Monthly Archives: November 2012

A Seminary Student’s Christmas Wish List

Growing up, my mom said that we could put anything we wanted on our Christmas lists. It didn’t mean we would get everything (or anything) on our lists, because our lists were “wish” lists and  not “get” lists. In the spirit of that wish list, I offer today my Seminary Student Christmas Wish List.

What I Want For Christmas:

  • Heat in S115.
  • For the contract with Coca-Cola to be dropped in favour of a contract with Pepsi.
  • Electrical plugs installed at the Bean for people’s laptops.
  • A big endowment for the Seminary that would cut tuition rates in half.
  • An indoor play space at the Crossroads for the little kids to play on when it’s forty below (translation: for six months of the year)
  • For the student lounge to be turned into a bar.
  • More single men (note: this isn’t my wish; its Lori’s wish and I wish it for Lori).
  • For the Bean to regularly stock potato chips as a snack option.
  • A new course offering: Theology and Science Fiction
  • For a pizza joint to be opened in town.
  • A dedicated prayer room.
  • For the entire town of Caronport to be moved closer to Regina.

 

When Google Knows You Too Well

 

A promotional poster for Of Gods and Men

Of Gods and Men (film)
Of Gods and Men (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The professor that I will be interning under next semester is wanting to incorporate the movie “Of Gods and Men” into his course material as an example of living the cruciform life. Having not seen it, I turned to Google. Ah Google. In this case it knows me too well. When I googled “Of Gods and Men” the first offering it gave me was “Star Trek: Of Gods and Men” the 2006 mini-series that was directed by Tim Russ (Tuvok) and starred an abundance of Star Trek alum, and not the 2010 French film about trappist monks in Algeria. Hmm. I wonder if there is a way to  incorporate Star Trek into my internship. Oh let me count the ways!

 

 

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Sunday Meditiation

To say that evangelicals have neglected ecclesiology is not to say that they have neglected the church altogether. What they have neglected, rather, is a rich theological account of the church. An honest evaluation of evangelicalism must conclude that evangelicals have oftentimes conceded ecclesiology to sociology, history, and, in the worst instances, to entrepreneurship. Evangelicalism to a great degree does not have a richly Trinitarian, Christological, and pneumatological understanding of the church (though there are ever-increasing attempts to address this deficiency).

There are at the very least two reasons for this lack of rich theological description. First, evangelicalism is most often understood as a sociological and historical movement. This view of evangelicalism in turn translates into a sociological view of the church rather than a theological one. Second, practitioners more interested in pragmatic and numerical success than theological reflection are often the ones who shape evangelical ecclesiology. In the words of Barth, they are often more impressed with extensive rather than intensive growth, numerical rather than spiritual increase (though, as Barth himself noted, these need not be mutually exclusive). Nevertheless, to treat the church as a society among societies, as an organization among organizations, as a sociological entity marked by visible success accounted for by secular methods, is to take flight into the visible church and sacrifice its theological identity. What is required is a much more robust theological doctrine of the church.

~Kimlyn Bender, “The Church in Karl Barth and Evangelicalism: Conversations across the Aisle.” in Karl Barth and American Evangelicalism, 192-193.

 

 

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Off Topic: Christmas Craft Sale in Caronport

Next weekend, November 30 to December 2, I will be participating in the annual Christmas Craft Sale at Briercrest College and Seminary. This craft sale is in conjunction with the annual Christmas Concert put on by the music arts department at Briercrest. To those of you who live in Caronport or southern Saskatchewan and are planning to attend, please print off the attached coupon flyer to receive a discount on your Christmas shopping at my table. Merry Christmas!

 

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Another Adventure in Anglicanism — Women Bishops and the CoE

So yesterday the motion to allow female bishops in the Church of England failed. Reading through my twitter feed in the hours after you would think the world was coming to an end. I get that it was an emotional vote. But declarations that the CoE is irrelevant, out of touch with culture, or worse, misogynistic were not helpful, nor does it reflect the reality of life in the Anglican church.

There were calls to have the vote overturned.

