Posts Tagged ‘ACU Graduate School of Theology’

On Vocation

0 Commentsby   |  04.20.18  |  Students

On Vocation

As I approach the impending deadline of the “rest of my life,” the question of vocation haunts me like a Dickensian specter. The more I am asked the question, the larger it looms, building up an intolerable pressure. Posing such a question inevitably forces one to confront the more tacit and deeply terrifying questions that no one really wants to think about: what is my purpose, who am I, and am I significant?

What lies behind these questions are deep-seated fears and anxieties about our very identity and existence. Being able to articulate one’s calling is the signature of one’s meaning and purpose in the universe. It says, “God has seen me and given me a special task to do.” Thus, the true fear of investigating one’s vocation is that one will be met with God’s silence: what if I don’t actually have a vocation? What if God hasn’t called me to anything?

However, there are two problems with this line of questioning. The first, is a misunderstanding of what vocation is and what it entails. The second, is a general ignorance of the Christian response to existence. A simple clarification of the concept of vocation along with an explication of the Christian response to mortality will provide one with a therapeutic release from the pressure of “having it all figured out.”

Generally, people approach vocation with unrealistic and sometimes devastating expectations. The assumption that one could spend a few years in higher education and proceed to immediately step into one’s vocation is blatantly false. Underlying this fantasy is the presumption that finding one’s vocation is a passive activity. One only needs to wait for an obvious epiphany to be compelled towards a particular profession.

This presupposes that one discerns their vocation without much thought or reflection. However, discovering one’s vocation is demanding work. Discerning one’s vocation requires an immense amount of thought, exploration, and wisdom that can’t conceivably be achieved in the short span of one’s twenties or thirties. Paradoxically, it may be a sign of great maturity to accept that one’s sense of vocation is obscure throughout most of one’s life, rather than continue to suffer under the false assumption that one ought to know what one’s vocation is at any given point in time.

Furthermore, we deceive ourselves if we assume that vocation is reducible to a career. The fluidity of life simply cannot accommodate such a static definition of the term. It may assist our own sense of self and vocation to start thinking about vocation as a way of life, rather than a day job. By construing vocation as a way life, we become better attuned to the Spirit’s constant movement within the seemingly inane details of our lives. Consequently, we discover that God’s calling is and will always be present upon our lives. More »

A Word from Associate Dean, Dr. Tim Sensing

by   |  03.26.18  |  Announcements

A word from our Associate Dean, Dr. Tim Sensing

The 2017-2018 academic year is coming to a close. I am completing my twentieth year with the Graduate School of Theology and the past five years as the chief academic officer. Through my time here I do not self-identify as an “academic.” I have always maintained that my primary professional identity is “minister.” The GST has allowed me to be a minister fully engaged in the life of the church in countless ways. The 2017-2018 academic year for the GST “has been” and is a year of dreaming. It is wonderful to work with colleagues who are eager to explore new horizons and engage in new possibilities. While it is premature to announce new initiatives, I am encouraged about the next chapter in GST’s story.

I am encouraged because I see faculty who are engaged in new endeavors that are producing fruits for churches. Drs. Jeff Childers and Curt Niccum’s work with CSART enhances opportunities for students to engage the biblical text and take advantage of one of ACU’s distinctive programs. CSART likewise provides church leaders with access to the highest levels of scholarship through public lectures. Dr. Carson Reed and his team at the Siburt Institute continues to expand its services. One of their explorations for the future involves chaplaincy endorsements and clinical pastoral education (CPE). Our strategic planning committee and Distance Education Director (Dr. Mindi Thompson) is actively exploring new student populations. We will start our third student cohort location in Africa this summer due to the generous funding from a donor. We are exploring new programs for Latino/a students. We are making international friendships that will impact our DMin degree. And the list goes on…

I am encouraged as I meet with current students and watch the spring graduating class preparing to depart. My opportunity to hear students tell their stories and share their aspirations for the church fascinates me. I look back at my own initial dreams when I graduated school and see how shortsighted I was then. Students today know they serve a “Big” God who has called them into marvelous partnerships to serve churches and the world. Their imaginations amaze me. If I were ever to return to full-time local ministry, I would do things differently because my students have taught me so much about what is both possible and necessary to serve God in our communities.

Our alumni encourage me. I serve on a “Looking” team that helps connect churches with ministers. Our graduates are in high demand for a reason. Our students are in high demand because of the quality of our alumni. Their ministries are transforming places with the grace of God. Most of their stories go untold. Thanks to the work of Emily Childers in our office, more and more of those stories are being highlighted through our newsletters, blogs, and social media.

