The word of God which addresses man about God has, then, an annihilating effect, for the sake of something new. Evangelical theology may not remain silent about the fact that it is destructive. But, and this is what evangelical theology must chiefly speak of, it is destructive only on the basis of the positive fact that God addresses us about himself in such a way that he promises himself to us. One should not understand it in such a way that God would permit what exists to be made nothing in order then to be able to begin all over again from the beginning, so to speak. The reverse is true: because God, in addressing us about himself in such a way that he promises himself to us, always creates something new, that which is old becomes nothing.
Eberhard Jungel, God as the Mystery of the World (175).
OK, I write this knowing full-well the risk of appearing to beat a dead horse, and knowing full-well the tensions and emotions that have been involved in this weeks discussion.
That said, I’m interested in getting a little clarity here. Over and over again countless people (who oppose some of the tactics used in association with this site/petition) have voiced concern that Tyndale is supposed to be a University and that Universities are places where different ideas are discussed and debated. Others have argued against those calling for the cancellation of this event in particular and accused them of all sorts of ridiculous things such as stifling “free-speech” and “academic integrity” and so on. Some commenters around facebook, on this site, and on Michael Coren’s hit television show have even gone so far as to accuse those who oppose the Breakfast With Bush as being some sort of “cultural-Marxist leftists”! Because, you know, refusing to embrace a particular unrepentant figure from the Right necessarily implies that you embrace the Left.
At any rate, what I find interesting is that in the midst of these sorts of accusations no one has paused to ask if this event was even geared towards “dialogue” in the first place. To those who chose to employ the language of “dialogue” and hurl accusations of being anti-free-speech or anti-academic or whatever I would ask just how exactly you judge this event to have been about open dialogue when:
1) NO ONE KNEW about the event until The Star somehow got ahold of information and published an article 1-week prior to the event. Students, past and present, had no idea this event was in the making or ABOUT TO OCCUR. I can only wonder how much the staff and faculty knew and for how long they knew it.
2) This was planned as a CLOSED EVENT. Only 150 invites were extended and those were primarily sent towards wealthy potential donors.
3) The primary goal of the event was to RAISE FUNDS. Not to have any sort of honest debate or dialogue but to make money by associating ourselves with President Bush.
There are other points I could raise here but these will suffice for now. It would seem to me, based on the actual evidence, that this event was never intended to be about “dialogue” and “hearing other view points” or whatever. If that was truly the intent then 1) the event would have been made known in advance by Tyndale themselves (and not The Star), 2) it would have been open and invitations would have been extended outside the company of a handful of wealthy business folks, and 3) the goal would have been dialogue and debate rather than to make millions.
Thus, I can only deduce from this evidence that “dialogue” was never in the cards and that the sort of language being employed by those who think this petition is immature and foolish (i.e. anti-free-speech, anti-academic freedom, marxist-leftists etc) is simply a way of hiding behind rhetoric and refusing to *actually* engage in any sort of meaningful dialogue, and no, calling someone “dick” is not meaningful dialogue, neither is hurling any other sort of name or suggesting that dissenters simply “shut-up” (here’s looking at you Coren).
So, what then was the purpose of this event if not “dialogue”? Dr. Nelson seemed to say it quite clearly in the original article found in The Star: “He added that he hoped the Bush talk would help elevate the school’s profile”…amongst 150 wealthy potential new donors, that is. In other words, it was a chance to make some dough.
To conclude, if I am right that this event was never really geared towards “dialogue” and “presenting all sides” or “being open to different opinions” then this is not actually a matter of free-speech or academic-integrity, but of integrity (or lack thereof), period.
Of course I’m open to correction on this so if some of you have evidence to the contrary and care to demonstrate how this event was meant to stimulate dialogue (and address the problems with that which I’ve raised above) then please, proceed.
So, as most of us are likely aware the fundraising breakfast which would have hosted President George W. Bush and profit Tyndale has allegedly been cancelled. I say allegedly not because I am skeptical as to whether or not this is true but because very little has been publicly said about this aside from a very short, very generic statement on Tyndale’s website about a breakfast being cancelled.
Now what? For those of us who are glad to hear of this alleged cancellation what should we do now? I propose the following suggestions:
1) Pray. Pray for Dr. Nelson. Pray for Tyndale UC&S (faculty, staff, students, donors etc). Pray for President Bush (Lord knows it ain’t easy being publicly rejected!).
