Category Archives: Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

A Doctrine of Ignorance?

I know it has been a while since I’ve posted, so my apologies.  Things have been pretty busy on campus with the end of the school year approaching and our chapter getting ready to head up to Cedar Campus for Chapter FOCUS Week.  So it has been difficult to be active on the web.

That being said, there is something that I have thinking a lot about in recent weeks.  This issue first cropped up surrounding the release of Rob Bell‘s new book “Love Wins”.  Bell has been a pretty controversial figure in both Christian and non-Christian circles, often because of questions that have arisen regarding his theology and methods of teaching.  So the fact that people started arguing about this book did not surprise me.  What surprised me was how few of those shouting had actually read the book.  In fact, several of my fellow seminarians asked me what I thought about the book.  I told them honestly that I didn’t have one because I had not read it.  The questions kept coming, so I ended up purchasing a copy and reading it on my trip to France back in March.

However, when I returned to campus and tried to engage these fellow students in discussion I was shocked to find that many of them were basing their opinions not on the book, but on the blog posts that had been written about it.  Others had judged the book based on the two minute and fifty-eight second promo video that HarperOne created to market it.  In fact, when I had inquired about the book at our seminary’s bookstore I was told that they would not be carrying it because of what it teaches.  (Nevermind the fact that they carry plenty of copies of Bell’s other works including his Nooma videos as well as his other book, “Velvet Elvis”).

What is so disconcerting about this is not simply the fact that these detractors have chosen willful ignorance over informed engagement about this book, but that this is happening at one of the leading evangelical seminaries in the country.  And we wonder why people call evangelicals narrow-minded?

This doctrine of ignorance worries me on a variety of levels.  On a theological level I am concerned because one of the things that Scripture tells us is that when we are saved through Christ we become one body, brothers and sisters in God’s family.  However, when Christians begin to judge and deride a fellow believer, as some of my classmates have done to Bell, based on second-hand opinions and conjecture they betray the unity of Christ.  They have turned upon a fellow sibling.  While there might be reason to correct some of Bell’s assertions and challenge his point of view, this should always be done out of a sense of humility and love for our brother or sister in Christ.

On an intellectual level I am worried because of how illogical this posture of willful ignorance is.  One of the great criticisms of Christian faith is just how unreasonable and unintelligent it is as a tradition.  By refusing to intelligently engage with those with whom we disagree we simply add more ammunition to this charge.  Furthermore, there is something to be said for being teachable and open to learning new ideas or refining old ones.  When we choose to avoid ideas or arguments that we might disagree with, we close ourselves off to this possibility.  I have found that it is when I am most challenged that I have found true reasons for faith.  In addition, these moments of disagreement have often been the doorway to true evangelism with those who have intellectual problems or objections to faith.

Finally, on a pastoral level, this doctrine of ignorance hobbles the growth of our congregations.  When we model an attitude of narrow-mindedness and fail to engage with the diverse religious and philosophical perspectives that are present in our world we do a disservice to those entrusted to our care.  For those believers in the pews, we teach them that it is acceptable to have blind faith and fail to equip them for the real challenges to belief in God which they encounter beyond the walls of our church buildings.  To the unconvinced we fail to minister to their deepest questions and objections to faith because we have shut the door to open conversation.  We also present a picture of the “mature” Christian as a person who ignores, attacks, or shuts down those with whom he or she disagrees.  Such a picture hardly points to the image of Christ, who was never afraid to engage, relate to, speak with, and even debate those with whom he disagreed.  May we live up to our calling as Christians by embracing challenges with faith, intelligence, and humility, for this brings glory to God.

So what did I think of “Love Wins”?  I’m not going to tell you.  Rather, I would encourage you to go out and read it for yourself.  My hope is that you will engage with it critically, wrestle with it honestly, and walk away with a much deeper and more reflective faith than you had before.  This is what it means to pursue discipleship of the mind and in doing so my hope is that you will overturn the doctrines of ignorance that continue to prevail in our world.

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Life @ TEDS: Mosaic Learning Community

One of the questions that people have asked me is, “Why are you attending Trinity Evangelical Divinity School?”  The Mosaic Learning Community is one of these reasons.  In the video above, Professor Peter Cha, our advisor and director, shares his hopes and desires for Mosaic.  One of the things that he says, which resonates most with me, is how Mosaic is aiming to prepare the next generation of pastors and church leaders to serve in an increasingly diverse world.  Many sociologists believe that by the year 2040 there will no longer be a majority racial or cultural group within the United States.  We need pastors and leaders who are prepared to serve the Church and advance the Gospel in such an environment.  Unfortunately, there is very little development being done at the seminary level to raise up such men and women.  Mosaic aims to change that.

We do this in a variety of ways.  The first, and perhaps the most powerful, is by developing friendships and relationships with students who are different from us.  Within our small group we represent numerous communities and theological traditions.  One of the highlights of this time together are the stories which we share and the struggles which we lift up in prayer as we support and encourage one another.  Through this, we begin to see God’s heart for people from every background and culture.  Why?  Because we are learning to love each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Another way we do this is through theological reflection.  As we explore Scripture together and reflect on some of the areas of brokenness in our world, we begin to see God’s heart for the reconciliation of all peoples, both to Himself and to one another.  The apostle John writes, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God who he has not seen” (1 John 4:20).  What we see is that our relationships with each other and our relationships with God are intimately intertwined.  This reality is one that we wrestle with as we consider issues of social justice, racial reconciliation, immigration, global politics, economics and so forth.  As upcoming leaders in the church, we are challenged to think about the Church’s role in all of this and consider how we might pursue God and advance the Gospel in light of these truths.

As I continue to study at Trinity, I will continue to post my reflections on this journey, both with Mosaic and with the TEDS community.  I know that I still have a lot to learn and it is my hope that you will join me as I page through this chapter in my life.  But I want to conclude with a question for you:  How are you exploring and living out your calling to be a leader of reconciliation within the Church and in the world?  What has that journey been like?

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