Education Equals Friendship

Education Equals Friendship

My friend Gary David Stratton in his post, The Greco-Roman Liberal Arts: When Students were more than just Numbers, advances what he calls “educating two-handed warriors—men and women committed to both the life of the mind and the life of the Spirit.” in this short series, Stratton outlines what he sees as the two traditional streams of education. The first stream came from the Greeks:

The Greek Philosophical tradition was consumed with the pursuit of truth. It was birthed in the life and teachings of Socrates, as recorded by Plato (c. 427-347 BCE) and refined by Aristotle. In the philosophical tradition the liberal arts function as “liberating arts” in that they were designed to “free the mind from traditional beliefs accepted uncritically.” Their aim is to examine “our opinions and values to see whether or not they are really true and good” (Hoeckley, 2002b, p. 1).

There are certainly some positive elements to this Greek philosophy of education which seeks to free us from uncritical belief. But there was a competing system of thought from the Romans:

The Roman Oratorical tradition focused more on leadership development. It’s founder, Cicero (c. 106-43 BCE), never lost sight of his dream that education was about “training citizens to be leaders of society” (Taylor, 2001, p. 1).  In the oratorical tradition studying the “liberal arts” meant that students were “liberated” from the pragmatic concerns of merely learning a trade. They were learning to think, so that they could lead their culture toward the good, the beautiful, and the true.

There are also some great ideas in the Roman tradition that reflect a lot of what we would like to see in our modern liberal arts eduction. In fact, both of these approaches should seem familiar to us as they merged together in the middle ages in the seven liberal arts: Arithmetic, Astronomy, Dialectic, Geometry, Grammar, Music, and Rhetoric. However, there is also some major differences from what we experience in the West. The old educational system was very relational in three ways:

Education was Discipleship

Education and what we would call “discipleship” were virtually synonymous.Michael J. Wilkins (Following the Master, 1992) notes that the master-disciple relationship was the key to education in the Greco-Roman world. “We find an early relationship between the noun mathetes(disciple) and the verb ‘to learn’” (p. 72). Philosophers and orators alike attracted students and/or were hired by parents or city-states to train young men in apprenticeship-like relationships (p. 73).

Education was Community

Socrates specifically rejected the Sophists’ more distant student-teacher relationships and their charging students “tuition,” branding them educational mercenaries with little or no concern for the souls of their students. The Socratic method of instruction necessitated intimate relationships in tight-knit learning community (p. 74). Socrates and his student, Plato, called their disciples “friends,” precisely because they “wanted a relationship that was characterized by shared community” (p. 75).

Education was Virtue & Friendship

Aristotle’s experience with Socrates and Plato led him to assert that virtue and friendship are the inseparable foundations of education. He believed that it is impossible for a student to learn from a teacher who is not also his friend (Kraut, 2005). The relationship between virtue and discipleship was so critical that the “imitation of the conduct of a human master became a significant feature of a disciple of a great master… and involved a commitment that affected the follower’s entire life” (Wilkins, p. 77, 76).

Now while these three ideals provided the foundation for Western liberal arts education, much of this is absent in what most of us experience today. Stratton outlines several of these contemporary qualities that subvert the Greco-Roman ideals once valued:

Education is Mercenary

It really isn’t all that difficult to imagine what Socrates would make of the distant, academic, and often mercenary approach to education that dominates twenty-first-century colleges and universities. While numerous historical, economic, and pragmatic factors led to most twentieth-century American colleges gradually abandoning the liberal arts tradition of friendship and virtue (even in many liberal arts colleges), the impact has been devastating.

Education is A-Moral

The liberal arts vision of flooding our culture with  a steady stream of virtuous, truth-seeking leaders has fallen on hard times.Julie Reuben’s (1996) The Making of the Modern University traces the tragic decline of relationally-based moral education and the corresponding decline in morality in American society. It is a difficult thesis to refute.