There were American low-church (even some no-church) evangelicals declaring that Anglicans don’t need no stinkin’ synods to tell them how to run their church.

And there was the media declaring that the CoE had voted strongly against women bishops.

There were people pushing the political agenda, over-emphasizing that women’s ordination is about “justice and equality” but forgetting that churches don’t (or at least shouldn’t) ordain a person simply because of politics of gender, but because of sacrifice, service and spiritual giftings.

The only level-headed reflection to the vote that I’ve seen so far has come from Michael Bird:

If I can try offer some words of exhortation to the haughty, the hurting (and perhaps the hysterical), let me say this:

1. Due process is due process. The debate has been had, the arguments put forward, voices were heard, and the votes counted. Many are disappointed as their hopes have been dashed. But the processes are there to make sure that all representatives in the COE get a fair say and no one gets to decide what that “says” is. This is an issue that needed a mandate and consensus. And it came up short.
2. If women bishops are put forward in the name of a diverse, inclusive, and broad church, you have to remember that diversity and breadth cuts both ways, it means including and empowering people to the left and to the right of you.
3. Women bishops are inevitable, clearly the majority wants it, but the timing will depend on constructively engaging and assuaging both the anglo-catholic and conservative evangelical wings of the church rather antagonizing them or demonizing them.
4. This is not the last word. Discussion and debate will go on. Time for a cup of tea, an iced-vovo, and then some further conversations about mission and the episcopacy.

I’m all for women bishops, that’s no secret. But I am appalled by the reactions of other supporters who failed to guard their tongues, who failed to speak charitably about their brothers and sisters in Christ who voted against the motion, and who failed to demonstrate the love and patience that Christians are called to demonstrate.

Was the result disappointing? Yes.

But at the same time, it also was a blessing: the majority voted for women bishops, it was just that it failed to get a super-majority. There is hope in that. This is good news. It could have been much worse. It could have failed to receive even a majority, it could have been resoundingly defeated, but it wasn’t.

And dismissing the “no” vote because their representatives are old, grey-haired and out of touch with the times is not helpful. We need to listen to the older generation and to those with whom we disagree. We need to heed their wisdom. How we treat the older generation of Christians and how we treat those who disagree with is how we will one day be treated. As I’ve written before: “Are you listening just as equally to the stories of your elders and of those who disagree with you? Are you willing to do your part in reconciliation or are you expecting the older generation to unilaterally cave to your way of thinking? What happens in 50 years, when the new younger generation of [Christians] become disenfranchised and alienated from your ideas, experiences and politics?”

Evangelical Theological Society — Some Concluding Thoughts on the 2012 Conference

I have arrived home, and have mostly recovered from the travel lag (slept 16 hours on Sunday). Thankfully the trek home wasn’t nearly as stressful as the trip down to Milwaukee, with only a 90 minute delay for my flight departing from Denver to Regina. As a way to wrap-up my series on my experience at ETS, I wanted to offer some final, not necessarily connected, reflections.

First, I am very glad I went. It had been eight years since my last ETS conference, and it really is an amazing experience. Downtown Milwaukee was delightful, and I found some great (cheap) restaurants to eat at (which when you go to conference isn’t always the easiest thing to find).

Second, being as introverted as I am, I didn’t meet as many people as I probably could have, but those few that I worked up the courage to introduce myself to, were amazingly gracious. I was happy to meet Leslie Keeney, Jennifer Ellison and Marc Cortez from the blogosphere. And while I didn’t actively meet too many people, I did enjoy playing a fantastic game of “spot the scholar”.

Third, over the last couple of years there has been discussion about the lack of women in attendance at ETS. Indeed, Leslie and I both blogged about encouraging women to attend this year’s ETS. From what I observed, there were more women in attendance at the paper presentations then I have seen in the past. There were only a few papers that I attended in which I was the only female, but more often than not there was at least a handful of us, and given that some of the presentations I went to often had no more than a dozen in attendance, that’s saying something.

