Tuesday, September 26, 2017

What is Humanity Like?

1. In the creation story of Genesis 1, the Bible repeatedly says that God saw what he created and it was good (Gen. 1:31). This is an important point. Christians believe that every human being is a small reflection of God. We say that a human being is the "image" of God (Gen. 1:27). This fact means that every human being has an intrinsic worth.

Any unnecessary loss of human life should thus grieve us, because a small reflection of God has died. When a flood or a storm takes a life, a small reflection of God has died. When cancer or an accident takes a life, a tiny image of God has died.

When war takes a life on either side, we are grieved because the failures of humanity have killed a small mirror of God. War always involves a human failure at some point. We say it is a result of human "sin" at some point. Even when a violent criminal dies, even as a result of his or her own sinful actions, we mourn the loss of an image of God.

We treat others the way we would want them to treat us--we act lovingly toward others--because every human being is created in the image of God. All human beings have an intrinsic worth and dignity, because all human beings are a small mirror of God who created us.

2. The universe has an intrinsic worth because it is God's creation. God did not have to create the world. He did not have to create the stars or the galaxies. He did so because he wanted to create them. They are created for God's pleasure.

We should thus treat God's creation with respect. Genesis 1 suggests that God has appointed humanity as a steward of his creation where we live (Gen. 1:28). As his appointed caretakers, we see human pollution and the exploitation of the natural world as an insult to God. It treats as common what is his and which is thus holy. As caretakers of our world, we oppose cancer and sickness. We use the intelligence God has given us to develop science in a way that protects and restores the world.

The quest for knowledge is part of our fulfillment of God's command to "subdue the earth." Science and exploration is one way to keep this command. It is not in any way a command to abuse the earth but to steward it. Sabbath is a principle of rest that stewards our bodies and minds, allowing us to be better servants of God (Gen. 2:3).

3. "All have sinned and are lacking the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). The story of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2-3 is the story of every one of us. There is a power over humanity for evil. We call it the power of Sin. We look around us and often resonate with the desperate words of an early Christian named Paul when he said, "There is no one who is righteous, not even one" (Rom. 3:10).

Sin is the impulse to act for myself in a way that selfishly harms others. Sin is the impulse to act in a way that conflicts with my surrender to God as the most important thing. Sin is the impulse to hurt myself when I should treat myself as someone created in the image of God.

In short, sin is anything that violates the fundamental ethic set down by God in the command to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength" and to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:30-31). Sin is not best thought of as a violation of rules. That is a less mature understanding of sin. Sin is an impulse to act selfishly in relation to either God, others, or even myself.

4. History is replete with the story of human sinfulness. War is the consummate example of human sinfulness, the human impulse to destroy others for the advancement or stubbornness of an individual person or a certain group. The Bible supports a time for a people to defend themselves or to protect others in war. The Bible suggests there is a time when war is necessary. But the causes of war are thoroughly sinful.

Murder is a microcosm of war. Yet human sinfulness extends to more mundane circumstances where I hurt others to get ahead or simply because I feel like it. Factionalism and the tendency to put my group above others is another manifestation of Sin. It is human nature to herd, to align righteousness with my party or my nation or my race. This aspect of human nature becomes another manifestation of human sinfulness when my group selfishly or thoughtlessly harms others.

At times the thoroughness of human sinfulness threatens to bring us to despair. But God has shown us a more excellent way.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Who is God?

1. God is the creator of the universe, of everything that is seen and unseen.

Christians believe that God created the universe out of nothing. This is not just creation of everything out of emptiness. It is creation of the emptiness itself. The laws of nature did not exist before. The laws of logic did not exist before. The rules of math did not exist before. God invented them all.

God must therefore have more knowledge than the universe (because God created all knowledge). God must therefore have more power than the universe (because God created all matter and energy). We believe that God is everywhere present in the universe.

2. It is conventional to refer to God as a "he," but God has no sexuality. Christians do believe that God is personal rather than a thing. God has intellect and intentions.

Indeed, Christians believe that God is mysteriously three persons yet only one God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). This is a mystery. It says everything that needs to be said: 1) there is only one God, 2) God the Father is God and is a distinct person, 3) Jesus is God and is a distinct person, and 4) the Holy Spirit is God and is a distinct person. How these statements can all be true is a mystery.

God is self-sufficient. That is to say, God does not need the world. God created the universe because he wanted to, not because he needed to. It was an act of supreme artistry and creativity, and God loves everything God created.

