Tuesday, September 28, 2004

church history is dangerous

i admittedly am ignorant of church history. the subject of church history has always finished last in my ordering of subjects and therefore has never been considered beyond a random reference every once and awhile.

my focus has always been on the here and now. i expose myself as a person who questions the past in terms of institutions as well as methods. what can a past of endless denominations and battles have to teach me? isn't it better just to forget everything and start fresh? i guess that my start-up side continues to rage on even as i consider the ways of the church.

i have come face to face the reality that church history is alive and dangerous. i am starting to see that reading about the past shows me how little i know about the present. this is a very very basic fact for those who love history and understand the purpose of studying it. all of us need to discover the value of studying history by ourselves.

i am learning classic lessons.

the theological conflicts that i have encountered in my life are not new conflicts. in fact, a disagreement about typology was first raised in the 2nd century.

the scary part is that i see how much the church has changed over the years. i am starting to question the assumption that the 20th/21st century church is the best way to "do church". that assumption looks foolish now that i write it but isn't that what most people (still including myself) live under.

on a different (more positive) note, i am amazed at how close i feel to the writers of the past when i read their works. the amazing figures like st augustine express spiritual truths and spiritual struggles in similar ways, even if they composed them in a different time period, in a different place, in a different language (latin, greek, etc)...

there truly is a connection between the followers of Christ throughout the years of church. my prayer is that i will live with the understanding of that connection and learn how to not be surprised by anything that comes my way as a leader in the church for nothing is new under the sun...

Sunday, September 26, 2004

not listening... again

i have a hard time listening to people. many of my friends and family say that i am a good listener but i have more than enough counter-evidence to prove otherwise.

one example of where i didn't listen was when people told me that i was going to experience a wide range of beliefs at princeton seminary. i gave mental agreement to that thought but i didn't realize how true that was until last week.

why are people here at princeton seminary? some seem to be here, like me, to prepare for full-time Christian ministry in the church. others seem to be here to pursue a PhD in order to teach. others seem to be here to train for teaching history in other institutions.

my first question (direct or indirect) for each person i meet is not what they believe but why they are here. that question gives me immediate insight into the potential range of beliefs that person may bring to the table. i can learn a lot from other people here. some things i may not want to learn. 3 years will show me what i need to take and what i need to leave...

Saturday, September 25, 2004

the problem of context

i am finally running into the question of the role of context in the thoughts of people on a variety of subjects, the most important being their view of God and the world. i have always believed that there is an absolute expression of truth found ultimately in God. i have always disregarded any points put forward by people who emphasized the role of an individual's personal experiences. i mainly pushed away these ideas because i saw the slippery slope that would lead to a world that did not offer any fixed places to grab hold.

this post is titled 'the problem of context' because i am facing the discussions of the real implications of an individual's context - culture, experiences, bias, etc. i still belive that there is a fixed place to grab hold in God but i must now figure out what that looks like (sounds like, feels like) in light of these ideas.

a friend from the past confronted me once by saying that i would be a great muslim if i grew up in another culture. one of the underlying themes of that assessment was that she saw me as a product of my experiences and culture. this is what some have called a plausibility structure i believe (if i understand my readings correctly).

how does this problem play out? in my history? in the history of Christianity? in the history of the human search for God?

i have an answer in my head but i want to continue lifting up these questions to prayer, to the God who does answer the prayers of those who seek his face.

Thursday, September 23, 2004


i heard this quote regarding a view of scripture today...

"you don't have to take it literally but you should take it seriously"

my response is that i don't have to take that statement literally but i should take it seriously

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

The Mind At Work

i ran across this description of how our mind works... this is "game film" into how my mind works too.

"The mind ranges to and fro, and spreads out, and advances forward with a quickness which has become a proverb, and subtlety and versatility which baffle investigation. It passes on from point to point, gaining one by some indication; another on a probability; then availing itself of an association; then falling back on some received law; next seizing on testimony; then committing itself to some popular impression, or some inward instinct, or some obscure memory; and thus it makes progress not unlike a clamberer on a steep cliff, who, by quick eye, prompt hand, and firm foot, ascends how he knows not himself, by personal endowments and by practice, rather than by rule, leaving no track behind him, and unable to teach another. It is not too much to say that the stepping by which great geniuses scale the mountains of truth is as unsafe and precarious to men in general, as the ascent of a skillful mountaineer up a literal crag. It is a way which they alone can take; and its justification lies in their success. And such mainly is the way in which all men, gifted or not gited, commonly reason - not by rule, but by an inward faculty."

John Henry Newman

Friday, September 17, 2004

what is theology?

i don't have a nice clean answer to the question "what is theology?". i'm sure that i will have one very shortly as i fire up my seminary studies here at princeton seminary.

coming in, my basic definition is that a person's theology is the way a person views God and all the different relational aspects of that God to that person, others and the world. most of my life, i shunned theology because i viewed it as an intellectual exercise for people that had way too much free time. in recent years, however, i have seen how a person's theology truly impacts his/her everyday life.

what does a person believe about God and his response to the wrong decisions we make in life? does God forgive and forget? does forgive and remember later? does God truly give us a fresh start or does his discipline keep us in the same place for a time period until we learn? does God's kindness truly lead to repentance (Rom 2:4)? does godly sorrow leave no regret (II Cor 7:10)? do we doubt the blood of Jesus if feel like we are not forgiven? are we in Christ if we continue to sin over and over?

these are questions i have heard from friends over the past 10 years... good questions... do u have the same ones?

no matter what, i agree with one of my professors when she states that theology is not merely an intellectual exercise. we cannot separate the intellect from the soul as we inquire after God.

Thursday, September 16, 2004


i am going to record my thoughts at random times throughout my time at princeton seminary. i do not foresee me taking time to write these to individual friends all the time so this will be a common place to come see what is challenging my little brain. i hope that this will be a place where friends, family and others will check out and then we can have side conversations.

more to come as we go...