Month: July 2009

Thinking out loud

According to a recent poll, Americans (at least, those polled) are becoming disillusioned with the hopes and dreams promised to them by Obama when he ran for office.  Or, to put it more bluntly: Americans (i.e. those polled) are becoming more and more impatient in waiting for the fruits of the (overly) touted ‘change’ which so dominated Obama’s campaign.  The obvious question would be: what is causing this disillusionment?  While I have my own perspective to this question, three options should be noted first with regard to this issue of ‘change’:

  1. The promised change was nothing more than a politcal claim made for the sake of winning voters.  If we honestly think that politicians do not say things in order to win an election, then we are sadly foolish. (The first half of this statement is not meant to be all-inclusive; it simply notes a general tendency which has become a part of the political landscape).  If this is the case, then the fault really goes both ways–i.e. the POTUS who duped everyone and the voters who actually believed the rhetoric of change.
  2. The promised change is not what people expected.  This should be considered a likely possibility, especially since the definition of ‘change’ was both ambiguous and self-fulfilling (i.e. the definition kept changing) throughout the campaign.  Such things generally lead people to create ideas of their own, which often times end up not being in line with what actually occurs.
  3. The promised change simply has not arrived yet.  It is nearly axiomatic that the effects of decisions/plans made during one administration are not often felt until the next.  Thus, the full effect of the change is still in process.

However, I wonder if the cause for the disillusionment also stands behind these three options?  The cause I have in mind is the (modern) ever-growing propensity for impatience.  Or, to come at this from another direction: the cultural fascination with ‘entitlement’ and immediate self-gratification has instilled–knowingly or not–a general attitude of impatience.  (Sadly, in some recent advertisements, this attitude of impatience is being highly praised, glorified, and depicted as normative and even virtuous).  Thus, when things do not happen when we want them to happen and not in way we want them, we throw up our arms in disgust and with feelings of betrayal–both of which typically have no justification.  And when such things happen, it is no small wonder that real progress (or, dare I say ‘change’?) becomes stymied and things of lasting value remain elusive.

Best case scenario would be the third option.  While I do not agree politically with Obama on a few issues, I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt with what he plans to do.  More times than not, strategies and decisions made by individuals in ‘power’ tend to be either confusing or misunderstood by those not in ‘power’.  The cause for both the confusion and misunderstanding is the same: there is a much bigger picture to be considered, and those without a national vantage point are simply unable to see the details of that bigger picture.  Or, to change the metaphor a little: those in valley do not have the perspective of the one on a hill.  The decisions, guidance, and direction given by the one on the hill might appear to be meaningless, irrational, and even dangerous for the one in the valley; but again, the interpretation of the one in the valley is based on a limited perspective.  Patience must be exercised in the face of the seemingly meaningless, irrational, and dangerous.  Impatience makes matters worse.

Teaching opportunity

I was holding off on announcing this until I knew it would be definite.  Now that it is, here you go.

Recently, I enquired about teaching a module for the West of England Ministerial Training Course (WEMTC), which has strong connections with the University of Gloucestershire (i.e. where I’m doing my PhD).  The module deals with Pauline theology and Christian ethics, and it is broken down into two parts–one dealing with Pauline theology and the other dealing with (surprise, surprise) Christian ethics. 

Even more recently, I happily learned that my request to teach this module was granted; although, I will only be covering the first part of the course–the Christian ethics portion already has someone (far) more capable to cover that topic.  So, beginning in September, I will be teaching Pauline theology to a small group of individuals for two hours a night, one night a week, for five weeks.  While I admit my trepidation with trying to cover such a massive topic is an extremely condensed period of time, I am absolutely looking forward to it.  I’ll update the opportunity as it unfolds. 

In the meantime, here is the outline that I will be using for the course (each main point represents one week and the material to be covered):

A)  Paul and His World
1. Early Life
2. Changed Life
3. Missionary Life
4. Literary Life
B) Paul and His Interpreters
1. Pauline Literature–Critical Views
2. Rhetorical Criticism
3. ‘New Perspective’ on Paul

A) Cause for Writing
B) Developing Eschatology (?)
1. Proposed Differences
2. Proposed Solutions
C) Second Coming and Resurrection
1. Analysis of 1 Thess 4.13–5.2
2. Ethical Function

A) Cause for Writing
B) Textual Concerns
1. Number of Letters
2. Interpolations (?)
C) Love and Expression
1. Unity in Diversity
2. Gifts, Love, and Meaning

A) Cause for Writing
B) Theological Troubles
1. Competing Gospels
2. Impact of the Competition
C) Paul’s Response
1. Covenant Promised
2. Covenant Fulfilled

A) Cause for Writing
B) Israel and ‘Election’
1. Jewish/Pharisaic Views
2. Pauline Views
C) ‘Election’ and Grace
1. Grace and the Jews
2. Grace and the Gentiles
D) Paul’s View of ‘Works’
1. Three Types

If any of you are familiar with this territory, you will understand (or empathize with) my trepidation; if any of you are not, this sort of outline–to be covered in 10 hours!–creates just cause for such feelings.  However, again, I am truly looking forward to this opportunity and how I can be taught by it.  I am always in need of learning and growing.