Archives For Reflections

learning-in-progressAs the year draws to a close, I find myself thinking about the past twelve months of blogging. I’m fortunate to have had many new interactions with some great thinkers, and some edge dwelling doers, in the active academic field of theology and ministry.

This year, however, I’ve also met with a different, darker side of that field.

I’ve studied theology and have a double degree to show for it. I’ve Read the books. Ticked all the boxes, met the requirements; even made some lecturers smile. Yet, the more I read and learn; the more I seek to participate in the world of academia, the more I see that I don’t fit easily into some of its neatly stacked bubbles.

For starters, my current occupation involves me being a homeschool teacher to my five kids. I don’t say all the “right things” or do what others do to get noticed. I don’t pad agreement on top of agreement. I haven’t written a book yet, and I don’t write blog posts that give an overly appreciative applause to something I’ve read or someone I know.

I write to benefit the reader; share a discovery and hope to learn something in the process. I don’t write for the approval of any who might read my post. I don’t write for others to see how brilliant my academic ability is, and as a result offer me a position on their team. Neither do I seek to invite insult, just to paint myself as a victim.

My focus is on how the theology I read and study, critiques what we are being sold in by society through the media, Hollywood, the Universities and in politics.

I’m interested in working out how that theology translates into ministry; how the Gospel of Jesus Christ speaks to the world today in its obsession with escalating the hostility between Left and Right.

How that theology brings a critique against the conclusions of academics who, all too often, appear ready to shoot down conservatives, or those on the right with tired rhetoric, slogans and labels.

For sure, some of that criticism in the past has been justified, but when does that criticism, itself become a whip or chain used to oppress new victims?

For instance, I’ve come to learn that any post that seeks to draw theologians like Barth or Bonhoeffer ‘’outside of the box’’ won’t be met with encouragement, let alone a smile. I don’t read the works of Karl Barth or Dietrich Bonhoeffer through the agreed upon traditional political filters; speak about them through a modern liberal theological lens.

For that I’ve been drawn into some heavy discussions with overly picky critics. I’ve even had someone go out of their way to politely warn me that if I want to move forward in my academic studies, I shouldn’t upset those in power on the Left, by rocking their boat [i].

But I’m not the kind of person who goes around stroking egos, my own or those of the people around me. I aim to proclaim the truth and do that in a loving way. Will it be a flawed communication sometimes? Yes. Do I do my best to take into consideration the blind sides and their inevitable limitations? Absolutely. With every fiber of my ability to do so.

The more I venture into this post-grad world, the more I see; the more I begin to understand that if you’re not politically aligned with what is considered to be the collectives authorised narrative, you’re more likely to just end up speaking to yourself.

The warning signs are clear, if you’re not ‘’on board enough,’’ you won’t succeed beyond what you may have already accomplished. For some, it doesn’t matter how well you write, draw, paint, sing, create or communicate. If you say something different that opposes the consensus of those in box, you’re viewed as a threat to the thrones of those in power within the box.

Even though I’ve worked hard all my life, am a certified four year college graduate; parchment-on-the-wall qualified theologian. The past twelve months have shown me that in the field of theology, I’m an insider forced to live on the outside.

And that’s okay. Here I stand. Introspectively speaking, I’m freed from having to perform to the same oppressive modern liberal tune I suspect many others feel they have to dance to.

I have questions about the appearances, sums and conclusions, so widely assumed watertight, honest and reliable. I’m not looking to rise to the top of the echo chamber. Not looking to outdo, or compete for a position in it. I’m seeking to make an honest contribution. Share what I’ve found and work on refining that as God’s Grace allows.

The past twelve months have opened my eyes to the fact that if I’m relegated to the sidelines because of this, than perhaps the problem has less to do with me, and more to do with those who pushing me, and others like me, there.


Notes:

[i] Yes this did happen. No I’m not prepared to reveal who.

In the process of studying, sometimes, amusing things happen. The quirky. The cool and the outright – “this has to be the part where Paul talks to us Christians about what it means to be Spirit lead, right?.”

The main two reads I’m working on at the moment are Karl Barth’s 1942, Church Dogmatics II:2: The Doctrine of God and Eberhard Bethge’s, ‘Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biography.’ 

On the side, I’ve just completed Bonhoeffer’s ‘Creation & Fall (DBW 3), which enhanced our homeschool journey through Genesis, and is, overall, an excellent and interesting resource. (Review/thoughts blog post pending)

I’m now moving through W.Du Bois’ 1905,  ‘The Souls of Black Men’ and John Walton’s 2015 work, ‘The Lost World of Adam & Eve’.

In recent months, Sundays have become my reading day. It’s also always good when some much needed rain, helps push that study along.

I’d just gotten through reading a long stretch about Bonhoeffer’s pastoral work in London, 1933-1934. In this part of the chapter Bethge discusses Dietrich’s fervent quest to counter the compromises being signed into church governance by Nazi party favourites, who’d been slipped into governing positions within the church, such as the ”German Christians”, Reich Bishop Ludwig Müller. Bethge: ”Müller was the man most highly esteemed by the Party.’ (Bethge, p.348)

Inspired by Bonhoeffer’s own words and response, (which were considered too radical for a large majority in the opposition within the famous ‘Church struggle’ at the time), I remarked:

Blogpost 5th June 1 Tweet

Then, about an hour later, after settling back down to read some more I came across this remark by Bethge:

Blogpost 5th June 2 Tweet

Call it text-book fog, but I laughed at the “co-incidence.” One of the greatest, underrated characteristics about God is His sense of humour. 🙂

On a more serious note.

Here’s the difference between the approaches of Martin Niemöller and Bonhoeffer’s, Christian opposition to the imposition of new cultural laws in Germany during the 1930’s. Form the start Bonhoeffer was issuing a loving ”no.” Niemöller’s came much later on. Both paid a price for it.

 

Bonhoeffer Post 5th June 2016

 

Bonhoeffer, at this early point in time had stood against, among other things, the church accepting and implementing the Aryan clause.

‘His was a lone stand.’ (Bethge, p.306)

Sadly, although it hasn’t yet reached the same intensity for us. The imposition of new cultural laws on Western citizens is, today, beginning to happen on two opposing fronts: the placating of Islamists and the demonising of those in loving opposition to the advances of LGBT ideology.

In our own loving “no,” may we ‘do everything we can to keep things clear, courageous and untainted.’ (Bethge, p.337)


Source:

Bethge, E. 1970 Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biography Fortress Press, U.S.A

Funding Gratitude

March 26, 2014 — Leave a comment

Funding the time to practice, and find gratitude for the time and space to study is not always easy.  I did, however, manage to get in some post-homeschool afternoon reading today.

Barth:

‘God is not what we know as love in ourselves…We are taught by John’s Gospel and 1st letter, not about the deity of love, but the love of the Deity’ (C.D 1:2 1938:374)

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