are thee of you right? not counting my mom?) Anyway, the three of you need to pass the word so I don’t look so stupid…though I can hear you now. “David, inflating your counter won’t make you look any better…your site already bounced off one to many branches on the ugly tree.” and you would be right, so never mind, don’t come back ever again, besides lowest score wins, right? ; )
In other news, finals are next week, so the posting may be a bit thin for a few days.
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