Preparing Students to Learn

xyleme-personalized-learning

            According to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.”[1] Discipleship is also a lifelong journey where spiritual formation allows the believer to be transformed into the image of Christ. Upon this premise, every leader and teacher should, as Mike Mitchell emphasizes, “Provide: interest, preparation, meaning, success, satisfaction, reinforcement, and identification [in the learning experience.]”[2] These motivators afford the educator the opportunity to influence and inspire positive change in his or her followers. This paper will identify the necessary components to prepare students for learning.

THREE-STEP MODEL FOR FORMATIVE DISCIPLINE

            Mitchell suggests, “In its reactive or corrective mode, discipline is a response to the struggle against sin. In its proactive or educative mode, discipline is a preemptive effort to prepare and train the disciple in order to foster and facilitate the acquisition of the prerequisite foundational capacities that enable wisdom and prevent foolishness.”[3] Ultimately, discipline prepares the individual to learn. Mitchell then uses the biblical terms for discipline to show:

  1. Discipline involves instruction.
  2. Discipline involves inspiration.
  3. Discipline involves intervention.[4]

Mitchell then uses these three components and aligns them with I Thessalonians 2:11-12 to demonstrate leaders must inform, instruct, and inspire the learners, with love, forgiveness, and consistency. Mitchell concludes by assigning three steps to providing biblical discipline:

  1. Providing thorough instruction (Communication).
  2. Requiring intentional response (Choice).
  3. Ensuring appropriate consequences (Consequence).[5]

TEACHING VERSUS TRAINING

            Ben Forrest and Mike Mitchell explain, “Teaching is the communication and sharing of knowledge, while training is the development of capacities, making discipline a prerequisite to learning.”[6] Colossians 1:28 illustrates, “We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” The word “everyone” in this passage is key indicating all the truth of God is available for all the people. F.F. Bruce explains, “This Christ, whose life flows in all his people, is the one whom the apostle and His associates proclaim. He is the sum and substance of their message, whether in the saving news which they announce in the world to bring men and women to faith, or in the teaching, which they impart to those who have believed. Once they have come to Christ; that is only the beginning.”[7] Bruce is explaining while Christ is indeed the embodiment of divine wisdom, the exploration of the wisdom that resides in Him is a lifelong endeavor. Margaret Lawson further illustrates how, “Jesus both taught and modeled for His disciples what He expected of them and He did it over a period of time,”[8] showing them the importance of loving one another and serving one another.

John Gregory provides extensive insight in the difference between teaching and training:

We find two branches of the art of education. The one is the art of training, the other the art of teaching. Training is the systematic development and cultivation of the powers of mind and body. Teaching is the systematic inculcation of knowledge. As the child is immature in all its powers, it is the first business to cultivate those powers, by giving to each power regular exercise in its own proper sphere, till, through exercise and growth, they come to their full strength and skill. This training may be physical, mental, or moral, according to the powers trained, or the field of their application. The first object of teaching is to communicate such knowledge as may be useful in gaining other knowledge, to stimulate in the pupil the love of learning, and to form in him the habits of independent study. These two, the cultivation of the powers and the communication of knowledge, together make up the teacher’s work.[9]

Gregory also provides the following seven laws for teaching with corresponding rules, rooted in the principle that good order is a condition precedent to good teaching:

LAWS

  1. A teacher must be one who KNOWS the lesson or truth to be taught.
  2. A learner is one who ATTENDS with interest to the lesson given.
  3. The language used as a MEDIUM between teacher and learner must be COMMON to both.
  4. The lesson to be learned must be explicable in the terms of truth already known by the learner—the UNKNOWN must be explained by the KNOWN.
  5. Teaching is AROUSING and using the pupil’s mind to form in it a desired conception or thought.
  6. Learning is THINKING into one’s own UNDERSTANDING a new idea or truth.
  7. The test and proof of teaching done—the finishing and fastening process—must be a RE-VIEWING, RE-THINKING, RE-KNOWING, and RE-PRODUCING of the knowledge taught.[10]

RULES

  1. Know thoroughly and familiarly the lesson you wish to teach; or, in other words, teach from a full mind and a clear understanding.
  2. Gain and keep the attention and interest of the pupils upon the lesson. Refuse to teach without attention.
  3. Use words understood by both teacher and pupil in the same sense—language clear and vivid alike to both.
  4. Begin with what is already well known to the pupil in the lesson or upon the subject, and proceed to the unknown by single, easy, and natural steps, letting the known explain the unknown.
  5. Use the pupil’s own mind, exciting his self-activities. Keep his thoughts as much as possible ahead of your expression, making him a discoverer of truth.
  6. Require the pupil to reproduce in thought the lesson he is learning—thinking it out in its parts, proofs, connections, and applications till he can express it in his own language.
  7. Review, review, review – reproducing correctly the old, deepening its impression with new thought, correcting false views, and completing the true.[11]

LAW OF APPERCEPTION

            According to Mitchell, the law of apperception, “states that all learning is the association of new information with previously acquired knowledge or skill, [and] is essentially universal and unaffected by demographics or socio-economic status. Previous knowledge and experience [then] make ready the path upon which learning will occur.”[12] This ultimately provides the foundation for both learning and teaching. This principle also illustrates the relevance of Robert Slavin’s findings that, “Teachers need to ensure that students have mastered prerequisite skills and [possess the ability] to link information that is already in their minds to the information you are about to present.”

POWER OF MOTIVATION

            Lawrence Richards and Gary Bredfeldt explain student motivation is, “An indispensable desire to take part [and] want to learn.”[13] The teacher’s effectiveness will largely be determined by how well he or she motivates the learner. To be successful, Richards and Bredfeldt establish, “Learning occurs in three domains – cognitive, affective, and behavioral, but for learning to occur in any of these, the individual must exercise his or her will to learn.”[14] This is where motivation is key. It is in the area of “specific motivation” that teachers have the greatest ability to affect change because this area is, “Less stable and refers to a person’s motivation at a given time toward a specific topic or class.”[15] Additional factors that motivate learning are: student-teacher relationships and group dynamics. Richards and Bredfeldt emphasize, “Motivating students to learn is largely a function of the teacher-student relationship in the class situation… [and] group life is not only important for motivation; it is required for maximum growth.”[16] Structural factors also help motivate learning because as Richards and Bredfeldt demonstrate: “People learn best when learning is patterned, when learning is sequenced, when learning is encouraged, when learning is stimulated, when learning is relevant, and when learning is applied.”[17] Robert DeVargas adds, “First, it is important to spend time with learners to build trusting relationships outside of the class. Second, we must strive to discover the needs of our students. Third, we must carefully and lovingly connect their (subjective) felt needs to their (objective) real needs.”[18] Jesus ministered to the immediate needs of the people before He spoke of things from above. To a starving individual, teaching on the bread of life will not have a great impact until the immediate need of hunger is first tended to.

NOTION OF READINESS

            As Ruth Beechick illustrates, “Discipline leads to the moral, emotional, and spiritual commitment needed to learn anything.” Mitchell further explains, “Whether assisted by physical, intellectual, emotional, or even spiritual development, the intention of preparatory phase of the teaching-learning process, [where discipline is the prerequisite preparation stage of learning] is to generate ‘readiness’ in learners and to equip them for the adventure to come.”[19] Both training and discipline are fundamental to the notion of readiness. God can use anyone and anything to accomplish His plans, so as an educator and follower of Christ; one must always be ready to be used by God. Discipline leads to learning, and learning in turn leads back to more discipline.

