Thursday, May 30, 2013

Christian Librarianship Part 3

Donald G. Davis, Jr., and John Mark Tucker presents a theology of work in their essay, "The Master We Serve: The Call of the Christian Librarian to the Secular Workplace." The authors think that Christian Librarians have a calling and can serve God in the library. In addition, Davis and Tucker believe God ordained work since God put Adam to work before the Fall. They disagree with "the notion that work may be categorized into sacred or secular activities" (42). The authors believe we work for the Lord in our work. Colossians teaches that we must "put our whole heart" into our work (Col. 3:24). The authors believe we can be witnesses in our work. We can do this through mentoring, counseling, affirming, and interacting.

Davis and Tucker how different librarian tasks can show concern for others. The reference interview can help to meet a researcher's need. Catalogers can think of the searcher as they make subject headings. Collection development librarians "can acquire materials that portray a biblical perspective on a variety of topics and thus maintain a balance of worldviews in the marketplace of ideas and ideologies" (45). These librarians can make sure the collection is balanced providing information for all legitimate sides on an issue.

In chapter four of Christian Librarianship John B. Trotti discusses "The Theological Library: In Touch with the Witnesses." Trotti believes theological librarianship is a ministry.  He states, "I conceive of my work and that of my staff as a ministry as well as an aid in multiple future ministries" (49). In addition, the author writes that librarians help researchers connect with the witnesses of the past. Trotti notes, "We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses--past and present--speaking, dialoguing, sharing with those who would be witnesses today"(49). Some emphasize the the library as a warehouse of knowledge. The author sees the library as more personal. Instead, he sees the library as a ministry. It is more focused on the people. "Its collections are broad and deep; its policies serve people; and its staff are partners in the learning process" (48). In addition, Trotti thinks "service must continue to be the library's number one priority" (52).

In chapter five Stanford Terhune analyzes "The Impact of the Christian Faith on Library Service." He thinks it is "the purpose of the Christian librarian to help order and structure . . . truth and assist faculty and students as they struggle to discover and organize that truth into a Christian worldview" (58). He believes it is the Christian College's job "to educate its students, to equip them so that they can effectively function in the world in Chris's service" (58). The Christian library can support this goal through providing resources and services to the student. It can make the student "aware of the heritage of Christian thought, the Christian history within which the thought was developed, the current state of Christian thought and action in various fields of human activity, and the thought patterns of his culture" (59-60).

The Christian library is instrumental in providing the resources needed by the researcher. Terhune looks at five different areas of the collection: reference: The Reference Collection, The Christian Classics, Church History, The General Collection and Specialized Collections.

The library provide not only resources. In addition, they provide services. Terhune states, "Educating students and helping them use the library is a critical service if they are to realize the full value of the library's resources and use them to educate themselves, to seek God's truth, and comprehend how they can work for God's purposes in society" (62). The librarians are teachers and the library is a teaching library. The author thinks librarians need to focused on the needs of the users of the library. The librarians provide services through reference work. In this task they help meet the student's research needs. This requires that librarians "get intimately involved with students" (63). The librarian wants to be approachable and make the student feel at ease. Often they need to help the student to better frame their research question. The author states, "he should show love toward the student by listening carefully to what the student wants, asking questions to help the student define her topic and decide what kinds of resources she really needs." Often the student do not know what he is looking for or what is available in the library. The librarian should work with the student "as a partner in the search for knowledge rather than merely pointing in the direction of the resource" (63). In addition, the librarian can help the student evaluate her sources. Terhune asserts that the librarian can show the student how he "might critique the author's theories or arguments from a Christian point of view, or confirm the contribution that the author has made to knowledge" (64). The librarian can assist the student in integrating the Christian faith with his learning. The last point was teaching "christian library ethics to the student. For example, teaching the student how to properly cite sources and not to plagiarized.

Christian Librarianship Part 2

Christian Librarianship: Essays on the Integration of Faith and Profession, edited by Gregory A. Smith. McFarland, 2002.

In chapter two of this book, Smith discusses "The Cultural Mandate, the Pursuit of knowledge, and the Christian Librarian." Smith uses Genesis 1:26-28 to argue for the cultural mandate. The idea of the cultural mandate is that men and women have been given the responsibility to develop the creation. This would support cultural activities like the arts and sciences. Joseph McDonald observed, "The creation-mandate to unravel and develop what God has placed in this world implies that much is going to be discovered and that a great deal of information about things and relationships will be produced. Unrestricted and orderly access to information about creation is fundamental and utterly necessary if the creature is to move ahead in 'subduing' the creation. And library science, by comprehensively organizing, making accessible, and interpreting the 'written' human record, is pivotal in assuring this unrestricted and orderly access" (29). Smith in this chapter discusses the "implications" of the cultural mandate "for research, library science, and the Christian mind." He thinks the cultural mandate "legitimizes" the work of Christian librarians.

Smith discusses implications for four areas: "intellectual activity," "research," "Library Science," and the "Christian mind." The cultural mandate "calls us to manage creation's resources so as to bring glory to God and ultimate benefit to the human community" (30). We need knowledge of this world if we will do this effectively. This calls for studying all the branches of knowledge: the natural sciences, the social sciences, and  the humanities. Smith states, "The information thus generated must be disseminated, stored, and retrieved if cultural progress is to continue" (30). The need for these tasks requires librarians and libraries. Smith writes, "while not overtly commissioned by God, librarians accomplish his purposes to the extent that they support the research component of the cultural mandate" (30-31).

The second implication is research. Smith asserts that two "features" of research is part of the cultural mandate. The first is "that research is necessarily cumulative" (31). The second is that it is "expected to contribute to new knowledge" (31). The author notes that there is probably not any new knowledge that is completely original. Smith states, "it should offer something not directly or fully treated in any one source. It will be a new arrangement consisting of tested facts and fresh thought" (310). The "pursuit of learning" is a necessary part of the cultural mandate.

A third implication of the cultural mandate is for the field of library science. Smith discusses three major tasks of librarians: "intellectual freedom," "preservation," and "organization." Researchers need intellectual freedom to access previous knowledge. Scholars must have the opportunity to discuss ideas with other scholars. Smith states, "Yet human civilization knows of no way to promote the discovery of new knowledge other than to create a community where ideas can be freely proposed, discussed, challenged, tested, and modified, leading finally to their confirmation or rejection" (31). Librarians collect previous studies and make them available to scholars. Smith notes, "libraries collect books and other sources to document various positions on a given issue, affording researchers the opportunity to weigh the evidence and come to their own conclusion" (31). In addition to intellectual freedom, libraries must preserve resources for future use.  Smith notes, "It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that wherever ancient civilization reached a high degree of development, there were facilities dedicated to the preservation of legal documents, literary texts, and other written records" (31). The last task discusses is the organization of information. Without organizing the information, it is not accessible to the researcher.

The last implication concerns the life of the mind. The scriptures teaches that "the whole of our intellectual life is to be brought into submission to God" (35). The author notes that there is no divide between sacred and secular knowledge because God is the author of all truth. Smith makes three points about the life of the mind. First, the Christian mind acknowledges two sources of truth, natural and divine revelation. These two sources complement one another. Second, the Christian mind "operates under the influence of the Holy Spirit." The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit will guide the believer into all truth. Third, the Christian mind "takes account of the moral implications of truth" (36). In other words, truth is connected to morality. The intellectual virtues are connected to the intellectual truth. A Christian education is a moral education.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Spiritual Dimension of the Librarian's Task

Roger R. Nicole, "The Spiritual Dimension of the Librarian's Task." The Christian Librarian (May/August 1982): 106-114.

"The Spiritual Dimension of the Librarian's Task was delivered as a series of addresses at the twenty-fifth annual conference of the Association of Christian Librarians at Nyack College, June 9-11, 1981."

These addresses by Roger R. Nicole looks at the tasks of the Christian librarian and how it relates to the Christian faith. He looks at three different roles of the Christian librarian: "service," "orderliness," and "curator." The author believes there is a spiritual dimension to each of these roles.

The first address discussed "The Librarian as a Model for Service" (106). The author's native country is Switzerland. In that country the emphasis was more on protecting the books. He found in the United States the emphasis was more on serving the patron. Nicole states, "librarians in this country are interested in serving patrons" (106). The author asserts that Christian Librarians "have the opportunity to model the kind of attitude and of service which behooves those who belong to Jesus Christ, for our Lord has called upon us to be taking the form of servants, and has Himself given us an example in a very moving manner. We have the example of Jesus washing the disciples' feet reported in the gospel of John. Jesus told the disciples that he gave them an example to follow. They were to wash each other's feet. In the gospel of Matthew Jesus reported on His mission: "The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28).

Nicole notes that the word service is closely related to the word minister. The author notes, "The librarian has the opportunity to be a servant. The library is intended to primarily serve people. It is intended to provide for people the facilities that are necessary to explore truth, to mine the past, to accomplish tasks which are required in classes, to find information that may be needed in a variety of ways . . . " (107). Librarians through their service can exhibit the character of Christ. Service shows a spiritual dimension to librarianship.