3. Christians have historically believed that God not only knows everything that can possibly happen but everything that will actually happen. This is God's foreknowledge. However, the Wesleyan tradition does not believe that God predestines what will happen in every detail. God has an overall plan for history, including the coming of Christ and the salvation of the world.

But God does not predetermine every aspect of the world. God has built freedom and creativity into the creation on the quantum level. And at this time God empowers human beings to decide whether they choose to serve him or not.

4. God is the ruler of the universe. The appropriate response is submission and obedience. To surrender yourself to God is to transcend the impoverished, selfish state that is our default human condition. We humans are born thinking only of ourselves and perhaps of our own tribes. Submission to God is submission to Truth beyond what is convenient for ourselves. It is submission to the "other," which makes humanity better than it would otherwise be. It is submission to the justice of the prophets in the Bible, which seeks to see every human valued and equal to every other.

God is Love and Justice. God is love from the very act of creation. God wants what is best for the creation. God wants to save what is lost in the creation, without forcing his help on the creation. God calls us to love one another as God has loved the world.

God is justice in that he has created a certain order to the universe. When of our choices we crash into that order, we hurt ourselves. Sometimes God "disciplines" us to help us get back on course. Sometimes God removes us to protect others. Sometimes God removes us because we can no longer be saved and have become a symbol of that which stands against the Good.

5. God is both "beyond" the universe (transcendent) and present within the universe (immanent). In his "otherness," we say that God is holy. To say that God is holy is to say that God is God. It is to say that he is not like us. It is to say that he is awesome and tremendous. There is a certain fear we can have around something that is so much greater than us, something that is so much more powerful. This is the holiness of God.

When we become God's possession, we become holy as well. We become God's property, God's "stuff." As such we do not want any part of our being to be out of sync with God. We want to "be holy as God is holy." We want to be like God, and God makes it possible for it to happen.

6. God is a God who reveals Godself to us. The Bible is a witness to God walking with humanity, especially one people known as Israel. But the Bible ends in the New Testament with a decisive turn to the whole of humanity.

When God reveals himself, he comes to us in language and categories that we can understand. All revelation is thus "incarnated" revelation. It comes to us in terms that we can understand. The Scriptures are the central and most important record of God meeting his people in their own language and categories.

The most important record within Scripture is the coming of Jesus Christ to earth. Jesus is the Word of God for the world. In Christ all of God's speakings hold together. The speakings before point to Christ. The speakings after unpack the significance of Christ. The Scriptures are thus sufficient revelation for us to know God and be reconciled to him. The Scriptures tell us the most important truths about God and the world. The Scriptures tell us God's authoritative will for how to live in his world.

7. The Holy Spirit continues to speak to us. The Holy Spirit makes the words of the Bible come alive for us today, although we must test the spirits to see if these revelations are truly of God. The Holy Spirit gives us experiences of God, including knowledge. The Holy Spirit can also guide our reason to the truth.

The most important check and balance on individual whim and fancy is the Church, the body of Christ. The church is that collection of God's people who have lived and will live in all places and times. Under the guidance of the Spirit, God's people as a whole can redirect our interpretations of the Bible when they have gone astray. The body of Christ can clarify our reason and experience when they are off track. When God's people have commonly believed and practiced something throughout history, it is then very likely that God has revealed that truth to the Church.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Thoughts on Kingdom Diversification

Thoughts on stages of kingdom diversification:
  1. You don't notice you're all the same.
  2. You commit to welcome and treat equally any different person who stumbles your way. Language of being "color blind" used, while not really seeing the different. 
  3. You feel discomfort that you do not reflect your community. 
  4. You tokenize any "border" people who are different but can handle your homogeneity. You may be awkwardly over-friendly to visitors who are different. 
  5. Same is the host, showing hospitality to the different, maybe "helping" them. 
  6. "Bridge" people come, who begin to weave difference into your identity. A synthesis begins. Same feels increasing discomfort. Resistance increases. 
  7. Different takes over key leadership roles. Same likely feels significant discomfort over systemic culture change. Revolt may break out. Some "base" diversity may begin to come. 
  8. At some point, a new multi-ethnic equilibrium emerges.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Genesis in a Nutshell 1

The Creation
1. "When God began to create the skies and the land, it was formless and empty. Darkness was over the face of the deep and the breath of God moved over the face of the waters. And God said, 'Let there be light.' And there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good... And God called the light, "Day," and the darkness he called, "Night." And the evening and the morning was day one" (1:1-5).

The rest of the first chapter poetically sets out an orderly creation of the world in six "days." Finally, on the sixth day, God creates humans.

"Then God said, 'Let us make humanity in our image, according to our likeness. And let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the skies and over the cattle of the land and over every creeping thing that creeps on the land.' And God created humanity in his own image. In the image of God he created human. Male and female he created them" (1:26-28).

"God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and gain control of it... God saw all that he had made and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day" (1:31).

"And the skies and the land were completed, and all their hosts. By the seventh day God completed the work he had done. And God rested the seventh day from all the work that he had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and set it apart as holy, because on it he rested from all his work which God had created and made" (2:1-3).

2. A later book in the Old Testament, the Psalms, poetically says the following about God in comparison to the creation:

"You of old founded the earth,
     and the skies are the works of your hands.
They will also perish, but you endure.
     They will all wear out like a garment...
But you are the same,
     And your years will not come to an end" (Ps. 102:25-27).

Adam and Eve
3. Genesis 2-3 then give the story of Adam and Eve. In the story, God first creates Adam out of the dust of the earth: "The LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground, breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and Adam became a living being" (2:7). Whenever you see LORD or GOD in all capital letters, you are looking at the name of God in the original Hebrew language, YAHWEH.

God brings the animals to Adam to name. Adam sees that all the other animals are paired into male and female, but for Adam no one was found to be at his side (2:20). So the LORD God causes Adam to sleep, and while he is sleeping, God creates Eve from his rib.

They are in a garden, the Garden of Eden. They are "naked and unashamed" (2:25).

4. Another one of the Psalms, gives a poetic expression of this creation of humanity. Psalm 8 beautifully reads:

"O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
     Who have displayed your glory above the skies...
When I consider the skies, the work of your hands,
      The moon and the stars, which you have fixed,
What is a mortal, that you remember them
     Or the child of a mortal, that you visit them?
Yet you have made them a little lower than God,
     And you crown them with glory and honor
You make them rule over the works of your hands,
     You have put everything under their feet...
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!"

You can see the way Hebrew poetry works by way of parallelism. You say something in one line, then you repeat it or contrast with it in the next line.

5. Genesis 3 then tells about the "Fall" of Adam and Eve from the glory of the Garden. Snakes crawl on their belly without legs. Men have often worked hard to get fields to yield crops. Women have painful childbirth and have often in history been subject to the demands of men. Why is the world not as God intended it to be?

Genesis 3 tells of two trees in the Garden: 1) the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and 2) the Tree of Life. If Adam and Eve could have eaten regularly of the second tree, they would have lived forever. However, they were forbidden to eat of the first tree.

The first tree was a parable of the knowledge of evil. The snake tempted Eve to eat of it, and she urged Adam to eat of it with her. When they ate the fruit, they indeed came to know evil. They were banished from the Garden and thus were doomed in that moment to die, since they could not eat of the Tree of Life. God administers the punishments mentioned above.

6. The New Testament will later reflect on this story and on the dynamics of sin. A book called James says, "Let no one say when he or she is tempted, 'God is tempting me.' God is not tempted with evil, nor does he tempt anyone. Each person is tempted when they are carried away and enticed by their own desire. Then when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin. And sin, when it is finished, brings forth death" (Jas. 1:13-15).

All the human beings who have lived ever since, except for Jesus, have repeated the same failure as Adam and Eve. A New Testament writer named Paul writes, "All have sinned and are lacking the glory of God," just as Adam and Eve fell from the glorious place that God had given them. The words of Paul echo through our lives: "Death passed to every human being, because everyone sins" (Rom. 5:12).

A New Testament book named Hebrews echoes our current failure to achieve Psalm 8 when it says, "We do not see everything under humanity's feet at present" (Heb. 2:8).

Friday, September 15, 2017

Friday Science: Let There Be Space 1

"In the beginning, GOD created space and matter. And the matter was formless and unconnected and there was darkness over the face of the soup. And the Spirit of God moved throughout the face of the chaos. Then God said, 'Let there be photons,' and the cosmic background radiation was released. And God saw the light, that it was good." Genesis 1:1-4

1. In the beginning, GOD created space and matter. YHWH said, "Let there be space." And there was space. And the LORD saw the space, that it was good.

God created the smallest cloud of possibilities within a framework of certainties. God created that smallest of nothings with everything in it, and delighted to watch it enfold.

"Before" that moment, there was nothing. There was God of course. "Where" God was--we have no point of reference to say. "When" God was--we have no categories to express. We have no point of reference even to understand these questions.

And when we say there was nothing "here," we mean there was not even emptiness. There was not even zero. There was no space. There was only empty set, which is different than zero. Empty set does not even have zero in it.

We often assume, unknowingly, that God has to follow the constraints of this universe. We think God has to follow our understanding of logic. We act like YHWH had to learn math in universe school just like everyone else.

But God invented our math. YHWH invented our logic. It is difficult for us to imagine how 1 + 1 could not equal 2. It is difficult for us to imagine a world where the syllogism does not work.

What we need to understand is that when God made the universe out of nothing, he made it out of nothing. He invented the rules of math for this universe. They did not exist before. He invented the rules of logic for this universe. They did not exist before.

It was not like someone who stumbles into a kitchen and starts mixing things together. Maybe our creation will taste good even if we mix things with complete randomness. After all, we did not invent the chemical rules that determine how things mix. We did not invent the way our taste buds taste.

Creation was not like that. In creation God not only created the ingredients. YHWH set in motion the laws for how those ingredients combine. The LORD designed and invented all of that. God created all the options.

2. And GOD said, "Let there be everything." YHWH spoke this command at the same instance that he said, "Let there be space." And the LORD saw everything created, that it was good.

It was not yet in heaven and earth form. In fact it wasn't even in space and matter form. In that first moment--whatever we want to call it--what God created was smaller than anything even angel eyes could see. It was smaller than anything science could see. It was a point full of the universe.

That point held the possibility of space. It was not yet exactly space yet. It was all the possibilities of the universe somehow piled on top of each other in a point. It is not a situation that can continue for more than the smallest of instants, a moment about 10-43 seconds long. In such a situation, the very fabric of everything is unstable and unsituated.

In that moment, all at the same "time," God said several things. When YHWH said, "Let there be space," God was also saying, "Let there be length." "Let there be area." "Let there be volume."

GOD also said, "Let there be one." YHWH did something no mathematician can do. The LORD divided nothing by zero and got one. He pressed the omega button and created one from empty set.

So God created length. That length of one was infinitesimal by our understanding. Call it the "Planck length," LP. It amounts to 0.0000000000000000000000000000000016 meters. We abbreviate it as 1.6 x 10-33, which is 1/100,000,000,000,000,000,000th the size of a proton.

3. In that very same moment, GOD said, "Let there be interaction," which allowed not only for two, but for three, four, and all the numbers. He created the possibility for addition and subtraction. He created multiplication and division, which are forms of addition and subtraction. He created exponents and roots, which are forms of multiplication and division. All of math came into existence in that moment, including exotic numbers like e and i and π.

God dictated that these interactions would take place in units. You cannot divide space infinitely. You cannot divide anything infinitely. Space reduces finally to small units of Planck length, and the interactions between things reduce to Planck "packets" of interaction. Light interacts in packets. Space interacts in packets. Gravity interacts in packets.

The key to these packets is another fundamental number. Call it the "Planck constant," h. It is the fundamental unit of information exchange between the smallest units of reality. It is the unit for a quantum of action. It is, by one reckoning, 6.6 x 10-34 Joule-seconds, where a joule is a unit of work.

4. In that very same moment, GOD said, "Let there be the speed of light," c. That is to say, YHWH set a limit to the rate of interaction between things. "Let space contract as necessary for the speed of light to be the same in any framework. Let the past and the future be constrained by the time it takes for light to get from one place to another."

And the LORD saw the Planck length, and the Planck constant, and the speed of light, the three fundamental constants of the structure of the universe. God saw that it was good.

In that first moment, time itself did not quite exist. What we call time comes from the rate at which things interact and change, governed mostly by the speed limit of light. However, Time as we know it did not yet exist. Time as we know it only comes to exist when things become irreversible. We can only speak definitively of the future when we cannot go back to the past.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Wesleyans Among the Protestants 1

October 31 marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. I'm celebrating it in three ways on this blog:
  • The IWU Monday reading group will be going through Alister McGrath's Christianity's Dangerous Idea, which gives a sketch of the Protestant Reformation.
  • I plan to read through the Book of Concord, which is a comprehensive collection of Lutheran confessions.
  • I plan to blog on Sunday's an engagement with the Reformation from my Wesleyan perspective (not the Wesleyan Church's perspective, but a Wesleyan perspective). This post begins this third goal.
1. A tradition is like a family. Not everyone in the family looks exactly alike. Over time, with intermarriage with other families, new features emerge that do not look at all like our ancestors. Our grandchildren and great grandchildren have minds of their own. Sometimes things that were very important to us are discarded without a thought by our descendants.

In that sense, the Wesleyan tradition--or any tradition--is not bound by John Wesley. Certainly if some Wesleyan group were to diverge so far from Wesley that it held none of his characteristic beliefs or practices in common with him, we could wonder why they still used the name. Nevertheless, it would still be their right, for what a word means today is a matter of what it means today--not what it meant two hundred and fifty years ago.

The American branch of Wesleyanism has inevitably been affected dramatically by its context. America was Frontier country and Baptist country. Even the United Methodist church, which officially still baptizes infants and holds more closely to John Wesley's theology, has many a Methodist Baptist in its pews. In the democratic spirit of America, many people freely move from church to church, providing a good cross-fertilization of tradition.

2. So what is the Wesleyan tradition? What is distinctive about it over and against other traditions? We should keep in mind the possibility that over time what was once unique has disappeared. We should also keep in mind that, if we are truly Protestants, we are certainly free to reinvent ourselves in accordance to what we believe is truest to Scripture. Some Protestants have taken the protest further, feeling free to reinvent themselves in accordance to what they believe is true.

It may very well be that, for some, what makes them Wesleyan is primarily historical. That is to say, if you trace the story of an organization back in time, it goes back in some way to John Wesley. Others may come from the outside yet discover something about the beliefs and practices of the man that they find attractive. They may feel enough of an affinity for the tradition that they feel that the label fits.

Again, that tradition is living. It is not merely about the man himself. It is about the Methodists and Wesleyans and Nazarenes and Free Methodists and scores of other little groups that have related in some way to the family. My friend Keith Drury likes to say that The Wesleyan Church is something more like the great grandchild of the man than the child or even grandchild.

So one is either Wesleyan historically or ideologically in some way. We will leave it at that for now.

3. Wesley was a Protestant. He was a Protestant in two ways. He was a Protestant historically. He was a Protestant because he was an Anglican of the eighteenth century, and the Anglican Church of the 1700s was Protestant.

We will discuss soon enough the idea that the Anglican Church was a "via media" or "middle way" between Roman Catholicism and what I call the "high" Protestantism of Luther and Calvin. For example, the Wesleyan tradition is not bound to the same understanding of the "solas" that Lutherans and the Reformed have (i.e., grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone, Christ alone, glory to God alone). The Anglican Church was born on a different path, one that retained more of catholicism than the Lutherans and Calvinists did.

Wesley was also a Protestant ultimately because he rejected the Catholic church of his day. [1] He called himself a "man of one book," and implicitly took his side with Luther on that issue. [2] Nevertheless, to America's Baptistified version of Wesleyanism today, much of his thinking will seem quite catholic to some.

4. It is often said that Wesley was an eclectic thinker. I personally like to think of this trait as a family characteristic. I believe that Wesleyan thought can be systematized, but its flavor is more focused on practice than theology. Wesley is often considered to be one of the original "evangelicals" in both his focus on evangelism and social justice.

So Wesley's thinking was a mixture. The recipe started with a common catholic foundation as filtered through Anglicanism. Then there was Luther's idea of justification by faith filtered through his Pietist encounters. Then there was Calvin--a lot of Calvin--but with an Arminian twist. Finally, there was England and the rise of the Enlightenment. There was individualism. There was the worth of the everyday individual.

This was the making of Wesleyan theology.

Next Week: The Anglican Via Media

[1] He could be quite vitriolic in relation to the Pope of his day.

[2] In the Preface to Wesley's sermons. However, given that this expression may go back to Aquinas, it counts less for Wesley's Protestantism than one might think at first.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Quantum Physics, Cosmology, and God

David Higle and I were exchanging emails about sources on quantum physics and theology. He already knew everything I thought of, especially Polkinghorne's Quantum Physics and Theology. I'm on a slow train pursuing these things, but thought I would give a snapshot of musings.

1. Big Bang
Contrary to some rhetoric, I've long thought that the idea of a Big Bang plays right into Christian theology. Why? Because it suggests a beginning of sorts to the universe. If the universe had a beginning, then we can ask why it began. In other words, the Big Bang seems to play right into the cosmological argument for the existence of God.

The current theory is:
  • The universe had a beginning--matter is not being eternally created somewhere (steady-state theory).
  • It does not have enough mass to re-collapse, meaning it probably has not been banging in some eternal cycle (oscillating big bang).
  • That suggests a beginning, which leads us to ask, "Why?" "What caused it?"
Cosmological theory has developed significantly over the last couple decades, but I think it still more or less amounts to the same thing. At 10-43 seconds, all the universe was in a ball the size of 1.6 x 10-33 meters. In the next moment, it expanded astronomically to something much closer to its current size.

