Tools for the Spiritual Journey

Find me on Amazon Kindle

 

Table of Contents

  1. 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 Growth 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. The 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. The Spirituality of Servant Leadership

Introduction

As we think about the future of discipleship, we the community of players behind this booklet have discerned an urgent need to think critically, creatively and constructively about Christian formation, spiritual growth and kingdom faithfulness. Faith communities around the world 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 in his commentary on Ephesians, Practice Resurrection, 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 (an embodied faith), God come in the flesh in Jesus of Nazareth, then a prime driver should be to follow his example of shaping disciples. This entails our core values, habits and lifestyle, with a view to the flourishing of a robust, relevant and culturally engaging faith.

The following thirty different charts/toolkits of discipleship highlights numerous ways to establish Christian believers in the way, the high road of the spiritual disciplines, the truth, beauty, and goodness of the abundant life, eternal life. We want Christian organizations to enjoy and employ the superabundant gifts from God for the Body of Christ, towards the redemption of the whole cosmos, all things. Thus, a substantial list of resources 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 contemplative life can also be the active life of engaging and blessing the world community in all it diversity, engaging in compassion and justice work, defending human rights and dignity.

The flow of categories in this resource guide runs through a whole spectrum of this noble quest of spiritual formation. Courage, sacrifice and fortitude are valued, the rewards are worth all the effort and energy that we can muster. Discipleship should be marked Urgent. When this project began, we would never have imagined thirty different arenas of discipleship, but that just shows the immense creativity of God through his followers. The collaboration of a lifetime of research and reading, reflection and practice, has contributed to the collation of these ideas. It has been a stretching and awe-inspiring experience. Much reading, wrestling and reflection are represented in this legacy document. Looking back in our Christian history, we find our grounding, our center, our roots. From there, we plot a pro-active, thoughtful trajectory for the church into the future. We can marshal phenomenal resources for productive ministry. 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. His disciples get to carry this heritage forward with joy, dignity and honor.

God calls us into I-Thou dialogue and upwards into communion with the Trinity. The Son of God, the Word, the divine Logos, that existed before creation itself, descended to live among us and draw us higher. This is great news for homo sapiens. It makes us more capable of great friendships and noble accomplishments, to alleviate suffering and improve the world—the ministry of reconciliation. It is God’s love and calling of the individual life in community that gives each one unique worth and value within the whole body, each their unique status as an image bearer (Imago Dei) of King Jesus. Each is summoned to a monumental task, a quest for the good, just like Moses. In that sense, each of us stands 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 them, 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)

In our technological age with its globalized economies, things often get reduced to an unspiritual utility or techne. Disenchantment, death of the soul and spirit can result from feeling like just a cog or pawn in the grand economic machinery. With a view to re-enchantment of reality, we articulate some truly awesome possibilities concerning the Christian quest. We want to capture the fullness and beauty of the poetic creator God and the robust flourishing he desires. He wants to shape us into his ambassadors, his reconciliation agents, so that we can live wholesome lives and take responsibility to cultivate, care for, and redeem our world. Above all, spiritual formation is done in the spirit of and in the context of agape love. Missioned by a holy God, we are invited by the Holy Spirit onto the stage of God’s great theodrama. May you find some real treasures for transformation that last a lifetime, treasures that inspire future generations. It will be great to observe the church in the twenty-first century come into its full heritage and capacity as a robust witness for our Lord.

