retrospective, will you point to a major evolution in this area for ministry, the seminary and the Church.
Ministers and ministry will need to continue moving from a focus on performance excellence to relational authenticity. People are becoming less trusting of the “sage on stage” and more open to the “guide at the side” who is on pilgrimage with them. The Seminary will need to be ancient and future. Ancient in the sense of being rooted in the reliability of the gospel and future in the sense of knowing and making space to hear the questions people are asking in the 21st century. The classes, that are willing to entertain the toughest questions today with fair-minded biblical response, will be better able to prepare its students to have joy and effectiveness in ministry.
Churches must move from building and organizational structure centric to people and relationally centered. The churches will need to continue to move from being inwardly focused to being externally focused, realizing that postmoderns want to see Christianity doing good in the community before they care to hear the message of forgiveness and relational restoration. In the past it was tell then show, and now its show then tell. And often it will mean inviting the interested into the showing to create opportunity for trusted telling.
As an end note to this article-retrospective, Dr. Durst comments in his interview by email on the Trinity and its “place” in the seminary context:
Will you say something of the Trinity in the Seminary’s biblical doctrine in a way that a lay person will be interested, so as to illuminate as a reflection your years with students in this past decade of experience?
In about 1997, I was using Jung Young Lee’s 1996 The Trinity in Asian Perspective as an example of a global theology. While I do not agree with the work’s imposing cultural norms on biblical texts, I did appreciate the way Lee looked at the different New Testament orders of the divine three names. He called the Father, Son, Spirit order the patriarchal order and the Spirit, Father, Son order “matriarchal”. I was used to the order cited at my own believer’s baptism, “in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” I took that order as the biblical norm. I unconsciously heard any reference to the divine names in that order. However, I was charmed and intrigued by the famous benediction in 2 Corinthians 13:13, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Until Lee’s book, I simply overlooked such a dissonant Trinitarian order as so rare as to be the “exception that proved the rule.
Gradually, I began to pay close attention to the order of reference to persons in divine triad and how often those orders were not in the Father, Son, Spirit baptismal order. It turns out that well over thirty Trinitarian instances occur in the New Testament, which use an order other than Father, Son and Spirit. In class, I tried an experiment. I showed the students that, while the prayer of the disciple must be to God as Father in the name of the Son, the New Testament prays in that manner with surprising variety. Would the students be willing to pray to God in whichever Trinitarian order made most sense to them that night? I did not anticipate the outcome. One female student shared that she had had a difficult relationship with her father and as a result had never felt comfortable to pray to the Father. Up to that class, she had always prayed to Jesus alone. She said that by praying to the Son and then the Spirit, then she was for the first time able to pray to the Father by name. I pondered the significance of this experience and am working it out in a book tentatively entitled,” The Trinitarian Matrix of the New Testament.” I also wondered if one of the reasons the church looks and feels narrow minded is because it was overlooking the diversity of the ways God is named and worshipped in the New Testament.
–Peter Menkin, Spring 2009 (Mill Valley, CA USA)
Peter Menkin, an aspiring poet, lives in Mill Valley, CA USA (north of San Francisco).