The Almons are Moving to Edinburgh (and you can help)!

UofEdinburghI think most people we know are aware that C.C., Damaris, and I are headed to Edinburgh, Scotland near the beginning of September where I will be studying at the University of Edinburgh School of Divinity, New College, for a PhD in Theology with Paul Nimmo listed as my doctoral supervisor. Now, before moving on I’d like to point you to a website that we have put together (the creative genius of C.C. and Damaris) that gives some information about our move – including some of the expenses involved. Just to state it bluntly, to say a move of this sort is costly would be very much an understatement.

So, one of the admitted purposes of the website is as a fundraising effort. And one of the purposes of this particular blog post is to say we are in need of whatever help you are able and/or inclined to give … whether it be $5, $50, $500, or $5000 (I’m confessedly not particularly good at this sort of thing so I’ll stop there. I think you probably get the idea. It was either this or an infomercial. :-)) Not only will you have our tremendous gratitude but there is the chance to win a book bundle or a hand knitted (or otherwise crafty) item or several other items as one way for us to say thanks. We’d appreciate your consideration of a donation to aid in our efforts and passing this along if know of someone who might like to help fund my research.

You can find the website here: Scotland or Bust.

Moving on now, pursing a PhD has been an aspiration for quite some time now (it seems life kept getting in the way), but it’s not something that simply dreamt up on my own. The call (and for me it really is a calling) to pursue a PhD has been confirmed over the course of many years in community with professors, pastors, and the churches of which we have been a part. For this reason, we believe this is what the next season in our service to the Kingdom of God and our liberating King Jesus holds for us. Truthfully, we aren’t quite sure exactly what to expect, but we are quite sure it will be an adventure. I can say though that I am very humbled to have received an offer from Edinburgh and am eager to get started. Just briefly I would like to give a few reasons why I am excited to be moving to Scotland and studying at Edinburgh.

edinburgh-castle-hdrFirstly, I look forward to opportunity to focus and hone my calling and vocation as a theologian, in which the theologian understands that he or she must first of all pray well, that the discipline of theology belongs to the church as Christ’s body in the world, and that the work of the theologian is in humble service to the church and her participation in the mission of God. I move forward into my PhD studies with the full conviction that my proposed research holds importance not only for myself as a theologian, but for the church’s participation in the mission of triune God as well, especially as we move further into a post-Christendom context.

Secondly, C.C. and I come from a Baptist tradition in Texas and New Mexico which generally frowns on women in ministry and leadership roles – particularly the ordination of women in the church. C.C. and I were fortune to attend a seminary that was not only supportive but also nurtures women called to ministry, as well as be a part of a church that ordained us both C.C. and I in a joint ceremony – something that still carries its own unique challenges and consequences, but which is a very intimate part of our life together. We look forward to joining in with our Scottish Baptist family for whom women in ministry and the ordination of women is more generally accepted and encouraged.

Thirdly, C.C. has a very painful and debilitating chronic illness called fibromyalgia, which for a time was manageable. However, she experienced a very sharp downturn in her health while we were working as hospital chaplains in Houston, Texas – known for its terrible heat and humidity. As a result, we not only had to leave Houston but we lost our health insurance as well. Plus, those who come from Texas know that Texas doesn’t really have seasons and the weather can change wildly – changes that C.C.’s body can’t keep up with. We look forward to the much cooler, more temperate climate in Scotland, with actual seasons, which will go a long way on its own to helping C.C. feel better – as well the availability of health coverage and medical services that we simply haven’t had access to the last couple of years here in the States. Ultimately, on the most personal of levels, one of my foremost goals is to get C.C. healthy enough so she can once again pursue her calling to ministry and chaplaincy. Our move to Scotland will help with this.

New College SnowAnd finally, for my dissertation I will be researching on my favorite theologian Stanley Grenz and favorite philosopher Paul Ricoeur – two scholars who have influenced me the most not only academically but also in my own faith and spirituality, and who have helped me to weave these threads together. Utilizing my research into the trinitarian and narrative ecclesiology and anthropology of Stanley Grenz along with the narrative and hermeneutical philosophy of Paul Ricoeur I will be writing on the subject of Church, Gender, and Mission. My aim is to develop what I am calling a ‘hermeneutical ecclesiology’ in trinitarian, narrative, and missional perspectives. I’ll avoid being any more longwinded about this here and now. At present, I’ll simply say that my one main purpose in life is to spend myself on behalf of the gospel in service to my liberating King Jesus in such a way that my life is intelligible apart from the God that Christians name as the communion of Father, Son, and Spirit … and that Grenz and Ricoeur have been instrumental in helping me find my way in this. In my view, my proposed research simply flows from a natural extension of this aim in life. I plan on saying more on all this and future plans in upcoming posts; for now I’ll direct you to the ‘thesis proposal’ link on the aforementioned website.

Before I go, as several have asked how they can help us make our move to Scotland, allow me to point you back to my comments at the beginning of this post and offer a reminder that information on the financial expenses involved with our move along with a Paypal button where you can make a donation if you so desire can be found here: Scotland or Bust. Also, if you know of any others who may have interest in my research or in making a donation, please feel free to pass this along.

