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  • Direction: Growing up in Turbulent Times: Memoirs of Soviet Oppression, Refugee Life in Germany, and Immigrant Adjustment to Canada
    into the thinking and reflections of a displaced person and later a refugee Throughout the book Janzen provides some very personal glimpses into their lives as a small family unit of mother and son Often in other such accounts the difficulties are recalled with a stiff upper lip and a sense of mandatory Christian triumphalism Janzen seems not to do that at least not that can be detected A poignant moment is the description of his usually strong mother breaking down with the burden of holding a full time job in a Soviet factory caring for aging parents and a young son and at moments suffering from acute headaches and despair over their plight At times it would become too much for her and she would beat her fists against her head Janzen notes That was very upsetting for me so I grabbed her hands to pull them away and pleaded with her to stop 19 He notes that his mother suffered from depression and that the disease ran in her family But for him to so honestly describe such occurrences is boldly refreshing and one soon senses that this is a reflection that is perhaps a more honest description of the stress and difficulties that most DP s and refugees had to endure Janzen does not present a varnished portrait of strength amidst adversity He portrays life as it was Another such moment is the author s description of religious life in the Soviet Union He notes honestly the duplicity in their lives I lived in two worlds in a state of unconscious compart mentalizing On the one hand I heard Bible stories and believed them prayed my bedtime prayers At the same time without a conscious sense of contradiction I respected my teachers in school listened to political instruction and kept the home world to myself 37 He goes on to reflect on what this must have meant for his mother and other parents of Christian families They literally trained their children in duplicity his words since all Christian parents knew that there was no other way to live without risking being sent to concentration camps and losing their children forever to Communist orphanages The theme of ethical issues that DP s and refugees faced runs throughout the book It surfaces in particular in how a young boy such as he experiences it He makes no apology for that Janzen notes that from early on he was attracted to the holy While he knew that he had Mennonite roots his consistent church experience in Germany and later in Waterloo Ontario was Lutheran He attended Waterloo Lutheran as a young man and then took his last year of seminary at the Mennonite seminary in Chicago It is fascinating that the early education and faith experience of this notable Mennonite Biblical scholar was Lutheran and not Mennonite Intriguing in this regard is his chapter on Faith Struggles Baptism and Confirmation Chapter 23 What he experienced was not a struggle with

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  • Direction: The Ben Horch Story
    background information If there can be any criticism of the book and it would be a minor one it is that it has so much detail that the flow of the story is sometimes interrupted But Letkemann had help in gathering information Esther Hiebert Horch Ben s wife for nearly sixty years was an inveterate collector of Horch materials The many photographs in the book are a credit to her voluminous collection And she kept and organized printed programs from every concert Ben attended and every concert he conducted George Wiebe another of Ben s students and a gifted musician in his own right writes in the foreword Once in a generation or two a gifted charismatic leader emerges within a religious and ethnic community to leave an indelible cultural and spiritual legacy Ben Horch was such a leader in the sphere of music Letkemann not only writes a biography with hundreds of names and dates but he also writes the emotional and human story of a man He spent many hours interviewing Ben and Esther and was able to clarify details He writes with passionate detail about the automobile accident in which Esther lost an arm and nearly lost her life He writes of the tragic death of Ben and Esther s only daughter in a traffic accident He describes the several emotional breakdowns Ben experienced as he struggled to bring a new level of artistic awareness to the immigrant Mennonite community in Canada Esther characterizes Ben in the prologue as a man who had rapport with people and was able to excite others for his cause But she also admits that Ben was obstinate prejudiced and contentious for his convictions He always saw further than he could reach and knew more than he could explain Two aspects of

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  • Direction: From the Editors: Faith and Learning
    and faculty members and especially Christian schools must recognize secularity as a competing tradition They must understand that the shift to secularity in the modern world represents a kind of revolution These authors believe that the critical question for us is whether Christian higher education can address the issue of secularity and still hold on to its calling or whether Christian is mere gloss on a systematically secular education At the very least you will be intrigued by this innovative analysis In the fourth essay John H Redekop discusses the challenges and intellectual temptations encountered by an eager young ethno religious Mennonite student striving to be true to his faith as well as to his commitment to reason and training of the mind Although he acknowledges some inadequacies in the sheltered community of his childhood and adolescence his assessment of his heritage is mostly positive Is he too sanguine in his evaluation While readily acknowledging the broad benefits which come to a young student suddenly immersed in a large secular university Redekop observes that early on he concluded that he would rather live by the ethic taught and practiced by the largely unschooled clergy in the rural church which nurtured him than by the ethic of most of the secular and sophisticated professors who taught him In a largely autobiographical account of his life as a philosophy professor Elmer Thiessen identifies seven temptations which he encountered and with which he grappled Although he argues rather