SPIRITUAL THE AHA! FORMATION Elizabeth Leu
HOT MONSTERS PROWL SPOTS ONS A M ATHE NTHA CURLEY Denise
TOFULLER Kevin Gonzaga
CREDITS Managing Editor Carmen ValdĂŠs Editor Randall Frederick Production Editor Matthew Schuler
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EDITOR'S NOTE RANDALL FREDERICK
S P I R I T UA L F O R M AT I O N E li z a b e th L e u
Two years ago, I began a new chapter in my life titled Life in Seminary with a Christian Ethics class, and soon I found myself finishing New Testament 1 & 2, Greek, Hebrew, church history and many other classes. These classes equipped me to think more critically and more responsibly. I am grateful and humbled by the quality education we have. I often tell people that my perspective on Christian ministry has broadened and deepened in these years, because my perspective on God has enormously expanded in multiple directions, dimensions, and spheres. Both academic and cultural resources shape this campus into a unique and marvelous Christian community. However, pursuing beauty usually comes with a cost. My years in the place where I acquire a huge amount of intellectual information are not simply ‘eye-opening’ but dangerously challenging. The
theological deconstruction and cognitive dissonance cause me to rethink about my Christian experience. Like many other students here, I had my set of beliefs prior to seminary. I thought I knew everything about God; at least I knew how to be a “good Christian.” Now having been challenged and sharpened by my classes and my classmates, everything I believed prior seminary has shifted. In this formative stage, every class reshaped my belief and confronted everything I knew about Christ, the Bible, God’s mission, church and, most terrifyingly, my own faith and vocation. Seminary is this journey where I often ask myself, others, and God the fundamental questions: “what is the truth?” In this journey pursuing Christ, I gained lots cognitive intellectual information, while somewhere I lost the connection between my head and my soul. There is a
disconnect between religious profession and my internal spiritual well-being. I hit a place where I realized that I was in spiritually dangerous zone. Most students moved here from another city, state or country. Back home we had our original faith community where we felt familiar and comfortable. During the transitional period, many of us lost the original spiritual home and spent a significant amount of time searching for the next suitable church community. Additionally, since we are been trained to analyze and to critique theology and ministries, many of us spent a long period of time to find the ‘right’ church. Lack of community and personal discipleship results in risk of spiritual growth. This increases our needs for spiritual support and care. Indeed, as many of us are aiming to become Christian leaders to help others form spiritually, our spiritual growth
intellectual growth and preparation for effective ministry with a deep intimacy with God. The core of spiritual formation is intimate personal relationship with Christ. In John 15:5 Jesus says to his disciples, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” (NRSV) The vine is the essential part of the plant and the source of life for the branches. The grapevine provides the necessary water and nutrients for the growth of grapes through the branches, while branches are dependent upon the vine. Christ refers to himself as the vine or the source of life and the disciples as branches that depend on the vine. The Greek word for ‘abide’ has the meaning of to remain, to live and to dwell. Disciples are called to abide in Christ over a lasting period where they share deep intimacy to produce fruit. This illustrates a picture of spiritual formation as disciples seeking to
A;SDLFKJA;LKSDFJA;LSK DFJA;LSKDFJ and development of the whole person are essential to effective outcome. Our hearts and our spirits must be formed and cultivated in the journey of preparing ourselves to pursue Christian ministry. Seminary is a formative stage to become servant leaders for the kingdom of God, where we need both theological education and spiritual formation. In the process of gaining intellectual knowledge, spiritual formation is the development of becoming a faithful effective servant of God. The intent is to coincide our
gain intellectual knowledge and effective ministry. The source of our spiritual formation is abiding in Christ. Our relationship with Christ is associated with our work in ministry and everything else beyond ministry. Spirituality signifies an integration of our academic training, ministry formation and life in the Holy Spirit. Our characters are made up by our hearts and our loves. Our love in Christ need to be connected to our daily lives in all spheres, such as our ethics, our
relationships with families and friends, our romantic or sexual relationships, our health, our stewardship, our studies, and all the rest. Academic training are only part of this formative stage, and we need to integrate our cognitive knowledge with day-to-day practices. Our relationship with Christ is related to the way we interact with our culture and community. Recently Dr. Augsburger spoke at his retirement event “Spiritually and the Other.” He explained a wholeness of tri-polar spirituality. Often spirituality is considered as a bi-polar reality where individuals receive spiritual nourishment
