Archives For January 2014

Reading Susan Cain’s ‘Quiet’ has jolted to my understanding of what it means to be introverted and/or extroverted.Quiet_Susan Cane

I’m not all the way through it yet, but I have a real sense that her project on personality, which is written like an academic text, has deep value for ministry and pastoral theology in general.

A particular area of  interest for me was that in at least one University in America, based on her observation and research, if you failed to create a significant social network, the assumption was that you had by default, also failed your degree[i]. That is even if you had met the required mark for successful completion of that degree.

I wondered at the implications for students who spend a considerable amount of their learning via the internet, because the infrastructure is geared towards the individual achievement, not so much on how much that community likes you; or worse is pleased with you.

One of the most pressing questions this raised for me was: Does the lack of “physical-networking” factor into to the overall reality of success and holistic achievement?

Cain infers that there are forces at work within society who seek to turn introverts into extroverts. For instance: A higher value is placed on charisma, smile, popularity and the ability to sell-beyond all borders anything, anywhere at any time, whilst still maintaining healthy energy levels and close, well-founded, mutually beneficial relationships.

This uncovers somewhat of a contradiction between what some in academia promise and what reality actually delivers. The former promotes education as the means to opportunity, barely acknowledging the fact that money and status are really the things which feed opportunity. The reality is that when it comes to opportunity, what you might know is superseded by where you stand financially and who you know (or, rather who knows and likes you) socially.

If what Cain has identified is accurately represented across the board, the truth is that money and status are what bring opportunity, education is only a framework for gaining social advantage.

This opens a can of worms for the variables in social networking. Some of which can be very fickle. Cain’s research essentially implies that if a person is not well liked then they will not be well connected or be well supplied with the same equal opportunities as, say someone (the probability is that this person will be an extrovert) who has won over hearts with charm and a loud personality. Although, on balance, Cain does point out that smoke and mirrors can only last so long before the truth wins out.

Therefore the implications for introverts are not all negative. For instance, Cain asserts:

‘while introverts have trouble projecting artificial enthusiasm…it is not a bad thing because this inflexibility can motivate an introvert to speak from their convictions’[ii]

Cain then moves on to make some heavy assertions in order to reinforce her point, stating that enough evidence exists to suggest that if the introverts in well supply on Wall Street at the time before the Global Financial Crisis had been listened to, the G.F.C may have been avoided[iii].

There are numerous amounts of key phrases, examples of studies and key words that make this reading a high calibre resource.

Things like “reward sensitivity”, “high reactivity”, “high sensitivity”, “the extrovert ideal”, “over stimulation”, “under stimulation” and the value, for introverts, in finding a “sweet spot” i.e.: finding balance  between energy drain and energy gain; knowing when to put the book down and head out to a cafe with a friend, and then when to exit gracefully. Recharged and ready.

For now it’s raising a lot of questions about how the church can improve the care of Pastors and that of the community.

Considering all the micro and macro concerns about how various parts of the church have failed (some catastrophically) in its duty of care, Cain is one researcher the church community should be listening to within reason. Granted there has been a lot of reading where I have had to push through, such as her use of Al Gore and his “Global Warming/Climate change” evangelism (“campaign”) [iv], and the findings of evolutionary biologists. Nothing against either of these groups, it’s just that both are scientific areas where I consider myself an agnostic, primarily due to the variables in their conclusions and the militant, political-ideological threads associated with both.

I’ll put together some more thoughts on this once I complete it.


[i] Cain, S 2012 Quiet: The Power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking Penguin Group, p.47
[ii] ibid, p.129
[iii] Ibid, p.155 (Chapter Seven covers this at length providing a very interesting hypothesis on the reasons for the event)
[iv] ibid, p.149

Maturity moves forward through humilitySpeaking on Spirit and Truth in his 1996 book, ‘Flame of Love’, Clark Pinnock writes that ‘maturity’[i] moves forward through humility.

According to Pinnock, biblically speaking, Mary is ‘our example’. Like her, we need time to ponder ‘profound matters and make them our own’[ii].

Pinnock also writes that the ‘Spirit helps us develop our understanding’[iii].

He suggests that ‘revelation is not a closed system of propositional truths but a divine self-disclosure that continues to open up and challenge’[iv].

Pinnock looks at revelation in terms of the Spirit revealing truth; truth being Jesus Christ, the Word, who is presented to us and present with us, the former ‘’being’’ revealed in the Biblical accounts[v], the same and latter ‘’being’’, acknowledged by the God-who-is-with-us in the present activity of the Holy Spirit.

For example:

‘Divine activity enables believers to interact in the course of their Bible reading. The Spirit causes the Word to be heard and opens up the truth, helping readers experience and communicate it’[vi].

In similar terms, for Pinnock, the humility within our response to the Spirit is what allows us to see.

Having a teachable attitude (read: heart and mind) empowers our learning and becoming; this employs an idea of theosislike Christ. Those who have responded to the call of grace understand the call to repentance, as they embrace total accountability before God.

Simply put: ‘human responsibility’ is to learn what the ‘Spirit wants to teach us’. Pinnock writes: ‘if hearing and receiving are undisciplined, teaching may come to naught…The Spirit wants to teach us, but human responsibility is required if real learning is to occur’[vii].

Of importance to the Christian here is that Pinnock points us towards the value of humility in the Spirit led life of a Christian. Such as:

‘The Spirit, as the one who interprets the meaning of Jesus in the community over time’[viii].