 

_____________________________________

1. Mere Christianity

This is a foundational level of 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 clearly do more to establish young believers in their faith journey through some version of a catechism or basic discipleship program.  All Christian should be encouraged to read the basics of Christian faith and doctrine. Regular sermons help a lot, but are not enough to get an overview of the Christian life and its transformative impact. Mike Breen, Building a Discipling Culture, helps us take such a task more seriously. James K.A. Smith has a cutting-edge statement on shaping our loves, desires and habits in You Are What You Love. Many high school grads are sadly not established in basic Christian beliefs or apologetics, and so they are weak in defending their faith on secular college and university campuses. Many give up on the faith by end of first semester, before even knowing what it claims at any depth, or how it addresses a secular/scientific/consumer age. This is truly tragic and campus ministries cannot make up the deficit. All ministries could afford to invest much more in basic Christian education, providing adult mentors to help believers understand what they believe and why, and how it can be lived out at a robust level, how it can contribute to human flourishing, moral grounding and strong relationships. There are creative ways to integrate and reinforce these truths within regular Christian activities. Agape love is a core theme that can be brought to the minds and hearts of both young and seasoned disciples. If we begin with lifelong discipleship in mind, it will have a big impact on how our teaching gets rolled out. Conversion is an ongoing process of transformation which means that strong goals and substantial content should be set in play early in the journey.

2. Cultivating the Spiritual Disciplines

This arena includes prayer, fasting, simplicity, meditation, gratitude, confession, study and journalling, service, and practices like Lectio Divina and Examen. We could also add suffering with the other out of compassion. These are intentional disciplines/practices that make space for God in a person’s life, they are effective for putting on the mind of Christ. The goal is ongoing transformation of the believer on the path of righteousness. 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. Foster very helpfully covers six different spiritual traditions in Streams of Living Water. Barry Whatley, an Outreach Canada staff in Montreal (bwhatley@outreach.ca), carries a deep concern for this dimension of spiritual encouragement, including the ongoing spiritual formation of Christian leaders. It is hard for them to influence their congregation if they are drying up spiritually. Burnout is a big problem among clergy. Regent College Bookstore displays an amazing selection of volumes on spiritual direction, ancient and modern. James Houston has championed the writings of the Western Church Fathers and other notable saints of the contemplative tradition and his recent tome with Jens Zimmermann adds much insight into the history of Christian identity, Sources of the Christian Self (2018). Hans Boersma has picked up Houston’s vision of going deep historically on spiritual resources and practices. David Bentley Hart has championed the Eastern Church Fathers. D. Bruce Hindmarsh’s volume The Spirit of Early Evangelicalism is a gem of scholarship on true religion. Ruth Haley Barton has championed the spiritual formation and health of leaders (Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership). Psychiatrist Curt Thompson offers something unique, brilliant really, in his interdisciplinary approach (Psychiatry, Neuroscience, Spirituality), The Anatomy of the Soul.

What if from his earliest days on the planet, Jesus was deeply aware that God’s fundamental orientation towards his entire creation, humans especially, was one of deep, compassionate affection? What if he sensed that the Father was prone to outlandish behaviour such as taking the risk of persuading and urging, rather than forcing us to love and sacrifice, patiently waiting for us–for millennia–to partner with him in the task of blessing the earth and all of its peoples? (C. Thompson, Anatomy of the Soul, 142)

 

3. 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 the breadth of 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 crucially important in an age of technology, social media, and superficial identities. How can we help believers indwell the biblical narratives and realize their power? There are excellent resources online: for example, world-class educational resources can be found at http://www.biblicaltraining.org/. Christians do well to build deeper roots into the rich soil of Scripture.

University of Toronto’s clinical psychologist Jordan B. Peterson has developed a genius approach to reviving interest in the biblical narrative among disenchanted Millennials. He offers a YouTube series that is very effective in reaching angry, young, nihilistic men especially, as he shows how the Bible connects with the human condition and the psychological problems of our day. Former UK Bishop, the late 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 theodramaof redemption. Ultimately, Scripture is our grounding for the struggles of life.