forcefully that Christian instructors should avoid indoctrination he nonetheless also asserts that we should be teaching from and for commitment We should resist the temptation of neutrality Is it really the task of Christian professors to teach for Christian commitment in a secular college or university Some colleagues may disagree with Thiessen on this point Professor Thiessen s prescription for Christian teachers also includes the warning that they must resist the temptations of academic worldliness Christian isolationism arrogance misplaced priorities separating teaching from discipleship and seeking to avoid suffering In a novel undertaking Tim Rogalsky discusses the possibility of mathematical instruction that is distinctively Christian He identifies five dimensions of Christian teaching of mathematics In Mathematics and Creation he observes that if we believe that God made all things then naturally the study of mathematics is itself sacred In Mathematics and Religion he deals with broad ethical choices in applied mathematics In the more narrowly focused section Mathematics and Christianity he analyzes chaos theory as well as mathematical exegesis of Biblical texts Finally in an even more narrowly defined section Mathematics and Anabaptism he present his mathematical narrative theology Having stretched the reader s mind concerning the impact of Christianity in the understanding and teaching of mathematics Professor Rogalsky hastens to add that while progress is being made The destination is still nowhere in sight Sue Sorensen begins her essay by affirming that reading with faith is basic but How exactly is one to do this genuinely in a contemporary university setting She rephrases her

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  • Direction: The
    voices were met with arguments based on the Great Commission that disciples must go into all the world John Wall for example argued It is claimed that in recent decades the fund of available knowledge has doubled every ten years If this is true we must agree that the challenge of today with respect to new frontiers is to be found in the academic world Thrust into the frontiers of today s world students might well become the ears of the church detecting the needs of men spelling out the questions they ask so that the message of the church might be brought to bear on contemporary life as it was in the time of the prophets or the time of the apostles Students need to recognize their unique opportunity to witness to Jesus Christ where the action is and where leaders of society and the world are being molded 14 Through the process of a community hermeneutic Mennonite Brethren were able to articulate a need for university education in relational and vocational terms terms that fit the purpose of the church But a community hermeneutic and the less philosophical pragmatism that supports it always risk degenerating into naïve realism and parochialism sometimes resulting in less than wise judgments A hermeneutical community must be prepared to consider that it might benefit from enlarging its conversation by including voices from outside its borders and even from among the long dead This need is especially acute for a community already leaning toward sectarianism where both humility and members with broader knowledge might be in short supply In such circumstances the notion of community hermeneutic can easily serve to confirm prejudice and narrow mindedness rather than to bring them under scrutiny The lingering suspicion of MB colleges and universities among many MBs also witnesses to a mindset comfortable with ignorance of wide expanses of human learning and knowledge Contentment with knowing what works vulgar pragmatism is frequently impatient with the strenuous discipline of scholarship The pragmatic often can t be persuaded that higher learning is worth the trouble PLURALISM PARTICULARITY AND FREEDOM Pluralism in its simplest terms is the state of being plural that is consisting of or pertaining to more than one 15 Early Anabaptists were pluralists in at least two ways Understood as a polygenetic movement Anabaptism began as a plurality sociologically In the sixteenth century and still today Anabaptist communities internalized certain values and correlated external expressions to community ideals The emphasis on the local visible church privileged particularity over universality Any theology supporting the view of a universal invisible church was generally overshadowed by theologies insisting that the church is a community of believers seeking to live out their faith visibly in active discipleship The universal church may be greater than the sum of all the particular churches that make it up but neither can it be less than the aggregate of genuine communities of Christian disciples the world over Anabaptists were also pluralists in a religious and political sense The idea that the church should exist independent of a civic identity seemed revolutionary to Catholics and Protestants alike The foundation of medieval life was the belief that European society was a Christian society a geographical as well as religious unity encapsulated in the term corpus Christianum All major reformers retained some form of this medieval idea of the oneness of society True both Zwingli and Luther began with radical ideas but they rejected them for fear that society would become de Christianized if the unity of church and state were dissolved 16 Anabaptists did not share these anxieties and went so far as to call for religious liberty for all not just for dissenting Christian groups The call for religious freedom for Turk Jew and heathen was rooted in the conviction that the Christian church should not seek to eliminate its enemies Rather it should express love and aid as Christ did To do otherwise would be heretical 17 The legacy of these two kinds of pluralism for Anabaptist Mennonite attitudes toward learning is mixed Emphasis on the sociological particularity of the church fosters a sense of the immediacy of God s presence in the Spirit and lends spiritual weight to local church activities and decisions At the same time Mennonites like so many other Christian sects have been prone to spiritual myopia often unable to imagine that believers of other denominations might also be the recipients of God s graciousness and wisdom An indifference to Christian unity has often attended this condition The benefits of studying other