So as the 2017-2018 academic year comes to a close, I see the door of 2018-2019 wide open with the ever-expanding possibilities of God’s glorious blessing allowing the GST to serve students in partnership with churches.

Diversity Within Unity

by   |  03.19.18  |  Students

Diversity Within Unity

Ever since taking a Christology course during my undergraduate years, I have loved dwelling on the ways human beings are to reflect God as images of God. More specifically, I enjoy pondering the ways in which the Church, as an aggregate of Spirit-filled Jesus followers, is called to reflect the divine realities of the social Trinity.

Stanley Grenz writes: “Through the doctrine of the Trinity we affirm that, although differentiated from each other both ontologically and functionally, the three trinitarian persons comprise a unity that entails diversity.” In order to not be considered a heretic throughout much of mainstream Christian history, one needs to believe, among other things, the Trinity to be One, Three, and Equal. Another way of putting that is the Trinity has eternally maintained the qualities of unity, diversity, and equality. Underemphasizing or overemphasizing any of these three characteristics develops into a particular heresy earning one a range of undesirable outcomes, depending on the charity of that particular Christian era. Grenz later describes the Trinity as “diversity within unity.” Because God as Trinity perfectly exemplifies diversity within unity, the Church as a corporate family of God’s image-bearing children ought likewise to exemplify diversity within unity.

We can see this as an ideal from the beginning of Jesus’s ministry until now. Jesus picked 12 apostles of notable diversity and united them with a common purpose. This common purpose is how a tax collector—a wealthy Roman henchman—could co-exist and co-operate with poor fishermen and a Roman-subverting Zealot. Beyond the apostles, we see diversity within unity among first century churches. Due to being united in the name of Jesus, many earthly divisions of male and female, Jew and Samarian or Gentile, slave and free, wealthy and poor, etc. were being transformed within the Church in ways quite uncommon in society. Yet it is this transformative development of diversity within unity that still caused many of the early churches’ problems. Most notably, the inability of Jewish and Gentile Christians to discern what diversity within unity might look like in a church setting accounts for a substantive portion of the epistolary literature.

The Church today shares the same, beautiful call of reflecting the diverse, unified, equal Trinity. We may have moved on from the Jew-Gentile division, but in America, we have inherited what at times feels like more divisions than we can track. So we talk about conservative Christians and progressive Christians. We have our white churches and black churches. Red-state Christians and blue-state Christians. Poor Christians and wealthy Christians. Rural Christians and urban Christians. Denominational Christians and non-denominational Christians who, quite ironically, are approaching the largest “denomination” of American Christianity. All of us sense these divisions at a personal level, and if we are honest with ourselves, we often identify righteously with one side or the other. Polarity is our zeitgeist. The growing emphasis on the adjective in front of what kind of Christian one is leads to division over unity, rather than diversity within unity. Diversity has yielded to division.

The opposite approach might be less common today, but can mar the image of God in the Church just as much. This approach overemphasizes unity by pretending we have no earthly differences that could and should potentially lead to varying and even conflicting perspectives. This mindset has been detectable in wider culture when seeking “color-blindness” has upheld racial disparities by suppressing differences under the surface. Neither the Church nor the wider culture can achieve meaningful unity by putting on a fake smile and pretending we all think, feel, and act the same way at all times. “Unity” has been achieved in many cases throughout history solely by further suppression and oppression. Unity has yielded to uniformity.

It seems as if we are left with a tension-filled paradox, as I have come to expect when discussing anything difficult in theology, philosophy, and life. This should especially not surprise us in this particular conversation, however, because the trinitarian reality the Church seeks to reflect is itself a paradox. Diversity within unity is a paradoxical truth we must affirm concerning the Trinity, and it is a paradoxical ideal we must seek and embody in the Church. More »

Faculty Highlight: Dr. Mark Hamilton

by   |  03.19.18  |  Announcements, Author, Professors

Dr. Mark Hamilton began teaching at ACU’s Graduate School of Theology in 2000, where he teaches courses in Biblical Hebrew and Old Testament. Dr. Hamilton has two children, Nathan and Hannah, with his lovely wife, Dr. Samjung Kang-Hamilton, who is an adjunct professor in religious education also at ACU. Dr. Hamilton currently serves as an elder at University Church of Christ and enjoys being able to serve and interact with all sorts of people through that. Recently, Dr. Hamilton published A Kingdom for a Stage, a political and theological reflection of the Old Testament. Read more below about his book and what encouraged him to begin writing in the first place.