4. Moral Vision and the Quest for the Good

Christians should not sell themselves short on their moral and ethical influence and witness. This arena involves the politics of love, poetics of community, learning how to leverage agape love: good sources include 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 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 (autonomy, freedom and necessity of individual choice, rights, entitlements and opinion)—it leads to tribalism. In late modernity, this often exists with little to no emphasis on responsibility for the other or for the common good, caring for the common wealth or health. Margaret Somerville, distinguished Law Professor at McGill University, is a key healthy conservative voice in Canada on such public moral issues. Dennis Hollinger does a great overview of the Christian moral worldview in Choosing the Good: Christian Ethics in a Complex World.

There are also 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 goodif 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. 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: The (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. David Brooks also offers The Road to Character. There is more information in Section 16. “Recovery of the Virtues.”

 

 

5. Creation Care and Stewardship

What does our carbon footprint have to do with the Lordship of Jesus? 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 intense problems of global warming and champion fruitful solutions? This is a key area of integrity for the church and a key concern in reaching a younger generation, highly sensitive to this justice/survival of the planet—their future survival. They often leave churches which are insensitive to such critical environmental concerns. This 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. But we in the global north are facing significant challenges as well. A gospel that includes practical insights on environmental stewardship would be welcomed news—fulfilling contemporary conditions of plausibility. This entails a life and death concern for the developing world, especially the poorest people whose homes and livelihood are most at risk from radical global warming. A recent visit to the Columbia Icefields in the Canadian Rockies evidenced the speed of melting in our great glaciers.

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 powerful, creation-friendly virtues. Creation is God’s first speech to us, and so attentiveness is due. Katharine Hayhoe, a top atmospheric scientist in Texas Tech University, is a public spokesperson for this cause among evangelical Christians. See 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 worldwide Christian educational agency which features this concern. See also University of Ottawa professor Paul Heintzman’s Leisure and Spirituality: biblical, historical, and contemporary perspectives. 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”; and also his book The Future: six drivers of global change. The United Nations is saying that we could soon be faced with millions of ecological refugees in the not too distant future. Christians ought to be deeply concerned about this dilemma. 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-actionand

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

 

6. Christ Consciousness, a Christo-centric Posture

This arena involves focusing our identity in Christ and his Lordship. It encourages sending our roots deep into a robust vision of the full dimensionality of Jesus, versus a more truncated, comfortable, self-centred faith position. This arena confronts the Gnosticism of our day both  dwithin and outside the church. There are good resources in Eugene Peterson, Practice Resurrection; and N.T. Wright’s superior 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, and live by his inspiration. There are many cultural forces manipulating Christian identity (for example, health and wealth gospel, consumerism, nationalism, culture wars, bigotry, the crisis of self, as well as various forms of escapism). In a day under the cloud of nihilism, we must work hard to build a solid plausibility structure, and lay out clearly the plausibility conditions for belief (Charles Taylor, A Secular Age). This should be seen against the backdrop that every belief is contestable in today’s world (James K.A. Smith, How (Not) to Be Secular). Christians are joined by many others in being challenged to defend their viewpoint.

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 offer shalom, to bring heaven to earth, to discern the kingdom of God here and now. Wallis 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 and habits of virtue. He offers a very mature pastoral statement about the deeper walk of discipleship at its interface with society and politics. As young Millennials decide to commit themselves to Jesus’ Lordship, this opens new horizons of purpose for their lives. They build their confidence and discover new levels of freedom, a new passion.

We strongly recommend First Baptist Church sermon series on the Sermon on the Mount by Darrell Johnson  https://www.firstbc.org/series/following-jesus-into-his-sermon-on-the-mount

7. Global Awareness

This works on a critical area of growth in identity as a global citizen of the kingdom—a robust consciousness. We can develop a broader global vision, grow in awareness of the cultural and ethnic diversity within our neighborhood. The goal here 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, meaning the development of an acute awareness of the uniqueness of the other together with an appreciation of our common human condition. This is worthy of diligent investment. A former professor of mine (a brilliant mind) wrote a classic resource in this area: David J. Hesselgrave, Communicating Christ Cross-Culturally.

