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The longer I try to listen to the Word of God and to help students listen to it, the more I realize what a gift it is to teach at Whitworth. I spend my time exploring the mystery of Jesus Christ with students – thinking with them about what Christians believe, puzzling with them over what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ today, and talking with them about how we might persuasively communicate the good news of God's love. And the very best part of this work is that I get to do it alongside students who consistently challenge, surprise, instruct and delight me.
It's far more rare than you might think for a university to allow its faculty to do genuinely evangelical theology – theology rooted in scripture, informed by the history of the church's reflection on the gospel, and open to a wide range of voices and perspectives. Whitworth is unusual in that it gives us space to do our theological work in genuine freedom – freedom to return again and again to scripture, freedom to struggle to hear God's Word, and freedom to express what we find without fear of censure. The more conversations I have with friends who teach elsewhere, the more I realize what a remarkable environment this is, and the more grateful I am to be here.
I spend a lot of my time thinking about ways that the gospel illuminates these strange and dark times in which we find ourselves. This year Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Letters and Papers from Prison has been especially helpful for me and I heartily recommend it to you. It's an odd and remarkable book – full of doubt, wisdom, discouragement, humanity and Christian faith. Toward the end of the book, there's a passage that Bonhoeffer wrote less than a year before he was executed. I've found myself returning to it again and again this year, and I can't think of a better way to end this letter than by sharing it with you:
"I discovered later, and I'm still discovering right up to this moment, that it is only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. One must completely abandon any attempt to make something of oneself, whether it be a saint, or a converted sinner, or a church person (a so-called priestly type!), a righteous or an unrighteous person, a sick or a healthy person. By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life's duties, problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities. In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously, not our own sufferings, but those of God in the world – watching with Christ in Gethsemane. That, I think, is faith; that is metanoia; and that is how one becomes a human being and a Christian (cf. Jer. 45!). How can success make us arrogant, or failure lead us astray, when we share in God's sufferings through a life of this kind?"
Take care, and stay in touch,
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