2) Set aside childish ambition. Allow me to expand. Dr. Nelson is not an enemy. He seems to me to be a rather kind and gentle man. Further, if you find yourself submitted to Christ and his Body Dr. Nelson is a dear brother. Thus, my plea to those who are foolishly calling for Dr. Nelson’s resignation, stop. Further, let us set aside any ideology that may make enemies out of friends. The goal with this protest was not to divide but to express concern and ask Tyndale to reconsider. Now that they seem to have done so let us proceed with much grace and wisdom.
3) Maintain relation with Tyndale. As those affiliated with Tyndale we all have a say. Do you have concerns? Voice them, but do so in the context of relation. Let us not turn our backs on one another and fool ourselves into thinking we are much better. This is prideful arrogance and ought to be avoided. Pursue peace.
4) Wait. Give Tyndale a day or two for crying out loud. Given that this is in the papers I’m sure there is some sort of public statement coming. Dr. Nelson is at the funeral of a close friend. Let’s assume a position of humility here and see what happens. Yes we want public and specific confirmation that Tyndale has not only removed their name from the event but that they will in fact refuse to profit from this event even at a possible future date. Let’s wait and see if this happens.
I urge my brothers and sisters here to clothe yourselves with Christ, and to be overflowing with mercy.
Grace and peace.
According to this article in yesterday’s Toronto Star, President George W. Bush will be giving a talk at an upcoming Tyndale University College & Seminary event where he shall “address the subject of Christian higher education.”
I would encourage fellow Tyndale students (past, present and future) who are concerned about President George W. Bush’s appearance at this event to also write Dr. Nelson (President of Tyndale UC&S) to respectfully give voice to your concern. You can email him here: email@example.com
Dear Dr. Nelson,
What is it that makes the Bible worth listening to? Why does it have such authority even though its writers claim no such authority themselves? The answer is revelation. The prophets and apostles which penned the Scriptures are witnesses who claim no authority. They did not “appoint themselves publishers of revelation,” to borrow from Swiss theologian Karl Barth. They, like John the Baptist, point away from themselves towards an event. What makes the words of the prophets and apostles revelation is this event, namely, the occurrence of God’s revelation which exists apart from them. This event has happened *to* them and causes them to be. What is this event which has happened?
“God was with us, with us His enemies, with us who were visited and smitten by His wrath. God was with us in all the reality and fullness with which He does what He does. He was with us as one of us. His Word became flesh of our flesh, blood of our blood. His glory was seen here in the depths of our situation, and the full depths of our situation were disclosed for the first time when illumined then and there by the Lord’s glory, when in His Word He came down to the lowest parts of the earth (Eph. 4:9), in order that there and in that way He might rob death of its power and bring life and immortality to light (2 Tim. 1:10). This happened, and this is what the Old Testament as a word of prophecy and the New Testament as a word of fulfilment both proclaim as having happened, as having happened conclusively, totally, and sufficiently.” (Barth, Church Dogmatics Ch. 1 S4p.115).
Barth continues on to say about these biblical witnesses and the authority which they enjoy:
“This is why, although they seek no authority, even with their fallible human word they can continually claim and enjoy the most unheard of authority. This came upon them, and through them it constantly seeks to come afresh upon the Church and to be cried aloud as absolutely the most urgent thing that any age and any man in any age and any man in any respect can and must hear: This “God with us” has happened. It has happened in human history and as a part of human history. Yet it has not happened as other parts of this history usually happen. It does not need to be continued or completed. It does not point beyond itself or merely strive after a distant goal. It is incapable of any exegesis or of even the slightest addition or subtraction. Its form cannot be changed. It has happened as self-moved being in the stream of becoming. It has happened as completed event, fulfilled time, in the sea of the incomplete and changeable and self-changing.” (116).
I’ve been thinking a bit lately about what it means to be a disciple. I think it was Dallas Willard who said a better word for us today is apprentice. What does it mean to be an apprentice of Jesus?
We generally think in terms of Christian/not-Christian. The aim of many within Christianity is to see not-Christians become Christians, after all, let us not forget the Great Commission where Jesus commands his closest disciples, “Therefore, go and make Christians of all nations…”, or something like that. To make this move to “Christian” generally means acknowledging particular beliefs (primarily about Jesus) and accepting them as true.
Of course no where in the Holy Bible does the term “Christian” even appear. In fact, as has been noted the term was first used derrogatively towards believers. We often act as if to fulfill the great commission is to get folks across the not-Christian/Christian threshold. Once there, we celebrate! Much has been written to rightly call this into question.