ROLE OF HUMAN DEVELOPMENT

            As in most instances, Jesus is the perfect model to imitate. In Luke 2:52, “Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” This shows His capacity to grow cognitively, physically, spiritually, socially, and emotionally. Frank Gaebelein shows how “Jesus’ growth was normal [and] to say Jesus ‘grew in wisdom’ does not detract from His deity. Even if wisdom means innate knowledge, Philippians 2:7 suggests that as a servant, Jesus was willing to forgo the full use of his divine powers; so a normal development of knowledge is not ruled out. Stature (helikia) is ambiguous referring to physical growth or personal development.”[20] Ellery Pullman provides some fascinating internal conflicts that must be resolved during each stage of psychosocial development:

  • The prenatal stage does not involve a crisis, but the woman’s social roles and social status may influence how people treat her.
  • The Infancy stage (birth – two years) is trust versus mistrust, where trust is an emotion.
  • Toddlerhood (two – three years) is where children face the accomplishment of autonomy versus shame and doubt.
  • Early school age (four – six years) children experience the crisis of initiative versus guilt.
  • Middle childhood (six – twelve years) is industry versus inferiority, where the child learns to acquire necessary skills to be productive.
  • Early adolescence (twelve – eighteen years) forces one to resolve the conflict between group identities versus alienation.
  • Later adolescence (eighteen – twenty-four) is characterized by a growing sensitivity to the process of identity development, where the individual wrestles with questions like: “What is the meaning of life? Who am I? Where am I going in life?
  • During early adulthood, (twenty-four – thirty-five) one faces the task of intimacy versus isolation, in an attempt to develop close and meaningful relationships.
  • Middle adulthood (thirty-five – sixty years) is the conflict between generativity versus stagnation or self-absorption. Here, one is directing the course of action in one’s own life and in the life of others and generativity implies the desire to attain a sense of sharing, giving, or productivity.
  • In later adulthood (sixty – seventy-five years) the psychosocial crisis faced is integrity versus despair, where integrity is the culmination of a life of psychosocial growth.
  • Lastly, very old age (seventy-five – death) is a new addition to Erikson’s scheme because of the number of individuals who are living longer. This stage is represented by the crisis between immorality versus extinction, as the adult in is faced with a new challenge – the potential conflict between the acceptance of death and the hope and desire that one’s life has been spent in such a way as to leave a sense of legacy.[21]

This model serves to reinforce the conclusion of Fred Milacci and Jim Zabloski that, “Human beings’ growth and development is a lifelong pursuit and we never stop learning, [so] we should continually strive to grow physically, mentally, and spiritually in all we do.”[22]

CONCLUSION

            In preparing my students to receive the message to be presented in the next lesson, I will first ready myself for the task by praying, studying, and anticipating any areas of the “unknown” and be prepared to explain them with the “known.” In the planning stage, I will be sure to include: interest, meaning, success, satisfaction, reinforcement, and identification in the learning experience. I will then seek to understand the individual needs of the learners before moving forward with the lesson. I will also seek to employ the three-step model for formative discipline by providing: instruction, inspiration, and intervention, which will allow each learner to make his or her own choices. Additionally, I will strive to teach and train, since both are required in the learning process and during this step, I will attempt to discover if everyone has mastered the required prerequisite skills. Furthermore, I will endeavor to provide proper motivation in order to keep the learners engaged for maximum growth. I will also be consistent and fair in all interactions, while also making sure the learning process is patterned, sequenced, encouraged, stimulated, relevant, and applied. Lastly, I will begin to develop personal relationships outside of the classroom, which will help identify both subjective and objective needs.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Anthony, Michael J. ed. Introducing Christian Education: Foundations for the Twenty-first Century. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001.

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Life Together: A Discussion of Christian Fellowship. New York, NY: Harper Collins, 1954.

Bruce, F.F. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Epistle to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984.

Forrest, Ben and Mike Mitchell. “Discipline as a Prerequisite for Learning.” Filmed [2014], Liberty University Website, HOMI 601, Course Content, Week Three Video Presentations, 11:09, https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_346767_1&content_id=_16730815_1 (accessed April 7, 2017).

Gaebelein, Frank E., ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 8: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984.

Gregory, John Milton. The Seven Laws of Teaching. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 1997. http://canonpress.com/content/AG-003.pdf (accessed April 7, 2017).

Mitchell, Mike. “Formative Discipline: A Prerequisite for Learning.” HOMI 601: The Ministry of Teaching, Module #3, 2013.

Milacci, Fred and Jim Zabloski. “Human Development and Your Students.” Filmed [2014], Liberty University Website, HOMI 601, Course Content, Week Three Video Presentations, 12:14, https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_346767_1&content_id=_16730815_1 (accessed April 7, 2017).

Morris, Leon. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995.

Richards, Lawrence O. and Gary J. Bredfeldt. Creative Bible Teaching. Revised and Expanded. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1998.

Stanley, Andy and Lane Jones. Communicating For a Change. Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2006.

Yount, William R., ed. The Teaching Ministry of the Church. 2nd Edition. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2008.

[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: A Discussion of Christian Fellowship (New York, NY: Harper Collins, 1954), 64.

[2] Mike Mitchell, “Formative Discipline: A Prerequisite for Learning.” HOMI 601: The Ministry of Teaching, Module #3, 2013, 9-10.

[3] Mitchell, “Formative Discipline,” 3.

[4] Ibid., 4.

[5] Mitchell, “Formative Discipline,” 5.

[6] Ben Forrest and Mike Mitchell, “Discipline as a Prerequisite for Learning,” Filmed [2014], Liberty University Website, HOMI 601, Course Content, Week Three Video Presentations, 11:09, https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_346767_1&content_id=_16730815_1 (accessed April 7, 2017).

[7] F.F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Epistle to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), 86.

[8] Margaret Lawson, The Teaching Ministry of the Church. 2nd Edition, ed. William R. Yount (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2008), 114-115.

[9] John Milton Gregory, The Seven Laws of Teaching (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 1997), 13.

[10] Gregory, The Seven Laws of Teaching, 17.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Mitchell, “Formative Discipline,” 1-2.

[13] Lawrence O. Richards and Gary J. Bredfeldt. Creative Bible Teaching, Revised and Expanded (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1998), 229.

[14] Richards and Bredfeldt, Creative Bible Teaching, 231.

[15] Ibid., 230.

[16] Ibid., 232 & 234.

[17] Ibid., 235-240.

[18] Robert DeVargas, The Teaching Ministry of the Church. 2nd Edition, ed. William R. Yount (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2008), 114-115.

[19] Mitchell, “Formative Discipline,” 2-3.

[20] Frank E. Gaebelein, ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 8: Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), 852.

[21] Ellery Pullman, Introducing Christian Education: Foundations for the Twenty-first Century, ed. Michel J. Anthony (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001), 65-66.

[22] Fred Milacci and Jim Zabloski, “Human Development and Your Students,” Filmed [2014], Liberty University Website, HOMI 601, Course Content, Week Three Video Presentations, 12:14, https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_346767_1&content_id=_16730815_1 (accessed April 7, 2017).

Need for Ecclesiology and the Believers’ Church: Article Critique

christian-doctrine

Against the backdrop of America’s Industrial Revolution, Jason Duesing compares President Theodore Roosevelt’s call-to-action in conserving the nation’s natural resources[1] to, “The people of God needing to take action to preserve and protect the doctrine of the church.”[2] America was growing at a rapid rate, yet Roosevelt had the foresight to recognize the immediate threat if changes were not made. Similarly, Duesing seeks to show, “Believers, acting under various constructs – from liberalism to ecumenism to even evangelism – have also engaged in ‘old wasteful methods’ with regard to the ‘natural resources’ of the doctrine of the church.”[3] The purpose of this critique is to assess Duesing’s proposed solution to overcoming indifference and his call to awaken evangelicals toward both ecclesiology and the believers’ church.

SUMMARY

            Duesing begins by establishing the widespread doctrinal deterioration that has plagued the local church and contributes this breakdown of the Great Commission[4] to the local church not protecting the gospel message, internal disputes, and attacks from outside the church. Where parachurch organizations thrived in evangelistic outreach efforts, the local church has become sterile in reproducing disciples, even within close proximity. Duesing then proposes the only way the true biblical gospel message will make it to the next generation is the believers’ church.