Fourth, and most importantly, the decision to have paper presentations Friday afternoon was a very bad idea. Many (if not most) people had left by noon Friday to get down to Chicago for SBL/AAR. I felt sorry for those who were presenting. In fact one paper presentation I went to Friday afternoon had only 2 people in attendance. As well, two papers I had planned to go to were canceled because the presenters had to catch a train down to Chicago. Hopefully this is only an issue this year, as ETS and SBL were held in two different cities. Next year both conferences will be in Baltimore, so  those presenting on the last day won’t be as abandoned as they were this year. (Does anyone know why ETS was in Milwaukee and not in Chicago?)

Given that I’m on a student budget I probably won’t be able to attend next year’s conference, but I’m planning to attend again in 2014 (in San Diego). And while several people have suggested that I flip to SBL, I really do like ETS. Maybe I’ll be able to take in both at 2014, but I wouldn’t trade ETS for SBL, at least not any time soon.

 

 

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Evangelical Theological Society — Barth, Barth, Barth

Yesterday afternoon I spent three hours listening to papers on Introducing Karl Barth to Evangelicals. This session was built off of Michael Allen’s new Barth reader (which looks like a much needed replacement of the reader by Gollowitzer), and each of the four presenters spent some time talking about benefits and hindrances of interacting with Barth from an evangelical perspective.

First up was Michael Allen himself. He spent some time talking about the current state of evangelical culture and how Barth can be helpful in addressing some of the theological issues that evangelicals are wrestling with. He started by saying that it’s important for evangelicals to be aware of how our presuppositions are so much different from the presuppositions of much of modern theology. Biblical scholars do a good job of checking their presuppositions, understanding the disconnect between 21st century readers and the original biblical authors, but for some reason theologians don’t apply that same caution and realization when they interact with more modern theology. In relation to Barth, what this means is that evangelicals often fail to grasp Barth’s theological setting which means we will fail to understand what he is about and what exactly he is doing. Indeed, “Most of us [evangelicals] read Barth as if he’s playing in the ETS world, and he’s not.” The other money quote from Michael Allen’s presentation: “Barth’s work serves as a bomb on the playground of theologians.”

Next up was Marc Cortez. His paper was titled, “An Evangelical and a Universalist Walk into a Bar” and looked at the question of whether or not Barth was a universalist, and how the supposed ambiguity about Barth’s universalism makes evangelicals uncomfortable. The short answer to the question of whether Barth was a universalist is, in the words of Barth himself, “I am not a universalist.” But, that said, there are still questions with his presentation of election and salvation. Dr. Cortez’s presentation was humourous and conversational. His section headings had titles like:
Four reasons to allow Barth to hang out with you in public and Three reasons to make Barth pick up the tab.

After a short intermission, we then had the last two papers by Matt Jenson on Barth and Ecclesiology, and Keith Johnson on Nature and Grace. These two papers were theologically dense, and I had to focus on listening and was unable to take notes during their presentations. I’m hoping to get copies of these two papers at some point so that I can spend time in deeper engagement and refection.

The big news from this panel session was that starting next year, there will be a specific session devoted to the theology of Karl Barth. This is an exciting development and I look forward to seeing the session grow.

Evangelical Theological Society — Day Two

Wednesday afternoon was a bit of a mixed bag. First up was a great presentation by doctoral student James Gordon on Barth and speculative theology. There were some great post-paper questions raised by the audience. Next up was a very weak paper which was disappointing because the topic was fascinating. The day concluded with a great paper on Irenaeus and his emphasis on teaching catechumens how to read and interpret Scripture.

For supper, I wandered a bit and found a great pub about a block from the hotel that had great (and cheap) burgers. And then I spent the evening unwinding. (Once again, I am reminded why I’m glad I don’t have cable. Commercials are annoying.)

This morning started with an unexpected surprise. William Webb’s presentation was canceled, so on a whim, I decided to pop into Richard Bauckham’s paper on naming practices in Jewish Palestine from 330BC to 200AD. I ended up sitting beside a Briercrest professor who I didn’t even know was going to be at the conference! Yay Briercrest! Next up was a paper on Cyril of Alexandria and John Chrysostom on Baptism by Talbot professor Ashish Naidu, and then on to the presentation by Francis Beckwith on ethics. My final session of the morning was cancelled, but that’s okay because it meant BOOKS!!!

