Charts for Spiritual Formation

 

~Gordon E. Carkner, PhD in Philosophical Theology~

University of Wales

Author of The Great Escape from Nihilism

Co-author with Michael Green  Ten Myths about Christianity

https://ubcgcu.org/new-book-release-the-great-escape/

Coordinator Graduate & Faculty Ministries

 

Today, there is an urgent need to think creatively and constructively about Christian growth and faithfulness. Faith communities would do well to put more emphasis on practicing discipleship as a quest, a drive to maturity and depth in Christ and his resurrection life. If we believe in the incarnation, then our prime driver should be to follow Jesus’ example in all that entails, towards the flourishing of a robust, engaging faith. The following arenas of discipleship highlight ways to establish Christians in the way, the disciplines, the truth, the beauty, and the goodness of the abundant life. A substantial list of resources towards this end is included in the bibliography. The flow of the points runs from most basic to more challenging aspects of the quest. When we began this project, we would never have imagined 28 categories. Many thanks to all the pastors who made suggestions for this document, especially Dr. John Redekop, Darrell Johnson and David Jenkins.

Mapping the Future: Arenas of Discipleship and Spiritual Formation

Copyright © 2018 by Gordon E. Carkner

 

To be published January 2018

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any means without the express permission of the author. This includes reprints, excerpts, photocopying, recording, or any future means of reproducing text. All rights to future publication or further editions of this work are the exclusive property of Gordon Carkner.

 

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

 

Published by

Carkner Enterprises Inc.

For a hard copy write to gcarkner@outreach.ca 

Introduction

We have discerned an urgent need to think critically, creatively and constructively about Christian formation, spiritual growth and kingdom faithfulness. Faith communities around the world would do well to put more emphasis on practicing discipleship as a quest, a drive to maturity and depth in Christ and his resurrection life. Eugene Peterson calls us to “grow up into Christ.” The location of our personal identity is of paramount importance to our spiritual health. If we believe in the incarnation, God come in the flesh in Jesus of Nazareth, then a prime driver should be to follow his example in all that it entails for our values and lifestyle, towards the flourishing of a robust, relevant and culturally engaging faith.

The following mapping of arenas of discipleship highlights numerous ways to establish Christian believers in the way, the high road of the spiritual disciplines, the truth, the beauty, and the goodness of the abundant life. The point is to employ the superabundant gifts from God for the Body of Christ and the redemption of the whole world. A substantial list of resources towards this end is included in the text and bibliography. We are very grateful for the hard work and wise reflections of committed saints down the centuries. They are a resource like no other, weaving a tapestry of redemptive history as each sought to be faithful to their Lord.

The flow of the points of this resource guide runs from most basic to most challenging aspects of this noble quest. Courage and fortitude are valued, and the rewards are worth all the effort and energy that we can muster. When we began this project, we would never have imagined 30 different categories of discipleship. The collaboration of research and reading, reflection and practice, has contributed to the collation of these ideas over roughly a two-year period. It has truly been a stretching and awe-inspiring experience. But of course, there is a lifetime of reading, wrestling and reflection represented in this legacy document. We are challenged to look back to find our grounding, our center, our roots, and thereby plot a pro-active, thoughtful trajectory for the church into the future. With such a strong trajectory in mind, we can marshal our resources for productive ministry for decades to come. Nihilism does not have the last word. Secularism does not have the last word. Jesus Christ is the Word, the first word and the last word, the alpha and the omega, God’s Yes to it all. We his disciples must carry this heritage forward with dignity and honor, for the love of, and to the glory of, God.

God calls us upwards into dialogue and communion within the Trinity. The Son of God, the Word that existed before creation itself, descended to draw us higher. This I-Thou relationship is great news for homo sapiens. It makes us more human and humane, capable of great friendships and bold accomplishments. It is God’s calling of the individual that gives each one unique worth within the whole body, their unique status as the image bearer of God where they are situated. Each is summoned to a task, just like Moses, and in that sense, we all stand on holy ground.

Jesus Christ addresses each human being individually: each must decide if he will bear the Name of Christ and accept the unique mission that God has for each, within the mission of His Son. It is only by identifying with this mission that we become persons in the deepest, theological sense. (Raymond Gawronski, 2015, 144)

We articulate things below that are truly awesome concerning the Christian adventure, with a view to capturing the fullness and beauty of the poetic creator God. He wants to shape us into his ambassadors, so that we can live wholesome lives and take responsibility to redeem our world. Above all, spiritual formation is done in the spirit of love. Missioned by a holy God, we are privileged to be invited by the Holy Spirit on stage to participate in God’s great theodrama. We urge you to mark this file Urgent.

 

 

 

Mapping the Future: Arenas of Discipleship and Spiritual Formation

Copyright © 2017 by Gordon E. Carkner

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any means without the express permission of the author. This includes reprints, excerpts, photocopying, recording, or any future means of reproducing text. All rights to future publication or further editions of this work are the exclusive property of Gordon Carkner.

 

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

 

 

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Table of Contents

  1. Basic Doctrine, Mere Christianity
  2. Cultivating the Spiritual Disciplines
  3. Biblical Literacy and Theology
  4. Moral Vision and the Quest for the Good
  5. Creation Care and Stewardship
  6. Christ Consciousness, a Christo-centric Posture
  7. Global Awareness
  8. Spiritual Maturity through Suffering
  9. Our Historic Heritage
  10. Recovery of Our Precious Heritage in Incarnational Humanism
  11. Apologetics Skill and Giftedness
  12. Knowledge of Other Religions and Worldviews
  13. Theology and Philosophy of Bodies
  14. Science in Perspective: Reconciliation with Theology
  15. Worship as Formation in a Personal, Trinitarian Frame
  16. Recovery of the Virtues
  17. The Nature of the Church
  18. The Myth of the Secular
  19. The Culture of Peace, Stewardship, Compassion, Non-violence, Reconciliation and Justice
  20. Loving Our Muslim Neighbor
  21. The Christian Mind and Scholarship
  22. Global Intercession
  23. Spiritual Gifts and Giftedness
  24. Eschatology of Discipleship
  25. Cultivating Wholeness through Healthy Aging and Exploring the Mentoring Potential of Seniors
  26. Digital Discipleship: God, Social Networks and Media Consumption
  27. Faith and Political Power: Church, Government and Civic Discourse
  28. Discipleship that Addresses the Honor-Shame Cultures
  29. Martyrdom and the Persecuted Church
  30. Spirituality of Servant Leadership

 

Categories to Build Resilience into Today’s Followers of Jesus

 

  1. Basic Doctrine, Mere Christianity

 

This is a foundational concern on what a Christian believes and lives (Eerdmans Handbook on Christian Belief; N.T. Wright, Simply Christian; C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity; Os Guinness, The Call). Many churches do something in this arena but could do more to establish young Christians in their faith journey through some version of a catechism or basic discipleship program. Regular sermons help a lot, but are not enough to get an overview of the Christian life. Mike Breen, Building a Discipling Culture, helps us take the task more seriously. Many high school grads are sadly not established in basic Christian beliefs, and so they are weak in defending their faith on secular college and university campuses. Many turn away from the faith by end of first semester, before even knowing what it claims at any depth. All churches could afford to invest more in such Christian education.

 

  1. Cultivating the Spiritual Disciplines

 

This arena includes prayer, fasting, simplicity, meditation, gratitude, and practices like lectio divina. Excellent resources are found in Richard Foster, Spiritual Disciplines; and Streams of Living Water; Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms.; Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy; Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation; Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, Invitations from God. Barry Whatley, an Outreach Canada staff person in Montreal (bwhatley@outreach.ca), carries a deep concern for this dimension of spiritual encouragement, including the ongoing development of Christian leaders. Regent College Bookstore displays an amazing selection of volumes on spiritual direction, ancient and modern. James Houston among others has championed the writings of the Western Church Fathers and other notable saints of the contemplative tradition. Hans Boersma has picked up his vision and carries it forward. David Bentley Hart has championed the Eastern Church Fathers. Ruth Haley Barton has championed the spiritual formation and health of leaders (Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership). Psychiatrist Curt Thompson offers something unique in his interdisciplinary (Psychiatry, Psychology, Spirituality) work The Anatomy of the Soul. There are many more resources in every tradition.

 

  1. Biblical Literacy and Theology

 

This item includes the larger story or metanarrative, helping Christians develop an understanding of the overall architecture and content of Scripture (Old and New Testaments). Covenant theology stresses the continuity of the covenants in a unified salvation story, it contends that God’s promises continue to unfold over historical time. Believers need to learn basic biblical hermeneutics (Gordon Fee, Reading the Bible for All its Worth; Walter C. Kaiser Jr.  The Promise-Plan of God: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments.; Iain Provan, Seriously Dangerous Religion; Richard Middleton, A New Heaven and a New Earth; Bruce Waltke, An Old Testament Theology). Biblical knowledge is dangerously weak in an age of technology, social media, and superficial identities. There are, however, excellent resources online: for example, world-class educational resources can be found at http://www.biblicaltraining.org/. There is a striking need to help Christians build deeper roots in Scripture. Former UK Bishop Lesslie Newbigin encouraged believers to indwell the biblical story (The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society), to be so familiar with the Bible that its precepts flow through their veins just as the Psalmist articulates so powerfully in Psalm 119. John B. MacDonald, a Bible teacher in New Westminster, British Columbia, has developed a robust course on Matthew’s Gospel, a paradigm for discipleship. John rightly sees discipleship and humble obedience as the deep structure of Scripture, a fulfilment of God’s calling and promises to establish his kingdom among us. Christ is the central actor in this grand theodrama.