So. Apprentice. What might it mean to be an apprentice of Jesus? Well, the first thing that comes to mind for me is that it is a path one begins down as opposed to a threshold one crosses. It is difficult to pin down just when one is an apprentice. “Apprentice” describes a trajectory, not a final destination. The goal with an apprenticeship is not the apprenticeship itself but what lies ahead. Similarly, the goal with being an apprentice of Christ Jesus is not the apprenticeship itself but the goal towards which the apprentice is headed, namely, union with God in Christ (and in the community which surrounds him). For the believer, to be an apprentice is a lifelong commitment.
Second, to be an apprentice is to submit to the master. It is, first and foremost, to admit that I know not what I am doing nor how to do it. All I have is a strange desire to learn but in order to do so requires me to admit my incompetence and to submit to the way of the master (ht Ray Comfort!). So then, to be an apprentice of Jesus is to hear the call that the disciples heard, namely, to leave everything and follow Jesus. This is the call that goes out to everyone that might follow him.
To be an apprentice of Jesus is to let go of all ones plans, desires and hopes. Not because these things are bad but because we can never presume in advance what the way of the master may be. Perhaps our plans, desires and hopes do not line up with the plans, desires and hopes of the master. Are we, in this case, willing to humbly submit to the point of letting go of our plans, desires and hopes? Are we willing to say “yes” to the way of Christ Jesus even if it means saying “no” to our own way. Think about that. And don’t answer quickly. Really, are we willing to embrace this position of humble submission and obedience? Because, unless we are willing to accept this position we can never be an apprentice. The minute we grab on to the steering wheel and assume that we know how the grace of God may appear to us (and begin to plan accordingly) then we proclaim of ourselves, “I am no apprentice! I am a master!” (This can often be a very advantageous position for a Christian – though not an apprentice – to assume).
Proverbs 14:12 comes to mind here: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” Our ways usually seem right to us, don’t they? So, we plan accordingly. We make all sorts of plans and have all sorts of hopes for our future based on what we desire. Yet if we forget that we are the apprentice and not the master these ways can lead to death. Why? Why can our ways lead to death even though they seem right? Not because our ways are “bad” in and of themselves, but because saying “yes” to our seemingly right and good ways can mean saying “no” to God’s way. And to say “no” to God’s way is to refuse relationship and instead choose to go off on our own apart from Him. This is death.
The Psalter begins with a contrast between the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked. I am convinced that many Christians today are just that, Christians (one’s who have crossed the threshold). Forgetting all the while that we are called to be apprentices (one’s who lay down their plans, desires, and hopes and pursue Jesus in humble submission). And we are rather comfortable with this. One can be a Christian while refusing to journey on down the path after Jesus (“Thanks Jesus, it was pleasant travelling with you this far but we’ll get off and set up camp here”). But one cannot be an apprentice and refuse to do so. To be an apprentice is to continue on down the path after Jesus. Note, to be an apprentice is not to be perfect, but to simply keep going. One may stumble and trip the whole way along but so long as we are headed after Jesus we are an apprentice. Perfection is not the goal, perseverance is (and in all of our stumbling God takes our human fallibility and uses it…grace).
Contrast this with being a Christian. To cross the threshold requires no perseverance, but once there it does require perfection. One could, I imagine, accept Jesus and cross the threshold into “Christian” and from that point on say “no” to the way of God because we’re too busy saying “yes” to our own ways (we’ve forgot our position as apprentice). One could, I imagine, arrive at the end of their life and look back on all of the nice things they’ve accomplished: a nice family, a nice home, a respectable job and reputation. Add to this “believing in Jesus” and you have yourself a fairly nice life. The only catch (of course there’s a catch) is that one could accomplish all of this while the whole time saying “no” to the way of God. I suppose what I’m trying to say is this. You can be a nice, morally upstanding Christian with a comfortable and respectable life while saying “no” to God and “yes” to yourself. In essence, it is possible to acknowledge Jesus and pursue all of your goals and dreams but actually remove yourself from relation with God by forgetting your role as apprentice. So, may we hold all of our desires, plans and hopes lightly and be always willing to lay them down and give them up at any moment for the sake of Christ Jesus our Lord. For this is life. To chose any other way is death.
What the world needs, I think, are a few less Christians and a few more apprentices.