“Good” Friday Reflections
Welcome to â€śGood Fridayâ€ť. Itâ€™s always seemed a sick joke that an execution is called â€śgood.â€ť But that is the scandalon â€“The cross is the means of reconciliation of â€śall things whether on earth on in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his crossâ€¦ the gospel proclaimed to every creature under heavenâ€ť (Colossians 1: 20, 23).
Thatâ€™s a challenging statement to make. It doesnâ€™t make much sense outside of the context of faith. But for me it is vital that I be an active Christian and active scholar in the â€śmainstreamâ€ť academic communities and commit the treason of integrating faith and scholarship. Itâ€™s really hard work, not least because you have to be on top of multiple literatures â€“ like all of sociological theory, environmental science, and ecological theology, as well as the epistemology of knowledge â€“ but also because, sadly, the standards for mainstream scholarship are often higher. But the benefits can be worth it. If the Christian message is to have relevance, it must be communicated in the marketplace of ideas. And then, as one top environmental sociologist said, turning to me over beer at a major conference, â€śOk, DeLay, whatâ€™s this Christian sh**?â€ť
At the same time, I have to remember, that â€śThe message of the cross is foolishnessâ€¦ Has God not made foolish the wisdom of the worldâ€ť (1Cor 1:18-31).
These tensions continue relevant as Kingâ€™s keeps on trying to place itself in the world of higher education. Other tensions also arise. In the most recent issue of University Affairs (http://www.universityaffairs.ca/university-for-the-masses-may-be-oversold.aspx), Christine Overall labels as the fundamental question â€śShould university education be primarily for the intellectual (not financial) elite and highly motivated elite, or should it be job preparation and certification for the masses?â€ť
What sort of knowledge do Christians need?
Iâ€™d love to stop here and let readers think through that. But the reality is that we donâ€™t really do good thinking in isolation. Learning and thinking are thoroughly communal affairs. And human beings are not disembodied brains. This means, at least, that we have to talk with others about these ideas in order to think well (and otherâ€™s thoughts might be correctives to our own).
But even more importantly, is the recognition that it is the Enlightenmentâ€™s anthropology that human be-ings [sic] are primarily thinking creatures. that is, that the best approach is for philosophical, theological, analytical or sociological theoretical approaches to come first and foremost. The gospel seems to say otherwise about the nature of humanness, creation, and faithfulness.
We DO university; we donâ€™t THINK it. Well, we do both of course. But weâ€™ll never think out the bestest rightest way of being a university in this age of Alberta â€“ if nothing else, because conditions constantly change this will always be a work in progress. Similarly, we act in environmental ways. Thinking can help us act, but a good philosophy will also be a work-in-progress, just like a lifestyle will be. All the thinking in the world doesnâ€™t get me on my bicycle as much as feeling safe on the roads (and that depends on other drivers as well as the path dependency of the built infrastructure) and having shower facilities at work.
I believe fiercely in the need for Christians to develop their minds â€“ faith seeking understanding ala Romans 12:1-2. But faith needs to be put in action – ala James 2:18. True transformation is not an intellectual process (although the mind is part of it).
In a paper winding its way through the journal review process, I take that Colossians verse toward transformative relations with the rest of creation, moving beyond a managerial or stewardship model. But it is one thing to talk about new ideas of the environment and a fully different thing to act in new and better ways in the reconciled fellowship of all creation. Have you made peace with nature yet?
This post was authored by Dr. Randy Haluza-DeLay, Associate Professor of Sociology at The King’s University College.