My thoughts on Enns and Westminster

I’ve listened to the special chapel discussion that took place at Westminster today. Here are my impressions and thoughts on the chapel itself and the broader issues taking place at Westminster:

1. I thought that the students did an excellent job of being respectful and yet asking very pertinent, at at times pointed, questions.
2. The administration representatives did as all such representatives do, they dodged. That isn’t to say they didn’t answer questions, they did. But they were quick to hedge their comments with cautions.
3. At least one of the questioners asked if Dr. Enns had been formally charged with anything. This was perhaps the most interesting question posed in the entire 36 minute chapel. The answer included a double helping of hedging but it eventually came out that, no he had not been formally charged, though there were allegations that were brought. The way I see it, the Board of Westminster has gotten themselves into a pickle. They decided to ignore the faculty vote on his orthodoxy, and go ahead and suspend Dr. Enns. As a result they appear to be suspending him for the nebulous “disunity” on campus. Which of course, leads back to his book which is the reason for the disunity. But, if Dr. Enns is still in agreement with the WCF, which a majority of faculty say he is, then there is no cause for disunity surrounding the book.
4. I think that the very fact that there are some who are questioning Enns’ conservatism shows a tendency among conservative evangelicals to go on witch hunts. This concerns me greatly. The fact that Westminster is getting all bent out of shape because Dr. Enns said Christians don’t need to be afraid of critical scholarship is simply astounding.
5. All of this leads me to the question of whether or not true scholarship can take place at confessional schools. Scholarship naturally involves questioning. When someone is stopped from questioning, that’s a bad thing. Of course, one could make the argument that any Christian school that attempted to hold to any kind of creed (even something as basic as the Apostles’ Creed) would eventually stop people from questioning things. I understand and agree with the sentiment. But the Apostles’ Creed, for instance, would allow much more room for questions than something like the WCF.

So, with all of this the question remains for me, how can scholarship take place in conservative evangelical circles when it would appear that if one acknowledges some of the findings of scholarship over the past hundred years they are immediately labeled “liberal.” Such labels are unhelpful at best and dehumanizing at worst. Relatedly, I find Michael’s questions quite interesting.

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To PhD or not to PhD Redux

Almost three weeks back I posted that I was again walking through the issues surrounding what I’m supposed to do with my life. Perhaps that isn’t entirely accurate. I know what I’m supposed to do with my life: help young people know God more. The question is, how do I go about doing that? The question has been consuming my thoughts, and even leaked into many of my emails. To those of you who have received such emails, I apologize. You can refer to the post linked above to catch up on my thinking here. So, what has changed since the last post?

  • Several more people have affirmed that academia is an area they could see me thriving in. They have also affirmed that my passions lie in that direction, perhaps more so than in youth ministry.
  • I am now quite certain that I am not questioning the youth pastor thing because I think I am a horrible youth pastor.
  • Mandy has assured me that she will physically strike me if I suggest I might be stealing her thunder one more time (I hope this reference doesn’t count).

Mandy posed a very interesting question to me this evening. If I were writing Daniel I would say, “Then Mandy answered and said to me…,” but I’m not writing Daniel. So, she asked, “What is holding you back?” In other words, why have I not decided to go get a PhD after GCTS? I had to think about it for a moment. No one disagrees, my abilities would be well used as a professor. I am capable, even well-suited, to being a scholar. Multiple people have confirmed that if we distinguish God’s will, at least partially, based on the abilities and gifts he has given us, that I should pursue a PhD and become a professor. Mandy pointed out that if I were counseling a teen regarding a career choice I would be pulling my hair out wondering why they weren’t pursuing a PhD. I would tell myself that based on my abilities and gifts God wants me to be a pastor. Couple that with people in my life confirming such and I would be sure that it was God’s will. Of course, I’m not my own youth pastor.

So, what is holding me back? I think to some extent a friend of mine hit the nail on the head. I’ve perceived myself, and others have perceived me, for so long as “Calvin the Youth Pastor” that to change that seems to be almost blasphemous. It is not that I think I couldn’t use my pastoral gifts as a professor. Not only are their plenty of students who need advisors, or who want some guidance regarding life, but I don’t know of any youth pastor who has too many junior high small group leaders (well, oddly enough, aside from myself. But that’s because I have no junior highers). It is not, at the end of the day, that I think I couldn’t hack it getting a PhD or as a professor. Sure, it would be difficult. There will probably be times I get frustrated and want to give up. The stress will certainly be excruciating at times. But overall getting a PhD might be a very liminal experience*.