As the first champions of the believers’ church, since the Constantine Synthesis, Duesing acknowledges the Anabaptists were, “The pioneers of ecclesiological conservatism in an age not of ecclesiological indifference, but of ecclesiological intolerance.”[5] This distinction separated them from the Magisterial Reformers who Leonard Verduin asserts, were primarily only concerned with, “The Anabaptists’ desire to move beyond Church reform to complete restoration of the church to its New Testament origins.”[6] Duesing demonstrates, “The Magisterial Reformers were not looking to make many ecclesiological changes, [but were concerned with] the economic and political ramifications of separating the church from the state.”[7] While the Anabaptists sought to conserve doctrine, Duesing contrasts, “The Magisterial Reformers sought to make membership contingent upon baptism as an infant, [and] just as the State carried the sword for the purpose of maintaining and establishing justice, so too did the Church support the sword for the purpose of maintaining and establishing the truth.”[8] Ultimately, the Anabaptists recognized, “The only way to accomplish biblical purity in the Church was to separate completely from the existing institutions and establish a believers’ church, [which] no longer supported the use of the sword and refused to call for the death penalty even for those with divergent doctrinal views.”[9]

STRENGTHS/WEAKNESSES

            Duesing does a worthy job demonstrating the state of affairs within the local church and the need for doctrinal reform. The gospel message has become so diluted and religion in general has turned more into an environment of pleasing people, rather than training and equipping disciples to fulfill the Great Commission. The formation of the believers’ church was truly a radical paradigm shift, rooted biblical teaching. This writer agrees, “For the sake of preserving what is essential for salvation for the next generation, a new call is needed to awaken evangelicals from a state of indifference toward ecclesiology and the believers’ church”[10]

By only briefly touching on the decline of the church, Duesing’s call on believers to see “Ecclesiological Conversation as a Christian Duty” does not paint as vivid of a picture had the failure of maintaining a pure church been better demonstrated. For example, H. Leon McBeth illustrates how, “The eighteenth century proved devastating for the General Baptists, [due] to theological problems, antiquated church practices, and failure to recruit new leaders of stature.”[11] Had this been included in Duesing’s article, another comparison could have been made to the eighteenth century, when the Industrial Revolution changed the way people lived and the Intellectual Revolution challenged the way people viewed God, the universe, and themselves.”[12]

CONCLUSION

            Duesing’s use of America, standing on the precipice of its own demise by reckless indifference sets the stage for a solid argument for the need of ecclesiological conservation and a movement towards the believers’ church. Duesing is right, doctrines must be upheld and biblical principles must never be compromised, even for the sake of unity, and the Anabaptists are a great example of what is sometimes needed to form a pure church rooted in biblical teaching.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Duesing, Jason G. “The Believers’ Church: A ‘Natural Resource’ Worth Conserving.” A White Paper from the CTR, Fort Worth, TX: Center for Theological Research, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2006. http://www.baptisttheology.org/baptisttheology/assets/File/BelieversChurch.pdf (accessed April 6, 2017).

McBeth, H. Leon. The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987.

Verduin, Leonard. The Reformers and Their Stepchildren. Sarasota, FL: The Christian Hymnary Publishers, reprint 1997.

[1] Theodore Roosevelt, “Conservation as a National Day,” in Conferences of Governors (Washington: G.P.O., 1909), 3-13.

[2] Jason G. Duesing, “The Believers’ Church: A ‘Natural Resource’ Worth Conserving,” A White Paper from the CTR (Fort Worth, TX: Center for Theological Research, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2006), 1.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Matthew 28:16-20

[5] Duesing, “The Believers’ Church: A ‘Natural Resource’ Worth Conserving,” 3.

[6] Leonard Verduin, The Reformers and Their Stepchildren (Sarasota, FL: The Christian Hymnary Publishers, reprint 1997).

[7] Duesing, “The Believers’ Church: A ‘Natural Resource’ Worth Conserving,” 3-4.

[8] Ibid., 4.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Duesing, “The Believers’ Church: A ‘Natural Resource’ Worth Conserving,” 5.

[11] H. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987), 170.

[12] Ibid., 151.

Problem of Evil: Journal Review

The problem of evil in the world has been a topic many scholars have attempted to use to either prove or disprove the existence of God/god(s). It is also one of the few topics all worldviews and religions must deal with and as Norman Geisler reveals, “Of the three major worldviews, Atheism affirms the reality of evil and denies the reality of God. Pantheism affirms the reality of God but denies the reality of evil. And Theism affirms the reality of both God and evil. Herein lies the problem.”[1] From this paradox, Hanson sets out to show how evil can exist with a God that is both omnipotent and benevolent. By reviewing three ontological solutions, Hanson proposes the Neo-Ontological solution to define evil and suffering within a complex structure of being that is analyzed from the standpoints of experience and practice. The purpose of this critique is to assess Jim Hanson’s Neo-Ontological Solution to the problem of evil.

SUMMARY

            Hanson acknowledges and describes how evil takes many forms and recognizes, “the existence of evil and suffering presents the problem of believing in the existence of a God that is both able (omnipotent) and willing (benevolent) – namely the theistic God of Christianity.”[2] First, Hanson interacts with David Hume, who used an early argument proposed by Epicurus:

If God is willing to prevent evil but not able, then he is impotent.

If God is able but not willing, then he is malevolent.

If God is both able and willing, then whence come evil?

If he neither able nor willing, then why call him God?[3]

Hanson then raises an important question, “Why would a perfect God create, cause or design an imperfect product, a product that included or tolerated evil?”[4] The substance of this journal article approaches the challenge theists and deists face, which is acknowledging the existence of evil, while also explaining how God can still be omnipotent and benevolent. The first solution Hanson analyzes is the Traditionalist and Modernist Ontological Solution, which include the denial that evil exists or that evil originated from divine human agencies. The second solution Hanson explores is the Postmodernist Ontological Solution, which views humans as being made imperfect, finite, and denied the authenticity of their being. This view displays evil thriving at the heart of being. However, Douglas Groothuis illustrates, “The inconsistencies of postmodernism pose a direct challenge, since the irresolvable diversity of truth claims has no reliable criteria to test these claims against.”[5] The final solution Hanson favors is the Neo-Ontological Solution and Experience. Analogically, this means, “The God experienced through being as the ultimate referent becomes constructed experienced as essence.”[6]

CRITICAL INTERACTION

            Hanson presents three ontological solutions to the problem of evil and for each view, adequate pros and cons are presented and there does not appear to be any biasness or presuppositions in his approach. In fact, when discussing the traditional, the modernist, and postmodernist views, more information is provided than the Neo-Ontological Solution Hanson favors. For each field, Hanson used quality sources and cited leaders/pioneers behind each worldview. There is not a great deal of biblical content in this piece, except the mention of Adam’s test and the suggestion that, “This evil-originating, divine-human relationship suggests that God attends to the transgression, suffering, and evil of original sin from which arguably results the historical record of massive suffering and evil.”[7] Answering the question, “If God is good and powerful, why does He allow evil to exist?” would have strengthened Hanson’s article. Mankind is in desperate need to be reconciled with God, and this only happens through a relationship with Jesus Christ, who suffered substitutionary atonement for the sins of mankind. Köstenberger further illustrates, “The challenge is therefore not to explain evil but rather to accept its reality and to resist it whenever possible.”[8] Hanson rightly shows the problem of evil is better explained by being rather than by gods or humankind, so in a modern-day context, one can apply this principle when speaking with someone who has experienced evil, suffering or tragedy.

CONCLUSION

            Hanson adequately evaluates three solutions to the problem of evil, but he never mentions free will, the fallen state of man, or the redemption that happens when Christ becomes Lord and Savior of one’s life. Geisler best explains, “The ultimate goal of a perfect world with free creatures will have been achieved, but the way to get there requires that those who abuse their freedom be cast out.”[9] So to justify the existence of evil with an all-powerful and all-good God, one must not only understand the topics Hanson covered, but he or she must also have faith that:

  1. If God is all-good, He will defeat evil.
  2. If God is all-powerful, He can defeat evil.
  3. Evil is not yet defeated.
  4. Therefore, evil still serves a purpose and God can and will defeat evil.[10]

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Betenson, Toby. “Evaluative Claims within the Problem of Evil.” Religious Studies 51, no. 3 (09, 2015): 361-77, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/1703895888?accountid=12085 (accessed March 31, 2017).

