Spiritual Life


Today is the 5oth anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.  It is hard for me to think that such egregious, institutional racism existed here in the US so recently.  King’s speech was truly a prophetic call to national righteousness, and it’s for this reason that I show it every semester when we talk about the OT Prophets, particularly Amos 5 which he cites.

As I consider Dr King’s call to equality, it makes me question how far we have really come. While there remains great disparities between ethnicities (e.g., home ownership, income distribution and prison populations), we have made some great social advances, as evidenced by the election of Barak Obama.  Of course, many communities remain segregated, but I’m fortunate to live in the most ethnically diverse county in the US.  Although the Southern Baptist Convention sided with injustice in the past and many congregations remain just as segregated as 5o years ago, it raises the question of how far religiously we have come.  I’ve argued earlier that MLK, Jr Day should be considered a Christian holiday, and so his NT-based ideals should be instantiated in our churches and institutions.

I’m proud to note that HBU is one of the most ethnically diverse campuses in the US because we reflect the full diversity around us.  According to my assessment of the US News statistics, we are the 3rd most diverse university/college in the US.  Our diversity index is .76, and that number is higher than all the  National Universities, all the National Liberal Arts Colleges, all the Regional Colleges and all but two of the Regional Universities (the category in which HBU is situated).  Of course, this doesn’t mean that we have reached the place that King talked about, but I’m happy to know that Christian institutions, even Baptist ones, can help be at the forefront of racial reconciliation.  May we continue to strive towards the dream of a multi-ethnic community as the NT and MLK call us to.

Many of you will know that I helped in the editing process of the Voice, and so I wanted to let you know that Thomas Nelson, the publisher of the Voice, is giving away a trip for two to Africa (in association with World Vision). Head to hearthevoice.com and  follow the link in the upper right hand corner.  The contest is over 12/27/2012.

On a related note, if any of you are reading through the Voice and have comments for edits for future versions, please feel free to send your suggestions my way.

In response to Krister Stendahl’s salvation-historical reading of Paul, Ernst Käsemann, in his “Justificaiton and Salvation History in the Epistle to the Romans,” offers the following précis of Pauline theology and of the Christian life:

[T]he apostle does not understand history as a continuous evolutionary process but as the contrast of the two realms of Adam and Christ. Pauline theology unfolds this contrast extensively as the struggle between death and life, sin and salvation, law and gospel. The basis is the apocalyptic scheme of the two successive aeons which is transferred to the present. Apparently Paul viewed his own time as the hour of the Messiah’s birth-pangs, in which the new creation emerges from the old world through the Christian proclamation. Spirits, powers and dominions part eschatologically at the crossroads of the gospel. We thus arrive at the dialectic of ‘once’ and ‘now’, which is absorbed into anthropology in the form of ‘already saved’ and ‘still tempted’. In the antithesis of spirit and flesh this dialectic determines the cosmos until the parousia of Christ. Christians are drawn into this conflict all their lives. Every day they have through obedience to authenticate their baptismal origin anew. The churches, too, are exposed in the same way to the attacks of nomism and enthusiasm, which threaten the lordship of Christ. The church lives under the sign of the cross, that is to say, given over to death inwardly and outwardly, waiting longingly with the whole of creation for the liberty of the children of God and manifesting the imitation of Jesus through the bearing of his cross.

Tim Tebow, ever the controversial QB, has usually received huge fan support from evangelicals for his outspoken faith. But apparently Tebow’s frequent religious references have incited (constructive) criticism from fellow-believer and NFL QB Kurt Warner. Here are some of Warner’s soundbites from a recent USA Today article:

You can’t help but cheer for a guy like that….But I’d tell him, ‘Put down the boldness in regards to the words, and keep living the way you’re living. Let your teammates do the talking for you. Let them cheer on your testimony.’

I know what he’s going through, and I know what he wants to accomplish, but I don’t want anybody to become calloused toward Tim because they don’t understand him, or are not fully aware of who he is. And you’re starting to see that a little bit.

There’s almost a faith cliche, where (athletes) come out and say, ‘I want to thank my Lord and savior.’… As soon as you say that, the guard goes up, the walls go up, and I came to realize you have to be more strategic.

The greatest impact you can have on people is never what you say, but how you live. When you speak and represent the person of Jesus Christ in all actions of your life, people are drawn to that. You set the standard with your actions. The words can come after.

