Tag Archives: seminary

The other 100,000 hours


Other 100,000 Hours image from InTrust articleThe first part of my two-part article for InTrust magazine on how the church has failed working people and what they, and the seminaries, can do about it, is now up on the ‘web. Here’s the first bit and the link:

The other 100,000 hours

How the church marginalizes itself from the working world

By Chris R. Armstrong

MOST CHURCHES ARE GOOD AT figuring out what to do with their congregations during the hours on Sunday morning in which they have a captive audience. But what about the rest of the week? What does the church have to say about the struggles and joys, trials and triumphs, and inherent worth of our working lives?

“The average person will work 100,000 hours in their lifetime,” says Jeff Van Duzer, dean of the Seattle Pacific University School of Business and Economics. “This seems like an enormous waste if it’s spent doing fundamentally meaningless things whose only value is a paycheck.” To be sure, many Christians develop, at some point in their lives, a sense that daily work does indeed matter to God. And eventually, some come to understand that their own work complements God’s work — the six days of creation, the redemptive love of Jesus, the ushering in of new heavens and new earth. God sustains the world, but God’s creatures do their part in caring for it as well.

But does the church have anything more profound to say about the value of work? And how might theological schools prepare their graduates to help
ordinary Christians do their work in light of their faith? Those are questions worth pondering.

Princeton scholar David Miller explores this topic in his 2006 book God at Work: The History and Promise of the Faith at Work Movement. As Miller explains,
the 1980s saw an explosion of books, magazines, conferences, networks, and organizations focused on putting the two halves of life together: worship and
“the other 100,000 hours.”

The rest of the article, with some nifty ’40s-esque illustrations, is here. The second part, on how seminaries can help pastors-in-training to address faith-work integration–and the roadblocks they (the seminaries) face, will appear in the next issue. InTrust goes to virtually all North American seminary presidents and board chairs, and is edited expertly by my friend Jay Blossom.

A little guide to Augustine’s thought on sin, freedom, and grace


TolleLege

"Tolle Lege" - Augustine's famous garden conversion, in a later, fanciful rendering

Following up on a previous post, this is something I cooked up while working as a “preceptor” at Duke–that is, leading seminars for students taking a course (in this case Dr. David Steinmetz’s CH13: Church History to the Reformation), in which we interacted in more depth with the primary documents.

This one’s on that Great Brain of the early church, Augustine of Hippo. It includes a few “notes to myself” about how to lead such a seminar, since as a doctoral student I was still wet behind the ears on this important matter of pedagogy. I wish I could remember which sourcebook we were using for the Augustine quotations. I could go try to figure it out from old syllabi, if anyone’s interested:

A pronunciation suggestion

One of the first and most basic problems we have to deal with when we talk about this great North African theologian is this:  [write on board]  Is it AUG-us-teen or au-GUS-tin?  It makes no difference to me which we say, but somewhere along the way, I was told that if you want to make it at a party with a bunch of church historians, you need to use au-GUS-tin for this man from Hippo, and reserve AUG-us-teen for the archbishop installed in England by the Pope around the year 600, who tried to bring the Celtic [or is that SSSeltic?] church into line.

In any case, it doesn’t matter to me how we pronounce it today.  Saying AUG-us-teen won’t lower your grade…much.

Getting into Augustine’s thought:

1.  Write on the board:  “posse non peccare,” “non posse non peccare,” “non posse peccare.”

2.  Start with the background from Latourette, to put Augustine in context with (1) the E/W distinctions S. has made, (2) some other “fathers,” (3) Augustine’s own personal history.

3.  Deal with quoted sections from Augustine, below, one by one, allowing conversation to develop as it will.  If this serves to jumpstart the process of “dealing with Augustine on freedom,” well and good.  I needn’t return to the quotations.  If things slow down, however, I can reopen with, “what about this statement: [quotation].  What is Augustine saying here and what do we think about it?”

4.  Throughout the process, resist going too far off into either what we think about Augustine (though that’s inevitable) or, especially, whether Wesley (Calvin, Luther, Joe Blow) would have agreed with Augustine.  It is OK to do this now and again, but as in a Bible study, let’s return to the text.  We need to discipline ourselves to do that because it is often so much easier to talk about our own opinions or those of our church traditions, than to confront and work through the thought of the person we are studying.

5.  For the second half (or third, or quarter, or last five minutes) of the class, survey Augustine’s thought on (1) the status, (2) person, (3) and work of Christ, as well as (4) the Holy Spirit, (5) the Trinity, (6) the Church, (7) the Sacraments, and (8) the Last Things. Continue reading

A little introduction to early Christian thought, for beginners


Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea.

Icon representing the Council of Nicea

Back in the late 1990s, when I was a doctoral student at Duke, they used to give us PhD hopefuls “preceptorials.” That meant you helped a senior professor in their courses, as a teaching assistant. The professor did the lectures, and you led discussion in weekly seminar sessions for the same course.

Digging through some old files the other day, I found this little talk I gave to a group taking Dr. David Steinmetz’s CH13: Church History to the Reformation, on the day of their first seminar session. Dr. Steinmetz taught in the mode of “intellectual history”: opening up to his students some of the more important, and often difficult, theological discussions that engaged the great minds of the early church.

This talk of mine is intended to give students who didn’t necessarily have any background in historical or theological studies some strategies to get through the experience of the course, and to learn and grow along the way. Part of it is in “talking ‘em off the ledge” mode, recognizing that the study of early Christian theology can look pretty arcane and intimidating. And part of it suggests some intellectual and practical strategies to get the most out of their studies. 

If I had to do the talk today, I’d make some changes–and indeed I do cover some of these things in my courses now. But other things I had forgotten, and will be reviving in my courses. So here it is: a “little introduction to early Christian thought, for beginners”: Continue reading

Don’t do this in any academic paper at any level. Anytime. Ever.


Indiana Jones

Indiana Jones in action. Write like he would!

Friend Marc Cortez over at WesternThM has provided some wise and important advice for all academic writers at all levels on how not to kill your essay in the very first line. And yes, Indiana Jones figures in this sage wisdom.

A sample:

“So, I would like to try to explore the possibility of….”

Just stop.

This sentence and its ilk taint the beginnings of far too many otherwise good papers. Using a sentence like this to describe your paper is like building a solid table and then ripping one of its legs off. It may still be standing, but no one will want to use it. With one sentence, you’ve cut the legs out from under your own research paper. Continue reading

New Wesleyan seminary opens with integrative, hybrid learning model


This article appeared recently in InTrust, a magazine for the presidents and trustees of Christian seminaries in the U.S. and Canada. Co-written with my t.a. Michael Cline, it tells the story of the brave launch of a new seminary that is following a popular model of online learning.

LAUNCHING IN TOUGH TIMES

Building on successful “working adult” educational model, Indiana Wesleyan University starts a new seminary Continue reading

Sasquatches, unicorns, and . . . the history assignment that works


Re-post from the Christianity Today history blog:

Sasquatches, Unicorns, and . . . the History Assignment that Works

I’ve been teaching church history at Bethel Seminary for five years, and I think I’ve finally found one of these mythical creatures.

by Chris Armstrong

Unicorn_in_Captivity.jpg

The Fountain of Youth. The Pot of Gold. The Holy Grail. Every professor can add to this list one more legendary object of desire—and indeed, this may be the most elusive and valuable of them all: The Assignment That Works.

This is the piece of coursework that seems quite regularly, really almost magically, to elicit from students their best, most engaged and thoughtful writing.

I’ve been teaching church history at Bethel Seminary for five years, and I think I’ve finally found one of these mythical creatures. Continue reading