Clendenin, Daniel B. “God is Great, God is Good Questions About Evil.” Ashland Theological Journal 24, no. 0 (1992): 35-48.

Elwell, Walter A. ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 3rd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2013.

Frame, John M. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013.

Geisler, Norman L. “The Problem of Evil,” Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing, 1999.

Geisler, Norman L. and Ronald M. Brooks. When Skeptics Ask. Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1990.

Groothuis, Douglas. Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011.

Hanson, Jim. “A Neo-ontological Solution to the Problem of Evil.” Theology Today 68, no. 4 (January 2012): 478-489. DOI: https://doi-org.ezproxy.liberty.edu/10.1177/0040573611424644 (accessed March 31, 2017).

Hume, David. Dialogues concerning Natural Religion. Edited by Henry D. Aiken. New York, NY: Hafner, 1948 [1779].

Köstenberger, Andreas. Encountering John: The Gospel in Historical, Literary, and Theological Perspective, 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing, 2013.

Sehon, Scott. “The Problem of Evil: Skeptical Theism Leads to Moral Paralysis.” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 67, no. 2 (2010): 67-80. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25652862 (accessed March 31, 2017).

Zacharias, Ravi and Norman Geisler. Who Made God? And Answers to Over 100 Other Questions of Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003.

[1] Norman L. Geisler, “The Problem of Evil,” Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing, 1999), 219.

[2] Jim Hanson, “A Neo-Ontological Solution to the Problem of Evil,” Theology Today 68, no. 4 (January 2012): 478.

[3] David Hume, Dialogues concerning Natural Religion, ed. Henry D. Aiken (New York, NY: Hafner, 1948 [1779]), Part X.

[4] Hanson, “A Neo-Ontological Solution to the Problem of Evil,” 479.

[5] Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011), 130.

[6] Hanson, “A Neo-Ontological Solution to the Problem of Evil,” 484.

[7] Hanson, “A Neo-Ontological Solution to the Problem of Evil,” 480.

[8] Andreas Köstenberger, Encountering John: The Gospel in Historical, Literary, and Theological Perspective, 2nd Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing, 2013), 119.

[9] Norman L. Geisler and Ronald M. Brooks, When Skeptics Ask (Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1990), 59-60.

[10] Ravi Zacharias and Norman Geisler, Who Made God? And Answers to Over 100 Other Questions of Faith. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), 38.

 

Inerrancy of the Bible

in-a-book

As P. D. Feinberg explains, “The question of authority is central for any theology, [so] biblical inerrancy is [a highly debated topic, which] views that when all the facts become made known, they will demonstrate that the Bible in its original autographs and correctly interpreted is entirely true and never false in all it affirms, whether that relates to doctrine or ethics or to any sciences.”[1] Millard Erickson similarly defines inerrancy as, “The Bible, when correctly interpreted in light of the level to which culture and the means of communication had developed at the time it was written, and in view of the purposes for which it was given, is fully truthful in all that it affirms.”[2] This writer believes the Bible makes no false or misleading statements about matters of faith and practice, but admits there are grounds to debate the infallibility of the church’s interpretation and teachings throughout the centuries. Human beings are flawed and Feinberg illustrates, “Human knowledge is limited in two ways: first, because of our finitude and sinfulness, human beings misinterpret the data that exists; and second, we do not possess all the data that comes to bear on the Bible.”[3] However, when it comes to the Bible, “the writers were under the supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit, which rendered their writings an accurate record of the revelation or that resulted in what they wrote actually being the Word of God.”[4] The main issue faced, throughout history, was how to preserve this revelation and for multiple generations, oral tradition was used, which certainly made it possible for specific details to be modified and/or changed. Because of this and other issues resulting in various scribes’ translations, this writer holds to more of a full inerrancy view. Absolute inerrancy has some questionable areas pertaining to history and science. For example, II Peter 3:8 says, “A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.” When looking at the creation account, this verse is often cited to explain the carbon dating of objects, which seem to predate the account in Genesis. Undeniable proof and evidence is what people want, and that is what proponents of Evolution or Darwinism, also stated that when enough archaeological evidence was obtained, macroevolution would be proven, which the world is still waiting to see. However, despite the lack of evidence, this flawed theory is still being taught to children.

Feinberg demonstrates the debate over biblical inerrancy rests upon four arguments: (1) the biblical argument, (2) the historical argument, (3) the epistemological argument, and (4) the slippery slope argument. The biblical argument is rooted in five observations:

(1) The Bible teaches its own inspiration, and this requires inerrancy (II Timothy 3:16). (2) Israel is given criteria for distinguishing God’s message and messenger from false prophecies and prophets (Deuteronomy 13:1-5, 18:20-22). (3) The Bible teaches its own authority, and this requires inerrancy because something cannot be authoritative if it contains errors (Matthew 5:17-20; John 10:34-35). (4) Scripture uses Scripture in a way that supports its inerrancy and some arguments rest upon a single word’s translation. This can be observed by a careful study of the way New Testament authors cited Old Testament passages. (5) Inerrancy follows from what the Bible says about God’s character. Since God cannot lie, it makes sense that the Bible, which is God’s Word, should also be inerrant and infallible (Numbers 23:19; I Samuel 15:29; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18).[5]

The historical argument for biblical inerrancy maintains this teaching has been the view of the church throughout history, so there is no reason to question it now. Both the biblical and historical arguments are more important than the epistemological argument, which asserts, “Knowledge claims must, to be justified, be indubitable or incorrigible”[6] and the slippery slope argument, which views inerrancy being so fundamental that those who give it up will soon surrender other central Christian doctrines.”[7] According to Feinberg, “The slippery slope argument is both the least important and most disliked by those who do not hold to inerrancy, [and] for many individuals and institutions, the surrender of their commitment to inerrancy has been a first step to greater error.”[8] When analyzing the epistemological argument, its logic means if a single error is present in the Bible then it contains no truth at all. This argument seems to be classified more as an over-belief and Feinberg cites two flaws: (1) while it is true that one error in Scripture would not justify the conclusion that everything else in it is false, it would call everything in Scripture into question, and (2) it does not account for all the issues involved in inerrancy.”[9]

Many who argue against the historical argument for biblical inerrancy believe this doctrine to be the formulation of Princeton theologians, in an attempt to counter the rising tide of liberalism in the nineteenth century, but as Feinberg points out, “These objections do not do justice to the evidence, [because] they fail to reckon with the host of clear affirmations of inerrancy by Christian theologians throughout the church’s history.”[10] Opponents of the biblical argument emphasize there is no place in the Bible that teaches its own inerrancy. Feinberg also cites another objection, “That inerrancy is unfalsifiable, [meaning:] either the standard for error is so high that nothing can qualify, or the falsity or truth of scriptural statements cannot be demonstrated until all the facts are know.”[11] Erickson sheds light on the various views and adds:

(1) Inerrancy pertains to what is affirmed or asserted rather than what is merely reported; (2) We must judge the truthfulness of Scripture in terms of its meaning in the cultural setting in which its statements were expressed; (3) The Bible’s assertions are fully true when judged in accordance with the purpose for which they were written; (4) Reports of historical events and scientific matters are in phenomenal rather than technical language; and (5) Difficulties in explaining the biblical text should not be prejudged as indications of error.[12]

            The doctrine of biblical inerrancy is very relevant to the church today, as Feinberg emphasizes, the Bible is a divine-human book so, “To deny the authority of the original is to undermine the authority of the Bible the Christian has today [and] to deemphasize either side of its authorship is a mistake.”[13] Additionally, biblical inerrancy does not explain how to interpret Scripture; that is the job of hermeneutics; however, it does assert, “Whatever statements the Bible affirms are fully truthful when they are correctly interpreted in terms of their meaning in their cultural setting and the [original] purpose for which they were written.”[14] Erickson adds, “Scripture inspired by God is necessary because it confirms the nature of God’s special revelations through Scripture”[15] and this is one of the primary ways God made Himself known to man. The argument for biblical inerrancy rests on the foundation that the Bible is the inspired Word of God or “God-breathed” (II Timothy 3:16). Additionally, as Erickson illuminates, “If the Bible is not inerrant, then our knowledge of God may be inaccurate and unreliable.”[16] The final argument for the inerrancy of the Bible is Jesus, Paul, and the apostles teaching Scripture as though it was authoritative, leading the church to continue that tradition and hold fast to the inerrancy of the Bible. Ultimately, it comes down to one’s belief in the power and authority of God’s Word and whether or not Scripture then leads a person to change his or her behavior and/or convictions. The presence of the Holy Spirit is a huge factor in one’s ability to read the Word and is vital in guiding believers into all truth, teaching believers all things, and bringing to remembrance all that Jesus had taught (John 16:13, 14:26).

