Posts Tagged ‘Identity’

My ACU Campus

by   |  01.18.18  |  Students

My ACU Campus

Having completed four semesters in the Masters of Divinity program, perhaps it is a fine time to pause and offer a brief reflection on my experience thus far.  My campus is a spare bedroom in my West Virginia home resting, as many West Virginia houses do, on a ridge in the forest.  As I look out my “dorm room” window, I see a very “non-Abilene” mountain rage speckled with barns and homesteads currently covered in a layer of ice and snow.  When it is time for class, I open my laptop and log in.  When life calls, I feel free to pause and return at a more convenient time.  To some, I am “just” an online student.  

I believe, however, that being an online student makes me no less a student than my residential counterpart.  My mantra is “every student can obtain a first-class education,” although not all university enrollees are necessarily students.  Being a student requires a somewhat different skill set that just being admitted to a program.  Regardless of where one sits as they complete their assignments, learning will always be a function of dedication, effort, and attentiveness.   

Being an online student has its advantages not least of which is the ability to wear pajamas to class and feel free from judgment. The most rewarding practice that online education has encouraged in me thus far is the propensity to be swift to hear and slow to speak.  Communication, in the form of discussions, is slow and intentional and I have often redacted my writing upon review as I realize ways in which I may be misspeaking.  If I were in a “live” discussion, I fear I may often say things I would later regret. Maybe not, but I know myself well enough. This practice has begun to influence my face to face communication with others as a result.  For that, my co-workers and I are thankful.  

Notwithstanding, being an online student comes with some disadvantages.  Chief among them is the sense of separation from the broader learning community.  While I communicate with professors and students, I rarely get to talk to them.  When I do, those experiences are treasured – perhaps more so because of their rarity.  We communicate, I believe, with a communion of senses as members of a communal context.  Given that, I miss the nonverbal aspects of communication like body language, tone, and facial expressions.  You know that look your friend gets in their eye when they are about to “go off”?  I don’t.  You know that subject you can bring up and get your professor off topic?  Yeah, well, I wish I did.  

In his first book of The Ascent of Mount Carmel, St. John of the Cross offers some wisdom for attaining the “highest estate of union” symbolically located atop Mt. Carmel.  This understanding, while intended for our personal spiritual quests, fits nicely in the context of online versus residential learning.  He writes: More »

Does the Gospel Sell Itself? (part 4)

by   |  05.04.10  |  Uncategorized

Mark Hamilton, PhD - Associate Dean, Associate Professor of Old Testament, ACU Graduate School of Theology

Mark Hamilton, PhD - Associate Dean, Associate Professor of Old Testament, ACU Graduate School of Theology

Does the Gospel sell itself?  That’s how I began this series of posts, and that’s how I’ll end it.  If we are on a road alongside of which are exits to narcissism, self-indulgence, and self-promotion, and the Heavenly City seems further away in our rearview mirrors, then how do we change directions?  (I’ll drop the metaphor there, if you don’t mind!)  I’ve tried to set out some of the interpersonal and intellectual challenges because to reflect theologically and to act on the basis of that reflection, we need to consider several factors.

But here’s the final one, and the decisive one.  What does God want?  Now, I know that this question is tricky and easily hijacked by various sides of any given debate.  If you want change, you point to the God of renewal, and if you don’t want change, you mention the old paths.  Both sets of languages — both descriptions of the nature of God — have biblical warrant.  Which one applies at a given moment depends on several factors, not all of which everyone will agree upon.  Moreover, Christians have a wide range of views of just how specific God intends to be.  Neo-Calvinists assume that the sovereignty of God implies a very high degree of planning of human lives, while most other Christians are content to think of God painting in the cosmic picture in broader, more impressionistic strokes.  I do not say any of this to be cynical, but simply to note that I am aware of the hazards.

Still, as a Christian, I must always ask myself what God wants.  It is not legitimate to try to escape the question, if you want to think in Christian ways.  Here are some things (not everything!) that Scripture, which I believe to be the best indication of God’s will that we have, seems to think God wants from us:

1. Let’s be passionate about the search for God.  Christians should pray a lot and with passion.  If we spent more time on our knees, we might spend less time wringing our hands or shouting.  As Paul said to the Athenians, God has given us evidence of nearness by raising Jesus from the dead.  The search is not an idle quest for an elusive goal, but the pursuit of one lover for another seeking rest together.

2.  Let’s care about the stranger.  I have long been struck by Exodus’s story of the redemption of Israel and the legal conclusions that the text draws from that experience: “you shall not oppress a stranger; you know the heart of a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9).  Perhaps Christians are so hostile to immigrants and other vulnerable people because we have concluded that this land really is our land, not simply a place on loan from God while we move toward our final home.  Have we forgotten that we too are strangers, that we too are redeemed people?

3. Let’s remember that we are in this together.  It is distressing to watch churches split over issues that can only be classified as trivial.  I have always found that praying for those with whom I disagree (which is quite a few people, as it happens!) or whom I found narrow and annoying and petty (also a fairly large group) changes things.  Very few Christians are so alienated from their own calling that we cannot find in them something to cherish. More »