Chapel Speaker, Professor Paul Stevens (Professor Emeritus, Marketplace Theology and Leadership, Regent College, Vancouver) is our International Adjunct Lecturer for Marketplace Ministries
He was teaching a 2-week course at BGST on “Liberating the Laity: Empowering the Whole People of God.” He will be back with us in November 2009 to co-teach “Vocation, Work & Ministry” with Mr Clive Lim. Clive is an Entrepreneur and an Adjunct Faculty at BGST. He is a Regent College graduate and a Doctor of Ministry candidate, Gordon-Cornwell Theological Seminary
Professor Stevens’ his message provides good food for contemplation and action.
HEAD, HEART AND HAND
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Love your neighbour as yourself” (Mark 12: 28-34).
Theological education is a problematic experience almost everywhere today – but it has not always been so. In the earliest times, dating from Saint Augustine, the main purpose of doing theology was pastoral, the forming of persons wholistically, not merely the accumulation of information and skills, but forming one’s soul and life in a pastoral way. But through the influence of Abelard in the twelfth century and the growing segmentation of theological inquiry through the late Middle Ages and the later Enlightenment, the various sectors of theology were fragmented into speculative theology, moral theology, spiritual theology, systematic theology and, what became the Cinderella of the seminary, applied or practical theology. These were never meant to be separated. The Puritan William Perkins had it right when he said that theology is “the science of living blessedly forever.”
So the summary of the law given by this “near the kingdom” teacher of the law is an apt condensation of what it is we are really about: the integration of heart, soul, mind and strength. Each of the dimensions invites a response: heart: “Do you love me?” (Jn 21:15); soul: “Follow me” (Jn 21:19); mind: “Who do you say I am?” (Matt 16:15) and strength: “Present your bodies as living sacrifices” (Rom 12:1-2). We may consider each of these dimensions of life to be integrated in order to be lived “blessedly forever.”
Heart: Theological work is essentially a matter of love. Dallas Willard cautions, “The theologian who does not love God is in great danger.” The story is told of a certain professor who used to go to the library and press each student with the question: “Brother (or sister), how are things in your heart? How do things stand with yourself? – not with your ears, not with your head, not with your forensic ability, not with your industriousness (although all of that is also appropriate to being a theologian).” For theological education should make our hearts love God more and more. Indeed love is not just the result but the means.
Soul: Biblically we don’t “have” souls, as an organ of immortal spirituality imprisoned in an evil body, as much of the Greek world thought (and many Christians today), but we “are” souls. It is the expressive person. So when we sing, “Bless the Lord O my soul,” it is really our expressive persons willing volitionally to bless God. To engage theologically with one’s soul is, as Kierkegaard once said, to “will one thing.” He described a swimmer tenderly wading out into deeper water until he still could touch bottom with his toe. And faith, he said, is to lift up one’s foot and trust the buoyancy of the water. Jesus invited us to follow him, volitionally, trustingly, and passionately.
Mind: Theological work involves the discipline of the mind, but not in an idolatrous way. Soren Kierkegaard once said, “Christ does not destroy reason but he does dethrone it.” John Wesley, an intelligent and educated man, once received a letter from a woman who advised him that “the Lord doesn’t need all your learning.” To this Wesley replied, thanking the woman for telling him what he already knew, “and the Lord doesn’t need your ignorance either.” In theological education we are bringing every thought into the obedience of Christ, thinking God’s thoughts after him, and seeing that all truth resides in Christ who holds everything together. This is more than merely accumulating facts or doctrines. Indeed Psalm 115 suggests that people who worship a fixed static idol and even doctrines can become this - become “like the god they worship”: fixed, static, and immovable. Our God, in contrast does ”whatever he pleases,” the freest person in the universe, and those who worship God are growing, flexible and truly alive. Richard Baxter developed a methodological meditation as a way of opening the door of head and heart to the truth of Christ: first consideration (reasoning with oneself), second, soliloquy (pleading the case with our own souls, preaching to oneself); third, speaking to God in prayer.
Strength: Without using the word “hand,” Jesus addressed this issue of orthopraxy (straight practice) in his well-known, though often misunderstood parable in Matthew 25:31-46, the parable of the sheep and goats. We ask quite simply, what is Christian action? From this parable we learn again, especially in the surprise of both the righteous and the unrighteous, that it is gratuitous love – not love that is contrived or contractual to gain something. What makes an action Christian is not the religious character of that action but practical love (which of course may well be expressed in a Christian service career, in volunteer service, being a chef, a teacher, a business person, and artist). So the English reformer, William Tyndale, said, truly and controversially, “There is no work better than another to please God; to pour water, to wash dishes, to be a souter (cobbler), or an apostle, all are one, as touching the deed, to please God.”
Heart, soul, mind and strength. But there is a soul and heart-riveting problem with the Lord’s affirmation of this central commandment and his own restatement of it more than once in the Gospels. Can love be commanded? We all know that love must be born of the freedom of the will and two people cannot be forced to love. So why does Jesus command us to love? He does this because it is essentially a response. We love because God first loves us and through that extravagant and gratuitous loving we find love evoked, drawn out of us, awakened, inspired by the greatest lover and the greatest love in the universe. Only let us make sure it is not with just the heart, just the mind, just the soul or just the hand but our whole persons.
New Testament Greek I (BG111, 3cr), starting Feb 9 (Mon 7.30-9.30pm). Lecturer: Dr Aquila Lee
New Testament Foundations II (NT102, 3cr), starting Feb 9 (Mon 7.30-9.30pm).
Lecturer: Mr Quek Tze-Ming
*Counsellor’s Skills: Developing Micro-skills in Counselling (CO213, 3cr), starting Feb 18 (New starting date), (Wed 7.15-10.15pm). Lecturer: Mr Yam Keng Mun
*Research Methods & Ministry: Qualitative (ECF520, 3cr), starting Feb 12, 19, 26, Mar 12, 26, Apr 2, 9, 16; (New Dates) (Thurs 7.15-10.15pm).
Lecturer: Drs Chen Ai Yan & Ng Peh Cheng
*Courses marked with an asterisk are not offered on audit basis.
Registration is open for all courses. Visit www.bgst.edu.sg for course description and registration (under Course & Events/Course Schedules).