Christian traditions let alone studying alongside Christians of other denominations have not been obvious to those of such a mindset Mennonite Anabaptist rejection of the corpus Christianum idea and the call for religious freedom anticipated the commitment to religious tolerance of modern secular states It would be a mistake however to think that Anabaptists were therefore more willing to take the viewpoints of Turks Jews or the heathen seriously To love one s enemies might mean showing them mercy and kindness but it did not mean acknowledging that their religious views might have some truth in them There is no evidence that behind their urging of states to extend religious freedom to all Anabaptists held to some kind of proto pluralistic vision of truth Their denunciation of the idea of Christendom moreover had the effect of cutting Anabaptists off from the long political philosophical discussion that rationalized it No doubt they saw in late medieval scholasticism good reasons to share Luther s suspicion of reason But by dismissing Plato and Aristotle and their heirs Anabaptists severed themselves from thinkers who attempted to address some of humanity s most profound questions It could be argued that in so doing Anabaptists also removed themselves from the company of the greatest Christian thinkers who cut their theological teeth on the ancient Greek and Latin philosophers St Augustine and St Thomas are but two of these The flirtation of some later Anabaptists with anti

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  • Direction: The Passionate Intellect
    implicit faith assumptions To conclude our analysis we find ourselves in a cultural situation where the weakening of secularism in part effected by the postmodern critique of arid and atheistic rationalism opens up space for less narrow conceptions of rationality that include religion No one has issued this call more clearly than Pope Benedict XVI Not only in his Regensburg address but also in his earlier conversation with Jürgen Habermas Ratzinger has called for a co rationality of reason and faith reason and religion which are destined to reciprocal cleansing and healing and which need one another and have to recognize this need 17 If secular theorists like Terry Eagleton are correct after the postmodern obsession with particularity has run its course the search is now on once again for universal aspects of our common humanity which allow us to link fact to value to connect every aspect of everyday life with matters of ultimate spiritual importance 18 Yet his encouraging news comes with two important cautions First as Habermas has warned Ratzinger we should not forget the benefits of the Enlightenment and its postmodern continuation of critically engaging religion and metaphysics The danger that we will fall back into theological triumphalism as we rush toward absolute and universal values is all too real It would not be the first time in history that Christians squander a valuable opportunity 19 Secondly the return of religion made possible by the exhaustion of secular reason has met with a rather mixed reaction from intellectuals and politicians For while the exhaustion of dogmatic atheistic secularism has encouraged the return of religion as a legitimate shaper of human ideals this renewed openness to religion remains haunted by the simultaneous fear that religious convictions inevitably lead to intolerance conflict and violence RECOVERING A PASSIONATE INTELLECT What does this cultural scenario mean for the relation of faith and learning It means that culture is partially open to religiously based education even if some fundamentalist rationalists such as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins continue their reductionist model of truth and knowledge Against their minority voices Christians can avail themselves of Eagleton Fish and a host of other thinkers most academics in fact who no longer believe in test tube epistemology Yet culture also remains suspicious of religion that appears sectarian and fundamentalist This should not mean that Christians must give up distinct doctrinal claims even though secularists would like to see them do so Instead Christian educators should pursue the opposite route which will to the surprise of many actually lead to discovering that Christianity is in essence a humanism that speaks for the good of culture as a whole The starting point of any response must be rekindling the Christian imagination through the recovery of its basic humanistic instinct It may be tempting to retreat even more into a Christian island from which one observes with self righteousness the rudderless drifting of secular culture But the renewal of Western culture and its educational institutions requires that Christians adopt exactly the contrary stance by recovering the sense of a common humanity and rationality Although the increasing interest in religion by atheist and agnostic intellectuals may be a hopeful development it cannot replace the living Christian imagination that gave rise to the incarnational Christian humanism which formed the primary motivation of the Christian university and so powerfully shaped Western culture in the first place I believe that Jacques Maritain was right when he wrote fifty years ago that modern civilization is a worn out vesture it is not a question of sewing on patches here and there but of a total and substantial reformation a trans valuation of its cultural principles 20 This transformation cannot be accomplished contrary to recent suggestions by Marcello Pera French President Sarkozy or political philosopher Simon Critchley by creating an external lifeless civic religion nor will it happen by Christians seizing and controlling political power to impose their version of the holy empire on all others 21 Rather as Maritain suggests we will need a living imagination a rousing of forces of faith of intelligence and of love in the inner depths of the soul an advance in the discovery of the world of spiritual realties 22 At the same time Maritain warns that re booting culture by means of a living imagination must avoid a historicism at all cost We cannot simply start over as if history had not happened The renewal of culture and in our case of university culture can only work through the recovery interpretation and application of past traditions In this remaining section I will argue that for Christian education we need to recover