Scripture. These practices should be done in both individual and communal manner. Local churches usually foster a spiritual growing environment, and that students are highly encourage to participate in local church. An academic institution like Fuller Seminary cannot substitute our needs for a local church community. On the other hand, Fuller Theological Seminary takes responsibility to foster a spiritual formative environment and to consistently nurture the process of spiritual formation in our community. Students are encouraged to use available spiritual resources offered by Office of
A;SDLFKJA;LKSDFJA;LSKDFJA;LSKDFJ from God. The two participants are God and the individual. In tri-polar spirituality, Dr. Augsburger explains that a wholeness spirituality involves not only two participants, but three: the individual, God and the others. It values ourselves and the community, where our relationship with others is equally important as our relationship with God. Christ calls people to himself, illustrating a community listening to Christ and built around Christ. Spiritual formation involves not merely personal one-on-one communion with Christ, but a community depending on Christ, building up on Christ and pursuing Christ together. Spiritual formation indicates a union between Christ with individuals and Christ with the community. In seminary, as we wrestle with difficult questions figuring out some theological or ministry solutions with others, we join in the process of spiritual formation with one another. Moreover, spiritual formation embraces practicing spiritual virtues in our daily lives, such as worship, prayer, solitude retreats, study and meditate on the
Student Affair. In addition, a Spiritual Formation Task Force was formed in May 2010 to address the areas needed to improve within our community. Lastly, I believe the key to spiritual formation is humility. In humility, I come to accept myself in front of God and in front of others. It is a place of surrender in order to rest and to abide in Christ; a place I see myself as the branch that depends on the vine. Only in humility, I accept my own limitation, celebrate God’s unlimitation, and that I am free to vulnerably share my spiritual journey with other Fullerites. There, I find peace and restoration in Christ. It does take “deconstruction” to sharpen and to renew my faith, so the reconstruction takes place at the right time.
THE AHA! MOMENTS Richard Mouw
A person asked me recently about what I thought of as some of the key theological “Aha!” experiences in my life as a scholar. I stumbled a bit in trying to answer, but afterward I continued to think about the question. Here is one that I came up with. We were in Haiti, back in the early 1980s, doing a retreat for some relief workers stationed there. One afternoon I walked through a desperately poor village with one of the workers. He had been my student in an Introduction to Philosophy course at Calvin College, and he told me how much he enjoyed that course. But then he paused. “I really meant what I just told you about enjoying your teaching,” he said, “and I still think about some of the stuff you lectured on then. For example, David Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion.” At that point he said enough about Hume to convince me that he really had paid attention in class. And then came an important complaint:
“But I have to tell you that what you and Hume talked about when you discussed the philosophical ‘problem of evil’ has little to do with the evil I find in this village—the evil of horrible poverty and hopelessness, the evil that people here turn to voodoo to try to address. I sure wish you had taught a course on that subject!” He was absolutely right, and it hit me hard. In my early years of deciding what to teach about in philosophy courses I never for once thought about how to address philosophically a subject like voodoo. And yet that is a subject rich in philosophical importance. It has to do with an understanding of human nature and of our relationship to the spirit world. It also illuminates important issues about the magical, as well as the character of “systemic evil.” Enough there to shape a whole course on Voodoo and the Problem of Evil! The “Aha!” element for me in that conversation was about how we
choose what to focus on in our teaching and scholarship. What questions do we take seriously in forming our academic curriculum? The relief worker was impressing upon me that importance of not simply letting the academic guilds pose the questions. The same kind of issue came up for me a few years ago when I participated, in a university setting, in a discussion of how Christians should assess various elements in postmodern thought. It was a stimulating discussion, with an agenda that focused primarily on thinkers like Foucault and Derrida. A few days later at Fuller, I listened in on a discussion of youth ministry, also focusing on the postmodern. But this time the participants—several of them actively engaged in ministering to teens, never brought up the names of French deconstructionists. They were more interested in the influence of the worldviews held by Charlie Sheen and Lady Gaga. Note that I said that our academic explorations should not simply be shaped by the concerns of the guilds. I still find Hume fascinating, and I still think we need to pay
