Friday, February 3, 2012

Created in God's Image: Seeing Christ Through Native American Eyes

One of the privileges associated with working in an academic setting is having the opportunity to think in new and different ways. Each year we are blessed to have a variety of speakers on the campus of Ashland Theological Seminary who challenge us to reexamine our assumptions about God, creation and how we interact with our fellow human beings.

This year we will be taking a pause in our normal routine to host a conference that explores Christianity in the Native American context. This first-of-its-kind conference will provide participants with an opportunity to hear the long-ignored, ancient voice of a people invisible to many, yet integrally connected to who we are as a nation. We invite you to join Ashland Theological Seminary for a time of listening, learning, challenge and worship as we welcome Native American brothers and sisters who walk the Jesus Way.
The conference is a result of the work being done by my colleague L. Daniel Hawk. Dan is Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Ashland Theological Seminary and an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church. His scholarship explores the relationship between violence and ethnicity in the Hebrew Bible and the ways that communities construct their identities through narratives. These interests converge in his most recent book, Joshua in 3-D:A Commentary on Biblical Conquest and Manifest Destiny (Cascade, 2010), which uses the book of Joshua as a biblical lens to read the American story of conquest and expansion.

Here is what Dan has to say about the upcoming conference:

 Throughout American history, civilizing the Indian has been synonymous with evangelizing the Indian. Early Protestant missionaries regarded European civilization as the cultural expression of Christian teachings and perceived indigenous cultures as primitive at best and satanic at worst. Missionaries insisted that indigenous converts abandon their indigenous way of life and adopt the customs, habits, and modes of thought that defined colonial society. This attitude prevailed through the formative years of the United States and into the Twentieth Century, as the Federal Government looked to Christian denominations and mission agencies, at various times and in various ways, to instruct Native peoples in the arts and practices of civilization and assimilate them into the values and lifestyle of American society. Today, many Native American Christians are seeking to follow Christ in ways that are authentic to the customs and traditions of their people, but face longstanding attitudes that regard their cultures as incompatible with Christianity.

After almost four centuries of missionary efforts, only three to five percent of the five and a half million Native people of the United States identify themselves as Christian. They are part of a community that suffers the effects of a massive historical trauma precipitated by the loss of lands, resources, and livelihood, and persistent efforts to obliterate their cultures and identities. Hope for healing has arisen, however, as Native Americans, along with indigenous peoples around the world, are recovering traditions, customs, and ways of thinking that had been dismissed as backward and savage. As this recovery takes its course, Native Christians are exploring ways to faithfully incarnate the gospel in the forms and customs of their cultures and bring the healing presence of Christ to their communities.

Ashland Theological Seminary has the privilege of hosting a unique gathering for all who have been stirred to walk with Native American brothers and sisters in the Jesus Way. We invite you to join us for a time of listening, learning, and challenge, as we welcome faithful followers of Christ who will speak from the richness of their experiences and cultures. We also ask for your prayers as we put our minds, hands, and hearts together to exalt Jesus Christ and unite in mission and ministry.

The conference is being held April 16-18 on the seminary campus in Ashland Ohio. The cost for the three day conference is $35. If you want see the schedule and register you can visit the event page at Ashland Theological Seminary

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Passing of Frederick W. Danker

Over at the Evangelical Textual Criticism Blog Pete Williams is reporting that Fred Danker has died. Pete received the news from an email chain.

Dr. Frederick William Danker of St. Louis was one of the world’s leading authority on New Testament Greek. Danker is a former educator at Concordia Seminary, Christ Seminary-Seminex, and the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, from which he retired in 1988. He is published in numerous collections and periodicals and continues to be a much sought-after expert in biblical scholarship. Danker is a renowned classicist and theologian. He is the author of numerous books and commentaries, most notably The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. 

The Slippery Slope

I try to avoid simply re-posting what others have said on their blogs. But Rachel Held Evans has an excellent little piece about the so-called slippery slope that we have all been threatened with at one time or another. I decided to re-post it because I know that my readers don't always click on the links I provide. And Rachel's post deserves to be read. But please do stop by Rachel's blog and let her know you were there.

They said that if I questioned a 6,000-year-old earth, I would question whether other parts of Scripture should be read scientifically and historically. 
They were right.  I did. 
They said that if I entertained the hope that those without access to the gospel might still be loved and saved by God, I would fall prey to the dangerous idea that God loves everyone,  that there is nothing God won’t do to reconcile all things to Himself. 
They were right. I have.  
They said that if I looked for Jesus beyond the party line, I could end up voting for liberals. 
They were right. I do (sometimes).  
They said that if I listened to my gay and lesbian neighbors, if I made room for them in my church and in my life, I could let grace get out of hand. 
They were right.  It has. 
They told me that this slippery slope would lead me away from God, that it would bring a swift end to my faith journey, that I’d be lost forever.
But with that one, they were wrong. 
Yes, the slippery slope brought doubts. Yes, the slippery slope brought change. Yes, the slippery slope brought danger and risk and unknowns. I am indeed more exposed to the elements out here, and at times it is hard to find my footing.  
But when I decided I wanted to follow Jesus as myself, with both my head and heart intact, the slippery slope was the only place I could find him, the only place I could engage my faith honestly. 
So down I went. 
It was easier before, when the path was wide and straight. 
But, truth be told, I was faking it.  I was pretending that things that didn’t make sense made sense, that things that didn’t feel right felt right.  To others, I appeared confident and in control, but faith felt as far away as friend who has grown distant and cold.
Now, every day is a risk. 
Now, I have no choice but to cling to faith and hope and love for dear life. 
Now, I have to keep a very close eye on Jesus, as he leads me through deep valleys and precarious peaks.  
But the view is better, and, for the first time in a long time, I am fully engaged in my faith. 
I am alive. 
I am dependent.
I am following Jesus as me—heart and head intact.  
And they were right.  All it took was a question or two to bring me here. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Professor's Letter to Students

