Written by Mrs. Susan Disston
Monday, 06 February 2012 00:00
Ctrl-Alt-Delete has been an actual word in the English language since 1980, so says my fave website Word Spy: The Word Lover’s Guide to New Words. Webmaster Paul McFedries defines Ctrl-Alt-Delete as “a metaphoric mechanism with which one can reset, restart, or rethink something.”
In Biblical’s classrooms, there’s some Ctrl-Alt-Deleting going on. Professors and students are wrestling with the challenges of being the church in a secular society where there are a lot of systemic problems and injustices which the church gets associated with because of its longstanding identification with American culture. At Biblical’s most recent Conversations in Christianity and Culture, Dr. James Davison Hunter presented material from his latest book To Change the World. His premise is that Christians’ faithful presence in their situations should take the form of relationships and institutions that demonstrate God’s love and support the claims of the gospel message. These relationships and institutions should differ from secular or capitalistic enterprises in that their ends are in line with Scripture and God’s character. They are to be covenantal in character, that is, “fostering meaning, purpose, truth, beauty, belonging, and fairness—not just for Christians but for everyone.” To Change the World, p.263
In an earlier post, Professor Derek Cooper offered five features of a missional reading of Scripture which included this point #5: The church as an incarnation of God’s coming kingdom, its proclamation of the gospel, and its engagement with the culture. Proclamation of the gospel is a prominent feature of a missional reading [and application] of Scripture, but not the only one. Also included are “incarnation” and “engagement.” Both are to occur, along with proclamation, in missional reading and practice.
A missional reading of Scripture leads to the kind of relationships and institutional ethos that Dr. Hunter advocates for in his vision for Christians’ faithful presence. Here is a story that Dr. Hunter told to the audience of students, faculty, alumni, and ministry leaders gathered at Conversations in Christianity and Culture. It shows how one Christian business took a missional reading of Scripture and made it come alive in the work place.
“An automotive company in the Southeast has organized its business model on the basis of a rethinking of capitalism. Instead of running the business purely on the model of exchange and contract, this company actually operates...on the premise of covenant; its core question being: ‘what do we owe our customers and employees?’ The result is a very different way of doing business....” For example, “as to employees [in the inner-city dealership], the leadership recognized that lower-level wage earners would not have the same life chances as management, so the business established a scholarship fund that pays the college tuition of all children of the company. The cost of the program is high, though the benefit to the business is the loyalty of its employees. In [this] situation, the guiding question has been, what does it mean to do good to the vulnerable?” To Change the World, p. 266-7
The business in the story above values people in a way that mirrors God’s valuing of people as intrinsically of greater value “than their tangible contribution as economic actors.” To Change the World, p. 265
That is a missional reading of Scripture in action, one that is engaged with the culture, that incarnates an intrinsic value found in the Scriptures (and the Trinity), and that resounds the plausibility of the Christian message among the employees, their families, and beyond. This story and Dr. Hunter’s thoughtful challenge to our thinking is what Biblical’s faculty wants our students to discuss today and to discuss with their leadership next week.
Ctrl-Alt-Delete in action. Reset-Restart-Rethink.
Susan Disston is the assistant dean of curriculum and assessment at Biblical Seminary. She teaches project courses in the doctor of ministry program and in ESLPLUS. http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/adjunct-faculty-theology