This talk was followed by a panel of theological educators discussing “From Life to the Bible.” Chris Armstrong of Wheaton College, Darrell Bock of Dallas Theological Seminary, Gerry Breshears of Western Seminary, and Tom Nelson of Christ Community Church challenged theological educators to consider whether their prevailing hermeneutical and pedagogical approaches unintentionally contribute to a secular-sacred divide, a narrow understanding of the gospel, a “Weberian rationalization” of education, and a disconnect between theory and practice. The panel’s title comes from the observation that seminaries train pastors to think about the Bible as if people go “from the Bible to life” when they more often go “from life to the Bible”; pastors are trained to ask the biblical text questions that are essentially questions about the Bible (exegesis, systematic theology, etc.) when most people come to the text asking questions about their lives. Following a provocative discussion and questions from the floor, attendees discussed the ideas in small group breakouts.
The retreat ended on Saturday night with Greg Forster’s talk, “Can We Know the World and Still Love the World?” The title is taken (“hijacked,” as Forster put it) from the recent book “Visions of Vocation” by Steven Garber. Forster suggested that inadequate approaches to economics usually involve either a failure to “know the world” – to discern clearly the evil that is at work in the world – or a failure to “love the world” – to will the good of our civil communities regardless of whether they deserve it. Those who embrace shallow ideologies from the Right or Left are failing to know the world, while a failure to love the world has led many leading Christian intellectuals to reject modern economic systems wholesale. We must love the world, Forster argued, even in order to know it; failure to love the world leads to cynicism and ignorance.
Initial feedback on the retreat has been very positive. Our community continues to grow and develop. Thanks as always to those who invested the time to be there!