The second address discussed "The Librarian as a Model of Orderliness" (108). The author declares that God is a God of order. The library also is "a place of order" (109). Nicole states, "If there is no orderliness the Library cannot be serviceable, it cannot provide the materials that are needed for the patrons. It cannot serve as it should serve" (109). The author spoke of different positions in the library that contribute to this orderliness. The first position mentioned is the cataloger. Nicole writes, "If a library is not properly cataloged the value and amount of usefulness of the books will be sharply reduced" (109). If the books are not put in some kind of order it would not be accessible. The author mentions how one library was organized based on its accession number and how difficult it was to find what he needed. Catalogers organized materials according to subject matter. This makes it helpful for the patron to find what they need.

Another person who contribute to this order is those who shelve books. Everyone knows that a book shelved in the wrong place is a lost book. Nicole states, "It is very important that the books should be arranged on the shelves in a way that follows the pattern that the cataloger has set up. so there are people who are involved in safeguarding the proper location of the books" (109). The shelving of books might not be a glamorous job but it is an important job. Doing it right provides a service to the patron.

Another important person is the circulation librarian. Nicole writes, "The circulation librarian models order at the level of loaning and borrowing books" (110). Usually this person is the face of the librarian. It is the first person the patron encounters in the library. It is important that there are accurate records that people are not charged for materials they have already returned. It is important that materials are returned in an orderly manner that they can be used by patrons who need them.

In addition, Nicole thinks that the "securing of the books you need" is part of this orderly process. Librarians perform an important role in making sure the collection stays up to date. The librarian needs to know what the library has and what it needs to serve its patrons. It needs to have a consistent, systematic plan for building the collection to meet the current and future needs of its patrons. A part of collection development is deaccessioning materials. Some librarians and many faculty have a problem in getting rid of materials. It is, however important to get rid of unnecessary items. Nicole states, "One quality that is necessary for order is the ability to discard what is useless or obsolete. If there is a lack of ability to discard, then inevitably a clutter develops" (111). In addition, the author notes, "To have order you need to perceive what is important, and to distinguish it from what is secondary or unessential" (111). Weeding the collection on a regular basis is essential if we are going to have a useful collection and having a useful collection provides a service to the patron. Nicole states, "God wants a library to be an ordered collection in which materials are available and can be used for the people who desire to explore the truth, to steep themselves in knowledge, and capture some of the rich insights which the Providence of God has permitted in the past" (111-112). Providing an orderly collection performs a spiritual service.

The third address described "The Librarian as a Curator of the Records of the Holy Spirit's Work Among God's People" (112). Nicole states, "A library is a collection of records which constitute a kind of collective memory" (112). A Theological library provides a record of God's work in the past. Individuals without a personal memory do not know who they are. The people of God without a collective memory of the work of  God do not know who they are. The individual's memory is selective. It does not remember everything that ever happened to her. The collective memory of God's work is also selective. Nicole notes, "We need selection in order to have something that is manageable, that can be organized and in which things can be retrieved" 112). As mentioned earlier, we do not need clutter but an orderly collection that is useful. Nicole states, "But the library constitutes a carefully sorted out corporate memory in which things that are significant and can be helpful to the present and the future are being gathered together and made available to people who need the information" (112). Since God is the author of all truth, the library will want to collect all materials that pertain to the search of truth. Even the early Christian libraries collected both Christian and non-Christian writings. Nicole notes how the librarian's task "is a stewardship of the work of the Holy Spirit" (112). Jesus promised His disciples that the Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth. Nicole states, "we would be very foolhardy to disregard whatever the Holy Spirit has done in the midst of His people of 1900 years" (112). As stewards, we must be faithful to preserving the record of God's work among his people. We also need to preserve any materials that will help us understand this work. The library can provide "roots" for the modern believer: "It gives us an insight to what God has done and how the precious Word that He has given to us can be understood, and how it has been made operative in the past, and can be so in the present and the future" (113). The author thinks "this is a truly noble task which has true spiritual dimensions" (113).

Roger R. Nicole has argued persuasively that the tasks of Christian librarians have "spiritual dimensions." He has shown how service, orderliness, and preserving the records of the past are directly related to the Christian faith. All these tasks lead to serving the patron of the library. One can even see that the tasks performed by the Christian librarian can be seen as a ministry.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Educating Bees: Humility as a Craft in Classical and Christian Liberal Arts

Rick Kennedy, "Educating Bees: Humility as a Craft in Classical and Christian Liberal Arts," in Christian Scholars Review XLII:1 (Fall 2012): 29-42.

Rick Kennedy, A History of Reasonableness: Testimony and Authority in the Art of Thinking. Rochester, New York: University of Rochester, 2004.

Rick Kennedy uses the example of the bee to illustrate the craft of learning in the liberal arts tradition. Teresa Morgan describes the activities of bees: "Bees were widely used as an image of a model society. They are described as perfectly social creatures who subordinate their individuality to the harmonious whole. As such they are loaded images for educated man. They suggest that not only should he be busy, useful, and virtuous; he should also direct his activity to the common good and live in harmony with his society"(30).  Kennedy thinks this is a good illustration of the arts of learning. In this article he presents "four essential practices" to bee-like behavior.

The first "was a recognition that most knowledge is social and must be handled with rules of social obligation" (30). Kennedy discusses how the "classical liberal arts or paideia was foundationally focused on teaching the skills needed by scholar-bureaucrats and citizen-orators in political situations" (30). The emphasis was teaching the skills necessary to perform public duties in society. This also included being educated to carry out leisure activities wisely. Kennedy asserts that Aristotle's thought "affirmed that humans were bee-like political animals and a city found its purpose in being a fellowship of good people" (31). Plutarch taught that the ideal education was "supposed to produce a contented scholar and a fellowshipper" (31). Cicerco instructed his son that "the claims of human society and the bonds that unite men together take precedence of the pursuit of speculative knowledge" (31). This does not mean that Cicero thought speculative knowledge was worthless. He is emphasizing the importance of the common good.

Kennedy thinks that "the stability of the Roman Empire relied heavily on a widespread bureaucracy of civil servants, and it was into this scribal culture that God embedded the Good News" (31). Harry Y. Gamble speaks of this scribal culture in his book, Books and Readers in the Early Church. Gamble argues that "Christianity origins was not as "an oral or literary movement;" instead, it "was rooted in a humble Jewish-Roman scribal culture skilled in the craft of collecting, securing, and anthologizing sayings and testimonies" (31). Kennedy states that the responsibility for carrying out these duties were given to "a class of slave-clerks and household stewards" (32). Even Jesus mixed this image when he said, "every scribe/grammarian who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a household who brings out of his treasure/thesaurus/archive/storehouse things new and old " (Matthew 13:52). Kennedy states, "The scribal training in the liberal arts supported the ekklesia that were essential to both the empire and Christianity" (32).

Another aspect of this training was the teaching of topics as a method of remembering information. Kennedy states that the topics were "designed to support reasonable, information-based thinking" (32). Topics taught that the art of thinking was to be taught to the students or we might say the craft of thinking. In addition, "topics affirmed that much of good thinking concerned information known socially and used socially" (32). One can see that teaching and learning was a social practice.

Kennedy in his book and article emphasizes the importance of testimony and how to handle it. Testimony is basically information external to the thinker. The author states, "Presented information, the student looks first to the authority of the source of the information and only in the light of that authority does the student then critique the information" (33). The author writes that both "humblethink" and "faithcraft" emphasize the importance of "social obligations, especially obligations to a credible authority" (33). Kennedy mentions that there existed a conflict in the liberal arts "between rules of scribal practice and rules of philosophical practice"(33). Scribal practice "was more bee-like," the philosophical practice was not. Kennedy notes, "The primary goal in public education was not the production of philosophers: rather, it was the creation of citizens and fellowshippers skilled in making faith and the humblethink of appropriate submission" (34). The author in his book, A History of Reasonableness observes how since Kant there has been more an emphasis on the isolated scholar than on teaching the art of resonableness. This art teaches how to handle the testimony of others. Augustine thought that we "are helped in learning by a twofold force, that of authority and of reason" (34). The author states, "In modern Christian liberal arts we would do well to teach faithcraft and humblethinking as tools of proper obligation to authority distinct from modern critical thinking" (34). He thinks education should begin "with the skills of scribes and citizens before embarking on the skills of philosophers"(34). This makes much sense. One would think you need to understand a tradition before you set out to critique it.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Christian Librarianship

Christian Librarianship: Essays on the Integration of Faith and Profession, edited by Gregory A. Smith. McFarland, 2002.

Gregory Smith has gathered together sixteen essays previously published that addresses the integration of Christian faith and librarianship. All the essays are written by Christian librarians working in academic and public libraries. Smith lists three purposes for this collection: "First, it should help Christians in the library profession to integrate their faith with their vocation. . . . Second, it is expected to provide a foundation for further discussion of library issues from a Christian perspective. . . Third, the book may serve as a window through which students and scholars of library science may observe Christian librarians, a little understood segment of the profession" (6). The book is divided into two parts. The first part covers the theory of Christian librarianship. The second part discusses the application of Christian librarianship.