One of the more shocking things that I have encountered since becoming a professor is the sense of entitlement that some students bring with them to the classroom. They assume that because they (1) paid tuition, (2) showed up for class, and (3) submitted the assignments that they therefore deserve an “A” in the course. I confess that I have been forced to disabuse a few from this type of thinking.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t see my role as torturer in chief who only finds satisfaction by ruining the GPA of students. I am also not one of those professors who doesn't give out A’s. I do, when they have been earned. I admit that I set a high bar in the class and I set it high intentionally. I suspect that if the bar is too close to grasp then the student won’t try. Set it high enough and the students who exert themselves not only will reach the bar, but will have a better grasp of the information that I am trying to deliver. In reality, I want my students to do well and succeed. But I also want them to learn at the same time. I spend a lot of time and effort to make sure that my lectures are well prepared. I expect/hope that my students will also put in the effort necessary to learn.

In a recent Forbes Magazine article, Art Carden who teaches economics at Rhodes College wrote a letter to his students. I think he gets it just right, and echoes my own sentiments. Here are three of the points he makes in a letter to his students.

First, I do not “take off” points. You earn them. The difference is not merely rhetorical, nor is it trivial. In other words, you start with zero points and earn your way to a grade. You earn a grade in (say) Econ 100 for demonstrating that you have gained a degree of competence in economics ranging from being able to articulate the basic principles (enough to earn a C) to mastery and the ability to apply these principles to day-to-day affairs (which will earn an A). I’ve hurt my own grades before by confusing my own incompetence with competence and my own (bare) competence with mastery, so trust me: I’ve been there, and I understand.

Second, this means that the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate that you have mastered the material. It is not on me to demonstrate that you have not. My assumption at the beginning of each class is that you know somewhere between nothing and very little about basic economics unless you were lucky enough to have an exceptional high school economics course. Otherwise, why are you here? You might say that the course is a prerequisite for other things you want to do, but if that it is the case and you know the material, you’re more than welcome to simply show up for the exams, ace them, and be on your way.

Finally, I’m here to be a mentor and instructor. This means that our relationship differs from the relationships that you have with your friends and family. Please don’t infer from this that I don’t care about you, because I do. A lot. I want to see you make good choices. I want to see you understand basic economics because I hope it will rock your world as it continues to rock mine and because the human consequences of lousy economic policy are enormous. That said, you should never take grades personally. I don’t think you’re stupid because you tank an exam, an assignment, or even an entire course. Economics is hard. A D or an F on an economics exam does not diminish your value in God’s eyes (or in mine) or indicate that economics just isn’t for you. It probably means you need to work smarter, and I’m here to help you with that.

So to the students of the world who think that your self-worth is wrapped up in your grades or that your professors are simply out to get you, take heart that some of us are in it for you. And just because you don’t get an A does not mean we don’t like you. I want to help you succeed. But you need to do your part. And if you don't get an A it doesn't mean you are a bad person. It just means that you didn't earn one.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Getting "De-Baptized"

For those who grow up in a Christian denomination that practices infant baptism, you more than likely were not asked if you wanted to be baptized. Most likely what happened was your parents or guardians arranged for you to be baptized and you were informed about it later when you were old enough to at least comprehend what happened. That is what happened with me. I can't recall when, but at some point I was aware that I had been baptized.

But what if you decided that you not only rejected the church of your forefathers, but you also rejected the baptism you received and wanted it removed? Could you be "de-baptized"? That is just what is happening in France. NPR ran a story recently about an elderly man who was baptized in the French Roman Catholic Church has requested to be "un-baptized." A judges has ruled in his favor and the church has appealed. They do not think it is possible.

"One can't be de-baptized," says Rev. Robert Kaslyn, dean of the School of Canon Law at the Catholic University of America.
Kaslyn says baptism changes one permanently before the church and God."One could refuse the grace offered by God, the grace offered by the sacrament, refuse to participate," he says, "but we would believe the individual has still been marked for God through the sacrament, and that individual at any point could return to the church."
French law states that citizens have the right to leave organizations if they wish. Loup Desmond, who has followed the case for the French Catholic newspaper La Croix, says he thinks it could set a legal precedent and open the way for more demands for de-baptism.
"If the justice confirms that the name Rene LeBouvier has to disappear from the books, if it is confirmed, it can be a kind of jurisprudence in France," he says.
Up to now, observers say the de-baptism trend has been marginal, but it's growing. In neighboring Belgium, the Brussels Federation of Friends of Secular Morality reports that 2,000 people asked to be de-baptized in 2010. The newspaper Le Monde estimated that about 1,000 French people a year ask to have their baptisms annulled.

What do you think? Can you be "de-baptized" or should he just be happy to walk away form the church?

You can read the whole story and listen to the piece here.

HT: Targuman

Monday, January 30, 2012

Carol Newsome on Reading as a Spiritual Exercise

We do a lot of reading in our average day. And as Carol Newsome points out in a short chapel address to Emory students, seminary adds to our daily allotment of things to read. But what if we considered reading as a spiritual act? That is what she suggested when she spoke to the students at Emory. Listen to her address here.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Friday Book Giveaway Winner!

Congrats to Steve Knisely, he is the winner of this week's giveaway. Steve has won Osiek, MacDonald and Tulloch.  A Woman's Place: House Churches in Earliest Christianity (Fortress: 2006).

Steve, send me your details and I will send you the book.Remember, you have 5 days to claim your prize.
Didn't win this week? I still have more books to giveaway in the weeks and months ahead. I can't promise one every week, but there are more to come.