Posted by: gcarkner | August 28, 2012

Incarnational Identity

What are the implications of the incarnation (God with us) for graduate students, one of the central doctrines of the Christian faith.  What of their identity, their posture and their voice on campus? Incarnation is “where God’s eternity and creation’s temporality meet” (D. Stephen Long, Speaking of God, p. 86). There is no simple answer, but it is great territory to explore, good sod to turn over. There is a language to recover, golden insight and a new experience of self to be discovered.

Silence is clearly not the answer, although it is often our default position. We drop down into silence, dumb down our views and shrink inside. Sometimes, it seems that we need to offer one another the permission to think and speak religiously, biblically and theologically at UBC (while in language exile), to open the intellectual windows on a Closed World Order or ethos.  Why is God talk so unpopular, so hush hush? What is the point of this? We propose to offer some resistance to the policing of the supernatural by a secular outlook in our language usage and thought processes. Do you feel that you have to self-edit your comments in seminars, lab and class—to avoid the offense of theistic references. Is this a good, appropriate and just situation?

Many university folks think that religious conversation should be kept to the private or personal sphere (keep it in church), since religious language is seen to be beyond reason (mere emotion/sentiment or for some superstition), while our university linguistic currency is evidence, reason, statistics and science. Is this a legitimate state of affairs or one to which we should submit? Many Christian students do just this; they believe that they cannot speak about God in a sophisticated world like UBC or SFU without being marginalized by peers or professors. I sympathize; it happened to me as well as a first year undergrad in science at Queen’s.

But we want to ask: Why should Christian faith be labelled fideism (irrational or arational commitment, one that is not open to critical discussion and debate)? This is a harsh stereotype, one out of touch with the massive, available Christian scholarly reflection. We need to call into question this closed world positioning (Charles Taylor call it the Immanent Frame), the one that disallows speaking well and wisely the language of God in the university. How do we proceed to help one another to build a new conversation, a new discourse that does not eliminate God, but also takes other scholarship seriously? This is at the heart of the GCU quest.

In speaking with one UBC professor, he suggested that it is best that we let ourselves be known as a Christian believer among our colleagues, professors and even the students we teach at the earliest possible opportunity. We are aware of some of the discretion and alienation worries. As a Christian academic in English, he wants to know who the Christian students are at UBC, especially those in his classes. He also helps undergrads address any unacceptable prejudice or bias by professors against a Christian paper. The code of silence doesn’t work for him. He suggested that it was also pertinent for non-Christians to know who the Christian students are in their department and classes. Who would they go to if they had a religious question? This is a minimum to open the God conversation that rides below the surface, that so influences the history of the West and now the global community.

If in fact Jesus is the wisdom of God and the power of God, the reason, the telos or goal of everything, it would be wrong to keep this a secret. If we are able to say ‘Jesus is Lord’ with respect to our studies and our relationships (Romans 8), that will begin to transform them and give us fresh motivation, creativity and energy. This is a highly fruitful experiment to run. Opportunity to speak for God with confidence will arise.

N. T. Wright articulates this hopeful posture in his book Simply Christian:

Made for spirituality we wallow in introspection. Made for joy, we settle for pleasure. Made for justice, we clamor for vengeance. Made for relationship, we insist on our own way. Made for beauty, we are satisfied with sentiment. But new creation has already begun. The sun has begun to rise. Christians are called to leave behind in the tomb of Jesus Christ, all that belongs to the brokenness and incompleteness of the present world. It is time, in the power of the Spirit, to take up our proper role, our full human role as agents, heralds, and stewards of the new day that is dawning. That, quite simply, is what it means to be Christian: to follow Jesus Christ into the new world, God’s new world, which he has thrown open before us.

Relater Article from Kuyper Centre University of Western Ontario:

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