The six essays in the first part of the book applies biblical principles and Christian theology to Christian librarianship. Smith in chapter one argues that the "Christian faith and librarianship can be integrated with mutual benefit" (11). He lists three reasons for this belief. First, "the propagation of the Christian faith benefits from effective librarianship" (11). The beginning of the Christian faith were both "propositional" and "missional." Smith states, "These two features of the Christian religion combine to produce in its adherents a high regard for education, literacy, and the preservation of information-bearing documents. Not surprisingly, Christians have contributed significantly to the development of libraries of all types" (12). Christians were known as "people of the book." One thinks of the monks who preserved both Christian and pagan literature.

Smith states, "The Christian interest in libraries began in the apostolic period" (12). Even the Apostle Paul at the end of his life requested Timothy to "Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come--and the books, especially the parchments" (2Tim. 4:13). Smith notes, "Archaeological and literary evidence shows that Christians began to form various libraries in the first few centuries of the Christian era" (12). These libraries included more than religious resources. Smith states, "There is good reason to believe that secular works, both classical and contemporary, were preserved in both individual and corporate libraries"(13). Lawrence McCrank asserts, "Saint Augustine's . . . famous decision in De doctrina christiana that Christians should take from pagan learning those works compatible with Christianity, as though these non-Christian scholars unjustly possessed the truth, provided a justification for Christian libraries to retain their classics" (13). Augustine's argument was one of the reasons that Christian libraries would collection both Christian and non-Christian resources.

The libraries of Greece and Rome would decline "as the Roman empire became more Christianize." The spread of the Christian faith and monasteries would lead to the development of a network of libraries. There was a strong connection between libraries and monasteries because of the "influence of Benedict of Nursia and Cassidorus," both monastic leaders. These monastic libraries would expand with the development of Cathedral schools and higher learning. Smith states, "In the later centuries of the Middle Ages, many cathedrals sponsored schools, creating a symbiotic relationship between scholars, students, books, and libraries. Cathedral libraries were the nuclei around which the studia generalia, precursors of modern universities, developed in France and England in the twelfth century" (13). One can see in this development how the two features of the church, propagation and mission was connected to the development of libraries. Smith states, "Throughout church history, Christians have developed libraries in order to maintain their distinctive religious identity, facilitate doctrinal discussion, cultivate receptivity to the gospel, and share their faith with others" (15).

The second point presented by Smith is that the Christian worldview "provides a viable philosophical framework for librarianship" (15). Richard Waller identified six traits of a "suitable philosophy. These included the existence of truth, possibility of knowledge, "purpose in the world," provide reasons for the possibility of communication, a concern for others, and tolerance for the view of others. Smith thinks Christian theism meets this criteria. he lists seven traits of Christian theism that supports Christian librarianship. First, Christian theism provides motivation for service. The bible teaches the dignity of the human person and commands us to love our neighbor. Second, the biblical view "provides a solid foundation for intellectual freedom" (16). The Bible teaches that there are both natural revelation and supernatural revelation. Smith notes, "Exploring the created order and developing culture is part of God's design for human life" (16).  Third, the Christian view "validates librarians' role as stewards of history and culture" (16). We preserve culture's memory. We preserve resources that will help people to understand God's world. We "perpetuate the memory of God's dealings with the human race and his people in particular" (16). Librarians have preserved over two thousand years of "rational thinking and hard work and science and art and the Judeo-Christian tradition" (Walker Percy). Roger Nicole observed that we "act as custodians of the records of the Holy Spirit" (16). Fourth, the biblical view provides a reason for organizing information. Our God is a God of order, not confusion. Smith states, "The universe is rational and purposeful, reflecting the nature of its creator. Organizing information makes it possible for us to transmit knowledge to future generations" (16). Librarians keep us from reinventing the wheel. Fifth, the Christian view provides a rationale for promoting literacy. The bible "itself is a literary collection, a sort of library prototype" (17). God has revealed Himself in written form. If we are to know if we need to learn how to read. Reading and writing are important elements of the Christian life. Gordon Smith states, "The discipline of study is an essential component of spiritual formation" (17). The sixth point is Christian theism provides an ethical framework for our lives and profession. Smith states, "Librarians who work in Christian Colleges consciously contribute to their patrons' moral development" (17). He also thinks "Librarians' personal convictions take precedence over professional code of ethics" (17). The last point is that all truth is God's truth because it either comes from divine or natural revelation. In conclusion, Smith states, "Truth is knowable, objective, coherent, practical, and sacred. The pursuit of truth should be approached as a spiritual enterprise" (17).

Smith, in his final point of this chapter asserts, "The holistic nature of Christian discipleship demands integration with all fields of study, including library science" (11). God is sovereign over all of our life, not jost part of it. Christianity is a gospel of wholeness, not fragmentation. Integrating faith and learning is part of Christian discipleship. Integrating Christian faith with our work is also part of the Christian calling. Smith concludes, "True Christian discipleship discourages the segregation of religious commitment from one's intellectual or professional pursuits" (18).

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Core Virtue of Librarianship

Gregory A. Smith, "The Core Virtue of Librarianship" (2002). Faculty Publications and Presentations. Paper 1.

Gregory Smith has written extensively on the topic of Christian librarianship and I have learned much from his publications. In this paper, Smith argues that the core virtue of Christian librarianship is love. He believes this core virtue separates Christian librarianship from a secular approach to library ethics. He does think that many of the virtues of librarianship is consistent with a Christian worldview. He even thinks these virtues is not supported by secular philosophies. For example, he speaks of Michael Gormon's Our Enduring Values: Librarianship in the 21st Century. Smith writes, "In many ways Gormon's proposed values--stewardship, service, intellectual freedom, rationalism, literacy and learning, equity of access, privacy, and democracy--are more consistent with biblical thesism than with the humanistic worldview to which he holds" (1-2).

In the first part of the paper Smith reviews the literature of the topic. In other words, people who have studied the topic before him. Doerken (2001) states, "There is no basis [in humanistic philosophy] for saying that any value is the right value to hold, nor can one authoritatively propose a set of best values, because there is no external criterion by which to judge right or wrong, or best or worst" (2). He looks at different authors who have written of the relationship between a Christian worldview and librarianship. He then reviews some key authors who have written on the biblical concept of love. For example, Leon Morris states, "The importance of the love command cannot be overestimated. In Jesus' day the Jews discerned 613 commandments in the Law, and there were vigorous discussions about the relative importance of some of these. . . Jesus swept aside all such deliberations with his revolutionary insistence on the centrality of love. . . . It means that love is central to the whole way of life to the follower of Jesus" (3).

Smith in his article emphasizes the two commandments that Jesus said summarized the whole law. "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second commandment is that you "shall love your neighbor as yourself" (4). Smith says Jesus mentioned a third commandment, Christian believers were to love each other as Jesus loves them. Smith then applies these three commandments to librarianship.

He lists "five implications" for Christian librarianship. First, "we should acknowledge God, not professional standards, as our supreme authority" (8). Second, we "should promote the love of God as man's highest occupation" (8). Third, we "should offer information resources to provide for total personal development" (8). The reason for this is that God calls Christian believers to grow in every area of their lives. Fourth, we "should integrate scholarship and discipleship and lead others to do the same" (8). The assumption for this point would be that faith and reason are compatible. In addition, all truth is from God. Fifth, we "should affirm human freedom to love God" (9). Smith believes believers should express their faith in the "context of their daily work." This does not mean they should coerce others "in matters of belief and practice" ().

Smith states, "The second commandment demands that we treat everyone with whom we come in contact with loving respect and concern, as we ourselves would wish to be treated" (9). This would be applying the Golden Rule to library service. He lists six implications for this commandment. They concern sexual purity, violence, honest, balancing freedom and responsibility, service, and not showing partiality in our service.

The last part of the paper discusses the new commandment of love. This is the command for Christian believers to love one another. He lists two applications for this commandment. First, we "should emulate Christ's love in our dealings with other Christians at work" (11). The Bible says if we love God, we are to love our brothers and sisters in Christ. One of the definitions of love is seeking the good of others. Second, we "should seek unity among genuine Christians" (11). Jesus told the disciples that all the world would know if they were His disciples by how they loved one another. Smith states, "this principle does not preclude us from disagreeing with other Christians on non-essential points; nevertheless, it does require us to avoid prideful divisions within the body of Christ. By extension, we should give a positive witness to unbelievers" (11). Being human, Christian believers will disagree with one another. There is, however, a right way and a wrong way to disagree. Christians too often tear down other believers because of their differences.

Smith has shown how love can be the core virtue of librarianship. In the beginning of the paper, Smith states, "Christian librarians should derive their professional ethics from a methodical exegesis of the Bible" (1). He has shown how the biblical teaching on love can give Christian librarians a professional ethics that is biblical. One of the things I question about this is it sounds like Christian reductionism. Can we get ethics only from the Bible? What about natural law? Is the Bible an exhaustive revelation? Can we not learn things through reason and natural revelation? These are some of the questions I have about getting our ethics only from the Bible. It seems we are going against one of Smith's assertions which is that faith and reason are compatible.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Vocation of the Christian Teacher

Jeanne Heffernan, "Integrating Heart, Mind, and Soul: The Vocation of the Christian Teacher," in Gladly Learn, Gladly Teach: Living Out One's Calling in the Twenty-First Century Academy, ed. John Marson Dunaway. (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2005), 112-124.

