From the Dean

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

The Dean Recommends: Selma's faith community seeks racial healing

By Anna Keller
October 1, 2015

When Jerry Light moved to Selma to become pastor of First Baptist Church several years ago, he was surprised that only two African American churches identified as Southern Baptist.
"It bothered me because Baptists are always missions-minded -- both locally and abroad," Light said. "I know Selma has a racial stigma hanging over it but that was a long time ago and we need to move beyond it."

Light and First Baptist began making a concerted effort to reduce some of the divides in Selma, a city of 20,000 where more than 75 percent of the residents are African American.

Among the first steps: First Baptist hosted a joint Vacation Bible School with an African American church in town.

And Light met Juanda Maxwell, a member of Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Selma.

Together, Light and Maxwell spearheaded an organization named One Selma: Coming Home United in Faith, a group that began meeting last fall with the aim of lessening the Alabama town's racial divide by starting with the local faith community.

"In a conversation [Juanda and I had] one day over the phone, we hatched the idea of having a unity march," Light recounted.

The Unity Walk, which took place in March, attracted about 2,000 participants and commemorated the 50th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday," when 600 peaceful protestors marching from Selma to Montgomery were met by Alabama state troopers and a mounted group with billy clubs, cattle prods and tear gas. Read the rest at Baptist Press.

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Friday, October 9, 2015
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The Dean Recommends: Francis' Visit Made Me Reexamine Myself, and I'm Not Sure I Like What I See

By Kirsten Andersen
September 30, 2015

While covering the Pope’s visit last week for Aleteia, I was fortunate enough to be sitting front and center at the USCCB Media Center in Washington, DC, where we reporters were provided with a live, unfiltered feed of many of the Pope’s activities — including, at times, his travel from venue to venue, and some of the downtime in between events. Because Francis is who he is, this meant I spent a lot of time watching him simply interact with people … all kinds of people, from some of the wealthiest and most powerful on Earth to those on the fringes — the homeless, the disabled, the young. The people the Holy Father encountered in DC were a veritable cross-section of humanity, and it was impossible not to notice his passionate love for a very specific type of person — the needy ones.

Watching Francis traverse my adopted hometown, I was struck by how the weaker and more openly helpless a person appeared, the happier our Pope seemed to be to see him. While at times he seemed to be barely tolerating the presence of some of our more puffed-up elected officials with their tailored suits, expensive accessories and perfectly styled hair — maybe even a bit exhausted by them — he found a fresh spring in his step each time he crossed paths with the lowly.

The joy on his face as he embraced unkempt people living on the streets; profoundly disabled people reclining semi-aware in wheelchairs; and tired, overstimulated children in their parents’ arms was inspiring. He didn’t just grin at them, he glowed. He showered them with kisses and blessings. Gone was the stiffness and formality of his interactions on Capitol Hill and at the White House. Out among the crowds, he could find the people he clearly preferred — and they didn’t look anything like the people who fill most of our “aspirational” Instagram feeds.

As I watched Francis pour out his love on the least-wanted people in our society, I was reminded of the Christ of the Gospels. And it made me feel terrible, because it made me wonder — what would Francis think of me? What does Jesus think of me? Read the rest at Aleteia.

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Thursday, October 8, 2015
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The Mystery of Eternal Love

By Timothy George
October 5, 2015

One of the most common charges leveled against Christians in the early church was that they were atheists. They did not worship the gods of Rome and Greece, nor did they follow the mystery religions of the East. Indeed, they claimed to worship the one true God of Israel, the Creator of all that is, the one whom Jesus called “Father,” by whose power he had been raised from the dead.

The exact relation of Jesus Christ, the divine Logos, to the eternal Father was studied and explained by Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, Athenagoras, Clement of Alexandria, and other apologists of the second century. The triune nature of God was expressed in the “rule of faith,” one form of which we know today as the Apostles’ Creed. This statement was frequently recited at baptism as an essential summary of the biblical faith. In other words, in declaring their faith in God as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the early Christians were not doing “constructive” theology, but were simply declaring their faith in the God of Israel, who had raised Jesus from the dead, the God who by his Spirit was present in their midst.

A major challenge to this understanding of God arose within the church when Marcion, a brilliant thinker, denied that the Father of Jesus was identical with the God of the Old Testament. Jesus was the emissary of an “alien” God, Marcion said, a God who had nothing to do with the messy business of creation and procreation—the world of mud, mosquitoes, diapers, and dung. Like the Gnostics, Marcion disparaged all things material and corporeal. He also encouraged the church to excise from its canon the entire Old Testament and much of the New, keeping only an expurgated version of Luke and Paul. Marcion advocated a form of radical dualism, splitting apart creation and redemption. One of the most important decisions made in the entire history of theology was the rejection of Marcion’s heresy. By saying no to Marcion, the church affirmed the basic continuity of the Old and New Testaments and the coinherence of creation and redemption. Christians would continue to struggle with the meaning of suffering and evil in the good world that God had made. But, after Marcion, they were bound to the lordship and ultimate victory of God over all that is.

One of those who opposed Marcion’s views was Tertullian, the first major theologian to write in Latin, and it was he who coined the term trinitas. Writing against a certain Praxeas, Tertullian argued that there was both a threeness and a oneness within the divine being of God. In his exegesis of certain biblical texts, notably Psalm 110:1 and Isaiah 53:1, Tertullian observed: “So in these texts the distinctness of the three is plainly set out, for there is the Spirit who makes the statement, the Father to whom he addresses it, and the Son who is the subject of it.” At the same time, Tertullian said, we do not worship three gods, for each of the divine persons is “of one substance” (una substantia). Tertullian provided a useful vocabulary for clearly distinguishing the three and the one without relapsing into tritheism, and this became an important factor in the Nicene doctrine of God. Read the rest at First Things.

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Monday, October 5, 2015
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