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Elwell, Walter A. ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 3rd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2013.

Frame, John M. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013.

[1] P.D. Feinberg, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd Edition, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001), 156.

[2] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology. 3rd Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2013), 201-202.

[3] Feinberg, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 156.

[4] Erickson, Christian Theology, 169.

[5] Feinberg, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 157-158.

[6] Ibid.,158.

[7] Ibid., 157-158.

[8] Ibid., 158.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Feinberg, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 159.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Erickson, Christian Theology, 202-205.

[13] Feinberg, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 159.

[14] Erickson, Christian Theology, 206.

[15] Erickson, Christian Theology, 168.

[16] Ibid., 188.

Proverb or Promise and the Next Generation

            “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” is a proverb and not a promise and the words “train” and “go” contribute much to this conclusion. Bruce Waltke explains how, “The relatively rare imperative dedicate ḥănōk (train) means, to start the youth off with a strong and perhaps even religious commitment to a certain course of action.”[1] Frank Gaebelein illuminates the importance of training a child early in life, and how the NEB translation captures exactly why early instruction is paramount in this proverb: “Start a boy on the right road is used to express ‘in the way he should al-pi darko (go).’ The way the verse has been translated shows that there is a standard of life to which he should go. Of course, he would have to be young enough when change for the better was still possible. The consequence is that when he is yazqin (old), he will not depart from it.”[2] A learned behavior early in life is much easier to develop than breaking bad habits, overcoming addictions, or healing hurt and shame from past and future mistakes.

God calls every believing parent to train his or her children in the Christian faith and this model can be traced back to Abraham (Genesis 18:19), Moses (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:1-12; Exodus 12:25-28), and any Jewish home as the primary place for spiritual training (Proverbs 1:8). A paradigm shift must occur in the family, the church, and the foundation of Christian education for the gospel message to reach the lost and hurting. Satan hates the family because it is something God created and loves, so any chance the enemy has to drive a wedge between families, he will do whatever is in his power to do so. Satan has been so successful in this strategy that there is now an entire generation of spiritual orphans, often referred to as the “fatherless generation.” Many of these children are past the young age where he or she is most open to receiving the truth of the gospel message. For these children, the issue the church must deal with is: “how to convey there is a heavenly Father who loves them when his or her earthly father abandoned them or worse…” Lynn Wray emphasizes, “the most important task the Lord has assigned parents is to make disciples of our children and our own hopes and dreams come second. We do not make them disciples; that is the Lord’s and the Holy Spirit’s job to do the transformative work, but we are tasked with being a strong influence and impacting their lives.”[3] Waltke further shows, “Israel’s moral primer in this initiative refers to religious and moral direction, not professional activity. Although the age of the youth naʿar can vary from infancy to adulthood, a child is certainly in view in. He can be molded by verbal instruction and by corporal punishment. Since he is still teachable, the dedication must take place while there is still hope.”[4] The days of no child being left behind is a distant memory, as traditions are passed down from one generation to the next. Reggie Joiner explains, “Research shows that even active children [in church] receive only forty hours or so of biblical instruction each year from their churches. Parents, on the other hand, have more than three thousand hours a year in which they are constantly ‘teaching’ their children in some way.”[5] Jay Strother further explains the importance of this discipleship model because, “The home has the greatest impact on young lives; with few exceptions, and if we fail to impact the home, we will never make a lasting impact on students.”[6]

Choices have consequences and many people, especially younger ones, learn life-lessons the hard way. However, Tyndale shows, “Many parents want to make all the choices for their child, but this hurts him or her in the long run. When parents teach a child how to make decisions, they don’t have to watch every step he or she takes. They know their children will remain on the right path because they have made the choice themselves. Train your children to choose the right way.”[7] One of the biggest problems facing many parents today is a desire to be the child’s friend instead of being a parent, because being a parent requires doing things that might upset the child. This mentality is backwards and has caused many children to never be trained properly from a young age, resulting in a life full of bad decisions and regret. Robert Hughes and Carl Laney demonstrate, “The words ‘to choose the right path’ literally translate ‘according to his way,’ that is, the child’s habits and interests. The proverb ultimately teaches the duty of reinforcing a child’s interests and abilities during the early years of life.”[8] Wray identifies just how critical discipleship is and then demonstrates its ability to happen in formal and informal settings. Wray explains, “Formal times include instances, which are set aside to engage in devotions, family altar, and faith talks.”[9] Wray then explains the importance of these times when children are young because a child’s mind is like a sponge soaking up all the information and influences it is immersed in. As children get older, Wray stresses, “Informal times are crucial because children are being bombarded with social influences and the relationship between parent and child is also strained.”[10] The Shema found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is a great example of the discipleship model and is also a great illustration of the immense amount of time involved in forming an intimate relationship with children. Wray also stresses the importance of having one-on-one time with children and doing things each child enjoys, making them feel important and demonstrating one’s care for their interests. Tyndale further explains:

In the process of helping our children choose the right path, we must discern differing paths for each child. It is natural to want to bring up all our children alike or train them the same way. This verse implies that parents should discern the individuality and special strengths that God has given each one. While we should not condone or excuse self-will, each child has natural inclinations that parents can develop. By talking to teachers, other parents, and grandparents, we can better discern and develop the individual capabilities of each child.[11]

Issues that might impede the training of a child in the way he or she should go can stem from one or both parents not being Christians. In the case of one parent believing and the other not believing, the child or children can get caught in the middle and this dynamic presents lots of challenges, but as Wray reminds, “We cannot do the job on our own strength, but God can.” It takes perseverance and reliance upon God, because in the Lord’s hands, the biggest mess can be transformed into a beautiful message of His mercy and grace. Other factors that could impede the training of a child are the absence of a parent(s), times when the child or children are being raised by relatives or possibly even the state, or instances where Christianity is the cultural minority and/or Christians are being persecuted. Despite these factors, Tedd Tripp explains the importance of, “Understanding your child’s inner struggles and the need to look at the world through his or her eyes. This will enable you to know what aspects of the life-giving message of the gospel are appropriate for conversation.”[12] Every child grows up to be the culmination of his or her own life experiences, so the past plays a huge role in training a child in the ways he or she should go. Some children feel as though their past defines them, while others are able to rise above it, but without Christ, there is still feel a void left inside. Poverty is an ever-increasing reality and can also impede a child’s upbringing. Telling people about how amazing God is when they are starving and do not have a roof over their heads is putting the wagon before the horse. One’s immediate and core needs must be addressed before earning the right to speak into their life. The family is the model God designed and implemented for His Word and instructions to be passed onto future generations and for children, some of the most important lessons in life are caught and not taught, simply because children imitate what they see. As parents and teachers, Michel Mitchell emphasizes, “we are always: being watched, being followed, and being imitated, so Mitchell encourages parents and teachers to be someone worth watching (I Thess. 1:5; I Cor. 11:1), to do something worth following (Acts 5:12; Matt. 20:34; Mark 10:52; Acts 8:11-13), and to saying something worth imitating (I Thess. 2:8; Luke 6:40).[13] Tripp then explains the importance of cultivating a child’s heart towards God because, “There is no such thing as a place of childhood neutrality; your children either worship God or idols. These idols are not small wooden or stone statuary; they are the subtle idols of the heart: fear of man, evil desires, lusts, and pride. These idols include conformity to the world, embracing earthly mindsets, and affections on things below.”[14]

What is important to remember is God has no grandchildren or great-grandchildren, each and every person is a child of God and it is with this mindset every follower of Christ should be seeking out the spiritual orphans and adopting them into the family of God. A parent’s authority comes directly from God and as Tripp explains, “Parents are God’s agents sent to help children understand the need for God’s grace and forgiveness and we are to look to God to give us strength and wisdom for the task.”[15] God is not limited by what we lack or what we are afraid to do; “He is calling each and every believer out to the deeper waters, deeper than one’s feet may wander, but where with His presence one will walk upon the water, and one’s trust will be made without borders.”[16] Ultimately, the heart determines behavior, so as Tripp emphasizes, “You must help your child learn to ask the questions that will expose the attitude(s) of their heart and direct them towards God.”[17]

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Barna, George. Revolutionary Parenting. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2007.