Heffernan thinks faith and learning are "natural companions." She argues against reductionism. The idea of reason alone or allowing only certain voices in the conversation. In addition, she gives ways on integrating faith and learning in one's teaching.

The author was brought up to believe in "the harmony between faith and the intellectual life" (112). She states that her parents "understood something about living an integrated life, a life in which intelligence and professional training found purpose and expression in discipleship." This is a good point made by her parents. Living out one's calling is a part of Christian discipleship. We are called to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul. We are also called to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is part of the Christian walk to honor God in all that we do. There is no split between the sacred and religious life. God is to have all of our life.

This background of learning has shaped the author's views on the relationship between faith and learning. Heffernan states, "I perceive it as a calling to learn and teach and write in light of the Gospel and to do so as part of a mysteriously living communion of Christian teachers and scholars that transcends time and space, united all by a dedication to the life of faith and learning" (113).

The author thinks the integration of faith and learning "is the essential task of every Christian educator" (114). She says this task is not easy. Especially, in the current time "when the culture and academy are inhospitable to it" (114). Despite the barriers, Christian educators "are still called to serve the Lord in this context, bringing the Good News" (114) to the academy.

Reductionism is a strong element of the modern world of the academy. Heffernan asserts, "The academy's most illustrious mapmakers are reductionists; their equipment is suited to studying small bits of earth, but they presume to measure the whole world with it" (114). A strong opponent of the reductionism represented by E. O. Wilson is Wendell Berry. Berry has written a strong case against reductionism in his book, Life is a Miracle: An Essay Against Modern Superstition. Heffernan writes, "What Wendell Berry and I both object to is the notion that everything tangible is reducible to and, as Wilson argues, determined by the laws of physics" (115). In addition, the author thins that this reductionism "is thoroughgoing; there is no room here for a non-material explanation of anything in our experience" (115). This is an indication of allowing only some voices to the conversation. Berry thinks it is "tyrannical." E. F. Schumacher calls this "a methodical aversion to the recognition of higher levels . . .  of significance" (115).

The author thinks this reductionism in the university is a new thing. She calls it a "radical fragmentation of knowledge" (116). H. J. Massingheim thinks "modern knowledge is departmentalized," but this has not always been true. Massingham states, "The essence of culture is initiation into wholeness" (116). This seems to work against the idea of the meaning of university. Heffernan thinks this is the reason we need liberal arts colleges and universities. We need "optimally communities of learners who complement one another's work in an effort to understand the whole" (116).

The author provides some tips for integrating faith and learning in the classroom. She states, "To integrate faith and learning in the classroom means that I must be a person of both faith and learning" (121). The assumption of this principle is that faith and learning are good companions. Heffernan notes, "The light of faith illuminates the intellect and the cultivated mind penetrates more deeply into faith" (121). The second tip is to "incorporate faith into the course material" (122). The author says she does this by "broadening the scopes of questions raised and the range of resources drawn upon in addressing the subject matter of the course" (122). The third activity is to pray for the students. This can be done both in the classroom and outside the classroom.

Heffernan has done a good job in showing how faith and learning are compatible. She has also showed the problem of reductionism. Her call for the integrating of faith and learning is a call Christian educators should heed.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Calling of the Teacher

David Lyle Jeffrey, "The Calling of the Teacher and the Place of Community," in Gladly Learn, Gladly Teach : Living Out One's Calling in the Twenty-First Century Academy, ed. John Marson Dunaway. (Macon, Ga. : Mercer University Press, 2005), 95-111.

Jeffrey distinguishes between two callings in the Christian life. One is a general calling as a Christian and the other one is a call to a specific vocation. Jeffrey writes, "The first call is universal in the sense that it is experienced by all who profess faith; the second is often highly specific and usually related to what in the secular sense we have lately come to think of as career, or profession" (95). A chief concern of Jeffrey is how individual callings can go against the common good. Hence the title, "The Calling of the Teacher and the Place of the Community." The author seeks to show in this essay how individual calling and the community can be joined together.

Jeffrey doesn't think vocation is "necessarily co-incident with discovering our natural aptitudes or confirming our natural pleasures. He shows how he is naturally an introvert which goes against his public role as a teacher.

Jeffrey thinks that the role of the Christian or the calling of a teacher cannot "be lived out" as an "individualist." He believes the call to teach is a call to "service." Both callings are a call out of self to a relationship with others.

The author believes that a person will need certain characteristics to follow a calling in the academy. He would need to have to have some abilities in public speaking. He would need to have the requisite academic training. Lastly, there would need to be a "genuinely positive response to an invitation to life-long learning. For such ongoing learning to occur, community is indispensable" (101).

Robert Frost wrote about combining one's daily work with calling:
      My object in living is to unite
      My avocation and my vocation
      As my two eyes make me one in sight.
      Only where love and need are one,
      And the work is play for mortal stakes,
      Is the deed ever really done
      For Heaven's and the future's sake.
      (Robert Frost, "Two Tramps in Mud Time," The Complete Poems of Robert Frost.

Jeffrey believes a calling to "a special vocation for any Christian ought to be considered a mixed life, a consecration of ordinary work such that it becomes a sacrifice of praise, an act of worship" (108). In this idea work can be an act of worship. One is reminded of the work and prayer view of the medieval monastery. The author also thinks that the work of all the members of the body of Christ is joined as one offering to God. Jeffrey notes, "At the personal level this offering up begins, for Paul, with an intellectual transformation, renewing of the mind (roman 12:2). It requires self-restraint, notably recognition that each of us is given but a part of what is necessary to the health of the whole body, evident intellectuals included (3-8)" (108-109). Jeffrey states that teaching and learning are among the gifts given to members of the church. These members "are called to put their vocation to learning to use . . . for the benefit of others" (109). The author argues that our "affections must be ordered towards love of the common good rather than toward our own profits" (109). In other words, we have been given gifts to benefit others. Though Christians "may respond to an individual call," this not not mean the call has an "individualistic" end.

The author sees the church acting as members of the body of Christ. Each member has his particular gifts and he uses these gifts to build up the church. One can learn from "witnesses from the body of the Christ from the past," but also from current members. Jeffrey states, "I have discovered that perhaps one of the most enriching privileges of the academic life is the opportunity to play a part in a vital, ongoing fellowship of scholars from many disciplines, in friendship and often spirited dialogue and debate to have my own categories of understanding as well as my repertoire of intellectual resources challenged, refined and expanded again and again" (110).

Jeffrey has shown in this essay how the calling of a teacher can be fruitfully joined to community. He has also shown how calling sanctifies our work. Ordinary work can be a divine calling. Our work can be a vehicle to worship God. In addition, there must be a place of community where teachers and learners can learn form each other. There must be an open atmosphere where questions and opposing ideas may be voiced and addressed civilly.

Monday, May 20, 2013


John D. Beckett, Mastering Monday: A Guide to Integrating Faith and Work. IVP Books, 2006.

Stewardship is an important element of Christian discipleship. John D. Beckett has written well on the subject in his book on faith and work. It states that stewardship is "more than money"(166). He defines stewardship as "caring for resources that are not our own" (166). Beckett is chairman of R. W. Beckett Corporation, a leading manufacturer of commercial heating systems. A guiding principle of the company is "to be wise and able stewards of the trust he [God] has placed with us" (166).

Webster defines stewardship as "A person put in charge of the affairs of a large household or estate, whose duties include supervision of the kitchen and the servants, management of household accounts . . . " (166).

Stewardship is an important teaching in the Bible. Adam was placed in the garden to care for God's creation. Beckett notes, "The Garden, Adam and everything else belonged to the Lord" (167). Jesus told a parable of an unfaithful steward in the Gospel of Luke, chapter sixteen. Jesus states, "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own?" (Luke 16:10-12).

The Apostle Paul also taught on stewardship. He thinks of himself and his ministry companions as "servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God" ( 1 Corinthians 4:1). Paul knew he had been entrusted with the Gospel and he must be faith to this calling. Paul states, "Moreover it is required in stewards that one be faithful" (1 Corinthians 4:2). The apostle Peter spoke of stewardship too. Peter states that Christians have been given gifts by God and they were to use these gifts to serve others. Peter asserts, "As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God" (1 Peter 4:10 NKJV). Beckett notes, "Gifts to be ministered included prayer, care for others, extending love, hospitality and serving (see 1 Peter 4:7-11)" (169). God gives us gifts to minister to others. It is required of us to be faithful stewards of the gifts given to us.

Beckett list the following areas as opportunities for stewardship: family, time, influence, knowledge, resources, abilities, relationships, work, and the "spiritual atmosphere around (over) us." How are stewards to act? Ultimately, our stewardship is to God. Beckett describes four characteristics that will make us faithful stewards: "perseverance," "generosity," "guardianship," and "understanding success." God does not call us to be successful but He does call us to be faithful.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Choosing a Career

Gary D. Badcock, "Choosing," in Leading Lives That Matter: What We Should Do and Who We Should Be, eds. Mark R. Schwehn and Dorothy C. Bass. (Grand Rapids, MI. : Eerdmans, 2006), 101-107.