the early church s incarnational humanism in order to recapture the development of a passionate intellect as the true vocation of all learning Given these challenges one wonders whether North American evangelical subculture which still informs many Protestant institutions of learning is in any way prepared to tackle this task Frankly I doubt it Why Because the recovery of a passionate intellect and a purpose for education requires a grasp of one s history and identity which comes through knowing one s tradition The sap of a tree comes from its roots Identity and purpose of Christian education in other words require knowledge of the theological tradition which gave it birth Yet the evangelical subculture reveals its greatest weakness precisely at this crucial point What is perhaps most striking concerning evangelical worship and theology which form after all the heart and passion of any religion is the general absence of history a near total neglect of the Christian tradition Worship and preached theology are mostly cut off from any real interaction with the saints from the past When this lack is addressed it usually occurs in an eclectic postmodern manner of gutting past thinkers for usable parts without giving much contextual considerations to their stance as a whole It is as though a reductionist idea of sola scriptura had condemned evangelicals constantly to reinvent the wheel of worship biblical theology and liturgy only to become ever less conscious of how much their efforts end up mimicking culture This is not to say that Christianity could actually be a purely counter cultural enterprise directed from some point outside culture Such an attempt goes directly against the idea of the incarnation Incarnational thinking means that Christians have to recover their passion by retracing the cultural development of Christianity to understand how the church from its beginnings has incarnated the gospel in culture If Christians don t seem to grasp the essential nature of incarnational thinking they could at least follow an ancient Christian tradition and plunder the Egyptians or in this case hermeneutic philosophy SELF KNOWLEDGE AND TRADITION The hermeneutic philosopher Hans Georg Gadamer in his rehabilitation of tradition against Enlightenment thinking has outlined what incarnational existence entails if reflection on our identity and purpose does not occur through the interpretive appropriation of tradition we drift without any mooring in the sea of culture and are prey to subjectivism no matter how much we claim to stand on facts or revelation What either facts or the facts of revelation mean requires interpretative appropriation within a tradition On this account knowledge has as much to do with memory as it does with new insights Meaningful new insights occur only on the basis of an interpretive tradition Much of the current a historical attitude in evangelicalism stems from the misconception that knowledge somehow stands in the way of an encounter with God Yet it is tradition the rich past of other Christians reflection on God church and the world which unfolds for us who God actually is Tradition is therefore not merely an object of knowledge but participation in an ongoing historical event Without such an understanding of self knowledge a person or community has no real identity nor does a disincarnate consciousness have any means by which to judge cultural developments As Gadamer asserts The danger of Docetism seems banished when historical tradition is conceived not as an object of historical knowledge or of philosophical conception but as an effective moment of one s own being 23 In Gadamer s terms evangelicalism has largely lost the very source of its identity and imagination namely its historical consciousness both of its own origins and of the larger Christian tradition in general Yet as the Catholic theologian Yves Congar reminds us tradition connotes not mere conservatism or historical knowledge but the continual presence of a spirit and of a moral attitude the continuity of an ethos Tradition is like the consciousness of a group or the principle of identity that links one generation with another it enables them to remain the same human race and the same peoples as they go forward throughout history which transforms all things 24 Evangelical subculture has lost this continuity with the past which is why it either spends all of its time trying to establish its identity or sometimes even glorying in this lack of historical identity simply becomes a mirror of current cultural trends How can a Christian culture thus cut off from its roots and without any real identity address the current cultural crisis of reason identity and purpose It cannot The tragedy of our times is that at the very moment when culture may be most open to Christian intellectuals and institutions to address issues of reason and faith of religion and politics of social virtues and a common humanity many Protestant Christian institutions have deprived themselves of their intellectual will and structural muscle to do so Many evangelical postsecondary institutions currently follow the popular trend of turning universities into job factories of applicable knowledge whose lack of intellectual Eros is compensated by promising students an exciting Christian experience Christian universities in part induced by government funding guidelines also dutifully try to implement interdisciplinary programs for teaching and research without bothering to articulate an intelligent Christological foundation for such endeavors Yet the Christian Logos in whom all things co inhere 25 arguably provides the only authentic reason for interdisciplinary work and an effective means to heal disciplinary fragmentation Instead Christian liberal arts institutions merrily follow the secular trend of splitting disciplines into independent schools of research leaving the student to sort out how all of this supposedly constitutes a Christian education or enables them to be leaders in the marketplace INCARNATION AND THE PASSIONATE INTELLECT All of this is tragic because Christians actually have access to an idea which places in their hands not as possession but as sacred trust the very thing our current culture looks for Christians know of a non foundationalist foundation the grounds for a religiously determined notion of universal human rationality and human knowledge which if rightly understood is able to address