Many thanks for your generosity, and support, and prayers as we make arrangements for our visas and plane tickets.

Until later, peace and blessings.

Missional – You Keep Using That Word…

missio_dei_logo

‎”What is the church? It is the unifying, sanctifying, reconciling, and proclaiming activity of Jesus Christ in the world. Mission cannot be something separate from or added to the essence of the Church. The essential nature of the local congregation is, in and of itself, mission, or else the congregation is not really the Church.” Charles Van Engen

“…the church is a sign, a servant and a foretaste of the kingdom of God…” Leslie Newbigin

Missional is everywhere it seems but has become something of a Rorschach inkblot in which folks can see whatever they want – or (along with the language of ‘narrative’ and ‘story’ that is now also being co-opted) simply a new label that can be used to repackage whatever a church has always done or the same standard consumer Evangelical pragamtism with a new wrapper.

When this happens I always want to reply back (along with Inigo Montoya),

“Missional … you keep using that word, I do not think that word means what you think it means.”

The missional shift is ultimately not merely another program of the church or a pragmatic response to decreased attendance or cultural marginalization, but a renewed and robust theological vision rooted in the triune sending of the church by Father, Son, and Spirit in and for the world as a sign, servant, and foretaste of the Kingdom…

“Mission was understood as being derived from the very nature of God. It was thus put in the context of the doctrine of the Trinity, not of ecclesiology, or soteriology. The classical doctrine on the missio Dei as God the Father sending the Son, and God the Father and Son sending the Spirit was expanded to include yet another ‘movement’: Father, Son and Holy Spirit sending the church in the world.” David Bosch

“The missional church vision is not a programmatic response to the crisis of relevance, purpose and identity that the church in the Western World is facing, but a recapturing of biblical views of the Church all too frequently abandoned, ignored, or obscured through long periods of church history. It is a renewed theological vision of the church in mission, which redefines the nature, the mission and the organization of the local church around Jesus’ proclamation of the good news of the Kingdom. Missional churches seek to respond to God’s invitation to join Him in His mission in and for the world, as a sign, a servant and a foretaste of His Kingdom.” Charles Ringma

Augustine and The Scandal of Embodied Humanity

augustineI’ve been pondering a couple conversations I had with neo-Reformed friends this past week about the incarnation that brought to mind numerous similar conversations I’ve had with others as well. Things typically go well concerning the humanity as well as the divinity of Jesus until at some point I say, “And Jesus not only came as a human in the past tense, Jesus is still an embodied human even now.”

A statement like this always seems to disturb quite a few folks. One of my friends this past week replied, “But Jesus was resurrected … he ascended … he was re-instated as the second person of the Trinity, right?”

“Yes,” I said. “Resurrected as the Human One, ascended as the Human One, and included in the eternal divine fellowship of Father, Son, and Spirit … as the Human One. Is not the incarnation, and thus the humanity as well as divinity of Jesus; an ongoing, permanent reality? And necessary for historic orthodoxy no less?”

He only answered with a weak, “Well … I suppose it is.”

Now, let’s put the ‘re-instated as the second person of the Trinity’ comment aside (I’m not sure he realized just how problematic his statement here really was). And please keep in mind I’m not simply picking on my friend with this; but my grave concern here is something of a theological undercurrent I have seen from a great deal of conservative Evangelicals, neo-Reformed and otherwise.

That is – there is a (rather well documented) tendency to not only over-emphasize the divinity of Jesus in relation to his humanity but to actually wince when it comes his (continued and ongoing) humanity. The incarnation it seems to them is a scandal … a theological box to be checked off to fulfill all ‘righteousness’ so to speak … but in the end a scandal to be muted.

For those neo-Reformed, or others, who like to appeal to Augustine as their authority (or appeal to those who appeal to Augustine even though you’ve never really read Augustine yourself) consider these two quotes:

The first, on the incarnation…

God has “established and founded this faith, that man might find a way to man’s God through God made man. For this is ‘the Mediator between God and man: the man Christ Jesus’. For it is as man that He is the Mediator and the Way. If there is a way between one who strives and that towards which he strives, there is hope of his reaching his goal; but if there is no way, or if he is ignorant of it, how does it help him to know what the goal is? The only way that is wholly defended against all error is when one and the same person is at once God and man: God our goal, man our way.” (City of God, 11.2)

And the second, where we see that Augustine is not against the flesh…

The incarnation “showed that it is sin which is evil, and not the substance or nature of flesh … He showed also that death itself, though it is the penalty of sin – a penalty which He paid for us without sin – is not something that we are to avoid by sinful means. Rather, if need be, we should suffer death in the name of righteousness. For He was able to redeem us from sin by His own death, because He died, but He died for no sin of His own.” (City of God 10.24)

There is no muting of the incarnated and embodied humanity of Jesus or humanity in general for Augustine here. Let us then not mute the implications of the incarnation and humanity of Jesus, our liberating King. Our faith is unintelligible apart from incarnation (and Trinity).

Tell me: Why do so many run from embodied humanity – Jesus’ or ours?