Analytic Theology in Pastoral Ministry

Last week a group of pastors from across denominations gathered at Fuller Seminary to explore the prospects of analytic theology for pastoral ministry. For many of the pastors there, this was their first exposure to analytic theology; so there was a lot of discussion on what exactly analytic theology is. The colloquium on analytic theology and prayer witnessed serveral presentations from Fuller’s AT team, including Oliver Crisp, Jordan Wessling, and James Arcadi. However my favorite presentation was not by anyone on the

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Bryan Fergus serves as a pastor at Calvary Community Church and as adjunct faculty at Phoenix Seminary.

AT team, it was by a pastor from Arizona: Bryan Fergus from Calvary Community Church. Bryan presented on the topic of Analytic theology in pastoral ministry. Here are my notes from his talk.

  • Why a D.Min?
    • Conviction that we need more middle men – pastor/theologians who can reach down from the academy from the churches and to reach up from the church to the academy w/issues that really face the church.
  • How can AT enhance my pastoral ministry?
  • Thinking this way theologically is good for us who are in the everday business of pastoral ministry.
    • Characterized by rigorous thinking – this is a good thing!
  • What are the benefits of AT for our role as pastors?
    • The precise, rational thinking encouraged by AT facilitates the responsive presentation of truth
      • Isn’t this an obvious given? Couldn’t we engage in any number of intellectual pursuits that hone these skills?
      • AT is uniquely equipped to help us with this part
      • Facilitates the ability to think more critically
        • Helps us grow in responding to “yeah… but what about this?” when we are preaching
        • Learn to anticipate the objections
      • Teach from the pulpit in a more logical and responsive way
    • AT presents a rational path to the faith that many need in our age of skepticism
      • AT is well equipped to walk the middle path between rationalistic faith and experiential faith
    • AT is uniquely equipped to address the “gaps” in our theological understanding.
      • Even those who affirm the authority of scripture, still have to deal with some “gaps” i.e. hell, why would a good, omnipotent, omniscient God create a world with a possibility of hell. We know THAT but we don’t know WHY or HOW of many things in Scripture work.
      • AT is friendly for the exploration of these gaps
      • Why not explore the how/why? Why not invest the same kind of energy we would with friends & family to really get to know God?
      • The endeavor of of exploring these gaps is an act of worship
    • Prayer – Petitionary Prayer and “Gaps”
      • Scripture calls us to pray…
        • Jesus tells his followers to ask their Heavenly Father for things that are important to them.
        • Jesus teaches his disciples a model prayer that includes petitions.
        • Jesus himself prays a prayer of petition.
      • Why or What difference does PP make?
        • God is omniscient… how do our petitions change anything if God already knows it happens?
        • God is perfectly good… why won’t he do the best thing anyway?
        • God is immutable…. How do our prayers make any difference to what God does?

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The Meaning of Love – A Conference Review

For the past five years Biola’s Center for Christian thought has been holding conferences which have addressed various big questions, such as: “What is Christian scholarship and how should it influence culture?” “How can psychology shed light on the process of spiritual formation” “What are the chief intellectual virtues that promote civil discourse within societies?” “What is the relationship between neuroscience and the soul?” This year CCT’s annual conference revolved around the question: “What is the meaning of love?”

Gathered at Biola’s beautiful campus on an unusually rainy Southern California weekend a wide variety of theologians, philosophers, pastors, psychologists, and social scientists gathered to see if they could make some progress on a constellation of questions related to the meaning of love. The conference, which was held on May 6th-7th, consisted of eight plenary sessions and twenty four breakout sessions. The contributors came from all over the map. There were presenters from Southern California institutions, including Biola, Fuller Seminary, Pepperdine, and Loyola Marymount among others. Presenters also came from institutions from all over the US, including the University of Kentucky, Texas A&M, Baylor, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Princeton Seminary. The fact that so many of the presenters came from different disciplines and different parts of the country made for quite an interesting experience. This diversity really embodied the CCT’s goal of creating an environment in which Christian scholars from a variety of disciplines can work collaboratively on some of the most important issues of our day.