Education is Impersonal

Whereas Plato and Aristotle interacted with their students as friends, depersonalized modern university students are often little more than numbers. No relationship means no moral transformation, at least not for the good.

Aristotle (c. 384-322 BCE) Is it possible for a student to truly learn from a teacher who is not also his friend?

Ultimately, Stratton hopes that the future of Western education will take a lesson from the past. We need to reexamine the student-teacher relationship and what that might look like in a digital age (what I call Flipped Theology & I talked about at the Biola conference a while back). Stratton concludes, “we cannot assemble two-handed warriors in educational assembly lines. They need to be nurtured in tight-knit learning communities.”

In my post next week, I will share my own philosophy of Christian education and the ideals that I hope will foster the kind of two-handed warrior communities presented by Stratton.

[BOOK REVIEW] Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality

[BOOK REVIEW] Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality

Nancy Pearcey (Director, Center for Christian Worldview, Scholar-in-Residence, and Professor of Apologetics at Houston Baptist University) in her newest book, Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality, continues to set herself apart as a high level scholar able to convey complex issues with simple clarity understandable to the average reader. This book, along with her other fine works, deals with some deeply controversial issues facing Christians in their daily life. The strength of her work is that Pearcey is able to move the reader beyond the overly simplistic moral “do’s and don’ts” and ground her arguments in a deeper worldview that equips readers to apply her ides to a broad spectrum of social issues not covered in the book itself. Pearcey writes:

We live in a moral wasteland where human beings are desperately seeking answers to hard questions about life and sexuality. But there is hope. In the wasteland we can cultivate a garden. We can discover a reality-based morality that expresses a positive, life-affirming view of the human person— one that is more inspiring, more appealing, and more liberating than the secular worldview (16).

Pearcey’s use of Schaeffer’s Upper and Lower story paradigm resonates with my own study over the years. She smartly discerns the problem for all those who have adopted the dualistic ethic common in our world—even amongst Christians:

The problem is that many people treat morality as a list of rules. But in reality, every moral system rests on a worldview. In every decision we make, we are not just deciding what we want to do. We are expressing our view of the purpose of human life (11).

I give Pearcey’s book 5 Starts and encourage every Christian wanting to understand what is at stake in our discussions of transgenderism, gender identity, and human dignity to pick up a copy. The book will definitely join my list of recommend reading for my future coursework on ethics because Pearcey addresses some important issues that some older books on ethics do not. Pearcey’s overall philosophical approach in Love Thy Body may just force me to make it required reading for an upcoming course.

[PODCAST] Leadership Starts With Accountability

[PODCAST] Leadership Starts With Accountability

Liner Notes

To discern the DNA of a leader; look to the life of his disciples.  A leader is only as good as the next generation of leaders they produce.

Accountability is all about friction and conflict… but that is not to say all conflict is healthy.

4 Barriers to Creating a Culture of Accountability

  1. The Fear of Failure
  2. Lack of commitment from leaders and followers.
  3. A lack of clear expectations which is made worse by our fear of pain.
  4. The loss of shame

5 Aspects to the DNA of Accountability

As Christian leaders, in the church or even in business, we need accountability.

  • Accountable to God The DNA of Accountability is submitting to the Father’s will so we can experience the total pleasure in His holiness.
  • Accountable to Men The DNA of Accountability grows relationships of forgiveness and cleansing, which reorient our beliefs, customs and practices, both public and private.

#1: God’s Leader Is Accountable First To God

“Spiritual leaders must not shun public accountability.” – Henry Blackaby

(Acts 24:14–16, ESV)  “But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man. ”

#2: God’s Leader Is Accountable To Other Leaders

(Acts 15:1–2, ESV)  “But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. ”

#3: God’s Leader Is Accountable To The People

(1 Corinthians 8:9–13, ESV) “But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. ”

(2 Corinthians 1:12–14, ESV) “For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. For we are not writing to you anything other than what you read and acknowledge and I hope you will fully acknowledge— just as you did partially acknowledge us—that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you. ”

#4: God’s Leader Is Accountable To The Law

(Romans 13:1–7, ESV)  “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. ”

#5: God’s Leader Holds Other To Account

(2 Peter 3:1–2, ESV) “This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles,”

No one man or woman stands at the head of the body. We are fitted together as a family and committed to serving our one God and Father; YHWH.