Estes, Daniel J. Hear, My Son: Teaching and Learning in Proverbs 1 – 9. Edited by D.A. Carson. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997.

Gaebelein, Frank E., ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 5: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1991.

Hughes, Robert B. and J. Carl Laney, Tyndale Concise Bible Commentary. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1990.

Joiner, Reggie. “Clearing Up Family Ministry Confusion,” www.orangleaders.com (accessed April 3, 2017).

Mitchell, Michael. “The Pillars of Personal Ministry,” HOMI: 601 The Ministry of Teaching, 2013, 1-9.

Pearcey, Nancy. Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity. Study Guide Edition. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005.

Renfro, Paul et al. Perspectives on Family Ministry: 3 Views. Edited by Timothy Paul Jones. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing Group, 2009.

Thompson, Tad. Intentional Parenting: Family Discipleship by Design. Adelphi, MD: Cruciform Press, 2011.

Tripp, Tedd and Margy Tripp. Instructing a Child’s Heart. Wapwallopen, PA, Shepherd Press, 2008.

Tripp, Tedd. Shepherding a Child’s Heart. Revised and Updated 2nd Edition. Wapwallopen, PA, Shepherd Press, 2005.

Tyndale. Life Application Study Bible. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1988.

Waltke, Bruce K. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Proverbs Chapters 15-31. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976, 203.

Wray, Lynn and Dan Burrell, “Parents as Disciple Makers,” Filmed [2013], Liberty University Website, DSMN 610, Course Content, Week Three Video Presentation, 12:23. https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_343442_1&content_id=_16588847_1 (accessed April 2, 2017).

Wright, Steve and Chris Graves. ApParent Privilege: That the Next Generation Might Know… Royal Palm Beach, FL: InQuest Ministries, 2008.

[1] Bruce K. Waltke, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Proverbs Chapters 15-31 (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976), 203.

[2] Frank E. Gaebelein, ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 5: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1991), 1059.

[3] Lynn Wray and Dan Burrell, “Parents as Disciple Makers,” Filmed [2013], Liberty University Website, DSMN 610, Course Content, Week Three Video Presentation, 12:23. https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_343442_1&content_id=_16588847_1 (accessed April 2, 2017).

[4] Waltke, TNCOT: The Book of Proverbs Chapters 15-31, 203.

[5] Reggie Joiner, “Clearing Up Family Ministry Confusion,” www.orangleaders.com (accessed April 3, 2017).

[6] Paul Renfro et al. Perspectives on Family Ministry: 3 Views, ed. Timothy Paul Jones (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing Group, 2009), 143.

[7] Tyndale, Life Application Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1988), 1041.

[8] Robert B. Hughes and J. Carl Laney, Tyndale Concise Bible Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1990), 235.

[9] Wray and Burrell, “Parents as Disciple Makers.”

[10] Ibid.

[11] Tyndale, 1041.

[12] Tedd Tripp, Shepherding a Child’s Heart. Revised and Updated 2nd Edition (Wapwallopen, PA, Shepherd Press, 2005), 76.

[13] Michael Mitchell, “The Pillars of Personal Ministry,” HOMI: 601 The Ministry of Teaching, 2013, 1-9.

[14] Tripp, Shepherding a Child’s Heart, 21.

[15] Ibid., 35.

[16] Hillsong United, Oceans: Where Feet May Fail, Zion, 2013.

[17] Tripp, Shepherding a Child’s Heart, 5.

Critical Thinking & Your Special Moment

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            In the wise words of Winston Churchill, on the importance of being the best version of oneself, “There comes in every person’s life, that special moment, when a person is figuratively tapped on the shoulder and afforded the chance to do a very special thing, unique to him and fitted to his talents. What a tragedy it would be if that moment finds him unprepared or unqualified for the work which should have been his finest hour.” The premise behind this statement is God is calling every believer to some task and He has afforded each person a special measure to accomplish that specific task and His perfect will. The only question that must be answered is whether or not His gift will be squandered and whether or not God will receive glory in that special moment.

REFLECTION OF STUDY AND NECESSARY PREPARATION

            When looking at Scripture, there are two individuals who stand out among the rest when looking for people who not only were prepared, but who were also willing to take a leap of faith to accomplish great things. These great things clearly could only be done with the gracious hand of the Lord over their lives. These two men were Ezra and Nehemiah and each of them devoted themselves to three things: (1) study of the Law, (2) observance of the Law, and (3) teaching of the Law. These three practices became the very foundation of their ministry, and much can be learned from Ezra and Nehemiah’s example, for the children of God today.

In addition to studying, observing, and teaching the Law, anyone engaged in teaching or ministry must also be proficient in critical thinking. This means possessing the ability to analyze, judge, assess, critique, and apply what is being processed in the brain. Michael Mitchell postulates four phases to critical thinking:

(1) Analysis, which is the inspection, interpretation, and inference of elements and structure, in order to form conjectures and hypotheses.

(2) Argument, which presents evidence in an ordered fashion in an attempt, right or wrong, to sway the audience.

(3) Assessment, which begins with the validation of the evidence and moves to establish a logical argument.

(4) Action, which takes the analysis, argument, assessment and culminates in conviction and commitment as individuals learn something and beginning to live something. Action can be making as small as making decision or can be large enough to changing one’s behavior.[1]

Upon understanding and applying the four phases of critical thinking, next Mitchell explains one must master the four foundations for critical thinking:

(1) Knowledge, which uses background information in order to interact and engage with the subject matter.

(2) Wisdom, which is born of the synthesis of one’s knowledge, practical experience, and application, allowing one the ability to both assess the argument and any possible implications.

(3) Values, which are rooted in a clearly articulated value system and allows one to interact with an argument from a moral perspective.

(4) Rubric, which is the standard and result of one’s knowledge, wisdom, and values. A biblical rubric for both content and process is vital for the ultimate evaluation and conclusion.[2]

After mastering the phases and foundations of critical thinking, Mitchell suggests six necessary steps when preparing for the transformational challenge of biblical-heart-deep teaching: (1) getting the big picture of the text, (2) constructing an outline of the text, (3) discovering the details of what the text says from the analytical outline performed, (4) identifying the exegetical idea and other principles, (5) applying these to one’s personal life with specific goals, and (6) establishing accountability measures for accomplishing your goals.[3]

Intent always precedes content, making one’s preparation paramount to accomplishing any task, but there is another dimension to intent. Samuel Koranteng-Pipim illuminates how, “When it comes to knowing God’s plan for our lives, our intent to obey determines whether or not He will reveal the content to us. Why should He disclose… [anything] when we have no intention of obeying, or are flouting things He’s already clearly revealed in His Word?”[4] In John 7:17 Jesus says, “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, (intent) he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority (content). Leon Morris shows how, “Jesus goes on to affirm that any really sincere person would know this. It is not something that can be learned only by those who are expert in theological niceties. Anyone who really wills to do the will of God will have the spiritual discernment required. Jesus’ hearers had raised the question of his competence as a teacher. He raises the question of their competence as hearers.”[5]

As a teacher and/or minister, Mitchell emphasizes the mind and skill set that constitutes the manner, method, and message of a worthy life as the pillars of personal ministry. The premise behind this analogy is teachers and/or ministers are: being watched, being followed, and being imitated, so Mitchell encourages them to be someone worth watching (I Thess. 1:5; I Cor. 11:1), to do something worth following (Acts 5:12; Matt. 20:34; Mark 10:52; Acts 8:11-13), and to saying something worth imitating (I Thess. 2:8; Luke 6:40).[6]

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Anthony, Michael J. ed. Introducing Christian Education: Foundations for the Twenty-first Century. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001.