 

  1. Moral Vision and the Quest for the Good

 

Christians should not sell themselves short on their moral and ethical influence in the world. This arena involves the politics of love, poetics of community, learning how to leverage agape love: D. Stephen Long, The Goodness of God; Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self; Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together. Academics, the church community, as well as the political and business communities realize that our culture needs a recovery of, and retraining in, ethics. This is one key response to the current problem of cultural nihilism. Radical left or alt-right views have taken the spotlight in the media, constantly pushing the envelope (freedom of individual choice, opinion or autonomy). In late modernity, this often exists with little to no emphasis on responsibility for the other or for the common good. Margaret Somerville, distinguished Law Professor at McGill University, is a key healthy conservative voice in Canada on public moral issues.

There are issues to reckon with inside the church and with its own leadership. One of the big concerns is moral motivation or why we should be good if we can get away with narcissism, entitlement, pride, cheating and lying (Henry Cloud, Integrity: the courage to meet the demands of reality). Gordon Carkner’s doctoral dissertation covers this topic as he critically examined a French poststructuralist writer on ethics, Michel Foucault. The revelation of the research was enhanced by a critical dialogue with eminent Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor of McGill University on the recovery of the good (Sources of the Self). Dr. Carkner’s 2016 publication The Great Escape from Nihilism makes this material on moral recovery more accessible to the general public. It includes a strong case for the recovery of meaning through the recovery of ethics within community, one that is rooted in the incarnation. David Gill has a practical guide to moral growth in his Becoming Good: building moral character. American activist Jim Wallis makes a positive, practical, pastoral contribution on the recovery of the common good: (Un)Common Good: how the gospel brings hope to a divided world. Oxford’s Oliver O’Donovan (Resurrection and Moral Order) is another key intellectual resource. More information follows in Section 16. “Recovery of the Virtues.”

 

  1. Creation Care and Stewardship

 

What does our carbon footprint have to do with discipleship? Why is environmental responsibility and stewardship or creation care important to spiritual faithfulness, within a virtue-oriented lifestyle? How do we encourage a broader ownership of the current problems of global warming and champion fruitful solutions? This is a key area of integrity for the church and a key concern in reaching the younger generations, which are highly sensitive to this justice/survival of the planet issue. They are often found leaving churches which are insensitive to such critical environmental concerns. There is a strategic mission opportunity for people with expertise in environmental science in China and Mongolia, say experts from Overseas Missionary Fellowship. As in many other places around the globe, there is a genuine crisis in Southeast Asia. A gospel that includes practical insights would be welcomed news and more plausible in these countries. This entails a life and death concern for the developing world, especially the poorest whose homes and livelihood are most at risk from radical global warming.

Steven Bouma-Prediger (For the Beauty of the Earth) reminds us that it is a spiritual concern to love the biosphere and love our neighbor, as well as our grandchildren. In this book, he also articulates creation-friendly virtues. Creation is God’s first speech to us and so attentiveness is due. Katharine Hayhoe, a top climate scientist in Texas, is a public spokesperson for this cause among evangelical Christians. See also Jonathan R. Wilson, God’s Good World.; Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism versus Climate; the Iwan Russell-Jones film Making Peace with Creation. A Rocha is a Christian educational agency which features this concern worldwide. The world is very near a tipping point, a viewpoint backed up by the overwhelming majority of climate scientists. Of course, we have the well-known work of Al Gore in the movie and its sequel called “The Inconvenient Truth.” The United Nations is saying that we could soon be faced with millions of ecological refugees. The Lausanne Committee Statement on this issue can perhaps help us to motivate Christians towards a more creative and responsible position that can bring reconciliation, healing to the planet and draw people together: http://www.lausanne.org/content/statement/creation-care-call-to-action and

http://www.lausanne.org/content/ctc/ctcommitment, Part I, Section 7)

 

  1. Christ Consciousness, a Christo-centric Posture

 

This involves focusing our identity in Christ and his Lordship. It encourages sending our roots deep into a robust vision of Jesus, versus a more comfortable, self-centered faith position. There are super resources in Eugene Peterson, Practice Resurrection; and N.T. Wright’s excellent scholarship in Jesus and the Victory of God. As we live into and in the light of the incarnation, we learn to build our identity in Christ. There are many other forces manipulating Christian identity (for example, health and wealth gospel, culture wars, bigotry, the crisis of self, various forms of escapism). In a day of nihilism, we must work hard to build a plausibility structure, and lay out clearly the plausibility conditions for belief (Charles Taylor, A Secular Age).

Incarnational Christo-centrism is an anchor for the soul, as well as a key credibility factor for Christian faith (Hans Urs von Balthasar). It keeps us from veering off into superficial trends, or the seductions of contemporary Gnosticism. Jens Zimmermann (Incarnational Humanism) and James Davison Hunter (To Change the World) warn us that Christians can have their identity washed out by plurality of options (difference), New Age Gnosticism, extreme emphasis on individual choice and self-invention, and by what Hunter calls dissolution. Jim Wallis (The (Un)Common Good) encourages us to look at what it means to have Jesus as a living teacher, walking with us today to bring heaven to earth, to discern the kingdom of God here and now. He rejects a passive, overly private, faith posture that is rooted in the Romantic Movement, with too much emphasis on feelings and not enough emphasis on Christian practice. Wallis offers a very mature pastoral statement about the deeper walk of discipleship at its interface with society and politics. As young people decide to commit themselves to Jesus’ Lordship, they see new open horizons, they build their confidence and discover new levels of freedom.

 

  1. Global Awareness

 

This works on a critical area of growth in identity as a global citizen of the kingdom—a consciousness. We can develop a broader global vision, grow in awareness of the cultural and ethnic diversity within our neighborhood. The goal is to develop a missional outlook in the disciple (Ross Hastings, Missional God, Missional Church: hope for re-evangelizing the West). There is now an extensive missional church literature and conversation in North America. We are familiar with the now popular concept of emotional intelligence in leadership discourse (Primal Leadership by Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee). A key concept under this arena of discipleship is cultural intelligence. This is worth some real investment.

Graduate students in our universities are coming from literally everywhere in the world and are training for world citizenship and international leadership. There are 10,000 such students at University of British Columbia alone; imagine the potential impact of this brain power  and giftedness in the hands of a loving God. Imagine what they can teach us about the world. We are properly passionate about their spiritual wellbeing and growth as whole persons, taking them more seriously in terms of the strategic future of the kingdom and the church, as well as their future leadership calling in society as international ambassadors for Christ. Local discipleship can have much larger impact, especially with PhD students. Some of these students become academic missionaries in unreached countries. Conferences like Missions Fest and Urbana help students capture this global vision and it has big impact. Outreach Canada’s Perspectives and Kairos courses have been quite effective in developing a vision of global Christianity, to raise consciousness of God’s embrace of the whole world. There are several strategic reasons for thinking and acting globally in spiritual formation.

 

  1. Spiritual Maturity through Suffering

 

This discussion explores the art and meaning of suffering, the quest to redeem our suffering, the opportunity to build character through suffering and learn compassion (I Peter). Wisdom and suffering are closely allied in the Bible (Job, several Psalms), and suffering is deeply embedded and interwoven with discipleship. Tom McLeish (Faith and Wisdom in Science) sees suffering tied in with the pursuit of scientific knowledge. Love itself quite often involves pain. But suffering and the problem of evil seem to coalesce as an issue that casts serious doubt in people’s minds. If understood in a proper perspective, suffering can take us deeper into the heart of God, who suffered on a cross. We recommend grappling with suffering as an issue separate from evil, to discern its lessons more fruitfully.

There is great discipleship benefit to drilling down into the biblical concept of suffering. People need help in learning how to suffer well, keep their dignity, and discover a new closeness to God and others in the context of real life. How often do we actually mentor people in the art of suffering. The Apostle Paul had a strong consciousness of participating in Christ’s sufferings, and he knew what it was to suffer in love for the well-being of the early believers. The great saints and martyrs of the past have grappled with suffering for their convictions.

This is an arena where the Christian story can stand positively, offer wisdom to late modern society, and confront a narcissistic culture of entitlement and consumeristic individualism. Deeper discipleship emerges when we suffer for doing the good and the right thing—for the kingdom of God and his righteousness. This can be a bridge area with secular people, all people must cope with much of the same kinds of suffering—cancer, loss of a child, road accidents. Resources along this line include: Cam Taylor’s new Detour: a roadmap for when life gets rerouted; poet Scott Cairns, The End of Suffering: finding the purpose of pain; Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer. This crucible of virtue brings people sharply in touch with reality, if they are willing to fathom its deeper, redemptive message, when suffering is viewed through a cruciform prism. See more on this subject in Section 29. “Martyrdom and the Persecuted Church.”

 

  1. Our Historic Heritage

 

This builds a vision that today’s believer is standing on the shoulders of past saints, reformers and martyrs in church history. With all the intensity of church planting going on across North America, there is a strong need for parallel teaching in the history of the church. It can offer wisdom, rebuke and correction to inadequate historical accounts of Christianity’s influence on Western culture (David Bentley Hart, Atheist Delusions: the Christian Revolution and its Fashionable Enemies; Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity). Churches should not shy away from tracing their roots and benefitting from the depth offered through a knowledge of the history of both doctrine and practice.