What are some of the systems that keep our local church Bodies healthy?

The Organizational System:  Every church, from House Church to Mega-Church, has some kind of organizational structure. An Organizational System is like the Skeletal System.  The Pastors, Elders, Paid Staff, Deacons, Apostles, Overseers, etc.; all work to give the Body shape and offer both spiritual and physical protection (Acts 6:1-7is one good example).

The Leadership System: The Leadership System determines how leaders connect with the rest of God’s people.  A Leadership System is like the Circulatory System. A healthy Leadership System filters out the waste, responds to the heartbeat of YHWH, and enables the individual parts of the Body to imbibe the life giving “nutrients” of Jesus Christ. And just like the veins in our human bodies, the more servant-leaders in a church, the healthier the Body will be.

The Assimilation System: The Assimilation System moves people from outside the church into fully committed participants of the local church.  A system for assimilation is like the Digestive System.  A healthy Assimilation System ensures that every person involved in the church is using their Spirit-giftings, and talents, to nourish the Body.

The Evangelism System: The Evangelism System enables the Body to fulfill the great calling of Christ to make disciples. A system for Evangelism is  like the human Reproductive system.  The Evangelism System connects all the members of the Body and uses their energy to create new life in Jesus Christ.

These are just 4 of the organic Body-systems that come to mind, but there are many more.

A clear understanding and healthy use of systems is biblical, and it enables the natural growth of the Church. Anyone who is planting and/or leading a church or business without the necessary systems is not building a viable church.

Who Is Karl Barth?

Who Is Karl Barth?

Karl Barth is one of those figures in history who come up again and again in my studies of theology. I have several posts on my blog exploring his views on select topics, but I thought readers unfamiliar with him would appreciate a quick bio and recommendation on how to study Barth.

Karl Barth, who lived from 1886-1968, was perhaps the most influential theologian of the 20th century. Church Dogmatics, Barth’s monumental life-work that consists of more than 6 million words, was written over the span of 35 years. In it, Barth covers in depth the great doctrines of the Word of God, God, Creation and Reconciliation. He made it his task “to take all that has been said before and to think it through once more and freshly to articulate it anew as a theology of the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

From Time Magazine’s April 20, 1962 cover story we learn a bit more about Barth’s influence and the controversy he generated.

In the 20th century, no man has been a stronger witness to the continuing significance of Christ’s death and Christ’s return than the world’s ranking Protestant theologian, Swiss-born Karl Barth (rhymes with heart). Barth knows that the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection are not coherent, but he refuses to make the mystery more palatable to human reason by suggesting—as did the great 19th century Theologian D. F. Strauss in his Life of Jesus—that the story of the crucifixion is a “myth.” Instead, Barth argues that the subject of this unique event is God, not man; and only God can know the full truth of his own history. Man’s only road to understanding of this divine history is through faith—faith in the reality and truth of what the Evangelists so incoherently describe…

Barth has been variously damned as a heretic, a narrow-minded Biblicist, and an atheist in disguise—and praised as the most creative Protestant theologian since John Calvin…

Harvard’s German-born Paul Tillich… calls him, “the most monumental appearance in our period.”…

Reinhold Niebuhr regards Barth as a “man of infinite imagination and irresponsibility”…

Dr. Cornelius Van Til of Westminster Theological Seminary speaks for a host of U.S. fundamentalists in charging that “Barthianism is even more hostile to the theology of Luther and Calvin than Romanism.”…

His treatment of Christian dogma has soared across denominational boundaries, affecting the thought of Baptists, Lutherans and Episcopalians as well as his own Reformed Church. Preachers read him, and his thought probably affects a good share of the sermons spoken in U.S. churches any given Sunday, but laymen hardly know his name.

Why Study Barth?

If you have an interest in theology, you should own Barth. Barth’s dogmatic theology is loaded with engaging and provocative ideas, which will challenge you for years to come. Two characteristics that define Barth’s theology are his emphasis on the person of Christ (Barth “works from Christ outward”) and his insistence that ethics and theology cannot be separated. Barth taught that “theology is ethics,” since knowing God entails doing his will.

Barth’s theology was shaped by his experience of living and teaching in Germany during the rise of Nazism. By 1934, Barth had become a leader in the Confessing Church movement, which stood in courageous opposition to Nazism at a time when the German Protestant church had largely endorsed National Socialism. This stand cost him his professorship at Bonn University and he was forced to flee the country in 1935.

Barth has been called neo-orthodox, evangelical, and Reformed. Indeed, his views developed remarkably over his lifetime as he moved from a liberal position to one of dialectical theology (theology founded on paradoxes or tensions). Later in life, Barth abandoned the views of Friedrich Schleiermacher, Rudolf Bultmann, and the liberal tradition. He argued that God was not made in man’s image but is instead “Wholly Other.”

Barth is probably best described as “ecumenical” since his work is read by Protestants and Roman Catholics, mainstream and evangelicals. Indeed, Barth was described by Pope Pius XII as the most important theologian since Thomas Aquinas, and his work continues to be a major influence on students, scholars and preachers today.

How Should I Study Barth?

My suggestion–get an electronic copy of Barth’s Church Dogmatics from Logos. The price is competitive with any paper edition you can find and worth every penny for its increased ease of use and power Logos gives you to explore this massive amount of text.

This electronic edition includes an extremely helpful volume titled, “Index, With Aids for the Preacher” which offers a topical index of the other 13 volumes and a summary of key thoughts.

Some Helpful Definitions

David Guretzki is associate professor of theology at Briercrest College and Seminary in Caronport, Saskatchewan, Canada and written a free PDF, “Reading the Church Dogmatics by Karl Barth – A Primer.” In his primer, Guretzki shares six motifs, based on the work of George Hunsinger, that can help us understand the key characteristics of Barth’s theology in the Church Dogmatics (CD).

  • Actualism – Actual events of God’s action in history shape reality as we experience it. E.g., We understand history by how God has actually acted; we do not interpret how God has acted through a general theory of history.

  • Particularism – The particular and concrete logically and theologically precedes the general and the abstract. E.g., the Incarnation in its unique particularity must inform the general nature of humanity; a general theory of humanity does not inform the particular nature of a human named Jesus

  • Objectivism – Theological claims must be shaped by the object they seek to describe. E.g., God must be spoken of in terms of how he himself objectively presents himself (“reveals” himself) to us.

  • Personalism – Knowledge of God is knowledge of God as one who is to be known as a “personal” being and not merely as a “control belief.”

  • Realism – Language about God is based on Scriptural language that is neither “literalist” (theological language cannot be equated directly to God) nor “expressivist” (theological language is not merely that which is expressed when thinking about God), but a “real analogy” to God.

  • Rationalism – the mystery of God can be coherently spoken of without needing to comprehend God; i.e., theology is a “rational wrestling with mystery.”



Other Helps

A few resources from the web that will help your reading of Barth.

Now let me ask, 
What are some of the other keys to understanding Barth?  
What insights or links can help in understanding this monumental work?

[PODCAST] Leadership Starts With Integrity

[PODCAST] Leadership Starts With Integrity

Liner Notes

Integrity means..  Inspired by God’s forgiveness, we live open and honest lives toward God and each other.

  • The DNA of Integrity inspires us to live in honesty with a Father who, without reserve or measure, loves and forgives us.
  • The DNA of Integrity removes the masks of “I am perfect” and “I have it all together” so we can live in humility with our Family.

