Where we at (in the Church), plus saving John Sanders through xanga.Last night I had the opportunity to talk with friends about the Sanders fiasco, the will of God, and how completely awesome grace is. Somewhere along the line I floated on idea I've had for a while, and even though we didn't speak of it for long, it's still floating on gossamer wings in my addled, little head -- and I can't get rid of it.
Mainly, the idea is this: I want someone to do a study. I want someone to do a post-graduation study with BR and Ministry students at HC who had Dr. Sanders during his tenure at the college. Then I want that same person (or persons) to study Religion and Ministry students at a few other Evangelical schools, say Wheaton, Taylor, Asbury, etc. Then I want to see some hard data to support my working hypothesis that HC alumns (who've studied under Sanders) have a greater propensity for existential crises, especially concerning their "calling" as it relates to Christian ministry. Then I want to write a paper about how this could be a good thing -- and not just a good thing, but a brilliant thing. A thing of beauty and honesty and authentic Christian faith.
Jake wasn't sure it was just "the Sanders factor," and I would tend to agree. It was also the Bergdall Factor -- presenting opposing viewpoints and letting them rise and fall on their own merits. The Fairchild Factor -- a vigorous defense of the near-infallibility of the inductive method of Biblical Interpretation. And perhaps even the "Empty Annex Factor" -- those circumstances that lead EM/YM majors to have a bit of trouble daily connecting with their profs when their profs are criss-crossing the country. There are more factors, most likely. These are listed just to get the ball rolling.
So here we are -- former BR and Ministry majors, trying to make some sense of our place within the Church-catholic. And I don't just mean us folks at Midwest Mindset, I mean others as well -- young pastors not sure if full-time ministry is their passion; Youth pastors who struggle feeding their students "the answers" when they know "the answers" don't really satisfy; None-of-the-above types trying to make sense of what it means to follow Christ when they're not too fond of the church-politic. Maybe it has something to do with studying under Sanders. Maybe not. But I'm ready to bet that because we studied at HC, we are less prone to go to the stock answers when struggling along side our brothers and sisters in Christ. And when we do, we do so with reservations, knowing that what we say is "truth" might not be all that true.
And these existential troubles -- these what the hell am I supposed to do with my life? type-questions -- that seem to shake our faith and make us seem "less-Christian" than our counterparts from other schools -- in fact, make us stronger. We are more willing to admit we don't have all the answers to the problem of pain and the security of biblical inspiration and the destiny of those who've never heard the Gospel message. The fact that we struggle with these things, and don't write them off with simple answers, while making us seem weak in the eyes of some evangelicals, in reality, only serves to make us stronger. Which in turn makes the Church a stronger body. Which in turn proclaims the reality and power of the Gospel -- not because we're always right -- but because we struggle just like everyone else.
Plenty of evangelical colleges are producing critical thinkers, but because of the unique combination of professors and controversies at HC in the past few years, I think that the college has produced, perhaps unwittingly, a unique crop of would-be ministers and theologians. In my meager experience, I've seen that we are less-prone towards dogmaticism, more open to theologies that upon first glance might seem unorthodox, and more willing to accept the secular critiques of modern evangelicalism.
I'm not sure I see this trend continuing in the future for HC (or HU) alumns because of the turn of events concerning Dr. Sanders' forced departure from the college. Not only will his unique point of view no longer be available in the classroom, his exit could possibly mark a sea change in how HU professors present unorthodox views in any area of study. Where there was once a spirit of openness and free exchange of ideas, there seems to be a creeping sense of suspicion, fear and mistrust. Not to mention the afterglow (in certain circles) of those who might feel vindicated now that Sanders' is no longer a "problem" for the college/university.
So anyway, I want to see this study. And I want to understand why so many of my HC friends have so many unanswered questions. And why we're not afraid to admit (at least, amongst ourselves) that the answers available just don't quite satisfy.
And I also want to be the first to claim that the Body of Christ is stronger because of it -- that the people we minister to will see the humility of Christ through us. And if we are certain of one thing, let it be this: God is real, and we are able to know of his great love through his son, Jesus Christ.