At some stages in history, believers may have been more integrated and whole than we are today. They can help mirror our shortcomings. Many of the battles that we are fighting today were also fought decades, even centuries ago. We have ancient as well as contemporary colleagues from whom we can learn much. This great crowd of witnesses can benefit us, given the spiritual roads they have laid down, their theological spade work, their spiritual exercises, the mountains of virtue they have climbed, and the streams of living water where they have found refreshment. We can also learn from their mistakes, especially how to avoid theological or discipleship extremes (The Crusades, Religious/Denominational Wars and the Inquisition). Their record must be approached with humility.

One could draw on Bruce Hindmarsh at Regent College for inspiration from nineteenth century evangelical spirituality. Classes at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School under noted church history scholars David Wells and John Woodbridge revealed a gold mine of insights and perspective for this author. See also Donald Dayton’s Discovering an Evangelical Heritage; Mark Noll A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada; David Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s. George Marsden is also a major contributor who has helped to shape this author’s views on faith and culture.  Too many pastors tragically leave their interest in church history at the gates of their seminary, but our roots feed and inspire us as we reflect on the courageous lived faith of our spiritual ancestors.

 

  1. Recovering Our Precious Heritage in Incarnational Humanism

 

It is important to recognize the tremendous social, institutional and cultural impact of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension: the entire picture of the incarnation. The gospel is always embedded in some culture and this is part of the difficulty. Significant formation occurs within a social context, a network of relationships. How do we become a better human being and how do we hold out a vision for social health, civility and reform? How do we take responsibility for the other? What does it mean for cultural leadership (faithful presence) that we are the Body of Christ?

Recent intense research and creative thought has emerged since 2012 from Trinity Western University’s Jens Zimmermann, (Incarnational Humanism: a philosophy of culture for the church in the world). Humanism need not be tied to the secular. Christians should reclaim their heritage in the long history of humanism, going all the way back to Augustine and indeed rooted in the Old Testament and the Sermon on the Mount. The cross-denominational journal First Things highlights this arena from a variety of perspectives as does the organization Cardus on public policy in Canada (Convivium Magazine). The challenges come from the Nihilists (anti-humanists and post-humanists of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche descent—the philosophers of the extreme). History scholars Brad Gregory (The Unintended Reformation) and philosopher Charles Taylor (A Secular Age) have very helpful insights on the historical engagement between faith and culture. They both cover a five-hundred-year transition in Western culture.

Is it not the purpose of redemption of our lives in Christ to make us better humans, better neighbors, better citizens, committed to shalom, offering a blessing, contributing to the common good of society? Brilliant sociologist James Davison Hunter (To Change the World) uses the intriguing language of faithful presence as part of the recovery of incarnational humanism. French philosopher Paul Ricoeur (Oneself as Another) is strong on recovery of the narrative aspect of personhood. We expand this concept later in Section 27. “Faith and Political Power: Church, Government and Civic Discourse”. The recovery of the language of Christian humanism is vital and urgent in our day to confront Gnosticism within and outside the church. Gordon Carkner is involved in a future writing project, geared to build out on this arena, called Paradigms in Conflict:  Gnosticism versus the Incarnation. We are redeemed out of selfishness and rebellion into good deeds and words, transformed lives that fight for the common good.

 

  1. Apologetics Skill and Giftedness

 

This includes the skill to give an answer to those who ask why we believe and why we suffer with Christ, or why there is evil in the world if God is good. It also helps Christians who, due to cultural buffeting, are going through questions and doubts about their faith. It sets up a dialogue between faith and reason, conviction and evidence. Apologetics, as a relevant branch of theology, encourages us to lend an ear to the language of contemporary culture, communication, debate, and dialogue. It helps us develop the breadth and depth of our vocabulary, to include the transcendent and the poetic. Some key resources include: Alister McGrath, Intellectuals Don’t Need God?; The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics: surveying the evidence for the truth of Christianity, eds. Ed Hinson & Ergun Carter 2008; Tim Keller, The Reason for God; Philip Yancey, Reaching for the Invisible God.

The agency Apologetics Canada in British Columbia and the agency Dig and Delve in Ottawa offer conferences specifically geared to develop and equip eighteen to thirty year olds in this skill, the art, philosophy and science of it. These conferences have enjoyed a notable success, meeting an important felt need. It is one thing to introduce someone to Christ. It is quite another to establish them and give them the tools to face their detractors, especially if they have converted from another religion or an atheist home. There are also training centers around the world for those keen to develop this skill to a high level.

We often find a culture of doubt and cynicism on our campuses of higher education, where the best and brightest are nurtured. Young students need this training to prepare them for the campus debates, and often the attacks from their professors, and how to write critically from a Christian worldview. It is very encouraging to see churches set up tough questions series, Alpha programs or run debates on current issues. We cannot stress too much how critical it is to invest in this sector. Further help comes in this next section.

 

  1. Knowledge of Other Religions and Worldviews

 

Our current cultural hyper-pluralism of beliefs is often a bit overwhelming for Christians. Believers need help in religious discernment, and acute skills in dialogue. Charles Taylor calls the multiplication of spiritual paths the Nova Effect—as displayed in Banyon Books or the New Age section of your local Indigo Chapters. Notre Dame University sociologist Christian Smith has alerted us to the intense intellectual confusion and needs in the eighteen to twenty-three age group: they are the most relativistic generation on record. We negotiate this phenomenon in campus ministry every day.

This dialogue with other beliefs can be a contribution to the intensification and clarification of our knowledge of the Christian faith, as Bishop Lesslie Newbigin found during his time in India. It can also promote peace-making, appreciation and impact on others, as we patiently allow them to tell us exactly what they hold to be true. The wise negotiation of the relationship between philosophy and theology, reason and faith, is critical to our success in this arena. Brilliant, cutting edge resources on dialogue with other religions are offered by: Miraslov Volf, Flourishing: why we need religion in an age of globalization; Jonathan Sacks, The Dignity of Difference; David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: being, consciousness, bliss.; Eerdmans Handbook on World Religions. They reveal the complexity of genuine dialogue and set a positive example of constructive paths to pursue. If we hold that Jesus is the way to God with integrity, we must also grapple with the nuances of other religious views. It is important to show how Jesus fulfills a variety of human aspirations within every religion, every longing and fear (Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society; Raymond Gawronski, Word and Silence). We have learned much on this file recently from Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, who took seriously other beliefs as he articulated a strong Christian perspective.

We certainly can engage and love our neighbor of another faith tradition, but we must first seek to listen and understand, and then the hope to be understood. Dr. Miriam Adeney, Seattle Pacific University, is a sound and balanced academic resource in the field of comparative religions and good at public dialogue. Through training, Christians can become much more effective with their neighbors. For further resources in this arena, see Section 20. “Loving Our Muslim Neighbor.” A basic course on comparative religions is a good start to help us avoid the clash of religious civilizations; it can prove vital in the journey.

The Syrian refugee crisis in Europe has provided new opportunities to make connections across religious boundaries in time of desperate need. The interest often begins with that first friendship with someone from another religion or culture. It then moves us onto a learning curve, breaking down our prejudices and stereotypes into thoughtful and sensitive dialogue. The prism here is one of opportunity for personal growth and enrichment for Jesus followers.

 

  1. Theology and Philosophy of Bodies

 

This involves sexuality, mindfulness, healing from abuse and trauma, whole personhood. Many people are learning how to cope with sexual addictions, order their sexual desires, respect boundaries in relationships, cultivate faithfulness to married partners and children. The quest for sexual health and whole relationships is a huge issue currently for both married and single people as well as within Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox leadership. Western culture has broken the sound barrier on possible lifestyles, and thus believers are faced with immense challenges. The sexual revolution of the 1960s continues (Sex and the iWorld by David Kuehne). Gender choice and identity is a top boundary condition for debate today. Rape culture on our campuses comes a close second. Same sex attraction faces Christians too and it can be a very lonely space. My academic work on Michel Foucault’s ethics easily predicted such a situation. There is an aesthetic mythology or ideology at work which is rooted in Nietzsche and nominalism (Terry Eagleton, The Ideology of the Aesthetic). Many people are re-inventing themselves, sometimes through employing surgeons among other means.

The forces within society against sexual wholeness are immense, and the issues are complex. Technology of sin (Section 26.) is also an important area of teaching and discipleship: the internet poses intense new challenges to personal holiness for young people and adults, with pornography so accessible at such an early age. We have websites to assist people who want to cheat on their spouse. Marital commitment is terrifying to many Millennials, because of what they see in their friends or family. Journey Canada (http://www.journeycanada.org)  is an agency that has offered much help in the arena of sexual addiction, and gender identity confusion and ambivalence. Much wisdom is needed.

UBC Law Professor Benjamin Perrin continues to fight a good battle on the human trafficking issue, helping to shape Canadian government policy. Dr. Donn Welton (The Body: Classical and Contemporary Readings; Body and Flesh: a Philosophical Reader) Continental Philosophy specialist at Stony Brook University in New York, offers some help here at a sophisticated level of inquiry. Education Professor Allyson Jule at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia. is a top Christian gender specialist in Canada and a leading voice on empowering women. Young Millennial disciples of Christ need to know how to dialogue on the questions of identity politics and many leaders are ill-equipped to help them. It will take courage and wisdom going forward as the debates continue, and society fractures into tribal groups.