5 Aspects to the DNA of Integrity

#1: The Integrous Leader Builds God’s Kingdom Not A Personal Following

“There is a big difference between drawing a crowd and building a church; marketers can draw a crowed, cults can draw a crowd, but only God’s people can build the Kingdom.” – Henry Blackaby

(2 Kings 4:42–44, ESV)  “[During a great time of famine,] a man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing the man of God bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. And Elisha said, “Give to the men, that they may eat.” But his servant said, “How can I set this before a hundred men?” So he repeated, “Give them to the men, that they may eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left.’ ” So he set it before them. And they ate and had some left, according to the word of the Lord. ”

This story is a model of movement; meeting a man where he was (the city of Baal’s provision) and taking him where he needed to be.  If we are gong to be integrous leaders who build Churches; not personal followings, then here is the approach.  The integrous leader has a Kingdom approach.

  • First, Leaders must recognize that people will come because of some need. In preceding story, the man left behind his city god, “Baal-Shalishah:” not because he had a deep inner need for “God”, but because his life was messed up and he needed help.
  • Second, Leaders must help people move forward past their need. Elisha did this by introducing this man to his God (Elohim) and letting the man know that Elisha’s God could meet his need.
  • Third, Leaders must move forward and recognize that people need role-models. This man did not take a step of faith because he loved God, he moved forward because he saw in Elisha something to be trusted and admired.  There is nothing wrong with being a charismatic leader who draws people to the church.  There is nothing wrong with designing programs that will connect people to the church.  But…
  • Fourth, Leaders must move forward and connect people to their Creator. The man in our story trusted Elisha and experienced a blessing.  Elisha then taught this man not to follow him, but to follow “God” (YHWH).
  • Fifth, Leaders must move forward allow people to enter into God’s Dream. It is great to have a well thought-out Philosophy of Ministry and statement of purpose, but ultimately God’s dream is bigger.

(Hosea 2:13–16, ESV)  “And I [YHWH] will punish [Israel] for the feast days of the Baals when she burned offerings to them and adorned herself with her ring and jewelry, and went after her lovers and forgot me, declares the Lord. “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. “And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ ”

#2: The Integrous Leader Knows The Way

“The key to dealing with a rapidly changing world, to dealing with this culture addicted to speed, is not to catch up, but to give up on keeping up.” – Erwin McManus

Observations on Culture and Living a Kingdom Worldview

  • Culture is neither our friend, nor is culture our enemy; it is simply the tool we can freely use to spread the Gospel.
  • Methods can change without changing the message.
  • Traditions can go in and out of fashion, and we should not elevate tradition above the person of Christ.
  • Methods/Culture/Tradition are not the Way and effective leaders know how to distinguish each one from both our identity and our mission.

(Ephesians 6:12, ESV)  “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. ”

#3: The Integrous Leader Is Marked By Humility

“Blessed are the meek, blessed are the failures, blessed are the stupid, for they, unknown to themselves, have a grace which is denied to the haughty, the successful, and the wise” – Arnold Benet from his book “Anna of The Five Towns”

(Proverbs 22:4, ESV)  “The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life.”

Our mission is not to provide an alternative to the world, but to demonstrate the Way of Christ.

Risk #1: The first external risk of humble leadership comes from other leaders who love the pleasure of applause.

Risk #2: The second external risk of humble leadership comes not from other leaders, but from the people whom we serve.

Blessing: When you don’t care who gets the credit, you will accomplish a lot more for the Kingdom.

“The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor. ” (Proverbs 15:33, ESV)

#4: The Integrous Leader Is Worthy Of Being Followed

I saw this sign from a company called “Legal Sea Foods” and it featured their slogan, “Not Just Selling Fish”

“At Legal Sea Foods, we are not just a restaurant selling fish. Rather we are a fish company in the restaurant business. This philosophy drives everything that we do…”

So what does it mean to be a leader worthy of being followed?

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