A synopsis of your newest book, A Kingdom for a Stage:

“This book shows how Israelite political thought sometimes supported the power structures but more often held them at arms’ length, forming the basis of the centuries-long critique of politics that is part of Western thought.  It examines rhetorical practices of Israelite texts as they developed over time.”

What inspired you to write this book? More »

Discovering My Vocation: The Fanning of the Flames

by   |  09.05.17  |  Students

Recently I was browsing my TimeHop (which, for those who are blissfully unaware, is a cell phone app that mercilessly displays your unfiltered social media posts from today’s date in years past) when I came across a Tweet from four years ago that read something like this: “Is it weird that I’m actually really excited to learn Greek???” If I could talk to this four-years-in-the-past Ryne, I’d tell him that although it is quite weird for you to have shared such an arbitrary thought with the entire Internet, you will be delighted to know that your desire to learn Greek is not weird at all but will in fact be quite fruitful.

That naïve version of me couldn’t have really understood how rewarding the study of this ancient language would be. Indeed, only now in retrospect am I able to fathom the many doors that were opened to me through my study of Greek (and, eventually, other ancient languages) at ACU.

At the outset of my undergrad time at ACU I had only a vague sense of vocation. Something to do with the Bible, something to do with ministry. I was sure that the arc of my career would involve these two aspects, but I had no clearer direction than that.

The story of how my vocational understanding eventually crystallized is long and multifaceted, but for the purposes of this post, you only need to know the primary catalyst and the new ministerial yearning that it sparked within me. The catalyst was Greek; the yearning was for a ministry conducted not in a church building, but in a classroom.

The long and short of it was that I absolutely loved learning Greek. Before college, I had no particular interest in language learning, but Greek opened my eyes not only to a new skillset that I possessed, but also to new doorways through which to study the biblical text that I held so dear. My first taste of Greek was sort of like a baby’s first bite of chocolate cake at their first birthday party—I wasn’t quite sure what this new thing was, but I was absolutely sure that I wanted more.

Luckily for me, I happened to choose a university with a faculty that was uniquely and diversely equipped to give me more. Languages were a huge part of what brought me to the Graduate School of Theology for my master’s work. I had drank deeply from the well of Greek in undergrad and had dipped my toe in the waters of Hebrew, and the GST offered an opportunity for more of the same as well as an expansion of my linguistic horizons. More »

Two Upcoming ACU Events

by   |  03.22.11  |  Uncategorized

We are excited about two upcoming ACU events.

First, you are invited to hear Dr. Abraham J. Malherbe, Buckingham Professor Emeritus of Yale University, on the topic “What Has Athens to Do with Jerusalem” this Thursday, March 24, at 3:00 p.m. in room 114 of the Onstead Packer Biblical Studies building. Dr. Malherbe is one of the world’s foremost New Testament scholars; he is the author of many books and articles, including major commentaries on the Thessalonian and Pastoral epistles.

Also this Thursday, at 7 p.m., Professor Elaine Heath, McCreless Associate Professor of Evangelism at Southern Methodist University, will give the annual Broom Lecture in Hart Auditorium. She is the author of, among other works, The Mystic Way of Evangelism: A Contemplative Vision for Christian Outreach. She will offer strong reasons why we need to rethink evangelism and its central role in Christian practice. The word has fallen on hard times, in part because of the ways in which Christians have abused it. But her lecture will help us think in fresh and exciting ways.

I am sure you will want to be part of these events. Admission is free, but the learning will be priceless. We hope to see you for both of these outstanding speakers! More »

The Relevance of the Bible for Life Today: Justice

by   |  03.09.10  |  Uncategorized

What is justice? How can we be more just people, and a more just church? These questions seem acute in our time, as American Christians have access to unprecedented wealth and power while so many of our brothers and sisters sometimes lack even daily bread. As this new series of podcasts tries to show, the Bible offers a profound and eminently workable approach to changing our own lives — our attitudes, behaviors, values, and desires — so as to become more just people. I hope you enjoy this series and welcome your comments or questions.

Dr. Mark W. Hamilton
Associate Professor of Old Testament and
Associate Dean
ACU Graduate School of Theology
Abilene, TX 79699
Editor, The Transforming Word