 

  1. Science in Perspective: Reconciliation with Theology

 

How do we understand science as it relates to the Bible, Christian faith and theology? How do we get beyond the conflict model of science and theology? Biophysicist Tom McLeish at Durham University (Faith and Wisdom in Science), a clear thinker in this arena, challenges the church and seminaries with the need for developing a theology of science. He means that since Jesus came to redeem the entire world, not just people, science needs to be included under our theological purview. McLeish claims that “Science is the participative, relational, co-creative work within the kingdom of God of healing the fallen relationship of humans with nature.”  That is a theological quest. This idea was revolutionary for a retired, spiritually skeptical physics professor, he was quite fascinated.

Science must be understood as an essential part of human culture, a part that we can reflect upon theologically, understand through the redemptive work of the kingdom of God. This connects creation and redemption. Science is not just something to cope with: to be either resisted or tolerated for its practical value. Such a posture works against the reconciliation of all things. There are many creation/origins texts throughout the Bible: Job 30-40; Proverbs 8; Psalms 19, 33, 104; Isaiah 40, 45; Jeremiah 10; Hosea 2; John 1; Genesis 1-3. The quest of McLeish and others like him is to deliver a more robust understanding of the doctrine of creation, and to show the dynamic connection between suffering, wisdom and science.

The agency Faraday Institute for Dialogue on Science and Religion at St. Edmund’s Hall, Cambridge University is a very lively resource. See their Test of Faith three-part video series by top Oxford and Cambridge scientists. The Ian Ramsey Centre on Science & Religion in Oxford, run by Alister McGrath is also a key think tank, as is the Canadian Science and Christian Affiliation, American Scientific Affiliation, UK Christians in Science and BioLogos (evolutionary creation). Many people find Sir John Polkinghorne, Owen Gingrich, Dennis Danielson, Alister McGrath, John Lennox, historian Peter Harrison and Ian Hutchinson well informed and helpful in this quadrant. St. Andrew’s University theologian N.T. Wright is quite invested in this discussion; he sees the worldview of Deism at the heart of much of the problem. David Bentley Hart has one of the best critiques of materialistic naturalism in The Experience of God. Another important scholarly work is Alvin Plantinga’s Where the Conflict Really Lies. Chapter 15 “The Immanent Frame” in Charles Taylor’s tome A Secular Age is a very insightful resource to capture the big picture.

It is a critical issue for university folks and a key marker of credibility for the church within the overall culture. Christians sound like Gnostics when they dismiss science. The commonly perceived conflict between science and religion (from both Christian and atheist) is a barrier to Christian credibility. Significantly, it is one of the top reasons young, educated people are fleeing the church, claims Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith. There is much need to find a balanced, critical, fair understanding of science and its relation to the Christian faith, to avoid the extremes.

Churches should exploit opportunities to bring into their midst credible university science faculty to help cover this concern. But as a word of caution, they should studiously avoid the travelling road show speakers. Gordon Carkner has a substantial unpublished paper Monopolizing Knowledge: Scientism and the Search for an Integrated Reality. The ideology of scientism is at the heart of the alienation. Some of these ideas appear on the Graduate Christian Union blog where a more extensive bibliography can be discovered https://ubcgcu.org/apologetics-resources/ . He also talks about the problem as it relates to our understanding of the secular world in his 2016 publication The Great Escape from Nihilism. This ‘broken’ relationship is by no means irreparable. Reconciliation between science and theology is a priority. Academic scientists should not be made to feel guilty (at church) about pursuing their passion to the glory of God.

 

  1. Worship as Formation in a Personal, Trinitarian Frame

 

Worship is a vital part of spiritual formation, as well as contributing to a strong poetic and aesthetic apologetic. It connects people with the transcendent and the glory of God. Theological resources on a Trinitarian outlook includes scholars like Alan Torrance (St. Andrew’s University) and Jeremy Begbie (Duke University). Hans Urs von Balthasar has championed theological aesthetics in his concept of theodrama.  His focus is on doxa or the beauty and glory of God. Worship should be discussed and debated in churches and denominational meetings, at more advanced levels. The church would do well to proceed towards more depth and inter-traditional breadth in music and style of worship. There is sometimes a tendency to focus too narrowly on only one member of the Trinity in worship.

Music and theology Professor Jeremy Begbie combines the Arts in theology and worship. His is a very creative and thoughtful contribution amongst the Gospel and Culture movement. Malcolm Guite, a poet-chaplain at Cambridge University, offers powerful poetic imagery to worship and spiritual reflection. Youth and adults would benefit much from teaching and discipleship in worship and the place of the eucharist (Jens Zimmermann, Incarnational Humanism). Rooted in good theology, worship can reach much higher levels of creativity, and reach those inner, meaningful depths of the person.

Innovators are a gift to the Body of Christ. Ann Voskamp (One Thousand Gifts) has accelerated our understanding of gratitude as a path to joy, capturing worship as a way of life. With its strong aesthetic and poetic component, worship has great potential to become much more prophetic. Canadian Brian Doerksen runs a school of worship arts for Prairie College as of 2014. Bethel Church in Redding, California is a major center for developing Spirit-led talent in worship leadership. There is a genius in the history of worship that involves the potential of combining the classical with contemporary music. Among the innovators, there is David Wesley (Basement Praise) from Waterloo, Ontario, who has pioneered Acapella praise, a new phenomenon that combines the classics with a fresh style and tremendous power. We also recommend Hillsong United’s Zion album, Brian Doerksen’s Holy God, or Kari Jobe’s Majestic for depth of words and creativity of music. Isaac Wimberly’s Spoken Word Poetry is also quite powerful. He is an American rap musician turned pastor. Since it is so influential, our worship should be one of our most creative arenas of church life.

 

  1. Recovery of the Virtues

 

Character formation is key to discipleship as we see in II Peter 1: 3-8; or Philippians 4: 4-9. The C.S. Lewis Summer Institute in Cambridge and Oxford during July 2014 focused on the theme: Recovering the Virtues for Human Flourishing. The conference captured something quite vital as a spiritual arena for personal discovery. We now see a robust recovery of virtue ethics within academia (Josef Pieper, The Four Cardinal Virtues; David Lyle Jeffrey of Baylor University; Cambridge Companion on Virtue Ethics, edited by Daniel C. Russell). There is a renewed interest in character formation among business, education and government leadership (Henry Cloud, Integrity; David Brooks, The Road to Character; David Gill, Becoming Good).

But is virtue being taught at a serious level in our churches? Do we highlight character and the virtues as a strength to be promoted under the overall quest for righteousness and holy living? If not, we are missing a major opportunity of spiritual formation. We cannot assume that it is being caught by osmosis. Good resources for further discussion are found in: Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue; and Stephen Bouma-Prediger, For the Beauty of the Earth. Other resources on the intellectual virtues include Brad Gregory, The Unintended Reformation; and Linda Zagzebski, Virtues of the Mind.

A subset of this issue is the retrieval of the concept of a “Virtuous Community”. This calculates as an urgent concern, given the crisis of civility and hate speech, political divisions and violence in the West inspired by populism and nationalism. Churches have an opportunity to lead by example, to build moral capital and enhance the plausibility conditions for faith within society at large. Character stands out in the workplace and that’s why Jesus called us to become salt and light. Christians can help to curb fundamentalist religious or ideological radicalization and champion compassion, peacemaking and dialogue.

The Roman Catholic Church has traditionally carried the strongest flame for the virtuous community, especially in the various monastic movements, but Protestants have reclaimed a stake in the discussion in recent years. For example, American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. regularly heralded the concept of the beloved community as a key pillar of his vision to subvert hatred and curb racism in America. It is a concept that can be recovered for the good of the whole church, as we see in the new monasticism movement where young Christians build community in a poor section of town (Jim Wallis, The (Un)Common Good, 2014). Wallis gives a rich discussion of such a kingdom heritage—a virtuous society. No community is without flaws but we can work towards the goal of living the virtues.

This arena of formation offers a strategic witness to a cynical culture which is struggling with dishonesty, greed, gossip, cheating and incivility. The Apostle Paul gives a counter-cultural witness, adjuring us to pursue the power of virtue ordained by the Holy Spirit in Philippians 4: “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable.” Notre Dame History Professor Brad Gregory articulated the vital importance of this issue in recent years and showed that human rights discourse could potentially recover its earlier, more holistic context, one when rights were embedded in the virtues. When we speak of virtues, we are speaking of those rooted in Trinitarian communion over against a Stoic approach of secular self-management and apathy towards the other. Christians with a deep commitment to discipleship will want to recover their own robust ethics along with the idea of the virtuous community. This is a key element of incarnational humanism.

 

  1. The Nature of the Church

 

Why is this question important to spiritual formation? We seem to have a bit of an identity crisis on this front in recent years. We are confused about what we mean by church. There is real conflict among believers on the nature of church (traditional versus emerging/emergent), and between generations of pastoral leadership. It is a serious concern because the nature and meaning of church affects what kind of discipleship we can conceive. Some pastors see themselves as more cool and ‘postmodern’ in their outlook, even while they may not realize the Nietzschean (atheistic) implications of that overused term. Many young people are leaving the traditional church out of boredom. Millennials seem to be giving up on church in large numbers, raising serious alarm bells. http://faithit.com/12-reasons-millennials-over-church-sam-eaton/.

