Christians must care deeply about culture and they must recognize that true cultural obedience to their Lord has to take place under the cross. — Richard Mouw. Abraham Kuyper: A Short and Personal Introduction (Eerdmans, 2011), 136.
In Ministry to Emerging Generations I briefly shared my journey to and the beginning of a Doctor of Ministry program (DMin) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Today my intention was to explore the Big Picture of Creation-Fall-Redemption which frames my academic work. But as I reflected upon it, I realized that this was too large a task for a single post. Furthermore, the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN) blog already has a number of posts which explore the Big Picture of Creation-Fall-Redemption. David Naugle’s Scholar’s Compass Navigating Purpose series was the first which came to mind.
- Re-integrating Faith and Learning, Creation
- Re-integrating Faith and Learning, Fall
- Navigating Purpose: Re-integrating Faith and Learning, Redemption
In addition Dan Jesse’s series drawing from and interacting with Richard Mouw’s Abraham Kuyper: A Short and Personal Introduction worked out these themes in a rich manner. What more do I have to bring to the table? When reading the Postcript to Al Wolters’ Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview (Postscript coauthored by Michael W. Goheen) for class, I realized that I would have placed the Postscript at the beginning of Creation Regained. Digging into this further, the motivation which informs my passion for campus ministry (on campus, at conferencing, via virtual platforms, etc.) is not essentially worldview, but my love for (and longing to more deeply love) God, neighbor, and creation with head, heart, and hands. Personally and in ministry, I approach the daily grind in our pluralistic and at times exilic context by living in relationship with God as part of a people who frame their life by the rich Biblical story of creation, fall, and redemption. In Loving God in the Flesh in the Real World, I write:
The Biblical Story begins with the most excellent, beautiful, and true being (i.e., God) lavishing His good gifts and phenomenal energy on fashioning a good creation only to have it subjected to frustration by the local and systemic sin of the stewards of His garden earth (i.e., Adam and Eve and their descendants). By His grace, God set into motion a miraculous and dangerous recovery mission that placed enmity between the evil one and all broken-ness playing out through history via a series of movements from Belonging [to] Leaving [to] Transition [to] Entering [to] Engagement [to] Belonging Anew.
The seed had been planted, the tree of the Kingdom of God grew and in due time bore the blossom of Hope in the person of Jesus Christ. Now by the power of His death on the cross and triumph over death, we as Spirit-filled people of God live in the first fruits of a world turned right side up by Jesus. And we long for the day our love of God, love of neighbor, love of creation, and proper self-understanding will be restored in their fullness. At that time we will love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, love our neighbor as our self, and care for the garden as we were originally intended. Today, we are in the midst of the recovery mission.
I yearn for ESN to become known as a kairos community, i.e., a place open to and recognized for embracing the special moments of deep change offered by God, a community which comes alongside the next generation of Christian scholars seeking to be Gospel salt, light, leaven, and seed. That recovery mission requires us to live in a community which embraces and inhabits the big story of Creation-Fall-Redemption, and does not ignore the small kairos moments that usher us into that story in our everyday lives. I yearn for ESN to become known as a kairos community:
- Growing in partnership with the undergraduate ministries in graduate school transitions.
- Offering pointers and testimony/story-telling (through a variety of platforms) from those “one step ahead” in the vocational journey.
- Inspiring local, national, and on-line hubs crossing academic stages boosted by strategic special events.
- Honest wrestling with and conversations regarding the offering of head, heart, and hands to Christ alone as those called to be salt, light, and leaven as short term and indigenous missionaries in higher education – Christ-followers no matter the vocation to which one is called to serve God.
When I described Gordon-Conwell’s Ministry to Emerging Generations (DMin) to my wife Theresa, she acknowledged not only that it was a significant match in advancing the above mission in general and specifics, but also worth the investment by our family. What a treasure and encouragement as I seek to remain an engaged husband and father to my four daughters (15 year old twins, 10 year old, 6 year old). Over the course of the fall term and as we press through the spring term, I have been delighted by how many people are coming alongside ESN as contributors. The team engaged in shared ministry and in generating ideas/initiatives has been a great blessing, reminding me that ESN truly has at its core a community of scholars committed to labors of the Kingdom of God in higher education.
I pray that each and every one of us press on through this academic year striving to live with head, heart, and hands offered to God in light of the grand story of God’s creation and redemption despite the challenges/temptations/brokenness/sinfulness of the fall.
ESN will continue to explore the individual’s experience of graduate school through an upcoming guest series and my own continued reflections. Starting next week, Jonathan Warren will offer a series on Five Things I Learned from Writing a Dissertation. I can’t wait to read the final version! In the coming months I will pick up exploring A Theology of Vocation in the Context of Higher Education by sharing some of the books I have been reading on vocation.
Request: As time permits, please join me in brainstorming a revised list of books on vocation not only for this research but also for ESN to highlight at Urbana15. Please post your recommendations below. Thank-you.
Note: In addition to writings by Andy Crouch, Richard Mouw, James Sire, James K.A. Smith, N.T. Wright, Al Wolters, and others, two resources particularly formational in my perspective are Dennis P. Hollinger’s Head, Heart, and Hands: Bringing Together Christian Thought, Passion, and Action (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2005) and Scot McKnight’s The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others (Brewster, MA: Paraclete, 2004). More coming in future posts.
About the author:
Tom enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa and their four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he teaches adult electives and co-leads a small group), among healthcare professionals as the Northeast Regional Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA), and in higher ed as a volunteer with the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN). For a number of years, the Christian Medical Society / CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine was the hub of his ministry with CMDA. Note: Tom served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship / USA for 20+ years, including 6+ years as the Associate Director of ESN. He has written for the ESN blog from its launch in August 2008. He has studied Biology (B.S.), Higher Education (M.A.), Spiritual Direction (Certificate), Spiritual Formation (M.A.R.), Ministry to Emerging Generations (D.Min.). To God be the glory!