our current cultural need This gift is the tradition of Christian humanism the very fount of a passionate intellect And this gift starts with Christology The foundation of a passionate intellect is the incarnation of God in Christ for the affirmation judgment and ultimate redemption of his creation and of humanity In Christ we recover the true meaning of passion as reflected in the word s Latin roots patior patiens and passio all indicate undergoing or sustaining a certain activity By taking on humanity and defining it in the ultimate sense of redemptive suffering toward a new humanity Christ gives passion its true meaning Passion is also com passion a suffering with the common cultural woes in order to serve as witness for the new humanity inaugurated by Christ not a suffering at the hands of others in order to redeem Christ already did that a being there for a broken humanity While this Christological teaching provides the theological root of Christian humanism the Eucharist served as the liturgical embodiment of these convictions at the heart of the church In this central liturgical participation in God s incarnation we encounter the end of dualism and the beginning of a concept of universal reason and values which do not in fact lead to fundamentalism but to a common humanity This doctrine also reminds Christians of their essential participation in and responsibility for culture and the interpretive nature of their faith in exploring both God s creation and their role in shaping culture Christians must existentially appropriate this source of cultural renewal and experientially live it responsibly in every aspect of their common humanity and citizenship In other words Christians have to recover the incarnation and its Eucharistic re enactment as the foundation for humanism and learning and they also have to understand that the Christian life and practice is patterned as suffering as passion Passion means to undergo to enact and to be drawn by something greater than formulaic and predictable patterns Let s briefly look at these two aspects THE INCARNATIONAL EUCHARISTIC FOUNDATION OF HUMANISM In the incarnation a very distinct notion of our common humanity enters Western thought for the first time As Catholic scholar Henri de Lubac puts it Christ is not only the bearer of an eternal message which he repeats to the astonished ears of successive individuals but also he in whom humanity finds an unexpected answer to the problems of its organic unity 26 In the incarnation with its unique union of human and divine of the particular and the transcendent of the historical and the eternal of the cultural ethnic and the collective human race the very idea of humanity is born That image of God the image of the Word which the incarnate Word restores and gives back its glory is I myself it is also the other every other It is that aspect of me in which I coincide with every other man it is the hallmark of our common origin and the summons to our common destiny It is our very unity in God 27 And so the deepest mystery of our unity with the Trinity defines our humanity we are fully persons only within the Person of the Son by whom and with whom we share in the circumcession mutual co inhabiting of the Trinity 28 Against the charge that such an image of being truly human in Christ argues for exclusivity rather than a common humanity incarnational Christology from the church father Irenaeus onward has proclaimed Christ as the central common ground of all human beings and of creation The Christian s participation in Christ does not separate the church from the rest of humanity but rather establishes an intrinsic connection with it At the very heart of the church in the encounter with the incarnate Word of God through preaching and the Eucharist we participate in Christ s humanity which is ontologically structured as being for others Without lapsing into a neo Platonic or Romantic panentheism we can nonetheless affirm that Eucharistic participation in the incarnation links us in Christ to all of humanity In his summary of the Eastern and Western traditions on Eucharistic theology T M R Tillard explains that in the church as the new humanity God s salvation through agape and communion is realized in this in his historical work the Son assumed everything in the human condition by taking it on himself at the same time since the resurrection he continues to live in his members the human tragedy in all its truth and all its reality What this means is not a continued incarnation but the fulfillment teleiosis of the work of the incarnation in the power of the Spirit 29 This work does of course distinguish between the church and the world but it also establishes their connection in the divine ministry of reconciliation Tillard concludes that the church is grafted onto the great pain ridden body of humankind And the graft is but a fragment taken from the reconciling power of the cross 30 The fear that a renewal of faith in institutions of learning will lead to conflict and violence has renewed the typically modern comparative religious approach which waters down all religious particularities to their most inoffensive kernel an ineffable non descript transcendence a blank space which somehow is supposed to encourage humility tolerance and love Besides its own hidden assumptions of neutrality such an approach clearly enacts its own blanket imperialism against any particular religion Against this ploy the Christian will assert the opposite a proper understanding of Christology not the rejection but the full articulation of doctrine leads to common ground and empathic engagement with every other human being If Christ affirmed God s solidarity for his creation how dare we refuse THE INTERPRETIVE NATURE OF CHRISTIAN LIVING Understanding the incarnational nature of Christianity means understanding the interpretive nature of Christian living What would Jesus do is in other words much more difficult than commonly assumed No one has grasped this idea better than German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer who insisted that Christian self knowledge and understanding must follow the pattern laid down by the incarnation The Christian life is unified because it lives out of the ultimate word of God s reconciliation of creation to himself in Christ Yet this unity of the Logos must be lived out in the penultimate reality of everyday life While this abolishes the division between secular and sacred living incarnationally also means that just as in Christ the reality of God entered into the reality of the world so too is that which is Christian to be found only in the natural the holy only in the profane and the revelational only in the rational The unity of the reality of God and of the world which has been accomplished in Christ is repeated or more exactly is realized ever afresh in the life of men 31 Little attention is paid to the striking similarities of Bonhoeffer s Christology and that of the church fathers Like them Bonhoeffer understands that the ultimate reality of all things in the Logos Christ requires sacramental manifestation the enjoyment of God s presence in preaching and in