Badcock discusses the idea of career choice from a theological perspective. Badcock does not believe God's will extends "down to details of career choice." He thinks he is fitted to work in multiple occupations. He reserves calling for religious vocations.

Badcock thinks career choices "must be capable of being integrated into the overall mission of Christ" (103). He insists the question on career leads to the question on what kind of person I need to be. The idea is that God is more concern over the type of person we are becoming than on what we do. The question of career choice can be given multiple answers. The second question leads to "clearer" answers. Badcock states, "I ought to be a person for whom love, service, and obedience to God are major priorities" (103). The author illustrates this point by autobiographical information on three different paths he could have taken. First, he could have been a fisherman like his ancestors. A second option would have been to go into business. The third option which was chosen by him was to become a Christian scholar. The author believes that any of these options would have been in God's will. In all of them he still could have been involved in the "mission of Christ." Badcock states, "The calling to be faithful and loving is one that extends to any and all walks of life and that cannot be identified with any one of them. And it is this calling to faithfulness and love which Christian vocation is really concerned . . ." (105).

A Theology of Teaching

R. Alan Culpepper, "Full of Grace and Truth: A Theology of Teaching," in Gladly Learn, Gladly Teach: Living Out One's Calling in the Twentieth-First Century Academy, ed. Jason Marson Dunaway. (Macon, Ga. : Mercer University Press, 2005), 32-45.

Culpepper in his essay presents a "theology of Teaching." The author begins his essay by telling us what the Bible says about teaching. In this section he looks at "God as teacher," teaching in the Old Testament, "Jesus as Teacher, and teaching in the New Testament. The next section discusses "teaching as a theological activity." The last section presents an ancient fable.

Culpeppers states that God is the source of wisdom. He started teaching the human race from the very beginning. Culpepper writes, "because God established the order of things, whatever we teach, whether it is pharmacy, nursing, education, or business, God is the source of the understanding we want our students to discover" (33). Wisdom is personified as "Lady Wisdom" in proverbs. Wisdom calls out to the people to listen and become wise. Culpepper states, "wisdom is found above all in the Torah" (34).

The Old Testament teaches that it was the parent's responsibility to teach the torah to their children. Culpepper states, "For ancient Israelies, the education of one's children was a religious duty, and much of the content of what was taught in the home was the religious tradition of Israel" (34). The Shema (Deut. 6:4-9) "was the core of the religious instruction given in the home" (34). It says that God is one and we are to love Him with our whole being and we are to teach the Jewish law to our children. "This instruction was reinforced by the celebrations of the major festivals in the home and the community" (34). They were to explain the meaning of these festivals to their children. The children was also taught a trade. Culpepper writes, "Hebrew children were also taught the skills they would need to be successful members of their community" (35).

Jesus is called rabbi or teacher 66 times in the New Testament "and 57 times the verb teach is used to describe his activity" (36). Jesus taught in parables. Culpepper observes, "Jesus also used heuristic questions effectively" (37). Jesus often used these questions to help the hearer to see the issue in a new light. Jusus also illustrated his teachings. Culpepper states, "Jesus also acted out his parables and teachings, carrying out a demonstration in the temple, cursing a fig tree, turning water to wine, and eating with the poor and outcast" (37).

Teaching was an important element in the New Testament church. This teaching was done both in public and private. "Paul used technical terms for receiving and handing on oral tradition and teaching was an essential part of his work" (38). The church provided instruction in doctrine to new converts. Even Jesus said, Go and make disciples, teaching them . . . The New Testament speaks of the gift of teaching and an office of teaching. Culpepper notes, "The office of teacher probably developed in the early churches largely in response to the need to instruct recent converts. This catechetical instruction appears to have included instruction in the Old Testament and Jesus' teachings, the Church, the Christian life, and traditional ethical teachings drawn from Judaism and the Greek philosophies" (38).

The next section speaks of teaching "as a theological activity." The first part he mentions is that teaching requires a community. He stresses that it is important that the community serve a mentoring role. "Parker Palmer and Sharon Parks . . . emphasize that effective education requires communities in which students find support, affirmation, and meaning in the pursuit of learning" (39).

A second point of this section is "every course is about more than subject matter" (40).  Culpepper states, "the role of the teacher includes the perpetuation of a tradition and the formation of character" (40). He thinks that the education of a student to the "ancient Greek ideal of paideia, or the nurture of the student so that each student may attain his or her potential" 41). Teachers play an essential role in this process. Some of these roles are "awakening," "calling," "encouraging," and "modeling." Culpepper states, "All of us need to find our calling in life, that pursuit that is personally fulfilling while contributing to the needs of others and the betterment of society. We find that calling through discovering our own gifts and through responding to the needs around us" (41). The third point is that teachers are to help "students write their own future stories" (42). The last point is "every student is important" (43). This speaks of the intrinsic worth of every student. Every student is created in the image of God and is a bearer of God's image.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Theological Librarianship Within the Context of a Ministry

Andrew J. Keck, "Information or Divine Access: Theological Librarianship Within the Context of a Ministry," in The American Theological Library Association: Essays in Celebration of the First Fifty Years, ed. M. Patrick Graham, Valerie R. Hotchkiss, and Kathleen E. Rowe. (Evanston, ILL. : ATLA, 1996), 172-182.

"When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments" (2 Tim. 4:13, NRSV). Keck states, "From the beginnings of the church, the books and the people entrusted with them have a special role. Today theological librarians are unique providers of religious and theological information access to schools that have as their purpose the training and educating of people for the ministry" (172). Keck in this article summarizes his findings from a survey he mailed to 371 American members of the American Theological Library Association. His paper is an attempt to answer the question, "How do theological librarians perceive themselves as being involved in the ministry" (172)? He asserts that the theological librarian's "perception of ministry comes directly from his/her view of the nature and meaning of theological librarianship and how it relates to the nature and meaning of ministry" (172). According to the results, a majority of theological librarians saw themselves as doing a ministry. "On the other hand, a sizable minority viewed theological librarianship simply as an occupation (172) that occurs in a theological environment. The survey can be framed broadly as five basic questions. These questions related to five areas: its relation to theological education, relation with others, working with religious materials, calling and vocation, and its relationship to ministry in the church.

One of the questions the survey asked whether theological education should be mainly academic or mainly professional. The majority thought it should be a mixture. "Relatively few librarians advocated an exclusive focus academic education. Many saw theological education as a ministry and  "as the librarian enhances and adds to that education, he or she participates in that ministry" (173). Some believed theological librarianship was a ministry because it helped men and women to prepare for the ministry. Many saw their work as "parallel" to theology professors. Many saw the library as a "central teaching agency of the seminary rather than a mere warehouse for book storage" (174). Others saw the library had a role in the training of ministers. Many librarians found personal fulfillment "through their interactions that promoted the professional development of students" (174). Many of the librarians identified with the mission of their school and believed they were participating in the ministry through this identification.

The theological librarians saw their personal relations with the students as a ministry. A question was their work pastoral. Some agreed with this idea and it made others uncomfortable. Some saw the librarian as an important influence in the student's life. One stated, "Many graduate theological students have come to feel that the library is one of the most important partners in the persistent pursuit of knowledge" (176).

A third area of discussion was working with religious or theological materials. One of the questions asked, "How much does the religious or theological nature of the information you work with impact on how you view your involvement in ministry (176)?" This question seemed to confuse some of the participants. There were two affirmative type of answers that were given: "(1) that the religious information was only significant when received by a seeking patron and (2) that the religious information was significant" (176).  One participant wrote that he uses the theological literature "to minister to patron spiritual needs" (176-77). Some saw the librarian as a "spiritual director," using theological resources to meet spiritual needs. Another librarian wrote, "By providing books I in a sense provide communion of the saints between students/faculty and the Christians from diverse times/places" (177). One is reminded of how monks preserved manuscripts by copying them and preserving them for later generations. The monks were the first Christian librarians. Kleck writes, "Theological librarianship is an ancient vocation within the Christian community as Christians have long theorized that they can learn much from their brothers and sisters in Christ past and present. The theological librarian is and has been the intermediary in this conversation and thus has a unique ministry in the body of Christ" (177). The theological librarian today through collection development and cataloging creates the resources needed by present and future patrons. Others said that working with religious materials impacted their own spiritual life.

"Theological librarianship as a vocation" was another topic of concern. Many wrote about how their role as a theological librarian matched their gifts and talents. One librarian wrote, "This job is where my gifts, interests, needs converge as an opportunity for community and service" (178). Many thought their role as theological libarians was "a way of expressing their own call to ministry" (178). Others thought that theological librarianship was just a "professional career choice and not a calling" (178). Some thought their were multiple occupations which was equally fitting.

