A Prayer for Writing

WritingBelow is a prayer for writing adapted from a prayer of Walter Wink found in his book Just Jesus (page 23 for those interested). I found Wink’s words a powerful reminder about our need to rely on the “muse” of the Holy Spirit when writing.

On this beautiful summer day, Lord, I bring my whole self, including my questions and confusions to you, and offer myself to be used by you in the process of writing. Deliver me from egocentric plots. Give me courage to rewrite with perfection. I do commit myself from you, O God, in life, in death. I commit myself to the truth, your truth. I will not be cowed by pain or use it as an excuse for resistance. I will not bend to laziness or ignorance. I will try to hold myself open to the depths. I ask for images and metaphors to flow as I write. I ask for help in revising this writing, to make it really readable. I ask for patience to do it right. May my writing and living honor your name and not my own. Amen.

Book Review: Introduction to the History of Christianity (Dowley)

Introduction to the History of Christianity, DowleyWriting history is something of a difficult task, in no small measure due to the incredible amount of information that historians must shift through and subsequently leave out when offering their account of the past. Even a rote retelling of a single day in the life of a human leaves out certain contexts and events which occurred; how much harder is summarizing hundreds or thousands of years filled with the lives of millions of human beings and condensing their stories into mere pages. And yet, this is the task to which historians devote themselves. And it is the historical project of the Christian Church to which Tim Dowley and his team of contributors turn to in the second edition of the Introduction to the History of Christianity (Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 2013). Continue reading

Church Search: Beginning the Second Phase

This post is part of our ongoing Church Search. For more information, please click here or visit the Church Search tab above.

PENTAX ImageFor the past year (with some interruptions), Hayley and I have been visiting different churches, some for only a week and others for more extended periods of time, as part of the “First Exposure” phase of our Church Search. These visits have been to a purposefully broad range of churches, both to denominations we thought we might seriously consider, as well as several visits which were primarily aimed toward experiencing other forms of Christianity and gaining an appreciated for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. As a result of this “First Exposure” phase, we have learned lots and gained some insights into where we should investigate further as part of our “Serious Considerations Phase.”

In this second phase, we intend to engage several churches/denominations more intensely as we seek to understand where we will best fit in the People of God. This investigation will involve two primary steps: First, extensive research on the churches we are considering. This means engaging additional written works theologians, pastors, and teachers within each respective denomination that we are considering, as well as seeking in-depth conversations with pastors and members of the local churches that we are visiting. A second step will be multiple visits to the churches/denominations we are considering. Here we intend to visit not only specific churches multiple times, but also to visit multiple churches within the denominations that we are considering. Where possible, we hope to visit at least three different churches in each denomination, at least one of which we will visit three or four times.

After much thought, prayer, and conversation, we have narrowed down the churches we are considering into three broad categories: Orthodox, Lutheran, and Episcopal/Anglican. We have come to recognize the internal diversity within each of these labels, and thus again emphasize that these are the broad denominational categories which we are considering. That said, the central theme that we have found to be important in our faith lives is the balance of ancient truth and tradition with contemporary applicability and service. That is, by-and-large these churches (or certain parts of these churches) seek to balance scripture, liturgy, tradition, worship, and living Christian love. It is for this reason that we have decided to focus our search on these three groups of churches.

Through our experiences with each of these churches already, we have already experienced that no church is a perfect church, primarily because we are there. Yet we are excited to learn and experience more fully how God and His people are learning, living, and loving in these churches. Though we have learned much already, we recognize that God is but beginning His work in our lives, and eagerly await this next phase in our journeys, including the part where we leave Winston-Salem (NC) and move to St. Louis (MO) in a few weeks time. We ask for your prayers and guidance as we continue this search, and look forward to sharing more with you in the months to come.

Comparing Historical Luthers: Education and Background

This post is part of our series on the Historical Luther. Today’s post, the beginning of our second week, examines Oberman, Hendrix, and Kolb’s respective positions concerning Luther’s education and background.

 

Woodcut of the medieval university

Woodcut of the medieval university

The educational and spiritual formation of Martin Luther has received a great deal of attention in recent years, and the studies of Oberman, Hendrix, and Kolb all give treatment to Luther’s education, family life, and upbringing. Though citing the dearth of information from Luther’s early years in Eisleben, Oberman takes a critical approach to his formative years under Hans and Margaret, viewing them as important in an understanding of Luther, though not in the overbearing manner of earlier scholarship.[1] One social factor that Oberman attributes to young Martin as the result of his parents was his sympathetic understanding of the common folk; though not peasants in the strict sense of the term,[2] Oberman argues that Luther learned much practicality and commonality from his parents.[3] Additionally, Oberman infers from Luther’s prayer to St. Anne that he had received at least some form of training and understanding of traditional medieval Catholic popular piety.[4] In considering Luther’s education at Mansfield, Oberman seeks to refute the once prevalent idea that he had been influenced by the Brethren of the Common Life of the Devotio Moderna movement.[5] Oberman also writes at some length concerning the role of witchcraft in young Martin’s life, though he ultimately concludes that while the Devil remained a very real figure for the mature Luther, the folk lore of the common German people had a negligible effect on his thought, writing that, “How curious that there should still be the gullible Hanna and her superstitions which are supposed to have had such a decisive influence on Luther.”[6] Continue reading

Reflections on an MA

“A man who has been many places is not likely to be deceived by the local errors of his native village: the scholar has lived in many times and is therefore in some degree immune from the great cataract of nonsense that pours from the press and the microphone of his own age.” –C.S. Lewis
WFU Graduation

WFU Graduation

Monday marked the official completion of my Master of Art’s degree from Wake Forest University. It has been a long and interesting two years here in Winston-Salem (NC), two years of learning and joy mixed with heartbreak, pain, and uncertainty. Hayley and I have developed many good friendships while here in the South, grown together in our marriage, and learned much about balancing life, work, and education. While challenging at times, my time in the Wake Forest Religion Department was highly informative, and my work in the WFU Classics Department learning Greek and Latin was a blast (despite the long hours and frequent lack of sleep). Engagement with the perspectives of my colleagues and professors has been a formative experience that (I hope) has improved me as a person and as a scholar. Hayley and I have enjoyed having the time and freedom to enjoy each other’s company, to take long walks together, and to share the ‘Church Search’ experience with each other. We’ve been very blessed in doing life together here in North Carolina.

That said, we’ve also had some experiences which were not nearly as pleasant: the pain of church leadership devoted to their own agenda’s, the physical and mental anguish of an unknown health problem, and the uncertainty of what future schooling might involve. Nearly two years ago when planning the move to Winston-Salem, we purposed to make these years a challenge of sorts, seeking to experience life (married life, specifically) ‘on our own.’ There have been times when we felt this choice was a mistake. Our newly-married naiveté played into the church situation, though the developments in our own lives as a result of our Church Search have provided something of a silver lining to that pain. Hayley’s ongoing healthcare battle continues to weigh upon us both, though through a dear friend God has provided a doctor who is both professional and proficient. And despite months of uncertainty regarding where we were headed after Wake Forest and what we would be doing, we did finally receive guidance to our next stop in St. Louis. Continue reading