Koranteng-Pipim, Samuel. “Intent Precedes Content.” 2012. http://eaglesonline.org/intent-precedes-content/ (accessed March 30, 2017).

Mitchell, Michael. “The Ezra Experience: Thinking Critically About Scripture.” Filmed [2014], Liberty University Website, HOMI 601, Course Content, Week Two Video Presentation, 8:01. https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_346767_1&content_id=_16730810_1 (accessed March 30, 2017).

________. “Ezra Experience Worksheet.” HOMI 601: The Ministry of Teaching, 2013.

________. “The Pillars of Personal Ministry.” HOMI 601: The Ministry of Teaching, 2013.

Morris, Leon. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995.

Richards, Lawrence O. and Gary J. Bredfeldt. Creative Bible Teaching. Revised and Expanded. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1998.

Stanley, Andy and Lane Jones. Communicating For a Change. Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2006.

Yount, William R., ed. The Teaching Ministry of the Church. 2nd Edition. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2008.

[1] Michael Mitchell, “The Ezra Experience: Thinking Critically About Scripture,” Filmed [2014], Liberty University Website, HOMI 601, Course Content, Week Two Video Presentation, 8:01. https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_346767_1&content_id=_16730810_1 (accessed March 30, 2017).

[2] Mitchell, “The Ezra Experience: Thinking Critically About Scripture.”

[3] Ibid.

[4] Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, “Intent Precedes Content,” 2012, http://eaglesonline.org/intent-precedes-content/ (accessed March 30, 2017).

[5] Leon Morris, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), 359.

[6] Michael Mitchell, “The Pillars of Personal Ministry,” HOMI: 601 The Ministry of Teaching, 2013, 1-9.

 

Church Discipleship Assessment

Discipleship Model

The future of the church will largely depend on the success of family ministry and how discipleship is conducted within the four walls of the church and inside the home. While there are multiple approaches to family ministry and discipleship, Randy Stinson could not be more correct in his assertion that: “Family ministry is necessary and significant because families are under siege.”[1] Timothy Paul Jones further emphasizes: “Every church is called to some form of family ministry… and each generation needs one another.”[2] Unfortunately, healthy and biblical family ministry and discipleship is not the norm in most churches or families. Society has become dependent upon the church, essentially outsourcing the spiritual formation of children to ministry leaders, much like society has become dependent upon teachers for all means of learning and education. This is the reality most churches face today because previous leaders in the church have allowed it. Dan Burrell demonstrates, “The current greatest conflict in churches is usually found between youth ministry and family discipleship.”[3] This is where kids’ wills and priorities attempt to supersede the parents’ role in becoming the disciple makers in the home, ultimately preventing the church to focus on equipping and training the parents to fulfill his or her God-given duties. The church must now answer, “What legacy will be left for future generations and how will they respond to the epidemic of moral therapeutic deism?”

MODELS AND STRATEGIES

            Timothy Paul Jones exhibits four models of modern/contemporary family ministry: (1) Educational-Programmatic Ministry Model, (2) Family-Based Ministry Model, (3) Family-Equipping Ministry Model, and (4) Family-Integrated Ministry Model. Of these four models, the Family-Equipping Ministry Model is closest to what Generations United Church (GenU) strives to emulate and seems most biblical and relevant because as Jones illustrates, “Although age-organized programs and events still exist, the church is completely restructured to draw the generations together, equipping parents, championing their role as primary disciple-makers, and holding them accountable to fulfill this role.”[4] The vision and mission of GenU is rooted in an environment where there is no age-segregation, allowing multiple generations to engage in worship, teachings, and life together. Since, GenU is made up of Abrahams, Isaacs, and Jacobs, for the mutual health of the church; it is vital to reconnect these segregated age groups to one another. Burrell strengthens this view by explaining, “Spiritual authority in the home is crucial, so application can be derived… [Furthermore,] the church could never and should never replace the role of parents who God placed as the primary disciple makers in the home.”[5] Jones further demonstrates, “When evangelism, worship, and discipleship for children and youth occur in isolation from, and, at times, with disdain for, their counterparts, it is difficult to see how the hearts of parents and children can consistently be turned toward one another.”[6]

In the past, GenU has used both the Educational-Programmatic Ministry Model, which forms various silos of ministry, rarely touching one another and the Family-Based Model, which takes a step in the right direction, by intentionally drawing generations together and encouraging parents to take a more active role in the lives of children, but falls short in still segregating the various generations. The Educational-Programmatic Ministry Model focused more on the convenience for the family’s schedules and needs than the spiritual formation of the next generation. GenU became five miles wide, with a multiplicity of programs and activities, but was only one inch deep, relating to discipleship and transformation. While using the Educational-Programmatic Ministry Model, GenU learned when a ministry was created that did not point back to the core vision and mission, silos were created and walls were put up. Jones further explains, “Whereas family-based churches develop intergenerational events and activities within current structures, family-equipping ministry reworks the church’s entire structure to call parents to disciple their children at every level of the church’s work.”[7]

Adapting to a new model has taken time, planning, training, communication, promotion, and congregational buy-in and it is still a work in progress. The initiative GenU used is called First Generation and it was birthed out of a response to the crisis of faith youth are facing at an alarmingly early age. Steven Frye demonstrates the most widely used models encourage, “Religious organizations to emphasize work with adolescents, assisting them through the troublesome years of middle and high school with paid professional youth workers, organized youth groups, focused service and ministry opportunities, and a variety of offerings to build community.”[8] However, despite these targeted efforts, the Barna Group has still consistently found that Millennials are still leaving the church and that the crisis of faith, which used to occur in the college years is now being faced predominately in high school, but in some cases as early as middle school. “Nearly six in ten young people who grow up in Christian churches end up walking away, and the unchurched segment among Millennials has increased in the last decade from 44% to 52%, mirroring a larger cultural trend away from churchgoing in America. When asked what has helped their faith grow, ‘church’ does not make even the top 10 factors.”[9] These statistics indicate a change needs to occur in how the gospel message is being communicated to the younger generations, leading to GenU’s First Generation initiative. Barna further stresses:

The fact that Millennials continue to leave the church—in larger numbers than ever before—when they reach adulthood, suggests a need to either revise current approaches or double-down on efforts to equip and prepare today’s youth. The fact that teens lack commitment due to general busyness, and the broad scarcity of student leaders, suggests that relationships and engagement in church are not reaching sufficient depth. Youth leaders are right to prioritize discipleship and relationship building.[10]

IMPLEMENTING FAMILY-EQUIPPING MINISTRY

            The findings of the Barna Group were consistent with what was being experienced at GenU. Hearing and seeing firsthand what was happening after children went off to college was disturbing, but when it started happening during earlier years of development, the leadership of GenU knew a change was needed in the way discipleship was being acted out and taught. Andrew Burggraff defines discipleship as the process of learning Scriptures, internalizing them to shape one’s belief system, and then applying them to change one’s life. Burggraff proposes:

It is the church’s role to be actively involved in following the command given in the Great Commission (Matt 28:19-20), but contemporary research related to discipleship has revealed several concerns that the 21st-century church must acknowledge as it seeks to disciple believers. Today, more than ever, it is essential that the church develop curriculum that accurately and systematically teaches believers how to be a true disciple of Christ. To do so, church leaders must understand the process to develop and accurately design discipleship curriculum for the church.[11]

As GenU began this process of developing a new curriculum and model of discipleship, strategic planning was used, making sure every area of ministry began to focus on training and empowering parents/grandparents to view themselves as the primary disciple-maker. Jay Strother explains the importance of this model because, “The home has the greatest impact on young lives; with few exceptions, and if we fail to impact the home, we will never make a lasting impact on students.”[12] This paradigm shift of the parents/grandparents leading and teaching is still in process, much like learning is a life-long endeavor, but the fruits of this new approach are already being seen and areas of multi-generational discipleship are continuing to grow. The basis of this model and core ethos is making sure the church and families are working in tandem towards a common goal. The primary focus is no longer keeping children happy and entertained; it is now focused on getting the parents/grandparents involved and integrated. The catalyst behind this initiative is based on Scripture and God’s command for parents to disciple children.