2. Quantum Uncertainty
In the 1600s, Newton reinforced a deterministic universe, where all the future could be predicted as the simple playing out of laws and objects in motion. It fit well with the theology of Calvin and Hobbes.

The quantum world is not a deterministic world. It is an indeterministic world. That is to say, you cannot predict the future at all on an individual scale. All you can predict are the averages. There are still some who think there may be "hidden variables" that would return us to determinism, but most do not agree.

This suggests that the universe on some level has a mind of its own. There is an unpredictability to the universe. You cannot predict what I will do (I can't either) because there is a fundamental uncertainty at the bottom of everything. It is not exactly free will as we once might have thought of it, but it is similar.

3. Quantum entanglement
Certain particles are entangled with each other after they part. They may be on opposite sides of the universe but if you know what the one is doing then you know what the other is. I'm not sure what the implications are for us. I once tweeted that God has been quantumly entangled with the whole universe since the creation, implying that he knows everything and is connected to everything. But is was really more of a poetic thought than something that actually makes sense. :-)

4. Time
It is not clear what time is. Each frame of reference has a certain internal clock of sorts, meaning that "time" moves at different rates for different things. From one perspective, time is merely the rate at which things change, with light as the ultimate speed limit.

Time is a puzzle on the quantum level. In one respect, there is no real difference between past and future on the quantum level. All processes are reversible.

On the macro-scale, entropy is what really tells time. The loss of heat in disorder seems to be the only truly irreversible aspect to this universe. It tells time.

What does this say about God? It does suggest that entropy is not a consequence of the Fall. There would be no past or future without it.

It doesn't help us figure out God's knowledge of the future. How do we know how God knows what he knows? He was "outside" the universe "before." Who knows what that means for during and after?

That's it. My attempt for today...

A New School Year at IWU

1. Another year is beginning at IWU. In July they took the word "interim" off my title, so I am the Dean of the School of Theology and Ministry (STM) this year.

It's a little confusing for those who knew me as dean of the seminary. The seminary of course is graduate level and mostly "older" adult students. STM is mostly undergraduate students, 18-22 year olds.

We have a great team and great students on the residential campus. It's a great campus if you've never been. I've always said that if we can get a prospective student or faculty member to campus, it will be hard for them not to come. You can see from my bad picture most of the faculty of STM dressed up for a social we do for the new students every year.

Why send your kids to IWU? Why come to IWU yourself? Of course it's a great education. That goes without saying. We have one of the leading worship professors in the world (Constance Cherry). We have brilliant minds in practical theology (Dave Ward, Amanda Drury). We have incredibly experienced practitioners in youth, children's, and local church ministry (Charlie Alcock, David Vardaman, Keith Springer, Eddy Shigley). We have Jim Lo and Norm Wilson for global and intercultural studies. Theology (Jonathan Morgan), Bible (Abson Joseph, Elaine Bernius, Brian Bernius, Ken Schenck), Church History (Miranda Cruz), Philosophy (Scott Burson, Steve Horst), Counseling (Judy Crossman). And we have two rising scholars as teaching fellows (Kayla Murphy-Crouso and G. B. McClanahan).

2. So there is the educational piece. There is an experiential piece. There are lots of opportunities to do ministry and to try out your wings in an internship. In fact, the KERN program gets a high school student to MDIV equivalency in 5 years, leaving them with a heavily scholarshiped master's degree at the end at less cost than a straightforward undergraduate degree. The final year is at a church. We're finishing up an agreement with Mick Veach in Detroit for students to do a semester internship in an urban context. We've worked hard to make it possible for all our students to graduate in 3 years, chopping off over $10,000.

STM Retreat Worship, with Wesley Seminary
Picture courtesy of Jim Lo
3. STM has always been a fun place to make your college memories. There are other options today. You can get an online degree. You can go to a community college. But you won't have the memories of college. You won't have the intensity of the friendships. I'm a big fan of online education as an option.

But you can't replace the overall experience of going to college as an 18 year old. You can achieve the individual learning outcomes, yes. But the overall Gestalt--you 'll never get it online. For some it's a worth-while trade-off for the convenience. Personally, I'm glad I spent those years in a living community, going for runs with friends, eating together, going out on dates, hiking, staying up all night together. Perhaps more importantly, I had my first faith crisis in a community of faith, not alone on my own.

I wish I could become an 18 year old and do it all again.