attention to Foucault and Derrida. But as Christians we also have to wrestle with challenges posed from other sources. We have a wonderful opportunity to do this in creative ways at Fuller Seminary. With three schools—theology, psychology and intercultural studies—we can ask each other serious questions across the standard disciplinary and curricular boundaries. And with students and faculty from so many nations and denominations, we can participate here in rich, and academically serious, explorations that can serve the cause of the Gospel among the diversity cultures of the earth. This academic year of 2012-2013 is yet another opportunity to engage in this exciting and demanding project at Fuller Seminary. I hope that it is, for all of us, a year of many “Aha!” moments.
HOT SPOTS Denise Duke
During the past year at Fuller I discovered a personal need to stay away from my house while studying and writing papers. With the lure of the TV, giggle-filled conversations with my roommates, and let’s be honest my bed, it’s best for me to work in an environment which encourages productivity. Many times I find myself in the library nestled next to a window, or hiding in the basement to keep all distractions at bay. As deadlines and tensions arise towards the end of the quarter I look for more relaxing atmospheres to avoid the stressful looks on everybody’s face, reminders of how much work I have to complete in a limited amount of time. This quarter I have discovered two places I want to share. Kyle Shevlin, a singer/songwriter who is working the music circuit while studying theology here, introduced the first location to me. (If you have not checked out his music you should visit his website,
kyleshevlin.com) Kyle invited a group of people to a performance at Republic of Pie, located in the arts district of North Hollywood. Republic of Pie is a coffee/pie bar decorated with a cute country-like motif. The staff are helpful, informative, and lean towards the trendy/fringe look. Although their coffee is enjoyable, the sweet, melting taste of pie is unfathomable. One friend said, “I don’t even like pecans but I loved the pecan pie”. Republic of Pie offers live music on a regular basis and hosts happy hour (half priced pie) everyday from 8-9 am (that’s right…pie for breakfast) and 3-5 pm. The next location is for all you beach enthusiasts. Located just on the edge of the cliff in Palos Verdes stands a Starbucks with the best view for a coffee house. Though it’s a typical Starbucks with standard drinks, the view makes it worth the drive. The back patio looks out to the ocean where one can see Catalina Island and multiple sailboats
in the distance. When the temperatures gets cooler the staff light the fire pit so people can continue to enjoy their drinks and watch the sunset. If there is a need for a study break, one can enjoy a scenic walk through the neighborhood, which leads to a path that follows along the cliff. For those adventure seekers, it is possible to climb down the cliffs to a secluded rocky beach to allow for some alone time, prayer, worship, fishing, or snorkeling as a way to let go of the worries of the day. If you are anything like I am, you will probably enjoy these places as a means to get away from the stress inducing environments in order to focus more on the task at hand…reading 1200 – 1500 pages and writing ‘A’ papers. I hope you get an opportunity to visit these places and possibly share some of your favorite spots with the rest of the student body. http://republicofpie.com/ http://www.starbucks.com/store/12932/
MONSTERS ON THE PROWL: W H AT S U P E R H E R O F I L M S T E L L U S A B O U T O U R S E LV E S S a ma n th a C u r le y
What were the last three movies you saw in a movie theater? If you’re like most Americans, at least one of them was a superhero film. The Avengers grossed over $200 million in its opening weekend this summer, and more than half of the top ten grossing films of all time, on opening weekends, are superhero movies. All were released within the last ten years. The latest installment in Christopher Nolan’s Batman franchise was the “most anticipated film of the summer” - whatever the heck that means - and surely did not come as a huge surprise that despite the traumatic events in Colorado, still opened at $160 million. People are flocking to theaters to see the latest entries in the superhero genre, even as comic book heroes have been around for the last eighty years. Yet, for such continued success, the genre has spent the vast