Initially, there was some backlash, but the sad reality is most parents choose a church based on whether or not the children are happy and this is completely backwards. Parents should seek out a church where sound biblical preaching is evident and the litmus test is simply the transformation of disciples. Upon analyzing data and surveys pertaining to biblical illiteracy, Albert Mohler, concludes:

Christians who lack biblical knowledge are the products of churches that marginalize biblical knowledge and it is up to this generation of Christians to reverse the course. Recovery starts at home and parents are to be the first and most important educators of their own children, diligently teaching them the Word of God. Parents cannot franchise their responsibility to the congregation, no matter how faithful and biblical it may be. God assigned parents this non-negotiable responsibility, and children must see their Christian parents as teachers and fellow students of God’s Word.[13]

Reggie Joiner explains, “Research shows that even active students [in youth ministry] receive only forty hours or so of biblical instruction each year from their churches. Parents, on the other hand, have more than three thousand hours a year in which they are constantly ‘teaching’ their children in some way.”[14] Identifying the key issue was the first step, but implementing a solution required forming a partnership with parents. This was a delicate phase where the development and overall goal being conveyed was an initiative to bring the church and home together to form a biblical partnership. Without a plan in place, the younger generations would simply continue to fall away from a relationship with Jesus Christ. However, now children and parents alike are committed to loving God and fulfilling the Great Commission.

Since implementing the First Generation concept, which closely resembles the Family-Equipping Model, there has been considerable change that can be seen and felt. With a common goal defined, GenU is continually making sure all ministry efforts are centered on the partnership between the home and church. Training and communication are vital because if expectations are not clearly defined, there is no way to measure success. Some of the strategies GenU has implemented are teaching classes targeted to parents of teens and plans are underway to have a class for parents of middle school children. On a weekly basis, an emphasis is attached to the sermon on ways to apply the application of the message in a home or community setting. In the future, one of the best ways GenU hopes to grow the Family-Equipping Model is to embark on local/foreign family mission trips. Doing ministry together strengthens the bond within the family and brings immense glory to God. The ultimate goal is developing parents who become disciple makers, and with this goal in mind, GenU is extremely sensitive to the reality there are many young attenders who are spiritual orphans, meaning there is no biological parent to assume the role of disciple-maker. In these cases, a mentoring program has been created to help younger people navigate some of life’s hard decisions and harsh realities.

CONCLUSION

            Jones concludes, “Although there is widespread agreement that churches ought to do family ministry, there is little agreement regarding what family ministry looks like. And there is even less agreement when it comes to the question of how to implement a family ministry.”[15] Ultimately, as George Barna emphasizes, “The primary formation of a child’s faith is not a job for specialists; it is a job for parents.”[16] This means the primary role of the church needs to focus on training parents to embrace their God-given primary responsibility for instructing children about God, in order for them to grow spiritually mature and reproduce disciples. Strother sums it up best: “Every ministry context should ground family members in worship, grow them in discipleship, and equip them to go on missions wherever God leads them. However, reversing the current trend will require a generation of convicted ministry leaders who see family-equipping as part of who they are – not as one more ministry that they do.”[17]

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Barna, George. Revolutionary Parenting. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2007.

________. “The Priorities, Challenges, and Trends in Youth Ministry,” Barna.com. April 6, 2016. https://www.barna.com/research/the-priorities-challenges-and-trends-in-youth-ministry/ (accessed March 29, 2017).

Burggraff, Andrew. “Developing discipleship curriculum: applying the systems approach model for designing instruction by Dick, Carey, and Carey to the construction of church discipleship courses.” Christian Education Journal 12, no. 2 (2015): 397+. Academic OneFile (accessed March 29, 2017). http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=AONE&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA429498261&sid=summon&asid=ade420579921909ec161d6995fadd701.

Burrell, Dan. “Why the Topic of Family Discipleship is Important.” Filmed [2013], Liberty University Website, DSMN 610, Course Content, Week One Video Presentation, 11:17. https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_343442_1&content_id=_16588837_1 (accessed March 21, 2017).

Estes, Daniel J. Hear, My Son: Teaching and Learning in Proverbs 1 – 9. Edited by D.A. Carson. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997.

Frye, Steven B. 2014. “Becoming an adult in a community of faith.” New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education 2014 (143): 51-61. (accessed March 29, 2017).

Mohler, Albert. “The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy: It’s Our Problem.” AlbertMohler.com. October 14, 2005. http://www.albertmohler.com/2005/10/14/the-scandal-of-biblical-illiteracy-its-our-problem/ (accessed March 29, 2017).

Pearcey, Nancy. Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity. Study Guide Edition. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005.

Renfro, Paul et al. Perspectives on Family Ministry: 3 Views. Edited by Timothy Paul Jones. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing Group, 2009.

Thompson, Tad. Intentional Parenting: Family Discipleship by Design. Adelphi, MD: Cruciform Press, 2011.

Tripp, Tedd and Margy Tripp. Instructing a Child’s Heart. Wapwallopen, PA, Shepherd Press, 2008.

Tripp, Tedd. Shepherding a Child’s Heart. Revised and Updated 2nd Edition. Wapwallopen, PA, Shepherd Press, 2005.

Wright, Steve and Chris Graves. ApParent Privilege: That the Next Generation Might Know… Royal Palm Beach, FL: InQuest Ministries, 2008.

[1] Paul Renfro et al. Perspectives on Family Ministry: 3 Views, ed. Timothy Paul Jones (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing Group, 2009), 1-3.

[2] Ibid., 45-47.

[3] Dan Burrell, “Analyzing the Strategic Family Discipleship Efforts of the Church,” Filmed [2013], Liberty University Website, DSMN 610, Course Content, Week Two Video Presentation, 14:38. https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_343442_1&content_id=_16588842_1 (accessed March 28, 2017).

[4] Renfro et al. Perspectives on Family Ministry, 52.

[5] Dan Burrell, “Why the Topic of Family Discipleship is Important,” Filmed [2013], Liberty University Website, DSMN 610, Course Content, Week One Video Presentation, 11:17. https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_343442_1&content_id=_16588837_1 (accessed March 21, 2017).

[6] Renfro et al. Perspectives on Family Ministry, 19.

[7] Renfro et al. Perspectives on Family Ministry, 44.

[8] Steven B. Frye, “Becoming an adult in a community of faith” New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education 2014 (143): 52. (accessed March 29, 2017).

[9] George Barna, “The Priorities, Challenges, and Trends in Youth Ministry,” Barna.com. April 6, 2016. https://www.barna.com/research/the-priorities-challenges-and-trends-in-youth-ministry/ (accessed March 29, 2017).

[10] Ibid.

[11] Andrew Burggraff, “Developing discipleship curriculum: applying the systems approach model for designing instruction by Dick, Carey, and Carey to the construction of church discipleship courses.” Christian Education Journal 12, no. 2 (2015): 397. Academic OneFile (accessed March 29, 2017).

[12] Renfro et al. Perspectives on Family Ministry, 143.

[13] Albert Mohler, “The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy: It’s Our Problem,” AlbertMohler.com. October 14, 2005. http://www.albertmohler.com/2005/10/14/the-scandal-of-biblical-illiteracy-its-our-problem/ (accessed March 29, 2017).

[14] Reggie Joiner, “Clearing Up Family Ministry Confusion,” www.orangleaders.com (accessed March 29, 2017).

[15] Renfro et al. Perspectives on Family Ministry, 24.

[16] George Barna, Revolutionary Parenting (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2007), 12.

[17] Renfro et al. Perspectives on Family Ministry, 156 & 160.