Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Renewing the Mission

Gordon-Conwell Seminary
South Hamilton, MA

I'm not sure how I ended up here. Some months ago I received a flyer in the mail for a conference and I mat the speakers list, "I've never really been to a conference before and here are a bunch of cool speakers; I should go." I drive everywhere it seems, so I drove...23 New England. It's very pretty here...and cold.

I have been struck by two of the talks especially so far. The first was a talk by Miroslav Volf, a Croatian theologian. He spoke on the relationship between human flourishing and the pursuit of pleasurable experiences. In one sense, as he described it, there is little substantive difference between an obsession with classical music and the most degraded drug addiction. Both are the pursuit of experience instead of the pursuit of God. I couldn't even come close to writing quickly enough. I am sure they will publish a book from this conference, but I don't know if I can wait for it.

The other talk which struck me somewhat surprised me. J. I. Packer was to give a talk on the renewal of catechesis (the act of catechizing). He is ill and not allowed to travel, so his co-author (Parret) presented some of Packer's paper. Two of the very helplful things that he read were a description of the outline of ancient and Reformation catechetical content and the relationship between the rise of Sunday Schools and the decline of catechesis. Two of the greatest periods of the Church were the ancient pre-Middle Age church and the Reformation Church to the Puritan times. Catechism was prominent in their church life. Catechism tended to center on three areas: Nicene (or Apostle's) Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord's Prayer. These areas correspond to teaching Christian Truth, Christian Behavior and give a roadmap for Christian Communion with God. Sunday School programs, which are a recent development in the Church, were a successful outreach to unchurched children which ended up supplanting the formal training programs for covenant children. Since the Sunday School unions were inter-denominational the material quickly began to focus on the things which did not intersect so much with doctrine - Bible stories. This is the hallmark of most Sunday School curricula today.

I'm going to blog more on this later, but it is back into the Sessions.

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