Pro-actively, some analysts use terms like Deep Church (Jim Belcher) or Mere Christian as a talking point on a third alternative, wanting to maintain a connection with tradition but avoid becoming traditionalist or dated. Many of us have attended conferences on the subject and found the vibes and the tensions fascinating. Eugene Peterson has a very mature, fresh statement on church and Christian identity in late modernity (Practice Resurrection: a conversation on growing up in Christ), a prophetic exposition of the book of Ephesians. Gordon T. Smith tries to bridge three traditions in his 2017 work, Evangelical, Sacramental, Pentecostal: Why the Church Should Be All Three.

Openness, transparency, wisdom, creativity, dialogue and imagination are needed. The tensions can be used to good advantage if we are circumspect and pay attention to the nuances, the needs and desires of different generations. Included in this issue is how women should be employed in leadership positions within church hierarchy, or take art in official eldership or deacon leadership.

American New Testament Scholar Scot McKnight has some fresh views on this file. Fuller Neuroscientist Warren Brown and pastor Brad Strawn bravely address the problem of Gnosticism in today’s evangelical churches. They suggest the we need a new definition of church which is characterized by wholeness, embodied and embedded life in relational networks: “the formation of a community of persons that is characterized by, and thus makes visible, the reign of God as a means of grace to the world and growth for its members.” (Brown & Strawn, The Physical Nature of Christian Life, 2012, 110). This is such a vital dialogue and debate and a cause for committed prayer and discernment.

 

  1. The Myth of the Secular

 

Charles Taylor (A Secular Age), Jens Zimmermann (Incarnational Humanism), and James K.A. Smith (How (Not) to Be Secular) offer a deep analysis on the critical question of the relationship between religion and the secular. Christian leaders often struggle to understand the culture in which people in their congregations live, or the language that they use day to day. Wise pastors have lunch with the business colleagues of their parishioners to get to know their world and their language game (finance, mergers, legal, stock markets, immigration, supply chain management, lawsuits, economic challenges). It can be confusing to live as a follower of Jesus when the entire worldview of your larger culture is opposed to your values, often championing vices like greed as if they were virtues. James Houston calls this phenomenon living the paradox of Joyful Exiles. This is a profound book, a reflection on his life’s journey and a wrestle with faith and culture.

The key ‘myth of the secular’ is that the rise of science has brought an end to religion, or replaced religion in the West. This is known as the subtraction thesis,  notes Charles Taylor. He calls it into question and reveals that it is possible to reach out for the transcendent from within the current immanent frame, the dominant social imaginary in the West. Materialistic naturalism is brought under effective critical examination by such scholars as: David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God; and Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies. This analysis of the secular also involves wrestling with versions of Gnosticism or Nihilism and the anti-humanist spirit in Western thought, Post-Romanticism.

Gordon Carkner’s 2016 The Great Escape from Nihilism, uses Taylor as a discerning cultural philosopher of late modernity, a critique of scientism and a basis to rebuild the plausibility conditions for belief in the Christian faith. Al Gore’s insightful The Future: six drivers of global change is good for readers who want some scholarly analysis of where our world is headed, giving the big picture on large changes and challenges within an increasingly globalized world. This is the world that God has called us to understand and love, the world within which we are called to take responsible leadership. Secularization is not the last word on our culture and we should not be intimidated. Many scholars, including John Milbank, would argue that a secular humanism is not sustainable; it will ultimately implode into nihilism.

 

  1. The Culture of Peace, Stewardship, Compassion, Non-violence, Reconciliation and Justice

 

We might also call this the politics or social ethics of agape love. Essential to the teaching of the New Covenant is the art, the ministry of reconciliation (II Corinthians 5). Never has there been a greater need for the skill of peacemaking as a key discipleship tool for Christians in a violent world of militant ideologies, dwindling resources, child soldiers, radical ideologies, cruel dictatorships. These negative forces are like tectonic plates grinding against one another. Such worries are compounded by intense capitalist greed, some financial institutional reckless irresponsibility, growing disparity of wealth between the one percent plutocratic rich and the rest (middle class and poor).

We are too aware of the problems of sex trafficking, abuse of women and children, millions of refugees and displaced peoples from terrorism, famine or drought. The poor, the immigrant, the least of these, as Jesus speaks about it in Matthew 25, are often the lowest priority for people in power. They clearly are the most vulnerable. This arena of concern involves teaching Christian believers to cooperate, mobilize prayer and activism across denominations and across the lines of political divisions for the sake of noble kingdom causes and values we find in the Sermon on the Mount. Heroic models of this redemptive vision include: Ron Sider, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Miraslov Volf, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King Jr., Gene Bethke Elshtain, Nicholas Wolterstorff, and Jim Wallis. Notable books are: Elizabeth Gerhardt, The Cross and Gendercide; and Miraslov Volf, Exclusion and Embrace. The Justice Institute in Vancouver has also been helpful to so many Christian individuals and agencies seeking guidance in this arena.

A bracing story is found in the movie I Am by actor Tom Shadyac. It is a testimonial giving direction to a whole new paradigm, a virtual rethinking of his life’s purpose. Through a terrible accident, he had time to reflect on his narcissistic self-indulgence, on how North Americans badly treat one another and the biosphere. He changed to a whole new trajectory and set of values: where a person lives more simply, where walls are broken down and love (not greed) returns to the epicenter of motivation. Wise discipleship can move more into this kind of transformation.

Although it is difficult to agree with every ideology represented in the film, it is a story of someone who has radically rethought his paradigm of the ‘good life’. It brings into critique the spirit of entitlement, individualism, racism, tribalism behavior and isolationism. Don Klaassen, Chilliwack staff member with Outreach Canada, has had some real success building bridges and mobilizing concern for reconciliation with Indigenous Canadian elders in Chilliwack, British Columbia. This arena is a special opportunity to be a conduit of God’s grace and shalom in society. The proper context of social justice is the glory of God as depicted in the film Selma by the beautiful theme song called Glory performed by Common and John Legend https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUZOKvYcx_o  We contest that this is not the Christian left, but rather the Christian center, core to the teaching of the New Testament.

 

  1. Loving Our Muslim Neighbor

 

There is major immigration to Western countries from the Middle East in the next thirty years, especially with the number of failed states and social chaos. Democracy is quite fragile in many countries. Many thousand Muslim students are attending our Western university campuses. There are also large refugee problems due to war, famine and globalization. Europe, for example, is in a very challenging situation, adjusting to a large influx of migrants. This provides a strategic opportunity, if looked at from the right perspective. There are new levels of spiritual openness in Muslims, according to David Garrison, A Wind in the House of Islam. It is an amazing chance to get to know people from the various traditions of the Muslim community within our Western cities and our college classes. Jonathan Sacks would say that we need to make peace with our religious sibling (sons of Ishmael) and work against the clash of civilizations viewpoint (J. Sacks, Not in My Name). The situation is complicated by right wing, anti-immigration groups.

The same applies internationally as we travel and work in various industries, countries, NGOs and humanitarian organizations. This again is a serious call to maturity: to go the extra mile in discipleship, reaching out to the stranger, the immigrant, the colleague from another religion. The need could hardly be more urgent, with much research, thinking and wisdom required.

A healthy, loving response includes the development of a working knowledge of the documents (Quran, Hadith) as well as apologetics to meet Muslim challenges to the Christian faith and its core documents. Fundamentally, it requires much dialogue, listening and understanding. We find this spirit exemplified in Professor Miraslov Volf of Yale University (Flourishing: why we need religion in an age of globalization). One must discern between radical/political Islam (Muslim Brotherhood, Al Quaeda, ISIS) and faithful Muslims with family values who believe in a just and merciful Allah. It is not simple, but Volf has had significant success in dialogue with top Muslim leadership as we see in the A Common Word Yale document. It is viewed as one of the most important interfaith documents in nearly half a century, and it opens a noteworthy and potentially unprecedented door of opportunity for substantive dialogue between leading Muslims and Christians. See Miraslov Volf’s YouTube talk on comparing the Good of Christianity and the Good of Islam: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BylHdkuxmec.

Gordon Nickel (Peaceable Witness Among Muslims) is helpful on original documents of the Islamic faith. Andy Bannister (Ph.D. in Muslim Studies) and Nabeel Qureshi (Seeking Allah Finding Jesus) of Ravi Zacharias Ministries (RZIM), Ron Dart at University of the Fraser Valley, David Goa at the Charles Ronning Center, University of Alberta, are thoughtful resources on this subject. The Charles Ronning Center deals with substantial research and dialogue on religion and public life.

In terms of ministry to Muslims, the Canadian Network of Ministry to Muslims, a partnership with Outreach Canada, is a discussion, support and prayer movement which runs an annual conference. OC Executive Director, Craig Kraft, is writing his DMin. dissertation on how Canadian churches are receiving and supporting Syrian refugees. Reverend Bob Roberts at Northwood Church in Dallas/Fort Worth sets an example for leveraging agape love in reaching out to the Muslim community (Bold as Love: what happens when we see people as God does). Perfect love shows fear and isolation the exit.