Graduate students in our universities are coming from around the globe, 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, creative God. Imagine what they could teach us about the world. We are properly passionate about their spiritual wellbeing and growth as whole persons. It is well worth taking them 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 with big impact.

Outreach Canada’s Perspectives Course has been quite effective in developing a vision of global Christianity, enhance cross-cultural sensibilities, and raise consciousness of God’s loving embrace of and vision for the whole world. There are several strategic reasons for maturely thinking and acting globally in spiritual formation. Personally, it very lively and stimulating to engage an email think tank in the International Fellowhship of Evangelical Students,  headed up by Vinoth Ramachandra from Sri Lanka. They are on a quest to engage the university worldwide. It is amazing how much we have in common. Each of our Canadian universities is also a little global village, training top people from around the globe.

 

8. Spiritual Growth through Suffering

This discussion explores the art and meaning of suffering, pursues the quest to redeem suffering. Yes indeed, this is an important aspect of discipleship. We must take advantage of the opportunity to build character through suffering, to learn the art of comfort and compassion (I Peter). Many of the Christian virtues are a response to suffering. Wisdom and suffering are closely linked in the Bible (Job, the Psalms). Suffering is deeply interwoven with discipleship throughout Scripture, and it is assumed that Christians will suffer, are suffering. Tom McLeish (Faith and Wisdom in Science) even sees suffering tied in with the pursuit of scientific knowledge. Love too involves pain and personal sacrifice. Innocent suffering and the problem of evil seem to coalesce to cast serious doubt in both a believer’s and a skeptic’s mind. But understood in proper perspective, suffering can take us much deeper into the heart of God, who has suffered with us in the incarnation and on a cross to reconcile us (the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune). We focus here on grappling with suffering as an independent issue separate from evil, to discern its lessons more clearly.

There is a great benefit to fathoming the biblical notion of suffering. We cannot avoid it, but we can make it mean something, and live well amidst it. It can open a gateway to the economy of grace and the Christian graces. Philip Yancey has produced a powerful book called What’s So Amazing about Grace? People need spiritual guidance to learn how to suffer well, how to set goals, how to keep their dignity, and walk closer to God amidst suffering. It can point the way to a noble spiritual journey. How often do we mentor people in the art of suffering? Isn’t it often glossed over to get onto more positive topics of our human potential or progress? The Apostle Paul had a strong consciousness of participating in Christ’s sufferings (II Corinthians 6), and he knew what it was to suffer in love for the gospel, for his calling as an apostle and for the well-being of believers across the empire. He gained wisdom and drew closer to God through his suffering. He went deeper into his calling. He knew that, as a minority religion, Christians would be persecuted. Jesus predicted this in his prayer for the disciples in John 17.

This is an arena where the Christian story (and the Hebrew story) can stand strong, constructively offering wisdom and compassion to society. It can help us confront a narcissistic culture of entitlement and consumeristic individualism. Deeper discipleship emerges when we suffer for doing the good, speaking the truth—for the sake of the kingdom of God and his righteous values (Psalm 23). This offers a bridge (a common cause) with secular and atheistic people. Everyone must cope with much of the same kinds of suffering—health problems such as cancer, loss of a child, road accidents, broken relationships, disappointments. Good resources along this line include: Cam Taylor’s 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; Philip Yancey, Searching for the Invisible God; Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning. If it doesn’t make us cynical, resentful and nihilistic, the crucible of life’s suffering brings people sharply in touch with their limitations and with spiritual reality and can draw them together in a community of support. If they are willing to fathom its deep redemptive message, suffering can be viewed through a cruciform prism to help redeem us. God does care about our pain and he has suffered along with us in the incarnation and crucifixion. See Section 29. “Martyrdom and the Persecuted Church.”

