Christian Nursing as Vulnerable Compassion

I was invited this spring to give the address at the pinning ceremony for the graduates of our nursing program at Huntington University. I chose to speak on the vocation of Christian nursing as “vulnerable compassion in the name of Christ.” I am posting the address in full and would enjoy some feedback and discussion.

Nurses are present with us in many of those times that are most important, memorable, and vulnerable. When our children are born, nurses are often close at hand. When we or someone we love becomes ill, nurses are present throughout our diagnosis and treatment. And when our lives draw to a close, they do so many times in the close proximity of a nurse.

However, to say that nurses are present says nothing of the nature of their presence. Is it possible that one’s presence could be just as beneficial as harmful? We know this is true. And we also know that the proficiency or skill of one’s performance of tasks does not fully describe the shape and character of their presence. We know the truth of this even if we are unsure how to describe it. We are aware intuitively that the presence of one human being with another transcends the fact that we happen to share the same physical space. The nature and character of one human being’s presence with another is within our perception but beyond our naming: one evokes unease, another comfort; one evokes manipulation, another, compassion; one catalyzes despair, and another hope.

The potential of a nurse to evoke such different emotional, psychological, and physical states might illustrate the sacredness of human relationship. There is no word for the experience of holding one’s child in the moments after their birth or overhearing an argument at the table next to us. This is no less true for naming the unique character of a nurse’s presence and the affect it has upon those who share it.  This is certainly a glorious mystery. Continue reading

Summer Reading List

Students normally ask me what I will be reading over the summer, and I usually answer with something like, “This and that.” My goals are most often overly optimistic so I thought to sit down and figure it out.

Summer always starts with total immersion in great fiction. This year I am reading whatever I can get my hands on by John Updike. In the Beauty of the Lillies was amazing, and I now reading a collection of short stories, The Afterlife.

I am presently blogging through Tom Bergler’s book The Juvenilization of American Christianity. You can follow those posts on this site over the next month or so. Our division at Huntington (Bible, Religion, Philosophy, Ministry, and Missions) holds a colloquium in August when we give brief presentations on our current research and discuss a book we had read over the summer. This year we are reading and discussing Christian Smith’s latest, The Bible Made Impossible.

Next week I’m off to short conference on faith and learning put on by the CCCU. They sent me a copy of Teaching and Christian Practices: Reshaping Faith and Learning which was great because I was planning to order it anyway. The book looks intriguing, and it will be interesting to see how they use it at the conference.

A few I am excited to read. Katherine Doob Sakenfeld has written  beautiful little study on divine faithfulness. Faithfulness in Action looks to be great! I am also marinating in Barth’s IV.4 at the moment. His account of the Christian life there is simply stunning.

Then several books fall within the category of “I hope I get to them.” We’ll see, the summer always passes faster than I am prepared. Here’s the list of books I hope time allows me to read: Billings, Calvin, Participation, and the Gift; G.R. Evans, The Roots of the Reformation: Tradition, Emergence, and Rupture; Matthew Boulton, Life in God: John Calvin, Practical Formation and the Future of Protestant Theology; Gerald Bray, God is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology.

What’s on your summer reading list – by necessity or by choice?

Updates from Theology Forum

Hello all,

It has been a particularly busy season for all of us here at Theology Forum, as you can probably tell from the Blog. Steve started a new job, moved back to Denver, and had his first child, all while continuing to write his dissertation. Kent has been pouring himself into teaching, and, I should note, has just been named Professor of the Year at Huntington University. I have met few people, if any, who think so critically and creatively about teaching college students, so it comes as no surprise that his efforts have not gone unnoticed. Kent continues to work on his retrieval project and editing a volume with me on the Christian life.

I have had my fair share of busyness as well, and have, as of yesterday, handed in the draft for my book on Edwards’s Theology: Jonathan Edwards’s Theology: A Reinterpretation (Dec, 2012). I would also like to announce that I have just accepted a faculty position at Grand Canyon University for the Fall. We are very excited to be joining the team there, and slightly less excited to be moving to Phoenix in July.

In any case, we hope to get things moving around here a bit more now that things are (hopefully) slowing down.

Rejected! – The unhappy job of peer review

I recently peer reviewed an essay for a scholarly journal. Unhappily I recommended the essay be rejected. I would have much rather recommended it be revised and resubmitted, but it failed on so many levels that it was beyond revising – it was really bad! It was so bad, in fact, that I had one of my seniors read a page and asked him what level undergraduate had written it. He guessed third year undergraduate. Ouch!

Still, it is an unhappy job to peer review and recommend “Rejected” because it shuts down the process of improvement in the case of this particular essay being publishing in this journal. Having had an essay of my own rejected last year, I remember what it feels like. With those feelings of rejection close at hand, I sent a lengthy explanation of my rationale in the hopes that the author will improve their methods of research and writing and do better work in the future. I am a theologian, I always hope for redemption!

How many of you have peer reviewed essays and were compelled to recommend “Rejected.” It is a conflicting experience and I would like to hear from some of you. Or, if you are willing to admit it, have you had an essay or book proposal rejected? What did you learn in the process that was useful, or how did you wish it had been handled so that it would be more useful to you?

One (Cheeky) Way to a Address a Parachurch Audience

I couldn’t resist highlighting this (half-serious) comment from Martyn Lloyd-Jones at the beginning of a message for a parachurch meeting including leaders of IVF:

I have been trying to find your organisations in the Bible, but you are not to be found in the New Testament.  I did find you, however, in the Old – in the Book of Judges, chapter 17, verse 6, ‘In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes’ (Iain Murray, David Martyn Lloyd-Jones [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1982], p. 366).

Multifaith Event this Wednesday in Fort Wayne

I am participating in a multi-faith dialogue event this Wednesday night in Fort Wayne at Canterbury Middle School (More information here). My role will be to provide an evangelical Christian perspective on several questions: the perspective of Evangelical Christianity: According to your faith what constitutes wrong-doing? According to your faith what are the consequences of our choices? According to your faith how good must I be? How should I live my life?

What has been your experience with multi-faith events? This is my first participation in a public dialogue about religion and I am interested to hear about your experiences with similar events. Did it foster mutual understanding? Was it a debate? What was the tenor of the interaction? I have the impression that many evangelical Christians are skeptical of events like this because they fear it promotes relativism. Has this been your impression?

This event is organized by a group in Fort Wayne with the purpose of fostering mutual appreciation of different beliefs in order to promote peace in the community. It is very intentionally not a debate nor does it attempt to create a common theology. Here is an excerpt from the event website:

The premise of the Multi-faith Events is the theologies of the various faiths are different. The purpose of the events are not to find a common theology. As Rick Love of Peace Catalyst International has written, “Multi-faith dialogue is based on common ethics and the common good rather than common theology.” At the Multi-faith Events the common ethic is discovered but the goal is not to create a common theology.

The mission of [Haven Interfaith Parents] is to, “encourage an understanding and appreciation of all beliefs and faiths, with the goal of promoting peace in our community.” With the goal of promoting peace, dialogue is what must occur at the events. I recently heard someone say dialogue is listening to someone as if your life depended on the information. In order to survive everything must be remembered. That is intense listening. When I have truly listened to others I find that they are more likely to listen to me. This is the basis of all relationships. For us to understand each other we must be in relationships and we must listen to each other.

There is a passage in the Bible that tells me how to dialogue. I Peter 3:15 states, “Always be prepared to give an answer for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” It is in dialogue that we can be honest and with gentleness and respect say what we believe. Being in dialogue says we care about the relationship.The Multi-faith Events are intentionally designed to be a dialogue because I desire for those in our community to be in relationship with each other.