On political Islam, see Michael Nasir-Ali, Conviction and Conflict: Islam, Christianity and World Order (2010). Dr. John Owen, International Relations professor at University of Virginia, has done significant research on this topic in recent years: Confronting Political Islam: Six Lessons from the West’s Past. Bernard Haykel at Princeton University is the leading authority on ISIS theology. Another very revealing insider book is by bestselling author Ayaan Hirsi Ali called Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now. Notwithstanding, this is one of the liveliest issues of our day and a test of our true Jesus-centric discipleship, wisdom and compassion.

 

  1. The Christian Mind and Scholarship

 

Dr. John Patrick at St. Augustine College in Ottawa, Ontario has done a good job of preparing high school grads for university in a one year intellectual boot camp on Christian history, theology and philosophical foundations. The program takes seriously the interface between faith and culture. Over eighty percent of the grads of this program do not lose their faith while going through secular universities. Other such programs are desperately needed for youth entering their undergraduate programs.

Other thoughtful individuals have helped in the discipleship of the mind. James Sire has a long track record of supporting university students, giving them the big picture on the reigning ideologies impacting academia (The Universe Next Door: a worldview catalogue; Discipleship of the Mind). Brian Walsh and Richard Middleton (Transforming Vision; Truth is Stranger than it Used to Be) have also contributed much encouragement in developing a Christian worldview. More recently, Andy Crouch has become a very popular spokesperson for this cause, taking their ideas further (Culture-Making: recovering our creative calling; Playing God: redeeming the gift of power) with sharp sensibility towards key issues in late modernity. Steve Garber has a very helpful guide for students to help them navigate university life called The Fabric of Faithfulness.

This has always been a big part of our work with postgraduate students. https://ubcgcu.org/resources-network/ We help them to engage their studies from a Christian critical outlook. There is also a rich faith and culture section and posts on the UBC graduate student blog written by various faculty, graduate students and Gordon Carkner. See also IVCF’s Emerging Scholars Network https://gfm.intervarsity.org/our-ministries/emerging-scholars-network InterVarsity Press (IVP Books and IVP Academic) has taken a strong lead here, employing Christian faculty and other experts in various fields. Of course, many other publishers such as Brazos, Eerdmans, Oxford University Press contribute much to Christian scholarship. There is some excellent help in the OUP series A Very Short Introduction.

This vision for this kind of stimulation and reflection is also carried by the Pascal Lectures at University of Waterloo, Graduate and Faculty Christian Forum at University of British Columbia, Gifford Lectures at University of Edinburgh, Veritas Forums on campuses across North America and Europe. Christian faculty members of secular and Christian universities and colleges are a strategic help in this arena of discipleship, encouraging vital Christian scholarship and inspiring both graduate students and undergrads.

This motivates us to think and write more strategically and constructively as a Christian. This is vital for establishing followers of Jesus with intellectual depth and solid foundations. The Christian church has always had a strong interest in higher education, even while it feels marginalized at times. This is the reason why this ministry among faculty and graduate students attempts also to build bridges between academia and the church, so that grace and truth can flow in both directions. The growth in the Christian mind is good news for everyone in the Body of Christ.

 

  1. Global Intercession

 

This gifting involves the development and nurture of an awareness, aptitude and passion for the big shifts that prayer can assist. We continue to assure students and church community friends that their intercessory prayer matters. It takes seriously the movement of the hearts of kings and governors (Psalm 138, Daniel, Esther), CEOs and International Leaders. We are talking about heading off an evil movement, ending Apartheid, confronting hate, releasing political prisoners, journalists, deconstructing an oppressive regime, supporting the persecuted church in other countries. It takes seriously the concept of principalities and powers (Walter Wink, The Powers That Be; Engaging the Powers; Ephesians 6). It takes more seriously the power of God.

Such prayer discipleship builds the awareness that God is interested in and cares about Berlin Walls, Russian incursion into Ukraine, ISIS brutality, refugees, North Korean oppression. Ute Carkner, staff member at Outreach Canada, has a strong commitment to the agenda of global prayer. She also spends time in spiritual mentorship of faculty wives, young emerging leaders and graduate students at University of British Columbia. Various groups across Canada, the USA and around the world build prayer into a rhythm with ministry. They see it as a core concern of discipleship, not just as a response to crisis or disaster. We should be keen, given our history, to encounter the powers and speak truth to power, just as the saints of past have done.

 

  1. Spiritual Gifts and Giftedness

 

This is a very challenging but important arena of stewardship, one that requires significant spiritual imagination. It is filled with radical potential as shown by Eugene Peterson in Practice Resurrection. His claim is that we are gift all the way down. How do we help people discover their spiritual gifts and put them into practice in the local church and beyond? These gifts shrivel if not given back to God and to the world. Many parishioners today are frustrated with the lock down on leadership by professional ministry staff, especially in larger churches, feeling their gifts are not appreciated. Church members feel underemployed concerning their actual gifts. They are happily ushering, greeting, parking cars, making coffee, counting the offering and teaching Sunday School, but they often sense God calling them to something more. Some leaders in student organizations are feeling patronized when it comes to their reception in the local church. We need to make space for the kind of leadership Millennials can offer or risk losing them. Many are yearning to be developed and mentored, thinking that there must be more excitement to Christian service than what they are currently experiencing. It is worth examining; some kinds of church bureaucracy work against kingdom fruitfulness.

The gifts can be taught, but individuals need an opportunity to explore their giftedness in real time with healthy feedback from a wise community of believers. This is one reason that short term mission projects are so popular. As this is taken seriously, it will motivate and mobilize massive amounts of hidden talent within our congregations and assemblies, issuing in the development of new leadership (Romans 12; I Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4). The Holy Spirit wants to do so much more with our corporate giftedness and release an abundant grace and blessing through fresh, passionate, visionary leadership. Lay people also have a responsibility to courageously present serious ideas to clergy for their engagement and evaluation. Church planting allows many more to be on the cutting edge of leadership, and discover new levels of giftedness. We have here a massive stewardship issue.

 

  1. Eschatology of Discipleship

 

What is the end game of the journey discipleship? C.S. Lewis puts it in context of eternity in the Eternal Weight of Glory. J.R.R. Tolkein (The Hobbit; Lord of the Rings) and Lewis (Narnia Chrinicles) put it in terms of a great battle between good and evil, where evil is finally vanquished. The Apostle Paul sees the destiny of the quest as the oikodome of righteousness (II Corinthians 5) an eternal dwelling which is more real than our own bodies. Darrell Johnson gives perspective on the relationship between time and eternity, the two realms of discipleship operating in tandem, in his commentary on the book of Revelation (Discipleship on the Edge). He reads the battles of this book as here and now. Richard Middleton’s book on this theme is A New Heaven and a New Earth.

The key poetic metaphor is pilgrimage. Can we revive the sense that we are on an important, urgent quest, one which requires heroism, loyalty to higher virtues and sacrifice? There are big consequences to our choices and attitudes obedience or disobedience. Philosopher of Religion Ingolf Dalferth (Theology and Philosophy) has an intriguing concept of the eschatology as a spiral upwards towards the heavenly. Intriguingly, Baylor University English professor Ralph Wood thinks we should be less concerned about how and whether we get to heaven, and rather more importantly focus on getting heaven into us. Your kingdom come and your will be done in our situation on earth. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QAnfJloJec Incarnational theology is committed to exploring the connections between the temporal and eternal, the immanent and the transcendent, on God’s presence in this world. We are committed to offering our lives as living sacrifices today.

 

  1. Cultivating Wholeness through Healthy Aging and Exploring the Mentoring Potential of Seniors

 

A whole body of research is emerging, sparked by the large population of aging Baby Boomers (Zoomers). See Cultivating Wholeness: A Guide to Care and Counseling in Faith Communities. by Margaret Kornfeld (especially the chapter on death and dying); James Houston, A Vision for the Aging Church: renewing ministry for and by seniors; The Mentored Life: from Individualism to Personhood. These authors are concerned about the significant mentorship capacity of people in their senior years. Sometimes this capacity is ignored. There is high value in the stewardship of elder giftedness. Such visionaries want elders to mentor and pass on their moral, spiritual and intellectual legacy to a younger generation. See also the program Aging Matters: Finding Meaning and Purpose in Senior Years at Carey Theological College, Vancouver, British Columbia.

 

  1. Digital Discipleship: God, Social Networks and Media Consumption

 

We live in the age of addiction to cell phones and social media. School psychologists are very concerned about the impact on the lives of the young and the increase in depression, loneliness, disconnectedness https://www.rosslaird.com/projects/. Check out the MennoNerds blog site and The Digital Society: Christians Interested in Technology & Culture Facebook Group.

Broadcast media and film are increasingly profane and graphic in portraying gratuitous violence and explicit sexuality, within a ratings system that doesn’t reveal the exact language and depictions that might make a difference to impressionable teenagers in the younger age group who feel that they’ve outgrown PG (parental guidance). Web sites like www.pluggedin.ca are trying to add that information which secular reviewers may not see the need to mention.

