Saturday, August 31, 2013

Back Into the Classroom… as a Student?

This semester we are trying out a new type of class: Readings in Theology 1. This class is a readings and discussion course covering major works of Christian thought and theology. In this class we are reading 12 key books written between the 1st century and 1500 AD that formed and defined the Christian church. The class focuses on reading the books together and discussing them and is taught by several PIU faculty members. I am leading a couple of the weekly discussions but I am attending most of the classes as a student. I think that this is one of the major holes in a typical American evangelical theological education. We read ABOUT our heritage as Christians (some don’t even do that) but we don’t actually read the books themselves. “Educated” Christian leaders often have an appalling lack of knowledge about church history, which often leads to falling into easily avoidable pitfalls in the church. So I am diving in to try patch up some of the holes in my education.

In the first class we read Plato’s Apology. Most of our readings will be from Christian theologians but Plato is important because many of the Church Fathers tried to put Christian theology into a Socratic/Platonic (making it relevant to the culture they lived in) framework. Thus, it is important to know Plato to understand what they were doing, and, of course, to understand the foundations of how we think. One discussion question dealt with a comparison between Socrates and Jesus. Was Socrates a kind of a pre-Christ Christian, as Justin Martyr considered, or was he “actuated by a different spirit” as Tertullian said? I enjoyed the reading and discussion and am looking forward to reading Irenaeus next Thursday.

My favorite quotes from Plato’s Apology

And by the Dog, men of Athens [22a]—for I must speak the truth to you—this, I do declare, was my experience: those who had the most reputation seemed to me to be almost the most deficient, as I investigated at the god's behest, and others who were of less repute seemed to be superior men in the matter of being sensible.

You do not speak well, Sir, if you think a man in whom there is even a little merit ought to consider danger of life or death, and not rather regard this only, when he does things, whether the things he does are right or wrong and the acts of a good or a bad man. [28b]

[32a] A man who really fights for the right, if he is to preserve his life for even a little while, must be a private citizen, not a public man.

For I tried to persuade each of you to care for himself and his own perfection in goodness and wisdom rather than for any of his belongings, and for the state itself rather than for its interests, and to follow the same method in his care for other things.[36c]

But, gentlemen, it is not hard to escape death; it is much harder to escape wickedness, for that runs faster than death. [39b].

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Fall Semester Begins

SAMSUNG            We are now halfway through the first week of the semester. Registration and orientation are completed, although we still have a few students coming in for late registration. That will end on Friday and we will know exactly how many students we have. The first three days of classes are in the books and we had the opening chapel on Tuesday. Last count I heard, there were 27 new students on campus (not verified yet – I will post the official count next week). Everyone is running around getting the last minute things ready. The semester has already been a blessing to me. I enjoyed my Monday night New Testament Survey Class and am looking forward to the discussions in there. Yesterday I had the opportunity to pray with two young men (new students) after chapel and ask God to bless their new adventure. I usually love my job, but I especially enjoy the first week of a semester.

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Dean of Students Rob Watt welcomed the students to orientation and then Anne Stinnette explained add-drop procedures along with other registrar stuff

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The Student Leadership Team led the new students in some team building exercises

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This seemed to involve moving several students and keeping them upright while standing on a small stick…

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… and this one involved throwing stuffed animals at each other while blindfolded. Fun!

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And then the students were ready to face these amazingly well-prepared teachers

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

“Precious Moments” Churches

A few days I linked to a post on Roger Olson’s blog about “TACO Churches,” that is, “Totalistic, Aberrational, Christian Organizations.” These are churches that tend to be exclusivist, abusive or overreach God given authority. That post generated a lot of comment so I thought I should also connect to his recent post about the opposite kind of Christian organization which he calls “Precious Moments Christianity.” These are groups that often attract people who have been hurt by TACO churches and want a safer environment. These churches “present the gospel as all comfort and calm, sweetness and light, with no conviction or accountability.”

Olson quoted John Wesley, “that the purpose of gospel preaching is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Sadly, as one commenter on the site mentioned, TACO churches afflict the afflicted and Precious Moments churches comfort the comfortable.

