MAT BST 2013
There are few elements within the spheres of life that are more precious than authentic relationships. The presuppositions, mannerisms, and dreams of those we admire often shape and mold us in ways that we can never quite fully comprehend but are never truly whole without. As I hesitantly and nervously stepped into my first class at Fuller during the winter of 2010 I little suspected that the essential core of who I was as a Christian was about to change forever. My life since that day has been infinitely enriched by my interaction with teachers and colleagues, many of whom have become dear friends, respected advisors, and some I would even dare to call family. As I end this chapter of my life as an MAT student and prepare for the next step of my journey, I have written this article as a reflection on my experiences at Fuller and to express my appreciation for what has been for me a community of memory.
There is a tangible, pervasive ethos surrounding Fuller and its faculty that is committed to a shalom-driven culture and that strives to be a "memory of the eschaton." A shalom-driven mentality is part of what scholar Stanley J. Grenz is alluding to when he eloquently states, "The Church brings into its purview past, present and future. In so doing, it functions as a community of memory and hope." In other words, the church derives its value from being a living, tangible echo of the eternal city that the prophet Isaiah described in Isaiah 60, in which the reign of Christ and the consummation of Christ's kingdom bring humanity to its fullest and most complete expression. As is the case throughout the biblical narrative, the call to all of God's people is to live and act in such a way that we bring about God's shalom (wholeness and full-bodied restoration) within the entirety of the created order.
I experienced this emphasis on shalom firsthand at Fuller when professor Peter Rodgers offered me, a disillusioned charismatic, sanctuary at his church, St. Andrews Episcopal. Reverend Rodgers helped me set aside my anger and disillusionment with the church and its perceived failures, and gently allowed me to work through my pain in the loving and genuinely caring community at St. Andrews. Rodgers's wisdom and gentle mentorship helped me to discard my despair and replace it with a powerful, nuanced view of the church that emphasized its prophetic nature and Christ-inspired potential. Reverend Rodgers is just one Fuller professor out of many whose lifestyles and dedication to Christ and to healing the world deeply impressed me and have influenced me to strive to follow in their footsteps.
A commitment to community was not only evident in my experiences with Fuller's faculty but also present in my interactions with fellow students. This was crucial because, frankly, there is something distinctly perilous about any attempts to bring our presuppositions and convictions under the light of biblical and historical criticism. What once, for us, may have seemed an impregnable bastion of truth may suffer fatal blows. Finding sure footing can be painful, and integrating our beliefs thoughtfully within the uniqueness of our own contexts may take a great deal of struggle, thought, and prayer. Yet the triune God, who exists in perfect unity, has already made clear that it is not good for man to be alone.
As my faith has been slowly re-forged within the fires of academic scholarship, exegetical research, and the witness of my professors, God has provided me with dear friends whose willingness to listen to rants (that, alas, must have at times bordered on the heretical) and whose genuine support continuously encouraged me to drink deeply and responsibly from the rich and beautiful tradition of which we are a part. Their unique, thoughtful examples, along with the classes, conversations, and other meaningful moments I experienced, have left upon me an indelible mark that I would not be the same without.
As I move on from Fuller's MAT program, I leave holding a deep, genuine conviction that Christianity has a key role to play in this world. The biblical narrative is a story that appeals to the deepest elements of humanity. That story calls us to participate in God's work in the universe. That story calls us to also emulate his self-giving love by giving voice to the excluded and hope to the hopeless, and by making a place for God's truth to be creatively perpetuated through the unique personality and contexts of his people. I am grateful to be allowed to participate in that story, and I am grateful, too, to Fuller for the role it has played in guiding me to be more fully cognizant of it