Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wringing Out Saturated Selves: Christian Education in a Secular Age

From Eastern Mennonite University, 1200 Park Rd, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
This morning I gave my senior capstone presentation at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, which was based on a paper I wrote with the same name as this post. I've embedded the paper below, but let me make a few comments about the concerns animating this paper/presentation, the paper's major flow and points, and where it leads from here. I take the upcoming #Occupy Empire conference I'm helping organize as one particular project within my broader process of ministerial-vocational discernment.

In some ways, this paper and presentation marks the "philosophical turn" in my graduate studies.  This turn was precipitated by the existential and intellectual angst of being the first dual degree student at EMU's seminary and its Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. Philosophy eventually became extremely helpful in trying to adjudicate - both in terms of overlap and difference - the distinct "embodied rationalities" in those two programs. This led me to the philosophy of Charles Taylor, James K.A. Smith, and most recently, Alasdair MacIntyre.

But I've also been compelled by the biblical hermeneutic of John Howard Yoder as a way to keep me grounded in the biblical narrative as the primary "script" for my life as a ministering Christian in the body of Christ.

In my ministerial-vocational discernment these past years at grad school, I've come sense the call to being an educator in/for the church, putting the intellectual gifts which God has imbued within me to work for the sake of God's reconciling mission in the world. In testing this, I've been able to teach the same class in two radically different cultural contexts. In this paper, I try to weave all these threads together in a very short space (12 pages, 20 minute presentation). No small task.

In responding to my presentation this morning, my advisor, Mark Thiessen Nation, quipped: "What you've really done here, Brian, is lay out a research agenda for yourself." Likewise, my district executive in the Church of the Brethren described this as the start of a life-long journey. I think those assessments exactly right. There are hints in this paper to most of the influential work I've picked up and how I've been starting to assemble that toward a constructive vision for my developing vocation as a ministerial educator.

Abstract: Education as practiced by the church must see its primary locus in just that body: the church. Ecclesial education must also see itself as a formational projectengaging the entirety of the human person at all points of life, drawing on the rich intellectual and worshipful practices of the church catholic. As a public expression, ecclesial education must also engage rigorously yet discerningly with a variety of intellectual disciplines and local sites of reflective practice. Such a project is necessary to restore wholeness to the fragmented, saturated self within the church of the late modern world. This paper takes a narrative, historical approach with distinctly Anabaptist qualities toward just such a project

  • Preface
    • Background, a bit of story-telling, since this was a public address to people I know
  • Discerning the Context: Secularity in Higher Education
    • MacIntyre and James K.A. Smith
  • Re-imagining the Context: Radical Ecclesia
    • John Howard Yoder (via John Nugent & Rom Coles)
  • Conclusion: Tactics, Pedagogy, and Vocation
    • How it's played out in my teaching, and where it's headed from here
Outstanding questions (thx to Ted Grimsrud for pushing me already here):
  • How much can an Anabaptist learn from Radical Orthodoxy's reclamation of Augustinian anthropology?
  • How much does Hauerwas' negative critique of modernity dominate my paper? (Probably too much.) How can I be more constructive and tactical while still remaining cognizant of the critique?
Further research:
  • More reading Yoder
  • More philosophy: Wittgenstein, especially is of interest
Here's the audio:

And finally, here's the paper. Also, check below the embedded paper to see the presentation slide I developed in relation to Yoder's biblical approach.

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