9. Our Historic Heritage

This includes the needed perspective that today’s believer is standing on the shoulders of past saints, reformers and martyrs. With all the intensity of church planting around the world and super casual coffeeshop churches, there is a strong need for parallel teaching in the history and heritage 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; Larry Siedentop, Inventing the Individual). 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, and how Christians engaged ancient, medieval and modern culture. We all need heroes to inspire us.

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 we are fighting today were also fought decades, even centuries ago. We have ancient as well as contemporary colleagues from whom we can learn. This great crowd of witnesses can benefit us, given the spiritual roads they have laid down, their theological spade work, their spiritual exercises Like Benedict’s Rule or Ignatius’ Exercises, the mountains of virtue they have climbed, and the streams of living water where they have found refreshment. They have experience in swimming within God’s eternal kingdom current over centuries of time. We can also learn from their mistakes, especially how to avoid theological or discipleship extremes (for example, the Crusades, Religious/Denominational Wars and the Inquisition). The record must be approached with humility.

One could draw on Bruce Hindmarsh at Regent College for inspiration from eighteenth and 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. American church historian George Marsden is also a major contributor who has helped to shape this author’s views on faith and culture. Hans Boersma, another Regent theologian, develops a serious evangelical appreciation of pre-Reformation history and sacramental spirituality (Scripture as Real Presence: Sacramental Exegesis in the Early Church). Too many Christian leaders tragically leave their interest in church history at the gates of the seminary, but appreciated wisely our roots feed and inspire us as we reflect on the courageous lived faith of our spiritual ancestors. It is a heritage worth preserving, foundations worth building upon. They are depriving themselves and their congregation of a storehouse of spiritual gems and empowerment.

 

10. 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, that is, the fullest picture of the incarnation. The gospel is always embedded in some culture, there’s the rub. 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, humanization of culture, civility and reform? How do we encourage responsibility for the other? What does it mean for cultural leadership that we are the Body of Christ situated in time and space, networks, neighborhoods and community associations?

Recent intense research and creative thought has emerged, especially since 2012, from Trinity Western University’s humanities professor Jens Zimmermann, (Incarnational Humanism: a philosophy of culture for the church in the world). Humanism need not be tied solely to the secular (exclusive/scientific humanism). 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 teaching of Jesus, for example in the Sermon on the Mount. Another excellent resources is Oxford scholar of Western history Larry Siedentop, Inventing the Individual. This is especially important in a day when there is also a strong narrative of dark neo-Nietzschean anti-humanism, along with the utopian post-humanisms. The challenges come from the Nihilists (anti-humanists and post-humanists of Schopenhauer and Nietzschean descent—the philosophers of the extreme). The cross-denominational American journal First Things highlights this arena from a variety of perspectives as does the Canadian organization, Cardus, a discussion on public policy and religious freedom in Canada (Convivium Magazine). History scholars like Notre Dame’s Brad Gregory (The Unintended Reformation) and McGill philosopher Charles Taylor (A Secular Age) have very helpful insights on the historical engagement between faith and culture. They both cover a complex five-hundred-year transition in Western culture, in which there are wins and losses in the Christian engagement of culture.

Is it not the purpose of redemption of our lives in Christ to make us better humans, better neighbors, better citizens, better representatives of God on earth, committed to shalom, offering a blessing, contributing to the vital common good of society? Brilliant sociologist James Davison Hunter (To Change the World; The End of Character) 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 human personhood within the context of community. See also Alan Jacobs, The Year of Our Lord 1943: Christian Humanism in an Age of Crisis; and Christian Scholarship in the Twenty-first Century (eds. Thomas M. Crisp, Steve L. Porter and Gregg A. Ten Elshof).

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. This the of thing is exposed by sociologist Christian Smith under the title of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. 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 (James), transformed lives that fight for the common good (Jim Wallis, The (Un)Common Good). We should be building out from incarnational theology, anthropology and spirituality today. In the process, there can also be a reform and recovery of the humanities, education and the social sciences.