 

The Conference – A Summary

The conference was kicked off by philosopher-theologian Thomas Jay Oord. His lecture was quite fitting for an opening lecture of a conference on the meaning of love, as his was the only plenary session which explicitly attempted to give a definition of love. During his lecture Oord defined love by saying, “To Love is to act intentionally, in sympathetic/empathetic response to others (including God), to promote overall well being.” He proceeded to unpack the various elements of this definition. The work Oord did in providing a definition of love proved to be quite fruitful as his definition often ended up being a point of discussion in various other plenary and breakout sessions.

Thomas Oord’s lecture was followed by Frances Howard-Snyder’s lecture which was titled “An Ethics of Love and Future Generations.” Here she focused on the second great commandment, “Love Your neighbor as yourself.” She wondered whether this commandment can help us think through the non-identity problem in ethics. Briefly the non-identity problem focuses on the obligations we think we have in respect of people who, by our own acts, are caused both to exist and to have existences that are in some sense unavoidably flawed. Her talk revolved around a thought experiment in which a mother is faced with two choices of 1) conceive a child now, knowing the child will be handicapped or 2) wait to have a child, and know the child will develop without any disabilities. She concluded that an ethic based on the second commandment would allow the mother to follow through with case one. Her conclusions received some intense pushback during the question and answer time, especially from Nicholas Wolterstorff. However, this sort of pushback and discussion embodied CCT’s spirit of civility in the midst of disagreement.

The first two sessions approached the topic from a somewhat philosophical perspective, but the third and fourth sessions approached the issue from the social sciences. Lynn G. Underwood, presented a social science approach to understanding the concept of love. Her lecture focused on research done at a Trappist monastery and the Daily Spiritual Experience Scale, in which four out of the sixteen questions focus explicitly on divine love. Out of her research at the monastery she discovered various practices for strengthening love. Her research on the Daily Spiritual Experience Scale pointed to the fact that those who had higher scores on this scale tended to experience lower burnout rates and tended to report a greater loving attitude towards others. Her findings had some very practical implications for ministers in the audience. Not only did she address some ways to grow in love, but also she addressed some important issues of pastoral burnout.

Bennet Helm’s lecture focused on what he calls “Communities of Respect.” These communities hold each other accountable to certain binding communal norms. His research focused on whether or not this concept of “Communities of Respect” can provide a foundation for an objective morality based on an ethics of care. He provided an argument for how this may be so by turning to Kant who claimed that “concepts without intuitions are empty; intuitions without concepts are blind.” Thus, in Helm’s reading of Kant, the upshot is that objectivity requires grounding of moral theory in experience. Helm’s conclusion seemed to be that the community’s understanding of what ethics of care looks like will be grounded in that community’s conceptual schemes. After the lecture, some concerns were raised as to whether Helm had read Kant correctly and whether this account can actually provide a robust account of objectivity that Helm seemed to be after.

The final plenary session of the first day happened immediately after a dinner reception in which the attendees were served a delicious full course meal. Here Nicholas Woltersorff built upon earlier research on the relationship between love as beneficence and justice by turning to the relationship between love as attraction and justice. Love as attraction and justice are two modes of acknowledging embedded goodness. Thomas Aquinas defines beautiful things as those which please when they are seen or heard. Thus, For Aquinas beauty is a recognition of the embedded goodness of a thing. Thus, Wolterstorff made the connections and argued that in a way, attraction and justice are intimately related to recognizing the beauty of a thing.

Nicholas Wolterstorff giving the final plenary of day one at the conference.

Saturday morning’s first session was kicked off by Princeton theologian George Hunsinger. With what might have been the most creative plenary session, Hunsinger compared the work of J.R.R. Tolkien with that of Karl Barth. One would be hard pressed to find other scholarly work making this sort of comparison. The lecture began with an explanation of Barth’s account of agape. Barth’s definition of God’s agape includes four elements: 1) a concern for fellowship, 2) a disregard for aptitude or worthiness in the object  of love, 3) it is an end in itself, and 4) it is necessary. He then turned to the mystery of evil in Barth and Tolkien. He pointed out the affinities between Barth’s account of evil as das Nichtige (Nothingness) and Tolkien’s description of the Witch King of Angmar – the Lord of the Nazgul in The Lord of the Rings. Both the Witch King of Angmar and das Nichtige are conflicted and absurd, actual and empty, a symbol of an impossible possibility. The defeat of both of these elements cannot be divorced from longsuffering, which is a crucial aspect of agape.

The final two plenary sessions were delivered by Stephen Post and Alan Tjeltveit. Post argued that a recognition of the image of God in every human being can provide the basis for the practice of agape love toward those whom he called “the deeply forgetful” i.e. those with dementia, Alzheimer’s, etc. Post drew upon his experiences to give real life examples of what it would look like to show love towards this particular group of people. Tjeltveiet showed how a two-way interaction between psychological research and theological insights can shed light on issues which impede love and provide practices which can help provoke love towards others. These practices include being careful how we use the word love, training our emotions, choosing our social contexts wisely, developing empathy, choosing to perceive the worth and goodness of others through God’s eyes, and finally, but perhaps most importantly, allowing God’s grace to develop the virtue of love within us.

In addition to these plenary lectures there were a number of breakout sessions. These breakout sessions covered a wide variety of topics including: medieval theology of love, non-violence and love, definitions of love, love and technology, biblical accounts of love, and philosophical perspectives on love. Most of these breakout sessions were marked by quality presentations of original research and lively discussion after each paper.

 

Some Thoughts About the Conference…

This was my first time at a Center for Christian Thought conference, but suffice it to say that I walked away from it very impressed. First, the environment was excellent, and I’m not just talking about the venues for the main sessions and the breakout sessions, though they were superb. I’m talking about the tone and feel of the conference. The environment was collegial. There was a real sense that everyone present was there to support one another’s work and research. Though at times some of the responses were critical, they were always critical for the purpose of building up. The environment was productive. Some of the presenters that I talked to really felt as though they received really good constructive feedback during the sessions which will help them improve their work. Also, some new lines of research were opened up for some of the participants. One could hear chatter during the breaks about future lines of research on the subject of love. Finally, the environment was fun. That isn’t usually what you expect from an academic conference, but it was fun nevertheless. There was a sort of lightheartedness that pervaded most of conference. Whether it was Thomas Oord or Nicholas Wolterstorff’s jokes, discussions at lunch over gourmet sandwiches and salads, or the root beer float reception at the end, the conference was quite enjoyable.

But more than being a great environment for the conference, another feature of the weekend that stood out to me was the strength of most of the presentations. Naturally there were a few that were not as impressive (including a couple of the plenary sessions), but most of them did what good research does, i.e. they presented original ideas and/or further lines for future research. A few that stood out to me as being especially strong where Thomas Jay Oord, Nicholas Wolterstorff, and Alan Tjeltveit’s lectures. In my opinion each of these lecturers embodied what the CCT is all about. They were doing serious Christian scholarship which will have further implications for not only the church but for society in general.

Overall, I came to the end of this conference with the opinion that more of these kinds of conferences need to happen. We need more rigorous Christian scholarship that has an eye towards serving the world and the church. We need more opportunities for scholars who take their faith seriously to interact with others who share the same goal if doing scholarship for the sake of the world. We need more venues for this sort of scholarship to happen and to flourish. Although it was my first time at this conference, I see that Biola has a good thing going with the Center for Christian Thought. I look forward to seeing what they have in store for the community of Christian scholars next year.

Revival – Some Lessons from “Pentecostal Outpourings: Revival and the Reformed Tradition”

A few days ago I finished a book that was sent to me by Reformation Heritage Press titled Pentecostal Outpourings: Revival and the Reformed Tradition. I reviewed it yesterday (you can read the review here), but I wanted to share some thoughts – some lessons – I gleaned from the book about revival.

  1. Remembering Revival is Important: Many of the stories about revival told in this book start with churches looking back at earlier times of revival and longing for the Lord to pour out his Spirit once again. Also, another feature of revival, (it seems) is that people really kept track of what the Lord was doing. That way they could look back and remember the Lord’s work.
  2. Revival Cuts Across Denominations and Traditions: One of the most encouraging thing that I saw throughout this book was how different churches and denominations were willing to set aside their differences and agendas in order to advance God’s kingdom. Whether it’s the Dutch Reformed working together with Presbyterians in New York or Scottish Presbyterians like Erskine working together with the Congregationalist Edwards and Baptists like Ryland and Fuller drawing inspiration from them, or even Irish Presbyterians and Baptists. So many groups were willing to work together for the sake of God’s glory. Hear the words of Andrew Fuller: “O, brethren, let us pray much for an outpouring of God’s Spirit upon our ministers and churches, and not upon only those of our own connection and denomination, but upon ‘al that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.” But revival doesn’t just bring unity…
  3. Revivals Draw Extreme Opposition: New lights vs. Old Lights, Coetus vs. Coferentie are just two examples of how revivals brought about and further entrenched division. Revial often draws opposition not only from those outside of the church, but also from those we tend to think are closest to us.
  4. Jonathan Edwards Might Be the Most Important Person in Early Modern Revivals: That is probably not something he would like to hear but its true, but you can’t talk about revival without talking about Jonathan Edwards and his writings. His work not only influenced his own Congregationalist churches, but it affected the Dutch Reformed churches of new York, Baptist churches in England, Presbyterian churches in Scotland, and of course Presbyterian churches here in the US. One chapter even goes as far as to argue that Edwards was really a Presbyterian and that the American Presbyterian denominations cannot be understood apart from him.
  5. Only God Saves but we are Still Called to do Work: Only God can do the work of bringing people to saving faith, yet among the revival stories in this book there is a deep sense of the church’s responsibility to prayer and more importantly to preach. This might seem quite obvious, but as we see in Andrew Fuller’s reforming work, this was not always a given.

Those are just a few lessons. I’m sure there is much more to be said. But if you want to read about and be encouraged about revival for yourself I recommend you pick up Pentecostal Outpourings.

Pentecostal Outpourings: Revival and the Reformed Tradition

Pentecostal Outpourings! That definitely doesn’t sound like the title of a book which has a major emphasis on the puritans in the reformed tradition. Nevertheless, it’s a term that’s quite appropriate for describing a number of revivals in the Reformed Tradition during the 18th and 19th centuries. After all, what exactly happened at Pentecost? Well what happened was that God the Father poured out his Holy Spirit onto the church. That’s not something that only Pentecostals, charismatics, or continuationists believe. And its not something that’s exclusive for people of those theological persuasions to seek out. Whether it’s the reformed churches of the “old world”, i.e. Welsh Calvinistic Methodistpentecostal__69435-1446558671-1280-1280s, Irish Baptists, Calvinistic English Baptists, Scottish Presbyterians or the reformed churches of the “new world”, i.e. Baptists, Presbyterians or Dutch Reformed – there is a long history of seeking out revival and more importantly seeking out a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon His people.  This book – Pentecostal Outpourings: Revival and the Reformed Tradition – traces the history of precisely those things….

The book, edited by Robert Smart, Michael Haykin, and Ian Clary is divided into two parts: 1)Revival in the British Isles and 2)Revival in America. The first part covers revivals among Welsh Calvinists, Irish Dissenters, Calvinistic Baptists, and Scottish Presbyterians. Most people familiar with this sort of literature will be familiar with revival among the latter two groups, but as evidenced in these chapters there is much to be learned about revival in the first two groups. Also, and sadly, the former groups haven’t really carried that revival tradition into modern day ministry. The second part covers revival in America. Much of this consists of recounting what happened during the 1st great awakening among various groups including: Presbyterians, Baptists, Congregationalists, and the Dutch Reformed. Again, many will be familiar with the happenings of revival among the first three groups, but revival among the Dutch Reformed will be new territory for many readers.

 

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A picture of Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen – one of the Dutch Reformed Pastors who played a major role in the 1st Great Awakening.

Out of these chapters, (as I hinted at in my twitter feed – @Cwoznicki ) the chapter on revival among the Dutch Reformed was my favorite. Apart from the readability and depth of research of this chapter, I stepped away from it very encouraged and hopeful. The Dutch Reformed revival shows us that there isn’t a split between sound doctrine and revival, that revival can flourish in established churches, and that revival can open up fellowship among peoples of different theological traditions as well as ethnic backgrounds. The Dutch reformed churches not only received African-Americans into their membership, but they even permitted Native Americans to preach from their pulpits. That was truly surprising to me! But above all, what I drew from this chapter was a better picture of the Dutch Reformed ethos. Reading the words of these pastors, I felt as though they were speaking my heart. Let me list a few things that they stressed (231-233):

1)Orthodox Biblical Doctrine + Vital Piety

2)Experience that overflows from the heart in practical obedience.

3)Word and Spirit

4)An emphasis on Evangelism and Discipleship

5)Holiness in the ministry

Reading about our forefathers in the faith has encouraged me to pray for and seek revival along these lines. Revival, contrary to common opinion, is in fact possible among the Reformed churches. In fact, “Reformed ministers have exercised a central role in the major revivals since the Reformation.” (254) I hope that this book will encourage those like me who find themselves within the tradition to lead the efforts in seeking and promoting revival throughout the entire world, not just in our own churches but in all the churches who call upon Jesus Christ as the only Lord and Savior.

Sacrifice and Atonement

The atonement is the subject of intense interest among not only theologians, but Christians in general. This may be due to the fact that for most of Christianity atonement stands at the center. In some stands of Christianity, atonement itself is the9781506401966 gospel. However some people want to argue that the atonement is not only not the gospel, but atonement itself is not good news at all. Atonement theories, according to this group of people, perpetuate fear and anxiety which dominate ancient outdated religion. This is the position that Stephen Finlan takes in his new book Sacrifice and Atonement: Psychological Motives and Biblical Patterns.  In it he argues that in Christianity we find a mix of this ancient fear/anxiety legacy of religion along with real revelation from God. But this is not a new claim, others have argued similarly. The new contribution that he makes to discussions about atonement is that Finlan purports to show how atonement doctrines correspond closely with strategies for handling emotional trauma and managing family dynamics. Finlan says:

The idea of God as a punishing presence reflects dynamics learned in childhood. We tend to think about God in the ways we learned to think about our parents. A major thesis of this book is that atonement theology is largely based on childhood strategies for satisfying moody and explosive parents by “paying for” infractions (or have someone else pay for them). (xvi)

Finlan believes that this model accurately represents the source of our atonement theories, and that the problem is that this allows a mixture of anxiety, while embodying some form of love, but love that is conditional. This in turn presents a picture of a God who is both violent and loving. This is a picture of a dysfunctional home. What we need is a theory of atonement that reflects the psychology of a healthy family.

Finlan begins to uncover the psychological dynamics of atonement with two chapters on atonement in Scripture. These chapters unpack the concept of atonement in terms of purification and compensation towards God. He sees both of these biblical concepts as embodying false notions about how to relate to God. The Old Testament, emphasizes disgust and seeks purity through exclusion. The New Testament, specifically the teachings of Jesus, essentially do away with purity laws in favor of inclusion. The Old Testament view of atonement is based on propitiation or appeasement, Jesus however teaches that love characterizes our relationship with God, it is available for free.

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Stephen Finlan is an adjunct professor of theology at Providence College, Rhode Island. He has previously taught at Fordham, Drew, and Durham universities, and has served as a pastor.

In chapter 3 Finlan begins to explain what lies behind the false understandings of atonement that we explored in the first two chapters. He says that the source of these false, misguided, and ultimately harmful theories of atonement are “the product of uncertainty about parental love.” (60) Finlan goes on to explore Paul’s theology of atonement and concludes that Paul experienced ambivalent attachment as a child, and that it persisted into adulthood. He also explores the author of Hebrews theology of atonement, and concludes that his views of God probably reveal an avoidant attachment pattern as a child.  He even goes on to say that “it seems likely that Hebrews had a strict religious upbringing with hypercritical parents, contributing to a nervous perfectionism.” (142)

So what is the solution to this mixed theology of atonement, in which we see hints of God’s free love and harmful human view for the need for atonement? The solution is to abandon atonement concepts, for atonement, despite the best intentions of thoughtful theologians  will always carry problems. According to Finlan “salvation needs to be detached from the crucifixion.” (189)

Finlan concludes by saying,

We need to be saved from cruel doctrine. God saves us in spite of the crucifixion, not because of it.

Some Thoughts About the Book….

As you can probably guess, I am not on board whatsoever with the view that Finlan presents in this book. I have a lot to say in terms of critique, but first let me say what I appreciate about his work.

First, I appreciate his willingness not to cover or sugarcoat what the Bible actually says. Where as some people want to cover or hide the fact that propitiation is a concept within Scripture, Finlan gladly admits that it is there. While some want to deny that substitution, or even penal substitution, doesn’t exist in New Testament theology, Finlan says that it certainly is there and that the seeds of penal substitution can even be found.

Second I appreciate Finlan’s pastoral heart which rightly exposes that so many of our views about God are highly influenced by views about our parents and other authority figures. Finlan, quite pastorally wants to free Christians from harmful views about God rooted in our own dysfunctional relationships. More pastors need to be attentive to this pattern of projection upon God.

However there are some places in Finlan’s work where I simply cannot go. While he does acknowledge propitiation and substitutionary atonement can indeed be found in scripture, he sees these parts of scripture as being false, speaking untruthfully about God. Rather he decides that the only “true” revelation is found in the works and words of Jesus. The rest of scripture seems to be human beings grasping for an understanding of God. As someone rooted in the historic teachings of the church, I affirm that all of scripture is revelation. Some parts aren’t less of revelation that other parts.

Second, I can’t follow Finlan in the type of psychological biography writing he engages in. He attempts to psychoanalyze Paul and Hebrews. He pins them both down with suffering from psychological problems, with the author of Hebrews being especially disturbed. I honestly don’t think you can engage in this sort of project, getting at the psychology of authors from such little material.

Finally, I can’t follow Finlan in his comments about removing the cross from the center of the gospel. Throughout the New Testament the cross seems to be central. Even the gospel stories seem to be passion stories with extended introductions! Now I know that Finlan would agree that the cross is at the center of New Testament teachings, however he would respond by saying that those teachings are the tainted portions, and do not constitute revelation. I guess we presupposed different things, and thus end up in a different place. However the burden is on Finlan to show that over the last 2000 years the Church has misunderstood the centrality of the cross to the gospel.

Agape and the Long Defeat – George Hunsinger

Saturday’s first plenary was delivered by George Hunsinger. He is the McCord Professor of Systematic Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary. He earned his degrees at Stanford, Harvard, and Yale. He is most noted for being a leading expert on Karl Barth. His paper brought together two, (to my knowledge) conversation partners that have never been brought together, namely Tolkien and Barth.

Introduction

  • Tolkien as “author of the century”
  • Like Tolkien, Barth can be considered “century’s greatest theologian”
  • Little work has been done to compare the two
  • 1st – how Barth understands agape, 2nd – meaning of evil, 3- eschatology of agape

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Meaning of Agape

  • Not benevolence, beneficence, compassion
  • Agape has these but adds – a desire to give oneself, union w/other, self giving for the sake of koinonia
  • Summary of Agape
    • God’s loving is concerned w/a seeking and creation of fellowship for its own sake by loving us in JC – God take us up into fellowship/communion that God enjoys as Holy Trinity
    • God’s loving us is concerned is w/o reference to aptitude or worthiness of the object of love. God’s agape is not conditioned by any prior reciprocity of love. God doesn’t love us b/c we are lovable, lovable because he loves us.
    • God’s loving is an end in itself. God doesn’t even will his own glory for his own sake, but for the sake of his agape. God loves b/c he loves. His agape is the supreme end which includes all other ends in itself.
    • God’s agape is necessary. It belongs to him primordially and by definition. Its eternal as God is eternal in his triune life.

