This past week was the second week of Fall quarter at Fuller Seminary. I generally make the first week into an introduction of the topic and an introduction to the course structure. There’s always a lot of adds/drops/questions in the first week, so wait until the second week to really jump in to a deeper discussion.
For my HT501 class (which is on God: Three Persons, One God in Trinity), I begin in a somewhat unusual way. The tendency in theology is to begin by talking about God in general terms, a notion of divinity, then talking about God’s characteristics, and revelation. Maybe proofs about God. Theism works its way to the Biblical revelation and then that opens the door to more specific discussions about God’s work and nature. The Trinity, of course, also gets mentioned, as that is how Christianity understands God’s nature.
I don’t begin there. Mostly because while that’s a logical place to begin a discussion about God in an academic way, it’s not really how most people encounter God. It’s also not the reason we’re talking about God in the way we do.
This first focused week I talk about Christology, the formal study of the person and work of Christ (some theology terms are more self-evident than others). But that too can have a lot of different starting points. I choose to start with the resurrection.
Because, as Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 15, the event of the resurrection is the fundamental argument of Christianity. If it didn’t happen, we’re all wasting our time talking about the rest. If it did happen, then everything–literally everything–changes how we need to understand and live in this world.
I also have a discussion on introduction to Christology, providing a basic framework of history and approach. Such as how there’s two general patterns to approaching the study of Christ: From Above or From Below. The “From Above” approach emphasizes the divinity and overarching revelation, then looks how the incarnation fits into that. The “From Below” approach emphasizes the incarnation and then looks how divinity is reflected from that. The latter is the way people originally encountered Jesus and seems to reflect the approach of the Gospels.
In starting with the resurrection, I’m mixing the two approaches a little, but I think it creates a useful starting place. My overall approach in the class is to teach on the Trinity with a Trinitarian method. I’ll talk about Christ this week, then the Father (the usual starting place) in week three, then the Spirit in week 4. In week five, I start the cycle over again: Son (week 5), Father (week 6), Spirit (week 7). In week 8, I start the cycle again for the third time.
But, that’s getting ahead of things. Another pattern I use is to include introductory material each week for new students and more advanced material for (you guessed it) advanced students. That way everyone has something.
Here’s a portion of my (introductory level) discussion on the Resurrection (know that this is likely among my least visually interesting lecture notes… I’m working on spicing up the presentations this year. As is, this is more of a podcast with posted notes):
Meanwhile, in my IS501 class (Practices of Worship) we talked about “Gathering and Sending” this past week. While this may not on the surface seem as worship focused, it really sets the tone for those involved (in the class and in a worship setting).
Simply understood as the welcome blessing and benediction in a service, it really is more than that. We’re gathering people from a wide variety of stories and experiences. In this gathering is also welcoming, a way of including and recognizing people for who they are. But the message of Christ isn’t a rubber stamp.
It’s an invitation into the story of God’s renewal. So, we’re inviting people to remember the story of Christ, to be renewed in this, and to then go out into their week in tune with God’s rhythms.
As part of the class, students actually have to practice the practice of the week. I try to get them thinking outside the usual church service mentality, so have a weekly “beyond the boundaries” task that has them engage the practice in a non-typical, but still worshipful way. This week, I encouraged students to pick one or two people in their life they did not know well, to learn about their stories and more of who they are (thus ‘welcoming’ them) then encourage them in how God is working in their lives (‘sending’). I then had them write a short post saying what they did.
I had some great responses, encouraging to me that we really are called to the particular and specific people in our lives, not some passive general patterns that other people do.
One student wrote and posted this as part of her longer description:
With the mindset of gathering and sending for this task I felt better focused on listening and uplifting instead of trying to solve issues. Understanding the blessing of benediction in conversation through positive comments is a meaningful addition to the worship event of meeting together.
Here’s an excerpt from my lecture on Gathering and Sending: