From the Dean

News items, published articles, and reading recommendations from Dean Timothy George

The Dean Recommends: The reality of Christian Genocide in the Middle East

By Caitlin Bootsma
October 19, 2016

How many of us grew up believing that the Holocaust would never happen again? After listening to our parents or grandparents recount war stories, empathizing with stories such as that of Anne Frank’s, and learning of the horrific ways Jews and other minorities were degraded, tortured and killed, we thought we could safely say that we had learned our lesson. Of course, that is not the case. There have been a number of genocides since the 1940s; in fact, one is happening right now.

I’m speaking of the elimination of Christians in the Middle East. Consider that in 2003, Christians were one of the largest minorities in Iraq, equaling 1.5 million. By 2014, that number had diminished to about half a million, due to the many who had fled from violence or been forced out. Since ISIS has targeted them however, only 200,000 Christians remain in Iraq, one of the oldest Christian communities in the world (In Defense of Christians 2016 Briefing Book). That’s about 87% gone in a mere 13 years.

And as you may know, it’s not just Iraqi Christians who are suffering persecution. In Iran, over 550 Christians have been arrested and detained arbitrarily since 2010 (U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom 2016 Annual Report). In Syria, churches are being closed or destroyed by ISIS, Christians are being attacked and kidnapped—including two orthodox archbishops. Even in Turkey, Christians continue to struggle against inequality. Read the rest at Aleteia.

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Thursday, October 20, 2016
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Packer at Ninety

By Timothy George
October 17, 2016

Several years ago Alister McGrath and I had a conversation about our friend, J. I. Packer, his influence on us, and the role he has played as a leading evangelical theologian and teacher within the worldwide Christian movement. Out of that conversation emerged a conference in honor of Packer’s eightieth birthday, held at Beeson Divinity School in 2006, and a subsequent book, J. I. Packer and the Evangelical Future. This past summer, Packer turned ninety years of age. Next month, in San Antonio, he will again be recognized at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society as scholars review the significance of his life and work as a theologian, ecumenist, and churchman. Who, then, is J. I. Packer?

James Innell Packer was born July 22, 1926, in Gloucestershire, England. The son of a clerk for the Great Western Railway, Packer grew up in a modest, working-class, nominally Anglican family, who encouraged their bookish son by giving him a typewriter. At age seven, he survived a violent collision with a bread truck that left him physically scarred for life and something of a “speckled bird” among his student peers. Packer received a scholarship to Oxford University, where he heard the famous apologist C. S. Lewis speak and was influenced by his writings, especially The Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity. But it was in meetings of the Oxford Inter-Collegiate Christian Union, a British version of InterVarsity, that Packer found a living relationship with Jesus Christ and committed his life to Christian service. After teaching Greek and Latin at Oak Hill Theological College in London, Packer enrolled in Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, where he studied theology and was ordained a priest in the Church of England.

Having found the writings of John Owen helpful in his own spiritual life, he worked closely with the famous London pastor Martin Lloyd-Jones to encourage a revival of interest in the Puritans. Packer’s early writings, especially “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God and Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, established him as a formidable theological voice for the evangelical movement. In 1973, he published Knowing God, an international bestseller that has become a modern theological classic. Read the rest at First Things.

Posted by Hunter Upton at Monday, October 17, 2016
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The Dean Recommends: Creating a Space for Jesus in the Midst of Duty and Anxiety

By Br. Silas Henderson, S.D.S.
July 16, 2016

Everett Art/Shutterstock

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” —Luke 10:42 

When we’re being honest, most of us will admit that it isn’t easy having house guests. However much we might look forward to their visit and enjoy their company, there’s also often a sense of relief when they go on their way.

As we read this Sunday’s Gospel account of Jesus’ visit to the home of his friends Martha and Mary in Bethany, we have to remember that the sisters were hosting Jesus in exactly the same way that we host friends and family in our homes today. While we might be tempted to be critical of Martha’s busy-ness, we should recall that in the ancient Near East, hospitality was one of the greatest virtues. We can see this expressed in Abraham’s eagerness to welcome the three guests into his tent in our First Reading.

But then we have Mary, quietly sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to him, present to him in a way that Martha wasn’t. In fact, while Martha was being hospitable in countless practical ways, she had allowed her work to take priority over the presence of her guest. As one commentator says, “Martha’s ‘hospitality’ was made edgy because…she settled for being only a servant (and complaining about it at that!) while Jesus is looking for disciples” (from Living Liturgy, 2016). Read the rest at Aleteia.

Posted by Hunter Upton at Wednesday, October 12, 2016
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