Social networks can enable ongoing connections between people with whom we would not otherwise phone or write—those Facebook high school reunions. But it can lead to isolation when they replace human contact and physical interaction—for example, excessive video gaming online. Some people are obsessed with checking their cell phone, even while meeting with a group of friends. Ubiquitous, fast, and nearly anonymous data connections, in conjunction with the frictionless sharing and promotion of illicit and sensational content, has created many a moral hazard in how we use the Internet. Everything from hate speech to pornography to pirated games, music and movies are easier to find and use without appreciating the impact. Such consumption is spreading intolerance, warping sexual norms, and depriving artists of royalties.

Christian disciples would do well to keep in mind the advice in 1 Corinthians 10: 23 “All things are lawful … but all things do not edify.” and Philippians 4:8 “Focus on whatever is true, noble, praiseworthy.” Professors Albert Borgmann at University of Montana, Quentin Schultze at Calvin College, Craig Gay and Ashley Moyse at Regent College are thinking and writing about such topics as technology and faith. Borgmann is truly brilliant in showing us how technology shapes us psychologically and culturally and can destroy valuable Christian rituals and traditions such as the family meal and Sabbath.

The positive side of this discussion is that the blog, Internet, and other social media can be employed towards good discipleship, apologetics dialogue and attracting people to the Christian faith, letting people know about excellent scholarship. There is a great amount of free, constructive material in commentaries, courses, bibliography, lectures on YouTube, online courses for handicapped people, if we know where to look. Blogging can indeed increase the frequency and quality of a pastor’s writing and presence in the public space. We are in the middle of a virtual revolution that is wide-ranging. With quantum computing and the Blockchain revolution coming to the fore, we need much wisdom going forward.

 

  1. Faith and Political Power: Church, Government and Civic Discourse

 

It is time for good people to step up, organize and speak the truth in love to power, to resist evil and promote the good. Christians have always had to take a stance with respect to political authority, to grapple with citizenship, even under hostile regimes like the Soviet Union or the Roman Empire. We do not have to be political atheists or political non-participants to be faithful believers. But we do need wisdom as to how to proceed, as some unnerving extremes are emerging. Here are some of the key authors on the subject: John Redekop, Politics Under God; Richard John Neuhaus, The Naked Public Square; and Public Catholicism; Jim Wallis God’s Politics; and The (Un)Common Good; John Stackhouse Jr., Making the Best of It; Andy Crouch, Playing God: redeeming the gift of power; James Davison Hunter, To Change the World: the irony, tragedy and possibility of Christianity in the late modern world.

Furthermore, we have David Lyon & Van Die, Rethinking Church, State and Modernity: Canada Between Europe and America; Rowan Williams, The Truce of God, plus Faith in the Public Square; Ron Dart, The North American High Tory Tradition; First Things Journal. Oliver O’Donovan (The Desire of Nations) and Joan Lockwood O’Donovan (Theology of Law and Authority in the English Reformation) have done substantial work on the history of political engagement by the church.

Overall, this speaks to the issues at the interface of discipleship and citizenship, discipleship and public service. In many respects, democracy needs the undergirding of Christian faith and values to survive and flourish, to keep perspective on human rights and the common good, on public virtue and principled leadership. Enlightenment liberal values alone are not sufficient. Perhaps it is now the time for more Christians to think harder in this arena and take their public discipleship responsibilities seriously. Gnosticism is highly destructive as we see in the writings of Eric Voegelin (Science, Politics and Gnosticism). Naïveté in political and social ethics is the enemy of spiritual integrity, the church and its witness.

 

  1. Discipleship that Addresses the Honor-Shame Cultures

 

Shame is used in many societies to produce social order and harmony. It is the primary device for creating good behavior in children, and sadly it entails conditional love. If a child does something wrong or untoward, the family will submit them to public shame, sometimes shunning. The shame is also owned and carried by the parents. The honor of the family is seen to have been violated by bad behavior. The child grows up with a great fear of expulsion from the family or group.

Thereby, what arises is a strong tendency to repress personal problems, negative emotions or actions, to “save face”. This produces secrecy, not honesty with self, because admitting wrong behavior or addictions implies a total personal failure, and a disruption of honor within the social fabric. It creates a tremendous double bind for individuals. Honor and shame are the yin and yang of Asian cultures, but we find it in the West and elsewhere as well.

Preaching and discipleship is often insensitive to this problem, as it is mostly focused on a guilt society where the conscience is internal. There are serious discipleship consequences. See the insights of Jayson Georges’ The 3D Gospel: ministry in guilt, shame, and fear cultures; Roland Muller, Honor and Shame: unlocking the door. Brené Brown wrote a couple important books on the topic: Men and Women and Worthiness: the experience of shame and the power of being enough; Daring Greatly: How the Courage To Be Vulnerable Transforms The Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead., A Psychology Today article by Seattle therapist Sam Louie speaks to the issue directly. There is much to grapple with here in terms of healthy repentance and faith rhythms. In the gospel, there is hope for forgiveness and reconciliation. Brown argues that guilt is much simpler to deal with than shame, the feeling that I am not good enough.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/minority-report/201406/asian-shame-and-honor

 

  1. Martyrdom and the Persecuted Church

 

Suffering for righteousness is not your average Sunday sermon topic in most Western churches. But there is no question that it has been critical to discipleship from the time of Christ onwards. Today, we hear stories of martyrdom from countries where Christianity or Enlightenment influence does not set the tone of the social ethos. In many lands, campus workers are experiencing great pressure on their religious freedom. The older classic is Foxe’s Book of the Martyrs. Glenn Penner (Voice of the Martyrs) did his PhD on biblical persecution, offering us the rich fruits of his research: In the Shadow of the Cross: a biblical theology of persecution and discipleship. He writes, “The Bible (especially the New Testament) was written by persecuted believers to persecuted believers. This context cannot be ignored without it having profoundly negative implications for how we read and apply the Bible and how we follow Christ individually and corporately.”

Many have been inspired by the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer who stood tall amidst the cost of faithful discipleship under Nazi German occupation and paid the ultimate price. His writings have a substantial audience and scholarly following. Roberts Liardon chronicles the stories of several Christian martyrs in God’s Generals: the Martyrs. For a scholarly contemporary work on the current situation of persecution around the world, see Paul Marshall’s Persecuted: the Global Assault on Christianity. An impressive and courageous British advocate in this area is Baroness Caroline Cox from the House of Lords.

Thinking and reflection in this arena can help fill in emotional, intellectual and spiritual gaps in the Christian life. It can help us grapple with and appreciate our faith at a deeper level and build solidarity with those who suffer from being faithful. Jesus reminds us in Matthew 5: 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” How do we handle societal or academic marginalization as Christian exiles (James Houston, Joyful Exiles)? Agencies and books such as Voice of the Martyrs, Captive in Iran, and Face to Face with Jesus feature many of these stories and we can teach them to our children.

 

  1. Spirituality of Servant Leadership

 

There is a respectable literature on this topic. It is vital as a counter-cultural thrust to self-assertiveness, greed and command-control hubris that we see all around us. The default leadership style in business seems to be largely fear-based: meet the goal, get the promotion; miss the goal, get fired. Robert K. Greenleaf (Servant Leadership) was one of the late twentieth century pioneers of this philosohy. But we believe that Don Page (Servant Empowered Leadership) has taken this area of spirituality to a whole new level and made it very accessible and attractive to church, business and government people. His Masters of Leadership program at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia has helped many to transform their outlook and their organizations. Don’s teaching and resources have reached people in many countries including China and the continent of Africa. Jesus as the incarnate Word is the ultimate model of a servant (Philippians 2). It is all about taking a committed stance towards mentorship and empowerment of others, treating people with genuine respect for their creativity and contribution. Servant leadership is a serious and solid call to maturity. Ruth Haley Barton also has impressive resources for spiritual leaders in Strengthening the Soul of your Leadership, a very thoughtful and creative exposition of the life and leadership of Moses. Dr. Henry Cloud has an important message for business and church leaders in Integrity: the courage to meet the demands of reality. In this arena, there is a deep discipleship and spiritual formation message and long term witness. Page claims that companies that practice this kind of leadership style are more successful and keep their employees longer. Churches and other Christian organizations that practice it, employ the giftedness of their followers much more fruitfully.

 

Conclusion

No one doubts that we are in challenging times. This pro-active research, involving several important players in the art of discipleship, has revealed a wealth of resources and a powerful vision to spark the spiritual imagination for Christian formation well into the twenty-first century. The named resources are at the top of their game, but represent only the tip of the iceberg. Please see the bibliography for more details. This is great news about the phenomenal giftedness, expertise and wisdom of the Body of Christ worldwide. There is much to explore in the journey ahead, we have articulated a narrative of momentum amidst the complexities. This document has covered, ever so briefly, 30 hot topics for spiritual formation. Much research, writing and praxis is continuing in each arena, but this overview shows the larger map of our potential and our calling corporately.  Reif Larson writes, “A map does not just chart, it unlocks and formulates meaning; it forms bridges between here and there, between disparate ideas that we did not know were previously connected.” One could imagine students producing great research papers and graduate school dissertations on any of these issues for the good of the whole church. Quality research should continue in tandem with church planting, mentorship of young leaders and spiritual guidance. “We have nothing to fear but fear itself” spoke Woodrow Wilson at a crisis point in twentieth century history.

