Wednesday, February 01, 2012

An Introduction...

“Like most North Americans of his generation, Hal tends to know way less about why he feels certain ways about the objects and pursuits he’s devoted to than he does about the objects and pursuits themselves.” –David Foster Wallace, in Infinite Jest


If my life had a narrator in the Fall months of 2008 (spoken in a sullen British accent as in Stranger than Fiction), I am sure that narrator would have to steal Wallace’s quote. At that time, I worked in a mission that housed the homeless, addicted, and paroled in Anderson, Indiana. My job description was diverse and continually inflated, but one of my duties was to provide Christian nurture in this context. Much of this was in prayer, counseling, and bible studies. The Christian Center hired me when my degree in print journalism was still hot in my hands. I took a few introductory courses in Christian history, theology, and ethics at my alma mater, Anderson University. Yet these courses mainly served to stir a deep skepticism of my fundamentalist Christian faith. Having dissected most of the faith I held dear, I entered Christian ministry with the simple belief that the historical Jesus cared for the poor and so should I. Thus, barely six months into that ministry I recognized that I really didn’t know why I was pursuing Christian ministry—and yet I knew I had to pursue ministry. At that time, the best answer to that quandary was a seminary education. Having never visited and knowing little about Princeton Theological Seminary, my extraordinarily patient and supportive wife and I packed our bags and moved to New Jersey.

At PTS, my primary motive was to develop the relationship between my interest in theology and my passion for social justice. Prior to my first year of theological education, my sense of social justice determined what I believed about God. However, I found that my God shape-shifted according to the social issues that interested me. Hence, I was easily subjected to Feuerbach’s criticism of religion. Those of you who are familiar with PTS might find what happened next a bit predictable. In the spring of 2009, I was introduced to the theology of Karl Barth via George Hunsinger and Dietrich Bonhoeffer via Nancy Duff. This introduction signaled a theological shift that significantly impacted my faith and life. I learned that both Barth and Bonhoeffer’s social action extended from the truth of God revealed in Jesus Christ. Considering this, I found that my previous efforts in helping the poor and afflicted were fundamentally selfish. These discoveries were absolutely liberating. Through my reconsiderations, I developed a passionate interest in theology and renewed passion for the social and political implications of theological reflection.

That is close to where you find me here today. I have intentionally left out much in this semblance of an introduction because I anticipate discussing my theological story in various ways through this blogging community. So, what can you expect from me? Well, as you probably can tell, theology is a very personal endeavor for me. Therefore, as I blog I will inevitably reflect both theologically and personally. Furthermore, as indicated in my biographical blurb, you can expect me to reflect on the doctrine of Holy Scripture—as that is a primary interest of mine. More so, I will be in class for the foreseeable future and I like to challenge myself by testing what I am learning in those classes beyond the requirements of those courses. So, this semester you can expect some reflection on early Trinitarian doctrine and Lesslie Newbigin. Lastly, I am somewhat obsessed with music and running. Although I don’t anticipate any theological reflection on running, I do expect to talk about music. Mind you, I don’t play a single instrument (other than air guitar and air drums)—but I am quite the pretentious if not skilled listener. I look forward to venturing into this weird and wild blogosphere. See you there.

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3 comments:

Schumes said...

Lookin' forward to more, Jon!

W. Travis McMaken said...

Thanks for writing, Jon! I'm looking forward to your theo-political reflection.

Scott Rice said...

Jon, you have peaked my interest with your comments on tying social convictions with one’s commitment to Christ. For the past couple of years, I have been excited to hear so much discussion on christology and mission that does not divorce social action from proclamation and vice versa. With your passions and gifts (speaking as a student-colleague and friend), I am equally if not more excited for your contributions on the matter.