The last topic discussed was the relationship between the theological librarian and the church. Some churches ordain theological librarians into the ministry. Theological librarianship is seen as a ministry. Keck states that the theological librarian and the church "are also related through the service the theological library provides" (179). The theological librarian not only provides theological information but he is "an interpreter and promoter of that information" (179).

Are theological librarians ministers? Is theological librarianship a ministry? Many theological librarians see their work as a ministry for multiple reasons. Keck thinks "A librarian's view of theological education, personal relationships, religious materials, vocation, and ministry are all factors in how theological librarianship is understood as a ministry" (180). Raymond Morris thinks theological librarianship is a ministry. Morris writes, "I feel that anyone working in the library of a theological institution, other things being equal, will do better work and will be happier and more content in doing it if he feels a sense of commitment to the overall cause and purpose of the institution he serves" (180). As we have seen, some theological librarians see it as a job, not a ministry. What about "those who receive their services (180)?" Maybe these patrons see it as a ministry. Keck states, "When theological librarians perceive themselves as being in ministry, there is a theological and spiritual focus to their work that adds to their satisfaction and contentment in that they are engaged in both the ministry of their institution and the ministry of service possible through theological librarianship" (180-81).

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Reading as a Spiritual Discipline

Paul J. Griffiths, "Reading as a Spiritual Discipline" In The Scope of Our Art: The Vocation of the Theological Teacher edited by L. Gregory Jones and Stephanie Paulsell. Eerdmans, 2002.

Hugh of St. Victor stated, "For the Christian philosopher, reading should be an encouragement, not busy-work; it should nourish good desires, not kill them" (32). John Webster asserts, "A theological school is a place where Scripture and the classics of theological response to Scripture are read in common to the end of the formation of Christian intellectual habits" (32). These quotes seem to assert that reading is important to spiritual formation. In a footnote, Griffiths states, "Formation is generally preferred to education as a word for what does (or ought to) go on in a (Christian) theological school because it emphasizes that Christians are made, not born, and their Christian-ness must be given them rather than educed (drawn out) from them" (32-33).

 Does this theological formation require a certain type of reading? Paul Griffiths thinks that it does require a certain type of reading. He discusses literacy and how we think it is all about being able to take meaning from letters on a page. This makes me think of Adler's How to Read a Book. This book was written for people who already know how to read. This show their are different levels of reading. Theological formation will probably require a level above basic literacy or a different way of reading. For example, the stress in literacy is improving your speed in reading. Some types of reading will require us to slow down.

The author in this articles describes three types of reading. The first type of reading he calls "academic reading." Two terms he uses to describe this type of reading are "technical mastery" and Consumption-for-use." Griffiths states that academic readers "typically show a deep concern with reading just what the author of whatever they're reading wrote" (37). This type of reading emphasizes getting just the facts. Griffiths writes, "Academic reading is, then, not aimed at and does not lead to God, or true art, or effective happiness, or moral transformation. It does not provide answers to questions of value . . . it answers only questions of fact" (39).

The second type of reading is called "Proustian." Griffiths writes that this type of reading "is productive of sensual, aesthetic, and (often) properly sexual pleasure" (40). In other words, they are reading for some type of experience. They are not really interested in the content of the material.

The third type of reading is "Victorine," referring to the work of Hugh of St. Victor. The Victorines divided books to be read into two types: "One is that work that belong to the arts; the other is that it belongs to the writings that should be called divine" (43). The Victorines thought these works should be read differently. They do not think non-scriptural works should be ignored. They thought they must be read carefully because of errors. They had an ordered program for reading these works. They first read these non scriptural works "by analyzing them grammatically, syntactically, and semantically" (44). Second, they studied the work analytically. This step would be similar to how the academic reader read a work. The third step had to do with the memory. Griffiths observes, "The memory must be used to order and compile . . . extracts that illustrate the analytical outline at the second stage; these extracts are to be memorized verbatim where they can later be ruminated at leisure" (44). The last step would be the "chewing-over memorized extracts" in some type of outline of what had been read. At this stage the reader would ruminate over the "implications" of the work.

The Victorines established a certain relationship with the work read. Hugh emphasized "the need for humility before what is read" (44). Even nonscriptural works were considered an "instrument that contributes to the reader's wisdom and that permits advance to divine wisdom" (44).

The three different types of reading as different ends for their reading. Hugh would probably say academic readers read for "fame and honor." Proustian readers read for pleasure. Then there are those who read to better understand God. Griffiths states, "Victorine readers, then, read with the knowledge and love of God always before them as the point of purpose of their reading" (45). They also looked at Scriptute as canonical reading and nonscriptural works as noncanonical reading. The canon is defined as what is "essential and primary." Griffiths notes, "Everything noncanonical (nonscriptural) is to be read in the light of what is canonical" (45).

The Call: Finding and Fulfilling The Central Purpose of Your Life

Os Guinness, The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life. W Publishing Group, 2003. Originally published 1998. 292 pages. ISBN: 0849944376

What is our purpose here on earth? Os Guinness seeks to answer that question in this book. The Call is made up of twenty-six chapters. The author's goal is that a chapter be read each day. This is how I read it and thought it worked well reading it this way. It works well with morning devotion. This edition of the book includes a study guide at the back of the book.

Os Guinness is the author of many books including Long Journey Home and Time for Truth. In addition, he co-edited Invitation to the Classics. He is a popular speaker. He was born in China and graduated from Oxford University.

The Call describes the call in many different ways. Each chapter includes a story of someone who demonstrated the particular attribute of that chapter. Chapter one seeks to answer the questions: "Who am I? What is the meaning of life (1)?" Chapter two tells how to be a true seeker. In chapter three, Guinness asserts, "The notion of calling, or vocation, is vital to each of us because it touches on the modern search for a basis for individual identity and an understanding of humanness itself" (20). In chapter four Guinness states, "Calling is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion, dynamism, and direction lived out as a response to his summons and service" (29). The author says our primary call is to Jesus Christ. Our secondary calling is to use our gifts to serve God and our neighbor.

Other chapters encourage to strive for excellence, be who we are, live for God's glory, be responsible, cautions against vices like pride, envy, love of money, sloth, secularization, relativism, and to be focused on God's plan for our life. In addition, there are chapters on careers, ministry versus secular occupation, and how calling is related to all the spheres of our life. The last chapter discusses finishing well. Guinness asserts, "Calling is central to the challenge and privilege of finishing well in life" (227). He uses the example of Wilberforce on finishing well.

Guinness thinks the terms calling and vocation should be synonymous. This is a problem since modern use of the word vocation is for some type of trade. The author claims that we are truly only who we are when we follow God's call. God gives us gifts to serve others. We find true fulfillment in serving others. The author thinks giftedness must be combined with stewardship.

Guinness asserts that there is both corporate and individual calling. Stewardship accepts both callings. This will keep us from the danger of excessive individualism. William Perkins, Puritan thinker, thought "every calling must be fitted to the man and every man fitted to the calling" (48). Guinness believes that to "find work that fits perfectly our calling is not a right, but a blessing" (50). The author thinks the reason for this is the fall: "If there had been no fall, all our work would naturally and fully expressed who we are and exercised the gifts we have been given" (50). If we have the opportunity we should seek employment that will express who we are and exercise the gifts we have been given. If we have these things we should be truly thankful.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Bipolar Handbook for Children, Teens, and Families

Wes Burgess, The Bipolar Handbook for Children, Teens, and Families: Real-Life Questions with Up-to-Date Answers. New York, Avery, 2008. 276 pages.  ISBN: 9781583333075.

The Bipolar Handbook for Children, Teens, and Families contains hundreds of questions asked by Bipolar children, teens, and their families. The book operates as a friendly conversation between a "trusted family physician" and the bipolar child and his family. Wes Burgess is a practicing psychiatrist specializing in the treatment of the bipolar disorder. He has been a specialist in bipolar treatment for over twenty years.

Chapter one describes the bipolar disorder. Chapter two tells how to get the right diagnosis. Finding the right specialist for your child is the topic in chapter three. Chapters four through six provides information on ways to improve the disorder: healthy lifestyle, medical treatment, and psychotherapy. Chapter seven provides practical "strategies for parenting your bipolar child." Other chapters discuss school, teens, "crisis management," and how the "bipolar child thinks."

Bipolar Handbook is reader-friendly. It does not use specialized terminology. It doesn't emphasize anecdotes but provides much helpful information on treating children and teens with bipolar. The author wrote an earlier Bipolar Handbook for adults. The author is knowledgeable about his topic. He shows how medicine and psychotherapy combined is more fruitful than psychotherapy alone. This book is highly recommended for bipolar children and adults who work with them.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Vocation: Discerning Our Callings in Life Part 4

Our last post on Schuurman's book, Vocation: Discerning Our Callings in Life focused on how vocation can impact "pivotal" decisions in our life. This last post of this book seeks to answer the question, "How does vocation shape our actions, decisions, and attitudes as they are expressed within our particular spheres?" (151). A "general" answer to this question is "Vocation encourages Christians to see themselves as created and redeemed by God's grace, so that they will express their love for God and God's world through each and all of these spheres"(151). In all these "spheres" the Christian should bear the fruit of the Spirit.