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  • Direction: Secularity, Psychology, and the Mennonite University
    As a secular discipline psychology is tailor made for a secular society Seculareze is the language through which modern psychology is communicated and the language spoken most often in psychotherapy Psychotherapy is not a neutral enterprise it serves a secular culture This means that integrating one s faith with a secular university education or psychotherapy is not simply a matter of inserting religion wherever possible One cannot just superimpose Christianity on to a presumably neutral secularity Secularity is a social arrangement a cultural vision in its own right It is perhaps better to ask questions about the systemic relationship of secularity and religion in psychotherapy What if the language vocabulary and syntax of therapy reflects a culture that does not need the transcendent to explain the psychological A discourse describing human behavior in terms of social forces environmental reinforcement archetypes boundaries systems or hot cognitions seems to have no need for spiritual categories much less a Creator God or a crucified Christ The secular psyche stands on its own A psychology that has no place for the concept of evil will focus on dysfunctionality or pathology in diagnosis and treatment Because secularity has no room for transcendence spiritual yearning is hardly recognized much less legitimated It may even be pathologized Thus the integration of religion and psychology is much more complex than merely mixing religious vocabulary with secular discourse In the past century American psychology was nurtured in the secular university In 1901 William James 14 could make a case in the Gifford lectures for the relevance of various religious experiences but contemporary departments of psychology are not constructed on the vision of this early psychologist 15 Reflecting the larger political context secular psychology perceives the individual as possessing rights knowledge as universal and derived from consensual validation and the public square as religiously neutral The discursive move in the nineteenth century from thinking of a fixed human nature to regarding humans as a constituted normality facilitated the secular idea of moral progress as defined and directed by autonomous human agency The rise of American psychology coincided with the emergence of the secular university With the disestablishment of religion in the university a religiously informed psychology was replaced by a secular psychology We have argued above that a major shift occurs in the ethos of the educational institution when the population served changes When secular society is the community that the university serves the language and content of the curriculum shifts to meet the needs of this society It should come as no surprise that secular psychology reflects the needs of a pluralist capitalist technological and ideologically fragmented society What process of thinking leads to the construction of an entirely new discourse in seculareze The secular psyche like the secular state and economy is a product of imagination In the modern world the inner self has become the locus of religion i e privatized religion 16 a citizen in a nation state a consumer in a secular economy and a product of autonomous nature The individual could only be constructed as self contained once nature became viewed as autonomous In the medieval world this was impossible the individual was seen as participating in a world God created rather than as an extension of autonomous nature Autonomous nature has replaced a created universe Nature has its own laws Such knowledge carefully collected and tested is more certain than any biblical claim The result is that natural psychological forces now shape individual personality formation and override any transcendental spiritual sources of motivation The dominant view now seems to be that the individual is maker of his her destiny Our life course is a result of individual decisions made in the context of nature and society both secular Milbank comments the artistic or poetic Idea is no longer what precedes the work in the artist s mind as a reflection of the ideas of God but instead becomes that which is conveyed as meaning to the receiver from the peculiar constitution of the work itself 17 What was once attributed to God is now assumed to be within the individual Whereas God used to have dominion over the world the will of the self now has dominion over the course of history It is no small irony that in the twentieth century a shift to the discourse of seculareze in psychology was closely associated with Protestantism Keith Meador points to the influence of liberal Protestants such as Charles Clayton Morrison whose 1908 purchase of The Christian Century served as a catalyst for a therapeutic gospel that resembled the psychological wisdom of the day 18 Meador suggests that psychology came to re narratize Protestant theology toward a functional study of human nature and behavior This process at times included wholesale alignment with the works of Dewey Freud Hall and James In the case of the latter religion was effectively fused with psychological inquiry Matters of salvation became reordered in James to identify the self as the preeminent autonomous basis for esteem and growth This became the genesis of self help literature that in the name of applied psychology came to replace theological vocabulary to a newly construed scientific psyche Psychological religion became influential through publications such as The Christian Century partly as a solution to problems of social injustice and disorder The magnitude of this shift was considerable Introductory psychology textbooks represent a good vantage from which to weigh the impact of seculareze as a narrative reflecting the secular ideology required by a liberal state Lehr and Spilka 19 examined forty eight introductory psychology textbooks published in the 1980s for religious content and compared them with two hundred texts from the 1950s and 1970s There was a major increase in religious related material observed for 1980s texts compared with 1970s texts However the number of citations and citation lengths were reduced in 1980s texts Later citations were primarily of a non research discussion nature Although evaluation of the religious material by text authors was

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  • Direction: A Reflection on a Spiritual Pilgrimage, or
    views and actually rejecting assertions became blurred Like sophomores who relish the headiness of initial but limited discovery some of us found it hard to maintain an other worldly orientation while spending most of our time studying this world and honing our skills at doing so On the one hand we still held to the notion that God s Word is truth and that the Spirit guides us in knowing truth but on the other hand we were investing heavily in alternate routes to truth AN OPEN MIND More than a few of us struggled with the dilemma of developing an inquiring mind without setting aside all acquired commitments Some of us struggled with a religious way of life and with some religious tenets which we had inherited more than we had chosen Was it now necessary to reject much of such an inheritance and make our own decisions Initially at least I was very reluctant to set aside anything of that which I had learned My situation would have been less frustrating if at that time I had already encountered James Russell Lowell s maxim that Only the foolish and the dead never change their opinions As students we quickly learned to focus on questions but we did not want to question all things and we certainly did not want to make questioning the highest intellectual virtue We tried to reconcile our faith in Christ with our growing commitment to abstract reasoning Some of us had not yet learned that there is no inherent contradiction between Christian faith and the use of God given reason But in our first and second years we had not yet learned to fly To put the matter another way it was difficult for some of us to combine having a deep faith commitment with having an open mind Can a person make confident claims about ultimate questions while also cultivating a critical mindset And what do we do if a search for truth threatens to undermine our earlier learned truth Most of my earlier Christian mentors great saints that many were could provide only limited help as I tried to integrate faith and learning With the exception of some high school teachers most had not walked that road Those of us heavily involved in science courses usually in my case I think always had professors who did not identify with a religious faith commitment They simply assumed the validity of the theory of evolution and rejected any notions of creation In such settings we had to process the challenge of subscribing to the validity of scientific research without making the scientific method the only route to truth Another challenge arose As Christian university students we had to learn to be tolerant of other people s views whatever they might be while simultaneously rejecting certain beliefs as false and certain behaviors as evil according to our understanding of biblical teaching Alongside this challenge came the realization that there was value in understanding other religions and perhaps even learning from them instead of simply combating them In my opinion the False Cults I had studied in earlier years were still False Cults but I now had friends who belonged to them Our intellectual dilemmas were exacerbated by two realities First the comparative dearth of Mennonite academics who had trod this path before we embarked on it afforded us very few role models and thus also almost no one to whom we could turn for wise counsel I must however note that there were a few exceptions and they did provide useful input In particular I want to give credit to a few graduate students and a few recent graduates who organized some Sunday afternoon or evening discussion sessions in Vancouver area residences or in Fraser Valley parental homes These were very helpful The second reality was that our own home congregations and our own Mennonite conferences generally remained aloof from our concerns and intellectual struggles Significantly the fine preacher and Christian gentleman who pastored the one Vancouver Mennonite Brethren church then in existence the one I attended when I remained in the city for weekends could hardly function as a major resource for us On the one hand he had never himself been a student at such an institution and on the other hand his congregational employment situation was such that he needed to work as I recall full time in a local lumber mill Doubtless there were Christian leaders in Vancouver presumably in other churches who could have provided the kind of assistance and counseling which many of us needed to hear but I for one did not connect with them SPIRITUAL SUPPORT As the academic years passed our roots in the big city grew deeper and our attachments to our Fraser Valley communities and churches slowly weakened This change brought both positive and negative consequences relating to church attendance our ethics nurturing of our faith and our sense of accountability Towards the close of the 1950s the BC Mennonite Brethren Conference made considerable effort to minister to UBC students The Conference engaged a campus minister or advisor but fine gentleman that he was he was actually more a peer than a mentor Although he contributed significantly to the Mennonite campus scene much of the problem remained Expectations had been too high For me this important initiative had little consequence because this mentor arrived only after I had left the campus For many of us the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship became our most significant spiritual support It helped bridge Christian and academic communities it provided campus based spiritual nurture it constituted a reservoir of Christian friends and it functioned as a supportive Christian community Recent scholarship has shown that for university students especially those not living at home the need for community looms large especially if they try to process retention of some traditional community values and the simultaneous gradual loss of that community I can attest to the fact that the need for community