Perhaps we will also have to add another discipleship category # 31. Culture Care and the Arts, starring such notables as Makoto Fujimura, Culture Care: Reconnecting with Beauty for our Common Life.

11. 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 zeros in on Christian hope (I Peter 3: 15).  It also helps Christians who, due to cultural buffeting, are going through questions and doubts about their faith–most of us. It sets up a dialogue between faith and reason, conviction and evidence. Apologetics, as a relevant and practical 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, Canada, 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 all. They continue to mature in their breadth and depth. There are equivalent organizations in America and Europe. 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 centres around the world, like Biola University in California or Wycliffe Hall in Oxford, or ACTS Seminary in Langley, British Columbia, for those keen to develop this skill to a high level. See the Apologetics Resources page on Gordon Carkner’s blog for graduate students: https://ubcgcu.org/apologetics-resources/.

We often find a culture of doubt and cynicism on our campuses of higher education, where the best and brightest are nurtured and shaped philosophically and culturally. Young students need this training to prepare them for the campus debates, and often the attacks from their professors in the humanities and social sciences, and how to write critically from a Christian worldview perspective (II Corinthians 10: 4-5). It is very encouraging when churches set up tough questions series, debates between Christianity and secular humanism, Alpha programs or lectures on tough questions. We cannot stress enough how critical it is to invest in this sector as an essential part of Christian education.

 

.

 

Bibliography

Alexander, D. & P. (1982). Eerdmans Handbook on Christian Belief. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

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

Barton, R. H. (2006). Sacred Rhythms. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books.

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

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

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

Breen, M. (2017). Building a Discipling Culture: how to release a missional movement by discipling like Jesus did. 3DM Publishing.

Brooks, D. (2015). The Road to Character. New York: Random House.

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. Abbotsford, BC: Infocus Publishing.

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

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

Calhoun, A. A. (2011).Invitations from God: Accepting God’s Offer to Rest, Weep, Forgive, Wait, Remember and More. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books

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. New York, NY: American Anglican Press.

Delsol, C. (2003). Icarus Fallen: the search for meaning in an uncertain world.Wilmington, DE: Crosscurrents.

Fee, G. and D. Stuart (2014). How to Read the Bible For all its Worth. 3rdedition.

Foster, R. J. (1988). Celebration of Discipline: the path to spiritual growth. New York, NY: Harper San Francisco.

Foster, R. J. (1998). Streams of Living Water: Essential Practices from the Six Great Traditions of Christian Faith. New York, NY: Harper One.

Foster, R. J. (2005). The Freedom of Simplicity: finding harmony in a complex world. New York, NY: Harper Collins.

Garber, S. (1996). The Fabric of Faithfulness: weaving together belief and behavior during the university years. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books.

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

Gawronski, R. (2015). Word and Silence: Hans Urs Von Balthasar and the Spiritual Encounter Between East and West 3rdedition. Kettering, OH: Angelico Press.

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

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

Gill, D.W. (2006). Becoming Good: Building Moral Character. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books.

Goleman, D., R. Boyatzis, A. McKee (2002). Primal leadership: realizing the power of emotional intelligence. Boston, MA: 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. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox.

Greenleaf, R.K. (1977). Servant Leadership: a journey into the nature of legitimate power and greatness.Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Guinness, Os (1998). The Call: finding and fulfilling the central purpose of your life. Nashville, TN: 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. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.

Heintzman, P. (2015) Leisure and Spirituality: biblical, historical, and contemporary perspectives. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker.                   Hindmarsh, D. B. (2018). The Spirit of Early Evangelicalism: True Religion in a Modern World. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Holllinger, D.P. (2002). Choosing the Good: Christian Ethics in a Complex World. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

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

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

Houston, J.M. and Zimmermann, J. (eds.) (2018). Sources of the Christian Self: A Cultural History of Christian Identity. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

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.

Hunter, J.D. (2001). The Death of Character: moral education in an age without good or evil.New York, NY: Basic Books.