The Mystery of Evil in Barth and Tolkien

  • Convergences exist in their depiction of evil. See Barth and Nothingness vs. Witch King of Angmar – the Lord of the Nazgul
  • Nothingness – act of cosmic power, destruction, chaos, ruin. Its inexplicable, can’t be explained only described. Origin is obscure, but effects are not. The impossible possibility. Actual yet empty at the same time. God did not create it. God defeats it at great cost to himself. No right to exist, serves no greater good. Not means to some higher end.
    • The answer to the problem of evil is not an argument but a name
  • Tolkien’s Lord of the Nazgul captures something of Barth’s Nothingness.
    • Conflicted and absurd, actual and empty simultaneously,
    • Good symbol of Barth’s impossible possibility
    • Image for the paradox of evil, powerful yet hollow at the same time.

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Eschatology of Agape

  • Tolkien writes w/ idea that evil must be fought w/knowledge that we cannot ultimately defeat evil. “We have fought the long defeat.” No victory is complete, evil rises again, even victory brings loss. But the long defeat is not the last word.
    • There can be no true theology of glory divorced from the theology of the cross.
    • For Paul agape cannot be divorced from longsuffering

Perspectives on Compassionate Love: Lynn G. Underwood

The third plenary session at this year’s CCT annual conference was given by Lynn G. Underwood. Dr. Underwood has published widely in areas such as quality of life, cancer, stress, compassionate love, and the understanding of ordinary spiritual experience in a multicultural context. Originally trained in medicine, she holds a PhD in epidemiology, and is an elected member of the Academy of Behavioral Medicine. She is currently a consultant on projects for Harvard University, the Cleveland Clinic, the University of Connecticut and a variety of social services organizations, and is a Senior Research Associate at the Inamori International Center for Ethics at Case Western Reserve University.

Introduction

  • Working definition of compassionate love.
  • Qualitative interviews about compassionate love
    • Trappist Monk Study
    • Qualitative work in developing the DSES
  • Quantitative Work
    • The Daily Spiritual Experience Scale
    • A model to help connect science research with life
    • A few examples of research
  • The Arts (Poetry, film/tv, fiction, visual art)
    • A way to get at the essence and complexity of self-giving love.

 

Compassionate Love

  • Other-centered love, self-giving love, apage, altruistic love, etc.
  • Focus has been on human experience of self-giving love, love centered on the good of the other, with the motivation of supporting their flourishing, not only relieving suffering.

 

Key Qualities of Compassionate Love

  • Some elements of free choice
  • Some degree of cognitive understanding of the situation
  • Some understanding of the self
  • Valuing the other
  • Openness and receptivity
  • A response of the heart (core, where emotions and cognitions integrate)

 

Qualitative Research: Structured Interviews

 

Features of Compassionate Love

  • Asked the Monks, here is what they said:
    • Humility, unselfishness, receptivity, setting aside your agenda for the sake of the other, being present to the stuation of the other, a mature view of reality, sense of detatchment, trust, openness, acceptance of self in order to accept others, listening, suffering with another, helping the other become fully themselves, being aware of our emotions

 

Internal process for giving compassionate love

  • Weighing individual actions
  • Attitude of heart

 

Practices for Strengthening Love

  • Quite time, strengthening self-identity, prayer, spiritual reading, critique of aware community, listening, doing compassionate things, cultivating awareness of motives,

 

Quantitative Research

  • Daily Spiritual Experience Scale (DSES)
    • Designed to transcend religious boundaries but still address theistic experience within particular religious contexts.
    • Measures perception of ordinary interactions with God.
  • How often do you experience the following on a scale of 1-6 (examples):
    • Spiritually touched by the beauty of creation
    • Feel thankful for blessings
    • Feel deep inner peace/harmony
    • Find comfort in my religion or spirituality
    • I feel God’s presence
    • I feel God’s love for me directly
    • I feel God’s love for me through others
    • I feel a selfless caring for others
    • I accept others even when they do things I think are wrong

 

Upshot

  • Higher scores on the DSES predicts lower burnout rate for pastors, nurses, parents.
  • People under high stress tend to be less loving, yet when they have higher DSES they are able to be loving even in stressful situation
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