majority of cinematic history confined to the obscure and obviously stereotyped world of costumed geeks flooding convention centers. Where is this sudden influx into mainstream cultural coming from? Perhaps, more importantly, does it really matter? As the last three films I saw in a movie theater were Headhunters, Moonrise Kingdom, and Safety Not Included, I have a difficult time understanding or caring about the superhero genre but it only takes a few movie posters and box office statistics to at least ascertain the possibility that there is something other than a fistful of retractable bone claws capturing cultural imagination. Are we living vicariously? Are these characters giving us the hope we need in a dark world? Are they allowing us to escape from the constraints of reality or merely
making us violent consumers? Spoiler: I haven’t seen The Avengers. I didn’t know there were two Iron Mans and I had no interest in the new Spider Man. I think I saw one of the Transformers movies; at least the name Shia LaBeouf rings a bell. And is Hulk really not the same thing as Green Lantern? I am not a knowledgeable source in the genre of comic-book superheroes but I love good stories and believe filmmakers have become the poets, prophets, and preachers of our age. Llast year Grant Morrison, a famous comic book writer, wrote a book on the history, psychology, and mythology of the superhero in his book, Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us about Being Human. He writes: “We live in the stories we tell ourselves. In a secular, scientiﬁc, rational culture lacking in any convincing spiritual leadership, superhero stories speak loudly and boldly to our greatest fears, deepest longings, and highest aspirations. They’re not afraid to be hopeful, not embarrassed to be optimistic, and utterly fearless in the dark. They’re about as far from social realism as you can get, but the best superhero stories deal directly with mythic elements of human experience that we can all relate to, in ways that are imaginative, profound, funny and provocative. They exist to solve problems of all kinds and can always be counted on to ﬁnd a way to save the day. At their best, they help us confront and resolve even the deepest existential crises.” I get a little bored with the stuff in the middle, but Morrison really has me with his analysis of stories. We live inside the stories we tell as much as the ones we have been told. Stories bring us face-to-face with
the deep existential crises and fears of our existence. A story well told is our best hope of unlocking and entering into the mystery of the world we live in, which is probably why Jesus relied on the parable to deliver his most profound, mysterious, and difficult teachings. Comic book writers, filmmakers, heck, even Ira Glass, are merely riding in Jesus’ storytelling wake. Here, however, is where I start to deviate from all the superhero hype - I don’t want to disagree that our superheroes can say a lot about us and the world we live in. Even Seth Godin, a particularly salient and
brilliant entrepreneur and blogger, recently wrote about superheroes as a lens into our personal world-views. But if we put the Batman versus Superman debate aside for a moment, even more than superheroes, I believe we are processing our existence much more deeply through a slightly more evil slant. The most consistent questions of any culture are: How do we mediate fear? and How do we process difference? While superheroes conquer fear and spearhead equality, monsters are the disorienting figures who are really dealing with these questions. Monsters represent our view of the other, the stranger, the feared; whatever (or whoever) we find ourselves unable to understand or interact with. Our monsters
(those creatures that, above all else, superheroes are bent on destroying) are not arbitrary or mindless. Michel Foucault, a French philosopher and social theorist, claimed that “there are monsters on the prowl whose form changes with the history of knowledge.” Monsters capture the pulse of history’s movement and a society’s reconciliation with difference. Think of dynamic duo of Jessie Pinkman and Walter White in Breaking Bad. Or the presence of vampires and zombies who far outweigh the likes of the superhero in popular books, films, and sitcoms. Or even consider the lovable monsters in Monsters, Inc. and Despicable Me. Villains and monsters are mediating our very human relationships with the other, whether that other is our spouse, our classmate, or our gay neighbor. We live our most personal, most psychological, and most theological questions through the creation of monsters. While Superman continues to wear the same red cape and Batman will always respond to the Bat Signal, monsters and villains are much more dynamic, complex, and interesting characters. Like Foucault says, our monsters change with culture, and therefore, will tell us a lot more about ourselves and our world than their nemeses. Christian tradition reminds us that Jesus consistently shows up in the face of the stranger (Matthew 25, the Good Samaritan, the list could go on. I think we are putting flesh on the stranger by how we dress up our monsters. Sufjan Stevens hauntingly reminds us in his song about John Wayne Gacy, Jr., that when we look beneath the floorboards, when we undress our monsters, when we come face-to-face with the other, we will discover that even in our best behavior, we are really just like them. We project our fears of difference and insecurities of stranger onto monsters only to discover ourselves captured inside them.
