This week is Research and Study Week at LPTS. People unfamiliar with the nature of this week may think that is a euphemism for Spring Break. It, after all, has in common with Spring Break both
a.) timing, and
b.) number of classes you're required to attend.
In other words, Spring has almost sprung, and I get a week off from attending classes. However, lest I be tempted to waste my time pursuing folly, I am afforded no break this week. Instead, I'm holing up in my basement office, writing at least 3 to 5 hours per day. Before I realized the workload I would have this week I spoke bravely of using this time to catch up on all the things I haven't had time to do since I returned to school. I might catch up on my work for church, or I might revisit some sections I'd been working on for my possibly-never-to-be-written book, before I forget what I'd decided to write. But now I'm staring at an insane amount of academic work, laughing at all of my classmates who thought they might take this week to visit the beach.
I have at least one major project for every class I'm taking, all due either at some point during this week, or by the end of next week. Here are just a few of the essay questions/topics that I'll be taking on:
For History of the Christian Experience I:
1. Eusebius of Caesarea (that's the Caesarea in Palestine, remember) is often called "the first church historian." The selection you read (§ 18 in RWCH) is not from his Ecclesiastical History but from a Life of Constantine, which is both a narrative of Constantine's life and also an example of a literary form of commending and praising its subject. Write an essay which examines the portrayal of Constantine in this work. How are you the reader being invited to think of this figure? What features in the text reinforce this view? What implications can you see for the church when an emperor assumes the roles described here?
2. The Nicene Creed takes an affirmation of faith organized by the baptismal formula “in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” (cf. both Matthew 28:19 and Didache VII) and adds to this baptismal creed “clarifications” of the identity of Jesus Christ which had their origin in the controversy with Arius and his followers. What is the significance of these additions, especially the “homoousios” formula? How do you evaluate the decision to use non-Biblical terms to convey in a new cultural context the meaning of Christian faith?
For Paradigms of Mission:
1. Why is language so important to Christianity, according to Lamin Sanneh? Outline his argument and give two examples of the importance of language in theology and Christian practice from your own experience.
2. Describe specific reformation views and discuss their influence today. Choose three of the following:
i. The authority of the institutional church in the lives of believers.
ii. Christian views of the priesthood of all believers.
iii.The role of the church in governing society.
iv. The importance of individual experience in Christian life.
v. Understandings of the after-life and how to avoid God's punishment.
3. Compare the views of the church in the mission paradigm of Matthew and the Pauline missionary paradigm, according to David Bosch. How are the identity and the values of the church reflected in each? What are the similarities and differences between the two views of the church?
4. Outline the contemporary crisis in mission, according to David Bosch. In what ways are the issues he addresses reflected in your own denomination or congregation? Describe the "danger" and "opportunity" presented in this situation.
For this class I also have to, by next Wednesday, write a 5-6 page Critical Book Review of Lamin Sanneh's Translating the Message: The Missionary Impact on Culture.
Along with these specific questions, other classes are asking more opened ended questions.
For Resistance and Reconciliation I have to write a paper outlining my own concept of theological resistance (you can see that developing in some of the posts here), and start anticipating if and how that concept paves the way for the ministry of reconciliation.
For Growing in the Life of Christian Faith I have to write a paper reflecting on the relationship between evil, suffering, and our ideas about and experience of God (another topic that you can see me developing here).
Finally, for Intro to Judaism I have to write a paper reflecting on recent visits to a Reform and a Conservative synagogue.
As you can see, there will be no "Break" for me this Spring - just work, work, and more work. If anything interesting emerges from this turbulent sea of course work, I'll post it here. In the meantime, forgive me if I don't do anything other than work for school, as I'm up to my ears in it.
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