I promised some friends I would post a list of the books I’ve purchased. So here goes:

I bought a three volume set of books on the Church Fathers by Christopher Hall: Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers, Worshipping with the Church Fathers, and Learning Theology with the Church Fathers.

I bought Zondervan’s Four Views on Christian Spirituality.

I bought Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom’s Clouds of Witness: Christian Voices from Africa and Asia.

I bought Hans Boersma’s Heavenly Participation: The Weaving of a Sacramental Tapestry. (The school library has this book and it’s one of those ones where I keep signing it out and never actually finishing it. But since I was able to pick it up for $10 now I should have a bit more flexibility to finally finish it).

And the best book purchase ever has to be Kim Paffenroth and John Morehead’s edited book The Undead and Theology. Chapters include (but are not limited to):

Vampires are People, Too: Personalism in the Buffyverse (Jarrod Longbons)

The Living Christ and The Walking Dead: Karl Barth and the Theological Zombie (Jessica DeCou)

Zombie Walks, Zombie Jesus, and the Eschatology of Postmodern Flesh (John Morehead)

“Eat of My Body and Drink of My Blood”: Johannine Metaphor, Gothic Subculture, and the Undead (Beth Stovell)

I can’t wait to read this book!

The plan for the rest of today is to find some lunch, and then spend the afternoon in the session on Introducing Karl Barth to Evangelicals.

Evangelical Theological Society — Day One

After a horrific day of travel, I am now officially at the ETS conference in Milwaukee. (Horrible travel day included a canceled flight after we were already boarded, two hours in line to be rebooked, being rerouted through Denver, another delayed flight, and horrible customer service at security. I arrived in Milwaukee a full 6 hours after I was originally scheduled to arrive).

First on the agenda was Kevin Vanhoozer’s paper on the relationship between biblical studies and theology, specifically the need and importance for a theological interpretation of Scripture. The room that the presentation was to take place was teeny-tiny (maybe 50 seats), so they moved to a larger room (200 seats) and even that room wasn’t big enough as several people were left with standing room only at the back. What I appreciated about Dr. Vanhoozer’s presentation (besides the topic), was that it was conversational and affable in tone. (Trust me, this is a big deal because often times paper presentations can be the most wooden and boring things to listen to.) Vanhoozer suggested that the danger in “pure” biblical studies is that it becomes “magic”, that is, a way to exert power and control to ensure the results the scholar wants, in this case discovering the “true” meaning of the passage in the original context. Because the Bible is not merely human and historical, but also points to the Divine discourse that God had and continues to have with his people, theological interpretation opens the way for us to participate in the Story of scripture.

Unfortunately, Dr. Vanhoozer’s presentation ran overtime, so I was unable to get to my second session. Instead, I went and checked out the exhibitors (translation: BOOKS! CHEAP BOOKS) I am a little ticked at IVP though, they won’t ship books to Canada, and Canadian ETS attendees who order books have to order through David C. Cook, but David C. Cook won’t give the 40% ETS discount. Grrr. Argh!

The next session I attended was a paper on the shift in Basil the Great’s understanding of the Ascetical Life. The presenter, Jason Scully, compared Basil’s “Epistle 2″ to his “Longer rule” and argued that Basil moves from being preoccupied with the soul’s intellectual purity (emphasis on purging bad habits), to being focused on the need for loving actions (emphasis on fostering good habits and pursuing virtues).

The last paper of the morning was by doctoral student Susan Rieske. Her paper looked at the language of “delight” that is used to describe God’s attitude towards Israel’s destruction and ruin if she breaks the covenant (Deuteronomy 28:63). She proposed three ways to interpret this “delight”: as a term of volition or determination; as a rhetorical device meant to get Israel’s attention; and as pointing God delighting in his overarching purposes for Israel (over and above judgement).

So far, it’s been a great experience. Yay for brainy Christians who serve God through scholarship!