To summarize, I’m not entirely sure what is holding me back aside from saying that I am being held back, which means something is holding me back, which is a tautology. More clearly, the best I can come up with is that I am held back because I’ve not gone there before (ie, Calvin has always been a youth pastor, therefore Calvin is a youth pastor). Which I suppose is still a bit of a tautology. Where then do I go from here? I’ve run the whole situation over in my mind many times these past few weeks. There is no doubt that I will continue to do so. I’ve talked to people. I’ve prayed. I guess, at this point, I simply need to decide if God wants me to be a youth pastor or not.

But how does one determine that? I suppose I could go back and ask how I got the idea in my head in the first place. It was through a lot of prayer. It also came about after I examined my passions and gifts. I thought, and still do think, that God had given me the gift of pastoring. I also thought, and still do think, that God had given me a keen ability to teach. I talked often and at length with those around me and all confirmed that the pastorate was something I should pursue. In short, I did everything that I am doing now. The difference now? Well, I’m getting different answers. But, to be fair, I have changed. I was always very interested in what might be termed “discipleship.” Now, though, I have developed a passion for language study. I’ve also realized that my teaching gift/ability has been very much honed. I’ve developed a desire to see scholarship incorporated into what is taught at the local church. But, in reality, a youth pastor is barely going to have the time to read JBL, let alone research reported speech in the Samuel narratives. Even if a youth pastor did find the time, what would he do with said research? In addition to this, and related to it, I’ve come to understand that there are a certain set of expectations placed on pastors. There is a certain culture that goes with being a pastor of any type. I’m not saying that every pastor fits into the same mold, but there are some general characteristics and I’m not sure I fit those anymore–if, indeed, I ever did.

Does this mean I was incorrect when I began the road towards becoming a youth pastor? I don’t think so. First, I would not be here if I hadn’t begun on that road. Second, I have no problem believing that God A) changes his mind or B) has temporary tasks for people. Of course, all of this leaves unanswered the question of whether or not God gives a care about my abilities and gifts. Some might say that I should do the thing that I am least likely to succeed at so God can help me the most.

So what does all of that mean? I have no idea.

* – I’m not entirely sure I used “liminal” correctly. I have it on good authority, however, that many people use it incorrectly so I am not overly concerned.

30 Hour Famine – Students’ reasons

My youth ministry has been planning for the 30 hour famine for a few months now. The Famine takes place on Feb. 22nd and 23rd. You can find out more about exactly what the 30 Hour Famine is by clicking here.

I’ve always liked the concept behind the 30 Hour Famine. Getting students to step outside of their own desires and go without food for 30 hours. I like the idea that students can put aside their normal consumeristic americanism and find a pitifully small, but still actually there, bit of solidarity with those who do not even have enough food to eat. I participated in the Famine as a student, had a great time with it, and learned a bit about various important issues each year (world hunger, poverty, spiritual disciplines like fasting, praying for others, and a few other things).

Last night I passed around a sign up so we could start to get an idea of how many students were actually going to show up. The first question that a student asked was, “What are we going to be doing?” I gave a brief outline of some of what we’d be doing. Before I could finish another student piped up, “I’m not coming. Last year I didn’t really enjoy myself.” I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was, but I was honestly amazed. My little idealistic world, where there was actually something American Youth Ministry students could do that didn’t have to focus solely on them was shattered. Several other students spoke up at that point and said that they wanted to know what we’d be doing, because if they weren’t going to have fun, why go without food for 30 Hours? I explained to them that the Famine wasn’t really about having fun. I mentioned that the point was to experience a little of what other people go through. Yeah, we’d have some fun in the process, and hopefully learn about ourselves and one another, but that wasn’t the point.

To be fair, two or three of the students did acknowledge that as the point, and looked somewhat appalled at the idea that their peers were only in it for the games. So, I have a question for the readers of my blog: how do I respond to this? I’ve half a mind to just cancel the entire thing. I think that would adequately drive home the point that our youth ministry is not about having fun. It might be drastic enough to actually bore through the apathy and lethargy of some of the students and give them a bit of a wakeup call. But, it doesn’t accomplish anything remotely close to helping impoverished people. Given, it’s only a single year and in the long run it might help these students to help more people…but still. It also might be a bit too drastic. I don’t think simply teaching on loving others is going to be enough.

So what would you all do in a situation like this? Those of you who are parents, how would you like to see a youth pastor respond? Those of you who are youth pastors, what would you do? Those of you who are neither of those two, what are your thoughts?