The author warns us to be afraid of idolatry. In this he is warning against workaholism. For example, he states that we know "people who devote so much time and energy to their paid work that they neglect spouse, children, church, and friends" (152). He mentions also the danger of equation "our identity with our paid work" (152). This reminds me of an earlier post when I observed that our vocation is larger than our paid work. Many men soon after retiring kick the bucket. In contrast, to finding our identity in paid work, Schuurman suggests that our calling to Christ and His mission in the world is what "determines worth and meaning" (153). 

The author observes that there are not only conflicts between one sphere but also different spheres. We have multiple callings. These conflicts often leave us with guilty feelings. The author states, "Vocation frees us from some of the guilt that might plague us by helping us to recognize that we are limited" (154). We cannot do everything. We must prioritize what God wants us to do. It will depend on the gifts and callings He has given us. The authors states, "Some people refuse to recognize the limits of their callings, believing themselves to be responsible in the same way for needs outside and inside their divine spheres" (154). This will lead to false guilt and burnout.

Schuurman says vocation should also motivate us to "periodic revision of priorities" (155). This is an important point because circumstances change. At certain stages of life certain things will be emphasized over other. For example, parents will want to make more time for children when they are younger because before you know it they are all grown up.

Vocation teaches us to teat others with "mutual respect." Schuurman asserts that vovation "reminds Christians that this world is God's beloved creation, the people in it are image-bearers of God, and that Christ is incarnate in the people one is serving through one's callings" (158). Even a small cup of water offered in our savior's name will be rewarded. The small things can "become avenues of God's grace" (158).

What about changes in one's career? How does one know when to make them? Barth can help us answer these questions. He says we need both an external and internal reason. The external would be the availability to meet a human need. The internal would be an internal motivation to meet that need. Barth, however, warns agaist a "restless" spirit. Barth states, "other possibilities must never distract a person from the tasks at hand. If disobedience to God's command in the present sphere is the source of one's desire to go elsewhere, then one ought not to make the move"(159). This is a strong temptation in modern American society. People began to get itchy feet. Wendell Berry has written wisely on this topic. He says that there are areas in our character that will never be developed if we move every time we encounter a problem.

Is the idea of calling really important? Why should one consider their work as a calling or vocation? Schurrman lists two reasons for thinking of work as a calling. First, "It infuses work with religious meaning, leading to integration of one's life," and second, "it requires constant ethical assessment of the products and processes of work" (162). We are God's called-out ones to be His representatives in this world.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Can You Believe in God and Evolution? A Guide for the Perplexed

Can You Believe in God and Evolution? A Guide for the Perplexed. Ted Peters and Martin Hewlett. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2008. Darwin 200th Anniversary Edition. Pages 145.

The authors seek to make a case for a middle position between Young Earth Creationism and Atheistic Darwinism.This position is know as theistic evolution. The authors contend there are many positions known as theistic evolution. Ted Peters is Professor of Systematic Theology at Pacific Lutheran Seminary and Martinez Hewlett is Professor Emeritus in the departments of Medicine and Moleclar and Cellular Biology at the University of Arizona. The authors seeks to show in this book that evolution is compatible with the Christian faith.

Marty Hewlett has taught biology at the university level for over thirty years. In chapter one Marty tells two stories that cause him concern. The first story is about a student who wanted to be a "wildlife biologist." He was an excellent student. At the end of the semester he told Mart that he would not be taking the next semester of biology even though it was required for his major. The reason being that the next semester covered evolution. The student changed his major because of this.

The second story is about a female student who came to see Marty in his office after class. She came to school to prepare to be a doctor. She, however, was afraid to take science courses because she was afraid to lose her faith. Marty was able to mentor this student through her courses. She eventually became a doctor.

The concern the authors have is that the fear of science by Christians will keep them from pursuing science as a vocation. Therefore, a major theme of this book is the compatibility of Christian faith and science. The authors state, "We fear that a misunderstanding about our faith might create an unnecessary deafness to a divine call to study God's creation through the eyes of the microscope and telescope" (4). The authors want to educate the reader over the controversy on the teaching of evolution. They think the public arguments generate more heat than light. The authors evaluate the different positions fairly: Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Theistic Evolution.

There is even an interesting chapter on interpreting scripture or hermeneutics. In this chapter the authors discuss mediated versus unmediated interpretation. The authors assert, "What is distinctive about the history of American evangelical and fundamentalist branches on the Christian tree is the tradition of unmediated Bible reading. That is, for this tradition, one simply picks up the Bible, reads it, and then proceeds to form patterns for one's daily life, write hymns, construct theology, and comment on government and politics---science too" (96). One typically hears one say I do not interpret scripture, I just say what God says.

Can You Believe in God and Evolution does a good job of presenting the different views of evolution and the Christian faith. They fairly evaluate the anti-Darwinian views. Though they believe in theistic of evolution, they do not treat other views with disdain. They also do a good job in presenting the controversy over the teaching of evolution in public schools. The authors present a valid concern about young people fearing science because they think it might cause them to lose their faith. Peters and Hewlett successfully show that evolution and Christian faith are compatible.

Work and Calling

Bradley Birzer's J. R. R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth speaks of work and calling: "Tolkien's myth echoes Christian teaching in that once one accepts one's specific calling or vocation and employs one's gifts for the good of the Body of Christ, the journey of sanctification"(70). C.S. Lewis said something similar in one of his letters. Lewis asserted that God uses our vocation to shape us. The idea of calling is very strong in The Lord of the Rings. Frodo is called or chosen to destroy the ring. In addition, Birzer states, "As each agent responds to his calling he grows in power and grace" (70).

Billy Graham in a recent book, Nearing Home, also speaks of work and calling. He speaks of different stages of life. As we get older we must slow down. As we grow older we realize we cannot do certain things that we did earlier in our life. This is very true. Elton Trueblood, in his book, The Teacher agrees: "There will, undoubtedly, be diminution of energy, some dimming of eyesight, and, for nearly all older person, arthritic pain" (128). In other words, we must adapt to a different stage of life. Trueblood advises us: "Since old age normally cannot be avoided, the path of wisdom is to face it with expectancy" (128).

I think it is too late in old age to prepare for old age. It is something we must understand before and prepare for it. It is helpful to think of life as stages or seasons. There are stages of youth, middle age, and old age. Old age does not mean we stop being useful. We just do things differently. This should make a difference on how we look at work and calling.

Vocation and calling is broader than our current job. Just because we retire from a job does not mean we retire from our calling. Our callings and vocation can change at different stages of life. It is important to develop the gifts and callings God has given us to love God and serve our neighbor.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Making the Match: Career Choice

Lee Hardy, "Making the Match: Career Choice" In Leading Lives that Matter: What We Should Do and Who We Should Be edited by Mark R. Schwehn and Dorothy C. Bass. Eerdmans, 2006.

Hardy asks the question, "How exactly does the Christian concept of work as a divine calling bear upon the problem of choosing a vocation?" Hardy seeks to answer this question in this excerpt from his book, The Fabric of the World. He asserts that Christians are commanded and called "to love and serve our neighbors with the gifts that God has given us" (91). First Peter 4:10 says, "Each one of us should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms." Like Schuurman Hardy believes that the providence of God can help us discover our calling and callings in life. Hardy too asserts that our vocation is larger than our paid occupation.

The protestant Reformers of the sixteenth and seventeenth century made the "initial attempt to formulate the principles of vocational choice." To the reformers "work is the social place where people can exercise the gifts God has given them in the service of others. For God did not create us as self-sufficient individuals. We all have needs which we alone cannot meet. Be necessity we live in communities of interdependent individuals. And we are to make use of what talents we do have to serve others as they, in turn, serve us. Together we build up society as a mutual support system" (94). As the New Testament teaches not all are apostles, teachers and prophets. God has given different gifts for the common good.

Hardy says a lack of self-knowledge and certain sins can hinder us from finding our true vocation. He notes, "we might have our eye on a certain career because of salary;" or we might choose a career path because of family wishes. Or certain vocations might not be esteemed in the community. Hardy thinks because of the common danger of self-deception, "it is good to seek the advice of others known for mature and balanced judgment" (97). I might think God has called me to a particular vocation but do others see in me the gifts required for that vocation?

Hardy lists some different steps to discover our particular vocation. The first one "is to identify the abilities and talents God has given us" (98). Two other things that can help are concerns and interests. What are our God-given concerns? What are our God-given interests? Hardy writes, "Discovering God's will for one's life is not so much a matter of seeking out miraculous signs and wonders as it is being attentive to who and where we are" (99). It is because of God's providence that we have these gifts, talents, interests, and concerns. These things are God's gifts to us and can serve as indicators of His will for our life.

Phantastes by George MacDonald

Phantastes: A Faerie Romance by George MacDonald with an introduction by C. S. Lewis. Eerdmans, 2000.

I have read and enjoyed the writings of C.S. Lewis for over thirty years. In some sense he is my spiritual father and guide. In reading Lewis I have come upon George MacDonald and how he influenced Lewis. He actually says that Phantastes baptized his imagination. MacDonald is even Lewis' guide in the Great Divorce. Lewis also wrote an anthology of George MacDonald. I have read The Golden Key and the Curdie books which I have read aloud to my family and enjoyed. The Curdie books are my favorite. I have not read Phantastes until the past few weeks.

