"The object of all good literature is to purge the soul of its petty troubles." ~ P.G. Wodehouse

Friday, April 20, 2012

Review of Jonathan Moo's, Creation, Nature, and Hope in 4 Ezra in RBL

Karina Hogan has reviewed Jonathan Moo's Creation, Nature and Hope in 4 Ezra (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2011) in RBL. She gives a positive review of Moo's look at 4 Ezra's  portrayal of the created order, while also criticizing what she sees as hair-splitting on some occasions. Regardless, Moo's work is worth reading for those interested in Jewish apocalyptic and Jewish understandings of nature and creation at the end of the first-century.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Oden, Against Schism in First Things

Thomas Oden has a piece in the April 2012 edition of First Things entitled "Do Not Rashly Tear Asunder: Why the Beleaguered Faithful should stay and reform their churches" (pp. 40-44). He is writing about the specific situation of the United Methodist Church on the issue of ordaining those in same-sex unions. The essay is an argument to those of his fellow members in the Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church to remain within the UMC rather than separate.

John Wesley serves as an example, since Wesley never left the Church of England and preached a sermon in 1784 entitled "Against Schism". Oden offers a number of poignant quotes from that sermon: "Do not rashly tear asunder the sacred ties which unite you to any Christian society."

Oden states: "Wesley admonished those who hastily assumed that separation is a moral virtue: 'They leave a Christian society with as much unconcern as they go out of one room into another. They...wipe their mouth, and say they have done no evil!' They may be 'justly chargeable before God and man, both with an action that is evil in itself, and with all the evil consequences which may be expected to follow'" (p. 41).

In the essay, Oden argues that schism is only legitimate when the church requires members to do something that is immoral. Citing Wesley again, "If 'you could not remain in the Church of England, without doing something which the Word of God forbids, or omitting something which the Word of God positively commands: If this were the case (but, blessed be God, it is not) you ought to separate from the Church of England'" (p. 42).

Throughout the essay, it feels as if Oden is repetitive and overly redundant; however, according to tradition so was the Apostle John: "Little children, love one another."

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Christian Colleges and Universities and "The Missing Factor in Higher Education"

The cover story of Christianity Today's March 2012 is an article by Perry L. Glanzer entitled: "The Missing Factor in Higher Education: How Christian Universities are Unique, and How They Can Stay That Way." Glanzer makes an excellent case for the Christian university and it is a reminder for those of us working in Christian higher education about what makes us different and why what we do is valuable.

Glanzer argues that teaching morals, wisdom, and character development are often what is missing at secular or research universities. The focus in larger, research universities is on the transfer of knowledge or the content of subjects. The smaller, Christian liberal arts universities have placed emphasis on the pursuit of truth and wisdom, along with the development of the entire individual rather than on purely emphasizing expertise in a specific subject area

He warns that Christian universities could lose this strength by focusing on expertise versus on pursuing wisdom and character development. Glanzer states: "But [Christian colleges and universities] must also ask how they can continue to avoid the flight from wisdom to expertise taken by secular universities. The temptations are many: Financial and peer pressure to attract a greater variety of students, particularly through barebones online degree programs, entice Christian universities to abandon their theological and moral distinctives or to gear curricula toward building professional qualifications." I think this point gets right at the issues facing Christian institutions of higher learning. The danger as Glanzer suggests is that Christian colleges and universities lose what makes them distinct by trying to draw in larger number of students in satellite campuses and online offerings.

Toward the end of the article, Glanzer offers four suggestions for maintaining the distinctive aspects of Christian colleges and universities. He goes into more detail, but the main points are as follows. "First, Christian higher education must always recognize that wisdom, like salvation, comes from the triune God as a gift of grace." "Second, university faculty can mentor students and help them understand what loving God looks like when engaged in a particular discipline." Third, "Christian professors and student life professionals should" introduce "students to complex theological, ethical, and academic discussions about what it means to be fully human." "Finally, professors should articulate what it means to place Christ and their Christian identity first in life."

What is striking to me is that none of these suggestions has anything to do with what is often associated with university education today. Too many students, parents, administrators, and faculty take the view that university education is about receiving information that then translates into a job. It is a completely utilitarian approach to education. The classic liberal arts model of education focuses on learning for the joy of learning, learning because you have the leisure to do so. Learning is about becoming a holistic individual who can think, articulate, communicate, analyze problems and formulate answers. Glanzer's suggestions point to the way in which faculty serve significantly in this non-utilitarian approach by facilitating discussions and being examples of these larger questions about life and what it means to be human, created by God, living in a fallen yet to be redeemed world. 

To me this is what university is about--asking these larger questions of life. Pursuing wisdom. Developing character. To this end I teach. To this end I continue learning.