Jackson, T. (2015). “Prophetic Conclusion: Martin Luther King Jr.” In Political Agape: Christian Love and Liberal Democracy (381-408). Grand Rapid, MI: Eerdmans.

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

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

Keller, T. (2008). The Reason for God: belief in an age of skepticism. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.

Keller, T. (2016). Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical. New York, NY: Viking.

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. New York, NY: Continuum

Kuehne, D. (2009). Sex and the iWorld: Rethinking Relationship Beyond Individualism. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

Lewis, C.S. (1954). Mere Christianity. New York, NY: Harper One

Liardon, R. (2016). God’s Generals: The Martyrs. New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House.

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

Marsden, G. M. (2009). The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Marshall, P.; Gilbert, L.; Shea, N. (2013). Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christianity. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

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

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

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

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

Middleton, R.J. (2014). A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

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

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

Mueller, R. (2001). Honor and Shame: Unlocking the Door. Bloomington, IN:Xlibris Corp.

Nasir-Ali, M. (2010). Conviction and Conflict: Islam, Christianity and World Order. New York, NY: Continuum.

Neuhaus, J.H. (2002). The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

Newbigin, L. (1989). The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

Nickel, G. D. (1999). Peaceable Witness Among Muslims. Harrisonburg, VA: Herald Press.

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

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

Owen, J. M. IV (2015). Confronting Political Islam: Six Lessons from the West’s Past.  Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

O’Donovan, O. (1994). Resurrection and Moral Order. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans

O’Donovan, O. (1999). The Desire of Nations: Rediscovering the Roots of Political Theology. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

O’Donovan, J.L. (1991). Theology of Law and Authority in the English Reformation. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press.

Page, D. (2009). Servant Empowered Leadership: A Hands-on Guide to Transforming You and Your Organization. Langley, B.C.: Power to Change.

Penner, G.M. (2004). In the Shadow of the Cross: A Biblical Theology of Persecution and Discipleship. Bartlesville, OK: Living Sacrifice Books.

Peterson, E. H. (2010). Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing up in Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

Peterson, J.B. (2018). 12 Rules for Life: an antidote to chaos. Toronto, ON: Random House Canada.

Pieper J. (1954). The Four Cardinal Virtues: Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, Temperance. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.

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. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press.

Qureshi, N. (2014). Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

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

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

Roberts, B. (2012). Bold as Love: What Happens When We See People as God Does. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

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

Sacks, J. (2002). Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations. New York, NY: Continuum.

Sacks, J. (2015). Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence. New York, NY: Schocken Books.

Siedentop, L. (2014). Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism. Penguin Random House, UK.

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

Stark, R. (1996). The Rise of Christianity: A Sociologist Reconsiders History.Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Smith, G. T. (2017). Evangelical, Sacramental, Pentecostal: Why the Church Should Be All Three.Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.

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

Smith, J. K. A. (2016). You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos.

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

Taylor, C. (1989). Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Taylor, C. (2017). Detour: A Roadmap for When Life Gets Rerouted. Abbotsford, B.C.: Infocus Publishing.

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.

Voegelin, E. (1968). Science, Politics and Gnosticism: Two Essays. Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing.

Voegelin, E. (1987). The New Science of Politics: An Introduction. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

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.Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

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

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

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

Welton, D. (1998). Body and Flesh: A Philosophical Reader. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Willard, D. (1998). The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering our Hidden Life in God.  New York, NY: Harper San Francisco.

Wilson, J.R. (2013). God’s Good World: Reclaiming the Doctrine of Creation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

Wolterstorff, N. (2008). Justice: Rights and Wrongs. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Wright, N.T. (2010). Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense. New York, NY: Harper One.

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. Minneapolis, MN: 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. (2012). Incarnational Humanism: A Philosophy of Culture for the Church in the World.Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.

Zimmermann, J. (2012). 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: