Category Archives: Education

Epistle to the Trojans

Students in my Pauline Epistles class formed groups and wrote letters from the apostle Paul to Taylor, as an in-class exercise (each group had 20-25 minutes to write a brief letter).

The letter written by Brennan, Brittany, and Will earned the most votes, and so we are posting their words here – enjoy!

Prayer chapel at Taylor University

Epistle to the Trojans

Paul, an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the people of Taylor University, may grace and peace be to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you for the abundant feast of Chicken Cordon Bleu (editor’s note: from Taylor’s Dining Commons). Although I am aghast at the technological advancements I see at your university, I am impressed about the learning you emphasize in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Your love for one another has been an encouragement to me. Every day I am encouraged in my thoughts about you and remember you in my prayers always. When you gather together in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, be sure to admonish one another as well as encourage, as you have always done. Continue to pursue the wisdom of the elders who have been appointed before you by the power of our God and Father.

I have heard said of Taylor that you say, “Ring by spring.” But I say, there is no appointed time for a ring that you can know. Until that time, continue in God’s grace for one another, not focusing upon this goal but the goal of following Christ. I am saying this not to bind you in any way but that you may know the true love that Christ has for you.

Now you who bleed purple and gold, continue to love one another as you have always done. Pray continually, greet all brothers with a holy high-five, remain with one another even after God’s time for you at Taylor, and abstain from every evil. Be sure to admonish one another in love for each other in the name of our Lord. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you always. Amen.

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Filed under Education, New Testament

Integrating Faith and Learning, Truth and Life

Thinking rabbitStudying the Bible in an academic context provides a great opportunity to explore the broad relevance of a number of Biblical themes. What are some potential ways the Bible relates to other areas of learning or significant issues in our world?

The Trinity – worship, purpose, full relationships with God and others, how Christianity is distinct from other world religions.

Creation – the sciences, creation care, beauty/order/design in the world, stewardship of resources/gifts/life, fruitfulness, culture, creativity, sexuality/marriage/family, the wisdom of God.

Image of God – the value of human life, living as representatives of God, identity formation, vocation and calling.

Incarnation and physical resurrection – the value of the physical world and physical bodies, physical presence/touch and relationships, the “embodied” life and communication/social media, benefits and dangers of technology to human interaction and growth, medical ethics.

The kingdom of God – power structures and their relationship to God, justice/righteousness/shalom, what God’s reign looks like now and in the future in our world, kingdom ethics applied to various areas of life.

Christian virtues – cultural analysis, sexual morality, business ethics, hospitality, generosity to the needy, other humanitarian issues.

The cross/death of Jesus – “cruciform living” in an indulgent and selfish world, the depths of sin/evil/suffering and brokenness in a fallen world, the power of forgiveness – with God and others.

The church – how Christians are distinct from the world, how Christians should engage with the world, reconciliation and unity within the church, church planting and missions – contributions from various gifted people, ministries to the poor/needy/oppressed.

Justice and judgment – restorative and punitive justice, temporary and final judgment and their functions, divine and human justice, social justice in various arenas, reconciliation between political/social/tribal enemies, war and pacifism.

Biblical covenants – mission and purpose in light of the new covenant, middle east politics in light of the old and new covenants, church and state, living as strangers and exiles.

Union with Christ – identity formation, growth and maturity as disciples, sharing in Christ’s suffering, the persecuted.

New creation – worship and vocation, human flourishing, the value of the physical, beauty, creativity.

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Filed under Biblical Theology, Education, New Testament, Old Testament, Teaching

Education and the Pursuit of Wisdom

Taylor University Prayer Chapel

Taylor University Prayer Chapel

Proverbs 3:13-18 identifies wisdom as the most valuable treasure in this world. Here is the passage in the NIV:

“Blessed are those who find wisdom, 
those who gain understanding,
for she is more profitable than silver
and yields better returns than gold.
She is more precious than rubies;
nothing you desire can compare with her.
Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor.
Her ways are pleasant ways,
and all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;
those who hold her fast will be blessed.”

Notice the exhortations to actively pursue wisdom: “find wisdom . . . gain understanding . . . take hold of her . . . hold her fast.” With these words the father is appealing to his son, “make this your life quest!” And why? The passage makes it clear: an investment in wisdom pays great dividends, contributing to a life of shalom (peace) as well as fruitfulness in work and health.

What a great word for college students. The goal of a college education is not simply to become employable, to make lifelong friends, or to enjoy four years of enriching experiences. Those goals become meaningful only when aligned under a greater goal: growing in wisdom and understanding about God and the world he created.

How does one proceed on this journey towards wisdom and understanding? Proverbs 9:10 gives the starting point: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” And in the wake of the new covenant, Christ is the one “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).

A truly wise life emerges only from a right relationship with God, in Christ, by the Spirit. I’m so glad that learning at Taylor is experienced within a context of faith and discipleship, so that growth in wisdom can take place!

 

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Filed under Discipleship, Education, New Testament, Old Testament, Teaching

The Gap Decade

We have high-schoolers in our home, and there are plenty of friends around town who have high-schoolers too. One thing that we talk about with our friends is the idea of taking a “gap year” between high school and college. Every student is different, so the gap year makes sense for some but not for others.

I took a “gap decade” between my undergraduate and graduate studies (my wife and I had ten wonderful years serving with Campus Crusade for Christ, in the U.S. and in East Asia). A gap decade isn’t the best choice for everyone, but it was perfect for me. Here’s why:

1) Believe it or not, I was not very mature personally or intellectually when I was 22 years old. Shocking.

My kids are known to choose store-bought, processed “desserts” over sumptuous home-made creations at pot-luck dinners or dessert carry-ins. I just smile when they do: one, because it leaves the better desserts for me, but two because I recognize that tastes change and improve over time. At age 22 I was not ready for the fine food that graduate studies had to offer.

thanksgiving feast a

2) The gap decade allowed me to develop in some areas of weakness instead of focusing prematurely on areas of strength. I have always been comfortable in an academic setting – taking tests, writing papers, exploring and discussing ideas – these all come fairly naturally for me. My ten years in between undergraduate and graduate studies gave me the chance to cultivate areas in which I was not as naturally gifted – public speaking, leadership, strategic planning, and being intentional about reaching out to a wide variety of people. I’m so grateful for the mentors and experiences that challenged and stretched me in those areas during my gap decade.

3) My gap-decade helped me to appreciate the practical in addition to the theoretical. Theology is rich and complex and significant. But that theology needs to be communicated in ways that connect with people, beginning with where they are in life. I learned this fairly quickly in ministry. There were times when I thought I had developed fascinating Bible studies or teaching material to share with others about God, salvation, and the like, only to find out that they needed something more concrete and practical first.

4) Here’s what may be an eye-opening point: nothing stops us from learning when we are not in school! I read and wrote and thought and learned a lot during my ten years outside of school. I remember pouring through the history of the New Testament canon and other church history highlights, digging into commentaries on various biblical books, and examining systematic theologies on God’s sovereignty, the Holy Spirit, the nature of Scripture, missions, spiritual formation, and other substantive topics. I recall the fun times engaging in detailed studies of books of the Bible with my friends and co-workers. And I wasn’t reading and studying because of an assignment or grade, which made the learning all the more sweet!

5) When I finally returned to the academic arena and began graduate studies, I brought a sense of focus and motivation with me that would have been absent a decade earlier. I knew my need for what I was learning, and my appetite for structured and challenging learning had increased exponentially in my life. A key to success in graduate studies is to sustain momentum throughout the program – from the classwork to the comprehensive exams and all the way to the completion of the thesis or dissertation. I was glad that my motivation level was high at the beginning of the long journey that was ahead of me, so that I could have some energy in reserve for the challenging stretches along the way.

The gap decade – that idea might not catch on like the gap year has, but for some recent college graduates it might be just what the doctor ordered, like it was for me.

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Faith and Reason, part 2

Photo: Synagogues such as this one in Chorazin on the Sea of Galilee functioned as places of faith and learning for the Jews.

Faith should be enriched through learning, and reason should be chastened by faith. We looked at the first half of this statement in the last blog post. Today, we’ll look at the second half.

Reason should be chastened by faith. Higher institutions of learning often miss the mark on this one, which becomes obvious when we take note of the many universities that began with a Christian mission but have long since drifted from those moorings. In an academic environment, there is always a danger of allowing reason to run roughshod over faith.

Proverbs 9:10 (and 1:7) reminds us that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

Jeremiah 9:23-24: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom . . . but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice, and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight.”

1 Corinthians 1:25: “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.”

Throughout church history, theologians such as Augustine and Anselm have reiterated the commitment to “faith seeking understanding.”

All of the above excerpts communicate the idea that reason operates best when it is solidly within the context of a robust devotion to God. We integrate all other learning into a worshipful life with God and a commitment to following Christ over the course of our entire lives. We make sure reason is chastened by faith because when reason functions independently, it can lead us astray, especially in our conclusions about God and his workings (theologians talk about the noetic effects of sin, or the negative influence of sin on our minds and thinking).

We begin a new semester with the desire to finish with a stronger, more enriched faith than before. This requires intentional preparation and ongoing focus. Regular involvement in a healthy local church is essential along the way, since a church by design places its priorities of worship and faith at the front and center. As faith leads the way and learning is done with excellence and humility, may we reach the goal of greater intimacy with God and greater confidence in him.

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Filed under Biblical Theology, Church, Education

Faith and Reason, part 1

A new semester is about to begin. Students are settling into dorms, professors are preparing syllabi, and all of us are about to embark on a journey of faith and reason. How should we think about this relationship between faith and reason? Here’s an attempt:

Faith should be enriched through learning, and reason should be chastened by faith.

First, faith is enriched through learning. We tend to assume this as a given in Christian higher education, and rightly so. From the creation mandate of Genesis 1:26-28 to the creation wisdom of Proverbs to the new creation vision of Isaiah, Revelation, and elsewhere, believers are invited to make creative and productive use of the resources of this world and the learning available to us.

Consider this new creation vision of work in Isaiah 65:21-23:

“They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit . . . My chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands. They will not toil in vain.”

The new creation will be characterized by creative, fruitful work, in fulfillment of the original creation mandate of Genesis 1. Beneficial work in this world connects us back to what we were created for and points us forward to the ultimate new creation that God is preparing.

Preparing for meaningful work requires thinking, creating, observing, learning, experimenting – things we do in higher education. For those who prepare well, there can be great opportunity: “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings” (Proverbs 22:29).  A commitment to learning, curiosity, persistence, and excellence in our schooling equips us to bless people and make a difference in our world.

The book of Proverbs beckons us to gain insight both from knowledge shared by others (Prov 1:1-6) and from observations about the natural world (Prov 30:24-33). Attentiveness to the world around us enriches our appreciation for the order, beauty, and complexity of God’s creation and our place in it (Psalm 8:3-8).

Reason should be seen as one of God’s good gifts to us (1 Timothy 4:4, James 1:17), leading us to lives of wisdom, fruitfulness, and worship (Romans 11:33-36; James 3:13). This brings us to the second half of the equation – that reason should be chastened by faith. We will look at this second point later this week.

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Filed under Biblical Theology, Education