He listed ten marks of Precious Moments Christianity:

1) No or few expectations of members;

2) Promotion of what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace;”

3) God, Jesus, portrayed as resource for feeling good about oneself and achieving success in life;

4) Church presented as support group whose primary purpose is therapy;

5) Doctrine shunned as too difficult and divisive;

6) Little or no emphasis on the cross—either Christ’s or his followers’;

7) Worship practiced as entertainment;

8) No church discipline;

9) Spiritual formation, discipleship, presented as optional and beneficial for feeling good;

10) Christianity treated as a warm blanket of comfort and/or as a platform for personal achievement.

In my experience on Guam, I think I have seen more TACO churches and organizations than “Precious Moments Christianity.” I certainly have seen this with popular TV preachers. I have been in a few churches on the US Mainland that very much seemed to have several of the characteristics above. I am interested in your experience. Have you experienced this? Or TACO churches? Do you agree with Olson that this is a problem?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Weekend Activities at PIU

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With students moving in on Wednesday and registration done on Thursday and Friday we headed into SAMSUNG            one of my favorite activities of the year – the student orientation weekend. The main purpose of the first weekend, besides showing the new students where their room is and where they can get the stuff they need, is just getting to know them. So Friday and Saturday mainly consist of playing games and hanging around. I enjoy it because I get a SAMSUNGchance to sit around with the new students, learn their names and find out a little bit about them. As we get into the semester, and I get stuck more in my office, I don’t have that opportunity as much. So I had a good time this weekend hanging around with students.

 

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We played a little volleyball and basketball under the lights

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And played some games, prayed together, and did some singing

More Birthday Parties

SAMSUNG            We talk a lot about the “family atmosphere” at PIU. I think it is important that our faculty and staff view PIU as not just a place of ministry and work, but as a place to bring the family and hang out with the students and with each other.SAMSUNG            Thus, we have a lot of family events, including birthday parties. Besides Serenity’s birthday parties, we attended two others recently. Last week we had a surprise 16th birthday party for Mikaela Atoigue daughter of our operations director Celia, and then last weekend we went to a 2nd birthday party for Gwen Pate, daughter of executive administrator Nino Pate. I think a good time was had by all.

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Samantha made an ice cream cake and we had Mikaela’s party in the seminary classroom.

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Gwen’s party was on the roof of the Palmridge Hotel by the swimming pool. The Pate’s live at the Palmridge and PIU will soon be teaching some classes there. Titus seemed to be amazed at the food choices.

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Saturday, August 24, 2013

A Few More Pictures of Serenity’s 3rd Birthday PArty

SAMSUNG            I made a post last week about Serenity’s 3rd birthday and posted SAMSUNG            some pictures of our family celebration. She also had a birthday celebration with her friends at Chuck E. Cheese pizza parlor. She was extremely excited about this and had a great time. My job was to be the “keeper of the coins” to make sure that she was able to play all the games she wanted. I did have time to hit my career high on the NFL football passing game. Winking smile All in all, it was a great time with many of our PIU families and I know Serenity had a great day.

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She gave out cupcakes to all her friends

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And enjoyed the rides

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Her Skee Ball skills need some work

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She was crowned as the birthday princess by Chuck himself

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She then led the birthday dance and went into the booth to collect tickets

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Grandma and grandkids work together on a target game

Friday, August 23, 2013

Getting the Semester Started

SAMSUNG            The students are here and the Fall semester has officially started. Registration began yesterday (Thursday) and continues through today. Late registration will end a week from now. Tomorrow we begin student orientation activities. Orientation will go Saturday through Monday. SAMSUNGAlready the campus looks full of students and it looks like we will have a significant increase in student population. I have already met a few of the new students and am looking forward to speaking in the first chapel on Tuesday. My seminary class – NT Survey – begins Monday night. Here are a few pictures of campus activity the last couple days…

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Students and staff worked hard to finish getting the campus ready.

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Students arrived and moved into their rooms

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They met their roommates and their resident assistants

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The students went through the registration process Thursday and Friday.