    Original URL path: http://www.directionjournal.org/37/1/reflection-on-spiritual-pilgrimage-or.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Direction: Temptations Facing the Christian Academic
    Why Because all truth is God s truth Because every thought needs to be made captive to Christ 2 Cor 10 5 That is the kind of Christian self confidence that we need to display in our teaching and scholarship Our teaching and scholarship must be transformed by a Christian worldview which in turn is shaped by presuppositions articulated by God s special revelation We don t have to be embarrassed about the truth that is in God Yes there is a need for humility After all we only know God s truth in part But let s never forget that God s truth is utterly reliable and will endure forever Ps 119 89 91 With God s help I believe that I have been able to resist this aspect of the temptation of academic worldliness Very early in my academic career in philosophy I developed a passion for the cultivation of a truly Christian mind Here I am indebted to a book I read while still an undergraduate The Christian Mind by Harry Blamires 1963 Over the years various other books have continued to inspire this passion Walsh and Middleton 1984 Wolters 1985 More recently there have been the important contributions by George Marsden 1997 and David Naugle 2002 Thankfully more attention is being paid to worldview thinking and the cultivation of a Christian worldview in our Christian institutions of higher learning But all too often I meet Christian academics in our secular universities and even in Christian colleges and universities who sadly have not begun to think of their discipline from a uniquely Christian perspective I also worry about the contemporary preoccupation and uncritical acceptance of post modernism on the part of some evangelical scholars see Thiessen 2007 Such scholars have I believe succumbed to the temptation of academic worldliness CHRISTIAN ISOLATIONISM Avoiding the temptation of academic worldliness can lead to an opposite danger namely that of Christian isolationism While we must avoid academic worldliness we are still called to do our scholarship in the world addressing the problems of the world and doing all this in such a way as to speak to our non Christian colleagues Christian scholarship and teaching is at the same time in the world but not of the world John 17 It is hard to walk this tightrope As already mentioned one of my passions has been the development of the Christian mind and this has led to an ongoing dialogue concerning the distinctiveness of a Christian curriculum and Christian scholarship see Thiessen 1992 1999 2001 ch 10 I like to stress that the Christian mind must start with distinctively Christian presuppositions which are derived from God s special revelation The central problem here is that stressing the distinctiveness of Christian learning and scholarship too much leads to isolationism Christian scholarship is now viewed as totally different from non Christian scholarship and it becomes impossible to understand other scholarship or even to talk to other scholars I quite agree that an overemphasis on the uniqueness of the Christian mind can lead to this kind of isolation to what is sometimes referred to as the problem of incommensurability of belief systems But as I have argued elsewhere it is possible to avoid such an overemphasis 1997 It is possible at one and the same time to say that Christian scholarship is unique and that it has something in common with non Christian scholarship Christian scholars can and must speak to non Christian scholars identifying common truth while at the same time exposing distortions that arise from separating truth from its ultimate origin in Christ For example in my book Teaching for Commitment 1993 I spend a good deal of time trying to accommodate the secular liberal ideal of autonomy At the same time I have been very careful to qualify this notion of autonomy by talking instead of normal autonomy to set this notion apart from the secular liberal ideal I also make it a point to show that this qualified ideal of normal autonomy is compatible with Christian presuppositions and in fact grows out of them Of course there is a risk involved in attempting to transform the secular ideal of autonomy There is a danger here of succumbing to academic worldliness But I like to believe that I have avoided this while at the same time avoiding the danger of Christian isolationism ARROGANCE There are repeated warnings against arrogance in the scriptures I hate pride and arrogance Prov 8 13 Knowledge puffs up but love builds up 1 Cor 8 1 I have already mentioned Jesus warning against the desire to lord it over others Instead we are to be servants as he was I think we teachers and academics have problems with this We have difficulty submitting to authority to administration or to our supporting constituency Arrogance is a besetting sin of academics There is a constant temptation to adopt an attitude that goes counter to the biblical ideal of submission I know I have struggled with this in my attitudes towards administration I know better than they I have found myself joining in a favorite pastime at mid morning coffee breaks criticizing the administration I forget that my job is to be a teacher not an administrator Then there is the widespread tendency among academics to fail to abide by the guidelines and time limits set for presenting papers at conferences We think that what we have to say is so important that we should be given all the time in the world Such behavior is rooted in a refusal to be submissive The problem of arrogance has its roots in the sinful nature of all human beings But I believe there is something about being teachers and academics that makes us more prone to this temptation We are authority figures in the classroom We like the title of Professor or Doctor Our attitudes are also shaped by the education we have received We have been taught to think

    Original URL path: http://www.directionjournal.org/37/1/temptations-facing-christian-academic.html (2016-02-16)
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