For me this reading has been a reminder of the Holy Spirit’s ability to work through our humility in order to mature us. In sanctification the Holy Spirit develops within us an understanding of just-justification, and as a consequence, a full acknowledgement of how God’s grace is received, and how God’s grace is rejected.

Pinnock, in a similar tone to that of Ambrose of Milan states that ‘humility is fundamental for growing as hearers’ of the word; therefore ‘always be open to improved insight’[ix].

This consideration is not far from Karl Barth’s thought when he writes:

‘Revelation is a movement…This movement is the divine act of Lordship – God-present-with-us… here divine time is in the midst of our time. When revelation takes place, it never does so by means of our insight and skill, but in the freedom of God to be free for us and to free us from ourselves, that is to say, to let His light shine in our darkness, which as such does not comprehend His light’[x]

According to John, Jesus once said “The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day” (Jn.12:48, ESV).

Could this only mean then, that those among us who reject grace, instead, earn for themselves just-judgement?

With this in mind, is it fair then to propose that we reject grace when we reject the opportunity to learn? And then if we reject the opportunity to learn, do we unwittingly reject the Holy Spirit?

One possible answer is that whether grace is received or rejected, it ultimately rests first in the Spirit. Secondly, in humility , and thirdly, in the response of gratitude for God’s movement towards us, as understood and taught by Barth.

If God is able and I am not, then:

‘Let us, with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need’

(Hebrews 4:16, ESV).


[i] Pinnock, C. 1996, Flame of Love InterVarsity Press pp.218, 219
[ii] Ibid, p.219
[iii] Ibid, p.221
[iv] Ibid, p.221
[v] Ibid, p.242
[vi] Ibid, p.229
[vii] Ibid, p.244
[viii] Ibid, p.233
[ix] Ibid, p.222
[x]  ‘God’s time in our time’, Barth, K.1938 Church Dogmatics 1.2:65, Hendrickson Publishers & see Webster.J, 2000 Cambridge Companion to Karl Barth, Cambridge University Press, p.13

Signs of Life

January 20, 2014 — Leave a comment

Faith like a grain of mustard seed

At the end of the day,

a pinkish red Sunset breaches clouds,

bouncing colours like it’s whispering “goodnight”.

Thunder rumbles.

Lightening crawls.

No water falling,

even though the sky looks like it’s about to fall.

Through the hazy fray

of unchained grey,

Shadows silently form.

This sudden blossom

has announced a storm.

Beauty within,

no final curtain,

this performance is yet to be called.

Through the sky,

gathering rumbles,

shout cracks which follow,

jagged fingers of light.

as they pierce the horizon,

and we anticipate rainfall.

This dry will soon crack,

wrinkled land will reform, and

signs of life shall be recalled.

©RL2014

Here is a truth I’ve wrestled with for sometime.

Rarely has it been part of the advice I have received. Usually it is far removed from the ”get over it” – ”move on” – ”it’s probably not as bad as you say”, discounting which arrives the moment you share a concern, or detail a particularly negative life experience that is left unresolved.

healing_signs of life

This blog was recently spammed by a person who claimed to be from Melbourne.

I have never received any communication from this person outside the comments and multiple links said person consistently posted in direct, and what can only be considered hostile opposition to what I had written.

My blog is not just an academic exercise, it will consist of various genres that reflect areas I have an interest in and think worth sharing with people who share those interests.

For the most part what I post here is drafted, well-considered and edited, with the opposing positions in mind. I seem to have been targeted by someone who had no intention of reasoned discussion, even though I put a lot of work into sourcing my material and acknowledging an antithesis when it is appropriate to do so.

They appear to have wanted to ‘grief’ my readers and me. Such are the times we live in. I accept that, but I don’t have to put up with it.

As a consequence, I will delete any and all comments that fall outside what is to be fairly considered a dignified critique. I do not & will not delete fair critique of what I write. After all, being teachable is an important part of Christian living and the academic journey.

I have a deep appreciation for those who choose to comment respectfully, and who provide some life to this blog, in response to what I post on it. Please continue to do so, I value your thoughts and thank you for sharing them responsibly.

Rod.

The Lord has not forsaken those who seek Him.

Give thanks

Sacred Space

January 10, 2014 — 2 Comments

If you are looking for some devotional material to kick-start your New Year I recommend starting here:

Firstly, I am deeply indebted to a lecturer during my time of study over the past few years, for pointing out the website Sacred Space.

Sacred Space

The site is run by the Irish Jesuits and offers a daily prayer, reflection and scripture verse.

I don’t visit every day legalistically.

I do, however, engage in it from week to week when I have managed to complete the daily readings within the Moravian Texts. Of which, the 2014 version is available here on kindle. I am yet to find a devotional that brings a broad challenge to read the bible across the Old Testament and the New, like the Moravian readings do.

Besides this they were good enough for Dietrich Bonheoffer – whose recommendation should out-run mine by miles.

Finally, if you’re like me and my wife, who home-school children ranging from the very young into the teens, then a great devotion to begin the year with is Bethany Hamilton’s e-book ‘Soul Surfer: Devotions’.  I mentioned this in October within a post called: A Fragment of Gratitude.

There is a depth to Hamilton’s devotional which seems to draw from her experiences that older children and teens can relate to. Her work here tackles the difficult questions like: Where is God when? And brings up contemporary reflections on relevant challenges encountered by youth in peer groups and at home.

What Christian contemplative material have you been reading, or alternatively would like to recommend?