Morrison concludes that “We love our superheroes because they refuse to give up on us. We can analyze them out of existence, kill them, ban them, mock them, and still they return, patiently reminding us of who we are and what we wish we could be” but regardless of who we wish we could be, I think it’s time to start seeing ourselves in those villains and monsters that we are so quick destroy. Who knows, we may otherwise find ourselves contending with the very presence of Jesus himself.
WELCOME TO FULLER! (A FEW THINGS YOU SHOULD K N O W. . . ) K e v in G o n z a g a
As a recent grad of Fuller Theological Seminary I reflected upon my experiences here and there were a number of things I wish I had known before I started my studies. So I decided to pass on these suggestions and considerations to the incoming class of Fall 2012 in this welcome letter of sorts. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you take some of these things into serious consideration. So in no particular order, let’s get right down to business… Take every class you can with Dr. Dale Ryan, Dr. Jay Travis, and Dr. Tommy Givens. But why these three? Dr. Ryan, or as I call him in my head, “Rabbi Santa Claus” (you’ll get this when you meet him), has been in pastoral ministry longer
than most of you reading this have been alive. He probably has dealt with more reallife messy pastoral situations than any other professor on campus. Do yourself a favor and buy him coffee once a quarter and just shut up and listen to him talk for two hours. In fact, that would probably be worth more than any class at Fuller for those entering pastoral ministry. The bottom line is that you will do a lot less harm in ministry if you take Ryan’s classes. Dr. Travis is on the cutting edge of thought and practice when it comes to the insider movement of Islam. Engaging with him will challenge how you understand religion and what it means to follow Christ. You will also learn a lot about the activity of the Holy Spirit, the supernatural realm, and the demonic as Travis is the heir of the two
classes at Fuller that remain after the revival that happened on campus. As if this were not enough, he and his wife Anne are just amazing people that take time to personally invest in and minister to Fuller students. To put it in perspective if I had a child, and I died sudden accident, I would want my child to be raised by Jay and Anne or at least have them as a Holy-Spirit filled aunt and uncle. Dr. Givens is a young white male who was, if I am not mistaken, hired before he actually officially received his doctorate. In a highly competitive job market at a seminary rightly concerned with diversifying our staff across race and gender lines this had to be for a reason. The reason is that Givens presents a rather unique and compelling alternative understanding of the Gospel. Whatâ€™s more, Givens is able to present a rather coherent vision for the implications this understanding of the Gospel has for our individual and communal lives as we follow Jesus. He is also right. Even if you donâ€™t end up agreeing with him, you will most likely become more Anabaptists than you realize after taking his classes which is probably a very good thing. (And you will come to appreciate the poetry of Wendell Berry.) Live as cheaply as possible. None of us, unless you are a soul-less sell-out to the prosperity Gospel, will ever make any sort of significant salary. Many grads of Fuller end up working at Fuller, in low-paying positions at churches, in support based missions work or other glamorous gigs such as coffee shops and tutoring companies. The simple math is that you want to enter the low paying field of ministry with the least amount of debt possible to get to do what you really care about. You cannot change how much it costs to attend Fuller but you can cut corners in your budget. There are a number of short cuts that can aide in this, such as the Wednesday food distribution program. Swallow your pride, accept every handout you can, and live as poorly as possible. Even