I suppose I understand Warner’s concern. But how else and how long does Tebow need to “represent” Christ with his actions before he should speak out? The outward nature of Tebow’s faith has been well documented for several years now, and the actions represented in his recent come-from-behind winning streak has even won the respect of many of his critics, including teammates, coaches, opponents, and commentators. Beyond that, it seems that it is the media of all sources which has pushed much of the religious discourse surrounding Tebow and his recent achievements (see, e.g., here, or just watch ESPN today). So, what else does Tebow need to do before he should be vocal about his faith? Moreover, I’m confused about what Warner means by Tebow needing to be more “strategic.” I doubt that Tebow’s objective for giving thanks to Christ on television is to proselytize; rather, his references are so brief and generic that it seems to me he is just giving credit to the one who gives him the confidence needed to be successful in the NFL. And I, personally, have no problem with that. At this point it might even be stranger if Tebow said nothing about his faith at all.

I presume that most students of theology are familiar with Helmut Thielicke’s wonderful book A Little Exercise for Young Theologians (Eerdmans, 1962). For those unfamiliar with it, Thielicke’s booklet-size volume (a mere 41 pages)  is, according to the introduction, an opening lecture presented to beginning theology students concerning the importance and dangers of theological studies. Thielicke’s audience is of course confessional, so his remarks about both topics are driven by an overt concern for the intellectual and spiritual development of his students, namely the difficulty of navigating the risking terrain of growing in one’s intellect without growing (quite as fast) in one’s faith (esp., wisdom and humility). As he remarks in one particularly memorable sound bite,

There is a hiatus between the arena of the young theologian’s actual spiritual growth and what he already knows intellectually about this arena. So to speak, he has been fitted, like a country boy, with breeches that are too big, into which he must still grow up in the same way that one who is to be confirmed must also still grow into the long trousers of the Catechism. Meanwhile, they hang loosely around his body, and this ludicrous sight of course is not beautiful.

Thielicke also touches on (among other things) anti-intellectualism, the seduction of conceit, and warns students about too quickly taking the pulpit.

I myself first encountered Thielicke’s book during my first semester of seminary and was struck then by how often I felt that the author was speaking directly to me; indeed, I feel the same way even today! At the time, I had already completed an undergraduate degree in Bible and Theology and could hardly believe that someone had written such an insightful and engaging book to warn me about the spiritual pitfalls I would (and did) face four years earlier when I embarked on my theological education. If only I had read Thielicke as an undergrad! Due to my earlier struggles, together with my suspicion that my own students face similar difficulties now, I have just this semester begun to assign Thielicke in my hermeneutics course. (I suppose this isn’t the most appropriate setting in which to have them read the book, but those are typically my youngest students and thus my best audience for the assignment). Well, they have just finished reading it, and I am thrilled to report that they really enjoyed and were challenged by it. Many even noted in the reviews they wrote that they wished they had read Thielicke last year (their freshman year) and that the book should perhaps be required of all first-year students to read, alongside of course the college Student Life Guide! Anyway, I thought I’d pass on their positive report and encourage all, who don’t already, to consider assigning Thielicke somewhere in their curriculum.

I got an interesting email from a publisher. It started out with a discussion of stress vs burnout before it tried to hawk its books. It was actually nice to see an interest in the personal side of things. Seeing as how I’ve been struggling lately with a few deadlines pushing on me, I was glad to find that I am only stressed and not burned out.

STRESS
1. Characterized by over engagement
2. Emotions are over reactive
3. Produces urgency and hyperactivity
4. Loss of energy
5. Leads to anxiety disorders
6. Primary damage is physical
7. May kill you prematurely

BURNOUT
1. Characterized by disengagement
2. Emotions are blunted
3. Produces helplessness and hopelessness
4. Loss of motivation, ideals, and hope
5. Leads to detachment and depression
6. Primary damage is emotional
7. May make life seem not worth living

Our microwave died a week or two ago.  We were about to buy another and I thought I should request one on Freecycle.  In about an hour we got an email from someone who was moving and wanted to get rid of an old one.  We picked it up Sunday (thanks Brad for the ride), and we’re back to normal again.  We’ve also gotten a bread maker through Freecycle and a tv stand among other things.  It’s international, so check it out to see if there’s a local group near you.  I suppose it’s about like Craig’s List, but you don’t have to pay for anything.  I think it’s a great idea and helps promote in small ways a life of simplicity.

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