Monday, May 4, 2009

Faith seeking understanding?

This posting is something that has been ruminating in my mind for quite some time. A couple weeks ago a wonderful friend of mine who lives in Plano Texas asked me a pointed question that called for a response that is now becoming a blog post. The question revolves around the balance/bifurcation that takes place in my mind between my theological studies and my spiritual journey and "devotional time." Here is my response to my friend:

These are great questions that continually are tossed around here on campus and I love to engage them. Some people refer to the Seminary as the cemetery. It is the place where you faith goes to die. I think this is ridiculous. Scholasticism and the Enlightenment are not the devil, they have simply been used by the devil! I see my studying as an integral part of my faith journey. For example this paper that I am typing on Acts is highly academic, but is extremely enriching to my faith because it allows me to understand in a deeper way what was taking place during the time of Acts and how the things that Luke wrote about are far larger than one can realize by simply taking the text at face value. I cannot separate the relationship that I have with Christ from my academic study, and in the same way I cannot turn off my academic mind when spending exclusive reflection time with J.C. The symphony sounds the way it does because of all the pieces, not simply because of one dominant part. If you take out the strings you are not going to have the same symphony. The great composers often spoke of the level of worship they felt while composing music. I think of the awe doctors must have when they discover how the body works. They do not have to shut down their relationship with Christ because they are in the lab. I once heard a baseball player say that if Jesus played baseball he is sure that he would have slid as hard into home plate as the next guy; he just would have helped the guy up! I think the church and the academy have ruined people, or at least put them through a lot of turmoil, by teaching that there has to be this separation. It gets back to Luther and the sacred vs. secular dichotomy. Wow, this is getting longer than you were probably expecting.

I am a firm believer in organic and holistic living. There can be no Cartesian dualism. (The belief that the mind and the body are separate entities that can be examined by themselves.) We are whole people who need to be whole and holy. The life that we live in Christ must be one in which the Spirit permeates all the nooks and crannies of our being. Just as I cannot shut off my personality in my writing or studying, I cannot turn off my critical evaluation of the reading that I do. The revelation of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit must be always present as I study things like apriori knowledge and as I sit down to read through Psalms for personal edification.

I just thought this might be helpful to someone who is out there wrestling with the question of faith and higher education. It is more than "faith seeking understanding." It is a difficult situation that many face and need to be validated in their frustrations and feelings. I wold LOVE to hear your thoughts on the topic.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Distorted Images

I sit here at the desk and opine on last weekends trip to Miami. It was about this time that I was chilling in Key West sipping on a Red Stripe (insert "Hooray for Beer!!!" here) at the Hog's Breath! What a wonderful vacation full of sunshine, ocean air, and varrious cultures. I have always wanted to go to Miami. Since I was a wee lad I have been a fan of the Hurricanes and cannot quite tell you why. I can think back to the Hurricanes baseball shirt that I had when I was 6 or 7 and think that it has to trace back to that time frame when the Canes were winning National Championships in football and baseball. Needless to say, the trip was a dream come true for me.
Having spoken with a few people who have been to Miami I was told that it is like stepping into a different country. One person exclaimed that they were glad to get home and hear English being spoken everywhere. I have to say that I can agree with a portion of the South Beach analysis I recieved from others, but not all of it. The afternoon that we arrived at MIA we quickly loaded into the convertible and headed for Key Biscayne. While lounging on the beach we realized that we were certainly in the overwhelming minority. Various languages could be heard throughout the beach. It was FANTASTIC!!! It was as if we had left the States and entered into a tropical land where individuals from various countries flock to bask in the Atlantic sun. This trend continued throughout the weekend and made my wife and I very happy. The culmination of the linguistic experience was Sunday morning when we stumbled upon a phenomenal Argentinian bakery near North Beach. We knew that they must have good food by the crowd that was gathered on the sidewalk in front of the bakery. Immediately upon entering the establishment we knew we had made a great choice. The place was buzzing with all sorts of people, speaking multiple languages, and consuming delightful confections. After making our selections and heading for the beach we were slightly saddened for those who become intimidated or scared by foreign languages. Part of the excitement in traveling is meeting new people and experiencing new cultures. Sure it can be frustrating when communication is more laborious than fluid, but that is the beauty of this thing we call life. When you are in a position where you cannot understand the language that is being spoken you are vulnerable, but in vulnerability there can be found great growth.
I think back on all the great times that we had and the richness that was added to our vacation by the languages and cultures of complete strangers and hope that you will be able to share in a similar experience. I pray that you would not allow the images that others paint for you to distort your understanding of an area, a city, or a people group. The old saying goes, "Don't knock it till you've tried it," and I could not agree more. Intentionally step into another culture and see what excitement might be awaiting you there.