The Christian God is all about abundance and creativity, and we get to joyfully and shrewdly map the future together in the grace of his goodness. For this job, we need the energy of youthful entrepreneurs and the wisdom of the elder statespersons of the faith. All of us are exploring his eternal ways, the ancient paths to life and freedom in Christ, within the context of culture and the culture wars of our day. We should not be stifled by secular or Gnostic ideas or philosophies that keep reaching for the extremes of egoism, unrestraint and distractions, or excessive control and dictatorship. God has called us to step up and invest in his kingdom of righteousness by taking disciples deep into divine communion, within the Trinity. Thereby, they will be transformed into new creations with a whole new vision for their life purpose. That is a big deal.

As we combine our collective genius and our hearts, reaching across denominational bounds, Christian leaders and laity can work creatively and circumspectly for healing and unity, for the good of the church and society at large. This direction is the path to maturity, growing up in Christ, living in the light of the incarnation. This vision is shared in good faith with a view to releasing much joy, blessing and hope, encouraging much passion and perseverance in living fully in the whole gospel. We must proceed with humility, godly realism and love. Please pass this resource on to others who may benefit. May it spark the spiritual imagination of your friends and colleagues as they think and live outside any narrow perspectives that may restrict them from their full, rich eschatological hope of the resurrection, the new heavens and new earth. 

 

Blue Ribbon Bibliography on Spiritual Formation

 Alexander, D. & P. (1982). Eerdmans Handbook on Christian Belief. Eerdmans Publishing

Alexander, P. ed. (1982). Eerdmans Handbook to the World’s Religions. Eerdmans.

Barton, R. H. (2006). Sacred Rhythms. IVP Books

Barton, R. H. (2008). Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership. IVP Books.

Belcher, J. (2009). Deep Church: a Third Way. IVP Books.

Bouma-Prediger, S. (2010). For the Beauty of the Earth: a Christian vision of creation care. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker.

Breen, M. (2011) Building a Discipling Culture: how to release a missional movement by discipling like Jesus did.

Brown, W. and Strawn, B. (2012). The Physical Nature of Christian Life: Neuroscience, Psychology and the Church. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Brown, B. (2012). Daring Greatly: how the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent and lead. New York, NY: Avery.

Brown, B. (2012). Men and Women and Worthiness: the experience of shame and the power of being enough.

Carkner, G.E. (2016). The Great Escape from Nihilism: rediscovering our passion in late modernity. Infocus Publishing.

Cloud, H. (2006). Integrity: the courage to meet the demands of reality. Harper.

Cairns, S. (2009). The End of Suffering: Finding Purpose in Pain. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press.

Crouch, A. (2008). Culture Making: recovering our creative calling. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Crouch, A. (2013). Playing God: redeeming the gift of power. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Dart, R. (2016). The North American High Tory Tradition. American Anglican Press.

Fee, G. (2003). How to Read the Bible For all its Worth. 3rd edition

Foster, R. J. (1988). Celebration of Discipline: the path to spiritual growth.

Foster, R (1998). Streams of Living Water: Essential Practices from the Six Great Traditions of Christian Faith. Harper One. WIGTake Resources

Garrison, D. (2014). A Wind in the House of Islam: how God is drawing Muslims around the world to faith in Jesus Christ.

Gerhardt, E. (2014). The Cross and Gendercide: a theological response to global violence against women and girls. IVP Books.

Georges, J. (2016). The 3D Gospel: ministry in guilt, shame, and fear cultures. Time Press.

Goleman, Boyatzis, McKee (2002). Primal leadership: realizing the power of emotional intelligence. Harvard Business School Press.

Gore, A. (2013). The Future: six drivers of global change. New York, NY: Random House.

Grenz, S. (1997). Sexual Ethics: Evangelical Perspective. Westminster John Knox.

Guinness, Os (1998). The Call: finding and fulfilling the central purpose of your life. Thomas Nelson.

Gregory, B. (2012). The Unintended Reformation: how a religious revolution secularized society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Hart, D.B. (2009). Atheist Delusions: the Christian revolution and its fashionable enemies. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Hart, D.B. (2013). The Experience of God: being, consciousness, bliss. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Hastings, R. (2012). Missional God, Missional Church: hope for re-evangelizing the West. IVP Academic.

Houston, J. (2006). Joyful Exiles: life in Christ on the dangerous edge of things. IVP Books

Houston, J.M. (2006). Joyful Exiles: life in Christ on the dangerous edge of things. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Houston, J.M. (2011). The Mentored Life: From Individualism to Personhood. Vancouver, B.C.: Regent College Publishing.

Hunter, J.D. (2010). To Change the World: the Irony, Tragedy and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Johnson, D. (2004). Discipleship on the Edge: an expository journey through the book of Revelation. Regent College Publishing.

Kaiser, W.C. Jr. (2008). The Promise-Plan of God: a Biblical Theology of Old and New Testaments. Zondervan.

Keller, T. (2008). The Reason for God: belief in an age of skepticism. Dutton.

Klein, N. (2014). This Changes Everything: Capitalism versus the Climate. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.

Kornfeld, M. (2012). Cultivating Wholeness: a guide to care and counseling in faith communities. Continuum International Publishing

Lewis, C.S. (1954). Mere Christianity.

Long, D.S. (2001). The Goodness of God. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press.

McGrath, A.E. (2009). A Fine-Tuned Universe: the Quest for God in Science and Theology. Louisville, KY: John Knox Press.

McLeish, T. (2014). Faith and Wisdom in Science.  Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

McGrath, A. (1993). Intellectuals Don’t Need God and Other Modern Myths: building bridges to faith through apologetics. Zondervan.

Merton, T. (1961). New Seeds of Contemplation. Penguin Books.

Middleton, R.J. (2014). A New Heaven and a New Earth: reclaiming biblical eschatology. Baker Academic.

Middleton, J.R. (2009). The Liberating Image: The Imago Dei in Genesis 1.

Moran, R. (2015). Spent Matches: Igniting the Signal Fire for the Spiritually Dissatisfied. Refraction.

Mueller, R. (2001). Honor and Shame: unlocking the door.

Neuhaus, J.H. The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America. Eerdmans.

Newbigin, L. The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. Eerdmans.

Nickel, G. D. (1999). Peaceable Witness Among Muslims.

Noll, M. A. (1992). A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada. Eerdmans.

Nouwen, H. (1979). The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society. Doubleday.

Peterson, E. H. (2010). Practice Resurrection: a conversation on growing up in Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

Plantinga, A. (2012). Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion and Naturalism. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Provan, I. (2014). Seriously Dangerous Religion: What the Old Testament Really Says and Why it Matters. Baylor University Press.

Qureshi, N. (2014). Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: a devout Muslim encounters Christianity. Zondervan.

Redekop, J.R. (2007) Politics Under God. Herald Press.

Ricoeur, P. (1992). Oneself as Another. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Roberts, B. (). Bold as Love: what happens when we see people as God does.

Russell, D. ed. (2013) Cambridge Companion on Virtue Ethics. Cambridge University Press.

Sacks, J. (2002). Dignity of Difference: how to avoid the clash of civilizations. New York, NY: Continuum.

Sire, J.W. (2009). The Universe Next Door: a Basic Worldview Catalogue. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Stark, R. (). The Rise of Christianity

Smith, J.K.A. (2014). How (Not) to Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans

Stackhouse, J. Jr. (2008). Making the Best of It: Following Christ in the Real World. Oxford University Press.

Taylor, C. (1989). Sources of the Self: the making of the modern identity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Taylor, C. (2007). A Secular Age. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Thompson, C. (2010). The Anatomy of the Soul: surprising connections between neuroscience and spiritual practices that can transform your life and relationships. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

Volf, M. (1996). Exclusion and Embrace: a theological exploration of identity, otherness and reconciliation. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.

Volf, M. (2015). Flourishing: why we need religion in a globalized world. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Voskamp, A. (2011). One Thousand Gifts: a dare to live fully right where you are. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Wallis, J. (2014). The (Un)Common Good: how the gospel brings hope to a world divided. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos.

Waltke, B. K. (2007). An Old Testament Theology: an exegetical canonical and thematic approach. Zondervan.

Willard, D. (1998). The Divine Conspiracy: rediscovering our hidden life in God.  Harper San Francisco.

Wink, W. (1999). The Powers that Be: Theology for a New Millennium. Doubleday.

Wink, W. (1992). Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination. Fortress Press.

Welton, D. (1999). The Body: Classical and Contemporary Readings. Wiley.

Welton, D. (1998). Body and Flesh: a Philosophical Reader. Wiley.

Wilson, J.R. (2013). God’s Good World: reclaiming the doctrine of creation. Baker Academic.

Wright, N.T. (2010). Simply Christian: why Christianity makes sense.

Wright, N.T. (2011). After You Believe: why Christian character matters. Toronto, ON: Harper One.

Wright, N.T. (1996). Jesus and the Victory of God. Fortress Press.

Yancey, P. (2000). Reaching for the Invisible God. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Zagzebski, L. T. (1996). Virtues of the Mind: An Inquiry into the Nature of Virtue and the Ethical Foundations of Knowledge. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Zimmermann, J. (2012a). Incarnational Humanism: a philosophy of culture for the church in the world. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.

Zimmermann, J. (2012b). Humanism and Religion: a call for the renewal of western culture.  Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Zimmermann, J. (2015). Hermeneutics: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press

Something to Come Soon by Gordon Carkner, Paradigms in Conflict: Gnosticism versus the Incarnation.

 

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