Lewis in the introduction writes about Phantastes:

"It must be more than thirty years ago that I bought . . . the Everyman edition of Phantastes. A few hours later I knew I had crossed a great frontier. I has already been waist deep in Romanticism; and likely enough, at any moment to flounder into its darker and more evil forms, slithering down the steep descent that leads from the love of strangeness to that of eccentricity and thence to that of perversity. Now Phantastes was romantic enough in all conscience; but there was a difference. Nothing was at the time further from my thoughts than Christianity and I therefore had no notion what the difference really was. I was only aware that if this this new world was strange, it was also homely and humble; that if this was a dream, it was a dream in which one at least felt strangely vigilant; that the whole book had about it a sort of cool, morning innocence, and also, quite unmistakably, a certain quality of Death, good Death. What it actually did to me was to convert, even baptize my imagination" (xi).

I can see what Lewis meant after reading the book. I read it aloud to my family and I believe this enhanced the enjoyment of it. It was like entering a strange world. It is about a young man at twenty one years of age enters fairyland and has many adventures in the place. He seems to wander "aimlessly" through it ever heading "eastward." He encounter many fairytale characters in this land, tree spirits, fairies, a knight errant, ogres, a white lady and many more. One can make better sense of the book when one comes to the end. The book seems to be full of symbolism. For example, the man is followed by his shadow. This seems to indicate his fallen nature. There seems to be a sacramental understanding of the world in this work.

Georhe MacDonald has influenced many fantasy writers of our own time. Madeeine L'Engle observed, "Surely, George MacDonald is the grandfather of us all --- all of us who struggle to come to terms with truth through fantasy."

George MacDonald was born in 1824 and he died in 1905. Other works to read by MacDonald are the Curdie books, The Golden Key, The Wise Woman, The Light Princess and Lilith. It is probably best to read his short stories first.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Vocation: Discerning our Calling Part 3

Douglas J. Schuurman, Vocation: Discerning our Callings in Life. Eerdmans, 2004.

Chapters five through seven of the book looks at "Vocations, Decisions, and the Moral Life," and "Vocation in the Wider World." The author notes that our callings are often connected to the providence of God: "We need to recover the sense that our lives are in many ways 'given' to us by forces beyond our control but ultimately in the loving hands of a provident God. We need also to be aware that numerous and regular obligations that attend our varied routines are roles are expressions of what God wants us to do in our particular locations, always with a view to serving our neighbor and serving God through our neighbor" (119). I think Schuurman basically means that our giftedness and the opportunities we have indicate God's calling for our lives. One could take this idea too far and say we should not change our circumstances but I do not think that is what the author is saying. God through His providence directs our steps and show us His will for our life. We all probably can see how God has shown His will to us through providential circumstances.

Schuurman discusses misconceptions that Christians have about God's calling. The first is "that God has a rigid, highly detailed blueprint for each life" (125). This is often referred to as the bull's eye theory. God has only one particular job or one particular mate for you. A second misconception "is that God's call comes as a miraculous and unmistakable word of direction" (127). The author contends "in numerous and quiet ways, God's callings are mediated by nature, family, community, friends, and more" (127). This seems true to me. We often are waiting for a big lightning flash and do not receive one. A third misconception"is that only clergy and members of religious orders have callings" (127). I do think many people think this is true. A fourth misconception "is that God's callings follow a predictable direction away from one's current social locations" (129). This does seem to happen often.

The author believes it is important that crucial decisions "should be shaped by a sense of calling, by our desire to express gratitude to God for the gift of salvation by using our gifts to serve others and glorify God" (130). I can see how this would be important. For example, if a person's calling is to nurture their children in the faith and if their job keeps them away from their family it would be difficult to fulfill this calling. The moral law should also direct our decision making. God's leading will not go against His moral law. Our work should also contribute to our neighbor's good. Schuurman thinks "so long as an occupation respects human dignity and contributes to the common good, the word of Protestant vocation for career choices is one of freedom" (136). This means that we should not look down on the callings of others. In addition, paid work should not be esteemed so important that we devalue "work in the home and family" (136). I like it especially when the author says, "True calling is experienced inside the ordinary, mundane world, not outside it" (137).

Two other good points made by the author: "In an ideal world, a person should find a partner with a high degree of compatibility and mutual attraction. A person should also find a job that enables optimal development of gifts on one hand, and produces the greater good for the world on the other" (140). It seems a good fit when our gifts matches the needs of the world. God gives particular gifts to particular individuals. Some believe that God's callings goes against people "abilities and aptitudes." The author disagrees with this notion. He asserts, "A person's gifts form one important indicator of directions in which God may be calling that person" (144). Two other things suggested by the author are "our place in the life cycle and our place in history" (145). The different stages of life provide both opportunities and limits. Our place in history has to do with our citizenship, "the century in which we live," family, community, church in "which we find ourselves" (146). In addition to these things there "must be a concrete opportunity" (148). For example, you might feel called to be a college professor "but being a professor is not your calling until and unless you get a concrete offer to teach at this or that college" (148).

Our callings, however, are larger than our career. The author observes, "If the point of our whole existence is to serve Christ in and through all our lives, then our existence will find its ultimate meaning and worth elsewhere than in our particular vocations" (149). One should choose the position where he can best fulfill God's calling for His life.

Communities can also play an important role in finding one's calling. The author thinks that an inward call should be affirmed by the Christian community that knows the believer. There is the possibility that the community could judge wrong as is possible for the believer seeking God's direction. The believer can trust, however, that God will guide him in the right direction.

The Christian Imagination

The Christian Imagination: the Practice of Faith in Literature and Writing. Edited by Leland Ryken. Shaw Books, 2002.

It would be difficult to praise this book too much. Reading this book was like being invited to a feast with many different types of dishes. The purpose of this book is to show the connection between faith and literature, Christianity and the imagination. This is what Ryken says about his book: "The result is a book that covers all of the essential topics related to literature and writing as viewed from Christian perspectives. My guiding principle as a compiler of this anthology has been comprehensiveness: I have included both past and living authors, both writers of imaginative literature and literary critics, both poetry and narrative, and the interests of both writers and readers" (xi). In agree with this statement about the contents of this anthology. This is a wonderful collection f essays on the relationship of faith and literature that will bring enjoyment to many readers.

I assume the intended readers for this book were evangelicals. The  reason is that many evangelicals and conservative Christians are skeptical or even disdain literature and the imagination. It is mentioned often in this book how being creative is God's image in us and that the Bible contains many different types of literature. Evangelicals tend to be literal minded and make little room for the imagination. Some even think of fiction as nothing but lies. Others see novels as dangerous. The Christian Imagination if read would help the Christian reader develop a more holistic view of literature. This book will also benefit other Christians and non-Christians.

Some of the authors included in this volume are C.S. Lewis, Leland Ryken, Annie Dillard, Flannery O' Connor, Walker Percy, T.S. Eliot, J.R.R. Tolkien, Frederick Buecher, Wendell Berry, and many others. Some of the themes addressed are philosophy of Christian literature, art, the imagination, the Bible, worldviews, reading for pleasure, reading for wisdom, poetry, interpreting literature, writing literature, reading literature, and many more topics. The book covers all the major genres of literature,Fantasy, novels, poetry, realism, creative non-fiction, hymns, and others. I was particularly surprised that the essays are of such consistently high quality.

The Christian Imagination is a great read. It will help the reader to better appreciate literature and how to get more out of it. It will also instruct the reader on the relationship between faith and reading. In addition, it will provide authors the reader will want to read after finishing this book. I highly recommend this book.

Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen's novels continue to be a favorite with many people. Pride and Prejudice is probably the most popular and everyone's favorite. I think it is even a favorite book of J. K. Rowling, author of Harry Potter. In a recent book group discussion one of the participants asked why Jane Austen is so popular. One of the participants says because of the romance. Other responses were the quality of the dialogues, the accurate depiction of the time, the craftmanship of the work. I could give other reasons too. One could even say there is a moral perspective and it stands in the Judeo-Christian worldview.

Another point that came out of our discussion of Pride and Prejudice. One participant mentioned that when she read Austen when she was younger she didn't realize it was supposed to be funny. Austen critiques her time through irony and satire. For example, it was the business of a woman to get married. This is clearly displayed in Pride and Prejudice. Mrs. Bennet's life is devoted to getting her daughters married. Marriage seems to be the theme of this great novel.

Austen describes growth of character in this novel. One can see this in Elizabeth and Darcy's wrong first impressions and how they later changed their mind. One sees that they also humble themselves and repent of overweening pride. I enjoyed the humor of characters like Mrs. Bennet, Mr. Collins, and Lady De Bourg.

Reading Pride and Prejudice was a wonderful reading experience. I can see why it has been popular with so many readers since it was first published. It displays the art of conversation and intelligence. It shows that distant times has something to say to our own time. I hope to read other works by Austen in the near future.