World Assembly 2011 Daily Impression - 28/07 from IFES World on Vimeo.
The evening opens with a great video summing up today's action.
We then meet one of the early Eastern European Pioneers - he speaks of how as a first year medical student he was captivated by the gospel vision for the campus: and that under soviet oppression. "We are the dinosaurs... God did this through us.. you are now the next generation, the continuers..."
Vinoth Ramachandra takes the stage to lead the Engaging the University.
IFES is not just another young people's ministry. We are not even fundamentally a ministry to students. We are a mission to the university world - in its full reality. Christ takes us there not us taking Him. They are places of idolatry and arrogance, snobbery, corruption, discrimination, loneliness, violence - this is where we are called to live out the incarnational call of Christ to the world.
We care for the wellbeing of the University - morally, intellectually, socially.
There are 2 presenters: Charlie Hadjiev, Terry Halliday but first 4 videos.
The first video outlines the global context of how the universities of today found their roots and the role of faith. The videos feel a bit lecture like and I wonder if this material could have been presented differently with more effect. I will see if they are available for posting here - however copyright issues may prevent this.
Charlie Hadjiev comes to the stage. Charlie works throughout Europe, is a biblical scholar and an academic.
Engaging the university is one of the possibly most confusing commitments of IFES. There are things to be noted. Research...
Terry Halliday is from New Zealand (HURRAY!) and an American academic who works around the world in sociology.
- ...is dangerous: you should follow the truth where it leads, not build toward a preconceived 'conclusion'. For example - Copernicus. What will future research say about the things that we are discussing today: biblical historicity, humanity, sexuality...
- ...is pointless - it seems irrelevant to salvation. This is a theological poison - there are two big actions of God in our world - 1. creation 2. salvation. If you focus on only one then you will twist your theology. God redeemed because He created. A theology of creation that is good will lead us to value the university for what it is and not just a mission field; it will help us to see the limitations of humanity in the light of our failings and faultedness; take the risk to explore areas that we do not understand and to seek conclusions that we do not expect or anticipate.
I offer a vision of IFES in the 21 century - last month I was meeting with leading human rights lawyers in a closed and oppressive regime. Many of these are Christians and they are thinking clearly and with vision about transforming their society - they are trying to think Christianly and constitutionally. Others, Christian students studying Law in the US are highly dualistic in their studies - Law and faith are separated.Is this a fair comparison I wonder - the students have not matured.
I suggest IFES has done well in reaching students in the 20th century, it has not done well in engaging the university. In the 21 Century the university must be engaged and IFES ministry must be completely reframed.
Three models of ministry
- Pietistic model (a retreat within the university) spiritual ghettos: undergrad focus, limited engagement with faculty, a lack of engagement with the great debates, a lack of engagement with the other religious groups on campus. A focus on internal Christian life is important but not sufficient.
I wonder if the presentation of 2 'bad guys' and one 'good guy' in these models isn't the setting up of a 'Strawman' and slightly off target. The challenge is real - if our student ministry retreats or attacks only and solely, if they are remote and disengaged then they will not I'm struggling to see and recognise the full gamut of IFES ministry clearly being in focus in a discussion/critique of how we do ministry.
- Apologetic model (a defence against the University) ideas are taken seriously, but seen as a threat - academics are engaged as guards and knights in the defeat of bad ideas. Can be useful and effective. But apologetic ministries fail to proactively take the edge of academic disciplines and lead, they do not celebrate the wonders of God's work in all the fulness. Apologetics is vital but is not sufficient.
- Dialogical model (conversation with the university) takes the university seriously on its own terms. 6 Priniciples: Christ to the university, nurtures the minds of Christians students and egnages Christian faculty, it respect intellectual gifts of the students and faculty, it is relevant, it listend as well as it speaks, it celebrates the intellectual community that is characteristic of great research uni's. This model identifies and utilises faculty, widens a conversation to all in the university, discerns how faith relates ot leading edges of scholarship and how we think about them Christianly, it engages the uni community on issues proximate to the classroom, seminars and labs.
Halliday: where goes IFES in the 21 century - will it bring insight into intellectual struggles, will it allow the disciplines to test and refine our faith: pietistic and apologetic approaches will not make the change. Will IFES be like previous pioneers: reaching faculty and students, joining the battle of the big ideas that alter imaginations and change the world, mould leaders who will become the hero's of faith? This is a great and a bold vision - may we be worthy of it.
The lights in the auditorium goes up and the floor is opened for comment, question and debate.
First question from the US. "great presentation, in the real world the convergence from research and Biblical truth. we have all kinds of people saying all kinds of things that are challenging - what is a Christian to do in the face of conflicting research?"
Terry: That is a very good question. Scientific periods are often in tension and conflict: scholars and Christians will debate and Christian Scholars will look for an engagement between the two.
Charlie: there is sometimes real tension between the outcome of research and the biblical witness.
Second question from Cameroon. How do we deal with bringing Christian perspective when the context of Francophone tradition prevents agitated debate over religion because of the commitment to secularism.
Halliday: The demand to honestly deal with collaboration and the historical context.
Third question from the Ukraine. There is a problem in Christians being unable to engage on a scientific level. Vinoth suggests he will give a reading list to remedy this.
Fourth question from Israel - how do we begin to equip students.
Charlie: We have big universities with few Christians, where the assumed resources in Terry's model just aren't available.
From Thailand - we come from very different contexts, there are many different levels of academic levels in different universities.
Terry: The focus of my suggestion was the 'great' universities of the world - research rather than teaching institutions.
Final question - there is laughter as 'the chinese lady at the back' is actually a woman from the US of Japanese descent: but it is a long way to the back. Can you please give more details.
Terry: speaks about a friend who is aware of people at 'major universities' where there are Christians among academics and the 'best' undergraduates.