if you are trusting God with your finances, and fully believe God will make a way for you now or in the future, just pretend that this time represents several years of practicing solidarity with the poor and strive to live a simple way of life. Take this time to deal with your issues. Some of you have the standard range of insecurities, troubles and issues common to humanity. Others of you are more like me and your calling to Christian leadership and seminary is as much a function of the Holy Spirit as it is of some emotional, psychological and/or spiritual wounds that are going to take years to sort out. You probably do not even know who you are yet. Take your time at Fuller to intentionally deal with whatever your issues are in counseling, in community, in prayer, and in whatever way is necessary. One of the absolute worst things you can do is receive a degree from Fuller that qualifies you as ready for ministry, only to accept a position of leadership where you promptly proceed to screw up the people involved in your church, psychological practice or missions field for years to come because of your issues. The Christian church needs leaders who have wrestled with their own humanity and brokenness, not leaders who have simply learned to mask it well. Do not be afraid, confused or embarrassed if your plans change after you arrive here. Some of you are in the wrong programs, some of you are in the wrong schools, and some of you are at the wrong seminary or should not be in seminary all together. This is okay. Roughly half the people I know at Fuller changed their degree programs, added an additional degree program, dropped to part-time classes as they figured things out or dis-enrolled. If you realize you need to make some changes, just make the changes you need to. It does not mean you are a bad person, or did not hear Godâ€™s call,
or are not a leader. It’s just apparently a lot of people’s process at seminary. Some classes will be amazing and others will be a waste of money. Such is life. Often you will not know the difference between the two or until after you have taken the class. One of the classes I feared would be the most impractical was incredibly helpful to me. It also varies from person to person, and some of my friends loved classes I hated and vice versa, so do not just take someone else’s advice. If you are truly adamant about not wanting to pay for classes you do not think are beneficial, just take classes piecemeal at Fuller and do not attempt to finish any sort of degree program here or audit ones you are suspicious of. If you are not seeking an ordination or a degree, and you just want the knowledge and training, this may actually be a better route for you. If you have come here to learn more about how your way of thinking about life and faith is right, you have come to the wrong seminary. I believe one Fuller’s greatest strengths is that we are an incredibly diverse seminary in terms of the denominations and theological streams represented here by our faculty, staff and student body. Because of this tension, everyone naturally has their beliefs challenged, often for the first time. If you think about life and faith the same after you are done at Fuller you have failed at your Fuller seminary experience. If you do not want to be challenged in what you think but become more rooted in what you already know to be the absolute truth regarding the Bible, God and faith, you need to go to another seminary. Make your assignments as applicable as possible. When assigning a paper or project many professors at Fuller will present you with a range of topics or choices to choose from.
Use this as an opportunity to make these assignments as applicable as possible to your future goals. Not only will you be more motivated to engage with your assignments but you will get to research and read a lot of material you probably would want to anyway. This is also a great way to turn a class you are frustrated with into something that feels like a much more worthwhile endeavor. Finally and perhaps most importantly, do not forget to love people. Fuller, as with any graduate program, will keep you incredibly busy. Make sure you take the time to invest in and lavish love on your friends, your family, your church or spiritual community and the wider community around Fuller. I would especially encourage people to be intentional about loving the poor and homeless that inevitably walk around our urban campus well. Nothing has broken my heart more than seeing a sea of seminary students numbly walking past the poor and downtrodden right in our midst as we are on our way to classes about how to better help the poor and downtrodden. Be intentional with getting to know their names and loving them, unless of course you think explaining to Jesus how you were too busy learning how to be a good Christian leader to actually obey Him will go over well and save you from being labeled a goat, albeit a welleducated one. (Matt 25)
Published on Sep 11, 2012