Sunday, March 26, 2006

My final student getaway

I was floored by a cold for the better part of this past week. I must admit to feeling quite irritated, since I've lost one entire week of revision, which is quite a substantial amount of time. I'm still not a 100% but at least I'm up and about.

I caught it at the tailend of my church's annual student conference, which I was at last week. Nevertheless, despite the usual ambivalent feelings pre-departure (why am I going? I'm pretty tired and cranky, shouldn't I just just use this time to skulk about rest in my room?) I'm glad I went, as always. We usually have 9 talks at (It's a 5 day, 4 night retreat, including 3 full days, hence the possibility of fitting in so many) these retreats, of which 4 are the theme of the conference, 4 are on a Bible overview, and one is usually exclusively focused on world mission. This year's theme was on delighting in the Trinity - I've noticed that the Trinity has gotten renewed attention in Christian circles this past year - which was really good.

In some ways the talks were all kept rather simple, and focused on showing how relevant the Trinity is to our daily lives. Often we see the Trinity as an essential but ultimately abstract doctrine, and I thought the sessions were really helpful in showing the implications of worshipping a Trinitarian God, primarily with regards to relationships. Basically,we revisited a lot of old truths - a good thing! - but through the lens of the Trinity, so for eg. the Trinity tells us that our God is relational, and this in turn also affects our understanding of ourselves as relational creatures. It was also very helpful in also gaining another new perspective on Jesus' death, ie. that it was a disruption of the Trinity, and in defending the charge that the Father was actually engaging in divine child abuse, a charge that has regrettably been bandied about on occasion. (also see Prof. Scot McKnight.) I guess I was pretty challenged on re-examining my own relationships, both horizontal and vertical, as a result.

I think the part that people struggled with the most was the teaching on the order of the sexes reflecting the order within the Trinity, although it was made very clear that the headship males were to exercise was very much meant to be Christ-like. This is an area which has caused some controversy in scholarly circles - see for eg. Ben Witherington's recent post on women and subordination and the defense of this view in the conservative Australian journal, The Briefing. (Disclaimer: I've only superficially skimmed both articles.) Having always been in churches which teach the complementarian position, albeit one which isn't that hardline, I guess it's my default position.

My church is very big on biblical theology*, so we have Bible Overviews at the student conferences every year. In my first year, the talks traced a few themes throughout the Bible (which was subsequently turned into a book). In my second year we had an introduction to every single book in the Bible, where our speaker tried to balance between telling us the individual stories between each book and its place in the overall Biblical story. This year we focused on the first five books of the Bible, with the covenant being the organising motif that connected the talks. For the first time in my life I finally have a good basic idea of the Tabernacle, which had previously eluded me in all my readings which referred to it, and a better grasp of the Wilderness years in Numbers and Deuteronomy. Obviously it was a very broad overview, so there wasn't any time to home in on anything in detail, but still...maybe next time I'll be able to get through Leviticus and Numbers! :)

There were seminars too. Wouldn't go into detail about those, except of the four I went to, two were so-so and the other two were really helpful.

Most people would tell you that the best times of conferences such as these, however, are those in between talks. This year though, I didn't get as much of such times, partly because I was one of those meant to be helping out in things such as preparing coffee, and I never realised what a huge task that was until I actually did it! Did get in enough time to learn a new boardgame however. Sheep-counting will never be the same again!

Still, I was really challenged by a lot of the Christians who were there. I share the same sentiments as one of my friends, a mainland Chinese and a young Christian who told me on the third night with a kind of wide-eyed wonder, "You know, people are really serious about the gospel over here." By that, he meant that he could see that a lot of people there were really living out their lives for Christ and allowing their decisions to be shaped by gospel priorities. A lot of people at this conference were finishing university and were mature Christians. And a lot of them are considering their next steps by asking the question, "Where does God want me and where can I best serve the gospel?" So quite a fair few are considering doing apprenticeship schemes at churches or at parachurch organzations, and others in secular jobs - the point is that there're letting their next steps be shaped by their Christian convictions and not just things like ambition or money. And I found that very, very challenging.

Highlight? We had a Q&A session on one of the mornings and someone dropped this into the question box: "Can it be true that God would choose someone as arrogant and hateful as me to be his child and to work through him? Because if this is really true, then that is simply just amazing news."

It is a little sad though that it's my last student conference. I'm definitely going to miss such getaways. In any case, as much as I am unenthused about the idea, it's time to get on with my revision.

*biblical theology involves the quest for the big picture, or the overview of biblical revelation. It is of the nature of biblical theology that it tells a story rather than sets out timeless principles in abstraction. It does contain many timeless principles, but not in abstract. They are given in an historical context of progressive revelation. If we allow the Bible to tell its own story, we find a coherent and meaningful whole. - Graeme Goldsworthy, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture

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Blogger The Hedonese said...

Delighting in the Trinity, wow! Nice theme... very erm... hedonistic! haha

11:18 am  

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