This week at CIU, it is our "Authority of Scripture" emphasis week. Along with World Evangelization, Prayer and Faith, Victorious Christian Living, and Evangelical Unity, the Authority of Scripture is one of our five core values at CIU. We are fortunate to have Dr. Doug Moo, a prolific New Testament scholar from Wheaton College, as our chapel speaker and guest lecturer in some classes.
Dr. Moo serves as the chair of the Committee on Bible Translation, a team of fifteen that specifically work with the New International Version (NIV). As I listened to his first presentation in chapel (a very winsome and accessible one worth listening to), I was impressed that the CBT committee not only holds to an evangelical authoritative view of Scripture but there is also a sense of evangelical unity in the process. As the slide in the picture shows, this team is deliberately comprised of scholars from different evangelical denominations and theological persuasions and includes men and women as well as international scholars.
In short, through this talk, Dr. Moo has demonstrated the synergy of two values we hold dear (biblical authority and evangelical unity) at work in the precious work of translation--rendering a translation that is faithful and accurate and also understandable to all English speakers. Having such a diverse team laboring together surely helps to expose the biases that could lead to theologically driven translations and allows the Scripture to speak for itself.
In doing research for a book I'm writing on missionary monks in the medieval church, it is a pleasure to review recent books with similar aims. In the short 133-page work From Monks to Missionaries, Nicki Verploegen (cofounder of TATENDA International and author of Organic Spirituality and Meditations with Merton) aims to show the origins and development of various strains of monasticism from Augustine in the fifth century to the Society for African Missions in the nineteenth. Dividing the work into four parts, Verploegen briefly introduces the reader to such monastic innovators as Benedict, Francis, Dominic, and Ignatius of Loyola, while describing different monastic groups that emphasized the activities of pastoral care, ministry, and global mission.
In terms of strengths, the author does succeed in drawing out a nice map of monastic history, including the unique contributions of these noted innovators. Overall, it is a coherent "big picture" allowing the reader to distinguish between Jesuits, Franciscans and others. Another positive element is that each chapter invites modern readers, especially non-monks, to consider aspects of historic monastic spirituality for today. This is the richness of Christian and monastic history for the 21st century global dweller.
I do have a number of critiques. First, the author has chosen to begin her study with Augustine in the fourth and fifth centuries and focused on western monasticism. Though Verploegen certainly had to put limits on the study, I think that more on the monastic innovators of the East (Egypt, Syria, Asia Minor) would have helped the study. Second, and related, more detail and color into the lives of Francis of Assisi and Ignatius of Loyola would have also enriched the book. Third, the author's apparent claim that more deliberate ministry and cross-cultural mission does not begin until after the Jesuits (parts 3 and 4 of the book) seems short sighted and misses the missionary monastic work of Basil of Caesarea, Martin of Tours, and the Celtic monks among others. In this sense, the book's title is a bit misleading (from monks to missionaries) as it seems that mission was not part of monasticism until the sixteenth century onward. A final critique is that the book contains no documentation allowing the reader to see on what basis the author built her arguments.
In short, this book is a good introductory work to some important streams of monastic thought and practice.
The September 9th release of U2's latest album "Songs of Innocence" certainly created a splash in the music and business world. Apple paid the band's label a rumored sum and dropped it into the iTunes accounts of some 500 million subscribers. Some, like yours truly, were grateful to get the new album as a gift, though I would have gladly paid for it. Others bristled that their privacy had been invaded (or limited iPhone space filled up) and were happy to get the uninstall directions. Critics did what critics do and some were merciless in their disdain for the album. Still others accused U2 of ceasing to be pure artists and selling out to big business (aka Apple).
I was a U2 fan before "Songs" and remain one. I've listened to the album a decent bit over the last month and I like what they're saying and how they've said it. As I listen to the tracks, I hear themes and sounds from "Boy," "Joshua Tree," "Zooropa," "All You Can't Leave Behind," and "No Line on the Horizon"--four decades of music in a new album. But I also hear an entirely new record with fresh reflections on their journey in music mixed with 21st century sounds.
Why am I still a U2 fan? At least three reasons:
They continue to create. What band has stayed together for nearly 40 years and continues to write new material? U2 put out 11 songs on the new album but apparently wrote and recorded 100. While this gives them material for at least another forthcoming album, it really shows that this is a group hungry to create and remain, well, artists.
They risk. U2 has always been a band to take risks:
Songs of substance. U2's lyrics are anything but fluff and they're not about base, material things. They sing about real and heavy issues in the world--injustice, pain, faith, hope, and love. Perhaps it's this hopeful aspect of their music that makes them a target for cynical critics. For me, their substantive lyrics have caused me wrestle with what I think and believe and to reflect on how faith should be lived out in the world today.
Still a fan.
Recently at Trinity International University, I gave a message entitled, "Is every Christian a Missionary?" By probing into the church at Antioch (Acts 11:19-26; 13:1-3), I argue that this diaspora church was birthed in suffering and mission and that the entire church owned the mission of God, including the task of sending out cross-cultural evangelists and church planters.
What is your role in God's mission?
Note: Early in the message, I showed the clip "Follow the Frog," which was not included in the video.
Recently, I had the privilege to speak at Trinity International University during their Global Christian Week. In this final chapel message, I shared a brief devotion from the life and ministry of Daniel as he glorified God with his spiritual gifts (the ability to interpret dreams) as well as through his natural gifts (intellectual and leadership abilities).
My favorite part of the talk (beginning at 19:30) was to interview Trinity Greek and New Testament professor Constantine Campbell and to discuss how as a jazz musician, he has a unique ministry in the world of artists. Campbell has elaborated on this further in a book called Outreach and the Artist.
Daniel 1:17 states: "To these four young men [Shadrach, Meshach, Abed-nego, Daniel] God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds."
What are your natural gifts and how can you use them to glorify God among the nations?
In 2012, I was privileged to visit the island of Iona in Scotland's Hebrides Islands. It is remembered as the place where the Irish missionary monk Columba and his community were given by the Pictish King Bridius to build a monastery and establish a base for their mission work to the Picts in the 6th century. After surveying the island and doing further research on Celtic mission practice, including work among the Picts, I was particularly intrigued by how the monks engaged the Pictish culture and its art in order to share the gospel. Last year I gave a paper on this and it has now been published in the online journal Global Missiology. The article's abstract is below and the complete article can be read HERE.
When remembering the history of Celtic monasticism and mission, many are quick to recognize the rich literary tradition that accompanied the movement. Indeed, such works as Patrick’s Confessions, Adomnan’s Life of Columba and The Holy Places as well as the development of a few remarkable Gospel books—the Book of Kells, the Book of Durrow, and the Lindisfarne Gospels—lend credence to this claim. That said, far less attention seems to be paid to the oral emphases of Celtic monastic missions and, in particular, the Iona community and their mission to Picts. In this paper, following a brief narrative of mission and background on the Pictish peoples, I will argue that Columba (521-597) and his monks, despite their significant abilities in reading and clear commitment to it as part of their spiritual growth, were quite deliberate in engaging the visual and oral context of their Pictish hosts. To support this claim, two texts in particular will be explored and evaluated for their oral qualities—St. Martin’s cross and the Book of Kells.